<![CDATA[Bridge Acupuncture - Gentle and effective acupuncture in Doylestown, Bucks County PA - Blog]]>Mon, 26 Sep 2022 14:25:26 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Acupuncture and Yin-Yang Theory]]>Mon, 26 Sep 2022 15:12:47 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/acupuncture-and-yin-yang-theoryPicture
(By Misook Lee, LAc) When I was a young mother of two sons, I always struggled with some illness. One day, I read a book titled What is Yin Yang? written by traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctors. It was an eye-opening moment for me and I think it was when my medicine studies first began.

The word Yin-Yang consists of the two Chinese characters Yin 陰 and Yang 陽. The character Yin represents the shade of a hill which is a hidden, dark and cool condition. The other character Yang indicates the sunny side of a hill which is an open, bright, and warm space. However, the concept of the Yin and Yang is not about static and opposite contrasts, but it is focused on the dynamics of a changing condition as time passes. In the morning, the sun rises in the East and the sunny side of the hill is the East side. However, in the evening, the East side of the hill becomes shady and the sun shines on the West side. As a result, the Yin and Yang side of the hill is constantly changing over time. The hill is always there, but the phases of the hill can be changeable. This is the basis of the traditional East Asian viewpoint of the world: everything is constantly changing.


According to another traditional East Asian perspective, Human beings are in between Heaven and Earth and the sun stays above in the heaven, continuously moving and giving intangible Yang energy to all living things in the world. On the other hand, the flat earth always stays still and provides tangible Yin material sources to life.

There is a saying “Every flow has its ebb.” Every month, the moon changes from full moon to a new moon. When there is a full moon, it is the brightest condition of the moon, but it is also the beginning of the moon phase’s decline, too. In the same manner, we can say a single day consists of dark night and bright day time but since the change of the brightness is like a smooth sine curve, we usually do not notice the dynamics.

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The famous image of Tai Chi shows the relationship between Yin and Yang very well. Yin (black) and Yang (white) lean against each other and make a smooth S curve. Inside of the Yin (black) there is a Yang (white) component, and vice versa. Therefore, Yin and Yang look like opposite sides, but they are interdependent, inter-transformative and also mutually consuming.

After learning Yin-Yang theory, I saw the world in a different manner. I tried to see everything in a Yin-Yang way. I thought about the possibility of change when everything looked stagnant. I happily persevered when bad things happened. I could find how to be calm even when good news came to me.

According to TCM theory, disease is a condition that occurs when our body is out of balance. Acupuncture is a great modality to help to regain our balance. When we treat patients, we treat them according to Yin-Yang methods: we treat the front side and back side of the body. We treat using both moxa (heat, light, superficial) and needles (cool, substantial, deep). We use tonification and sedation methods as needed. The effect of acupuncture appears right away or sometimes gradually with more treatments.

However, when I see patients who suffer from physical pain or mental stress, I want to help them regain their balance. I want to support and offer solace to them that comes with the knowledge of life’s ability to transform. I want to say to them: “You can make a change, and let us do it together!”

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<![CDATA[Looking Back: A Message from Bridge Founder Grace Rollins]]>Wed, 07 Sep 2022 18:11:18 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/looking-back-a-message-from-bridge-founder-grace-rollinsPicture
I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the milestone we have hit this year as a practice, and remark on its significance to me personally. I have a natural inclination to keep my cards close to my chest, but I have come to realize that in my current role, to share a little of my own trajectory can sometimes serve as a source of inspiration.

To put it bluntly, I come out of a difficult, unhealthy family background. My parents had a bitter divorce when I was six, and my siblings and I suffered from extensive psychological abuse as small children. My father voluntarily ceased to be part of my life from the time I was eleven. From that time on, I grew up amid financial instability, substance abuse, and increasingly, the mental and physical illness of my family members. Eventually, those closest to me were all in significant distress and either self-medicating or on medication. The wave of un-wellness threatened to pull me under, too.

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The key thread right now is that of looking back on how far I’ve come. I don’t identify myself by my traumas and struggles, but rather, by the ways I’ve overcome them. Though I take nothing for granted, I can in this moment say with confidence that at age 43, I’m the healthiest and fittest I’ve been in my life, and the most emotionally centered. I’ve financed myself through graduate-level education, I’ve grown a small business that supports my own livelihood and those of several employees, and last year, I was able to buy and renovate a dream space for the practice. These would all be fine accomplishments no matter what, but I feel proud given the circumstances I emerged from.

No doubt, I’ve had many lucky breaks and many privileges, some of them stories for another time. One of the key privileges I will name has been the support of this community. I feel immensely grateful, a little tearful, to bring it up. This goes out to all of you, from those first “legacy” patients who came over ten years ago to my first Doylestown office (Broad Street, anyone?), to those who braved the pandemic to continue receiving care, to those who mustered the trust to come out for a first treatment just last week. And everyone in between!

I’ll also name one of the lucky breaks—the day I got a call from a guy named Paolo, who was trying to find an unpaid acupuncture internship. Some of you already know the story… Paolo ended up working at my side the entire three years he was in graduate school, and then came on as an acupuncturist at Bridge. This summer marks ten years of our working together! After so many years, Paolo remains my brother, my accomplice, and for all of his unique qualities, my teacher. Without a doubt he has made the spirit of Bridge what it is today, and I’m so grateful.

