Today on the Health and Wellness Show, we welcome back to the show Doctors of acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine Linnéa Snyder (L.Ac. MSTCM) and James Lovinsky (L.Ac. MSTCM).

Linnéa was first drawn to acupuncture after receiving it as a teenager and noticing its widespread effects. Most notably, she loves the way it balances one's nervous-system and can clear emotional build-up without the necessity of attaching or sharing about the feelings or pain. Linnéa is interested in women's health, psycho-emotional disorders and stress induced illnesses. James came upon acupuncture during a very stressful period in his life. After trying several modalities to treat his own stress-induced health concerns, he settled on acupuncture. Upon changing his career and beginning acupuncture school he realized that Chinese medicine offered many treatments that could give patients an alternative to drugs and surgery. James is interested in pain management, digestive disorders and psycho-emotional health.

Linnéa and James practice at their clinic, Opus Total Health, in West Greenwich, RI (Opus Total Health - Its your life... live it in health!). They treat patients from all walks of life with acupuncture, bodywork, Chinese herbal medicine and diet and nutrition therapy.

Join us for a fascinating discussion about acupuncture, Chinese medicine and somatic therapy. And stayed tuned for Zoya's Pet Health Segment where the topic will be human history from a cat's perspective.

Running Time: 01:23:25

Download: MP3

Here's the transcript of the show:

Doug: Hello and welcome to the Health and Wellness Show on the SOTT Radio Network. Today is Friday, January 11, 2019. I am your host Doug. With me in our virtual studio from all over the planet are Tiffany and Erica.

Tiffany: Morning.

Erica: Good morning.

Doug: Today we are joined by our very special guests. We're welcoming them back to the show. You may have heard them on our last show which was about a year and a bit ago. It is James Lovinsky and Linnéa Snyder who are traditional Chinese medicine practitioners. Welcome to the show guys.

James: Thanks Doug.

Linnéa: Thank you.

James: Happy to be back on the show with you guys.

Doug: Yeah, we're happy to have you. So Linnéa and James both received their training in Boston at the New England School of Acupuncture and in San Francisco at the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Their training includes acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition and treatment modalities like cupping, moxibustion and massage.

To start off with, maybe we can talk about it. I know we talked about it on the last show but many of our listeners probably don't know. Maybe you could tell us how you guys got into this line of practice.

Linnéa: I would say for me it was actually receiving acupuncture which, for a lot of people that might be the case. I was very impressed and surprised by the way that it affected me when I had my first treatment. I expected, based on what I knew, that I was so relaxed that it would help me with my stress. I didn't know that it would have such a profound emotional impact on how I was feeling. I didn't even know that I was withholding any emotion or that maybe I would feel better if, as in this case I was able to cry. It was one of those moments where it felt like this total release and then afterwards I felt lighter and I thought "Wow! What just happened?"

It sparked my curiosity about how our bodies store emotional experiences and a lot of times in the moment that something happens we don't necessarily have the time or the space to process it fully and sometimes there's this kind of build up in the body. So I became very curious about how acupuncture can address that.

James: For me, I think I talked about this a little bit the last time we were on. When I was a kid I used to get car sick and at first I tried Dramamine and maybe Benadryl or something like that, but it made me really sleepy, which on a long car ride is okay. At some point somebody told my mom about these things called C-bands which are acupressure wrist bands and they stimulate a point on the wrist that's pretty well known for having an anti-nausea effect.

So that was when I was a little kid and then later on when I was in college I started to get more interested in health in general and I found a book on acupressure and started giving myself acupressure treatments in addition to Reiki and other things that I was doing at the time. It's interesting because I started getting regular acupuncture treatments I guess around 2011 or 2012, kind of like Linnéa, for stress. I was working two or three jobs at the time and I started having some problems because I was so stressed out so I started seeing somebody and getting acupuncture treatments. I had been in therapy for a little while but I was really blown away by how a couple of needles in my hands and feet and half an hour of rest could totally change how I experienced my body. I slept better and just felt more relaxed after the treatments. At the time I had been toying with the idea of going back to school to study psychology and I switched gears and decided to try out acupuncture school and once I got there I really got hooked.

Doug: That's interesting that you both seemed to come to it from more of an emotional side of things because for me personally, usually when I think of acupuncture I think of it as more of a physical thing, for back pain or some kind of joint pain or something like that. People will get acupuncture and generally report pretty good results. But you don't hear so much about the emotional side of things. I know that lately they've been talking about it for things like depression and anxiety. Is that a common thing? Do people tend to come to you guys for more of the emotional side of things?

Linnéa: We definitely see a lot of pain conditions and it's definitely really good at treating pain conditions. I do get more anxiety patients than depression, but definitely some of both. I think what happened with the medicine was it did initially address the spiritual and emotional aspects of health but there was a lot of language about spirit and demons and that kind of thing that got pushed out of the medicine once they were trying to make it more mainstream and coined "TCM", traditional Chinese medicine. It took most of the spiritual language out of the medicine.

Tiffany: Well the stories that both of you told kind of testified that acupuncture is good for releasing a lot of preverbal trauma.

Linnéa: Yes.

Tiffany: Things that people can't really verbalize or they're having therapy and they can't really verbalize what may have happened to them so acupuncture can be good for that.

Linnéa: I would whole-heartedly agree with that. That's been my personal experience and I would say that it's not something that a lot of people necessarily are drawn to. They're not drawn to acupuncture specifically because of that. I don't think a lot of people think of it in that way...

Doug: Right.

Linnéa: ...that they should come to acupuncture for those reasons.

Tiffany: Well maybe they get up on the table and they have an emotional release and it's like "Surprise! I didn't know."

Linnéa: That happens for sure and it's so interesting because you can't really know when it's going to happen and acupuncture often has this cumulative effect for people. And the body opens when it's ready, not before then. It has its own time, that's for sure.

Doug: I guess this is kind of what you're describing, but somebody might come in for more of a physical ailment and they'll end up having this kind of emotional reaction, this emotional release.

Linnéa: Absolutely.

