This is it -- my last chance to say things in the National
University of Health Sciences Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
blog. I've said a lot of stuff each week over the past couple of
years... some mildly interesting, maybe helpful, and probably a lot
of things that only I cared about. Sorry, not sorry.
So, here's everything else I thought about saying and never put
into an actual blog. Let's call these the bloglets.
1. Everything is the same as it used to be.
Nothing's really new--from
medicine to pop culture. People freak out about texting while
driving. Really? Sure, it's dangerous and awful, but is it really
that different than 15 years ago when we used to drive around with
a binder of CDs on the passenger seat and flip through looking for
the next one to pop in and listen to? Remember that time in
7th grade when you and your friends thought you made up
"LYLAS" to write it yearbooks, only to hear your mom say that they
used to write, it, too? Now it's vibration--everyone's talking
about raising your vibration or changing your vibration for optimal
health and wellness. Think it's a new concept? Think again. Last
night I was reading about 19th-century psychic Edgar Cayce and the
idea that each thought, feeling, or experience you have changes
your vibration. Everything is energy, science says, so who can
argue with that?
2. What are people doing with laptops in the
When I started this
program, I wondered why some students would pop open a laptop and
stare at it through an entire class. What were they doing? My
guesses were: 50% on Facebook, 20% Netflix, 20% frantically
finishing up homework for another class, and likely just 10% doing
anything related to the class we were in (this was Dave--you take
great notes on your tablet and you've bought shoes online as far as
I know). I started sitting behind people just to see how accurate I
was. What did I find? Lots of online shopping. Are our classes that
stressful that an online shoe purchase is in order? I vowed I
wouldn't bring my laptop and tune out during a class… then my final
trimester happened. Somehow I was transformed into that person--I
hit the seat and I flipped open my laptop within seconds. In my
defense I'm generally doing productive things--googling the
ingredients of the liniment Dr. Stretch just mentioned, writing
this blog, grading student papers, scheduling my kids' dentist
appointments, etc.--but still, I'm staring at that screen.
3. Favorite professor moments.
I didn't do this one, because I thought it would be rude to
simply copy my commencement speech and paste it into a blog post.
Looks like you'll have to attend graduation to hear these.
4. I always wanted to interview a student who was
dual-enrolled in the Naturopathic doctorate program and the AOM
program, and also the Doctor of Chiropractic program and the AOM
I had Nolan right at my fingertips for so long--we
could have had the perspective of a yogi doctor learning
acupuncture. Wow. I know people are always wondering what the
differences are between the various medical programs, and I thought
I'd be the person to try to hash some of that out publicly. Nope.
Never got around to that.
Nolan Lee, DC, and current MSAc student:
"Acupuncture is a fantastic complement to what I do as a
chiropractic physician. It makes my practice valuable to a whole
different population of patients who do not necessarily seek
chiropractic care, but are open to acupuncture. An MSAc degree
helps to better understand this age-old art that is so rich and
complex in its applications and theories."
5. ...And I'd like to introduce Maile Horita, who will
be taking over the AOM blog next trimester!
Maile has experience with
writing an oriental medicine blog already, and I've already given a
great idea for content to get started with (see #4). Just
kidding--write about your passions! I'm looking forward to reading
her blogs in the future.
Thanks for all of the support over the past three years,
community. I'll probably accidentally drive here a few times by
mistake out of habit, but other than that, I'm OUT!
Ever wonder why your bowels want to evacuate at the same time
each morning? Do you wake up between 1 and 3 a.m. every night? What
does it all mean? As per usual in Traditional Chinese Medicine
(TCM), there's a reason for everything.
Check out the clock and see what there is to see.