There are many others for me to thank. My partner Eric of nearly fifteen years, my incredible acupuncture teachers and mentors, our awesome support staff members, the contractors who helped rebuild our amazing space, and now, the talented new acupuncturists we added during our expansion, Misook Lee and Brian Yang. How lucky I feel to have the support of these people in my life, and to have come this far.

I see our mission here at Bridge Acupuncture as helping others overcome their perceived limitations. This can mean helping someone find new hope in healing from a difficult, perhaps "incurable" situation. This could also mean helping someone find a path to changing their supposed genetic destiny (whether physical, psychological or spiritual).

​We all have the power to transform ourselves, to heal, to change our karma. It’s amazing what we can do when our true nature is allowed to thrive.

With much love and appreciation,
Grace Rollins, MS, LAc

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<![CDATA[Honeysuckle & Chamomile]]>Mon, 22 Aug 2022 15:34:28 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/honeysuckle-chamomilePicture
(By Paolo Propato, LAc) Those who read my blog posts know that they are mostly about self reflection. During the past couple of years I have been immersed in training for my certification in Chinese herbology, which has given me lots to reflect on.

A few years ago I planted a honeysuckle vine in my back yard. People told me it was a stupid idea due to its invasive nature but there is something about honeysuckles that makes me smile. Especially on a clear night with a bright moon, with the window open, when out of nowhere her fragrance fills the kitchen and everyone instantly smiles and someone says, “Did you smell that?” It's like a friend that shows up at your front door and you're grateful that they took the time to stop by.

I don't pick the honeysuckle, although it is a very useful medicinal in East Asian medicine that is great for viral infections, fevers, skin problems and other issues. Below the honeysuckle, my wife planted chamomile, which this year finally started to take. My son and I often go out and pick the tender blossoms in the mornings.

As I sit out there at night to look up at the stars and catch a whiff of the flowers, I think about the relationship between the honeysuckle above, and the chamomile below.

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I imagine the chamomile looking up at the honeysuckle and wondering, “How is she going up so fast and so high, opening herself to the moonlight, attracting the world with her scent, and here I am low and in the dirt.” Or the honeysuckle saying, “Here I am, climbing up so high I can reach the door, giving my scent, and yet this family does not pick me for medicine. Instead they walk down the steps and pick the chamomile to bring inside.”

The truth is, they are both without the burden of losing who they are. They react to what is around them-- water, soil quality, etc-- but no matter what, they never lose their essence of moving towards flowering and allowing life to fully express itself through them.

We are no different. Our families and environmental conditions are the soil and air qualities, but you still always hold the essence of who you are.

We see in herbal medicine that a particular herb may be used in a specific way in East Asia but a different way in Europe and even another in Native American medicine. That hints to the complexity of layers that a single herb may have, much as the same woman may be known as a beacon of safety to her young child, as a klutz to her friend and as a leader to her coworkers. Same person, different layers.

We are all on our own path, and all we must do is be, according to who we are, just like the honeysuckle and chamomile. This is what the art of medicine is at its core-- to help and assist fully who we are.

The gift of the acupuncture profession is seeing the patient flourish-- physically, mentally, spiritually.


As we approach the end of summer, please take a moment to smell the honeysuckles or whatever nature has in bloom at the moment. Take a moment to say thank you not only for the fragrance but also your body's ability to smell this gift. Then take a moment and follow the fragrance inside and say thank you to your body, your personality, your family, friends, even your enemies for providing the opportunity for life to manifest through you. See that you are a gift. Or maybe sit down with a cup of chamomile tea and reflect on your own observation about life. I would love to hear them.

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<![CDATA[Be friendlier to your health by avoiding the B.F.G.]]>Mon, 01 Aug 2022 16:12:04 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/be-friendlier-to-your-health-by-avoiding-the-bfgPicture
(By Brian Yang, LAc and Grace Rollins, LAc)  When seeking to recover from complex health issues, it's often worth looking at multiple ways to optimize the way the body is interacting with its environment. Sleep, physical activity, and nutrition are among the obvious ways to optimize and are always major priorities. Common chemical exposures is another, but as important as it is, this one doesn't always land on the radar. All the same, chemical exposures create a physiologic wild card, and many chemicals that are permitted to enter personal care products, foods and household goods have documented impacts on our health, even down to the expression of our DNA.

If the idea of this makes you want to throw up your hands at this toxic modern era, don't despair. There are many ways we can avoid unnecessary chemical exposures, once we are empowered with the knowledge of what, why and how. Here are three major ones found in consumer goods that you can place under consideration: Bisphenol-A, artificial "fragrance," and glyphosate. Clean out the not-so-friendly B.F.G., and you'll have drastically reduced your body's ongoing chemical burden. 

​BPA
Bisphenol-A, also known as BPA, is a chemical found in many plastics and resins. Consumers are mainly exposed to it in products like disposable plastic bottles, and in nearly all canned foods and beverages (BPA is usually in the epoxy resin lining of these cans). It was previously commonly found in baby bottles and various other baby products; however, the major producers of these products have largely eliminated it, due to the detrimental impact on the health of the infants.

