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Acupuncture for Depression

by Michael Hurley L.Ac.

Do you suffer from depression either occasionally or chronically? Depression is highly individual.  From just feeling a little down to feeling high strung with their minds racing, to finding it very difficult to function normally, depression affects people in a wide variety of ways.

Additionally, there can be many reasons why depression hits ranging from external (relationships, weather, political stress, etc.) to internal (hormonal imbalances, psycho-emotional disorders).  Chinese Medicine recognizes that there are individualized ways depression affects the overall balance on an individual.

Diagnosis and treatment are never “one size fits most.” Instead, Chinese Medicine looks at the underlying patterns that may be appearing in the person.  Is it a deficient pattern?  Is it an excess pattern?  Is it a combination of both? What meridian or organ system are the imbalances appearing in?  Depression will usually show up as a deficient or an excess pattern.

Some symptoms that your Acupuncturist may be looking for include tongue color, colors in various parts of the face, achiness or distension in various parts of the body, emotions that are more prevalent than others recently, and many more.  With this information, which the Acupuncturist will obtain from feeling the pulse and viewing the tongue, they will know how to customize the treatment to promote healing and balance.

Both the presenting symptoms and the patterns that the acupuncturist reads in the tongue and pulse inform the course of treatment. This includes which areas of the body acupuncture needles will be placed and frequency of treatment. In addition to the acupuncture treatment, your Acupuncturist may also prescribe a Chinese herbal formula to help treat the imbalance along with some nutritional changes that can be made to support your healing.

Acupuncture is a technique used by practitioners of Chinese medicine where hair-thin needles are strategically inserted just under the skin to promote the flow of Qi throughout the body.  The single most common thing that my patients tell me they experience during an acupuncture treatment is a distinct calming of the mind.  Under the regular care of a licensed acupuncturist, you can expect to increase energy, calm your moods, fight off illness more efficiently, sleep more regularly, reduce cravings(food, drugs, and alcohol), digest your food more efficiently, and gain an overall balance in your body, mind, and spirit.  Regular care is 1 to 3 acupuncture treatments per week depending on the severity of your symptoms.

In addition to following the course of treatment prescribed by your acupuncturist, there are things you can to do to help as well.  Things that you can do for yourself to lift your mood include meditation, use of uplifting essential oils (sage, bergamot, sandalwood, mandarin, lemongrass, and grapefruit), exercise (20-30 minutes a day), quit smoking,  receive Reiki, and visit your local acupuncturist.

Depression is not something to take lightly.  If you experience deep bouts of depression, do not hesitate to seek out professional psychiatric help.  I hope you find this information helpful and I hope that you try some of the tips listed earlier in this article.  If you have not done so already, be sure to call and book an appointment with an Acupuncturist so they can help you return to a balanced state.

  • This article was written by Michael Hurley L.Ac. Michael is the co-owner and acupuncturist at Cup of Life Healing Center located at 82 Washington Street Suite 2 in Keene, NH. (603) 352-3625

Hara Release – Unblock Energy From Your Core

By Michael Hurley, L.Ac., Co-Founder, Cup of Life Healing Center

Energy Gets Stuck in Your Core
Hara Release MassageAs humans living in a competitive society, we tend to have a lot of anxiety and we do not express our emotions as much as we should. In fact, we tend to push our feelings down either to avoid confrontation or just because it is not convenient or “appropriate” to show them in all situations. We are taught at a young age that we should be tough and push through pain. We should not show people that we are scared. We need to “beat” Cancer or “kick that bug.” The fact is that all of these are normal processes of life and should not be hidden.

Our emotions are what make us human and not expressing our emotions causes a breakdown in the machine that we call our body. When we do not express our emotions, we push them into our center or our abdomen where they become stagnant. We think we can control them there because they are surrounded. This is why we “get a sick pit in our stomach” or we feel “butterflies” when we need to give a presentation or performance.

The stagnation that occurs as a result of pushing down our emotions results in dis-ease. When we are in dis-ease, our immune system is compromised and no longer able to perform its function of defense. When this happens, we are more susceptible to catching seasonal illnesses, illnesses due to toxins in our environment, skin infections, and physical injuries. This stagnant energy in our abdomen can cause many musculoskeletal disorders as well.

