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Enhance your vitality with qigong

Qigong

What is qigong?

Qigong is a practice of cultivating energy. The word “qi” refers to energy or life force, and the word “gong” in this case refers to work or practice. Qigong is a combination of gentle movements with mindful breathing that balance and move energy. Qigong can be practiced by anyone at any age or level of health.

  

Why I love it

I love qigong because it is so simple and effective. It can be practiced anywhere. I don’t need any equipment or to go to the gym. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining outside or too hot or too cold. I can practice if I am sick or injured. I can tailor and recommend qigong movements to every one of my patients regardless of their age or level of health.

 

Benefits of qigong

Practicing qigong has been said to be like recharging your battery. It gives you energy. Qigong balances your energy, and it can help calm and disperse uncomfortable energy like stress and anxiety. The body is then able to use this energy to heal anything that may need to be healed. Qigong benefits mental, emotional, and physical health. It can also be very helpful in boosting immunity.

 

How I incorporate it into a treatment

In addition to offering telehealth appointments with customized qigong exercises, I will often recommend qigong exercises to my patients who come in for acupuncture treatments. This is especially useful for people who want to continue to enhance their vitality and well-being at home. At the end of an acupuncture session, I will teach patients a simple exercise or two. We’ll practice it together to make sure they can feel the sensations and ask questions if needed. Here are two  examples of simple qigong exercises that can be done at home:

Shaking:

  • Stand with feet shoulder with apart.
  • Start at your hands and begin a shaking motion that moves up your arms and through your body. Include your head, torso, legs, etc.
  • This moves energy and stuck emotions.
  • Let yourself exhale deeply to release tension.
  • Open your mouth and make a sound if you like. This could be a sigh, a grunt, or whatever feels right to you.
  • This exercise is great for stress relief.

 

Calming:

  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart.
  • Inhale and raise arms with palms facing up over your head, and then exhale with the palms facing each other and gently let them float down.
  • When your palms pass in front of your face, turn the palms down to face the ground and continue lowering your palms in front of you until they reach your hips.
  • Repeat at least three times.
  • During the last time, let your hands rest on your lower abdomen with palms facing in, and take a few more slow breaths into your abdomen.
  • This exercise is also referred to as “waterfalls”. It can be helpful to envision gentle water washing over you, easing away tension and invigorating you as you practice.
  • This exercise smooths, calms, and grounds your energy.

 

Resources

There are so many wonderful books, DVDs, and even free videos on Youtube dedicated to qigong practices. Some are tailored to areas like stress and anxiety, headaches, back pain, insomnia, digestion, and immunity to name a few. Others focus on certain populations, like chair-based qigong for elderly or injured people.

 

Here are links to some of my favorite teachers and videos: 

 

Want to learn more about qigong and get customized exercises just for you? I’d love to hear from you. Reach out and email me through our website or call or text 910-622-6960.

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

How acupuncture and ear seeds can help you stop smoking

acupuncture smoking

Are you ready to stop smoking?

I often get calls from people asking, “Can acupuncture really help people stop smoking?” They are surprised to learn that a relatively simple treatment can actually help them stop smoking. There have been a multitude of medical research articles over the years that have shared how acupuncture can help people stop smoking. For example, the Cleveland Clinic published an article last year called, “Want to Quit Smoking? Acupuncture Can Help You With Cravings“. Additionally, the National Library of Medicine published an article called, “Effect of acupuncture on smoking cessation or reduction: an 8-month and 5-year follow-up study” that contains links to a number of additional studies.

 

When I was in acupuncture school, one of my teachers shared his opinion that smoking isn’t such a bad thing. We were all surprised by this and wanted to know more. He explained that many people smoke because it gives them a reason to take a break. When someone smokes, they often remove themselves from whatever situation they are in. They stop doing whatever they are doing. Typically, they go outside and take a break.  Making a habit of regularly taking breaks is great for our health. The idea is to learn to do this without smoking a cigarette.

 

How does acupuncture help someone stop smoking?

