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Cupping

I am so three weeks ago, but I also haven’t updated since March. What is cupping and what does it do aside from give you hickeys in perfect circles? 

Basically, think of it like vacuum massage. I could talk about toxins or creating an energy racetrack in your body, but I really don’t like getting all woo woo. You know when you’re getting a massage or somebody is rubbing your shoulders and they hit a crunchy spot? I am 1) not a massage therapist and 2) way too lazy to work that out on my own power. I don’t use the glass and fire in the office so much; usually it’s a silicone suction cup that I squoosh onto your skin so it sticks well. Instead of me pressing, the vacuum is pulling, and the knot unties.

You have to pull the skin pretty hard to work at the muscle underneath, so it tends to leave a mark. For professional athletes, therapists are going to need more force than I usually use. To work out the average crunchy shoulders, if you aren’t someone who bruises when somebody slaps you on the back, you might be a bit purple for a few hours. If you are very pale or your muscles are very tight, the marks might fade out over a week. Most people feel enough relief they don’t care about the marks. But the world knows what it is now, so you don’t have to be embarrassed. Maybe warn me if you’re going to be a bridesmaid tomorrow so I make sure it doesn’t turn too dark.

If you are getting acupuncture and mention that your back or shoulders are tight, I almost always start by cupping anyway, but if you just wanted to try it, ask me about it at your next appointment.

Hair and allergies

I always tell people with allergies to wash bedding in hot, at least twice a month, and give yourself and any bed sharers (partners, kids, pets, whoever went outside! My cat doesn’t, so he gets a pass.) a good rinse. This way you’re not sleeping with as much pollen. However, not everyone can rock the short hair don’t care as well as I do, so here’s some help.

How to sleep on wet hair, from makeup.com
Some videos from bustle.com

Of course, you don’t want to encourage mold, so put a towel over your pillow or encase it in a membrane barrier.

Interactive self care

the test, with a flippant title. Take an hour and try it. If you don’t have an hour in the next week, it is definitely time to examine that.

Here’s something similar in list form.

Happy Mardi Gras and Year of the Monkey!

I was raised with neither religion nor custom, so I don’t know what either of those actually mean. Lent and lunar new year for me feel like time for contemplation, renewal, and spring. I don’t have the time or stamina to totally Konmari my life, but I have floor and desk surfaces that consistently are a lot tidier than they were a couple years ago. I haven’t gotten my comprehensive wellness program on line, but I’m trying to post a little more than a few times a year. I have run a brush over the cat every day this calendar year, and he is more genki a neko than he has been in months. Do a little at a time, but do it!

Happy new year!

You know when is a great time to start something new? How about now? I meant to do holiday greetings in a timely manner, and it’s a great marketing tool. But I don’t want to be like the gym, with a rush of good intentions for the first six weeks of the year.

There is an app for everything, you know. Let me share a couple of my favorites.

Resolution to eat healthier, lose weight, get in shape, blah blah blah? That’s fine, but you need to break it down to actionable items. Habitica turns it into a game. You enter your dailies into lists, and it gives you points for ticking off your tasks. Like maybe, exercise. Eat some vegetables. Drink some water. And you can create a story, get as much into it as you want, but the key is, your avatar loses health points every day you don’t finish your list, and if you slack on it too much, your character dies. On the other hand, you can level up, which gets you to full health points, and gives you rewards to use in your story.

Ingress is a game the paranoid will say is about tracking your movements for Big Brother, and yeah, it’s not awesome if you’re really into privacy. But get real; we are spewing personal deets all the time. And playing this game, it’s easy to walk for miles without hardly noticing. You get out of the house, you might make a bunch of new friends (when people aren’t texting, but they are loitering at places, looking around to orient themselves, and looking at their phones, chances are they’re Ingressing.), and it’s actually really fun to virtually tag your town’s locales.

If you didn’t stop celebrating in time for Dryuary, that’s okay. If you slipped on your resolution and had a piece of cake, I hope it was really good cake! Don’t worry, but don’t give up!

I’m not a lawyer, but

I take a class from a legal professional every so often to keep my license current and help me stay out of trouble. Like a code of ethics, it covers a ton of really ridiculous stuff that seems like it should be common sense. Why does it even have to be stated? Well, because it’s been an issue before for somebody somewhere.

