Knee & Joint Health

Our knees and other joints can pop, grind, crunch, and make a variety of interesting sounds. Especially if you are increasing or changing your physical activity level, these sounds can be alarming. Often they cause worry about the health of the joint and whether something serious could be wrong.

What makes those sounds: There are a lot of complex tissues in our joints, and most of them can make some noise. Tiny bubbles can form in the joint fluid due to changes in joint pressure, and they make a sound when they pop. Ligaments and tendons can make a click or pop sound as they move over a bony lump and snap back into place. Cartilage can develop uneven areas as we age, and a grinding or crunching sound can be from those rough surfaces gliding across each other.

When to worry: As long as there is no pain or swelling, these sounds are not a reason to worry. They can come from age, use, or healed injuries, and the noises are not part of the alarm system of your body. Our body uses pain and swelling to indicate that there is a problem, and that is how you know when the joint needs extra attention and treatment. And if you ever experience a sudden pop followed by pain, that is almost always an injury that needs treatment.

Support for Joint Health: There are a few keys to supporting joint health, whether they are just noisy or are causing discomfort. Bodywork and movement classes both help restore alignment so that the right muscles and connective tissues are working together, and to relieve muscle tension that can contribute to joint pain. Hydration of the tissues is also key to keeping joints supple and healthy, which is especially supported by bodywork and therapeutic movement. (Hydration in this case means more than just drinking enough liquids; it means using movement or manual therapies to move fluids through the tissues themselves.) Acupuncture is also very effective at treating pain and the imbalances that may be causing that pain.

Joints like knees and shoulders that make interesting sounds without pain are not a cause for alarm. They can serve as reminders to stay committed to our self care, but do not indicate serious damage or injury to the joint.

Compassionate Self-Care

Compassionate self-care begins with where you are right now, at this moment. Instead of focusing on the general laundry list of criticisms so prevalent this time of year, it starts with acceptance of what is happening now, and then opens the gateway to a place that feels more sustainable for both physical and mental health.

Our bodies are often talked about in terms of how they look, or their aesthetic. Some of how we look is a choice, like our awesome shoes or warm hat, and much of how we look is not something that is under our control, like the shape of our eyes or the length of our legs. When we think critically about our bodies for things that we cannot control, we often end up with a loop of critical self-talk that harms our wellbeing.

A better way to talk about our bodies is in terms of how we feel, and how we feel in our bodies is something that we can change, often more than we realize. Taking yourself to class or for a walk can help you feel better for the rest of the day, or several days. Receiving bodywork can release muscle tension and mental stress, leaving you feeling better for days or weeks afterward. Coming to a counselor to talk through feelings of distress can help process through mental and emotional stresses that impact daily life, and acupuncture can effectively address pain and systemic imbalances that disrupt things like sleep and digestion.

If we let go of our expectations that our bodies should have a certain aesthetic, and instead focus on how we feel, we realize the transformative power of self-care. Our bodies are marvellous mechanisms of life, and there are so many ways to support and care for ourselves. When we start with this moment, and ask ourselves what would genuinely help us feel better physically and mentally, then we open the door to creating health and a sense of deep wellbeing.

Acupuncture for Stress

Acupuncture works like physical therapy for the nervous system, which makes it an effective treatment to reduce the effects of stress on the body. When we feel threatened, the nervous system responds with a cascade of biological changes, getting us ready to fight off bears and run away from lions. However, most of the threats we face in daily life are mental and emotional stressors, not bears and lions. Acupuncture is able to calm and regulate these stress responses in the body, which can improve long term health and wellbeing.

Acupuncture is a safe and effective way to create positive changes in central nervous function. The central nervous system is what governs our fight or flight responses (sympathetic nervous system) and our rest and digest responses (parasympathetic nervous system). By helping to regulate the alarms of stress, acupuncture is able to help shift nervous function away from crisis and back toward rest and healing.

Through adjusting these stress responses in the nervous system, acupuncture is able to more fully activate the Central Autonomous Network, which is the part of the brain that lives in the present and handles working memory and sensory input. In other words, it helps bring us back to ourselves and cultivate awareness of present moment.

