Acupuncture Wellness Center
Secrets of Super Healthy People
Some people never seem to get sick. What are they doing that the rest of us aren't to keep illness at bay?
By Jennifer Soong
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD
Are you secretly envious of your co-workers and friends who, like superheroes, never seem to get sick? You know, the ones glowing with good health while everyone around them is sneezing, sniffling, and coughing like villains.
Don't hate the healthy people. Instead, steal the secrets of people who manage to stay above the sickroom fray and take steps to boost your body's immunity.
Training for the Body
Jennifer Cassetta, a martial arts instructor in New York City, claims she never gets sick, and neither do her father and grandmother, who also teach martial arts. "I believe it is the holistic approach to exercise that calms the mind and relieves stress," she says. "And the cardio, strengthening, and conditioning help boost the immune system."
Cassetta says her health has changed dramatically after she picked up martial arts eight years ago. Before then, she was a smoking, take-out-every-night, espresso-drinking girl in her 20s.
"As I started to train, I started to change my habits drastically," she says. "I cleaned up my diet, trained more, and quit smoking. Now in my 30s, I have more energy, I look better, and am stronger than I ever have been."
One bout of vigorous exercise can increase circulation, says Christiane Northrup, MD, author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom. "Whenever circulation is increased, you get far more white blood cells," she says, "so they check for foreign germs and are far more apt to be able to gobble them up.
Procedure is becoming more mainstream. Here's how it works.
By Ronald Reimer | M.D., Neurosurgery, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville
December 31, 2008
Dear Mayo Clinic: What do you think of acupuncture as a treatment for various ailments? How does it work?
Acupuncture, which has been used and studied throughout the world for more than 4,000 years, can be utilized to rebalance the flow of energy (Qi) in the body and effectively treat many conditions. At Mayo Clinic, acupuncture has been used successfully for pain management, postoperative nausea, anxiety relief, drug addiction, insomnia and headaches, to name a few.
Acupuncture is administered by inserting up to a dozen or more tiny needles into very precise locations (points) determined by symptoms. The needle insertion points are based on a series of points along meridians or channels that interconnect throughout the body, each with a different function. There are 12 principal meridians within the body, containing almost 400 acupuncture points.
Patients rarely have any discomfort with needle insertion. Needles remain in place for 15 to 45 minutes. During a treatment, the acupuncturist may gently stimulate the needles manually, apply heat with a ceramic lamp at a safe distance, or attach low-frequency electrical stimulation. The goal is to improve energy flow in the body, thus relieving pain and other symptoms, allowing people to improve their quality of life.
For some conditions, one treatment provides rapid relief. Other situations, such as chronic pain management, may require a series of treatments. In some cases, symptom relief is not always immediate and may require a period of two to three days for the positive effects to be noted. This is in part related to delayed secretion of endorphins.
While some patients and providers remain skeptical of its therapeutic value, acupuncture is becoming more mainstream in Western medicine as a stand-alone treatment or as one element of a comprehensive treatment plan.
As a practicing neurosurgeon, I can cite several examples of acupuncture's beneficial effects. These stories from our patients illustrate the scope of acupuncture's benefits.
Nausea and vomiting after surgery can be a serious side effect of anesthesia for some patients. It can slow recovery and require some patients to remain in the hospital for weeks on IV fluids. Potential complications of extended bed rest include increased risk of pneumonia and blood clots. One acupuncture treatment can abate the nausea.
A colleague of mine needed neck surgery and had a history of postoperative nausea that resulted in prolonged hospital stays. We performed acupuncture within an hour of surgery. At that point, she was already developing nausea. Following one treatment, she didn't need anti-nausea medication, slept well and sailed through her recovery. She and her husband considered the benefit dramatic. We also have seen dramatic results in liver and heart transplant patients with relief of nausea and quicker recovery.
Tennis and golf elbow (epicondylitis)
Another patient, an avid tennis player, thought he was permanently sidelined because of elbow pain. Aggressive physical therapy and steroid injections hadn't helped. With one acupuncture session, his pain was eliminated, and several days later he played in a doubles match — and won. Studies have shown that, for this type of pain, acupuncture can be more effective than steroid injections or physical therapy alone.
Another patient had difficulty bouncing back after surgery — an esophagus resection to treat cancer. Like many patients, he had problems eating, lost weight and wasn't able to work or exercise. After he'd lost almost 50 pounds and nothing else helped, he tried a series of acupuncture treatments. He says the acupuncture gave him his life back. He has returned to work and more normal activities, has gained needed weight and works out regularly with a trainer.
Granted, these are anecdotes. Not everyone will experience similar results, nor might everyone even be a candidate for acupuncture. Acupuncture has an excellent safety profile, with negligible risk of infection or bleeding. It can safely be performed on patients who are on blood thinners, unlike many other pain management modalities. Patients should seek treatment by physicians who've received extensive training in the art and science of acupuncture.
Overall, an ever-growing body of research confirms the benefits of acupuncture. One treatment can cost from $100 to $200, and most insurance companies do not cover acupuncture.
