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season change

Understanding Chinese Medicine on a Deeper Level

By | NESCA Notes 2019

Breaking down a common pathology and get it in balance this spring

By Holly Pelletier, L.Ac.
Licensed Acupuncturist

If you are alive today, chances are you have some form of one of the most common Chinese medical diagnoses, Liver Qi stagnation. Let me break down this complex, and presumably new, terminology.

Liver (LV)—In Chinese medicine, all of the meridian systems are named after organs in the body. When we talk about Liver, Spleen or the Heart, for example, and you see it with a capital letter, the scope of the word’s meaning is much larger. When you see Liver in this post, know that it means the energetics of the organ as well as the organ itself. This includes the meridian system, the emotional connection and the actual physical lines in the body the meridian comprises—in this case, the inner leg line or your adductor muscles.

Qi—Qi = Energy (roughly). Everything is Qi, just like everything is energy—physics taught us this, and, well, there is no arguing with physics!

Stagnation—This one is simple. Stagnation simply means the stuck-ness of something/that something is not moving.

Pathology—A pathology is an imbalance in your system. Altogether, Liver Qi stagnation pathology is an imbalance caused by something not moving along your Liver meridian.

Now that you know the breakdown of the pathology, how do you know if you have Liver Qi stagnation? Let’s look at some common signs that might signal you have some (or a lot) of this imbalance.

Possible symptoms

Irritability, depression, displaced anger, tight muscles, pain anywhere in the body, restlessness, PMS, headaches, irregular and/or painful periods, constipation, inappropriate anger, frustration, abdominal pain/discomfort, mood swings, sighing, sensation of a lump in the throat, excessive sleep or hiccups. 99% of individuals have at least one of these common imbalances on a regular basis.

What causes LV Qi stagnation?

Stress and lack of movement are two BIG players, and the Liver organ system is actually most susceptible to imbalance in the Springtime. During spring, the above-mentioned symptoms can flare more easily. To take care of this organ system, now is the time to pay more attention to it, before we are fully into the spring season.

Why is it important to pay attention to this?

Understanding how your body works and how the seasons affect us is the first step in your own personal health journey. This is one of the foundational principles of Chinese medicine as a preventative means to wellness.

When the Liver is in balance, it is a strong force to be reckoned with. You’re more likely to experience a lot of forward progress, determination and healthy amounts of focus and clarity in completing a particular “job” (think of a job as dreams, hopes, desires).

Unfortunately, many people have the mindset of, “If I’m not sick, I’m healthy.” The problem with that is we are not trained to see symptoms of early illness or disease. For the most part, we do not know how to correct imbalances early on or properly deal with emotions—i.e. not pushing them down or not taking them out on those who do not deserve it. We don’t know how to tap into the energy of the body and world around us to create an environment and a lifestyle conducive to optimal health. We will have pain and brush it off, or a nagging headache and say that’s normal, when in reality these are symptoms our body is trying to tell us about an imbalance! We need to learn to listen and to tap in EARLY if we want to live a healthy, disease-free life.

What’s more is that a MAJOR cause of disease is stagnation. There is usually some form of stagnation in every illness or ailment, and the Liver is the organ system in charge of clearing, moving and breaking up stagnation.

3 Easy Tips to Balance your Liver Qi this Spring!

1. Move!

The best way to take care of your Liver and harness the energy of this organ system is to move your body. There is so much flexibility with this—whatever you like to do to get moving is A-OK. Try walking, biking, yoga or dancing! Anything goes…just get going TODAY!

If movement and exercise is totally out of your lifestyle at the moment, start with small tricks like taking the stairs or parking further away so you have a longer walk through the parking lot!

2. Let emotion out in a healthy way!

When I first did therapy, my therapist introduced me to a “rage room.” It took me about three years to actually use it, but when I did, I felt amazing! My rage room back then consisted of a punching bag that we hit with a bat, but there are so many ways to release pent up emotions so they don’t stagnate and lead to disease.

