AOMA Blog

Musculoskeletal Assessment & Pain Management Q&A with Dr. Yongxin Fan

Posted by Nicole Fillion-Robin on Wed, Aug 14, 2019 @ 09:02 AM

Dr. Yongxin Fan is an accomplished instructor of traditional Chinese tuina. He practiced and taught as an attending medical doctor and instructor at the Acupuncture Institute at the Chinese National Academy of TCM and at the Beijing International Acupuncture Training Center. A member of AOBTA, Yongxin Fan has lectured and worked as a visiting professor in Holland, Germany, and Japan. He has more than 16 years of clinical experience and his research has been published in the National Journal of TCM.

He specializes in applying an integrated therapy consisting of acupuncture, herbs, and tuina to treat various pain syndromes, including acute and chronic articulation and muscle injury lumbago, recovery from fractures, and headaches. Such integrative treatment is a hallmark of his approach to common ailments such as stress, allergies, insomnia, and gastrointestinal disorders. Fan has been on the faculty at AOMA since 2002.

Faculty_Headshot_HiR__Fan_1

Tell us a little about your time practicing TCM before you were at AOMA.

In Beijing, I worked at China Academy of TCM's hospital, the top Chinese TCM research academy (now Academy of Chinese Medicine Science). I also worked in the Acupuncture Institute and Beijing International Training Center.

After 1970, the World Health Organization asked China to provide training for outside professionals, as there was more international demand for TCM. The Acupuncture Institute and Beijing International Training Center was one of the first three international training centers in China to train non-national acupuncturists.

In 2001, I met Dr. Wu in Beijing, and I arrived to Austin 17 years ago to teach at AOMA.

How did you first become interested in becoming a TCM practitioner?

In China, Chinese Medicine is really popular and widely used. When I was about 2 years old, I fell off a bike and hurt my arm. Chinese Medicine helped me recover. When I was 6 or 7, I got the mumps and doctors prescribed topical herbs. I remember them being smelly, but they reduced the swelling in 2 days! Even today, I remember the color and texture of the paste. It was so effective, and provided quick relief, and so I knew I wanted to learn more.

In China, we use the traditional ways first to prevent or treat small things like a common cold or sore throat, stomach aches. My kids even ask for me to pinch their throats for sore throats now.  I’m open to Western medicine of course and always work collaboratively when it is called for.

 

How have you seen TCM change in China?

TCM right now in China is completely modernized. They use modern techniques with traditional herbs and acupuncture while using information from modern research. There’s a lot of new research about acupuncture and pain, especially with new knowledge and imaging of anatomy. In class, I try to explain physiologically why the 5 shu points can treat pain and proximal issues. We have a chance to use traditional techniques to treat modern diseases.

 

What are your specialties?

As TCM practitioners, we are all trained to be general practitioners, even though I treat mostly pain. I also treat many sleep issues, GI issues, and stress related problems. Another common issues I see is infertility due to stress.

 

What kind of soft tissue problems do you see most in clinic?

Most of the time I treat pain, but you have to do a thorough examination. We learn muscular examinations in tuina class. Here in the seminar we’ll learn how to differentiate 5 tissues pain. Joint pain is very complex.

Low back pain presents with lipomas. Fascia - people have started to understand it, but it’s still a mystery to most people. We know when we work on it it works.  

Finger joint pain. Factors that cause the pain are really important to know. Muscular, facia, nerve, bursa, ligaments.

 

Do you use herbs topically? What are your favorite ones we carry in the herb store?

I use the foot soak herbal combination we sell at White Crane for soft tissue damage and joint pain. It's a classical formula and patients find it to be very effective. We even have an AOMA alumna who has made it as a tincture/spray and has had some great results. 

I use jin gu shui, white flower oil, and other tinctures often as well. 

 

You are known as an effective but intense practitioner! What size needles do you usually use for soft tissue injuries? 

Most of the time I use 0.18 x 30 or 0.18 x 40. I used to be more aggressive in my treatments but have mellowed out in the 17 years since I arrived.

 

How do you prepare patients if you know they will be sensitive to the treatment or if it is their first time getting acupuncture?

I try to only use 6-10 needles for people who are nervous. If you have a diversity of tools you can use to treat, you don’t have to use as many needles.

You have to tell patients when they need to come back to feel better. You need to explain how you understand the pain and what your plan is. I try to tell them what I think. People like to know how long recovery will take. Tell patients what your past experience is treating their condition and give them a treatment window instead of a fixed amount of visits (ex: 4-6 visits). They want to know that you are confident that you can treat the pain, and that they will continue to improve. 

 

Do you work with any General Practitioners who refer patients to you regularly? 

We receive referrals from western doctors but usually just to the clinic. They come to see us because their GP told them to try. I’m glad to see that there are more and more doctors who are open to TCM. Because it works!