First, it’s important to look at the person as a whole. Acupuncturists take time to do a thorough intake and health history review with every patient. This enables us to identify any energetic imbalances and potential underlying issues that may make it more difficult to stop smoking. Additionally, specific areas on the body can be stimulated to help with things like craving control and addiction.

 

In an acupuncture treatment, small needles about the width of a hair are inserted into the skin to stimulate acupuncture points. The needles are so tiny that people often don’t feel them going in. Patients then rest comfortably on a massage table for about 20-25 minutes. It’s not unusual for people to feel so relaxed that they fall asleep. Acupuncture can evoke the relaxation response, which is one way to take a break without needing a cigarette. You can read more about the relaxation response in my blog Healing yourself with the relaxation response.

 

People often ask how long it takes to see results from an acupuncture treatment. This is a difficult question to answer because every person is different, and it really depends on their individual response to the treatment. Generally, people can reasonably expect to see results after about 6 to 10 treatments. They will typically start noticing other benefits, like feeling more relaxed or improved sleep, much sooner than that.

 

How ear seeds can support acupuncture to help someone stop smoking

Ear seeds are a great addition to an acupuncture treatment. An ear seed is a small sphere. It stimulates an acupuncture point on the surface of the ear. Ear seeds attach to the ear with adhesive tape that looks like a band aid or clear surgical tape. They work by exerting a gentle pressure on the acupuncture point. Patients can wear ear seeds for up to five days. I love to use ear seeds because they are a great way to continue the treatment at home. For example, an ear seed on the craving control point can be gently squeezed and stimulated at home whenever someone feels the need for a cigarette.

 

Ear seeds are also a standalone treatment for people who are afraid of needles or who are not able to see an acupuncturist. Ear seeds are a lower cost option for people who cannot afford acupuncture treatments. Condition-specific ear seed kits are available to purchase and use at home. They contain the ear seeds, an application tool, and instructions. One of the most popular kits I have is the Stop Smoking ear seeds kit. You can read more about ear seeds in the All about ear seeds and auriculotherapy blog.

 

Want to talk about how acupuncture and ear seeds can help you stop smoking? I’d love to hear from you. Reach out and email me through our website or call or text 910-622-6960.

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

Acupuncture for low back pain

acupuncture for low back pain

Background on acupuncture for low back pain

Low back pain is one of the most common reasons that people seek out acupuncture.  It is one of the most common complaints heard by healthcare practitioners overall. It can be debilitating and scary. A new study from the from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) shows that acute low back pain can become chronic if not treated properly.  Thankfully, acupuncture is one of the primary treatments recommended by doctors for low back pain. In 2017, the American College of Physicians issued guidelines advocating that patients choose natural therapies like acupuncture over pain medications.

 

What causes low back pain

The source of low back pain can be difficult to pinpoint. Sometimes, the cause is obvious after an injury. It can also be due to lifestyle habits like sitting or sleeping position or repetitive movements. In addition, structural issues often play a role, though they may not correlate to the level of pain someone experiences. Structural conditions include degenerated or herniated discs, spinal stenosis, scoliosis, and arthritis. Muscle strains and spasms can cause low back pain along with pinched nerves. Kidney stones, gallstones, and constipation can also cause low back pain. Many people are surprised to learn that low back pain can even arise from emotional challenges.

 

Types of low back pain

Some people experience low back pain in a very specific location. Often, the pain may start in one area and radiate to another area. This is common with sciatica, where the pain can radiate down the hip and leg. Other people experience a general nonspecific kind of pain. The feeling can be a dull ache, or even a numbness, tingling, stabbing, or burning sensation. This information helps an acupuncturist know how to treat the pain and get to the source of the pain.

 

 

How acupuncture can help low back pain

Just as every person is unique, there is no one size fits all treatment for low back pain. The acupuncturist will work with a patient to understand the details about their back pain, including when it started, how it started, what it feels like, and what makes it feel better or worse. The acupuncturist will also review the patient’s overall health history and listen to any additional concerns. This, along with diagnostic information from listening to the patient’s pulses and looking at the patient’s tongue, will give the acupuncturist a good idea of what is going on from an energetic perspective. The acupuncturist will then create a customized treatment to address the energetic imbalances.

