Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Colds, Flu, and Kids

With this year's cold and flu season upon us, I am noticing the massive amount of kids coming down with runny noses, sore throats, coughs. although every kid seems susitible, some get hit harder than others. While this exposure to bacteria is important, and allows kids to build up their library of antibodies, there is lots we can do to build up their immune systems, so it can do it's job of fighting infections quickly, efficiently, and effectively. When kids are hit by one bug, and it knocks them down it can be hard for them to come back to their full strength before another exposure comes along. With just a little bit of support, kids can begin the season ahead of the game, or regain their strength, so they don't have to spend November to March with a runny nose.There are many tools and tricks you can implement at home to help reinforce the immune system. Making sure that kids have a well-balanced and varied diet can sometimes be a challenge. Working toward a diet full of whole foods will definitely help give kids a leg up with immunity. In addition though, because we can't always sneak in enough fruits and veggies, there are things we can do to supplement their diet and ramp up the immune system. Sleep is also another extremely important factor in immunity. Most 3-6 year olds still need 11-12 hours of sleep a day. Take advantage of the early sunset and try enforcing an early bedtime.
Another tool to try for your child is acupuncture and Chinese medicine. Acupuncture and/or acupressure can be extremely helpful to your child to fight off infection, both during a cold or sickness and as preventative medicine. Similar to allopathic medicine, in Chinese medicine we look at the common cold as an invasion of a pathogen into the Lung. We view this pathogen as a type of wind. Through a series of questions and inspection of the child, we use to determine if it is a wind-cold or a wind-heat, or in summertime, summer-heat with dampness. Wind-cold is classified by low fever with chills and lots of white thin phlegm; whereas wind-heat usually is exhibited through sore throat, yellow thick phlegm, and high fever with mild chills. Often, a kid will be prone to one or the other, and you might notice that your child's symptoms when she gets sick often look the same. We then chose acupuncture points which will expel the wind-cold or wind-heat and well as supplementing and boosting "wei" or defensive qi, otherwise know as the immune system. To read more about this syndrome you can visit:
In my practice, I tend to use a combination of acupressure and acupuncture with most kids. We always start with the pressure, just pressing the points, and then I gauge the child's comfort level. Most kids will allow me, even in that first session, to do at least one or two needles. I always make sure the kids feel very comfortable and they know that I would never sneak up on them. They are so relieved after the first needle, realizing they don't even feel it, and so proud of their bravery. And the results continue to amaze me. Kids are so quick to respond, and usually their coughs and runny noses taper off and quickly go away. Often parents will come back saying that their little one's cough stopped in the car and didn't come back, or that everyone has been sick at their school, but not their child! And the best is that the kids feel the results, they feel better and then are even more willing to be brave for more needles. It is so neat to watch them come back, excited to report their results and ready to feel better!

Acid Reflux and Children

Lately it seems that I've been seeing many kids with symptoms of acid reflux, acid regurgitation, and GERD. Depending on the age of the child, it can be hard to determine what's going on, but usually a child suffering from acid reflux will exhibit some combination of burping or vomiting, and/or the more difficult to detect and decipher nausea, stomach pain and burning. The child could also be coughing, having trouble swallowing, a hoarse voice, complaining of a sore throat especially in the morning, or respiratory symptoms, all can be possible symptoms of acid regurgitation. Acid indigestion has a number of causes. As a parent, sometimes you can identify a specific food that your child is sensitive or allergic to that is causing the response. Sometimes, the symptoms will be consistently occurring at the same time everyday, despite the changes in diet, possibly indicating an over or under production of stomach acid, or a malfunction of the lower esophageal sphincter, causing acid to leak back into the esophagus. Or sometimes (every parent's favorite) there will be no rhyme or reason, just an acid stomach causing pain, indigestion, burping, nausea, and/or vomiting.
Chinese medicine looks at acid reflux as either an excess or a deficiency in the child's system, or a combination of both. Kids are hot by nature. They have dominate yang. By nature their yin is not fully formed. Yin is everything cooling, descending, still, dark, and inward. As kids develop, their yin develops. They are starting off with a tendency towards heat and at a deficiency with their yin, giving them hot bodies that are not able to cool down as readily. Add to this hot nature, an imbalance, such as exposure to an allergen or a cold or flu, and their bodies can be set off with an over production of heat. It can be in their stomach and it will come out as acid reflux, or in their heart (Chinese energetic heart) and you see nightmares or ADHD, or in the lungs and the manifestation will be allergies or asthma. It is my job diagnosis and clear the heat and support their yin, through acupuncture, acupressure and Chinese herbal medicine. Often with this heat in the stomach, it just takes some redirecting, or descending of their energy, to help their digestion flow in the right way.
Every parents next question is "How will you get my child to sit still for acupuncture??" I've found that the most important thing is allowing the child to be in control. In my practice, I tend to use a combination of acupressure and acupuncture with most kids. We always start with the pressure, just pressing the points, and then I gauge the child's comfort level. It often helps the child to bring a beloved stuffed animal that we can "practice" on first. I can put needles in the animal, which provides a good test subject, and even let them help me, so, again, they can feel in control. After practicing on Teddy, most kids will allow me, even in that first session, to do at least one or two needles. I always make sure the kids feel very comfortable, and again, they know I won't sneak up or surprise them. Usually I just talk with them about their favorite game, or we sing a song together, or we count to ten or twenty while they sit with the needles, and then the needles come out. Kids don't need near the retention time/relaxation time with the needles that adults need, their bodies just take a little bit of redirecting to get back into balance. The results continue to amaze me. Kids are so quick to respond, and usually their symptoms are greatly diminished after that first treatment. Kids end up looking forward to their appointments!!


