Part 3: An Integrative Approach to Pain after a Motorcyle Accident

What is integrative medicine or integrative healthcare?

“It is a healing-oriented medicine that takes into account the whole person (body, mind, and spirit), including all aspects of lifestyle,  emphasizes the therapeutic relationship, and makes use of all appropriate therapies, both conventional and complementary”  Andrew Weil  2011

Let me give you a personal example of an integrative approach to the treatment of pain that incorporated medical treatment, community support, energy healing, acupuncture, and nutritional therapy:

My husband was in a bad motorcycle accident in 2009, he fractured 9 ribs, had a partially collapsed lung, fractured both wrists, and his right ankle/fibula received the impact of the truck that turned into him as he was passing it.   He was in the trauma unit for 4 days.  His pain was so intense that every breath was painful, he was grateful that he received an automatic morphine drip that kept him in as much ease as possible that first night.  Our classical homeopath friend brought a remedy that first evening that helps with the shock of trauma, every time Alex got a drop, he would feel an immediate sense of relief.  The second day he was allowed to self medicate on that morphine drip, friends and family were calling and visiting, including our bass player who came with Get Well pictures drawn by his twin children whom we had known since age 2 and Alex was receiving Reiki from me whenever we had some alone time between all this tests, check ups, and hospital staff visits.

By the third day he was on oral opiate based medication and lots of prayers had come in from our community as word got out about his motorcycle accident.  That’s when I felt an obvious shift of not being alone, that I wasn’t the only one advocating for Alex not wanting surgery.  He had refused his chest being plated to stabilize his partially collapsed lung because he couldn’t imagine going straight into such major surgery the first night of his accident.  His lungs didn’t get worse the second day and Alex coughed and breathed deep as he was instructed to challenge his lungs to clear the fluid.  He refused surgery in both his wrists because the surgeon had never put pins into the wrists of a professional conga player so couldn’t give him any feedback on that and the worst that would happen if he didn’t get surgery was arthritis, to which we both told the surgeons that acupuncture could help prevent and treat that.

By the fourth day, Alex completed walking once around the hospital floor, it was like finishing a marathon! He nearly fainted from the effort of walking but he did it!  The attending surgeon that saw him walking back to the room this fourth day told him that according to his chest X-rays and the fluid in his lungs, he couldn’t see how he could be walking already. I was so frustrated by this point at the apparent push for surgery and lack of motivational support on their part that I retorted, “Doctor, are you treating the person or are you treating an X-ray?!”  To which he replied, “I’m treating the person.  We are going to discharge you today because there is nothing we can do for you anymore.  You are more susceptible to a bad infection if you stay longer”.  Though we are grateful the hospital has a good emergency unit and were thorough with their testing to make sure no rock was left unturned, it was a challenge to be there constantly asking questions and having to be his advocate.

The next challenge was coming home and figuring out how to best help him heal.  These were the key aspects Alex needed: 1) Immune support so his lungs wouldn’t get a respiratory infection as coughing caused excruciating pain with the fractured ribs, there was a risk that the fluid in his lungs could harbor a bacterial infection  2)  Energy and blood glucose support so that his blood circulation would be as efficient as possible and the nutrients would get to his organs, injured tissues, and bones and his adrenals could recuperate  3)  Emotional support from his community and family and filtering from world news or situations that caused anxiety  4) Making sure his pooping and peeing were effective to flush out the inflammation that was naturally occurring in his body to deal with the injuries

Our community of practitioner friends came together to bring him bone broth and food, gave him energy healing sessions, and he got acupuncture almost every day.  He took herbs for his lung trauma and to prevent the fluid from accumulating, supplements and homeopathic remedies to help with tissue, nerve, and bone healing, my mother came to help with cooking and bandaging as I had to start seeing clients after two weeks, Alex didn’t drink beer nor wine for over a month and ate an anti-inflammatory diet of lots of veggies, chicken soup, fish, and whole grains.   He would challenge his body every day to see how much it could move: he went from being happy for just being able to get up from a reclined massage table that he slept on, to being able to make it to the bathroom without me freaking out that he’d fall, to walking out to get the mail two-three weeks after his accident.  Each week my mother would invite him to Hong Kong Dim Sum and the outing would reflect for him how much he was improving.   His physical therapy didn’t start until one month after his accident, so this first month was crucial and I felt he and our community really did everything possible to help him heal quickly.  It also made a difference that he was physically active and ate well before the accident, so his heart was strong.  The attending surgeon at the trauma unit had told him:  “If he was two years older, and his heart wasn’t as strong, he would be in much worse shape.”

During this first month, he took the prescribed opiate painkiller and NSAIDS as well as herbs and homeopathics for pain that work differently from opiates.  What was fascinating for me to discover was that opiates mask the perception of pain, so it’s like the pain is still there but the brain doesn’t perceive it.  We found out that when his opiate pain drug was wearing out after lunch, I’d give him ear acupuncture and with the first point, ShenMen, he would immediately feel an overall relief in his pain levels “like a breath of fresh air”.  As the weeks progressed, his pain levels started to decrease and he was able to move more.  No one could coach us on how or when to get off the opiates, so I continued to treat his pain with acupuncture and herbs.  When he did stop the opiates, he went thru a night of intense anxiety withdrawal symptoms and insomnia that persisted afterwards.  He took one opiate pill a few weeks later after a long day of activity and performing and he felt so terrible that night that he never wanted to take one again.  The opiates had worked exactly how they were meant to work:  they eased the pain during the acute phase and the first few weeks of recovery and helped conserve his energy for the healing process but once the pain wasn’t as bad, they stopped working.  His recovery continued for several years with physical therapy he did on his own, massage, energy healing, acupuncture, and spiritual healing.

