Acupuncture How Does it Work?

21 12 2011

Explore and Live in a World Without Pain

About 5 years ago I sought acupuncture for severe low back pain.

And I only did so after all other Western medicines had failed to significantly alleviate my daily back pain.  For me, it is true that combinations of physical therapy, diet, body weight maintenance, pharmaceuticals and exercise do help.  But when you have substantial physical and physiological damage in bone and soft tissue which includes tendons, ligaments and muscle, you’ll always feel a certain amount of acute to varying chronic pain.  For those that go under the knife to correct and alleviate pain, you are also at risk of creating more pain.  Each one of us must weigh the benefit to risk ratio of surgery vs. quality living and pain management.  And in the best case surgical scenarios, significant pain relief can be experienced but not guaranteed.

Because of my unique pain story, I prefer to work around the pain trigger points through daily exercise while trying different types of therapeutic pain management programs as opposed to more surgery.  As I stated, there is no guarantee that surgery will provide a pain free experience.  With that being said, I ventured into acupuncture.  At that point in my life I would have tried any type of therapeutic pain modality to relieve my pain whether I believed in it or not.  And at that time acupuncture was something I didn’t have a lot of faith in, but I was running short of options to relieve my low back pain.  Also, at the time, surgery was too risky for me because the probability of a worst case scenario was great.

My thoughts on acupuncture and to this day, I’m not sure how it really works, but I’ve mentally focused on electrical energy flowing throughout my body to assist in the healing power.  I do know our bodies have this “Chi” energy force that travels throughout our neurological highways where energy flow becomes blocked through illness, disease and injury which creates pain.  And when acupuncture needles are inserted at various points along these energy Chi meridian pathways: energy flow that was once blocked can become unblocked.  And if these highways become unblocked your pain can be substantially alleviated.  In various cultures this energy is not only called, or known as Chi, this life energy is also known as Prana, life force, Spirit, subtle and vital energy to name a few.

For me personally, acupuncture provides pain alleviation.  I can only explain it like this, I think of my body as an electrical circuit that has shorted somewhere and is giving me pain.  I know if I can remove the shorted circuit through another parallel neurological highway I can turn off much of the pain that would otherwise be signaled back to my brain.  If you’ve had injury, the damage is still there, however, the pain signal can be turned off.

This is easy for me to visualize through my mind’s eye.  Since I have an electrical background and physiological knowledge of the body these two things appear to allow my mind to accept this healing process; regardless of whether medical science has figured out a way to prove this in trial studies.  Which to date, they have not.

Many scientists consider acupuncture a pseudoscience because it cannot be proven through Western medical scientific trial the benefit of the needles, preparatory relaxation-meditation vs. variations of protocol needle insert techniques etc.   Also under what conditions it works, or what causes it to work for some but not others.  I can completely understand the difficulty of creating a blind study where test patients wouldn’t know whether a needle was sticking them for example, while others in the study were actually stuck in order to understand the significance of the skin penetration vs. no penetration and pain alleviation benefit.

I believe if you believe something is possible, through the psychosomatic (mind/body) healing relationship, the portion of the brain that allows healing through belief and visualization also allows healing of the body through the many electrical meridian circuits throughout the body.   Understanding this relationship allows those like I to channel acupuncture needle point connections to flow energy one way while diverting it from signaling pain back to the brain.

I will tell you there are different techniques used by acupuncturists when getting stuck with these tiny micro-thin needles.  Five years ago, I experienced two different aggressive styles of Chinese acupuncture that when these needles were manipulated into my low back caused great pain when setting the needles.  Thereafter, electrical current was added through wire leads with electrical source equipment sending pulsating electrical stimulation.  Although low voltage electricity is added within some therapy sessions, this is not always the case or necessary for acupuncture to work.

When I first experienced acupuncture, the hard manipulative needle insertion technique although painful seemed to turn-off a lot of the severe pain at the time.  After 10 sessions I called it good.  And because of the tenth session where a needle hit a sensitive nerve in my low back causing me to jolt, which was followed by a back spasm.  I didn’t go back after that.  This is because I hyper extended my low back while lying face down on the table.  Man, did that hurt; I was sweating bullets while that needle was manipulated into place.  I did finish that therapy session.

Thereafter and rightfully so, I had fear of going back to an acupuncturist and didn’t ask for another referral.  However, years later with a bit more education under my belt, I sought out a soft Chinese style acupuncturist that focused on various modalities prior to needle insertion.  Sensitive areas of the body to touch do much better with a soft style preparation acupuncturist prior to needle insertion.  Very light massage, relaxation and suction cup appearing devices to increase blood circulation allow for easy insertion without needle manipulation in hyper-sensitive painful areas using a shallow needle insertion technique.  Thereafter electro stimulation to the needles is applied in some sessions while not others.  This technique works well for me to remove the severe pain.

You ask why I went back after a jolt that hurt my back 5 years ago.  Because, even after that experience, I knew I received a pain relief benefit, before and after the jolt.  The years following that session, I knew I received significant pain relief.  To this day, my back is more pain free than had I not received any acupuncture.  Yet when you look at my x-rays and MRI’s, the injury sites throughout my back continue to worsen.  I don’t want the surgery if I can continue to manage the pain with various pain relief techniques.  So I figured, why not give it another shot.  Life must continue on, so I look for therapy that works in order to avoid surgery, so I can stay productive.

As of recent, I’ve gone through another series of acupuncture using the shallow needle penetration with suction cups, and electrical stimulation to increase blood flow after the needles are set to include meditation prior to and during the session.  The sharp unbearable radiating pain in my neck is gone.  However, the chronic achy dull arthritic pain is always present throughout my back which I can manage.  For me this is significant pain relief for which I’m thankful my health insurance pays.

