Finding Hope – TCM and Depression

Many people feel dissatisfied, unhappy and anxious on a regular basis. It’s an especially common problem this time of year, when the cumulative impact of short days and relative inactivity casts a long shadow on how we feel.

These feelings have a major impact on our health and productivity. Although heart disease and cancer will kill more Americans, depression has become the most disabling of nonfatal conditions in the United States and worldwide. Clinical depression is diagnosed in 16 to 18 million Americans each year. Countless others will suffer from unhappiness that hasn’t reached the level of clinical diagnosis – it is described as ‘feeling blue’, having physical symptoms such as confusion, pain, fatigue or sleeplessness.

Many things in life lead to ‘feeling depressed’, including lost love, financial woes, pain, injury, illness, loneliness, and the aging process, only to name a few. But in fact most often people report having no specific reason for feeling down. They just feel depressed.

In my own journey I have experienced loss and hopelessness. In fact, I witness it on a regular basis. For me, it is Chinese Medicine that provides the most relief when I become out-of-balance; during an acupuncture treatment I experience deep relaxation as my grief and stress vanish away.

For this reason, and witnessing the healing process of many patients, I firmly believe in “the body’s incredible capacity to heal”. I live and work in a place of hope, a place where fear can truly transform into a teacher, to restore the brain, renew the body, mind, spirit and motivation for life. This is a perspective that is critical to making the journey through depression, whether it be forcibly or gently, to mobilize one’s body and spirit to become ‘unstuck’ and happier.

There are many means to assist in finding your unique place of hope. These include acupuncture, Chinese Herbs, good nutrition (eating whole foods), exercise, guided imagery, deep breathing, spiritual practice, or a creative outlet like music and art.

In some instances, talk therapy with a professional counselor can be essential.

Some practical advice is to make your environment at home brighter; get outside; socialize; and exercise regularly.

According to James S. Gordon MD, author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven Stage Journey Out of Depression, ‘Depression is not a disease, the end point of a pathological process. It is a sign that our lives are out of balance, that we’re stuck.’ The book is an extremely useful guide that includes educational information and practical advice toward harmony and happiness.

Traditional Chinese Medicine, which includes acupuncture, provides a unique approach that addresses your personal imbalances both physically and emotional. Unlike pharmaceuticals, acupuncture offers relief without side effects. Combined with other methods mentioned above, your life will become brighter and more hopeful.

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In Sickness and in Health

(My own Journey into Traditional Chinese Medicine)

When I started my career, Traditional Chinese Medicine was about the last vocation I would have entertained.  My first professional position was in engineering.  After several years in manufacturing, I took a position in sales.  Then a good friend experienced her first Acupuncture treatment, and insisted I try it.  At the time I thought ‘there’s nothing wrong with me’, so I ignored her advice.  I waited several months before scheduling a visit, more out of curiosity than need.

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Snow Angels

shoveling snowAfter virtually every major snow storm, we get patients seeking relief from back and joint pain brought on by shoveling snow. It’s a common problem.

According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission more than 70,000 people required a doctor’s visit in 2008 due to shoveling-related injuries. A quarter of those visited the Emergency Room and approximately 900 were admitted to a hospital. The number one injury is low back strain with a more severe injury due to a herniated disc.

Snow shoveling requires a weight lifting component as well as aerobic. Combined with frigid temperatures, which constricts blood flow in your arteries and vessels, your heart can quickly become compromised as blood supply goes down and energy required goes up. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discovered that heart disease related deaths rose 22 percent in the week following a snow storm. Men were responsible for the majority of numbers in the spike, which may be explained by shoveling snow.

Important Tips for Shoveling

Warm-up indoors prior to going outside to shovel. If your lifestyle is more sedentary, consider hiring someone to shovel for you or ask a neighbor. Dress properly by wearing layers. Stay Warm! Do not catch a chill. If you become damp or wet and feel chilled then it is time to change clothes to keep warm. Also wear appropriate footwear that provides warmth, dryness and best traction.

Lift snow in small amounts using mostly leg strength and being most careful NOT to twist your body or back. Do not over-exert yourself by doing it all at once.

Use the right tools by choosing a shovel with a grip that takes the most stress off of your back. If using powered equipment, be sure you follow all safety protocols.

If you feel sore the day after shoveling, be sure to schedule an appointment with your Acupuncturist. Muscle tightness and strain can be relieved more quickly with immediate care.  If untreated, weakness along the meridians (energy channels), especially in the neck and back can lead to a frail immune system and subsequent common cold.

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