Some easy and accessible examples are:

  • Scream while alone—in the car, woods or at your house when no one else is around. Note: If you are thinking about this in terms of your child, which undoubtedly many of you are, it is good to encourage them to let out emotion. Help them find a safe space they can do it in.
  • Jump up and down, shaking out your limbs (really effective)
  • Run or jog
  • Practice Vinyasa Yoga
  • Write a “rage page” in your journal where you get all of your feelings out (Note: the secret to this is that you must throw the page away after and never look back at it again. We are letting things out, NOT trying to dwell on them more).
  • Take an exercise class, like kickboxing

3. Get acupuncture, or at least acupressure!

Schedule an acupuncture session with a licensed practitioner—stick to an acupuncturist and not someone who just does “dry needling,” which doesn’t offer the benefits of a well-rounded treatment that addresses your root pathology, whether that be Liver Qi stagnation or something else.

If that is not in the cards for you, start tuning in to your own body. Begin with self-massage—the feet and hands are good places to begin—between the webbing of the fingers and the toes, in particular, and assess for stagnation. How can you tell if there is stagnation? If there is pain, sensitivity, built-up heat or cold, or numbness/tingling.

As you start to become intuitive with your own body, remember: Pain = Stagnation = Energy not flowing = built-up accumulation = disease at some point in the future. Start to get friendly with your own energy and begin to understand your body more!

 

About the Author:

Holly Pelletier, licensed acupuncturist, has been working with children, adolescents and young adults, in many different capacities since 2004. Prior to treating youth with acupuncture, she worked as a teacher, coach and mentor. She especially enjoys working with young people and acupuncture because of their speedy response time and genuine excitement about this form of medicine.  For more information about acupuncture at NESCA and our new ‘Acupuncture & Mindfulness’ program for teens, please email Holly Pelletier at hpelletier@nesca-newton.comFor more blog posts by Holly check out her personal blog: www.holisticallyinspired.org.

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton and Plainville, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.

 

To book an appointment with Holly or other Integrative Treatment providers at NESCA, please fill out the intake form and note that you would like to see Holly.

How Chinese Medicine Can Help You Stay Healthy This Fall

By | NESCA Notes 2018

 

 

By Holly Pelletier, L.Ac.
Licensed Acupuncturist

Although no one can argue with the beauty of the changing leaves around us, this time of the year can be hard on people in a multitude of ways. Reason being? For most people, fall merely marks the downward spiral into winter–a season of short days, chilly nights, and colorless, dreary skies. It is a time where we are forced to say goodbye to our sunny, warm days and begin to look ahead to the depths of winter.

As physicists have explained time and time again, everything is energy. Energy makes up our bodies, the world around us, the food we eat, the air we breathe–everything about life and matter. The seasons, therefore, have their own energies as well. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which is very rooted in the principle of energy, sees summer as the most Yang (vibrant, hot, excited, active) time of the year, while winter is seen as the most Yin (cool, calm, dark, heavy). Fall is a hinge, a transition period out of the Yang and into the Yin. We see this in the physical changes marked by the season: the leaves changing color and falling off the trees, the animals collecting and storing food for the winter, how we start wearing extra layers and perhaps going to bed a little earlier. We and nature are preparing for the cold, the winter, the most Yin time of the year. This transition can be seen and felt as a preparation for loss, a time of letting go of the warmth and sunshine and turning more towards a time of stillness, waiting, and introspection.

TCM connects each of the seasons to specific meridian/channel systems in the body. Autumn correlates with the Lungs and the Large Intestine meridians. Today we’ll focus primarily on the Lung meridian system because it is incredibly vulnerable this time of year.

In TCM, the Lungs are known as the “delicate organ.” They are substantially affected by cold and dry temperatures, wind, fluctuating seasonal changes, and sadness/grief–all things that transpire in the fall. When the hours of daylight shorten, the leaves and other plants begin to die, and the temperatures get cooler, is it a very common thing for people’s moods to also drop–many people even have this diagnosed as seasonal affective disorder (SAD).

