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Nearly all individuals have a ‘weakest link’ in their body.  It is a symptom or pain syndrome that acts up from time to time, much like a flare up.  Some people describe a back that ‘goes out.’  Some people have neck tightness and spasms.  Some will have a gastrointestinal episode.  Others might have migraine headaches.  Typically, your weakest link tends to flare up out of control when exacerbated by a stressful situation.  The ensuing anxiety acts as trigger igniting the underlying physical ailment that was laying dormant in the body until that point in time. 

Typically, I see triggers that stem from stressful situations such as financial burdens, a disparity in a spousal relationship, stress stemming from a challenging child, etc.  It can even result from a happy but stressful occasion such as a wedding or bar mitzvah where a tremendous amount of planning, effort, and money are required.  In the aforementioned examples, the common thread is that there is some upheaval in our daily routine and schedule.   There is an element of the unknown in the outcome.   This can cause a feeling of uncertainty and underlying anxiety.  Most people tend to function more optimally when they can surmise a particular outcome.  The unknown wreaks havoc on our mental well-being.  There is a strong correlation between the mind: body connection.  We may feel insecure, overburdened, and overwhelmed.  This has a direct adverse correlation with our physical well- being and can trigger a painful flare up of our underlying weakest link. 

Where do you go from here?  It is easier said than done to try and avoid stressful triggering events.  What should be your self- help technique for avoiding flare ups?  You often hear me say that Acupuncture builds on itself.  This means that you see the biggest improvements with a series of treatments.  This certainly does not imply that you must treat a syndrome endlessly.  However, treating a specific concern in the short term, and incorporating Acupuncture as maintenance into your wellness regimen can be amazing at preventing flare ups.  Maintaining an optimal baseline in terms of both your mental and physical well- being is the goal.  Seeking balance and harmony in the day to day should be what we all strive for.    

Acupuncture is incredibly beneficial in helping relieve stress and anxiety, as well as the pain and ensuing syndrome manifestations. In the examples mentioned above, the Acupuncture point prescription would be customized to the individual patient, and their particular symptoms.  Someone having extreme back pain prior to a wedding would be treated with Acupuncture points that calm the stress, as well as relieve the back pain. Some of the points I would treat would be ear Shenmen also called Neurogate- an auricular Acupuncture point that regulates the cerebral cortex to calm the emotions. It acts a bit as a sedative.  I would combine that with Liver 3, a point that ‘calms the Liver,’ allowing for additional tranquility, even relieving depression.  I would use it in conjunction with Large Intestine 4.  When Liver 3 and Large Intestine 4 are used together, it is referred to as the ‘Four Gates.’  The Four Gates is a point combination that strongly moves Qi- energy and blood flow to circulate throughout the body relieving anxiety, as well as stagnation which causes pain.  It is a combination I use a multitude of times each day for its powerful effect.  I would also utilize Bladder 40, the command point of the lower back for optimal back pain relief.

A patient may present with anxiety as well as a stiff and painful neck.   I would again utilize Shenmen, Liver 3 and Large Intestine 4 mentioned above for the underlying anxiety.  I would then customize the treatment to the syndrome manifestations the person is experiencing.  I would add Acupuncture points Lung 7, an important point for relieving head and neck pain.  Additionally, I would add Acupuncture point Luzhen.  The Chinese translation of this point means ‘fallen pillow.’  You may have on occasion experienced waking with a stiff, frozen neck; sometimes from a pillow that shifted or fell while you were sleeping.  This often results in sleeping in an awkward position, thereby straining the neck.  The Acupuncture point Luzhen is miraculous at relieving the stiff neck almost instantly!  Ridding of the underlying anxiety while adding the points to treat the neck, is what customizes the prescription to the patient’s needs by relieving the stiff neck in that particular moment in time. 

Gastrointestinal flare ups, especially with people who have an underlying condition such as IBS or irritable bowel syndrome, are often enraged during times of stress.  I once treated a patient who had an infuriating boss at work.  Every time her supervisor would berate her, she would immediately suffer extreme abdominal distention, bloating, and extreme bouts of either constipation or diarrhea.  In that case I would use Shenmen, Liver 3, Large Intestine 4 for anxiety.  I would add Stomach 36, a vital Acupuncture point which supports the Gastrointestinal system as a whole and is a principal point for the abdomen and digestion.  I would also use Ren 12 and Stomach 34 for additional gastrointestinal support.  I might add San Jiao 6 a point that encourages the distribution of water throughout the body to relieve constipation, or Large Intestine 11 which clears heat from the Colon.   We would be focusing both on calming the anxiety and relieving the gastrointestinal concerns simultaneously.

Chronic and debilitating migraine headaches are very common.  They often stem both prior to a stressful event, as well subsequent to the event.  An example here is someone who is practically guaranteed to suffer a debilitating migraine headache right before their child’s wedding.  They may also experience another migraine headache immediately following the wedding or sheva brachot when they are coming down from the high of the joyous occasion.  This is not how they want to celebrate.  We would again utilize the points mentioned above for relieving the anxiety.  We would add Acupuncture points such as Taiyang, to relieve a temporal stress headache.  Stomach 8 would help alleviate the headache that is often aggravated by dehydration.  This is almost always a trigger for a frontal migraine headache.  Gallbladder 20 is a great point to relieve a tension headache that causes tremendous pressure in the base of the neck.

The custom- tailored Acupuncture point selection is where the magic in Acupuncture happens.  It is truly a customized point prescription designed precisely for you. When getting to know you as a patient, it is imperative I understand your individual needs in an acute fashion in terms of the current symptoms.  Simultaneously I must properly diagnose the underlying cause and triggers that may be causing a chronic scenario.  Treating both is what will give you optimal relief in both the short and long term.  Once we have resolved the chief complaint, scheduling an occasional Acupuncture treatment for maintenance is how you best avoid a flare up and maintain optimal and ongoing wellness.    

Ask yourself, what is your weakest link?  Can you identify what your triggers are?  Sometimes the awareness of what, or who sets you off, can prompt you to begin to try and calm yourself down.  Since you cannot escape your reality, what measures are you taking to avoid a flare up?  Ameliorating stress and anxiety and ridding of the pain syndrome is crucial.  Incorporating Acupuncture makes it that much easier in healing the mind: body connection.