Acupuncture: A Safe, Drug-Free Method for Treating Pain
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is subtle yet powerful. Acupuncture accesses your own ability to heal as your body learns to benefit from it. Acupuncture is a safe, effective and drug free method to treat your pain that works by restoring balance in your body. Pain is a message that something is amiss and acupuncture can correct it. How does this work? You are an electrical being. Your nervous system constantly sends and receives electrical signals throughout your entire body. In TCM, this electrical energy is called "qi" (pronounced "chee"). Sometimes through injury, disease or lifestyle the free flow of qi becomes hindered or blocked. When qi is blocked, there will be pain or illness. This may manifest as low back pain, headaches, digestion issues, insomnia or menstrual cramps. The insertion of fine, sterile, disposable needles at specific points in the body stimulates the flow of qi, clearing blockages, correcting the root cause of your problem and resolving pain. Like many of my patients, you may find that once your pain is resolved, other issues also improve.
In California, Licensed Acupuncturists (LAc) receive the most extensive training in acupuncture and herbal medicine of any other healthcare provider. Other providers, such as MDs, may perform some aspects of acupuncture with minimal training and most receive no training in herbal medicine at all. When you come to me for treatment you will receive the personalized care that seems a thing of the past in most doctors' offices today. Your acupuncture treatment will be relaxing and rejuvenating, in a soothing atmosphere. Treatments may combine acupuncture, herbs, nutrition, meditation and exercise. Most patients are pleasantly surprised by how painless acupuncture is and often tell me that they are never so relaxed as when they are receiving treatment.
About Lucinda Kotter, LAc
My name is Lucinda Kotter and I am a Licensed Acupuncturist (LAc). I hold a Masters Degree in TCM from Five Branches Institute (now Five Branches University) in Santa Cruz, CA. I studied acupuncture, Chinese herbs, massage, and Chinese nutrition. I also hold a Diploma of Acupuncture from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).
I was raised in southern California and have a bachelor's degree from UC Berkeley where I studied forestry and environmental justice. After graduating, I worked in forestry and habitat restoration. Inspired by the results I received from acupuncture treatment, I decided it was time for a career change and began my graduate studies in TCM. I have been living and practicing in Healdsburg since 2004.
I have seen people's lives profoundly changed by TCM. Often patients choose acupuncture as a last resort, after years of frustration and pain. They are skeptical and maybe a little scared. When they get results they often declare, "I should have come to you sooner!" I urge them to tell their friends because more people need to know about the effectiveness of this medicine. It is my hope and goal to see more people come to an acupuncturist as their primary care provider. TCM can be an alternative to pharmaceuticals or invasive surgery. Acupuncture is also safe, effective and compatible with conventional medicine. Healthcare should be a collaboration between patient and provider, where the patient feels empowered, not helpless. I am happy and to work with your other clinicians to help you attain your health goals.
About Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
TCM is a comprehensive medical system that focuses on restoring balance in your body and has evolved over 3,000 years of clinical use. Acupuncture is part of TCM and modern medical research shows that it is effective. TCM looks at your entire being seeking the root cause of imbalance. It goes deeper than the mere masking of symptoms with drugs.
Below is only a partial list of the things that TCM can treat:
- Ankle Swelling
- Attention Deficit Disorder
- Back Pain
- Blood Pressure - high or low
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Poor Circulation
- Colds, Flu
- Spastic Colon
- Chronic Fatigue
- Foot Pain
- Gall Bladder Disorders
- Gynecological Disorders
- Heart Problems
- Hip pain
- Immune Deficiency
- Joint pain
- Kidney problems
- Leg Pain, Cramps, Tingling
- Liver Disease
- Sinus Problems
- Skin Problems
- Sports Injuries
- Stomach Problems, Ulcers
- Sore Throat
- Thyroid Conditions
- Urinary Problems
Chinese Medicine for Boosting the Immunity
Your immune system is responsible for protecting you from infection from the outside and from abnormal cellular growth on the inside. A suppressed immune system can not only leave you vulnerable to every cold or sore throat that goes around but also to cancer. Poor nutrition, overwork, stress, sleep deprivation and emotional upheaval can all contribute to weakened immunity. Many people are in a constant state of low grade "fight or flight" response. When you are stressed, chemicals are released that prepare the body to fight or run, suppressing "less essential" functions like digestion, reproduction, immunity so that more energy can go to the muscles. If these functions are chronically suppressed, it can lead to serious problems, such as insomnia, poor digestion, frequent illness, hormonal imbalance, depression, poor sexual function, infertility and even cancer.
Traditional Chinese Medicine works with the body to gently and safely restore health without harsh pharmaceuticals and their side effects. Herbs and acupuncture are used to balance organ function and the flow of energy through the body.
The following article first appeared in HealdsburgMagazine.com in 2007.
Best Poke in Town
A Day in the Life of an Acupuncturist
I practice Traditional Chinese Medicine using acupuncture and Chinese herbs to treat my patients for almost any human health condition. When I heard about HealdsburgMagazine.com's "A Day in the Life" feature, I jumped at the chance to record a day in my clinic.