I hope this story has given you some insight to the possibilities of incorporating natural medicine with medical interventions.  Your acupuncturist, naturopath, Arvigo practitioner, energy healer, homeopath, herbalist, or functional nutritionist would be happy to help if you or someone you cared about were ever in a similar situation.

My next blog will present integrative treatment for chronic pain and conditions that slowly progressed internally rather than from an external accident.  We will be talking about how Chinese medicine, Arvigo mayan abdominal therapy, massage, nutrition, and energy healing play an important role.

Best wishes, Li-Lan

For more details on our community acupuncture model, visit our blog Acupuncture & Chronic Pain Part 2: The community acupuncture experience

To see a short video on the difference of using acupuncture for treating low back pain and medical treatment using pain medications, visit our blog Acupuncture & Chronic Pain Part 1: Experience the Difference

Acupuntura para Dolor: Nuestra clinica comunitaria

Community Room

escrita por Li-Lan Hsiang Weiss Licencia en Acupuntura en Carolina del Norte, Diplomado Nacional en Medicina Oriental

Poco después de graduarme de mi Maestría en Medicina Oriental en Nuevo México en 2005, regresé a Durham y sentí que esta era un buen área para comenzar mi práctica. Desde el principio tenía dos cosas claras: quería trabajar con la comunidad de habla hispana y tenía que yo ser buena para tratar el dolor.

Fue todo un desafío comenzar una práctica por mi cuenta, en ese entonces no había muchas clinicas que contrataran acupunturistas. Tuve que consultar a mis profesores con muchos casos, tenía límites no muy buenos con mi horario de trabajo y cuánto cobraba, tuve que crear mi propio material de promocion y estrategias y sobre todo esto tenia una extraña reacción en mis dedos cada vez que alguien gritaba de dolor al ponerle la agujita! ¡Cómo podría ayudar a otros cuando les causaba dolor! Tuve que superarlo, lo que hice, después de mucha auto-sanacion. Lloraba en desesperación durante la cena con mi esposo “¡Otros acupunturistas saben mucho más!” Él me aseguró que no me preocupara, que a lo largo de unos años sabría mas.

Así que para mejorar el tratamiento del dolor, estudié la acupuntura del cuero cabelludo, el método de equilibrio del Dr. Tan, mejoré la toma de pulso para el diagnóstico de la medicina china, la técnica maya de Arvigo para evaluar las caderas, el sacro y el cóccix y trate cientos de personas con dolor.  Hace un mes, Austin y yo estudiamos una forma de acupuntura china clásica llamada acupuntura Yuan Qi y nunca me entusiasmó tanto una técnica de acupuntura. Esta técnica, al encontrar la ubicación exacta del punto, obtiene una disminución instantánea en la intensidad del dolor con movilidad incrementada el 90% del tiempo. Hemos estado muy entusiasmado con la rapidez con que esta técnica de Yuan Qi afecta el cambio.  Lo que estamos evaluando ahora es qué condiciones y con quién esta técnica funciona mejor y cuánto duran los efectos de una semana a otra.

Retrocediendo un poco a mi deseo original de ayudar a la población de habla hispana y a aquellos con recursos limitados, que tambien incluia a mi, me pregunté a mí mismo: ¿cómo puedo crear un modelo de acupuntura en el que también pueda yo pagarlo? Un artículo de mi escuela de medicina china describió la acupuntura comunitaria y eso me llevó a encontrar detalles específicos sobre cómo comenzar una clínica de acupuntura que cobra entre $ 20 y 40. Eso fue en el 2007. Ofrecí miles de tratamientos de acupuntura un día por semana, con 4-5 mesas de masajes en Health Touch NC LLC y también atendí clientes en privado de 3 a 4 días por semana. Detuve la acupuntura comunitaria en 2014 principalmente porque estaba muy agotada de tener que arreglar el cuarto cada semana, pero en 2016 la demanda volvió y, por lo tanto, me despedi de Health Touch y encontre el local en que nos encontramos ahora.

Al contar con Austin Dixon en Armonia Health LLC, que ha trabajado en acupuntura comunitaria durante casi 9 años, tenemos la posibilidad de ayudar a más personas de las que yo podría hacer sola. La acupuntura comunitaria es la mitad de costo de la acupuntura individual y ahora podemos ver a unas 35 personas por semana durante 1.5 días. Nuestra recepcionista agiliza el proceso de citas, tenemos un sistema de citas en línea del que todavía estamos aprendiendo, y tratamos de crear un ambiente relajado en el que lo más importante es que nosotros, como acupunturistas, estamos completamente presentes con todos y cada uno de nuestros clientes durante su sesión y los ayudamos a sentirse lo más cómodos posible en un entorno grupal.  Algunas personas eligen la acupuntura comunitaria porque es más asequible, algunas personas se sienten cómodas en un grupo donde todos están allí por una causa común, algunas personas disfrutan de recibir acupuntura en la misma habitación que sus familiares, algunas personas disfrutan incorporando regularmente la acupuntura en su rutina de autocuidado y el modelo de comunidad lo hace accesible.

