Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine as Primary Care

In some countries such as Japan, South Korea and China, there are hospitals that are fully integrated with eastern and western medicine. In one facility, you can get an x-ray and get an acupuncture treatment under one roof. Imagine that!

My mother was some sort of integrative medicine revolutionary. When she raised my brothers and me she had a very unique philosophy toward our medical care. Depending on our ailments our mother took us to either a western medical doctor (MD) or to an eastern medical doctor (acupuncturist).

If we had the flu she took us to an MD. If we had a sty or a skin rash she took us to the acupuncturist. If we sprained an ankle we went to the MD so we can get an x-ray to confirm there were no breaks. She politely refused the prescribed pain meds and took us to our acupuncturist.

My mother’s idea of a second opinion, was to go to our acupuncturist. When my younger brother was having digestive problems with nausea and vomiting at the age of eight it was our acupuncturist that figured out he had an ulcer. The medical doctors never suspected an ulcer for an eight year old patient. A few acupuncture treatments later my brother no longer had any stomach problems.

Acupuncture was not considered an alternative medicine in our household. It was our primary care for about half our ailments, but it wasn’t just for ailments. We went to the acupuncture doctor for preventive care, which is when Oriental Medicine is at its best!

For more on conditions that Oriental Medicine can treat, click here.

 

Soon M Lee, LAc, DAOM is a Licensed Acupuncturist certified by the state of California. He is the owner and acupuncturist at Plum FamiLee Acupuncture in Tustin, CA.

What Can AcupunctureTreat?

Most people come to acupuncturists for pain, often as a last resort after they’ve tried everything else. Acupuncture is great for pain. Treatments increase circulation, delivering more blood and, therefore, more oxygen to the area of pain to promote healing. Acupuncture treatments also activate endorphins, which are one of the “feel good” hormones in our bodies. While it can work wonders for pain, acupuncture can do so much more.

Pain relief is just the tip of the iceberg. Throughout the treatment process for pain, many patients experience what I like to call “beneficial side effects.” After several treatments, it is very common for a patient to comment about how much more energy they have or how much better they’re sleeping, pooping or managing stress.

This is the “Aha!” moment that opens patients up to treatments for other health issues. They realize and feel the benefits of their bodies coming into balance, even if the didn’t know they needed it!

I can go on and on about all the conditions acupuncturists can help. Both the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health have published long lists of conditions acupuncture can treat. Take a look!

As expansive as these lists are, the benefits of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine are not limited to those conditions. Remember, they are all western diseases. In Oriental Medicine, disease results from imbalances in our bodies. Regardless of the name of a disease, acupuncturists focus on the patterns of imbalance and treat accordingly.

So the next time you see your acupuncturist don’t be afraid to let them about all your health concerns, even if you think we can’t help. You just  might be surprised what we could do.

Acupuncture – World Health Organization

The WHO has listed the following conditions  for which Acupuncture has shown effectiveness:

  • low back pain, sciatica, neck pain
  • tennis elbow
  • knee pain
  • periarthritis of the shoulder
  • sprains
  • facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
  • headache
  • dental pain
  • temporomandibular (TMJ) dysfunction
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • induction of labor
  • correction of malposition of fetus (breech presentation)
  • morning sickness, nausea and vomiting
  • postoperative pain
  • stroke
  • essential hypertension
  • primary hypotension
  • renal colic
  • leucopenia
  • adverse reactions to radiation or chemotherapy
  • allergic rhinitis, including hay fever
  • biliary colic
  • depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
  • acute bacillary dysentery
  • primary dysmenorrhea
  • acute epigastralgia
  • peptic ulcer
  • acute and chronic gastritis
Source: WHO

Acupuncture – National Institutes of Health

The NIH lists the following conditions for which Acupuncture can be useful:

  • postoperative and chemotherapy nausea and vomiting
  • postoperative dental pain
  • addiction
  • stroke rehabilitation
  • headache
  • menstrual cramps
  • tennis elbow
  • fibromyalgia
  • myofascial pain
  • osteoarthritis
  • low back pain
  • carpel tunnel syndrome
  • asthma
 Source: NIH

What Is In A Name?

