Archive for tag: clinic

Getting Down to Business

This week the AOM Student Association held its speaker event. Every trimester speakers are invited to come present to students from the AOM program and any other NUHS students interested in attending. This trimester they invited NUHS alumnae Barry Hinman (MSAc '09) and Kathi Wotal (MSOM '13), to present on "How to Start an Acupuncture Practice and Work with Insurance."

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Their presentation was fantastic; they shared the trials and tribulations they experienced starting their practices, as well as insider tips on everything from marketing and insurance to social media and logo design. AOMSA couldn't have found better speakers for the topic -- they're both insightful, detail-oriented, have had broad work and life experiences, are dedicated to their practices, and devoted to their healing professions. I'm very grateful that they took the time to put such a nice presentation together!


Finals are coming up and I'm once again up to my ears in studying and working on final assignments for all my herbal seminars. In spite of my anxiety with trying to regurgitate so much info in such a short period of time, I am excited to have an herb-only shift in clinic next trimester! Yes, I get to dedicate one of my clinic shifts to putting together patient formulas! As interns we don't usually have the time to dedicate to putting together formulas, so this shift is really key to learning them well and getting used to doing formulas on our own. Eek!


Amidst all the chaos of finals, the AOM program will be getting the first glimpse into ATHENA, the new electronic records system being implemented in the clinic. After months of waiting, the days of writing SOAP notes are now over! We still compile the general SOAP information, but will no longer have to suffer from carpal tunnel after speed-writing 4 patient notes in a shift or worry about crossing out and initialing errors or writing addendums. The DC and ND programs will also start using the system in the coming weeks.

Electro-Acupuncture for Pain Relief

This trimester in clinic, I've had several new patients who come in weekly for treatments for their pain (back, knee, arm, foot). As with all my patients, when they come in, I'll ask them how they felt after the last treatment and if there are any specific treatments or techniques that they liked or thought worked best. This past week, three of those patients said that they liked the e-stim, or Electro-Acupuncture treatments and that it provided more pain relief for them.


Electro-Acupuncture is a therapy that applies pulses of electrical current to the needle to stimulate the acupuncture site. It's a modern solution for practitioners who may not have the time (or desire) to strongly stimulate each point individually for 10-20 minutes. It works very well with cases involving a lot of stagnation of blood or qi, or both, such as chronic pain, menstrual disorders or restoring blood flow to parts of the body following a stroke to treat neuralgia or even paralysis.

2016-06-17_m2During a treatment session, acupuncture needles are first placed on the acupuncture points, just as in traditional acupuncture. Then electrical stimulation is added by attaching small clips (imagine miniature car battery jumper cables) that connect a pair of needles to a small battery-operated generator. The acupuncturist controls the intensity by increasing or reducing the current. In our clinic, we use a machine with only two leads, but Dr. Fan, our Accessory Techniques instructor suggested that we get one with six leads to use in our practices.

2016-06-17_m3I love getting feedback from patients and hearing that there is an aspect of their treatment that they either enjoy or benefit greatly from, especially when it comes to pain. But to be honest, I don't get too excited about treating pain, especially acute musculoskeletal pain. Maybe it's the pressure of wanting to help the patient right away and a fear that they'll leave without any relief. I'm also partial to addressing and treating the root of the pain, rather than just treating the branch, which is often done with acute pain cases. The difference between the two usually means needling directly into the painful area vs. doing distal points that may reduce or tonify the patient overall. Using the e-stim usually involves the prior -- using the electrical current on local points in the area of the pain. Also, unlike my patients, I don't get very excited about using Electro-Acupuncture because it seems unnatural to mix an ancient healing practice with modern technology. But that extra stimulation, no matter the frequency or intensity seems to do the trick for pain, especially acute.

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In addition to pain treatments, I've also used Electro-Acupuncture for treating infertility and Bell's palsy. The reactions towards using the modality in these cases weren't as positive as those of the pain patients.

I'd like to better understand Electro-Acupuncture so that I can embrace it, along with pain treatments, and maybe some day get excited about the two. My personal homework for the week -- getting some books from the LRC on Electro-Acupuncture and learning more about it!