Doug: So if somebody came in to see you and said "I'm suffering from anxiety", versus if somebody came in to see you and said "I have lower back pain", how different is the method?

Linnéa: That's interesting. I'll let James talk about this too, but for me if it's lower back pain the first thing I'll do is focus on some movement tests to identify the meridians that have the most tension or blockage in them. That's just one way of assessing the body and the range of motion, all that kind of stuff. And if someone has anxiety typically I'll go straight towards points that we say calm the spirit, but also with people who have pain, I almost always include at least one point that calms the spirit because there's no way someone can have all this pain and not have it affect them at least on some level emotionally, even if they're not aware of how much it's affecting them. I sometimes kind of joke about it. People will come in and they'll seem like really mean, awful, nasty people and then you treat them and their pain starts to get better and their personality seems like it changes just because they don't have pain so they're not feeling as angry or antsy. They have more patience, are more likely to smile. It's really lovely.

Doug: Wow! I know a lot of people who could probably benefit from that.

Tiffany: I would guess that people who have maybe have long-term pain that they've been dealing with for a while, they're probably not even aware of how it has changed their temperament or their personality and how they react to people until they notice a change afterwards.

Linnéa: Absolutely.

James: Absolutely. I don't know a lot about Chinese culture because I haven't spent time in China. What I know is from our teachers and classmates in school and from our history class. But one of the things we talked about was how a lot of the diagnostic categories that we treat in Chinese medicine, in my experience there is always a physical component with emotions and an emotional component with physical ailments, almost always. I won't say always because there's always exceptions.

So for instance, you asked about how we would treat anxiety versus low back pain. With anxiety a lot of times people have physical symptoms that go along with anxiety. If you think about the classical anxiety like a panic attack when people feel their heart pounding in their chest and maybe are hyperventilating or something like that, I think that there are other physical symptoms usually. Sometimes the label for the emotion is an overlay for what's going on. The separation of emotions and thoughts versus physical sensations personally I think is an artificial separation. Probably a lot of your listeners are familiar with Boris Mouravieff's idea of the three centres, but if there's a movement in the intellectual centre there's a movement in the emotional centre and the movement centre.

So if somebody has an injury in their back it's going to affect how they move and the way that we move in our habitual postures and the way that we use our body affects how we feel in our emotional state and how we think and it affects our personality. For the most part I think of acupuncture as a form of bodywork. It's a way into the person's affecting their body. A lot of people have their patterns of symptoms that go along with different constitutional types. There are patterns of symptoms that happen to people as they get older. When people get older they tend to have knee problems and low back pain and frequent urination and trouble sleeping, the sort of symptoms that we think about with aging.

We have ways of treating that that have been developed, I think somewhat by trial and error and somewhat just based on different theories about how the human body works that were developed in China. So a lot of it sounds very foreign to scientific medicine and scientific thinking but there's a certain science to the way that it was developed. I'm starting to ramble now. {laughter}

Doug: Well it is interesting, what you were saying, because I totally agree with you. I think the western perspective on things tends to be very segmented in what they're treating, even within the field of western medicine. You have specialists in different areas and they don't really talk to each other at all. So you've got a foot doctor who doesn't talk to the digestive doctor, maybe not the right terms, but it's that kind of thing where it's very segmented. I think that the Chinese system, which I admittedly don't know a lot about, seems much more holistic in its approach. It's more of treating the entire person, including the emotional aspects as well as the physical aspects and all of the organ systems, how they interact. So it just seems more holistic, for lack of a better term.

James: I think it's complimentary in a lot of ways to biomedicine. I would say that our training is similar to a general practitioner or family doctor from 100 or 150 years ago who maybe would go into a rural area - and I'm not saying we learn the same things or have the same skills as an MD from 150 years ago - but more that we have very broad training so that we are trained initially to be able to treat a lot of different things. I guess maybe it's similar with med school and then people specialize later. But we definitely look at how a condition affects our patients physically, mentally, emotionally, which I think you're right, is probably different than western medicine. So it's more of looking at the big picture and the human being as a whole organism instead of zeroing in on the physical structure of the knee, for instance. "Okay, this person has knee pain so let's find out what's structurally wrong with the knee." So that's a place where western medicine can get stomped.

Linnéa: Can't find anything wrong with the knee.

James: Yeah, you send them for for pictures.

Linnéa: Most of the patients we get I feel are the people who's blood work is normal and then Jim comes back and they're sort of fishing for what could be wrong with this person for the reason that they have their pain and often these are the people who end up coming to us because they're not served well by western medicine because none of the tests are showing what's really going on. I think that's how Chinese medicine is so different. In our training there really is the concept of shen, when we were talking about mind/body dualism, the concept of shen in Chinese medicine is really central when we treat pain or any kind of disease.

We always want to calm the shen and the shen has to do with not only the mind but also the body and there's no separation in the concept of shen. It has to do with the heart, the mind and the body and the spirit and the sense of being able to be calm and feel connected and it manifests through the person's eyes. When someone is in a lot of pain you can tell based the way that their face looks or their eyes look. There's maybe some dullness or there's the crazy eyed person. Maybe their eyes are darting. All of those things we look for when we're determining the state of someone's shen.

Tiffany: Do you get referrals from mainstream medical doctors or do your patients just come to you because they've pretty much had enough of mainstream or they couldn't find any relief through mainstream treatments? Do doctors send people to you? Do people come into your office and they don't really know much about acupuncture or maybe they think that it's really woo-woo and they just want to try it out? Do you notice a difference between people who come in and know a lot about it and are really gung-ho to get treated and people who are more suspicious or wary and does that make a difference in their outcomes?

James: Absolutely, that makes a difference. We get a mix of patients. Our clinic was founded by a man who was a nurse before he became an acupuncturist. He actually was an ER nurse so he worked in a local hospital near where our clinic is so he had a lot of connections in the western medical world and in the local hospitals. So we actually have a number of nurses who are long-term patients who've come in to the clinic regularly for maintenance treatments to help with back pain and knee pain and that sort of thing, repetitive strain injuries that develop from lifting people and moving people. Nursing can be a pretty physical job.

