|I had been suffering from an incredible amount of stress due to being a full-time mom, full-time student and avid ballet dancer, when my 2 year son decided to jump on my back when I was not expecting him to. I was rushed into urgent care having to be carried like a baby due to my inability to stand alone along with the concurrent amount of breath-taking pain from my back. The steroid injection I received upon arrival provided temporary relief. Still, the pain and inability to stand-up alone re-visited the following morning. Being a holistic nutritionist, I knew my physical pain was just a reflection of something else happening internally, so I sought out acupuncture. After asking around, Monica Leibson, came highly recommended. After the first visit, she recognized the physical and the internal pain by treating both my back and my ‘flight or fight’ mechanism.
Needless to say, I was back to the gym the next day :).Thank you Monica!!! I CANNOT wait for my follow-up appointment!- Danyelle King
Acupuncture: A New Alternative for Treating Depression
Used Alone or as a Combination of Treatments
By Karen Siegel Propis
Depression is the most common of mood disorders. It is estimated that nearly 30 million Americans suffer from the often-debilitating disease and is, in fact, one of the 15 leading causes of disability in developed countries. It is widely believed that depression may the body’s response to chronic and significant stress that seems insurmountable to most people. The following descriptions would describe someone who suffers from depression, with at least five of the symptoms lasting for at least fourteen days:
- Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day
- Markedly diminished interest in pleasure in almost all activities most of the day, every day
- Significant weight loss or gain without dieting, or major changes in appetite or eating habits
- Insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day
- Psychomotor agitation or retardation (anxiety or lack of desire to do anything)
- Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, desperation and psychic pain that are ongoing
- Inability to think or concentrate; indecisiveness daily
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide; a specific plan or attempt of suicide
While drugs have largely been effective in providing temporary relief from acute depression and assistance in the therapeutic process, the side-effects are proving to cause some downsides to treatment for some population groups. In fact, one of the potential side effects is increased suicide risk in certain patients. Most recent studies have shown that number to be increasingly higher in teenage patients taking anti-depressants. The drugs often take up to six weeks to begin working in the body as well.
Patients are advised to get a firm western diagnosis and then seek treatment options. As acupuncturists, we don’t get involved with our patients’ medication. It is always referred back to the referring professional.
Acupuncture has been a proven method for stimulating the production of neurotransmitters in the brain such as monoamines and endorphins. Monoamines are commonly referred to as serotonin and norepinephrine. Double-blind studies have confirmed that acupuncture is as effective as drug therapy treatments, and often used in combined treatments plans such as medications with psychotherapy. Acupuncture in conjunction with Chinese herbal medicine can also help wean patients off of medication or help reduce the dosages of the medications. Many mental health professionals have noted that their patients tend to make more progress in their therapy after starting acupuncture to remove emotional and/or physical blockages.
A referral from a psychotherapist, Debbie, 36, had been struggling with sadness, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, weight gain and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Debbie did not want to resort to taking medication for her symptoms, so she sought alternative treatment through acupuncture. Her symptoms were relieved in about 2 weeks with 2-3 treatments per week. She has been consistent in her follow up treatments for approximately three months. Her mood swings, sadness, and stomach cramps were allayed through acupuncture and herbal medicine.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is believed that depression results from a blockage in certain meridians of the body. It is also believed that there are five elements that provide the framework in which depression can be diagnosed and treated. There is usually a combination of elements that exist within a person. The elements are Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, and Water.
Wood: This type of depression is typically comprised of repressed anger, disappointment and frustration from feeling lack of control. Their personalities can be arrogant, aggressive, over-confident, confrontational and driven.
Fire: This type of depression is characteristically due to “heartache” or loss of a relationship—disillusionment by love. Impulsiveness is a personality trait, which can often lead to suicidal states.
Earth: This type of depression is often associated with digestive imbalances and eating disorders. Sufferers become heavy and unmotivated, sinking deeply into depression.
Metal: This type of depression is often experienced by those who carry the weight of the world upon their shoulders. They are often grieving for people and experiences from the past and expend much of their conscious thought turned toward the past.
Water: This is the most clinically significant and potentially dangerous type of elemental depression. Patients are often unaware of the nature or origin of their pain. They often become incommunicable and suffer from severe psychological imbalances such as schizophrenia, psychoses and severe depression.
Once the eastern diagnosis has been made, treatments focusing on the corresponding organ channels can often provide relief from the varying symptoms.
Terry, 52, was suffering from a myriad of symptoms including severe depression, weight gain from binge eating, bloating, and significant aches and pains. She remarks upon her state of mind, “No one was safe from my agitation and anger. It was like being in a black hole. Around my menstrual cycle, I would become depressed, forlorn and hopeless. Then came the sugar and chocolate binges and my body would become swollen and painful. I felt everything had a sinister shadow to it.” Terry was taking Paxil prescribed by her physician, which stabilized the wide mood variances. She sought treatment through acupuncture and after approximately 6 – 8 treatments, changes started to occur, including the decrease in eating disorder episodes. Through discussions and evaluations, it became clear that the impetus of the problem was hormonal. Six months later, with nutritional counseling, the proper level of anti-depressants, and treating the root cause of the problem in the body, the symptoms and dysfunctional behavior have almost disappeared. Says Terry, “My family tells me that I can quit anything for treatment…anything but the acupuncture! They are no longer walking on eggshells.” Terry now has a more positive and optimistic outlook for the first time in years.
Here’s everything (and probably more) that you always wanted to know about acupuncture needles, which are used to stimulate the flow of qi energy.
- They are made from stainless steel and flexible are like a wire (but not hollow)
- They’re not much thicker than hair, and much thinner than a sewing needle or the hypodermic needle used to give a shot
As I reflect back upon my 10 years of being an acupuncturist, I am in awe of all that I have learned. I have learned from my patients, from my additional training since my graduate school in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and I’ve learned from my teachers and colleagues. The theories of TCM have made a profound impact on my life.
When I started at the Santa Barbara College of Oriental Medicine, I was introduced to the theory of yin and yang which exemplifies the dualistic nature of all things. No one thing in life and in nature can exist without it’s exact opposite permeating it at some level. Hot cannot exist without cold, night cannot exist without day. It’s a simple concept but when applied to healthcare, is quite eye opening. In order for healing to occur, we have to balance the yin and yang of our own body!
My first formal office picture, in 2006
When I first started as an acupuncturist, I had the bright eyed innocence of a child. I thought EVERYTHING could be healed through TCM! [Read more…]
It is hard to make sense of something that is difficult to make sense of! Most people who come for acupuncture come without knowing much about “how it works”. We take time in our initial session to explain the premise behind acupuncture. In explaining it – it makes so much sense!
Acupuncture is based on the belief that our body has the ability to promote its own healing. What underlies our body’s ability to heal is an energy called Qi. We cannot see qi. It is an invisible force that is known by its effect. [Read more…]
Q: What do you think acupuncture works BEST for and what might it be not as good at treating?
A: Acupuncture is just one tool within the Chinese medical system. When used in combination with Chinese herbs, diet and lifestyle habits, it can successfully treat a wide variety of conditions. While Chinese medicine is effective for SO many things, I believe acupuncture is the best therapy for pain conditions. Pain is the result of the stagnation of energy in blood and acupuncture is the best therapy to promote flow throughout the body. Also, pain conditions are often related to local inflammatory processes. Acupuncture is the only therapy that can be used to guide out inflammation by targeting it directly. This may cause some brief discomfort during the process but leads to great relief afterwards! [Read more…]