First, I called all my scheduled patients to make sure they were comfortable being photographed while in my clinic. Everyone said "yes". My friend, Margie Grant, was kind enough to be my photographer and spend the whole day with me.
My first patient brought in her four week old baby who nursed contentedly while I treated her arm for carpal tunnel. Before I brought out my needles, I questioned her closely about her general health since the birth of her son. "Any night sweats or palpitations? Headaches or ringing in the ears? Anxiety or insufficient milk production?" These can be signs of depletion that I can treat with acupuncture, herbs and diet. Long term depletion can compromise the immunity and leave her and her baby more vulnerable to contagious diseases or other complications.
My next patient complained of fatigue and insomnia. She had some surgery this spring and lost a lot of blood. Her tongue and pulse reflected this. Depleted blood can cause insomnia because blood anchors the mind at night. If the blood is weak the mind is not anchored and thus cannot be quieted to allow sleep. We talked about good foods for building her blood. I inserted needles into tonifying but calming points in her wrists and legs and let her rest for about a half hour while I entertained her son in the waiting room. He and I looked at my acupuncture doll; a rubber woman with all the points mapped on her body. Then I packaged specific herbs for this patient and sent her on her way.
My third patient had a sore knee. He needs to get this diagnosed by an orthopedist but his general practitioner insisted that he try physical therapy before she will refer him. In the meantime it still hurts and is slightly swollen. I suspect a torn meniscus. Acupuncture won't repair it but I can decrease his pain and swelling. I recommended he take an Omega-3 supplement like a good quality fish oil or flax seed oil to decrease inflammation.
My fourth patient doesn't really have any complaints today. She has been improving her health very successfully with diet, exercise and a "change in attitude". She was curious about acupuncture and alternative medicine in general. After talking for awhile about her health history I began to see a pattern. Her tongue and pulse confirmed it. "You have excess liver, just by constitution. Everything you have told me so far fits this pattern and it is a very common one. You are doing all the right things so keep it up." I used a point combination that is like the reboot button for the body. It finds stuck energy anywhere in the body and helps it flow freely. After her treatment I felt her pulse again. It had changed significantly for the better. She left feeling relaxed and refreshed and I was pleased knowing that I had given her a successful tune-up.
My fifth patient just had three wisdom teeth removed. She is healing well but her jaws ached. "Will you let me use points on your face? If it is too sore to be approached I can just use all distal points on your hands and feet," I say. She wanted the facial points and the others. I inserted needles in her cheeks. I also used the Master point for the face and head which is on the hands. I finished with a Stomach Channel point on the feet to drain excess energy from the opposite end of the channel, which is where her pain is located. (Acupuncture is so cool.) She told me it felt much better as she was leaving. I cautioned her it might ache more tonight and then feel much better tomorrow.
Now it is time for my sixth and last patient. She is six months pregnant and had back pain that radiated down one leg - sciatica. She has been seeing a chiropractor but so far it has only hurt more. She said she knows this can sometimes happen and wants to continue seeing her chiropractor. Pregnant women can be tricky to treat, as they can't lie on their back or stomach, so I often treat them lying on their side or sitting up in a comfortable chair. I also must avoid the "forbidden points" during pregnancy - they can stimulate premature labor. No points in the lower back allowed. That's ok because I have many ways to treat low back pain. "Tell me when you feel something, like maybe a muscle twitch or a little electrical zing," I said as I inserted a needle in her hand. "No zing but the baby just kicked," she said with a smile. The baby kicked for each needle I inserted into her hands and feet. Fifteen minutes later she got off the massage table and said, "Wow, it really feels better!" I saw her that night at a barbeque and she said, "Lucy, it really worked, my pain is gone!"
I tidy up my office and go home. I saw a nice variety of patients today. I hope this piece can give readers a glimpse into the wide variety of health conditions that acupuncture can treat. I also hope it conveys how comfortable and relaxing an acupuncture treatment can be.
Already known as an alternative remedy for alleviating backaches and migraines, acupuncture has found a niche in treating the side effects of cancer treatment, diabetes, eating disorders, infertility, nausea associated with pregnancy, skin disorders, emotional disorders like depression and even smoking and alcohol addictions. Relief can also be found for respiratory, circulatory, digestive and gynecological problems.
Chinese Herbs in Your Kitchen
Chinese Herbal Medicine includes over 1,000 medicinal substances including plants, animals and minerals. One could easily spend a lifetime studying Chinese Herbal Medicine, it is so intricate and there are so many formulas. Chinese herbs generally focus on balancing the body's yin and yang and the functions of the vital organs. The careful prescription of custom herbal formulas allows me to fine tune the body's functions and helps my patients achieve optimum health. I use herb powders, pills and tinctures that are easy for patients to use effectively. All of my herbs are tested for purity and come from reputable sources.
