Archive for the ‘Motivation to keep going’ Category

Do you think its age causing the trouble?

Monday, July 21st, 2014

In many cases I see, it’s not really age.
Our bodies need three things to be thrive –
…Good Sleep
……..Good Nutrition
…………..and Good Movement!

Many of my over 80 patients (and even younger) experience poor mood coming from how their body just isn’t what it used to be. I regularly hear “My mind is so much better than my body but I don’t know why.”

My response is that the answer is obvious – the mind has received all the attention! They do crosswords, listen to music, watch TV, read, socialize. But over the course of the day they are largely immobile. Use it or lose it, if you spend time with the “equipment” it lasts longer.
The amount of movement you need to feel a lot better is not a lot of movement. This is the surprising thing.

Of course if you do Tai chi and take a regular class you will feel improvement.  But in my clinical experience many people can increase mood and reduce pain by developing the habit of moving something every 15 minutes. Just like a dog or a cat – every few minutes, move something for a few seconds.  Reach up in the air, jab a few shadow boxing moves, lift one leg, then the other.  Even people with severe disease who are in bed can usually find some part of their body that can move freely. Even just straightening up and breathing deeply once or twice can help.

The classical chinese medical view is that the blood flows to where function is happening, the function happens in places where the mind engages that function.

For the average person, who is well enough to walk into my office when they come for a session,
Here’s the plan to start:

Every 15 minutes over the course of your day, stand up.
Every 15 minutes move your arms or your legs for 7 to 10 seconds, try a variety of directions including up and behind the back.
Move within a range of motion that causes no pain what so ever, no matter how small a movement this may be.
Give it a week and see how you feel!

What does getting better look like when using Chinese medicine and acupuncture?

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

Progress and clinical success at my clinic can be experienced quite differently compared to using drugs or surgery.

• For people who had complete relief or otherwise fully achieved their clinical goals, we can look back in their chart and see that some treatment days or weeks were better than others.

• Sometimes people notice improvement right away, sometimes over the next day or two. We know the results of an office procedure within 1-2 days of the session.

• Sometimes the treatment can occasionally irritate the problem initially and then feel better later. When symptoms return, they are less intense than pre-treatment.

• It is normal for symptoms to fluctuate anyways, especially those influenced by activity and stress levels. We keep track of it all, looking for the trend and adapting care as events warrant.

• Before treatment starts, it is not common for people to follow their symptoms with a high level of detail especially objective detail. After we start working on the issue, we tend to pay more attention which of itself can change the experience of the problem.

• In general there are 2 phases of healing. First we deal with the legacy of the situation, i.e. the accumulation of stress on the system from the past. There is then a phase where healing the past is over and we then aim to increase performance out of the affected system, so that damage from ongoing circumstance (perhaps beyond our control like a job situation) do not cause trouble.

It can be difficult remembering how bad a situation was before care started. If you are not certain how you are doing, lets talk about it and look through your chart. I once had a patient with knee pain who was sad that she could not hike 5 miles like she used to, even after 3 weeks of care. 3 days before her next session she had tried the long hike and failed due to pain. I was able to reassure her with her chart notes.

At her first appointment, she could not walk from the car park to the office and had to have her husband drop her off due to the pain. She had been this bad for 6 months before acupuncture, while in hesitation about whether to do surgery or not. On the day we addressed her progress concerns, she had come in unaided from the car park and in fact had several 1-2 mile hikes in her chart (from second week of care), where she only had 1/3 to 1/2 the pre-treatment pain level.

This was an otherwise normal, emotionally healthy person who simply lost track of this fine level of detail due to being very busy in her life, and also feeling the sting of recent failure.

Looking at the trend was all the reminder she needed to to continue care through to successfully getting back to her long hikes pain free. She did not need surgery within one year follow up, the medical cause of the pain was really one of trigger points and neuropathic pain more than being due to the findings on the MRI.

Returning to exercise safely & injury free (or “You’ll get there in the end”)

Monday, October 21st, 2013

Returning to physical activity is like making a camp fire. Making a camp fire means understanding fire’s nature, and acting appropriately.

How to make a nice roaring camp fire:

Start with a tiny spark from a flint or a wood drill.
If you add the spark to a log, it’s extinguished right away. If you blow too hard on the spark, that will overwhelm the spark as well.

The spark must be carefully cultivated with an understanding of its nature.

The successful spark goes on dry moss, maybe sawdust. Then more sparks form, then you can add more moss. Now, maybe a small wood shaving, then another. More moss, then a small twig. Never large pieces at this stage. Some gentle air from the breath is good now.

Then add several twigs, maybe some more moss. Then a bigger piece of wood, then large sticks. Now blow hard as possible, stoking the heart of the fire.

