Acupuncture Stops Pain: A Short Historical Tale that Proves The Value of Eastern Medical Arts

by Tobey Williamson, L.Ac.

What do Ötzi, the 5,300-Year-Old Iceman & General Douglas MacArthur Have to Do with Stopping your Pain and Returning you to Wellness?

Acupuncture Stops Pain: A Short Historical Tale that Proves The Value of Eastern Medical Arts, Good Hearth in Rockland, MaineTobey Williamson offers Acupuncture / Herbal Medicine / Immune Support in Rockland, Maine

“Well,” you say, “that’s a weird question. What could the mummified remains of a 'wealthy caveman' discovered in 1991 emerging from a retreating glacier in the Italian Alps, and the American general responsible for occupying Japan after WWII possibly have to do with me?" 

“Come on,” I hear you say next. “My options for stopping pain and improving my overall well-being have nothing to do with historical figures – mummified or not!”

Sit tight, I’ve got a story for you.

Ötzi, the 5,300-Year-Old Iceman

It took 25 years of studying Ötzi the Iceman’s leathery, but intact skin to locate and verify his total of 61 tattoos.  Nearly 90% of these ‘x,’ 'line,' or ‘cross’ shaped, black marks fall on or within millimeters of well-established acupuncture points and meridians.  Many are located on the Urinary Bladder meridian, which runs along the spine and through many areas my patients often report as painful: low back, hips, knees and ankles. Interestingly, in Ötzi’s specific case, the joints near the tattoos also showed signs of degeneration, suggesting pain.

Another important idea for our story is the theory that these marks were made by rubbing charcoal into small incisions made in the skin, perhaps as a form of therapy.  To Eastern medical practitioners like me, this sounds just like a very primitive practice of acupuncture and moxibustion.Good Hearth in Rockland, Maine
My Modern Day Acupuncture Clinic in Rockland, ME: No Mummies or Sharp Burnt Sticks Anywhere in Sight

Still with me?  OK, let Ötzi’s therapeutic tattoos resonate in your mind for a sec while we discuss General MacArthur’s role in our story…

General Douglas MacArthur in Post World War II Japan

First, I’ll agree with you. That tattooing practice described above as similar to acupuncture and moxibustion? Sounds barbaric.  Actually, some folks probably still consider modern Eastern medicine and think the same thing. Sticking needles into people and burning a refined herb directly on their skin is an odd way to heal them.  This is likely what Gen. MacArthur was thinking when he set out to ban these practices and "bring Japan into the civilized world" after they lost WWII. 

Acupuncture Stops Pain: A Short Historical Tale that Proves The Value of Eastern Medical Arts, Good Hearth in Rockland, MainePremium Gold Moxa Made in Japan. Like Fine Wine or Fine Whiskey:
Carefully Processed & Aged for 10 Years.

But, the Japanese people had other ideas. Though completely vanquished by the newest in modern weaponry, they decided that protecting their traditional medicine was an important battle to fight.  So important, in fact, that they were willing to stand up to the occupiers, who by the way, just may have had a few more atomic bombs prepared. Japanese acupuncturists and moxibustionists joined up with physicians and scientists to mount a massive campaign and legal battle to explain the benefits of their ancient wellness practices to the US Army.

What are the benefits of acupuncture and moxibustion? There are actually a lot of them – too many to list.  But, here are a few: stops pain, improves blood quality, builds immunity, reduces inflammation, balances mood, and harmonizes complexly interacting organ systems that must function well together. 


Here is some information from Japanese investigations into the effects of moxibustion on blood quality:

Tobey Williamson offers Acupuncture / Herbal Medicine / Immune Support in Rockland, Maine

Overall, acupuncture and Japanese direct moxibustion support wellness and have stood the test of time.  Ötzi knew that 5000+ years ago when he lived in a cave. The Japanese knew it when they stood up for their cultural heritage and taught the US Army about their medicine. And now so do you.   

