“Oh, it’s just my shoulder. It’s been like that for years. Sure, it wakes me up at night sometimes, and I take Aleve or ibuprofen a few times a week, but I’m used to it. It’s no big deal.”

Sound familiar?

Maybe for you it’s your hip, lower back, neck, or knee.

Sure, you’ve adapted.

Like the humming of your refrigerator, it’s become the background noise of your life.

You tolerate the pain and try and downplay it, though that’s easier some days than others. You’ve resigned yourself to just having to live with it, like rainy weather.

But what if that Thing You’ve Been Living With, that comes-and-goes chronic problem you’ve gotten so used to, could be gone in a matter of weeks or months?

What if it’s not the weather, it’s that you’ve got a leaky roof – which means there’s something you can do to feel better?

With acupuncture and electro-acupuncture, I’ve helped patients resolve or drastically reduce:

  • Neck pain that had been going on for years, so debilitating that this 71-year-old would have no choice but to lie down, essentially ending the active part of her day hours early. She had just accepted that there was nothing she could do. Now it’s either gone completely, or “slightly annoying” if she’s been particularly active.
  • Shoulder pain from an old injury that kept a 64-year-old from sleeping through the night, and limited her range of motion, now 90% pain-free and able to reach everything in her kitchen
  • Hip pain and sciatica that prevented my 60-year old travel-loving patient from being able to fully explore new cities on foot; tune-up treatments keep him pain-free for about a month
  • The bum knee that dogged this older adult’s yoga practice for years fully resolved (since treating the tight hip he didn’t even know about!)
  • Ankle pain from a decades-old injury
  • Osteoarthritis pain in the neck, low back, knee, hip, etc., kept in check for countless patients through monthly acupuncture tune-ups, enabling these folks to do more and hurt less.
  • Having arthritis doesn’t mean you have to hurt. It will, however, take maintenance. electro-acupuncture around the shoulder blade

Not only does acupuncture reduce inflammation, it prompts the release of chemicals that speed healing to injured tissue and changes the way pain signals are perceived by the brain. 

Being in pain taxes your energy, attention, and patience – and drugs come with their own risks of serious side-effects.

If your friend were living with this issue day in and day out for years, wouldn’t you want them to get some help? 

You deserve that care as well. Stop minimizing your pain, even if it could be worse. You’ve put up with it for long enough.

I would love to help you dial back the frequency and intensity of that thing you live with. Give us a call at 541 757-4868 and we’ll set you up with a treatment series or a tune-up. Maybe you can’t stop the rain, but you can patch your leaky roof and stay dry.

Two main reasons I add electricity to my acupuncture needles:

Accelerated Pain Relief & Increased Muscle Functionality.

Electroacupuncture can provide dramatic pain relief of different types of pain

  • inflammatory pain (due to injury, arthritis, tendonitis, bursitis, etc.)
  • nerve pain (injuries to nerves, nerve impingement, neuropathies, spinal nerve issues)
  • organ pain (colitis, gastritis, etc.)
  • cancer pain

It triggers the release of your body’s natural opioids (beta-endorphins, dynorphin) and the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and GABA that downregulate pain; glutamate to repair damaged cells, CGRP to increase blood flow to the injured area; red and white blood cells and nerve growth factor to speed healing; anti-inflammatory prostaglandin, and substance P which tells the brain to send resources to the injured area, while blocking the release of inflammatory cytokines.

Electroacupuncture not only desensitizes the pain receptors in the area that hurts; it also acts at the level of the spine and at the brain. Quick anatomy recap: the spine is a like a relay station for the peripheral nervous system, so if you hurt your hand, the nerve impulse travels to your spine and then to the brain to communicate. Electroacupuncture can help turn a signal from your spine from what would be a scream down to a whisper by the time the message gets to the brain through the release of serotonin, norepinephrine, and enkephalin.

But wait, there’s more: the brain then responds by triggering the release of serotonin and norepinephrine to further downregulate pain (and improve mood!).

