Warming Foods: The Good and The Ugly

Winter Sugar CravingsYang deficient patients need to eat warming foods.  We think of foods like chicken or ginger or perhaps garlic to help warm their spleen yang.  These foods help digestion.  It will warm the body and increase the energy.

I mostly eat okay.  This winter, after having a little too much extra food over the holidays I was starting back on a decent diet and limiting my intake of simple carbohydrates when we were hit by a winter storm.  At first, as it snowed outside I enjoyed watching.  I had some lunch.  I decided to treat myself to a kombucha.  As the snow continued for the next two days I found myself with the increasing urge to bake.

I grew up in a home where my mother offered baked goods on a daily basis.  They were always homemade and she used the best ingredients possible.  By best, I do not mean the most healthful, but the best ingredients that would make the best food.  At some point in my childhood she discovered that Crisco was easier than lard.  By the time I was a teenager a chocolate cake might come out of a box. I remember sitting in the kitchen watching her or at times helping with things that needed extra hands.

The snow brought that back.  After fighting the urge for most of a morning and into the late afternoon I baked some simple cookies.  And I ate.  And ate. I found that I couldn’t get enough of them.  I’m yang deficient. I was cold.  After feeling badly and wondering what was off on my hormones and how could I correct this, it occurred to me to wonder, as I shivered under covers when the power out later that I was surprised at my chill given the sugar I had eaten earlier. It then occurred to me to wonder, was the sugar craving my body’s way of trying to warm itself when there was cold outside?

This didn’t make the sugar binge okay with me, but it gave me an aha moment.  Perhaps our cultural love affair with all things sugar is really our body’s attempt to balance an imbalance. The cold, quick foods so often eaten and the heavy carbohydrates that further inhibit the spleen means that most people in my office were, to a great or lesser extent, spleen qi deficient and often spleen yang deficient.  While there are far better foods that would warm my body, sugar is a food my body has found earlier than it has found many of the other warming foods. Perhaps therein lies the craving.  Maybe my body is taking its limited knowledge of balancing and attempting to make a balance, despite the fact that sugar will cause so many other problems.

Certainly I know to avoid sugar.  Certainly I mostly do.  But sometimes something comes up with a strong craving and I give in.  This gives me another question to ask myself before giving in.  I can consider why now?  Maybe it’s the weather.  Fats are often helpful to manage sugar cravings.  Fats are also very warming.  I wonder if that’s one of the reasons they work to limit sugar cravings.  Although sometimes, fats just aren’t as good as sugar!  Oddly, my choice was peanut butter cookies, so I guess I had some of both!

Three Reasons To Hire Website Help

Bonnie Koenig, Creative WebsitesSmall business owners, such as acupuncturists often talk about doing their own website.  As someone who runs a small website business sideline, I’d like to point out several reasons not to do that.

First, will you actually create and maintain the website?  Lots of people think about making a website.  They may buy the domain name and look into hosting but never go any further.  If they do create a website, often it is a static site that they then forget to update when things at their practice change.  They may have people listed as being at their clinic who left years before.  Maintaining a website as well as creating one takes time.  Is that what you want to focus on?

Second, do you really know what you are doing?  Many people think they know what they are doing, but really no matter how good the template software that comes with some hosting companies, you can’t make it look as good as a professional.  The longer I’ve been doing websites, the more easily I can pin point those that are done by a hobbyist and those that are professionally done.

Third, if something goes wrong with your site, can you fix it? Do you want to take the time to fix it?  I was reading where one person was certain that an increase in visitors that came from his website was because he changed the name of his clinic.  A good webmaster could have made the clinic name work.  First they would have made sure all the special keyword tags and descriptions focused on the location of the clinic as that’s how someone would search.  Then the webmaster would have made sure there were sitemaps submitted to Google.  Finally, if google was still ignoring the site, they could have found out why–direct from Google.   Sites do get blacklisted.  It’s the domain that gets blacklisted and that can carry over to the new owner of the site.

