Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Only Medical Skill Is Not Enough (You Need to Get Familiar with Where You Live)

A Chinese patient who was more than eighty years old was escorted to my office by his son-in-law to seek medical help. I have known his son for almost thirty years, since the time I was practicing acupuncture without a license. After comforting each other, the senior citizen began to tell me that he knew a TCM doctor in China who was known nation-wide; he had also traveled 100 miles to see a Chinese doctor in San Jose, as well as a former associate professor of TCM in China in San Francisco. After listening, my eyebrows frowned, and I worried about what could I do for him even though I believed in my skill.

He complained he felt dizzy and his face looked pale and you could see he could not walk steadily. He told me the doctors he saw were good, but results were slow and as he talked to me, I could smell that he ate much meat and he could not digest his food completely. As I was taking his pulse I could feel it was over-active and I saw that his tongue was pale.

After I finished the TCM examination, I began to drain his body with the warming method. Why drain the body? Because his body’s constitution was cold. After treating him a few times, he was feeling somewhat better. I told him, “From your pulse, I can tell you eat much rich food.” He answered, “I feel weak, so how can I not eat good food?.” Sometimes, he told me, “I feel a little better but I am still feeling dizzy.” I said, “Don’t eat too much meat and too much rich food at the same time.”

One day, he came for treatment, and his step was not stable. His face not only looked pale, but also it had some dark green color along the nose. That sign alerted me to a condition of ‘liver wind,’ a condition which could cause a stroke if I was not able to cleanse his liver which was suffering as a result of his eating too much good food. I had to tell him again and again, “From your complexion and your pulse, you have had too much good food. You have to cut down.” He listened and looked at me with some doubt, “But if I don’t eat good food, I may get even weaker.” I said, “Your pulse is over-acting which means your pulse is getting narrower.” I know that it is not easy for most of the senior citizens to change their minds. It is not even easy for me to get young patients to change their habits and thoughts which have been passed on from generation to generation, but I have more then enough patience to deal with my patients. I have them change their habits step by step.

I told my patient not to sit down and watch TV after a meal, but to do some light physical work such as washing dishes or sweeping floors or taking a nice walk, and I suggested eating dinner earlier, thereby allowing the body to digest the food for several hours before sleep. I also suggested drinking some tea after a meal (about two to three hours later). You can get the best benefit if you eat and drink tea at the same time because it will make the stomach acid thinner. By following all of these procedures, my old friend’s father-in-law began to feel really better. He cut down on the amount of meat he ate, and he picked up some more confidence and began to believe even with less meat and good food he could get much better, even in his old age. He realized that in fact, other doctors’ diagnosis and treatment was correct, but they just had not realized that in America, the people’s food is too rich to digest.

As he began feeling better, I talked with him about contemporary knowledge. I also told him that in fact, modern science is in accordance with ancient science. Ancient TCM tells us not to eat too much salt and not eat too much fat. Modern science says that too much salt is a burden on the kidneys, and that your body cannot handle too much fat. Your body cells will change to an abnormal condition. With understanding and results, he was happy to co-operate with me. His pulse improved and became less wiry. The pale color on his face and the green-blue color around his nose became lighter. He secretly told me that the reason he ate too much meat and too much good food was because his son-in-law worked in a well-known restaurant in which many kinds of food could not be kept over night, so his son-in-law would bring it home for him to enjoy. I joked with him: “People give food, and you give your life.” He responded by laughing. He promised not to eat too much in order to have good health. I joked with him: “If you mop your floor everyday, you can have some more dessert. If you do the hard labor work in your back yard, you can have some more good food.” He laughed.

Feeling Dizzy Doesn't Always Mean Weakness

A 34-year old expectant mother of Asian decent told me she felt dizzy frequently but she was having no other symptom; she thought it was a matter of weakness. She came in for a consultation, and after taking her pulse I told her that she had flu. She almost yelled, “How come I don’t have flu symptoms?” I responded to her, “In TCM, we say that before you become physically ill, your pulse is ill first.” She almost yelled, “I have no body aches, no sore throat, no fever.” I said, “Because your body’s defensive power has been able to handle the virus. Now after fighting fiercely, the virus and defensive cells are dead, and they are filling up your blood system, just as in a field of war, where many fighters have died by a river, their bodies can stop the water’s flow. Your body is continuously dispatching cells like soldiers to defend your body, that’s why your pulse is rapid and floating (about running from 88 – 100/p/m). The body’s defensive power did not let the enemy go deeper; the fighting was concentrated on the exterior part of the body.

So, I comforted her, and I was ready to prescribe some herbs for her when she stopped me and asked a question, “Will the herb have side effects for my baby?” I said, “No, don’t worry!” Then she said, “You told me I have a virus. Are you going to kill the virus for me? And will it affect my body?” I replied, “’Killing the virus’ is how modern medical language speaks about it. In the language of TCM, however, I tell you that I need to clear up the heat for you and detoxify you. The herb I will prescribe is very common, and it has been proven to be safe for pregnant women since the Ching Dynasty. What year is it now?” She said, “2001!” But she still had to ask one more time, “The thing is, the herb is common, so how come it can get rid of my problem?” I said, “When patients get sick, I can help them get better. This is the value of TCM ~ if you know the cause of problem, you can get better.”

Eight Years of Suffering Without a Diagnosis

A patient just came back from L.A., telling me after seeing me the last time she was not feeling well enough to go, but still she drove to L.A. where she saw a medical doctor who gave her an antibiotic that she had finished; she said it helped.

After I listened to her story, I conducted a TCM examination for her. I told her that the last time I saw her I treated her for flu, even though most people would not call it that because there was no chill, no fever, no coughing, no aches, but only a little thirst. In this case, we called the light type ‘wind heat,’ and she caught the wind heat forty days ago. Her primary doctor also knew that her lung had something wrong.

I inserted two needles in her hands which would help liberate the exterior part of her body and create more liquid for her and also unblock the ear meridian on her left side, which was the old problem and which now came out again when her body was weak. After awhile, my patient’s ear felt better and her mouth was not as dry, and her mind became clear again. This patient had no doubt about my judgment because I had helped her settle the major problem from which she had suffered for eight years without being able to get a specific diagnosis.

She asked me: “How come I still get sick even though my body is getting well and feels much stronger?” I responded to her by telling about one of my cases: “I had a patient who came in one very cold day, but she was dressed in summer clothes. She looked very healthy, and her face was red. I felt cold just seeing her dressed in summer clothes, and I knew this patient was in a severe way. I managed to help her and eventually she got better with many treatments; she was able to dress normally.

One day she had a flu, and she asked me how come when she was dressed lightly in the cold weather she did not get the flu, but now with warm clothing in the cold weather, she had caught a cold. I let her know that when she was sick her body really struggled to keep her going, because her problem was life-threatening. At that time her lungs were over-heated, probably her body was in curfew condition, and the germs could not grow because the lungs were overheated, but when she began to get better, the brain and central nervous system began to slow down and take a break, and the body was taking a rest, the lung function became more normal and not over heated, so some germs caught her.” I also told her that a very experienced medical doctor told us that when a major contradiction is solved, another contradiction can come out. My patient tried to accept my explanation.

I gave an example from the ancient medical records: “A female patient in extremely cold weather put her feet in ice water and did not feel cold. She died the next day.” According to the ancient medical book, when a patient has a lung deficiency and there is not enough liquid their faces look as red as make-up.

My patient began to understand my story, and continued to get better, but one day she felt awful, frustrated and doubted the improvement. I explained to her that her pulse was better, her tongue looked better, but the fact is that she was not feeling better at that time, so how could she accept the fact that she was improving? I gave her an example:

A man had been unemployed for many years. Suddenly he got a job, so he was overjoyed and bought bottles of Coke, 7-Up, corn chips, etc. His wife and kids were overjoyed and were jumping around.

I said, “When I first treated you, your body suddenly responded and you felt much easier.” I continued, “When the man received the next check, he did not buy Coke, 7-Up, corn chips, etc., because the landlord wanted the rent, his sister and brother wanted their loans paid back, so he felt frustrated because once again he had no money.”

I told my patient, “Your internal organs were weak and empty, so when you major problem settled, the internal organs took all the essence from the herbs to repair their major problem.” By then my patient could understand the body processing and she understood that she had to be patient in order for her body to continue to heal.

