How Can Physical Therapy Help You? Feat. Guest Author, Amber Hayes, DPT

Hi everyone! We have Amber Hayes, DPT, as our guest author here today who is going to be talking about physical therapy, her practice in Watertown, and how physical therapy might be of benefit to you. Amber Hayes and Maryann Mancini are local Doctors of Physical Therapy and co-owners of Connect Physical Therapy in Watertown, CT. They are a dynamic team committed to providing educational, patient-centered, and multi-faceted solutions for their clients. I recently had the opportunity to write a guest post for their blog, and I was thrilled to have Amber write one for me as well. So enough from me, and I’ll let Amber take it away! Enjoy! -SP

The amount of pain in America is astonishing. The amount of people who believe pain is “normal” is even more shocking to me. My name is Dr. Amber Hayes, DPT, ITPT, CKTP. I am a physical therapist who co-owns and practices at Connect Physical Therapy LLC, located in Watertown, CT. My business partner, Dr. Maryann Mancini, DPT, OCS, ITPT and I believe physical therapy is a very viable treatment option for reducing pain, improving function, and increasing quality of life. With that being said you may ask:

  • Who are physical therapists and how can physical therapy really help me feel better?
  • What conditions can a physical therapist treat me for?
  • How do I get referred to a physical therapist?

Physical therapists are movement specialists, and we are well educated. Both Maryann and I have a post baccalaureate degree and Maryann even has an advanced certification, as an Orthopedic Certified Specialist. Both Maryann and I graduated from Quinnipiac University, academically excelling at the top of our class. We are both Impact Trained Physical Therapists, and I have a certification as a Certified Kinesiotape Practitioner. Maryann assists with teaching a graduate course in Quinnipiac’s Physician Assistant Program and both of us strive to stay current with evidence-based research and have taken multiple continuing education courses over the years.

Drs. Mancini & Hayes

As physical therapists, we are able to evaluate you specifically. A physical therapist will take you through a thorough examination of joint movements, strength testing, and balance assessments that are specific to your complaints in order to determine the root of your symptoms. Once examined, we are able to progress forward with treatment to start reducing pain and improving the impairments which were found during the initial evaluation. Maryann and I prescribe exercises (i.e. stretches and strengthening activities) which are right for you. Correct intensity, correct movements, correct stress level on the body.

Not only do we have you exercise, but equally important is that we use manual therapy skills to aid in pain reduction and progressing you towards improved function. We are able to use our hands to do things like: mobilize a joint, decrease limited joint mobility, improve postural alignment, or provide appropriate cuing during exercise performance to allow for completion without compensation. In less fancy words, our manual intervention can aid in decreasing pain and improving your function.

Maryann and I work to then educate our patients. Provide home exercise programs, explain anatomy and the possible reasons for a patient’s pain, and have a discussion of goals and expectations for physical therapy. We want our patients to feel better. We want them to feel at ease. We want them to move better and feel listened to and thoroughly care for. We want an open line of communication and a positive patient-therapist relationship.

Now to answer what conditions that we specially treat. Physical therapy is not just for people who have undergone surgical intervention. In the outpatient physical therapy setting we can see patients with a wide variety of chief complaints. As specialists in orthopedics, we assess, manage and treat injuries of the musculoskeletal system. We provide rehabilitation for surgery, acute and chronic injuries and injuries or disorders of the spine or joints of the body. You may think, “Wow, that’s a lot!” And you would be right.

As a few examples, we can treat: low back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, ankle pain, headaches, scoliosis…basically any type of joint or muscle related pain. And remember, we thoroughly screen and examine you, so should we feel physical therapy is not the best treatment option we will refer you in the right direction. We truly believe in an interdisciplinary approach to healthcare for maximum outcomes.

Sometimes medical doctors may even send you for physical therapy prior to undergoing surgical intervention. This helps to optimize your mobility and strength prior to surgery in order to improve your post-surgical outcomes. Post-surgically, physical therapy is helpful. We educate you on your surgical precautions, progress you according to the stages of healing, and allow you to achieve your goals. We are always in direct contact with your surgeon, ensuring proper progression of their surgical protocol and updating them on your progress.

We also see sports related injuries and treat patients for impairments after sustaining concussion. Vertigo is also likely treatable with physical therapy intervention.

If you think your balance is off, but there is nothing you can do about it…you are wrong. Especially in the older patient population, we help to treat gait and balance dysfunction. Numerous factors can affect your ability to walk and maintain balance. We can assess where your impairments are and work towards improving them. We want you to remain safe and independent with your functional mobility!

Physical therapy can also be used to help manage acute and chronic pain through the use of manual therapy, modalities, and guided/appropriate exercise.

I firmly believe that physical therapy intervention is something that almost all, if not everyone, can benefit from. With that being said, how do you get referred? You can have a discussion with your medical doctor about the benefits of physical therapy, or you can even come to physical therapy through DIRECT ACCESS!

Direct access means that you are able to seek treatment from a physical therapist without first receiving a referral from a medical doctor. Most insurance plans allow this! After coming in for a full evaluation we will be able to determine if PT would be beneficial for you. Starting physical therapy through direct access can allow you to efficiently use your time and more quickly see improvement in your symptoms. We want you to view us as a lifelong provider for your musculoskeletal needs, not as single course of care providers.

We want to see you be happy and healthy. We believe this begins with building a relationship with your physical therapist to reduce pain and improve overall function.

Should you be interested in learning more about our practice you can email: or visit our website:

We offer free consultations and also have a Facebook Page:  

Thank you, Sarah for this wonderful opportunity to spread the word about the physical therapy profession!

Setting Intentions for the New Year

Hello everyone, and welcome to the last day of 2017! It’s certainly been an interesting year, and I think most of us are ready to start fresh and welcome in 2018. 

With that in mind, this is just a short post to help you get the new year off to the best start possible. Now, I hate New Year’s Eve. At this point in the holiday season, I am totally over the eating, drinking, large crowds, festivities, all of it. I really do love the holiday season with all my heart, but by the time New Year’s Eve rolls around, I’m officially done. I also really don’t like the pressure that people put on themselves with the first of the year to make all of these colossal changes in their lives that will somehow magically fix everything (read this post for more on why I don’t like resolutions).