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Research has shown that BPA affects our hormones, brain, and heart, and possibly increases the risk of cancer, including breast cancer. Thankfully, there are many ways to reduce exposure to BPA. For example, when shopping for different products, actively search for products that are labeled "BPA-free," something that is growing more commonplace as consumers demand this. Additionally, when buying groceries, try to pick fresh food and make your food from scratch, rather than buying pre-processed food encased in plastic or cans. Lastly, another effective way to avoid BPA is to use a non-plastic or a BPA-free refillable bottle, instead of purchasing plastic bottled water. Or, instead of canned or plastic-bottled beverages, buy beverages in glass bottles. 

"Fragrance"
The term "fragrance" can be somewhat misleading since it's both just a synonym in English for "scent" or "odor," but it's also a technical term for a common category of potent chemical additives. "Fragrance" in the chemical sense is commonly found in products like cologne and perfume, cleaning products, air fresheners and deodorizers, skin care products and makeup. Some individuals know themselves to be particularly sensitive to artificial fragrance and already avoid it. However, there are good reasons to avoid artificial fragrance for anyone interested in health optimization.

Currently, manufacturers in the US are not required to disclose the ingredients of "fragrance" as it appears on a consumer label. It is often a complex mixture of several dozen to several hundred different synthetic compounds. Studies have found that volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) that have been labeled as toxic or hazardous are commonly among these compounds. These VOCs can also combine with reactive molecules in the environment (like ozone) to produce even more dangerous carcinogens like formaldehyde and acetylaldehyde. Products containing fragrance are one of the most common sources of indoor air pollutants and the chemicals emitted are linked to migraine headache, contact dermatitis, asthma attacks and other respiratory difficulties, neurological problems and other health risks.

Pthalates are plasticizers commonly added to fragrance to create an extremely long-lasting effect. (If you ever notice a perfume that just won't come off, this might be the reason). Fragrance bound to pthalates are so prone to absorbing into the fatty structure of cells that it can be instantly absorbed by the skin as well as the nerves of your olfactory system, brain and the lining of your nose and mouth. From there, it can enter the bloodstream. Pthalate is a known endocrine (hormonal) disruptor. It can block hormones related to male sexual development, block or mimic estrogens, and can contribute to a variety of hormonal imbalances. (Anecdotally, some fertility clinic physicians have been said to refuse to treat patients who use fragranced products.) 

Thankfully, for every product out there that is full of chemical fragrance, there are many other non-fragrance options available. Seek natural scents like essential oils, opt for fragrance-free detergents and cleaning products, and keep other unnecessary chemicals out of your home, car and workspaces. (Though we're fond of the moxa smell here at Bridge, we are careful to only stay fragrance-free when it comes to our laundry and cleaning supplies!) 

Glyphosate
The final chemical in the B.F.G. to discuss is glyphosate. Although the name is difficult to recognize, the harmful impact is thoroughly researched, and many will be familiar with the brand-name herbicide that is the source of it: Round-Up. Hence, glyphosate is often used by homeowners and landscapers for lawn and garden care, as well as in commercial agriculture to control weeds around food crops. 

Research shows that glyphosate is a probable carcinogen, and it is already in the process of being phased out in the European Union. It may also have a harmful effect on our gut microbiome, while interfering with our endocrine system, our liver and kidneys. To limit exposure, buy organic foods as much as possible, even meat and dairy. Also, cooking at home allows you to see exactly what goes into the food you make.

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Your exposure to glyphosate can be increased based on proximity to farm herbicide drift, your use of products like Round-Up at home, or through consumption of conventionally grown (non-organic) food products such as produce, grains, non-organic meat, dairy and even farmed seafood. "GMO" (genetically modified) corn, wheat and soy are also well-known for being saturated by glyphosate as a common practice, since they have been genetically modified to withstand the effects of this herbicide. This can be a reason to reach for a product labeled "non-GMO," but being GMO-free does not guarantee freedom from herbicide exposure-- only the organic label means freedom from chemicals. 

Local food producers also often refrain from glyphosate usage even though they may not have organic certification. Visit your farmer's market and strike up a conversation with your farmers about it-- they'll be happy to share information about their best practices. 
 
Many garden centers and landscape companies nowadays can offer chemical-free weed management solutions. A chemical-free yard and garden is not only safer for people, kids and pets, it's also a breath of fresh air for insects and wildlife. 


In conclusion, while it's worth paying attention to our chemical exposures, try not to get too overwhelmed. When in doubt, just seek simplicity-- natural ingredients that you can recognize. It's amazing how quickly this little step can cut out the worst of it. Now that you know about the B.F.G. we hope you'll take a brain break and go read some Roald Dahl

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<![CDATA[Next Level Injury Care: Alternatives to Ice and "Vitamin I"]]>Fri, 24 Jun 2022 14:44:00 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/next-level-injury-care-alternatives-to-ice-and-vitamin-iPicture
Summer is a time of increased activity-- and we really hope you're getting out there and making the most of it! Being active is the best way to stay healthy, young and happy.

With increased activity comes the occasional trauma or repetitive strain. Many are familiar with the classic RICE protocol for injuries-- "rest, ice, compression and elevation." Often we observe patients instead practicing the "Double I" protocol-- "ice and ibuprofin." But is this truly the fastest way to get back in gear?

You may have heard us gently preach about ibuprofin and other NSAIDs once or twice before. The side effects of this class of drugs are not to be accepted casually: bleeding ulcers, tinnitus and hearing loss, and kidney damage are only the major ones. Some 100,000 people are hospitalized annually for NSAID-provoked GI issues alone, and some 16,500 of these patients actually die. On a sub-clinical level, these drugs have been shown to cause micro-lesions in the GI tract, contributing to such disorders as leaky gut, IBS and systemic inflammation.

