Autumn is here!

Beech Tree Forest in Autumn

Oh yes, fall is here. How can you deny to cool nights and earlier sunsets? In the Chinese calendar, this cooling and darker trend marks the beginning of fall, which began on August 8th. Now we are in the height of it. I was born and raised in Ontario, and autumn has always been one of my favourite seasons, because I love the cool crisp air, and the beautiful rich vibrant colours of autumn. I loved the return to school and routine, and the new year of learning. Fall in the Chinese metaphysical calendar is
a time if putting the work in to see the fruits of our labour later on. It makes sense that our “Back to School” time is in the fall.

With this new learning trend, we being a new series in our newsletter with 2 areas: A) Healthy Aging and Longevity Tips from Sonia F. Tan who is currently completing her research doctorate in Integrative Medicine in Aging and Longevity, and B) Comparing our health choices with our bank account with our guest contributor and newest Registered Acupuncturist to the clinic Michael Yin!

What exactly is healthy aging? From the moment we are born we begin aging. Healthy aging is defined as a normal or smooth transition to aging or age states. With a smooth aging process, we obtain more longevity. We live with little or no pain. (yes you read right!) We sleep well. (yes that is possible!) We have a normal appetite. We have clear mind, sight and hearing. While we notice things for us are slower or we are a bit weaker, we are still functional. We have little to no inflammation in our body (inflammation breaks down cells and speeds aging). In fact, in my doctoral research that I am doing in Los Angeles, one of the biggest and most important factors in the aging process is inflammation. Evidence clearly suggests that there is a symbiotic relationship between aging, inflammation and chronic diseases such as cancer (Amad, 2009) (Woods 2011). Aging is associated with poor prognosis of cancer, and again populations are more prone to cancer development and progress. Many non-cancer
chronic diseases are associated with aging such as diabetes, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease. A note-worthy point with all these diseases is that they are initiated or worsened by systemic inflammation. In Western Medicine, it is not yet clear whether aging leads to the inflammatory processes and resulting chronic diseases or whether inflammation is the causative factor for inducing both aging and chronic diseases such as cancer. What we do understand is chronic inflammation creates an
environment where those degraded and broken down cells in our body develop to either malignancy (abnormal cells), or poor cellular healing, create congestion, and hence, speed aging (Amad, 2009) (Woods 2011). In addition it can lower our quality of life since we then are dealing with pain, swelling, congestion, etc. So healthy aging is about optimizing your health, minimizing degradation, and hence extending and improving your quality of life.

What can you do to minimize inflammation? We’ll expand more on this in the next newsletter. For now, start with reducing stress, moderate exercise and a diet based on plants where meat is a garnish, not the main feature, such as Asian or Mediterranean diets. Reduce your meats and diary products. This will help lower inflammation in the body.

Questions on the state of your aging? Inquire about getting more of an Integrative Aging and Longevity assessment at our clinic with Sonia. For now, practice makes perfect. Start with making little changes here and there in the above, and incorporating it as part of your routine.

I’ve always said, we have a choices, and our choices have a ripple effect. Ever thought about what would work out better in the long term when it comes to pharmaceutical or OTC medications versus alternative treatments?  Michael Yin will speak about making the choice between taking pain medication versus committing to a series of acupuncture treatments in monetary terms. How best should I spend my money?:

Before I begin my career in Traditional Chinese Medicine, I was working as health economist in the pharmaceutical industry. I conducted research in health technology assessment for the pharmaceutical products and presented the evidence to the key decision makers and stakeholders, e.g. Health Canada and Provincial Ministry of Health so the pharmaceutical company and government can agree on a reimbursement price for the particular new drug. All new drugs are compared against existing competing treatments and they explore how/if the new drugs are able to bring value to the patients.

What I want to share today is a scenario that could happen with anyone, and a simple decision making analysis so that everyone can make their own decision to determine if acupuncture is cost effective for you.

Brita, 35, a female waitress works 6 days a week, is generally healthy, however works in a very busy bar. One day as she was lifting a tray full of plates and mugs, when she felt sudden tightness on her lower left back. From that day, it has been bothering her and the pain is somewhat tolerable but sometimes, it will become so painful that she will pay for anything to have that pain go away.

Pain medication does not completely eliminate pain, it reduces the pain. It was never designed to eliminate the lower back pain. So say Brita rates her lower back pain scale as 8/10 when it really hurts. Typically, “pain medications can drop the pain only to 4/10″ according to Bleecker and Whisnant (2015). With acupuncture, it has been proven that it can reduce the pain below the level that pain medication can not, so assume after acupuncture, her pain level decrease to 1/10 according to Bleecker and Whisnant (2015).

Now let’s assume Brita makes $220 a day through hourly wages and tipping and she is willing to pay that much money for her pain to go away. Now, Brita has 2 choices she can choose from: A) Brita can choose to take over-the-counter (OTC) pain killers, which we estimate cost around $20 a bottle, and the expected pain improves from 8/10 to 4/10. Or, B) she can choose to go for an acupuncture treatment, at a rate of $85 at Red Tree Wellness and it can reduce the pain from 8/10 to 1/10.

Now a we’ll do some simple mathematical calculations to calculate the cost utility between acupuncture treatment and using pain drugs: for Brita is:

Cost of Acupuncture – Cost of Pain Medication
Difference of Pain Scale after Acupuncture – Difference of Pain Scale after Medication

For the cost pricing, I will use a rough estimation so your number maybe different. So let’s plug in the number into the formula above:

$85 – $20
________________________ = $217
(0.8-0.1) – (0.8-0.4)

As the result suggested, $217 is the price Brita has to pay for her to have her pain to improve from the pain scale of 4/10 of taking medication down to 1/10 or painless of getting TCM acupuncture treatment.

So is it worth it? Well, for Brita, as we stated, she is willing to pay one day of her income to exchange for no pain so for her, I would think she will think it is worth the money she paid to seek acupuncture treatment. The scenario I presented varies from each person, the number of everyone’s daily income is different however the improvement of the pain from acupuncture and pain killer more or less the will have similar result on all individuals. However, what was not taken into consideration is the long term effect from taking pain medication. When receiving acupuncture, the acupuncture is actually promote our body to heal itself, inducing our body to release neuropeptides substance which is more powerful than pharmaceutical morphins. With the acupuncture, it also help our body tissue to repair itself, hence avoid scar tissue forming in the micro level which would prevent the recurrence of the back pain. A pain
medication would not have the same effect and this where acupuncture clearly shines.  If we look into the future recurrence of the pain from taking pain medication, or possible health intervention, we can clearly see by getting acupuncture, it saves money in the long run.

I hope you have a new perspective when you are considering your options from this article. Acupuncture treating lower back pain is very effective and immediate, especially if Brita seeks acupuncture treatment immediately or within a week of her when her pain happened.
– Michael Yin, BA, MBA, RAc

Lastly, we will be introducing a new rate structure at the clinic beginning in the new year. Look for more info in the clinic, on our website, and upcoming newsletters.

Enjoy the rest of the fall!
We’re here to help if you need it.

Yours in good health and happiness,
Sonia & the Red Tree Wellness team

Sonia Tan


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