Keep in mind that the "organs" in TCM are not exact equivalents
to the organs we know and love in the West. For example, if I say
you have Heart Fire, it doesn't necessarily mean that there is
actual heat stuck in the tissue of your pumper. In TCM the Heart
organ has more to do with the spirit -- shen -- than with the
So why should you use this chart if it doesn't mean what you
think it means? Well, it still has value in piecing together what
western medicine might deem "unrelated" signs and symptoms. In TCM,
we use them all, disparate as some may seem. Here's some help in
understanding the TCM organ clock in largely western
It's not all about you, either. The TCM organ clock is also
intimately related to the treatment your acupuncturist could
administer. Each time slot represents the time of day when its
corresponding organ is functioning -- or should be functioning --
at max capacity. You have the most Liver action happening between 1
and 3 a.m. If you've accumulated tons of drugs and alcohol for it
to cleanse, or if you've simply stagnated its qi with too much
stress in your life, then 1 and 3 a.m. is when your Liver is trying
to get you all straightened out. Talk to insomniacs who wake
frequently at this time -- they're usually quite stressed out.
Conversely, the timeslot opposite the organ of choice shows the
time of day when it is at its weakest. So, if you're supposed to
get a massage and conceive a child during the Pericardium's
timeslot of 7 and 9 p.m., then it could be inferred that 7 and 9
a.m., is the least effective time in which to engage in those
activities. Want to learn more about the functional organ systems
and their responsibilities by hour? Check them out at Naturopathic By Nature.
What part? Back of the head, near the
neck? Top of the head? Forehead? Feeling a tight band wrapped
around the whole darn thing? Is it pulsing and throbbing, sharp and
stabbing? Maybe you just have a dull empty feeling going on deep
inside your melon.
Each of these headaches is recognized in and treated by
Traditional Chinese Medicine. If you present in a TCM clinic with
the chief complaint--or even an associated complaint--of
"headache," the questions will roll forth to more fully understand
What does it all mean? Isn't there just an acupuncture point
equivalent to Excedrin? Yes and no. There are some acupoints that
are indicated for basically any type of headache, and it will
probably be effective to some extent. But, if we can diagnose
thetypeof headache then we can select more specific points that
address both the current pain in the head and also the root of the
Here's a breakdown of some of the common types of headaches in
TCM, what's causing them, and how your acupuncturist might treat
The Full Frontal Headache
It hurts across your forehead.
Sometimes feels warm, too.
The Vertex Headache
It hurts on the top of your head.
Sometimes it's throbbing, too.
The Occipital Headache
It hurts low down in the back of your
head into the neck. You're probably coming down with a cold,
There are more, but that's enough for today. If you have an
empty feeling headache, a Kidney deficiency is likely involved. If
your whole head feels like it's being wrapped up and squeezed, we
call that "tai yin."
For information, make your appointment at the Acupuncture and
Oriental Medicine clinic now. :) The Whole Health Center is on our
NUHS campus at 200 E.
Roosevelt Rd in Lombard; you can schedule an appointment at
No, I said Si Shen Cong. Next
question: You want to stick the needles where? Or,
patients will stop me in my tracks with a firm "I don't want
needles in my head." What's happening here? No big deal, I'm just
trying to utilize the Four Spirit Alarm extra point set on the top
of your head.
Does it sound alarming? Painful? I can understand that. Needles
in the head doesn't soundfunto most people, but rest assured it
usually doesn't hurt. The scalp is a shallow place, not too full of
fleshy, innervated muscles.
Right up there on the top, slightly to the back, you'll find a
special set of four points calledSi Shen Cong. Chinese
pronunciation sounds something like "Shee Shen Chong." English
pronunciation sounds more like "Cheech and Chong." It's ok, just
keep working on it.
One translation calls this extra point "God's Cleverness." We
use it for improving concentration, memory, focus, or other related
indications. In TCM treatment strategies, it helps to "calm the
Shen," or "relax the mind and settle the spirit." In adults, this
4-point combination could be indicated in cases of wind stroke,
headaches, epilepsy, and dizziness. In children, traditionally this
point combination was used for slow development, mental
retardation, and recently for ADHD.
In clinic today I polled my fellow
interns to see how often they add the point "Governing Vessel (GV)
20" into the mix when using Si Shen Cong. Why would someone do
this? Well, as I argued, it just seems like the right thing to do.
