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.

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.

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