I've just returned from a month in Sichuan, China where I completed 88 hours of study at Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (and trekked a 10,000' mountain- my first ever!) My focuses in acupuncture, tuina (massage), and internal medicine included gastrointestinal, geriatrics, oncology, and pediatrics.
It was reassuring to see that what I have been learning these last four years is exactly what is being practiced in China. Though I do not speak Mandarin, and very little English is spoken in Chengdu, those of us in the hospital were definitely speaking the same language: TCM.
A major difference I observed, however, is patient compliance. In China, patients will go in for daily treatments, 5-7 days per week for a month or longer; however long it takes to resolve their condition. Acupuncture and massage is performed on people of all ages including infants, and herbal formulas are taken as directed. By contrast, in the U.S., we are lucky to see patients once per week, and it's rare to treat someone who actually takes their herbs. It's unfortunate because, if administered correctly, this medicine works.
Self-Monitoring (on a Budget)
I signed up for yoga at a community college because I need a class to help me hold myself accountable since I sometimes let my home practice find its way to the proverbial back-burner, but I am budgeting for China. The most affordable private studio in town runs $75/ month, unlimited, which is a great deal, and happens to be at one of my favorite local studios, but more than I am willing to spend. After registering for school, and paying the mandatory health fee and per-unit tuition, I am entitled to two 90-minute classes per week for five months, plus free to low-cost health services for a total of $66. Not bad.
It turns out that the yoga, itself, leaves some things to be desired, but there are other valuable things to be gained from this experience. Because it is a college course, students are required to learn more than just asanas and vinyasa flow. Each class begins with a 10-15 minute lecture (so we really only get 30-40 minutes of actual yoga), and the homework requires students to learn about our bodies, including our diets and exercise habits, and how we are affected by them, so I am privy to a nice, abbreviated review of things I'd learned in Nutrition and Science classes. In addition, I have found My Fitness Pal to be a useful tool which I can access from my computer and mobile device. It, too, helps me to hold myself accountable for my health.
Most recently, we were encouraged to have our blood pressure taken at the Health Services office on campus. Had this not been assigned, I may never have learned where the office is, nor what services are offered, because I monitor my blood pressure on my own. When I signed in, I noticed that there were several options to explain the reason for my visit. One option was "blood work." Who knew that, for $40, you could get a complete blood panel done? After having my blood pressure taken, I decided to have blood drawn. Because I had to fast 12 hours beforehand, I decided to go in later in the week. (No appointment necessary.)
I will receive my lab results Monday when the nurse goes over the numbers with me. In the mean time, I will be nursing this mess she made of my arm. Ouch!
Beginning next week, I will be assisting Tracie Livermore as she teaches Stretching and Traction, a massage class offered at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. I am looking forward to refining my classroom skills which have been on hiatus since I was employed by South Bay Union School District in San Diego, followed by an after-school science program through which I taught at various elementary schools in San Francisco in the mid 1990s. (Yes, it's been awhile!) As an added bonus, I expect assisting in the classroom will provide the opportunity for me to pick up several more stretching techniques than I currently employ in my private practice. ...More tools for my healing toolbox!
Many of my clients seek treatment for neck and shoulder soreness, tightness, or pain. When discussing treatment plans with my business partner, a licensed acupuncturist who co-treats a number of these individuals, we have referred to this particular protocol as The Uzh (as in The Usual), because this complaint is quite common.
Upper Cross Syndrome (UCS) is a common condition explained by Dr. Janda and easily recognized by a hunched over posture, rounded shoulders, and head protruding forward. UCS, also referred to as Shoulder Girdle Crossed Syndrome, is basically a muscular imbalance: the tightness of the upper trapezius and levator scapula on the back of the body “cross” with the tightness of pectoralis major and pectoralis minor on the chest, and the weakness of the deep cervical flexors in the front of the neck “cross” with the weakness of the middle and lower trapezius of the back. This pattern therefore creates muscle soreness and joint dysfunction in the neck (atlanto-occipital joint and at C4-C5), shoulders (cervicothoracic and glenohumeral joints), and upper back (T4-T5), and often leads to tension headaches.
UCS develops as a result of repetitive motion and improper posture. Even exercise can put people at risk. Those who work out the chest and upper trapezius muscles more than the lower trapezius and rhomboids will eventually develop UCS. In my experience, however, the one thing that my clients complaining of muscle soreness in the neck and shoulders (and upper back) have in common is that, standing or sitting, they all work at a computer; a sign of the times.
Though massage can temporarily alleviate the soreness associated with UCS, strengthening weak muscles and stretching tight muscles will help prevent it from worsening, and hopefully even reverse the damage. If left untreated, UCS may eventually lead to conditions such as osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease, so, if you think your uppers are crossed, it's probably time for an evaluation!
Integrative Health Nights
Every Thursday from 3p-7p through August 8, I will be providing community style acupuncture treatments with a volunteer team of licensed acupuncturists and one other intern. Locations vary according to the week, so please follow the link by clicking the photo for details.
Eating to Detoxify?!
It is commonly accepted that adding something new is easier than cutting something out, so I thought I'd share an article that I read today showcasing five foods which will help cleanse your body from the inside out, in hopes that you'll implement one (or all!) of them to your personal menu: parsley and coriander, water, leafy greens, lemon water, and avocado.
I'm always open to easy ways to improve. For example, I've made a habit of drinking a glass of water first thing every morning, instead of coffee and before my tea. Effortless yet beneficial; I really feel a difference!
Try adding one of the five ingredients above to your routine sometime this week. Start easy by adding a vegetable or a glass of water. When that's become part of your weekly routine, shoot for every day. Then, when you've been doing that for a week or two, reflect. See if you don't feel a difference. (I bet you will!)
Once you're comfortable with your new additions, try subtracting something from your routine that may not be in your best interest. Start with cutting out that can of soda or handful of chips you would usually reach for. Baby steps! Next thing you know, it'll be part of your lifestyle, and, really, that's what it's all about.
A Healthy San Diego
Five Elements Festival
Music Yoga Culture
April 6, 2013
9:00 am -12:00 am
$25 - $40
2nd Annual Healthy Living Festival
San Diego's Largest Health & Fitness Expo
April 13-14, 2013
Saturday 10:00 am - 6:00 pm, Sunday 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Del Mar Fair Grounds
California Licensed Acupuncturist, mother of two, zoo member.