I’ve read a few blogger sites on the benefits/to no benefits of using acupuncture.  The feelings on acupuncture are mixed throughout the medical and general community.  It’s considered by many that believe in Eastern medicine modalities as a valued natural science that can heal and alleviate pain and cure disease.  To Western medicine practitioners, many professionals and lay persons believe at best acupuncture is a pseudoscience that’s falls into categories more like magic and faith healing.

Instead of trying to convince you that acupuncture works, I think it is best to leave you with the following insight.  Like Pranic healing (link listed below), there is much our modern medical science does not understand and has no way to prove through clinical trials how life “Chi” energy actually heals and alleviates pain.  But to make a comparison of the misunderstood not too long ago, one must simply recall the thought process, “it was impossible for man to fly, let alone sore through space and land on the moon.”  Or, until Penicillin as an effective antibiotic was discovered; many with serious disease through infection were doomed to die with no hope of a cure.  During the times, these beliefs could think no other way with any solution that would ever change the outcome until science proved otherwise many years later.

I believe there is much in the world science does not understand about the human mind and body.  Let me give you one more relevant example.  It has long been said people on earth only use 10% of their brains capacity.   This too is controversial due to the “natural selection” concept.  Since the brain tissue has metabolically evolved throughout time, and to lose 90% of capacity would have catastrophic consequences on the human regulation of the body is the controversy in dispelling the 10% brain capacity use.

So maybe we are using a 100% of metabolic brain function, but maybe not 100% healing function within another part of the brain.  Is this line of reasoning possible?  Of course it is.  But then again, how do you prove this scientifically?  As of to date, science can’t.  So in relating this line of reasoning to the naysayer’s; acupuncture is just as valid for those that believe it works, so it works!  Just because a scientific relative blind study to prove it works has not been accomplished to date, does not mean it doesn’t work.  Science to date does not have the knowledge to empirically prove it.

Let’s assume our brains have room to evolve to make use of our Chi energy, even though science cannot tell you how it works for sure.  So if we dare to think there is room for evolving of the brain-body connection, we could think the following:  if science does not know how the healing Chi energy works using needles, there is no way to test each of our healing brain-body connections.  Each one of us that experiences a pain relief benefit may use a different part of the brain, brain function, or cognitive skill connection to the body when the needles are inserted, which activate the healing life force connection.  This would explain why it works for some and not others.  Others may be more or less in touch with this part of the healing brain-body connection.  I’m not sure how science would test these variables in a blind study.  Here lies the empirical sample test dilemma in proving the healing benefits connection using acupuncture.

So I’d say to you, if you have severe pain and have exhausted Western medicine resources, regardless of the negative opinion about acupuncture, what have you got to lose?  What doesn’t work for others may work for you?  You may have the ability to unlock a Chi force that is hidden within 90% of an untapped brain function that others like I are able to unlock.  And consider this, there must be some validity to it because many HMO practitioners refer pain patients to acupuncturists whether they completely believe in it or not.  And many health insurers cover the cost!  So there must be something to it.

I know surgery and/or chiropractics is not the answer for “my” pain relief without causing further damage to my weight bearing structure.  I’ve been able to avoid much of the pain pitfalls that these two practices, had I accepted the referrals and treatments may have worsened my pain story.  The key is, get more than one, or two opinions before you do something radical if you have a choice.  You cannot reverse damage caused through over manipulation of bone, tendon and ligaments, and a surgery that went bad.

I believe one day science will prove through relative and valid empirical trials how and why acupuncture works for many patients.  But like Einstein’s Theory of Relativity “Time was no longer uniform and absolute.” Physics could no longer be understood as space by itself, hence space and time was also dependant on velocity.  Until this time Isaac Newton’s physics and astronomy stood as a 200-year-old theory of mechanics.  So you see through time man evolves in many different depths of knowledge and understanding within the world we live, as well as the bodies we live in.

Listed below, I’ve left some links that further explain how acupuncture and Pranic healing may help you to alleviate your pain by activating a part of your brain that to date is unexplained scientifically, but for many this healing practice works.

If you want to try acupuncture and your primary physician does not believe in it, and won’t refer you, or it’s not covered in your health insurance program, there are 3 things you can do.  During your employer annual health insurance selections pick a provider or policy that covers acupuncture within its listed services.  Or, if you have coverage for this service, but your referring physician does not believe in acupuncture and won’t refer you, request a new primary care physician.  Or request from your current primary care physician to be referred to a physiatrist.  Physiatrists are pain management specialists with an arsenal of pain modality resources for which one, if covered by your HMO will refer you to an acupuncturist if you’re willing to give it a try.


Woodard, Marc.  Why a Physiatrist Offers the Best Rehabilitative Course.  Mirror Athlete’s Fitness Secrets!  June 23, 2011.

Craig, Gary.  Acupuncture Meridians Pathways of Chi Energy.  Healing with EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques.  Website:

Woodard, Marc.  What is Pranic Healing and Does it Work?  Mirror Athlete’s Fitness Secrets! July 23, 2010.

Novella, Steven.  Does Acupuncture Work or Not?  Neurologica blog.  Sep 25, 2007.

Woodamarc.  “Pain Depression Origins.” HubPages.

Physiotherapy Adelaide Site.  How Does Acupuncture Work?  Copyright 2011.

Do We Use all of our Brain Power?  Google answer site.

Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, USA Medical Services Officer, CPT, RET. 2011 Copyright, All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Publishing @:,  Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.


Why a Physiatrist Offers the Best Rehabilitative Course

23 06 2011
Korean War Memorial Honors Korean Veterans

The practice of physiatry is approximately 50 years old.  So how is it many pain and immobility challenged patients have never heard of this medical specialty?

    Good question, I guess it’s possible this specialty could be considered the gold standard of rehabilitative medical treatment.  And available to pain and immobility suffers once other medical treatment has been exhausted.

    If you don’t already know about the discipline of physiatry, I will now fill you in on what this specialization can offer a chronic pain and immobility challenged patient that requires rehabilitative services.

