Treating Tendonitis

Posted by Jean Carr     Category: Chinese Medicine

Treating Tendonitis: From Rotator Cuff to Tennis Elbow & Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Tendonitis is challenging to treat.  Tendonitis is a sinew problem that develops over a period of time, usually from repetitive stress on the tendons.  This results in micro-tears at the attachments of the tendons and the bone.  The tendon becomes swollen and inflamed.  Rest usually helps the pain, but when activity is resumed, the micro-tears are stressed again, causing more inflammation and pain.

There is usually no recollection of a specific injury with tendonitis.  It is an overuse syndrome from incorrect form in sports, non-ergonomic form or a repetitive isolation of  muscles that are used too often without enough time to recover. As we get older, it takes longer for our bodies to recover, so overuse injuries can happen more as we age.   Tendonitis occurs most frequently in the rotator cuff, Achilles’ tendon, elbow, knee and wrist.  When the pain is in the elbow, it is called Tennis or Golfer’s Elbow.  Carpal tunnel syndrome is a form of tendonitis in which the wrist sheaths become inflamed and create pressure on the median nerve.

Where there is stagnation, there is pain.

Where there is free flow, there is no pain.

Activity typically increases the tendon pain, but sometimes the pain is lessened with movement and increases when the activity stops.  This is because movement brings circulation to the area creating free flow of blood and qi.  A statement of fact in Chinese medicine is that pain is due to stagnation.  Where there is free flow, there is no pain.

Healing takes longer with joints and sinews, tendons and ligaments.  These tissues have fewer capillaries.  There is less qi and blood supply to nourish and repair the injured tendons.

Injuries are acute or chronic.  By the time most people realize they have tendonitis, it is usually a chronic stage sinew injury.  But every time you continue to use a painful tendon, especially if you engage in the overuse activity that caused the injury, you can in essence reinjure it, making the injury both acute and chronic.

Treatment in Chinese medicine is guided by whether the injury is acute or chronic.  Acute injuries are treated with cooling herbs; chronic injuries are treated with warming herbs.   Diagnosis of acute or chronic is critical.  The treatment for each phase of injury is different.  The wrong treatment can make the injury worse.

Tendonitis is often both a chronic and acute injury because the client keeps on using it despite the pain. Treatment becomes a delicate balance of cooling herbs or warming herbs.   How do you know which one to use?  For external treatments, use a small amount of the warming liniment or soak.  If it aggravates your tendonitis, switch to more cooling or neutral herbs until the inflammation is gone.  Then you will need to increase the healing circulation of qi and blood by using warming herbs.  You may go back and forth for a while if you keep re-injuring the tendon.

There are internal herbs as well as external treatments available. See your practitioner for the cooling or warming treatments that would be best for your condition.

Do not be tempted to use ice or ice packs instead of Chinese liniments and herbs for your cooling treatments! See the article on “Ice is for Dead People” for a full explanation.

Ice can be appropriate the first 24 hours of an injury for 10 minutes at a time if you do not have any Chinese cooling liniments.  Do not use ice after the first 24 hours.  Ice inhibits the swelling by creating stagnation of blood and body fluids.  Continuing to use ice even alternately with heat will simply create more stagnation.  Alternate hot and cold treatments is like driving with the brakes on.  Remember, stagnation is pain.  Think of Minnesota in the winter.  There is lots of ice.  It’s very cold.  Nothing moves.  You want circulation to return the injured tissues to a state of health.

Certain Chinese herbs can both increase the circulation of qi and blood while “cooling” the inflamed tissues.  Western pharmaceuticals are not able to do this.  Western trained personnel recommend the only treatment option they know: ice.  Chinese Medicine has 3000 years of history treating injuries.  I did not see one bag of ice was used by the Chinese at the Olympics in Beijing.  My favorite Chinese statement is: “Ice is for dead people.”

Other treatments include: rest, a nourishing diet and acupuncture.  Gentle exercises like walking and Qigong can circulate the qi to help with the healing.  If the injury is due to incorrect exercise form, the body will need to be retrained to use the muscles properly after the injury has healed.  Working out at this time would be another repetitive form of exercise that would keep your tendonitis from healing.