Many of the muscles in our hips and legs are attached to our lumbar and sacral spine. Stagnant energy in the lower abdomen can affect the states that those muscles are in and cause tight muscles, nerve impingements, vascular problems in the hips and legs, and fertility disorders. Stagnant energy in the middle abdomen can cause digestive disorders because the organs of digestion cannot perform their functions properly. Stagnant energy in the upper abdomen can lead to problems with the heart and lungs. It can also cause headaches, nasal congestion, neck tension, and even toothaches. Many of the main meridians as explained in Traditional Chinese Medicine travel through the abdomen. This explains why when energy is stagnant in this area, so many areas of the body can be affected.

Hara Release Technique – An Eastern Technique for Releasing Stagnation
Now that I have talked about many of the things that can go wrong in the body due to stuck energy in the abdomen, let me tell you a little about something that you can do about it as well as some of the specific medical conditions that this modality can relieve. The technique is called Hara Release. It is a modality commonly used in Eastern cultures, and in some Western cultures, as a means to balance the body and emotions.

A partial list of benefits to Hara Release include treatments of medical conditions such as IBS or irritable bowel syndrome, sluggish hepatic and biliary function, gastritis, poor assimilation, gastroptosis, constipation, inflammatory bowel disorders, asthma, chronic bronchitis, chronic prostatitis, interstitial cystitis, mild to moderate incontinence, vulva pain, menstrual pain, infertility, retroflexed uterus, blocked fallopian tubes, neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain, pelvic pain, release of adhesions, as well as other physical health problems. Many emotional health problems can be relieved by Hara Release as well. These include but are not limited to stress and anxiety, insomnia, bipolar disorders, and depression.

What Happens in Hara Release Treatment?
I think it is always helpful to educate a client as to what they will be receiving. Hara Release is performed with the recipient in a supine (face-up) position. Ideally, the recipient will have eaten a small meal an hour or so prior to receiving their treatment and will have emptied their bladder. Doing this will reduce any discomfort.

The practitioner will then prepare the abdomen with soft, rhythmic, circular motions with his or her hands. At this time, he or she will also instruct the recipient of what to communicate during the session and will synchronize the breath. After the abdomen has been “softened”, the practitioner will begin a series of slow, deep, loving presses choreographed with the recipient’s breath until a desired depth is reached. Each press will be held for a period of time to ensure a proper release of that area. This series of presses could go on for 30 minutes to an hour depending on what each individual recipient needs.

The recipient can experience a wide range of feelings and emotions during a Hara Release session. In the physical realm, feelings like pressure, movement, warmth moving to various areas of the body, and sometimes various levels of discomfort. It is important to convey this information to the practitioner especially if there is ever a sharp pain felt. A dull and achy feeling is acceptable and most times beneficial but sharp is not.

Emotionally, the recipient can experience a variety of things. Some people feel nothing. Some feel a sense of relief even though, they are normally overwhelmed. Sometimes old memories or emotions get accessed and the recipient experiences a much needed emotional release. The important thing to remember is that all of these experiences are right and will be supported by the practitioner. I personally use Reiki and my natural compassion to support my clients through this process.

Just like any massage or medical treatment, the frequency of sessions needed to address the individual condition will depend on the severity of the disorder as well as how long the recipient has been suffering. If the issue has only been around for a few days, one session may be all that is needed. If the issue has been endured for several years or even decades, a long-term treatment plan will most likely need to be discussed.

Perfect Timing

by Michael Hurley, L.Ac., co-founder, Cup of Life Healing Center

Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing. -Lao TzuHave you ever had a goal in mind, yet it seemed so far off?  Have you ever been so fixated on accomplishing something that you found yourself impatient, irritable, or frustrated when someone or something seemed to get in the way of what you wanted?

I see so many people, myself included, rushing around trying to get somewhere on time or forcing something to happen on some kind of schedule.  We create a lot of undue stress.  Often, we blame the stress on others like our boss, kids, spouse, or even a circumstance.  However, if we look at the situation more deeply, we will see, we are the ones putting the stress on ourselves.  We do this by setting unrealistic expectations or timelines and by getting attached to things being exactly the way we want it, exactly when we want it. When we don’t get the instant gratification that we desire, or we think someone or something is getting in our way, we get frustrated.

Often, we’re not even aware that it is we who are creating our own stress. What I find to be true is that our frustration is simply our ego tricking us into thinking we’re in control, that we have the ability to force things to happen in our timing. Yet, ironically, this is frequently the exact thing that keeps us from seeing a clear way to attaining the thing we desire.

This leads me to the reason I shared the Lao Tzu quote at the top of this article, “Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing. Some may read this and think it’s advocating for laziness and doing nothing. I have a different interpretation. If either way, you’ll accomplish nothing, doing so without the busyness is a much more pleasant option. The same amount gets done, but you are not stressed out in the process and are able to enjoy it. Life is meant to be enjoyed now, not later. 

Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.” Also encourages us to consider our attitude and perspective when setting out to accomplish a goal. It is good to have goals to strive toward. Yet, HOW we arrive at the goal is incredibly important. There’s a big difference between rushing to our goal, angrily bowling everyone over along the way to get to our desired outcome and navigating the journey with ease and patience for the twists, turns, and hiccups that might happen along the way. With the latter mindset, seeming obstacles may turn into valuable lessons and redirect us to something even better than we imagined. This is a difference we need to realize. And, we are the only ones who can do this for ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not perfect.  I get caught up in the drama of my own ego just like everyone else. But, I can usually bring myself out of it or at least allow someone else to remind me of what I truly believe. We need to enjoy the journey.  When we slow down long enough to truly be present, we are able to see the gifts every situation brings.

So, the next time you find yourself rushing to the goal or worried that you’re somehow missing out; I encourage you to pause, breathe, and take inventory of the moment.  What is working? Where can you let go a little and give yourself the space to go with the flow of what is happening right now? If you can give yourself the space to step back and see the big picture, you just might realize, everything is actually in perfect timing!

Spring Clutter Cleaning

by Michael Hurley, L.Ac., Co-Founder, Cup of Life Healing Center

Spring is a great time for cleaning, a time where we take the opportunity to clear out the old things that we do not need anymore and make room for freshness. In less than a couple of months, we will be opening up the windows and letting the fresh air and sun into our homes.

In the past, I’ve written about how to live in tune with the winter and the spring in accordance with Chinese Medicine. Today, I want to focus on the significance of clearing clutter from our lives. Cleaning and clutter clearing can mean a number of things to a number of people. But, ultimately it means moving energy. Spring is a time where it is imperative to move energy mentally, physically, and spiritually.

If we do not clean up and organize, we may not be able to fully appreciate the rejuvenating and energizing flow of Qi that comes with the season of spring. This refreshing and revitalizing flow of energy is our gift from the universe for enduring a long winter and for giving ourselves with time to stop and reflect.

On a physical level, people will start improving their diets and get started on fitness activities, if they did not start in January with the New Year. They will also start seeing a brighter outlook on life and personal/professional endeavors. All of this is perfect. Keep the Qi moving. That should be everyone’s mantra for spring.

Much like cleaning out the vents in our homes, we need to clean out the dirt, the junk, and the things that are not serving us in our bodies and minds. This means “cleaning” our unwholesome thought patterns and habits.  These are considered clutter too, just in a different form. Clutter, in all forms, will only slow you down and make your life more confusing and stressful.

There are many resources on the internet, in bookstores and libraries, and possibly on your own bookshelf that can help with some of this decluttering and cleaning. Find something that will help you ease into it so that it is not too stressful. A few books our family has found useful are Spark Joy by Marie Kondo and Declutter Your Mind by S.J. Scott and Barrie Davenport.

Most importantly, be kind to yourself and appreciate the things you have kept and the experiences, feelings, and memories that you have accumulated. And then, take some time to evaluate. Does this bring me joy?  Is this serving my current purpose in life? If the answer to these questions is “no”, then it is time to thank them for their service and return them to the universe. You can think of that as literal or figurative recycling.

In regards to decluttering of the mind, there is no better way than meditation to achieve this. Meditation gives us the opportunity to break free from and clear away negative thought patterns and habitual thinking. It literally helps clear the dust and cobwebs in our mind and in our thinking. Sometimes we find ways to do this on our own and sometimes group support can be a fantastic way to get started.

Fortunately, we have several group meditation resources available to us in the Keene, NH area.

Some of my readers may be tired of me continuously suggesting meditation but don’t expect it to stop anytime soon. I firmly believe that if everyone had a regular meditation practice, I and every other medical practitioner would need to close our doors because of lack of patients. It is that effective.

So, let’s make a pact to ourselves to take time each day to declutter a piece of our lives to help us continue to make this a transformative year.

Finally, for a little extra help and another point of view, you can also check out a nice article Tricia wrote several years ago about putting spring cleaning into a spiritual perspective.

Mindful Relationships

-by Tricia “Satya” Hurley, M.Ed., Co-founder and Reiki Master Teacher, Cup of Life Healing Center

Michael and I have been together for over 26 years and married for nearly 20 of those years. We are often asked, “What makes your relationship work? How do you sustain the difficulties that arise in relationships?”

