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Articles by Jim Martin, LAc
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Articles by Jim Martin, LAc
Chronic pain is a life altering condition for millions of Americans. Conventional medical treatment has been pain killing medications, followed by stronger meds, then stronger, and so on, until the frustrated sufferer is addicted and/or taken off the drugs by the prescribing doctor, either way leaving the patient in a world of hurt. Most of us have read recently about unscrupulous doctors earning millions of dollars intentionally over prescribing narcotics to helpless victims, and the record number of overdose deaths from people who have, in desperation, turned to heroin when cut off from their prescription pain pills. The good news is that the state of Oregon has taken action to correct this disastrous situation: chronic pain patients are now being referred directly to acupuncture. A network of statewide agencies have developed a system for providing this safe, effective treatment through Medicaid insurance coverage.
Pain in many forms continues to be the primary condition I see on a day to day basis.
Whether in Scappoose and St Helens or Hillsboro, patients with two types of injuries are showing up in greater numbers recently: traumatic impact, and repetitive motion/overuse.
The traumatic injury cases involve sports, falls and vehicle accidents. Overuse cases are the result of either physically demanding manual labor or sedentary computer work with keyboard and mouse. These is an old saying “death by a thousand cuts” referring to a slow, progressive process with the same result as an intense, rapid swing of the sword. Similarly, daily accumulation of minor traumas at the desk or assembly table results in major pain and often disability. As such, similar techniques and products are used to treat all of these conditions.
Some real cases will help to illustrate this process.
Ryan lived on the wild side a professional snowboarder and skateboarder, accumulating a shopping list of fractures, dislocations and lesser injuries resulting in severe pain and limited ability to perform his construction job. Adam has a history of falls and vehicle accidents, living on methadone and struggling to put the chronic back pain out of his mind. Jane was run over by a truck resulting in body and brain injury. Kim and Alicia suffered disabling head injuries when hit in the head by a cow and clothing rack, respectively.
Others experience severe pain resulting from day to day work. Miss Tran assembles components in electronic equipment. Despite her ever increasing arm pain resulting from performing the same movements of lifting and use of electric screwdriver, her manager won’t allow workers to periodically change tasks, so the problem persists and worsens for her as well as her co-workers. Silvia works for a cleaning service operating a heavy vacuum cleaner on office floors, day after day. She also suffers disabling arm pain from the repeated push and pull action on the machine. Other women develop similar problems in the arms and shoulders from sorting and delivering mail and lifting sterilized medical equipment onto high shelves. Brent does tile work, often kneeling long hours on the floor or bent over a kitchen counter, while Steven and many others spend long hours typing and computing, resulting in life altering neck, shoulder and arm stiffness and pain, worsening over months and years.
So, what do all these people have in common? All chose to try acupuncture, and all are feeling better as the result. Treatments very, of course, but most received acupuncture and ‘gua sha’ where a spoon is used to rub the skin, removing waste material and improving circulation, and far-infrared heat therapy. Several patients also included Chinese herbs to improve their outcomes.
If you are tired of unending courses of drugs and being told that you will just have to get used to it, consider acupuncture as a safe effective treatment option.
Neck, shoulder and arm pain is one of the most common conditions seen by acupuncturists, at least in my offices. In Columbia County these problems often tend to result from automobile or work related accidents, sports injuries and osteo-arthritis. In Hillsboro, where I get many workmen’s comp referrals from Intel, they frequently result from the hi tech work environment. Since many Columbia County residents commute to high tech jobs in Hillsboro and Beaverton, this problem can plague local folks as well.
Upper body problems suffered by high tech engineers, managers and others manifest the same symptoms as problems experienced by workers in more physically demanding professions such as carpenters and carpet or tile installers, where day in and day out repeated movements eventually lead to potentially disabling pain and reduced flexibility. The IT professionals, however, while not exposed to heavy lifting or dangerous physically demanding activities, seem to me to live and work in a sort of perfect storm of conditions for developing disabling symptoms.
