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Susan Gaudet’s Journey Through Pain

How Community Acupuncture Restored Peace in a World of Pain

The day that Susan Gaudet slipped on a small patch of black ice was the day her life changed forever. “I knew immediately that I was hurt,” says Gaudet from the dining room of her Falmouth, Maine, home. She had no idea the incident would start her on a decade-long path of medical intervention and the search for relief from chronic pain.

Unbeknownst to her, Gaudet had sustained a spinal cord injury called Cauda Equina Syndrome, a serious condition caused by compression of the nerves in the lower portion of the spinal canal. The injury left her unable to walk, unable to feel the lower half of her body, unable to control her bladder and bowel movements, and in a state of chronic pain.

In an instant, this young mother of three – who’s youngest was only 3 at the time – was changed forever. She was told it was unlikely that she would walk again.

For the next ten years, Gaudet traveled through the conventional medical system, which has treated her condition in many important ways. She can walk and drive again, she works again, and she and her husband continue to raise their three girls at home. But the severe nerve pain persisted, and Gaudet had no bladder or bowel control, which seriously affected her ability to function normally in the world.

“Every day is still quite challenging when it comes to things that are simple for others and not quite so simple for me,” she says.

Gaudet’s team of specialists continued to offer painkillers to address her chronic pain, but Gaudet did not like the side effects nor the cost of her conventional treatments. Not only that, but the system of medicine she found herself trapped in was not giving her a sense of hope. She felt as though she had plateaued, so she started hunting for alternatives.

“I found Wildwood Medicine through an acquaintance who had significant medical issues,” she notes. “She too did not find Western medicine particularly helpful – she was being offered a lot of prescription pain medication.”

Gaudet, who had never tried acupuncture in her life, decided to try Wildwood Community Acupuncture in hopes of finding relief. “I went three times a week for the first month and found that things were really starting to move,” she recalls. “It was almost as if I had my life back.” Gaudet’s bladder control improved markedly, and her nerve pain started to subside.

In addition, at Wildwood, she discovered an alternative medical team that was taking a genuine interest in her recovery. Gaudet was stunned by the personal touch she found at Wildwood. “In the conventional medical world, no other doctor had ever stopped me and put their hand on me and said, ‘You’ve got this.’”

“Wildwood is a blessed little place – a small oasis of peace. I love knowing that I am going there because I can just shut off,” says Gaudet. “After the acupuncture needles are in place, it’s so peaceful. It’s hard to explain the level of comfort that comes from it.”

Gaudet continues to visit the community acupuncture clinic several times a week and she continues to see improvements and to feel hopeful and optimistic about her path to recovery.

“I feel like I won the lottery finding Wildwood,” she says.


Treating Hot Flashes with Acupuncture

When Susan Gaudet went to Wildwood Medicine for treatment of her chronic pain, she had no idea that the treatments would handle her peri-menopausal symptoms, too.

“I was very uncomfortable. I had this vague constant headache, and I was hot. I don’t just mean summer-day hot, I felt like I was cooking,” she recalls. Gaudet recalls being sweaty, hot, and cranky, which was not her typical nature.

Like so many women who suffer from severe and uncomfortable peri-menopausal symptoms, Gaudet sought relief through a range of options. “I tried every over-the-counter remedy, every compounded medicine, I tried the estrogen patch. You name it, I trialed it, and they were all ineffective, or if they were effective, they had pretty good side effects, and I questioned whether they were worthwhile.”

After only a few visits to the Wildwood Community Acupuncture Clinic, located on India Street in downtown Portland, Maine, Gaudet’s peri-menopausal symptoms started to subside. After a total of only 8 weeks, those symptoms have been completely resolved.

“It was a very short road to recovery for me. I no longer have those symptoms and I feel very grateful for it,” she says.

Gaudet continues to visit the Wildwood Community Acupuncture clinic for chronic pain, but she no longer has to worry about hot flashes, headaches, and sweating.

“I am very grateful to Wildwood for offering this community acupuncture clinic. It has helped me greatly,” she says.

To sign up for community acupuncture treatment, visit:


Attacking Seasonal Allergies with Acupuncture and Herbs

Ahhhh Choo!

At long last, spring has sprung! For many of us, the tender spring flowers, leaves and grasses blossom in tandem with runny noses, sneezing, itchy, red and watery eyes, headaches, brain fog, fatigue and scratchy throats. If spring is an enigmatic harbinger of long-awaited beauty as well as debilitating seasonal allergy symptoms for you and your loved ones, you’re in luck! Acupuncture and herbal medicine can be effective therapies when it comes to battling the pollen and keeping you feeling healthy enough to get outside and enjoy all that spring has to offer.

