Peaceful Mountain Acupuncture

A weekly blog about Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine.

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Location: Rio Rancho, New Mexico, United States

This blog is going to be, primarily a venue for me to express my thoughts about Life and the complexities of the physical plane. My story is simple, I am an easy going individual and a moderate recluse. I am comfortable walking or sitting, talking or being silent. I am always seeking new friends and acquaintenances. I tend to look deeply and question myself about the lesson behind the experience. If you like what you read, please leave me a note, if you have a blog please leave me a link so I can read your writing as well. Thanks

Saturday, December 30, 2006

A serious case for an acupuncture treatment

Just before Christmas I had the honor of meeting a new patient. She came in and told me she had been getting acupuncture and massage. it was helping her a lot.

I asked her what she was getting treated for and she told me "3rd degree burns over most of my back, 60 some years ago." This was the start of our conversation and treatment.

I find her to be a true inspiration. I can only imagine the hardship she has endured, but she is a beautiful shining spirit through it all. I do not know how I would have fared given her challenges, but she seems to have risen above what ever it was that got placed in her way. Kind of put things back into perspective for me...

Anyway, her issue is that the scar tissue is reducing her range of motion. She is not in 'pain', but I am not sure if that is accurate, or if she has just had so much of it that what she is experiencing is not classified as "pain".

I used micro-current electrical stimulation through the most severe area of her scars. This would be an area about the size of my hand, just to the right of her spine, between the ribs and her hips. But her entire back, top to bottom is one big scar, hips and arms have some scars.

The scar tissue has developed into "Keloid scar" tissue, the kind that is very, very thick and pulled in tight. When she raises her arm the skin from her shoulder to her hip pulls tight as a rope.

When I am in school teaching I often mention "understanding the power of limits.' When I first looked at her I had to ask myself: "Is this beyond your limits?" We talked about that and I told her I had never treated anyone with this kind of a condition. We would try it and see.

This week when I saw her she said the treatment helped. That is always good to hear. Over the week I had been thinking about her and had an additional tool to pull out of the tool box, so to speak.

Ion-pumping cords are a Japanese approach to treating many things, but burns in particular. Their understanding is that (this is a Michaelism transliteration: Don't hold me responsible if I do not explain it exactly as others would...) "Pain is cause by an excess of positively charged ions in a local area." The ion-pumping cord has a diode in it that only allows the electrical flow to go in one direction.

After the micro-stimulation treatment, while those needles were still in place I attached an Ion-pumping cord to the site and one to a very distal point. On the outside of her ankle. After a few minutes I asked her if she felt anything at her ankle. Her response was that it felt like it was 'humming." HMMMMMMM, that is weird, but I come to expect that in my treatments.

Acupuncture can do many things. I always want to be willing to try somethingnew, as long as it makes sense in the treatment at that time. But what I was truly touched by was her Heart. Pure Gold!!!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Ginger, as you have never thought about it before

A few weeks ago my Mom was telling me about an article she read; I believe it was in Newsweek. Anyway it was "Health from A-Z." I was expecting her to mention acupuncture, or Chinese Herbal medicine. She surprised me, as she is known for doing.
N is for nutrient. The one that she was telling me about is Ginger, or what we call Sheng Jiang. Settles the stomach, warms the center. Is also gaining recognition for its effectiveness in helping stop chemotherapy induced nausea. That was all well and good, but not surprising.

What surprised me was when she told me it is being tested for treating ovarian cancer. I was very surprised to learn that it is effective in killing ovarian cancer cells.

I had to read up on that. Here is a quote from the article linked above: "In laboratory studies, researchers found ginger caused ovarian cancer cells to die. Further, the way in which the cells died suggests ginger may avoid the problem common in ovarian cancer of cells becoming resistant to standard treatments."

Lets take a second to think this through. Then I will go off on my tangent... as usual.
If one could use a natural herbal product to kill cancer, why are we not hearing about this? Well to be sure, it has to be investigated more thoroughly. That is obvious and essential.

The type of ginger they use is a powdered form, not the sheng jiang form, but the Gan Jiang form. In TCM's perspective it is spicy and hot. It "Warms the Spleen and Stomach and dispels Cold." It also dispels Internal Cold.