I live and used to practice in a very neighborly community. Everybody knows everybody, or does eventually. If I don’t say hi and ask after your condition when you see me out and about, I promise I’m not a total jerk (although I’m kind of terrible with names and faces and what we worked on last time 2 weeks ago. That’s why you have a file.), but there are privacy laws in effect for your protection. They’re pretty strict, too. If Sting came in for acupuncture before a show, and TMZ called me, all I could say legally is, “I can neither confirm nor deny that Mr. Sumner was a patient at this clinic.” Unless I got his written permission. Knowing me, I will totally forget to obtain this or a selfie or a video testimonial if somebody famous has a great experience on my table.

“But I’m not famous, what’s up?” Well, if I’m treating you for erectile dysfunction or something embarrassing, you probably don’t want that to get out. And what’s the next thing that comes up after, “Oh, he’s getting acupuncture?” Maybe, “what for?” Right? The law doesn’t care what you’re seeing me about, even if it’s something as common as knee pain. I’m not allowed to talk about you as a patient unless you have given me permission.

It’s for patient protection. If you want to say wonderful things about our sessions, that is your right, and please do! However, awkwardly, when the person you referred to me says your name, I’m probably going to sound a little noncommittal. That’s just me trying to follow the rules.

If you call me about a patient who isn’t you, I need their authorization to so much as confirm they’re my patient. That might seem ridiculous to you, but I don’t know your relation. You might say you’re a brother and actually you’re a psycho ex against whom they’ve got a restraining order. Maybe their church thinks my methods are evil, even though my practice has no religious aspect. If you are curious about how I might help you, just ask. It’s about you, not about another patient. Or if you told your friend to call me, I’m not allowed to talk about their appointment.

On the same vein, when family members come together, if the patient doesn’t want to be accompanied to the treatment room, that is fine and totally normal. Whether the patient is experiencing abuse, is a child who actually doesn’t have all those symptoms and just wanted to get out of school, or just doesn’t want to talk about their bodily functions in front of you, it’s their right to want the session with me to be private. If they’re more comfortable, I get more honest answers to my questions and can treat them better.

So, there is your patient law/etiquette lesson of the day. And along the lines of following the law, even if I were single, I could lose my license for dating a patient, so just don’t go there.

Complementary, not alternative

MD. ND. Rx. Acupuncture. Chiropractic. PT. Herbs and supplements. Massage. Reiki. Homeopathy. Yoga. Reflexology. Counseling. Juicing. Meditation. Cleansing. Nutritional Healing. Spiritual Healing. There are LOTS of modalities out there that want your attention. There are lots of people who have a financial interest in you spending your money on one in particular. I’m one of those people; I’m not gonna lie. But here are some of my honest thoughts, and hopefully this will lead to more acceptance all around.

I am a licensed acupuncturist. I studied for many years, saw many patients as an intern, and passed many exams so the State of Texas and the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine deemed me worthy of putting sterile pins in people and recommending herbs, supplements, exercises, and other things that may make a patient more relaxed, in less pain, and in better health. In the state of Texas, if not treating for chronic pain, weight loss, or quit smoking, one cannot practice acupuncture without the referral of a chiropractor or the patient having seen an MD within the last year for the condition being treated.  If there is no improvement within the shorter of 30 days or 20 treatments, the acupuncturist must refer to an MD, though whether or not to follow up on that referral is up to the patient.

An acupuncturist is not allowed to diagnose in Texas. We are limited to observations such as “the lower back hurts.” If you have an MRI saying you have disc prolapse or sciatica, that’s nice. We have provided relief to plenty of patients with various diagnoses. In a practical sense, I think it doesn’t make a difference. Patients usually want pain relief and more range of motion and general function. If it matters to you that your practitioner use a lot of big Latin words, you might limit yourself to modern medicine. If you’re not ready for surgery and have a problem with drugs, then reconcile it in your head or try another practitioner. We have studied medical terminology and basic reading of imaging. However, since I’m certified in an ancient technique, I tend to be treating for “this part hurts, especially when I go like that,” no matter what the technical diagnosis.

I work on a lot more than back pain, but I am not the end all be all for your health care. Skeptics and science purists point to alternative practitioners and say, “You killed Steve Jobs.” (Notably, his friend, famous MD and diet guru Dean Ornish told him early on that he needed surgery. This is not saying alternative therapies are worthless; it’s saying you do need to match your tools to your projects.) My malpractice insurance asks if I treat cancer, and I certainly do not. I do not represent myself as treating cancer. I do get referrals from an oncologist, because neither the disease nor the treatment are comfortable.