We get some referrals from physical therapists, usually they'll send people to us. Physical therapists...

Linnéa: And orthopaedics.

James: Yeah, orthopaedic surgeons sometimes send patients to us if they're not sure - they're patients who aren't quite to the place where an orthopaedic surgeon would say "You should have surgery" but they have pain and either they're not sure what else to do with them or they want them to try acupuncture before they prescribe pain medicine. The newest treatment guidelines for low back pain from the American College of Physicians - they have a publication The Annals of Internal Medicine and they released background guidelines for treatment of back pain I think a year or two ago that recommended acupuncture as something to try before...

Doug: Oh wow!

James: Yeah, before prescribing pain medications. It was acupuncture, physical therapy and yoga, massage and some other body work modalities. But that was a big step for us, I think, and for other complimentary medicine folks. So we get some people like that who are referred. I would say in general most of the people who come to see us are initially pretty sceptical about acupuncture. I think it's more widely accepted on the west coast probably because it's been in the public consciousness out there a little bit longer.

Tiffany: All the hippies. {laughter}

James: Yeah, yeah. More people from Asia for longer in California and Oregon and Washington because I think Chinese immigrants started coming over there in the 1800s at least. But definitely partly because of the area. So a lot of people are really sceptical when they come which I think is a shame or at least it makes our job more difficult.

Linnéa: Well we do have to do a lot of patient education so that people can understand what's going on and it's tricky walking a line between someone who is really steeped in the western understanding of things. So even some of the language that we use just goes right over people's heads and it's hard to make it sound reasonable and also make it true to what we're doing.

James: And the placebo effect is real. Study after study demonstrates that the placebo effect is real. I'm sure most people are familiar with the placebo effect but when they do drug trials, one group will have the real medicine and the control group will have a sugar pill and in test after test they show that the people who take the sugar pill still get better on average. So there's some effect. Is it the sugar pill? Most people think that there's an effect from the person feeling "Okay, I'm getting some medicine so I'm going to get better."

It also works the other way. They call it nocebo so if somebody's super sceptical about a treatment then they will tend to have a poorer outcome than someone who's really into it and believes that it's going to work.

Linnéa: I've had at least three or four patients who were totally, totally sceptical, were sure that it wasn't going to help them and were just trying it as a last resort, either because their husband, wife, friend or doctor, someone else said "Well just try it. You've got nothing to lose" and totally helped them, really outstanding results. So it's not always necessarily or maybe there's something about certain people that even if they're sceptical it doesn't affect them the same way. Who knows? It never seems to be 100% one way of course.

Doug: Right. Maybe it would be helpful for our listeners to explain what you actually do to people. What most people probably know about acupuncture is you go in, you lie down, you get some needles stuck in you and then everything's better. {laughter} So what's really going on there?

James: One thing about acupuncture research and why it's such a mystery, I think people is looking for the way that it works, the molecule or the pathway, as if it's a drug. Okay, so you take aspirin. Aspirin is one chemical that's super purified and it impacts on these receptors and this physiological process happens. Acupuncture impacts on the body in a range of ways that different researchers have found. One way that's most well known is when you put the needles in and there's a release of endorphins and enkephalins. These are the body's painkillers that it releases. Actually it's interesting because how pain works is sort of not very well understood. If you think about pain it's very subjective. If two people break their toes, one person can barely walk and barely function and their pain level is so intense that it's totally overwhelming whereas another person could break their toe and just limp a little bit and not have to slow down.

I'm getting off track. So when you have an injury in the body like that, one theory about the purpose of pain is that it makes your body protect the injured area until it can heal. Once the injured part of the body is healed then the sensory nerves in the body are supposed to stop sending pain signals and turn the pain off. So a lot of people who come to see us have pain but as far as they can tell, as far as their doctors can tell, there's no physical problem necessarily that's causing the pain or the amount of pain that they have is way out of proportion with the injury or the malfunction in their body. So there's some kind of malfunction. The body's not regulating the pain signals the way that it should regulate them.

So with acupuncture you put the acupuncture needles in. One effect is that there's a release of these painkilling chemicals. They're released locally so if you have pain in your knee and you get acupuncture needles put in points around your knee then there's release of painkilling chemicals in the local tissues right around the knee and then there's also a signal sent to the brain and the brain releases chemicals that then go into circulation that have a systemic effect. So there's an effect on what we call the hormonal system, the endocrine system. There's also an effect on the nervous system. You put the needles in and sometimes you might feel a prick when the needle goes in so there's a conscious perception of the sensation of the needles being inserted and then the needles being in your body which is usually not unpleasant. It's a sort of heavy feeling sometimes. Oftentimes we put the needles in and people say "I don't feel them at all".

But the body still feels that the needle's there on some level. Some of the studies that I've read about how acupuncture works focus on the effect of the needles on the brain and the body map in the brain's cortex. There's a study that I read about how acupuncture helps with carpal tunnel. They did MRIs and functional fMRIs which are real time MRIs when they go in the MRI machine and put the needles in and see what's going on in the brain. They had a theory about why these people are getting carpal tunnel and they found that the people who have carpal tunnel pain, there's an overlap of the signals coming from their hand and their arm so some of the sensory input that's coming from their arm and their hand is getting confused in the brain. So the brain interprets these kind of scrambled up signals as pain in the wrist.

Linnéa: Right. The acupuncture needles are helping the brain differentiate 'okay, this is this part of the arm and this is this part of the hand' and it can separate things out. Often as people get better, their pain will get more and more specific. A lot of times I'll say "Where is your shoulder pain?" and they can't even point to where it is. "It's all over this whole area and it affects me so much". We start working and all of a sudden they can point, "Oh, this is all that's left. It's right here." The brain's way of mapping the body is able to differentiate better and get more and more specific and I think that that's part of it and that's exactly what James was saying.

Tiffany: It clarifies the body map?

Linnéa: Yeah.

James: Yeah, exactly. It cleans up the body map and the body map can get confused because of injuries.

Linnéa: And lack of blood circulation.