 

An acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatment for low back pain will most often involve needles. Depending on the nature of the pain, a far-infrared TDP lamp may also be used on the back. There are a variety of liniments made from Chinese herbs that may be applied to the back to help with pain, and these can be taken home for continued application. Gentle movement, like easy walking, is often recommended to continue to encourage blood and energy flow through the lower back.

 

Ear seeds for low back pain

Ear seeds can also be very helpful for lower back pain. An ear seed is a small sphere placed on an acupuncture point on the surface of the ear that is held in place with adhesive tape. It works by exerting a gentle pressure on the acupuncture point. There are specific points on the ear that correspond to the lower back. A patient can wear ear seeds for up to five days. They are a great way to continue treatment at home. Ear seed kits are also available for people who are afraid of needles. You can learn more about ear seeds in my blog about ear seeds.

 

Want to talk about how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help your low back pain? I’d love to hear from you. Reach out and email me through our website or call or text 910-622-6960.

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

 

 

How to stay healthy this spring

healthy this spring

Are you looking for ways to stay healthy this spring?

This is the time of year when many people start feeling a little off, whether they are experiencing allergy symptoms, headaches, irritability, or problems with muscles, tendons and ligaments. Women might have menstrual or fertility issues, and people may find it more difficult to make decisions. Are you sighing more than usual? This may be your body’s way of releasing stagnant liver qi. “Qi” is the Chinese word that means life force or energy.

 

My patients are usually amused to hear me say “It’s liver time!”. In Chinese medicine, the organs are associated with phases or elements, and the liver belongs to the wood element which is dominant in the spring. I share that the symptoms they are experiencing align with the energetic shift of the changing seasons.

 

Alignment with the seasons and phases

People are often fascinated to hear about how their organs are associated with the different seasons and how this relates to symptoms they experience in their bodies.

 

In Chinese Medicine, there are five phases of transformation: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. While in Traditional Chinese Medicine these are called elements, Classical Chinese Medicine refers to them as phases because they develop and change into one another. The five phases or elements correspond to the seasons spring, summer, fall, and winter. In Chinese medicine, summer is further divided into summer and late summer. Late summer refers to the transformation between the warmer summer weather and cool fall weather. The seasons and phases (or elements) are associated as follows:

 

  • Spring: Wood. This is when nature starts stirring from winter’s dormancy. Trees and plants blossom. New branches grow out of old wood, and new growth begins.

 

  • Summer: Fire. This is the time of warmth and activity. Nature is moving actively, and as a result is growing and flourishing.

 

  • Late summer: Earth. This is the time of harvest. It is also is the pause between the rising of the warming and active phases of wood and fire and the declining and cooler phases of fall and winter.

 

  • Fall: Metal. This is when nature lets go of what is not needed, as seen in the falling leaves from the trees. The soil is enriched with the compost from the dead leaves so it can prepare for the next cycle of growth in the spring.

 

  • Winter: Water. This is a time of rest. Animals hibernate, the days are shorter, and nature gets still and goes within to build up reserves.

 

How the liver and gallbladder are affected in the spring

As I shared earlier, the liver is the organ that is associated with the wood element and spring. In Chinese medicine, the gallbladder is paired with the liver, and it is also part of the wood phase or element. Like the new shoots of growth in plants, similarly, our energy rises up in the spring. When too much energy rises up too quickly, we can get headaches and feel irritable.

 

When this uprising energy gets stuck or is not balanced, we can experience issues with our muscles, tendons and ligaments. For example, this is often a time of year when people experience knee problems. When the liver energy is not flowing smoothly, it can also result in PMS symptoms or fertility issues.

 

The eyes are the sensory organ associated with the liver. This is a time of year where people frequently experience itchy, red, painful eyes or blurred vision.

 

Sometimes the energy of these organs can be deficient, and people may experience twitching in their muscles, or find that they have trouble making decisions or gathering the energy to move forward in life.