We get it!  Relationships are work!  26+ years together has brought its fair share of ups and downs.  There are many personal practices and habits we have come to rely on to keep our relationship alive and strong. Hands down, mindfulness has been one of the most impactful practices in our relationship. We know mindfulness can help whether you’re single or in a relationship.

As you read on, remember, mindfulness is not a religion. Like yoga, it is a practice that can be incorporated into your life no matter what religious or spiritual practice you may already have. We have found including it strengthens all aspects of our lives.

The Four Noble Truths

At the heart of our practice are the teachings of mindfulness master, Thich Nhat Hahn. Today I’d like share with you one aspect of those teachings that have made an incredibly profound impact on us, The Four Noble Truths.

Here’s the bottom line—we all suffer and have times of difficulty. What makes it challenging is that often when we suffer, we don’t know what to do with it. So we stuff it down, ignore it, or get angry at it.  In effect, we continue to perpetuate and continue to generate our own suffering. Yet, if we learn to mindfully breathe into, feel it, and look at it, we will find that we can learn from it and our suffering and discomfort subsides. Mindfulness helps us take actions that ease our suffering. With continued mindfulness, we return to a more peaceful state of mind.

Deep Looking and Listening

Yet, many of us shy away from this kind of looking out of fear that whatever our pain is will take over. So, let’s clarify what we mean by deep looking. This is NOT the same as ruminating on the same negative thought over and over. Ruminating creates more suffering. Looking instead with eyes of self-compassion and loving-kindness, we can begin to see our habits and what is truly causing our discomfort.

It’s easy to get caught up in blaming our loved one. We tend to avoid personal responsibility for our part in the problem and gravitate toward blaming others or blaming circumstances outside of ourselves. We think, “if so and so would just…, then I would feel better.”

Yet, in every moment, there is an aspect of personal responsibility we must take. We must look at what are we doing to cause our suffering. 99.99% of the time, our anger or frustration toward another is connected to our own unmet inner needs, to something we must address inside ourselves. This takes effort. And, it can be deeply uncomfortable to do.

The more we can look for and create inherent wholeness within ourselves, the easier it becomes to be a present, loving and supportive partner. Then, when our partner is having a difficult time, instead of blaming, criticizing, or trying to fix whatever their issue is, we can simply be there for them. This creates a deep, lasting spiritual connection.

As a couple, you begin to trust that no matter what your own personal struggle, your partner will do their best to hold you compassionately. This is an ongoing process of personal and spiritual growth. It is not something one can master overnight.  Yet, with consistent effort, it makes all the difference in the depth and quality of the relationship.

The old cliche is true, work first, on yourself and then you will find it easier to truly be there for another. Mindfulness helps us develop a loving, and compassionate relationship with ourselves.

Regardless of your current relationship status, developing and cultivating the practice of deep listening makes an incredibly positive impact. We can learn to listen to ourselves deeply and compassionately. This, in turn, will also help us to be present and listen to others compassionately as well. Being able to listen deeply and communicate from the heart makes all the difference in the world both in our inner dialogue and in our interactions with others.

Stillness and Breath

By taking time each day to sit in stillness and focus on our breath, we can create a sense of inner ease and lightness within our own being. This does not have to be a complicated process nor does it require that you magically “rid your mind of all thoughts.”

Instead, simply practice focusing on the breath or the sensations of the breath. If thoughts arise, allow them to do so without judgment. Then, gently invite the thought to float away, like. I like to picture a warm sunny day, mostly clear skies and a gentle warm breeze carrying them off into the distance. Each time a cloud of thought arises, release it and come back to the breath.

One of the simplest and easiest mindfulness mantras to follow for this practice is, “Breathing in, I know that I am breathing in. Breathing out, I know that I am breathing out.”  This can be simplified to just. “In, Out”. The mantra can help us focus inwardly and bring about healing and inner peace.

When we practice breathing mindfully, we increase our capacity to listen to ourselves deeply and compassionately. The more we cultivate this within ourselves, the more easily we are able to listen to others. When we listen to others, we can then do so with all of our loving presence.

Mantras in Relationship

One of our favorite mindfulness practices is the advice of cultivating these inner mantras when we are together as outlined in Thich Nhat Hahn’s book, Silence. We also use them on ourselves when we are working through personal discomfort and suffering.

  • “Darling, I am here for you.” This mantra invites us to give another our true presence.
  • “Darling, I know you are here, and I am very happy.” This mantra is to acknowledge the presence of the person you love.
  • “Darling, I know you suffer; that’s why I am here for you.” This mantra helps cultivate awareness and presence when another is struggling.
  • “Darling, I suffer; please help.” This is an especially powerful way of asking for support when we need it. It is meant to be said from a place of mindfulness as opposed to a moment of anger.

