Acupuncture: Your Ally Against Shingles Pain

 Anyone who has ever experienced the pain of shingles, or the herpes zoster virus, can attest to the excruciating pain of the condition. The most common cause of chronic nerve pain, shingles affects one out of every three people in the United States. In fact, more than one million cases are diagnosed every year.  

Although Shingrix, the shingles vaccine released in 2017, is highly effective, some people still experience symptoms in spite of being vaccinated.  
 Like other herpes viruses, the varicella-zoster virus has an initial infectious stage (chicken pox), followed by a dormant stage when the virus settles into nerve tissue.  About 20 percent of people who have had chicken pox will eventually develop shingles. Outbreaks start with itching, numbness, tingling or severe pain and can progress to a rash, most commonly occurring on the trunk. Shingles can also occur on the scalp, face or even eyes.  Initial symptoms may also present like the flu, including headache, fever, fatigue or swollen lymph nodes.
 During chicken pox infection, the virus enters the cutaneous nerves and then travels to the dorsal root ganglia of the spine, where it lies dormant until triggered. Stress, illness, emotional upset, immuno-suppressant drugs, fatigue and radiation therapy all can set the stage for a shingles outbreak. Your chances of experiencing a bout of shingles increases with age, being most common in those over 50.
 So how else can you protect yourself?  If you do notice these symptoms, it’s important to seek Chinese medical care as soon as possible — even if you’re taking prescription antiviral medications.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), shingles is considered a latent pathogen. All illnesses are classified according to the stage of infection and position in the body’s physiology. For example, a straightforward cold stays more at the body’s surface, whereas cancer lies deep in blood tissue or organs.
 TCM considers shingles a Shao Yang pathology, meaning one that is deeply entrenched in the body and periodically flares.  In fact, there are specific herbal formulas specifically designed to combat Shao Yang illnesses. These formulas tend to have antiviral properties and not only help reduce symptoms, but can weaken the virus while strengthening the immune system. 
  Acupuncture may also be employed as a powerful tool to clear rashes and ease pain, especially by working specifically in spinal dermatome areas called Hua Tuo Jiaji points. As shingles rashes tend to follow specific nerve pathways originating in vertebral nerve centers, these points can help clear up shingles at the source.
  Even if you’re already taking antiviral medications like acyclovir,  Chinese medical treatment can not only provide powerful relief, but also strengthen your immune system and body in general. The result: faster recovery from shingles, reduced change of future outbreaks and improved overall health.
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No Need to Suffer: Why You Don’t Need to Live with Chronic Pain

Photo by from Pexels

If you have a chronic health problem, whether it’s pain or a digestive issue, you’ve most likely made the rounds from your primary care M.D., specialist physician and physical therapist. You might have tried supplements or stretches. Somewhere along the way a friend suggested acupuncture.  

As is often the case, acupuncture may be a modality you’re considering, although you don’t have enough information about how it works for your condition. This is a common scenario.  When you seek out that information, keep in mind that an acupuncturist is the best candidate to answer the question of how your condition is likely to respond to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). (TCM includes not only acupuncture, but also related physical modalities such as cupping and Chinese herbalism, a comprehensive internal medicine system).

More often than not, the answer is yes, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by receiving acupuncture treatment.   The fact is that many people are suffering unnecessarily from pain conditions that could be relieved substantially and in some cases eliminated with acupuncture treatments.

It’s not unusual for people to assume that their discomfort is due to aging, heredity or the permanent effects of a previous injury. Although it’s always better to treat injuries sooner rather than later, if you haven’t explored acupuncture you haven’t explored your healing potential. Here are several reasons acupuncture can help with pain or other disorders that haven’t responded to other treatment:

▪Acupuncture can soften scar tissue and increase blood flow to an old injury: If you had surgery at an injured site, you may have received no other treatment in your recovery other than a few sessions of physical therapy. Most likely, this therapy involved strengthening surrounding muscles rather than working with scar tissue. Acupuncture has the ability to make scar tissue more pliable, flexible and responsive to surrounding circulation. This, in turn, relieves pain.