Most of these patients report a very similar work day experience. Often confined to a cubicle, they sit for hours on end hunched over their desk, neck projecting forward and chest compressed, glaring onto a screen, clicking and surfing with keyboard and mouse. While supposedly required to take periodic breaks, they typically ignore the messages and plow ahead with their current project. They claim that they are just too busy and on deadline. Lastly, to this package of poor posture, repetitive movements, no breaks or stretching tight muscles, add tremendous stress. Time stress, performance stress, interpersonal relationships and so on. Who is going to be fired in this week’s round of job cuts?
Put all this together and we have stiff, tight, sore necks, shoulders and upper backs, headaches, aching hands, joints and muscles, insomnia and more.
Chinese medicine to the rescue! Acupuncturists offer much more than just pain killers, muscle relaxers and anti-depressants. Needles, herbs supplements, infra-red heat, ‘gua sha’ and cupping and magnets can work together to effectively reduce pain and tension, relieve stress and improve sleep disodrders, improving lives for overworked high tech workers suffering from the Intel Syndrome.
It’s that time of year again: People making and breaking resolutions, often around health issues. As I’ve made it through another year without getting sick I’m simply sticking with the same program that is working and strive to maintain course. This is a stress free approach and reducing stress is high on my list of health saving activities. Stress depletes immunity resulting in more illness, increases inflammation resulting in more pain, reduces fertility resulting in problems for young parents, impairs physical performance for athletes, impairs memory resulting in embarrassment when you meet a friend on the street and can’t remember their name. I use an herbal supplement to reduce the damaging effects of stress at the cellular level. Another aspect of this is watching TV news. I like to keep up on what’s happening around the world, but the media is saturated with negative images and ideas. I strive to maintain a shield behind which I note events but repel the damaging emotional content. Watch, take note but don’t absorb. This is like the process taking place in deep REM sleep where we filter out the garbage and absorb the useful information. The mindfulness meditation I’ve done for 40 years helps develop this state of being. People with PTSD and other conditions have lost the ability to filter.
How we react to events is also critical. I got ripped off for thousands of dollars this year. How to respond to this unfortunate event was my choice. Freak out, get angry, break stuff? I chose to note the good things in my life and be thankful it wasn’t demolished by storms, fire, war or violence. Manifest gratitude for all the good stuff.
My short term goal is to stay well, avoiding seasonal illnesses. Flu is very bad this year and shots do not seem to be helping much. I personally choose to avoid them, and believe herbs to enhance immunity are another important tool in staying on my feet. The twenty year plan is to remain well for the long term with supplements including antioxidants to protect tissue, adaptogens for stress, CoQ-10 and garlic for heart, enzymes to digest dead tissue and plaque, Vitamin D for many benefits and superfoods to provide optimal nutrition, which form the core of my daily regimen.
Here’s to a Happy, Healthy, Prosperous 2018
Jim Martin, LAc
In past Connexions I have written articles about personal health and some fascinating individuals involved in healing work around the world. As the snows melt in the mountains and flowers pop up everywhere, a story comes to mind that took place in a distant mountain valley one May many years ago. It is a rather unusual story about the healing of a community.
The well worn wood sign to the side of the road read “On this very spot Jim Corbett killed the man eating leopard of Rudra Pryag”. Decades had passed since the splendid and glorious days of Kipling, wealthy maharajas and heroic big game hunters, but none the less the feeling of excitement and adventure was intense as we made our way slowly up the narrow winding mountain road through forest, terraced fields and tiny villages. We were on pilgrimage to the holy shrine at Badrinath, one of the most sacred sites in the Indian Himalayas. Thousands of pilgrims from all over India were focused on an ancient stone temple located in a village straddling the banks of the Ganges River near the source of the Alakananda fork at over ten thousand feet elevation in the mountains. The Himalayas, meaning ‘abode of the snows’ in Sanskrit, are the world’s highest mountains and, in my experience, the most magical and sacred.