Coverage is slowly becoming more common, as insurers see that acupuncture can help reduce health-care costs when fewer pain medications are needed and patients can be discharged more quickly from the hospital.
Medical Edge from the Mayo Clinic is an educational resource and doesn't replace regular medical care. For more information, go to Mayo Clinic.
Diet and Stress
Unfortunately, poor nutrition can lead to excess weight, mood swings, and increased stress. If you are careful to limit sugar, salt and fat, and include plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, whole grains and other healthy foods in your diet, you will enjoy increased health and longevity. You'll also experience a stronger immune system and fewer sugar-induced mood swings, making it easier to respond to stress, and reduce the amount of stress you experience due to illness or poor overall health. You also may have more energy, so you can be more productive in your life, leaving you the ability to do more things that you enjoy. It may seem difficult to make changes at first, but they will pay off in many areas of your life.
Learn about the stress management value of good nutrition, and learn how you can eat healthier when busy and stressed. You can save money--and your health--by eating more nutritious food at home, and keep stess to a minimum as well!
From The Mayo Clinic
Acupuncture involves the insertion of extremely thin needles to various depths at strategic points on your body. Acupuncture originated in China thousands of years ago, but over the past two decades its popularity has grown significantly within the United States. Although scientists don't fully understand how or why acupuncture works, some studies indicate that it may provide a number of medical benefits — from reducing pain to helping with chemotherapy-induced nausea.
What happens during an acupuncture treatment session?
Acupuncture therapy usually involves a series of weekly or biweekly treatments in an outpatient setting. It's common to have up to 12 treatments in total. Although each acupuncture practitioner has his or her own unique style, each visit typically includes an exam and an assessment of your current condition, the insertion of needles, and a discussion about self-care tips. An acupuncture visit generally lasts 30 to 60 minutes.
During acupuncture treatment, the practitioner uses sterilized, individually wrapped stainless steel needles that are used only once and then thrown away. You may feel a brief, sharp sensation when the needle is inserted, but generally the procedure isn't painful. It's common to feel a deep aching sensation when the needle reaches the correct spot. After placement, the needles are sometimes moved gently or stimulated with electricity or heat.
How does acupuncture work?
The traditional Chinese theory behind acupuncture as medical treatment is very different from that of Western medicine. In traditional Chinese medicine, imbalances in the basic energetic flow of life — known as qi or chi (chee) — are thought to cause illness. Qi is believed to flow through pathways (meridians) in your body. These meridians and the energy flow are accessible through approximately 400 different acupuncture points. By inserting extremely fine needles into these points in various combinations, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will rebalance. This will allow your body's natural healing mechanisms to take over.
In contrast, the Western explanation of acupuncture incorporates modern concepts of neuroscience. According to the National Institutes of Health, researchers are studying at least three possible explanations for how acupuncture works:
- Opioid release. During acupuncture, endorphins that are part of your body's natural pain-control system may be released into your central nervous system — your brain and spinal cord. This reduces pain much like taking a pain medication.
- Spinal cord stimulation. Acupuncture may stimulate the nerves in your spinal cord to release pain-suppressing neurotransmitters. This has sometimes been called the "gate theory."
- Blood flow changes. Acupuncture needles may increase the amount of blood flow in the area around the needle. The increased blood flow may supply additional nutrients or remove toxic substances, or both, promoting healing.
Who is acupuncture for?
Acupuncture seems to be useful as a stand-alone treatment for some conditions, but it's also increasingly being used in conjunction with more conventional Western medical treatments. For example, doctors may combine acupuncture and drugs to control pain during and after surgery.
Because of the difficulty of conducting valid scientific studies of acupuncture — numerous past studies have been proved inadequate — it's hard to create a definitive list of the conditions for which acupuncture might be helpful. However, preliminary studies indicate that acupuncture may offer symptomatic relief for a variety of diseases and conditions, including low back pain, headaches, migraines and osteoarthritis. In a 2006 Mayo Clinic study, acupuncture significantly improved symptoms of fibromyalgia.
In addition, research shows acupuncture can help manage postoperative dental pain and alleviate chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. It also appears to offer relief for chronic menstrual cramps and tennis elbow.
Pros and cons
As with most medical therapies, acupuncture has both benefits and risks. Consider the benefits:
- Acupuncture is safe when performed properly.
- It has few side effects.
- It can be useful as a complement to other treatment methods.
- It's becoming more available in conventional medical settings.
- It helps control certain types of pain.
- It may be an alternative if you don't respond to or don't want to take pain medications.
Acupuncture isn't safe if you have a bleeding disorder or if you're taking blood thinners. The most common side effects of acupuncture are soreness, bleeding or bruising at the needle sites. You might feel tired after a session. Rarely, a needle may break or an internal organ might be injured. If needles are reused, infectious diseases may be accidentally transmitted. However, these risks are low in the hands of a competent, certified acupuncture practitioner.
