Project Sanctuary 22nd Retreat

In March of 2012 Acupuncture for Veterans and their Families (AVF)joined Project Sanctuary at the Granby YMCA for their 22nd retreat for military families.  The families, staff and volunteers were very open and glad to receive Chinese medicine and acupuncture services.


During the two and a
half days that AVF
participated with this
retreat, AVF provided
19 treatments, 3 of
which were for
children, and 4 for
staff and volunteers.
To see more
photographs from the
retreat, please check
out the AVF website:



Participant at the 22nd Project Sanctuary Retreat
Father is actively serving in the army, 6 deployments.   She is receiving auriculotherapy.


AVF is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing free Chinese medicine and acupuncture services for veterans, active duty, and their immediate family members in order to address the stress and pain resulting from military service.

Project Sanctuary is a nonprofit
organization that hosts 5
night therapeutic retreats for
military families in Colorado’s
Rocky Mountains that are
designed to facilitate a balance
of intimate family interactions
and communal activities. These
retreats use diversion therapy
with an array of recreational
activities including fishing,
horse back riding, skiing,
hiking and snowmobiling.
website: ProjectSanctuary.US









Participant at the 22nd Project Sanctuary Retreat
Husband, Father, Army 17 years, Active duty, 6 deployments
He is receiving cupping and acupuncture.  Spouse in background




Acupuncture for Veterans and their Families and Project Sanctuary are
501(c)(3) non-profit organizations.  We appreciate all levels of support!
Donations are tax deductible.


Participants at the 22nd Project Sanctuary Retreat
On the table:  Father, husband, Army veteran
On the couch:  Father, husband, Active duty army, 3 deployments
Both endure multiple physical injuries, post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury (TBI).


Families, staff and volunteers saw a noticeable difference in pain levels, anxiety, sleep, breathing, (yes, the ability to take a deeper breath) energy, and a general sense of well being.


Carpal Tunnel

“Carpal Tunnel Syndrome” refers to the pain in the center of the wrist that is typically worse when holding something, or if the wrist is flexed or extended.  These injuries are common among people who do a lot of typing at the computer, cutting hair, during pregnancy and holding babies and children.

Inflammation in the “tunnel” at the wrist, where many tendons and thin muscles travel from the arm to the fingers, can impinge upon the median nerve that travels from the neck, down the arm and into the hand.  In addition to this very painful inflammatory condition, quite often, the pain experienced in the wrist is also due to tight muscles in the neck and shoulders.  Since the median nerve comes from the cervical spine, and runs down the arm, tight muscles in the neck and shoulder can also impinge upon the nerve.  When people come in to my office for treatment of pain in the wrist, it is important to find where the problem begins, because it is does not always begin in the wrist.  I usually start by doing bodywork at the upper back and around the shoulder girdle.  If we do not find any “referral pain” patterns that travel from the upper back or shoulders down to the wrist, then I check the neck muscles, and also the pectoral muscles that attach at the front of the shoulder.  More often than not, referral pain, or Trigger Points, are found at one or more of these areas.  Both the source of the problem and the wrist are then treated.  As follow up, gentle stretching exercises are recommended based upon the referral pattern that was identified during treatment.

As with all acupuncture visits, points are selected according to further information the person provides regarding their health, and the nature of the pain in the wrist area.  The nature of the pain pattern is also important since each person has a different experience.  Taking into consideration all of the person’s background helps to provide a more well rounded treatment in order to get to the source of the overall health concern(s).

Headaches and Migraines

Headaches and migraines can occur for a variety of reasons.  The most commonly known sources are from dehydration, barometric pressure changes, and blood circulation.  Another common source of headaches and migraines, that is less well known, is due to cervical muscle tension, physical trauma, and head injury.  The location of the headache or migraine will usually indicate whether or not it comes from the muscle, or another source.

Typically, headaches experienced on the forehead and behind the eyes come from the sternocleidomastoid, (SCM) the large muscle in the front of the neck, or the Scalenes, which are thinner muscles behind the SCM.    These muscles are vulnerable in traumatic situations such as car accidents where the head is forced forward, and these muscles contract, causing increased muscle tension and “trigger points”.  Trigger points are areas on the muscle that, when pressed or rubbed in one particular area, pain is felt in an entirely different area.  For example, during palpation and massage of the SCM, I often find Trigger points along the muscle that re-create a headache or migraine pain pattern that feels like the headache is “behind the eye”.  When these Trigger points are found, they are treated through both acupuncture and massage techniques.