When I first decided to open my own practice one of the first tasks was to come up with a name for the clinic. I brainstormed with my wife and brother to come up with a good and meaningful name. The result of this surprisingly short process was Plum FamiLee Acupuncture. Many have asked me about the Plum FamiLee name so I decided to address this question for those inquiring minds.

The “FamiLee” part of the name is obviously a fun play on words using my last name Lee. It is a moniker that we have been using in our household for the past couple of years. We use it as the network name for our WiFi at home. It is also the name of our band when we play Rock Band.

Fun fact: The Chinese character for Lee, which is included in the company logo, is also the character for the plum fruit. In old Korean, plum was pronounced “oh yat.” Today, it is called “ja du.”

Why did I focus so much on my family name?

In raising my two brothers and me in the tiny pacific island of Guam, a U.S. territory, my parents were very open-minded. They understood and accepted that we would assimilate with the culture in which we grew. Because my brothers and I had an American childhood my father made it a point to teach us about our family history. Even though he was accepting of our “non-Korean” ways I think he wanted us to never forget our roots.

So in naming the practice I wanted to pay homage to my, ahem, famiLee (I couldn’t resist). I especially wanted to pay homage to my father. No matter how far removed from the motherland we may be, I wanted to let him know that I am proud of my roots.

Plum FamiLee Acupuncture.

3 Simple Eating Tips

We’ve all come across that person, the one who is offended if they are offered food they think is not “clean” enough.  Is it organic?  Is it gluten free?  How fresh is it?  Is it free-range?  It can get so bad that it can turn into an eating disorder.  In fact, there is a term for it now: orthorexia.  I knew there had to be a word for this! I stumbled upon an article about orthorexia: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/eating-634515-food-people.html.

One could argue the whole clean food industry is out of control.  If you host some sort of event where you serve food, you are considered insensitive if you do not provide accommodations that fit the gamut of “clean” eaters: vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, paleo, etc.

I’m still recovering from the notion bread is bad for you.  How is something in one of the (now obsolete) four food groups bad for you?  It seems there is always a new report, scientific study or finding by a food blogger about some new superfood.  On the flip side, we suddenly find some food previously thought to be good is now bad.

How in the world are we supposed to keep track?  To really keep up with it all, you have to make it not just your hobby, but your life.  This can cause even more anxiety in our already anxiety-ridden world.

Of course, we all want to be and eat healthier, especially as we age.  While I appreciate all the people who do the hard work and research for us, sometimes I just want to eat!  We live in an era with unprecedented access to information.  The problem is, there is too much information out there, and so much of it is conflicting.

So what do we do?

We do what we can without stressing out about it.  The amount of stress and anxiety caused by trying to eat clean and sorting through the plethora of research involved can counteract all the healthy foods you end up choosing.

Here are three simple ideas to help you with healthy eating: moderation, balance, and meal enjoyment.

Moderation

Too much of anything can and will kill you.  People have died from drinking too much water.  Did you know that 100% oxygen is toxic? Even too much of the basic elements of life can kill you.  No matter how good something is for us, we should always take it in moderation.

This is especially true for superfoods.  I have no doubt they are good for us. I enjoy kale, chia seeds, berries, and quinoa as much as the next guy.  Does this mean I should be eating those things every day? Absolutely not.  There are enough superfoods out there to mix it up from day to day.

Aside from not varying your nutritional intake, the main problem with eating the same foods every day (superfood or not) is it magnifies the negative effects they may have, even if we don’t know about them yet.  Imagine if 20 years from now, studies show that eating 100 pounds of chia seeds over your lifetime makes your brain explode!

Balance

Vary your foods.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate, and you don’t have to be a nutritionist to do this.  It can be as simple as balancing color, hardness, even temperature:

If you have too much brown food (meat), add some green, yellow and red to your plate.  If you have too much mushy food, add some more hearty foods. If you have all raw foods (salad), make sure you have cooked foods.

Foods all have their own temperatures.  That is why a watermelon “tastes cold” even when it hasn’t been refrigerated. It’ll be good to balance meals by considering their natural “temperatures.”  Talk to your Acupuncturist about balancing your foods based on their temperature-related properties.

Yes, this may be an over-simplified approach, but it is an easy way to make sure you are varying your nutritional intake.