How to choose an acupuncture practitioner
In the United States, acupuncture services are offered by two types of medical professionals:
- Medical doctors. About 3,000 medical doctors use acupuncture as part of their clinical practice. Most states require that these doctors have 200 to 300 hours of acupuncture training in addition to their medical training.
- Certified acupuncturists. About 11,000 certified acupuncturists who aren't medical doctors practice acupuncture in the United States. To be fully certified, these professionals complete between 2,000 and 3,000 hours of training in one of several independently accredited master's degree programs. They also must successfully complete board exams conducted by a national acupuncture accreditation agency, the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).
If you're considering acupuncture, do the same things you would do if you were choosing a doctor:
- Ask people you trust for recommendations.
- Check the practitioner's training and credentials.
- Interview the practitioner. Ask what's involved in the treatment, how likely it is to help your condition and how much it will cost.
- Find out whether the expense is covered by your insurance.
Don't be afraid to tell your doctor you're considering acupuncture. He or she may be able to tell you about the success rate of using acupuncture for your condition or recommend an acupuncture practitioner for you to try.
© 1998-2007 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research (MFMER).
Exercise for Healthy Bones
If you know anything about the debilitating bone disease called osteoporosis will also know that it is incurable. You would know that this disease extracts calcium from the bones making them brittle over time. No matter how much calcium you try to supplement your diet with your body cannot absorb it.
Up until the time she was diagnosed with osteoporosis, Joan Foo had lost 40% of her bone density as a result of the disease. After the diagnosis and fed up with living a sedentary life, fate would have her attending a Qi gong class. This was the turning point in her life. After one year of practicing Qi gong, doctors were dumb founded and flabbergasted to see that not only had the condition stopped, it had reversed itself.
Qi gong pronounced, (chi kung) evolved from peasants, who, after a long hard days work in the hot sun, would retire at night and enjoy the cool night air after the heat of the day
As they wound down and relaxed they became aware of an energy around them, which they could move around their bodies and was somehow related to their breathing and to the mind.
This energy exists whether you believe it or not. Chinese sages would call it life-force or chi.
You can feel this energy without knowing too much about qi gong. One way to do this would be to hold your hands directly in front of you with your palms facing down. Now visualize water flowing from the top of your shoulders to the tips of your fingers and beyond, almost like when you’re in the shower and water is flowing down your arms and out of your fingertips. If you visual water flowing out of your fingers for 20 seconds or so you will feel a tingly sensation in your hands, or they will become warm. You will feel the intensity grow in your hands by taking a deep breath for the count of 2 and then exhaling for 6.
Now that you are aware of this energy, you will find that by moving and breathing a certain way this energy can rid you of headaches, backaches, depression, hangovers, and a whole range of other aliments.
The body with millions of cells knows exactly how to heal itself. Qi gong provides the method for the body to do it. If you have 5 or 10 minutes a day you can do Qi gong.
Tai chi: Improved stress reduction, balance, agility for all
The graceful images of people gliding through dance-like poses as they practice tai chi (TIE-chee) are compelling. Simply watching them is relaxing. Tai chi, in fact, is often described as "meditation in motion" because it promotes serenity through gentle movements — connecting the mind and body.
Originally developed in China as a form of self-defense, tai chi is a graceful form of exercise that has existed for some 2,000 years. Practiced regularly, tai chi can help you reduce stress and enjoy other health benefits.
Understanding tai chi
Tai chi, sometimes called tai chi chuan, is a noncompetitive, self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and stretching. To do tai chi, you perform a series of postures or movements in a slow, graceful manner. Each posture flows into the next without pausing.
Anyone, regardless of age or physical ability, can practice tai chi. It doesn't take physical prowess. Rather, tai chi emphasizes technique over strength.
Tai chi is used to:
- Reduce stress
- Increase flexibility
- Improve muscle strength and definition
- Increase energy, stamina and agility
- Increase feelings of well-being
Tai chi has more than 100 possible movements and positions. You can find several that you like and stick with those, or explore the full range. The intensity of tai chi varies somewhat depending on the form or style practiced. Some forms of tai chi are more fast-paced than others, for instance. However, most forms are gentle and suitable for everyone. And they all include rhythmic patterns of movement that are coordinated with breathing.
Although tai chi is generally safe, consider talking with your doctor before starting a new program. This is particularly important if you have any problems with your joints, spine or heart.
Stress reduction and other benefits of tai chi
Like other practices that bring mind and body together, tai chi can reduce stress. During tai chi, you focus on movement and breathing. This combination creates a state of relaxation and calm. Stress, anxiety and tension should melt away as you focus on the present, and the effects may last well after you stop your tai chi session.
Tai chi may also help your overall health, although it's not a substitute for traditional medical care. Tai chi is generally safe for people of all ages and levels of fitness. Older adults may especially find tai chi appealing because the movements are low impact and put minimal stress on muscles and joints. Tai chi may also be helpful if you have arthritis or are recovering from an injury.