Diagram of mechanisms of electroacupuncture acting at peripheral site, spine, and brain

Image credit: Ruixin Zhang, Lixing Lao, Ke Ren, Brian M. Berman; Mechanisms of Acupuncture–Electroacupuncture on Persistent Pain. Anesthesiology 2014; 120:482–503 doi: https://doi.org/10.1097/ALN.0000000000000101

Alligator clips attaching electrical leads to acupuncture needles on a leg

Electroacupuncture in my clinic, Life in Balance Acupuncture Photo credit: Cassidy Donaldson

 

 

In addition to pain relief, electroacupuncture has the ability to restore muscle functionality incredibly fast — often in less than 20 seconds. While acupuncture and manual therapies can do this too, electro-acupuncture does it faster.

Say you’re dealing with hip pain. I would put you through a series of resistance tests to determine whether the muscles affecting that joint are firing correctly. If they’re not, it often means that muscle has been powered down due to pain or injury, thus not able to do its job very well. I would then select a motor point, a spot where the motor neuron communicates with the muscle, and stimulate it with Electroacupuncture to turn it back on.

This often works in less than 30 seconds, restoring optimal function to the affected joint, which not only interrupts an inflammatory pain cycle, but enables the muscle to build strength once again. (Click here for a full tour of how this works, or listen to this episode of my podcast.)

 

Ruixin Zhang, Lixing Lao, Ke Ren, Brian M. Berman; Mechanisms of Acupuncture–Electroacupuncture on Persistent Pain. Anesthesiology 2014; 120:482–503 doi: https://doi.org/10.1097/ALN.0000000000000101

Sometime in the past month my Chinese Medicine clinic, Life in Balance Acupuncture, quietly turned 20.

It’s kind of blowing my mind that it was twenty years ago that I graduated from Chinese Medical School, moved 1,500 miles to a town where I knew exactly no one, acquired some basic furnishings on the cheap while waiting for the Board of Medical Examiners to grant me a license to practice, and opened my doors to patients.

With shoestring budget, a heap of student loan debt, but lots of enthusiasm and, I hung up some fliers and started teaching classes: Chinese medicine for women’s health, food as medicine, acupuncture for stress, the role of emotions in Chinese Medicine, basic yin-yang and five element theory.

Some of those curious-minded class participants became patients; and some to this day still come in for their monthly wellness tune-ups.

I could not be more grateful. The people I get to work with are among the most inspiring and kind people I’ve ever met. It is truly a privilege to earn a living helping them.

And because teaching is an extension of healing, I am grateful for you for being curious about how healing and personal evolution happens, and the role of each of us can play in it, for the work I know you’re doing, which by example is going to ripple outward and inspire others. This is how we change culture.

Buckets of gratitude: to my patients, class members, coaching clients, retreat participants, qi gong students, podcast listeners, newsletter readers, THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for making it possible for me to do what I love.

I’ve been reflecting on what I’ve learned over the years and would like to share some of those reflections with you.

While it starts with the role of a clinician and the nature of healing, it explores issues that parents, givers, and people who care about what they do may well relate to, like:

  • If you’ll never know it all, when is enough enough?
  • How healing happens — and who is responsible
  • The work that happens before showing up for work
  • Detaching the ego from outcomes, even when you care
  • How you can be a healer even without a medical practice

Give a listen here or wherever you get your podcasts.


 

But first:

Why I’m Sleeping Better

 

Every fall, I start taking reishi, Chinese Medicine’s “mushroom of immortality,” to boost my immune system, energy, and mood.

Because I swear by them to help me not catch my patients’ colds and flus, I’ve always taken them in the morning before going into clinic. (Hang with me, this detail matters.)

Reishi is also adaptogenic, helping the body handle stress, known in Chinese Medicine to calm the spirit and support sleep. There’s also some evidence that it helps stabilize blood sugar, so I in the past few months I’ve been prescribing it for patients who struggle with both blood sugar regulation and insomnia with active minds.

Each one reported back markedly improved sleep.

Having struggled with sleep for years myself, I was inspired to experiment and take my reishi extract close to bedtime, alongside magnesium.

WOW. Best consistently good sleep I’ve had in years!

Now, I’ve “known” reishi was supposed to be good for sleep, but I because another aspect of its medicinal use was really impressive to me (specifically immune boosting, asthma, allergies) I had put it in a box and therefore limited its potential.