I am pleased when patients recognize that they need something more. I’m really pleased when practitioners recognize the patient might need something more, and I’m disappointed when they don’t. I once saw a young woman about IBS, and between several medical doctors, nobody had ever thought to ask her if she had a gynecologist! Now, what else lives in the abdominal cavity aside from the digestive tract that can make one feel pain, cramps, and bloating?

It’s not just modern medicine, though. There are lots of alternative practitioners who don’t believe in doctors…or don’t believe in giving up market share. I hate that I’m kind of a weirdo in my field because I think everybody should be insured (even if it usually doesn’t cover what I do), and almost everybody should be vaccinated. Yes, it’s awful that lots of people don’t take care of themselves. You know what? Cancer happens to the best of us. It’s a joke older than I am of joggers dropping dead of heart attacks while Keith Richards shoots heroin into his eyeballs. I might not have died left to my own devices, but when my appendix flared up, I was more than happy to go to the hospital and get it cut out.

So. When do you see what? You might need a doctor or another or several of the laundry list I opened with. Doctors, I don’t want to see people who are against you if they need you, but I think everyone has been not-sick-enough-for-diagnosis at some point. See someone who is great at what they do but realize it’s not everything. I get adjusted, needled, and massaged, do moxibustion, and I take supplements, but I still go to the doctor and get lab work every year. It’s a free benefit now. I always tell my patients if it’s covered, why not go get more information. If they have an obviously asymmetrical gait or posture, I tell them they might look into chiropractic. Of course, I think I can help with a lot of things. The typical patient I see either feels their condition is not serious enough for the next medical (or surgical) therapy or they are unsatisfied with their current progress. I must stress that this article is not me telling you to go see somebody else about what is bothering you! But I do feel like it’s a strength of mine that I know that I am not the only thing that can help you and am willing to share. Your improvement will always be more important to me than my ego or my check.

 

What is “healthy?”

Who could deny that salads are good for you? How could raw vegetables be a bad thing? Particularly when not overwhelmed by a mucus-forming, creamy, high-calorie dressing?

I say that different people need to exercise different degrees of moderation in all things. More raw food is probably great for someone with heat imbalance. Someone who needs the cooling influence of raw food may have a short fuse, a red face, tendency towards heartburn, and/or excessive body heat. Raw plant matter requires extra effort in digestion to liberate the nutrients from inside the cell wall. When a body has plenty of vigor and stored fuel, this can be a good thing for weight reduction.

When someone is drained, pale, tends to feel cold, is prone to indigestion–but not the sharp heat of heartburn, more like a prolonged dull pain of bloating–then a daily salad could be the worst thing for them. When digestion is weakened, so is the body. When the body is already weakened, it is not a good idea to make it work harder for its nutrition. If you’re overweight and wonder why eating salad all the time made you feel terrible, that’s why. It probably is not right for your body type.

I’m not saying meat and starch is the answer, either. Eating lots of vegetables is generally a good thing. But maybe, instead of mixing them in a salad bowl straight out of the fridge, you can toss ’em in a wok for just a minute or so, to get a little wilt and color bloom. They don’t have to be mushy, just not stone cold and raw. I’ve never cooked lettuce, but kale, cabbage, chard, spinach? Sure.

A patient recently told me, “Hey, remember how you told me to not eat raw food? I didn’t for a while, and it was good. But then I did last week, because that’s what I eat in the morning, and the symptoms were worse.” I get it, habits can be tough to make and break, and raw food is pretty easy! But do listen to your body. If it isn’t happy, try a change for a couple of weeks and see what happens. We are all works in progress.

Acupuncture Happy Hour

EDIT April 15, 2015: We’re going to try this again, Wednesdays 6-7:30 in the front room of Balanced Oak Massage and Wellness .

EDIT February 25, 2015: The book store is closing April 1. I plan to continue my Wednesdays through March. I welcome any suggestions to continue in a new venue.

Lucky Dog Books in Oak Cliff has graciously agreed to host a weekly community session that I will be doing on Wednesdays, from 5:30-7. (Please park away from the front door, to accommodate bookstore customers who need to load in their trade materials.)