One day she came in and was looking much better, but she felt that the left side ear had some blockage. I tried to comfort her by telling her that there was still some problem from the liver meridian for which I had been treating her. Though she believed me, she still had a question and asked, “I don’t feel good around my ear, how come you insist that it is from the liver meridian?” I replied, “Before around your rib, you did not feel comfortable and you had a medical check-up which indicated nothing wrong. I told you that it is from the liver energy stagnation which showed up in your pulse and your tongue. How is your feeling in the ribs now?” She nodded and said, “Not bad!” I said, “So one day you can confirm what I said.”

After some more days, as she kept coming in for treatments, she even forgot her ear problem. Because her whole body was getting better and improving, she even looked younger.

How Come My Head Does Not Feel Cold?

A middle-aged English teacher came in with her nose running like clear water; she was also coughing and told me she had a cold. I asked her, “You are doing well, how come you caught a cold?” She replied, “I don’t know.” I paused awhile and continued to inquire: “Did you open the window while you slept?” She said, “Yes.” I asked, “Did the wind directly blow on you?” She replied, “Yes, but that is what I usually do.” I said, “Alright, but this time you probably pulled the blanket away when you felt warm. It turned cold later on, then the cold wind caught you.” She said, “Dr. Ng, I believe you, but what if I had not pushed away my blanket, could my head catch a cold then?” I answered, “Probably not.” She asked, “How come?” I laughed and said, “Good question! No wonder you are an English teacher. Very few people ask this question.” I hit the desk lightly like hitting a drum and said,

“Because the six yang meridians which gather on the head like a sun can create much heat for you.”

She laughed and coughed. I laughed and said, “This time you cough not because of cold, but because you are choking from laughing.” Suddenly this excellent teacher began to have a glimpse of TCM as I completed taking her pulse, which was tight and tended to float. I asked, “Do you feel chilly and have a fever?” She hesitated to reply. I explained, “Just tell me how you feel!” She said, “I just feel chilly.” I continued, “Does your mouth feel dry?” She said, “Yes.”

I pondered, “If this is so, the wind could be a hot wind. But if caught by a hot wind, then, the pulse and symptom are not consistent. Because the pulse is tight and the nose is running like water, it is a cold symptom, but then mouth should be dry. (Unless feeling dry, asking water, but not really want to drink, or only drink very little.)”

I pondered again, and asked, “Do you prefer hot or cold water?” She responded, “I drink hot water.” I asked her to let me see her tongue; it was pale and wet. I laughed again, and told her out loud, “Your mouth is feeling dry not because of wind heat.” She asked, “Why am I feeling dry then?” I said, “Because your nose is running like water, you are using up the fluid in your system. She laughed and laughed; her eyes were big, then got bigger and bigger. I continued, “I could have been cheated by your symptom.” I coughed a little, and I put my hand on my chest and said, “Now I cough because of stress from treating you. The cough arises from using much energy, and now my body struggles, and the struggle manifests as coughing.” She was amazed, “Oh, I see!”

Wind Cold Flu

An English teacher returned from Washington, D.C. and came to see me. She told me her nose was running like water. I took her pulse: it was not rapid, not floating, she did not feel chilly, and she had no fever. As I was taking the pulse, I tried to note whether or not she had a ‘tight’ pulse, which would help me to make a diagnosis as ‘Wind Cold.’ As it turned out the pulse was tight. (If the pulse was not tight I would have to re-establish my judgment.) I put one needle in her joint valley and one needle in her forehead between her eyebrows. In about 15 minutes she felt better.

I also gave her herb tea to drink. As she was drinking, she began to feel warmer, and the running nose stopped and she felt better. She asked me, “Is this a flu?” I replied, “There are many kinds of flu, but what you have is different. We call it “Wind Cold” because your pulse is very tight and you have a running nose. The nature of the herbs is to warm up your body and make you feel better. Use your imagination: if the boiler is not hot enough, the water cannot be transformed into steam; if is not steam, it begins dripping down. In your case, your trip exhausted you, your energy ran down, and the “cold wind” caught you. Then your lungs could not function as well, and that is why you have a running nose.”

She came back for more acupuncture treatment within a few days, and by that time her Wind Cold was gone.

Rush to the Restroom, but Nothing Comes Out

An old Cantonese lady told me how she had suffered terribly for many years. She had to rush to rest room very often, but little or nothing came out. After I conducted the TCM examination for her, I told her not to worry, I would help her. She asked, “Are you going to help me purge?” I said, “No.” “Why?” she replied. I asked her, “You don’t eat much, do you?” She said, “No. I have no appetite to eat.” Then I asked, “Why purge then?” She responded, “I am really suffering, please help me.” I comforted her, “I have a program with two sections, one to help reorganize the body’s ability and the other one to help like cash to assist your problem.” She doubted and asked, “What does the ‘cash’ mean?” I said, “It will directly on your intestines for make them move.” After taking the herbal tea, she improved. She often sighed, “Too much misfortune in life.” I comforted her and said, “To avoid mishaps, activate compassion towards people and animals.”

When she was much improved, she asked me, “What really happened to me? I said, “Probably in past years you worked so hard and worried too much. This combination of work and worry consumed your energy. The worrying damaged your lungs, which in TCM is the upper river of your body. When the upper river has a problem, then the lower river, which in TCM is your large intestine, gets affected.” I added, “If you are not working too hard, and you have a happy family, your body can probably replace the energy.” She fixed her gaze on me for a long time; she seemed to be recalling her past. She said, “Worrying damages the lungs…this is the TCM theory, or your experience?” I replied, “Both.” She went on, “If I just work hard, my body can compensate?” I replied, “With certain limits.” She kept on going, “How can I not worry too much?” I said, “Why worry that much when you don’t even know what will happen tomorrow?” But she still did not quite understand. I added, “You worry, and the days pass by. If you don’t worry, still, the days pass by. Of what possible use, then, is so much worry?” She laughed and finally understood.

Same Results but Different Explanations

A woman who dressed star-like brought her friend in for acupuncture treatments. Each time, the star-like dressed lady dropped her friend off in front of the clinic, then she parked and walked in for acupuncture treatments.

After a period of treatments, the star-like dressed lady asked me, “Joseph, how is my friend doing?” I replied, “She is getting some improvement.” She replied, “But she told me she there was no improvement.” This conversation kept resurfacing, and I became increasingly puzzled.

One day I talked to the patient in the treatment room. “What is the percentage of your improvement?” She replied, “Around 60% to 80% better.” Then I talked to the star-like dressed lady and she said, “My friend said she’s had no improvement.” I became upset and said, “I am going to ask her in front of you.” So, when her friend came out from the treatment room, I asked her what is the percentage of her improvement? The patient said, “Probably 40% improvement.”

Do you want to know the answer to this contradictory situation? By telling her friend she is not improving, she is certain to get a ride to the doctor’s office!

Scientific Approval Wanted

A retired airline employee had just finished his prescription from his medical doctor; he had been suffering from pneumonia. He told me that he had fallen off a bicycle and this accident had weakened his body. Also, his lungs still had residue from the infection but his doctor, feeling his pneumonia had been cured, had stopped giving him medicine. The man felt very tired and his face was too red.

When I tried to take his pulse, I could feel that his palm and hands were sticky -- like touching oil. I said, “Your brakes are leaking fluid.” He asked, “Yeah? Why? I didn’t know that; I thought it was normal.” I said, “You are consuming your energy. In modern science terms, your nervous system is not strong enough to control, and in TCM terms your lung function is not strong enough. From the TCM point of view, the lung is in charge of skin and hair.” He replied with eyes wide open, “I see.”

After some treatments, his palms and hands were better. I reminded him, “I fixed your brakes already.” He said: “You are a good mechanic.” I said, “I work for a Cadillac dealer.” He laughed. As he took more treatments from me, his tiredness diminished. He told me that he had been working hard for thirty years; after he retired, he did not have the energy to enjoy his life though financially he had no problem. I told him, “I treated a computer company manager who felt exhausted after the first day of his resignation. His back felt sharp pain, and he felt pain in every inch of his arm and shoulder.” He said, ”What happened to the manager?” I said, “He worked too hard. He over-used his energy, like someone shopping with a credit card who doesn’t realize that they are over the limit, and then they cannot afford to pay.”