You need to allow your injury to heal by resting it.  If it hurts, your body is trying to tell you to stop!  For my clients who are active in sports, rest is the hardest prescription for them to follow.  Ignoring pain and not allowing healing can have consequences.  The body will start protecting itself from further injury by thickening the tendon and developing calcium deposits.  You will have a more challenging problem to heal.  Take the time to heal now.

Acupuncture Treatments & Herbs Work, Even for Dogs!

Posted by ralphm     Category: Case Study

My dog, Dolphy, carries the paper every day because she takes her Chinese herbs.  Dolphy is a Heeler mix with a Mom who is part Aussie.  Anyone who has a herding dog knows that these dogs need jobs.   I taught Dolphy to carry the paper when we moved to Tucson from the mountains of Colorado.  She was a young dog with lots of energy then and needed to be kept busy.

Dolphy is an older dog now and her hips have gotten stiff with arthritis.  She no longer felt like carrying the paper because her hind legs were too stiff and painful.  She even cut her walks short.  I put Dolphy on Chinese herbs.  Within days she returned to her youthful energy and carries the paper everyday.  She badgers me until she gets that paper!

Acupuncture helps dogs feel better too.  Dolphy injured her back jumping out of the car this summer on a road trip to Colorado.  Her right hind leg was twisted at a funny angle and she was not able to bare weight on it.  She was limping and in pain.  I was a long way from her vet, so I treated her with acupuncture needles that night.  She was back to her happy dog-self the next day.

I am not licensed to treat your pets.  You have to see your veterinarian for that.  I can recommend my vet Dr. Janet Forrer who does Chinese herbs and acupuncture at Sunrise Pet Clinic. But if you are wondering if acupuncture and Chinese herbs really work, my dog can tell you, Yes!

Chinese Organ Systems or You Don’t Need a Kidney Transplant with Kidney Qi Vacuity

Posted by Jean Carr     Category: Chinese Medicine

A rose by any other name. . .

Chinese medicine uses many words that sound familiar. We recognize the names of organs in our bodies. Other words are strange. Words like Qi, Essence, San Jiao, Yin and Yang are not found in our everyday vocabulary. Regardless, the functions and applications of the Chinese medical vocabulary are different from our Western paradigm.

You do not need to understand this vocabulary to benefit from acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas. But an understanding of the vocabulary can become a powerful medicine in your kitchen. Chinese medicine uses the same vocabulary to identify and treat patterns of imbalances. You can treat these patterns with acupuncture, herbs and diet. The same words are used for all treatment modalities. While you don’t need to understand any of this lying on an acupuncture table, it can make a big difference in what foods you choose in the kitchen.

The Chinese Organ System

In Chinese medicine, the internal organs have a wider area of function and influence than in Western medicine. Each organ system has distinct responsibilities for maintaining the health of an individual. Each organ corresponds to a channel or meridian that flows throughout the body. Chinese organs sound similar to Western organs, but have additional energetic functions and govern all aspects of the mind, body and spirit. More importantly each organ system works in relationship with the other organs.

Some organ systems are Yin and some are Yang. Together the Yin and Yang organs create a balanced whole. Each Yin organ system is paired with a yang organ one that complements it.

Yin                            Yang
Heart                       Small Intestine
Spleen                     Stomach
Lungs                       Large Intestine
Kidney                     Urinary Bladder
Liver                         Gall Bladder
Pericardium          San Jiao

I discuss five key yin organs below including some basic Chinese medical statements of fact about each organ. This will give you a thumbnail understanding of the main yin organs.


In Chinese medicine, the kidneys are considered to be the foundation of our life. The kidneys are the main organ for the storage of prenatal Qi. (The kidney is shaped like a fetus.) The kidney yin and yang are the foundation for the yin and yang of all the organs of the body.

The kidneys are responsible for human reproduction, development and maturation.
They are the foundation of water metabolism.’
They rule the grasping of Qi from the lungs (inhalation).
The kidneys govern the bones and engender the marrow. The brain is the sea of marrow.
The kidneys open into the ears (which are shaped like kidneys).
The low back is the mansion of the kidneys.
The kidneys store the Zhi, the will.
The emotion associated with the kidneys is fear.