And is there any phrase more insufferable than “New Year, New You?” I know I’ve used it, and for that, I apologize. I resolve (ha! see what I did there?) to never use it again. Why should you totally re-invent yourself just because a new month started? You’re already pretty great! We don’t need to create these new “perfect” versions of ourselves that will inevitably crash and burn by the time February rolls around.

With that being said, I do like to take some time at the beginning of the new year to set intentions for the upcoming year. These are not resolutions, but rather statements of things I would like to see happen or areas in which I would like to grow. These aren’t necessarily specific goals (i.e. “I will make (x) amount of dollars,” “I will run a marathon,” “I will volunteer twice a week”) but rather broad statements about areas of my life in which I would like to enact positive changes. For example, one of mine for 2017 was “I want to not rely on external sources of validation to feel good about myself, but to acknowledge on my own that I am a capable and successful person who has much to offer other people.” Like many, I struggle with negative self-talk sometimes, so making sure that internally I am speaking kindly to myself is a really important thing for me to work on. No matter what kind things others may say to me, it’s important for my own mental health that I also think I am a good person.

I write out a list of about 8-10 items on a piece of paper, tuck it away somewhere, occasionally re-visit it throughout the year, and then sit down with it at the end of the year to take a look at how things went. I just sat down with my list of 2017 intentions, and as is to be expected, I made some great progress in some areas and have some other areas where I can continue to grow. This then helps me create my intentions for the next year.

By sitting down and concretely directing your energy towards what you want to happen, it sets you on a path of bringing those intentions to life. Without veering off too much into abstract self-help nonsense, it is true that your mindset, attitude, and intentions can create your reality. Being in the right headspace makes a huge difference in how your day-to-day life goes. If you are living and working with a vision of what you want your life to look like, you’ll find it is much easier to stay focused on your goals, needs, and desires.

Having intentions as opposed to resolutions also allows for some flexibility- resolutions are often very specific, and, therefore, very easy at which to fail. If you don’t go to the gym four times a week like you resolved, boom! Resolution failed! However, if your intention was “I will make positive changes to make my body strong and healthy this upcoming year,” and you made it to a yoga class and went for a quick run this week, you’re making that intention a reality.

When we fail at specific resolutions, it often spirals into a cycle of just giving up and waiting for the next Monday/month/year to try and follow our strict rules once again. By creating intentions, you really can’t fail- it’s something you *intend* to do. If things go like you wanted, that’s fantastic. But if things don’t go as planned, it’s not a failure- just an opportunity to take another approach, reframe your intention, and keep trying.

See the difference? I want all of us to start the new year in a place of positivity, self-respect, and kindness (to both ourselves and to the world around us). I’m going to make my intentions for 2018 right now, and I hope you do as well.

I wish all of you a very happy and a very healthy New Year. If you are going out to celebrate this evening, please be safe, enjoy your festivities, and use a designated driver. If you’re staying home and watching terrible TV in your pajamas (like yours truly will be doing), send me some recommendations for your favorite Netflix guilty pleasure 🙂

Until next time, Happy New Year and be well!


Rub a Dub Dub! An Exploration of Health & Beauty Products

Hello everyone! This is going to be a (hopefully) brief and sort of fun and different blog post. As I often tell patients, things that you do and use at home are just as important for your health as what we are doing in the treatment room is. This idea extends to the things we use each and every day- including healthcare and beauty products.

To be a perfectly stereotypical lady, I really like beauty products. I try to choose my health and beauty products carefully for a number of reasons, but there are definitely some conventional products I use as well. I made a list today of the products I used in the 30 minutes between getting in the shower and when I finished getting ready for work. Spoiler alert: it’s a lot more than I thought. And this was not even a special day, just a basic “get ready for work and hustle out the door” routine. I’m going to list them below with some words after them about their ingredients and manufacturing practices that I’ll explore more in just a bit.

Without further ado, here’s the list:

  • Pantene Color Preserve Volume Shampoo
  • Organix Argan Oil Morocco Intensive Moisturizing Treatment (no parabens or sulfates, no animal testing)
  • C. Booth Honey Almond Body Wash (no parabens or sulfates, no animal testing)
  • Andalou Naturals 1000 Roses Cleansing Foam (no parabens or sulfates, high amount of organic ingredients, no animal testing, commitment to sustainable resources)
  • Degree Ultraclear Black & White MotionSense Anti-persperant and Deodorant
  • Origins GinZing Energy Boosting Moisturizer (no parabens, no animal testing, commitment to sustainable resources)
  • Colgate Previ-Dent toothpaste
  • Bliss Lemon-Sage Body Butter (no parabens, no animal testing)
  • Tarte Amazonion Clay 12 Hour Concealer  (no animal testing, commitment to sustainable resources)
  • BareMinerals powder concealer, foundation, bronzer, and blush (no animal testing, no child labor)
  • Sephora Retractable Waterproof Eyeliner (no child labor)

I am vaguely embarrassed to list this many products that are apparently essential to making me look like a normal human, but it’s my daily routine. All information about each brand was found either by reading the bottle/package or through Google.

I try to choose my products carefully for a number of reasons. As you can see, many of the products I list are ones that you might find in the “natural beauty” section of any grocery store or pharmacy. A few of them are from speciality shops (Sephora and/or Ulta) but nothing on the list is especially fancy or expensive.

You’ll see a number of them contain “no parabens or sulfates.” Why is this something I pay attention to? And what the heck are parabens and sulfates??

Parabens are added to beauty products as a preservative (basically to keep the product free from icky bacteria and other microorganisms). There’s a lot you can read out there about them, but basically they have the potential to act as a hormone disrupter. The amount of parabens in most products is very low, but the problem is that they can add up- they are in a lot more things than you would expect, so the cumulative dose may be the actual cause of concern here. There have been no definitive studies linking parabens to health concerns at this time, but personally, I would rather play it safe. There’s enough good products out there without parabens that you can avoid them easily enough.