Say, someone owned mysite.com and it was a spammy site with lots of things Google doesn’t like.  It might get blacklisted.  The spammer drops the site and moves on.  I come along with my clinic named mysite.  I find the domain name  mysite.com and buy it, having no idea of the history.  Google doesn’t know it’s changed hands and it’s going to take a long time and a lot of work  move up in the search engines because of that.  In fact, many people who make money on the web will change the domain name rather than put up that fight.  A good webmaster can think like that. They can advise and work with things like that.

If you’re doing acupuncture do you really want to spend the time learning this and checking it out?

My final issue is this. An acupuncturist trained as an acupuncturist.  A webmaster also studied and trained.  It becomes disrespectful to think that as a hobbyist you are going to do the same job as well as professional.  Both professions are art.  A poor website may not be life and death — or maybe if you have  a service that will save their life and the patient can’t find you, it CAN be. Hire out to people who do the work.   They have the time.  You pay them the money.   Focus on what you are passionate about.


The Story of Wind-Heat

The Story of WindThis is the first in a series of acupuncture stories that are simplified stories about health and disease from the paradigm of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Liberties are taken for the benefit of the modern reader so these should not be used to diagnose or treat oneself, unless one is already an acupuncturist and understands the medicine at a deeper level.  These stories are meant to be enjoyed and, perhaps, to make us think of health and dis-ease in a different way.

This is the story of Wind-Heat.

On a warm day in early fall, when the leaves have started to turn but the air is not yet chill with the breath of winter,  the squirrels enjoy the sun while packing up the last of the harvest that will see them through the winter.  People are walking, turning their heads to the sunshine, taking of jackets to absorb as much sun as possible. Even Wind comes out at this time.

Wind wafts through the trees, into open windows and even a little ways down chimneys.  Enjoying the sunshine, it’s not angry or driven but merely playful.   Here and there it tickles the back of an exposed neck.  And here and there, exposed necks are far more exposed than they think, holding open doors for Wind to enter the body.  Like a playful kitten, sometimes Wind inadvertently closes the door behind him and is trapped.

Locked in the body with no way out, Wind hammers at the eyes and the person has a headache.  He moves more quickly through the body and after his sun warmed flight, he’s hot..  He sees the narrow passage of the throat as potential way out and runs up leaving behind a sore throat.  Alas, he is trapped there too.  He tickles the nose and although his friend dampness gets expelled, he is still trapped.

Wind sinks into farther into the body, leaving the body tired and feverish with his heat and despair.

Fortunately for Wind, there are those who know what to do to restore the balance.  The acupuncturist and herbalist offer treatments that open the body’s doors so that Wind can escape.   As he leaves, he takes away his extra warmth, so that fevers come down and throats are soothed.  The body moves into true rest rather than the fatigue of Wind’s despair.

And that is the story of Wind Heat’s Invasion of the Body

How to Keep a Customer

Familiar makes for happy customersBefore the end of the year, I wrote about three ways in which Adobe lost me as a future customer.   I want to start the New Year off with a post on how to keep a customer.  In the broadest sense, both tips have been said before in many places, but they are worth repeating.

First, exceed expectations.   Don’t think that this means you have to consider everything in the world a patient could possibly want and then give more.  That’s just not possible.  Be respectful.  Show you actually care.   Cascade Windows did this with a phone call that took the person coming to our house about 1 minute and cost him whatever 1 minute of cell phone usage costs.  They had made an appointment to be there at 10.  He was stuck in traffic and called to let me know he’d probably be 20 to 30 minutes late.  Most service people don’t do that so it was so unexpected, I’ve remembered it and told everyone.

If you have a receptionist in your office, if you’re running behind, it might be nice to call the later patients and let them know you’re running 15 to 20 minutes behind and don’t expect to be caught up by their appointment time.  Let them plan their time around your current schedule.  If they like texting, you could even have a sign up sheet to let them know.  Make sure you know how far in advance a patient would need to know so they can plan accordingly.

Calling may not work for everyone.  What else can you do?  Think about those companies that make you feel  like they went the extra mile.  Think about how that can apply to your practice.  Many of those little things are actually easy to do and take very little time.

