APM- Acupuncture Physical Medicine

I specialize in a progressive approach to acupuncture called, Acupuncture Physical Medicine (APM). APM is the fusion of Classical Chinese, French and Japanese meridian styles of Acupuncture with the Western approach of myofascial trigger point release. APM is used to alleviate symptoms that may arise due to structural and energetic imbalances or blockages. In many cases these imbalances stem from a stress-related holding pattern that can be resolved using acupuncture. APM is a style of acupuncture developed and taught by Dr. Mark Seem, the president and founder of the Tri-State College of Acupuncture.

Myofascial Trigger point release was developed by Dr. Janet Travell. She was a leading pioneer in the treatment of chronic myofascial and muscular pain. Trigger points are hypersensitive tightened spots, which can occur in any musculature. They are found in nodules in the taut bands of the muscle. Trigger points can cause many discomforts, ranging from burning, tingling, sever tension, and weakness along with referred pain, which is experienced as pain in another area of the body distal from the trigger point itself.

My treatments consist of addressing a patient’s local discomfort, hopefully breaking a holding pattern, and simultaneously addressing a core treatment, which will focus on the underlying core imbalances according to TCM or Classical Meridian acupuncture. Adjunct therapies may include cupping, moxibustion, gua sha, tui na massage, and or qi gong. Any of these techniques are able to address underlying emotional or spiritual aspects of pain as well. 

Gua Sha

Let me start by saying this is probably my favorite treatment technique to use because it is so incredibly versatile and effective for so many disorders of the muscular skeletal system and the immune system. I offer Gua Sha treatment complementary to other treatments or on it’s own. It can be a wonderful treatment unto itself, especially during cold and flu season.

What does Gua Sha Do?

Gua Sha means to “scrape away fever or wind”. One purpose of Guasha is to move blood and lymph from the subcutaneous fascia that often becomes stagnant or stuck in tight musculature.  In Ayurvedic Medicine, the Lymphatic System is referred to as Rasa, the river of life. The Lymphatic system aids the Immune System in removing and destroying waste, debris, dead blood cells, toxins, and cancer cells.  Approximately 70% of the lymphatic system’s lymphatic capillaries are superficial, located just underneath the skin, thereby allowing Gua Sha to be an extremely beneficial technique in helping the body in the elimination process. Lymph has to get filtered throughout the body but it does not have its own pump, like the heart for the blood. It relies on the body’s movements to move it and allow for proper filtering of “sewage”. When stress affects the musculature, a slow down of peristalsis throughout the musculature takes place, hence making gua sha a great assistant for lymph drainage.

While Gua Sha is commonly used to treat pain, it may also be beneficial for a difficult start or a painful menses,  repetitive strain injuries, low immune system, depression, colds, flu, fever, fibromyalgia, strains, sprains, and muscle spasms. 

 How is Gua Sha performed?

A rounded edge flat object is used. I use baby food caps, sterilized of course and thrown away after one use.  The utensil, (some people use a coin or piece of jade) is rubbed over the skin, which is lubricated by a balm, I prefer badger balm, or tiger balm. I like tiger balm for its intense potency, as it will cut through certain energies hanging onto a person such as fear or anger.  The skin is rubbed in a rhythmic fashion commonly on a local area of pain, but also across the musculature of the whole back.  Basically the process of Gua Sha creates a healing process where micro-trauma to the fascia resulting in an invasion of blood and nutrients to the area. Discoloration of the subcutaneous layer of the skin from the Petechiae will fade within 2-4 days. Drinking plenty of water after a gua sha treatment, will not only hydrate your cells, musculature, and fascia, it will help to bring the waste to the kidneys so your body can properly eliminate the stuff.

I have studied this modality under the guidance of Dr. Arya Nielson, PhD, a senior faculty member at Tri State College of Acupuncture, who has been a pioneer in the understanding and research of the physiology of Gua Sha.  Gua Sha has been a classic technique, also known as a folk remedy, done in the houses of many Asian communities.  But research from both Beth Israel Medical Center and Harvard University has been done on both efficacy and why Gua Sha might work, indicating that Gua Sha does reduce pain significantly, and can produce a protective antioxidant effect in cells. 

According to the ancient Chinese medical philosophy of yin and yang the process of gua sha is adaptogentive in nature. If a person has a headache due to a deficiency gua sha can help to stimulate the flow of energy to the head or if it is due to excessive heat gua sha can help to subdue and bring down the excessive energy.  Same goes for a fever, gua sha will help release the exterior so to speak, and bring down the fever, if a person is cold, gua sha can help to stimulate blood flow and warm a body. It will prod one’s immune system and benefit a cold or flu either in a preventative manner or if you are already in dis-ease allowing for a quicker resolution.