TCM has many different ways of looking at and conceptualizing cancer. Two that resonates with me are "Lingering Pathogens, and Latent Heat" but what is interesting here is that I would see this as using Fire to fight Fire. As a former fire-fighter I can see the validity of that approach. If you can burn out the fuel before it spreads you can actually contain the fire.

Of course always remember that when I use the term "fire" in this context I do not mean the same as what is burning the logs in your fireplace. In the same way as when I mention organs "I do not mean the bio-medical physical-substrate organ. I mean the energy that "runs" the organ. Or in this example the energetics of this dis-ease that manifest as, or have the function of fire. "It is the same thing, only completely different."

So back to the article. If ginger causes the cancer cells to die and in such a way that they may not become resistant to other treatments it could hold a huge potential.

What I am wondering is: is there a way that this could be applied directly. Through laproscopy could a GYN surgeon directly apply ginger as a paste to the cancerous cells on a woman's ovaries? I know about liability, but look at it this way, if a woman is being faced with death, or chemotherapy that will honestly make her wish she was dead at times; would it not make sense to try this. There are organic farmers, get the ginger, dry it out while the lawyers are finessing release of liability forms, then apply it directly to the cells.

What can happen? Well if it is as hot as TCM sees it she may be uncomfortable, that is true and maybe it will be too hot, maybe not. They can flush it out if it is too hot. If not, well maybe it will stop the cancer. Maybe it will not. But if it does not she still has the same choices as before.


Think about that. I do not know the statistics right off, but I do know that ovarian cancer is a deadly serious condition. Don't we owe it to all the women in our lives to try something like this? If it does not work, there would be no damage done. TCM has used ginger for thousands of years. Internally and externally.

The statistics are easy, the same article says: "More than 20,000 women are expected to be diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year, and 15,000 will die from the disease, according to the American Cancer Society. For information about ovarian cancer, go to or call the U-M Cancer AnswerLine at 800-865-1125."

I think this needs to be explored, and not discarded unless it proves that it does not work. But the study from the Unversity of Michigan seems to have promise

Saturday, December 23, 2006

A bit of a break

It is nice to have a bit of time between quarters. I am attempting to catch up on all the paperwork, and year end stuff.

All the students did well enough to pass the herb class. Next quarter is going to be challenging for all of us. I have been teaching the herb class two hours a week; next quarter and the following quarter it will be two two hour classes. It is going to be a challenge to keep up and for the students it will also be a bigger challenge to keep the herbs straight. This one does that, but not this. But compared to the other herb it is stronger in this action. Its enough to drive one crazy. Lucky for me it is a short drive, as I am almost there...

I have been seeing quite a few patients, and they are all interesting and progressing well. Just now I am thinking about the research project I am involved in. It is to study the effects of TCM in treating TMJ pain. What is really good is that it is a "real world study." By that I mean that if my patient is experiencing TMJ pain that is , of course what we will focus on; but if s/he is having back pain or digestive issues or what ever that is what we focus on. Just like in the real world.

It will be a one to one and a half year project, then the numbers get analyzed and we will see what comes of it. It is a NIH study, so that amazes me that we have this degree of flexibility in our treatment protocol.

Otherwise things are good. I hope all is well in your life. I would love to hear from my readers, to learn more about you, where you are, how you found my blog. Do my writings resonate, or do you find yourself asking "What is he going off about now?"

ANYWAY, Happy Winter Solstice. The true New Year.

Monday, December 18, 2006

One more try

I have had a few people tell me that my Home Page is too busy, and that it does not reflect anything about me.

So I decided to redo my web page again. Please surf over and tell me what you like, but more to my interests: what does not work or make sense in your mind.