Even worse, NSAIDs may not speed the healing of your injury at all. By interrupting your natural inflammatory response to tissue damage, which plays an important role in the early phases of healing, they may actually impede the normal arc of injury recovery.

You may have heard us gently preach about ibuprofin and other NSAIDs once or twice before. The side effects of this class of drugs are not to be accepted casually: bleeding ulcers, tinnitus and hearing loss, and kidney damage are only the major ones. Some 100,000 people are hospitalized annually for NSAID-provoked GI issues alone, and some 16,500 of these patients actually die. On a sub-clinical level, these drugs have been shown to cause micro-lesions in the GI tract, contributing to such disorders as leaky gut, IBS and systemic inflammation.

Even worse, NSAIDs may not speed the healing of your injury at all. By interrupting your natural inflammatory response to tissue damage, which plays an important role in the early phases of healing, they may actually impede the normal arc of injury recovery.

​Moving on to icing... this practice is so deeply embedded in today's culture that it's almost heresy to cast doubt on it, in spite of the abundant scientific evidence showing icing after injury can be detrimental to tissue healing. (See a pattern developing here?) In the East Asian tradition, cold is considered an impediment, and healthy blood flow something to promote in nearly all circumstances, including a fresh injury. Icing mainly has a use for helping to control conditions of severe swelling and where it's necessary to numb nerve endings to abate severe pain. (Cold exposure has a range of applications as a hormetic therapy, but this is different from the concept of icing acute injury.)
Instead of icing, as acupuncturists we are trained to use time-tested herbal formulas, some of them dating back many centuries to the early days of Shaolin martial artists. The herbs are selected to work synergistically and come in a wide variety of topical preparations-- soaks, poultices, salves and liniments. Formula actions include promoting natural blood and lymphatic flow, breaking up stagnant blood, calming pain, and stimulating tissue repair.

One of our most most-used products in this category is an artisan-produced version of one of the most popular sports medicine herbal formulas in the world, Zheng Gu Shui (translated as Evil Bone Water by our producer). This stuff is like "tiger balm" on steroids. The version we used is made using the highest grade herbs in a small-batch facility, and we just love the potency of it! We keep a bottle in all of our treatment rooms since it's a useful application for a wide variety of muscle, tendon and ligament pains and injuries of both "hot" and "cold nature"-- even arthritis. This formula has analgesic (pain reducing) properties but also blood moving and tissue regenerative herbs.

​In addition to herbal medicine, acupuncture, cupping, gua sha and moxibustion are brilliant for sports injury recovery. Whether you are a backyard frisbee thrower or a triathlete, consider us part of your first line of care if you get banged up this summer. We love being in your corner!
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<![CDATA[Put your mind in your feet]]>Sat, 30 Apr 2022 16:31:46 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/put-your-mind-in-your-feetPictureThe author on a recent hike
(By Grace Rollins, MS, LAc) As I write this it's the last day of April, but I only just learned this month is considered National Foot Health Awareness Month. Well, there are a few hours left in the month so it's not too late to draw attention to the importance of foot health. 

Why do foot issues impact us so much? First off, they impact our mobility. If your foot hurts, it can be really hard to exercise or do the daily walking we know is vital for our health. Since so much about our health depends upon physical activity, a foot injury or repetitive strain can create snowball effects. 

Secondly, the health of our feet impacts our entire musculoskeletal system. The key word here is system. Our bones, joints and muscles work together in a coordinated fashion, and no one part is separate from the movement and functioning of the whole. In particular, the way we use the many joints and muscles of our feet (or the way we don't use them) has ramifications all the way up your anatomy chains. Your feet alone have 33 joints, 26 bones, and more than a hundred muscles, tendons and ligaments. Why would nature design us with so many tiny joints and muscles in the foot? If you guessed to serve as an active, intelligent interface between the body and the terrain, you win! (The prize is a barefoot walk across the yard.) When such a complex structure loses mobility, strength, sensory input, tissue integrity, or becomes inhibited by pain and deformity, it changes the way we interact with the terrain and impacts the body from toe to head. 

A third reason foot health impacts us so much is that feet are 
sensitive, yo! 

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They are full of nerve endings that relate to pain, temperature, pressure and proprioception (the sense of how we are oriented in space). The body relies heavily on sensory input from the feet for its sense of balance and feedback on its position in space.

Just think of the athlete, or the average person trying to avoid a trip and fall. The more sensory input from the feet, the more information about the terrain and environment is reaching the brain so it can make the best possible decisions about how to move.

Furthermore, our brain suffers disproportionately from any pain that strikes us in the feet. That nagging pain in your shoulder, you might be able to ignore. That nagging pain in your heel? It reminds you with every single step. 

A tale of two feet

Our hero starts off in this world with a perfect, foot-shaped foot and all they want to do is play and run around barefoot. Soon however they are seduced by the shoes their parents buy with the sparkles and dinosaurs. Not to mention it's what all the big kids are wearing. 