Now its ready for logs that will achieve the desired function of keeping warm.

This whole process totally fails if you push the envelope too soon. Yes, fire needs wood and yes it needs air, but these can smother the sparks if used at the wrong moment.

If you judge the small spark as being useless, you will never get the benefit from it. A large, warm fire has very humble beginnings but the beginnings exist and have power to develop.

Translate this analogy to exercise –

The goal of the first week or more is to simply get used to moving without triggering pain. Let the body be gently reintroduced to gravity and perhaps the kind of activity you intend to carry on with.

The goal is not to go for endorphins, stress relief, weight loss or other athletic performance. Get this goal correct and you are on the quickest path to victory. Anything else is risky.

Many people are hurting themselves by judging their own small spark of capacity to be useless and either overdoing it or deciding to do nothing.

I once had a patient only able to do 5 seconds of a shoulder qigong exercise I prescribed. This was case where workers comp covered work on the ankle but not the preexisting shoulder issue so she asked for a self-care protocol. But at 6 seconds, severe pain kicked in. This small functionality made her upset. She felt useless, thinking that 5 seconds was a fail. I recommended that she just do the 5 seconds. She was convinced that 5 seconds was completely pointless and we spent some time talking about this. She agreed to try the 5 seconds every day. After all, at 5 seconds at least there was no pain. In a few days she could do 10 seconds. In 2 weeks she was doing 10 minutes twice a day, and this finally took her into the range where the exercise made the shoulder feel pain free.

A more commonly used example I use for very overweight people over 75, who are in recovery from surgery or prolonged illness. I start these patients with 5 minutes per day on a playground swing. Sounds almost silly, but it moves a lot of lymph around and gets the body warmed up. From this innocuous beginning, within 6 months many can walk several miles a week or return to a keep fit class.

The moral is this –

It is totally irrelevant how small your abilities are when you start. Start where you are at, learn to enjoy the fact you have that much function at all. Development of your performance will then come without injury and with a deeper understanding of your own body’s needs.

Improving Your Diet: why its hard, why patience and neuro-plasticity will help

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

‘Why do we eat food that creates trouble for us?’

We frequently create a nutritional culture based on how recipes make us feel in the short term. The meal size, the textures, and certainly the flavors, feel nourishing and efficiently banish hunger for at least a few hours. But unhealthy meals often make us denser, providing a strong feeling of fullness that can push away awareness of more subtle physical or emotional sensations.
This meal is like an antidepressant, and in fact, junk food alters brain chemistry along the same pathways that cocaine does. Our feelings of boredom or stress; feelings that we have given too much to others or that we deserve a treat for hard work or for dealing with difficult circumstances – these frequently make us reach for the sugar, fat and salt that successfully trigger our brains’ pleasure centers. Our brain is trained to place value on this experience. The numb feeling provides a nice distraction from the troubles. Real stress can be created when lose this distraction.

‘How does a person even know which meal is fulfilling the priorities of our health needs?’

Without any immediate food sensitivities in the body, the effects of diet on our health appear very slowly. In fact, the conventional wisdom that says steamed vegetables and fish is “healthier” than a bacon cheeseburger came from over a hundred years of scientific research looking into the food behaviors of tens of thousands of people. The immediate benefit of ‘healthy food’ is very difficult to perceive in an individual in a short span of time. Give an average, healthy person a fish and another person a cheeseburger, measure their vital signs then re-check in a few hours. Both would be absolutely fine. No wonder making the change is difficult. On a meal by meal basis one needs blood analysis to see any difference.

‘How does change happen?’

As we begin to make a diet change, we rely on our intellect to understand that our diet is not nourishing our health needs. We read or hear lectures about what foods foods are currently thought to be disease promoting or disease preventing. We frequently hear conflicting information as well, just to add to the difficulty. In the beginning, we simply do not have the direct experience of cause and effect. And of course there can be frequent feelings of guilt or even shame as our intellect is found to be insufficient to fight all the emotional energy around leaving the old ways behind.

But after a time a new feeling happens. We have more energy, our digestion improves, our bodies feel lighter and we work more efficiently. Symptoms of inflammation improve. Weight can be lost. As we experience the reality of cause and effect, our emotions change. Instead of placing value on the numbing, short term effect of unhealthy food, our minds learn a new way of perceiving value. This happens by a process scientists call neuro-plasticity, the ability of our minds to be reshaped by experience.

Our emotions now relate to time in a new way. The experience of feeling great over the course of several weeks outweighs the immediate gratification of numbness. We have changed the part of ourselves that responds to food from one that enjoys the break from feeling bored or stressed to the part that feels forward looking and healthy.

So the moral of the story is be patient and observe, your brain will handle the rest.