Last week when I was treating a patient, she asked this question, “So how does acupuncture work?” It’s a question that I had asked as a student at the New England School of Acupuncture.
The truth is that we don’t actually know how acupuncture works from a Western medical perspective. East Asian medicine has a model that is vastly different from science, which focuses on separating the different parts of the body and has an emphasis on cause and effect.
Acupuncture looks at the body as a whole and focuses more on the relationship of a part to it’s whole.
Western Medicine is more absolute, Eastern Asian medicine more relative. Because these models are so different, it’s difficult to explain one in terms of the other.
That said, we do have some clues about how acupuncture works from a Western medical perspective.
All of this is exciting news because it offers confirmation of what I find when treating patients. Pain decreases, the body goes into relaxed states, colds & flus last for shorter amounts of time.
Interested, intrigued by how this works and how it might help you?
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With you in health,
Every year I think about what advice to share as we complete another turn around the sun. What can I write that will bring you more health, more joy and more ease?
There are so many possibilities – eat better, sleep more, find quiet time for meditation. These are all good things, but I realized the magic missing ingredient in so many wellness and self-care programs is found in the act of taking stock.
It’s not enough to set goals. We need to watch what happens when we put an idea out into the world. We need to track our progress and record our thoughts and feelings each day.
I got this inspiration sitting at my desk, looking at my 2020 yearly planner. It’s the place where I keep track of things. Not my daily schedule filled with patient appointments, places to go and commitments to keep. These are stored electronically with a kind of efficiency only the digital world can provide.
In my paper planner, I write down goals and dreams, along with notes marking unexpected pleasures and themes for the month. I use the planner as a journal of sorts, briefly recording my thoughts and feelings on a somewhat regular basis.
As I turn the pages, I’m able to look back and reflect.
I might not have remembered any of this if I hadn’t jotted down notes as the year went by. I barely remember what I had for lunch yesterday :). So now I have this incredible gift – pages filled with remembrances, a record of days gone by.
As the new year begins, I recommend that you begin (or continue) to take stock. Here’s how:
At this moment, there is the initial pleasure found in the blank pages of the yearly planner that have not yet been filled. It’s still an empty slate awaiting possibility. You don’t yet know what the year will bring. (2020 taught us the role of the unexpected.)
You stand at this moment, closing one door and about to open another. This is the time to dream, to imagine, to ask for the wishes that live deep in your heart.
Your yearly planner allows for this. The empty pages are waiting to be filled with the moments & reflections that make up your life. Write these down. Take stock. Be the creator of your life’s journey.
As we enter 2021, I send you blessings to guide you along the way.
Ps. If this process sounds appealing, but you don’t have time to get a planner of your own, here's my Roadmap to Health Booklet/Calendar/Journal for you to print out.
And if you feel like you need help in the process of creating healthy habits for a healthy year, do get in touch to find out about my Roadmap to Health Wellness Counseling program.
I look at my calendar and realize that Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. How is this possible?
I see that I've added the word Cleveland from Tuesday, November 24th to Saturday, November 28th on my calendar. In a moment of optimism, my husband and I thought that we would be able to drive to visit his family in Ohio. We would all get tested, wear masks and social distance.
But a few weeks ago, we realized that keeping everyone safe from the spread of Covid was more important than gathering together.
I feel a little unanchored. Thanksgiving for Dan and I has always been a time to travel. We either visit out-of-town relatives or indulge in one of our favorite things, a long weekend away from it all. Some years it has been on the quiet beaches of the Cape. Other times we've explored the back roads of Vermont. In the 16 years that we've been together, we have never spent Thanksgiving at home.
This year we will.
Are you starting to think about how to celebrate the holiday? Have you canceled your usual plans, or will you take precautions and gather together?
Either way the holiday will be different.
In 2020, our lives have been upended. It will take our creative spirits to make this year's Thanksgiving a meaningful one.
Here are my suggestions:
1) Start to plan.
3) Remember that we're starting the holiday season. That gives us the opportunity to have small celebrations, small joys through New Years.
4) Take a look at the blog, A Holistic Approach to the Holidays, that I send out each year.
5) It is a season of gift giving. I'm offering these holiday packages so that you can give the gift of health to someone you love.
Most of all, remember that you're going to get through this. Be a little kinder to yourself and those around you. We're all feeling the specific challenge of a very unusual time. My holiday blog talks about the gift of imperfection. This is an imperfect year.
Strive on. Find joy. Be well.
People often think that there is just one type of acupuncture. They are surprised to find out that Japanese acupuncture is a unique style that can elevate your sense of wellness and well-being.
