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Monday 8 September 2014

Cowboys got you down? Acupuncture can help!

It's not always easy being a Dallas sports fan, and this year may prove to be tougher than most. If watching that Cowboys' game yesterday left you with some unwanted, unpleasant physical sensations, we've got some important tips for you! Or, if you couldn't care less about sports but still occasionally face headaches or nausea, keep on reading.

Headaches are common and often occur along with stressful situations, such as watching a figurative train wreck play out on Sunday night football. Acute headaches that occur suddenly are most often due to benign blockages of one sort or another, from muscular tension to more subtle blockages of blood and fluids into and out of the head. Luckily, we've got a button for that, built right into our hands and easily accessible any time of day. It's located right in the center of that fleshy area between your thumb and forefinger. Using your opposite hand, grasp this area using your thumb to apply deep pressure into this flesh. If you push deep, there will be a deep ache. Holding and rubbing on this spot for around a minute, as needed throughout the day can help take the edge off of any headache.


For nausea, vomiting, and upset stomach, such as following when the 'Boys throw three consecutive interceptions, the point is on the palmar side of the wrist. As you can see in the picture below, the point is three fingers from the wrist crease in the center of the arm. Just as with the headache point, pushing in deeply here should produce a fairly strong aching sensation. Again, pushing and rubbing this point with your opposite thumb for about a minute can help alleviate those digestive symptoms.


May next week be better for us fans, but if it's not, these handy tricks will get us all through regular season.

Friday 1 August 2014

Cool Tips for Summer Headaches

Are you feeling hot headed these days? If you’re like many of our patients at Lake Highlands Acupuncture, you may notice more headaches during these scorching Dallas summers.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has several explanations for summer headaches. (Remember, this ancient medicine is based entirely on nature!) First, heat causes symptoms that tend to flare upward (such as into the head). Think of a campfire flame. In your body, hot energy does the same thing. Heat rises and creates pressure in the head. Heat also exacerbates underlying temperature imbalances that may lead to headache. Furthermore, a variety of allergens are prevalent in the summer, which can irritate the respiratory system and lead to sinus-related headaches.

When these seasonal headaches arise, most people pop a pill. Aspirin, Tylenol, and Advil are so commonly used in our society that they’ve come to be considered absolutely safe. And, most of the time, used as directed, they are. However, over the last couple of years, more reasons to be careful have cropped up than ever before. For example, Tylenol is the nation’s leading cause of sudden liver failure, and the difference between an effective dosage amount and a dangerous dosage amount may be surprisingly small. In fact, acetaminophen (the generic name for Tylenol) overdose is one of the most common poisonings in the world! It may be time to try something different, something more natural and safer.

There are plenty of things you can do at home to relieve the symptoms of most headaches. First, for almost any headache, apply cold above and heat below. The easiest way to do so is to place an ice pack on the forehead or top of the head and a heating pad on the feet, and lie comfortably for 15 minutes. You can also do this in a hot bath with an ice pack on the head. Second, rubbing a few drops of lavender essential oil into the temples and on the bony spot behind the ears is pleasant and effective. If your headache symptoms coincide with weather changes or allergy symptoms, ginger tea is a good addition to the above suggestions.

Some foods and beverages can also assist in your relief. If you are dehydrated, watermelon with a sprinkling of sea salt is a wonderful summer treat. Also, tension in the muscles of your head can be aided by foods high in magnesium like cashews, avocados, and leafy greens like spinach. Upping your intake of fish like mackerel and salmon may also help by increasing your levels of coenzyme Q10.

And, because most headaches have a muscular tension component, simple self-massage can be very effective. Concentrate on the muscular areas at the jaws and temples with firm but supple circular strokes, as well as along the back of the neck at the base of the skull.

For your more stubborn or recurrent headaches, it may be time to take the next step, and acupuncture is a very good option. Studies show that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of tension type headaches, as well as migraines. Significant relief can often be achieved in as little as one treatment.

