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Treatment Approach

Special Interest Areas

The two areas that excite me the most are the treatment of pain disorders and the current epidemic of chronic infectious, psychiatric, hypersensitivity, and autoimmune disorders (which are frequently occurring together).  With both of these areas, I integrate a mixture of acupuncture and related modalities based on my 32-plus years of experience.  In my experience, many of the traditional practices found in Chinese and Japanese medicine work best when adapted to meet the clinical challenges that modern patients present with.

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Throughout the history of Chinese medicine, there has been a frequent oscillation between authors who advocate a "return to the classics" for inspiration and guidance with those authors who essentially stated that "modern patients have illnesses that are new and unique" (implying or overtly stating that it is more important to learn about contemporary illnesses and patients than it is to stick to the "traditional."  It would be easy to argue that this attitude towards contemporary patients and their illnesses is more important today than it ever was historically.  Even if the patient has a "clean" diet and lifestyle, a wide range of environmental toxins such as arsenic, asbestos, pesticides, phthalates, etc., interfere with the physiology of humans and whether it is the role of environmental toxins or other pernicious agents or a combination is essentially "academic." Regardless of the reason(s), saying that the net result is troubling is an understatement.  The significant decline in human sperm counts together with the increasing frequency (and in some patients severity) of allergic and autoimmune disease is not only staggering but there is no reason to believe that these disturbing trends will either plateau or recede leading to the obvious question of what will be the nature of humans and their illnesses in 10, 20, and 50 years out? 


If one is to dramatically simplify Chinese medicine one of the main problems facing humans is "deficiency" which can be seen as depletion of various types of substances of the body, including "Qi" (roughly translated as energy, a more accurate translation is intelligent metabolism) and "stagnation" which usually can be remedied with things like exercise and acupuncture.  In other words, basically, you need to have enough of "vital substances" and what you have needs to flow reasonably well (Again this is a dramatic oversimplification that I am sure some of my colleagues would take issue with.) Diet, herbal formulas, lifestyle modifications, etc. can all be used to strengthen any organs or substrates that are found to be deficient and "stagnation" which can usually be remedied with things like exercise, herbal formulas, and acupuncture.  


However, there are several challenges facing modern patients and practitioners that patients frequently present with that either did not exist or in some cases existed but in no way similar to the vast numbers of patients suffering from these disorders that exist today.  One of these is the treatment of deficiency patterns in the presence of toxicity patterns.  While the Chinese practitioners had some experience with eliminating or reducing "toxicity" from things such as Heavy Metals (usually from food or herbal formulas) they did not see patients with the "toxic smorgasbord" that contemporary patients present with.  The traditional Chinese physicians were well aware of the dangers and inabilities involved with trying to "tonify" (deficiencies) in the presence of "toxic" influences, however for them the primary experience of what we would call "toxic" influences was the presence of disease-causing agents.  For example, the Chinese practitioners came up with a theory of "Li Qi" that was remarkably similar to the modern concept of viruses, hundreds of years before the West and obviously without electron microscopes. Just in case the clinical situation was not complicated enough already, modern patients, etc., are in the midst of an increasing trend toward allergy and autoimmune disorders.  So despite my attending a school that had a reputation for having one of the strongest Chinese herbal programs in the U.S., and my belief upon graduating that I would be primarily an herbalist, after about 5 years of seeing the pros and cons of the traditional styles I was taught, I realized that if the goal was to create significant changes in the patient's experience of illness, that I would have to learn other modalities (such as Homotoxicology).  — Michael Young, L.Ac.

INJECTION THERAPY: for chronic conditions and stagnant injuries

The integration of injection therapy has made a huge difference in my practice, especially when it comes to the treatment of acute and chronic pain disorders. I have practiced shiatsu for over 20 years and like all body workers have come to appreciate the challenge that chronic myofascial injuries can present, where there are often areas that do not respond easily to standard approaches.  As practitioners we often believe that these areas contain "adhesions", "calcifications", etc. European doctors use the term "Myelogeloses" and Janet Travell also noted that in some particularly recalcitrant trigger points "histological changes" occurred that she could not explain.  