Sulfates (also often labeled as sodium lauryl sulfates) are agents added to products to make them foam or create a lather. You’ll see them in larger amounts in cleaning products, but they are added in small amounts to many hygienic products such as soap and shampoo. Because these products are designed to clean very well through the addition of sulfates, they can actually irritate the delicate surface of the skin by stripping it of its natural environment. I am blessed to have both acne and eczema on my face (cue massive eye roll), and I know that products containing sulfates irritate my skin. If I travel or borrow someone’s face wash on a trip, I can almost guarantee a few days later I will have an acne breakout or the beginnings of eczema on my left eyelid (it should come as a surprise to no one at this point that my eczema is both pinpoint precise and stubborn, much like myself). When you strip too many oils from the skin, your body will react by overproducing oil to compensate (you need some level of oil on your face to prevent your skin from looking dry and scaly). This overproduction of oil is the first step on the road to an eventual pimple. Blech. I especially emphasize choosing sulfate-free products to my patients with a lot of skin irritation, blemishes, or sensitive skin.

These are why I avoid products containing these ingredients. There’s a ton out there on the internet with more information claiming everything from perfect safety with using parabens to imminent death resulting from using a shampoo with sulfates, so do your own reading and research. These are merely the reasons I choose to avoid them if possible.

Other factors in choosing more natural beauty products generally include anti-animal testing policies, a commitment to sustainable/renewable resources, and a preference for fewer dyes and fragrances in the products. Animal testing is self-explanatory- I’m not going to go all PETA on everyone, but I think we can all agree that testing on animals is not the best. Choosing companies that try to source materials responsibly is another important factor in both feeling good about your purchase as well as in generally providing a higher quality of product. Lastly, beauty and healthcare products free of artificial dyes and fragrances can help those with sensitive or easily irritated skin.

Another issues to consider is that most of these products are gluten-free. Now, I know theres’s a lot of debate on the gluten issue, but for those with Celiac’s disease, we can all agree gluten is no joke for these folks. Even coming into contact with gluten containing ingredients in beauty products can cause health problems (so no jokes about eating shampoo here, you scamps).  Nearly every website I visited for the natural beauty products had a section about gluten-free products. These companies couldn’t guarantee that no cross-contamination had occurred in their factories, but they all made an effort to provide as close to gluten-free products as humanly possible.

I know there are probably ingredients in the “natural” products I use that could be problematic for some people, but I am just trying to hit a few of the major ideas for why I have chosen those products. It’s also important to consider that I try to use products that are of higher quality than average but that are also affordable. It’s not a perfect world out there, so I am trying to do what I can.

Which brings me to my next point. There are definitely some regular products on this list. The Pantene shampoo I bought because it was on sale. My next bottle of shampoo, however, is already earmarked as the Kirkland (Costco) brand color-safe shampoo because it fits many of the criteria discussed above. The Degree deodorant is filled with as many chemicals as possible, and frankly, I like it that way. For a rather small human working inside a climate-controlled office, I sweat like a high school linebacker during pre-season in Georgia. More power to those who can use the all-natural stuff, but I’m not your girl for that. The toothpaste I use is specially given to me by the dentist because after years of not using toothpaste with fluoride in it like a good hippie, I had to get 10 cavities filled two years ago (and I promise, I do actually brush and floss frequently- it’s a genetic family quirk where several of us have the teeth of someone who exclusively eats gummy candy and battery acid, so adding fluoride back has made a huge different in my dental health).

But I don’t stress about using these products all of the time. We want usage of these things to not be a source of frustration and financial ruin. I’m trying my best to make conscientious purchases, but I aim for moderation in all things.

Other common household and health/beauty products I try to use that meet my above criteria include: dish soap, tampons/pads (I use the organic cotton ones made without bleach or fragrances- bet that was a fun fact about me you weren’t expecting to learn today!), cleaning supplies, and a cellulose body sponge in the shower (designed to help minimize skin irritation).

Well, as usual, this got away from me, and I wound up blathering on. That’s it for me, but I would love to hear your recommendations for natural healthcare and beauty products! As always, feel free to comment or send questions my way and to share this article with anyone you think might enjoy it. Until next time, be well.

Talking With Your Doctor About Acupuncture

Hello out there, internet! I hope that you all have been doing well and are enjoying your summer. Today’s topic is an important one- we are going to be talking about how to discuss acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine with your medical providers who aren’t acupuncturists.

It’s estimated that about 1/3 of Americans have tried some form of alternative medicine. This encompasses a wide variety of things including acupuncture, naturopathic medicine, homeopathy, energy work like Reiki, and more. It has become increasingly common for Americans to explore non-traditional methods to address their health concerns. As more and and more people explore these alternative treatments, it is a given that there will be some discourse with regular medical providers (doctors, nurses, surgeons, etc.) about if those modalities are helpful/harmful/useless.

While I can’t speak to other non-TCM therapies, I want to help you figure out how to navigate those conversations about acupuncture and TCM that you might encounter with your regular medical team. Some Western medical providers are very much fans of acupuncture, some don’t know much about it, and some think it is a pointless procedure and a placebo effect at best.

It is part of my job to educate other medical professionals about TCM, and I try to communicate with any healthcare professional that I encounter what I do and and how it works. I have found that the vast majority of medical providers that I talk to about acupuncture are very interested in learning about TCM and what it can treat. I’ve literally had conversations about acupuncture during almost every medical procedure I’ve had in the last decade (only my dentist escapes my blabbering through the silencing power of Novocaine). Because my job is somewhat unusual, I am used to having these discussions and don’t get my feathers ruffled when someone might not have a positive view of acupuncture. That’s on me to explain TCM to those who don’t know much about it, and I like to think I do that pretty well.