More acupuncture points are selected according to further information the person provides regarding their health, and the nature of the headaches or migraines.  The nature of the headache or migraine pattern is also important since each person has a different experience.  For example, some people experience a sharp stabbing pain, others feel a pounding or dull constant ache, and some are sensitive to light and feel nauseous. Taking into consideration all of the person’s background helps to provide a more well rounded treatment in order to get to the source of the overall health concern(s).



The cold winter months are typically the time of year when we rest and quietly reflect a bit more in order to conserve our energy for the burst of outward energy that comes in the spring time.  In essence, it is a time for storage, and building up our reserves.

In Chinese medical theory, this time of year places emphasis on the water element, which corresponds to the Kidney and Urinary Bladder.  The Urinary Bladder is   considered the storehouse of emotions, and is one of the longest channels in the body, running from the head, down the back and legs to end at the small toes.  Tension and held in emotions can cause congestion along this channel, which can lead to stiffness and pain.  The Kidneys are perceived as storing the energetic life force; birth, life and death, or the cycle of transformation.  The seat of willpower is situated here, generating ambition and the desire to do something with one’s life.  Lack of motivation can reflect an imbalance in the Kidney energy.  Both functionally and energetically, the Kidneys act as a complex filter to keep our system in perfect balance.  Physically, they filter the blood and keep the blood and body clean.  For example, the delicate water and acid-base balance in the body is maintained by the Kidney.

To help maintain a healthy Urinary Bladder and Kidney this winter, maintain your exercise routine, do not increase the level of activity (save that for spring and summer).  Quiet activities such as playing cards and board games, meditation, and slow movement activities such as walking, swimming, yoga and tai qi are best in the winter.  Eat cooked, easily digested foods such as soups and stews and root vegetables.  Avoid over doing carbohydrates and meats as these cause too much internal heat production (inflammation) in the body.    Also, keep warm, especially the lower back, belly and neck!


At this time of year most people tend to do “spring cleaning” in the home, so I thought it would be fun to share some information about the importance of spring cleaning to help keep our mind and body happy and healthy. According to Chinese Medicine the Liver and Gallbladder are the internal organs associated with spring, and so this article will discuss the importance of taking good care of these vital organs.

This season of renewal and rejuvenation is a great time to do simple “cleansing,” especially for the Liver. According to Chinese medicine the season of spring relates to the Liver and Gall Bladder organs. Both of these organs are always working to renew the body in several ways, such as their role in digestion and ridding the body of toxins. The Liver is a very hard working organ whose functions are fairly extensive in both Western and Chinese medical theory. For instance, the Liver is the largest internal organ and functions include storing and distributing nourishment throughout the body, filtering toxins from the blood, and is involved in the formation and breakdown of blood. The liver, or hepatic cells, make bile which aids in digestion and stores the bile in the gallbladder to be used in the intestines for the breakdown of fats, and for enhancing the small intestine’s ability to absorb fatty acids.

According to Chinese medicine, the Liver also involves regulating emotions, particularly anger, forgiveness, flexibility, and planning. It is a smooth and healthy Liver that contributes to our ability to visualize and make plans. If the Liver were a person she would be the one who writes the mission statement for a company. And, if the Gallbladder were a person, he would be the one to carry out the plans, and delegate responsibility to the best and appropriate people in order to get the job done right. These are just a few functions of the Liver and Gallbladder, which shows how important it is to take good care of these organs.

There are some very general dietary guidelines to keep in mind during early springtime which include eating less, limiting or avoiding heavy foods such as meat, dairy, poor quality fats, and intoxicants. A general list of foods that help the Liver and Gallbladder function include the onion family, vinegar, leafy greens, especially dandelion and mustard greens, basil, lemon and mint. Carrying out a springtime cleansecan be very simple, or more involved depending upon your individual need. It is best if done with the guidance of a healthcare practitioner, and also as a family, or along with a friend so that you have someone to ask questions and talk with about the experience. In general, people notice that even though doing a cleanse for the Liver/Gallbladder may have been very trying at times, they feel so much more vibrant when it’s finished.

“Since spring is the season in which the universal energy begins anew and rejuvenates, one should attempt to correspond to it directly by being open and unsuppressed, both physically and emotionally.” -Huang Di Nei Jing


According to traditional Chinese medicine, each organ is not only identified with its physical structure and function, but also with seasons, emotions, color, sound, and elements (fire, earth, metal, water and wood). Since it is summer, the season of growth, I’d like to dedicate this article to the related organs: Heart, Pericardium, Small Intestine and San Jiao. All together, these organs correspond with summer, the fire element, the color red, the sound of laughter, and the ability to communicate and authentically connect with people.