After some more treatments, he asked me if I also took care of the pneumonia problem for him. I said, “Yes.” He said, “Did you kill the germs for me?” I responded, “I don’t think about that.” He said: “If I still have germs and you don’t kill them, how can I get well?” I said, “That’s what you come here for.” He responded, “I don’t understand.” I asked him, “Can you guarantee that I don’t have germs in my lungs?” He responded, “No! I cannot.” I continued, “What if I have some?” He said, “Maybe you do, I don’t know.” I said, “Germs are in the air, but if you are strong and do not work hard, that germ cannot catch you. Now I have made you much stronger and you get enough rest. Can the germ catch you?” He replied, “Probably not.” But I understood what he was worried about, and I wanted him to feel completely comfortable so we made an appointment for him to have an X-ray taken. After the X-ray was taken, the M.D. told him his lungs were clear and the test was negative.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

To Learn Widely and Listen Broadly

A psychotherapist was afraid he had contracted a virus from one of his patients who had the flu. He came in and said, “I have to work very hard. I am afraid I have some bug in my chest, and I can’t afford to be sick because I am going to have my Ph.D. exam.” His face looked a very pale. I asked, “Does your mouth feel dry?” He said, “No.” I continued to ask, “What is the color of your mucus?” He replied, “A little green.”

I began to take his pulse, but it was difficult for me to tell whether is was ‘tight’ or ‘wiry’. (You know how you feel but it is difficult to define*). Eventually I felt a little sleepy so I took a break. I took the pulse again, and after struggling, I determined his pulse was ‘tight’. I asked, “Do you feel chilly or have a fever?” He answered, “I feel a little chilly.” I said, “Your pulse is ‘tight,’ and he asked, “What does that mean?” I explained: “Well, as you know, hot expands, and cold shrinks. Your lungs breathe in cold air and when the body is not able to regulate the cold air properly it tries to protect your lungs and shuts down some passages to protect the lung.”

He asked, “So, what are you going to do for me?” I said, “Let me take a look at your tongue.” He extended his tongue which, if normal, has a somewhat white coating, but in this case the coating was not enough. As he was an old patient of mine, I joked with him: “I will increase your gall-bladder qi at this moment.” (In this instance qi means courage.) He did not understand what I meant. I said again, “You are now afraid to do anything because the energy in your chest is not enough and you hesitate to do what you want to do.” He said, “You are right!” I explained to him in Chinese medical language that if your gall bladder is powerful enough, you can be brave. Now you don’t have enough energy in your lungs. This affects your heart, and when your heart is weak, that will make your gall bladder activity weak also, then it will affect your courage. He said he understood what I told him, but I told him that it would take time to understand. He said suddenly, “Dr. Ng, I don’t have much mucus and maybe the color is not green.” I said, “The nature of your problem is insufficient warmth. Unless you have much yellow and green mucus, your mucus being yellow will not affect my judgment. I know what to do.” He knew he would get better, but he asked yet another question, “Dr. Ng, what is the secret of judging properly?” I answered, “Your have to learn widely and listen broadly.”

A few days later, he came in with a smile and no flu symptoms. He had the courage to do the right things he needed to do. He asked, “How is my energy? Can you give me more energy?” I said, “At this moment, eliminating the evil means supporting your energy. Now the major job is to clear up your lungs and drive the cold out.” He walked out with a smile. Suddenly he returned and said, “Dr. Ng, I always have some doubt at first when you explain things to me.” I responded, “But you have a scientific attitude, so though you may doubt, try to get confirmation.”

*Note: Signed by Jin Dynasty (265-317 A.D.) Great Master of Pulse Taking

She Took Fifty Days to Heal Because She Was Fifty Years Old

A middle-aged Caucasian woman came to the clinic complaining that she had broken a bone, the M.D. had set and applied a cast to it, but she could not sleep well because the pain woke her up at night. She asked if I could help her sleep better. My answer was, “With my help and your medical doctor’s treatment, certainly you will benefit. I will send a message to your kidney using acupuncture. Then the kidney will pay special attention to fixing your bone. I will also prescribe some herbs which will work like glue to help you heal.” Certainly I had a TCM base to create the prescription. She accepted my help with hesitation and doubt, and that’s acceptable to me. I often have the burden of treating a new patient who shows up on their own without a referral or any background knowledge of TCM. After the first treatment, she said, “Maybe I am a little better or just psychologically better, I don’t know.” After a couple of more treatments, she was certain that her sleep had improved.

After a few more treatments, she regained even more sleep. She then asked, “How long will it take for me to heal completely?” I asked her, “How old are you?” She said, “About fifty years old.” I told her that she is going to take about fifty days to heal.” She added, “But I have already received treatments for many days.” I responded, “So you just minus how many days, and you will know how many days it will take to heal.” There is a Chinese saying which applied to her: “She believed half and she doubted half.”

One day she walked in and said, “Dr. Ng, I believe I can heal faster than you expect.” I replied, “I hope so.” She said, “Hope so means you believe me but if you say I wish, it means it’s not really possible.” I said, “My English is still not good enough even though I have been in the United States a long time. I always ask my patients to excuse me for this because I concentrate on improving my healing skills and not on improving my English.” I continued, “Even though your healing can take place in less than fifty days, you will experience that your bone is not quite fully healed, especially when you use force.” Again she believed half and doubted half.

After she received some more treatments, she asked, “Dr. Ng, if I come more often, can you make me well in less than fifty days?” I said, “I can make you feel easier and experience more comfort.” I wanted to explain to her using medical terms, but since I was unable to, I said that natural law dictates that the body’s power to heal itself slows down with the aging process. I told her to be patient, and she would be able to live normally. She said, “I still don’t understand.” I used the example of a wooden frame. If the frame collapses, you use nails to repair it. Then you have to sand the wood, polish it, and then you have to paint it. But until the paint is completely dry, you won’t feel comfortable to use it.” I also added, “and even though the frame may look dry, it won’t be completely dry until some days have passed.

Finally she understood because she worked her limb with force and did not feel pain. She said, “Oh! I see.” She asked me if she were 90 years old, would it then take 90 days for her to heal completely? I said: “I can’t say for sure, but when you reach 90 years old you can bring me a cup of expresso, then we can discuss it.” She laughed.

Finally, she asked, “How were you able to make me sleep better?” I responded, “I told you already.” She said, “I know, but why?” I said that in TCM, the kidney is in charge of the bone, so I ordered your kidney to repair your bone.” She said, “I know, but why did it take so long to heal it completely?” I said, “Your body needs a period of time to create something. If you are young, your body won’t take as long to create something. She responded: “I wish I knew the whole TCM story.”

I Felt Lazy to Bring My Cane

An old lady more than 80 years of age was referred to me by a physical therapist. She had been suffering for over twenty years. She walked slowly with the aid of a cane and as she sat down, she began to tremble slightly. I asked her to let me take a look at her tongue. The color was too red which means the body was over heated. But there was no coating which means the body’s fluid was insufficient. I also took the pulse for her. Her pulse was tiny; it should be at least three times bigger, in this case.

She began to tell me her complaint. I told her, “Your complaint is your symptom. Just cooperate with your doctor; I am going to help you get better.” After some treatments, she stopped trembling when she sat down. Then she asked me to fix her dizziness which she experienced each time she got up. “Am I going to get better?” she asked. “I hope so,” I responded. After some more treatments, the dizziness subsided.

One day she went to see an M.D. The doctor told her that her blood pressure and heart rate were much better. The more treatments she received, the more improvement she had. But the long term suffering she experienced cast a shadow and sometimes she still doubted the improvement. She asked me, “Am I really better? Do you think I am better?” I said, “Now when you sit down, you don’t tremble at all, and when you get up, you don’t feel dizzy. Also, your M.D. has told me about your improvements.”

One day, the M.D. told her to take a test, and the next day, she blamed the M.D. and said, “She makes me nervous.” I said, “Well, she is just concerned about you because you are more than 80 years old.” She replied, “Well, she still makes me nervous.”

One day she walked into the office without a cane and said, “I am feeling lazy to bring it.” The next time she came in she said the same thing, “I am feeling lazy to bring it.” After receiving more treatments her tongue color improved and it showed a healthy coating. When the cold and damp weather came, however, she complained, “I feel a little dizzy and I worry about my health.” I responded, “In such cold and damp weather, even a young lady won’t feel well.” She laughed, “May be I worry too much.”

One day she came in for treatment and said, “I feel a little dizzy; what is wrong with me?” After observing her face, I raised my voice: “If you have to take care of seven cats you won’t feel dizzy.” She laughed: “Maybe I worry too much about myself.”