If you have never experienced acupuncture, if private sessions are too expensive, if I’ve told you that more frequent sessions would help, if you’re bad at making appointments, or if you just don’t want to cross the river, here’s your chance. The treatment is free (unless you should like to $upport me and the store, which we would appreciate). To deal with not being especially HIPAA compliant (as is the nature of a group session, but I will not share your details without your consent) and all the records I am supposed to keep on every patient, I am billing this as a demo, with a short history/liability waiver form.

If you don’t know anything about acupuncture or have a few preconceived notions, here’s a little about how it goes. I frequently see people about pain, women’s health, anxiety, depression, digestive issues, insomnia, and allergies. The form has a list and some blanks; let me know your top 3 concerns. You will fill out a form, sit in a chair, and I will choose the points based on the data in the form and what I have access to. Optimally, I can get from your elbows and knees out (you can use my hand sanitizer if your bare feet stink), but if you wear skinny pants or tights I may just work in your ears and arms. I swab your skin with alcohol and use sterile, single use needles. You might feel some discomfort as the pins go in, but if it hurts (there is a difference between noticing it’s there and it hurting), let me know and I’ll fix it. You sit quietly for a while. You don’t have to be still as a stone, and if we’re working on something like frozen shoulder, I may have you move it as you sit there. After a while, I’ll take the pins out. Or you can take them out, but it’s really best to say, “Hey, Laura, I think I’m done,” and then I can make sure to apply pressure if you’re bleeding (a drop, maybe) and get all the pins into my sharps container.

I am not needling through your clothes, and please don’t strip in the bookstore. (If you do want to change into shorts, the restrooms are in the hallway across the comic book alcove.) Even in a private session, if you need to disrobe, I will tell you and provide a drape sheet. That you get under, not lie on top of. As opposed to a private session, I will probably not have a lengthy conversation about your condition. Chances are, you don’t want that with an audience, anyway. I’m not providing music; it’s nice, but not an essential part of the treatment. Headphones are okay if you want to bring something to listen to. In my office, I have had people rocking out on the table, which is totally fine, but if you’re not alone, don’t sing. Thin walls, ya know?

making miso soup

I love miso soup and will eat it in any variation, from a spoon of paste in hot water on up. I’ve made some pretty decent and some pretty slapdash miso soups, and generally my audience will prefer the dry packets. (I should buy stock in Kikkoman.) I was told tonight that this was the best, so here you go!

Amounts for one serving:

Add 1c dilute broth into the pot. Traditionally, this is boiled bonito, but who has time for that. (For 2 servings, I used 2c water and about a teaspoon of dashida. Yeah, it’s basically flavored msg, but it is delicious. Water down some broth if you’re very sensitive. I really don’t eat a ton of msg every day. I’m a big fan of Better than Bouillon.) Add a tablespoon or so of sake. (Hey, it’s just a little. And one of my teachers said to take all the move-blood herbal formulas with a few sips of wine to encourage circulation.) Warm this up on medium heat. Miso soup should never boil, or it loses its flavor. So if you get the broth boiling, turn the heat down and don’t move on until it is at most a gentle simmer. If you like your green onions soft, chop one and add now.

For the miso part, put a heaping tablespoon per serving into a dry bowl or ladle. You are going to gradually loosen the paste with broth until it is smooth and runny. Add a few spoons of broth to the miso paste, mix it up until it is smooth, then add another spoon of broth, mix, repeat until it is loose enough that it disperses well in the pot. You started with a very bland broth. Gradually add your miso mix until the soup is barely saltier than you like it.

The tofu will absorb a bit of saltiness. (Yes, you might end up wasting some miso. If you use yours up before it gets dry and iffy in the tub, you go through a lot more miso than my house does!) If you like your green onions a little crunchy, add them here. Cube some silken tofu (I’m told my key mistake in the past is using the wrong tofu) and add it to your soup. Let this sit on med-low (at most) heat for a few minutes, stir well, and serve.

 

To my knowledge, miso soup is super good for you because it is fermented, has lots of B vitamins, helps alkalize and detoxify your body, and it’s loaded with enzymes to help with digestion. (The packets are not as beneficial, since the cultures and enzymes don’t survive dehydration.) I’ve had more than one teacher say that you should eat it every day. Maybe not always loaded with msg and alcohol. Sure is tasty, though.

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