Tag Archives: Medicine

Treating People like Nails

“When you have a hammer, everything seems like a nail.”

People usually join their religion to fulfill their very simple needs (see a list here). But once they become a committed believer, they are given a hammer and shown how to use their religion on all the nails in their lives.  Soon, even their friends start looking like nails.

Acupuncturists, Chiropractors, Homeopaths often do the same: they treat people who are not getting better over and over with their favorite ‘therapy’ because they only have one tool and they are invested in it.

My son went to a Physical Therapist recently for ankle pain (growth plate issue).  He was given therapy exercises that only caused him worse ankle pain. When I read the exercise sheet he was given, I noticed that it was a generic ankle exercise program given to everyone for ankle pain. I had the same situation a year ago with my shoulder pain: the exercises I was given only made my shoulder worse.  I have seen the same with other friends who are treated with Physical Therapy. Physical Therapy is often used like placebo medicine.

But this hammer-nail blindness happens in all walks of life. I work in medicine and repeatedly see surgeons who perform unnecessary surgery, pediatricians who give unnecessary antibiotics and more.

Vested interests in our own tools often make us overextend their use. The less effective your tool, the more obvious this universal crime. I’ve done it lots of times. I just got riled again seeing it done to my kid.

Moral: Beware, the smiley face in front of you may be envisioning you as a nail!

Question to readers: Have you ever turned another person into a nail?


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

Experience Qi Today!

Click the pic to see:
“My Qi Explosion” post

Today’s Goal: To feel Qi outside your body!
Question: Is it real?
Spoiler: I don’t think it is, but let’s see.

Your body and the universe are enlivened by an invisible energy–Qi .  “Qi” is the Mandarin Chinese word for that invisible energy but it is known in many cultures, by various names: Hei (Cantonese), Ki (Japanese), Prana (Sanskrit), Lüng (Tibetan), Mana (Hawaiian), The Force (Star Wars), Etheric Energy (Theosophical Society) and many more.
You get the idea. (see Wiki if you want more)

Qi is a central concept in Traditional Chinese & Indian medicine, Martial Arts and Feng Shui. Having been surrounded by the concept for decades, I assumed everyone knew what I knew.  But while writing this post in the coffee shop today, I asked three different friends and none of them really knew what it was, yet alone had ever experienced it.

Qi is real! People in China, India and Japan know what it is. But have you ever truly felt it? Are you skeptical? Well, if you are even halfway open-minded, I can get you to feel Qi by the end of this post.  Please read each step slowly.
Key Step: until you get to the last step, you won’t really feel Qi

  • Place both your hands on a table in front of you.
  • Let your hands rest for a minute.
  • Don’t move them. Don’t move them during this whole demonstration.
  • Now, I want you to put your awareness in your right hand.Could you feel your attention move to your right hand?
  • If not, if you are already resisting this whole thing, Let’s try something more obvious.

  • Our brains filter signals so that we aren’t overwhelmed. By putting our attention on something, we can become aware of something we weren’t previously aware of.
  • For instance, put your attention on your butt. Feel the chair pushing up on your butt cheeks while the weight of your body pushes down on the chair.
  • I doubt you were aware of your butt before I asked you to pay attention to it. See how good your brain is at keeping you unaware of boring information.

  • Put your attention back on your right hand. Focus on the right hand. But now, let’s get more focused, but your attention on your index finger. Rest your attention on your index finger for a while.Now, shift your attention to your thumb.Rest your attention on your thumb for a while. Remember, do this slowly with careful, clear awareness.
  • Now try to putting your awareness into your little finger. For many of you this will be a little more difficult but spend some time until you clearly feel your little finger — you will get there.

  • OK, now return your attention to your index finger. Keep your attention there until you clearly feel it differently than your other fingers.
  • Now, let’s narrow down our awareness further. Remember, without moving your hand or fingers, put your awareness on your first knuckle. Yep, sense that small area. Focus clearly. It is not hard. You are doing the same exercise — moving awareness.
  • Congrads.Now, move your awareness up to your 2nd knuckle. Feel it?
  • Now move your attention to the tip of your index finger — to the very tip of your index finger. Your sensation should be clear and focused. Keep working until you can clearly feel the tip of your index finger.

  • OK, now, using the exact same method you have used so far, move your attention to about 1/2 inch off the tip of your finger.Yep, put your attention off your body into the space just in front of your index finger.Take your time. Focus. You will feel it.
  • You will feel it in just the same way you did all the other parts of your body above. Use the same process, the same method of acknowledgement.

You should have been able to sense your body beyond your finger.

That was your etheric or subtle body: your Qi outside your physical body. Sensations inside your body are also Qi but this experiment helps you separate  sensations of muscles from sensations of Qi.

I won’t tell you my opinions about Qi here.  I am reporting as a believer – as I first experienced it just as I did in this post too: “My Magical Introduction to Acupuncture“.  Tell me what you think. Your responses may help me in writing my upcoming posts on this issue.

Series Post: This post is part of my series: Confessions of an Acupuncturist.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

My Confessions

This is an index of my confession posts.


