Archive for tag: patients

Patient Responses

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.

Penny wrote:

"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.

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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 stomach issues."

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Emily wrote:

"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." 

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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 patients.

Gua Sha

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.

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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 maneuvering.

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.

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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.

A Patient's Acupuncture Treatment Experience

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.

Auricular Acupuncture Treating Pain

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 rejuvenation! 

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. 

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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.

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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 her. 

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!

My Dad, My Patient

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 transforming experience!

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.

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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.

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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.

The Beauty of Now

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 today.

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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 yesterday.

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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. 

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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.

Shoulder Trauma Treatment

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 temporarily.

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.

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I have included a picture of an NUHS clinic room to help make
this patient's experience more vivid for you as you read.

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.

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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 plan.

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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.

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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.