As you can see, this is something to make a deep study and daily practice of. Difficulties arise even in the best of relationships. A good relationship does not mean the absence of challenges or suffering. Healthy relationships are healthy because both parties have strong tools for working through challenges and disagreements. A regular mindfulness practice can make all the difference.

Reclaim Your Power in 2018

by Michael Hurley, L.Ac.

Do you ever find yourself biting your tongue when you know something is not right? Or yield to another person’s wishes because you feel obligated to make them happy? Or settle for less than what you know is possible?

The above examples are just a few ways so many of us give our POWER away every day and have for most of our lives.  When I say give our power away, I mean we settle.  We settle for things that we could have, we settle for how people treat us, we settle for emotions that are holding us back from what we want, we settle for a life that is less than what we could have.

We do this for many reasons, some of which seem, in our minds, very appropriate.  Maybe we hold ourselves back so that someone else does not feel bad, or we hold ourselves back to avoid a confrontation, or maybe we hold ourselves back because of something that we learned when we were young.  When we settle, when we don’t honor our needs or what is true for us, we give our power away.

This is where things get tricky.  Sometimes we don’t even realize we’re giving our power away. Our unconscious mind is what drives most of our lives.  It is how we connect with the Universe and all of her expressions.  Our unconscious mind is also where we hold onto thought patterns that either help us or hurt us.  We learn these at an early age where we are taught a way of behavior that gets reinforced over several years of “training” or programming.  This can cause poor or great relationships, poor or great health, poor or great financial status, etc.

Yet, our habits and our power are both simply energy patterns.  The great thing is that we, as humans, can not only identify these patterns but we can turn them around so that we are in more alignment of what we want out of lifeWe can move that energy the way we want.  Another way of putting this is we can take charge of our energy and reclaim our POWER.

What I would like to suggest is that all of us get back our Power in 2018.  I am not much of a New Year’s Resolution type of a guy but this year, I am committing to aligning myself to what I want out of life not what I think others want from me.

So, that is great, right?  Good job Mike.  More power to you.  Well, one, thanks for the support and two, let’s move on to how I and we all can do this if we choose.

Two Important Tools for Reclaiming Your Power:

Breathing.  That is the first thing we can do.  The location of our power center is about 2 inches below the navelChinese medicine calls this the dan tien which can be referred to as the “Sea of Qi”.  This is your center of gravity.  In martial arts, all of one’s power comes from this spot.  In Qi Gong and Tai Chi, we gather Qi and store it there.  If you have ever done yoga, you will be familiar with “belly breathing”.  This is when you breathe into your lower abdomen as opposed to your chest.

My point in telling you this is that breathing into your dan tien is essential for keeping perspective in life and staying grounded, which in turn helps you maintain your own power.  If we can have perspective, we can see that life is actually working for us instead of against us.  We can stay out of our own drama as well as other people’s drama which will conserve our energy so that it can be used for things that benefit us and those around us.

Fake it till you make it.  Yes, fake it. I really love this practice.  The theory is that we manifest our thoughts. Our brain can change our outer circumstances to a good circumstance, a bad circumstance, or anything in between regardless of the reality of the circumstance.  It just takes consistent thought.  If we keep telling ourselves that our life is good and actually begin to believe it, we decrease anxiety and become more outgoing.  This has side effects like people wanting to help us and becoming aware of new opportunities.

Tuning in with your breath and shifting our thoughts can make all the difference. These two things and more attract other people and make them more willing to help in various ways.  Instantly, our lives are better.  Then, if we keep practicing breath awareness and actively choosing positive thoughts, it becomes a habit and over time our lives become infinitely better.

It is a good idea to have a daily reminder, especially at first.  The most important part to remember—we are trying to undo a habit of negative thought as well as set up a habit of positive thought.  This can be reading books about mindfulness, setting up a daily calendar reminder, or even adding a sticky note to your work laptop or monitor.

So, remember to breathe and think positively, even if you need to fake it for a while.  These two seemingly insignificant things can make a world of difference in your next year.

Here’s to your 2018!  Happy New Year!

Improve Your Life with Qi Gong

by Michael Hurley L.Ac.

Are you looking for a gentle, efficient practice to improve your health, clear your mind, improve your mood, and give you lasting energy throughout your day?  If so, I invite you to learn about Qi Gong.  Developed in China thousands of years ago, the people of China have practiced Qi Gong for its health benefits ranging from general relaxation to improving their martial arts practice.

