Many online resources offer easy access to articles from experts in medical fields. But how do we find out more about alternative methods of treatment, those that don’t require pharmaceuticals or surgery?
I’ve always wanted to learn more about acupuncture so I was delighted to get a call from Raphel Labelson, an acupuncturist who works with Access Physical Therapy & Wellness in Armonk. He was personable, easy to talk to, and happy to introduce me to the treatment process. He asked many questions about my general health, diet, and other issues I might be experiencing.
“How about stress?” he asked.
“Who doesn’t feel stressed today?” I responded. He determined that I would benefit from an energy treatment.
Typically, ten sessions are a single treatment course, depending on the reason for your visit. According to Labelson, if you have headaches, you’ll leave without a headache; if you have constipation, within a day or so you’ll find relief; if you have sinus pain, your sinuses will open before you leave. For muscle tension in your neck, the practitioner will stick needles there and relax it a little bit. But, he advises the issue might return soon because of your daily biomechanics, such as tilting your head down while reading, or clenching or grinding your teeth at night.
Labelson offered key suggestions for those who may spend too much time at a desk:
• Keep the computer screen at eye level to avoid looking down and hunching over.
• To avoid pain and stiffness, feet should be flat on the ground, use a large phone book if necessary.
• To set the best posture position for sitting, turn your palms so they are facing in front you-- your shoulder (scapula) blades will contract and give you better posture. Then just turn your hands back normally and you will be sitting less hunched.
Labelson offers other tips for common issues:
• For lower back pain, put a golf ball behind your knee and squeeze it. This will apply acupressure and should relieve some of your lower back pain.
• Always breath from your diaphragm. Think of energy as traveling all the way up your spine, coming out of the top of your head. As you exhale, breathe slowly out of your nose and store the breath an inch and half below your belly button, where your adrenal glands are located and you preserve your energy. Do this three minutes a day, as a way to relax, especially if you can’t fall asleep. Increase the time to five minutes, then eight minutes. Think of the energy flow going up and down your body in sequence and increase it as long as you want. It’s a healthy way to preserve your chi, energy.
• You can use a jade roller to massage your face every night and morning.
• To help clean your skin on your face, use pearl cream. This is popular in China. You can also dissolve granular crushed pearl under the tongue. As it dissolves, it goes into your body internally.
• Tap your head to reduce hair loss
Labelson notes that the demand is growing for acupuncture as it becomes more mainstream and people want to move away from traditional medicine. “This is a way for your body to heal without taking narcotics or pills.” He usually combines acupuncture with massage depending on the patient’s needs. “If you have elbow pain, we’ll stick needles in your elbow and do a little massage on your neck or back. If there’s pain, there’s stagnation. If there’s stagnation, there’s pain. The chi and blood aren’t flowing smoothly. Sticking a needle in locally will open up the channel to get the chi and blood to flow better.”
My acupuncture energy treatment began with three half-inch stainless steel needles with finely tapered points inserted into the top of my scalp, running under the skin. Labelson warned that I might feel a little pinch, then a dull pressure, and numbing sensation, but there was no feeling of pain. More needles an inch long, set about 1/4 inch in, were placed in my abdomen, feet and hands.
The needles were stimulated by twisting them back and forth, tonifying the energy up and down. The treatment lasted about 20 to 25 minutes. When the needles came out, I felt relaxed and there were no restrictions or side effects.
Labelson also uses aromatherapy for relaxation as this helps with the spirit.
If we were addressing pain for the lower back, Labelson explained, the needles cause a little bit of micro trauma in the muscle and connective tissue. That sends a signal to the brain to bring blood to the area. Blood brings along oxygen, nutrients, and t-cells that help clean out toxins and release endorphins, a natural pain killer. This helps to reduce inflammation and enables the body heal itself naturally without any medication.
Labelson attended the University of Delaware as a biology major. He attended South Baylor University in Anaheim, California for a three-year Masters of Science in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. He graduated in 2000 and has been practicing for 14 years.
Recently, he traveled to Shanghai China where he studied at Longhua Hospital Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), known as one of the oldest TCM clinical centers in China. He spent three hours in daily clinics following different doctors on rounds; some for pain, some for oncology, digestion, gynecology, and at night he attended two hours of lectures.
For pain, the Chinese use acupuncture, electric stimulation, and Chinese massage. Herbs are used to increase immunity for cancer patients along with cupping -- in which cups are placed on the skin to bring toxins to the surface. This helps with neck pain and back pain as well.
Labelson also sees a lot of neck and back pain in White Plains’ Spine Options where he works with Dr. Bradley Cash. Labelson treats clients there for a variety of issues including: colds, sinuses, headaches, tennis elbow, back pain, infertility, constipation, cough, depression, and stress.
Labelson also offers some nutritional tips:
• Dairy is phlegm forming with a lot of hormones, buy organic.
• Warm water with lemon is the best to drink for detoxification of the body.
• For a dry cough, have an Asian pear which moistens the lungs.
• The fall season is a dry season when people get dry skin; increase your water intake, eat pears and apples, they are moistening.
• Going into the winter, you want to eat spicier foods, stews and roasted foods for warming. In winter you want heavy thick foods that are braised and stewed. These take a long time to cook and warm you up in the winter.
• He does not advise eating a raw food diet. because the spleen and stomach like foods to be neutral and bland. Stay with stir frying, steaming, or roasting rather than eating raw foods.
• In the summer, he recommends watermelon and bitter melons, and other foods that are moistening.
Labelson is in Armonk on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and in White Plains on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. You can reach him at Access PT at (914) 273-9100.