But I (and my big mouth) won’t always be there to do that for you and your doctors! It can be intimidating to tell your doctor that you want to try exploring acupuncture. From my patients who have had these discussions with their doctors, I’ve found that the conversation tends to go three different ways:

  1. The doctor gives the patient a high-five and a hell yes! (These are often the same doctors who refer patients to me because they know acupuncture is effective…these are obviously my favorites) More and more doctors are realizing (especially in light of the opioid addiction epidemic sweeping our country) that there is real value to exploring non-medicinal therapies, especially for treating pain. Recent recommendations from the American College of Physicians and the Joint Commission reflect this- these institutions are recommending that doctors learn about acupuncture and possibly recommend it to their patients as a treatment for pain. Indeed, the American College of Physicians now recommends acupuncture as a first-line treatment for both acute and chronic low back pain.
  2. The doctor gives the patient a “meh.” Basically this a neutral response- either they don’t know a lot about acupuncture and/or they aren’t convinced it will help patients. These are the conversations I want to help you feel more confident expressing your opinion in.
  3. The doctor says acupuncture is useless and/or a placebo effect. To be honest, I have heard of very few of these reactions…most doctors are good people who want to do right by their patients, and very few of them would actively discourage their patients from seeking relief from a low-risk procedure like acupuncture. These folks can be tough to convince, but hopefully some of the strategies I’ll discuss next can help.

Alright, so you know you want to get acupuncture or you’re already having it and you want to let your doctor know. Ultimately having this conversation is for your benefit- you want to make sure all members of your healthcare team are on the same page, and everyone is aware of who is doing what to help you, the patient, feel your best.  And, again, most doctors are wonderful people who want to help their patients…very few of them are going to be anything but supportive of your decision, so hopefully these conversations will always be stress-free. It also helps increase the visibility and acceptance of acupuncture and TCM within the medical community when doctors know that their patients are receiving (and benefiting from) acupuncture.

So here are the most important things to do in this conversation:

  • Be confident. It is your health and ultimately your decision to pursue acupuncture, no matter what your doctor personally thinks about it. This is the most important one. There’s a reason you want to explore acupuncture, and you shouldn’t have to justify it to anyone. You’re the captain of the ship here, and you get to make choices involving your health.
  • If possible, have personal and specific stories/experiences to share quickly. Something like, “I have gone for two acupuncture sessions so far- I notice that my low back feels less achy and I am able to fall asleep without as much pain as I was experiencing before.” Or “My husband tried acupuncture for his tennis elbow, and I am going to try it to treat the arthritis in my knee since he had such good results.” This does two things: it provides an immediate example of a benefit or acupuncture, and it makes a more personal connection. You’d be hard pressed at this point to find someone who would say to you, “That’s stupid and your husband wasted his money. I don’t care that he feels better.”
  • Ask your acupuncturist for a quick way to explain what acupuncture does for your particular condition. The acupuncturist can then give you a brief idea of how they are treating your condition and how acupuncture can specifically benefit you (they can even give it you on a sticky note to take with you!). You can then share this information with your doctor.
  • If you feel like your doctor is going to be a hard sell, bring in an article or some examples of research that show the benefits of acupuncture. Feel free to ask your acupuncturist for this- that’s on us to keep up with the research and not something you should have to spend a lot of time exploring. However, if you have a quick article or study on hand, feel free to share it!
  • Ask your acupuncturist and doctor if they would like to discuss anything with each other. I welcome discussing my patients with their other healthcare providers…conversing and getting to know everyone involved in your care only benefits the patient. Ask your acupuncturist if you can share their contact information with your doctor- the doctor can then directly talk to the acupuncturist if they have any questions or concerns about your treatment or about TCM in general.

So hopefully you feel a little more prepared to have a conversation with your medical providers about adding acupuncture to your healthcare! I truly want patients to be able to be able to integrate acupuncture and TCM into their medical care- there’s no reason why patients can’t have their regular doctors and see me for acupuncture as well. Indeed, the needs of a patient are best served by both parties working together on behalf of the patient.

I hope this was helpful, and please share any experiences you’ve had with these types of conversations. And as always, please feel free to share with anyone you think might benefit from this article. Until next time, be well!



TCM and Infertility

Hello out there! I hope you all have been enjoying the week so far. I am going to be talking today about one of my favorite clinical specialities- fertility! This week is National Infertility Awareness Week (April 23-29), so I think it’s perfect timing to talk a little about infertility and what role Traditional Chinese Medicine can play in the fertility journey.

Although I am a primarily a general practitioner (meaning I see a little bit of everything in my practice), I do have a special place in my heart for working with fertility issues. Back when I was in school, I took additional classes on women’s health and infertility, and I also had the opportunity to work with a very well-known fertility expert as one of my clinical supervisors. Since being in practice, I have helped quite a few women with conceiving healthy babies, and it is always one of the most rewarding parts of my job.

Before we go any further, let’s talk about what I mean when I use the term “infertility.” This is generally defined in the medical world as a failure to conceive after 12 months of trying (this sometimes gets shortened to 6 months, depending on a number of factors, including age, relevant medical history, and how actively you are “trying” to conceive).

I work with women when they are still in this 6 or 12 month period of trying to conceive (I’ll use the abbreviation TTC for this phrase a lot), as well as with women for whom natural methods didn’t work. This means that they may be undergoing any number of medical interventions to help fertility, such as medication to stimulate ovulation, intrauterine insemination/IUI, or ARTs (Assisted Reproductive Technologies) such as IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization). Side note: the infertility world is bonkers for abbreviations…sometimes I look at my chart notes and basically see just a list of letters I’ve assembled. It takes a little while to become fluent in the fertility lingo, so I’ll try not to use too many more abbreviations than necessary.

The great thing about acupuncture is that we can help at pretty much any stage of the conception process. Sometimes if women have been trying but haven’t needed additional specialized support yet, I can do things like help regulate their menstrual cycle, monitor and assist in ovulation, and help them pinpoint the ideal time for sexual intercourse to maximize their chance of conception. This method is really fun because I get to help women become more aware of their cycles and become more in tune with their bodily rhythms. The sometimes odd part for people is that I’m going to talk to you a lot about your period, bodily fluids, and sex life. I am a professional and definitely keep things that way, but I also try and make this process not so scary and introduce a little light-hearted humor into the situation. One of the major stressors for women TTC is that the fun is taken out of your sex life- rather than just enjoying sex for the sake of sex, it often takes on this very clinical aspect (I’M OVULATING NOW, HONEY, SO WE’RE DOING THIS IN 5 MINUTES…THERE’S NO TIME FOR KISSING!!!). By helping increase awareness of what is going on in your body at any given point in your cycle, I can help women to feel a little more in control of the process and to get some support from an outside source in what can be a confusing and stressful time.

