The Transformative Role of East Asian Medicine & Acupuncture in Palliative and End of Life Care
Previously published in the 2022 issue of The Journal of Acupuncture and Integrative Medicine
An undeniable reality of working with cancer patients is that some patients will not survive their diagnosis. Chinese medicine and acupuncture has the ability to significantly improve the quality of life of terminal patients. Many barriers exist that block the use and acceptance of acupuncture as a tool for end of life care, including lack of awareness of the modality, funding and insurance coverage. In addition to the ability to treat side effects of medication and disease along with the pain associated with death, acupuncture helps reduce anxiety, stress and helps patients find peace in the dying process. As practitioners working with patients with potentially terminal diseases, it is critical to place focus on our ability to hold space for the healing process through death as it is for the healing process through the curing of disease.
An undeniable reality of working with cancer patients is that some patients will not survive their diagnosis. The role of Chinese medicine and acupuncture in palliative and end of life care is by no means as researched or studied as the care and treatment of disease and illnesses like cancer, but it’s role is powerful, impactful and has the ability to significantly improve the quality of life of terminal patients up until their transition. Many barriers exist that block the use and acceptance of acupuncture as a beneficial tool for end of life care, including lack of awareness of the modality, funding and insurance coverage. In addition to the ability to treat side effects of medication and disease along with the pain associated with death, acupuncture is an excellent modality to help patients reduce anxiety, stress and find peace in the dying process, to ultimately, die a good death. Inherent within acupuncture elemental theory is the process of the transition from birth to death and the cycle of life, associated emotional states and opportunity for healing. By deepening our understanding of the connection this medicine has with not only the physical body but the mind and spirit we have a unique opportunity to help our patients not only experience relief of pain and suffering, but also an impactful and meaningful transition. As practitioners of acupuncture and Chinese medicine working with patients with potentially terminal diseases, it is just as critical to place focus on our ability to hold space for the healing process through death as it is for the healing process through the curing of disease.
Every time something awful happens in the world, it makes its way into my clinic. This week Roe v Wade was overturned and it’s been the topic of every patient’s mind and heart. I often hear the words ‘you’re not my therapist but….’ while my patients explain to me their emotional or spiritual troubles. This happens so often that it’s now one of the main things I treat in my clinic - emotional pain, upset and trauma, and it’s also why I’ve become a transformational Jungian Life Coach, so that I can truly help you in the entire process of body, mind and spirit. You might think heading to an acupuncturist to deal with your break up doesn’t make a lot of sense, but the truth is, emotional pain goes far beyond just the mind, it affects our body and our spirit, and Chinese medicine is especially equipped to bridge between these three aspects of our lives: body - mind - spirit. Feelings are called feelings for a reason - they are literally felt in the body, actual sensations that we feel caused by neurotransmitters, hormones and enzymes - it can be tingling, numbness, tension, heat, the list goes on, but every time we have an emotional reaction, before it came a physical reaction. The world we currently live in is rife with reasons to be upset - wars that are never ending, political upheaval, an economic system on the brink of collapse, domestic terrorism, pain and strife is parmount every time we turn on the television or open up TikTok, and that doesn’t even include our personal life’s ups and downs.
It’s incredibly important that during times of stress, change or upset we find support, you may get that from friends and family, a therapist, the gym, and yes, an acupuncturist. Body work can be profound to help the mental and emotional healing process. We have to help the body process and move the energy (and neurotransmitters, hormones and enzymes) that is associated with emotional responses so that we can feel clear and like ourselves again, so that we can move forward and make choices out of response instead of reaction. If you’re still wondering ‘how on earth can acupuncture really help me with my emotions?’ let’s dive right in…
Published in Acupuncture Today February 2020 Vol 21, Issue 2
What do we think of when we hear the word ‘healing’? For many, the first conclusion is that healing means to get better, or to heal from a disease. But what if this belief and concept about healing isn’t the whole picture? If healing doesn’t just mean to get better, then what does it mean? And how can this help us help our patients?
Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines healing as:
heal - transitive verb
1a: to make free from injury or disease : to make sound or whole // heal a wound
B: to make well again : to restore to health // heal the sick
2a: to cause (an undesirable condition) to be overcome // MEND the troubles … had not been forgotten, but they had been healed — William Power
b: to patch up or correct (a breach or division) // heal a breach between friends
3: to restore to original purity or integrity // healed of sin
Our approach in healthcare focuses on the first 3-4 aspects of this definition - to heal a wound, the sick or overcome an undesirable situation. While it is important to help our patients find recovery from the ailments that bring them into our office, in some cases, this isn’t always possible. Chronic disease, terminal illness or life situations that are permanent are not so simply overcome in the sense that we can erase them from reality entirely. It’s in this case where we have to focus on the last definition of the world healing - to restore to original purity or integrity. And while the sample of being ‘healed of sin’ takes on a different tone, what I believe this definition to point to is simply: to return to our original intention.
