Alaska Institute of Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture & Massage Therapy. Located in Anchorage, Alaska, this site is a forum for our students and instructors to post research & topics of interest.
All material provided on this blogsite is provided for informational or educational purposes only, and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your healthcare professional or physician.
I have lived in Alaska for 40 years and I am no stranger to earthquakes, but on the morning of November 30th, 2018 my experience of earthquakes changed. After a minute and a half of shaking at a magnitude of 7.1, it looked like someone had turned my house upside down and shook it. My foundation was cracked, literally and emotionally, and I stood braced up against my entryway wall in the dark, calling my sons to make sure they were all okay. For the next hour, and through the aftershocks that followed, I stayed frozen against the wall experiencing my own forms of emotional aftershock.
At the Oriental Healing Arts Center, I witnessed people coming in seeking help for symptoms that ranged from not being able to relax or sleep, being on high alert, confusion, loss of mental clarity, difficulty making decisions, headaches, fear and anxiety, nightmares, tiredness, and mood swings, all symptoms of post trauma stress.
The article named “Self Help for Post-Traumatic Stress,” in Psychology Today talks about cognitive behavioral therapy, a type of talking, that combines cognitive and behavioral therapy. Drug therapy, which does not treat the root of the symptom, so symptoms reappear when the drug wears off. Also listed were therapies called, “cognitive processing, prolonged exposure, and virtual reality therapy,” which according to Psychology Today, is where “the client relives past traumas in an attempt to extinguish the negative emotions associated with the traumatic experience.” (Sword, Rosemary K.M. and Zimbardo, Philip PhD)The article goes on to tell about the birth of mental health apps for the self-help population. A new app that is available for between $8- $15 a month called Happify, is referred to as a 4-week solution, based on cognitive behavioral therapy for anyone with post-traumatic stress symptoms. It claims that 86% of users saw happiness improvements in 2 months.
“The Earthquake People” in Psychology Today talks about how psychotherapy is at a loss when it comes to “making us feel safe” and points us toward perspective instead. It states, “We are all earthquake people, who interact not only with each other but with forces far greater than ourselves, far greater than humanity.” It goes on to say, “These forces should not only humble us, they should focus us. The presence of these great forces beneath our feet, in our seas, in our skies, is like a voice telling us in no uncertain terms to live this day, to open our hearts in this moment, to be guided by our deepest feelings not on the weekend, or on our vacation, or next year sometime, or when we retire, but in this very hour.”( Ventura, Michael)
I chose a different route in dealing with the emotional aftershocks I experienced from the earthquake. I went with treatments of acupuncture to reset my nervous system. After each treatment I felt calm, relaxed, and more emotionally balanced. I also got massage, to help release those lovely feel good endorphins, with a little extra focus on my feet to help me feel more grounded. I prepared as much as I can for the things I have no control over, chose natural treatments like massage and acupuncture that I feel work well, and the rest for me is in the perspective of choosing faith over fear.
If you are feeling post trauma symptoms from the earthquake and aftershocks, ask yourself what the best resources and tools would be for you to move on and heal from these symptoms. If you lean toward a self-help app or talk therapy, you may consider mixing it with massage, acupuncture, energy healing or all the above, but whatever you choose, know that you don’t have to live with post trauma stress, and you are not alone in feeling these symptoms.
Ventura, Michael. “The Earthquake People.” Psychology Today May 1994 Reviewed June 2016
Sword, Rosemary K.M. and Zimbardo, Philip PhD. “Self-Help for Post-Traumatic Stress.” Psychology Today June 2018
Welcome home! How was Paris? Can’t wait to gang together and set our schedule for Little Shaolin clinic. I am getting so excited for our first day in our new office! I’m going to miss the back corner at Massage Now, but it’s going to be great to have more space to work with. Not to mention, it’s going to be a blast to decorate! The girls and I have a lot of special treatments to propose, we are so excited! This last two weeks has been full of progress! I cannot believe it’s the one year anniversary of Healing the Heroes already. It’s been so incredible to see my vision come from just an idea to everything it has become. It’s been a light in the dark to have everyone’s support and helping hands. One of the HTH group members told me last week that his cousin in Arizona wants to start a group for the trauma survivors there just like ours, that made me really, really happy! It’s hard to believe that just a couple of years ago my life was completely different, I didn’t know one little thing about massage and now I get to do it every day! I keep seeing signs and synchronicities every day that remind me that this is the path I was meant to take this time around. It is so amazing to finally be where I’m supposed to be with people that see the world the way I do. Looking forward to continue to work closely in the future, see you soon!