If a woman has any underlying condition like PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), endometriosis, or hormone imbalances that might be causing difficulties conceiving, TCM can also help treat those conditions as well. Sometimes with these patients, I’ll ask that they stop TTC for a few months to focus on resolving some of the underlying issues to ensure that there is the best chance for success when active attempts at conception start up again.

If women are undergoing fertility treatments of any nature, there’s a lot that Chinese Medicine can do during that time as well. Depending on what medications/hormones/therapies the woman is undergoing, we can help to support that process along the way. This can mean things like helping to support ovulation for a healthy egg retrieval procedure, thickening the uterine lining for implantation, or helping to maintain an early pregnancy in a woman with a history of miscarriages.This can also mean helping to manage some of the unpleasant side effects the hormonal medications can induce and reducing stress/anxiety about the whole fertility process. The technology involved in the fertility process continues to absolutely astounds me- it’s an incredible advancement in medical science, but it can always be helped by additional support. Several of the fertility centers here in Connecticut recommend their patients get acupuncture because not only has it been shown to help increase success rates in IVF procedures, they have also seen the many benefits of TCM in their patients who get acupuncture. It’s also a really great insight into how acupuncture can work in ways that people don’t even realize. Sometimes acupuncture gets accused of only working through the placebo effect, but it’s hard to explain how the placebo effect can help make a woman’s endometrium thicker or help stimulate egg growth in an ovary that wasn’t working so well before (both are examples of things I have had patients report after acupuncture treatments).

I want to take a moment here and point out that I’ve been talking mostly about treating women for fertility issues. I want to make it very clear that women and men are just about equally affected by conditions that cause infertility. However, I largely only see women in clinical practice for fertility treatments…so I encourage all women to make sure their partners have been tested for any sperm issues (sometimes the little guys are terrible swimmers, there’s just not enough of them, or the sperm can be an abnormal shape that hinders their journey to the egg) and/or hormonal imbalances/deficiencies. The testing process for men is pretty simple, so it’s absolutely something that all couples struggling to conceive should make sure they investigate. Chinese Medicine can also help men with issues leading to infertility as well, although it can take a bit longer and usually involves herbal treatment in order to see positive changes in sperm counts and motility. I’ve also largely been talking about cis-gendered (meaning you identify as the biological sex you were born as) and heterosexual fertility issues here, simply because that it what I largely see in clinical practice. The LGBTQA fertility journey can also have some additional factors at play, and it is a topic I would definitely like to explore more for both my professional knowledge and patients’ benefit. I do encourage those couples to seek out a fertility center/doctor with experience helping this population to make sure you are getting the most supportive and comprehensive fertility care possible.

The last thing I want to talk about is how incredibly common fertility struggles are. 1 in 8 couples will struggle to conceive naturally. It is one of my eternal pet peeves how little infertility is addressed in the country. Women are often made to feel ashamed when they have trouble conceiving, and the physical/emotional/financial burden of the fertility journey is an incredibly tough one. Rarely do women feel they are able to talk freely about their struggles to get pregnant, express their frustration with family and friends around them who easily became pregnant, or share their experiences with miscarriages and failed fertility treatments. That’s part of the reason I write things like this- fertility struggles are very common, and couples undergoing these issues shouldn’t be afraid to discuss them. Additionally, I often recommend my fertility patients find some place where they can talk about what they are going through- either through individual or couples therapy, a support group, or an online community where they can freely express their emotions.

It can be difficult to know how to bring up and discuss fertility issues if you haven’t experienced them yourself. Many people sort of put their foot in their mouth, saying things like “Stop stressing about it and you’ll get pregnant- just relax,” or “Well, this miscarriage was meant to be, obviously there was something wrong,” or “Why don’t you just adopt?” I have never talked to a fertility patient who felt better after hearing one of these phrases, and often, they silently die a little inside due to comments like these. This is a really good list of 12 things not to say to someone trying to conceive and explains why some of those phrases might be really hurtful. Often, people say something just because they feel awkward or they want to “fix” a problem. We’ve all done it- I can guarantee even I have said something thoughtless at one point or another. It’s a learning process, but listening and asking what the person undergoing the fertility process needs is the best choice. Even saying “I don’t know what to say” is the best option sometimes. But don’t be afraid to hold space and support loved ones going through the fertility process- it can be a really isolating time for couples, and it makes a huge difference to know they have support coming from their family and friends.

So that about wraps things up on the baby-making front! Please feel free to ask any questions you might have about all of this, either in the comments or privately at And please don’t hesitate to share this post with anyone you think might be interested or might benefit from reading it. I hope you have found this helpful, and until next time, be well.

Eating Seasonally: Spring Edition

Hello everyone! I hope that you all have been having a good week and are enjoying this beautiful spring weather as much as I am.

I’ve talked about the importance of eating seasonally on this blog several times before (see the winter edition and the summer edition here for a discussion on eating for both of those seasons along with some recipes). Today, especially with this being a week that involves some special meals prepared either for Passover or Easter, I thought it might be the perfect time to share a spring edition.

Eating seasonally is an important part of maintaining health according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. It helps our bodies and our digestive systems function at peak performance, and it also prevents troublesome health conditions from developing.

Spring in Chinese Medicine is associated with the organ of the Liver (and remember when I talk about the Liver, it doesn’t mean there’s actually anything wrong with the physical organ itself). In Chinese Medicine, the Liver is responsible for keeping your qi moving as it should. Just like little plant sprouts reaching up to the sun, spring is a good time for people to participate in activities that keep things moving and grooving. This can include things like stretching (the Liver controls the sinews and tendons, so stretching is especially important at this time of year), tai chi, and yoga. And if you’d like to pretend you’re actually a little plant reaching for the sun while you stretch, you do you and be the best little plant you can be!

The Liver is associated with the color green as well…perfect for spring! So eating foods that are green helps to nourish the body and keeps your qi happy and free-flowing. This brings us to one of my very favorite spring recipes. This is frequently on the menu for holidays and regular meals alike in my house. It makes a good amount of food, so even if you want to make up a batch on Sunday, you’ll have lots of delicious leftovers for the week ahead.