Only after getting curious and experiencing it for myself did that book knowledge really sink in. Like discovering that a friend who’s a great athlete also plays piano masterfully, it shifted my thinking.(How often do we this to ourselves, or to our friends?) I love that after 20 years I’m still learning from my patients.

May we all continue to run experiments in our lives, and be surprised and impressed by those we already know and love.

Want to give reishi a try? Get superior quality, dual-extracted, organic reishi mushroom with no added starches or fillers from a brand I trust here. (If you get it through this link at Real Mushrooms, I’ll get a little something for referring you, but it won’t cost you extra.) 

 

 

I’ve been talking a lot about electro-acupuncture and how it’s amazing to take down inflammation, get muscles that aren’t firing to do their job, and release the body’s natural opioids to relieve pain. But a lot of people can’t quite picture what it’s like.

My daughter Cassidy was visiting from grad school last week with her boyfriend Blake, so we combined an office tour with a demo photo shoot.*

Here’s how it works:

First, I do an assessment. I position the patient’s limb and ask them to press into my hand while I resist their pressure.

This helps me assess which muscles are inhibited or weak — usually due to repetitive use or injury.

In an area of pain, you can bet some muscles aren’t working properly. Resistance testing helps me assess which ones, so we can turn them back on using acupuncture or electro-acupuncture.

Here are some action shots of me assessing hip flexion and abduction, as well as her anterior deltoid:

After the assessment, we begin treatment. I insert needles at specific points in the affected muscles known as motor points, where a motor neuron connects with a muscle to create movement, and where the muscle will contract with a minimal amount of external stimulation.

Next, I often use a device that applies electro-stimulation to the end of the needle at a frequency of 10 Hz to cause the muscle to contract.

We aim for a strong but comfortable level of stimulus for just 8-12 seconds a couple of times.

Often, this is enough to get the muscle to do its job. We’ll retest and a previously inhibited muscle will test strong. This was the case with Cassidy.

Boom.

Here’s what that looks like:

upper trapezius motor point

I then applied electro-acupuncture to motor points by attaching alligator clips to the acupuncture needles and running a current through them. The sensation is similar to that of a TENS unit — a strong but comfortable pulsing sensation. I let that run for about 15 minutes.

 

See how relaxed she looks? 

Meanwhile, Cassidy’s boyfriend, Blake, who had been taking the photos, mentioned that he hadn’t been able to go running with with Cassidy due to shin splints. I gave him a short 4-needle treatment so could get a feel for what acupuncture is like.

   

Results: The day after the treatment, Cass and Blake went running together. Blake had no pain in his shins, and Cassidy reported that she felt “springier,” and the lower limb that received treatment felt “like it’s better at doing what it’s supposed to do.” So even though this was just a one-off “for demonstration purposes” treatment session, both 24-year-old athletes noticed immediate, marked improvement. And hopefully you got a better sense of what getting an electro-acupuncture treatment might be like.

This kind of treatment can be great for:

  • osteoarthritis
  • chronic or acute pain 
  • restricted range of motion anywhere
  • tight fascia or tight bands, adhesions, or “knots” due to injury or repetitive strain
  • wanting to feel your best doing the things you love
  • post-surgery recovery
  • old injuries that have never quite healed
  • preventing wear-and-tear on your joints resulting from compensation patterns

 

To set up your treatment series (usually 2x/ week for 3 weeks, at which point we re-evaluate), give us a call at (541) 757-4868.

(*My clinic is a health care setting where masks are required, but since we came in off-hours and have been staying in the same house for a week, we opted to show our faces.)

 

Let me tell you about one of my lovely patients, a woman in her early 60s who I’ll refer to as “Cindy,” who injured her shoulder when her dog suddenly lunged away from her on a walk.

The MRI showed a “massive tear of the supraspinatus,” one of the rotator cuff muscles. Its tendon completely detached from the bone, and there was swelling in the shoulder joint. As you might imagine, this made lifting her arm nearly impossible and quite painful. After months of lack of use, the muscle tissue atrophied severely and fatty tissue infiltrated it.

What this meant for Cindy was she couldn’t raise her arm out to the side. She couldn’t put away dishes into kitchen cabinets or get her hand high enough to wash her hair. The pain radiated down to her fingers, and she would frequently wake up at night with pain. On bad days, she struggled to put on a coat.