Invading Allergies

According to Chinese medicine theory, allergy symptoms arise when your body’s wei qi (protective barrier or immune system) is weak. The wei qi is connected to the Lung meridian, which is in charge of opening and closing the pores to release toxins from inside of the body and keep immune-compromising pathogens out. Imagine your wei qi as the first line of defense against an enemy attack! If the wei qi/ immune system is weak, the lungs cannot properly close the pores of the skin to protect the body from pathogens. Pathogens that cause allergies – like pollen – ride into battle on spring winds and easily invade weak immune systems, causing the combination of symptoms we know as “seasonal allergies.”

Counter-attack and Strength Building

If you seek help for allergies from an acupuncturist, they will choose acupuncture points that not only help alleviate allergy symptoms but also work to re-balance and build up your immune system so it is not as susceptible to invasion. Acupuncture can effectively help clear sinuses, soothe irritated throats and boost energy. When it comes to chronic allergies, however, it is best to receive regular acupuncture treatments for several months prior to the season when your symptoms flare. That way, you and your acupuncturist can ensure your body’s immune system and wei qi is strong enough to withstand allergens.

Alongside these alternative methods of allergen prevention, you might also want to consider servicing your HVAC system. Allergens can build up in your HVAC filters and so regular maintenance is strongly recommended. Not sure how to go about cleaning your air conditioning system? Try reaching out to an HVAC specialist such as AnytimeHVAC.

The Story of the Jade Screen

Chinese herbal remedies can also be effective when it comes to building up your body’s immune system and treating allergy symptoms. One of the most popular formulas for seasonal allergies is called Yu Ping Feng San or Jade Screen Formula. Just like acupuncture, this formula contains herbs that help expel seasonal pathogens from your body and bolster your immune system against future allergy attacks.

A teacher of mine once told me that the story behind the name of Jade Screen Formula stems from a tradition in ancient China. In the springtime, people used to put screens carved out of jade in front of their doors when they opened them to let fresh spring air into their homes. The screens were supposed to protect the household and its inhabitants from “evil wind pathogens” … otherwise known as seasonal allergens.

It is best to take this and other similar formulas for at least a month prior to allergy season.

If you suffer from seasonal allergies, speak with an acupuncturist today! You may be stopping to smell the roses this year after all!



Have You Tried Community Acupuncture?



Have You Tried Community Acupuncture?

Did you know that some of life’s most common health conditions – depression, anxiety, stress, insomnia, emotional issues, neck pain, back pain, joint pain, allergies – can be treated with acupuncture? “The goal of an acupuncturist is to balance the body — up and down, left and right, external, interior, big and small,” says Daniel Katz, co-founder of Wildwood, a holistic, integrative health practice on India Street in downtown Portland, Maine.

Community acupuncture is really for the every-person. It’s a relatively new movement here in Maine, even though it has been practiced in China for thousands of years, says Daniel. In fact, acupuncture was never meant to be an elitist, hard-to-access treatment, and community acupuncture provides a route to finding balance conveniently and affordably.

What is Community Acupuncture?

Community acupuncture is a way to be treated by an acupuncturist in a group setting. At Wildwood Community Acupuncture, people enter a large room and settle into one of the many recliner chairs. Then, a Wildwood acupuncturist will take a short intake with each person, find out what’s going on, and provide treatment. Because the treatment takes place in a group setting with other patients, the cost is far below the cost of treatment in a private setting.

Community acupuncture is like the social justice of medicine, says Daniel, “because we treat everyone and literally everybody gets the same quality treatment.” This is a departure from a health care system that often gives the most comprehensive care to those with the best insurance coverage.

In the Wildwood Community Acupuncture clinic, patients stay clothed while the practitioner uses needles to access powerful points below the knee, below the elbow, on the head and ears. Once the needles have been inserted, the patient rests comfortably for about 45 minutes. Daniel notes that many people fall asleep as the treatment takes effect. Many of the benefits are felt immediately, while others take time.

Why do people like Community Acupuncture?

People enjoy the group energy, the lower costs, and the easy, flexible access that community acupuncture provides. Also, because community acupuncture costs so much less than a private treatment, patients can come in more frequently and find faster relief for their conditions. At Wildwood, community acupuncture is offered almost daily, so people don’t have to wait days or weeks for an advance appointment and can usually come in for an injury or illness on the same day.

The group dynamic is really quite profound, says Daniel, and the word community in community acupuncture is a central to the appeal. “There’s this sense that everybody is in it together,” he says. “It’s kind of like doing yoga in your living room as opposed to going to a class.” The group energy heals.