The recipe is originally from Ina Garten, whose Hampton lifestyle, adoring husband, and subtle sassiness all combine to make up one of my most favorite celebrities. You can easily make this without the potatoes if you are cutting down on carbs or sensitive to nightshade veggies, but, honestly, these potatoes are so good I can’t imagine it without them. Her original recipe also adds fennel when you add the beans and asparagus, but I personally find fennel gross so I leave it out. If you like fennel, however, roasting it is a delicious way to enjoy it.

Roasted Potatoes, Haricots Verts, and Asparagus

  • 1 pound fingerling or small potatoes
  • ⅓ cup good olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound French string beans (haricots verts), trimmed (These can occasionally be a little tricky to find, but I always can find them at either Stop & Shop or Trader Joe’s…if you can’t find them at your local store, regular green beans will work just fine)
  • 1 bunch thin asparagus, ends removed, cut diagonally into 3-inch pieces
  • Optional: 2 large fennel bulbs, cut into quarters and then again into long pieces
  • ¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Preheat your oven to 425˚.
  2. Slice the potatoes in half lengthwise, and spread them out on a baking sheet. Pour the olive oil over the potatoes, sprinkle them with the salt and pepper, and then toss until the potatoes are coated.
  3. Roast the potatoes for about 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once about halfway through cooking.
  4. Add the string beans and asparagus (and fennel) to the baking sheet, and toss with the potatoes. Roast for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until the green vegetables are tender. I usually toss everything about halfway through this additional cooking time as well.
  5. Sprinkle Parmesan over all the vegetables and put back into the oven for a minute or two more, just to melt the cheese.
  6. Take the vegetables out of the oven, add a bit more salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

In TCM, asparagus are considered a sweet, bitter, and cooling food. They help clear heat and drain dampness, as well as moisten dryness (this seems counter-intuitive but often foods and herbs can have several important functions at once…dampness is a pathological state and draining it often requires the addition of something slightly moistening to prevent too much drying out). Green beans are a sweet and neutral food that help to nourish the Spleen and the Kidney. Fennel is a an ideal food for this time of year, helping to move Liver qi and strengthen the digestive system. Potatoes are also neutral and sweet, helping to tonify Qi. Putting all of these foods together creates a satisfying and nourishing meal that also helps clear a bit of heat that can develop when we move into warmer weather.

I hope everyone has a wonderful week, and until next time, be well!

Recipe originally from “Barefoot Contessa: Back to Basics” by Ina Garten

All individual food properties sourced from “The Tao of Healthy Eating,” by Bob Flaws

The Power of Positivity

Hello everyone! As per usual, I’ll start by apologizing for not writing much recently. But here we are today, and I am excited to share this short and sweet post with you!

So I have been trying to be really diligent lately about using positive affirmations and positive thinking. I have never been really good about using such things in the past. Remember the character Stuart Smalley on SNL back in the 1990s (played by Al Franken in his pre-Senate days)? His catchphrase was to look in a mirror and say, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” I tended to see positive affirmations through that sort of satirical lens, as a tool that couldn’t possibly have any sort of real-world benefit. I’ve generally been annoyed by self-help books and guides that promise that if you just believe, you can do anything you want! Consequently, I never really tried to nurture any sort of internal positive dialogue.

As I got older, I’ve found myself constantly being my own worst critic (shocking, I know…somehow never using positive affirmations eventually led to this!). As with many people (and especially many women), the constant voice in my head was one of doubt and criticism when it should have been one of confidence and support.

So, in that vein, I have been really trying for the last few months to switch that inner voice to a positive one, and you know what? I can really tell a difference. I feel more confident, more excited about the future, and more willing to push myself into new experiences.

I’ve been starting slow and steady in using these positive affirmations. I know it takes a really long time to quiet those internal voices that tell us we are never good enough/smart enough/talented enough, so it is definitely all part of a learning process to develop and sustain a positive outlook. Here’s a few things that I have been doing over the last few months:

  • Writing a positive affirmation on my mirror with a dry-erase marker. These affirmations can be really simple, even just something like “I am going to have a great day today,” or it can be more specific based your individual goals (“I am going to kick butt in this meeting today/try a new class that I am interested in/refrain from my criticizing my appearance today” and so on).
  • Looking in the mirror and saying out loud encouraging phrases. I gave a lecture Tuesday night at the Naugatuck library. I actually love public speaking (I know, I’m a weirdo who works with two of peoples’ biggest fears…needles and public speaking. Talk to me about spiders and/or clowns though, and you’ve got a different story on your hands). Before the talk, I decided to try using some positive thoughts to get me ready to go. I said things like, “This is going to be a great talk…you are capable of engaging and educating an audience…you are confidently able to answer any questions that come your way.” And, sure enough, the talk went really well- I felt good standing up there, and the audience was enthusiastic and just an all-around pleasure to work with.
  • Writing a list of intentions. I’ve done this a few times in the past year, and I’ve found it tremendously valuable. I wrote out some five and ten year intentions last year, wrote another list at New Years, and did it again recently. This lets me identify and clarify some of my bigger life and career goals and keeps them at the forefront of my mind. I say intentions rather than goals because intentions let you be a little more vague, so that you don’t feel tied to specific accomplishments. For instance, one of my intentions is: I will continue to develop my public speaking skills and work with a variety of locations and communities to help spread the word about Traditional Chinese Medicine. Rather than tying it to a specific goal (i.e. I will give a Ted Talk by 2018), it lets me be a little more flexible with what the universe sends my way.
  • Lastly, and most importantly, I have been trying to be forgiving of myself when I find myself falling back on old habits of negative self-talk. I think this is a really important one. As with so many lifestyle changes, it can be very easy to completely shut down and abandon progress when something throws you off track (think of times when one meal has thrown off your healthful eating for the week, or missing the gym for a few days completely derails your training schedule…we’ve all been there!). So it’s important that I don’t let negative or critical thoughts wreck the positive attitude I have been trying to cultivate. Rather than beating myself up for thinking something negative (“You’re an idiot for making a typo on that important email”), I try and reframe it (“You made a simple mistake, which everyone is allowed to do, and the rest of the content in that email was terrific. It’s ok to feel frustrated but let’s re-focus on the good.”).