Recently I saw a patient with pain on his feet for 7 years - constant numbness and pain. He saw many doctors and specialists and tried many things. He had to wear a pad under the foot to relieve the pain. Acupuncture helped relieve his pain so he could sleep after the very first visit. It is patients like him that go back to their GP and advocate for acupuncture who help spread the word. 

 

How will your upcoming training help students and practitioners in clinic? 

We see a lot of soft tissue pathologies in clinic. The key to treating patients effectively is to diagnose the mechanism and where the pain originates from. It is muscular, nerve damage, or will working on the fascia or ligaments help?

My goal is to use TCM to treat soft tissue injury under the understanding of how anatomy has changed with pain. By introducing this technique to students, they will have more tools to improve their practice and patients’ outcomes.

In the class I will explain the different symptoms of these different tissues so you can diagnose effectively. We’re going to talk about how soft tissue damage affects pain and how we treat different kinds. We try to use traditional techniques and make them better and better to treat pain.

We will also go over the tools and techniques to use for each different indication (filiform needles, cupping, gua sha, bloodletting). Frozen shoulder, heel pain, or tendonitis are hard to treat with needles alone. You might help 80% of people with pain relief immediately, but for the remainder, you might need to incorporate different tools.

Although I do use them, the class won’t focus on topical herbs due to time.

 

Do you have any mentors in China or teachers you most look up to? How did they influence your career?

In China, most new practitioners, you have older doctor and senior doctors as mentors for several years until they are ready to advance themselves. They lead you and help you to practice and then you have to find your way.

For acupuncture, you always have to study on your own to make your own way. It can be from older teachers, books, lectures. It is important to keep learning.

 

What is your biggest piece of advice to students at AOMA and acupuncture practitioners who are just starting?

You need to really focus on foundations - they are so important! Most famous practitioners have a better outcome because they really understand their foundations.

When I was in school, my professors always told me that, and eventually I found that it was true. I tried to find magic techniques for a long time, but my biggest takeaway is that there is no magic technique and you can't take any shortcuts. You just have to put in the work.

 

Thank you so much for your time and thoughtfulness, Dr. Fan! We really look forward to learning more at your seminar in the fall.  

Topics: faculty spotlight, AOMA clinic, stress management, acupuncture, chinese medicine, tcm education, acupunture, pain management

Treating Qi Stagnation with Exercise

Posted by Nicole Fillion-Robin on Thu, Jul 18, 2019 @ 12:05 PM

Qi stagnation is a common diagnosis in any modern clinic, with the stressors of daily life making us all a little more stressed, achy from hour-long commutes, and irritable to be around.

 

waves and a sunset

 

An easy way to visually think of qi stagnation, is as the movement of water in a stream. If you think of a stream that stops flowing or of an eddy, the water might start to get cloudy. It might smell a little muddled - that “old water smell.” Algae might grow more abundantly. Sticks and litter may collect there. When you have a stream that is full and moving continuously, there’s no time for the water to get cloudy. Any disturbances from hiking through or an animal digging something up, will be easily be carried downriver.

"Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy." (Legally Blonde)

exercise-gives-you-endorphins-endorphins-make-you-happy-happypeoplefust-don-34541298

Qi stagnation can manifest both emotionally and physically. Emotionally, people may feel like there are emotions stuck that they are unable or unwilling to express. Ever feel like you are wound up, or bottling emotions up? Then you already know what Liver qi stagnation feels like.

Physically, a common way qi stagnation can show up as pain. A classic Chinese saying is:

Where there is free flow there is no pain. Where there is pain there is no free flow.”

While it might not be pleasant to start moving your body in ways it’s not used to, it’s often a sign of your body waking up. Pay attention to where things are creaky and achy. That might be ok and get better with more use (think of it as WD-40-ing your joints). Sharp pain? Probably your body telling you to back off (and to consult with a practitioner!).

Ease back into movement with light exercises or stretches. Yoga, qigong, taiji, swimming at the greenbelt, and walks are all ways to invite movement back into your life if you are feeling ready. Hate lifting weights? Then that gym membership is probably not for you. Choose something you love and you will want to do it more often. Start moving that qi and both your mind and body will thank you.

Need some inspiration?

  • We have free mindbody classes on campus during every quarter - qigong and yoga this coming term.
  • Set an alarm on your phone to take a walk around the block every hour or so. If you are a student, go with friends over break.
  • Take your pup for an early morning or bedtime walk (make sure the pavement is cool enough by walking around barefoot yourself and that it’s below 90 degrees).
  • South Austin Roller Rink has $7 adult skate night on Sundays and Wednesday, skate rental included! DJ and some fantastic people watching to be had.
  • Stretch on breaks! @joetherpy is one of my favorite resources.
  • Barton Springs Pool is free to the public before 8 AM and after 9 PM, and a great way to beat the summer heat. 
  • Reminder: many yoga studios are donation based - I have had some tough financial weeks and given $4 for a class. The only person who felt awkward was me.
  • Yoga-Yoga offers a 20% discount for AOMA employees and students.
  • If you are more of a homebody yogi, the youtube channel Yoga with Adriene (an Austinite!) is fantastic and hilarious.
  • The FITT Finder app is a local startup that shows you free fitness classes all around Austin.