The effects of acupuncture on stress last for longer than the acupuncture session itself. Sessions are a generally relaxing and restorative experience, and the effects of a series of treatments for stress have been shown to last for months afterward. Basically, acupuncture is able to help train the nervous system how to better respond to stress.

Acupuncture is an effective way to manage stress by toning and regulating the nervous system. It addresses the imbalances caused by both acute and chronic stress, helping to move the body and mind out of crisis mode. This creates space and energy for rest, restoration, and health.

Relieving Neck Pain

Our necks are amazing structures that allow us to a great deal of flexibility to see, hear, and smell, even as they are strong enough to protect the spinal column connecting the brain to the rest of the body. As a flexible, nerve-rich body part, they can also be a source of a lot of pain when they develop imbalances. Integrative care can address these imbalances and reduce both long term and short term neck pain.

Bodywork is an effective treatment for neck pain. Muscular tension in the neck, upper back, and shoulders can all cause neck pain, and bodywork is able to effectively release that tension and address any underlying issues with the connective tissue and fascia that may be contributing to chronic discomfort. Neck pain does not always originate in the structures of the neck and shoulders, but can also be caused by foot and gait issues, pelvic issues, low and mid back imbalances, jaw dysfunctions, and more. Whole body treatments are able to address the alignment and structure of all of these, helping to release tension elsewhere in the body in order to improve neck health.

Acupuncture is especially effective for chronic neck pain. When the body is in pain for long periods of time, the nervous system can become imbalanced and oversensitized to the pain signals. This has the effect of turning up the volume of the pain and increasing discomfort. Acupuncture is able to turn the volume back down by regulating the nervous system and addressing the oversensitization.

Movement classes are a great way to address the posture, gait, and tension issues that contribute to neck pain. By building awareness of how we carry ourselves and how we move in gravity, we are able to retrain our movement patterns toward better alignment. Stretching and moving also release long held muscular tension and improve blood flow to distressed tissues, encouraging them to heal.

Neck pain is linked to stress, tension, and structural imbalances in the body. Bodywork, acupuncture, and movement classes are all able to reduce stress levels, release tension, and address imbalances in order to relieve neck pain and support overall wellbeing.

How Cupping Therapy works

Cupping Therapy is a powerful integrative health tool. It works well as a treatment on its own, and also helps boost the effectiveness of other treatments like bodywork and acupuncture.

Muscle Tension: Cupping Therapy involves placing specialized cups on the body to provide negative pressure (upward lift) on the tissues. This helps to open up muscle and tissue, releasing short term and long term muscle tension.

Blood Flow: Cupping Therapy is very effective for bringing blood flow to an area of the body, especially if that area is feeling stagnant, like in the back or the arm. A lot of the pain of muscle tension comes from the fact that the muscle is contracted so hard that it is not able to receive enough blood flow. Specifically drawing blood flow into the tissues helps to relieve the pain of restricted blood flow and encourage repair of damaged tissues.

Myofascial Release: Cupping Therapy helps jump start myofascial release. The negative pressure combined with movement gives a different sensation than other myofascial techniques and helps the muscle reset itself to where it needs to be because the fascia has released. It is a great complement to other techniques and can sometimes create shifts that provide instant relief and allow chronic problems to just fade away.

Cupping therapy also helps improve the flow of qi, move lymph in order to support the immune system, and break up scar tissue. It often leaves marks on the skin where the blood has been drawn to the surface, and these marks generally fade in a few days, though they can last up to a few weeks.

Whether as a stand alone therapy or incorporated into a bodywork or acupuncture session, Cupping Therapy is an effective way to treat pain, muscle tension, and other imbalances. It improves the flow of blood, lymph, and qi, and creates space for health in the body.

Effective Treatment for Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor, and research has concluded that integrative care offers the best treatment. An analysis of over 150 studies, published in 2017 by the American College of Physicians, recommends movement therapies, bodywork, acupuncture, and mindfulness as effective treatments, instead of medications.

Integrative care for back pain focuses on techniques that speed up the healing process, relax muscle tension, and address structural issues in joints and tendons that affect the physical health of the back and spine. It can also address pain management directly, helping to regulate the nervous system and reduce the sensation of pain in general.