I would even go so far as saying everybody should eat unhealthy food once in a while, just to make sure your body’s toxin elimination process stays honest.  So it may be good for our bodies to give ourselves a day of reward every once in a while, i.e. fat days!

Enjoy your meals

In today’s society, we all tend to eat in front of our computers at work, eat in front of the TV or eat with our eyes glued to our smart phones.  All these things stimulate our minds at a time when our minds should be at ease.  This is especially bad when we watch or read about stress or anxiety causing news.  The result?  Indigestion!

Even too much conversation about our everyday stresses, such as how your business is struggling, can give you indigestion.  So when a loved one asks you, “How was your day?” at the dinner table, stick to the light and positive stuff.  Save the negative, stressful stuff for later.  It is best to eat in peace, and enjoy your company.

Avoiding  distractions during your meal will allow you to focus more on your food. You will chew more thoroughly and carefully.  Harmonious eating will lead to harmonious digestion.

Finally

If you can afford the time to research, or the money to hire a nutritionist, you are likely to create a detailed road map to healthier eating.  At the very least, do a little research and educate yourself.  In the meantime, if you want simplicity in your diet while still trying to eat healthy, just follow the three things I mentioned: moderation, balance, and meal enjoyment.

Happy Eating!

Easy Meditation

Let me start by saying that I am nothing even close to a meditation expert; I’m just a huge proponent of it. The practice of meditation has made a deeply profound difference in my own life. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the state of the mind plays an integral part in a person’s health. Not only does emotional imbalance cause physical ailments, but they also manifest themselves as a physical symptom.

So when I recommend to my patients a daily dose of meditation, I am often greeted with a look of confusion and exacerbation.  The mere suggestion of meditation stresses some people out.  Why?  Because “I don’t know how.”

It is a little ironic that people become stressed out by the prospect of performing an activity that is supposed to help relieve that stress.  The people that are most in need of meditation, are also the types that would agonize details about what position to hold, the number of breaths to take, which mantra to chant, etc.

Now, I’m not saying that meditation styles that have such specific rules are silly.  I just don’t think that they are necessary for a person to benefit from meditation.   Developing your own meditative routines and poses is a rewarding and fun personal journey.

Why Meditate?

If you do any internet search on meditation, I’m sure you will find links to numerous studies that show meditation is good for a wide variety of physical and mental ailments.  I don’t want to necessarily talk about that, but I do suggest you look into it.  You may find that it helps with your particular ailment.

It gets much deeper than that.  Meditation taps not just into your mental/conscious, but it also opens you up to your spiritual/sub-conscious self.  It can clarify, purify, and sanctify things you may not have even known to need such actions.  The result can be life changing, as it has been for me.  This quote by Diana Robinson sums it up for me.  “Prayer is when you talk to God; meditation is when you listen to God.”

Don’t be shocked if at first it is a little hard to quiet your mind.  If you sat on your couch and tried to think about nothing for ten minutes, you might be surprised how much stuff goes through your mind.  Just remember that this is normal, and don’t get down on yourself for having such a busy mind.  You will start to learn how to quiet it down and focus as time goes on.

So here are a few basic tips that have worked for me.  I cannot stress enough the importance of doing what works and feels right for you.  Remember, this is your own personal journey.

Your spot

Find one.  It’s as simple as that.  It should be somewhere you won’t be disturbed or distracted.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be completely quiet, as long as it is not distracting.  You can meditate outdoors at a park, in your room, or even in your car or office.  You can pick a space and decorate it, making it your own little sanctuary.  If you do choose indoors, try to keep it well ventilated.

Your position

One rule here: keep your spine straight. You may have to tuck your chin in to help you. Imagine that there is a string that connects the back of your head to the ceiling. This rule applies to whatever position you choose: kneeling, sitting with your legs crossed, sitting on a chair, or standing in the Qi Gong Horse stance (more about this later).

  • Kneeling – kneel with your knees about 2 fist-widths apart, and the tops of your feet flat on the ground. Relax your ankles and your shoulders.
  • Sitting on a chair – sit firmly close to the edge of a chair. Your hips and your knees should be at about a 90˚ angle.
  • Hands – rest your hands gently on your knees. If you prefer, you can cross your two thumbs with your palms facing you, and gently rest them two to three inches below your belly button.
  • Shoulders and elbows – try to keep them nice and relaxed.
  • Smile – put on a slight smile in such a way that you don’t have to try hard to maintain it.

