August 17, 2009
By Anthony Ohm
I suffered from chronic low back pain for over twenty years. At a young age I did one hundred full sit-ups (abdominal exercises) daily. Later I was to learn that this caused my psoas muscle to become tight and distorted – beginning the onset of pain in my low back region. I reported low back pain to physicians at the age of sixteen (they did nothing). By 2001, at the age of thirty-three, my low back pain would occur daily after four to five hours of normal activity. By late afternoon, I had to lie down for the rest of the day to ease the pain.
I went to over forty specialists looking for help. These practitioners included: Neurosurgeons, Internists, Orthopedic surgeons, Physical therapists, Psychologists, Chiropractors, Acupuncturists, Rolfers, and Massage therapists.
The methods I tried included:
* Yoga (five years of practice including Hatha, Iyengar, Kundalini, and Astanga)
* Thai massage in Thailand
* Doctor prescribed medications
* Dr. John Sarno’s method
* Rolfing and Structural Integration
* Gary Glum’s Neuromuscular reeducation
* Richard Griner’s cross fiber technique
* Richard Rossiter’s method
* John Barnes’ Myofascial Release
* Pilates and Gyrotonic
* DRX-9000 machine and Inversion (anti-gravity) machine
* Michael Leahy’s Active Release Technique
* Alexander Technique
* Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation (PNF stretching)
* Russian Massage
* Raw food and vegetarian diets
* Swimming and walking
My diagnosis was called different names by different specialists: degenerative disc, flat back syndrome, anteriorly tilted pelvis, sacro-iliac pain, and non-specific back pain (which means the doctor doesn’t know). Irregardless of the name being ascribed to the condition, none of these specialists could do anything about it. I was seeing one specialist after the other. I wasn’t getting any better and I was seeing a lot of overlap between different styles. In 2003, I enrolled in massage school and later attended instructor training courses in Pilates and Gyrotonic. I needed more information to better discern my path for recovery. I was extremely frustrated by the ineffectiveness of the numerous treatment programs I had tried. From these experiences, I decided not to become a practitioner of any method unless it significantly helped me to resolve my own pain.
In 2007, I attended a four-day workshop with Aaron Mattes and his method: Active Isolated Stretching and Strengthening. Feeling that the Mattes Method offered potential, I interned at Aaron Mattes’ clinic in Sarasota, Florida. After my first treatment session, something productive was finally happening.
I had been experimenting with different stretching systems for over ten years. Yoga, Thai massage, Russian massage, PNF stretching, Pilates, Gyrotonic, Active Release Technique, Alexander technique, Rossiter method, and Rolfing all used some stretching to facilitate recovery, but Aaron Mattes’ Active Isolated Stretching put a new approach on how to stretch. I received some benefit from the other methods, but the benefit was short lived – usually lasting a day or two. Aaron Mattes, trained as a kinesiologist, explained why the common methods of stretching were not optimal. He identified seven mistakes in common stretching and proposed a new route to cure musculoskeletal pain.
Before my first treatment in Active Isolated Stretching, two hours of standing was enough to trigger pain in my low back. After that first session, I was able to stand and move around for eights hours! I continued with more private sessions with Aaron Mattes and after the third session I was returning to a normal schedule of work and social activity. I no longer have to stop all activity at 5PM to lie down. And I attribute my recovery entirely to the Mattes Method. Since that first internship, I’ve completed four hundred and fifty hours of direct study with Aaron Mattes. He refers to me as his top practitioner in the state of California.
Active Isolated Stretching is good for everyone. Athletes will improve their performance, people with physical pain will resolve their ailments, elderly will improve the functioning of their bodies and minds, and those with neuromuscular disorders will greatly benefit, including complications from stroke, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, fibromyalgia, spinal cord injuries, and scoliosis.
Contact Oasis Palisades at (310) 454-5855 to arrange an appointment with Anthony Ohm.
July 13, 2009
By Karen Cohen, Certified Nutritionist
We know that as we age, we tend to lose a certain amount of lean muscle mass and gain body fat. The average person loses about 6.6 pounds each decade beginning around 25 and the rate of loss accelerates over age 45. How fast this happens is strongly influenced by how physically active you are. The loss of lean body mass is referred to as Sarcopenia which literally means “loss of flesh”. You cannot measure this with a regular scale, but you can measure it with a body composition machine such as the Bioelectric Impedance Analyzer.
Exercise is the best way to prevent decline of lean muscle mass. Men genetically have a higher percent of weight in lean muscle mass than women. That is why men can eat more calories and not gain weight. Women genetically have more body fat than men. This is why women need fewer calories per pound then men and women gain weight more easily than men.
Even at age 65 to 70 a person can have a body composition of a 40 year old just by doing regular physical exercise.
· Exercise corrects metabolic imbalances and decreases body fat storage.