   A physiatrist is a medical doctor that deals with muscular-skeletal, neurological, acute and chronic pain and rehabilitative therapy.  They are also referred to as a doctor of osteopathy who specializes in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R); using noninvasive diagnosis, treatment and management of disease through “physical” means (Physical therapy and medications).

    They can perform all types of specialized tests that range from nerve and spine imaging to determine severity of nerve damage (e.g. electromyography, nerve conduction) to evaluate various nerve disease/disorders, etc.  They also specialize and work with patients that have a history in degenerative back and neck disease problems.  To include, but not limited to:  Rehabilitative treatment with sports and work injuries; and those diagnosed with arthritis, tendonitis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, myofascial pain and spinal cord injuries.

    There are approximately 6000 physiatrists to date that specialize and focus on bad backs and the relationship to other parts of the body that also become affected.  For many patients that suffer from back pain and distal radiating pain to other body parts a direct connection to the pain origin can be substantiated and treated.  Radiating or distal pain from the origin pain source can take years to diagnose correctly and can be very challenging for many physicians.  In other words, so challenging primary physicians may take a subjective “shot in the dark” in referring a patient to a medical specialist that may, or may not be of immediate help.

    Sometimes these “shot in the dark” referrals may not pan out.  For me this was the case.  And I suspect there are many of you like me that had the same experience of visiting a lot of specialists and the end result was temporary physical therapy sessions, shots and more pills.  And only until a significant amount of time passed while working through a medical “status quo” policy driven health maintenance organization, did I finally get the treatment I needed.  And this occurred after I learned how to properly advocate and self refer to specialists that could treat me relative to my unique pain issues.

    It is my personal experience many of my medical referrals throughout the years to determine my pain origins were a waste of resources and time that lacked relative treatment.  I believe in my case, I should have been first referred to a physiatrist to determine the best rehabilitative course.  And it is also my belief that if this would have been the case, much of my pain and suffering would have been alleviated five years ago.  And to be honest, I’m not sure what the long-term impact will be on my health as a result of untimely and irrelevant treatment.

    Let’s now take a look at what the physiatrist’s educational requirements are so you can better understand their specialty background and how they as a “direct” referral source to other specialists may help you.

    Physiatrists go through 4 years of medical school and 4 years of residency training (1st year – internal medicine/general practice; next 3 years emphasize specialty training; fellowships for additional specialization in sports medicine, brain injury (stroke), spinal cord, pain management and pediatric medicine.

    Their patient goal is also to treat the whole person’s physical, emotional, psychosocial and vocational goals.  This discipline also falls in line with Mirror Athlete’s principled fit-healthy concepts.  Mirror Athlete is about “ill-health prevention for the encompassing being (mind, body and “soul-spirit”) and is our principled fitness life philosophy.

    For many pain sufferers with chronic pain that have not responded to previous pain management and rehabilitative treatments, access to highly trained physiatrist resources can make a significant difference in increasing mobility and/or alleviating pain. 

    It is true; most of us have access to highly trained medical specialists through our referring physicians.  And it is also true a primary care physician will “usually” not refer you first to a physiatrist “for pain and mobility challenges. 

    You ask why this is.  My answer to you, I honestly don’t know.  The only thing I can think… Maybe it has to do with higher costs of services.  And maybe if you are stabilized and appear to be tolerating your disability, and/or don’t understand, or know you can self refer to see a physiatrist, the HMO policy advices primary physicians to follow a cost effective services protocol otherwise.

    However, I can share with you, if you can get a referral to a neurologist; you’re really in line to get a referral to see a physiatrist from that point if your pain is substantiated and will help with your disability rehabilitative objectives.

    It is surprising to me in the last 7 years; I’ve been referred to at least a half dozen neurologists, none of which led me to a physiatrist for my chronic back/leg pain until recent.  And what is most perplexing, my pain-medical story had not changed significantly through the years.  If I had known about physiatry resources 5 years ago, I would have known to self-refer from a neurologist to a physiatrist knowing what I now know.  Why not 7 years ago?  In my case, I understand now it took two years to determine and substantiate my pain origins.  And I now realize I could have self referred to a physiatrist after I had my second neurologist visit.

    My lesson learned and now passed onto you:  The medical policy and practice “status quo” when dealing with “substantiated” pain and/or immobility, coupled with depression will include pharmaceuticals and other treatment until (a) you reach a certain age.  (b) The pills are now creating other medical health issues.  (c) The risk of other complications is high if continuing the same pain and/or depression management course.  (d) Something substantiated and significant has changed, or has been found through CAT, MRI, x-Ray results and/or lab work and is complicating your pain, or mobility story.  (e) You self refer to see a neurologist from your physician, and then ask for a referral to see a physiatrist from your neurologist.   The later sequence is the best course toward rehabilitative pain alleviation of chronic pain, including range-of-motion and rehabilitative, limited mobility challenges [My experience].

    To treat a patient without considering the entire being is to allow a part of the component being to become ill.  When relative and timely treatment is not balanced, part of our “being” becomes depressed.  And it is also a fact as one will age; without relative and timely treatment, quality living experiences are negatively impacted.

    With the assistance of a physiatrist the patient has access to a team of specialists to assist in customizing a rehabilitative treatment program that incorporates healing for the encompassing being.

    The team of specialist the physiatrist may access to assist your ill-health conditions are: Speech-language pathologists, social workers, nurses, and psychologists, neurologic (brain injury, stroke, and spinal cord injury), physical therapy, occupational and recreation therapists etc.  Other disabling conditions include amputations, complicated multiple trauma and pain, including burns rehabilitative therapy.

    Physiatrists also work with a whole team of specialists to restore independence in mobility, eating, dressing, and hygiene. The physiatrist also provides long-term continuity of care for functional problems that often persist after stroke.  Note: This is not simply a physical therapy program.

     In my opinion, a physiatrist is an encompassing-being, rehabilitative care provider.  And if you have not seen a physiatrist and if you’ve been suffering from chronic pain and/or are mobility challenged, also you have reached the end of your referral solutions; be sure to ask your primary care physician, or neurologist to see a physiatrist.