Your eyes

Some people say to lower your eyelids to about halfway from closing.  This is to prevent your mind from drifting.  I personally find that I am able to focus better with my eyes closed because I am easily susceptible to visual stimulation.  You can just do what feels right for you, and you can always try the other way if it doesn’t work out.

Music or Silence

Ideally, you should meditate in silence, so I’ve been told. I actually like to turn on Pandora and tune into channels such as Zen Garden, Meditation By the Sea, New Age Ambient, and the likes. Soothing music puts my mind at ease, and allows me to “get in my zone” faster. When I don’t have music, I tend to get distracted by every little sound my environment makes.

Breathing

If there is one thing you should remember about breathing, it is to expand your stomach (not your chest) when you inhale. A lot of times, there is what I like to call “a blockage of stress” right at your diaphragm. In these cases, oxygen (as well as other energies) does not easily reach other parts of your body. Expanding your stomach while inhaling will open up your diaphragm and allow for the free flow of oxygen.

Breathe naturally. Although a rapid breath usually does indicate a busy mind, you don’t have to worry about breathing at a certain rate. I would like to add, however, that a slow, steady breath is ideal. You should instead focus on your breath flowing in and out of your body.

Focus

So you have your space, your pose, your music, and you’re all ready to start. Now what? Meditate, of course! There are several things you can do to help direct your focus:

  • Count your breaths – Simply count your breaths. Count your breath on each exhale, from one to ten. Then count backwards from ten to one. If you ever lose count due to emotions or thoughts, don’t let that bother you. Simply start over. When your focus strays during your meditation session, and they most certainly will, just go back to counting breaths.
  • Focus on an object – It can be any object you want, whether or not the object is significant is totally up to you., It can be of religious nature (like a cross), or it can be something (seemingly) meaningless like a blank piece of paper or a rock.
  • Focus on a place – You can visualize that you are present in your special place. For example, it can be at a secluded beach, a mountain top, or forest. It can be virtually anywhere!
  • Hugs – You can send hugs to each of your organs or body parts, especially to areas that might be ailing. This can help to send more blood, energy, and healing properties to those ailing parts.
  • More hugs – You can visualize hugging people. I have found this practice especially powerful. I mentally hug my patients, my family, and other loved ones. More importantly, however, I mentally hug people who might frustrate, annoy, anger, or scare me. This has made me deal with certain situations with much more calm and understanding. And if I find myself dealing with a difficult person, guess what I do? I give them a mental hug!

It is important to try to maintain focus on something at all times. I would recommend against aimless meditation. Aimless meditation raises the potential of allowing too many thoughts to come into your mind, and may produce effects that are opposite of what we are trying to obtain. It can stress you out!

Thoughts

Like I mentioned above, you will most certainly be faced with many thoughts entering your mind. Remember that this is completely normal and expected. Do not allow these thoughts to bother you. You don’t have to try to ignore them either, however. Trying to fight or ignore your thoughts can actually add stress. Instead, just acknowledge the thoughts that enter your mind, and let them flow right back out. To help you with this, just refocus on your posture and the method of focus you chose (breathing, visualizing, etc.).

Time

However long you meditate, you should time yourself. If you use the timer on your cell phone, make sure to select a soft ring tone for the alarm. A loud ring tone can be quite jarring when you’re in a meditative state.

You can start by meditating for 10 minutes, or even less. You can also start just by counting to ten, and back down to one, and count that as your meditation session without any time requirements to bog you down. I usually start with a minimum of 12 minutes, but my average time of meditation is 18. It would be great if you can work yourself up to 20 or 30 minute sessions. Again, just meditate for the amount of time that best suits you.

During some meditation sessions, you may find that you are done meditating before your alarm goes off. When you feel that way, it is best to just stop. When you force yourself to go longer than you are mentally willing or able, you will start to feel agitated. Once you get accustomed to meditating for longer periods of time, you will actually find yourself asking “Was that 30 minutes already?”

Lastly and most importantly, have fun and enjoy your journey!