The pilgrimage is an important aspect of the religious experience for people in different traditions all around the world. Moslems make a one time journey to Mecca, Christians trace Christ’s steps along the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, Basho is famous for his Haiku poetry written during his travels as a Buddhist monk in northern Japan, and I stumbled through the Brazilian mountains in the black of night with a group of drunken students en route to a shrine commemorating the appearance of some holy person in the Catholic religion. In India, however, the pilgrimage seems to be more a part of the daily lives of many people in some way, whether feeding wandering holy men called sadhus who spend their lives journeying from one festival or temple to another, making an occasional pilgrimage themselves or renouncing the material world and becoming ascetics and wanderers themselves. After several years on the road in search of the magical and wonderful, I often felt like a full time pilgrim myself, and on the way to Badrinath I was truly in my element.
Pilgrims from near and far first concentrate in the cites of Haridwar and Rishikesh, where the Ganges exits the Himalayan foothills, before beginning their three hundred kilometer ascent to Badrinath. ‘Rishikesh’, meaning ‘city of the rishis’, or holy men, entered our shared cultural consciousness in the 1960’s when the Beatles and Mia Farrow traveled there to meditate with the Maharishi (great rishi) Mahesh Yogi. For centuries it has been a gathering place for pilgrims en route to the temples at Kedarnath, Gangotri and Hemkund in the fabled Valley of Flowers in addition to Badrinath. Here the streets are filled with sadhus, most barefoot, dressed in the traditional orange cotton robes, carrying a few possessions including coconut shell begging bowl or metal pot, and sometimes walking stick, stool, or musical instrument.
Somewhere along the way I paired up with a young sadhu from the south who had been walking north for months. His feet were thickly calloused from countless miles on hot pavement, but I recall giving him a pair of rubber boots I had bought but could not fit into, as they were size eight, the largest in the town, while I wear a ten or eleven. Seeing him again somewhere months later still wearing the boots but without the blanket I gave him left me feeling both pleased and disappointed, as he obviously needed the extra warmth but had apparently given the blanket away to another traveler.
Details of the journey now escape me, with the exception of the leopard sign, until reaching my destination late one cold and windy night. I passed a night reminiscent of Jack London’s story “To Build A Fire” in which melting snow from an overhead branch drops onto his tiny campfire, ensuring his death by freezing in the remote arctic wilderness. Unable to find any lodging or shelter, I reluctantly broke into a tiny hut used by souvenir vendors later during the busy tourist season. Finding three matches in the rubble, I held out great hope for starting a fire to ward off the biting cold wind howling down from the glaciers higher up the valley. First match sputter… fizzle… poof. Second match… sputter… dud. Third match last chance tension mounts……..sputter…… and out. I continued to ponder the ‘what ifs’ ‘if onlys’ as I settled down for the night on a large slab of rock, the only flat surface I could locate in the dark, serenaded by an incessant clanging sound which daylight revealed to be a piece of sheet metal banging against rocks in the river beside me.
Entering the village the next morning just after daybreak I went to the temple, meeting Sri Karan Das Baba, an ex-police officer and now the resident caretaker and yogi. He was most impressive to behold, with long matted hair, strands of beads around his neck and holding a copy of the Bok of Manu, said to be the oldest written book inexistence. I enjoyed a soak in the natural hot pools as he explained that the snow that had buried the town for six months had just melted and no supplies had yet arrived from the outside. As such, he could offer me a cup of tea and bowl foul tasting brown powdered stuff, but then I must leave the village. I could return later in the season with other pilgrims when food was available. Walking back over the bridge that afternoon I felt just like the bad guy in a Western movie ordered by the sheriff to get out of town by sunset. I resolved to return later, and in fact did, when I encountered the vampire of Joshimat and the floating Lebanese couple, but that story will have to wait until a later time.
Jim Martin, LAc
Magnetism and Healing
Another Ancient Healing Modality Comes of Age
Jim Martin, L. Ac, Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM)
Like acupuncture, magnetic therapies can be traced to ancient times but are currently experiencing dramatic growth worldwide due to therapeutic benefit and cost effectiveness. As new products enter the market, we are faced with a wide range of choices and confusion regarding relative benefits.