I will think of something interesting to share soon

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Yesterday was the graduation ceremony for the Asian institute. It was a very nice ceremony where we took a moment to honor the students, their families and friends as well as the faculty.
It is an interesting place for me to watch these fine students step across the bridge, complete their formal education and enter into the working field of acupuncture.
I have come to respect each of the students. Each one is compassionate, talented, dedicated and inquisitive. I would be very happy to have any one of them treat my patients if I were unable.
I was also impressed by their families and friends; each person that I met and spoke to was very knowledgeable, supportive and excited for their friend/family member/partner.
I also had a moment afterwards to reflect on my own graduation. Last week I was sharing with one of the graduates that we both have one thing in common, our first degree was a Master's degree. Two major differences are that he is 20 years younger than I was, and his IQ is honestly 40-50 points higher; if I were to really stretch mine!!! His is well into the genius range, mine is not... LOL
But it is interesting to note how after school is when the depth of training actually increases. Because we are "on our own" essentially we have to keep our brains sharp and focused. It is that process that allows one to continue learning, long after we forget our classmates, or how long the school seemed to drag on for.
Way back in the day when I was teaching Tukong Moosul I told my students "My job is to make you better than I am." It is the same with teaching acupuncture, and with this group I may be approaching that goal.
That is wonderful.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Some you win, and Some you loose.

The presentation yesterday was interesting. I added one slide to the presentation after I posted it on my blog. That slide read:
The FIRST and hardest step is to QUESTION YOUR OWN ASSUMPTIONS. If you feel that the integration will not work, I am asking you to consider why you feel that way.

When I read that statement I had the distinct feeling that I was equivalent to being a Muslim in a church talking about Mohammed. To say that I felt unwelcome would be an understatement. OH WELL. Like I said going in to this, I had nothing to loose and I truly think this is a subject that needs to be addressed. Repeatedly if necessary.

On a brighter note.

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of working with a 34 year old, very athletic woman that had injured her left knee. Her physician had told her that she had torn some ligaments and had to have orthoscopic surgery. She was waiting till January for the surgery, but she was smart and INSISTED on getting an MRI before surgery. She came to see me because of the pain. When I saw her, her pain was an 8-9 on that magical 1-10 scale. That is intense pain.

I gave her a treatment involving electrical micro-stimulation through the knee joint. We set up another appointment 2 weeks later just to try to help with the pain while she was waiting for the surgery.

A funny thing happened after the treatment. She had no pain. She got her MRI and her physician said "I don't know how I mis-diagnosed this one, but there is nothing wrong with your knee. At all"

Now, two weeks after her first treatment, she is 95+% painfree. Her knee has complete range-of-motion and is essentially pain free.

I wish it was always this simple and effective.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Am I crazy, or just shooting myself in the foot?

At the prompting of my sister, bless her heart, I am going to share this presentation I am giving to the University of Arizona’s Cancer Support Group. This is a group of doctors, social workers, nurses and research fellows that meet monthly to talk about all forms of cancer care and research. I was attending for over a year, trying to get my foot in the door. The U-of-A is building a new Cancer Hospital, and I want this to be an integrative hospital. Again I feel like I am pushing that glacier back up the hill.

I have heard from a fairly well placed individual that the individual that will be making the decision already has. He believes that acupuncture uses “dirty needles” and other such mis-perceptions. After 18 months I gave up and said “win some, loose some. I have other fish to fry” and went on with my adventures.
Last week I got an e-mail from the group saying they need a presenter for tomorrow. I explained my concerns and the doctor that I deal with (and is a proponent of integration) said “Why not address how to integrate the medicine in the Cancer center?” I said OK.

Below is a copy of my power-point presentation. I will bold the page headlines.

Peaceful Mountain Acupuncture
Traditional Medicine for a Modern World

Walking on Two Legs
Integrating Two Paradigms

“Integrating alternative strategies at the Cancer Center”

Michael Clifford
• Master of Science in Oriental Medicine
– Southwest Acupuncture College, Albq, NM
• Diplomat of Acupuncture (NCCAOM)
– National Commission for Certification in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
• Licensed Acupuncturist (AZ #240)
• Faculty: Instructor and Clinical Supervisor Asian Institute of Medical Studies

• Open a dialogue about how to integrate the two paradigms of medical treatment.
• Create an open forum where each system can support the work of the other system to create a synergistic treatment.

• Start an on-going discussion that is designed to support the patient in all phases of treatment.
– The root of our reasons for becoming doctors, nurses, etc is the desire to HELP our patients.
• Clearly state that each system has incredible power; my intention is to create a system where we can work together.

NCCAM.NIH.GOV• "The scientific evidence supporting use of electroacupuncture for relief of acute nausea following chemotherapy is very encouraging," said Marc Blackman, M.D., Director of NCCAM's Division of Intramural Research.