James: Lack of blood circulation.

Linnéa: The needles right away are helping with the blood flow. That's a part of the response. Some people will get this quick response from the insertion of the needle and we say that indicates how much heat or inflammation they have in their bodies. Some people will get this big pink spot around the needle and some people won't. It's obviously a physical intervention that's affecting the circulation.

Doug: What about chi? Because you guys went through that whole explanation but you didn't say anything about chi.

Linnéa: Yeah, it's interesting that the way that chi has been defined or just the way that acupuncture's been branded in the western world is not necessarily accurate. I've heard chi translated many, many different ways. The most common translation people go to I think is energy but really when you look at what these people were observing, you could argue that it's the oxygenation of the blood, this sort of mobilizing influence that keeps everything in the body working as it should. The heart was always seen as the emperor, the empress of the body because it's what regulates the flow through the body in part and then all these different relationships with all the organs and the way that certain organs influence the chi flow. So if blood is the substance, chi is the oxygenation of the blood, if you want to look at it in a more scientific or flesh and bones way.

James: In acupuncture school in the first semester we have a Chinese medicine physiology class. It's like a western medicine physiology class but it's more simplistic mostly because it's based on older concepts and older language. So chi and blood always go together in the body. There are different types of chi that we learn about. They talk about how the Chinese organs work together and it's a simplistic model for how the internal organs work together. It's pretty ingenious if you think about how it was developed by people who didn't have access to microscopes and modern chemistry labs. They must have done some dissections or saw people on the battlefield and stuff and saw livers and stomachs and hearts and figured out basically how things work.

So we learn about how the stomach and we call it the spleen but some people say the spleen and pancreas. Those are the main digestive organs in Chinese medicine the same way that it is in western medicine. So the spleen and the stomach take in food and water and they produce what they call food chi. So the food chi, in Chinese physiology it rises up to the stomach which is thought of as the cooking pot that's fermenting and digesting the food that you've taking in, which is accurate. Then the steam rises, so there's an analogy of cooking rice and the Chinese character for chi is a combination of two different characters. One is rice cooking and then the steam rising off of it, so a very literal translation of chi is the steam coming off of a bowl of rice. {laughter}

But the character, the word chi is almost never used by itself in China. I think it's usually contextual. So they talk about the earth chi and the heaven chi. It's more of a concept. So in the body we talk about the food chi so that's the energy that you get from food. Then the food chi goes to the chest and there's the chest chi which comes in from the heaven chi. So the heaven chi comes down into the body through the lungs. Your breath is bringing in energy, it's bringing in oxygen. So the food chi and the heaven chi are combined in the lungs, in the heart and they create blood and it's pumped through the body so the blood and the chi work together in the body to keep the body warm, to nourish the tissues and nourish the internal organs and on a basic level, when there's a problem, it means there's a problem with chi and blood flow. So there's bad circulation basically. So that's the fundamental concept of Chinese medicine is that when there's a problem, there's a problem with circulation-chi and blood flow.

Linnéa: Chi or blood or both.

James: Oxygen and nutrients aren't getting to the places where they're supposed to be. And if you look at biomedicine, it's not really that far off in terms of looking at long-term degenerative problems. You could argue that diabetes for instance, is a circulatory disease that affects the blood vessels and a lot of the problems that it causes is because of poor circulation and its effect on the circulatory system. There's all the statistics about how many people die of heart attacks every year and how many people have Renaud's syndrome or peripheral neuropathy which is pain and tingling from your nerves.

Linnéa: Even with cancer they're talking about how if you get enough oxygen through that area it kills the cancer cells. That's my understanding anyway.

Erica: The practice of tai chi is definitely gaining in popularity, especially with older people. Would that be those movements helping with circulation and oxygenating the blood?

James: Yeah, absolutely.

Linnéa: It helps.

James; There's a focus on relaxation during the movements in tai chi, chi-gong and some others that are becoming more popular. Basically while you do the movements you're supposed to relax as much as possible. My western mind thinks of it as sort of a holistic form of physical therapy. You know what I mean? So it's a way of recovering from injuries and helping your body regain full range of motion and relaxing. A lot of the tension that we have in our bodies can come from injuries that haven't fully healed, from habitual emotional patterns or thought patterns, so we hold our body in a certain way all the time. If somebody is sad, if you think about how someone looks when they're sad, the look on their face, the way that their shoulders slump and their chest sinks, if somebody's habitually sad then that posture can become stuck in the body.

I think the third way is just from the way that we use our bodies on a regular basis. If you have a desk job and you're sitting at a desk all the time and you are holding your body in a certain posture for long periods of time, over time the body adapts to that. Chi-gong or tai chi, by going through those movements and trying to relax, is a way of releasing tension in your body and recovering movement, recovering sensation. When there's tension in the body the muscles are tense it restricts blood flow. It restricts the sensory input and signals from the nervous system. That's another concept from Chinese medicine - restriction causes pain.

So basically tai chi is designed to relax the body and help you recover full range of motion and prevent injuries. It's especially good for people as they age because it's also really good for balance. A big problem for people when they get older and become sedentary is loss of balance and there are lots of studies about how the mortality rates increase as people get older and are more likely to fall down. So I think that that's partly why it's so popular.

In China it was definitely an issue of availability and cost. After the cultural revolution China became isolated and there were I don't know how many hundreds of millions of people with a very small number of western-trained doctors and a large population that needed healthcare and they were trying to modernize very quickly. So initially Mao was very opposed to Chinese medicine. He thought it was backwards and thought it should be eradicated kind of like the communist idea of getting rid of outdated things. But, as the legend goes, he got really sick. He had pneumonia or a lung abscess or some life-threatening, very severe upper respiratory infection. This is what I heard in school. It didn't respond to antibiotics and western medical treatment so in desperation he took some Chinese herbs from a famous Chinese herbalist and that cured him of the respiratory infection. So being both a pragmatist on some level - it may have just been a pragmatic decision but I kind of like the story.

