Alternative Medicine Blog

Covering topics such as acupuncture, herbal medicine, mindfulness meditation practice and more are discussed by Matthew Wagner, certified acupuncturist and herbalist in Madison, Wisconsin.

Allergies - Isn’t it about time you got rid of them?

Matthew Wagner

What is an allergy?  When you think of allergies, you think of runny nose, itchy eyes, headache, cloudy head, and feeling all around crappy. The feeling of allergies is one of leaking and being stuck. You’re leaking fluids from the nose, eyes, and skin, and those fluids are also stuck (inflamed and swollen sinuses, muscle pain, etc), which makes your head hurt and gives you a cloudy head. Read More

Injuries – To ice or not to ice?

Matthew Wagner

The Chinese Medicine perspective is ice should be used very sparingly, if at all. In TCM speak we say that ice blocks the flow of yang. This yang is the body’s vitality, its ability to move substances in and out of a damaged area, and consequently, its ability to effectively heal.
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Is it carpal tunnel, or pseudo-carpal tunnel? Get pain relief from acupuncture treatments

Matthew Wagner

Carpal tunnel pain is generally thought to be due to compression of the medial nerve at the location of the carpal tunnel, with primary symptoms of pain and numbness in the wrist extending into the palm. There is some speculation that carpal tunnel pain can be due to medial nerve impingement anywhere along its pathway, from the wrist all the way up to the shoulder, although there is not much consensus in this regard. Oftentimes, the cause of carpal tunnel is unknown.
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Is it really arthritis? Acupuncture solutions

Matthew Wagner

There’s no doubt about it, Arthritis is a legitimate concern, and it is sometimes challenging to treat. But, frequently, arthritis becomes a catchall for chronic aches and pains. It can often be a "garbage pail" diagnosis, which guarantees your pain is never accurately diagnosed or effectively treated.  Read More

Common plantain as Chinese herbal medicine

Matthew Wagner

Have you ever wondered what herbs are in your backyard? If you’re like most people, it’s probably something you’ve never thought about. Thankfully, my herb nerdiness is here to add some medicinal plant trivia to your day. As the summer approaches, we’re going to start talking about weeds. In fact, we’re going to discover a love for the weeds in our yards we didn’t know we had. We might even stop calling them weeds altogether. All of these plants have rich stories, and as we get to know them, hopefully we’ll start to develop an appreciation for local plant diversity and medicinal uses. Often, if we think of herbal medicines at all, we think of something exotic, such as Silk Road spices, or rare Amazonian plants. Hopefully, we’ll see that medicinal plants are all around us.  Read More

Under the weather? BLAME the weather…

Matthew Wagner

A lot of people have been sick this year. Maybe you’ve been lucky, but I’m sure you know someone who has been hit with the seasonal cold/flu. If it seems like it’s getting worse, you’re right! This year has seen many more illnesses in the clinic. My experience is mirrored by that of my friends in the Western medical world, as well. So, what’s going on? It’s true that America has a health crisis. (The rates of diabetes and heart disease are higher than they should be, and most of us could stand to exercise more). Certainly, this doesn’t make for a strong immune system. However, I think an arguably more important cause (and very under-recognized) is the weather – the very world we live in. Abnormal weather creates abnormal health; it’s harder for the body to be in balance and harmony with the environment, when the environment changes unpredictably. This is also recognized in the research community, take, for example, the following statement from The Royal Society Publishing, “One important area for future research is the effect of disrupted seasonality on the dynamics of infectious disease. A recent review has highlighted the unprecedented rate at which vector-borne diseases have changed over the past decade, and has alerted a wide audience to the impact of changes in the climate [64].” (Stevenson, 1). This is clearly the perspective of Classical Medicine, where irregularities of the weather are attributed to the rise of epidemics, lingering pathogens, and even stress and damage to specific organ systems. Let’s take some time to explore this bummer of a topic, what it means for you personally, and realistic ways to stay healthy through the seasons.  Read More

