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“Rest Assured, Relief from the Winter Blues is Just a Few Needles Away”

By Laura Stauffer Parks

Acupuncture, which has recently been featured on Oprah and the Dr. Oz Show, is an ancient medical technology that has been around for at least 5,000 years.  Acupuncture is considered part of Chinese Medicine, which looks at living in balance with the five seasons for wisdom on how to maintain optimum health and wellness.  The five seasons are also referred to as the five elements, winter is water, spring is wood, summer is fire, late summer is earth, and fall is metal.  Winter, the water element, can be one of the most challenging seasons for many people, with symptoms ranging from fatigue to depression to S.A.D. (Seasonal Affect Disorder) to additional aches and pains and much more.

Using Five Element Acupuncture, your acupuncturist will diagnose which element constitution you are based on C.S.O.E. (Color, Sound, Odor, Emotion.)  For example, if you are primarily a Water/winter constitution, you will likely exhibit the color blue- (or a brownish color think “muddy water”) on your face around your eyes or mouth, the sound of your voice will be a groan, often sounding more mono-tone or speaking very quickly, so it is difficult for others to interrupt you.  The odor, which a trained acupuncturist can usually pick up on immediately upon entering the treatment room, is called putrid, which can sometimes smell lovely like an ocean breeze.  The emotion of water is fear, which can be transformed into courage, or being prepared for unknown.

Often water constitution folks are described as intense and will either be adrenaline/thrill seeking folks who like to live life in the fast lane (think skydiving, overworking, pushing through exhaustion to feel that extra surge of adrenaline) or they will be ultra-cautious, always stocked up with extra toilet paper and bottled water in case of emergency, knowing all the evacuation routes by heart, keeping not only material items as a backup plan, but also constantly learning new skills to keep them safe in their lives. Another way water constitutions may manifest the skill of being prepared shows up as a vast library of wisdom, they may seem like a walking encyclopedia, especially in regards to their profession or special interests.  The gifts of the Water element are: deep listening, wisdom, skill and ability, reassurance and preparedness.

The organs and meridian systems most connected to the water element are the Kidneys and Bladder.  The kidneys can be described as the “energizer bunny battery pack,” reflecting a person’s longevity, as well as their ability to keep “going, going, going,” pushing through in life physically and emotionally, despite any obstacles.  When a person is burning the candle at both ends, they are depleting their kidney energy, or tapping into their longevity- this may not produce negative side effects while someone is young such as in their 20’s, but if they continue to burn the candle at both ends for too long, it will show up as a decreased quality in their overall long term health and could potentially shorten their life span.

The most common red flag of kidney weakness is what acupuncturists call Kidney Yin Deficiency, which most Americans tend to have issues with.  Kidney Yin Deficiency shows up mostly as lower back pain or ache, knee pain, fatigue and/or tinnitus.  If lifestyle continues to deplete the kidney energy, Kidney Yin symptoms will include premature thinning and graying of the head hair, weak bones or fractures, infertility, impotence, kidney stones, memory loss, and/or neurological problems.   Emotionally or mentally, water imbalances may show up as having very little fear, behaving recklessly, or having too much fear having phobias and excessive fears.

Bladder deficiency symptoms are usually connected to frequent bladder infections or UTI’s (Urinary Tract Infections) or other urinary issues, such as difficult, excessive, frequent and/or uncontrolled urination, especially at night.  Bladder deficiency symptoms also include any of the kidney deficiency symptoms, because the kidneys and bladder are so closely connected in Chinese Medicine.

During the season of winter, the Kidney and Bladder organs and acupuncture meridian pathways are at their greatest strength and their greatest vulnerability to imbalance, which is why receiving acupuncture treatment during the winter season can be so important to manage the symptoms previously discussed that are related to kidney and bladder deficiency.  Many of my patients come in for treatment in the winter because they feel the need for a little extra support.  Others say they just need a little acupuncture tune up.  If you or your loved ones have any of the symptoms described above, please encourage them to try acupuncture, especially for winter aches and pains.  Relief can be just a few (acupuncture) needles away.


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