What Are the Barriers to Getting Healthy?

There are plenty of barriers to health, explains Daniel, which is why Wildwood offers community acupuncture to everyone. The barriers to getting healthy include work and time constraints, physical barriers, such as distance and transportation, restrictions in insurance, social barriers, and even mindset.

Some people are locked into their own idea that their illness is part of them as opposed to something that can be treated,” says Daniel. “I see a wide variety of barriers to people getting well, but I see that as part of our job – to break down those barriers and see if we can help.”

Wildwood treats all sorts of common conditions, including patients who want to avoid surgery and people who cannot get relief in traditional therapy. Their practitioners treat people who want to access deeper relaxation, those suffering disease, illness, and the pain of life.

Why Portland, Maine?

Portland has an interesting community of people who are thoughtful in how they want to be treated,” says Daniel. A lot of people do not want a complicated plan of care. They want a simplified, down-to-earth way of looking at their health. Wildwood’s location in downtown Portland offers a one-stop holistic option. The practice comprises a doctor, five acupuncturists, several physical therapists, a massage therapist, and you can get supplements there too.

We don’t have a preconceived idea of what people will want when they come to Wildwood,” says Daniel. “We look at people with a holistic point of view and we meet them where they are on their road the health so that they can ultimately reach their destiny.”

To sign up for community acupuncture treatment, visit:



The Iceman, Modern Medicine and Ancient Acupuncture

Have you ever heard of Ötzi the Iceman? If not, this is the perfect story to explore as glacial winter weather settles upon us here in Portland, Maine.

Preserved in the Ice

Ötzi’s well-preserved, naturally mummified remains were found accidentally by hikers in 1991 on the Schnalstal/Val Senales Valley glacier in South Tyrol, Italy, where researchers believe he was shot in the back by an arrow more than five thousand years ago! This means that the Copper Age mummy, whose tools and clothing were preserved alongside him in the ice, predates ancient sites such as Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids.


Otzi’s remains (Wikimedia Commons)

Medical Mysteries

The Iceman’s body was so well-preserved in the mountains that researchers have painted an incredibly clear picture of Otzi’s life and death – they were even able to discern that his final meal was one of fresh or dried ibex twelve hours before he was killed! Along with ibex, the bacteria H. pylori was found in his intestines. While modern research has linked this bacteria, which is present in 50% of humans, to ulcers and other gastrointestinal issues, scientists studying the Iceman believe H. pylori may have aided in the digestion of raw meat. Another interesting digestive discovery was that the Iceman was lactose intolerant. 1

Connection to Acupuncture

The origins of the ancient healing art of acupuncture have generally been traced to China during the Warring State period, about 770-221 B.C.E.2 Stone tools and ancient texts that reference a system of meridians from that era had previously supported this claim – until Ötzi, that is. One of the most interesting discoveries associated with the Iceman is a series mysterious tattoos, sixty-one in total, located near points that correspond with modern acupuncture points. Researchers consider these tattoos to be medicinal, in particular to help alleviate pain associated with degeneration in Ötzi’s lumbar spine (if you have ever seen an acupuncturist for low back pain, you most likely have been needled near your ankle – similar to some of Ötzi’s tattoos!) If researchers’ suspicions are correct, a system of acupuncture may have been known to inhabitants of the Alps thousands of years before acupuncture can be traced to China.

More Questions than Answers

Studying Ötzi has opened a doorway into the mysterious ancient world in which he lived, providing scientists with as many questions as answers. What do you think about the Iceman?

1Sturdee, Simon. Stone Age mummy still revealing secrets, 25 years on. September 2016.

2Run Ming, Yan. The Origin and Development of Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion.

Acupuncture for Inducing Labor?

In the community clinic, we have helped many a pregnant person through the process of gestation and birth. This post is specifically about how acupuncture can help the body prepare for and enter into labor.

It’s become a common event in the community clinic for a person with a big pregnant belly and a big pregnant sigh to partially recline into one of our chairs and say, “I’m ready to be induced, but can you tell me one more time how this is gonna work?”

Great question!

I was going to write a blog post all about it, but then I realized it has already been written, so instead I’m sharing!

Below is part of a great piece written by Melani Bolyai of Natural Qi Acupuncture.

See the entire post herePregnant woman holding wall clock. It's time. Isolated on white.

Though acupuncture is a natural way to encourage labor, acupuncture needling will not cause labor before the baby is ready to be delivered. The process of natural labor is actually triggered by signals from the baby’s body. Acupuncture needling works on the mother’s body, not the fetus; so acupuncture merely prepares the mother’s body to be as ready and supported as possible for when the baby is ready to trigger the labor process. Labor will not occur if the mother or child’s body is not prepared.