All the grown-ups seem to be in agreement that the foot needs to be protected and supported (in spite of a long history of humans surviving indeed, colonizing the entire globe, in minimal footwear-- sandals, moccasins and au natural). Following the trends of the time, our hero's two feet come of age inside of padded, restrictive and slightly heeled shoes. As such they rarely get to bend and flex through all their 33 joints, so they start to get stiff. The muscles fail to develop within a full range of motion so never strengthen to their full potential. The tendons lay down less collagen as a result. The toes start to crowd together into the shape of the shoe. The heel of the shoe throws off the weight distribution into the forefoot, causing the toes to curl and bend. 

As the years go on, our hero's encased feet grow ever weaker. The atrophied arches grow painful with exertion and micro-tears form in the plantar tendon (leading to a diagnosis of plantar fasciitis). Bunions start to form as poorly distributed weight and dysfunctional gait patterns cause gradual micro-trauma to the joints.

To "protect" the foot, perhaps thinking they are addressing the root issue of all this pain, our hero follows widespread advice to use arch supports, ever more padding, and customized orthotics. They opt for "orthopedic," "healthy" shoe brands that put the foot in a stiff, cushioned mold. Unfortunately, all of this "protection" further immobilizes and therefore perpetually weakens the foot, never allowing it to rebuild muscular strength, tissue integrity and the ability to absorb its own shocks. It also further dampens the remaining sensory input from the environment and impedes blood flow, yet again weakening the tissues.

Our hero starts to opt for flatter, easier terrain to reduce the strain, and sometimes has to avoid more extensive walking and weight-bearing exercise, again failing to expose the foot (and the entire body) to strengthening opportunities. Between all of the shock-absorbing padding and the disinclination to walking, our hero's entire skeleton lacks the kind of normal weight-bearing stress so important for preventing future osteoporosis.

Even with all of the above weakness, atrophy and sensory impediment going on, our hero is tragically of the fashion-oriented persuasion and indulges regularly in the masochistic thrill of footwear with elevated heels, pointed toes, slides and platforms. After a recent bender in these shoes they are down for the count and begging the podiatrist for a steroid shot (which again, weakens the tissues), or even worse, a bunionectomy surgery, which forever renders their great toe inflexible.

Our hero starts to suffer from chronic, one-sided muscular pain in the hip and sacroiliac joint, poor circulation, neck tension and headaches. They go to see an acupuncturist to see if they can get some relief. To their great surprise the acupuncturist asks, "Have you ever considered strengthening your feet?" 

PictureTocantins, Brazil
Solid steps toward foot health
Hopefully the above story illustrates the road many people have traveled, and why foot problems are common and challenging. In addition to all of those foot-weakening trends, there's the occasional acute trauma to the foot that can be hard to heal. This is actually what landed foot health more squarely on my own radar.

​With naturally slender, high-arched feet I was prone to arch pain from a young age. I instinctually eschewed "heels" and felt more comfortable in shoes like Tevas, Birkenstocks, Adidas, New Balance, Tims, and eventually Merrills, Chaco sandals, and the fancier Naot and Naturalista shoes-- all shoes with somewhat wider toe boxes but that are still quite stiff, padded, heavy, and feature a heel rise and arch support. Even with a closet full of these "healthier" shoes I often suffered from sore feet and arch pain. 

Then, several years ago I broke the sesamoid bone on my left foot while practicing martial arts. This is kind of like breaking your kneecap, but on the underside of the ball of your foot. Now I had a crisis. The podiatrist told me the only thing I could do was have the bone fragments surgically removed. 

Unsatisfied with this advice, I continued to research and experiment, while treating the foot with acupuncture and moxa to control the pain and swelling. At a certain point I came across the work of Katy Bowman, in the form of one of her earliest books on foot health which is no longer in print (she has a great revised version called Simple Steps to Foot Pain Relief-- check it out!). I also found out about Correct Toes (a type of toe spreader I love for stretching the foot bones back into a better alignment), and, minimalist shoes.

PictureCatskills mountain range, NY (hiked in Luna sandals)
The key attributes of foot-strengthening footwear:

FLEXIBLE.
The more flexibility it has, the more movement it allows to the 33 joints and all the adjoining muscles, tendons and ligaments. If you have foot joints that are too weak for now, opt for a stiffer shoe-- otherwise go for mobility!

FOOT-SHAPED LAST AND TOEBOX. This means widest over the tips of the toes, not just at the ball of the foot then tapering to a midline point (as most shoes do). If you stand over the insole, do your toes flop out over the edges or do they actually fit?

FLAT. Any amount of heel elevation, even less than a centimeter, throws extra weight into the forefoot, shortens the calf muscles, and contributes to a variety of unnecessary stresses throughout the foot and body. If your feet feel uncomfortable or weird in flat shoes, it means you need a daily calf-stretching regimen. (We have half-moons for sale in the apothecary, or you can use a rolled-up yoga mat or towel.)

LIGHTWEIGHT AND HEEL-STRAPPED. If your footwear is heavy or you need to clench your toes constantly to keep it from sliding off, it changes the way your foot muscles work so you can't have a normal biomechanically healthy walking pattern. (This rules out slides and flip-flops except for short distances.)

As I transitioned to minimalist footwear I wasn't instantly doing barefoot trail running, but this combination of footwear features enabled me to gradually strengthen and realign my foot in order to take excessive strain off of the ball of the foot and allow it to heal. I was able to resume my active life without needing surgery.


