Tag Archive for: Chinese Medicine

What Is Holistic Rheumatology?

This is a specialty where we focus on treating pain and inflammation of the musculoskeletal system using natural holistic treatments. In this post we’ll discuss the many holistic solutions to rheumatological diseases such as Fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and more.

Why Do We Have Pain?

Before we talk about how to get you out of pain it’s important to know why we have pain in the first place? Think of a suspension bridge like the Golden Gate Bridge. Tall, red, steel towers, with arching cables spanning the length of the bridge reaching to the steel girders lining the pavement of the road below. This suspension bridge is a great analogy for the way our body is constructed. The steel cables are like our muscles, tendons, and connective tissue and are attached to the large steel supports and the road, which are like our bones. All these must be balanced and even for the bridge to be usable; just like the tissues in our body must be balanced and healthy for all the blood vessels and organs to have clear passage and space to function. If the steel cables of the bridge have uneven tension one side is pulling more than the other, and it would begin to pull the whole bridge up in one spot while another spot would sink. In the short run, if the amount of pulling was small, it may not cause permanent damage, but over time cracks develop and the cables weaken from this imbalanced tension. This must be repaired, or eventually everything will collapse. The same is true with our body, if one area is continually pulled or pushed more than another, the body must adapt or collapse. The way we repair a bridge is by sending in construction crews. The construction crew must be able to easily drive along the road in order to deliver all the necessary equipment to the bridge, then they must block the area they are working on in order to give them space to do their work. In our body the “construction crew” is our immune system and the response and flow of this crew is dependent upon the vessels in our body and a proper inflammatory response. Like the construction crew rushing to the area, our body increases blood flow to an injured area and immune cells infiltrate the spot to break down the damaged tissue and repair it. Like the orange cones and flashing signs blocking the work site, the nerves send a pain signal as a warning to restrict movement in the area and prevent further damage.

Is Inflammation a Bad Thing?

Overall, inflammation is not a bad thing. Just like a construction zone, it may not be convenient, but it is our bodies natural repair mechanism and the only way it can heal the damage. Of course, we’ve all heard the hype around chronic inflammation being a bad thing and causing many diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes, but this is different than a short amount of inflammation. In our bridge analogy chronic inflammation is similar to our bridge continually breaking and the construction crew continually blocking traffic across. We’ve all tried to drive along roads that are always under construction and know the pain and annoyance this causes. More than just an annoyance however, what if this bridge is the only way in and out of a city? How well will the city function if supply trucks, workers, and residents can never get in and out efficiently? This is what is happening in the body when we experience continual, chronic injuries and inflammation and don’t allow for proper healing. So, yes, while inflammation is inherently not a bad thing, chronic inflammation, like a construction crew that never finishes will cause everything to become more congested.

How Can We Heal?

Fortunately, there are many things we can do to help our “construction crew.” We must treat the root of the pain, keep inflammation in check and maintain free and open pathways of healing. Holistic Rheumatology utilizes many tools of natural health to assist your body’s natural healing mechanisms.  When we use Acupuncture to heal the body, the acupuncture needle alerts the body to the area of damage. If our Golden Gate Bridge has a crack in it, someone must see the damage and call the repair crew. An acupuncture needle is doing just this. By inserting a needle into the body, it is signaling the brain and the immune system to recognize the damage and quickly send help. Herbal medicines are another great tool to help our body heal. They are like the tools and resources our construction crew uses in order to fix the damaged structures of the bridge. Perhaps we need asphalt to repair the road, cement, more steel cables, or more cones or barriers to block the area off. In the same way herbal plants are jam packed with minerals, vitamins and nutrients our body needs in order to nourish our tissues and provide it with the resources and tools it needs to heal. How do the engineers know how to build and repair the bridge in the first place? They run simulations and experiments in order to test their ideas and materials. This is what exercise and stretching does for us. By stretching and exercising we are modeling and practicing the activities and movements our body may have to perform. By physically training our body daily, we are forcing the body to adapt and change, so when we are unlucky and get into a car accident, or fall, we’ve already put our body into a position that it recognizes, we’ve already strengthened it sufficiently, and now it will not become injured so severely. No physical structure, neither our body nor a bridge, can continually function smoothly without continual routine maintenance and repair. The food we eat every day provides nourishment and resources to our body, so everything runs smoothly and efficiently and can provide the day to day maintenance it requires. This is why I combine multiple modalities in my practice to heal your pain. Nutrition alone, while providing the resources for routine maintenance is not always enough to repair recent damage. Herbs, while giving your body important tools to heal tissue damage and calm chronic inflammation, are not as quick at signaling the brain and the immune system as acupuncture is. Acupuncture, while sending a good strong signal, is not going to smooth out the bumps in the road. For this massage is best at maintaining smooth and efficient movement along your muscles and tissues. This is why at Wiseman Natural Health all these modalities of natural medicine are combined to give you the best tools available to stimulate your body’s natural healing mechanisms and keep you healthy every day.

