cupping

Can Acupuncture Treat ...?

It's a very common question: "Does acupuncture treat …?" The short answer is YES!, no matter the condition, because acupuncture is a complete medical system.

While it’s tempting to hear that as equivalent to a specific drug being touted as a panacea, it’s really like saying all of medicine can address a wide variety of ailments. We’re much more comfortable with that concept. Western or allopathic medicine can help with lots of things to varying degrees. It’s much the same with acupuncture. That’s one of the reasons it’s more accurately referred to as a complementary medicine, rather than alternative medicine.

Saying acupuncture can treat almost anything is more like saying all of medicine has a lot of answers than that one particular drug is a cure-all.
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Acupuncture and herbal medicine are toolkits based upon a complex theoretical model of the human body as a reflection of the natural world. Primary importance is placed on your symptoms and experience so this is truly a patient-centered approach. For example, it doesn't matter if the thermometer says you don't have a temperature. If you feel too hot, we might call that a fever (and one of a variety of fevers depending on the rest of what’s going on). The practice of this medicine includes asking lots of questions so I can understand as best as possible what's going on for you since I can't feel what you feel for you.

Primary importance is placed on your symptoms and experience so this is truly a patient-centered approach.

I then also "read" your body through palpation (gently touching your body - usually your legs, arms, and abdomen), taking your pulses, looking at your tongue (the only visible muscle in the body), and other diagnostic methods. This helps to clarify the pattern because lots of things can cause cramps, for example, or headaches. What's causing yours?

The goal is to get a complete picture of the pattern at play, as opposed to treating each symptom individually. Something's not in balance, so there are a variety of expressions of that imbalance. Address the issue at the root and multiple signals can fade back or disappear.

When I’m working to combine all your symptoms with your diagnostic readings to form the right acupuncture treatment in an efficient amount of time.

When I’m working to combine all your symptoms with your diagnostic readings to form the right acupuncture treatment in an efficient amount of time.

This is why it sometimes looks like I'm doing mental calculus while I'm working. There’s a lot to think about! This is also why becoming an acupuncturist takes 3.5 years of graduate school (that’s the shortest estimate at full time with no summer breaks), clinical hours (our version of a residency), and rigorous study for a comprehensive licensing exam that includes traditional medicine theory, knowledge of hundreds of acupuncture point locations and functions, medical safety measures along with medical ethics and local laws, plus Western terminology, anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, and standards of care for every major condition from depression to mastitis to stomach cancer, etc. plus mandatory continuing education. I confess I had no idea how qualified my acupuncturist was when I first started as an acupuncture patient!

Lots of things can cause cramps, for example, or headaches. What’s causing yours?

Because everything is placed within a pattern, we can get into all the stuff that you've lived with but never known how to describe or where to go to deal with it. I've heard everything from “I’m phlegmy, but only right after I eat” to "my legs feel like they're going to float away" to "I feel completely exhausted after my period" to "I have this reoccurring dream about a boat on fire and it makes me anxious about getting ready for bed."

This theory helps direct us in our selection of channels and points and methods for stimulating them to change and action, including a variety of ways of needling, some involving insertion. There are also a host of other treatment modalities such as internal herbal medicine, topical herbal medicine, moxibustion, cupping, a variety of forms of massage, and beyond.

Under the umbrellas of women’s health and emotional health, my patients come to me with a wide variety of chief complaints – the big need that brings you in the door. We focus our attention on that main thing, but because acupuncture is a holistic medicine, from there we also keep in mind the whole picture of your health. We discuss how you sleep, your diet and digestion, any aches and pains, etc.

I always smile when I've just seen a patient with anxiety and a fertility patient comes in next and asks hesitantly if I think acupuncture might help for their anxious thoughts. And vice versa! Same thing happens when they mention a family member has shingles (I've seen acupuncture reduce the severity of the immediate flare and any post-herpetic neuralgia). The vast coverage of this medicine is one of the things that allows you to rely on me as a resource as your situation shifts and changes. Because changing is part of life!

So while there are some conditions that we'll definitely want you to either seek Western care for first or create an integrative approach, many health concerns could potentially be handled primarily with acupuncture and/or herbal medicine. Please talk to a licensed acupuncturist like myself to figure out the best way forward for you.

that was Great! What’s Next?