Cupping is a treatment and form of therapy used in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The cups are placed on the skin and a suction device or heat is used to create a vacuum within the cup which pulls the skin into the cup. The purpose of cupping is to remove stagnation and stimulate the flow of Qi. The skin that is drawn into the cup will change color as the blood flow increases in the area where the cup is placed. Much like a bruise. The muscles in the area begin to loosen and the healing process will begin as the area is cleared of any blockages and stagnation.
There are different types of cups and types of therapies involving the cups. Most commonly the cups are made of glass or plastic. There are also gliding cups that work great for large muscle groups and can easily glide over a large area with a little oil on the skin.
How does it help?
In Chinese medicine it is said that the stagnation of qi and blood are what causes pain and disease. Cupping draws out toxins and impurities which will relieve pain and tension. From the Western point of view, it is said that cupping loosens connective tissue and fascia and stimulates blood flow the surface. Much like a deep tissue massage. Cupping relives pain and promotes relaxation. Cupping also increases blood flow to certain muscle regions which makes it beneficial for most athletes. Cupping is used in a variety of treatments from a common cough to areas of paralysis.
Side effects of cupping?
The nice thing about cupping is that there are not really too many side effects. The most common side effect is bruising that may last a few days to a week or more. There may be pain associated with those areas. Cupping is not recommended for anyone that is taking blood thinners or that has a bleeding disorder such as hemophilia. Cupping should also not be done on areas that are infected, burns, or open wounds. With repeated cupping treatments the bruises will decrease and no longer appear. When the bruises no longer appear it is said to be a successful treatment as all the stagnation has been removed at that point.
I personally found cupping to be a useful form of treatment as it loosened up some areas on my shoulder that had been in pain for months. It feels good in the sense that you can feel it pulling on the tissue and releasing the muscle tightness. The bruises definitely can be uncomfortable but after they are gone you can really feel how much the area has loosened up. I feel that in order to resolve a more chronic condition or pain that you would have to have several treatments in order to remove all the stagnation.
For someone with depression it can feel like a constant feeling of sadness and a complete lack of interest in the things you once enjoyed. You may feel a sense of hopelessness or like life isn’t worth living. Depression is more than just a feeling of sadness, it takes a toll on the person mentally and physically. Some other symptoms of depression are a feeling of emptiness, irritability and anger, lack of sleep, anxiety, trouble concentrating and even thoughts of harming oneself. There are many other symptoms that can appear with depression as well. These symptoms of depression can often disrupt the person’s life such as their work or school performance. They may find themselves feeling miserable and unhappy without an exact reason why. They may begin to isolate themselves and withdraw from all social or family activities.
Most often a person with depression will be prescribed a medication. There are many types of medication that are suppose to be targeted towards the type of depression you have. This would be diagnosed after a doctor visit, consisting of several types of lab tests, a physical exam and a psychiatric evaluation. There are many side effects with medication’s and other risks involved. You may have to try several in order to find one that works for you.
You may also undergo psychotherapy where you will discuss your feeling with a mental health professional. In some cases, you will be admitted to a hospital for monitoring if you are unable to care for yourself. In more extreme cases a form of brain stimulation therapy may be used. An ECT or TMS where they literally send magnetic pulses or electric currents directly to the brain.
So let’s look at another approach and view point of depression from a Chinese medicine point of view.
One thing that is clear is that the Chinese population do not turn to drugs right away or at all for depression. They instead receive acupuncture treatments and take herbs instead of drugs. In Chinese medicine depression is caused by a blockage or imbalance in one or more internal organs, and the energy pathways that are involved with the organ. It can start in one organ where the chi is stagnating and can then spread to other organs if not treated. Acupuncture has been very effective in treating depression and statistically just as effective as antidepressants. Acupuncture has been shown to change levels of neurotransmitters which effect the persons’ mental state. The use of herbs has been around for 600 years to treat depression. Similar to western medicine you would meet with a practitioner who would evaluate you and determine what kind of imbalance you were having, but in this case you would be prescribed an herbal remedy instead of a drug! The practitioner will also discuss your diet with you and recommend what foods you should eat and avoid as part of the treatment.