Qi Gong is an integral part of my daily practice.  It helps me stay both calm and energetic in my personal and professional life.  In this article, we explore the benefits and practice of this ancient Chinese art.

Qi (“chee” ) is our life-force or vital energy.  It is the energy that flows through all things in the universe.  Gong (“gung”) means accomplishment or skill through practice.  If we put them together, we get Qi Gong or the cultivation of life-force through practice.  This may seem esoteric but it is actually very practical.  If we want to get better at something, we practice it.  The same goes for being relaxed, breathing, and keeping ourselves in balance all of which can be easy to forget in our busy lives.

Qi Gong is used to unite the body, breath, and mind.  Knowing that we can almost envision how a Qi Gong practice is done.  It is a series of movements done in conjunction with our breath.  The mind piece comes in when we talk about focus.  We clear our minds and remain in the present moment.  During the practice, we only think about the movements and the breath.

Qi Gong can be used for various purposes by adapting the speed and intention.  For relaxation and general health, we may practice slowly and softly like in Tai Chi.  If we are practicing Qi Gong for martial arts training, we may practice in a faster and harder manner like in Kung Fu.  Both Tai Chi and Kung Fu are forms of Qi Gong.

Everyone can benefit from a Qi Gong practice regardless of age, spiritual belief, or physical differences.  Children can increase focus in school.  Office workers can reduce stress to avoid burnout.  Seniors can promote balance and improve their quality of life.  People with physical handicaps can increase strength and improve circulation regardless of limitations of movement.  Medical professionals and caregivers can improve their ability to heal their patients.

When I was in school studying Chinese Medicine, two of the required courses were Qi Gong and Tai Chi.  I took these during the first couple of trimesters and fell in Love.  I was working 40-60 hours a week as a software engineer and maintaining a family while going to school most nights at a full-time status. These practices kept me strong, healthy, and peaceful (mostly) throughout the entire process, which lasted 5 years.  I would like to emphasize that it is not required to keep a schedule like that in order to have Qi Gong be useful.  In fact, I would highly recommend not doing that and simply making Qi Gong part of your everyday life.

It is very easy to start practicing Qi Gong. Many of us have access to the internet and can search for Qi Gong instructional videos.  The local bookstores and libraries have books and DVDs about Qi Gong.  You can search for local Qi Gong instructors or meet-up groups.  Looking into these is a good way to start.  Cup of Life Healing Center does not currently have an offering but we plan to begin a regular class or a series of classes sometime in 2018.  Please inquire if you would be interested.

If you decide that Qi Gong is something that you want to continue, get more training.  The best way to choose your instructor is to trust your intuition.  Some criteria to keep in mind when choosing a qualified instructor would be:  what is their background and experience; are they of good character; do they treat people fairly and with respect; do they live what they teach; do they refrain from making unsubstantiated claims; do they encourage and bring out a student’s highest potential?

  • This article was written by Michael Hurley L.Ac. Michael is the co-owner and acupuncturist at Cup of Life Healing Center located at 82 Washington Street Suite 2 in Keene, NH.

Acupuncture and Incontinence

by Michael Hurley, L.Ac.

Urinary incontinence can be surprising, inconvenient, and embarrassing.  From leakage due to coughing, sneezing, laughing, or lifting to sudden urges to urinate followed by involuntary loss of urine, over 25 million adult Americans and 200 million people worldwide suffer from some form of urinary incontinence.  75-80% of those who suffer are women.

Acupuncture can safely and effectively treat this condition.  Several recent clinical trials show that acupuncture can help reduce both leakage and frequency of urges at least as effectively as some conventional medicines.

Urinary incontinence occurs when urine unintentionally leaks from the urethra. The two most common types of urinary incontinence are stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

  • Stress urinary incontinence (SUI) is a type of urinary incontinence that occurs during physical activities such as coughing, sneezing, laughing, or lifting. Stress urinary incontinence is the most common type of urinary incontinence affecting women.
  • Urge urinary incontinence is an involuntary loss of urine caused by a sudden urge to urinate. The etiology of the urinary urgency that causes urge incontinence is not known. Some believe that it could be related to peripheral nerves, as well as the central nervous system, which would cause muscle hypersensitivity and the reduced effectiveness of smooth muscle relaxation.

