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Acupuncture: An old treatment gets to the point!

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Acupuncture is now being used in modern medicine, but it is certainly not new. 

Starting with moxabustion, surface stimulation dated back thousands of years,  at least 4,000.   Sparks from the campfire that may have landed on specific points on the bodies surrounding the fire, and then symptoms were noted to improve.  Some accounts postulate that arrows in battle could have curative powers when they landed on certain precise points of the body.  Soon the local medicine men  were mapping the spots on the skin that corresponded with various symptoms, from headaches to back pain, insomnia,  and even asthma. 

 Medical acupuncturists today use sterile needles made of surgical quality stainless steel, then dispose of each needle after a single use.  Placement is done into precise points of anatomy, as indicated by the clinical findings, or images from appropriate X-rays, sonograms, or MRI’s.   If a problem is superficial then a shallow needle placement is sufficient; if the problem is several inches beneath the surface, then a correspondingly longer needle is needed.  Deep needle techniques are best left to those MD’s or chiropractors who are fully trained in the underlying anatomy.

One of the great uses for acupuncture is to treat modern stress, including anxiety, or burn-out.

How does it work?  By releasing endorphin from the pituitary gland, acupuncture provides an excellent pain relief.  This chemical is natural, and is supposed to be released every day to help us overcome pains.  When severe injuries occur, then the body is overwhelmed, and natural endorphin production wilts.  Acupuncture quickly restores this, and gives a surge of even higher levels than normal.  This explains why surgery can be done on patients using just a couple of acupuncture needles for anesthesia.

In addition, acupuncture also promotes the release of the body’s own anti-inflammatory, cortisone.  (This by the simultaneous release of ACTH and endorphin from the pituitary; the latter goes to the adrenal glands to release natural cortisone).  That finally explains why acupuncture can dramatically save an asthmatic from needing more intervention for an acute episode.   It also explains why acupuncture can lead to a complete cure of many pains, because it also cures the underlying inflammation that causes the pain.  Much better than just a few hours of relief from codeine, and without any addictive properties or other side effects.

 

So the next time your doctor suggests acupuncture for you, keep an open mind.  It seems that alongside modern diagnostic and therapeutic tools, acupuncture needles indeed have a point!

 

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Headache relief without drugs!

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If you are suffering from headaches, especially the tension headaches we associate with stress, don't assume you will always need to take a prescription drug, or otherwise be doomed to enduring the pain.

 

Stress headaches are caused by muscle tension.  Muscles are built to flex and extend as we move, and get all their circulation between movement.  That's when the blood supply brings in food and oxygen, and carries away the products of metabolism. 

During sleep this takes place naturally, but during the day our modern workplace gets in the way.  We have invented the cubicle to replace the spear and rake.  Now we hunt and peck, instead of hunting and gathering.  But by the end of several hours, our large muscles have not moved, except to draw our shoulders forward, to raise our shouldertips up to our ears, and to crane our necks downwards toward the screen.  While the small muscles of the hand may be moving, the large muscles are screaming for fuel and oxygen!

The result is pain.  In just the same way, two suitcases held at arms length can become extremely painful.  Even if the suitcases are empty, and the arms are muscular, the muscles cannot withstand permanent tension, which is why this technique has infamously been used as torture.

So if you feel like you are being tortured with headaches while you are working at a stressful job, here are some simple steps to try before resorting to a prescription drug:

1. Set a timer.  Every fifteen minutes, have a kitchen timer or an Outlook reminder sound the alarm.  Then straighten up your posture, pull back your shoulder blades so they almost touch, and roll your neck and shouldertips around in slow cirles.  Just a short break, then back into the task you go. 

2. Take a breath.  Most of us breath very shallow cycles unless we are huffing in full sprint.  With desk work, this means the lungs never properly fill or empty, and carbon dioxide builds up in our blood.  This makes our pH acidic, and further adds to the pain in our muscles, already painful by their buildup of lactic acid from contracting.  During your fifteen minute mini-break, take a moment to exhale through your mouth.  Blow it all out, then blow out even more.  You will be surprised how much extra air you were holding back!  Now take a slow breath in through your nose, until you can't inhale any more.  Pause for several seconds, then blow it all out again.  Repeat a few times, then return to your task.