Topics: stress relief, medical qigong, tai chi, stress management, aoma students

Chinese Medicine for Stress Relief

Posted by Yongxin Fan on Wed, Nov 26, 2014 @ 12:06 PM

 

Chinese Medicine for Stress Relief

How Stress Affects the Body

Our bodies are hardwired to handle stress, but over time too much stress takes a toll on the body.  When we feel threatened the sympathetic nervous system is activated causing the heart rate to increase, the pupils to dilate, and blood to be directed towards the extremities. Digestion can temporarily shut down. This is also known as the "fight or flight" response and is why when we are stressed, we may feel agitated or want to run away from our problems. Cortisol, sometimes called “the stress hormone”, is also released, causing increases in both blood pressure and inflammation while suppressing the immune system. If our bodies continue to experience high amounts of cortisol, symptoms can evolve into anxiety, depression, fatigue, digestive issues and tension headaches.

Stress is defined as an organism's total response to environmental demands or pressures. In a medical or biological context stress  is a physical, mental, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension. Stresses can be external (from the environment, psychological, or social situations) or internal (illness, or from a medical procedure).

Chinese Medicine for Stress Relief

acupuncture for stress

In Chinese medical theory, strong emotions like stress interrupt the body’s energy flowing smoothly. When these strong emotions are present for long periods of time they create a blockage in the body’s “road” system creating an energetic “traffic jam.” Acupuncture increases the circulation of blood and oxygenates the tissues throughout the body while cycling out cortisol and releasing natural pain-killers called endorphins. Other benefits of acupuncture include decreasing the heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and relaxing the muscles to help the body feel less stressed.

The traditional Chinese medicine approach is to focus on restoring the balance of energy in the body, such as soothing the liver Qi, tonifying the liver blood and spleen Qi, clearing the heat in the heart and liver, etc. A combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are generally applied and combined to treat stress; diet therapy and exercise is suggested as well.

Case Studies from AOMA professor, Dr.Yongxin Fan

Yongxin Fan acupuncturist

Dr. Yongxin Fan has over 20 years of clinical experience in treating muscular-skeletal disorders, pain, digestive disorders, and psycho-emotional disorders including stress.

“One patient had intense stress from her job and was having insomnia. I treated her with acupuncture and the herbal formula wen dan tang. After the first treatment she was sleeping much better and after two weeks the stress was much reduced.

A patient with more severe stress symptoms (anxiety, panic attack, insomnia, and heart palpitations) recovered in 3 weeks after receiving acupuncture and taking the herbal formulas gui pi tang & huang lain e jiao tang.

Sometimes the symptoms are less severe but still can be debilitating. I had a patient who complained that ever since childhood she cried very easily, making her uncomfortable. I gave her acupuncture and Chinese herbs (xiao yao wan & gan mai da zao tang), and after 2 months she is much better.”

Chinese Herbs for Stress

Chinese herbsThe most commonly prescribed Chinese herbal formulas for stress are xiao yao wan (also known as “Free and Easy Wanderer”), gan mai da zao tang, chai hu shu gan san, yi guan jian, yue ju wan, and gui pi tang. To find out the right herbs for you, make an appointment with a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist. The practitioner will take a full medical history and do pulse and tongue diagnosis to determine the best acupuncture plan and herbal prescription.

Exercise and Diet for Stress

Exercise should be a part of everyone’s stress management plan, as it helps the body produce more endorphins, also known as the “runner’s high”. Many types of physical activity can stimulate this response and each person must find the right type of exercise for him or herself. For some, walking is enough, but others will want to get more of a workout to get their blood pumping and break a sweat.

Taiji, qigong, and meditation are forms of mind-body exercise and have been shown to help induce the “relaxation response.” The relaxation response makes the heart beat slower, muscles relax, breathing become slower, and blood pressure decrease.

As far as dietary therapy, most vegetables and fruits that are rich in color can help the body deal with stress. For example, in Chinese nutrition, blueberries, purple cabbage, beets, tomatoes, and eggplant are believed to be stress reducing. A diet high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins B & E is recommended, as these nutrients are easily depleted by stress.

Fruits and vegetables such as apricots, asparagus, avocados, bananas, and broccoli, brown rice, dried fruit, figs, salmon, green leafy vegetables, and most rich colored fruits are high in vitamin B. Even if you eat a healthy diet, vitamin B complex is a good supplement to consider if you suffer for chronic stress.

 Download our  Intro to Chinese Medicine  eBook

Sources:

Topics: Dr. Yongxin Fan, stress relief, stress management, acupuncture for stress relief

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