     A physiatrist referral sooner than later will provide most chronic pain and immobility sufferers pain relief and better quality care and living activity experiences.

 Internet Reference

Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, USA Medical Services Officer, CPT, RET.  2011 Copyright, All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Publishing @:,  Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.

Improve Fitness after Surgery-Rehabilitate Yourself

8 04 2010

 If you have just recently had surgery, experienced an injury and now are finished with your HMO rehabilitative services and want to become fit there is a post exercise mobility therapy habit that needs to be considered to ensure quality living experiences.  Many that are going through physical rehabilitation tend to gain weight, lose strength, cardiovascular endurance and suffer acute to chronic pain from inactivity.

 If you experience weight-bearing acute to chronic pain in any of your weight-bearing joints, i.e., back, neck, hip, feet, legs and have put on weight, or simply want to take control of your weight, a safe starting movement activity is the way to go.  This means to find some form of activity where you can move your body to begin increasing your fitness levels. 

 There are exercise activity routines you could participate in to rehabilitate yourself to walk, if not able to walk well.  For example, there’s extended physical therapy offered by many health insurers, to include Medicare.  If your insurance does not cover extended specialized services because you have annual limits on these services which you’ve used up, all is not lost.  The same is true if you have coverage that only includes short-term, or very limited medical services.  If you have the ability to walk, you are in a better position to rehabilitate yourself through walking movement activity.

 Now if you’re in a bad way and you need assistance to get yourself rehabilitated, don’t go it alone!  Suck up your pride, reach out and recruit a friend or family member to drive you to the nearest social security administration if you can’t do this yourself, or visit online, or call by phone toll-free 1-800-772-1213 to reach a representative.  Office hours are between 7a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday.  Check into disability benefits if you can’t work.  While your there, check into the supplemental home assistance programs and other available services.

 Rehabilitation after surgery, or accident to get active with life will depend much on your ability to begin actively moving your body to receive a fitness benefit.  The disability assistance is nice because you now don’t have to worry about paying your basic living expenses.  However, a word of caution…  All too often, those with limited movement and pain begin to move even less when disability and supplemental services are provided.  This level of comfort somehow nestles within many to sit around further disabling themselves.  To develop a habit of less activity when one should be attempting to increase activity, “especially if one can walk” is detrimental and a contradiction to overall fit-healthy goals.

Another important point; to improve fitness levels and overall health does not mean your disability benefits will end.  All too often, fear in “not meeting” and maintaining the social disability expectation prevents many from ever improving their fitness levels.  A lifestyle dependent on disability support often promotes meeting the disability expectation for fear of losing needed supplemental disability services.  This primarily occurs because if people appear to become more fit, there is fear that these services may go away.  And of course this is not true.  Why?  Because the injuries, illness and disease that put you into this ill-health condition have been substantiated by medical professionals and most likely will be with you a lifetime.  You should not fear if you improve certain aspects of your fitness levels for better quality living experiences your benefits will be cut off.

 My message for those that find themselves in this situation, you can have better quality life experiences if you can find a way to get yourself busy in life through a walking activity.  Especially if you can pain manage this activity.  And if you can do this, you will also be able to travel a little more, visit family members, go to a ballgame, maybe even do other activities; like ballroom dance, walk the dogs, sit for periods of time and write that book you’ve always dreamed about.  The list goes on.  Through walking many ailments can be pain alleviated and fitness levels increased.  Of course, keep what I’m telling you in perspective.  Your quality living improvements are relative to your health condition(s), physical and mental limitations.  Never the less, you will experience more feel good endorphins if you begin moving your body.  This will also improve mood, motivation to do more with your time in a day, boost self-worth and reduce dosages on pain medications daily.

 The cost to you to walk is nothing, other than your time, effort and motivation commitment toward improved mobility.  Through daily physical movement activities fitness levels will increase.  This will positively impact mood disposition.  This is important why?  Increased fitness levels contribute to healthy heart, lungs, metabolism, lean body, body strength, reduced body fat, weight control, pain alleviation, better physical endurance, excellent circulatory properties, reduced depression and other ill-health prevention, etc.  A combination of healthy habits, such as daily activity exercise movement and balanced nutrition are two of the ageless body prevention formulas.   This combination instills “proven” ageless fountain of youth methods centurions have known about for years and apply daily to enjoy quality living experiences for life.  To know this information is a “powerful mind-body motivator” for those that are in daily need of rehabilitative strategies to improve overall fitness and health.

 But in order to begin movement exercise activity safely; if you’ve been a couch potato, post surgery patient, or are in some form of physical rehabilitative condition, overweight, etc., you must first develop a fitness activity exercise plan and include your primary care physician and/or specialists to discuss a physical fitness program to ensure it is right for you. 

 Remember we’re all different in age, have various fitness goals, pain issues, disease, life circumstances, etc.   For example, I didn’t use a gym for many years while I worked to rehabilitate my body after surgeries.  I simply walked around the house, short stints with mobility aids in/outside the house, did PT exercises in bed the best I could until my body got stronger.  After I was able to crutch my way around the neighborhood an 1/8 of mile I incorporated other activity.  I’m not telling you to base your exercise mobility routine like mine; I’m simply providing what worked for me as an example.  I also had 4 physician specialists I coordinated with to assure my plan was not going to be detrimental to my overall health.  I know making appointments with specialists to compare notes is an additional burden.  However, it is a necessary part of any rehabilitative effort to ensure when customizing a fitness mobility exercise program it is done safely with your specialist(s) in the loop.

 Even with an undergraduate degree in Exercise Science, although I’m well versed in fitness activity and the effects on mind and body, I’m not a doctor.  There are many aspects of illness and disease pain pathologies, medications and effect’s on the “encompassing being” I cannot safely forecast when incorporating a daily movement activity to improve overall fitness and health during a rehabilitative scenario.  This is why you need to include your primary care physician at the least before you undertake a daily exercise mobility fitness activity.  But one thing for sure that is consistent in achieving good health, that’s daily movement activity.