Another time she came in for treatment on a very cold day and at once asked, “Dr. Ng, I am shaking a little, maybe there is something wrong?” I told her: “If you have a dog and a cat to take care of, you will feel o.k.” She laughed: “Maybe I worry too much. This morning I worried that the taxi cab would not come.” I said, “If it doesn’t come, you can just cancel your appointment.” She smiled and said, “Maybe I worry too much.”

Senior citizens need more care and comfort; they need to have someone to talk to.

The Woman Who Dared Not to Eat

A middle-age woman working at a hotel said her life was miserable. She had a constipation problem for years, each time she had a bowel movement, she had to sit for 45 minutes. But at work, she could not go to restroom and stay for 45 minutes, so she just did not eat; she told me she had no choice. I conducted the TCM examination and diagnosed yin deficiency which meant her body was not producing enough fluid. I helped her body create more fluid, and she gradually became better.

The Nurse Who Glared at People

A charge nurse suffering from an auto-immune disease came to see me. Her eyes were red, she always glared, and many parts of her body had a bumpy texture. A female medical doctor was treating her condition. The doctor knew that giving her drugs to fight the disease was very harmful to her body because the drug was very poisonous. The doctor was not willing to let her take too much, but she had no choice. So the nurse came in and asked if I could do something to help her. I told her she would be able to improve by taking advantage of both modern science and ancient science.

I told the nurse that while the poisonous drug could help fight the disease, it would also kill the good germs in her body, as well as cause other side effects. Using TCM methods, I would be able to give her body supplemental energy and help her benefit from the other treatment.

Over the course of treatment her eyes lost their red color, and the glaring and bumpiness of her skin diminished. Her medical doctor felt better and began to relax. I kept encouraging her and comforting her. We were all eager for her to stop taking the poison drugs.

Sometimes the condition re-occurred if she worked too hard, and we would all became a little anxious. As time passed, however, the medical doctor foresaw a positive outcome. Sure enough, the patient finally got much better without having to take the poisonous drug, and the three of us were overjoyed.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Wish to Live 30 Years Longer

A well-educated Caucasian man with a hepatitis problem came to my clinic.  He wanted a secret consultation with me.  His concern was to live five years longer in order to take care of his son until he was grown up.
I asked, “Why do you ask for only five years?”  He said, “I have a liver problem, and I often feel pain in my ribs.  I want to see my son grow up, then he will be able to take care of himself.”  This man came in for many treatments and his pain diminished substantially.  I urged him to have a medical check-up to see if the liver problem was getting better.  He promised to do it but he did not actually go.

As his treatments continued, he reached a point where he felt little or no pain.  Again I urged him to have a medical check-up.  He promised, but as he did not tell me anything after that I believed once again he did not go for a check-up.  He continued treatments and continued to get stronger.  One day he came in and said very close to my ear, “Dr. Ng, can you make me live 30 years longer?”  I laughed and laughed; I laughed until I started coughing.  “I’m not the right person to talk to about that,” I said.

He Could Not Sleep Without Wearing Four Pairs of Boots

An office worker in downtown San Francisco told me that he needed to put on four pair of boots in order to sleep.  It was very difficult to conduct the TCM examination, and that’s why I never asked him how could he possibly put on four pair of boots.

Each time I performed acupuncture on him, I had to give the needle at least 300 strokes before he could begin to feel it. My diagnosis for his case was kidney weakness and lack of heat. In the beginning of the treatments, he doubted that I was giving 300 strokes. I said, “Sit on the bed, and watch how I do the count.” He was amazed to see what happened to him. He also took herbs as part of his treatment.

As time passed, he got rid of one pair of boots and told me at night his feet felt as cold as an icebox. He felt that his feet did not belong to him. After some time, he asked me, “How come I feel so cold?” I explained: “The sun can warm up you body, like the sun warms up the earth. Your kidneys are not only weak, but you do not have enough yang energy (yang in this case means sun) to warm you up.

After more acupuncture treatments and herbs, he told me was able to get rid of another pair of boots.  He needed to move to other city, however, and he could not come for treatments anymore.  I hoped he was able to get rid of the other two pair of boots.

No One Can Do Everything

A successful lawyer told his employee, a young lawyer, to come and see me.  He said, “Dr. Ng, my medical doctor told me that my knee area bleeds internally when I do heavy exercise.”  I said, “I can use treatments to reinforce your knee, but there is no guarantee for success.”  He was kind of upset because his boss had recommended me so highly.  I said, “Don’t be disappointed.  No one can do everything, and it is not very necessary to do such heavy exercise.  It is just your own thought and desire that makes you over-exercise.”
Once in awhile, this young lawyer came for treatment for his knee and for other problems like stress.  He was still thinking about heavy exercise, though.  I told him I understand, and said, “It’s all in your mind; it’s a habit.  Just as you may think someone who drinks a lot of alcohol may be wasting their money, they could think you are a sports-oholic and are just wasting your energy.  He accepted my opinion and stopped feeling awful.

Friday, January 28, 2011

He Loves to Pay for Being Beaten Up

A Chinese man, between 30-35 years old, came in with a question: “Can the doctor beat me up?” Everybody laughed. But he continued, “I am serious, I would like to pay!” I said, “Your request is not funny!” He said, “Oh, but I am very serious!” I said, “Because you have this wish, it means your body is telling you to do so.” He responded, “I don’t dare tell this to other people because I don’t want people to think I am crazy.” I said, “There is no need to feel strange!” He looked at me seriously and with curiosity then asked, “Can you tell me how come?” I said, “Before I tell you, I want to explain something. If I really want to have a piece of candy, it should be due to the fact my body needs some sugar, right? In the TCM medical books we have one term which means “likes-to-be-pressed” which describes your situation, although the books have never said “likes to be beaten up!” He seemed to accept my explanation, but still harbored some doubt.

I said, “Listen carefully, please help me ship a document to another state.” He asked, “How come?” I said, “I don’t want you to do anything, but I have a question for you, shipping must mean shipping out by ship?” He said: “No.” I said, “Can something be shipped by railway or even air mail?” He nodded his head. I said, “That’s it.” He continued, “ I want the medical explanation for my desire, not your story!” I said, “I already told you.” He said, “I seem to understand, but I feel I am in a land of five-miles fog. I said, “Likes-to-be-pressed means deficiency.” I began to beat him up as though I were hitting the drum in lion dancing.

After the ‘beating’ he felt better, but he still asked questions. He wanted more medical explanations in order to comfort himself. I told him, “’Likes-to-be-pressed’ means there is a deficiency in your body; “refusing-to-be-pressed” means there is an excess in your body.” He seemed to understand but requested me to give him a sample case. I said, “A patient came in with a stomach ache and told me they had gone for a medical examination and had received a negative finding. I took the pulse for him; it was weak, and the tongue had a white coating. I pressed his abdomen for a minute, and asked, “How do you feel? Are you feeling better or worse?” He answered that he felt better. I told my patient that his stomach was weak and cold.” After listening to this example, the man felt satisfied and left.

Everyone Has a Different Gift

A middle-aged Caucasian woman, a teacher by profession, called me about her son who was trained in mountain sports and belonged to a team.  The training was so strict that her son had become exhausted and was unable to recover his energy.  The son, however, could only feel the disgrace of defeat, and refused to accept his situation. He kept thinking he was able-bodied.  The mother hoped I could help her boy.
The young man came in with a bitter look on his face and was somewhat unwilling to talk.  As the examination began, I asked him a question, “Have you ever seen a Chinese senator?”  He answered, “Why do you ask this question?”  I said, “It won’t hurt you to answer me, will it?”  He responded in a low voice, “No.”  I said, “I have seen a black man break the world record in track and field.”  He answered in a very low voice, “Yes, I‘ve seen that too.”  I asked, “Have you seen a black man break the record in swimming?”  He shook his head to indicate “No.”  Then I continued, “Everybody has their own gift and different body constitutions. Also they need to make themselves suitable for society.”  He responded to me with impatience:  “How come you have so many questions and so many stories?”  His mother became anxious, and worried about the success of treatment.  I raised my voice a few levels higher and said, “Although you don’t see a Chinese senator, you can see many Chinese engineers take charge.  Although you don’t see a black man win the world championship in swimming, you can see a black man break the world record in running.  Probably your body was not born to be a sportsman, but you could be a champion in another field, and maybe even be in a top position one day.”  He sighed, then said, “Hmmm, o.k! Now I understand.”  I raised my voice again, “Let me treat you right away.”