With 4.5 million Americans currently living with knee replacements, it is fast becoming in extremely common procedure. While improved technology and surgery techniques are making this procedure much more successful, patients are still not well informed as to the reality of post surgery recovery. One study of patients undergoing physical therapy post knee replacement showed the majority of patients only completed eight weeks of physical therapy, and at this point their mobility was worse than before the surgery. The recovery is even worse for people who are obese, elderly, have multiple joints replaced or multiple joints affected with pain. Acupuncture is an approach that has been used very successfully post-surgery and many more studies are showing acupuncture helps this process by reducing inflammation and pain post surgery. However, when people only look at scientific articles it is difficult to translate this into what this actually means for your recovery post surgery, specifically what are you actually going to feel and be able to do with your new knee. For this reason here is a story of two patients who came in for knee problems post knee replacement surgery. The first patient came in immediately after surgery, the other six months after.

For patient #1, while their knee was sore and swollen like it typically is post replacement, they were only a week out of their surgery and everything lay before them as they endeavored to do everything they could to recover well. For patient #2, it had certainly been “the worst of times.” Six months out from their knee replacement adhesions had formed all around the knee, walking was a continually painful exercise and the tension and pain was not only worse than it had been before the surgery, but now the hip, the back and the opposite knee were also starting to become very painful. This all despite the fact both patients were undergoing physical therapy for their knee directly after their surgery.

When treating patient #1 immediately after their surgery we did not do acupuncture and massage directly over the replaced knee as the risk of infection is still high in the initial stages. The treatment consisted of acupuncture points above and below the knee, points in other areas of the body, which are beneficial for pain and healing of the knee, and massage on the leg, hip, back.  In general, the treatment was designed to not only help the affected knee, but to also treat other areas of the body to help the muscles and tissues not become tight and sore from the compensation of walking with a limp post surgery. As the treatments went on we were able to treat more directly on the affected knee and electrical stimulation was applied to further decrease pain and increase circulation through the affected area. After only four weeks patient #1 was able to ride a bike, have nearly 110o of flexion in the knee, and perform many different weight bearing exercises. Not only that, but the opposite knee(which the doctors advised replacing in the future) was having no problems and felt better than it had in years. At six weeks the knee would feel some soreness post a heavy workout, but otherwise felt mostly recovered. At eight weeks the knee felt as good as it had in years. At this point was when I saw patient #2 who was six months post surgery, walking with a cane and having problems throughout their back, hip and other knee. Immediately we began a similar procedure as in patient #1 with the addition of massage to break apart the scar tissue and adhesions that had formed. After 4 weeks the patient was recovering well, they had increased movement, were riding a bike daily and had a decrease in their pain, however the knee still would get sore after a mild workout and it took a few more months before they began to see the improvements that patient #1 saw after only 6 weeks.