· Exercise must be accompanied by a healthy diet to get these desired benefits.
Please contact me for further information about the Bioelectric Impedance Analyzer. It is non invasion, just like getting an ekg. I welcome any questions you have. Please call me at (310) 444-9755 and visit my website at http://www.learn2eatright.com.
July 10, 2009
One specialty of our acupuncturist Sharon Skok is Face Rejuvenation treatments. She has completed advanced training and certification in Constitutional Facial Acupuncture Renewal. These amazing treatments incorporate customized Chinese herbal masks and moisturizers with acupuncture protocols designed to meet the specific needs of each patient. It is a balanced process of treating both the internal body and the external skin for more vibrant health that shines through the skin.
Stress, poor nutrition, long work hours, and lack of restful sleep affect the aging process. The result is dull skin, increased wrinkles, lack of tone, and even breakouts. A series of Face Rejuvenation treatments diminishes fine lines, lessens deep wrinkles, improves skin tone, and increases radiance. The treatments can also reduce acne breakouts and lighten skin discoloration. Not only will you look 5-10 years younger, you will also feel relaxed and rejuvenated.
The treatment series involves 12-15* weekly acupuncture treatments. The introductory session will leave the client feeling relaxed, the mind calm and the skin glowing. After 5-7 treatments, clients begin to see the lasting results as wrinkles lessen and skin becomes more firm. Upon completion of the series, monthly follow-up sessions are recommended to maintain results or a few sessions prior to special events to re-boost the effect.
SPECIAL EVENTS TUNE-UP
The face rejuvenation treatments are also a great freshening of the face prior to a big event such as a wedding. A shorter series of 5-7* sessions can be done to brighten skin tone and keep you relaxed before the big day if skin aging and wrinkles are not a priority at this time.
*more treatments may be necessary depending on the condition of the skin and one’s health.
CAUTIONS (treatments are not recommended for individuals with):
- uncontrolled high blood pressure
- migraines within the last 6 months
- presence of a cold or flu
**standard acupuncture is recommended to address the above issues prior to beginning the face rejuvenation series
Patients report seeing more color and circulation in their faces, seeing a lessening in small and deep lines in the face, and noticing increased toning and elasticity in the face. They feel their skin is more youthful and radiant.
The initial facial rejuvenation treatment lasts for approximately 2 hours with follow-up treatments lasting from 75 to 90 minutes each. Call Oasis Palisades at (310) 454-5855 for pricing and additional details.
July 7, 2009
Come in for wonderful acupuncture and massage
July 6, 2009
About Depression and Anxiety
Although depressive disorders and anxiety are commonly seen together, there are distinct differences between a diagnosis of depression and one of anxiety.
Common symptoms of depressive disorders include emotions such as
hopelessness, despair and anger. Energy levels are usually very low, and depressed people often feel overwhelmed by day-to-day tasks and personal relationships. There is a decreased interest in most activities, possible insomnia, fatigue, and feelings of emptiness and worthlessness. When depression is at its worst, hopelessness sets in and, in some people suffering from severe depressive disorders, thoughts of suicide ensue.
Symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder may include excessive, ongoing worry and tension; an unrealistic view of problems; restlessness or a feeling of being “edgy”; irritability; muscle tension; headaches; difficulty concentrating; trouble falling or staying asleep; and being easily startled.
In addition, people with generalized anxiety often have other anxiety disorders such as panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and phobias.
According to the Nation Institute of Mental Health, 18.8 million American adults suffer from clinical depression and 19.1 million Americans suffer from anxiety disorders.
Research on Acupuncture’s Effectiveness
The National Institutes for Health (NIH) have established the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine which funds research studies in various holistic treatments. In one study of women suffering from depression, 70% of participants experienced at least a 50% reduction of symptoms. This research marked the first U.S. randomized, controlled, double-blind study of acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating depression. The NIH funded study concludes, “Acupuncture may alter brain chemistry by changing the release of neurotransmitters and neurohormones in a good way.”
Stanford researchers, using a small sample of 61 pregnant women, found that those who were given acupuncture treatments had significantly fewer depressive symptoms. The researchers conclude that “acupuncture holds promise for treatment of depression during pregnancy,” and may help with the long term management of depression. In an Australian study, 65% of patients diagnosed with anxiety and pain reported that acupuncture “greatly helped” relieve their symptoms. Another 24% said that it “helped.”
Further studies show that Traditional Chinese Medicine used in combination with western pharmaceutical treatment of depression and anxiety is more effective than either modality when used on its own.
The Chinese Medicine Perspective
With such promising statistics from Chinese Medicine research studies, it’s important to look at how Chinese medicine views depression and anxiety.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has addressed the link between the body, spirit and mind for more than 2000 years. In TCM, the belief is that illness affects both the mind and body; there is no separation between the two. Therefore, emotional disturbances have associated physical symptoms and, in reverse, physical disorders evoke emotional responses.