Another great form of therapy for depression is massage. Massage has been used for more than 3,000 years in China. Massage release hormones in your body creating an emotional connection, a calm mind and can improve your mood. Massage may not cure depression but it will certainly help with some of the physical pains that come along with depression, such as back pain, and joint pain. It can also help with sleeping problems. Massage will help to strengthen your mind body connection. It also will increase your energy and reduce the stress hormone called cortisol. When cortisol is reduced your body has the ability to fight off pain, anxiety and sadness better. Massage is a great way to create a safe and nurturing space for someone to feel calm and cared for. It creates a stronger sense of self worth and confidence.
Depression can be treated in many different ways and with many combinations of treatments. There is no single pill that will cure everything. A person must do what they feel is right for them. The important thing is to treat depression in a way that works for you, exploring all options until the right treatment is found.
Article- depression from the mayo clinic website
TCM information page on depression
Massage therapy for depression fromHealthline.com
How massage helps with anxiety and depression from www.prevention.com
Liver Cancer begins in the cells of your liver. The cells become abnormal and then destructive to the normal tissues of the liver and can spread to both areas of the liver and to other surrounding organs. The cells mutate which causes the DNA of the cell to change. The cells lose it's instructions and can begin to grow out of control resulting in a tumor. Liver Cancer is also known as hepatic cancer.
There are many types of liver cancer. The most common being hepatocellular carcinoma. Which originates in the main liver cells known as hepatocytes.
Not all cancers that affect the liver are diagnosed as liver cancer, if the cancer has spread from other organs or areas of the body it is called a metastatic cancer, and will be named after the organ in which it originated.
Nausea and vomiting
Fatigue and weakness
Jaundice of the skin and eyes
White, chalky stool
The causes of liver cancer can vary. Liver Cancer can develop from a chronic liver disease such as hepatitis.
The diagnosis is made by running several tests such as:
Your doctor will be able to determine what type and at what stage the cancer is in and whether it has spread. Type IV and type D are the most advanced.
Treatment will depend on the stage of cancer, the patients overall health and age. Types of treatment include:
Surgery, either to remove the tumor or a liver transplant
Localized treatments, these are treatment's that are dispensed directly to the cancer cells. Such as: Heating cancer cells using an instrument containing liquid nitrogen. Injecting alcohol into the cancer cells causing them to die. Or placing beads filled with radiation into the liver.
Targeted drug treatment
Palliative care is also used among the other treatments
Alternative medicine may help with the pain management including acupressure, acupuncture, deep breathing exercises, music therapy and massage.
The TCM diagnosis is based on the person's chief complaints, medical history and family history as well as observation. Physical features will be examined such as the person's hair, tongue,face,nails and sputum. Hearing the chest and smelling the sputum and touching to feel the pulse.
From a TCM point of view liver cancer is caused be disharmony in the body. Types of disharmony:
Stagnation of QI
Influence of dampness and heat
The treatment will be based on the type of disharmony using different decoctions of herbs depending on the area targeted.
Massage benefits for cancer:
Massage will reduce pain, fatigue, nausea, and reduce anxiety and depression. It helps to rebuild hope and to make them feel whole again. Massage will help improve the patients quality of life, mental clarity and sleep. It will also help with scar tissue and range of motion.
Massage is safe for people in all stages of cancer. Light massage techniques should be used and tumors and treatment areas should be avoided.
Websites used for reference:
Mayo clinic. Article: Liver Cancer
Cancer council. Article: Massage and cancer key questions
MedicineNet. Article: Liver cancer and hepatocellular carcinoma
Rheumatoid arthritis is known to Western medicine as an autoimmune disorder which most commonly affects the joints, but is capable of manifesting in other tissues of the body as well. Autoimmune disorders cause the body’s immune system to turn against itself, attacking tissues it would otherwise protect. In the case of rheumatoid arthritis, the synovium, which is the lining of the capsules of the joints, is often affected first in the progression of the disease. This assault on the joint capsule lining leads to swelling of the affected joints, heat, redness, pain and stiffness, and can also be accompanied by more systemic effects, like fever, fatigue, and weight loss. Rheumatoid arthritis, like other autoimmune diseases, is prone to “flare-ups”, or periods of dramatically intensified symptoms. Whether a person is experiencing acute symptoms or is in a period between flare-ups dramatically changes how rheumatoid arthritis should be approached via massage.