 One must get back up on their feet one way or the other and move forward to become more fit.  The best way I know how to do this is achieve a goal to walk without mobility aids if possible.  This may not ever be physically possible for some.  The key is movement activity.  So when I mention walk, if you cannot do this without a mobility aid, simply increase your daily movement activity using a cane, wheelchair, walker, etc. 

 To achieve more movement activity requires daily exercise activity.  This is certainly possible and applicable to all of those using mobility aids.  I’ve got to tell you, I got the best workouts using wheel chairs and crutches.  It takes much conditioning to get into shape to hall your body weight around.  I know this from personal experience.  I challenge any walker to keep up with an avid mobility challenged person that’s conditioned to do so daily.  A word of caution with mobility walk aids.  I did suffer torn rotor cuffs and neck strains because of my aggressive competitive nature to excel in all I do.  So beware, you can hurt yourself while increasing your fitness levels through exercise with crutches and wheel chairs.  To get conditioned with these mobility devices takes the body time to build up strength, postural balance, muscle toning coordination and cardiovascular endurance.  These things are true in training for any form of physical task specific activity.  And with this said, there are correct ways to train for increased activity and wrong ways.  I’ve learned within my rehabilitative experiences, I need to better pace myself and not train for a marathon right out the gate.  After all I’m no longer in peak condition as I once was many moons ago.

 Take one step at a time, one block at a time, and one mile at a time.  Do what you can daily.  Put no time lines, or distances on yourself.  The mind-body will tell you each day what it’s capable of doing.  If you have the ability to walk you’re much further ahead in becoming more fit and healthy.  Move around, or walk daily regardless of mood, etc.  Do your in home physical therapy in bed, flexibility, range of motion exercises, walk in place, move up and down stairs if possible.  The key is to move more daily, work to reach 10-15min/day exercise activity at a minimum before increasing movement walking activity outdoors.  Be consistent at daily movement.  Don’t miss a day.  This is important if you want to improve your fitness level activity circumstances.  If you use a walker, wheelchair, or cane get out and move forward/move daily.  Build up walking endurance with a walking mobility aid if necessary to achieve goal distances of 100ft for example.  Physical therapy exercises will vary for each individual and will not be covered here.  However, if you need ideals on how to warm up and exercise before walking activities research the following:  Use the library, Internet, magazines, primary care HMO home PT exercise book, relevant rehabilitative subscription information/self-help recommendations for your conditions, etc. 

 There are many self-help books and free HMO pamphlets available.   I personally like Pilates and plank exercises for core strengthening exercises after passive and active warm-ups like, hot shower and range of motion stretching exercises.  I also do these slow stretch exercises while I watch the morning news, or evening shows and in-between writing my daily articles.  My slow stretch exercises include seated reach for toes and hold, standing slow stretch side bends, neck rotation/side tilts and squatted back stretches holding from 10’s of seconds to minutes at any time within the day’s activities.  I then go on my daily walk (active warm up and conditioning) and incorporate Pilate’s stretches and body part light strength training at the local fitness center.  I do manage pain daily by knowledge of working around pain threshold trigger points during activity and certain prescribed medications.  Check out books and literature on Pilates and core strength exercise examples.  There are thousands of exercise examples.

 Other tips:  Consider “not taking” your car to the store for daily staples once you can walk half a mile total distances assisted mobility device or not.  Make your fitness goal each day to walk to a market that’s near.  Make a goal to walk and shop for your evening meals, or drive to and walk the mall for example “a safe environment as you rehabilitate through movement activity.”  Get a small backpack “once able to walk small distances;” carry healthy produce, products to the car, home etc. 

 Never carry more in weight than the weight you lose.  For example, I personally never carry more than 5 lbs in bags, one for each arm, greater than 1 mile.  That’s .5 mile one way.  This has more to do with my chronic back-neck problems than weight lost.  So you need to factor in acute-chronic pain triggers under load.  In other words when starting a shop & walk activity program, you don’t hall extra weight until you lose weight, or alleviate pain significantly.  Just like you won’t move your body by walking without a cane, or walker after injury, or surgery until your body was conditioned to do so. An unconditioned body to walk without crutches, walker, cane, or wheel chair adds more body weight to weakened weight-bearing joints.  To do so when the mind-body is not ready will risk secondary weight-bearing injuries to body compromising overall health.

 When you’re strong enough to walk  1/8 mile one way for a total of ½ mile without walking aids you are then ready to begin a 3-5 day fitness activity program.  Even if mobility aids will be with you for life, you can still work toward customized fitness mobility assisted 3-5 day walking program.  The fit-healthy body results will still be experienced, i.e., cardiovascular, muscular, postural, mental function and pain alleviation benefits in varying degrees.  Regardless when you apply more activity in life, this equates to better quality living and health body-mind experiences

  Please look for the following article at the home site to get on a 3-5 day activity exercise program that’s right for you after you complete your rehabilitative mobility exercise activity goals.   The article you’ll want to search for to progress to the next activity level, “How to Exercise and Increase Fitness Levels.” Try various combinations of exercise activity, break up the fitness conditioning patterns and don’t go into any activity program at full intensity unless trained to do so.  Good things in life come to those that take the time to do it right while balancing all life activities and this includes achieving fitness goals after surgery, rehabilitation and/or disability.

Author:  Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, USA Medical Services Officer, CPT, RET2010 Copyright.  All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Publishing @:,  Sign up for your Free eNewsletter

What to do About Bunions?

