May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and to honor that, this post is about how Traditional Chinese Medicine understands our mental and emotional selves. Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine can be very useful therapies to treat common mental health conditions, especially in conjunction with psychotherapy and pharmaceutical medication (when appropriate.) Common mental health conditions we see in our clinic include anxiety, depression, post-partum depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and eating disorders.
It is certainly a crazy busy time of year for many – and the frantic pace definitely has some feeling more fatigued than usual. Not to mention seasonal allergies, busy work schedules, lack of sleep, and chronic illness that keep many feeling a lack of energy on most days. From an acupuncture perspective, fatigue can be caused by numerous different types of imbalances in the body – you can learn more about that here. And while there can be medically significant types of fatigue (always tell your practitioner if you are feeling more fatigue than normal and don’t know why), often time fatigue can be managed with lifestyle changes. Here are a few suggestions to try to boost your energy and get you back on your feet.
The IT Band (Iliotibial Band) is a dense line of connective tissue that runs down the lateral side of your legs from the hip to the knee. Many of the large muscles on the front and back of the leg attach into the IT Band. When there is inflammation of the IT Band, or if it is working too hard to compensate for other muscles’ weakness, something called IT Band Syndrome occurs. This is an incredibly common injury in runners, rowers, hikers, and certain swimmers. It can be caused by over-doing any activity that activates the IT Band or causes the leg to turn slightly inward, thereby causing a pull on the outer part of the leg (such as running on a banked track or sitting cross-legged.) It can also be caused by an imbalance in the stabilizing muscles of the hip, buttock, and low back. If one of these large muscles isn’t firing properly, smaller muscles connecting to the IT Band pick up the slack and work over-time. (See an excellent discussion of this phenomenon here.) Lastly, IT Band Syndrome can sometimes be caused by anatomical or body dynamics issues, such as high arches, uneven legs, or over supination or pronation of the foot while walking or running (landing too much on the inside or outside arch of the foot.)
A feeling of something stuck in your throat
One interesting, somewhat enigmatic part of the treatment experience for patients is when the practitioner takes the pulse and looks at the tongue. New patients will often ask, “What are you looking for in the pulse and tongue?” Experienced patients will often want to know, “How is my pulse and tongue today?”
The piriformis muscle is a flat, band-like muscle that runs across the buttock and laterally rotates the hip. It runs from the anterior (front) of the sacrum to the head of the femur (the bony notch on the outside of your hip, the top of your upper leg.) The piriformis is a very important muscle clinically because the sciatic nerve runs right alongside the piriformis. In about 15-17% of the population, the sciatic nerve actually runs through the piriformis muscle. This means that stress or injury to the piriformis muscle can irritate the sciatic nerve, and cause sciatica. When the piriformis muscle is the cause of sciatic pain, the condition is called piriformis syndrome.
Blood is important. This may seem obvious, but from an East Asian Medical perspective, this is much more than just discussing anemia or blood loss or other western diagnosis. As an acupuncturist, I talk a lot about ‘blood deficiency’, and ‘deficient’ doesn’t always imply quantity, but also quality. Blood and qi are both important, one relies on the other, but as we will see, the quality of the blood can play out in symptoms that may not be so readily apparent.
Tension headaches are a very common problem, and when they start happening frequently enough to interfere with one’s life, they definitely require treatment! The cause of tension headaches from a biomedical perspective remains unknown, but we do know that most are triggered by or exacerbated by stress, and many involve muscle tension or spasms in the muscles of the scalp, face, neck, or upper back.
A breech presentation refers to the situation when the baby is lying in a position other than head-down inside the womb. This can mean the baby’s bottom is down (and would be first to enter the birth canal), or the baby can be lying transversely (on his/her side). A breeched presentation can make vaginal delivery much more difficult or dangerous, so obviously it is in the best interest of the mom and baby to have the baby turn head-down before labor.
When people find out that I am an acupuncturist, one common question is “So, what are the most common things you treat?” I tend to rattle off some of the common ailments that bring people in for acupuncture – back pain, neck pain, headaches and migraines, sciatica, hormonal issues, infertility, ADD, anxiety, trouble sleeping. But then I also make sure to explain that acupuncture and Chinese Medicine is a complete medical system, and as such, we can use it to treat a whole myriad of symptoms, diseases, and health imbalances. So it is always worth calling an acupuncturist and finding out if they may be able to help you.