Massage for rheumatoid arthritis
The primary goals of massage as applied to rheumatoid arthritis are to bring relaxation and pain relief to the client, and to maintain joint mobility and range of motion. Because rheumatoid arthritis can cause the joints and surrounding tissues to be extremely sensitive, and because in severe or prolonged cases actual structural changes to the joints can occur, special care needs to be taken during massage application, especially during a flare-up.
If the client is experiencing a flare-up, a massage therapist should:
- Only treat unaffected (pain and inflammation-free) areas of the body
- Not work distal to affected areas, so as not to aggravate swelling in the joints
- Use only active and active assisted range of motion techniques on affected joints
Between flare-ups, a massage therapist may expand treatment options to include:
- Gentle, rhythmic rocking or shaking of the symptomatic joints
- Comprehensive work on muscles that cross or attach to affected joints
- Gentle passive range of motion techniques
- Work proximal to distal of affected joints, always directing fluid towards the core
Massage can serve many of the same functions for rheumatoid arthritis that is does for osteoarthritis: pain relief, maintenance of joint mobility, fluid dispersal, and a general increase in well-being. However, because rheumatoid arthritis is inherently prone to many more complications than are found in osteoarthritis, any massage treatment needs to a be approached with a great deal of caution and sensitivity, so as to not inadvertently injure the client or worsen their symptoms.
Rheumatoid arthritis and Chinese Medicine
Because rheumatoid arthritis can exhibit a broad and mutable expression of symptoms, a diagnosis from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine can be correspondingly complex. However, in general, the three most prominent factors at play are considered to be wind, damp, and cold. These refer to the potential mobility of the symptoms frequently seen in rheumatoid arthritis (as well as other autoimmune diseases), the tendency for swelling and fluid accumulation, and poor circulation and deficient kidney yang, respectively. Because of the redness, inflammation, and joint warmth that can also be symptoms, a TCM diagnosis can also include heat, but cold and damp treatments are said to be much more common. Because individual cases can vary so widely in presentation, a mixture of herbs, dietary changes or supplementation, acupressure or acupuncture, as well as specific Qigong patterns will be prescribed to most closely fit the individual expression of symptoms in each client.
As part of an herbal approach to treating rheumatoid arthritis, some TCM practitioners make use of Lei Gong Teng, a.k.a. Thunder God Vine. Be wary of this treatment, however, because that stuff can literally kill you. Try eating papaya, royal jelly, and black soybeans as a non-lethal alternative.
[Blog article about how learning 5 elements, energy, meridians, acupressure has changed your viewpoints & how you plan to incorporate this info into your career]
Since being introduced to the 5 elements and all that it includes, I have been able to take a more open minded approach to wellness and life in general. I’ve learned that everything has a place, and everything is connected. A disharmony could be caused by something emotional and manifested as something physical, and vice versa. I have been able to move farther away from “black and white” thinking and now have a broader view of how everything interacts and intertwines with everything else.
When I used to be confronted with a physical ailment, I would focus on that one thing and try to pick it apart and fix it that way. Now I know that the pain is a sign that I need to pay attention and do some investigating. For instance, a headache. Pre-5 Elements-Me would conclude that I have a headache because that’s just how things are sometimes, take some ibuprofen, drink some water or have a snack and move on. Now I would notice where in my head I was feeling tension or pain, maybe it’s on a meridian I learned. I would notice if it radiated to or from somewhere else. I would check my posture. I would be curious about how much tension my neck would be holding, if there was an abnormal amount of tension anywhere else in my upper body. I would consider my surroundings, what I have or have not eaten that day, my emotional state. I have a plethora of different approaches to treating a headache now!
It has also opened my eyes when it comes to other people. After learning more about myself and how complex I am, I realized that means every person has to be just as complex, just as dynamic. Learning about specific behaviors and how they are tied into our overall health as far as TCM is concerned really helped me understand myself more, which in turn helps me understand other people more fully. I think to myself “Oh that totally makes sense now!” at least 10 times a day these days. When I’m around other people, I pay attention to their attitude about themselves and their beliefs through how they speak and act. This information is often more telling of a person that anything they can tell you about themselves in their own words.
