Acupuncture is an incredibly effective yet gentle therapy that is a cornerstone of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM is a complete system of medicine that has been practiced widely and successfully for several thousand years.
Acupuncturists place extremely fine needles (~15 could fit inside a hypodermic needle) at specific points on the body, causing a variety of physiological effects that stimulate your body’s natural healing mechanisms. Biomedically-speaking, those effects include reduced inflammation, improved circulation, improved hormone balance, and stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system (allowing us to rest and recuperate instead of being in “fight-or-flight” mode).
How does it work?
Per TCM theory, good health depends on the adequate circulation of nutrients and “Qi” (energy) through the body’s pathways. These bio-energetic pathways traverse all the organs and systems of the body. When nutrients and Qi are not cycling freely, or are inadequate in quantity or quality, blockages are created and ill-health results. Many factors can contribute to these blockages, including injuries, pathogens like viruses, emotions, over-work, stress, and poor diet or lifestyle. Stimulating acupuncture points encourages the body to clear blockages, reduce what is in excess and strengthen what is insufficient, thereby restoring balance to the system and reducing symptoms. Effectively, acupuncture encourages the body heal itself.
What is Qi?
Qi is a concept in Eastern Medicine that does not have a clear English translation, but can be thought of as energy or “life-force.” It is the oxygen that sustains us, the magic of life that allows us to exist, and even the way a place feels when you walk in.
Herbal medicines are safe, effective and powerful tools for improving your health and speeding recovery. Herbs are often used in conjunction with acupuncture to enhance the benefits of treatment, or can be used as the primary form of treatment depending on the condition and situation.
Chinese medicinal herbs include flowers, leaves, roots, stalks, seeds and minerals. Traditionally herbs are dispensed whole, cooked and taken as tea at home. For ease, in modern times herbs are also available in pill or powdered form, which is primarily what we use at Centerpath.
Herbal medicine is truly an art form. Each herb has its set of functions and its inherent nature (cooling, warming, opening, astringing, etc). An herbalist creates formulas based on the patient’s needs, carefully choosing herbal components to balance the nature of the condition, while also balancing the nature of the formula for the specific patient’s constitution, to obtain the desired effect. When herbs are combined into good formulas, the effectiveness is exponential. From a TCM herbal perspective, 1 + 1 + 2 doesn’t equal 4, rather it might equal 9 or 15.
Chinese herbs are safe when prescribed by a well-trained herbalist. In the state of Texas the Medical Board licenses acupuncturists to practice herbal medicine. At Centerpath, we have comprehensive training to carefully plan formulas and dosages while avoiding any known drug-herb interactions. We prescribe herbs from companies who adhere to U.S. Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), guidelines set forth by the World Health Organization to ensure the quality, efficacy and safety of products.
Nutrition and Lifestyle
So much of health and wellness lies in our own hands. It stems from what we can do for ourselves on a daily basis. At Centerpath, we help you identify habits and patterns which are best-suited to your current health condition, your constitution, and your health goals, providing you with powerful tools you can use on your own.
Even after you are feeling better from the symptoms that brought you to us, good self-care is critical to maintaining your health and wellness.
Chinese medicine and most ancient medicines around the world have recognized for thousands of years that various foods cause varying effects when consumed by different people. There is no set diet that works for everyone, nor a particular diet that will work for every phase of your life. At Centerpath, we help you choose foods that will support the organ systems that are weak or over-active, and that will protect and develop improved digestive function.
We also focus on helping you identify and integrate lifestyle patterns that will ease your symptoms and help you feel more vibrant. Things like what time we go to bed, what time we take our meals and even what types of exercise we choose, all have subtle effects that accumulate over the long run.
Moxibustion, or moxa, is a warming technique where we use a plant called Mugwort (Artemesia) to bring heat to specific points on the body. Moxa is burned close to the skin surface, increasing circulation of blood and lymph, stimulating the immune system and creating a deep sense of relaxation. It has a wonderful nourishing quality. When burned, moxa smells much like sage, giving the clinic a distinctly herby scent.
Traditionally moxa was used more frequently than it is today, although it remains an integral part of the TCM toolbox. At the clinic we commonly use moxa when treating certain types of pain and neuropathy, common colds, certain women’s health and obstetrics conditions, digestive complaints, and to increase energy and boost immunity.
Cupping is an ancient practice common in many cultures, not just the East, and has become more popular in the West as Olympians and celebrities have sported the tell-tale signs of having been cupped: perfectly circular purple marks. It’s a technique where sturdy glass cups are applied to the skin surface after a rapid temperature change occurs within the cup, causing a vacuum-like suction. We’ve had several patients say it feels like what they imagine getting hugged by an octopus might be like.
We use cupping most commonly for pain, muscular tension and upper respiratory conditions. Once the cups are applied, skin and muscle tissue are drawn up, promoting the flow of blood, moving stagnation, and restoring healthy circulation. Cups are either retained against acupuncture points or moved along channels.
Cupping will leave purple marks on the skin which usually disappear within 3-5 days. If we think cupping therapy is appropriate for your condition, we will talk with you about this therapy and ask your permission before incorporating it into your treatment.
Moving your body is essential to maintaining your physical and mental health. Through yoga, we know that using breath and gentle physical motion can calm the mind, improve circulation, increase range of motion, decrease pain, and even reduce blood pressure. Depending on your diagnosis and needs, we may suggest gentle movement and breathing exercises to incorporate into your daily routine. These may include stretching and strengthening exercises rooted in yoga, breathing exercises, and visualization techniques.