The medical use of magnets is traced back 100,000 years to magnetite mines in Africa. In ancient European, Middle Eastern and oriental cultures great doctors and philosophers including Paracelas, Aristotle and Galen examined magnets in healing, while the Chinese investigated effects of the earth’s magnetic field. As science evolved through the seventeenth century, Gilbert and Mesmer published research but, as is typical of science and medicine throughout history, their work was ridiculed and ignored. In fact, the term ‘Mesmerizing’ came into use at this time in reference to fraudulent, unscientific phenomena. Nonetheless, research continued over the next two centuries. A major setback occurred in the 1920s when researchers at the prestigious Edison Laboratories and later Rosenberg claimed that no healing benefits to magnetic fields could be found. This became the prevailing medical opinion of the time. Research continued in the 1930s and 40s, however, indicating that subjective symptoms of pain, as well as inflammation, responded positively, and that magnetism functions primarily on the autonomic nervous system.
Much of the more recent research on healing applications of magnetism has been performed by the Japanese, millions of whom today use magnets on a daily basis. One major discovery is the concept of the ‘Magnetic Field Deficiency Syndrome’ by Nakagawa. He maintains that any changes in the earth’s magnetic field will negatively impact the human body and function. Specifically, a 50 percent decrease in the magnetic field strength over the last 500 years has been measured, with a predicted reduction to zero within the next 2000 years if the trend continues. This loss, combined with the field reducing effects of steel framed buildings and vehicles, has resulted in a variety of disorders including neck and shoulder tension, headaches, lassitude, chest pains, lumbago, insomnia and constipation. The solution is to apply a magnetic field to the body to correct the imbalance and alleviate symptoms. As most of my patients report these problems, magnetic therapy has been a component of my treatment programs for over ten years.
Magnets for pain? Constipation? Insomnia? “Oh, sure. And sell me some property in the swamp while you’re at it.” Such responses from the uninformed people are not surprising, so it is fortunate that sound scientific theory exists to support the benefits reported by many recipients of magnetic therapies.
Decades of research has proven that electromotive force (EMF) is generated in the body by an external magnetic field. This EMF creates currents which cause dissociation of body fluid which acts on the human body as stress. In other words, the magnetic field converts motion energy of body fluid to electricity which in turn creates beneficial therapeutic effects. Other factors include the Hall Effect of Faraday’s Law that explains how movements of charged particles in blood dilate the vessels and promote increased flow to injured tissues. This enhanced circulation appears to be the bottom line in many therapies including massage, heat lamps, hot water ands liniments. Promoting blood flow to problem areas increases levels of glucose, nutrients and oxygen while eliminating toxins and waste products, thus enhancing healing.
Healing magnets fall into two categories. Electromagnets involve fluctuating fields and are generally used in a series of short applications. Acupuncturists commonly use small diameter permanent bipolar magnets in various forms. The north pole disperses excesses like inflammation, swelling, bacterial growth and pain, while the south pole is warming. More complex magnets composed of various metals in the form of disks and pellets may be employed in combinations and locations depending on diagnosis and symptoms.
A state of the art form of magnet is composed of multiple alternating poles arranged to optimize circulation and healing. This flat, flexible material can be formed into devices specific to different body areas. They may be worn indefinitely, retain field strength, and are cost effective. These products are popular with ordinary people as well as Olympic and professional athletes including NFL and NBA football and basketball players whose livelihoods depend on prevention and fast healing of injuries.
Recently, far infrared (FIR) materials, capable of benefits such as stimulating tissue growth and DNA replication have been combined with magnets to enhance therapeutic effects.
Who, then, will benefit from magnetic therapy? I have seen, for example, a stiff old man able to bend over and touch the floor after less than an hour, and a woman free of pain over night after five years suffering following a car accident. I recommend magnets to anyone with muscular pains, circulatory disorders and slow healing injuries, for starters. I have magnets in my shoes and bed, and drink magnetized water, and I believe every American can benefit from doing the same.
Jim Martin, LAc