Movement therapies like classes and clinics are able to address the mechanics of the back, helping to correct imbalanced movement patterns that contribute to pain. Through mindful awareness, neuroplasticity, alignment, and restorative practice, movement therapies can correct and retrain the body away from dysfunction.

Acupuncture is proven to be effective at reducing pain levels in general, and is a great way to address back pain specifically. It helps rebalance underlying issues that contribute to the back pain, as well as working with the nervous system to lower the intensity of pain signals and the perception of pain overall.

Bodywork is able to address the specific muscle tension and joint health that causes a lot of back pain, increasing blood and nutrient flow and supporting the body’s own healing processes. It is able to effectively release tension, address fascial issues, and treat the secondary pain and tension that comes from protective movement.

Mindfulness can also be effective for back pain because it is proven to help lower pain levels in general. After eight weeks of mindfulness practice, there are specific changes that happen in the brain and how it relates to the nervous system, turning down the volume on pain signals and the stress response that pain signals cause.

At Ha.Lé, we are experienced in treating back pain, and will work with you to determine the best course of treatment for your specific situation. Our classes and clinics are able to work with students with a wide variety of back health concerns, and our therapists are able to specifically address the symptoms and imbalances of back pain.

Integrative Treatment for Migraines

Migraine headaches are a common response to both mental and physical stress, and happen more often in women than men. There is no cure for migraines, but there are ways to reduce the symptoms. Acupuncture, Bodywork, Movement, and Mindfulness are integrative treatment options with effective results, without the side effects of medication.

Acupuncture reduces the frequency of migraines with the same effectiveness as preventative medications. Up to 59% of people with migraines see a 50% or more drop in the frequency of their headaches, and the effect of 6 weekly sessions can last for 6 months or more.

Bodywork is also a helpful migraine treatment. It generally reduces the frequency of migraines and improves sleep. On average, it can reduce migraines by 30-34% for up to 4 weeks, according to a 2006 study.

Movement with a therapeutic focus will also reduce migraine frequency and intensity. Migraines are associated with disturbances in the autonomic nervous system and in the regulation of the circulatory system. Movement classes help restore and regulate these systems, as well as target tension and stress that can contribute to headaches.

Mindfulness helps to significantly lower the pain intensity of migraines and correct the effects of stress on the body. One study that looked at mindfulness for migraines found that it had no adverse events, zero drop outs, and excellent adherence, which is a big contrast from pharmaceutical treatment.

Migraines are a disorder of a hyper-excitable brain, and so integrative therapies that reduce stress, rebalance the nervous system, regulate sleep cycles, and lower pain levels can be effective treatment. The medications available only work for 50% of people, and come with significant side effects. Research has shown that Acupuncture is just as effective as those medications, and other integrative treatments are also able to reduce the intensity and frequency of migraines.

Natural Treatments for Depression and Anxiety

Mood disorders like depression and anxiety are caused by complex interactions of brain chemistry, stress hormones, genetics, and other factors. The CDC recommends a collaborative approach to treatment, including primary care providers, mental health specialists, and other providers. The integrative therapies at Ha.Lé offer broad support for the body and mind, which helps regulate mood and easily complements other medical care.

Ha.Lé Counseling and Integrative Counseling provide compassionate one on one assessment and support for mood disorders. These sessions can be done in a private office, or while walking together on quiet residential streets in our neighborhood. This is called a Walk and Talk, and it allows the body and mind to process while in motion, which can be especially helpful for some people. Another option is Mindfulness Counseling, which provides specific tools for cultivating awareness and perspective and helps reduce distress across a wide range of situations.

More body-focused treatments can also profoundly support mental health. Bodywork and massage lower stress hormones by up to 50%, and boost levels of serotonin and dopamine, which are mood stabilizers. Sessions provide safe, nurturing touch, which makes space for you to relax, refocus, and find clarity. The effects are also cumulative. The first session can significantly reduce anxiety, and a series of sessions can provide reductions that are twice as large.