Based upon several factors, including location, quality, duration, and accompanying symptoms, a licensed Dallas acupuncturist like Bryan Ellett at Lake Highlands Acupuncture can determine which of several causes may underlie your headaches. Most of the time, improvement in a current headache can be seen in just one treatment. Still, for ongoing and recurrent headaches, several treatments may be required to achieve maximum efficacy.

Additionally, Chinese herbal medicine is a tremendous resource for relieving the symptoms of headache and preventing their return. As with acupuncture, a licensed acupuncturist can determine what the cause of the headache is and prescribe herbs that naturally treat the symptoms and promote the body’s ability to heal the underlying issues that are at the root of the problem. Chinese herbal formulas are combined in a way to achieve maximum results with minimal side effects. Both herbs and acupuncture have over a thousand years of case histories to draw from and overall histories going back several thousand years further.

Further, since acupuncturists are trained in nutrition, Bryan can give you personalized diet and lifestyle tips, like the ones above, that don’t require a trip to Lake Highlands Acupuncture. We want to teach you to manage your health with the common sense of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Many people have come to feel that their headaches are something that must be suffered and endured. Most often, the imbalances in the body that underlie the headaches can be addressed holistically, and acupuncture and herbal medicine have been shown effective in doing so. Come in to Lake Highlands Acupuncture, cool off, and experience life without the suffering.

Monday 10 February 2014

A New Look at Meditation

Meditation has gotten a reputation over the years as a hippie practice requiring incense and the Grateful Dead.

While we at Lake Highlands Acupuncture can sing you every lyric to "Ripple," some of the most experienced meditators I know are devout Christians (Psalms 104:34: May my meditation be pleasing to Him, for I rejoice in the Lord.)

Others are atheists or agnostics. Meditation has no requirements, other than sitting in a chair for a little while. But why do it?

It could be your ticket to better health and reduced pain.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has always seen the body and the mind as inextricably linked. All this means is that the stuff going on in your head can affect what is going on in your body.

Your heart beats faster when someone cuts you off in traffic, or you’ve got a lot on your mind so you can’t sleep. Nothing new there.

The body-mind connection can work on a more subtle level too. For example, have you ever had a headache and then gotten wrapped up in a movie or a great conversation?

Sometimes, you forget you have a headache. In other words, intense focus altered how you experienced pain. In that same vein, modern researchers think that meditation helps retrain the brain’s perception of pain.

A 2011 study in The Journal of Neuroscience illustrated how a little over one hour of meditation instruction deactivated the pain-related brain centers in people who had never meditated before. That’s a pretty powerful finding.

When we think of the body making profound changes, we think of extreme events: “Well, of course that Olympian has a resting heart rate of 30. He’s run 20 miles a day for 5 years.”

But here we have proof that you can change the entire way your brain processes pain, just by sitting down and focusing for a few minutes each day. And it happens fast.

The benefits extend beyond pain though. According to Mayo Clinic, studies suggest that meditation may also be helpful with:

• allergies

• anxiety disorders

• asthma

• binge eating

• cancer

• depression

• fatigue

• heart disease

• high blood pressure

• irritable bowel syndrome

• sleep problems

• substance abuse

Other studies have shown promising effects on Parkinson’s, dementia, and other neurological conditions.

In our own backyard, a forthcoming study out of Texas Women’s University by Dr. Linda Csiza examines the effects of meditation on multiple sclerosis (MS) pain and fatigue, and the initial results are extremely promising.

Lake Highlands Acupuncture is glad to see modern research catching up with ancient Chinese medicine's view of an integrated mind and body.


Emerson demonstrates a calming meditation he learned from Lake Highlands Acupuncture.

Monday 6 January 2014

Cold and Flu Tips You Haven't Heard Yet

We all know the basics.

Drink plenty of water. Get plenty of sleep. Stay warm. Mom ingrained these lessons well.

Still, there’s more to do to keep those bugs at bay.

First, did you know that your stomach is one of the most powerful weapons you have against cold and flu?