About Shawna

Shawna Seth, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. is a California state licensed and nationally certified acupuncturist focused on promoting women’s health, especially surrounding menstrual health and fertility. She uses the gentlest effective methods possible to guide her patients to balance. Shawna sees patients in her private practice on Sutter Street in San Francisco. Make your appointments online or email contact@shawnaseth.com. To learn more about Japanese medicine and the world of acupuncture, follow her blog A Cuppa Qi.

Header image: Death to the Stock Photo
Icons: 
Freepik and Anatoly from Flaticon

Spring Gleaning: Education Update

One of my favorite aspects of the acupuncture profession is its requirement that you be a lifelong student. And because I get excited when I start looking at potential classes, I've somehow found myself anticipating the remainder of my required classes (continuing education units) for the year all in the next month! Of course that doesn't mean I won't take more just for fun...

Last week I attended a lecture on Working With the Heavy Cannabis User with medical herbalist Paul Bergner as there is so much to learn about the effects and side effects of cannabis whether used for medical or recreational use. We set politics and legality aside and just dealt with the cases. I now have a much better understanding of the effects of cannabis on body systems, side effects to watch for and make patients aware of before they consider using it for a given condition, and how to approach weaning off of medical use if side effects become unmanageable. As an acupuncturist I can't prescribe cannabis, but I did feel it was essential that I expand my understanding of the way its use as a medication or recreational substance might affect my patients so we can do our best work together.

Next up this weekend at the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine (OCOM) in Portland is a hands on course with renowned sports medicine practitioner Matt Callison, L.Ac. I'll be learning and practicing new techniques for Assessment and Treatment of Lower Leg Injuries: knee, foot, and ankle. This is perfect for my athlete patients and for anyone with chronic pain or past injuries. I think it's only fitting that we're starting with the roots of our upright bodies. I plan on continuing this orthopedic-focused training and look forward to future learning to expand my treatment toolbox for the spine, hips, neck, and shoulders. I'm especially excited to seek out classes like this one that integrate the best of Western and Eastern medicine with orthopedic tests, anatomy reviews, and herbal and acupuncture treatment.

And lastly, in late March I'm taking a practical course on The Ancient Art of Cupping with Susan Johnson, L.Ac. here in Oakland. Cupping is such a wonderful modality to both diagnose and address pain and stiffness. It feels like a massage, but works by giving your tense muscles more room to be flushed with fluids rather than compressing them. I can't wait to share new insights and techniques from this class with you!

If there are topics you'd like to see me explore either on the blog or in a continuing education class, I'm always open to suggestions. And if you hear of a great class or webinar coming up, do let me know! I also post community focused classes and webinars in addition to articles about acupuncture and healthcare on Twitter. Please join me there!

ABOUT SHAWNA

Shawna Seth, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. is a California state licensed and nationally certified acupuncturist focused on promoting women’s health, especially surrounding menstrual health and fertility. She uses the gentlest effective methods possible to guide her patients to balance. Shawna sees patients in her private practice on Sutter Street in San Francisco. Make your appointments online or email contact@shawnaseth.com. To learn more about Japanese medicine and the world of acupuncture, follow her blog A Cuppa Qi.

Image credit: Death to the Stock Photo

Needle Free if Need Be: Gentle Japanese Acupuncture Alternatives to Needles

Cupping has had a news moment lately with Michael Phelps and it has been fun to hear from many friends and patients wanting me to see that what they already know is great is being shared more widely. I wanted to take the opportunity to share back that cupping is just one of the many ways that Japanese Medicine can help that has nothing to do with needles!

When I tell people I am an acupuncturist, I often hear some variety of statement about how they've heard good things about acupuncture, but..."I'm scared of needles."

I myself was terrified of needles* when I first started going to acupuncture and there was no way I was going to drink bitter herbs!** Luckily, I was met with a first acupuncture practitioner who was open and wanted to help me based on my comfort level. She didn't mind my many questions about why she wanted me to do something or how that was going to help. Given how successful that was for me (I ended up training as an acupuncturist, after all!) I believe in working just that same way. I will meet you where you are and use the wide variety of tools at my disposal to treat you. And believe it or not, that means we can do entire treatments with absolutely no sharp objects! Perhaps that means we have an eventual goal of using needles (maybe just one?) or maybe you don't even want to put that on the table. Either is absolutely fine.

What can we use instead of inserted needles?