Acupuncture originated in China over 3,000 years ago and in acupuncture school, we begin by studying the theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Both styles use the same theory of the five-element organ system -- kidney/water, liver/wood, heart/fire, spleen/earth, and lungs/metal. Both methods also use the same acupuncture points along the same energetic pathways or meridians. However, the way we practice is slightly different.
This is because before the 6th century Buddhist Monks brought acupuncture to Japan. Over time, acupuncture became one of the few career paths for people who were blind. It may seem a little unusual to think of blind people inserting needles, but let me explain.
When people can't see, their other senses become more enhanced. Blind acupuncturists became extremely skilled at feeling the pulse and areas of restriction in the body. Fortunately, they were able to pass this knowledge onto current day acupuncturists, including me. This kinesthetic sense helps Japanese acupuncturists treat more gently.
A few major Japanese acupuncture benefits include:
They say that Chinese acupuncturists treat from the brain and Japanese acupuncturists treat from the belly. Chinese practitioners come up with a diagnosis and a set of points. Japanese practitioners feel the body and use points that release restrictions while the patient is on the table, looking for reduction in pain and changes in the pulse as we treat.
If you have tried Chinese Acupuncture and felt it wasn't quite right for you, you might want to get in touch with me to find out how Japanese Acupuncture can help you.
About 80% of adults experience back pain at some point in their lives, and I've had a lot of experience treating it in the 20 years that I've been practicing acupuncture. I've always been curious about what contributes to the pain. Is it a pulled muscle or ligament, a weak immune system, osteoarthritis, a bulging disc, tight muscles or some combination of these? Read more about this.
Over the past few years, I've been studying a manual therapy called Visceral Manipulation that offers an additional explanation for pain and restriction. Jean-Pierre Barral, a French Osteopath, teaches that restrictions in the connective tissue around and between the body's organs cause pain, particularly chronic pain that is difficult to treat.
Releasing these restrictions can be done by first feeling the actual pull of tissue in the body, testing to see which organ is causing the primary restriction and then gently treating the organ to restore its natural rhythm.
My work has always been based on releasing restrictions. Now in addition to feeling blockages in the acupuncture meridians, restrictions and pain in the muscles, bones and ligaments, I've been looking for restrictions in tissue around each organ. Also, I've been making sure each organ has its own intrinsic healthy rhythm.
It's been an amazing journey for me and has enhanced the work that I do. It's another component of helping my patients can get lasting pain relief and a body that truly functions at an optimal level.
I'm truly on a mission to help you live healthier. I keep sharing things that have worked in my own life. Some of you know how jazzed I've been about my "miracle breakfast." I started eating this when I realized that I wasn't getting enough fiber in my diet, even with eating whole grains and lots of veggies. (We should be getting between 30 to 50 grams of fiber a day. Average Americans only get 8-15 grams.)
I knew I had to make some changes. I realized that I was often leaving the house with a Kashi bar and not eating a full breakfast. So I switched to a really healthy bowl of oatmeal with lots of yummy stuff.
Why oatmeal? From a Chinese medicine perspective it's a food that strengthens the digestive and nervous systems, removes cholesterol from the body, and renews bone and connective tissue. From a sense of ease perspective, it's something that can be prepared in minutes and available wherever you are. (Just be sure that it's the kind with no added sugar.) I often bring packages of instant oatmeal and a mix of almonds, flaxseed and fiber when I'm traveling.
Here's my miracle breakfast with amounts of fiber.
1 package instant organic oatmeal 4 grams
1/4 cup almonds 3 grams
4 TBS ground flaxseed 6 grams
1/3 cup Trader Joes Frozen Berry Medley 3 grams
1 TBS Great Shape Natural Fiber Supplement* 5 grams
*You might want to add this slowly to avoid gas and bloating.
If I still haven't convinced you, take the challenge. Try starting everyday for 3 weeks with my miracle breakfast. Let me know how you feel.
Interested in learning more about how to live a healthy life with ease? Find out about my Roadmap to Health 6 Week Class.
Wishing you health and well-being,
Ear acupuncture is a little different from full body acupuncture in that the ear is considered a microsystem of the body. Although some ear points were mentioned in Chinese texts as far back as 500 BC, auriculotherapy as we know it today was developed by Dr. Paul Nogier, a French physician, in 1957.
Dr. Nogier noticed a scar on the upper ear of some of his patients. He found that all of them had been treated for sciatica pain by a local lay practitioner. This woman had cauterized a specific area of the external ear in order to relieve their low back pain. Dr. Nogier conducted a similar procedure on his own sciatica patients and found that their back pain was also reduced.