Think about it: your stomach is a big sack of acid ready to break down anything that falls into it, including pathogens.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) describes the stomach as a furnace that transforms the good and burns up the bad. Further, TCM asserts that digestive upset is often due to too little fire, or stomach acid, instead of too much.

Yet, we often pop an antacid at the first sign of discomfort and “put out the fire.” Doing this too frequently can disarm one of your greatest weapons against cold and flu. A simple at-home test can tell you whether you’ve got too much or too little acid.

Next time you feel digestive discomfort like heartburn, take a small spoonful of a high quality apple cider vinegar, like Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar. If it quells the pain, you’re experiencing hypochloridia, a fancy name for not enough stomach acid.

Hypochloridia is easily remedied with apple cider vinegar or other supplementation. Our neighbors at Northlake Health Food have some good options.

Second, avoid mucus-producing foods like dairy. We can devour a cheese plate as quickly as the next guy or gal, but at the peak of winter, go light on the Limburger. And this goes for everybody.

People with full-blown dairy allergies know how milk can affect them, but those without a severe allergy might not notice the more subtle mucus-producing effects. This low-grade mucus isn’t a big problem normally, but when coupled with poor digestion and an abundance of winter viruses, it can stack the cards against your immune system.

If you’re worried about keeping up your calcium during your dairy hiatus, try increasing your intake of leafy greens, an underappreciated source of calcium.

Finally, if your defenses are down and you show signs of a cold, use the home remedy we recommend to all of our patients. It’s easy, and it’s cheap.

Boil one inch of sliced ginger root, 1-2 inches of the white part of a scallion, diced, and a dash of brown sugar for 10 minutes in a mug’s worth of water. Drink. Take a hot bath or shower, then dry quickly, and immediately wrap up in a blanket. Get a moderate sweat going for 10 minutes. Dry off and put on some cozy clothes. Stay warm!

In our family, this little recipe knocks out our symptoms a majority of the time. Other times, we have to supplement with some Chinese herbs we have stocked just in case. (Lake Highlands Acupuncture has a full herbal pharmacy, so you can stock up for your family, too.)

A cornerstone of TCM is being attuned to nature. It’s winter—a time for hibernation and rest. You may notice your pets sleeping more these days. Sometimes getting sick is the body’s way of saying, “Hey, let’s take it easy.”

So listen to your body (and your dog). Take it easy! Your body will insist you do one way or another.


Gunner Broywell heeds advice from Lake Highlands Acupuncture and takes it easy during these winter months.

Wednesday 14 August 2013

Acupuncture, Theory and Belief

Acupuncture is still a very novel form of medicine in the West, though archeological evidence suggests that it has been practiced in some form for close to 5,000 years. Of course, the medicine has undergone significant evolution in that time. Thank goodness! No one would want to be stabbed by the heavy stone needles that have been found dating to the Neolithic Era! Similarly, the theories on which acupuncture is based are very old but have also been modified, updated, and polished as time has gone on. In fact, the medicine continues to evolve and change to this very day.

Acupuncture is one component of traditional Chinese medicine, a group of practices that also includes herbal medicine, moxibustion, body work, energy-based forms of exercise, and dietary therapy. Moxibustion, the burning of the herb mugwort in direct or indirect contact with the skin, is such an important component that in China, the general practices are most often referred to as acupuncture and moxibustion, rather than as acupuncture alone.

The theories that form the foundation of traditional Chinese medicine are Yin-Yang Theory and Five-Element or Five-Phase Theory, both of which are foundational understandings of Daoism and may be used to describe any and all Earthly phenomena. Yin-Yang theory is the more basic, setting up a basic dualism similar to how we think in the West. Yang describes the aspects of anything that are characterized by movement, heat, dryness, power, uprising, spreading, male-ness. Yin describes the aspects of anything characterized by stasis, coolness, moisture, suppleness and nourishment, downward and inward movement, female-ness. Concerning bodily ailments, yin and yang make for easy descriptors. Heart burn is yang in nature due to the feeling of burning or heat. Chills or cold hands would be yin in nature. These are very basic examples.