En el artículo de investigación original de Kligler B, Nielsen A, Kohrrer C, et al. Terapia de acupuntura en un entorno grupal para el dolor crónico. Medicina para el dolor. 2017 (0): 1-11:

Se encontró que la acupuntura en grupo semanal para el tratamiento de dolor crónico de cuello, espalda, hombro y osteoartritis en la que sufrian por lo menos tres meses en 113 participantes en Nueva York durante ocho semanas, disminuyó estadísticamente y clínicamente la gravedad del dolor, la interferencia del dolor y la depresión incluso 16 semanas después de la finalización del curso del tratamiento.

Creo firmemente que la acupuntura debe ser conocida como una opción para los analgésicos, especialmente los opios. La acupuntura no está cubierta por la mayoría de los planes de seguro en Carolina del Norte y muchas personas no tienen seguro. No deje que el dolor espere seguro medico o que el dolor se ponga tan mal que la acupuntura se use como último recurso antes de considerar la cirugía. No es necesario “resistir” cuando se trata de dolor, el dolor es un buen mensajero para nosotros que algo tiene que cambiar o ajustarse. Siga aprendiendo sobre dolor y en que formas se puede mejorar la salud total cuerpo y mente.

La Parte 3 de esta serie sobre acupuntura y dolor crónico se enfocará en cómo en Armonia Health LLC estamos construyendo un enfoque integrativo dentro de nuestra práctica para condiciones de dolor más complejas, asegúrese de revisar nuestra lista de nuevos cursos y eventos que complementan las terapias que ofrecemos.

Acupuncture & Chronic Pain Part 2: The community acupuncture experience

Armonia Health LLC’s Community Room

by Li-Lan Hsiang Weiss L.Ac

Shortly after I graduated from my Masters in Oriental Medicine in New Mexico in 2005, I moved back to Durham and felt this was a good area for me to start my private practice.  Two things were clear to me from the beginning:  I wanted to work with the Spanish speaking community and I had to get good at treating pain.

It was quite a challenge to start a practice on my own, back then there weren’t many practices that hired acupuncturists.  I had to consult my teachers with a lot of cases, I had poor boundaries for my work schedule and how much I charged, I had to create my own marketing material and strategies, and above all this I was getting this strange skin reaction on my fingers whenever someone cried out in pain from my needling technique! How could I help others when I was causing them pain!  I had to get over it, which I did, after much self-healing. I would cry out in despair over dinner to my husband “Other acupuncturists know so much more!”  He assured me not to worry, that over a few years I’d get better.

So to get better at treating pain, I studied scalp acupuncture, Dr. Tan’s Pain balancing method, got better at pulse taking for Chinese medicine diagnosis, the Arvigo mayan technique of assessing the hips, sacrum, and tailbone and treated hundreds of pain cases.   A month ago, Austin and I studied a form of classical Chinese acupuncture called Yuan Qi acupuncture and I have not been this excited about an acupuncture technique EVER! This technique, by finding the exact point location, I have gotten an instant decrease in pain intensity with increased mobility 90% of the time. I have been pretty excited at how quick this Yuan Qi technique affects change and so is our acupuncturist Austin Dixon.  What we are assessing now is which conditions and with whom this technique works best and how long the effects last from week to week.

Rewinding a bit back to my original wish to help the Spanish speaking population and those with limited resources, which included me, I asked myself: How can I create a model of acupuncture where I can afford it too?  An article from my Chinese medicine school described community acupuncture and that led me to find specific details on how to start a community-supported acupuncture clinic which charged $20-40. That was in 2007.  I gave thousands of acupuncture treatments just one day per week setting up 4-5 massage tables at Health Touch NC LLC and also saw clients privately 3-4 days per week.  I stopped the community acupuncture in 2014 mainly because I got burnt out from setting up and breaking down the massage tables and room every week, but by 2016 the demand was back and thus I moved out of Health Touch into the space we are now.

With having Austin at Armonia Health LLC, who has worked in community acupuncture settings for close to 9 years, we have the possibility of helping more people than I could do alone.  Community acupuncture is 1/2 the price of individual acupuncture and we can now see about 35 people per week over 1.5 days.  Our receptionist streamlines the scheduling process, we have an online appointment system that we’re still learning from, and we try to create a relaxed atmosphere where most importantly, we as acupuncturists are fully present with each and every one of our clients during their session and we help them feel as comfortable as possible in a group setting.  Some people choose the community acupuncture because it is more affordable, some people feel comfortable in a group where everyone is there for a common cause, some people enjoy receiving acupuncture in the same room as their family member and can carpool, some people enjoy incorporating regular acupuncture into their self care routine and the community model makes this accessible.

In the original research article by Kligler B, Nielsen A, Kohrrer C, et al.  Acupuncture Therapy in a Group Setting for Chronic Pain. Pain Medicine. 2017(0):1-11:

Weekly group acupuncture for the treatment of chronic neck, back, shoulder, and osteoarthritis pain of at least three months on 113 participants in NYC over eight weeks was found to statistically and clinically decrease pain severity, pain interference, and depression even 16 weeks after the completion of the course of treatment. 

I feel strongly that acupuncture should be known as an option to pain medications, especially opioids. Acupuncture is not covered by most insurance plans in NC and a lot of people don’t have insurance.  Don’t let people’s pain wait for insurance coverage or for pain to get so bad that acupuncture is used as a last resort before considering surgery.  It’s not necessary to “tough it out” when it comes to pain, pain is such a good messenger to us that something needs to change or be adjusted.

