I recently received emails from two of my AOM patients. In their
emails, they shared their responses to AOM treatment. Since they
feel they have benefited by AOM, they were willing to share their
experiences in this blog. They expressed interest in sharing their
experiences as they hope others may benefit by reading them. They
hope it helps readers understanding the benefits that can occur
through AOM treatments.
"I have had the opportunity to
receive various oriental medicine treatments over the past few
years. I have been amazed how well the treatments have helped my
various issues. One of my treatments was soaking my injured foot in
medicinal Chinese herbs. The herb soaks helped decrease the pain
and the swelling of my foot. It was not a cure for the injury, but
the soaks greatly minimized the symptoms of the injury.
Two additional forms of
treatments I have received are auricular (ear) acupuncture and ear
seeds (pictured above) for lower back pain. I have been amazed how
well auricular therapies have treated my pain and inflammation.
Within minutes I felt a remarkable decrease in pain. Within about
24 hours, my flexibility greatly improved just from one treatment.
My pain quickly went from a 7/10 to a 2-3/10 on the pain scale.
Auricular treatments have also been very effective in reducing the
pain caused by the foot injury. I have also received
acupuncture several times for various reasons. This is definitely a
treatment I would recommend. It has helped with headaches and
"I have received acupuncture,
ear seeds, cupping, and have taken Chinese herbs many times for
various ailments. I have used them for physical pain and emotional
issues. I have been very happy with all treatments. If I was able
to do these treatments on a regular basis I think I would see
greater benefits. Unfortunately, my work and the location where I
live prevent the ability for regular appointments."
Penny and Emily, thank you for sharing your experiences! I am
thankful for your beneficial results. I hope this helps readers who
have not experienced AOM or are thinking about pursuing an
education in AOM receive a broader understanding of AOM's impact on
A unique technique used in AOM is gua sha. Gua sha is a medical
therapy using strokes on the patient's body with applied pressure
to help return the body into balance and harmony. Gua sha can be
used for many AOM patterns. The most common clinical applications
are cold, heat, and stagnation.
For example, if a patient has a common cold, it's is often
diagnosed as a wind-cold or a wind-heat. That diagnosis means
either pathogenic wind and cold, or wind and heat has entered the
body and is causing the patient's defense qi (wei qi) to work to
push out the pathogen. Many times, applying gua sha to the patient
in the initial onset of the wind-cold or wind-heat can help the
body release the pathogen.
Another common indication for gua sha is when a muscular trauma
has occurred. If a patient is presenting a trauma with excess heat
(inflammation), cold, or qi and blood stasis (circulatory issue),
the use of gua sha can release the heat or cold as well as improve
circulation. There are many other indications for gua sha, but
these are among the most common.
A very strong gua sha response in a patient.
When applying gua sha to a patient, the practitioner is looking
for a sha response. Sha is the color the skin turns during and
after receiving gua sha. If the area becomes bright red, there is
pathogenic heat being released. If it becomes purple, cold or
stagnation is being released. If it is pale-pink, either cold is
being released or deficient energy is being moved.
Many types of tools can be used for making the gua sha strokes.
Some common tools are ladles, carved animal horns, and stones. I
have used many tools, but my tool of choice is a quarter. I have
found the ridges of the quarter help bring the sha to the surface
the best. Additionally, the thinness of the quarter allows easy
At times, the application of gua sha can be uncomfortable for
the patient. Since the strokes are applied in regions where
pathogens have accumulated, such as heat/inflammation and
stagnation, having pressure on these areas can temporarily provoke
more pain. But, the result of gua sha is often a relief or complete
absence of pain or pathogen. Patients often recover from colds and
muscular skeletal traumas very quickly after receiving gua sha.
Included in this blog are pictures of very strong gua sha
response. There are many apparent regions of sha. The placement of
the sha follows several acupuncture meridians. The sha response is
very red with a little purple. This response, along with other
clinical findings, indicates heat and stagnation have been
released. The sha usually disappears in 2-7 days.
I recently had the pleasure of interviewing an acupuncture
patient, who had been diagnosed with sciatica. Sciatica is a
condition in which the sciatic nerve is inflamed. The symptoms this
patient had included pain, tingling, and numbness which traveled
from his lateral aspect of his left hip, referred down his leg and
into the lateral aspect of his left foot. At times the pain was so
severe he had to miss work and other common daily activities. He
did not find much continuous relief of symptoms through his
conventional medical care. As a result, he received two acupuncture
treatments, which gave him long-term relief from the sciatic
symptoms. This patient was kind enough to agree to an interview for
this blog to explain his personal experience with acupuncture.
Happy Belated Mother's Day to all Moms!!! I hope you had a
very special and relaxing weekend! Hopefully you had a day of
relaxation, or at least moments of the day were filled with
In addition to celebrating Mother's Day this weekend, classes
started for the new trimester this past week.
personally consider both the start and the end of each
trimester a mini-celebration, as each segment of time shows the
beginning or end to another chapter of learning.