The spleen plays a fundamental role in the creation of Qi and blood from food and drink. While the spleen is less important in Western medicine, in Chinese medicine the spleen is one of the two most important viscera of the body. (The other is the kidneys.) The spleen plays two pivotal roles: the creation of Qi and Blood and the circulation and transformation of Body Fluids.

The spleen governs movement and transformation of foods and liquids.

The spleen is the source of production of Qi and Blood out of food and drink.

The spleen abhors cold and is averse to damp.
Spleen vacuity is the source of phlegm.
The spleen holds the blood in the vessels.

The spleen governs the muscles and the four limbs.

The emotion associated with the spleen is thought, including over-thinking.


The liver controls free flow of Qi throughout the body. The liver is easily damaged by emotional causes especially stress and frustration.
The liver controls coursing and discharge, the uninhibited spreading of qi throughout the body.
The liver stores the blood.
The liver controls the sinews.
The knees are the house of the sinews.
The nails are the surplus of the sinews.
The liver opens into the eyes.
The emotion associated with the liver is anger.


The lungs govern the Qi and respiration.
The lungs govern the down-bearing of Qi.
The lungs regulate water passages.
The lungs control skin and body hair
The lungs open into the nose.
The lungs govern the defensive exterior.
The emotion associated with the lungs is grief.


The heart is the emperor of the body mind.
The heart governs Blood and controls the blood vessels.
It houses the Mind (Shen) including consciousness, memory, thinking
The heart manifests in the complexion.
The heart opens into the tongue and governs speech
The heart controls sweat.
The emotion associated with the heart is joy.

Essential Substances

Each organ system is characterized by its interaction with what Chinese medicine calls the essential substances. These fluids, essences and energies circulate throughout the body and nurture the organ systems. The essential substances include Qi, Blood, Shen & Jing:

Qi, Life Force or Vitality: The presence of Qi is what animates matter. There are 12 types of Qi, some you inherit from your parents and some you acquire through breathing or eating. The functions of Qi are: Protecting, Transforming, Transporting, Holding, Raising, and Warming.

Shen, the Mind-Spirit: In Chinese medicine the word Shen encompasses the concepts of insight and memory, the act of thinking, consciousness and one’s mental-emotional faculties. Shen or Spirit is the nothing other than an accumulation of Qi and blood in the heart. The Blood supplies the material basis for the Shen.

Jing, Essence: Essence nurtures growth and development. There are two forms of essence. We inherit essence from our parents and we also produce our own essence from the food we eat and air we breathe. We have a finite, limited amount of the inherited essence. Depletion of essence has serious implications for our overall health and well-being. Jing is depleted throughout life by sickness, tension, other lifestyle issues and the passage of time.

Xue, Blood: Xue refers to the red fluid that flows through our vessels recognized in Western medicine, but it also has meanings that are different in Chinese medicine. Blood is a very dense and material form of Qi that nourishes and moistens all the body tissues and is not confined to the blood vessels. Blood is inseparable from Qi. They form a Yin and Yang pair.

“Qi is the commander of Blood
Blood is the mother of Qi.”

Things You Need To Do Before and After a Treatment

Posted by Jean Carr     Category: Client Resources

These are some general guidelines to follow when receiving a treatment at my clinic.

Before an Acupuncture Treatment:

  • Due to some of our clients who have potentially life threatening allergies, please refrain from using scented body products.
  • Please have something to eat during the day before seeing me. I will be moving your Qi. You need to have some Qi to move!
  • Don’t scrape your tongue the day you come to see me. The coating on your tongue, your tongue’s “fur,” is part of my diagnosis.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing for easy access to acupuncture points.

After an Acupuncture Treatment:

  • Don’t engage in heavy workouts or strong labor after you have a treatment. I have just shifted your subtle energies. Your body is open and can easily go back into imbalance.
  • Observe any changes especially during and after the 1st 24 hours following a treatment. The treatment continues to shift for 24 hours along the Chinese 24 hour body clock.
  • Be sure to eat warm nourishing meals and get plenty of rest as your body returns to balance.