Despite its ancient history, tai chi has been studied scientifically only in recent years. And that research is suggesting that tai chi may offer numerous other benefits beyond stress reduction, including:
- Reducing anxiety and depression
- Improving balance and coordination
- Reducing the number of falls
- Improving sleep quality, such as staying asleep longer at night and feeling more alert during the day
- Slowing bone loss in women after menopause
- Lowering blood pressure
- Improving cardiovascular fitness
- Relieving chronic pain
- Improving everyday physical functioning
Learning to do tai chi
Wondering how to get started in tai chi? You don't need any special clothing or equipment to do tai chi. To gain full benefits, however, it may be best to seek guidance from a qualified tai chi instructor.
A tai chi instructor can teach you specific positions and how to regulate your breathing. An instructor also can teach you how to practice tai chi safely, especially if you have injuries, chronic conditions, or balance or coordination problems. Although tai chi is slow and gentle, with virtually no negative side effects, injuries are possible if tai chi isn't done properly. It's possible you could strain yourself or overdo it when first learning. Or if you have balance problems, you could fall during tai chi.
During tai chi classes, the instructor can give you personal guidance and correct any errors in your style before they become habit. Eventually, you may feel confident enough to do tai chi on your own. But if you like the social element, consider sticking with group classes.
Putting tai chi into practice
To reap the greatest stress reduction benefits from tai chi, consider practicing it regularly. Many people find it helpful to practice tai chi in the same place and at the same time every day to develop a routine. But if your schedule is erratic, do tai chi whenever you have a few minutes.
You can even draw on the soothing concepts of tai chi without performing the actual movements if you get stuck in stressful situations — a traffic jam or a work conflict, for instance
Acupuncture and "Qi" Therapy
Since New York Times correspondent James Reston first romanced the American public with tales of his exotic treatment and its impressive results during his visit to China with Richard Nixon in 1971, this word has inspired fascination, curiosity, skepticism, and fear in the hearts of the “uninitiated.” Although Oriental Medicine is widely practiced in the United States today, these reactions are still common in many parts of the country, and acupuncture continues to capture the public’s attention and imagination when it comes to the practice of Oriental Medicine.
Acupuncture is, indeed, a very powerful tool for healing. Yet, it is neither the only, nor, necessarily, the most important modality of Oriental Medicine. In Asia, both Chinese Herbal Medicine and dietary energetics often take precedence over acupuncture in resolving health issues.
But acupuncture excels when it comes to moving qi (chee). It brings balance to the constitutution by its preeminence at manipulating the life force. Qi is sometimes described as an energy which flows through our bodies and which gives us life. From the Oriental perspective, this is a limited understanding, but for the sake of this discussion, it will suffice. When qi does not flow, or when it flows in ways that it shouldn’t, pain and illness are the result. When qi is flowing properly and the constitution is balanced, pain and disease cannot exist.
Viewpoint can restrict the flow of qi
In the west, acupuncture is most commonly thought of as a treatment for pain. This perception is quite narrow, and it is important to recognize why our understanding is so impoverished. The western worldview is... well, it's simply our world view.
These words are tossed about frequently these days, but they don't mean much to most people. Their implication is huge. A worldview is the filter through which all our experience, thoughts, understanding, knowledge, words, and actions pass. Everything we know is a reflection of this collective perspective. In the west, we have our filter; in the east, it's a totally different one.
(This discussion really belongs in the realm of Oriental Medicine, but because of our culture's focus on acupuncture and the misconceptions surrounding it, I've chosen to have the conversation here. So here we go...)
To avoid dragging this enormous subject to the depths to which the mind would take it, let's look at just one aspect of our concept of medicine. Conventional medicine's perspective is all about symptoms:
- "Oh, no. I feel another migraine coming on."
- "I'm not sleeping, because my shoulders hurt."
- "I'm depressed. I don't even want to leave the house."
- "My digestion is a wreck."
- "This low back pain is driving me nuts!"
- "Why can't we get pregnant?"
All of these are symptoms. They are not causes, in and of themselves. Conventional medicine attempts to suppress each of these symptoms with a different drug, probably prescribed by different specialists. That all of the above symptoms could be a result of the same cause is beyond the comprehension of conventional medicine. To entertain the notion that all of them could be reversed by correcting the cause, is a concept beneath our collective radar. It's not part of our world view.
And I'm not just talking about MDs or other health care professionals — I'm talking about all of us. We are all influenced by this mechanistic viewpoint. It takes a long time to dig oneself out of the worldview through which we were raised.
Get the Real Thing
So what does this have to do with acupuncture? Simply this: if you put a modality, such as acupuncture, in the hands of a health care professional who sees nothing but symptoms, the effectiveness of the modality is suddenly, severely restricted. The thinking looks somewhat like this...
- "Oh, I'll use this point. It's supposed to be good for headaches."
- "Shoulder pain? Well, I know lots of shoulder points. I'll just needle some of those. "
- "Depression? Sounds like you need an anti-depressant."
- "Well, acupuncture only works for pain, you know..."
- "Let me just put in a few more needles."
- "I think you need to see your gynecologist about that... "
Used in this way, acupuncture is nothing more than a novel addition to the western practitioner's paint-by-number pallet.