Basically, fall creates the perfect storm against the Lungs, and they become very easily damaged. This, in turn, causes more sadness, colds and flus, seasonal allergies, shortness of breath, difficulty exercising or walking upstairs, abnormal sweating, and even a chronically hunched over posture that the body adapts in order to protect the lungs–often leading to upper back and neck tightness. If these ailments continue long enough and cause enough imbalance in the body, then urinary issues, asthma, and long-standing depression can develop, which can then offset other symptoms and imbalances connected with other meridian systems. So what’s the takeaway? Take extra good care of your Lungs this time of year!

 

 

Following are 3 of the simplest ways you can ensure you make it through this transition period with an uplifted spirit and a healthy set of lungs.

1. Breathe Deep

One of the easiest and most effective ways to take care of your Lungs is to breathe deeply. Sounds simple, right? Well, when anxiety and stress set in, one of the quickest things to go is our attention to the breath. We begin to hold our breath or take really shallow gulps of air–oftentimes through our mouths, which can contribute to the anxious feelings. To ensure deep and steady breath, begin by taking really conscious breaths throughout the day, inhale through your nose, and exhale through your nose. Fill up your lungs all the way to the top and then exhale every ounce of air out. If you find yourself in a stressful situation, start counting your breath and make your exhales slightly longer than your inhales–this doesn’t have to be substantial to make a difference, even a slight elongation of the exhale can help. Lengthening out your exhales will calm your sympathetic nervous system and instantly have a calming effect on the mind and the body.

2. Do Yoga

Do some yoga poses to help open up the Lung meridian. The Lung meridian runs along the inside of your chest, across your pectoral muscles. This is one of the first areas to tighten when the lungs are affected, and as mentioned above, this can set off a domino effect and create a tremendous amount of pain and tension in your upper back and neck. You can work to gradually open this area every day to ensure this doesn’t happen by doing the following 3 simple poses. Go deeper into each one until you begin to feel an opening or a stretch but you do not lose control and depth of your breath. Your breathing should not suffer as you go deeper into the pose. Keep your inhales and exhales long and steady. If you are unfamiliar with the pose mentioned, click on the link below to bring you to a step by step instruction guide.

3. Get outside.

Yes, the Lungs are vulnerable to the cooler temperatures, but there is nothing better for them than breathing deep in the great outdoors. Take short walks and make an effort to spend time in nature daily–just ensure that you are dressing “seasonably.” A great thing to start adding to your fall attire is a scarf around the neck.  Who knows? Maybe you could even get a little wild and connect all 3 suggestions–take a walk outside with your yoga mat, and set up to do some deep breathing and some lung opening yoga poses all at the same time!

There is so much more to Chinese medicine than just the acupuncture piece. Incorporating mindfulness activities such as the ones mentioned here and others including meditation, journaling, and pranayama (breathwork) can be monumental in the healing process.

 

 

About the Author:

Holly Pelletier, licensed acupuncturist, has been working with children, adolescents and young adults, in many different capacities since 2004. Prior to treating youth with acupuncture, she worked as a teacher, coach and mentor. She especially enjoys working with young people and acupuncture because of their speedy response time and genuine excitement about this form of medicine.  For more information about acupuncture at NESCA and our new ‘Acupuncture & Mindfulness’ program for teens, please email Holly Pelletier at hpelletier@nesca-newton.comFor more blog posts by Holly check out her personal blog: www.holisticallyinspired.org.

 

 

 

Neuropsychology & Education Services for Children & Adolescents (NESCA) is a pediatric neuropsychology practice and integrative treatment center with offices in Newton, Massachusetts, and Londonderry, New Hampshire, serving clients from preschool through young adulthood and their families. For more information, please email info@nesca-newton.com or call 617-658-9800.