A tangential Christmas herbal - Glimpse of cinnamon as medicine

Matthew Wagner

Christmas time is here again, and with it, those fantastic Christmas flavors. Smells and tastes hit the brain and open up hidden depths of memory and emotion. Some are profound enough to strike a chord of deep nostalgia. If Christmas spices fill you with a peculiar warmth, it’s with good reason. Not only do they warm the spirit, they warm the body, and when they do, they’re able to fill one with a sense of vitality, and heart-centered contentment. This is also why they make such essential medicine. Because it’s everywhere at the moment, let’s take a look at how extremely different cultures have used and thought of this herb. Let’s compare the usages of (modern and premodern) China herbalism, medieval Islamic Medicine, and finally, medieval European. Read More

Not all IBS is stress related - Effective treatment in Madison WI

Matthew Wagner

IBS is one of those functional diseases that usually responds well, and quickly, to Acupuncture and Herbology.  The common TCM diagnosis usually involves a large degree of “Liver qi stagnation”, elements of digestive weakness, and pathological accumulation of phlegm-damp in the intestines.  This pattern holds true in probably 85% of IBS cases, and a practitioner who follows a basic IBS = liver qi stagnation approach will generally see a lot of success in the clinic.  This can seem miraculous for those 85%.  However, easy success discourages thorough diagnosis.  This can damage long-term wisdom and professional development, if the practitioner doesn’t know how to treat the remaining, to say nothing of how aggravating it is for those TCM patients who aren’t getting the results they want.  Those remaining 15% require a more complete diagnosis and nuanced understanding.  Read More

Acupuncture for back and knee pain - Alternatives to surgery in Madison WI

Matthew Wagner

Back and knee pain can be hard to live with.  It can keep you from being active, or from enjoying simple pleasures, like a walk outside.  It can even keep you up at night.  Worst of all, over time, chronic pain can make you feel down, depressed, and tired.  Where conventional medicine may allow you to lead a longer and more productive life, it doesn't always offer solutions to those aches and pains that come from actually living longer and playing harder.  In these situations, acupuncture may be a more effective, less invasive, and less expensive alternative.  Read More

Acupuncture in the treatment of sports injuries: What happens when you overdo it?

Matthew Wagner

When you give it your all, sometimes you can push yourself a little too far.  Whether you’re a competitive athlete, a weekend warrior, or simply trying to get in shape, accidents can, and do happen.  Unfortunately, it seems they can most easily happen, when it feels like you’re approaching your personal best – when it seems like you can run forever, when you feel stronger day after day at the gym, or when you see the pounds start to come off before your eyes.  It’s at times like these that the thrill of the sport and the elation of personal accomplishment can easily drown out your body’s signals telling you to rest.  This is the perfect condition for injury.  When the inevitable damage occurs, acupuncture can mean the difference between weeks versus months of recovery time. Read More

Holiday stress relief acupuncture

Matthew Wagner

Do you want to feel GREAT this holiday season? Manage the stress of family togetherness with a nice, relaxing acupuncture treatment.

Let’s face it, no matter how much you love family, they can be a little taxing. Survive the holidays with ease; come in for some stress-relief acupuncture. Not only will you feel better, but you’ll make the most out of family time with your calm and cool post-acupuncture demeanor. You’ll like them more, they’ll like you more, and everyone will be filled with Christmas cheer.

P.S. Santa gives more presents to people who are nice during the holidays! Read More

Beating allergies with acupuncture in Madison Wisconsin

Matthew Wagner

The winter is finally starting to loosen it’s icy grip, and as most of us eagerly await long summer days filled with sun, warmth, and time spent outdoors, many of us also feel a twinge of apprehension - allergy season is on it’s way! If you’re one of the whopping 20% of Americans who suffers from seasonal allergies, (1) you know that your love of warm weather comes with a price, and all of the fun summer activities spent outside with friends and family are often accompanied by sneezing, coughing, runny nose, headache, and just plain feeling lousy. This can leave many of us looking for whatever relief we can find, be that staying indoors, using over-the-counter medications, or searching for any number of alternative remedies. Among this long list of possibilities, Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine is one of the best-kept secrets; it is oftentimes one of the most effective long-term allergy treatments available, and can even keep allergies from coming back.  Read More