What makes Yin-Yang theory different from Western dualism is the understanding that the two aspects are interdependent, unlike in the West where we tend to prefer thinking of things like life and death or sickness and health being independent, thus allowing for the possibility that sickness and death may not be necessary. With Yin-Yang, one cannot exist without the other. Furthermore, one is continually changing into the other. For example, eating a lot of cold, damp food like ice cream initially causes a yin, cold feeling in the stomach. However, because such food is difficult to process, it often leads to indigestion and heart-burn, a more yang sensation.

Five-element theory is a more nuanced outlook, dividing Earthly phenomena into five categories: water, wood, fire, earth, and metal. Wood corresponds to the season of spring, when plants grow. It is a warm season, but not as warm as summer, which corresponds to fire. Therefore, fire is more yang than wood in terms of temperature. The other elements follow in kind, earth is late summer, metal is fall, water is winter. Over centuries of observation, these elements were applied to the organs of the body for diagnostic purposes. Water corresponds to the kidneys and bladder, wood to the liver and gallbladder, fire to the heart and small intestine, earth to the stomach and spleen, and metal to the lungs and large intestine.

The five elements can be viewed as occurring in a cycle. Water gives rise to wood (which needs water to grow), fire burns wood, the ashes become earth, earth begets metal (as in the metal ore deposits within the earth), and metal gives rise to water. That last one takes a little more imagination to see, but one example occurs with the condensation that easily occurs on metal. This is called the generating cycle. There is also a controlling cycle, as in water controlling fire and metal controlling wood. When the organ correspondences are used, one can see how internal pathologies can travel in the body. For example, the liver (wood) is the organ most closely associated with stress. When stress causes wood to become overactive, the next element in the sequence can be affected, in this case earth. Earth corresponds to the digestive organs of stomach and spleen. This is why stress can lead to indigestion, diarrhea, and even such things as irritable bowel syndrome.

At the basic level, both yin-yang and five-element theories are analogies or symbolic representations to represent biological phenomena in terms that ancient people understood, namely as how earthly phenomena corresponded to biological phenomena. The methods of treatment, including acupuncture, herbs, and moxibustion, based on these symbolic understandings were developed and refined over hundreds and thousands of years without the benefit of modern scientific research.

Modern Western medicine operates under the understanding, from the Age of Enlightenment, that knowledge is advanced through the use of the scientific method. Ancient Eastern medicine was built through centuries and millenia of clinical observation. Modern Western medicine now considers valid only those treatments that can be "proven" with double-blind, placebo-controlled studies. Ancient medicine most often considered a treatment valid if the patient felt better and grew less sick. Modern research with greater controls is only fairly recently being performed on acupuncture. The results have been favorable enough that the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health consider acupuncture an effective treatment for a variety of conditions.

The lack of wide-ranging scientific "proof" about the efficacy of acupuncture and other complementary medical modalities has resulted in the idea that these treatments are nothing more than elaborate placebos that work merely through coincidence or belief. Indeed, many people think that such treatments will not work if the patient does not "believe" in them. Those who have received benefit from acupuncture, many of whom began without either belief or disbelief in its validity, see things differently. For many, acupuncture works. The proof is that they feel better, and they don't need a double-blind, placebo-controlled study to tell them it worked. Indeed, I've performed hundreds of treatments and can say without reservation that acupuncture treatment does not require belief. The precise placement of acupuncture needles into the body causes physiological changes that may not be understood yet, but occur nevertheless. Acupuncture does not work for every person, every time, for every condition. Nor does any Western medical treatment. The question is, will it work for you? The treatments are very safe and all but free of side-effects. There is very little risk to giving it a try, aside from challenging your beliefs that it should not work.

Call Lake Highlands Acupuncture today for a free 30-minute consultation to discuss your specific needs!