Used within the context in which it was born — Oriental Medicine — acupuncture effectively treats all diseases, physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual disorders, as well as pain.
The reason acupuncture is viewed in the west as simply a pain treatment, is that westerners are doing the viewing, and, unfortunately, sometimes wielding the needles, as in the case of MDs, chiropractors, or others who have received a few weekends of training in "where to put needles for what symptoms." This is a disservice to the public on more than one level.
- The patient of such a physician experiences mediocre results. Would you prefer to receive 30% of a medicine's effectiveness, or 100%?
- The reputation of acupuncture suffers. "I tried acupuncture, and it didn't work."
- Our understanding of a brilliant medical system remains shrouded in darkness.
More importantly, there can be problems. It is possible to cause actual harm in this scenario, because the practitioner has no idea what the energetic implications of his/her treatment will be — the practitioner has no idea what they are doing in terms of the real medicine. But there will be an energetic effect. It may be beneficial, it may be detrimental. Neither the practitioner nor the client know what the outcome will be.
Avoid this situation. Make sure that the person putting needles in you is, at least, nationally certified in Oriental Medicine. Get the real thing.
But I hate needles!
Acupuncture, to most Americans, describes the use of thin, disposable needles inserted into strategic locations on the body which stimulate a vast number of responses from qi. In this way the skilled practitioner of Oriental Medicine can manipulate qi to restore balance to the individual’s constitution. Needles are a very effective way to accomplish this.
Although skillfully placed acupuncture needles are painless, they are not the only way to practice acupuncture. Qi may be redirected without their use. In addition to needles, some of the methods I use to manipulate qi include:
- Sound vibration, through the use of specially calibrated tuning forks.
- Essential oils, applied to acupuncture sites.
- Heat, in various forms, applied directly or indirectly to points.
- Micro-current stimulation, through needles, probes, pads, or ear-clips.
- Laser beams, focused on acupuncture points or along meridians, scars, etc.
Each of these is a powerful method of accessing and manipulating qi. Each has its own special applications, advantages, and disadvantages. And sometimes these modalities may be combined for an even more potent effect.
For example, essential oils may be applied to acupuncture points and stimulated by special, glass-tipped tuning forks. This is a remarkably powerful approach, which is capable of accessing very deep levels of the constitution. Through the “law of signatures,” essential oils (which are the “essence” of plants) access the essence, or deepest level, of one’s constitution. Tuning forks have potent effects of their own, and, when appropriately used, their vibration communicates these effects, along with those of the essential oils, to yuan qi, the deepest level of qi in the body. For amplification of this phenomenon, you may wish to explore Sound and Essential Oils.
The methods of manipulating qi are myriad and fascinating. More important than the methods used, however, are the intentions, motivations, desires, and perspectives of both the patient and the physician.
For those seeking deeper insights into qi, consider that qi is also our relationship with the world. One can easily see, then, how the metaphor of "qi not flowing" vividly illustrates the concept that all disease is a reflection of our inability (or unwillingness) to adapt to changing conditions in our lives.
Dr. Larry Horton
How Chi Kung Works
How Chi Kung Overcomes So Called
What is Chi Kung?
Chi Kung (or Qigong as it is also spelt) is the art of deliberately managing your vital
energy. Vital energy is the force that enables you and everyone else to be alive. It is
easier to learn than Tai Chi and less strenuous than Yoga. Chi Kung combines
simple external body movements with gentle breathing methods and is performed in
a meditative state of mind. It is the oldest of the 5 branches of Traditional Chinese
Medicine (TCM), practiced by millions of people daily worldwide and has a written
record going back 5000 years. It requires zero athleticism or investment in
equipment. If you can spare 10-15 minutes a day, you can practice this art. In case
you were wondering Chi Kung and Qigong are different spellings of the same thing.
There is Only 1 Illness!
In order to easily understand how Chi Kung overcomes pain and illness we first need
to look at 2 very important concepts of TCM.
Yin Yang Theory - I’m sure you recognise this symbol and have
heard of Yin and Yang. You cannot go to the shops and buy a bag
of Yin or a kilo of Yang. They are just symbols and it is important
to know right from the start that nothing is completely Yin or
completely Yang. Yin Yang theory is a theory of relativity. At its
simplest something is either Yin or Yang when in relationship to something else. For
example in a relationship between a boy and a girl, the boy is more Yang (male)
compared with the girl who more is Yin (female). But if we take a different
relationship say between a boy and a man the boy is more Yin compared with the
man who is more Yang. Yin and Yang can be used in all relationships. For example:
Front/back, night/day, slow/fast, chronic/acute etc.
Something is only Yin or Yang in relationship to something else.
In TCM, we use Yin and Yang to describe contrasting characteristics that are relative
to each other. When we look at health we use Yin to represent our body’s natural
ability to respond to our constantly changing environment and Yang to represent all
the factors that may cause illness.
In TCM there is only one illness and that is Yin Yang disharmony. Or put another
way it means our body has failed in its natural ability to respond appropriately to
disease causing agents. Fortunately Good Health Is Your Birthright and Yin Yang
disharmony is unnatural.