▪Aging goes better with acupuncture. People often associate their aches and pains with the aging process. It’s true that many of these feelings didn’t exist at age 25. But whether your discomfort is due to overuse, postural issues, disc problems or previous injury, all of these issues are workable situations with acupuncture. In fact, you may have never received therapeutic treatment for these issues. Aside from increasing blood flow, acupuncture can actually help heal injured tissue such as frayed tendons and strained muscles.

▪If your pain is being “controlled” by medications, it’s possible to reduce pain even more while reducing medications as well. In Chinese medicine terms, pain-relieving medications often create dryness in the body. Constipation or slower bowels is a prime example of this. With acupuncture, contracted muscles can be released, which allows more nutrients to reach tissue and enhance the healing response. This not only relieves pain, but also increases range of motion.

Most licensed acupuncturists offer brief free consultations to allow you to discuss your concerns. Like physical therapy, weight loss or fitness conditioning, changing any physical state in the body takes time.

 Your journey with acupuncture may last only a couple of treatments. If it’s a complex, severe or long-term issue, count on more like a dozen treatments with maintenance follow-ups. Chinese medicine is also suitable for health maintenance and prevention;  So  a monthly visit to the acupuncturist may save you a great deal of discomfort in the long term. You may find that along with pain relief, you’re also experiencing better moods, better sleep, better digestion and less medications. Your health and longevity are well worth the effort of trying another modality.

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Happy Year of the Pig

We’re out of the dog house and into the Year of the Pig in the Chinese zodiac cycle. February 19 marks the Chinese lantern festival, the finale in the New Year’s festivities. It’s a celebration indeed, as the Earth Pig promises a year with strong potential for love, prosperity and stability.  

Legend has it that the Jade Emperor decreed the sequence of zodiac animals to mirror the order in which they appeared at his party. The carefree Pig overslept, arrived last and now takes 12th place in the last year of the Chinese zodiac cycle. The Pig is a welcome followup to the 2018’s Year of the Dog, which was marked by rapid-fire activity. 

What will the Year of the Pig bring to you? Being the last zodiac animal means your long-term projects should see finalization this year. This year’s Pig aligns with the earth element, meaning it’s a favorable time for projects to take root in a strong environment. In general, the Year of the Pig is associated with renewal and new beginnings. In Chinese culture, pigs are considered lucky signs that attract good fortune and wealth. And the association with the earth element means the Earth or “Golden Pig” should bring calm and balance to your life.

People born during the year of the Pig (1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, and 2019) are considered philanthropic and generous, but also disciplined and hard-working. Social and friendly pigs have a zest for life and enjoy entertaining. These traits mean 2019 is not only a good year for business, but a great time for thriving friendships, as well.

In terms of health, the earth element rules digestion in Chinese medicine terms. Thus, 2019 is the year to focus on healthy eating habits. It’s a good time to learn to cook, join a local co-op or start a garden. Focus on earth-nourishing foods like squash, sweet potatoes, carrots and ginger. With a little self-care, you’ll be able to fully enjoy the peaceful and prosperous Earth Pig year. 

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Cosmetic Acupuncture: More than Skin Deep

When it comes to enhancing the appearance, there are two major avenues — natural and otherwise. “Otherwise” includes botox, fillers and, of course, surgery. While some fillers are relatively harmless long-term, none of these techniques actually improves the health. Acupuncture facial rejuvenation, however, provides all the time-honored benefits of acupuncture, while also improving one’s appearance. Here are nine ways acupuncture facial rejuvenation improves your health, appearance and longevity:

Improves General Health: The health of your body’s organs and major systems affects not only the way you feel, but how you look as well. Think about how you look and function on four hours of sleep vs. eight hours. Acupuncture improves digestion, enhances blood circulation and can directly affect the condition of organs. It’s the old health from the inside out technique.

Improves Skin Firmness and Texture: Improving blood flow to the face and improving organ function in general boosts nutrient transfer and oxygenation to the skin. This increase in skin nourishment enhances skin firmness and hydration.  