Rethinking Addiction

“Not every story has a happy ending, … but the discoveries of science, the teachings of the heart, and the revelations of the soul all assure us that no human being is ever beyond redemption. The possibility of renewal exists so long as life exists. How to support that possibility in others and in ourselves is the ultimate question.”
? Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

Addiction: Facts and Fictions
Cigarette vector on orange background with smoke

Let’s talk about smoking for a second, since it’s a perfect way to start off a conversation about how we think about addiction. Quitting smoking isn’t easy, though some of the typical approaches to smoking cessation might have you thinking that dropping the habit should be a simple matter of common sense, but sometimes alternative approaches need to be taken. “I don’t understand why he just doesn’t stop,” a patient once lamented. She was talking about her son, who’d been smoking for almost 20 years.” A cigarette has thousands and thousands of chemicals in it. He also has two beautiful sons! If it were me, I would have quit a long time ago.”

I’m sharing this anecdote because it’s a good example of a common approach to addiction. A sobering fact delivered alongside a hefty slab of judgment and whoolah, the addicted person should be able to see the light and shed their habit. Aside from illustrating a rudimentary understanding of addiction, these types of stories also tend to use the language of us and them. If we don’t struggle with a nicotine addiction, we pat ourselves on the back. If we do, we feel a surge of self-loathing and step outside for a smoke to lift our mood…and because, well, FU.

I’m not trying to skirt around the fact that smoking is detrimental to the health of the smoker, as well as to anyone exposed to secondhand smoke. We know that all forms of nicotine are harmful to health. I also support limits on the public spaces where people can smoke. And yes, of course I understand why a mother would express concern about the health of her son.

But consider this anecdote again, and apply that flawed logic to another encounter with addiction, but this time make the addict a stranger. How many times have you heard someone, let’s say it’s your neighbor (for the sake of simplicity, let’s call him Ronald Rump) volunteer a running commentary on the homeless man who stands by Starbucks and jangles a bucket of change. Or that woman’s husband, who blah blah blah. Or that kid’s mom, who blah blah blah. Some of the cruelest jabs and gratuitous critiques are often directed at people entrenched in a world of pain, poverty, and addiction. And in my opinion, that’s far uglier than smoking.

Shaming and scaring people into stopping a behavior, as you might imagine, generally doesn’t work. It’s barbaric. And mostly it acts as a trigger. Yet, somehow, it’s the common way we express our “concern.” Consider this excerpt from an article titled “Taking in All the Pain of What They Witness.” It was co-written by Gabor Maté, MD (author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction) and Danny Glover (yes, that Danny Glover, the actor, producer, and humanitarian).

Addiction, whether to drugs or other behaviors, Glover says, is always a compensation for the sense of being devalued as a human being. “That’s basically it. Feeling alienated within the system: a system that demeans people, marginalizes them, exploits them, and creates a situation in which our value depends only on our capacity to consume.”

The chief reason we condemn drug users so vehemently may be simply that we do not wish to see our similarities to them. We want to perceive our own forms of self-soothing as somehow morally superior, or we just do not want to recognize how much our entire way of life resembles the frantic search for relief of the user. I define addiction as any behavior that, for the short term, we crave or find relief and pleasure in, but we are unable to give up despite the negative consequences incurred in the long term. By that standard, how many of us are not addicted?

So, perhaps the 1.1 billion people who smoke cigarettes aren’t simply irrational, inconsiderate, or spineless. Perhaps this is not an issue of valuing a drug over family, or personal health. Perhaps the 24.6 million people (9.4% of the population) who live with substance dependence or abuse aren’t just a statistic of weak-willed people who just don’t care enough.

What would happen if more of us considered these kinds of painful statistics from a place of compassion and reason, rather than from a place of judgement and fear? Perhaps we’re simply a planet full of humans who struggle due to real, identifiable reasons. Perhaps things would change for the better if we could talk about addiction from a place of compassion and connection rather than shame and fear. And perhaps we’d make even more progress if we identified and talked about the systemic issues that deeply influence our lived experiences.

“We see that substance addictions are only one specific form of blind attachment to harmful ways of being, yet we condemn the addict’s stubborn refusal to give up something deleterious to his life or to the life of others. Why do we despise, ostracize and punish the drug addict, when as a social collective, we share the same blindness and engage in the same rationalizations?”
? Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

A Different Approach to Addiction

Unsurprisingly, I find that the most engaging information on this subject is coming from those experts in the field who are considered ‘radical.’ Dr. Gabor Maté is a staff physician at the Portland Hotel in Vancouver, a residence for people who struggle with mental illness and severe drug addiction (Maté also works in harm reduction clinics in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside).