Those are just a few things to start trying, and there are so many other ways out there to cultivate a positive outlook and engender self-love and respect. I’d love to hear some of your thoughts as well! Have you struggled with this in the past? What have you done to try and change your outlook? What positive affirmations do you love saying?

I hope everyone has a wonderful rest of your week. We are (hopefully) headed into spring very soon here, and I am using the power of positive thinking to focus on the end of the cold, dreary winter and the start of an exciting new season. Until next time, be well!

A Happy & Healthy Halloween

Hello out there, friends on the internet! I hope everyone has been having a happy and healthy fall. It’s been absolutely gorgeous here in Connecticut, and I’ll be sad when these fall leaves start to go.

But before that happens, we have a holiday coming up! It’s Halloween pretty soon, and everyone knows what that means- candy!!

Now if you know me at all in real life, you know I love candy. I can take or leave most sweets like ice cream/cookies/cake/pie 99% of the time, but my sugar downfall has always been candy. Now as an adult medical provider who regularly advises her patients to limit sugar, I try to keep this habit in check most of the time (although I probably owe the makers of Sour Patch Kids a large commission for getting me through my doctorate degree).

Halloween is intrinsically linked to candy consumption in this country. There’s been bags of all sorts of trick-or-treat goodies on sale at every grocery store around here since August. This is not great for obvious reasons. If you’re anything like me and you buy candy early, there’s a very real chance that candy will never make it till Halloween, leading to a vicious buy-eat-repurchase cycle.

Sugar consumption is out of control in this country. Now I’m not saying here that treats can’t be enjoyed in moderation. But as a whole, we consume way too much sugar, a dietary pattern that is linked to many adverse health conditions. So (especially when stores start pushing candy sales two months early) do we really need to add sugar to a holiday that already has a ton of fun things associated with it?

Luckily there’s some options. You can always buy non-candy treats like individual snack bars, bags of almonds, or mini bags of pretzels/crackers to hand out.

The other option is to participate in the Teal Pumpkin Project. The Teal Pumpkin Project is a relatively new idea, but I think it’s an awesome one. Created and sponsored by Food Allergy Research & Education (as well as supported by many other organizations such as the American Diabetes Association, the Allergies and Asthma Foundation of America, and more), the project works to help ALL kids enjoy a safe, happy, and healthy Halloween by encouraging people to have non-food based treats available at Halloween. There are so many kids out there with life-threatening food allergies, as well as kids with dietary restrictions due to a number of medical conditions, who just can’t safely enjoy the candy that they get trick-or-treating.

Kids with food allergies and dietary restrictions can have a really hard time at  a holiday like Halloween, feeling left out and different from their peers. By providing non-food based treats like stickers, pencils, bouncy balls, glow sticks, erasers, etc., you can ensure that all kids who come to your door walk away feeling like they got to enjoy their trick-or-treating like everyone else does.

So how do you participate? All you have to do is get a pumpkin and paint it teal or print out one of these fun flyers if you don’t feel like painting (downloads of the flyers are available at the website I’ve linked to above). You may have even seen pre-painted teal artificial pumpkins at craft stores like Michael’s, so that makes it easier to grab and display a teal pumpkin that can be re-used year after year!tppprintposterthumbThis is what I do at my house: I print out a Teal Pumpkin Project sign and display it on the table with a selection of treats. We have regular candy bars, a tub with bags of Halloween-shaped mini pretzels that are made in a dedicated peanut-free facility, and fun stickers. This gives the kids options and makes everyone feel included. It’s not expensive at all, and it’s so worth it in the end!

I hope everyone has a fun and spooky Halloween! Until next time, be well.

Fall and Chinese Medicine (Plus an Announcement!)

Hi everyone! I hope you have all been having a happy and healthy week.

Before I get started on today’s topic, I wanted to make a quick announcement! As you may have noticed from the change in the name at the top of the blog, the doctor is now in! I have finally finished and received my diploma, so I am now officially a Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. While this title doesn’t fundamentally change anything about my practice (besides the fact that I now sound much fancier), it does represent a significant achievement in my field. The doctoral degree is still a relatively rare one among acupuncturists, and I’m pretty darn proud of myself for completing it. However, I wouldn’t have stood a chance of finishing without much help and support from my amazing family (bless my mother for withstanding months of a very stressed out and cranky daughter), my friends, and my work colleagues (who let me shadow them in clinic for one of my classes and listened to me whine about school work daily without complaint). Having a doctoral degree will eventually become standard for acupuncturists, as it does a much better job of adequately conveying the amount of training and education we undergo, but we aren’t there quite yet. So until then, I’m very happy to have had the opportunity to go back to my alma mater and get this degree.

But enough about me! Today I want to talk about the season of fall and Chinese Medicine. As I’ve mentioned in other blog posts, living in accordance with the seasons is of tremendous importance in Chinese Medicine. We want to make sure we do things like dress appropriately for the weather, eat the right foods for the right season, and so on. Doing things that counteract the normal flow of qi during the seasons (like wearing shorts in winter) can easily lead to pathologies and health problems.

Transitional seasons like spring and fall can be a little tricky, however. Especially in New England, temperatures can fluctuate wildly, and it’s hard to predict what the weather will be like from day to day. However, there are some general guidelines for fall that we can follow.


Each of the seasons is associated with an organ system (and remember, these aren’t the real anatomical organs, more like their functional roles in the body). The fall is associated with the Lungs, which means several things. The Lungs in Chinese medicine are responsible for our defense mechanisms, protecting us from getting sick. However, as the first line of defense, it means that the Lungs are especially vulnerable to pathogens. This can show up as coughs and colds (which we usually see a lot of as we head into the cooler months). Easy ways to avoid this are wearing seasonally appropriate clothing, making sure you get adequate rest and nutrition, washing your hands frequently, and getting regular acupuncture treatments. The Lungs are particularly vulnerable to dryness, which is a condition we tend to notice more now after the humidity of summer has faded. Drinking plenty of room-temperature or warm liquids and enjoying hydrating foods like soups can help to mitigate some of this dryness. You can also use a nasal rinse or humidifier if you are noticing particularly bothersome signs of dryness, like a bloody nose or dry cough.