Possible Causes include:

  • Stretched pelvic muscles during pregnancy and childbirth
  • Diabetes, especially gestational diabetes
  • Low estrogen levels in women
  • Enlarged prostate in men
  • Medication side effects
  • Chronic or recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • Constipation
  • Being overweight
  • Diseases that damage nerve pathways from the bladder to the brain, such as Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, or multiple sclerosis
  • Weakened muscles that control urination, such as urethral sphincter and pelvic floor muscles
  • Hip dysfunction and prior hip surgery

Conventional Treatment:

Currently, conventional treatment includes pelvic exercises (i.e. Kegels) for mild symptoms, which help to strengthen pelvic muscles and sphincter muscles at the neck of the bladder. Pharmaceutical medications are also used as a treatment modality.

Chinese Medicine Diagnosis and Treatment:

Chinese Medicine looks at the majority of incontinence conditions as Spleen-Kidney Yang deficiency.  The main goal of treatment would be to fortify the Spleen and tonify the Spleen Qi, tonify the Kidneys and invigorate the Yang. As we age, our Kidney and Spleen Qi get weaker.  This causes our body to become weaker which results in an inability to hold.  Examples other than incontinence would include wrinkly skin, sagging muscles, and increasing risks of a hernia.  Incontinence related to conditions such as diabetes and UTIs may present different patterns and are treated according to their presenting pattern.

Other things that you can do on your own to help:

  • Eat cranberries and blueberries because they contain substances that keep bacteria from sticking to the bladder in the case of urinary tract infections. However, some people with overactive bladder may find that cranberries irritate their bladder because of the acidic nature.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, and tobacco.
  • Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water daily. Not drinking enough water can irritate the bladder and make incontinence worse. So, thinking that avoiding your water intake would help is definitely not the way to go.
  • Some foods may make urge incontinence worse for some people, including citrus fruits, tomatoes, spicy foods, caffeine, and carbonated sodas.
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes daily, 5 days a week.

Acupuncture is a technique used by practitioners of Chinese medicine where hair-thin needles are strategically inserted just under the skin to promote the flow of Qi throughout the body.  Under the regular care of a licensed acupuncturist, you can expect to increase energy, calm your moods, fight off illness more efficiently, sleep more regularly, reduce cravings(food, drugs, and alcohol), digest your food more efficiently, and gain an overall balance in your body, mind, and spirit.  Regular care is typically one to three acupuncture treatments per week depending on the severity of your symptoms.

  • This article was written by Michael Hurley L.Ac. Michael is the co-owner and acupuncturist at Cup of Life Healing Center located at 82 Washington Street Suite 2 in Keene, NH. (603) 352-3625

References:

Acupuncture and Bipolar Disorder

by Michael Hurley, L.Ac.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Bipolar disorder affects approximately 5.7 million adult Americans every year.  The median age of onset for bipolar disorder is 25 years (NIMH). However, bipolar disorder can begin in childhood and sometimes doesn’t manifest until a person is much older – in their 40’s and 50’s.

Bipolar disorder is an illness in which people will see extreme changes in mood, thought, energy, and behavior. Bipolar disorder is also known as manic depression because a person’s mood can alternate between the “poles” of mania and depression. These changes in mood, or “mood swings,” can last for hours, days, weeks or months.

While western medical treatments typically include medications to help curb patient’s symptoms, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) takes an approach that addresses the underlying patterns.  In fact, bipolar is not specifically found in Chinese medicine texts.  The disorders that Chinese Medicine does address are mania and depression.  The TCM practitioner then treats based on the patterns appearing at the time of treatment. Typically, mania is given more attention as its symptoms can be more dangerous or obtrusive to the individual and the general public.

Chinese medicine always seeks to identify the patterns causing the imbalance.  Treatment aims to bring the patient back into balance. Chinese medicine considers both mania and depression disorders of the spirit mind. Both can be caused by excess emotions, particularly excess anger and joy.  However, a comparison of Chinese behavioral symptoms highlights the opposite behaviors displayed between mania and depression:

Patterns of Mania vs Depression in Bipolar

Once the Chinese Medicine practitioner determines whether the patient is presenting symptoms of mania or depression they can further customize the diagnosis based on the distinct patterns within the broader category of either mania or depression.

Patterns of the Mania Phase

Chinese medicine differentiates mania into four distinct patterns: Heart-Liver fire; phlegm fire harassing the Heart; Yang Ming bowel heat; and blood amassment.  While there are many similarities between patterns, there are also important distinctions that help the practitioner differentiate the treatment.

Patterns of Mania Phase

 

Patterns of the Depressive Phase

The depressive phase of bipolar disorder also has four main patterns: Liver qi stagnation; qi stagnating with phlegm, Heart-Gallbladder qi deficiency; and Heart-Spleen disharmony.  As with the mania phase, while there are many similarities between patterns, there are also important distinctions that help the practitioner differentiate the treatment.