Spiritually better, the blockage removed, I just simply tonified his body.  He began getting stronger and stronger as no longer over-exerted himself in sports.  Finally, his body went back to normal, and sports became a pleasure, not a pressure.

Everyone Was Frightened of the Noble Middle-Aged Lady

A noble middle-aged lady who is dressed professionally should be welcomed and attract people, right?   But in this case, when her subordinates met her, after saying, “Hi,” they often said, “Excuse me, I forgot my coffee,” or “Excuse me, I left something in my car,” and they would immediately move away.  The reason was that she always yelled at her subordinates, and the reason for her yelling was that she was always exhausted; she felt really awful, and had no power to do anything.
A well-known professor recommended her to me.  She was a health facility director in Silicone Valley.  After conducting the TCM examination for her, I realized that her energy was low, and her job responsibility was too much which is why she felt so awful and yelled at her subordinates.  I comforted her: “Take some treatments, your are going to get better.  Of course, that is not a guarantee.”  She said,  “I understand.  How come I feel so weak?”  I told her, “There are a few major causes: first, born to be weak; second, working too hard; third, for your degree, you studied quite hard to get your title.  Your body was damaged during that time.  You were young, and it is just like driving a new car, but not handling it properly.  It is being worn out but the problem does not become evident until later.”  After listening, she shouted, “Oh! I see.”  But she still doubted how I would be able to make her better.  I told her, “In the beginning don’t think so much, lie down and take a nap, let me insert a few needles; if you feel tired you don’t even have to respond to me.  I turned off the light, kept the heat lamp on, and probably she was so exhausted, the red color of heat lamp made her eyes tired, and she fell asleep. 

During the treatment, she said she felt like a drunk person.  After I pulled out the needles, I told her not to get up all at once, but to first move a little.  She asked, “May I know why?”  I replied, “Acupuncture treatment regulates and tonifies your body.  Your body has to repair many things and this also requires energy; that’s why you have to move around a little before getting up.”  After getting up, she felt a little better, but still felt lethargic. 

I said, “Your herb tea is ready. Enjoy your tea; it will energize you.”  After finished her herb she asked, “Am I getting better right now?”  I replied, “Since it took a long time for your condition to develop, it will also take some time to get better.”  She said, “I understand that, but what I meant is, what about today and tomorrow, will I feel better?”  I said, “There are two possibilities: one, you just simply feel better, or secondly, you might feel very sleepy and awfully tired.”  She said, “Yes, but what if I have to do many things?”  I said, “You are feeling tired because your body is now repairing itself; it may shut down some service in order to repair a major organ, but if you struggle, you can manage.  The body won’t be able to repair as much or as quickly if the conditions necessary for repair are not allowed.”

Because of her education and personal character, we had no arguments during her many treatment periods. She began to feel better and better with each succeeding treatment, and she began to smile more often. Her subordinates very seldom forget their coffee. When she said good-bye to me after the last treatment, I gave her a guarantee that her subordinates won’t leave anything in their car. She said, “Excuse me, Dr. Ng, please don’t laugh at me! Thank you -- so long.”

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Back Pain of Non-Mechanism

A very busy stockbroker came in for treatment, saying aloud, “My wife told me to see you.” (Meaning that it was not his intention to have treatment because his schedule was too tight.)  I asked him, “Sir, what can I do for you today?”  He said, “You tell me.”  I replied, “I know what you mean, you want to test my skill.  Some of my patients are like this; not long ago two teachers did just that to me.”
I looked at his tongue and took his pulse. I began to talk to him, and he suddenly interrupted me: “My leg and back feel about the same.”  I said, “ Excuse me, let me take a look at your chart.”  I said, “According to your chart, you did get some improvement.”  He replied, “I did not mean NO improvement.”  During the treatment, he mentioned two of his colleagues had died, and he was under tremendous pressure and stress. His wife worried about his health.  He also told me that he had seen a medical professor who was already certain that his back was o.k.  His medical professor told him that because he worked so hard, his back did not get enough energy to support it.  I applauded and said, “That’s a good diagnosis which is why I am going to make your body stronger and reinforce your back.”  His wife was my patient too.  She used to argue with me very often, but after I treated her problem, she was very often grateful to me.

The man managed to come in a few more times.  His wife called, telling me her husband would come for more treatments to prevent something bad from happening, but he did not have time; his schedule was too tight.  This is a normal occurrence in my practice.  I am able to help my patients only when they come.

The 100-Mile Drive

A very nice Caucasian gentleman about 70 years old told me his shoulder pain had been unbearable for a long time.  The pain was so bad he kept a gun next his bed, often putting the barrel in his mouth, but always in the end, failing to pull the trigger.  
One day his neighbor committed suicide.  He saw the suffering of the surviving family members.  He also realized that even though he may have suffered more than his neighbor, he had chosen not to kill himself.  The entire episode was a wake-up call for him and decided he must try earnestly to remedy his condition.  It was this situation that caused him to drive 100 miles from the Sacramento area to see me.

The shoulder pain was especially acute at night.  He asked me, “Why? Why can I not enjoy my retirement?”  I said, “Probably you worked very hard in the past and the strain wore out your body.  It is just like using a credit card.  You don’t feel anything while you are spending the money, but when it comes time to pay, then you really feel bad.”  “Oh, I see,” he responded.

He continued to ask why he felt pain at night.  I said, “Good question.  This is why we talk about yin and yang.  Let me take a look at your tongue.”  His tongue looks very white.  I continued, “Your warming up energy is not enough. When the sun is up in the sky you don’t have to use much energy.  When the sun sets, then your energy need is greater; it is nature’s law.   Your body has to burn more energy to warm you up.  In young people there is a good supply, but your body doesn’t have the same amount of resources. It cannot produce the amount of heat that it needs, and you feel cold.  When there is not enough money in the State treasury, local agencies tighten up their budgets.  So, your shoulder will tighten up because the muscles are not getting enough blood circulation, and that is why you feel pain.  After listening he said, “Oh boy, I see.”

I began to treat him by tonifying his body.  The tonification reinforced his shoulder circulation.  He became much better and was finally discharged.

A Flu That Lasted for Several Years

A young Italian lady came in for a treatment.  Her complaint was that she was tired from having shoulder and back pain.  As I prepared to do an examination, I turned the heater on for awhile.  She said, “It is too warm for me!”  I turned the heater off, and a little while later she said, “It is too cold, can you please turn on the heat?”  
As I was taking her pulse, it began to tell me many things.  “Do you have a bitter mouth?” I asked.  “Yes,” she replied.  I added, “Is your throat dry?”  She again answered, “Yes.”  I said, “I am almost certain what is wrong with you.  I don’t know if you feel dizzy or not, but either way, my diagnosis would be the same.”  She said, “Dr. Ng, don’t scare me!  Tell me what is wrong.”  I said, “It is the flu.  In fact, it is a flu that you have been carrying for several years.”  She yelled, “No kidding!”  I told her it is a flu which resides between the outer and inner part of the body, that is, in the superficial area.

After I treated her a few times, her symptoms went away because the major problem settled down.  She began to conserve energy, and with acupuncture and cupping the back and shoulder pain got better.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Too Much Rich Food is Not Good

A wealthy middle-aged woman from Hong Kong often served her son rich food believing it would make him grow strong.  The son, however, often felt dizzy.  Through her friend’s referral, they came to see me for treatment.  After taking the pulse for him, I asked, “Do you feel dizzy?” Her boy answered, “Yes.”  I asked, “Does the middle part of your forehead feel uncomfortable?” The boy looked at me but gave no response.  I said, “Let me take a look at your tongue.”  He extended his tongue, which was white, and the coating was too thick.  I raised my voice: “Does your forehead not feel alright?”  He answered, “Maybe.”  I said, “If so, your dizziness is coming from your stomach.”  He asked, “How come?”  I said, “Your over-acting pulse and your coated tongue indicate your stomach is congested.”  He asked, “How come?”  Then I asked his mother about his diet. She told me that his nutrition is very good.  She cooks all kinds of good food for him and lets him eat however much he wants.  I continued: “Your son cannot absorb so much.” She replied, “But he is growing; he needs lots of nutrition.”  I said, “Enough is good, but too much is no good; you are giving more good food than your son can handle.”  Her manner indicated that she did not really believe this.  She was attached to the old thought, but not the ancient thought.
The boy came in for several treatments but he only improved a little.  His mother never really believed my opinions about her son’s diet, and each time I had to explain it until my mouth felt dry.  Sometimes we even debated.  I said: “These cases are not new to me; if you co-operate with me, your boy will be better soon.”  But she was still attached to the thought that nutrition is good for a growing boy.