Part 3 of this series on acupuncture and chronic pain will focus on how we at Armonia Health LLC are building an integrative approach to care within our practice for more complex pain conditions, be sure to check out our What’s new list of courses and events that support our therapies and teach life long tools that enhance well-being.

Acupuncture & Chronic Pain Part 1: Experience the Difference

View the above video of 2 state employees suffering from chronic pain.

One is using prescription drugs to manage pain. One is using acupuncture.

Patients Deserve the Choice of Their Medical Treatments.

“The United States spends much more money on health care than any other country. Yet, Americans die sooner and experience more illness than residents in many other countries…health trajectory is lower in success and higher in cost than it should be. The cost of inaction is high.”
– Harvey Fineberg, President of the Institute of Medicine


Acupuncturists are experts in administering less invasive, low-cost treatments that support the body while it heals itself, and that serve as effective substitutes for riskier modalities such as prescription narcotics.

Acupuncture plays an important role in helping patients with pain avoid more expensive, higher risk interventions. A 2012 British study found that one-third of total knee replacement candidates who received acupuncture instead of conventional treatment experienced long-term pain relief and were able to avoid surgery two years later, at a cost savings of $8,100 per patient. In the U.S., where 719,000 knee replacement surgeries were performed in 2010, the savings could total $1.9 billion.*

Acupuncture reduces pain, reduces inflammation, and increases blood flow and circulation.

The efficacy of acupuncture and traditional Asian medicine for pain, cancer, and many other health conditions is proven. Forward-thinking American health care and insurance systems will support and incentivize visits to acupuncturists because they treat effectively and are cost-effective.

There is no risk of addiction or abuse, as there is with prescription narcotics.

There are no side effects, as there are with many prescription drugs.

Acupuncture is the fastest growing medical service in the United States and the world.

Many NFL teams use Acupuncture services to help their football players perform at their peak and help injuries heal faster.

Acupuncture services are being included as one of the medical services at the 2015 Special Olympics in Los Angeles.

Acupuncture services are helping U.S. servicemen and women on the battlefield as well as veterans at home.

The top 5 U.S. cancer centers, ranked by U.S. News and World Report, have licensed acupuncturists on staff and fund and conduct acupuncture and Oriental medicine research.

*Inpatient Surgery: National Hospital Discharge Survey; 2010. Atlanta, GA; 2010. Available at:

Part 2 of this blog post Acupuncture & Chronic Pain will focus on how we at Armonia Health LLC treat pain with acupuncture and Chinese medicine.

Part 3 of this blog post Acupuncture & Chronic Pain will focus how we at Armonia Health LLC are working towards an integrative approach to treating pain that addresses the physical symptoms, as well as the impact of pain on relationships, self care, and personal goals.



Los acupunturistas son expertos en la administración de tratamientos menos invasivos y de bajo costo que apoyan al cuerpo mientras se cura a sí mismo y que sirven como sustitutos efectivos de las modalidades más riesgosas, como los narcóticos recetados.

La acupuntura juega un papel importante para ayudar a los pacientes con dolor a evitar intervenciones más costosas y de mayor riesgo. Un estudio británico de 2012 encontró que un tercio del total de candidatos de reemplazo de rodilla que recibieron acupuntura en lugar del tratamiento convencional experimentaron alivio del dolor a largo plazo y pudieron evitar la cirugía dos años después, con un ahorro en los costos de $ 8,100 por paciente. En los EE. UU., Donde se realizaron 719,000 cirugías de reemplazo de rodilla en 2010, los ahorros podrían ascender a $ 1,9 mil millones. *

La acupuntura reduce el dolor, reduce la inflamación y aumenta el flujo sanguíneo y la circulación.

La eficacia de la acupuntura y la medicina tradicional asiática para el dolor, el cáncer y muchas otras condiciones de salud está comprobada. Los sistemas de seguro y atención de salud estadounidenses con visión de futuro apoyarán e incentivarán las visitas a los acupuntores porque los tratan de manera efectiva y son rentables.

No hay riesgo de adicción o abuso, como ocurre con los narcóticos recetados.

No hay efectos secundarios, como ocurre con muchos medicamentos recetados.

La acupuntura es el servicio médico de más rápido crecimiento en los Estados Unidos y el mundo.

Muchos equipos de la NFL utilizan los servicios de Acupuntura para ayudar a sus jugadores de fútbol a rendir al máximo y ayudar a que las lesiones cicatricen más rápido.

Los servicios de acupuntura están siendo incluidos como uno de los servicios médicos en los Juegos Olímpicos Especiales 2015 en Los Ángeles.

Los servicios de acupuntura están ayudando a hombres y mujeres militares de los EE. UU. En el campo de batalla, así como a veteranos en el hogar.

Los 5 principales centros oncológicos de los EE. UU., Clasificados por Noticias de EE. UU. Y World Report, tienen acupunturistas con licencia en el personal y financian y realizan acupuntura e investigación de medicina oriental.


Spring is Here! Practical tools

written by Austin Dixon L.Ac.

Spring is here! Even if the weather still has random wintery moments (welcome to NC), the energetic shifts that come with the season change are in full effect. So even on days when we reach for a scarf, things are changing. We tend to feel the physical and emotional changes more moving from Winter to Spring than other season changes. Spring’s energy is a bit chaotic and more noticeable than the subtle changes we experience when we transition to other seasons.