Apparently I have a fanatic, experimental, immersive personality. These posts are confessions of my former and present such obsessions.  I hope by exposing my history of contrary beliefs you will understand better how I view beliefs in general and how I now view myself — and my other ‘selves‘.

It is because of this history of change that I can no longer but help laughing at any righteous seriousness that pops up in my life.  I am a weird creature who keeps doing the same thing over-and-over.  If only these confessions would cure me!

The Posts

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Foreskin Decisions

If you want to piss off some of your readers, write about politics or sex. Well, I’ve never worried too much about rejection on this blog, so here I go with another controversial subject: circumcision.
Do me a favor, BEFORE reading this post take the poll to the right.  Then, after reading this post, take the other two polls at the end — no peaking, wait until you read the post.

This is the first post of a series.  Your comments and these polls’ results will assist in the coming content.  Thank you for participating.

I have worked in medicine for a few decades. For the last three years I have worked in Urology where I have seen more foreskin problems then I knew existed — some are even life threatening. Circumcision avoids these problems.

I believe circumcision evolved as a life-saving technique, not as a mere rite-of-passage ritual.  Instead, it was probably used preventatively and then evolved into a ritual.   But I am only making a wild guess.  I have not studied the issue of circumcision deeply and am instead, just sharing my biased opinions, experiences and choices.

Letting a child decide about circumcision when they get older seems a good option. But without working as a Urologist, and hearing of all the problems, I can’t imagine a person ever wanting to electively remove their foreskin. Why?  Because men don’t share their penis-problem stories with other men.  Even if a person would desire a circumcision as an adult, they would be very hesitant because of the anticipated pain, necessary healing time and the worry of explaining the change to others. So even leaving the choice to adults has its drawbacks.

Mind you, I see a disproportionate number of foreskin problems because (1) I work in urology and (2) because I work with a large number of elderly ex-coal miners whose families were poor and their births took place at home where circumcisions were not performed.

Here are some of the conditions we have treated with circumcision in adult men:

Since I do not work with pediatric patients, I have not seen horribly botched-up circumcisions which would probably alter my opinion. But I knew of botching dangers when my son was born and that is why I assisted in my own son’s circumcision 12 years ago.   Prior to that, when our ultrasound confirmed our first child to be a male, my wife asked me, “What do you feel about circumcision?” (as she was leaning away from it) and I said, “My son will be circumcised.” To which she replied, “It doesn’t sound like you’ll be compromising on that opinion.” And I said, “No.”  And she let me have my way on that issue.

I’ve discussed my son’s circumcision with him several times since. Part of our discussion surrounds stories from my clinic of  horrible foreskin problems. I hope in this way, when he is an adult and thinks how horrible I was to rob him of a foreskin at least he may think, “I resent my Dad’s barbaric decision, but in his own stupid ways he thought he was doing good.”

Questions for Readers:

There are many good arguments for not doing circumcisions, but there are bad ones too. Being “unnatural” is one of the bad arguments — medicine has taught me that nature does not care for our happiness or comfort.

  • Given the above potential problems with foreskins, what do you think are the best anti-circumcision arguments aside from botched circumcisions?
  • How will / did you decide about circumcision for your male child?

Closing polls:

After reading this post has your opinion changed toward:


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

Acupuncture Success

For those following my Acupuncture history and impressions, I thought these quick stories would also help.  For in many of my acupuncture experiences I didn’t usually follow the long-term results of my treatments but with family and friends, it was easier.  So here are a few stories — again, without post-hoc analysis.

Allergies & Sleep

My brother had allergies — runny nose and sneezing.  I was home in the USA on a short vacation from Japan and he asked if acupuncture would help his allergies.  We were in the back seat of a car,  I broke out my needles and  put about four needles in his face while we were riding.  He clearly felt the Qi and after twirling them a bit, I told him to rest with them in his face for about 10 to 15 minutes.

When I removed the needles his nose wasn’t running and his face tingled.  The next day he called me and asked in an almost angry voice,  “What did you do? That day I went home and fell asleep at 4:30 pm and did not wake until 8 a.m. the next day!  I normally sleep only about five or six hours.  You should have warned me.”

I had never seen that happen before so didn’t think about warning him.  He said he did feel better still. His allergies, by the way, were never cured by one treatment — more treatments are needed.  But I was just visiting and would not see him again for several years.

Tennis Elbow

My mother’s best friend (50 years old) had tennis elbow for 2 years that interfered tremendously with here daily life.  She asked me if I would mind treating it.  The friend had surgery planned in two weeks.  I gave one treatment with three needles in her arm and the pain was gone and never returned.  She cancelled her surgery.

Thumb Pain

My friend’s sister had thumb pain for five weeks.  After feeling the tension on her muscles, I decided to only use one point at the middle of her scapula–  Small Intestine 11 (“Heavenly Gathering”).  With a four minute treatment on that one point her pain went away and never returned.  This is an example of treating a point far from the source of pain.  Some traditions emphasize this method, some emphasize points close to the pain — many use both.  For example, a point which is claimed to help menstrual cramps in just above the ankle (“the meeting of the three Yin”).