Acupuncture for sciatica - Treatment options for Madison Wisconsin

Matthew Wagner

Sciatica can be an aggravating condition, which, while generally not “serious”, can negatively impact one’s quality of life.  When the sciatic nerve is irritated, it can keep a person from doing the things they enjoy, such as running, dancing, or even walking.  It can make you squirm in your chair at work.  It can even create a constant pain that can keep you up at night.  Unfortunately, Sciatica may not respond well to conventional treatment, which may rely heavily on pain killers for typical presentations, and may even include surgery for more serious conditions.  Such treatments also carry with them additional risks of complication from liver and kidney toxicity (from the use of NSAIDs), as well as the risks from invasive surgery.  Fortunately, most types of Sciatica typically respond very well to Acupuncture, and the successful treatment of sciatica with Acupuncture gives people a better chance at avoiding serious complications. Read More

Chinese medicine offers effective treatment for irritable bowel syndrome IBS

Matthew Wagner

Irritable Bowel is one of those diagnoses that comes with no comfort, much like fibromyalgia, or chronic fatigue.  If you’ve ever been diagnosed with irritable bowel, you know that treatment is limited and unsatisfactory.  Oftentimes, it feels like a “garbage pail” diagnosis, when all other tests come up negative.  A diagnosis of Irritable Bowel essentially says that nobody really knows what the problem is.  However, if you have IBS, or know someone who does, don’t give up hope!  While Conventional Medicine may not have the solution, Chinese Medicine (including acupuncture and herbs) may offer successful treatment for anyone suffering from this debilitating disorder. Read More

Relieving Winter Back Pain with Acupuncture

Matthew Wagner

Did you know that the winter season can give you lower back pain?  It may sound strange that a season can be responsible for aches and pains, but consider how many people you know who suffer from lower back pain in the winter - a heavy, stiff, achy feeling that settles right into the lower back.  Maybe you’re one of them?   Read More

Why Do We Get Sick?

Matthew Wagner

We take it for granted that people just get sick.  We assume that it’s normal that every once in awhile we’ll get a cold, or indigestion, or need some type of surgery at some point in our lives.  But, do we ever question whether this situation really is normal?  Do we ever wonder why we get sick?  According to one of the earliest Chinese Medical texts, the Huang Di Nei Jing, dated to the first century BCE, “The antique people lived amongst the animals and used movement to ward of cold, and recluse shelter to ward off heat; internally they did not have any attachments and envies; externally they did not have need for bureaucratic composure, these were tranquil, satisfying times, and as such, evils were unable to penetrate deeply...But the world is different now, with misery present in the interior, and suffering damaging the exterior; along with the loss of the ability to follow the four seasons...hence minor diseases manifest with severity, while major diseases imperatively cause death.”  It appears people have been getting sick for a long time!  No wonder it seems normal now. Read More

Fast and Effective Chinese Medicine Treatments for Shingles

Matthew Wagner

Chinese medicine can oftentimes treat Shingles more quickly and effectively than anti-viral drugs, and without the side effects.

Shingles is a painful skin condition mostly found along the abdomen, inguinal groove, and lower back. It is caused by a flare-up of the same virus that causes chicken pox, herpes zoster, and occurs when an individual is sick, stressed, of advanced age, or in any other way immune compromised. When someone recovers from chicken pox, they never get rid of the virus. It lies dormant in the nerves, (primarily the dorsal nerve), held in check by a strong immune system. When the immune system is weakened there is the potential that the herpes zoster virus flares up as Shingles. Although Shingles will usually clears up on its own in a few weeks, it is an incredibly painful condition that most people seek treatment for. Read More

Beating the Common Cold and Flu with Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture

Matthew Wagner

Most people don’t realize that Chinese Medicine excels at treating the common cold and flu.

