Spring is a time when the effects of seasonal changes are perhaps most obvious at the clinic. In Chinese medicine, the organ and meridian associated with spring is the liver. The ancient Chinese also associated the element wood and the color green with the liver. The element wood and the color green are clearly seen during spring, when the growth of trees, plants, and grass all return after the harsh cold of winter. Spring is a time of expansion and growth, of movement upward and outward.

We see spring’s signs of growth as early plants peek out of the soil and buds form on trees. But what happens when we have some early spring warmth to encourage such growth followed by another cold snap? This is so common here in southeast Wisconsin where spring comes in fits and starts. Injury can occur to the fragile green plants, stagnating their growth. A similar pattern can occur internally in our bodies with the liver (and an associated organ, the gallbladder). As liver energy starts to expand and grow, we become energized to make changes and motivated to clean out and start something new. Then the cold returns. Our liver energy gets stuck again — frozen and stagnated, just as we witness in the plants.

How does that manifest in our lives? Stuck liver energy can create frustration, anger, anxiety, and insomnia, particularly between the hours of 1-3am (the time of the liver according to Chinese medicine). We may experience more aches and pains as blood from the liver stops flowing to properly nourish our tendons, muscles and joints.

How can we overcome these springtime liver issues? The liver loves the essence of bitterness, which is plentiful in green leafy vegetables. (Green again!). Consume them in abundance. Avoid overly damp foods like dairy, fried foods and even too many grains. When the dampness gets cold internally, it freezes (think of ice) and doesn’t move. It stagnates, further aggravating the liver qi and promoting blood stagnation.

In fact, springtime is a perfect opportunity to do some cleansing. That can be anything from just cutting down on meats and grains for a period of time, to fasting for a day or two (drinking water or vegetable juices only). A popular cleanse during the spring is the Master Cleanse (also known as Star’s Lemonade). The cleanse includes the following

Master Cleanse

2Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice
1-2 tbsp 100% maple syrup
1/10 tsp cayenne pepper
8 oz spring or filtered water.

Drink liberally (6-12 glasses/day) throughout the day or 1 warm glass in the morning upon rising.

Lemons are a great body cleanser, full of vitamin C, potassium, and other minerals. Lemons help loosen up and clear toxins from deep tissue matter and organs.

Cayenne pepper helps clear the blood and eliminates toxins and mucus as it warms the body. Maple syrup provides sweetness and energy.

Exercise is also important for moving the liver qi — and doesn’t have to be excessive. A nice walk with purpose and motivation will do. Jogging, running, swimming, and dancing are all good qi-moving exercises.

And of course, getting an acupuncture treatment during the spring/liver time can be very helpful. Acupuncture is all about movement — moving the qi and blood. Herbs and food are more about nourishing and supporting. That stuck energy from the cold, after a time of warmth and growth, can be unstuck by a few well placed acupuncture needles. Sometimes all we need is a little gentle nudge to get our mind and body back in balance.

We can’t control the weather. But we can control what we do and eat to help us cope with weather imbalances and other natural factors associated with seasonal changes.

I hope you’ll incorporate some of these ideas into your day as we anticipate the emerging spring and move closer to the warmth of summer. If you do, please let me know how they helped you feel more balanced and calm. Did you sleep better? Were you less irritable? If you did a fast, what was that like?

May your spring be full of energy, new beginnings, renewed growth, and, of course, green!

A common issue I see, particularly in runners and bike riders, is Iliotibial Band Syndrome or IT Band. The IT band runs from the knee to the hip on the lateral (outside) of the leg. The syndrome is caused by overuse or injury and usually results in pain and inflammation. Patients come to Integrative Health’s Milwaukee/Shorewood clinic saying that their IT band is “really tight.” A treatment I often recommend is called cupping.

Cupping dates back to 3000 BC and involves a process of placing glass, plastic or rubber cups on the skin and removing the air inside to create a suction. With glass cups, the air is removed by heating the cup with a gentle flame from a cotton ball soaked in alcohol. The flaming cotton ball is inserted into the opening of the cup to warm the glass and remove the air from inside. The ball is quickly and completely removed before placing the cup against the skin to create the suction.

The earliest record of cupping is in Ebers Papyrus, one of the world’s oldest medical textbooks, which tells of the Egyptians using cupping in 1550 BC. Archaeologists have found evidence in China of cupping dating back to 1000 BC. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates (c. 400 BC) used cupping for internal disease and structural problems. Eventually this method spread into medical practice throughout Asian and European civilizations.

Unlike common modern day treatments, cupping is drug-free and non-invasive. It is also a needle-less treatment for patients who might be needle-phobic. Benefits can be gained in just one treatment, although more severe or older injuries would likely require additional sessions, or a combination of cupping, acupuncture, and Chinese herbal medicine.

When working with a patient’s IT band, I treat one leg at a time with the patient lying on their side and the thigh in question exposed. After liberally applying massage oil to the skin surface, I use a manual pump to remove air from plastic cups, then strategically place them along the IT band. I start at the hip and end with a cup just above the knee. After all have been placed, I’ll cover the cups with a towel and position a heat lamp to keep the treated area over comfortably warm and relaxed. The cups remain in place for 5-25 minutes, depending on the patient’s constitution, the nature of the injury, and/or the level of pain.

Patients typically feel a slight tightening of the skin in the area where the cups are placed. Physiologically, suction is gently pulling the skin away from the layers of tissue, muscle, and tendons below, resulting in a feeling of relief beneath the surface. This process allows fresh blood to move into the area and creates further healing beyond the treatment time itself.

When removed, the cups typically leave a raised, pinkish-red ring. I will then massage the leg in the direction of the lymph nodes to help facilitate the removal of toxins and old blood. I will often finish up by applying a liniment or essential oils to sooth the area to maintain blood flow.

Patients often feel better after the first treatment. In order to prevent the possibility of any slight aggravation as toxins release from the treated tissue, it’s suggested that a generous amount of water be consumed throughout the day to facilitate the flushing of any toxins from the body.

After the first session, patients can expect an immediate reduction in pain, improved flexibility, and increased mobility. Most patients require 5-10 sessions for full benefit, usually once a week until complete healing is achieved.

In addition to IT band treatments, cupping is very effective for a variety of orthopedic conditions including, but not limited to, rotator cuff injury, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel, back pain, bursitis, tendinitis, thoracic outlet syndrome, and frozen shoulder. By removing adhesions, stretching the torsion of the soft tissue, lengthening connective tissue, stimulating nerves and hydrating joints, pain is relieved and healing is facilitated.

Call today or schedule on line! We’d love to help you heal your pain!

4465 N. Oakland Ave, Suite 200 S    |    Milwaukee    |    414-906-0285    |    meredith@myintegrativehealthservices.com

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