Mary was looking forward to a merry Christmas! She had all the excitement and enthusiasm of an energetic seven year old child, even though she is a 67 year old granny. With such enthusiasm Mary decided that she would decorate the house and Christmas tree in preparation for the festive season, without any help from others. The previous year Mary had put all the Christmas tree lights away in haste. As a result they resembled more of a bowl of spaghetti tangled with many knots which Mary spent a very frustrating hour and a half trying to untangle. As she flicked the tangled the mass of fairy lights like a circus lion tamer cracking the whip, she never realised what damage this activity was going to cause her! Luckily for Mary she had an acupuncture appointment booked for two days later. This was her first acupuncture session with me.
Mary's Christmas Pains: Arthritis
Mary told me about her arthritic left thumb which causes her a lot of pain especially during the wet and cold winter season. She went on to explain about the pain in her right shoulder which was mainly along the Yang Ming meridian. The origin of the pain seemed to be located at LI 15 (Jianyu) and moved down the arm as far as LI 14 (Binao). This was as a direct result of her wild attempts to unravel the Christmas tree lights which she ended up throwing in the garbage!
The shoulder pain was bad enough to warrant her taking painkillers (which she didn't like to do normally) and had disturbed her sleep for the previous two nights. I asked Mary if there was any other problems that I could help with and she went on to tell me about her right knee pain which was constant around the meniscus. It caused her anterior and medial pain, even though she had undergone keyhole surgery to correct this two years previously. The knee pain was particularly obvious going up and downstairs, kneeling down, and often disturbed her at night as she moved. She was also concerned that her stomach was a little upset and was fearful that she was going to get the winter vomiting bug that her grandkids had just recovered from. She then went on to describe herself as an “crock” and asked me if I should just “put her down” (euthanasia is not an option).
Mary had only ever had acupuncture once before in order to give up smoking and she was a little concerned that she had given me too much to work on. She told me just to fix her shoulder and she would be happy! I explained that abdominal acupuncture should be able help with all of her pain and even resolve her digestive problems.
Setting Up The Abdominal Scene. Treating Joint Pain.
Mary laid down and while she did so I explained how the treatment would proceed she duly exposed her midriff and as I explored her abdomen I asked her to put a reference score of 10 out of 10 on each painful area (i.e. left thumb 10:10, right shoulder and upper arm 10 out of 10, her right knee 10 out of 10). I explained the importance of this advising her that it would give us a real-time indication of how the acupuncture was working. Palpating Mary's abdomen revealed quite quickly a small but quite solid mass or nodule in the area of Ab 4 (knee) - Ab 5 (medial knee) on the right, in the shoulder area around Stomach 24 (Huaroumen). On the right side there were some fine grainy, softer nodules, between a Ab 2 (wrist) and a Ab 3 (thumb). On the left hand side there were more similar grainy nodules which seemed a little bit more solid than those in the shoulder area, but yet softer than the knee area, suggesting to me that there was a damp nature to the arthritic thumb.
Treatment Number One
Mary was coming to me on a busy day. Time was of the essence and I wanted to give a comprehensive yet minimal treatment which I hoped would be completed within six or seven minutes. I was not using a marker so I used the needles as landmarks instead and because I wanted to give a comprehensive treatment. I began with "Bringing Qi Home" Ren 12 (Zhongwan), Ren 10 (Xiawan), Ren 6 (Qihai) & Ren 4 (Guanyuan) with St 25 (Tianshu) to help with the upset digestion and to help clear damp. With these framework and nurturing points in place, I put each needle to a depth of approximately 0.5 cun and then began to focus on each of the painful areas starting with the main problem, the right shoulder and arm the ahshi points around stomach 24 (Huaroumen) and slightly distal to it in order to address the pain LI 14 (Binao). Both of these points were quite superficial. I then checked with Mary as to how the pain was she said that her shoulder and arm pain had reduced by 50%. I made a slight adjustment with the depth of the needles and by increasing the depth to between 0.2-0.3 cun. The pain had all but gone, with just a slight memory of discomfort.
Figure 1: Illustration of the treatment used for Mary
I swiftly moved on to address the left thumb joint problem. Once again I located the ahshi point close to Ab2 (wrist). This ahshi point 0.2 cun superior and distal to Ab2 anatomically represents the area of Lu10 (Yuji) where her main pain was residing. I enquired as to how the pain was and if it had changed. She said it had reduced to 5 out of 10. Rather than insert another needle in this area I adjusted the depth once more and again checked what the impact of this minor adjustment was. Mary said that the pain was now at approximately 2 out of 10.
I moved my attention to resolve the knee pain and used Ab4 (knee) right and an ahshi point 0.7 cun medial and 0.2 cun superior to Ab 4 to fix it. This had the effect of reducing the pain to 4 out of 10. A slight adjustment of the medial needle brought the pain level down to 1 out of 10.
I put a heat lamp over Mary's abdomen and left her to relax for 30 minutes. When I returned I asked Mary to move her painful shoulder and she was delighted that there was only a very slight discomfort there. When Mary got off the plinth she sat down to put on her shoes and acknowledged that her right knee was much better. She then gave me the thumbs up and went on her merry way to get some new (untangled) Christmas tree lights.
Three weeks later Mary returned and said that after the treatment she has been almost completely pain free. Her thumb, right shoulder and arm pain has been totally clear and she had actually forgotten I had treated it. The right sided knee pain was no longer an issue going up/down the stairs but occasionally got sore when turning in bed at night! She was sick with the vomiting bug the next day after treatment, but acknowledged that she seemed to recover quickly and that everyone in the household had succumbed to this virulent dose!
Mary's main concern on this occasion was to help her deal with the stress of having to take down all the Christmas decorations. She also wanted me to treat her anxiety and overthinking and to boost her immune system after a bout of flu over the Xmas holiday.
This treatment highlights that abdominal acupuncture can easily treat a number of painful conditions at once. Even though I used mainly ahshi points, particularly for the knee and thumb pain the results held very well. This was all achieved with only 12 needles.
There are many different prescription formats that I could have used but I chose the one as described above and illustrated in figure 1, for a number of reasons!
What prescription would you suggest for Mary's second treatment? Stay tuned to find out………