31-year old female came in with a chief complaint of right-sided neck and shoulder pain. Pain radiated from occipital region down along sternocleidomastoid muscle to the crest of the trapezius muscle. Pain had begun three years prior to her first acupuncture visit at our clinic. On a scale of 1-10 (10 being highest level of pain), her pain level would range between a 7-8. The pain was always dull, but sometimes with certain movements, it would become sharp. Patient had a benign lump removed from her right breast nine years prior to her visit at our clinic. She had been 22 years old when that surgery happened. Patient presented with other health issues such as depression, stress, irritability, anger, indecisiveness, feeling of a lump in the throat that cannot easily be swallowed, clenching of teeth at night, stiffness of joints, insomnia (often up between 1-3 a.m.), and soft, brittle nails. Her menses began at age 15. By the time she came into the clinic, she had been on the birth control pill for 10 years. Her menstrual cycle prior to the pill were erratic and painful. Due to the length of time on the pill, it was difficult to understand the true health of her menstrual cycle. She only remembered that she was presented with the prescription of the birth control pill in order to regulate her menses and reduce the pain associated with her menses. Patient received chiropractic treatments twice a week for about a year, but neck pain was never alleviated. She also received physical and massage therapies, but they only provided temporary relief. Patient’s desire was to feel long-term relief from neck pain with acupuncture.
During the patient’s first visit, her pain had decreased over 50%. Two days after her visit, the patient left me a lengthy voicemail expressing that since our treatment, she had not experienced any neck or shoulder pain whatsoever. She claimed that she had not felt that good in two years. She was also ecstatic to explain that she had not needed any Ibuprofen since our treatment. This improvement lasted for seven days. When she had returned, the pain had moved from the right to the left side. Our treatments have continued on from there, especially in focusing on her neck and shoulder pain. The primary Chinese medical diagnosis of this patient was “Liver Qi Stagnation.” The treatment plan included acupuncture and Chinese herbs. All of the symptoms mentioned in the first paragraph fall into the category of liver issues. Even the benign lump in her breast ran along either her liver and/or gallbladder meridians (both organs related in the “Wood” Element: Liver = Yin organ, Gallbladder = Yang organ). Due to the high stress in her life due to work and personal issues, her liver energy was being stressed out. The emotions of the liver energy are: anger, stress, depression, irritability, agitation, pent up emotions, and feeling unable to speak one’s truth (feeling of the lump in the throat, what we call “Plum Pit Qi”). The liver rules the nails, hence the soft/brittle nails. The time of the liver on the Chinese circadian clock is between 1-3 a.m. Since her liver energy was deeply affected by her stressful lifestyle, she found herself waking up and unable to easily go back to sleep during this time of night. The liver also rules the joints, hence the stiffness of the joints. It is important to understand that in Chinese medicine, the liver plays a very important role in the health of a woman's menstrual cycle. I determined that this patient had suffered from liver issues for many years, which is why her periods were not regular and very painful as a teenager going into her 20s, thus her need to be prescribed the birth control pill from a western physician. (Chinese medicine is also extremely effective in the treatment of menstrual health.) The gallbladder’s emotion is the ability to make decisions. The patient had difficulty in making very easy decisions. Clenching of teeth is due to stress in Chinese medicine. When a patient presents with TMJ, one of our assessments is stress and we work at diminishing the stress of the body, mind and spirit. During the course of the treatments, we also included treatments for headaches and a heartbreak that were not initially presented.
By the 34th treatment, within less than nine months time, patient reported all these symptoms are no longer an issue:
* neck pain
* shoulder pain
* feeling of lump in the throat
* tightness of joints
* often up between 1-3 a.m.
* soft/brittle nails
She is still working her demanding job, but her stress feels lighter and is not much of an issue. She is much happier and wants to continue with her acupuncture treatments for maintenance because she reports that the weekly treatments rejuvenate her energy, make her feel very calm and keeps her neck pain either minimal or completely gone. All of these symptoms had haunted her for three years. We are proud to have guided her along her path of wellness. This patient GRADUATED not only from her pain, but from her other health issues because of her commitment to her healing, acupuncture treatments and consistency of taking Chinese herbs when prescribed.