The first objective of a TCM practitioner is to discern a relationship between all symptoms a patient presents with in order to establish what is called a “pattern of disharmony”. Treatment is aimed at restoring harmony and bringing the body into balance, and the whole person is always taken into account. The theories used to establish the TCM “patterns of disharmony” include Yin and Yang, Internal Organs; Qi, Blood and Body Fluids, and Five Phases. (Click here for more detailed information). The whole person is always taken into account.
Patterns of Disharmony in Depression and Anxiety
In looking at Patterns of Disharmony, the most important thing to remember is that organs in Chinese medicine are not the same as their western anatomical counterparts. If you have a Pattern of Disharmony affecting your “Liver Qi” or your “Heart Yin”, it is highly unlikely that anything is wrong with your western liver or heart. We capitalize the first letter of the Chinese medicine organs to make the distinction.
Patterns seen in depression and anxiety include:
* Heart and spleen Qi deficiency – Physical symptoms may include palpitations, insomnia, poor memory, lack of appetite, fatigue, poor digestion, and a pale tongue. Emotional symptoms include excessive worry and feeling timid.
* Heart Yin deficiency – Physical symptoms may include absentmindedness, dizziness, insomnia, low back soreness, dryness, sensations of heat, tinnitus, and a red tongue with little coating. Emotional symptoms include sensitivity and irritability. Yin deficiency is commonly seen during menopause.
* Phlegm – Physical symptoms may include obesity, feeling weighted down, congestion, dizziness, fatigue and a swollen tongue. Emotional symptoms include depression and feeling cloudy or experiencing dullness of thought.
* Liver Qi stagnation – Physical symptoms may include nausea, bloating, premenstrual symptoms, rib-side pain, belching and possibly insomnia. Emotional stress affects the liver and includes irritability, frustration, and anger.
* Liver and/or Heart fire – Fire is often caused by prolonged Liver qi stagnation. Therefore, the symptoms are the same as above and also include a bitter taste in the mouth, headaches, ringing in the ears, dizziness, sores in the mouth, red eyes, red face and a quick temper.
Patterns of disharmony usually do not exist on their own. Typically, patients manifest with anywhere between 3 and 8 patterns at any given time. This exemplifies the need for customized treatment – each patient should be diagnosed according to his or her own unique constitution and patterns of disharmony.
For example, an older frail man who has been diagnosed with depression comes in with a pale tongue, low energy, and sadness. He is deficient and given herbs and treated with acupuncture points to boost and strengthen his “Qi”. In contrast, if an overweight woman with a red face, headaches, bad temper and a heavily coated tongue comes in (also with a diagnosis of depression), she is more excess in nature and is given herbs and treated with acupuncture to clear her phlegm and heat. Had the man been treated identically to the woman (both with western diagnoses of depression), his symptoms may have worsened.
Generally, results with acupuncture and herbs are cumulative, improving week by week. Treatment begins with one or two sessions per week and tapers off as the condition improves.
Acupuncture and herbs are not only safe, but also effectively used together with anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medications. Many patients find these medications to be inadequate at completely resolving their symptoms. Others, together with their doctors, would like to wean themselves to lower dosages in order to decrease the occurrence of side effects. Patients turn to acupuncture and herbs for a variety of reasons – mostly because they find it really works!
More and more women are turning to Chinese Medicine for the treatment of menopausal symptoms, particularly after recent concerns regarding the safety of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Recent research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that HRT may lead to an increase in the risk of heart disease, breast cancer, stroke, and blood clots. HRT has also been linked to gallstones and gallbladder disease. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are natural therapies offering significant relief from the debilitating symptoms women experience as they go through menopause without the risks associated with more conventional treatment.
When Roslyn Samet began going through menopause, she experienced major discomfort from hot flashes – not only at night, but frequently during the day, sometimes as often as once or twice an hour. “I really didn’t feel good about taking hormones,” said Samet. “Cancer runs in my family and I didn’t even consider HRT as an option. It seemed so unnatural to me – I just refused to do it”. Click here to read more…
March 5, 2008
Has this ever happened to you? You put your car in reverse, quickly turn your head around to look behind you, and suddenly — UH-OH — your neck has seized in pain??
The neck is one of the most common places we experience pain. Because of its flexibility and the effort needed to carry the weight of the head, the neck is susceptible to pain and injury. Sleep habits, posture, work habits, and athletic activity can all contribute to muscle spasms and nerve damage in the neck.
Neck pain can also be the result of a degenerative condition such as osteoarthritis, or injuries such as whiplash. A herniated disk or pinched nerve can also cause pain in the neck.