And I have seen some studies about that sort of thing. They started a large-scale training program. They called it the barefoot doctors and part of that program was that they said because there was such a long wait for care, when someone went to see the local barefoot doctor, part of their job was to do triage so if it was life-threatening or something really severe they would send them to the next town to where the trauma care was. If it was something that they could treat with acupuncture or herbs they would treat it with that. Oftentimes they would tell the person the doctor is so busy you're not going to be able to be seen for a month. Here are some tai chi exercises that you can do in the meantime and sometimes that was enough for somebody to work through the problem itself.

Linnéa: It's definitely considered part of Chinese medicine.

James: Yeah.

Linnéa: The internal exercises of Chinese medicine. And I think there's a lot of focus on conserving energy in this system of medicine as opposed to the western sort of 'let's go get our exercise and burn as many calories as possible'.

Doug: Right.

Erica: That's what I was thinking too, that it's low impact so people are slow moving...

Linnéa: Yes, low impact. They're very focused on longevity and conserving energy and restoring the proper flow of chi and blood. The tai chi practices come right out of that.

James: It's sort of like DNA. Chinese medicine talks about three treasures which are shen and chi and jing. Jing is what you're born with.

Linnéa: Your essence or maybe your DNA?

James: Yeah, your essence, your genetic case.

Linnéa: Your blueprint.

James: Your blueprint, yeah. Shen is your spirit. So it's this idea of we're living in a physical universe, we're in a physical body but something else comes into our body. There's this animating force. Then chi is generated by the...

Linnéa: Body processes.

James: ...body processes, by slowly burning the jing, what we're given at birth and it creates energy in our body so that we can do what we need to do. So with the concept of jing, I think of it as one of those little sand timers that has so much sand in it and the sand is running out and eventually it's going to run out and your body is going to die. All bodies eventually die but there are things that you can do to make the sand run out more slowly or faster. So things like tai chi and...

Linnéa: Eating well.

James: ...some kinds of herbs and eating right for your constitutional type, getting acupuncture regularly, can slow down how fast the sand is running out, which you could argue.

Linnéa: Or like the pilot light is another way they talk about it. They emphasize staying warm and not making your body work harder too, even drinking warmer fluids, keeping your body warm, not exposing yourself to wind or harsh elements, that kind of thing.

Tiffany: Or cold baths. {laughter}

James: Yeah, the cryotherapy and cold water therapy.

Linnéa: They would not be fans.

James: Would definitely be frowned upon by most Chinese medical trainees.

Doug: No kidding.

Erica: Shocking.

Doug: I agree with them on that one I have to say. {laughter}

Tiffany: In your practice, besides the acupuncture, are there other add-on treatments that you use alongside the acupuncture? Before the show you mentioned the M-test. What is that?

Linnéa: Yeah, that's definitely my number one go-to add-on. At the beginning I mentioned diagnostic movements and the M-test. Dr. Mukaino developed it so it's the Mukaino method test so muscle or meridian testing, M-test for short. It helps you determine exactly which meridian is most affected in someone's pain. So oftentimes just gentle acupressure on these specific points is enough. Again, I think it has a lot to do with the body getting a certain amount of feedback so that it can actually relax and soften the area where there's pain. My experience is that it's almost like the body senses a certain amount of support from the acupressure point which translates through the meridian. You never are pressing directly on the area of pain. You're pressing further down the channel so if there's a problem with the shoulder you would use a lot of points on the wrist and you would have the person identify the most painful movement and then choose the acupressure point that is most effective in alleviating their pain or improving their range of motion.

It really happens pretty quickly. I'll use the acupressure and then I'll clean up whatever else might need to be cleaned up on the meridian with the needles. So oftentimes I'll feel "the tissue feels really gummy or sticky in this particular part of the bicep" on someone who has shoulder pain and it's usually more effective - at least in my experience for the most part - to work on the meridian further down than attacking the area that's already in pain.

Erica: The exact opposite of western medicine. {laughter}

Linnéa: Yeah, exactly. So instead of doing surgery on the shoulder. That's sort of a short explanation of M-tests but as you go into it there are pairings of points that work really well together on the upper and lower body and we always start from the ground up. So even if someone has shoulder pain, I'll check to see if there's any imbalance happening, maybe in their hip joints or when they do side bending movements, is it really tight and restricted all the way down that side of the body where the shoulder is hurting or on the opposite side. A lot of times we have these compensatory patterns or guarding patterns when we have pain in our body. So working from the ground up helps you have a solid foundation so that your body can relax and the grip of those patterns can unravel. Sometimes it definitely takes time but I think because it's so non-invasive the body responds really well to it. That's my opinion.

James: M-test is really interesting. I think that one of the key things about understanding how acupuncture works and how this M-test system works, which is basically a framework that's built on top of the concepts of acupuncture, is looking at how the body functions as a whole, that holistic framework like you were saying earlier Doug. So to some extent that's looking at how organs work together and creating an herbal medicine formula that addresses both the liver and the circulatory system. But in this instance it's looking at how the body moves.

Of course western science and western medicine traditionally has been very reductionistic so if a person has pain in their knee, the problem must be in the knee. The pain is coming from the knee so there must be a problem with the knee. The problem with that is that the way that the body organizes movement and the way that the brain processes the signals from the body, it doesn't necessarily make those kinds of differentiations. When we move our arm, you move your hand through space, you don't think about it because it's an unconscious movement but the whole body coordinates that because there's the inertia and mass of your hand moving through space. The body has to compensate for that so there are little micro-movements and tensing and releasing muscles all over your body all the time that help you move through space.

All you have to do is look at a toddler learning how to walk and you can see how complex it is to learn how to walk, to go from crawling, to standing up, to being able to walk and then run. It takes them months and months, years.

Linnéa: Of constantly trying.

James: Of trying all day. All they're doing is practicing walking and picking things up. Our nervous system has to learn all of that. I'm only moving my left hand. When I move my arm in this way it hurts in my shoulder so there's this problem with my shoulder. One analogy that I heard that I thought was pretty good is say you're making a bed and you put the sheets on the bed and you smooth them all out and then if you grab the sheet on one corner of the bed and you lift it up and twist it, you can see little creases go out all through the bed on the sheet and it affects the sheet on the other side of the bed. So the body is like that. The soft tissue, the fascia is a big buzz word in the medical world right now. A problem in one area of the soft tissue that binds the whole body together can really affect another area.

