What is Acupuncture?

               Acupuncture, as I practice it in Montclair, NJ,  is a physical treatment on the same spectrum as therapeutic massage, physical therapy, and chiropractic. Although often the main tool is a very thin sterile needle, an acupuncturist also employs cupping (like Michael Phelps in the Olympics), or warming techniques such as moxibustion (warming an herb on the acupuncture point), and mild electric stimulation similar to TENS used my physical therapists.

               The feeling and process of acupuncture is very relaxing. Most patients get extremely relaxed and some fall asleep. It’s common for a patient to be a little anxious for the first treatment because it is new and needles are involved. The needles are inserted with a little plastic tube that gives a stimulus that distracts from any unpleasantness. After the first treatment any nervousness is usually replaced by looking forward to symptom relief and the stress-relieving relaxation of the treatments. In other words, many patients look forward to the treatments and use them help stress as well as pain.

               Acupuncture is part of the broader field of traditional East Asian medicine with historical roots in China, Korea, and Japan, as well as other parts of Asia. Some practitioners also treat with very sophisticated herbal formulas. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) herbalism is very complex. It is not like taking some over the counter Echinacea and Vitamin C for a cold.  Various factors such as constitution, warmth or coldness of symptoms and emotional factors go into putting together a formula consisting of one but often 8 or even 16 different herbs.  I will refer some of my acupuncture patients to herbalists.

               An acupuncturist also might suggest traditional exercises related to Tai Chi or Qi Gong or meditation according to Five Element ideas. Nutritional recommendations according to traditional ideas are also part of the overall treatment.

               So acupuncture is really about much more than "acus" (the Greek word for needles)"puncturing". It’s a kind of physical treatment that ends up helping not only physical symptoms but also stess-related feelings. 



Acupuncture and Osteoarthritis of the Knee -- Yes, it helps!

So, I get asked a lot (And treat often)  if acupuncture helps arthritis. It does! It helps all sorts of knee pain from sports injuries to plain old accidents. But yes, arthritis as well. If you want a very long, detailed analysis, as I know some skeptics do, please read the National Institute of Health analysis:

"On the basis of the findings of the studies reviewed, acupuncture should be considered a viable adjunct or alternative treatment of knee pain and dysfunction associated with osteoarthritis of the knee for the thousands of individuals across the country who are suffering from symptoms of this chronic disease."

NIH Acupuncture and Osteoarthritis of the Knee Study

Japanese vs. Chinese style acupuncture

I recently ran across this nice summary of the differences between Japanese and Chinese acupuncture. These are general differences. Please realize, though, that there are all types of acupuncturists in Japan, many of whom do a "Chinese" style. And then there are "mixers" like me, who lean toward one approach but incorporate both. In fact I would call my approach "American Eclectic" in that while I am heavily influenced by Kiiko Matsumoto Style acupuncture and more recently Tsuyoshi Shimamura, I also will use Medical acupuncture, Dry Needling (a misnomer by Physical Therapists trying to skirt real acupuncture licensing), and TCM, which is the current most popular form of "Chinese" acupuncture. Oh, let's not forget Master Tung style which is also very interesting!

But here's the article:  7 Key Differences between Chinese and Japanese Acupuncture  

Black beans - TCM Winter Nutrition - Japanese New Year - "Jadou"

    There is a concept in Japanese called "Jadou". Dou is more popularly known in English in Chinese as "the Tao", as in the Way. It is the Do(u) in Aikido. Adding "Ja" to this suggests going off the path. Originally it was a Buddhist concept but now more broadly means veering from the conventional way of doing things.  I seem to be good at doing/creating "jadou" things. I originally went to Japan spontaneously in my 20s to teach English for a bit. So although I am basically fluent in language and many aspects of culture, I still look through an American lens. This explains my sometimes "unconventional" behavior.

    My wife usually makes sweet black soybeans for New Year's. The New Year holiday in Japan is our Christmas and Thanksgiving rolled into one. It is a big homecoming and there are a lot of traditional foods either made, or more recently bought. She simmers the beans for many hours with a good quality sugar and a bit of salt. 

   Black beans in the winter are one aspect of Asian Medicine nutrition. Black foods in general are said to "tonify the Kidneys". Winter is a time that stresses the Kidneys (adrenal/hormonal in conventional medicine terms).  If you Wikipedia this you'll see that this 2000 year-old idea is likely because of anthocyanin a flavonoid that comes in the colors purple, blue, red, or in this case black. See the wikipedia entry. And as it turns out "The highest recorded amount (of anthocyanin) appears to be specificially in the seed coat of black soybeans ... containing around 2g per 100g,..."

    But back to the Jadou...   Since we have a huge pot of these beans leftover after New Year's, we often eat them for breakfast. I put them on yogurt which I'm pretty sure isn't conventional. I will assure you though, they are delicious. And the whole dish goes very well with coffee.

   This is seriously delicious nutrition even if it is a little unconventional!

Japanese Acupuncture Study with Tsuyoshi Shimamura in Oita, Japan

The photo is his new clinic sign.

I recently spent 3 days furthering my acupuncture knowledge and clinical skills in Kyushu, one of Japan's largest, southern islands, near a town call Oita. It's near the famous Beppu hot springs which unfortunately I didn't get a chance to visit.

Tsuyoshi Shimamura is in his early 40s but has been practicing for over 20 years. He spent a couple of years in Ontario working in his early career. But in the late 90s he spent 3 formative years with Kiyoshi Nagano, a unique and extremely skilled acupuncturist who also influenced Kiiko Matsumoto.

Shimamura Sensei is incorporating Japanese orthopedic (soutai) techniques into his acupuncture treatments. The acupuncture aspect focuses on releasing the lower back and pelvis and sacrum as well as the back of the head, occiput area. He was very interested in the intersection of conventional muscles such as the multifidi and erector spinae, deep back muscles, and acupuncture points/meridians. 

I learned a lot and am applying some of what I learned in my clinic in Montclalir, NJ.