In Chinese Medicine Spring is associated with the Wood element. All the trees start to bloom and grow. We see baby animals and beautiful flowers everywhere. Everything is alive! Everything has a newness and the energy around us feels a little like a young child set free on a new playground. It can be both exhilarating and exhausting. It’s important to recognize the chaos but not get caught up in it. Take time to meditate or just sit quietly. As the weather gets warmer and the days get longer we can easily find ourselves committing to too much, saying yes to everything, resulting in getting run down quickly. Make sure to build in breaks and be conscious of overbooking. Trust me. Say no. Take some breaks and you will be able to do the stuff that really matters without burning out.

Spring is associated with the Liver and Gallbladder channels. These channels provide the body with a smooth flow of Qi which is essential to balance. Our Liver Qi has a tendency to get stagnant due to stress, overwork, and emotional upset. Needless to say, a lot of us have Liver Qi Stagnation. Liver Qi Stagnation can present as anger/irritability, headaches, stiff or painful joints, tension, excessive sighing, or issues with the eyes just to mention a few. Symptoms of Liver Qi Stagnation can be more prominent and persistent during the Spring. It is very important to move Liver Qi before it wreaks havoc on the other channels. Acupuncture, meditation, and regular exercise are great ways to move Liver Qi. Something to keep in mind while choosing an exercise routine for the Spring is that the Wood element governs the tendons and sinews (you may notice a flare up of tendonitis). Focus on exercises that are less rigorous and more stretching and strengthening like yoga, pilates, walking, swimming. Tai Qi and Qigong are also great for this time of year.

I hope this has been helpful in explaining a few of those Springtime symptoms you may be experiencing. Just like the trees we are always growing. Spring is a great time to refresh your self care routines (or finally create one) and create new health habits. Pro tips: get acupuncture, maintain regular exercise, build in breaks, and enjoy your Spring!    


For more information on the Wood Element, it’s associations, and other signs and symptoms of a Liver and Gallbladder meridian imbalance, check out our Spring 2017 blog post


Bringing Families together/Uniendo las familias

Written by Li-Lan Hsiang Weiss L.Ac.

This blog post is in English first and Spanish below.

Chinese New Year in Asia and with the Chinese diaspora is about celebrating with families and food.  This sounds like a very typical celebration across most cultures?  I love similarities across cultures.  In Taiwan, where all my family is from, the extended family comes together over the week-long celebration, special dishes are cooked that symbolize prosperity, abundance, and the bounty of the earth.

The Chinese traditions for the New Year celebration include the placement of an altar outside the front door of the house.  The altar would have incense to carry ones prayers and blessings to heaven, fresh fruit usually in orange or yellow colors to represent happiness, the ancestor’s favorite dishes, rice wine, and candies.  After the prayers and burning of incense happens, the dishes are brought in to be eating in the family meal.

Everyone would dress up to include red or new clothes and every child would receive a red envelope from the adults.  The red envelope would have money that is meant to be kept and blessed in a special place in the house to bring health, blessings, and abundance to the child.

Since I rarely get to celebrate Chinese New Year with my parents and family in Taiwan, I still wanted to have the family energy at Armonia Health this year, and rather than just have a party, it felt good to me to give back to the children.

So I set up an altar to honor my grandparents, coincidentally picked yellow foods (mandarin oranges, goldfish crackers, caramel candy, and apple juice pomegranate punch), I borrowed toys from my friends of the 12 Chinese zodiac animals and placed them around the lobby, I printed the 12 animals for coloring, and a year chart so the families could learn about their zodiac animal while I gave “Healthy Child” Chinese pediatric massages, showed it to the parents and gave acupuncture for the teenagers.  I ended their session with giving them their red envelope.  It was sweet to see the children light up with a big smile when they saw the money bill inside and I loved explaining to the family the tradition of keeping it in a special place as a reminder of wishing happiness and best wishes for the child, it’s like practice of positive intention.

I saw about 30 children from 10-3 pm and while I treated the children in the community room, my husband Alex popped in as a wandering minstrel and brought music to add to the festive event. It was so much fun to have Armonia Health full of families and children!   The most common presentations that I saw were:  tight breathing, anxiety, tummy aches, joint injuries, asthma; all very treatable with either pediatric massage or acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas.  It was nice to see the relaxation that everyone experienced who had never had massage before, it’s such a good learning experience to FEEL what it’s like to relax through a body-based therapy.  Our acupuncturists do see children under 18 in community acupuncture and privately and the prices are less than for adults.  We would be happy to attend to your children.

Below are pictures of our event.  Enjoy!













Las tradiciones chinas para la celebración del Año Nuevo incluyen la colocación de un altar afuera de la puerta principal de la casa. El altar tendría incienso para llevar las oraciones y bendiciones al cielo, frutas frescas generalmente en colores naranja o amarillo para representar la felicidad, los platos favoritos de los antepasados, el vino de arroz y los dulces. Después de que las oraciones y la quema del incienso suceden, los platos de comida en altar se comen.

Todos se visten de rojo para atraer la calidez humana, la energía Yang y la alegría y cada niño recibe un sobre rojo de los adultos. El sobre rojo tiene dinero que debe guardarse y bendecirse en un lugar especial de la casa para traer salud, bendiciones y abundancia al niño/a.