22 09 2009

What exactly is a bunion?  A bunion is a bony bump that forms at the base of the big toe joint which becomes enlarged and points inward toward the other toes.  The medical term used for this condition is hallux valgus.  Other symptoms aside from the bony bump: Thickening skin at the base of the toe with redness, swelling and soreness.  People with weak or flat feet including the improper use of foot wear (high heels, tight fitting shoes) and genetically predisposed to inherit the bunion often experience this painful condition.  Most bunion avoidance or relief once bunion is established can be achieved through shoe modification and anti-inflammatory (aspirin and ibuprofen) to assist with swelling and general pain management.  You can relieve pressure on the big toe by wearing shoes that are comfortable and don’t create pressure at this area, and/or by placing a pad on the bunion to reduce friction.  For women they must avoid wearing pointed high heeled shoes. 

 Improper shoe wear creates most bunion issues by rubbing the bony areas of the toe creating a tender red and swollen area where a thick calloused skin covering grows over this heated contact point.   Since bunions never go away once created surgery may be necessary if pain is unmanageable.  Should pain worsen your doctor may recommend a bunionectomy.  This is where the swollen tissue is taken out and/or the toe is straightened by taking out part of the bone and/or permanently joins bone at the affected joint.

 Bunionectomy Surgical procedure:  A general anesthesia will be given prior to the procedure to make you feel as if you are asleep while pain is subdued during the operation.  The doctor will make a cut over the bump, removing excess tissue and may reposition the toe in a more natural position by removing bone.  Recovery time after surgery is typically around 2 months.    Hospital stay after the surgery is really dependent on severity of bunion and how a patient responds to the surgery.  Most patients go home the same day with a foot brace, or special shoe. 

 Recommendations, Prevention and Bunion Pain Management

 Wear roomy shoes that are comfortable and does not irritate, or cramp your feet.

  1. Keep swelling down with anti-inflammatory.  Keep pressure off of affected toe.
  2. See primary care physician if pain worsens.  Get x-ray of joint, see foot specialist.
  3. Wear a thick felt-ring around bunion to alleviate pain.
  4. Get the bunion removed through a surgical procedure (see above – bunionectomy).
  5. Ensure you arrange for care after bunionectomy as walking will be limited for 2 weeks.
  6. Custom made orthotics may reduce bunion pain See Mirror Athlete Press Release .

Benefits of surgery – Your toe won’t hurt, shoes may fit better.  Risk after surgery – Your bunion could come back.  Nerves and arteries could be damaged.  Toe may remain stiff.  Toe could lose blood supply.  Infection and bleeding may occur.

Author:  Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, USA Medical Services Officer, CPT, RET.  2009 Copyright, All rights reserved.  Mirror Athlete Enterprises Publishing @:, Sign up for your free eNewsletter.

Sciatica Back Pain Causes – Military and Civilian Occupations

23 02 2009

I have been asked the question, how do you deal with sciatica pain?  Sciatica can be caused through genetic disease, incorrect posture, injury or overuse of back muscles when the vertebra disc’s (shock absorbers) are defective or inefficient at absorbing vertebrae structural stress.”  Pain and numbness symptoms of sciatica impact the lower body, such as low back, buttocks, back thigh, calves, feet and toes.  Causes of sciatica symptom irritation include tumors, overworked muscle, internal bleeding, infections, injury and other pressure causes.  Sciatica isn’t actually a condition, but instead a medical term used to describe symptoms, such as tingling, numbness, prickly sensation and shooting pain down your leg.

The cause of sciatica varies in pathology but can be effectively alleviated without surgery, or nonintrusive surgery in most cases!  The six most common spinal disorders that cause spinal nerve compression and sciatica lumbar radiculopathy (radiating pain) are:  1) Bulging or herniated disc (The gel-like center of the disc mal-forms creating nerve compression and swelling around the sciatica nerve).  2)  Spinal stenosis (nerve compression through narrowing or clogged nerve pathway – brought about by standing or walking and relieved by sitting down).  3)  Spondylolisthesis (Characterized by slipping and displaced vertebrae – acquired at birth and developed through childhood, trauma or physical stress.  4)  Trauma (accident injury, sports, weight lifting, etc.).  5.   Piriformis syndrome (named for the low back piriformis muscle impinging and irritating the sciatic nerve.  This condition is also very difficult to diagnose and treat due to lack of findings through x-ray and MRI findings).  6.  Spinal tumors (although tumors are rare in the lumbar region, benign or cancerous (malignant) tumors can develop creating nerve compression.  Fortunately, this is a rare.

Sciatica in the lower extremes is caused by injury, poor postural alignment, bad genetics that cause compression, or impingement.  Predominately L4-L5 or S1-S3 vertebrae that create swelling and triggers transmitted pain; including potential damage to the sciatica nerve itself.  Sciatica can be diagnosed through use of x-rays, CAT Scan (Computerized Axial Tomography – 3 dimensional, multiple cross-sectional picture technology) and MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging – Magnetism produces images of body structure).

Those that first begin experiencing sciatica may not even connect the back pain condition as the root cause of the pain being experienced in the leg for example.  Your back does not have to be in severe pain to experience sciatica symptoms down the leg.  Although stiffness and/or feeling of swelling and pain in the lower back is usually associated but not necessarily noticed by the patient.  When I was younger, I use to associate the numbness in my right calf and foot with uncomfortable military boots.  It seemed this inconvenience went with the territory for a lot of soldiers “foot discomfort leading to consequential back pain!”  There was much conversation between soldiers regarding military issue boots, foot, calf overall leg and back pain.   A military issued boot has no posture, or padded insoles and the leather requires much work to make it pliable, or comfortable around the foot.   I highly recommend if you are serving in the military, get a pair of Danners (best military boot) thermal water resistant quality.  Also be sure to add our “Posture Control Insoles,” found within our chronic pain center (foot, skeleton, or posture link image).  Discard your basic issue boots as these can only harm your anatomical posture creating many acute and chronic pain problems down the road for you.  This is especially true if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of foot or back pain I just mentioned.