Where Did January Go?

Wow, has January flown by! According to the Chinese calendar, it's not yet the New Year (the lunar new year falls on February 8th, or the second new moon following the winter solstice), which means that we are still in the year of the goat/sheep--an animal that moves slowly and connects with the earth. With January moving at lightning speed, it seems that the energy of the monkey--our quick-moving animal for 2016, has already started to transition into the picture.


As this week flew by, there were a few highlights in my classes and clinic. It was exciting to finally get to find out our low back pain patient's diagnosis in medical mystery class, aka, Western Physical Diagnosis. Our anticipation for that information was replaced with somberness and reflection upon learning that our patient's pain was in fact due to advanced metastatic disease. 


My Tuesday morning clinic shift was very slow, with only several patients scheduled, so during the lull another student and I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to ask Dr. Kim to show us how he needles a few points. While Clean Needle Technique class is where we learn how to needle, most students actually learn from other students in the clinic. This can lead to some confusion on how to needle certain points, such as GB 21, which is located near the highest point of the trapezius muscle.


Since this point carries a high risk of pneumothorax if needled too deeply, it seems that many students pinch up the skin above the muscle before needling obliquely, anteriorly to posteriorly. Texts will indicate this needling direction, as opposed to perpendicular, in order avoid causing a pneumothorax. Dr. Kim showed us his needling skills using a more perpendicular angle that didn't involve pinching up the skin, which for me made more sense and was easier to do on patients who don't have prominent trapezius muscles. He also showed us a needle technique lesson on how to spin the needle between the fingers to allow it to insert more smoothly. Just last week, clinician Eric Baker shared that same technique with me while demonstrating how to needle another point. Since then, needling has become easier and more enjoyable for me (probably for my patients, too!).


I finished off the quick week with a weekend at a friend's lakefront house in a town near Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, to celebrate another friend who's getting married in April. It was supposed to be a weekend of wintery fun, but with temps in the mid to upper 40s and rain starting late Saturday, we instead hiked at the nearby Kettle Moraine State Forest, practiced making bouquets (she's making her own for the wedding), played board games, chatted around a bonfire, cooked yummy meals, and went out for a night on the town. Even without the outdoor winter activities, it was great to spend a weekend with lots of good people and enjoy the peacefulness and beauty of rural Wisconsin.

Starting the New Year with a Bang

After crawling to the finish line of the Fall 2015 trimester, I flew home to Hawaii for the much needed break. There, I spent the first 10 days trying to repair all the damage I had done during the previous 6 months from running on caffeine and too little rest and exercise. Ten days of heavy rain showers allowed me to focus on rest and relaxation, eating well (minus the holiday treats), daily yoga, spending time with friends and family, and sleeping. A few days before New Year's Day, the sun came out and I was feeling rejuvenated and ready to start 2016 off strong!


I flew back to Chicago the weekend before classes started and quickly got settled and ready to start the spring trimester. I was pretty anxious about my new schedule -- 5 clinic shifts on top of my heavy class load that included day and night classes, Student Council and AOMSA meetings, and a shift doing reference work at the LRC. Time to break out my time management skills! Cooking and portioning all my meals for the week, having my clothes ready for clinic, getting my notes and books ready for classes allowed me to wake up and walk out the door 15 minutes later if I overslept. It takes about a week to readjust from being on Hawaii time, which is 4 hours behind, which makes 7am wakeups really difficult!


Instead of getting settled in that following weekend, I flew to Colorado to meet up with college friends for a weekend of skiing and playing in the mountains of Snowmass and Powderhorn. Winter storms dumped lots of fresh powder on the mountains that made for a harrowing drive from Denver, but a good time playing outdoors snowshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, and sledding. Being outdoors when the temps are in the teens doesn't have to be miserable!