Bath bombs have become all the rage, from glittery explosions of sweet scents to ones with goodies stashed inside, we love a good and fun bath time! The obsession with these bath time treats has always perplexed me, while I love to take some time out to chill and treat myself, it seemed to me like we had a real missed opportunity on our hands. A fun colored bath is one thing, but as a trained herbalist I am also aware of the power of the herbal bath, that by using herbs we can treat hundreds of conditions and have been for thousands of years. I wanted to take this self care ritual of a decadent bath to the next level, with quality ingredients in an amount that could actually produce a therapeutic effect. In Chinese Medicine we have been using the herbal bath for thousands of years, but in our modern day sourcing these herbs - in the right amounts, is time consuming and can cause some gunking up of the tub, in short it’s not very convenient at all. This is where my Chinese Medicinal Herbal Fizzing Bath Salts come into play!
Original publication on Acupuncture Today May 2019
Watch the video presentation HERE
“Qigong and acupuncture will not only make you smarter, but also make you sexier and get better dates” touted the late Dr. Daju Suzanne Friedman to her students. They always laughed at this joke, but also knew there was definitely some merit to it, because after practicing qigong or receiving an acupuncture treatment the results were obvious; feeling better, a clarity of mind and an improved overall appearance. When a person completes a meditation retreat it’s not uncommon for their peers to see them as not just looking more clear and relaxed, but also looking more youthful and more present. Mindfulness works, it helps us to relax, let go of stress and actually takes the body into a regenerative brainwave state, and doing this has an incredible anti-aging effect throughout the entire body, from improved clarity of mind, to preserving telomeres and visible improvements in the skin and appearance.
In the same way meditation helps to take the brain and body to a restorative state, acupuncture does so as well; it’s part of the reason why patients get off the table feeling great, looking relaxed and talking about how incredibly relaxing the treatment was. There are different types of brainwaves the human body experiences, they affect different levels of consciousness and serve different purposes - all relevant and important. In today’s society, the stressed out sympathetic nervous system is ever dominant, so taking time to wind down and drop in to a regenerative state is incredibly important, although it can often be difficult for some to get into that relaxed state. Acupuncture can help almost anyone drop in to a relaxed state without the effort, making acupuncture a great tool, like mindfulness meditation to help people experience renewal and healthy aging.
Women today do everything, from CEO to Mom of the Year, best friend, engineer and astronaut, there’s a lot on our plates, and for many once a month (give or take) menstrual cramps are the less than desirable icing on the cake. Dull achy pain that can go from mild annoyance to crippling and debilitating has been felt by most women at some point in their lifetime and for about 10 in every 100, this pain can be so debilitating that all daily activities have to be put on hold. Painful periods aka dysmenorrhea can be caused by the feeling of the uterus tightening during menstruation or from a secondary cause like endometriosis, growths or cysts and some types of IUDs, but no matter the cause, the pain is still very real. For those wanting a more natural remedy that you can do literally anywhere, acupressure might be the answer!
Acupuncture is an incredibly useful tool to treat conditions involving pain; from sports injury to arthritis to headaches and everywhere in between, but beyond pain, can acupuncture actually help to improve sports performance? Whether you’re a novice to a new sport, an avid gym goer, an amateur or professional athlete, acupuncture can be a great addition to your workout routine to help improve peak performance and elevate you to the next level of your fitness. Sports Acupuncture has been used all over the World, from treating injury to helping athletes increase performance levels. Acupuncturists are commonly employed by major sports teams all across the globe, in the bay area from the San Francisco Giants, 49ers to the San Francisco Ballet. Athletes are turning to acupuncture to not only help with pain and injury, but to help improve performance and compete at optimal levels.
So how does acupuncture help improve athletic performance? Aside from helping to treat injuries, there are many other mechanisms of action that acupuncture helps address which result in an enhanced and improved performance for athletes. Here are five key ways acupuncture helps improve athletic performance.
Athletes are under constant pressure and stress, from performing at peak levels to staying well in the off season; maintaining health, balance and preventing injury are all priorities in the life of an athlete, whether a novice fitness enthusiast or an elite olympian, staying healthy and recovering quickly are of utmost importance. As I’ve started to venture into the world of open water rowing at the South End Rowing Club, I’m quickly learning many of the possible points of injury for rowers, myself included. While rowing is a low impact sport, posture and positioning are extremely important, as is training frequency and duration when it comes to preventing injury. Overtraining can quickly lead to injury, just as poor posture and stroke technique can set up a rower for injury down the line. As an Acupuncturist, I commonly treats patients for pain related to athletic endeavors and sports injuries, and I can say that taking care of an injury when it first appears is by far, one of the most crucial points to helping an athlete heal faster and without further injury. When issues are in the acute phase, they are generally easier and faster to respond to treatment, whether with acupuncture, physical therapy, chiropractic, massage or other modalities, treating a condition sooner than later can help an athlete get out on the water more safely, and sooner than attempting to ignore a minor injury which sets up re-injury later on.
Dr. Kim Peirano, DACM, LAc is the Owner and Acupuncturist at Lion's Heart Wellness, the San Francisco Bay Area and Marin's #1 Cosmetic Acupuncturist and #1 Holistic Healer.
We Would Love to Have You Visit Soon!
Intuitive Traditional Chinese Medicine - Intuitive Acupuncture and Transformational Spiritual Life Coaching. TeleHealth Wellness and Health Coaching, Esoteric Acupuncture, Sports Acupuncture, Transformational Life Coaching, Remote Healing, Reiki, Guided Meditation and Herbal Prescriptions available online! Serving Marin County - San Rafael, Mill Valley, Fairfax, San Anselmo, Greenbrae, Larkspur, Novato.
Tues / Thurs: 10am - 6:30pm