He then tried other means of stimulating this "sciatica point," including the use of acupuncture needles, and found that they too were effective in alleviating sciatica pain. Dr. Nogier theorized that if an area of the upper external ear is effective in treating low back pain, maybe other parts of the ear could treat other parts of the body. Nogier theorized that the ear represents an inverted fetus and points in the ear correspond to parts of the body. Points for hands and feet can be found at the top of the ear, while the face is represented on the bottom of the ear. What’s interesting is that a similar map of the body, called the homunculus, exists in neurons on the cerebral cortex (outermost sheet of neural tissues in cerebrum and some vertebrae), in the thalamus and in the brain stem. This model was first presented to naturopathic practitioners in France in 1957, then spread to acupuncturists in Germany, and finally was translated into Chinese around 1958.
During 1958 a large study on the effectiveness of this acupuncture technique was conducted by the Nanking Army Ear Acupuncture Research Team using over 2,000 patients. Dr. Nogier's theory of an inverted fetus was accepted as clinically accurate, and during the cultural revolution so called 'barefoot doctors' were trained in the simple techniques of ear acupuncture In 1990, the World National Organization conducted an international meeting and standardized auricular anatomical names for the points that had been used in Chinese and French auricular acupuncture for many years. By 1995, the World Health Organization, in tandem with the Chinese Government, defined the location of 91 specific ear acupuncture points.
Nogier acknowledged that Chinese traditional medicine had been using ear points for acupuncture prior to his discovery, but these had been considered empirical points for particular treatments and were not associated with representation of the homunculus in the ear. This new discovery allowed for greater treatment possibilities.
In the US, Terry Oleson who has a PhD in pychobiology published a paper on his research findings. He had 40 patients examined to find areas of their body with musculoskeletal pain. The patients were draped and doctors examined the patients' ears for elevated skin conductivity or tenderness with no knowledge of their medical conditions. The correspondence between the medical diagnosis and the auricular diagnoses was 75.2%. In addition, MRIs show that there is a correspondence between points in the ear, sections of the brain, and areas of the body.
Ear acupuncture is a type of treatment that has not only been verified by science, but also leads to clinical success when used to the patients in my office. It works particularly well for pain, addiction and stress!
Chinese medicine dates back over three thousand years. The oldest book on Chinese medical theory, The Nei Jing, was written between 300 and 100 BC. It describes the theory and application of yin and yang and the five organ, element system. It teaches the causes of disease, explains how to diagnose illness, and tells how energy flows through the body. It still serves as the theoretical basis of acupuncture which today is one of the most widely used forms of medicine in the world.
Although acupuncture is ancient, it has only been practiced in this country for about 50 years. In 1972, a New York Times reporter, James Reston, accompanied Henry Kissinger to China. While there he had emergency appendectomy surgery and was so impressed by the post-surgery acupuncture he received, he wrote about his experience. This created interest in the modality in the US. In 1974, the first acupuncture school in this country, the New England School of the Acupuncture (NESA), was opened. I studied there, graduating and receiving my license in 1998.
Most folks don’t know this, but there are several different styles of acupuncture. These styles that evolved as Chinese medicine spread to different countries. Acupuncture arrived in Japan in 562 AD. Schools were established during the 8th century. Acupuncture was considered an appropriate vocation for the blind, and as a result, acupuncturists in Japan developed extremely sensitive kinesthetic skills. They learned to get information by feeling the pulse and palpating the abdomen. In Japan, acupuncturists apprenticed with masters and learned by observing their work.
At NESA, after the first year of training, students have to choose to study between a Chinese or Japanese acupuncture track. I chose Japanese and began studying the style of a well-known acupuncturist from Japan, Kiiko Matsumoto. Kiiko, to this day, studies with the masters in Japan and brings their teachings to the US, carrying on a several thousand year old tradition.
I continue to study with her and feel honored to be a part of this ancient way of healing.
I traveled to New Orleans a few weeks ago. I knew I had truly arrived when our Lyft driver said "How ya doing, Miss Bonnie?" I had made a lunch reservation and when we arrived I was greeted with "Welcome, Miss Bonnie." On a shuttle bus to Mardi Gras World the driver asked if this was my first time in New Orleans. When I said it was my second, he replied "Welcome Home."
New Orleans is a great place to travel to. The food, music, warm weather, welcoming people make it so special. Being there feels like getting a big hug.
But I want to tap into something deeper. The importance of social connection. Not just because it makes us feel good -- although this is important. But because it makes us healthier.
Here's what the experts have to say:
Here is "Miss Bonnie's" take on all this:
One of the reasons that I love Eastern Medicine is because of its emphasis on connection. In the 5 element/5 organ system that we use no one organ/element exists on its own. The energy of the liver feeds the heart, the heart energy feeds the spleen, the spleen energy feeds the lungs, the lung energy feeds the kidneys, the kidney energy feeds the liver. The cycle is completed and begins again.
As people we may feel isolated, but we never exist in true isolation.