With surgery months away at the earliest, we decided to see what a short course of acupuncture visits could do.

I began with a neuromuscular assessment of the upper body. In addition to the supraspinatus issue that the MRI indicated, I found a bunch of other stuff going on. The serratus anterior muscle, responsible for stabilizing the shoulder joint wasn’t functioning properly; there were severe adhesions (“knots”) in the muscles that were picking up the slack for the injured rotator cuff (subscapularis, deltoid, levator scapula and upper trapezius). Treating these accessory muscles relieved the nerve impingement such that the pain no longer radiated into the fingers, hand, or forearm.

After two treatments in two weeks where I administered electro-acupuncture, Cindy was able to wash her hair with both hands and could lift her arms out to at least 150 degrees and cross them over her head. The various muscles that had tested weak were once again firing. I instructed her in home exercises to strengthen the muscle, which she’s doing and is beginning to re-build strength.

No surgery. No PT. Just 4 treatments with electro-acupuncture and manual work.

After 6 visits, she was able to reach across to get something out of the glove compartment of her car, put her dishes away in an overhead cabinet, and fasten her bra with much greater ease. We’re continuing to treat twice a week for another few weeks in order to continue to reduce inflammation, increase range of motion to enable muscular strength, and reduce pain levels as she starts physical therapy. She’s decided against the surgery, as she’s making so much progress.

Cool, right? While this story may be dramatic, it’s by no means extraordinary; electro-acupuncture is powerful medicine for restoring strength and functionality to even old areas of injury.

You may not have to live with that thing you’ve been living with.  To schedule your series (we’re booking for April) give us a call at 541 757-4868 or visit brodiewelch.com/clinic to learn more.

I LOVE that feeling of learning something that fundamentally changes my perception. I got a mega-dose of it at an advanced workshop on the treatment of lower body conditions with electro-acupuncture and motor points.

I’ve been treating knee pain and hip pain with great success for almost 20 years.

While I do some postural assessment, I’ll admit I never looked too hard at feet.

The first few hours of the workshop, we watched people stand and walk. We looked at the alignment of the ankles, because how we impact the ground as we move through gravity determines where the knees and hips will absorb stress. I learned how to see ankles differently, brushed up on my neuroanatomy, and absorbed a few new treatment protocols.

On my first day back with patients, I applied what I learned about feet and ankles to three different people who were in for knee, hip, and back issues.

The next day, one of them called me, ecstatic to share that it was the first day in literally years she didn’t have any pain in her knee or lower leg! It totally made spending my weekend on airplanes and in a conference room worth it.

Electroacupuncture (think TENS unit but with alligator clips attached to acupuncture needles instead of onto pads stuck to the skin) reduces inflammation, restores strength to muscles that aren’t doing their jobs, and stimulates the release of our bodies’ natural opioids to reduce pain.

It’s even been shown to stimulate the production or chondrocytes (the cells that make cartilage) — making it especially useful for things like osteoarthritis, knee pain, and spinal stenosis, in addition to muscle/ tendon/ fascia/ nerve pain.

Speaking of osteoarthritis and knees, the results of 10, count ’em TEN randomized, double-blind studies show that acupuncture can help with the pain and joint dysfunction caused by osteoarthritis. This is great news when you consider a recent 10-year observational study showing that NSAIDs, anti-inflammatory drugs, may make arthritis worse. Same with cortisone shots. Unfortunately, the news that acupuncture is a great alternative doesn’t get the same headlines.

If you’ve limited what you think your body is capable of because of what your X-ray or your MRI has shown, I encourage you to rethink that.

Don’t assume that because you’ve been given the label of “arthritis” or “degenerative disc disease” that there’s nothing to be done.

These things don’t have to hurt. Sure, some conditions require surgery. But if you haven’t done a series of acupuncture (two treatments a week for three weeks for pain issues), you may be missing out. Recent studies suggest that taking anti-inflammatory drugs or getting cortisone shots make arthritis inflammation worse and even hasten joint deterioration.

To schedule a series, visit the Clinic tab of the website or call our office.

May you learn something revelatory today!