Second, be familiar.  There’s a reason there are so many conglomerate stores that all look the same from city to city across the nation. People are comfortable with the familiar although they may fight against it.  You don’t have to look like every other office in the area, but try not to be too different.  Offer familiar touch stones in your office.  If you have a primarily Asian themed office and your patients are not familiar with the culture, make sure the magazines there are of general interest.   Have a stethoscope and blood pressure cuff prominently displayed in the treatment room.   You don’t have to use it, but patients should see it.

It’s good to be different and set yourself apart, but it’s also important to create bridges into the world of acupuncture.  It’s helpful to have a clear sense of who your patients are so you can do that.  If you focus on athletes, for instance, you’ll want magazines that they would be interested in.  Likewise, if you treat mostly elderly people for their ailments, find magazines that make them comfortable.  Find chairs that are easy to get in and out of.  They should be comfortable but you don’t want them to sink too far in!  Consider what your patients need in your office.  Consider what is familiar to them and offer touch stones so they feel they belong in your office.

How to Lose a Customer: 4 Tips from Adobe

I’ve been using Photoshop elements on my iMac on the Windows side for several years. I think the first version I purchased was Elements 6 and I now have 9.   The other day the editor stopped opening files.   After my experience with Adobe’s customer support, I’ll probably be changing my photo editing software to Corel.  Why is that?

First, it was tough to get any answers from their website.   As acupuncturists, you don’t need to have pages of frequently asked questions and troubleshooting tips like Adobe should have, but did not.  However, you should have a phone number that’s easy to find. If you like emails, then make sure you have a contact form or an easy to find email form for patients as well.    You should also have invites for your patients and potential patients to contact you with any questions no matter how small.

Second, make sure that the contact information doesn’t work correctly.  Adobe’s support line is supposed to call you back when a technician is ready.  I was hung up on twice.  Chances are a small acupuncture office doesn’t have that sort of automatic response.  However, make sure your receptionists know how to use the phone system and get numbers to minimize problems with dropped calls.  Not everyone will call back.  Keep potential patients (and current patients) phone wait times to a minimum.  If you know it’s going to be awhile, ask for a number to call back.

Third, make sure your office staff is knowledgeable about what you do.  Adobe had a big fail on this for several reasons.  They didn’t ask me  to perform obvious problem solving tips (that when I realized I hadn’t done then did indeed solve the problem.  This could also have been on their website) and later on their technician wasn’t familiar with something and gave me patently wrong information about my system.

Office staff in an acupuncturist’s office should always know what acupuncture can treat and understand the specialties of the practitioners.  If they aren’t comfortable explaining something, then having the practitioner call someone back is important.  Anyone answering the phone should be confident that sometimes uncomfortable things happen with acupuncture (a flare up of new symptoms for instance) and should be able to immediately reassure the patient that their process is normal.  They can then be referred to the practitioner for a call back if the patient needs more. Sometimes someone just wants to know if it’s normal and they aren’t worried.   Good front office people can assess that.  However, it is always better to have a call back when none is needed than not have one.

Front office people should never ever give out information that might be incorrect.  People are talking about their health. As a healthcare provider, they need to trust that your information is accurate.  Make sure you staff appreciates that.

Finally, make sure that all office staff are on the same page.   Adobe’s technical support told me Adobe didn’t support Elements on Bootcamp on a Mac.  Adobe Sales insists they do and had never heard such a thing. Why would I trust Adobe sales if they assure me that it runs but Technical support won’t assist me when it stops?  If one person in the office says something, make sure that they understand that it was a mistake.  If a patient is told the wrong thing, making sure they get the correct information and understand the steps taken to avoid the miscommunication again can go a long way toward fostering trust.

I may be a small user of Adobe now, but I was considering upgrading to Lightshop as well and perhaps at some point even Creative Suite.  I doubt that will be happening at this point in time.  I’ll be using the free software by Gimp that does much the same.  To open RAW files, I’ll use other free ware and Corel Paintshop, which has come a long way and uses a better organizer for an interface.   Yes, it’s more work but it does what I want.  I like the organization techniques better and I don’t have to deal with a company that doesn’t care about their customers.