Back Pain

My father visited me in Japan after I graduated from Acupuncture school.  He brought his second wife and he requested if I would offer to treat her chronic back pain.  So during their two-week stay I gave her four treatments both with acupuncture and moxibustion.  Her pain was relieved and did not return until about 1-year later.

Again, this is how I remember these stories.

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Filed under Medicine

How to Cure a Christian

This is an index post for an up-coming series.  Medicine is my profession and so the “cure” metaphor comes easily to me.  I realize that such a title is naturally offensive to Christians, but what can I say — this is an Atheist site.  At least I am being honest.  Many years ago when I deconverted from my Christianity, I started writing essays which I entitled “Debunking Christianity”, but now there is a website by that name.  And besides, as I gained distance from Christianity (which was easy since I lived in Asia), I realized that it was person-by-person that we affect each other.  And I realized that cures are complicated because a person’s beliefs are intimately tied into their lives and are not simply composed of a list of propositions.  So rather than debunking an abstract thing called “Christianity”, these essays will focus on the individual Christian.

Well, this is suppose to be an index post, so let’s just start the list.  I will link up titles as I post.  But here are some titles I am imagining:

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Treat the patient, not the numbers

In Oriental Medicine and in Homeopathy, we would not run any laboratory tests before treating a patient.  Information was solely gathered by physical observation and the interview process.  So detailed and careful were those exams that they put Allopathic Medicine (“Modern Medicine”) to shame.  So, by the time I studied Allopathic Medicine in PA school (22 years ago), I was ready to learn that observing the patient in front of you is often more important than a measurement or lab test.

Below are a few classic examples:

High Blood Pressure

At my first job out of PA school in an ER, providers will still treating high blood pressure reflexively.  If a patient’s blood pressure was high, they popped a few pills into the patient to bring it down to “normal” quickly.  I had learned that such a practice was dangerous but it took me three months to get the ER staff to change their old habits.  If someone has had high blood pressure for a long time, they probably need that pressure to keep both their heart and brain perfused with blood.  We now know that lowering chronic hypertension abruptly can lead to ischemic disasters.

Low Oxygen Levels

Pulse Oximetry is a gentle finger clamp that uses a laser to measure how much oxygen is in your blood.  When these first came out, if someone had low oxygen levels, they reflexively supplemented their oxygen with an oxygen mask.   But ironically, if a pt has acute exacerbation of  Chronic Obstruction Pulmonary Disease (COPD) high levels of uncontrolled oxygen can result in respiratory failure!  For unlike healthy patients whose respiratory reflex is triggered by high CO2 levels, in these patients it is low O2 levels that trigger the response which you can blunt by supplying uncontrolled oxygen – thus ironically killing someone using oxygen.  This problem was later solved with special delivery systems.

High Temperature

The old school ideology was that body temperature needs to be brought down to normal range.  In Japan and China, a person with a fever is made to sweat more — their high temperature is raise further.  The body produces a fever to kill bacteria.  It is true that only some organism are killed or slowed down by high body temperatures and that the response is non-specific, but you should usually give fever a chance to work.  But in the ERs where I first worked, nurses would not give blankets to patients with fevers even if they had the chills in fear of raising their temperature.  And they would always give Tylenol or Motrin for any temperature over 100 deg C.  It took me 1 year to get that practice changed.  I had to print out article after research article and finally present them to the medical group.

Well, those are only a few examples to a principle which I will quote in an up-coming post.

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Filed under Medicine

Arrogant Christian Prayer

God's AirplaneSpeaking of praying for the sick —  Here is a true story of mine from just 3 months ago.

My family was flying to Mexico for vacation.  Three hours into the flight an attendant yelled loudly, “Do we have a doctor on the plane?”  We all looked up — no response.  “Do we have any medical personnel on the plane?” she yelled again more frantically.  My wife nudged me, “Shhh,” I said, “Just wait and give the heroes a chance.”  But no one went forward.  So, I stood up and walked up to the front of the plane.

A 70 year-old woman was having a heart attack.  We had 45 minutes until we arrived in Mexico.  I started directing the attendants to get the plane’s defibrillator, to break open the medical kit and to help me administer her treatment.  Long story short, we got her stabilized and I sat next to her stroking her head to relax her until we landed.  Her niece, after she finally stopped crying, thanked me over and over.  The flight attendants were very grateful.  Me, I wish I could have relaxed in the back of the plane with my kids — it felt like I was back at work, but I was glad to help.

The woman was looking much better, and the Mexican ambulance was starting to bring the stretcher aboard the plane when the man behind me tapped the woman on her arm and said loudly, in his best witnessing voice, “We were praying for you.  I am sure the doctor helped, but God was the real healer here.”  I was shocked at the gall of this person, but before I knew it, the people in front of us said to the woman, “We were praying for you too.”  My patient had a religious book in her arms and shook her head agreeing. As the ambulance carried her out, she hugged me and thanked me.  She was a sweet woman.

Geeeeez, maybe God did help her.  Wait, there is no god.  But if there were, I would hope he just shakes his head those sorts of  Christian credit grabbers !

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