Pain Really IS Strange!

People come to acupuncture for many reasons, from anxiety and stress, to fertility, allergy, and digestive support. Most often, though, people try acupuncture to resolve or manage body pain. We treat pain patients everyday and the presentation runs the gamut: one person slept funny and tweaked her neck, while another has suffered chronic back pain after multiple surgeries, and still others deal with over-use injuries from their jobs that they can't quit because they need to support themselves and their families. 

Treating pain can be a complex process but I recently learned just how complex the experience of pain is. A new graphic zine we have in our waiting room called, Pain is Really Strange, explains that "pain is the moment when your brain decides something is unsafe and you need to know about it."  In acute cases, this could be the uncomfortable zing in your knee when you kneel quickly without thinking or step oddly off the curb and feel something sharp in your ankle.

With chronic pain, however, most often the issue is not in the tissues. This claim was profound to me. Author Steve Haines explains that the experience of pain not only comes from an overly-sensitized nervous system, but also derives from the components of one's lived experience, including socio-cultural elements like our beliefs, memories, senses, emotions, and learning. Haines says "some researchers go so far as to say chronic pain is like a disease."

Much of Western-based pain management and treatment is often determined by what is seen on x-rays and MRI. These tools justify surgeries despite the "overwhelming" evidence showing tissue pathology does not necessarily cause chronic pain. In fact, many of us have structural issues from arthritis to bulging disks and do not have any pain at all! This book was a good reminder to me why chronic pain can be so difficult to treat. If it were easy to solve, then we likely wouldn't have the opioid epidemic that we do in this country. It also made it more clear to me how acupuncture can help.

While acupuncture increases blood circulation, decreases inflammation, and stops pain, the more subtle parts of getting treated point to how effective it can be in addressing the other elements that are part of chronic pain. Resting with needles allows people to feel their bodies, before and after relaxation. During treatment some are reminded of memories associated with their conditions, or belief systems that might contribute to their experience of pain. Setting aside the time and space for yourself in the treatment room can even let you practice some of the body mapping techniques Haines describes in his book that can help you reduce chronic pain.

Artist Sophie Standing has drawn the graphics which show complicated physiological processes in clear, and sometimes funny, ways. It is part of a series of books that we have available in our waiting room that you can enjoy.  Other titles include the following: 

Many of our community members are living with these kinds of issues--or know someone who is--and these books offer a way to conceptualize those experiences. The simple act of understanding a disease or issue can broaden our awareness and help us better cope with symptoms.

Maybe on your next visit you can come early and check them out! We invite you to do so!


Cannabis Basics: History & Law, Science, Purpose, & Advocacy

In February, LBCA hosted Pam Chotiswatdi, MPH, for an event titled, "Cannabis Basics for the Cannabis Curious".  We had such positive feedback after this event that we asked Pam to share the information she presented for those who missed it. The following is what Pam had to say about the event. 

It was a pleasure to facilitate the first "Cannabis Basics" workshop at Long Beach Community Acupuncture. I’ve always been a cannabis supporter, but never an active advocate until I was studying for my Masters of Public Health degree. During this time I had access to a range of studies, reports, and data, and started to look deeper at the cannabis movement, related policy history, and scientific studies.

I observed in my readings a fair amount of misinformation as well as data that was skewed by bias (arising from stigma surrounding cannabis).  I also felt there was a lack of a community perspective and that reports from the "cannabis sector" did not tell the whole story. 

For this reason, I make a point to share the whole story surrounding cannabis when I speak to communities. The following is a summary of our discussion into Cannabis History & Law, Science, Purpose, and Advocacy.

- Pam C.

Read More:

Click here to read more about Cannabis History & Law 

Click here to read more about Cannabis Science & Research

Click here for a Discussion of Medical vs. Recreational Cannabis Use & Public Health Concerns

*DISCLAIMER: It is important that clients rely on advice from their healthcare practitioner to employ sound clinical judgment for their specific conditions. This information is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a healthcare practitioner nor a recommendation of any particular treatment plan. Please consult with your physician or healthcare practitioner for professional advice pertaining to your particular disease state.

More About Pam: I am a big believer in credibility – academic and street. So, a little about me: Born in Downey, California, I moved around a bit to surrounding cities and counties with my family and then on my own. I moved to Long Beach while earning an undergrad at CSULB – Go Beach! I have spent the last 16 years in Long Beach. I married a Long Beach local and I call the city by the sea my home. I earned a masters degree in public health, specifically in health education in January 2017 and transitioned careers--from being a 10-year editor at a local publication to helping a Long Beach nonprofit. Most recently, I took a key position to help the cannabis industry with health education. Find my blog and on Instagram @cannabiscloset and Twitter @canabiscloset

The Radical Act of Community Healing

As I reflect on this year working with you, I’m not sure I expected to see a space for healing as an integral part of community.  But that’s what Long Beach Community Acupuncture has become for me.  This space on its own is a combination of chairs and concrete.  But everyday, we come to this building and we talk about our pain, joy, sadness, fears, and the desire for balance or release.  These rich conversations breathe life into this old building.  And for these reasons we all have a stake in this community. 

This was most apparent to me in the first month I spent with many of you.  You welcomed me so warmly over and over again.  And you all said the same thing “welcome to our community.”  And it floored me.  Looking at this moment through the lens of my previous career as an urban planner, I know that creating community is not an easy thing to do.  So it has been profoundly important to me to honor and respect that sense of community and commitment you all feel in connection to your health and this space. 

Community acupuncture is so wonderful and it has provided me the environment to extend the values I cultivated in my previous career into this work.  As acu-punks we are committed to providing affordable and accessible care that cuts across race, gender, ethnicity, language, and sexuality.  In this way, we come together to uphold the values of unity, equity, and justice—a radical act. This is what brought me to your community and to this type of practice.

On any given day, I am treating people of all walks of life, from women of color, to immigrants, to men, and limited English speakers, as well as people of differing ability, income, and class.  It is beautiful to see you all lying there in your chairs side by side unified in your healing.  And that is such a significant way for communities to heal.  

Personally it has been such a joy and honor sharing space with all of you over this past year.  I am so happy to be your community acu-punk.  Cheers to the clinic and cheers to another year working together!