3 Tips for Effective Acupuncture Websites

Everyone says you need a website.  Now they’re telling you how to get noticed.  They’re telling you to blog.  They’re telling you you can make money online with advertising.  Web marketing isn’t your business. It shouldn’t have to be.  Here are three things to consider when creating, adding or updating a website.

First, who is your website target market.  Use the language people will use to look for you throughout your website.  If I live in “Somewhere, USA” then my audience will look for me under “Somewhere acupuncture” or “Somewhere acupuncturist”.  I should use those terms in my site on headlines, titles and in the content.  My name and my business name are likely to draw people who already know about me from a referral or who have seen me before.  I should use those terms so they can find the site for contact information but when it comes to new patients, the local area and the words “acupuncture” and “acupuncturist” are important.

Local area terms don’t need to just be your city.  I live in the Seattle area.  The broadest area is East King County. I also work in the Snoqualmie Valley.  The first general term is probably too broad as East King County covers a lot of area (and a lot of acupuncturists) but the second term is appropriate for patients as many of the cities in the Snoqualmie Valley are small and potential patients may search that term for someone nearby.

Second, if you’ve decided that writing a regular blog is important, who do you want to read your posts?   Web masters talk about keywords all the time.  They’ll give you places to go to see what terms are being searched and suggest you write articles that incorporate those ideas (for instance, “acupuncture and weight loss”).  The problem with this approach is that it’s too broad.  Keyword searches typically search larger areas than most acupuncturists will use.  You don’t want to write for Google search, either, because a search engine is a piece of software and unlikely to use your clinic for help.   Talk to people at any local gathering places. Find out the concerns of your local area.

I live in an area that floods.  Perhaps I can write about the types of health problems that flooding can cause.  Or I can take an energetic approach and talk about dampness.  If I live in an area with high winds, that’s an excellent time to talk about Wind as a pathogen.  Your posts will be timely and targeted towards the people you want to bring in.

Third, your website is there to bring in new patients and create added value to existing patients.  Throwing up google ads on your site defeats the purpose.  Your existing patients are likely to find the advertising annoying.  Potential new patients may see an ad that takes them off the site to another site that offers them something instead of an acupuncture treatment. You might get .03 cents for such a click but you’ve lost the income from that potential patient.  Advertising has a place.   Finding targeted information your potential patients and existing patients want can be very effective.

Patients often want to know more about acupuncture.  Reviewing a few acupuncture books for lay people on Amazon and using affiliate links to those products can be a way to make some extra money.  Other ideas are to advertise products you already promote, if that seems appropriate.  Some practitioners love the biomat.  You can promote the sales of the biomat on your site.  Several acupuncture website practitioners have e-books and items of interest that you can use on your website to bring in some extra income.  In all cases, these items are designed to supplement what you do and offer an added value (as well as some passive income) rather than just letting people click off your site without ever coming back.  Consider your advertising carefully.

Laughter: Transforming Pain

Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.
Kurt Vonnegut

Open For Pokin MagnetThe other day I was thinking about the experiences that brought me to a place where I wanted to create marketing materials for acupuncturists that displayed humor.  I’ve been fortunate to meet a lot of people who could laugh at anything.  I went to Pacific Lutheran University and roomed with a pre-seminary major.  She and our wonderful campus minister could laugh at religion.  “Sin boldly,” was often heard from her.

She was comfortable with her religion.  There were times when something struck her as funny and she laughed.  I learned that it was okay to laugh at the sacred.

After graduation I spent time working at a veterinary clinic.  It was hard sometimes to work there.  One of the vets also used humor.  The sadder the situation, the more he joked.  I remember one holiday party when the restaurant cleared around us and we were asked that if we came back next year we should ask for a private room.  Not only had we offended patrons with our frank over the dinner talk about bodily functions, but with the laughter and jokes that accompanied the worst of the worst.

I learned to laugh at life and death.