• Development of a Comprehensive, National Research Strategy for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
• Acknowledging the Growing Consumer Interest in CAM
• The establishment of NCCAM by the U.S. Congress was precipitated by a growing interest in CAM, and a common belief that various CAM therapies may play a role in improving health. In 1997, approximately 42 percent of U.S. healthcare consumers spent $27 billion on CAM therapies.

Another Perspective
• Only by holding CAM modalities to the highest standards of evidence will we best facilitate the creation of an integrated healthcare delivery system in which conventional physicians and CAM practitioners work as an interdisciplinary team.
• As the Prince of Wales commented in 1998, "This isn't a question of orthodox medicine taking over, or of complementary and alternative medicine diluting the intellectual rigor of orthodoxy. It is about reaching across the disciplines to help and to learn from one another for the ultimate benefit of the patients you all serve."

How widely is acupuncture used in the United States?
According to the 2002 National Health Interview Survey--the largest and most comprehensive survey of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) use by American adults to date--an estimated 8.2 million U.S. adults had ever used acupuncture, and an estimated 2.1 million U.S. adults had used acupuncture in the previous year.

How many trials have been done?• A quick search of NCCAM.NIH.GOV finds at least 46 clinical trials involving acupuncture.
• Google “Scholar” listed 2,780 papers
• A search for “chemotherapy, Chinese Herbal Medicine” listed 2,700 papers.

American Cancer Society
• Acupuncture May Ease Cancer Pain Study: Needles Helped When Drugs Failed
• 213 articles on their web site referencing acupuncture.

American Cancer Society
• There is some evidence from randomized clinical trials that some Chinese herbs may contribute to longer survival rates, reduction of side effects, and lower risk of recurrence for some cancers, especially when combined with conventional treatment.
• 31 articles mentioning chemotherapy and Chinese Herbal Medicine

Where do we go from here?• U-of-A is preparing to open the new Cancer Hospital.
• Start an ongoing discussion about how to integrate the two medical paradigms.
• What would that look like?
• Who needs to talk to who?
• How can anyone help get this moving?

“Do not settle for the comfort of opinion without first experiencing the discomfort of genuine thought.”
John F. Kennedy

The Next Step• Align
– We all want our patients to have the best treatment experience possible
• Agree
– With discussion we can learn how to integrate, how to evaluate and how to evolve our treatment plans
• Adjust
– Listen to one-another, ask questions. Do not accept the “status quo” Implement Change

An alternative Step
• Disagree
– By believing that this “new” idea is not worth trying without taking the time to truly investigate
• Defend
– Instead of personally speaking to a person that has a different idea directly, defend your idea behind their back, without risk
• Destroy
– The defense of an unexamined idea will destroy the possibility of creating a new workable idea

The Key• This, as so many things in our lives, is ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS.
• Between medical paradigms
• Between Doctors, Nurses, Patients, Researchers, Acupuncturists, Patients Families
• Relationships are DYNAMIC, always changing and never static

I am not saying:• This is what has to happen
• This is the only way it can happen
• That it will be easy
• That there will not be HUGE challenges to face
• That it will make THE DIFFERENCE in every patient

I AM SAYING• This integration of medical paradigms can work
• This is “the next step” in many cases
• The potential benefit of trying this by far outweighs the risk of not trying it.
• We can each learn from one another, as well as from our patients

What do you want to happen?

My thoughts

Open a discussion with the group of individuals that has the power to make the decision to integrate CAM into the Cancer Center.
Create a way to integrate CAM at all levels of the treatment of cancer
We need to make this happen, but it cannot without your help and active participation

Michael Clifford
Licensed Acupuncturist

Monday, December 11, 2006

Gold Medalist using Acupuncture

It is always interesting to read when an Olympic Gold Medalist gives part of the credit for her healing to acupuncture. It is also entertaining to read that she is a Black-Belt Taekwondo competitor and SHE WAS AFRAID OF THE NEEDLES. It took a lot of pain to get past her fear. Now she loves it. Sounds familiar.

I was treating a lady over the weekend that is nearly terrified of the needles. Luckily for me she is not a black-belt. Anyway her neck was hurt from a fall from a ladder. A month later she is still in pain and experiencing vertigo so bad she falls down.