After a few more treatments and continuous advice about her son’s condition, she began to accept my opinions. I also mentioned that in ancient times, people knew how to drink ordinary tea, and they did not ask for too fine tea; they ate light meals that were neither too salty nor too rich.  This practice is in accordance with modern science. We continued our talks during treatments, and the boy was the first to understand the situation.  He urged his mother to cook less rich food for him.  I also told him to do more exercise.

As time passed by, the boy’s dizziness decreased and the mother realized that I might be right.  But one day, the young boy called me and said, “Doctor, I feel dizzy and I am going to fall down!”  I said, “No!”  He said, “I really believe I am going to fall down now.”   I said, “Try to walk very fast around the house and you won’t fall.  Right now I am very busy, but call me back later.”  He did call back and reported that he did not fall down.  He asked, “Why?”  I told him that his dizziness was caused by his stomach congestion, but not energy deficiency.  The more they believed, the more they cut down on the rich foods, and the boy continued to get better and better until finally he did not need further treatment.

Treatment Principles:
Excessive energy

Kum Kwat Seeds for a Divorced Lady

A former Stanford professor finished her treatment session and met her friend in the waiting room.  She introduced her to me, “Dr. Ng, meet my good friend.”  After saying hello to her friend, I plucked a few fresh kum kwats from my tree which I bought to celebrate the Chinese Lunar New Year.
I explained the name “kum kwat” to them: “Kum means gold, kwat means tangerine.”  Both of them tasted the kum kwats.  They said that it tasted sweet and at the same time very sour.  They laughed loudly and asked what is the benefit of eating kum kwats?  I told them it can make the stomach better and regulate the qi better.  My patient asked, “Can it make my friend feel better? She just went through a divorce and she is not happy.”  I told her that she could also chew and eat the kum kwat seeds.  Her friend said,  “Really!”  I said, “Yes, sometimes when I don’t have time to cook herbs for myself (because I am being driven nuts by my patients), I eat kum kwats or oranges, and I also chew and eat the seeds.  I feel better.”  So her friend ate a few kum kwats and chewed the seeds.  As we kept on talking, the divorced lady said she felt better; I explained to her that the feeling of fullness in her chest is better and easier due to the qi (qi could also mean air) being adjusted.  But she was also doubtful and asked, “Could it be psychology?”  I responded, “Talk to your friend; she will explain it to you.”
This lady asked, “Dr. Ng, qi also means air?” I answered, “Yes, there are many kinds of energy, you can call it qi, and if you want to learn more, you can talk to your friend.  I have told her many things about TCM.”  She said, “By the way, how is my friend doing?”  I said, “You can get the answer from her smile.”

I told them that we often cook the seeds to serve to patients, but very seldom do I let my patients chew them, but since I myself did it once in awhile, it couldn’t hurt.  I also told them there are many kinds of herbs that I have tried myself so that when I give them to my patients I do so with the confidence that they are safe to ingest.

Treatment Principles:
¨     Energy that is “stuck” can be understood as gas.
¨     Kum Kwat seeds can neutralize gas.

Heart Palpitations but No Heart Problem

A medical student’s wife came to see me for acupuncture treatment.  She said: “I have a heart palpitation problem, but when I checked with a medical doctor he said my heart is ok.” After I conducted the TCM examination, she asked me: “Dr. Ng, do you find anything?”  I laughed and laughed, just like a hungry monkey who all of a sudden gets lots of fruits.
She eagerly asked, “Can you help me doctor?”  I said, “Fortunately I can help you.”  She asked, “Why did you laugh?” I replied, “Because the skill required to detect your problem was so difficult to obtain that now I can use it to help you.”  She said, “Doctor, I hope you can prove it to me.”  I said, “ Yes, but this treatment is never a guarantee.”  She replied, “I understand. Nobody can give such a guarantee.”

I told her that her chest (the heart and lungs) can be compared to the upper part of a river, below the chest (the liver and stomach) can be compared to the middle part of a river, and the abdomen (the kidneys and intestines) can be compared to the lower part of the river.  Without explanation, she already seemed to know what I was going to say.  I continued, “You have energy stagnation in your liver; when the middle part of river is unable to flow, the upper part of the river will be affected.  She said, “ Oh, that’s why I suffer!”  I replied, “Yes.”  I inserted the needle to guide the adverse liver qi downward.  (This qi means energy, and it also means air; you can also call it a gas.)  She felt better.

Then I also told her, “Your liver also interferes with your stomach activity;.”  After each treatment, she told me that she felt better.  She felt something changing inside her body, and although she did not know how to express her feeling, she knew she was improving.
She continued to come for treatments, and one day as she came in she told me she was really better.  With more care, she improved even more, but before I discharged her she moved to another city.  I hope one day, I can transmit this skill to many doctors or explain to someone who is really interested.

Treatment Principles:
Excessive in this case means that the energy is “stuck.”

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Diagnosis of Cancer at the Time of Retirement

A highly accomplished designer found out he had cancer just as he was about to begin his retirement.  He was very upset, even terrified, I encouraged him and said “Don’t worry!  With the M.D.’s help and my treatment, you will be o.k.”  He replied, “I hope so, but I have two kinds of cancer, and I feel awful.”  I comforted him by saying, “You have to accept the fact.”  He replied with sadness, “I know.”
While undergoing chemotherapy, his mouth felt very dry and his energy was very low. I treated him with acupuncture that enabled him to have more defensive power and enabled him to get more nutrition from the food he ate.  Also, I let him drink an herb mixture that helped provide energy and promote the creation of more fluid in his body.  So basically, he did not suffer much from the chemothera and the other operation, and his mouth did not really feel as dry.  He said, “I can live normally.”

As time passed, he suffered some pain in his back.  He said that according to the M.D., after his operation (he had two kinds of treatments) some muscles were not able to recover completely so that when the weather changed, the muscles did not get enough blood circulation.  By treating him according to TCM principles, i.e., reinforcing the local muscles and tonifying his body, I was able to reduce his back pain to a minimum.

A year or more after the above-mentioned treatment he returned for more treatments stating that his back pain returned when weather was very cold.  After I conducted the TCM examination for him, I told him, “This time, I really have to suppress your blood pressure and cleanse your blood vessel; probably you eat too much rich food.  He knew what I meant: that his present condition could cause a stroke. (He had been educated by me.)  He said, “I should cut down on the rich food.”  I added, “I don’t want you suffer.”  He responded,  “I know; thank you.”  I provided him with more treatments, and he got better again.

It is a burden for me to have to tell a patient that excessive food can cause a health problem or even a stroke.  They might understand or not understand.  They might understand but not do anything about it, or they might understand but not want to admit it.  I usually say, “Your pulse indicates that still you eat too much good food.”  Then they begin to change…but how much time do I have? 

When I took the pulse for this patient I realized it was more important to calm the liver and suppress the yang in order to remove the possibility of a stroke; after that I could treat his back pain.

Treatment Principles:

  • Sometimes it takes a while for the patient to realize what the doctor is trying to convey.
  • In this case, the doctor needed to (a) create more fluid to deal with the yin deficiency (b)  increase the energy of the patient, and (c) expel the excessive _______________.

The Englishman Who Was Unable to Sleep

An Englishman came in for treatment and said, “Dr. Ng, I am suffering!  I hope you can help me.”  I asked, “What is your complaint?”  He said, “My leg is very painful, so I can’t sleep.  But if I raise my leg, I don’t feel pain, but then, physically and mentally I am alert, and I cannot sleep at all.”  He allowed me a period of time to help him improve until finally, he could sleep. He wrote a letter to President Bill Clinton asking him to include acupuncture on the Medicare list.