Como rara vez llego a celebrar el Año Nuevo chino con mis padres y mi familia en Taiwán, todavía quería tener la energía familiar en Armonia Health este año, y en lugar de simplemente tener una fiesta, me sentí mejor ayudando a los niños .

Así que preparé un altar para honrar a mis abuelos, casualmente recogí alimentos anaranjados (mandarinas, galletas de peces dorados, caramelos y ponche de manzana), pedí juguetes prestados a mis amigos de los 12 animales del zodiaco chino y los coloqué alrededor de nuestra sala de espera , imprimí los 12 animales para colorear y una lista de los años de los 12 animales zodiacal para que las familias pudieran aprender sobre su animal zodiacal mientras yo daba masajes pediátricos chinos, se lo enseñaba a los padres y les daba acupuntura a los adolescentes. Terminé su sesión con darles su sobre rojo. Fue agradable ver a los niños iluminarse con una gran sonrisa cuando vieron el dinero dentro del sobre y me encantó explicar a la familia la tradición de guardarlo en un lugar especial como un recordatorio de desear la felicidad y los mejores deseos para el niño/a, es como práctica de intención positiva.

Vi a unos 30 niños de 10 a 3 p.m. y mientras yo daba las sesiones, mi esposo Alex llego y entretuvo a las familias con musica folklorica de Latino America y Estados Unidos. ¡Fue muy divertido tener a Armonia llena de familias y niñ@s! Las presentaciones más comunes que vi fueron: respiración apretada, ansiedad, dolores de estómago, dolor en las articulaciones y asma.  Todas estas condiciones son muy tratables con masaje pediátrico o acupuntura y fórmulas herbales chinas. Fue agradable ver la relajación que tuvieron los que nunca antes habían tenido masajes, es una buena experiencia de aprendizaje SENTIR lo que es relajarse a través de una terapia corporal. Nuestros acupunturistas ven menores de 18 años en acupuntura comunitaria y en sesiones privadas y los precios son menos que para adultos. Estaremos encantados de atender a sus hijos.

Year of the Dog Forecast

written by Austin Dixon L.Ac., PDF of Lillian Bridges’ forecast at the bottom, cartoon YouTube music video for Chinese New Year

I love the new year. It is the perfect time for reflection and new intentions as well as cleaning up and cleaning out. I love getting rid of what no longer serves a purpose in my life and freeing up some space for newness and change. This process is not always easy but there is beauty in the struggle and always an opportunity to learn something new. However, the expectation that we change our behaviors immediately and sometimes drastically is unrealistic without easing into it or doing some serious planning. That is why I consider the first few months of the year as my time to ease into my new habits and intentions. It is nice that the Chinese New Year comes anywhere between a few weeks to a month and a half after the Gregorian calendar celebrates the New Year. Though I am not Chinese, I enjoy learning about other cultures and their approach to the new year and self improvement. It is an additional time to reflect, learn, and fine tune my intentions.

According to the lunar calendar the Chinese New Year begins February 16, 2018 and lasts until February 4, 2019. Each year is associated with a zodiac animal; this year is the year of the Dog. The year of the Dog comes every 12 years. The years are also associated with the five elements, Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire. This year is the year of the Earth Dog. The Earth Dog comes around every 60 years. Though it is considered bad luck if the zodiac animal of the year is the same as the year you were born in, a little heads up can help you be aware and possibly aid in some decision making. I am just going to skim the surface on this topic. You can definitely go deeper into the subject if you desire. At the very least these predictions can be entertaining and give you something to consider when setting new intentions for the new year.

The characteristics of people born in the dog years are said to have some of the most desirable human qualities. They are loyal, honest, amiable, and kind. They don’t need much in the way of material things and are happy with the basics, food, shelter, water, and a little love. They work hard and rest hard, a nice balance of yang and yin energy. On the flip side, they can be stubborn, self surviving, and have a brutal bite.

The year of the Dog is predicted to be good for business and technology and a great time to make lifestyle changes.  It is said that this year is a perfect time to start a new business or start learning something new. Health might be a bit more challenging for folks so it seems that this is a great time to focus on eating a balanced diet, limiting sugar, getting lots of sleep, and exercise. Dogs like to work hard, play hard, and rest hard. It will be extra important to rest and rejuvenate after work and social events.  Unfortunately, the year of the Dog may bring political turmoil (shocking). I don’t think anyone is surprised by this. Our current president is a dog.

I hope this post has given you something to think about and inspired you to get rid of something (physical or emotional), set a new intention, or motivated you to put your health at the top of the To Do List. Happy New Year, y’all!               Austin

For your entertainment and reflection: PDF file of Lillian Bridges’ Year of the Earth Dog 2018 forecast for health, relationships, businesses, realty investments, farmers, and your zodiac sign inclinations for the year:  Year of the Dog Forecast

Cute 4 minute music video for your children and to learn mandarin Chinese: Happy Chinese New Year Badanamu compilation

For pictures and blog of our Chinese New Year celebration at Armonia Health LLC on 2/10/2018: Bringing Families Together/Uniendo las familias

The Holidays and Mindfulness

From your friendly acupuncturists,  Austin & Li-Lan

The holiday season is here and in full swing. While all of us might not celebrate Christmas this time of the year we can’t help but be affected by them. This is when schedules get filled with social events (both wanted and unwanted), lots of money is spent, food and drink flow, and expectations are high. No matter how much you love or hate the holidays it is filled with extreme highs and lows. So how do we balance out those extremes? We have a couple thoughts….