 

Sources:
Discover Magazine
IFLScience
North American Journal of Oriental Medicine
Acupuncture Today

A slightly different version previously published in The Courier-Gazette Wellness 2017 Guide

Get Better Faster: An Herbalist's and Moxibustionist's Chronology of his own Cold/Flu Symptoms

Get Better Faster: An Herbalist's and Moxibustionist's Chronology of his own Cold/Flu Symptoms, Good Hearth in Rockland, MaineEastern Medicine is natural medicine.

Acupuncture, moxibustion and Chinese herbal formulas help support balance in the body. We are well when we eat a balanced diet, manage to stay calm amidst challenging emotional events, get enough exercise and enough rest.  

We get sick when we are out of balance. Despite our body's innate ability to maintain harmony and balance, we all get knocked off our center occasionally. 

Modern Western medicine can suppress our cold and flu symptoms, but offers little in the way of getting to the root of the imbalance.  In fact, some Western cold and flu medications can make the underlying imbalance worse. For instance, anti-histamines are extremely drying. So they work well if you need to dry up an extremely runny nose while you are at work. My case, outlined below, had dryness as a root. So, taking them might have made my overall root imbalance worse, leading to a cycle of recurring symptoms. The heated air we breathe indoors in winter is so dry that it would tend to make this pattern worse.  

At Good Hearth Eastern Medical Arts in Rockland, Maine, we use Chinese Herbal formulas, Seitai Shinpo Japanese acupuncture and moxibustion and massage – proven techniques handed down for thousands of year – to resolve the imbalance that led to your cold or flu, reducing the length of your sickness and limiting the severity of your symptoms.

To help illustrate how we do this: a chronology of my first cold or flu since returning to Maine. 
(Note: it is hard to say whether it was a cold or flu, but for the record it doesn’t matter since Chinese Medicine would diagnose what I had as a “Wind-cold invasion,” which presents differently and is treated differently than a “Wind-heat invasion,” though both often occur during the cold months when the body is stressed.   Had I not diagnosed and treated this pathogenic invasion quickly, the pattern would most certainly have advanced and yielded different symptoms, a different diagnosis, and I would have needed to use different medical techniques.)

Monday, 4:00PM
I felt the first sign of cold or flu – a general malaise with a stiff, achy neck, shoulders, low back and along my entire spine.  My thumbs and first fingers were also very sore as well. This is interesting because it is where the Lung and Large Intestine meridians end and begin respectively.  These meridians are paired and the acupuncture points along them mostly influence the Lung.

4:15 PM
I drank a Chinese herbal formula designed to warm the body to open the pores and cause a sweat.  The goal being to push the invading pathogen and the toxins it creates outward, hopefully before it has overcome or outnumbered my immune system's ability to respond effectively. Tobey Williamson offers Acupuncture / Herbal Medicine / Immune Support in Rockland, Maine
Ma Huang Tang, or Ephedra Decoction is made up of cinnamon branches (Gui Zhi), Ehpedra twigs (Ma Huang), apricot seeds (Xing Ren), and honey fried licorice root (Zhi Gan Cao), which I took in the form of concentrated granules dissolved in hot water -- similar to how instant coffee is prepared.

It took me a few minutes to think through some of my other symptoms to make sure I mixed the right formula.  You see, Eastern Medicine diagnosis is rooted in binary opposites: Damp/Dry; Cold/Hot; Empty/Full; Interior/Exterior; Yin/Yang, etc.  So while my body aches fit a cold pattern, I also had a dry cough, felt more hot than cold and did not have a runny nose or sneezing.  Since I didn’t have a sore throat (a key sign of a heat pathogen) and my feeling hot may have been because I had been sitting in a very warm room all afternoon, I decided it was more of a cold pathogen, and opted for the warming formula.

4:25 PM
I applied moxibustion to the key immune boosting points that I could easily reach on my own.  (There are more on the back and neck that I do for patients.)  No acupuncture needles because deep needling is thought to drive the pathogen deeper into the body.  Besides with limited time, I prefer moxa in this situation since it boosts the white blood cell count within 20 minutes, strengthening the immune system’s defense.Good Hearth in Rockland, Maine
Moxibustion is warming the body with a highly-refined moxa (artemesia vulgaris) on a thin layer of heat dispersing cream directly on the skin. This practice infuses the body with medicinal compounds that boost the white blood cell count very quickly -- giving the body's immune defense system a major boost in its fight against cold and flu pathogens.