These stories are by no means singular cases. While anecdotal case studies are not an depth scientific analysis as to the physiological mechanisms involved in post surgical care, they are perhaps more relevant to you the patient. Through hearing these stories you can know what you should expect post surgery, and more importantly what kind of treatment you should be receiving. Too often I see patients come in many months post surgery in the same state as patient #2 because they were never told what their options were for optimal recovery. Inevitably when I explain to them what there recovery plan should have looked like they are frustrated they didn’t receive the information beforethe surgery. So, if you are looking at getting a joint replacement, or any surgery for that matter, please seek a qualified acupuncturist, massage therapist and physical therapist. It will be the difference in recovering twice as fast with little to no complications.



Whenever people ask me what I do, I always tell them I practice acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. Inevitably they know what acupuncture is but are often unsure as to what Chinese Medicine is. Given that most people don’t know that acupuncture is only one part of Chinese Medicine, and aren’t familiar with Chinese Medicine as a whole, I figured I’d give a brief explanation as to what this type of medicine is.


Chinese Medicine has five main branches of treatment modalities, acupuncture, massage (tui na the Chinese form of massage), herbal medicine, nutrition and exercise.  Acupuncture also includes more than the use of hair-thin needles to stimulate points throughout the body, and includes the techniques of moxibustion, gua sha, or scraping, and cupping. In fact the Chinese word for acupuncture is zhen jiu which literally translates to acupuncture-moxibustion. Most people in the West, when they think of the acupuncture system only picture the channels, or meridians, and acupuncture points that and don’t realize that Chinese Medicine is in fact a whole system of medicine with its own unique physiology and diagnostic system. This is why it takes 3-4 years of graduate level education, just like in traditional Western Medical education, to learn how to properly treat someone using these techniques. First, we have to learn the basic ways in which the body functions, then we have to learn the ways in which those functions become diseased, and finally we have to learn how to treat them. Not only that, but we learn this from both a Western and Chinese viewpoint.


For example, from the view of Chinese Medicine everything, and everybody, has a balance of yin and yang. Yin qualities are all the cooling, moistening, physical, substantial, nutritive qualities, whereas yang are all the heating, warming, energetic, moving, metabolizing aspects. Everyone must maintain this balance of yin and yang, because if either becomes more or less than the other disease will result.


Yin and yang can further be subdivided into the five elements. The elements correspond to the specific functions each organ must carry out in the body and the various processes which take place not only through the day but throughout our lives as well. The word “element” in Chinese is translated from the word xing, which actually translates better to a fundamental process and not a static thing. For example, the word xing is used for pedestrian as well. If any one of these “elements” is not balanced with the rest than these fundamental processes in the body break down and disease will result. To connect everything further, the elements, the organs and the yin yang balance is all tied in through an energetic flow within channels, or meridians. There are twelve main meridians that distribute all the energy and various substances through the body. Just like yin and yang and the five elements if any of these is not balanced with the rest, or if any become blocked than disease results.


Overall, these processes and systems are connected in very specific ways. They are affected by the food we eat, the activities we do and the environment around us. It is very important to know exactly what system is affected by what and how to arrive at a proper diagnosis to figure out the best treatment to bring it all back into balance. This treatment at its core is preventative. Therefore it is always our goal to use the tools available to us to prevent disease before it becomes a bigger problem. This is why even though we will often use acupuncture, herbs and/or massage, nutrition and exercise are in reality the most profound treatments. Nutrition and exercise are the simplest and easiest ways that you can prevent disease on a daily basis. This is reflected in a basic tenant of Chinese Herbal Medicine medicinals that can be taken on a daily basis with no risk of side effect, i.e. food, are considered the most superior forms of medicine, as opposed to the medicinals consumed for a short period of time because they have a high risk of side effects are considered the most inferior forms of medicine. This idea of food as medicine is very important in Chinese Medicine and every person should have a basic understanding of what they should or should not eat depending on who they are as a person and what type of illness may be affecting them. Exercise is also very important in China where, even in the largest cities, there are many beautiful parks with walking paths, there are parks with outdoor exercise equipment on many corners and every morning you will see people doing exercises such as qi gong and tai qi throughout the parks and in their homes. Ultimately, when you take care of your body on a daily basis with nutrition and exercise you may only need to see a practitioner for massage, acupuncture and/or herbs once in a while.