In his book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction, Maté tells the stories of his patients – who represent one extreme of the spectrum of addiction, often heavy needle users – and who share one thing in common: childhood abuse. Coming from a theoretical framework that acknowledges the biological and socioeconomic roots of addiction, Mate argues that “early adversity” (stress, mistreatment, and particularly childhood abuse) increases susceptibility to addiction. In other words, those born into more disadvantaged circumstances have a higher risk of becoming addicts.

My years in the community acupuncture clinic support Maté ‘s theories wholeheartedly: The violence of our social and economic systems are inscribed on people’s bodies, minds, and spirits. And those that require the most care are too often those that go without.

Rat Park: The Experiment

Then there is Carl Hart, associate professor of psychology and psychiatry at Columbia University, and first tenured African American professor of sciences at Columbia University. Hart is known for his research in drug abuse and drug addiction. His book, High Price: A Neuroscientist’s Journey of Self-Discovery That Challenges Everything You Know About Drugs and Society challenges the myths surrounding drug abuse and addiction.

“I thought that I was going to solve the problem of drug addiction,” he told the New York Times. “But it turns out that drug addiction wasn’t the biggest problem; the biggest problem, I found out, was actually drug policy.”

Hart was initially inspired by the results of research on addiction done in the late 70’s. (For a beautifully illustrated and engaging explanation of this experiment, see this link.) In short, the research of Rat Park showed that rats in an “enriched cage” (which means that available to the rat were mates, exercise, and play) self-administer morphine at far lower rates than rats kept in solitary and desolate cages. In other words, if the rat was in an environment that provided healthy options of engagement, that environment became far more important than the drug itself – meaning that the rats used far less of the drug. In other words, they were far less likely to become addicted.

This research prompted Hart to dig more deeply into the research of addiction. Lives and relationships are often destroyed by addiction, especially when addicts refuse to enter drug rehab, and Hart wanted to investigate this situation further. His conclusion? Addiction may not be the inevitable consequence of drug use, but rather an attractive distraction for those without preferable alternatives. In other words, for someone growing up in poverty, with little access to support and little to lose, the lack of access to healthy options could provide the external conditions for addiction to take hold.

From The Guardian:

Hart unravels the common perception that drugs and drug addiction are the cause of many of society’s problems. While he doesn’t argue that illegal drugs have no negative effects, he takes the reader through his journey of discovery: that the pharmacology of the drugs themselves is not the cause of our social ills – rather, drugs are the symptoms of a broken society, masking the underlying issues of unemployment, lack of education, poverty, racism, and despair. He argues that anti-drug policies are causing more harm than the drugs themselves, and are directly marginalising black people, poor communities and other minority groups.

He has seen this first hand, growing up, and his experiences are backed up by staggering statistics – that black people are up to five times more likely to be arrested than white people on drugs charges, and over 10 times more likely to be sent to prison for drugs offences, despite the fact that white and black people use drugs at similar rates.

Enter Community Acupuncture

I’ve already written about the community acupuncture model a bunch, and out of risk of being annoying, let me just say this: community acupuncture clinics provide accessible, affordable healthcare for all – and we can help. This is an example of a non-medicinal approach to combating addiction that is seeing results. For more alternative addiction recovery solutions, visit

To sum up this post, I’ll leave you with a quote from Lisa Rohleder, co-founder of Working Class Acupuncture, People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture (POCA), and POCA Tech. This quote is from her keynote speech at the most recent gathering of community acupuncturists affiliated with POCA.

Paolo Freire (more about him in a minute) says that it is everyone’s vocation to become more fully human. Injustice, exploitation, and oppression make us less human — whether we are in the role of oppressors or of oppressed. And we know that in this society most of us, often, are both. We have so many opportunities, here in late capitalism, to treat each other and ourselves as if we weren’t actually human beings. But for the most part, community acupuncture clinics are the opposite. They’re set up so that we meet each other primarily as human beings rather than as numbers or roles or images or income streams. We recognize that everyone suffers, everyone has needs, everyone is struggling with limited resources. And so for the most part, at least on our good days, our POCA clinics are humanizing environments.

Which means they are also, potentially, radicalizing environments. Once you start GENUINELY believing in and valuing the human dignity of people who don’t have a lot of money, people with whom you would not otherwise be having relationships, people of different ages and genders and ethnicities and races and backgrounds, people with whom you share, despite those differences, an awareness of suffering — at that point, my friend, the work you’re doing as a volunteer or a receptionist or an acupuncturist, at that point your work has dangerous potential.

