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.

Yes, HSAs and FSAs cover massage and acupuncture

Health Savings Accounts (HSA) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) can be used to pay for massage and acupuncture treatments, as long as your physician recommends it with a written prescription. At HaLe’, we deeply believe in the effectiveness of our treatments, and are very excited to see bodywork, massage, and acupuncture covered as the health care it is.

To get a written prescription from your medical provider, you will need to talk with them about receiving treatment for a specific medical ailment. Some examples of qualifying issues are: stress, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain.  Explain to them that you have an HSA or FSA that you would like to use to pay for bodywork, massage, or acupuncture to address your ailment. If you are already receiving these kinds of treatments, tell your doctor about how much they are helping you and how effective you find them.

To support this conversation, HaLe’ is happy write a letter to bring with you, detailing our suggested treatment plan for that ailment. Your doctor may choose to write the prescription to match that plan or may make adjustments based on their expertise. Either way, the prescription needs to include these 3 pieces of information:

  • Medical necessity: what condition you are treating
  • Frequency: how many sessions per month
  • Duration: how many months

Once you have your prescription, let us know what it says and then file it away with your records in case you are ever asked to back up your expense. You can pay for your sessions at HaLe’ directly with the card or check associated with your health spending account, if you have them. Please note that gratuity is not considered part of the cost and so does not qualify as a qualifying expense. Also, for some people, our classes might also be effective treatments for their ailments, and prescriptions for those could also be appropriate.

At HaLe’, we want you to feel good about what you are doing for your health. These HSA and FSA payment options make our treatments more accessible, which means we can be effective health care for more people, so you can get better and feel good!

Acupuncture for Knee Pain

Knee pain is one of the most common types of joint pain, and as the body’s largest joint, it is also one of the most injured. Our knees act as big shock absorbers and so receive a lot of stress and strain every day. Studies have shown that acupuncture is effective in relieving several types of knee pain, including pain from arthritis, overuse, and injury.

Acupuncture begins by helping to increase circulation. By bringing more blood flow, the toxins and fluids that build up due to inflammation can be removed more quickly. This reduces swelling and the pain that swelling causes. As more blood circulates, it also brings more oxygen and nutrients to speed up the tissue repair process.

Next, acupuncture relaxes and loosens painful spots in the muscles and connective tissue. As these “knots” or “trigger points” release, it supports the healing of the tissue. Muscle fibers can take on too much tension as a result of injury and pain, and helping to relax this tension supports the healing process.

Acupuncture also works with the body’s own healing and pain relief process. It helps to regulate pain signals and turn down the volume of the alarm being sent through the nervous system. It releases endorphins, the body’s internal pain medicine, and releases serotonin, the feel good brain chemical.

Treating knee pain with with acupuncture is effective, and combines well with other treatments like bodywork, physical therapy, or prescribed medications. The treatment schedule is usually to come once or twice a week for a few weeks, and then drop down to a maintenance schedule when symptoms have improved. Knee pain can affect everyday mobility and quality of life. Acupuncture can help.

How Often Do You Need Self-Care?

Our bodies require regular care in order to thrive and heal, and one of the best ways to make sure we are on top of our self-care is to put it on our schedule instead of trying to fit it in around everything else. As a health and wellness practice, HaLe’ has experience with what kinds of schedules work best. Here are our recommendations, based on the state of your body:

Acute Pain: 3 classes/wk, bodywork or acupuncture every week

Acute pain is an active, painful flare up or injury. The body needs frequent treatment in order to release secondary tension, stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, support the lymph system, regulate the pain signals, and generally assist the healing process.

Sub-acute: 1-2 classes/wk, bodywork or acupuncture every 2 weeks

Sub-acute pain falls between acute pain (sudden and awful) and chronic pain (long term, constant/consistent pain). It means that something hurts, but it hasn’t been hurting for a very long time and it isn’t terrible. The body is not in crisis but still in need of support and healing, so regular treatment until it resolves is recommended.

Chronic: Start with 2-3 classes/wk and bodywork or acupuncture every 1-2 weeks, then taper down

Chronic pain is long term pain that is not healing or getting better, and can be anywhere on the spectrum from unbearable to really annoying. Addressing chronic pain involves a combination of treatments to reduce overall pain levels and to treat the root cause of the chronic condition. This usually means coming often at the beginning, and as treatment makes progress at interrupting the pain cycle, tapering off gradually until treatments reach a maintenance level.

Maintenance: 1-2 classes/wk, bodywork or acupuncture every 4 weeks

To maintain a level of general good health and low pain, we recommend a basic self-care schedule. This helps resolve issues before they begin to hurt, reduces baseline stress levels, hydrates the connective tissue (fascia), and promotes a general sense of well-being. People who are very active or athletic may need more frequent self-care maintenance.

 

A Note on Mental Health care:

These same protocols can also be applied to mental and emotional health. Psychotherapy sessions for high distress, medium distress, chronic distress, and mental health maintenance often follow the same frequency guidelines as the pain levels, since mental and emotional distress is a form of pain. Coming to classes provides valuable support for regulating mood, reducing the physical symptoms of mental and emotional stress, and releasing emotional energy that is stored in the body. Adding bodywork and/or acupuncture to your treatment plan can treat imbalances that may be contributing to distress and help boost a sense of overall wellbeing.

Crackle and Pop: Knees and other Joints

Our knees and other joints can pop, grind, crunch, and make other interesting sounds. This can be alarming, causing worry about the health of the joint and whether the sounds are a sign of something serious.

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 making painless sounds 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. 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.

Focus on Feeling Better: Rebalancing the Body

Our bodies function through complex biological systems interacting with each other. Because everything is interconnected, an issue in one part of the body can have widespread consequences. Rebalancing these systems can help to find and address root causes of pain and dysfunction, and to correct small imbalances before they start to have wider effects.