Linnéa: There's a lot of emphasis because of that on scarring also, especially with M-tests because of the way that a scar can pull...

James: It affects movement.

Linnéa: ...exactly, so if the scar doesn't heal well. One woman had her thyroid removed and she had a massive scar on her neck. If I pulled the scar gently downwards it looked like it was pulling upward. If I gently pulled the scar downwards, it helped to relieve the pain she was having. She was having a lot of discomfort swallowing and looking up. For some people who have a lot of scarring it can take a while because there's all that scar tissue to work on.

James: There's this idea of how the whole body is all tied together and movement is coordinated through the whole body and something like a scar can really affect how the body moves or create tension in a way that causes pain. So M-test is a way of diagnosing problems with movement that are causing pain. The system tells us where to look to try to alleviate that problem.

Linnéa: That can be counter-intuitive for sure because we're so trained to think "Oh the pain's here" people will come in with pain and say "Well why aren't you putting any needles where it hurts?"

James: Once you think about the way that the system works it can be pretty obvious. For instance if somebody's having low back pain we do some tests. We have them do a back bend. We have them lean forward and touch their toes. We have them do side bends and a twisting movement. So if when they bend forward and touch their toes, that's the movement that makes the back pain worse, then we know that there's a problem - usually - with the back of their body, the posterior part of their body, which in Chinese medicine we call the bladder channel or the tài yuān channel.

These are old concepts. It's an analogy for that part of the body. So then we check the backs of their legs. Oftentimes tight hamstrings can at least exacerbate low back pain so we check the backs of their legs, their hamstrings, their calves, their upper back, their neck, etc. and we'll look for acupressure points on their ankle that are related to the back of the body. Acupressure points or acupuncture points are areas in the body that have concentrations of nerve endings and blood vessels and some of those nerve endings help the body organize movement through space. It's the way that when you close your eyes and you move your hand around, you can locate where your hand is. You can touch your nose with your eyes closed because these nerve endings in your wrist, in your hand and your elbow are sending signals to your brain telling your brain where your hand is.

So if we stimulate the right points on the ankle then we have the person bend over again and they move a little bit differently, the muscles up the back of their legs relax a little bit and it relieves the pain in their back. Does that make sense?

Doug: Yeah, I think it does. This M-test, I know you guys were mentioning on the show last time that it's used a lot for sports performance and stuff.

Linnéa: Mm-hm.

James: Yes.

Doug: I guess that makes sense.

James: You can use it prophylactically for someone. You don't have to have pain to use it. You're optimizing the body's movement patterns. You go through all the movements and it doesn't have to be pain. It could be a restriction, tightness or imbalance. So athletes who are very in tune with their body and how their body moves, they're high functioning, can feel very small imbalances and restrictions. So by going through an M-test treatment before a sporting event, swimming or running or something like that, it makes the body move more efficiently.

There are a lot of stories in Dr. Mukaino's book, the one book that's published in English, about swimmers who won the race. There's one story about...

Linnéa: They sped up their stroke by however many milliseconds or something...

James: Yeah.

Linnéa: ...because of the efficiency of the muscles.

James: And then there were baseball pitchers. They did a test with baseball pitchers where they said "Okay, we're going to measure muscular effort, what muscles they're using and how hard the muscles are working to make the pitch go a certain speed". Without M-test they throw the baseball and at first they're using a lot of muscles and working really hard and then as they get warmed up - they call it a warm-up - some of that's relaxing the muscles that are interfering with the movement rather than helping it.

So then they waited a little while with the same pitcher and they did the M-test first and basically eliminated the need for the warm-up.

Doug: Oh wow!

James: Yeah. So it's pretty interesting I think.

Doug: Very cool.

Tiffany: James and Linnéa have you had any patients who came in and the outcome was shocking or surprising?

Linnéa: Yeah.

Tiffany: Or anything out of the ordinary that you wouldn't expect.?

Linnéa: Oh my goodness, yes! I had a guy who came in with a shattered calcaneus bone which is the heel bone. So we're talking about one of the most fundamental bones in the body because we all have to walk to get anywhere, unless you're needing a wheelchair. But luckily he was still managing. I was pretty sure I wasn't going to be able to do anything for him. Well, I thought maybe I could help him a little bit but he had had this going on for seven years I think and obviously, talking about compensation patterns, he had a lot going on structurally, he had a lot of pain with a lot of the movements, a lot of restriction.

So I did M-test with him. I identified the most important, most restricted meridian and when he stretched it caused the most pain, which we expect to see. So I did literally one M-test point with him repeating the movement but I gave him a full acupuncture treatment and in the acupuncture treatment I actually focused on his stress because I felt like he was obviously really at the end of his rope with this. Anyway, by the end of the treatment he was obviously the kind of guy that doesn't cry easily but he was in tears, starting to cry because he could flex his foot without pain and walked out the door. James said something to him like "Oh I'm so glad you're feeling better" or "I'm glad you're feeling good" and he was like, "No, that doesn't even cut it that I'm feeling good. He swore, "This is f-ing awesome!!" {laughter} And he just bounced out the door because he could press on his feet.

It would last for about two days initially and then it started to last a little longer. But he said still even when it was starting to come back it was so much less than tense. So it's still going to be a process for him. That's not a case where I expected it to be so effective right off the bat but I think, for whatever reason, that that's a good testimony. {laughter}

Doug: Definitely.

James: We had a patient this fall who is in her late '80s. She had a hip replacement about a year ago. She had her hip joint replaced because she had pain in her hip but then after the surgery she still had pain. It was further down her thigh. So the doctors said that happens sometimes and your body should adjust to having it and it should go away. But unfortunately it was almost a year later and she still had this pain. She said the pain in my leg now is slightly below my hip but it's almost as bad as the pain that I had in my hip and now in addition I have sciatic pain on the other leg. I don't know if it was a progression or not.