▪ Relaxes Facial Muscles: Some facial insertion points are actually motor points of facial muscles, such as the corrugator muscle under the eyebrows. When this muscle contracts, it contributes to frown lines. Acupuncture in tense areas relaxes muscles, thereby softening lines and easing facial muscle tension in general. This cosmetic treatment also helps to relax tense jaw and neck muscles. 

Enhances Collagen: Inserting acupuncture needles into the skin promotes the growth of collagen along with an increase of water and fat content of the skin. This results in the softening of fine lines and wrinkles while increasing the depth and fullness of skin. 

 Diminishes Eye Bags and Fluid Deposits: Acupuncture is a natural lymphatic drainage technique. Eye bags appear smaller and fluid accumulations under the chin reduce with regular treatment. 

Improves other Skin Conditions: Cosmetic acupuncture addresses your individual needs as well, whether they be acne scarring, hyperpigmentation or dull skin tone.

  Promotes Cell Regeneration: One way acupuncture helps to boost collagen production and diminish scar tissue is by actively promoting cell regeneration via enhanced blood flow. Therefore, cosmetic acupuncture actually proliferates new skin growth.

 ▪ Enhances Function of Sensory Organs: Acupuncture to the face can actually improve the condition and functions of the eyes, sinuses and ears. Some facial rejuvenation patients experience enhanced vision and less congestion in the ears and sinuses. 

▪  Improves Energy Levels:  Acupuncture is generally a rejuvenating treatment as it improves blood flow, releases endorphins and helps to release physical and  mental tension. As cosmetic acupuncture is typically done in a series, over the course of treatment many patients experience not only cosmetic improvements, but also brighter moods, deeper sleep and a sense of emotional stability. 

Clearly, cosmetic procedures don’t have to involve invasive surgeries or chemical injections. Cosmetic acupuncture has a multitude of healthy side-effects resulting not only in a more youthful appearance, but also a healthy body and mind. Check out Heritage Acupuncture’s series here:
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Rain or Shine: How the Weather Affects Your Health

If you live in North or South Carolina, you know the recent weather has been influencing our lives in a major way. In Chinese Medicine terms, weather has a strong effect on our physiology as well. Whether it’s a passing system or the general climate, the air out there will affect a number of bodily functions. Here’s how that works and what you can do about it:

Rain: Rain is considered damp or an excess pathological fluid in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Bi syndrome, TCM’s version of arthritis, is often triggered by damp weather conditions. This means, your joints may swell and ache more in rainy weather. Other signs of excess damp in the body include post-nasal drip, bloating and extra weight. To counter dampness, avoid raw foods and icy beverages. The Chinese medical diet discourages raw foods and cold drinks in general. For anyone with pain, this recommendation is even more important. Soups, stews, hot teas and warming spices such as ginger, cumin, clove, ginger and cinnamon work to dispel damp. 

Cold:  Cold often is a dual factor in damp pain conditions, but cold can exist without swelling. Cold contracts blood flow. This means that an area with scar tissue, a previous injury or any compromised circulation will feel more painful in cold weather. Massage enhances blood flow and brings warmth to the painful area. This doesn’t have to be a fancy massage at a spa. You can easily rub medicated oil into your own limbs/joints. If you want to make your own massage oil, excellent essential oils for cold and pain include ginger, frankincense, vetiver, tumeric, rosemary and clove. Avoid essential oils with cooling qualities such as lavender and peppermint. Always test for allergies with essential oils before use. Pain-relieving base oils include apricot seed, sesame seed and safflower. Again, avoid base oils with a cooling nature such as coconut. You can make your oil by adding 12 total drops essential oil per one ounce base oil. Moderate exercise is also a great way to counter cold pain.