Many people seek acupuncture treatments for poor digestion. They have been to see their doctor or a GI Specialist, which is exactly what you are supposed to do. We like to rule things out and make sure there is nothing more serious going on, the more information and people assessing a patient the better! But often times, when all of that is said and done, so many patients are diagnosed with IBS, which is basically a umbrella diagnosis for digestive upset. Many patients are left with very little explanation as to why their digestion is not 100%, and perhaps a prescription that they do not want to take.There are many different symptoms associated with poor digestion. From Constipation, to loose stools, gas and bloating, pain, acid reflux, fatigue after eating. Any of these sound familiar? What causes these symptoms? That is where Chinese medicine comes in. Our job as practitioners is to get to the root of the problem. We play detective and figure out how your body is out of balance. Chinese medicine is a system that works to figure out how your constitution is off and then we create a plan to regain balance. The healing happens through acupuncture, herbs, and possibly supplements. Many patients just get acupuncture treatments and get a lot better. We also think about food allergies. We might consider the elimination diet ( (the link is just an example, we would give you our clinic guidelines and walk you through the whole thing) We also might refer you across the hall to Doctor Levine ( for a food allergy test. When we know what a patient is allergic to we can treat the allergy with NAET ( to completely eliminate the allergy!Stress can be another huge contributing factor in digestion. The most common diagnosis in US is, liver overacting spleen. Which basically means that your stress level is causing your digestion to be weak and vulnerable and manifest symptoms. The good news is we can treat it! Very effectively. Patients get great results. There are so many ways to address your digestion and if any of this sounds like you, we should. Poor digestion is something that you can live with but have too!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Trigger points

I find myself practicing a lot of trigger point therapy these days. I hadn’t planned on specializing in this area, mind you, hadn’t planned on focusing on pain therapy in general, as far as that goes, but the results of TPT can be so dramatic and so immediate that I’m mighty glad I have it in my arsenal.

What they are

For a variety of reasons – trauma, overuse, strain, stress, and god-knows-what – muscles and their connective sheaths (called fascia) can develop localized tender-to-the-touch knots. Interestingly, and one of the challenges for diagnosis, this pain can be referred pain – i.e. show up in an area away from the site of palpitation. Sometimes trigger points announce themselves clearly and sometimes they play ventriloquist.


After consulting with a patient and deciding that a trigger point treatment is what they need and the pain is indeed coming from a tight muscle, we get to work. Unlike most other kinds of acupuncture treatment, where patients may not even sense the presence of the needles, a direct an aggressive stimulation of the trigger point is called for. The goal is to get the muscle to twitch. Once I see this happening, I know I’m on target. If it’s a new patient I definitely go easy. After all, it may be the first time they’ve had acupuncture.

Patient responses

Here are some comments the treatment has elicited: "I have been waiting my whole life for that," "it is like you are scratching my muscle right where it needs it" and "that feels so weird". (OK, so the last one doesn’t come across so well out of context. But I guarantee he was smiling at the time.)

Patients look forward to trigger point treatments, and some experience such relief they beg me to release more muscles.