The Lady Who Loved Movies but Couldn't See

A lady who loved to go to the movies had to give them up because if she kept her eyes open for more than a few minutes at a time it resulted in considerable discomfort.  She came to see me after being referred by her friend.
First of all, I asked her: “Have you seen a doctor or a specialist?” “I did,” she replied.  “Any findings?”  I asked.  “No,” she responded.  Sometimes people are told by their doctors that nothing is wrong with them; this is because the best diagnostic treatments such as x-ray, MRI, or lab tests can give no indication that something is amiss.  Still the person does not feel well, and they end up seeking other ways to treat their dis-ease.  If they come to me, I must take the first step of diagnosis in Chinese medicine, which is to observe.  My naked eye cannot compete with sophisticated equipment, and I am always glad to get the assistance of test results that will rule out certain conditions.

I took her pulse, and found out that the stomach pulse was extremely over-active.  “Do you eat much meat?” I asked.  She replied, “Yes.”  I asked again, “Do you eat much meat everyday?”  She said, “Yes.”  “According to your pulse and what you have told me, I am going to tell you why you are closing your eyes so much.”  She said, “It is not a ‘must’ that I believe you.”  I replied, “And it is not a ‘must’ that I treat you!” 

We paused a little and I asked to see her tongue, which was white with a thick coating.  I said, “You always want to close your eyes because your stomach is no good.”  “How can I believe that?” she asked.  I replied, “Well, you can have a few acupuncture treatments plus some herbal medicines until your stomach gets better, then you will believe what I said.”  She agreed to try a few treatments and herbs.

After a few treatments, she told me that she could look at a book a little longer, but she was still unconvinced about the efficacy of the treatments.  At the beginning of the treatments she could read a book up to 10 minutes only with great struggle.  After some more treatments she began to read about 20 minutes, even though she still lacked confidence in the treatment.
After a few more treatments, she could see for longer periods of time, and her confidence in the treatments began to increase, but there was some doubt and fear.  I comforted her and said, “Getting well is not a big deal!” She said, “Well, don’t make me too happy!”  (When a patient has been suffering for a long time, the suffering casts a shadow over them). 

More treatments were performed, and she could read for longer periods of time.  She finally decided to go to a movie and was able to watch most of it.  Her confidence continued to increase, and her shadow got lighter and lighter with my encouragement and comfort.  She told me that even though she had run out of money, her health was more important and she decided to pay by credit card.  Finally she was discharged.  At the last treatment, I told her to cut down on meat, and don’t forget to exercise.  She was overjoyed!

Monday, January 3, 2011

A Patient's View

I have made several visits to the doctor’s office during the past 20 years in order to find out the cause of my occasional exhaustion and heart palpitations.  I worried that perhaps I would need a valve replacement like my father.  On one such visit the doctor told me, “There is nothing wrong with you.  Your blood tests are all negative, and your heart is normal. You do have an elevated level of the liver enzyme bilirubin – it’s called Gilbert’s Syndrome – but it’s nothing to worry about. You’re fine!” I knew that this man was highly regarded in the medical community and that he was trying to relieve my anxiety, but nevertheless, I felt like I had just received a diagnosis of hypochondria.

People who have Gilbert’s Syndrome do worry about it because sometimes they can experience deep exhaustion which can last for up to several days.   And if they don’t understand their condition they will also feel confused because they are told, “There is nothing wrong.”  I continued searching for a way to help overcome the empty-gas-tank feeling that plagued me from time to time, and this is how I ended up in Dr. Ng’s office, or “The House of Ancient Science” as I came to call it.

With Dr. Ng’s treatments and teachings my situation gradually became clear to me.  Rather than the “You’re fine” line, Dr. Ng told me I have a constitution known as “born to be weak.”  Now this might seem like bad news to some people, and of course I felt a little sad at first having always had an image of myself as someone who was physically very strong.  But this feeling was quickly replaced by a deep sense of confirmation because someone had finally told me the truth about why I feel so tired when I overdo it with too much hard work or when I wake up with a headache if I’ve eaten junk food the night before or why I have a natural aversion to drugs. 

Outwitting the Snake King

Often my patients ask me if I can take care of an infection for them.  I say, “Yes and no.”  I say yes because I can help my patients to feel better, and I say no because curing an infection by killing the germ is not the TCM approach as the following story illustrates.

A young white female patient complained of having an infection.  She reported swollen joints and also redness and itchiness of the skin as well as pain in her right hand.  My first impression was that it was an infection which could be treated by traditional western medicine but she told me that she had tried this and did not get a favorable response so she finally gave up.  Her Tai Chi Chuan teacher knew about her suffering and recommended her to me.  When she arrived in the office her good looking face was clouded over by worry and anxiety.

I took a look at her tongue which appeared white indicating that her body was cold.  This condition allowed the germ to grow unhampered.  The tongue coating was also thick indicating her body was damp. This condition also produced a good environment in which germs could grow.

The front part of her tongue was red and had red spots, and the tip was also red.  This indicated her heart was overheated and that too much blood was jammed up in her heart system.  Just like a traffic jam where cars get packed together and cannot move easily, the jamming of the blood in her heart area prevents good circulation to every part of the body.  And both sides of the tongue were red meaning that the liver and gall-bladder were overheated.  With her body in such a condition how could she summon enough defensive power to fight the germ?  And having already taken medicine – which kills the good germs as well as the bad – there was the possibility that the bad germs would grow again.

I took the pulse for her left side.  It was rapid – about 90 to 92 beats per minute.  The rapid pulse indicated an overheated condition, and the pulse was tiny, which meant the blood wasn’t circulating sufficiently.  The right side pulse was 100 beats per minute, and it was tight and floating.  Tightness indicates coldness, causing the blood vessels to contract and hamper proper circulation, and the floating quality of the pulse indicated a type of flu in the body although the patient might not be aware of it.

There are so many kinds of flu that it is beyond imagina-tion. I reminded my patient her that she had a pain in her eyebrow.  If I had not reminded her she would only have known that she felt uncomfortable.  I inserted one needle to clear up the exterior part of her body and another needle to calm down her mind which had been stressed for a very long time due to an awfully unhappy marriage.

I used cupping to unblock the tight muscles in her back area.  She felt better after the treatment because the muscles in her back had relaxed and the lungs which are in charge of the skin and hair were clear.  The skin and hair, considered the exterior part of the body, are related to lung function in TCM.  If you have a flu, your nervous system can cause your tiny pores in the skin to contract, then your body heat cannot evaporate, and as the nature of heat is to rise, it goes to your head.  As the heat is rising and leaving the lower part of your body, your body goes out of order and that is why some kinds of flu make you can feel chilly and have a fever at the same time.

When she came in for the second visit her left side pulse was 80-82 beats per minute, and the tiny quality of the pulse had improved.  The pulse on the right side was 80-84 beats per minute, and the tight quality of the pulse had become easier.  Also, the floating sensation of the pulse had subsided, and by the fourth visit she felt much better.  The redness in the skin improved, there was not as much tightness in the back muscles, and the swelling in the joints had gone down.

One day my patient experienced severe pain on the right side of the abdominal area.  She went to the hospital for tests.  The doctors concluded that she had an infection and removed her appendix which was then found to be healthy.  Perplexed, she checked in with her physician, who threw up his in exasperation and said, “You need a doctor!”  My patient laughed while reporting this incident to me.  She was not bitter at having had the unnecessary surgery because her doctor was a sincere and humble man who had tried his very best in to cure her.

At a subsequent visit I took the pulse for her and noted that it was rapid, especially on the right hand stomach point.  I could feel that the pulse was overacting and bouncing back with too much power.   As I took the pulse, her eyes were closed but not completely closed because she was worried and wanted to see from my face if there was any hope.  Unfortunately, my face tightened up all the time, especially when she suddenly yelled, “Oh, my stomach hurts!”  I examined the area where the appendix had been removed and there was nothing abnormal, but still the pain remained.  From the pulse activity, I had to say it was an infection, even though the site of the infected area had been cleaned out through surgery.

After the surgery she had been feeling tired and nauseous.  I helped her clear up the exterior part of her body while helping her system eliminate an accumulation of water.  I used the “sedating method” of acupuncture treatment to help cleanse the blood and urination system.  Her nausea and tiredness lessened, and when she returned for another appointment the floating pulse in the right hand lung and stomach point was greatly reduced.  When her appendix area was very painful, I used oil and the “warm up and circulate” treatment to relieve her pain.

When she came in for another treatment, the right hand pulse was not as floating and rapid, the nausea was less, but she still had no appetite, and the tongue still tended to be white while the tongue tip and both sides of the tongue were still red, so treatments continued and so did her improvement.