Soon, as my feet grew stronger and better adapted to the environment, I found I could no longer tolerate restrictive, conventional footwear. To wear them would send me back into pain pretty quickly! Ironically, the less supportive the shoe, the less pain I seemed to have. It required some gradual conditioning, but about ten years later I'm now at the point that I can hike or trail run for several miles in extremely minimal sandals and it feels way better to me than a padded running shoe or protective boot. 

These days I opt whenever possible for minimalist sandals like BedrockLuna or Earthrunners, and for just about everything else I wear VivobarefootMagical Shoes, or Wildling shoes. (No affiliate links here folks, just sharing what I love). There are many other great brands out there, and more each year. See our Resources page for more links.

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<![CDATA[Awareness means awareness]]>Tue, 19 Apr 2022 07:00:00 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/awareness-means-awarenessPicture
(By Paolo Propato, LAc) My son likes to call the body the “meat suit” that just takes cues from the brain, helping it get from point A to point B. Instead, I like to think of the body as the most highly sophisticated antenna in existence, transmitting and receiving all types of information that connects us to the world. Our unconscious mind listens to this all the time, but sometimes we need to fine-tune the conscious mind to listen better. 

For instance, take the very ground you walk on. Whether you are walking on soft moss, asphalt, tiles, pebbles… these all have a different effect on your joint angles and motor function, your vestibular sense, even your emotions. The body even senses electron exchange with the earth, if we permit it to have direct contact through our skin to conductive surfaces like soil and water. The sound and vibration of our foot falls, the temperature of the ground, the pain or pleasure of certain pressures and stretches on the foot, different types of footwear… it’s a never-ending exchange of information with your entire body, if you tune in and listen, and your body can learn and adapt from this information. I was told by one of my acupuncture teachers that in Japan, stroke patients are sometimes told to walk barefoot on a rocky beach as part of their rehabilitation. 

To take another example: our emotional environment. Our very thoughts affect the functioning of the body, and just think of all the things that influence our thoughts on a daily basis! 

Depending on whom you’re spending time with, you may feel more joyous, more stiff, relaxed, guarded… all with different impacts on your physiology. Maybe that news program or violent, suspenseful show affected the quality of your sleep, which the next day affected your hormones, your exercise and eating choices, and even your self-esteem. This principle extends even to the habits of your inner monologue. We all know if you are anxious, your entire body feels different than when you are excited, or when you are in love. It’s all information you can pick up on, if you can be mindful of it. 

One of the beauties of acupuncture is that it doesn’t add anything– it just communicates with the body’s own intelligence, helping it find a better way to organize by giving a hint here and there. The same thing goes with other “suggestions” one can receive from the environment. What is your contact with the ground, or your emotional environment, or any other information telling you right now? Are you giving too much of yourself? Are you not moving your body enough, or in some cases too much? Are you relaxing? Having time in nature or with activities you enjoy? Are you eating what your body truly needs? These are not questions of judgment, but questions sometimes your body already knows the answer to, if you can find a way to tune in and listen. 

Once I heard a story of a traveler who journeyed to meet a master that lived as a hermit on a mountaintop. When the traveler finally arrived he found the master sitting under the shade of a tree. The man humbly walked over and said, “Master, I have traveled a long way to be here. Can you give me any guidance for my life?” The master looked up at the man and with his finger wrote in the dirt: “Awareness.” 

The traveler reads the word and a bit puzzled asks, “What does that mean?” The master just wrote, “Awareness means awareness.” 

The traveler was frustrated to have come all this way for such a simple message. “I came a long way. Surely you can elaborate a bit more than that!” The master looked again at the man and wrote in the dirt, “Awareness means awareness means awareness.”

The other day my son and I were talking with a few people around a table, at one point he whispered in my ear, ”Daddy, relax your shoulders, they're all the way up to your ears.” Later I told him I was proud of him that he was aware of my posture and even how I was feeling emotionally about the situation around the table. I felt like that traveler in the story– my whole life I had been journeying up that mountain to find wisdom, but all the advice I needed was a kid saying, “Awareness.”    
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<![CDATA[Tackling shoulder pain in more ways than one]]>Wed, 06 Apr 2022 23:35:05 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/tackling-shoulder-pain-in-more-ways-than-onePicture
(By Brian Yang, LAc) Since I’ve been working lately with several cases of shoulder pain I thought I would offer some insights into how we approach common shoulder problems as acupuncturists. The shoulder allows for many of the movements that we use an everyday basis, and has an incredibly broad range of motion compared to other major joints-– something that allows a healthy shoulder to hang, reach, climb and throw with ease. Some of the incredible mobility of the shoulder comes from the shallowness of the ball-and-socket portion (the glenohumeral joint), and the fact that it has three other joints in addition to that ball-and-socket: the sternoclavicular joint (where your collar bone meets the breast bone), the scapulothoracic joint (where your shoulder blade glides close to the ribcage), and the acromioclavicular joint (where your shoulderblade meets your collarbone). In other words, the shoulder joint is actually four joints! 

Similarly, the “rotator cuff” (or “rotator cup” as some are fond of saying) is not just one muscle but four (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis)-- forming a “cuff” that helps “rotate” your upper arm in all different dimensions. In addition to your rotator cuff muscles, we could mention several muscles involved in scapular movement, upper and lower arm movements, and the relational movements between the neck and shoulder, not to mention muscles that impact the brachial plexus (innervation to the shoulder). Shout-out to the lats, biceps, triceps, pecs, scalenes, levator scapula, serratus, and don’t forget everyone’s favorites, the upper trapezius and rhomboids! 