4:45 PM
Bundled up against the cold (especially my head, back and neck) I crossed the parking lot and was on the road home from Rockland with the heat in the car on high to try to start sweating.

5:15 PM
Now at home, but still not sweating at all. So, I took a second cup of the same Chinese herbal formula, which is warm, sweet and slightly acrid.  I drank it wrapped in a robe with a towel around my neck and my feet soaking in a hot bathtub. When I finished the tea and was still not sweating, I got all the way into the tub.  Eventually I had a light sweat on my neck and head. 

5:40 PM
Dried off and in my warm bed asleep.

8:00 PM?
I woke up with a dry cough and a feeling of dryness in my chest and head. So, I took another Chinese herbal formula (this time in pill form) designed to moisten the lungs and sinuses and I drink some warm water.  As I drift back to sleep, I think about what might have led to me getting sick: the dry, slightly bloody nose I noticed a day or so ago, but did nothing about, and/or the overeating and staying up late watching the Super Bowl.  

Tuesday, 6:00 AM
I read a story to my son, who had climbed into bed with me, while I decided if I was getting up or not.  My nose was still not congested (not even a drop) and the dryness in my head and chest seemed a bit better.  I had no appetite and still felt pretty achy.

6:30 AM
I decided that between the achy body, low energy, and lack of appetite after having not eaten for more than 12 hours, staying in bed a bit longer was the best thing.  Except for getting up to drink water, take some more moistening herbs and to take another hot bath, I slept all day. 

4:00 PM
After a bath, a sinus headache came on strong.  I tried to read and rest more hoping the headache would go away.

7:00 PM
The headache was keeping me from resting more.  Not having the motivation and energy to do the manual technique and moxibustion I use with patients with headaches and since the Chinese herbal headache formula was at the clinic, I opted for 400mg of ibuprofen. The headache went away and I fell back to sleep. (There is a time and place for Western Medicine -- for me not being able to get any rest meant reaching for a bottle of pain reliever, since rest was what my body needed to heal itself.)

Wednesday, 5:30 AM
I woke up feeling rested and definitely on the mend.  I went downstairs, started the woodstove and made a big breakfast for the still sleeping family.  I was starving for eggs, so I made mushroom and asparagus omelets with toast (no jam -- sweets make colds worse) and green tea.  

10:00 AM
I taped an herbal hot pad on my still achy low back and headed out to snowblow the driveway.  I stayed all bundled up even as the air warmed up, so I worked up a bit of a sweat.

12:30 PM
I was back inside with a powerful appetite.  So, I heated up some vegetable soup and a grilled cheese sandwich (not the best option given that dairy tends to make a lot of mucus) with spicy pepper.  The hot soup and spicy pepper together made me sweat some more around my head and neck.  I also drank more warm water.

1:30 PM
I snuggled into bed with my young daughter as she went down for her nap.  Laid low for the rest of the afternoon getting more rest since I was tired again. I also took another hot bath to ease my still achy back. Acupuncture and moxibustion or massage would have done wonders for this residual low back pain from the cold/flu. But, I was on my own.

4:00 PM
Wednesday I began writing this blog post and was feeling well enough (energy coming back, no nasal congestion, cough minimal and no longer dry) to know for sure I could be in the office and ready to help three patients tomorrow.  

Does this story of a cold/flu story end differently than yours usually does? The worst of it over with 36 hours and all major symptoms gone within 48 hours? I hear so many people in Maine talk about their lingering cold or flu… congestion and coughs that last for days or even weeks.  Low energy that just won’t bounce back.  A relapse of the worst symptoms of fever or aches and pains. 

It does NOT need to be that way.

Here in Maine, colds and flus are common.  So are stomach bugs, ear aches, and sinus infections. Used at the earliest stage of invasion, acupuncture, moxibustion and Chinese herbal medicine can prevent you from getting sick. But, when you inevitably do get sick, Eastern Medicine can keep your symptoms and length of sickness to a minimum.  Of course, eating right and getting enough rest are also hugely important– especially when our body calls out for rest in the strongest way possible: low energy and achy joints and muscles.