So her friend had convinced her to come in and try acupuncture. At 86 or 87 she's never heard of acupuncture before. She was sort of like "Well I'll give it a try". One of the things about acupuncture is that it's not always that magical...

Linnéa: Well I think with the calcaneus bone the reason that it was so fast is because it actually had healed. It had been seven years. The body had healed it as much as it could but there was still the pain loop in the body was still really active because it had been there so long. Anyway, go ahead.

James: I totally agree with you Linnéa. This lady started coming to see us and I think it took about 10 or 15 treatments. She was coming twice a week and we both took turns treating her and she started to feel better. One week, 'my hip feels better but my sciatica is acting up'. Then the next week it would be 'well my hip really hurts. Nothing's changed, my hip really hurts'. 'Well how's your sciatica?'

Linnéa: 'Oh it's gone.'

James: 'Oh it's gone. It doesn't hurt this week. {laughter} But this hip is not getting better. I'm not sure if the acupuncture is working.' We got her to the point where both of them felt good except for 'now it only hurts when I stand up out of the chair'. So then we worked on that for a week or two and then she came back...

Linnéa: One week.

James: One week with a big smile on her face and said "I had a great week. The only time it hurts is on Saturday." {laughter}

Linnéa: And also I feel like that week also was so fun because this particular week I treated her and came out. She was sitting in the waiting room and she kind of glanced at me and then stood up as fast as she could, because usually she would need a few minutes to get her bearings and the pain would be pretty overwhelming so she'd need a few breaths to even get her balance. But she stood up right away and then started walking as fast as she could down the hallway towards the treatment room {laughter} to show off her new-found freedom. And it's really encouraging to see that in someone who's 87. You have no excuse to not try. The body really does have this amazing capacity to heal, I think.

Doug: Yeah.

James: She had a cane when she first came in. She walked in with a cane for the first few weeks, would come in from the car and have to sit down in the waiting room to rest for a minute before going back to the treatment room. After 15 or so treatments...

Linnéa: Now she comes in for health maintenance.

James: Now she comes in, she doesn't have her cane anymore. She walks into the clinic. Over the holidays she...

Linnéa: Got sick.

James: That's not what I was going to say.

Linnéa: Sorry. {laughter}

James: One of her main complaints about this thing with her hip was that she felt like she couldn't bake and cook in the kitchen anymore because she couldn't stand for long enough to do anything because the pain in her hip or the sciatic thing would flare up. So she was thrilled because over the holidays she could do her baking and it didn't cause her a lot of pain. She could go out to the mall with her friends and go shopping. That was another thing that she couldn't do. So that case was really great and it really illustrated to me just how important it is to meet people where they're at with their life and find out where this pain is interfering with your life, what can we do to help make your life better. That was a really great result.

Doug: That's a great story.

Tiffany: She essentially got her life back.

James: Yeah.

Doug: But I guess it also demonstrates the importance of patience too because I think people tend to go in, get one treatment and think 'No, it didn't do anything'.

Linnéa: Yup.

James: Right.

Doug: But it's like "No, this might take some time.'

Linnéa: Yeah, exactly. And not get discouraged along the way. It's easy to get discourage five treatments in if you're getting some relief but it's not enough to persuade you that it's really worth it.

James: Give it at least five or six treatments if you're trying acupuncture and if by the fourth, fifth or sixth treatment you're "I'm not sure. I think it might be doing something. I felt better but then I felt worse", it's definitely working. Keep at it for a little while longer. Most people by 12 or 15 treatments are feeling a lot better, like 75, 85, 90% better in terms of main symptoms. It could be pain, it could be stress. We've definitely had some people that we haven't been able to help as much as we want to but that's sort of in general.

Doug: I think that's par for the course. Not every modality is going to work for everybody.

Linnéa: Right.

James: Right and new things happen, especially with physical ailments. If you have knee pain just walking around you can aggravate it. For some people the weather aggravates it.

Erica: Diet too.

James: Yeah, diet absolutely.

Tiffany: And speaking of diet, did this lady who had that great recovery, or the guy, did they change anything about their diet? Because I know there are a lot of people who'll say "Oh this one diet will help everything. Just eat meat or just be a vegan or just do this or do that or don't eat that and everything'll be fine." But acupuncture shows that sometimes it's more than just what you put in your mouth. There's a bunch of other stuff going on behind the scenes that you need to address. Sometimes it's in the one place that you look last.

James: Absolutely. The major categories of causes of disease in Chinese medicine are external causes of disease and internal causes of disease. An external cause of disease would be your diet, your diet's bad, you're drinking too much or you're eating too much processed food or you're eating a food that you have an allergy to. But there's also internal causes of disease. That can be emotions. We're not talking about normal everyday emotions but say, internalized rage that's just carried in the body that you hold onto for years and years and years and that can cause a lot of problems in the body with all kinds of things. But basically that's something that we always will catch.

Linnéa: And stress. Stress affects the digestive system hugely. I've seen some of people's food sensitivities improve when they're reducing their stress level.

James: Yeah, that has happened for me.

Linnéa: I've seen multiple cases of that.

James: But this particular case with the older lady, no, we didn't recommend any dietary changes or anything like that.

Linnéa: It was just acupuncture. We did a little M-test.

James: I would say we're both pretty conservative in the way that we treat. We try to go with the least invasive treatments and then if we're not getting results then we'll recommend more, unless there's something really obvious. We always do an initial intake and if we're not getting some results we'll start digging some more. You get to know somebody over the course of the first few treatments. But oftentimes we just start with acupuncture and see if that gets us anywhere. We'll start with really simple treatments a lot of times and if that works, then...

Linnéa: But these "simple" treatments are really tried and true foundational treatments. So it's not simplistic.

James: Sure, absolutely. So address the person's stress. So what's going on here? Is it as simple as their chronic stress.

Linnéa: Right, like the case of the calcaneus bone, when I said I treated his stress, that was four really well-known points to address this type of stress with this type of pulse and this type of patient.