Acupuncture is focused on rebalancing the body. It is a complete medical protocol traditionally used to prevent and treat disease and to promote overall health. It uses tiny, hair-thin needles to cue the body toward balance, and is both very safe and effective.

Studies have shown acupuncture to be especially effective for pain. This is true for all kinds of pain, including arthritis, fibromyalgia, dental pain, menstrual pain, back pain, knee pain, and headaches. It both addresses the underlying imbalances that are causing the pain, and helps regulate the pain signals in the nervous system, which can snowball without effective treatment.

Acupuncture also helps to rebalance and treat the many other systems of the body. This includes addressing various kinds of allergies, regulating hormonal systems, bringing balance to the heart and circulatory system, and easing digestive difficulties. Most imbalances or health concerns can be addressed and improved through acupuncture, and at Ha.Lé we welcome the opportunity to partner with your doctor in your care.

Rebalancing the body through acupuncture also has the benefit of improving overall health and addressing small problems before they become big problems. As a preventative treatment, it can keep the many complex systems of the body running more smoothly, with fewer opportunities for dysfunction.

Balancing the body and maintaining that balance is one of the foundations of health and wellbeing. Acupuncture is a safe, effective way to promote that balance, creating health deep in the interconnected systems of the body.

Replenish Your Capacity to Give

Being generous brings joy and improves our overall health. However, our capacity to give can become depleted by stress, high expectations, and reduced feelings of empathy. In other words, we can feel so distressed that it becomes more difficult to connect with the joy of giving.

Being generous is a proven benefit to our health. It activates positive feedback loops in the brain that in turn can increase longevity, improve heart health, and release oxytocin, the happy trust hormone. However, it is not the size of the gift that brings these benefits, but our ability to connect with the people we are giving to, and to feel for ourselves the joy or support that gift brings them.

Our ability to feel that sense of connection and empathy is reduced by stress. Compassion fatigue, which happens when we care about others to the point that our ability to care becomes depleted, often contributes to a loss of empathy. Other causes include personal trauma, high anxiety or depression, and physical pain.

Reducing stress levels through self-care and pain management is an effective way to restore empathy and open-heartedness. Bodywork and acupuncture both help reset the nervous system away from fight or flight stress responses, even as they treat specific dysfunctions or imbalances. Therapeutic movement classes like HaLé Yoga and MELT help release stress that has become stuck in the body, rebalancing and resetting the nervous system. Psychotherapy and counseling help integrate body and mind, creating space for health.

Treating stress through self-care replenishes the body’s resources for connection with others. This allows us to more fully empathize with others, restoring our capacity to give and to experience the joys of generosity. At HaLé we encourage you to both take time for your own self-care, and to give that gift to others who also need a little replenishing.

Acupuncture for Depression & Anxiety

Acupuncture can be an effective treatment for stress, anxiety, and depression because it works like physical therapy for the nervous system. It trains the brain and nervous system to behave in ways that stabilize mood, decrease anxiety triggers, and bring a sense of happiness and ease.  

When we feel threatened, our body sounds the alarms and turns on the sympathetic nervous system to deal with the danger. However, most threats we face in daily life are mental and emotional stressors that can leave us feeling threatened all the time, which creates chronic stress. Emotional symptoms of chronic stress include anxiety, frustration, moodiness, overwhelm, inability to relax, and depression.

The key to treating chronic stress and its emotional symptoms lies in the central nervous system. Acupuncture is a safe and effective way to create positive changes in central nervous function, which helps to turn off the alarms of stress and bring the nervous system back into rest-and-digest mode. This more fully activates the Central Autonomic Network, which is the part of the brain that lives in the present and handles working memory and sensory input.

Scientific meta-analysis of studies done on the effectiveness of acupuncture treatments has also  shown that the “dosage” is important. In order to retrain the nervous system away from chronic stress, depression, and anxiety, patients need to receive more than 3 points per treatment, and sessions should not be spaced too far apart. Treatments at least once a week get the best results.

Acupuncture is effective for creating nervous system health and treating anxiety, depression, and stress. It can help us feel more focused, make better decisions, and be happier overall. When our nervous systems are in balance, we thrive.

Benefits of Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a complete medical protocol focused on correcting imbalances in the body. It has traditionally been used to prevent and treat disease, as well as promote overall health.

What it treats: Acupuncture is well known to help treat and reduce pain. This includes low back and neck pain, arthritis pain, headaches, and other common complaints. It also includes dental pain, sciatica, menstrual pain, and fibromyalgia and other pain syndromes. If the body is hurting, acupuncture has been shown to help reduce that pain.

Acupuncture has also been proven effective for correcting imbalances in order to treat high blood pressure, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, allergies, and the risk of stroke. It helps regulate mood, sleep, and digestion and so can also be effective for depression, anxiety, insomnia, and a variety of digestive complaints.

Risks: Acupuncture is a very safe therapy. The main risks are minor bleeding, bruising, or soreness at an insertion site. All needles are single use, sterile, and non-toxic.

But, needles?: Acupuncture needles are hair-thin and nothing like the needles we encounter at the doctor or dentist. It does not feel anything like getting a shot, and instead is designed to be the gentlest form of needling possible. Some people prefer to call them pins, though even pins are much thicker than acupuncture needles.

Comprehensive Care: Acupuncture treatments are not just about needling. They also incorporate herbs, cupping therapy, gua sha, moxibustion, and ear seeds as indicated, in order to best correct imbalances and bring the systems of the body into a state of improved harmony.

Acupuncture is a generally safe and effective way to help regulate the systems of the body, bringing them back toward balance. This reduces pain, eases symptoms, and prevents disease. It is a gentle and low risk therapy that creates health and boosts your overall sense of wellbeing.

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