Wind:  Wind disrupts the surface of the body, where your immunity shields you from pathogens, in the TCM view. This means that at the surface or pore level, a force called Wei Qi circulates to protect you. A cold or flu in TCM terms is called wind strike or cold damage. This means that a pathogen or virus enters your body via wind through open pores. Bells Palsy, common in areas where people ride scooters or bicycles for transportation, takes advantage of wind to enter the pores, freezing the surface as cold contracts the area. To protect yourself in cold and windy weather wear a scarf to protect the neck and upper back, areas especially vulnerable to wind. Avoid staying in windy areas after sweating as pores must open to release sweat, leaving your body vulnerable. Stimulate your wei qi with therapeutic exercise such as qi gong or tai chi. Dry skin brushing is an excellent way to not only stimulate wei qi, but also activate lymph nodes and immune cells.

Heat/Dryness: Hot, dry climates pose challenges to our body’s fluids. If you’ve ever been in Southern California during a Santa Ana — or hot desert wind — you’ll feel the constant thirst associated with dryness.  Hot, dry climates can parch the skin, saliva and mucous membranes. To reduce fluid depletion, avoid spicy foods as these reduce fluids. Coffee and smoking also aggravate dryness. Although exercise is always encouraged, excessive exercise causing copious sweating creates dryness. Foods that benefit fluids include eggs, almonds, sesame seeds and pears. If the climate is hot, electrolyte replacement can be helpful. Try a sugar-free electrolyte powder such as Ultima if you’re exercising or working in a hot climate.

Aside from weather, some people constitutionally lean toward dampness or dryness. If your eyes and skin are frequently dry with no external cause, you will benefit from leaning more toward moistening foods. If your body is prone to feeling heavy and achy with swelling then you’ll benefit from the above recommendations regarding damp regardless of the weather. Seeing an acupuncturist means you’ll get a personalized assessment of where you fall on the spectrum, with an acupuncture treatment and herbal prescription to help your body heal from external or internal influences.
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The Healthy Way to Rejuvenate Skin


Are you looking for a holistic and effective way to rejuvenate your skin? Check out the Revitapen Facial available at Heritage Acupuncture. (Read more about it here:

The Revitapen, a gentle, yet powerful wand with a sphere-shaped tip, creates microchannels for the delivery of targeted serums to awaken the skin’s collagen-producing cells. While some chemical peels and microdermabrasion treatments weaken epithelial cells, the Revitapen helps to actually feed and stimulate the deeper layers of skin, resulting in a higher level of cellular activity and new skin proliferation. This process helps to reduce fine lines, wrinkles and age spots. The Revitapen method also helps improve the appearance of scars, blemishes and pigmentation. 

Revitapen facials can be customized for anti-aging, acne, discoloration or other skin issues. Whatever your concern, direct delivery of Osmosis serums directly into the skin’s  dermal layer restores the ideal micro-environment necessary for optimal function and skin regeneration.

You won’t need to worry about down time after a Revitapen facial. You will, however, experience skin that’s tighter, firmer, plumper and more radiant. Check out the before and after results in the above video. 

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New Location!

Heritage Acupuncture Durham NC
Come check us out at our new location! Heritage Acupuncture & Wellness moved into a new office last month, and it’s working out great! We now share offices with Dr. David Leidich, D.C., who is planning some exciting new treatments we’ll announce in the future.

The new office is located at 14 Consultant Place, Ste. 250, Durham, NC 27707, just off Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway. Along with our office building, this shopping center contains a Harris Teeter and AMC Classic movie theater. We’re on the second floor, which is accessible by elevator.

Come check us out to jumpstart your health with Traditional Chinese Medicine or explore natural skin care treatments such as the Revitapen facial or acupuncture facial rejuvenation. We’re still at 919-685-2938 if you need information about how Heritage Acupuncture can help you. 

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Considering Acupuncture? Read these Myths and Myth-Busters


   Acupuncture has recently received a lot of attention as an excellent alternative to prescription painkillers, especially with the Veteran Administration’s successful use of Chinese medicine to combat dependence on opioid drugs. Is acupuncture right for you? Even though preventative and holistic therapies are becoming more mainstream, people still have a lot of questions about these modalities.

If you’re thinking about receiving acupuncture treatments, keep in mind it’s important to separate fact from fiction. Here are some common myths and myth-busters surrounding Traditional Chinese Medicine.