This week I was able to see the affects of acupuncture on pain
patients very clearly. While I was fortunate to be a part of
treating many pain patients, one patient agreed to share her
treatment with this blog. This patient is a 61-year-old female
who injured her foot. She may have broken 1-2 toes, but had
not received X-rays at the time of her treatment. (Notice
bruising on center toe.) It was decided to treat the foot distally,
which means far away from her foot. One of the most conducive
aspects of acupuncture is there are many ways to treat one
pathology. If it's decided treating locally is not the best
option, there are still many more options for treatment.
In this case, treating the patient's foot via auricular
acupuncture was determined to be the best option. The patient
received five needles in the ear on the same side as the injured
foot. She received a needle in the following auricular points:
toes, lumber, shenmen, point zero, and kidney. These points
help to reduce the pain, while also helping the patient feel
relaxed. Additionally, they help treat the patient's root
energy, which will greater exacerbate a healing response.
The patient reported feeling a remarkable decrease in foot and
back pain. The patient had a previous back injury worsened by
the change in her gait (walk) as a result of the foot injury.
Before receiving acupuncture, the patient rated the pain as a 6/10
on the VAS pain scale, 10 being measured as the worst pain
possible. After the treatment, the patient rated her pain as
2/10. I followed up the treatment with auricular seeds; they are
small metal beads that stick on the patient's ear. Ear seeds
are a form of acupressure that allow for continued treatment after
the patient leaves the clinic. By pushing on the ear seeds,
the patient triggers a healing and analgesic (feel-good and pain
reducing) response. The analgesic response is much like taking
pain medicine to decrease the pain. I will learn at the
patient's follow-up visit, how the ear seeds affected
I find observing pain patients' responses fascinating, as
usually through about 5 needles, the patients have a significant
decrease in pain that typically holds through the follow-up
visit. This is something I could never imagined possible
before becoming a student of AOM!
This past week, I had the opportunity to present my dad as a
case study for my Senior Seminar II class. It turned out to be a
Before he came to class, I performed an intake and case history
with him. I learned that when working with family, it was a little
difficult to stay objective, as I know him well, so I had a
different perception of certain things than he. With a patient at
clinic, there is usually no outside reference point, so the
information being given is the only information the intern and
clinician learn. With family, we know what they eat, their health
history and their moods, but their perception and ours are not
always the same. I think I was supposed to let the patient be right
in this case, but since it was my dad, I found an area of grey for
us both to agree on when we saw things a little differently. I
think this was a great learning opportunity for us both.
When my dad came to the clinic, it was an interesting experience
to step back and listen to the clinician and other intern ask him
further questions and gather additional information. It was both
difficult and motivating to see my dad fully as a patient at the
clinic. Since he is my dad, I have always looked up to him, but at
the same time, would do anything for him.
Once we decided on a treatment plan, we advised my dad to go
into the treatment room and prepare for his treatment. He was a
very cooperative patient. He is rather needle-sensitive and very
in-tune to the "qi sensation" (energetic response of the needles),
but handled it very well. He informed us of how he was feeling
during the needling aspect of the treatment once we had placed all
the needles. I felt this brought an added educational benefit.
My dad reported a positive response to the treatment. He
continued to feel the benefits of the treatment the following days.
In addition to my dad's benefits and the educational aspects of
this case study, this felt like a bit of a milestone somehow for my
dad and me. It felt a bit peculiar at times to have our roles
shifted as patient and intern, but at the same time, it felt like
something expanded between us by doing so. If you have read my
previous blog from last trimester, you know that my dad and I are
very close and he joined me at the AOM pinning ceremony. Having a
moment in time where we were patient and intern instead of dad and
daughter was rather intriguing.
Recently, one of my clinicians, Dr. Frank Yurasek, was having a
rather powerful discussion with me regarding living in the "Now"
and how it relates to patient care. He quoted a wise author Eckhart
Tolle, who wrote Realizing the Power of Now. Dr Yurasek
quoted a passage from Tolle's book that I will paraphrase: Our
frustrations derive from living in the past, our anxiety derives
from living in the future, and thus the only place to be living is
in the now. Seems easy, but as many can relate, many of us have a
foot in yesterday and a foot in tomorrow, forgetting to stand in
Clinically, I have found this to be very true with patients.
Many cling to the life disruptions that have brought them into
patient care, or the fears of what's to come as a result of current
circumstances. I am learning it is sometimes equally hard to help a
patient let go of the belief system that is keeping them sick, not
just helping their bodies heal.
Through acupuncture, we have points to help ground, as I blogged
about a couple of weeks ago. We have points and herbs to help the
physical body heal, points to help create mental shifts, and so on.
But, from my perception, these points work best in tandem with the
patient; the patient has to be ready to let go of the disease or
illness and ready to step into the present moment.