The great news is that:
From the TCM view of medicine there is no such thing as an incurable disease!
If we can restore the balance between Yin and Yang we will restore health. However
if an illness has been left untreated for too long it may not be possible to fully restore
Yin Yang Harmony.
Meridians – Chi/Qi (or energy) flows throughout the body along streams called
meridians. Like a stream the flow may be just a trickle or it may be a strong river.
There are 12 primary and 8 secondary meridians. The primary meridians flow
through internal organs and the secondary ones do not. When your energy (or Chi or
Qi) flows harmoniously through the meridians you have good health. When
blockages to the flow occur they reduce the flow of energy. These blockages can
lead to pain, disease or illness. If the blockage is severe enough to stop the flow of
energy completely death quickly follows.
Blockages to energy flow can occur in 4 different ways:
1) Physical – if you accidentally cut yourself or fall over this may cause a
physical blockage to the flow of energy around your body. Neither of
these examples will be too severe, unlike a car crash that may cause
severe physical blockage to the flow of energy through the meridians.
2) Emotional – if you have been suffering from a lot of stress over a
sustained period of time this will cause emotional blockages, other
emotional factors to consider include regular and prolonged exposure to
fear, anxiety and worry.
3) Mental – I remember when I first learnt this one. I simply couldn’t believe
it, but from my own experience I have discovered it to be true. The
number one cause of mental blockages is: Thinking too much! That’s
right; thinking too much is bad for your health.
4) Spiritual – the most obvious example of a spiritual blockage is
depression. Depression crushes the human spirit and affects you
physically, emotionally and mentally.
In practice, blockages do not occur in isolation. I.e. an event occurs and causes an
emotional blockage only. More common is that an event will affect you in a number
of different ways and have an effect on one or more of the four aspects listed above.
This happens because they are all interdependent. The four definitions are given in
isolation to aid our understanding of how chi kung works.
The forte of Chi Kung is two fold:
1) It removes blockages to the harmonious flow of energy through the
meridians of your body. Whether these blockages are physical,
emotional, mental or spiritual in origin makes little difference to the
effectiveness of Chi Kung.
2) Once energy blockages are removed, Chi Kung can then increase
the flow of energy through the meridians promoting vitality and longevity.
I would like to mention at this point that it is vital you start removing any blockages
before increasing the flow of energy. An example will help show why. Imagine a
hose pipe full of knots and tangles, turn the tap on slightly and a small trickle may
come out of the other end of the pipe, but if you increase the pressure by turning the
tap on full, the water will not be able to flow through the pipe quickly enough and you
will get problems: a burst hose, damage to the tap, water backing up etc. If you
straighten out the hose beforehand, you avoid this problem.
Remember: Repair then Build!
There’s More Than One Way To Look At It
Now it’s important that you realise that I’m not against Western Medicine. TCM and
Western medicine simply look at health using a different model. Remember a model
is just a way of looking at the same things and events. It is not a set of facts.
Using the Western medical model to look at a person with high blood pressure, we
view him as having too much cholesterol choking his blood vessels.
Using the TCM model and looking at exactly the same person in exactly the same
situation, we view him as having Yin Yang disharmony.
The question of which paradigm is correct is not very useful, because both are
correct in their own way.
A better question is which paradigm helps to overcome the immediate problems?
The Shaolin Wahnam Institute has used the TCM model successfully in helping
many people to overcome so called incurable diseases. But in an immediate
situation, like in a car accident, the Western medical paradigm may be more
Chi Kung healing views a human as being made up of 3 parts:
1. Jing (physical body)
2. Chi (energy)
3. Shen (Spirit).
Depression for example is a Yin Yang disharmony of the Spirit (Shen). A disorder of
the Spirit will also affect energy (Chi) and the physical body (Jing).
There are many different ways to cure illness. Western medicine and Chi Kung
healing are only two of these many ways. Western medicine is usually thematic
whereas Chi Kung healing can be thematic and holistic.
Taking medical drugs to manage blood pressure is a thematic approach. It is
thematic because it does not improve the health of the patient as a whole person, it
addresses his particular problem. If he has a stomach problem later, he would need
a different treatment.
In Chi Kung healing, the approach can be thematic or holistic. By performing a
specific Chi Kung exercises, he can overcome high blood pressure.
But he will need a different exercise to overcome a stomach problem. In such cases,
this approach is thematic. This approach is used when the healer wants to
emphasize a particular purpose in the healing.
But Chi Kung healing can also be holistic in that it doesn’t just treat the presenting
problem, it treats the root cause. In fact Chi Kung healing is usually holistic.
An excellent example of holistic healing is self-manifested chi flow (a wonderful
exercise for curing illness). It does not matter what the illness is, the chi flow will
eventually overcome the illness as well as other illnesses the healer and the patient
may not even be aware of.
It is interesting to note that in China the Western paradigm and the TCM paradigm
are used together. It is not unusual for a person who has undergone an operation to
receive acupuncture, be given herbs or Chi Kung exercises to help them to recover
quickly and heal completely.