How can I take so much time in bed?

I make my health a priority. (And yes, my wife gets to do the same thing when she gets sick, while I take care of the kids.)

Luckily this time a snowstorm followed by an ice storm encouraged my patients to reschedule during the time when I needed to rest.  But if the weather had not forced it first, I certainly would have taken the initiative to reschedule them, rather than give them a poor treatment when my energy was low. Also, avoiding spreading my sickness when I was most contagious.

By taking care of myself first, I am able to take care of others.

EleanorBrownn Vessel Self Care Good Hearth Rockland Maine

 

Get Better Faster: An Herbalist's and Moxibustionist's Chronology of his own Cold/Flu Symptoms, Good Hearth in Rockland, Maine

The next time you start feeling a cold or flu coming on, please call for an acupuncture or moxibustion treatment and get yourself some custom Chinese herbal formulas to take home.  Prevention is the best medicine. But at the very first sign of the inevitable cold or flu, the next best medicine in Midcoast Maine is Good Hearth Eastern Medical Arts. You cannot afford to have lingering and recurring symptoms and many insurance plans will cover the cost of treatment. Better yet, use your insurance coverage to help maintain your balance and keep from getting sick in the first place.

Good Hearth currently bills in-network with Cigna insurance and can help get patients reimbursed through Anthem. Other major health insurance billing is coming very soon...
    Anthem Acupuncture Rockland Maine Good Hearth   Cigna Acupuncture Rockland Maine Good Hearth

Eastern Medical Arts. What does that mean?

by Tobey Williamson, L.Ac.

Eastern Medical Arts. What does that mean?, Good Hearth in Rockland, Maine 

Actually, there is a lot behind this tagline. Let me explain... 

Consider first that the medicine of East Asia is as vast and varied as its landscapes.  For instance, there have been as many styles of acupuncture as there are villages in China. (there are more than a million of those by the way)  And that’s just ONE country among dozens that practice ancient techniques of natural healing that fit under the umbrella of East Asian or Oriental Medicine.  Since I practice a Japanese style of structural acupuncture (called Seitai Shinpo) and Traditional and Classical Chinese Medicine styles of herbalism here in Midcoast Maine, it made sense to have a word that encompasses these two Asian countries.  “Eastern” accomplishes this and it also fit with Rockland being on the eastern coast of the USA.  Furthermore, it distinguishes the medicine I practice from Western Medicine, which together work well to deliver holistic health and wellness.

Eastern Medicine (often called “Oriental” or “Traditional Chinese” Medicine) is a system of natural healthcare that views the body, mind, and spirit as an integrated whole.  The internal organs connect out to the limbs of our bodies in unlikely ways through muscle and connective tissue meridians.  Interestingly, these organs and meridians are sensitive to particular emotions; the liver and anger are linked, the heart and joy, the lungs and sadness, etc.  Digestion and mood interact powerfully and lead to particular patterns of health or imbalance.  Basically, how we eat, breathe, move, think, feel and live all paint a picture of our overall health.  For instance, if we have self-care relaxation methods that lead to stress relief; our bodies respond by digesting better, healing more quickly when we get sick or injured, and having abundant energy when we are well.

So, when I consider the question of whether medicine is an art or science, my first thought is that each patient is unique.  What flows directly from this understanding is that, as my patient your treatment is going to be tailored exactly for you. 

The tools in the toolbox of Eastern Medicine are also so varied that options for treatment can be matched directly to your needs.  If you are looking for pain management for a musculo-skeletal injury, Seitai Shinpo acupuncture might be combined with massage, a custom Traditional Chinese herbal formula, some movement therapy exercises, breathing practice, a dietary recommendation, and a suggestion for a lifestyle modification. Lyme Disease is another common concern here in Maine.  A typical course of therapy for Lyme would focus on moxibustion especially, and also acupuncture, dietary recommendations, Classical Chinese Herbal formulas, and techniques for stress relief / relaxation.