As an acupuncturist I often find that practitioners are very serious about their subject.  It is medicine.  It should be treated.  There is a defense against people not taking the medicine seriously, so instead of laughing when appropriate no one wants to laugh.  The sad thing is, from an energetic level, laughter is about the heart.  When you can’t laugh, you can easily dissolve into tears.

Laughter can move that energy of shock and horror that attacks the heart.  I see laughter as transforming the horrors of the veterinary clinic into something that manageable emotionally. For those who don’t know the full story, the laughter around them reminds them of joy and uplifts them in a way tears and stunned faces would never do.

Why do so many people in hard jobs laugh instead of cry?  Because, as Vonnegut says, laughter requires less cleaning up afterwards.  It’s also transformative in a way that tears may not be. There are times when tears are appropriate. I know that in the vet clinic it was often hard to switch to appropriate tears because laughter was such a part of the defense of protecting the heart.  However, when you could move between the appropriate transformation of horror through laughter and the appropriate tears to a horror, then the energy flowed beautifully.

Laughter plays a beautiful role in life.  Everything can be laughed at and played with.  Let’s not ever forget that.

Chinese Medicine Quarterly.

In the last several months I have become very clear that part of what I want to do is write.  As I became clear about the Eric at Deepest Health needed another editor for Chinese Medicine Quarterly.  The first issue that I got to help out with is now available.   The writers have so much information to share about the topic of Wind, I highly recommend it.

Editing has always scared me.  I have edited my own work and I always find something that needs to be improved. I always miss typos no matter how often I edit.  It surprised me how enjoyable the process of editing was on the magazine.  It was like chipping away at a sculpture and making it perfect.  It surprised me what I could see in someone else’s work.  The writers had so much to say that I learned a lot about wind while doing the editing.  To me, it was a win win situation.  I hope that I can continue on this path as I’ve rarely had so much fun working!

The newest issue is now available.  You can get it as a pdf or even a print copy (though that is expensive).  Please go by and check it out.



Pediatric Acupuncture

One way to build an acupuncture practice is to specialize.  Many practitioners struggle with specialization, others know exactly what they want to specialize in and some, like Robin Green, LAc, find a problem and become a specialist by solving it.   Morgan Hill Family Wellness Acupuncture and Herb clinic treats all family members, including children.

Not all acupuncture schools discuss treating children in their programs, although pediatrics is getting more popular.  Robin says she wasn’t all that interested in treating children when she was in school.  Her interest began in her first year of practice.  Of course, she may have been pushed towards this when her infant son had an issue with eczema that just wouldn’t resolve.

Robin says, “None of the conventional medical treatments we tried worked to treat his eczema, instead by the time he was nine months old, it got worse spreading throughout most of his body   At that point, I decided to do some training in holistic pediatrics to see if I could help him with acupuncture and herbs.   In the process of helping him, I began to share my son’s story with my patients and they started bringing their children in to see me.  That is how my pediatric practice began.”

Needles are such an issue to many adults and to children of a certain age.  People don’t realize that acupuncture needles are not the same the syringes they are thinking of. However, Robin says children under about 15 months of age haven’t developed that fear yet and she is able to do quick treatments that get rapid results.  As children grow with acupuncture as part of their lives, they are less likely to fear the treatments even when they are older.  Robin says she is able to do treatments that prevent imbalance rather than try and heal it after it has developed.

Interest in pediatric acupuncture has grown in the last few years.  Robin says, “The pediatric acupuncture field had grown significantly in the last decade.  This is due in part to more research that has shown benefits for pediatric pain management. About 40% of all pediatric hospitals now offer acupuncture for pain management.  It seems like monthly there are more and more articles published in magazines, newspapers and on television about the benefits of acupuncture for children.  Also, parents use the same treatments on their children that work for them.  Once parents understand how acupuncture is safe, painless, and effective acupuncture is for themselves they often bring their kids in too.  ”

Of course, pediatric acupuncture isn’t all about pain management in an acupuncture clinic.  Robin sees patients for low immunity, eczema, asthma, allergies, coughs, bronchitis, sinusitis, colds and flus as well as anxiety and digestive disorders.