Stop making the holidays about gifts. There are so many other beautiful ways to spend your energy. Get creative and do things that feel meaningful to you. Examples…

-volunteer (there are tons of places looking for help….soup kitchen, public school, tutoring, local non-profits, arts organizations)

-have an experience instead of a gift (get together and do something!)

-write holiday cards to folks that don’t get a lot of attention during the holidays (folks in nursing homes, overseas, jail, the hospital, etc…), or write longer meaningful cards dedicated to that person/family.  

-deliver treats (food, cards, etc)  to folks who have to work on holidays (fire stations, hospitals, police stations, grocery stores….) or share some extra gratitude and smile to those that work on the holidays.

Take care of yourself (and I don’t mean by spending money!).

-go to bed early

-eat cooked foods and avoid raw, cold foods

-take Epsom salt baths if you can, enjoy a warm shower with a drop of 100% pure essential oil in your wash cloth, or enjoy a nice cup of tea

-drink extra filtered water (refill from the local co-op rather than buying bottled water)

-avoid sugar to the best of your ability or use it in moderation,  low glycemic sweetener like coconut sugar or agave is a compromise

-spend a little time outside even though it is cold, nature can always provide interesting insights when you look closely

-exercise (even 5 minutes is better than 0 minutes), jump rope, move joyfully

-say no when you don’t want to do something and don’t feel guilty about it

-spend time looking inward and reflecting on the year, like give yourself a day of silence

-stretch daily (set a timer to remind yourself to take stretch breaks or stretch your neck and shoulders while reading this blog! =)

-honor your well-being, if you have the means, schedule acupuncture, massage, or a fun class for yourself.  There is now community acupuncture several times per week at Armonia Health LLC and you can find sliding scale community acupuncture and bodywork in our Triangle area.  

  Stop feeling guilty about what you eat. Even though I think sugar is kin to the devil, I truly believe the hateful things we say to ourselves are more damaging. It is really hard to avoid eating foods we view as “bad” over the holidays. Instead of beating ourselves up about it let’s focus on moderation (or not… go to town on that pie!) and use gratitude instead of shame. “I am going to eat this cookie that was made for me out of love.” “I am going to eat this cake in celebration of ________.” Our minds are powerful, let’s not let a cookie destroy our well being.  If too much sugar really doesn’t do well for you, really savor that ONE bite, take it slow and find “sweetness” in your life in other ways.

Do your best to stay in the moment. When the To Do List is long and the days are short it can feel overwhelming and stress gets elevated. Try to stay in the moment by making a gratitude list. You can do this with pen and paper as a daily ritual or simply stop in the moment of frustration and mentally list 5 things you are grateful for. I find that a gratitude list can also be helpful when preparing yourself for visits with challenging family members or co-workers. Since contact is inevitable over the holidays, prepare for the interaction by making a list of their positive qualities and/or ways that your life is possible and/or improved because of this person. Even if this list is short (sometimes very, very short) it can be a useful way to put yourself in a good place before entering a stressful social situation. 

And if you have a TO DO list, maybe you can reflect on whether so much needs to be accomplished in one day or are all those things on the list necessary?  What is most important and a priority for the day, the week, the month?

Keep practicing discernment, your whole BEING will be grateful in the long run. 

We hope you found this post helpful in some way and can have a few more relaxing and gratitude filled moments this holiday season. As acupuncturists,  we find it important to write something that might help folks through the holiday stress.   Not everyone can do all that is listed in this blog.   However, every bit of mindfulness helps, so implement what you can. 

Your friendly acupuncturists,

Austin & Li-Lan

Cleaning Out and Letting Go

by Austin Dixon, Licensed Acupuncturist

In Chinese Medicine the seasons play an important role in our health and wellbeing. Our body and mind is better when we eat seasonally appropriate food, wear seasonally appropriate clothing, and follow sleeping patterns that correspond to the rising and setting of the sun. There are certain energies or emotions that are connected with the seasons that can often explain why people feel certain ways during a particular season or seem to experience a recurring issue at the same time each year. Since the temperature is finally starting to give us a break here in North Carolina and the leaves are changing, I am going to focus on Fall.


Fall is the season that is connected to the Metal element and Lung and Large Intestine in Chinese Medicine. When the energy of Metal is strong you are able to let go of the things that no longer serve you and hold on to what does. Think about animals storing up for the winter. There is no space for unnecessary items. Fall is the perfect time to reflect on how the year has been progressing, recognize what is working for you and what isn’t, and to begin to let go of what you no longer need.


Sounds easy, right? Ha!


Letting go can feel so overwhelming and borderline impossible to many (most) people. Our new age friends might throw around the phrase “just let it go” as if this was a simple task equivalent to tossing an empty Kombucha bottle into the recycling bin at Whole Foods. Don’t let them fool you. Letting go is hard. Like, real hard. I am not one who shies away from change, but even typing about letting go has my palms sweating. So, let’s get real and talk about what this looks like for those of us who may want to hold on to our Kombucha bottle (I could totally use this for something!).

Mindfulness practices go a long way. We are all different and finding the right one for you can be life changing. If meditation or mindfulness is new to you there are plenty of resources at your fingertips. Literally. There are tons of apps and podcasts about mindfulness, as well as books and classes in your community. Li-Lan is working on incorporating mindfulness and Qi gong workshops to Armonia Health in 2018, one to stay tuned to is Tones for your Bones:  Embodying the Chinese Five Elements with Live Music.  I also highly recommend therapy. I know some great therapist in Durham if anyone needs a recommendation. 