Patterns of the Depressive Phase

 As you can see, Bipolar Disorder has a lot of commonalities between the different patterns.  This is why bipolar disorder is not really seen in the classical texts where mania and depression are.  The patient will present with the same underlying pattern regardless of what phase they are in and that is what should be treated, the pattern not the manifestation of symptoms.

It is important to recognize that mania, depression, and Bipolar disorder are not a weakness or a personality flaw of an individualThey are merely a manifestation of an imbalance that has occurred.

A licensed acupuncturist can identify this pattern of imbalance and develop a treatment plan that can help manage the imbalance and very possibly correct it.  It is also very important for anyone with this disorder to have a therapist and support system in place.

  • This article was written by Michael Hurley L.Ac. Michael is the co-owner and acupuncturist at Cup of Life Healing Center located at 82 Washington Street Suite 2 in Keene, NH. (603) 352-3625

Fall and Your Health

by Michael Hurley, L.Ac. – Co-founder and acupuncturist at Cup of Life Healing Center

As the fall season comes around the corner, we must be aware of what the change of season means for our health.   Our bodies have become used to the summer warmth and freedom to express ourselves.  Just as the weather and sunlight changes at this time of year, so must our focus and attention.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the fall is a time to start buckling down and completing the projects we started in the spring.  The fall harvest is a perfect example.  While this is a tangible external expression of our food growing cycles coming to completion, there is more to look at.  Completion also applies to the projects that we have going on internally—personal changes we are making within ourselves.  By drawing our awareness to season change, we become conscious of the Qi that flows within us and the cyclical patterns that it reveals.

In TCM, the body is made up of various channels or pathways that Qi flows.  These correspond to organ systems and have, over the years, been associated with certain characteristics.  For instance, the Lung and Large Intestine systems are associated with the fall.  The emotion of the Lung/Large Intestine is grief or “letting go”.  Many times people complain of a depression that comes at the end of the summer or beginning of fall as the air gets a little cooler and the days begin to get noticeably shorter.  We have trouble “letting go” of the summer and we have a small grief process that goes along with that.  Supplementing and caring for our Lungs is very important to combat this grief.

The proper flow of Qi from the Lungs is a downward direction.  In the fall, the Lung Qi is instable.  This may cause the Lung Qi to ascend or become “rebellious”.  If the Qi is not descending, we see symptoms like coughing or wheezing.  The Lungs are the uppermost organ and in being so, are the most vulnerable to Wind and Cold.  This is why it is so important to start dressing warmer in the fall.  The Lungs also control the Wei-Qi, a protective barrier that we have to protect us from colds and flu.  It resides between the skin and the muscles and serves to keep us warm.

Some things to consider during the fall months in order to support the Lungs so they can do their job to protect us include:

  • Getting more sleep
  • Avoiding foods that may cause phlegm
  • Dressing in layers
  • Using a netti pot or some type of sinus wash to keep the nasal passages clear of mucus
  • Practicing some type of self cultivation exercise like Qi Gong or yoga that focuses on pranayama or breathwork.

Getting more sleep conserves Lung Qi which helps keep the Lungs healthy and increases energy.  Striving to avoid phlegm producing foods is essential because excess phlegm will cause the Lungs to become blocked. When the lungs are blocked, the body will have difficulty using Lung Qi efficiently.  This could lead to heat which can manifest into a sore throat, sinusitis, and even bronchitis.

Phlegm producing foods are foods such as milk, cheese, creams, and sugar.  Also, raw foods should be avoided because they tax the Spleen.  A weak Spleen will not transform phlegm properly.  Improperly transformed phlegm will be stored in the Lungs.

Instead, try adding foods that will benefit the lungs such as: ginger, garlic, horseradish, onions, and mustard.  These should be consumed in moderation.  Also, taking advantage of the many wonderful local farms in our area is a fantastic way to eat seasonally.  If it grows this time of year, you can bet that it will benefit your body.

Above and beyond doing what I have already explained, it is a good idea to seek professional help in strengthening the Lungs.  In addition to the things you do at home, regular acupuncture treatments during the fall can keep your Qi balanced and curb illnesses before they become severe.

Remember, a good immune system does not mean you never get sick.  It means you overcome illnesses more quickly thus preventing them from being more serious.  A perfect example is getting over a simple cold before it becomes bronchitis or pneumonia.

I hope that this article has been interesting to you and I also hope that some of this information serves to help keep you healthy this fall.