Remember: It’s not a question of which is best; it’s a question of which
approach addresses the immediate needs.
And There’s More...
Chi Kung has more to offer a regular practitioner than just overcoming pain and
illness and improving health. When we remove blockages to the harmonious flow of
energy in our meridians and then increase that flow of energy, we now have more
vitality to enjoy every aspect of our lives and increase the pleasure we get from our
work and play.
Having a harmonious flow of energy through our internal organs keeps our organs in
peak condition and will allow us to live to a ripe old age. The practice of Chi Kung
also brings with it Spiritual Insights. You can gain insights into universal reality that
confirm there really is more to life than this.
I’d like to emphasise that Spiritual does not mean Religious. A person of any
religious faith can practice and receive the benefits of Chi Kung. Chi Kung is nonreligious.
By spiritual I mean being in touch with who you really are, the deepest part
of you. Everyone has a spiritual life, a spiritual journey. If you are involved with a
specific religion then that might be spiritual for you. If you’re not religious then
anything that gets you in touch with your inner self e.g. quiet time, meditation,
listening to music, reading great books, might be spiritual for you. This part of your
life can only be defined by you. Our spirituality is so important to our health and
wellbeing, but it’s often the most neglected.
Not All Chi Kung Is The Same!
You need to know what to look out for when choosing a Chi Kung class because
there are three levels of Chi Kung taught today:
• Low level Chi Kung. This is where only the form is practiced. Strictly speaking
this is not even Chi Kung, it is Chi Kung form. Unfortunately it is the level at
which the vast majority of Chi Kung in the world is practiced today.
The benefits you get are minimal and less effective than traditional Western
exercises like swimming, running or working out in the gym. This level of Chi
Kung will not help you to overcome pain and illness, it will not improve your
health, increase your vitality, promote longevity, enhance mental clarity or give
you glimpses of cosmic reality.
• Middle level Chi Kung is where a practitioner actively seeks to influence his
energy flow, by removing energy blockages and increasing energy flow. This is
the minimum level you want to be practicing Chi Kung at if you wish to gain all of
the benefits I mentioned earlier.
• High level Chi Kung is where the mind is used and has always been very rare.
Here a practitioner enters into a higher state of conscious-ness called a “Chi
Kung State of Mind” and is able to directly manipulate energy the way they want,
such as tapping energy from the cosmos, channelling energy to various parts of
their body or being able to transmit energy to people in other countries to speed
up their healing!
You CAN take back the responsibility for:
• Your Health
• Your Vitality
• Your Longevity
• Your Spirituality
Through the practice of high level Chi Kung.
Sifu Marcus Santer, United Kingdom
Western Medicine's Take On Acupuncture
After thousands of years of practice, we know that acupuncture works, but the West is still trying to understand why. Acupuncture derives from the concept in traditional Chinese medicine that disease results from a disruption in the flow of chi—the body's circulating life energy—and imbalances in the forces of yin and yang. Chi is said to flow along pathways in the human body known as meridians. According to Eastern thought, there are as many as 20 meridians and more than 2,000 acupuncture points found along them. Applying tiny needles—or, sometimes, pressure or heat—to those points is believed to deliver therapeutic effects for patients.
The success of acupuncture is evident in its popularity in the U.S. and its growing acceptance among medical professionals. A 2002 National Center for Health Statistics survey estimated that 8.2 million adults had tried acupuncture. Acupuncture needles are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, and the therapy is sometimes approved by insurance.
But just how it works is a mystery Western researchers are still attempting to understand. In a consensus statement issued by the National Institutes of Health in 1997, scientists acknowledged that some of the tenets of acupuncture—like the flow of chi and the network of meridians—is "difficult to reconcile with contemporary biomedical information," but argued that there is "clear evidence" that acupuncture works for treatment of postoperative and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. They also found evidence of pain relief from conditions such as postoperative dental pain, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, and fibromyalgia.
Tai Chi Helps Fibromyalgia
Tai Chi Reported to Ease Fibromyalgia
Jodi Hilton for The New York Times
Mary Petersen, who has been suffering from Fibromyalgia, practicing tai chi on Nahant Beach, Mass., near her home.
The ancient Chinese practice of tai chi may be effective as a therapy for fibromyalgia, according to a study published on Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine.
A clinical trial at Tufts Medical Center found that after 12 weeks of tai chi, patients with fibromyalgia, a chronic pain condition, did significantly better in measurements of pain, fatigue, physical functioning, sleeplessness and depression than a comparable group given stretching exercises and wellness education. Tai chi patients were also more likely to sustain improvement three months later.
“It’s an impressive finding,” said Dr. Daniel Solomon, chief of clinical research in rheumatology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who was not involved in the research. “This was a well-done study. It was kind of amazing that the effects seem to carry over.”
Although the study was small, 66 patients, several experts considered it compelling because fibromyalgia is a complex and often-confusing condition, affecting five million Americans, mostly women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since its symptoms can be wide-ranging and can mimic other disorders, and its diagnosis depends largely on patients’ descriptions, not blood tests or biopsies, its cause and treatment have been the subject of debate.