Besides the fear of needles, another issue with pediatric acupuncture is the relationship issue.  The practitioner has to relate both to the child and the parent and be trustworthy in the eyes of both.  Establishing these multiple lines of trust can take some thought.  Robin says, “In kids under age 8, most parents stay with their child during treatment.  Occasionally, it’s easier to help a child with sensory or ADD issues alone in the treatment room while the parent waits in the waiting room.  After age 8 about, 50% of the parents stay in the treatment room.  When I treat kids without their parents present a lot them open up to me and tell me about things that go on in school or home that they may not have shared with their parent present.  Many parents are relieved that their child has another adult to confide in and notice a difference in compliance with the child’s treatment plan.  Teenagers are mostly likely to want to tell me things they don’t want their parents to know.  Anything they say to me is confidential unless it would cause harm to themselves or someone else and once they know that many of them open up to me.  I often have parent tell me about the bad behaviors of their teen (staying up too late, not eating well, drinking to much soda, etc.) that they need help getting through to them about.  Being their acupuncturist means I can discuss these issues and help them make better choices and take the pressure off the parents.”

Given the special needs of the very young and the need for an acupuncturist to think very carefully about their relationship to different people in the patient/practitioner relationship, I asked Robin what she would recommend if someone was thinking of specializing in pediatrics.  Robin says, “Specializing in pediatrics takes a lot of extra training to attain the expertise needed to confidently address the myriad of health issues and patient-parent issues seen in pediatrics.  I would recommended taking as many pediatric acupuncture courses as possible, taking a physical exam and red flags trainings and get clinical experience observing someone who specializes in pediatric acupuncture.”

Recently Robin has had an article on pediatric acupuncture in Acupuncture Today and is working on increasing her pediatric patient load.  She has another colleague in her office that sees adults.   Robin also says, “My larger vision is to help the acupuncture pediatrics field grow so that all practitioners could get the training they needed to confidently see children.   I would also like to write a practical guide to acupuncture pediatrics for practitioners and parents, teach acupuncture pediatrics to other practitioners.  My first step in that direction is my new blog, KidsLoveAcupuncture.com and I’m going to have my first externship at my office soon.”

I ran into Robin online as she worked on her first website years ago.  I was struck by how she had a very clear sense of what she wanted from her site and was very adept at getting it done. Her design choices were simple and elegant and really seemed to highlight who she was as a practitioner.  I asked her what her marketing experience had been.  Robin worked at health clinics while going through college and watched what those practitioners did.  She gets most of her patients through word of mouth and patient education.   She says she does this “without the qi talk”.  Anyone who reads my blog regularly knows she is preaching the choir here.  If you haven’t checked out Robin’s sites, I highly recommend a visit.

Gratitude: The Earth Element, Yi and the Law of Attraction

Thanksgiving makes me thinking of giving thanks or gratitude.  I started wondering how gratitude related energetically to acupuncture.  Was it heart filled gratitude so it was fire? Did it relate to metal for preciousness?   In an article on 5 Element acupuncture the practitioner wrote about a gratitude as a factor of Earth.  I had to consider that in some way this was appropriate to the US celebrating Thanksgiving by eating–although as in so many things the eating is over done.

If gratitude falls under the earth element, wouldn’t that mean that being grateful strengthens the earth element?  I think of people with so many digestive problems and issues and wonder if just by being thankful they can heal, at least a little bit.

As I read more, I realized that the Yi is often our ability to focus on our life path and to continue down it despite the obstacles that inevitably come into our lives.  It struck me that a strong spleen allows us to focus on our goals and stick to them and make them manifest from our thoughts.   Does the law of attraction require a strong spleen?

One way of attracting that which we want is to be grateful for what we have.  If I practice gratitude to attract those things I want, does it strengthen my spleen?  Does it strengthen the earth element so that we can more clearly focus on our goals and stick to them when obstacles come up?

Certainly all elements are used when attracting desires.  Does it mean that as we practice using our mental energies to envision and manifest that we are actually strengthening the elemental energies in our bodies?  Does this mean that as we get more balanced in our energies we are more able to manifest the dreams we have?