Posts filed under ‘Musculoskeletal’

Six Ways to Be Nice to Your Neck

At the Computer: Make sure you have a good ergonomic setup. The keyboard should be at about waist level, and the monitor should be at eye level. If you spend a lot of time on a laptop, it may make sense to plug in a separate keyboard when you are at home or the office. And, take breaks once in a while to reset the forward creep our head tends to do when looking at the same thing for a long time!

While Driving: Be conscious of keeping your head in alignment with the rest of the spine. If your headrest forces your head into a forward position, consider placing a pillow behind the back to correct for the curvature this causes. And, be conscious of your tension and aggravation while on the road!

While Sleeping:
Make sure you have a good, supportive mattress. This is a main factor for pain anywhere in the spine. The pillow is also important. I suggest either a molded pillow with built-in neck support to align your spine, or a feather pillow that can be bunched up under the neck to provide support. It may take some experimentation to find what works for you.

Out and About: keep your neck covered in chilly or windy conditions. This sounds weird to the Western ear, but in Chinese medicine one main source of neck pain is the “invasion of wind into the channels of the neck.” It does seem to be true that sensitive neck structures go into spasm easily in a cold draft. In the summer, we come in and out of air-conditioned spaces a lot, which can make the neck vulnerable. Consider keeping a scarf handy, or wearing a shirt with a collar.

At the Beginning/End of the Day: Incorporate some stretching or yoga into your routine. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or take a long time. It’s a good idea to stretch the whole body, especially the spine, since tension elsewhere in the body often refers to the neck. And, the increased flexibility and circulation will help healing and prevent degenerative changes.

All the Time: Attend to your stress level. The neck may be the first place you notice that your mind and heart need some attention. Whatever works for you — talking to a friend, exercising, meditation, music — remember that your emotional well-being is key to your health, and not an over-indulgence or luxury!


June 5, 2010 at 2:38 pm Leave a comment

Acupuncture for Sports Injuries

As we become more active in the warm weather, we may also encounter some injuries. These may be acute, such as an ankle sprain, broken bone, or dislocated joint; or they may be repetitive injuries, like tennis elbow or shin splints.

To prevent injury, it’s helpful to ease into new activities gradually, stretch before and after exercise, and be mindful of how your body is feeling. Keeping an eye on those milder aches and pains, and caring for them early, can help you avoid a full-blown injury later.

If you do get injured, acupuncture can help speed the healing process by increasing the flow of qi and blood to the injured area, bringing down swelling and inflammation, relieving pain, and helping to restore a normal range of motion.

Sometimes this involves treating near the site of the injury; more often, especially when an injury is new, or very painful, more distant points are chosen. These may be points on the same channel that have a direct effect on the injured area, or points that mirror the injured area on another part of the body, such as treating the ankle to benefit a wrist injury. (This is remarkably effective, and part of the great mystery of how our bodies are wired). Other points may be added to systemically relieve pain, reduce swelling, and boost the body’s ability to heal.

Herbal formulas are also available to help your body heal injuries. At different stages of healing, they may help reduce swelling and relieve pain, move congestion and old blood out of the area to allow for repair of tissues, and/or nourish the body to rebuild tissue and bone. Topical herbs can also be used locally in the form of plasters, liniments, or salves.

Seeking Chinese medical treatment for injury is especially recommended if something isn’t healing as fast as you think it should, or if you’re eager to get back to full health and activity as fast as possible.

Some hints for faster healing:

  1. Ice is good in the first 24 hours; after that, it may decrease blood flow and stiffen muscles.
  2. Check with a doctor immediately if you suspect any broken bones.
  3. Eat well, and get lots of protein
  4. Gentle exercise helps keep blood flowing to the area
  5. Don’t overdo it — ease back into using the injured area gradually
  6. Early treatment means faster healing

June 18, 2008 at 1:05 pm Leave a comment

Caring for Winter Aches & Pains

If you have any kind of body aches and pains – from severe arthritis to that annoying stiffness when you get out of bed in the morning – chances are it feels a little worse in the winter. In Chinese medicine, pain is said to come from stagnation of qi in the channels: when things aren’t flowing smoothly, the blocked energy starts causing trouble.

In the winter, cold damp weather can invade the channels, causing obstruction and pain; and most of us are less active this time of year, which can add to the problem. The knees and lower back, associated with the Kidney system, are especially vulnerable in winter.

If you have body pain that affects your activities, sleep, or ability to concentrate, or makes you feel unhappy or tired, please consider getting it treated. Many of us tend to push through pain, compensate for it, and try not to complain. We may have been told there’s nothing that can be done, or we may consider it an inevitable part of aging. The truth is, pain is a serious quality of life issue, and it reflects complex happenings in the body that can always be worked with, at least to some degree.

Chinese medicine provides a different approach to pain management. A good treatment always takes the dual strategy of relieving the pain symptoms as quickly as possible, while also addressing the underlying patterns in the body that contribute to and reinforce the pain. (This is called treating the branches and the root.) Even when there are structural issues involved, the body can often be trained to function more smoothly around them.

In addition to acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicines have been shown to be extremely effective for pain relief. For example, Corydalis (yan hu suo), an herb frequently used in pain formulations, has been shown to have 40% of the painkilling strength of morphine. Chinese herbal formulas are usually composed of 5-15 different ingredients. This allows your prescription to be individually tailored to your pain, its location and causes. Formulas are also balanced to be gentle on your body and prevent side effects.

Taking care of your own qi flow can also make a big difference in your pain level. The following are some simple things you can do to help yourself.

Self-Care for Body Pain

  1. Tai Chi and Yoga are ancient forms of exercise designed to gently balance and move energy in the body. Try tai chi classes in Brookline at, or in Somerville at If you’d like yoga recommendations, give me a call!
  2. Make sure you’re dressed warmly enough, indoors and outdoors. The subtle muscle tension that happens when we’re just a little too cold can shut down qi flow and add to pain and stiffness.
  3. Take a hot bath. I especially recommend a salt and soda bath, a simple and inexpensive recipe for a mineral soak. It’s relaxing, energizing, and extremely soothing to sore muscles and joints:
    Pour 1 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of salt into a warm bath.
    (If you’re breaking a sweat, it’s too hot), and soak for about 20 minutes.
  4. Eat warming, stimulating foods. Soup and tea are great for everyone. Warming spices and flavors tend to help energy flow: these include cinnamon, turmeric, garlic, any kind of pepper. If you tend to run hot, or have night sweats, skip the spicy stuff and go for peppermint and eggplant, which are both moving and cooling.
  5. Get a massage or acupuncture treatment.
  6. Do anything that makes you happy! Stress, depression, crankiness, etc. create qi stagnation. Laughter and love keep things moving. Taking care of your heart takes care of your body!

February 5, 2008 at 4:25 pm Leave a comment


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