The Fire element corresponds to the more active and social aspects in life, quite the opposite of the Water element that is associated with the season of winter and being more introspective and quiet. We are all familiar with these two very distinctly different experiences and see that both are just as important as the other. There are also those moments where we feel more outgoing in the winter, or more introspective in the summer, depending upon life circumstances. In any event, balance is key. When we are in touch with what the seasons have to offer, and correspond to them accordingly and openly, we then know that the organ(s) associated are also in balance.

When summer time comes around we usually experience that increased desire to socialize, dance and play. The Heart feels more “open” to possibilities. Also, the Heart has a strong connection with the mind, however in this case the mind is not thought of as just brain function but more of the relationship between the two. In Chinese medicine this relationship between the Heart and the mind is referred to as Shen. The Shen is revealed through the eyes, we can see how someone is feeling on a mental/emotional level just by looking into their eyes. In addition to the Heart, there are three other organs involved within the Fire element. The one physically closest to the Heart is the Pericardium, an organ that is seen as the “Heart Wrapper” and functionally protects the Heart. As we look at our own “Heart Wrapper” we can ask ourselves, are we protecting ourselves too much / not enough or is there an appropriate balance of both?

Next, the Small Intestine is the Yang paired organ to the Heart. All organs have a paired organ, and the physically hollow organs are considered Yang, the more solid organs considered Yin. The main function of the Small Intestine is to receive food from the stomach and further digest and absorb it and send the residue to the large intestine and urinary bladder. Essentially, the Small Intestine “separates the pure from the turbid”. On an emotional level, the ability to provide ourselves with clear boundaries and know when to appropriately separate emotionally also pertains to the Small Intestine. For example, sometimes there is a need to separate the many different roles we play such as in the work place and at home. If it is difficult to separate each role appropriately and find ourselves mixing the roles together, the purity dissipates and becomes muddy and unclear. As a further example, as a parent we cannot truly be “buddies” with our children since parents are the people providing love, structure and security, which provides children with what they truly need in order to then create their own strong and lasting friendships.

The last organ associated happens to be the only one not recognized in Western medicine, and therefore has no direct English translation. It is the San Jiao, the Yang paired organ to the Pericardium. There are three jiaos; upper, middle and lower, each pertaining to the organs in those locations of the torso. In a very small nutshell, the San Jiao connects all the organs, with a strong connection with water (the human body is about 72% water) “the San Jiao is the irrigation official who builds waterways”. This function of essentially keeping proper functioning and communication between the organs might be translated emotionally to that aspect that keeps us physically and spiritually connected with the people close to us and with the community. Together, the organs related to the Fire element help us to keep our actions, words and thoughts clear and full of loving intention.

Before engaging in a “serious” conversation or any other action it seems important to ask the question of intention…what are my intentions? do my intentions come from a place of love? compassion? If they don’t, then why bother? Social connectedness is one of the most important factors in keeping the Heart healthy. When we are able to do so with loving intention, we are witness to the feeling as it vibrates throughout our life and into the people around us and into the community.

When you have the courage to open your heart completely to love, a miracle happens. You start perceiving the reflection of your love in everything. Then eating, walking, talking, singing, dancing, working, playing – everything you do becomes a ritual of love. – Don Miguel Ruiz


The change of seasons presents an excellent opportunity for self reflection, introspection, and renewal. The Five Element Theory of Chinese Medicine associates all energy and substance to five elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Each element corresponds to a particular season. Autumn is characterized by the Metal element.

At this time of year, we take the ripe fruits and vegetables from our gardens. We pick the jewels which we carefully planted in the spring, and nurtured throughout the summer. The concept of “harvest” and “metal” are important aspects relegated to Autumn, as metal / jewels are also harvested from the ground. These concept of living life in cooperation with the seasons is the traditional Chinese view of a healthy internal balance with respect to nature.

Metal corresponds to the Lungs and Large Intestine. These are the organs of inspiration/ exhalation, and elimination. The lungs receive necessary oxygen and eliminate carbon dioxide, taking in what we need and eliminating what no longer serves a purpose. The large intestine functions to eliminate waste products. Both organs need to eliminate properly for survival. If the large intestine is not functioning properly, waste can build up and begin to rot or leak toxins into the body. Constipation, emotional stagnation, acne, and accumulation of phlegm can result from a sluggish large intestine or lung.

The emotional process of elimination and “letting go” is not an easy practice for many people. Generally, in this culture we have the desire to hold on. We collect mementos, clothing, pictures, and we hold onto relationships, pain, ideas and values that may not be serving us anymore. The lesson of autumn and the metal element is that of trusting that letting go of what no longer serves a purpose will bring us what we need to receive.