One would think with the science behind many related back problems due to incorrect foot posture, the military would issue boots with insoles that would mitigate foot, knee, hip and back pain-injuries.  Until a military boot or “almost any” shoe is broken in, your feet experience many hot spots, blisters and muscle fatigue within the feet, which may also include partial, or overall pain throughout the calf, knee, leg and back.  Improper foot ware “not corrected” is responsible for years of bad posture body realignment.   This is because your body’s posture works to align itself around pain conditions where the foot is placed under daily stress.  Why do you think some reasons people might limp… Could it simply be due to incorrect foot ware and/or the brain telling the body to shift the walking posture to alleviate uncorrected foot pain?  Absolutely, and what will happen if this limping continues too long without correction?  The body begins to self correct by realigning the posture placing more stress in other areas of the muscular-skeletal structure to alleviate pain and possibly create more injuries up line.  At this point your body is susceptible to further injury because your anatomical posture is now compromised!

In this case, the pain and postural problem is caused from bad foot ware.  And even though soldiers are treated for many foot problems while visiting sick call the standard treatment is moleskin (adhesive pad to cover blisters) on foot and rest.  Thereafter the soldier is sent back out in the field with the same foot ware that caused the sick call treatment in the first place.  Folks, this is a repeat problem for our military men and women… I just don’t get it.  I guess this is one of those cost cutting exercises at the expense of the soldier and tax payers!  It is ironic, we as civilians have all types of federal laws that require businesses to comply with work ergonomics and ADA (American Disability Act) compliance, but completely disregard the science of correct body posture starting at the feet which is creating other health issues for those impacted, leading to service connected and social security disability benefits paid by the tax payer.  It seems to me, a great return on investment would be to pay pennies on the dollar for proper foot ware versus a life-time service connected foot-body postural injuries.

If you have mild forms of sciatica pain symptoms, the condition as you age will worsen much more quickly if foot posture and weight management is not maintained, or corrected.  This is because structural misalignment and added weight contributes to compression and impingement of the spin, causing degenerative and painful effects on muscle, nerves, ligaments and tendons.  Most people that suffer sciatica symptoms experience numbness, tingly to prickly sensation to excruciating sharp- jolting pain.  I liken this sensation as a numbing, achy, sharp to jolting extreme pain experience.  For me sciatica feels like being zapped, or electrocuted for fractional to extended periods of time with numbness and prickly sensation before and after the experience.  Also, when you have an advanced stage of back disorder, there is also swelling with immediate pain in the lower back.  If the pain and swelling is too severe, you will not be up on your feet for a couple of days as a severe back/sciatica episode will completely incapacitate you with excruciating pain where it is difficult to straighten your back.

There is also the term radiculopathy which is used to describe radiating pain caused by a root nerve impingement near the spin.  Radiating pain is caused from a trigger point, or point of nerve impingement through compression.  To make a point-and-case for example, let’s say L5-S1 vertebrae has nerve impingement on the right side of the lower back which creates pain and/or numbness down one side of the back of thigh-to-foot.  Although there is quite a distance from the back problem origin (low back vertebras, L5-S1), it may, or may not be obvious to the patient the low back is creating the pain in the right thigh-calf and/or foot.  Infrequent episodes of sciatica pain can mask an underlying back disorder as it advances in severity through the years.  You can go many years down a quick “back fix” path of medical convenience (muscle relaxants, injections, pain killers, anti-inflammatory, rest, exercises, etc.), and never address the root cause of an insidious back disorder that’s just waiting to take you out of action as you age.  Don’t let surgery be your only option!  Back surgery success to significantly alleviate pain and not create another problem is statistically low.  However, there are now new non-invasive back intervention and alternative treatments that look hopeful for many back pain cases.  Look for non-invasive surgical information in our health repository.

Whenever you begin feeling pain down your leg, calf, foot or big toe to include numbness, tingling, prickly, hot sensations, you should see a physician to address these symptoms and get proper medical diagnosis, advisement and referrals.  Patients that would ignore infrequent episodes of back pain, or sciatica symptoms without proper diagnosis could create an irreversible medical condition that could have been preventable.  Especially when pain alleviation and correcting posture at the feet in “most cases” is the solution!  However, even with this being said, there is no guarantee as you age that your sciatica symptoms-back disorder “will not” become worse.  We are talking about pain prevention and proper anatomical alignment not to create, or worsen a back disorder pain condition.  Recall, 95% of all back problems can be corrected without surgery!  If you currently have sciatica you can greatly alleviate pain by using “Posture Control Insoles,” visit our home site or chronic pain center and click on the skeleton, postural, or foot image link to get the science behind the claim.

“Dr. Bernard Filner, MD, says, a significant number of people, including many of his patients, contemplate surgery because they hurt so badly – but most of the time, by using the Posture Control Insoles can alleviate the pain and avoid surgery.  Posture Control Insoles do what surgery and custom orthotics cannot do – provide the proper sensory feedback from your feet to your brain. Your feet play an integral role in maintaining a pain free posture, including proper curvature of the spine.  Modest changes in your posture provide the potential for complete relief of low-back pain. If you are in pain, even if you have tried custom orthotics without success, please try Posture Control Insoles before you try surgery, said Dr. Filner.”

The posture you place your body in at work is also critical in preventing short-long term repetitive muscles strains & sprains responsible for sciatica symptoms.  Although our main focus is posture correction at the feet to alleviate sciatica symptoms there are other stress forces at work that contribute to sciatica pain.  You’ll want to ensure your mattress has proper surface support as sleep posture is also very important.  If you toss and turn throughout the night and/or you never feel rested, or your back aches in the morning it may be time to start looking at a Posturepedic mattress or other similar posture manufactured mattresses.

The low back is also placed under stress while in resting positions such as office administration, or general lifting throughout the day, etc.  This is why ergonomic office work and good lifting posture regardless of job type also must be part of the overall good posture, pain alleviation plan.  As stated earlier, surgery should be the last option as 95% of all back pain candidates are not good prospects for surgery, but instead should be treated to correct posture alignment, including applied daily exercises.  Most back pain can be resolved without surgery if both doctors and patients are willing to try other treatments that basically help the back to heal itself (Dr. Richard Deyo, University of Washington, and Consumer Health Interactive Magazine).