Despite my tight schedule, this trimester is turning out to be my favorite thus far. I really enjoy having lots of clinic shifts. It helps to be able to get into the flow of seeing patients consistently, instead of just once or twice a week. AOM clinic hasn't been very busy, but I've been trying to see at least 4 patients per shift so that I don't have to worry about getting my patient numbers in the future (plus, I love seeing patients!). I'm also loving my Senior Seminar 2 course with Dr. Zhu. She teaches in almost poetic fashion, integrating practical knowledge with philosophy, which I think helps students to get out of their heads a little and to see the big picture. And Dr. Anderson's Western Physical Diagnosis Class, which I've named 'medical mystery class' is also really interesting and fun. Using problem-based learning, we go through real patient cases to diagnose conditions. We then write up SOAPs that include both Western and OM-based treatment plans. Despite being held at 7pm on Friday night, I actually look forward to it.

2016-01-29_bookThis past school week rolled into the weekend with H.B. Kim's 'Integration of Herbal Medicine' seminar, which was held via webinar due to the snowstorms on the East Coast and him not being able to travel. Although this is a course that serves as a board review for graduating students, I decided to take it early to help me to grasp my herbal formulas knowledge a little better. It was pretty intense -- this weekend we went through all of the single herb categories and hundreds of herbs. There's a reason he writesTHE board review books for OM -- he really knows how to break down the information and present it in a concise format that makes it easy to understand and remember. We have one more weekend with him in February where we'll be going over formulas. Hopefully it will help me with my Formulas 1 course and the other formulas classes that I'll have in the summer and fall.

Two weeks down and the trimester is already starting to fly by. I guess time flies when you're having fun! Time to start planning for my trip to Nicaragua with NDI (Naturopathic Doctors International) in April!

Hydrotherapy Heaven

Thank goodness for our on-campus health clinic. This week after realizing that my right sub-mandibular lymph node was the size of a golf ball, I decided to make an urgent trip to the ND clinic. It came on pretty suddenly and since I had some accompanying fatigue and dizziness, I thought it might be better not to wait around to see if it improves. Even though it was late in the day, I was able to call the clinic and get in immediately to see an ND student intern. 

Because it had been a while since I had been to the ND clinic and my previous student intern had since graduated, I was given a new team of students who were able to give me the best ND clinic care, yet. Patrick was my primary intern, and accompanying him were Juanita (who I had already known since she's also in the AOM program), Mallory, and the amazing Dr. Patricia Coe, who I knew was the Massage Clinic supervisor, but also discovered holds DC and ND degrees, as well (she's pretty awesome, check her out here).


After their very thorough interview and examination, and lots of comedic relief (laughter therapy?) in conjunction with soft tissue work by Dr. Coe, I was prescribed some immune support supplements and constitutional hydrotherapy with Mallory.

If you're unfamiliar with naturopathic medicine, you might ask, what in the world is constitutional hydrotherapy? A very basic way to describe it is the application of alternating hot and cold towel compresses to the chest and back to improve blood flow and manipulate circulation. It's supposedly good for enhancing the immune response and is useful for almost any condition. It also happens to be the best therapy for lymph drainage! Earlier this year I had a couple of "constitutionals" and found them to also be the best remedy for stress, so I was more than happy to come back to the clinic the following day for a treatment.

I was feeling pretty awful the next morning; still dizzy and fatigued with serious brain fog. Mallory and fellow intern Brad did a fantastic job and I walked out of the clinic an hour later feeling 100% better. No brain fog, no fatigue and seriously relaxed! A few hours later, my lymph node was back to its normal pea size. I really don't understand how something so simple can be so effective, but I've found that everyone else at school that has had a constitutional would agree that it's amazingly therapeutic. I should note that acupuncture and oriental medicine are also effective at treating the immune and lymphatic systems. But maybe by now you know that if given the option of getting needled vs. not getting needled, I'll choose the latter.


I'd like to end this post by bestowing the same recognition and appreciation that I have for constitutional hydrotherapy on the underrated beauty that can be found in the Chicago area. I went for a trail run in the DuPage County Forest Preserve on Sunday to take advantage of the magnificent weather and 80º+ temperature (in October?!). I couldn't get over how beautiful it was -- fall colors on the prairie and migrating Monarch butterflies! Nature therapy was the perfect accompaniment to my week of wellness therapy.