“We thought it was notable that The New England Journal accepted this paper, that they would take fibromyalgia on as an issue, and also because tai chi is an alternative therapy that some people raise eyebrows about,” said Dr. Robert Shmerling, clinical chief of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, co-author of an editorial about the study.
“Fibromyalgia is so common, and we have such a difficult time treating it effectively. It’s defined by what the patient tells you,” he added. “It’s hard for some patients’ families and their doctors to get their head around what it is and whether it’s real. So, that these results were so positive for something that’s very safe is an impressive accomplishment.”
Recent studies have suggested that tai chi, with its slow exercises, breathing and meditation, could benefit patients with other chronic conditions, including arthritis. But not all of these reports have been conclusive, and tai chi is hard to study because there are many styles and approaches.
The fibromyalgia study involved the yang style of tai chi, taught by a Boston tai chi master, Ramel Rones. Dr. Solomon and other experts cautioned that bigger studies with other masters and approaches were necessary.
Still, patients, who received twice-weekly tai chi classes and a DVD to practice with 20 minutes daily, showed weekly improvement on an established measurement, the Fibromyalgia Impact Questionnaire, improving more than the stretching-and-education group in physicians’ assessments, sleep, walking and mental health. One-third stopped using medication, compared with one-sixth in the stretching group.
Dr. Chenchen Wang, a Tufts rheumatologist who led the study, said she attributed the results to the fact that “fibromyalgia is a very complex problem” and “tai chi has multiple components — physical, psychological, social and spiritual.”
The therapy impressed Mary Petersen, 59, a retired phone company employee from Lynn, Mass., who said that before participating in the 2008 study, “I couldn’t walk half a mile,” and it “hurt me so much just to put my hands over my head.” Sleeping was difficult, and she was overweight. “There was no joy to life,” she said. “I was an entire mess from head to foot.”
She had tried and rejected medication, physical therapy, swimming and other approaches. “I was used to being treated in a condescending manner because they couldn’t diagnose me: ‘She’s menopausal, she’s crazy.’ ”
Before the study, “I didn’t know tai chi from a sneeze,” said Ms. Petersen, who has diabetes and other conditions. “I was like, ‘Well, O.K., I’ll get to meet some people, it will get me out of the house.’ I didn’t believe any of it. I thought this is so minimal, it’s stupid.”
After a few weeks, she said she began to feel better, and after 12 weeks “the pain had diminished 90 percent.” She has continued tai chi, lost 50 pounds and can walk three to seven miles a day.
“You could not have convinced me that I would ever have done this or continued with this,” she said. “I wouldn’t say it’s a cure. I will say it’s an effective method of controlling pain.”
Dr. Shmerling said that though tai chi is inexpensive compared with other treatments, some patients would reject such an alternative therapy. And Dr. Gloria Yeh, a Beth Israel Deaconess internist and co-author of the editorial, said others “will say, ‘It’s too slow, I can’t do that.’ ”
But she said it offered a “gentler option” for patients deterred by other physical activities. “The mind-body connections set it apart from other exercises,” she said, adding that doctors are seeking “anything we can offer that will make patients say ‘I can really do this.’ ”
Acupuncture for Breast Cancer Pain
Acupuncture Offers Relief for Breast Cancer Patients
An acupuncturist inserts needles into a patient. (M. Spencer Green/AP)
Treatments for breast cancer can lead to unpleasant side effects for most women, including hot flashes, sweating and lack of energy. Now, new research suggests relief can come from an unconventional therapy — acupuncture.
Research from the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, presented this week at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology’s annual meeting in Boston, studied acupuncture use among 47 women who were receiving anti-estrogen treatments, including tamoxifen or anastrozole (Arimidex). The drugs are known to lower the risk of breast cancer recurrence, but they can trigger menopause-like symptoms, including hot flashes and night sweats. Half the women were given the antidepressant Effexor, which has been shown to reduce hot flashes in breast cancer patients. The other half received acupuncture therapy once or twice a week during the 12-week study.
The acupuncture worked just as well as the antidepressant Effexor to curb hot flashes. Women who received acupuncture also reported fewer side effects and more energy, and some reported an increased sex drive, compared to women who used Effexor, the study showed.
Dr. Eleanor M. Walker, director of breast radiation oncology at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, said that while she expected to see some benefits from acupuncture, the results were surprising.
“I was surprised by the duration of the effect,” Dr. Walker said in an interview. “I didn’t realize it would last so long or result in an increase in sex drive and energy. That was a surprise.”
Last year, a report in The Journal of Clinical Oncology suggested a benefit of acupuncture compared to a “sham” acupuncture treatment, but the results didn’t reach statistical significance.
Because the most recent study lasted only three months, it’s not clear how long the benefit of acupuncture lasts. The study authors said that more research is needed to find out if regular “booster” sessions after the initial treatment period will continue to relieve a woman’s symptoms.