GV20 is a masterful point, located smack in the center of the four
needles used in Si Shen Cong. Its indications are similar, not
shocking, considering they are all within a couple of inches of one
GV20, also called the "Hundred Convergences" in English and "Bai
Hui" in Chinese, you can find this point on the midline of the
head, five cun back from the anterior hairline. GV20 is generally
used for two indications--pulling things up or pulling things down.
How can it do both, you ask? Well, Chinese medicine is magical,
don't you know.
GV20 is indicated for prolapse, thus it can pull things up.
Whether it's your uterus, rectum, bladder, or vagina that's
prolapsed, GV20 can help put it back up where it belongs. Same goes
for hemorrhoids--other items that should not be hanging down.
GV20 is indicated for yang rising in
the top of the body. Think headaches, hypertension, dizziness, red
eyes, irritability, tinnitus, seizures, and more! Interestingly, in
these cases, GV20 at the top of the head is paired with anchoring
points found at the extreme lower end of the body. For the horrible
conditions mentioned here, Liver 2 would be an effective paired
Whether you're rectum has prolapsed, you've been dealt a massive
vertex headache, or you just want to improve your concentration and
focus for the upcoming test, you might want to give needles in the
head a chance. When your acupuncturist suggests "Si Shen Cong," now
you'll know it's not Cheech and Chong she's referring to. But
they're fun, too.
It's board exam season
for me. Right now. For the Master of Science in Acupuncture
program, we need to pass three board exams to apply for Illinois
state licensure -- Foundations of Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture
with Point Location, and Biomedicine. Does that sound hard? Yep, it
does to me, too.
"We've been doing this for three years!" This was
classmate Irene Walters' response to my line of questioning about
how difficult the exams were. Yes, she already took -- and passed
-- all three of them. Did her comment make me feel better? It did.
She's right. We've been studying oriental medicine for almost three
full years, at the graduate level, full-time, year round. We've
been in the clinic for two years, first observing other interns and
then needling patients ourselves.
Despite her slightly
exasperated but somehow very reassuring comment, I studied a lot
for the Foundations of Oriental Medicine board exam. I used the
NCCAOM official board exam website study guide. I bought the
practice exam book, hurriedly took all of the practice tests,
graded them, debated back and forth about whether a 78% is a good
or bad score, and largely just panicked on and off for
approximately three weeks. I kept my head down, read repetitive
passages out of Maciocia, and improved my practice scores up to and
including a full 88%, thank you very much.
The day of the exam I made the always long but much longer in
the summertime/construction season drive to Schaumburg and searched
amongst the 9,000 office complexes to find mine. I changed my
shirt, because by then I had sweated out the armpits in a nervous
panic not once but twice on the way. Finally, I headed up to the
PearsonVue testing office, which I found at the end of the top
floor in the back, dark corner.
Inside the office was less
creepy than the hallway indicated it would be, and a stern woman
was ready to take my two forms of ID, photograph, and both palm
scans. I didn't even know people did palm scans. What
happened to finger printing? After she was sure it was really me,
she gave me the locker key and told me to empty my pockets and
leave all belongings in my locker. Go pee now, it's your last
Just when I thought I had been looked over fairly thoroughly, I
was led into another checkpoint. Here, another woman formally
instructed me on how to use the computer, how I should wear
earplugs, and how I would need to raise my hand if I needed an
emergency bathroom break. Alrighty, let's do this thing. Before
turning me loose into the computer testing cubicle, she had me
shake out my skirt, pull up my sleeves, and rotate my necklace in
front of a camera -- just in case I had written all of the answers
to the Foundations of Oriental Medicine board exam on the back of
the one inch wide necklace pendant. OK.
At long last, I arrived at my testing console. The next 2.5
hours were a blur. I had heart palpitations, blurry vision, great
thirst, and generalized anxiety. That's fair to say. Staring into
the computer screen and clicking the mouse repeatedly for 150
minutes will do that. Terrified that I had failed, I timidly and
exhaustedly clicked that final button to see my results.
"PASS." Wow. Praises. Now I only need to do this ordeal
• So What Is Chinese Medicine?
• Jabbing Nerves with Needles
• Mission in Nicaragua
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