The intent of the treatment plan in the case of Lyme Disease would be building up your body’s natural immunity. The goal of the treatment plan in the case of pain management for a musculo-skeletal injury is to relax the soft tissue enough to allow the spine, pelvis and limbs to align properly restoring free blood and energy flow.  With just these two cases it already becomes clear that Eastern medicine is so flexible it needs to be considered an art.  That being said, never forget that its history is long and tested with the same empirical roots of the scientific method.  As acupuncturists, herbalists, and practitioners of Eastern Medical Arts, we choose particular natural healing techniques because they have been shown to work with similar cases in the past.

The real power at Good Hearth is that these two goals, spinal alignment and robust immune function, from two distinct treatment plans are at the core of treating each unique patient.  The fact is, a correctly aligned spine, a robust and balanced immune system, good nutrition and digestion, and a healthy outlook on life are known to be mutually supportive in holistic health, helping everyone to feel well. 

How we each get to that place of wellness from where we are is the fun and wonder of practicing the Eastern Medical Arts.

Tobey Williamson offers Acupuncture / Herbal Medicine / Immune Support in Rockland, Maine
While the weather has been chilling us down, Good Hearth has been warming people up and helping them to manage their pain with acupuncture, moxibustion, massage and Chinese herbal medicine in Rockland Maine.

 

Why Good Hearth?

by Tobey Williamson, L.Ac.

Why Good Hearth?, Good Hearth in Rockland, Maine

Good Hearth Eastern Medical Arts is not your average name for an acupuncture and herbal medicine clinic.  So, I would like to begin this blog (which aims to educate on the history, benefits, and modern integration of Eastern Medicine) by explaining my process for coming up with this name.  My hope is that it will help you decide to come visit and begin your process of determining if my practice is a good fit for you.

Moving from Hawaii to Maine at the end of the summer (really at the end of almost 5 years of endless summer), staying warm over the winter was at the top of my list.  Maintaining warmth through a long Maine winter is a major focus – and it’s what sets those of us who choose to live here year round apart from those who flee to warmer climes before the snow flies.  So, I wanted a name that evoked warmth.

An important part of my practice is the burning of an herb called Mugwort (Artemesia vulgaris) on the skin.  This is a skill called moxibustion – literally the burning of moxa, which is another name for the refined herb.  The amount and type of moxa I burn during an average treatment is one of the things that sets me apart from other practitioners.  For those of you who have experienced moxibustion, what I do is NOT the smoky, smelly “cigar” moxa stick held above the skin for penetrating heat. 

I like to say that Premium Gold Moxa is the fine wine or fine whiskey among moxa.  This is because it is so highly refined and then aged for 10 years before it leaves the factory in Japan.  It smells nice and warms my patients’ muscles and connective tissue, relaxing constrictions and easing pain.  Its purity and consistency allow me to burn it directly on the skin, with only a thin barrier of an herbal burn cream.  Since the skin is permeable, the oils and active biological components from the cream and moxa, pass through with the heat, entering the bloodstream.  You can read more here about Seitai Shinpo Japanese Structural Acupuncture and how the needles and moxibustion work together to improve the flow and quality of your blood.  So, I wanted a name that related to the core of moxibustion as I practice it, which is fire and nourishment. 

People have told me that one of my best qualities is my ability to listen carefully and carry on a conversation that gets to the heart of the matter.  It is the skill that helped me to be a mediator and a communicator in my previous work.  It is also the skill that allows me to work with my patients to determine the root of their illness and to navigate the inevitable challenges of setting a new and lasting pattern.  I was lucky enough to come from a home that encouraged the kind of truthful conversations I now find so invigorating.  So, I wanted a name that honored the safety of a good home – a place we can go to be ourselves, find our center, and recharge before returning again to the wider world to do our part.

Good Hearth. 

Once I settled on that, it just felt right. In my next post, I’ll explain my process for linking this name to the medicine with the tagline, Eastern Medical Arts.

Goodness.  Heart.  Earth.  Fire.  Warmth.  Real Conversation.  It is all here.  Please come visit.