Autumn is a good time of the year to eliminate unwanted materials, emotions, habits and beliefs. It is also a good time to take the opportunity to clean out both emotional and physical spaces. As we breath in, we accept what is necessary and favorable, and as we breath out, we get rid of anything that is not serving us anymore. As we go through the house and get rid of the accumulated stuff that no longer serves a purpose, we tend to think about what we value both materially and spiritually. What is no longer valuable to us may be absolutely essential to another. The elimination process is vital to prepare for receiving what is essential.

About Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture

Acupuncture is one of the oldest medical systems, dating back thousands of years to ancient China. Traditionally, acupuncture was used as a preventative medicine to correct imbalances before they became serious diseases. It is still used today by one third of the world as a primary health care system due to its time tested effectiveness and simplicity.

Acupuncture is a unique form of treatment that assists the body’s natural healing abilities by balancing Qi, the vital energy that moves from one organ to another along pathways called channels. Too much or too little energy in a pathway creates imbalance that may lead to physical or emotional disturbances. The practitioner is trained to assess where the channels of energy are blocked and to open them so that energy may flow smoothly.

Acupuncture is a natural form of healing that most people associate with pain relief. However, the World Health Organization also recognizes acupuncture for use in treating a wide variety of conditions including anxiety, depression, PTSD, addiction, insomnia, stress, chronic diseases, cold and flu, respiratory conditions, high blood pressure, postoperative pain, digestive dysregulation, fertility, menstrual, pregnancy and menopausal issues.

For infants and children, acupuncture needles are not used. Instead, various techniques, such as massage and acupressure, are used to restore balance.

Vitamin B12

I became more aware of the importance of B12 a few years ago when I needed to have regular injections due to anemia during pregnancy. After doing some research, I’ve learned more about the role B12 plays in relation to the health of our nervous system, brain function and circulation. In this article I will give you a list of foods containing B12, briefly explain B12 functioning within the human body, the common reason for poor absorption, and the simple way to remedy B12 deficiency.

B12 is an essential vitamin, the body cannot make it on its own. So, we must eat certain foods abundant in Vitamin B12. The following is a list of foods high in B12, taken from Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford:

• animal meat such as chicken, beef and fish
• cheese
• beans, especially aduki beans, dry peas, lentils and soybeans
• nuts and seeds, especially sunflower and sesame seeds, almonds and filberts
• some fermented foods such as yogurt, miso and tempeh
• “green foods” such as chlorella, wild blue-green algae and spirulina
• seaweeds such as nori, dulse, kelp, wakame and kombu
• nutritional yeast

B12 builds immunity and promotes growth of the nervous system and body in general, and so it is absolutely vital for pregnant and nursing women. It plays a critical role in the formation of myelin, the protective material that encases every neuron in the body and it also plays a key role in the synthesis of red blood cells and DNA. Knowing the vital role of Vitamin B12, it is easier to understand how a deficiency has been strongly linked to the following:

• cognitive impairment
• age-related dementia
• memory loss
• confusion
• depression
• numbness and tingling in the extremities caused by nerve damage
• fatigue
• vision problems
• circulatory disorders including anemia, heart disease and stroke

While getting B12 through diet would seem like a clear solution, it is also a problematic one. One of the problems is that B12 possesses the largest and most complex molecular structure of all the vitamins, making it difficult to absorb and maintain. The other problem is due to poor digestion in general. Most of the symptoms of B12 deficiency are age-related due to mal-absorption. As we age, the functioning of the lining in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract decreases. The GI tract governs the release of a digestive compound known as intrinsic factor. In the absence of intrinsic factor, the body’s ability to absorb B12 from food is compromised. Instead of actively transporting B12 into the blood, the body must rely on passive diffusion through the intestinal wall, resulting in sub-optimal B12 absorption and lower B12 levels. Furthermore, the use of popular prescription and over the counter drugs that reduce stomach acid further decreases B12 absorption since stomach acid is necessary to separate B12 from the food proteins to which it is bound. In adults over the age of 50, a thinning of the stomach lining can still further reduce acid secretion and limit B12 levels. Aside from malabsorption due to the natural process of aging, there are also those with digestive dysfunction who are at risk for B12 deficiency, especially those with Crohn’s disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

Because of GI tract and stomach mal- absorption it is also difficult for the digestive system to process B12 in vitamin, or quick-dissolving tablet form. The most efficient and cost-effective manner to make B12 bio available is through injection. Since a large percentage of my clients are over the age of 50, I chose to keep preservative free B12 on hand. The clients who have come in for B12 injections did not find it painful or costly, but instead were happy to find a place to get their needs met quickly.

I hope you have found this article to be helpful. Please feel free to give me a call with any further questions.

Daisy Lear, MSOM, Dipl.Ac., L.Ac.
practices Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture in Longmont