Also read MAE Press Release, Jan 25, 2009, “Heal Back Pain with out Surgery – Embryonic Stem Cell Update!” This article can be found at our Chronic Pain Center  and visit our CleanGreen Wellness Wholesale Company.

Author:  Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, USA Medical Services Officer, CPT, RET2009 Copyright.  All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Publishing @:, Sign up for your Free eNewsletter.

Why Prostate Health Is Important for Men

12 08 2008

Although most men don’t understand the overall role, function or importance of prostate health, men over 40 should make every attempt to take care of the prostate gland.  The prostate to a man should be what breast health is to a woman.  Both examinations check for abnormalities within the soft gland tissue.  During a rectal prostate exam the physician is feeling for a hard or lumpy tissue signature that may require further examination.  The prostate gland has two main functions (also known as an exocrine gland that secretes fluids).  These fluids are important in the production of the male reproductive semen.  The prostate gland is also responsible for controlling the flow of urine.  The prostate is slightly larger than a walnut and surrounds the urethra just below the urinary bladder and can be felt during a rectal exam.  The urethra like the prostate also has two main functions: To carry urine from the bladder and carry semen. 

The prostate continues to grow during most of a man’s life.  This growth does not usually affect prostate health until later in life.  Three common prostate medical diagnosis:  1) Prostatitis – Inflammation of the prostate gland.  Where acute and chronic prostate enlargement conditions are due to bacterial infections and treated with antibiotics.  Possible causes of Prostatitis:  Bacteria & yeast driven infection, virus, food allergy BPH, Auto-immune response, possible rare tumor, physical injury.  2) Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) occurs in older men.  After the age of 50, half of all men have enlarging prostates and by the time they are 80, 80% of these men will have significantly enlarged prostates.  The prostate enlarges to a point where urination is extremely difficult and painful.  BPH can be treated with medication and in extreme cases surgery is required to remove the prostate. 3) Prostate Cancer – One of the most common cancers affecting older men in developed countries and a significant cause of death.  The lethality of prostate cancer stems from the fact, “as an endocrine gland the potential to spread cancer is great (cancerous tumors develop by growth and division “metastasis”) and remission becomes less favorable without prompt treatment.”  The prostate also produces a protein called Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA).  The PSA protein produced in the prostate, also found in the semen can be traced in the blood stream.  An elevated PSA blood test is typical when testing to determine if one has prostate cancer but does not necessarily mean you have cancer.  Prostatitis can also elevate PSA levels in the blood.  Regular rectal exams are recommended for older men to detect prostate cancer early. 

If you experience any of the following symptoms seek medical advisement:  Trouble sleeping at night, frequent visits to the bathroom, erectile problems, blood in the urine, poor flow of urine, difficulty in starting the stream.

1)   Limit intake of caffeine and alcohol.  Give up smoking.  Drink plenty of water.
2)   Diet turns out to be of primary importance.  Also high fiber intake is very important.
3)   Start a regular regiment of mild daily exercise.
4)   Get an annual PSA and prostate exam especially after the age of 50.
5)   Visit our wellness company at the home site.  Inquire about our prostate health supplements.

 Author:  Marc T. Woodard, MBA, BS Exercise Science, USA Medical Services Officer, CPT, RET.  2008 Copyright.  All rights reserved, Mirror Athlete Publishing,, Sign up for FREE Monthly eNewsletter.   























































How to Work Around Chronic Pain?

25 06 2008
Q.   I was curious, how do you work around chronic pain.  After visiting your chronic pain center, I read your introduction.  You mention a pain management philosophy, or exercise application around pain.  I can’t find anywhere in your articles, or section that address this topic in detail.  Is there an article you have written on this topic?  If so, where can I go to read it?A.    This is a very good question.  The work outs, or fitness programs around chronic pain will be presented in some of the monthly excerpts from Mirror Athlete with Chronic Pain Chronicles.  Since you have seen the summary at our chronic pain center, you also understand most of this information will be released once the chronicles manuscript is published as a book.  Although I have not provided any detail on how Mirror Athletes that are-aren’t disabled work around chronic pain and specific techniques applied to stay relatively active & fit… I can say this is a work in progress (I will write some articles outside the chronic pain articles revolving around overall fitness and exercise program).   I can also tell you I can provide tidbits of information that you can use now to incorporate into a fitness exercise program to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.  For example,A very important key to exercising, or performing activity if you have chronic pain, or are basically disabled because of your chronic pain, you first must understand what triggers your pain [I like to analyze the “what, when, where & how pain is triggered].  You need to learn to do the same thing.  This physical pain analysis prior to activity, or exercise work outs is critical.You also must have a good understanding of your medical & health condition, goals and activity risks by working with your primary care physicians and/or medical specialists ensuring you understand how a pain condition  could be aggravated to become more chronic.  Keep in mind what I’m presenting here is not a complete medical, health, or history audit checklist before exercise activity commences.   These general bullets are instead the basic rudimentary steps required to understand how you can stay active even with disabilities without risking further aggravation and harm to your body.  Since exercise and activity are key ingredients to my healthy life program, it is essential that all walks of life looking to improve their health condition apply an activity, exercise, pain management program that makes sense for their overall health management program.

In other words, if an activity creates pain beyond a manageable level of pain tolerance, I’d say relative to your pain and health management program this is not good for your body and could cause serious harm to a preexisting condition.

Also visit our site Wellness Company page.  We offer excellent “NATURAL” products scientifically formulated to remove chemical toxin allergies from your home.Thank You for your patronage, please subscribe to your free monthly eNewletter at our home site.

Marc T. Woodard, Health & Fitness Consultant, Publisher, Mirror Athlete Enterprises @
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