1) Acupuncture is solely for pain relief. Scientific studies back up the effectiveness of acupuncture for the relief of both acute and chronic pain. But acupuncture — plus the related modality of Chinese herbalism — works on a broad array of conditions ranging from insomnia and digestive issues to fertility. In ancient Chinese, people sought out acupuncturists for regular maintenance sessions. Maintaining your health with acupuncture can have such positive side effects as better sleep, brighter moods and more energy.

2) Acupuncture is painful. Acupuncture needles are typically 15 times smaller than the hypodermic needles used by physicians. These “filiform”needles are solid rather than hollow as they’re not used to inject substances into the body. So it’s actually impossible to compare the experience of acupuncture with receiving an injection. Many people don’t even feel the needle insertion. In fact, most people fall asleep during an acupuncture treatment. Post-acupuncture, people feel relaxed and rejuvenated.  

3) If you don’t feel better after one treatment, acupuncture is the wrong choice. People frequently seek out acupuncture for long-term, chronic conditions. The longer you’ve had a health issue, the longer it can take for your body to recover. Acute pain often takes a series of treatments to resolve the root problem. It’s not unusual for licensed acupuncturists to employ several different techniques or treatment styles. One patient may respond very well to technique A and not as well to technique B. Keep an eye on your body’s response and give your practitioner honest feedback so they can employ the best approach for you.

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Happy Year of the Dog!

Even if you don’t believe in astrology, the Chinese New Year is an opportunity to consider your goals for the year and the best ways to invest your precious energy. On Feb. 16,  the passionate Rooster ends the zodiac year, yielding to the loyal, straightforward Dog. Famous dogs include Winston Churchill,  Benjamin Franklin, Confucius, Mother Teresa and Donald Trump. Incidentally, the year of a Zodiac sign is generally considered to be bad luck for those born under that sign.

Chinese astrology has its roots in the Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE), one of the longest and most powerful dynasties during which a golden age in the arts, technology and Chinese medicine flourished. The 12-year cycle of the Chinese zodiac — with each year representing a different animal — offers insight into human characteristics and behavior.  

Like most humans, those born in the year of the dog have two sides to their personalities. On the positive side, dogs are loyal, generous and friendly. The dark side of the dog’s personality may include being quick to anger, critical, stubborn and deeply emotional. Therefore, 2018 will include a mixture of such positive dog traits as loyalty and service, as well as a fair share of quarrelling and aggressiveness.

 All Chinese zodiac signs — and human personalities in general — represent this variation of the spectrum of Yin (which represents stillness, darkness and cold in Chinese terms) and Yang (action, light and warmth).

So what should we prepare ourselves for in 2018? As yin and yang constantly strive to strike a balance, one is always free to associate with the darkness or light, the calm or the storm. As the dog can represent a sense of ethics and idealism, expect 2018 to be a time for increasing social awareness and interest in the less powerful, under-represented members of society. Look for a heightened sense of right and wrong and opportunities to help others. Key words: Generosity, selfness, tolerance, innovation. It’s your light, and you can shine it wherever you like.

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Janet Lee, L.Ac., Classical Chinese Herbalist

After several years of study, Janet Lee, L.Ac. has completed a certificate course with the Institute of Classics in East Asian Medicine (ICEAM), an in-depth classroom series and clinical experience focusing on classical Chinese herbalism. ICEAM offers in-depth training in the clinical application of Chinese herbal medicine according to the Han dynasty style of medicine found in classical texts the Shanghan Lun and the Jingui Yaolue. Aside from offering patients a highly documented and clinically tested form of herbalism dispensed by licensed acupuncturists, ICEAM also aspires to promote public health worldwide and preserve the lineage and integrity of Canonical Chinese Medicine for future generations. This is a true healing tradition preserved from Chinese master herbalists and presented worldwide by author, herbalist and lecturer Arnaud Versluys. Janet is one of two Chinese medicine practitioners in North Carolina with this training.   
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