(By Paolo Propato, LAc) Having suffered from life-long sinus issues, I found myself at age 24 sitting in a dark room in Florence, Italy as a heavy set man with a big mustache burned moxa cones. The room filled with the strange smell of mugwort smoke. My thought was, “I am paying this guy to help with my sinuses and he is making smoke.” After the session he was smiling and said, “I can help you. It may take some time and you have to do some dietary changes but I can help you.” I still don’t know why I made another appointment, but in the end it saved me from my doctor's push for surgery.
Fast forward to a few years later in Bucks County, when I found myself calling every acupuncturist in the tri-state area asking if I could hang out in their office. As fate would have it the only one kind enough to invite me in was close to home. Grace let me observe and eventually took me on as her assistant as I began to attend three years of grad school in northern New Jersey for acupuncture.
The nights studying, long car rides to school, odd jobs for extra cash-- although tiring and stressful, there was never a moment I thought of stopping. All I wanted was to go deeper into this medicine. The more I stood by Grace's side and watched patients heal, the more I was fueled to keep going. The smell of moxa, so strange years ago, had infused into my cells.
Certain moments stand out that have affected the way I practice. During my time at the student clinic in Montclair, NJ, I treated many cancer patients. CANCER: the word itself makes people shudder. Most of my classmates were much like myself, from lupus to colitis, they'd had some health issue and it was this medicine that had turned it around, inspiring them to study acupuncture. From my faith in their experiences and in Grace's clinic, I asked to take on these patients. I knew acupuncture could help, and it did.
I remember a patient of ours with cancer who did a tribal African dance for a classmate's baby shower.
(By Paolo Propoto, LAc) A few weeks ago I watched a documentary called Bill Murray Stories. A filmmaker travels the globe to find out the truth about urban legends surrounding Bill Murray. These stories revolve around him doing out-of-the-ordinary activities with common folk, like showing up at a frat party and washing their dishes, crashing a wedding, or working as a cashier at a gas station/bait shop in the middle of nowhere. These seemingly spontaneous acts are great examples of moving ourselves in ways that feel uncomfortable and out of routine, and brought to mind an important Daoist concept known as ziran 自然, which can be translated as "spontaneity" or "naturalness."
According to Daoist philosophy, the struggle to maintain ziran in one's life plays a role in the origin of pathology and disease. It's like a horse on a farm, saddled and fenced, versus the horse able to roam freely according to her nature. The longer she is subject to artificial restraints, the harder it is for her to rediscover her spontaneity were she allowed to roam free. If her nutritional, physical, mental and spiritual needs are met she may live a good ol’ life on the farm, but if she is locked up all day in solitude or overworked, pathology may ensue since these conditions are so far removed from her state of ziran.
If we follow this pathology back to its beginning--the horse no longer being free to roam--we will find what is called in Chinese medicine “Qi stagnation.” Knowingly or not, the family you were born into, the location and time period, the experiences as a child and throughout life shape your thoughts, create your actions, and become habits and lifestyle patterns, which in turn affect your mental and physical health.
In classical Chinese medicine, our bodies are not seen as separate from the phenomena of nature. The transitions between seasons tend to be the most unstable, vulnerable times for human beings, when annoying symptoms and remitted conditions are more likely to flare up or be slow to recover. In particular, the transitions from Yang-to-Yin (Spring/Summer to Fall/Winter) and Yin-to-Yang (Fall/Winter to Spring/Summer) are difficult times for our health, and therefore a great time to harmonize with an acupuncture tune-up.
(By Paolo Propato) Many people have been asking me if they should start a ketogenic diet. This diet is sparking interest and having many question what is best for their health. We have vegan, vegetarian, paleo, mediterranean... the list goes on. Each has positive aspects which helped certain people lose weight or overcome a health issue. Yet this does not mean a particular diet will necessarily work for you.
Someone that is anemic will not hear me advise to begin a vegan diet; nor would I prescribe a green juice fast to someone that been weakened by illness. Everything has its proper time and function.
In acupuncture we treat the individual pattern of a patient no matter what the symptom. If five people come in with back pain, different points will be used for each of them according to what is being seen through the pulses and palpation. We may also needle points that are known empirically to be effective for a symptom. As in acupuncture, a healing diet needs to be tailored to individual needs.
In this beautifully written report, "Acupuncture: An Overview of Scientific Evidence," studies examining the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of acupuncture for a variety of medical conditions are meta-reviewed and summarized. Some findings:
* A 2013 network meta-analysis comparing physical treatments for osteoarthritis of the knee found that, when looking at high quality studies, acupuncture had the largest effect compared to usual care out of the conditions evaluated, out-performing exercise, sham acupuncture, and weight-loss.
* A 2015 network meta-analysis comparing treatments in addition to exercise for shoulder impingement syndrome found that acupuncture was the most effective adjunctive treatment out of 17 interventions, outperforming all other adjuncts such as steroid injection, NSAIDs, and ultrasound therapy.
* A 2016 comparison of 20 treatments for sciatica ranked acupuncture as 2nd most effective after the use of biological agents, outperforming manipulation, epidurals, disc surgery, opioids, exercise, and an invasive procedure called radiofrequency denervation, which came in last
* In 2018, a network-meta-analysis found that acupuncture was more effective than drugs for treating chronic constipation and with the fewest side-effects.