Another technique I firmly believe helps nourish our Metal energy is cleaning out. I truly believe everyone can benefit from de-cluttering, both physically and mentally. Some folks have more clutter than others, but we all have something we can let go of. De-cluttering your home or work space is a great exercise in sorting and examining what you actually need. It can be hard to figure out what we need to let go of emotionally.  Learning to de-clutter and let go of physical things will give you more skills when it comes to doing the same with emotions and mental baggage.


When the energy of the Metal element is not on point it is hard for us to realize we have too much stuff and even harder for us to let go of any of it. So. Let’s start small.

Start with a drawer. Or a closet if you are feeling bold. Or a whole room if you are really ready to get your Metal element in good shape. No matter how much you are trying to tackle make four piles. The first three piles are easy-ish: Keep, Trash, Give Away. Pile four is a little harder. Every time we start going through old stuff we always find something that “Oh my god, I totally forgot about this and I love it so much and I will use it all the time now that I remember it.” These items get their own pile. Since the first three piles are pretty instructive when it comes to the next step (keep, trash, or give away) we will focus on pile four. It is best to keep this pile small. If these items are from a drawer they should fit into a ziplock bag. If these items are from a closet or room try to keep them limited to one box. Give yourself two months to use these items. Mark your calendar and go about your life. When your calendar lets you know that two months have passed, reflect on what you have actually used out of that box. If you have not used anything from your OMG-I-LOVE-THIS box, it is all packed up and ready to be donated. Easy-peasy. If you have used these items then you know that they are truly important to you.

I find it most helpful to do this every couple of months. Once you start cleaning out on the regular it not be so overwhelming and you are giving your Metal energy a little tune up on the regular.




I hope this helps. Please remember that the energy of Fall is different than Summer. You are supposed to slow down, reflect, let go, sleep when you are tired (this means go to bed earlier) and eat warm, nourishing foods.

Happy Fall Everyone!

How friendly are your Head, Heart, and Gut?

I have noticed over the years of practicing acupuncture and sharing the wisdom of Chinese medicine and teaching the Arvigo Techniques Self Care and introductory classes, that I have enjoyed creating a bridge between the wisdom of ancient traditions and modern science.  I have noticed that it is more accessible for English speaking people to understand what is happening in their bodies if I bring in anatomy, physiology, and principles of functional medicine.  As for the psycho-emotional aspect of health, Chinese medicine has an a relationship oriented approach that offers much food-for-thought, the cartoon at the end of this blog is a perfect example.

One of the most exciting aspects about modern research is the connection between the brain and the gut.  The gut is generally considered the Second Brain, the brain being the first, but when I learned that 90% of nervous system signals travel through the vagus nerve in the gut, passes and innervates the heart, and THEN TO the brain, I have started to call the gut The First Brain.  Imagine if we all learned as children that what we felt in our bellies is the most important part of our self awareness and to love our bellies and nurture its intelligence rather than just focus on IQ and cognitive/didactive performance?  How different may we have developed into adults?

This aspect of the gut being a central system of the body is parallel to the Spleen/Stomach organ systems and the Earth Element being part of the “Mother of all Elements”.  For more information on the Earth element, digestion, and the Spleen from Chinese medicine perspective, visit a previous post I wrote The Mother of all Elements

In this blog I’d like to present some practical approaches taken from mindfulness approaches that will help with making wiser choices by tuning into your Head-Heart-Gut connection.  Mrs. Mindfulness, Mellie O’Brien, has put together a visual, didactic, and audio meditation that is based on this principle that technology and neuroscience has now discovered and proven:  We have three brains, the head brain, heart brain, and gut brain. 

Below are the steps of this meditation:

Any time you’re at a decision point you can use this mini-meditation to respond (and not react) to what is arising with wisdom and intelligence, making more mindful choices leading to a fuller happier more authentic life.

Step 1: Take three deep slow conscious breaths as a way of gathering your awareness to the present moment.

Step 2: Bring your awareness to your head
With your awareness in the head acknowledge what kind of thoughts are present in relation to the current situation.

Step 3: Drop awareness down to the heart
Place a hand over the heart and take a moment to attend to what values you have in this situation, what you care about and what your deepest intention is.

Step 4: Drop awareness down to the gut
Place a hand over the abdomen. Tune into any hunches, intuitions or emotions that are present in relation to the current situation.

Step 5: Collect all this information
Take one deep slow conscious breath in and out as you have a sense of collecting all this information from the body and mind. Then mentally ask yourself this question “what shall I do now?” Listen for the answer.

The Head-Heart-Gut Check meditation can be done in as little as 30 seconds when you need to make a quick decision or you can do a longer version that takes up to five minutes when you have more time. This simple powerful mini meditation will help you make more mindful decisions and will be an ally in times when you need mindfulness the most. May it serve you well!

Her full blog post is and her recorded meditation is on our YouTube channel under Meditations: Head-Heart-Gut check in with Mellie O’Brien

Let me know if this resonates with you by commenting below!  And if you have any questions about how Chinese medicine relates to this connection.

I’ll leave you with the following cartoon from The Awkward Yeti, the brain is on the left, the gut in the middle, the heart on the right.  It’s so perfect for another blog post on Chinese medicine…