Cold and Flu season can be a miserable time of year, especially if you’re one of the unfortunate people who seems to get sick from every passing sneeze or cough. As most people can’t afford to take off work anymore, they’re left dragging themselves out of bed, sniffing, aching, and feverish, to drag themselves into their job.  Read More

No Coming or Going - Why We Meditate

Matthew Wagner

We are master escape artists in our ability to hide from the truth.  We have a grass is greener mentality.  We always think it’s better somewhere else - better house, car, job.  While personal progress is often a virtue, affording us better access to life’s essentials, when applied to our spiritual lives, not only does this mentality get us absolutely nowhere, but it keeps us in the same painful perspectives and relationships to life we are trying to escape from.  The relationship that most people have to their lives is one of discomfort, shame, and fundamental alienation and isolation.  For this reason, the modern approach to spirituality is to seek for happiness outside oneself.  Traditionalists pine for happiness in the afterlife.  The new age movement has cornered the market on manic projection.  But, is anyone truly happy right now? Read More

Dealing with Chronic Illness with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs

Matthew Wagner

Chronic illness affects more than just our body, it affects our mental well-being, as well.  Those fortunate enough to be healthy and free of illness often have a hard time finding sympathy for those who are sick.  However, all people who suffer from any chronic illness, such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, or candida, know how deeply, negatively impactful, the condition can be on all aspects of their lives; from energy and vitality, to being able to sleep and feel well-rested, to being well enough to maintain friendships, and to the foods someone eats, among other things.  Physical or functional illness often dramatically affects our overall emotional well-being in a negative way, making us more likely to feel hopeless and depressed. Read More

Meditation... where to start?

Matthew Wagner

What brings us to spiritual practice? This is a very important question. On the one hand it asks us to recognize what we may hope to find through practice. On the other hand, by recognizing what we want, we’re forced to truly acknowledge what we think we don’t have. In this way, we must be very honest with ourselves. We have to actually deal with who we are in the present moment.

This honesty is absolutely crucial. Our tendency, as thinking beings, is to project outward, to plan, to dream, and to fantasize. Very rarely, if ever, do we actually look at who we are right now. From a certain point of view, it’s much easier for us to dream about what it would be like to be at peace, or to fantasize about what it would look like when we finally ‘wake up’.  Read More

The Shen, Clinically and Spiritually

Matthew Wagner

Two fundamental aspects of shen exist; an esoteric and metaphysical interpretation of shen as the complement to Jing, fundamental to the pre-heaven essence and spirit, and an interpretation of shen as separated cognitive processes, or smaller shen, that together form the totality of the human intellect, sensorium, and conscious, sub-, or unconscious being, a larger shen. Neither of these two definitions are, of course, in and of themselves complete, but hang dependently upon one another. In this respect, what becomes vital to understanding shen, both spiritually and medicinally, is knowing how these two aspects of shen relate to one another. In other words, how do the philosophical implications of shen affect the clinical manifestations of shen? This understanding of both facets of shen is crucial to truly understanding the etiology of shen disturbance and to understanding the ramifications of pathologies of shen both psychosomatically and spiritually. Read More

Holiday Stress Relief with Acupuncture and Herbs

Matthew Wagner

The holidays are here, and as you cook your turkey diner you are probably reminded of just how stressful it is.  As we reflect upon the holidays, it is perhaps fair to say that stress is the most ubiquitous shared experience common to people living in industrialized countries.  It is, in fact, our love affair.  Most of us, culturally, are workaholics, weekend (week-long) warriors, and/or weekend bingers, fueled by adrenaline, caffeine, alcohol, and poor diet.  Whether or not we think we may, or may not, have any of these characteristics, statistically we would probably describe ourselves as “stressed and burned out”.  The reason for this, in all likelihood, stems from learned inappropriate boundaries, in which we undervalue ourselves and consequently find ourselves overly obligated to our jobs, family, and most importantly to own preconceptions.  Therefore, we oftentimes sacrifice our own personal truth for the idea of how we think our lives are supposed to appear.  It’s no wonder that we find ourselves in a state of chronic, nervous tension. Read More

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