With such a complex “joint” there are many types of pathologies that can cause pain and loss of range of motion in the shoulder: tendonitis, tendinopathy and degeneration, arthritis, adhesive capuslitis (“frozen shoulder”), bursitis, impingement, fracture, radiculopathy, neurovascular compression, dislocation and more. Due to the complexity of the shoulder it’s helpful to narrow in on the origin of pain.

Sometimes a differential diagnosis can be made with simple manual palpation or strength testing. Seeing an orthopedic specialist for examination and imaging can also be helpful from a diagnostic perspective. The first line of care at orthopedic practices often involves NSAIDs and steroid injections. The assumption of this approach to pain is that inflammation is a driver, and artificially suppressing inflammation will be therapeutic. In addition to the possible side-effects of these methods being a possible turn-off, there is research that indicates artificially suppressing inflammation at times can impede normal tissue healing. It’s challenging to know exactly when that will be the case, so it requires approaching these standard interventions with caution. 

Moreover, at times there are other factors contributing to the development of pain in the shoulder region–not just localized inflammation. 

According to the traditional Chinese medical view, various meridians run through the shoulder joint. “Blockages” of qi and blood along these channels can be dispersed by needling points on the affected channels, even in areas as far away as the hand and leg. This can be thought of as akin to releasing lines of myofascial tension and other disturbances to proper healing that run along chains of relationship throughout the body. 

Some types of shoulder pathology may also involve what we would consider “blood deficiency,” or not enough nourishment reaching the area. This can be due to old scar tissue, postural habits or accumulated metabolic waste, or even systemic under-nourishment (subclinical or clinical). The task of the acupuncturist in this case is to nourish the tissue by promoting both nutrient assimilation via the digestive system, and blood flow to and from the symptomatic area. This can involve “local” needling (near the site of pain/dysfunction), techniques like moxibustion, cupping, and gua sha, mobilization exercises, and the application of herbal liniments at home. 

Furthermore, compression of the brachial plexus (shoulder nerve complex) due to tight scalenes and pectoralis muscles (very common in desk workers!) can precipitate poor tissue healing and an acceleration of tendon and bursa wear-and-tear. When this is the case we target those muscles with needles and moxa and get great results, reducing pain fairly quickly.

Unmanaged systemic inflammation can certainly drive poor tissue healing anywhere in the body, leading to repetitive strain problems like tendinopathy and bursitis. In these cases we attempt to diagnose inflammatory drivers and support the modulation of inflammation in order to promote tissue repair. Metabolic stress, chronic infections, microbiome or other digestive imbalances, poor food choices, stress and poor sleep are just a few examples of inflammation drivers that we try to identify and support through acupuncture, herbs and supplements, dietary and lifestyle counseling. 

This is just a small window into how I might approach your “shoulder issue” as an acupuncturist. As you can see, it’s quite a bit more comprehensive of an approach than just hitting it with an NSAID drug or a steroid injection. Of course, certain complex or advanced shoulder pathologies may require a visit to an orthopedist, physical therapy or other medical interventions, but next time you get some shoulder pain cropping up please give your humble acupuncturist a call! 
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<![CDATA[Cultivating States of Health]]>Fri, 11 Feb 2022 08:00:00 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/cultivating-states-of-healthPicture
(By Grace Rollins, MS, LAc) It's worthwhile to contemplate why some individuals get sicker than others. Let's intentionally set any kind of judgmental attitude-- toward others or one's self-- aside for the sake of exploration. How much we do to take care of our health, and "how well," is always relative. My own personal day-to-day health maintenance practices are as imperfect as those of my self 20 and 30 years ago. However, each day I am making my best effort to advance my knowledge, discipline and efforts, while also practicing self-compassion.

That being said, we do have a great deal of power over our health through our personal actions. How to generate health states is something our mainstream culture perhaps surrenders too much. Instead we often focus on the "bad luck" aspects of genetics, trauma or infectious disease.

Do some healthy people get a difficult case of COVID due to simple genetics or bad luck? Possibly, we truly don't know at this point. But there are some things we do know. On average, COVID (and many other "bad luck" diseases) tend to hit people harder who don't exercise, who are overweight and who have weakened immune systems, all factors that usually relate to one's overall state of health. It's therefore highly likely that other aspects of health cultivation (how much we sleep, how much stress we suffer, the condition of our microbiome, our nutritional status, etc.) also relate. 

States of illness or degeneration are rarely 100% due to genetic destiny or horrible luck. Our ability to cultivate a state of health in our day-to-day life has a significant impact on the way our genes are expressed; it directly steers how quickly and easily our tissues age or repair themselves; it has enormous implications for our mental wellbeing; and it significantly impacts how well we fend off and recover from infectious disease. 

Something I see time and time again with my patients is the expectation that one can live according to modern norms but not develop modern health problems. The answer to getting better is often a simple one, but requires going against the grain of the mainstream lifestyle (overworked, over-stressed, under-slept, highly sedentary, compromised posture and mobility, relying on inflammatory, nutrient-poor processed food, and over-exposed to artificial chemicals, drugs and screen-based stimulation). 