Because liberation is a process. Once it starts, it doesn’t want to stop. Once you start treating all kinds of different people as human beings, it gets harder to stop, it gets harder to turn it off when society tells you to. You’ve put yourself in a situation where you can’t quite look past people who are supposed to be invisible. When you’re in the grocery store, you notice that the checker is wearing wrist braces and you realize she’s in pain. You think about her working conditions, about whether she has to stand all day and besides her wrists, how’s her low back?

You get to the point where you can’t look at another person without wondering, what hurts?

If more people wondered that, if they acted on it, capitalism might not function. What would happen if we insisted on treating people like people, and stopped treating people like things?

If you’re in Maine and trying to find affordable or free services to get well, please see here and here.

Acupuncture and Smoking Cessation

Quitting Smoking with Acupuncture

Acupuncture as an approach to smoking cessation has continuously growing support. In some states, acupuncture is a court-mandated treatment for addicts due to the recognized benefits of how acupuncture can help alleviate withdrawal symptoms and curb cravings. Of course, acupuncture is not a magic bullet in the treatment of addiction, but if you’re motivated to stop a habit, acupuncture can make it easier to quit. But if you have tried a number of methods like nicotine patches and nicotine gum and they have not been effective, maybe this is the solution for you. But if you haven’t and the first solution that came to mind was Acupuncture, maybe it is worth trying other methods of quitting. For someone who has recently made this decision, this method should be your last resort. Of course just because something works for someone else doesn’t mean it will have the same effect, but you never know if you don’t try. Why not check out sites like, where you may be able to find an easier way of quitting. It is definitely worth a try, especially if leading a healthier lifestyle is your main goal. No matter where you are in the world, when it comes to smoking, I’m sure you’ll be able to find an effective solution. From using vaping devices, or vaporisateur as they’d say in France, to even trying non nicotine medication and seeking support, the more you look into it, the more likely you are to find an answer to quitting smoking. Just don’t give up, especially as you are intending to make a positive change in your life. Everything comes with time.

When it comes to Acupuncture, treatments focus on everything from withdrawal symptoms (jitters, irritability, unpredictable emotions, insomnia, fatigue, and restlessness) to helping you stay grounded through triggering events or periods of high stress.

What Acupuncture Points Are Used?

Most often, a combination of body points and ear points are used, though in some cases, it’s possible to bypass the personalized approach and use the “NADA protocol.” The NADA protocol consists of five points in the ear. In the illustration below, from the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association UK, the white dots imply that these points are “under” or “deep” to the part of the ear that are shown in this picture.

From the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association UK. www.
From the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association UK.

NADA Protocol Ear Points:

  • Shen Men (“Doorway to the Spirit”): good for stress, anxiety, “hypersensitivity”
  • Kidney
  • Sympathetic: helps access the parasympathetic nervous system (“rest and digest”)
  • Upper Lung
  • Liver

Common body points:

  • Tian Mei: an extra-meridian point located on the wrist between LU-7 (Lieque) and LI-5 (Yangxi), a specific point to quit smoking.
  • Four Gates: (Large Intestine 4 and Liver 3), used to circulate qi throughout the body and calm the nervous system.

Typical treatments last about 30-40 minutes, with the patient being treated 1-3 times a week for the first month of smoking cessation. Most patients wean from such frequent treatments once they begin feeling more grounded and able to stay the course, and will come for “tuneups” when necessary.

The NADA Protocol: My Experience at Wildwood Community Acupuncture

lauren at work
Real live acupuncturist who harbors, deep within her heart, the incorrigible belief that together we can recover, heal, and find more moments of peace in our lives. So let me poke you!

The NADA protocol was initially used to aid relaxation and well-being for people suffering with substance misuse problems, and/or in recovery. I use it for these purposes every day in the community clinic.

The NADA protocol can also be used for many other areas of treatment. I find it extraordinarily helpful for general stress and anxiety management. It’s also helpful for trauma recovery, PTSD, pain management, and for ameliorating side effects from drug treatment in cancer. 5NP (standing for 5 Needle Protocol) is one of the most frequently requested treatments. My patients LOVE IT. (And for the record, so do I.)

Practitioners of all stripes understand that pain, stress, anxiety, and depression are some of the most common and costly complaints in the world of medicine. One of the reasons the NADA protocol has received global recognition as an effective treatment for these costly complaints is due to this simple fact: The NADA protocal has calming effect on the central nervous system.