This doesn't mean that if the patient doesn't heal, they are
preventing it. What I mean is the healthiest responses I've seen
and been educated about are the ones where the patient let's go of
attachment to the disease or illness and its possible outcomes, and
becomes more attached to the richness of the present moment. I've
watched patients experiencing chemotherapy truly living and
enjoying life to the fullest. These patients are free from
emotional pains of all they have already experienced and are not
worried about what tomorrow brings. These patients never let cancer
define them. They let themselves define their lives, not their
circumstances. These patients constantly remind me how important
the present moment is and to stop living for tomorrow or
I know for myself, I seem to have constant radar up doing my
best to keep myself in the present moment. Often on my free time,
my mind will instantly jump to a paper I need to write, or dishes
that need to be done, or some other form of responsibility I am
putting upon myself. But, what I realize and remind myself of in
those moments is nothing is more important than what I am doing in
the present moment. Those other responsibilities will still be
there and will be accomplished at the appropriate time.
I think our minds use living in the past or future as a form of
procrastination from living in the present moment. If we place
ourselves into a different aspect of time, we don't have to
experience what is in front of us in real time. The thing I have
come to learn, though, is there is little that compares with being
fully in the moment and experiencing all it holds. Sometimes it's
blissful, and sometimes it's filled with heartache. But those
feelings are all part of here and now, allowing us to choose who
and how we desire to be in this exact moment of time.
Rightfully so, I think we as students and our patients often
have fears and worries driving us to be anywhere but in the present
moment. As a result, many of us proceed on autopilot and miss out
on so much of life's journey. We push through circumstances that
are rough in an effort for tomorrow to be better. Or, we miss out
on the momentary bliss because we are stuck in pains of the past.
All of this is justifiable and can be a reasonable way to live; I
think it is just a less fulfilling way of life when the present
moment holds so many gifts and wonders.
Dr. Yurasek also shared with me a theory of living a purpose
directed life versus an emotionally directed life. I think this is
like a lock and key to bridging living in the present while knowing
you're on a path for your future. Living a purpose directed life
helps prevent the anxiety about the future, as it assures us that
what we are doing in the present moment will support us tomorrow. I
feel listening to our emotions in each moment as guideposts to
direct us is key if what we are doing is on course with our
purpose. But, being driven by emotions from the past and fears of
the future will never lead us to the tomorrow were dreaming of, or
most importantly, the fullness of today.
Years ago I saw the comic Family Circle and it said something to
this effect--yesterday is called the past because it's gone,
tomorrow is called the future because it's not here yet, today is
called the present because it is a gift. This has always stuck with
me and feels so true!
With the beautiful weather this month, I've been spending as
much time as possible outdoors. The recent blooming of the flowers
reminds me if we allow things to be in the present and let nature
run its course, many times, beauty will result. We don't have to
think about these flowers in December for them to blossom today,
they just happen naturally in their perfect time.
A patient I've been treating for a shoulder injury agreed to
allow me to share her acupuncture experiences.
About six months ago, the patient experienced a work injury
causing a shoulder trauma. The final result was an internal
tear and bursitis. She received conventional medical care and AOM
treatments of acupuncture and herbs. She felt the AOM treatments
decreased the pain and increased her range of motion
Eventually, the patient decided to have surgery, as everyone
thought it was in her best interest. Three weeks after her surgery,
she had another shoulder tear, but in a different location. Surgery
was not an option and her MD recommended she receive AOM treatments
again to aid in healing, range of motion and decrease the pain.
The patient has been receiving these acupuncture treatments on a
non-routine basis for her shoulder injury here at NUHS for over 6
months and reports positive results. She lives out-of-state, so she
only receives treatments when she is able to travel to Illinois,
per her choice. She says she feels most comfortable receiving
acupuncture treatments at the NUHS clinic and is not interested in
going elsewhere for her AOM care.
I have included a picture of an NUHS clinic room to help
this patient's experience more vivid for you as you
In the pictures, some of the acupuncture points are shown. Two
very important points are her local shoulder points, jian qian and
LI15. These points have been painful for the patient. Each time
they are needled, the patient has a different tolerance level for
them, and for the depth she can handle them being placed. She also
has a range in her tolerance of the ability to handle them being
Manipulated means moving the needles around to help stimulate qi
and blood flow. This helps create an immune response to aid in the
healing process. These points are partnered with several other
distal points, points further away from her shoulder. Only a couple
distal points are pictured. All this points work as a union to
create a healing effect. An example of a distal point is liver 3,
the point needle on her foot. This point helps move the qi and
works very well when partnered with other points in her treatment
In addition to her acupuncture treatments, she has been
recommended to take an herbal formula that is pictured. This
formula, Jian zhou tong pian, is specific for treating bodily
trauma. It helps the tissue repair itself.
So far, the treatments have been reported as successful by the
patient. She has reported a decrease in her pain level. She reports
this pain relief lasts well after the end of the treatments. Since
she has recently restarted her AOM treatment plan, her range of
motion has not been reevaluated. I have a positive prognosis for
her since she is having instant results shown by her rapid decrease
in pain level.
• What is AOM?
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• Learning Through Clinic
• Journey into AOM
• Hospital Residency
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