As for my career, this information will be especially valuable when treating a client! When a client comes in with low back pain, I will be able to approach their treatment in more ways than simply relieving them of the pain. I will have more specific questions to ask, and thus be able to gain even more clues as to the true cause of their pain and the best way to help their body treat it.
It’s like playing a game without reading the rules. I’ve been playing blind! Now that I finally read the rulebook everything makes so much more sense.
Imagine this; you’re walking down the street minding your own business when all of a sudden a car slips on the ice, slides through the intersection and crashes into another vehicle. You hear screeching tires and a loud BANG! You are on the sidewalk far from any real danger but you notice your hands are balled into fists, you are ready to run, your blood is pumping, and your respirations are increasing. You become very aware of your surroundings, planning your exit strategy. Everyone involved in the car accident is unharmed. The drivers are tending to each other, exchanging information and the scene is under control. You realize that even though you were in danger, you feel like you were a part of the accident.
Fight or flight, sometimes referred to the “acute stress response” or hyperarousal, is our bodies natural response to dangerous mental or physical stimulus. On an involuntary physiological level, our bodies deploy a series of changes in order to get us out of danger or give us the means to fight in the face of that danger. It is theory that our early ancestors developed this response because of the amount of danger they encountered in their day to day lives; things we don’t typically experience in our day to day lives anymore. Although our lifestyles have drastically changed since the early days, the response is still intact.
Our sympathetic nervous system signals for stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to be released into the body. These hormones cause side effects like increased heart rate and respirations so that we can have lungs full of air to either run away or fight. Our blood vessels constrict in our extremities and dilate so that the blood is being pumped to primarily to our muscles to give them the power to deal with the situation at hand. Our pupils dilate and we get tunnel vision in order to focus our brains on what is directly in front of us. Typically, after the danger has passed our bodies start to return to normal. This is called the relaxation response, during which all of the symptoms of fight or flight start to decrease and our bodies can recover.
However, in some instances, we are simply unable to convince our brain that the perceived threat is gone. Whenever a person continues to experience the symptoms of the acute stress response for a prolonged period of time they may develop post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. Anyone can develop PTSD and it can manifest after any kind of emotionally or physically traumatic event. Some examples of things that can cause PTSD are the sudden death of a family member, sudden changes in lifestyle, being robbed, earthquakes and other natural disasters, war, poverty, physical and emotional abuse or neglect. It is thus far impossible to determine why certain people develop PTSD and why others do not.
There is no real way to say how long someone with PTSD will continue to feel the way they do. Diagnosing physicians and mental health workers do have guidelines for what qualifies as PTSD, such as the symptoms having to be disruptive to day to day life and they have to last over an extended period of time. There are two main treatments for PTSD, according to Western medicine, is medication and psychotherapy.
Through the lense of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), things are broken down in a completely different way. Chinese medicine looks at the person as not just their physical body, but their mental and spiritual health as well. If one is unbalanced, an unbalance among the rest is sure to exist. It is known in TCM that a happy healthy harmonious flow of Qi (Chi) is the key to a happy healthy harmonious person. In Western medicine we call this homeostasis. When the body, mind, and spirit experience trauma, that harmony, or homeostasis is interrupted and the person is susceptible to pathogens and other ailments that can cause things like insomnia, anxiety, and depression for example. It is the unbalance that breaks down our defenses thus allowing these things to manifest in our physical bodies as well as our emotions. The end result is diagnosed and given a name. In TCM, practitioners seek to restore the balance and give the physical body the strength and will from the mind and spirit to protect the whole body-mind-spirit. While there is no single diagnosis that mirrors PTSD in its entirety, TCM does have treatments for all of the major symptoms and side effects of PTSD. Anxiety, insomnia, depression, anger, body aches, loss of appetite, have a place and a treatment in TCM.
One of the ways in which alternative medicine can be used to treat the symptoms of PTSD is through massage. Massage is an intervention, where PTSD is a constant whirlwind of stimulation. We often isolate ourselves from others and disconnect our minds from our bodies in an attempt to live with the effects of trauma. Massage is an excellent aid in reconnecting the mind to the body and is one way to build a trusting relationship with another person through safe touch; all of which are very important tools for resolving trauma. Massage has been proven to help lower levels of physical pain, loosen tight muscles and joints, and increase the flow of nutrient rich blood all around the body. In combination with other treatments, massage can be an excellent aid in treating and curing post traumatic stress disorder.