At any rate, many patients with chronic pain have muscle injuries in which the tissues have most likely degenerated and/or become stagnant with irritants, waste products, etc. and this creates a significant obstacle to healing.  With these common problem areas the use of Traumeel® and other  injectables will often produces dramatic positive changes in the tissue. With injection therapy I find that areas of chronic injury that would have previously taken several treatments to respond (if they did at all) can often be successfully treated with one or two well-placed injections.  Of course, some conditions require several treatments, however these are usually the patients that have not had success with any other treatment modalities and are looking at either surgical or pharmaceutical pain management options.


JAPANESE KAMPO HERBS: for lurking pathogens and stealth infections / HIV

In Chinese medicine the concept of "lurking pathogens" was developed to help explain the observation that after exposure to illness factors such as acute infections, in some cases the body's defenses cannot completely eliminate the pathogen, and subsequently the host and pathogen co-exist in a state of precarious balance. Clinically when this occurs, the ability for the person to stay healthy depends mostly on their constitutional strength and lifestyle.  However, what often occurs is that eventually something upsets the balance, such as an acute stressor that weakens the host resistance, and then this tips the scales and the symptoms related to the "lurking pathogen" will flare up. This model is a popular one in Chinese medicine in the U.S. as it helps us to better understand and treat some of the common diseases we are challenged with, such as Hepatitis C, Herpes, and intestinal Dysbiosis (overgrowth of yeast and other "non-friendlies").


I became very interested in the clinical application of this model for treating both "stealth infections" such as HIV, as well as the more "garden variety" chronic infections seen in chronic sinusitis and intestinal Dysbiosis.  Influenced by the teachings of innovative practitioners such as Dietrich Klinghardt, MD, I have come to believe the challenge of these chronic infections is directly connected with that of "body burden," i.e. the accumulation of environmental pollutants in the human organism throughout the life cycle.


As the intestines are the most common site for these chronic infections to reside, I have found that integrating empirical abdominal-based detoxification protocols from the Japanese Kampo tradition with the emerging natural strategies for reducing "body burden" can often produce dramatic improvements in these chronically ill patients.  I had the opportunity to present my approach at the 2006 Acupuncture Association of Colorado's annual conference entitled "Lurking Pathogens of the 21st Century."

AURICULOTHERAPY (Ear Acupuncture): for stress-related disorders / PTSD

The other major area of interest for me has to do with the potential to treat stress-related disorders with auriculotherapy and other natural therapies. Recent research at Harvard Medical School and elsewhere indicates that acupuncture can have a profound ability to help regulate the limbic brain.  


A Harvard Medical School study demonstrated that regular body acupuncture produces "a pronounced calming of activity in the deep structures of the brain (e.g., amygdala, hippocampus, hypothalamus, etc.)" as well.


In addition, acupuncture was one of the seven therapies recommended by the late Dr. David Servan Schreiber (a French physician, neuroscientist, professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and author).  My interest in this area is in how acupuncturists can develop the best possible treatments for limbic imbalances such as depression and anxiety.


Over the last few decades advances in brain imaging have shown that there are specific patterns of either excess or deficient electrical activity in discrete brain regions that occur in most of our common psychiatric complaints, from depression to OCD.  When a person has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), for example, a brain structure called the amygdala is hyperactive and perpetuates the inability for the nervous system to let go of its sympathetic up-regulation.  In rabbits you can surgically remove the amygdala and then they don't get stressed out when you approach them; however similar surgeries with humans have not gone well.  


There is, however, a point on the ear that correlates with the amygdala, and anecdotal experience shows that if it is precisely located and treated, it often calms down the hyper-vigilance and other symptoms associated with PTSD. In the Chinese Auricular system this point is well known for treating irritability, and is called the Irritability point. Despite the fact that Chinese Medicine views these problems differently than Western Medicine there is a great deal of interest on both sides on how the Western scientific method can improve our understanding with regards to what the potential of acupuncture is.

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