 

 

Supporting your liver and gallbladder so you can stay healthy this spring

Every individual is unique, and no two people will experience the same symptoms for exactly the same reason. When I see a new patient, I make the time to ask a lot of questions and review their health history. This allows me to determine what is going on with their energy. For example, it is important to determine whether their energy is rising up too quickly, getting stuck, or is deficient. I develop a customized treatment to address their specific needs and restore the balance of energy. This might involve acupuncture needles, ear seeds, qigong exercises, and diet and lifestyle advice.

 

Want to talk about how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help you stay healthy this spring? I’d love to hear from you. Reach out and email me through our website or call or text 910-622-6960.

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

Learn the ancient Chinese art of yangsheng – nourishing life

yangsheng

Why yangsheng and the art of nourishing life is important

At the start of the Chinese New Year in February 2021, I listened to a webcast from one of my favorite teachers, Lillian Pearl Bridges. Lillian is an expert on Face Reading. She can tell what’s going on with a person’s health and wellness just by looking at their face. Lillian also has a broad knowledge of Chinese astrology and Feng Shui. I have taken a number of Lillian’s classes, and I look forward to the special Chinese New Year forecast that she presents to Chinese Medicine practitioners each year.

 

This year, when Lillian shared her thoughts about the year of the Ox, she stressed the importance of practicing yangsheng. The ox is a very respected animal, and it is valued for its ability to work hard and endure. This year will require patience and an emphasis on yangsheng. Simply put, yangsheng refers to the practice of nourishing life that has been in existence and documented for other two thousand years. “Yang” translates to nurture or nourish. “Sheng” translates to life or vitality. This is a practice of self-cultivation or self-care that is believed to be crucial to overall health and longevity.

 

How to practice yangsheng

Another favorite teacher of mine is Peter Deadman. He has written a number of books on Chinese Medicine and has delved deeply into yangsheng. He states that there are three main ways to practice yangsheng:

 

First, avoid behavior that causes harm. This includes consuming alcohol excessively, smoking, eating poor quality food, allowing emotions to damage our mental health, and not being physically active.

 

Second, engage in activities that promote health and well-being. This includes eating healthfully, exercising appropriately, fostering positive emotions and managing negative emotions, practicing good sleep hygiene, cultivating positive relationships, and spending time in nature. Follow this link to read my blog on how to improve your sleep. To help manage emotions, click this link to read a blog I wrote on how to manage stress and anxiety.

 

Third, practice exercises specifically designed to nourish life. This includes qigong, taiji (also known as tai chi), and yoga.  Other yangsheng-specific activities include meditation, mindful breathing, and practicing the relaxation response. Follow this link to read a blog I wrote on how you can practice the relaxation response.

 

 

Balance and moderation are key

In our American culture, we have a tendency to overdo things, and we can become unbalanced. To practice yangsheng we need to consider a balanced approach to life. For example, some of us may be great at exercising consistently but we don’t get enough sleep. Maybe we eat really well but we also worry constantly and experience stress and anxiety. In yangsheng, balancing exercise, diet, sleep, and mental health are essential. Everything in moderation. I deeply respect this approach. In fact, the name of the Chinese Medicine school I attended, Jung Tao, translates to “middle way”. Not too far one way or the other. The middle way is preferable.

 

Even though yangsheng concepts are quite simple, they can be very difficult to put into practice. Most people will want more of something that feels good to them. If a little is good, more must be better. This can give way to overeating, overexercising, even oversleeping.

 

Time can also be challenge with so many of us leading busy lives. It is often hard to find time to do all of the things we want to do. As I have been working on cultivating yangsheng for myself this year, I find that some weeks I am successful at including exercise, but I am not able to pay as much attention to healthy eating habits. Other weeks I eat really well and make time to meditate, but do not find time to exercise. Trying to squeeze everything in can create an imbalance of activity and can be counter to the principles of yangsheng.

 

Make time to rest

Balancing doing with non-doing, or rest, is key. Creating free spaces in your day are important to balance all of the activity. What I’ve discovered is most important for me is to be kind to myself and to be as present as I can with whatever activity I am engaged in. That in and of itself is a very important part of nourishing life.

 

Want to talk about how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help you? I’d love to hear from you. Reach out and email me through our website or call or text 910-622-6960.

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.