When I got to the point of putting needles in her upper back and neck muscles were as tense as a steel cable. At the end of the treatment her muscles were much looser.

I spoke to her today. She told me that all day Sunday and today she has been pain free and not experiencing the vertigo.

She signed up for another treatment...

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Inflammation as a precursor for disease?

Occasionally I get to listen to "Talk of the Nation ~ Science Friday." I usually enjoy the discussion, but it is nothing that catches my fancy to write about. Well, there are exceptions to most everything, this being one of those exceptions.

The discussion was about how Western doctors and scientists are seeing a link between inflammation at one point in a persons life and a deeper disease, like alzheimers at another.

TCM has written about this link since its earliest writings.

The saying is something to the effect of "A disease that enters in one season, if not cleared, will change into another disease in another season." Of course that is not a word for word transliteration, but it gives the essential concept for today's discussion.

The usual understanding of this is a cold in the winter giving rise to a febrile disease in the spring. I understand that, and have seen it happen. I have also seen where it did not happen.

One of the key concepts in treating "patterns of disharmony" ["We don't do 'disease'."] in TCM revolves around understanding what "level" the disharmony is located. There are entire "schools of thought" built around the two primary concepts of Cold or Hot. Each one has significant clinical importance.

Yet in each of these there is the concept of "Latent Heat" or "Lingering Pathogens." I see the two terms as essentially the same. If a pathogen is trapped within the body it will 'morph' over time into a form of heat, that heat is latent or hidden. But it is still doing its work until the opportunity presents itself to re-emerge. It is understood that it will not re-emerge as the same pattern as when it "went into hiding."

I use this concept when I am teaching the Immunology course. I have written about this before; but try to appreciate the challenge of discussing/teaching about immunology when TCM does not ever recognize an immune system. This is one way to conceptualize how what becomes cancer can invade and be dormant or hidden until it blossoms into its deadly form. It was there for years, maybe even decades before it found the opening it was waiting for to re-emerge. That is not to say that it went in as "cancer" or even as a 'carcinogenic substance'. I am saying it morphed into cancer.

So back to the radio program. The doctors are seeing that if they can reduce or eliminate the inflammation the patient has a significantly reduced chance of developing a different disease at a later point in their life.

This is one place where TCM would agree with Western Science; though as usual we would treat it differently. Inflammation is heat, both sciences agree on that. However our treatments are significantly different; TCM would determine what level that heat is residing or trapped and then start to clear the heat from that level, then the next most surface level and on until it is cleared from the surface. That does not take very long, and it is very effective. Of course one has to be sure what level the heat is on, but the signs and symptoms are very clear in diagnosing that.

I did think it was interesting how the sciences are starting to see similar things, even though as usual we use different words to say the same things; and I do not even know if anyone other than myself heard this discussion and saw the connections and differences.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Respect the Desperation

As you may know I surf different blogs looking for good blogs acout acupuncture, TCM, herbology, or women's health issues. I have mentioned and linked some of these blogs.

One thing that becomes clear to me is that many, many women that have menstrual irregularities are feeling everything from isolation to depseration to frustration that their doctor's just don't get it.

I understand this from a few different perspectives. One of my connections is to the National Endometriosis Research Center; I am their "alternative medicine consultant." In that role I have a link on their web page asking women to submit "questions they WISH their doctors would have asked." I have gotten some good questions out of that; however the most common thread is that the ladies feel that their doctors are not listening to them.

The next most common thread would be a mix between hopelessness for their condition and frustration that many people do not take their pain serious. I respect the frustration/desperation they are feeling, but I know there are alternatives. I can empathize about both of these. But it backs right up against my frustration.

I know that the majority of these cases can be greatly reduced, if not resolved by consistent acupuncture and Chinese Herbs. I keep trying to get this word out, but it feels like I am trying to push a glacier back up the hill.

I can accept that many people that read that last paragraph would say "Yeah, Right." But it is due to my experience in the clinic and in teaching the OB/GYN classes that I have developed the protocol I use, and I know it is effecitve, and it is flexible; as the woman's health changes so does the treatment protocol.

But how do I get the word out???

ANY suggestions woiuld be appreciated