Doug: Well we're coming up on our time here. Is there anything else that you guys wanted to add or tell people about the wonders of acupuncture?

Linnéa: I think your questions pretty much covered what I was thinking we might get into today so thank you.

Doug: Well thanks a lot for being here.

Tiffany: It was a really interesting discussion.

Doug: Yeah, definitely. Maybe in another year we can have you guys on again.

Linnéa: Yeah!

James: Absolutely.

Doug: You might have some more stories by that time. {laughter}

James: Well we'll probably have a lot more stories by then. Our clinic's pretty busy. We see...

Linnéa: Up to 100..

James: We get anywhere from 70 to 100 patient visits per week.

Doug: Wow! Yeah, that's a lot!

James: Yeah, so we're pretty busy. Each of us sees 10-15 patients every day that we work.

Doug: Maybe we should plug your clinic. If people are in the Rhode Island area, where should they go?

James: Our clinic is called Opus Total Health. It's in West Greenwich, Rhode Island. The website is You can look us up on there and if you have any questions about acupuncture or Chinese medicine please feel free to...

Linnéa: Reach out.

James: ...reach out to us.


James: Yup.

Tiffany: Do you have a jingle?

James: We can have a conversation on the forum. Yeah we should. {laughter} The guy we took the clinic over from, one of the main ways that we advertise is on the radio so if you're in Rhode Island you might hear one of our radio ads.

Erica: Great!

James: WTRO. {laughter}

Doug: Tune in folks.

Linnéa: Well thank you Doug and thank you Tiffany.

James: Thanks Erica.

Tiffany: Sure.

Linnéa: Oh yeah, Erica.

James: Thanks for posting the link in the chat.

Doug: No worries.

James: Until next time.

Doug: Indeed. I guess that's our show. Do we think we have enough time for the pet health segment Tiff?

Tiffany: I think we could.

Doug: Okay, why don't we go to the pet health segment with Zoya where she's going to be talking about human history from the perspective of cats.

Tiffany: This ought to be interesting. {laughter}

Doug: Yeah.

Zoya: Hello and welcome to the pet health segment of the Health and Wellness Show. This week we are going to take a look at human history from the perspective of our feline companions. As it happens it looks at times pretty hairy from this particular angle. Have a great weekend and good-bye.

On May 27, 1941 the German battleship Bismarck sank in a fierce firefight leaving only 118 of her 2,200 crew members alive. But when a British destroyer came to collect the prisoners they found an unexpected survivor - a black and white cat clinging to a floating plank. For the next several months this cat hunted rats and raised British moral until a sudden torpedo strike shattered the hull and sank the ship. But miraculously, not the cat, nicknamed Unsinkable Sam. He rode to Gibraltar with the rescued crew and served as the ship cat on three more vessels, one of which also sank, before retiring to the Belfast Home for Sailors.

Many may not think of cats as serviceable sailors or cooperative companions of any kind, but cats have been working alongside humans for thousands of years, helping us just as often as we help them. So how did these solitary creatures go from wild predator to naval officer, to sofa sidekick?

The domestication of the modern house cat can be traced back to more than 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent at the start of the Neolithic era. People were learning to bend nature to their will, producing much more food than farmers could eat at one time. These Neolithic farmers stored their excess grain in large pits and short clay silos. But these stores of food attracted hoards of rodents as well as their predator, felis silvestris lybica, the wildcat found across North Africa and Southwest Asia. These wildcats were fast, fierce carnivorous hunters and they were remarkably similar in size and appearance to today's domestic cats, the main differences being that ancient wildcats were more muscular, had striped coats and were less social towards other cats and humans.

The abundance of prey in rodent-infested granaries drew in these typically solidary animals and as the wildcats learned to tolerate the presence of humans and other cats during mealtime we think that farmers likewise tolerated the cats in exchange for free pest control. The relationship was so beneficial that the cats migrated with Neolithic farmers from Anatolia into Europe and the Mediterranean. Vermin were a major scourge of the seven seas. They ate provisions and gnawed at lines of rope so cats had long since become essential sailing companions.

Around the same time these Anatolian globe-trotting cats set sail, the Egyptians domesticated their own local cats, revered for their ability to dispatch venomous snakes, catch birds and kill rats, domestic cats became important to Egyptian religious culture. They gained immortality in frescos, statues and even tombs, mummified alongside their owners.

Egyptian ship cats cruised the Nile, holding poisonous river snakes at bay and after graduating to larger vessels, they too began to migrate from port to port. During the time of the Roman Empire, ships traveling between India and Egypt carried the lineage of the Central Asian wildcat, felis silvestris ornata. Centuries later, in the Middle Ages, Egyptian cats voyaged up to the Baltic Sea on the ships of Viking seafarers and both the near eastern and north African wildcats, probably tamed at this point, continued to travel across Europe, eventually setting sail for Australia and the Americas.

Today, most house cats have descended from either the near eastern or the Egyptian lineage of felis silvestris lybica. But close analysis of the genomes and coat patterns of modern cats tells us that unlike dogs which have undergone centuries of selective breeding, modern cats are genetically very similar to ancient cats and apart from making them more social and docile, we've done little to alter their natural behaviour.

In other words, cats today are more or less as they've always been - wild animals, fierce hunters, creatures that don't see us as their keepers and given our long history together, they might not be wrong. If you love cats as much as we do, check out these lessons for more fun facts on our feline friends.

Tiffany: Well that was pretty good. I never knew that.

Doug: Yeah, I couldn't think of anything to say about the goats at the end there.

Tiffany: I thought my cat was only good for escorting me to the bathroom. {laughter}

Erica: Protecting you from rodents.

Doug: Exactly, or begging for food. Well that is our show for today. Thanks everybody for joining us. Big thanks to James and Linnéa. That was a great show.

Tiffany: Thanks again.

Erica: Thank you.

Doug: Very interesting. Be sure to tune in to the other two SOTT Radio shows. Tomorrow there is the Truth Perspective and on Sunday there is NewsReal. Until next week when we'll have another exciting topic, have a good week.

Tiffany: Bye.

Erica: Bye.