With you in spirit…
I love this article from my colleague, Katherine Golub, career / business / leadership coach and consultant in Western Mass. She teaches us how to focus on the postitive! To learn more about her work, visit www.CoreBrillianceAcademy.com
What are you dreaming of for the new year? Did you make a resolution, set an intention, choose a word?
At the beginning of every year, I like to choose one word to focus my attention for the year. This year, my word is "Foundation."
No matter how you set your intentions, January is a time of fresh starts and new beginnings for many people. Do you want to learn how to be more confident, more present, or more creative? Perhaps you want to take better care of yourself. Whatever it is, if you’re like most people, I'm guessing that there's probably some new habit that you’d like to develop this year.
Most of us aren’t taught how we form habits or how we can change them, and because of that, developing new habits can feel daunting. I'm happy to tell you that, in fact, developing new habits and strengths can be simple.
Instead of working super hard to fight against old behaviors, it can be much more useful to just take in the good.
What do I mean by “taking in the good?”
In Hardwiring Happiness, Rick Hanson writes that the most effective path to developing emotional habits or strengths such as gratitude, presence, and confidence is to notice when you're already engaged in these habits and then to feel how you feel in your body. He calls this process “taking in the good.”
With repeated, intense, and prolonged mental focus on what’s working, you grow new synapses and change how your DNA functions so that you literally experience more of what works. For example, by noticing when you feel confident, you strengthen your ability to feel confident. When you notice yourself feeling focused, you increase your ability to focus. When you allow yourself to feel really good when you practice self-care (even if it’s just for five minutes), you increase the likelihood that you'll practice self-care again soon.
As human beings, we too often focus on what we don’t want to do or to feel.
Unfortunately, focusing on what you don’t want makes it harder to develop the habits you do want. For example, trying to figure out how to be "not stressed" can stress you out, even more.
The brain can't think in negatives. Don't think of a pink elephant. You can't do it, right? Every time you think about what you don't want, your focus goes to the negative, and you're more likely to replicate that. Instead, when you think about what you do want, you send your energy in that new, more generative direction.
So, what are the steps to taking in the good and building new habits?
Your first step to cultivating new habits or strengths is to choose one or two to focus on.
Rather than focusing on the habit you want to let go of, focus on the habit you want to cultivate. Keep in mind that your problem requires a matched solution. For example, if you struggle with the state in the left column, consider focusing on the habit or strength in the right column--
• Exhaustion… Energy
• Stagnation… Movement
• Anxiety… Ease
• Fear… Courage
• Shame… Self-Compassion
• Resistance… Curiosity
• Withdrawal… Engagement
• Scarcity… Gratitude
• Frustration… Fulfillment
• Stuckness… Forward Movement
• Drivenness… Pleasure
• Rejection… Belonging
• Isolation… Connection
• Grief… Love
Your next step is to notice moments in which you experience the habit or strength you desire.
To develop the habits and strengths we desire—such as trust, humor, and ease—we need to notice when we experience these positive states. Often, we’re already engaging in the actions or experiencing the states that we want to make habitual, but we’re not paying attention. By paying attention to when we are acting and feeling the ways we want, we strengthen our ability to act or feel this way even more.
If you don’t naturally find yourself experiencing your desired emotions, you can remember past experiences, imagine the future you desire, or celebrate the good in the lives of others.
Once you create a positive experience, allow yourself to really savor the moment and experience it in your body.
Sense the experience fully in your body, taking in as many sensory aspects as possible—sight, sound, touch, smell, taste, feeling, and thinking. Feeling the experience in your body helps it to sink in and create new connections in your brain.
Like any new strength, your ability to focus your attention is like a muscle. It gets stronger the more you exercise it. Taking in positive experiences makes your brain “stickier” for them, which in turn increases the likelihood that you'll notice more positive experiences. That makes your brain even more sticky so that you notice positive experiences more. It's a feedback loop of positivity. This cycle makes it less and less likely for negative experiences to slip into your mind and affect your brain.
From now on, any time you experience a small win, seize the opportunity to celebrate.
When you receive a compliment, take a deep breath, let it really soak in, and say thank you. Or cross off items off your to-do list as you complete them so that you have a picture of accomplishment. Or, at the beginning or end of each day, think of three things that you’re proud of, that you appreciate about yourself, or that brought you joy.
Focusing on what brings you joy ten times a day, fifteen seconds at a time only, takes a total of two and a half minutes. But it's one of the most powerful ways to change your brain and your life.
Whatever your hopes for the new year may be, I encourage you to gift yourself a few moments each day to take in the good. Not only is this a very effective way to cultivate new habits, but it’s also fun. I wish you all the best on your journey to building the habits you want!
Bonnie Diamond, Licensed Acupuncturist