Just for fun, here is a list of common things you might have at home and their traditional Chinese medicinal uses.
Ginger - sheng jiang (fresh), gan jiang (dried). Fresh ginger is spicy and warm, used to help "sweat out" a common cold, stop nausea, vomiting, cough and treat the overdose of other very strong herbs. Dried ginger is warmer in nature and used for chronic cough with thin, watery, clear sputum. It is also an important herb for "rescuing the devastated yang" where the patient is extremely weak and cold.
Peppermint - bo he. Peppermint is spicy and cool, also used to help "sweat out" a common cold that manifests with sore throat, red eyes and more fever than chills. It helps express the rash of measles or chicken pox, thereby speeding recovery. It is also used in many formulas for gynecological problems.
Cinnamon - gui zhi (twigs), rou gui (bark). Cinnamon twig is also used to help "sweat out" a common cold. It disperses cold from the meridians for that cold achy feeling especially in the shoulders. It's warm dispersing action makes it good for menstrual cramps and palpitations caused by "cold blockage" in the abdomen or chest.
Nutmeg - rou dou kou. Nutmeg is used to "stabilize and bind" chronic diarrhea that occurs at daybreak. This is "cold" diarrhea caused by a deficiency of the kidneys and spleen not the kind you get when you travel to Mexico.
Tangerine peel - chen pi. Dried tangerine peel is used to help the digestion for bloating, fullness, nausea and vomiting. It has a drying nature so it helps dry up excess phlegm that causes a stifling sensation in the chest, abdominal distention, loss of appetite, fatigue and loose stools. A little nibble of tangerine relieves that post-Thanksgiving-why-did-I-eat-so-much bloat.
Turmeric - yu jin. Turmeric moves the blood and breaks up blood stasis. For this reason it is applied topically to traumatic injuries like a sprained ankle or taken internally to speed the healing of chronic sores or ulcers. It is also used in formulas for menstrual pain, anxiety and jaundice.
Corn silk - yu mi xu. Corn silk tea is very soothing for a urinary bladder infection. It promotes urination and treats edema. It has been used to treat jaundice and gall bladder disorders.
Honey - feng me. Honey is used to tonify the qi, meaning it gives energy. It treats abdominal pain, constipation and dry cough. It also can be applied to burns to prevent infection. Many strong herbs are cooked in honey to neutralize their extreme nature.
Rose bud - mei gui hua. Rose buds are said to treat a broken heart. They sooth digestion that is disturbed by emotional distress. It also is good for PMS symptoms and menstrual pain and should not be used during pregnancy because it invigorates (thins and moves) the blood.
For fifteen years, I had chronic rhinitis with post-nasal drip. My sinuses were over-sensitive ... to all kinds of stimuli: dust, diesel, perfume, cold air, wind, smoke, and cold food among them. This condition caused me to cough INCESSANTLY and deeply, to the extent that I cracked a rib, pulled muscles, and damaged my vocal cords. I was unable to sleep or to meet with clients, without a cough drop in my cheek the entire time. I slept with a cough drop in my mouth!
For ten years an allergy medication alleviated my symptoms, but when it stopped working, my symptoms returned, worse than ever. My allergist tried for two years to help me, with several different medications, all of which had side effects, and none of which worked for more than two weeks. On recommendation of two different friends, one of whom is a Registered Nurse, I met with Lucy Kotter. . .
Lucy took an extensive history. . .and began a treatment of acupuncture and Chinese herbs meant to address the underlying causes of my condition, while also treating the symptom (the coughing) to provide me with some relief. She also made dietary recommendations, which I followed. Within a couple of weeks, the coughing had markedly decreased, and within a month I no longer needed the constant cough drop.
. . .[T]he changes in my overall system. . .have enabled my body to resist reacting to the stimuli that used to make me cough. I now see her once a month for the acupuncture and herbs, and continue to enjoy my new health!
. . .To express how grateful I am to Lucy is impossible. Her wisdom and care have enabled a change in my life which is profound. I was in misery before and it was hard for my loved ones and co-workers to witness. The absence of suffering is a JOY to behold, and we are grateful every day. . .
I was surprised how relaxed & energized, paradoxically, I could feel at one time while lying on the treatment table letting the needles to their work. It was also satisfying to note how points along indicated meridians really buzzed and alerted me to its connection to my overall energetics. Sensing that yes, energetic points on my right foot were indeed sending healing to my injured left wrist. And the results were obvious as soon as I got off the table.
Lucinda is a caring, gentle, thorough practitioner whose ministrations on my behalf made the difference in bringing my traumatic . . .injury under control. I'm glad to have found and been treated by her.
I came to Lucinda because I was very ill while pregnant with my son. . . I had heard acupuncture works . . .so I called Lucy. She saw me at 3 months pregnant and through the whole rest of the pregnancy. She relaxed me and helped ease my feeling of being so queasy. She saved my life and made my pregnancy easier to handle. [It] was a high risk pregnancy and she was gentle and knew what to do.