Disrupting the Stress Response

“Interruption” of the stress response is one thing acupuncture does best. What does that mean? Well, simply put, it’s easy to get caught up in the vicious cycle of stress, which can include disrupted sleep/digestion/mood/energy. We know that if we can’t break the cycle of stress, our health declines. We need moments of rest and rehabilitation in order to recover and stay well, but sadly, we live in a world that make that difficult, and even tries to make it impossible for some. If you’re unsure about what I mean by this, please see here or here or here or here.)

From a physiological perspective, consider that one major effect of the stress response is elevated levels of glucocorticoids (like cortisol). The parts of the brain most susceptible to the stress response are the areas loaded with high-concentrations of glucocorticoid receptors; these very same regions are involved with common mood imbalances, like anxiety and depression. Acupuncture can help re-calibrate the primary central nervous system – in other words, for many it acts as a physical, mental, and spiritual “reset” button.


Christian Nix, and acupuncturist and a tireless advocate of Hospital Based Acupuncture (his Community Pain and Stress Center is the first private model of community-style practice to be integrated into a major hospital system), often writes about acupuncture from a biomedical perspective. Much of this blog post has been inspired by his writings and his collection of research. If you’d like to see a list of the research that’s been done on acupuncture and the stress response, please see his excellent article in Acupuncture Today, which can be found here.

Botox or Acupuncture for Migraines?

Suffer from Migraines? Skip the Botox and Try Acupuncture

If this were my Gramps, I'd tell him to go get acupuncture for his migraine. Based on research.
If this were my Gramps, I’d tell him to go get acupuncture for his migraine. Based on research.

If you deal with migraines, your doctor may have suggested Botox as a form of treatment.

Botox is an injectable drug made from a toxic bacterium called Clostridium botulinum (yes, the same toxin that causes botulism). Initially introduced to the cosmetic market as a “wrinkle-cure,” some people who used Botox treatments to de-wrinkle their wrinkles reported unexpected side effects: less migraines. For this reason, many migraine sufferers may opt for botox treatment – from somewhere similar to New York City BOTOX – to see if they can benefit from the unexpected side-effect now turned treatment.

Years of research was done to investigate these claims. The results were…let’s just say, problematic. Of course, we didn’t hear much about the problematic details, but we did hear all about Botox for the prophylaxis of chronic migraines, even though it’s quite possible that it was simply the needles, and not the Botox, that was providing the migraine relief.

Wait, what?

Read this fascinating piece by Mel Hopper Koppelman, and see what conclusion you reach… Or you could alternatively visit your local botox clinic and ask about the benefits for migraines and see if they could recommend botox treatment, or to venture down a completely different treatment route such as acupuncture, prescription drugs or nasal sprays, or consult a migraine specialist that can work with you to find the best personal treatment.

Treating Acute and Chronic Pain

What in tarnation IS THIS THING? Whatever it is, it's  NOT REPRESENTATIVE of acupuncture.
What in tarnation IS THIS THING? Whatever it is, it’s NOT REPRESENTATIVE of acupuncture.

Pain sucks, no doubt about it. Whether it’s acute or chronic, it can cloud your thinking, mess with your sleep, disrupt your ability to get around and affect your relationships. In the community acupuncture clinic, pain is one of the most common things we treat. With this being said, there are alternative methods that can help people manage their symptoms better. For example, products containing CBD is said to have benefits on health conditions and ailments people are living with. Click here for more information. It is always best to do some research, especially if it is something new that is being used to help improve health.

Before going into the details about how to best treat pain, I do want to take a moment to share one essential piece of advice: Try to be compassionate toward others who are experiencing pain, especially those who deal with the chronic kind. People experience and handle pain differently. Generally speaking, it’s best to avoid assessing the “validity” of another person’s pain, since that would be insensitive and annoying.

Try not to do that.

Also, understand that people in pain are not always confined to their beds. You may see them out and about, trying to live their lives despite their pain. People who experience chronic pain are often grouchy, anxious, and/or depressed. Before judging them, take a moment to consider how you might feel if pain greeted you every morning upon waking. If you think you’d be consistently chipper and glass-half-full, well, you’re probably a Cylon.

So…what is the best way to treat pain?

Well, if you haven’t tried acupuncture yet, here’s my shameless promotion: GET POKED! Acupuncture should be a relaxing, rejuvenating, pain-reducing experience. And in case you’re wondering, an acupuncture treatment will not leave you looking like Pinhead from Hellraiser. And yes, I have been asked that. If you’re looking for an alternative remedy for pain relief, then you may decide it is time to take something different such as mota edibles which can help treat any pain that you are experiencing.

Herbal medicine can also be helpful in managing pain. More on that in a bit.
If you feel like you have to deal with pain due to an accident that wasn’t your fault, you could be in a position to claim by looking at firms such as MRH solicitors Bolton.