If you're ready and able to make space in your daily lifestyle for cultivating health, here are the categories I recommend looking at to make a personal assessment: 
  • Is your diet nutrient dense? Are you eating foods made from nature, rather than foods made from machines? What are you eating that's nutrient-poor junk that you can do without? What else can you eat that can make your body stronger? What are some small steps you can take this week (shopping, planning, cooking)? 
  • Do you take care of your microbiome? What are you ingesting on a daily basis that helps or hinders the cultivation of good gut bacteria? 
  • Are you getting enough movement? Do you walk daily as well as do occasional aerobic workouts? Do you stretch? Do you strengthen? How's your posture and mobility? 
  • Do you pay attention to your breath? How often are you breathing deeply and slowly?
  • Do you ever meditate? Do you take moments of quiet and pause, away from the demands of tasks and electronic devices? How much time do you spend time outside and in nature?
  • How much sleep do you get? Is it enough? If not, why?
  • Do you subject yourself to any "healthy stressors," such as cold exposure, sauna, acupuncture, cupping or gua sha, occasional intense workouts, and/or intermittent fasting? 
  • What gives you enjoyment in your life? Do you have opportunities for creative expression, social connection, belonging and gratitude?

It's not necessarily comprehensive but these are a few of the very basics, the ABCs. If there's anything on that list above that you see is lacking, then there's no huge mystery about what you can do right now to advance yourself toward a state of greater health, which is key to resolving existing problems and preventing future ones. Cultivating one's health on a daily basis can be used as a mantra to aid in fending off "bad luck" health problems, not the least of which is a certain famously capricious viral infection. 

Sometimes, of course, we know exactly what is lacking, but we need help to implement new habits or break the old ones that don't suit us. Or sometimes you have the ABCs in place and are ready to aim higher.


Cultivating a state of health is what we do, friends, and we look forward to helping you cross that bridge.
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<![CDATA[Cleaning the Corners]]>Mon, 03 Jan 2022 23:01:49 GMThttp://bridgeacupuncture.com/blog/cleaning-the-cornersPictureDai Bosatsu Zendo in upstate NY
(By Grace Rollins, MS, LAc) I've practiced Zen for close to 20 years. Though the primary practice is seated meditation (Zazen), there is a lot more to it, even for a layperson like me. In the past I've traveled several times to a Zen monastery for special week-long formal trainings known as Sesshin. There I would practice Zazen, walking meditation, chanting, formal meals, strict etiquette, and cleaning. Yes, cleaning. 

I was actually fond of the twice-daily cleaning periods during Sesshin because it let me move my body out of the sitting position I was in for so many hours of the day. Probably because I was among the younger and fitter, the monks usually assigned me to floor cleaning duty. In the common Japanese way this involved mopping the floor by hand using a zokin (cleaning rag). To clean the long monastery hallways I'd run in a crouch, pushing the zokin out in front of me in the traditional fashion. The faster, the better-- it was invigorating, and if I'll be honest my martial arts buddies and I were probably showing off to see who could finish their floor section first. Plus, if I finished my chores early, I could have a longer break before the next sit!

One evening I was cleaning the tile stairs that led up to the old head priest's quarters when I saw him coming up the stairs. I respectfully stepped aside but to my surprise he took the zokin​ right out of my hand and demonstrated how to properly clean the corners of the stairwell. In my haste I was being too sloppy, apparently, and he saw me missing the corners. "Clean even where no one can see it," he said to me. 

PictureThe zendo
My felt sense realized in that moment the difference between "practice" for the sake of getting through a chore or obligation, and "practice" for the sake of self-realization. Cleaning the floor, just as much as sitting Zazen for long hours on the cushion or chanting the holy sutras, could be a practice for subduing the falseness of ego and penetrating to the truth of existence. This might sound odd but seated meditation is merely one tool among many, one practice among infinite. 

Any practice can become a tool for greater awareness. Lately my thoughts have been going over the various "practices" involved in caring for my own health. On a given day I might intentionally do any or all of the following practices: fresh and whole food-based shopping and cooking, various types of exercise, stretching and mobility work, walking, breathing practices, intentional social contact, time in nature, meditation, and different kinds of circadian discipline concerning light and temperature exposure. If you factor in the need to work it can sound like a lot to fit in one day and like a list of things to "get through." Especially considering I'm as healthy as a horse, it may seem like a lot. 

However, I see the practices that go into maintaining health as similar to cleaning the corners of the stairwell. It may look "clean enough," and as though doing something like cooking a nutrient-dense meal from scratch would be overkill when I could just pick up some take-out.

Perhaps you have once heard the Biblically derived phrase "your body is a temple." I like this phrase as a way of envisioning the body as your practice hall for getting through this life. Caring for it allows you to dive deep into understanding your true self, your holiness, your higher purpose-- however you like to find meaning. If you can truly believe this, then it can only make sense, every day, to stretch and move, eat natural food, get light and air and time in nature during the day, then darkness and regenerative sleep at night-- the things that human beings require to be healthy and whole. And these things then become no longer a "chore" but a "practice" that creates peace and connection with the rest of existence. 

Yes, your body is a temple. But can you truly believe it?

To know that one's body is a temple requires abandoning the ego. In this case it's an ego that might say your efforts are a waste of time, that there are other more important things to do, or that you are too broken, hopeless, separate from the rest of nature, or otherwise don't deserve these efforts. Let that voice go and return to the moment. Take a deep belly breath and reconnect with the knowledge that you are a manifestation of the endless intelligence of nature. Then go clean the corners of your temple. 

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