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.

How to Think More Clearly

Mental clarity and general brain function can be affected by depression, disease, dysfunction, and general aging. Symptoms can include brain fog, frequent inability to think of the right word, forgetfulness, insomnia, and chronic restlessness. There are many ways to boost clarity of thought and brain health at HaLé, including treatment through acupuncture, bodywork, and classes.

Acupuncture approaches mental clarity by improving flow to the brain, which then helps to regulate information processing and response to stimuli. By significantly improving cerebral glucose metabolism of the brain, acupuncture can improve memory, concentration, and cognitive function. Thus far, all studies that have looked at how acupuncture affects mental performance, ranging from studies on dementia to college exam performance, have produced positive results.

Bodywork and massage also help with mental clarity, especially since tight neck and shoulder muscles can limit circulation to the brain. Sessions help to activate the left side of the brain, which boosts motivation, and they alleviate the mental block of stress, which frees up energy for creative thinking and completing tasks. Bodywork has also been shown to have a cumulative effect on improving memory, increasing awareness, and heightening alertness.

Therapeutic movement classes like yoga, tai chi, and MELT Method are also helpful for improving clarity of thought because of their blend of physical activity and mindfulness practice. Movement classes are shown to increase the levels of various biochemicals in the muscles and brain that are associated with improved brain health. Because they also incorporate mindfulness, they have been shown to be more effective than aerobic exercise alone for helping the brain focus, process information, and remember details. They provide positive stimulation of the brain, which supports optimal brain function and helps you stay alert and sharp.

Mental clarity and brain function is an aspect of health that can be supported and addressed, just like any other health issue. Whether your concerns are due to aging, medication, or other causes, it is possible to create and maintain brain health for improved function and clearer thinking.

Savvy Self-Care

The fundamentals of taking care of yourself are sleeping, eating, and practicing self care. Getting enough sleep is crucial for vitality, mental sharpness, and emotional regulation. Eating well fuels the body for activity, supports healthy organ function, and also helps with emotional regulation. Self-care is just as important as sleeping and eating well. It is how we cultivate health, by listening to the body’s needs and responding appropriately.

What are your self-care mechanisms and are they working for you? These might include meditation or mindfulness practice, exercise routine and activity level, quiet time, quality time with loved ones, receiving bodywork and massage, and any of the other hundreds of things we do to support our mental, emotional, and physical health.

Being savvy with your self-care includes regularly checking in with yourself, and then being proactive about taking action. This means that when you need bodywork and massage, or acupuncture, or a class, you know where to go. You are able to tell when you need it, you know how often you need it, and you probably already have it scheduled, maybe with a standing appointment every 2 or 4 weeks.

What do you need from your self-care? You might need to cultivate a clear, calm mind, or more time to relax and recharge. You might also need a higher activity level, or bodywork to support the activity level you already maintain. Perhaps you need acupuncture to manage pain or reduce stress. Begin with how you feel and how you would like to feel, and then figure out how to make that transition.

Savvy self-care does not wait until we are so uncomfortable that we have to stop our lives to make a change, but instead listens to the smaller discomforts and takes care of them in order to maintain a sense of vitality. It’s about being daring enough to put your self-care first and foremost, in order to be more comfortable in your body. 

 

Treating Arthritis

Arthritis is a very common cause of joint pain, usually caused by worn cartilage that no longer keeps enough of a cushion between the bones of the joint. This in turn causes pain, inflammation, and stiffness. Treatment for arthritis either supports the health of the joint and/or helps to manage the pain.

At Ha.Lé, we have a variety of effective treatments for arthritis pain. Our first recommendation is to come to class. Physical movement in general helps to relieve stiffness and improve circulation. Yoga classes also help realign the joint and strengthen the muscles around it, which can reduce the amount of pressure that contributes to the pain. MELT Method classes focus on hydration of tissues, and dry tissues in the joint can be a big contributing factor for discomfort. By using MELT techniques, those dry tissues can rehydrate, reducing inflammation and providing more cushion between the bones. Finally, Somatics and Feldenkrais classes can help the body learn to move more effortlessly, taking some of the strain off of painful joints and restoring a sense of vitality.

In addition to classes, we recommend bodywork and acupuncture. Bodywork is able to address multiple layers of tissue around the affected joints, easing strain and restoring blood and nutrient flow to the tissues. By addressing issues with muscle tension and adhered fascia, the joint is freed to move more easily, releasing pressure from spaces that don’t have enough cushioning and making movement more sustainable and less painful.

Acupuncture is also helpful for arthritis. It works to regulate pain signals in general, turning down the volume on the body’s alarms. This is especially helpful when pain has become chronic, which means that the pain signals can begin to build on each other, sending louder and louder alarms. Acupuncture is able to help reset this response. It also helps to reduce the inflammation in the joints themselves, which eases discomfort.

Arthritis pain is common and treatable. There are many ways to address the discomfort and reduce the impact of arthritis on daily life, through movement classes, bodywork, and acupuncture. All of these approaches are very safe with few side effects, and have the added effect of increasing your sense of vitality and general well-being.