If neck muscles are in spasm from stress, misuse, or overuse, massage is a great modality. Massage will help to relieve the tension in the muscles and relieve muscle pain and inflammation. Using herbal creams or liniments with massage therapy can increase the therapeutic benefits by increasing circulation in the neck and relieving tight muscles.
In Chinese medicine it is said, “when there is pain, there is no free flow.” What does this mean, no free flow? Chinese medicine teaches that Qi (life force energy) and blood flow through meridians, the lines throughout the body you see on acupuncture charts. There are two primary causes of a lack of free flow – Qi can be weak and deficient, or Qi and blood can be stuck, or stagnant. Deficient pain feels tired and weak – the head may feel too heavy for the neck to hold up. If the Qi is stuck or stagnant, the pain is dull, with a generalized achey feeling. If the blood is stuck (or static), pain is fixed, stabbing, and sharp.
Acupuncture needles are used to free the flow. Needles are placed in the meridians not only in the neck, but also around the body to build up Qi that is deficient, and circulate the Qi and blood that are stuck. Acupuncture is beneficial for pain relief and for healing the underlying causes that lead to pain in the neck.
February 23, 2008
That seems to be the question we’ve heard most in the last month. Why is everyone getting sick? Why is it taking so long for people to get better? Are the bugs out there worse this year than in years past?
From a Chinese medicine point of view, there are constant battles between “pathogenic influences” such as the bacteria and viruses that make us sick and the “Wei Qi” which is the defensive qi that builds up immunity. Changes in the weather like the excessive rain and wind we’ve seen in the last month can both weaken the “Wei Qi” and bring in new and abundant pathogenic influences. Illnesses and even allergies can be looked at in terms of these two factors. It seems like a really simple concept, but one that’s truly worth giving some thought to.
What happens when we take excessive courses of antibiotics or constantly use anti-bacterial soaps and cleaning products? When we try to kill off the bacteria in our environment the strongest bacteria will mutate and replicate creating stronger, more potent bacteria which are even more difficult to eradicate. From a Chinese medicine perspective the “pathogenic influence” becomes stronger, but the “Wei Qi” does not. Does this mean we should never use antibiotics or anti-bacterial soap? Absolutely not! But we should be careful and thoughtful about when to use them. Save their use for when they are truly necessary. If you are a teacher surrounded by a large number of sniffling children then it is probably a good idea to bring out the anti-bacterial soap throughout the day. If you’re traveling on an airplane during cold and flu season it’s also a good idea to wipe down your headrest with anti-bacterial towelettes. But in both these instances it’s also a good idea to build up your “Wei Qi” with good nutrition and Chinese herbs at the same time.
To achieve long-term health and wellness it is far more beneficial to optimize your own “Wei Qi” than to try to produce germ-free surroundings. So – are the bugs out there stronger this year than they were in years past? We really don’t know. But we do know that the bugs ARE out there and probably will continue to be in years to come. The best way to stay healthy is to take care of yourself. Eat well, exercise, and come see us for acupuncture, herbs, and massage.
And if you have any questions about optimizing your health, please feel free to call us – (310) 454-5855. We’d love to hear from you!
Wishing you the best of health,
Toni & Stephanie
February 23, 2008
Toni Balfour, L.Ac. is now offering 4 comprehensive Acupuncture Treatment Programs. Each program is designed for long-term health enhancement with acupuncture, customized Chinese herbal formulas, nutritional guidelines, and a stress reduction/relaxation program.
Click each link to learn more!
February 23, 2008
by Antonia Balfour, L.Ac.
A couple of years ago Gwyneth Paltrow made headlines when wearing a backless dress after getting cupping during an acupuncture treatment.
Cupping is most commonly associated with Chinese medicine, but it has actually been used in cultures across the world for many years. It has roots from Greece to Russia, Vietnam to Iran. Islamic traditional medicine uses a form of cupping as does Eastern European Jewish folk medicine. There are many styles and techniques of cupping, all of which use suction in cups to draw energy, blood, and fluids to the surface to promote circulation. In Chinese medicine, the cups can stay in one place over specific acupuncture points or a sliding technique may be used with massage oil to move the cups around the back. In “flash” cupping, a cup will be repeatedly applied to one area for less than a second. The suction comes from a vacuum created by heating the air in the cup and placing the cup flush against the skin of the back. The intensity of suction used will vary, but is always adjusted for the comfort level of each patient. Most people find the suction to be moderate and quite comfortable feeling.
Cupping is most commonly used to treat coughs, asthma, and symptoms of the common cold. It can also be used for muscle aches and pain, especially back pain. Sliding cupping, in particular, leaves the muscles of the back relaxed and opens up movement and motility. Most people find cupping to be a wonderfully relaxing, comfortable, and effective treatment. Like massage, cupping can also be used to relieve stress, tension, and lower blood pressure.