My thoughts

I think of TPT as restarting the muscle’s metabolism, reminding it how to function normally. It seems the most common places to hold stress in the body are the neck and shoulders, lower back and hips, and the stomach. No TPT for the stomach, though. But don’t worry. If that’s where the problem lies, we have other therapies to bring to bear. Maybe that’s a topic for next time.


I want to thank Matt Callison (at the AcuSport Health Center in San Diego) and William Duarte (OCOM here in Portland) for getting me started on this path.


Western medicine treats myofascial pain with trigger points of its own, and pain specialist Dr. Peter Dorsher of the Mayo Clinic published an interesting article earlier this year comparing them with those of acupuncture.

Another case of East meets West.


Friday, August 1, 2008

The Olympic Games

I had hoped that the news coverage of this year’s Olympic Games in Beijing would yield some insightful stories about health, athletes, and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Unfortunately, a man with 205 needles in his head, each with a flag representing an attending nation, isn’t what I had in mind. Groan.

Beijing and health

The news out of Beijing is dominated by concern over the high levels of air pollution. And even though the Chinese government is desperate to do something about it, there is widespread fear that Beijing’s air will be so bad that it will imperil both athletes and spectators. What a mess.


The athletes most likely to be affected by air pollution are those who have asthma. And among those with asthma, the ones most at risk are long-distance competitors. So imagine the plight of Paula Radcliffe, the world record-holder for the marathon, who just happens to have asthma. I don’t know if the Chinese hosts will offer acupuncture to the athletes, but if she were my patient I would first determine if her breathing problems were tied to kidney or lung deficiency and then try to fortify her body in a way that would lessen the impact of pollutants. But the exact treatment would depend on knowing a lot more than I know now, so all I can say here is that I wish her well and hope the dietary regime she has adopted will help.

Exercise-induced asthma

Breathing problems can be brought on by exercise, even for athletes not diagnosed with asthma. Changes in humidity and temperature – as happens when aerobic exercise leads to breathing through the mouth -- can trigger EIA. And one would have to assume that irritants in the air would make things worse. I just hope that the athletes have been taking good care of themselves for the past year to ensure their bodies are ready for what they are about to be up against.

The Games

OK, let the Games begin, along with the hourly updates on the quality of the air.

And maybe, just maybe, a glimpse of how Chinese medicine is being brought to bear on the health challenges in Beijing.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

On vacation!

Oh my gosh, where does the time go? After an invigorating and exciting beginning of 2008, July has arrived! And I'm ready for some relaxing and goofing around time with my family. For the next few weeks I'll be a slacker. Well, as much of a slacker as one can be with a family that includes a one-year-old. But that one-year-old needs time to connect with more than one generation of family, so here we come! I'll be back soon.

As Garrison Keillor puts it, Be well, do good work, and stay in touch.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Emily & kids

Acupuncture Northwest hires another acupuncturist! I am so lucky to be welcoming Emily Cohen, LAc, to the practice -- the same woman who has been giving me weekly acupuncture treatments. She is incredibly talented and while she and I practice a very similar style of acupuncture, she also brings an added passion for pediatrics. How lucky is that? She is great with all ages but has a special way with the wee ones. She has experience with ADD, ADHD, autism, allergies ( NAET has yielded great results), rashes, and much more. Kids get better so fast it’s amazing. I guess their little bodies are so close to perfect it usually just takes a little tweaking.

Of course the first question everyone asks is Do the kiddos get the needles? Well, we start everyone with acupressure at the beginning of a treatment and then, yes, surprisingly, perhaps, most kids are receptive to needling. We just figure out what is right for each patient. If we do needles it is for a very short time and the parent is usually right there reading a story or just being present..

At the end we let the kids sit down with markers and draw for a while or we tell stories or have them sing songs while we place seeds, with clear tape in their ears (it's called auricular therapy, and is a common practice in Chinese medicine). And sometimes we place a few on their body, too. We also at this point are giving the parents and kids a little homework -- massage ideas, specific pressure points, possible supplements, and lifestyle tips.

Kids really respond well to treatment. They love coming. They end up loving the whole process. They like to tell their friends and siblings that they get acupuncture and to show off their seeds. One even had his school picture taken while his seeds were clearly in evidence. That has to be a Portland first! Parents enjoy bringing their kids because they see the results, and they bring back great stories about their subsequent visits to their pediatrician.

Emily is a great addition to Acupuncture Northwest and we’re both looking forward to helping more and more kids.

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