Treating Pain With Conventional Medicine

Ideally, we’d always treat pain the same way: identify and remove the cause. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy. Sometimes, we don’t know the cause of pain. Sometimes we know the cause but there’s little we can do about it. And sometimes, whether or not we know the cause, symptomatic pain relief is a priority (such as in the case of traumatic injuries, acute migraine, cancer-related pain, and surgical procedures). However, in some states medical marijuana is legalized. This means that people who might be experiencing chronic pain could potentially benefit from websites such as state side lansing. Medical marijuana is known to help ease pain symptoms so it may be worth contacting your doctor if you feel it might be helpful for your condition.

However, usually analgesic medications are the first line of treatment for pain; thankfully, many of them work quickly and well. An analgesic drug relieves pain and, very-generally-speaking, can be divided into either opioid or non-opioids. No matter the type of pain medication you use, they all have potential for side effects, especially when used over time. Since we’ve already established that pain sucks, the fact that common pain meds can come with nasty side effects is a double suck.

Adverse Drug Reactions

White pills on black
I, for one, was thankful for the stronger class of pain meds after my caesarian section. I refused at first. About 6 hours later, I changed my mind.

All pain medications come with a list of potential adverse drug reactions (ADRs). An adverse drug reaction is an injury caused by taking a medications. Adverse drug reactions are one of the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in health care.

Many patients want to know if there is anything they can take to treat their pain more naturally. In most cases, the answer is yes. That being said, natural does not necessarily imply safe; it’s best to consult with your PCP before adding anything into your regimen, especially if you have any chronic conditions or are taken any other medications.

With that necessary (but generic) advice given, the reality is that some conventional medical practitioners will know very little about herbs and supplements for treating pain. If that’s the case, it’s up to you (and your CAM practitioner, if you’re working with one) to make informed decisions if you decide to try an herb or supplement for pain.

Herb-drug interactions do exist. In most cases, some simple guidelines can help you avoid that. More on that here. And here.

All of that out of the way, let’s look at some other options for treating pain.

Start from the Beginning: Your Daily Fuel

What we eat can affect how we feel. That’s a no brainer. Put simply, your diet can contribute to inflammation, and inflammation is always at the root of pain. As much as possible, relax when you eat, chew your food, and take a moment to embrace the inherent pleasure of flavor. Try to incorporate community around the table; in other words, if possible, share, and enjoy the company of those with whom you decide to break bread. Being mindful of the experience of eating, rather than obsessing about what to eat, is a manageable starting point for most.

For patients who want to know more about specific dietary advice – simply put, you want to decrease food choices that contribute to inflammation. Below are some of my favorite resources, if you’re interested in reading more. Experimentation is key to understanding what works for your body. Detail of a man shopping in a supermarket

I do not think there is a single “diet” that is best for everyone. My intention here is not to preach; I would, however, like to provide some good resources for you to peruse in order to make a decision about what works for you, and seems sustainable. Remember, the blue zone areas (five regions in various parts of the world identified as having the highest concentrations of centenarians) have quite different diets from one another. (Read this short but fascinating piece on those populations who specialize in longevity here).

Let’s start with some simple guidelines: 27 Health and Nutrition Tips that Are Actually Evidence-Based

Dr. Weil’s anti-inflammation diet: Free, full of info, including a food pyramid you can print and hang on your fridge. Includes animal products. Anecdotally-speaking, seems to have worked well for many of my patients in regards to shedding pounds, feeling energized, and having less pain.

The Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Recipe Book: One of my favorite books, easy-to-read, concise information and devoid of self-aggrandizement or markety gimmicky crap. Tried and true recipes. I have many patients who report that reading this book helped immensely with their health problems, and helped them understand what can help fight inflammation.

Forks Over Knives: A whole-food, plant-based diet heavily influenced by The China Study. In my opinion, good for some constitutions, not good for others (to be clear, I think whole-food, plant-based food is great for everyone, but not always at the expense of all animal foods, especially if you tend to be “blood deficient” or “yin deficient” according to TCM). Patients with excess constitutions (if they can muster the discipline and support), can thrive on this diet. A revolutionary way of looking at food for many.

Low-Carbohydrate Diets: So, is it a dietary fad, or not? A body of favorable research does seem to be growing for the low-carbohydate diet. But again – this diet it most likely good for some, not great for others (one issue that I’ve come across when talking to my patients is that some felt like they did well on this diet but couldn’t sustain it).

So, yeah….choosing what to put in your mouth can be complicated. If you find this overwhelming, start with these simple rules.

Now let’s take a look at herbs that can reduce inflammation.