As my patient’s condition changed, my treatment program changed accordingly.  As the rapid and floating pulse improved I began to warm up her body, which empowers it and allows the energy to move.  As I helped my patient clear up the excessive water and push out the toxins, the red color from both sides of her tongue became much better.  At the same time I let her drink an herb which tonified her liver and kidney in order to create more liquid.  Then her energy became better and her body became stronger.  I also used one kind of herb which worked as a glue to heal the patient’s appendix area.

I wanted to reinforce the patient’s body so that her defensive power could fight the germ and perhaps even conquer it and at the same time, I cleared up the heat in her heart system which improved the blood circulation, I also helped her body cleanse the excessive dampness which had allowed the germ to grow easily. I added an herb to the standard TCM protocol which pushed out the body’s waste and produced new strength.  And our continued talks together opened up her mind and she became much happier, and eventually stronger so that her pain disappeared. When she checked with her medical doctor, he told her to come back for an appointment in three months time.

If I just killed the germ that was giving her so much trouble my patient would feel worse.  Why?  In her case killing the germ would have required clearing up the heat and detoxifying her, but the fact was that her system was already too cold when she first came in for treatment.  If I had cleared up the heat the treatment would have made her even colder, and she would have gotten worse.  It is a TCM principle that the patient should not be made worse from the treatment. 

Please be advised, a germ found in the body reflects an imbalanced condition.  If the body is not warm enough then certain germs can grow, and if it is weak then its defensive power is not strong enough to fight the germ.  So, according to TCM, if I warm up her body, then the germ will not be able to grow easily.  (Think of the senior citizens who catch cold easily in winter, but if they keep warm, they won’t get sick so easily.)

Yet during the treatments I confessed to her that I really needed a superior teacher, not because I am humble, but in order to relieve my burden of insecurity.  As no standard program of treatment was available to me for her particular situation, I felt my skill was insufficient and my knowledge not profound enough.  Her problem was for me like the large and dangerous snake king which my kung fu could not conquer.

If a giant snake gets too close to me, surely I will feel terrified.  My heart will almost jump out of my chest knowing that it can kill me.  But due to my social experience and long term hardship I do not show my fear.  I raise my left hand and say, “Nice boy, nice boy!” My appearance is fearless and my eye is firm.  The snake king who is very clever and has vast experience due to old age decides to withdraw because it does not know what I will do next.

You may say, “Hey!  I believe your story, but if you don’t kill the snake king (germ) he can kill you.”  But I can reply that if I kill the snake king (germ), the one thousand snakes who live in his district can then come out and kill me.

You might think about killing the snake king because it is the way of thinking in western medical practice, but to tell you the truth, in ancient times giant snakes were respected due to their supreme powers.  Snakes have been known to protect babies and guard the saints.  They can even transform their bodies into a human body and marry a human being!  But these are legendary stories which you may not accept.  In the age of modern science a real example of snake power can be found in my home province. Due to many rats which were infesting the rural areas, the local government introduced the rats’ primary predator – the snake – to help re-balance the environment.

You may feel that the patient’s symptoms presented a confusing picture, and such a situation will generate many questions.  That is how I felt, too.  But as a TCM practitioner, if I show my confusion and fear, the patient will not be able to have confidence and may even feel worse.  But by proceeding with determination and having faith in the method, I was at last able to hear her say, “I don’t even know when my skin itchiness disappeared, and I can’t even remember the pain that I had.” 

We Were Brothers Two Thousand Years Ago

One day a Turkish man, full of warmth, came to see me.  Without waiting for an introduction he looked at me and said with a loud voice – and using these very words – “Two thousand years ago, we are brother!”  I knew what he meant, and indeed, he was historically correct.  At one time there were two huge groups of Turkish peoples, and one of them merged into the Chinese population.  The Turks have been trading and dealing with the Chinese for thousands of years, and now in China many people have Turkish heritage.

With this historical perspective, he already trusted that I would be able to treat him. Though I was joyful, I also felt the pressure of expectation, and I had to rub my chest to relieve the tightness. He explained his situation to me, and said that his ten fingers and toes were numb, and his heel and ankle were also numb.  He blamed the doctor in Turkey for this problem, saying that he had prescribed excessive drugs for him, but later he added, “Maybe before having this problem, I already had several strokes.” 

He also mentioned that he had gone to Chicago for a major medical check up, but received no specific finding. The fact that the major medical check up showed no medical finding saved me a great deal of energy.  I didn’t have to think about whether the problem was rooted in the spine or brain or other part of the body, although I would still need to be careful.

The patient’s face was really red.  To use an example, if an automobile does not have enough coolant, the engine will overheat.  In the language of TCM, if the body fluid is less and unable to control the fire, the heat will increase.   As the nerves also affected by the heat, the person will talk excessively and in a loud voice.  Conversely, when a patient is weak and cold, they usually feel lazy to talk, and talk in low voice.

As I took the pulse for him, I noted that it was floating, wiry, and slippery.  When I told him that his was a case belonging to the “over-active,” category he suddenly asked me, “Do you need to take a look at my tongue?”  I said, “I already did.”  He said, “Not yet.”  I said, “When you were talking to me, I saw your tongue, but now, please let me take a close and a careful look.”  He extended his tongue, and it looked old and red with a yellowish, greasy coating indicating his internal organs were excessively jammed up with heat and dampness.  Furthermore, mucus already occupied his body’s orifices and his blood vessels (in TCM, mucus is divided into two different kinds: seen or unseen), and that is why his pulse was slippery.  Thinking the examination was over he asked me if I could treat him.  I said, “Yes, I should be able to make you better.”  His eyes were also affected by the blood and energy that were jammed up in his body, and he looked at me like a tiger.

I let him lay down and helped him take off his socks.  I inserted the first needle in order to guide his blood and energy down from the upper part of his body and his brain where it was jammed up.  (Imagine, if two persons want to play on a see-saw, their weight should be about the same, otherwise the heavier one will be on the ground, and the lighter one will be in the air.)

I inserted a second needle to create more body fluid for him, and a third needle to drain the old, toxic material out of his body.  During the treatment, he began feeling better but was unable to express it.  While drinking my herbal tea, he told me that he already felt better and his head felt lighter. He laughed, and his family smiled.

When he came for a second treatment, he asked, “Did you find anything wrong with me, brother?”  I said, “Old brother, yes!”  He said, “How you going to treat me today?”  I said, “I am going to use a stone-aged method to help you!”  He said, “Really!  Can you explain my problem to me or give me some example?”  I told him, “You eat too much rich food including meat which your body cannot digest and which it does not need so much of.  It becomes garbage in your system, and the garbage blocks your blood vessels, meridians, and orifices. Since most of the channels (or you could call them meridians) become blocked, it causes heat. That’s why your face is so red, because the nature of heat is to rise, and the nature of cold is to stay low.  The heat also brings the blood up into the upper part of your body and your brain, where it stagnates and becomes unable to go down. That’s why you feel dizzy, and your fingers, toes and ankle feel numb.”  After listening, the old brother sighed, “Oh, big brother, I see.”

I quoted to old brother an original sentence from the ancient medical text, “If ill in the upper part, then choose a point in the lower part.”  Old brother asked, “What does it mean?”  I said, “In your case, your blood and energy are stuck in your brain.  I used one needle on your foot to guide it down to your feet and hands.”  He said, “Oh, brother!”  “I also put a second needle so that you could urinate better and clear up the toxins in your system, and a third needle to create more fresh body fluid to replace the toxic fluid that was eliminated.” 

He asked me a question, “Since my blood vessels are no good, are you able to change them? If I have blood clots in my brain, can you help me to get rid of them?”  I responded, “Yes, I can help you improve your blood vessels, and if you have blood clots in your brain, I can use some herbs to guide other herbs which will dissolve the blood clots for you.”

As the old Turk came for more treatments, his appearance improved, his face color was only a little red, his talking was no longer too loud, and he admitted that the numbness had largely disappeared. Sometimes he would even take a short trip instead of coming in for treatment.  Finally he said he was more than 70% better.  If I had said, “Brother, you are 79% better!” he would not disagree, but that kind of talk was not important anymore because he was overjoyed, and he needed to fly back to Turkey.  I reminded him not to eat too much rich food, and he promised with a smile and said, “Thank you, two thousand year-old brother.”