3. Take a drink. 

 Most people are "down a quart" in water, just like our cars are often short of motor oil.  Rehydration with water will improve sludged circulation to those tense muscle cells.  Hot water or cold, it doesn't matter. 

4. Try a massage.  First, your own fingers can help if you press firmly over the temples.  Clench and unclench your teeth, and feel the scalp muscles on each side of the head as they engage.  If there are tender spots here, apply your own fingerpressure firmly for a few seconds, in a slow circular motion.  If the headache is still bad, pair off with a co-worker; have him or her stand behind you as you sit, and place one thumb over each of your shoulder tips.  The exact target is the half-way point between the spinal nob at the base of your neck and the edge of the shoulder, where the seam of the arm meets the body of the shirt.  The Chinese Acupuncturists know this as "Gall Bladder 21", and MD Pain specialists know this as a classic "trigger point" to inject with freezing.  But without needles, it is still a powerful point to prevent tension pains.

Press with the thumbs firmly, and visualize descending a four story elevator.  The muscles will start to ease under the thumbs, then add more pressure to go down to the third floor.  The thumbnails will be white with the pressure, and you will soon feel the release of the underlying shoulder muscles again.  Repeat until down to the "lobby".  Do NOT start at the surface and then press all the way to the basement!!

If the above doesn't work, then try a non-prescription drug.  If still no luck, see your doctor for a full assessment, diagnosis, and then a treatment plan.

 

 

 

 

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Titanic gives us Stress Lesson

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The Titanic, launched on April 10, 1912, was built to be unsinkable. Instead, it sailed into infamy.  Four days into its maiden voyage, it struck an iceberg, which should have been survivable.  

Titanic was built with sixteen compartments, and should have been able to withstand up to five of them filling with water. 

 

Problem was, not all of them had walls all the way up, making it possible for water to spill over the tops.  Others simply leaked.  But if each of these hatches was indeed a sealed unit, then the iceberg would only have been a wound, instead of a fatal blow.  Since then, shipmakers make sure the hull has watertight barriers, and it is up to the crew to make sure they keep the doors shut between compartments.

 

 Our stresses come in many compartments:  work, commuting, relationships, etc.  We have stress in our hobbies, our projects,  and even in our sleep.

Just like the maritime builders, we need to remember the value of separating these compartments.  Otherwise it is all too easy for one stress, for example work, to spill over into every other area.  If we are still talking about work during our leisure time, the time will not be very rejuvenating.  If we are thinking about work while our kids are trying to talk to us, that leads to more stress.  If we cannot sleep because we are thinking about work, then it means we wake up ill-prepared for the next day, and likely to increase the stress that work was causing in the first place.

So how do we close the doors between these areas of our lives?  Two tools are at our disposal:

1. Relaxation: This one is not automatic, but is actually a learnable skill.  From diciplines of Yoga to hypnosis, you can learn to breathe deeply, lower your pulse, and wipe all your work stresses away for the moment.  This can be structured as a simple "power nap" that could take only minutes, or it could be incorporated into an actual nap, such as a mid-afternoon "power-hour" during a day off,  to recharge after a hectic week.  If the stress is coming from another compartment, say from a relationship, then the same technique can clear your mind of these stresses and/or anxieties, so you can be uncluttered in your business decisions.  

2. Excitement:  This one is not intuitive, but also can seal off the compartments in your life.  Consider the roller coaster: nobody is talking about the office while they are hurtling down the rails.  So the stress of the ride forces the brain and the body into using different circuits.  People with intense stress at a computer all week will find great benefits in doing something else that may also be extremely stressful: rock climbing, white water rafting, or even playing a competitive sport for points or for a few dollars.  But note that this needs to be an alternate excitement; if one works all day testing roller coasters, then another ride on a day off would hardly get one's mind off work!

So remember to value all the compartments in your life, and to try to keep them separate.  No work papers beside your easy chair, and no fishing tackle on your desk at work.  Focus on the compartment you are in, and enjoy the fullness of each area of your life.  That's the best way to keep the stresses in your life from overwhelming you, and from sinking your health.  Remember the Titanic! 

 

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