Acupuncture is a treatment that works to rebalance the systems of the body, and mood disorders are usually symptoms of a deep and/or complex imbalance. It is proven to reduce stress hormones and boost mood stabilizers, and sessions can have a more immediate effect than many medications.

Classes for therapeutic movement and self-care help to release endorphins, improve the connection between the body and mind, and lower stress hormones. They can also address the ways in which mood disorders can cause the body to curl forward in distress. Uncurling then allows the body to take deeper breaths, find its own internal support system, and feel energized.

Depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders are complex issues that affect the whole body and mind. Treatment that addresses whole system imbalances and brings the body back into a state of rest and healing can help stabilize mood and promote a general sense of wellbeing.

Acupuncture for Fertility

Acupuncture is an effective treatment for regulating the reproductive system and addressing imbalances that can impact fertility. It is considered very safe and can be used either as a primary course of treatment or along with western medical treatments and medications. From a Chinese Medicine perspective, the goal is not just to get pregnant, but to stay pregnant and have a healthy baby as well.

Stress: Stress is a key factor in the fertility of both women and men. It causes the brain to release cortisol, which disrupts its neurochemical balance. There is a delicate interplay between the hypothalamus, pituitary, and reproductive glands that regulate fertility, and stress can directly upset these relationships. Acupuncture is especially helpful in reducing stress and rebalancing its effects on the body in order to support fertility and overall health.

Hormones: Non-stress related hormone imbalances can also affect fertility. For example, not enough progesterone will prevent implantation, and too much prolactin will prevent ovulation. Acupuncture helps to regulate these hormone levels. It can also help correct thyroid imbalances, which can also affect the reproductive system.

Women: Acupuncture helps provide better blood flow to the uterus and ovaries, which increases the chance of an egg being nourished and carried to term. It can help with spasmed tubes, helping them to release and return to full function. Trying to conceive can also take an emotional toll, and acupuncture helps reduce anxiety and regulate mood.

Men: Acupuncture can rebalance male fertility issues like low sperm count, low motility, and impotence. Many of the western fertility medications that adjust hormone levels are much less effective for men than for women; acupuncture can serve as an alternative route without the side-effects of the medications. There are also Chinese herbs that are especially indicated for male fertility.

Acupuncture helps regulate the complex systems of fertility, rebalance delicate hormone levels, and reduce the effects of stress and anxiety. Fertility issues are spread equally among men and women, and some issues are from unknown factors entirely. Bringing balance and harmony to the biological and emotional systems involved can restore the body’s ability to self-regulate, improving fertility and your overall sense of wellbeing.

Kidney Energy

In Chinese Medicine, the role of the kidney organ system is to store life essence, govern reproduction and growth, maintain bones and brains, control the flow of urine, and keep the will power strong. It is vital to every other organ system.

Life Essence: Our life essence, or Jing, is stored in the kidney system. How much Jing we have is inherited from our parents and created from the air we breathe and the food we eat. It forms the foundation for our zest in life. We may create too little Jing by breathing poor air, breathing shallowly, eating poor quality food, or having impaired digestion.

Reproduction & Growth: Kidney energy provides the juice for fertility, reproduction, sexual desire, and growth. Substances that stress the adrenal glands, like caffeine, drain kidney energy. When energy levels are deficient, it can cause issues with fertility, slow growth, low libido, and aging.

Bones & Brains: Kidney energy is linked to the brain, spinal cord, bone matrix, and marrow. Drugs that imbalance brain chemistry can especially drain kidney energy. When energy levels are deficient, they can cause poor nerve function, memory problems, week teeth, or osteoporosis.

Urine: Kidneys correlate with the water element, and kidney energy serves as the gate that opens and closes the flow of urine. Imbalances in the amount, frequency, and color of urination are signs of kidney energy level issues.

Will Power: Good, balanced kidney energy allows us to use our willpower to express our unique creativity. It allows us to overcome fear and to pursue goals. With a deficiency of kidney energy, our sense of purpose can become shaky and we can become easily distracted.

Kidney energy in Chinese Medicine is a comprehensive system of the body and mind, with much broader influence and effects than in Western medicine. Kidney energy issues can be rebalanced in order to restore health and bring back a sense of purpose and vitality.