The Lungs are also associated with the emotion of sadness. Sometimes people might feel a sense of sorrow or grief as fall arrives. With the end of long, sunny days and the arrival of the harvest and falling leaves comes a sense of things ending. This feeling is not abnormal, but you want to make sure that you work on not letting these emotions become overwhelming. Speak with a mental health professional if you are noticing abnormal or persistent symptoms of sorrow and grief.

As we move into winter, it becomes normal to want to expend less energy and turn inwards more. Winter is a yin time, and this means conserving energy and nourishing our bodies against the cold weather. We aren’t quite there yet (thank goodness!) but it’s perfectly normal to want to sleep a little longer, make some warm and comforting foods, and reflect a little more as we transition from the yang energy of summer to the yin time of winter.

Fall is my absolute favorite time of year. As much as I dread winter and being cold, I love the beauty of autumn, especially here in New England. And as long as you pay attention to living in accordance with the seasons, there is no reason why this fall can’t be your healthiest one yet! And let’s be real, eating a few cider doughnuts never hurt anyone- what fun is fall if you can’t enjoy all the season has to offer? Until next time, enjoy autumn’s beauty and be well.

Self-Care Tips for Chronic Pain

Hello everyone! I hope everyone had a happy and healthy end of their summer. Fall feels like it is officially on its way here in Connecticut, and I personally am looking forward to consuming as many pumpkin-spice flavored beverages as possible.

Today’s blog post is about how important self-care is for chronic pain patients. Pain is overwhelmingly the most common thing I see in clinical practice (mostly neck and back pain), and it’s also what brought me into the world of Chinese medicine. I know I’ve mentioned in some of my earliest blog posts about how my chronic headaches in high school first introduced me to this amazing medicine. For a long time, my headaches were well controlled, and then they weren’t again. This is pretty typical for chronic pain unfortunately- sometimes what worked for a long time suddenly no longer works. This spring, I found myself in a pretty bleak spot- I have chronic migraines, so when I get a headache, it doesn’t go away with some Advil. I had a migraine pretty much 24/7 from Christmas until July.

Chronic pain is not easy. I can’t emphasize that enough. Chronic pain patients often have to minimize or hide their problems- it’s one of those invisible illnesses that tend to be poorly treated and poorly understood. I also was very hesitant to let anyone know what was going on because I felt like acupuncture and Chinese medicine should have been able to fix me, and they weren’t. In retrospect, I know this is silly- not all treatments work for all people for all things, and I’m no exception to the rule. TCM does wonders for me in many other parts of my health, but chronic migraines just weren’t responding.

So, in April, I wound up going to an amazing headache clinic here in Connecticut and started the process to get approved for Botox for chronic migraine. I know this sounds like hippie blasphemy- injections! Neurotoxins! Insurance-mandated approval process! And I felt like a traitor to my medicine.

This is where I needed to step back, calm my ego down, and try something new. So I waited the two month approval process to get the shots covered, got 31 injections in my face, head, and neck and waited for the Botox shots to do their job (it takes up to two weeks for the shots to work).

And you know what? They did. They really worked. And this is not to recommend any specific medical procedure- that’s a discussion for you to have with your medical provider. But this worked for me. Plus, I had the smooth wrinkle-free forehead of a toddler. It was awesome.

This brings us to now. The shots only have about a three month life-span, and mine are wearing off. I have three more weeks until I can get my next round, and I’m finding myself getting a lot more regular migraines. I came home from a busy day at the office Friday and, although it was a great and productive day at work, I was fried. I had forgotten what it felt like to have to make it through a very full day while managing chronic pain. And, unfortunately, I may have a few more weeks of this ahead of me. But this time around, I’m ready. I have a plan for the next course of treatment and in the meantime, I’m going to do everything I can to help myself as much as possible.

So after enough babbling, this is what I want to share with you today. Self-care is instrumental for chronic pain patients. Regardless of whether you are waiting on a new treatment, trying to muddle through what might work for you, or have exhausted most options, you still need to make the effort to put your health, well-being, and sanity first. So here’s my list of things I know make me feel better. By sharing these with you, I’m going to hold myself accountable to following my own advice. I know these may seem simple, but sometimes it’s good to have a reminder of the simple things.

And one more note- I am fortunate that I am generally able to live my life as I want and function at a high level despite pain issues, but I know that is not the case for many others out there. I do not speak for all pain patients, nor am I intending to suggest that because I am out and about in the world that all chronic pain patients can and should do so freely. Everyone’s experience is extremely personal and varied. This is just my perspective.


And without further ado, …here’s my favorite self-care tips!

  1. Learn to say “no.”

This is a tough one for many people. But you need to protect your health first. Constantly expanding your energy when you have precious little left after doing the very basics of daily living can be downright dangerous to your health. Don’t retreat from life if you can avoid it, but also don’t be afraid to say no. When I turn things down, I tend to be upfront about why I can’t make it- I say I have an especially bad migraine and can’t make it this time but please don’t hesitate to invite me next time! It can be stressful to always feel like you are turning people down, but I’ve found that honesty is usually the best policy. I wouldn’t want one of my loved ones to drag themselves somewhere when they weren’t feeling well, and I think most people would generally agree with that sentiment.

2. Fuel yourself with good things.

This means a number of things. Pain often dulls your body’s awareness of other things it needs. I usually am good about drinking water, but I often won’t eat enough because I simply am not aware of a hunger sensation when my head hurts badly enough. Make sure you are eating regular, nutrient-dense meals. I know it’s tempting to sink into a comfort food routine, but trust me, cheesy pasta does not solve all of life’s woes (although, once in a while, it sure does help). Cooking can seem overwhelming when you don’t feel well, but try to have easy things on hand- rotisserie chicken, pre-cooked beans, minute rice, eggs, frozen veggies, etc to whip up a quick meal. Drink plenty of water. Avoid processed foods, sugar, and alcohol. Get plenty of sleep. Take a nap if you need it during the day!

3. Find your refuge. 

Pain is exhausting, y’all. When I came home from work Friday, I literally stood in the shower in the dark for 15 minutes like a weirdo. I needed absolutely minimal sensory stimulation and to loosen up my tight muscles. The shower usually does it for me. Find your place- a favorite chair by the window, your bed, on the floor next to your dog, wherever. Find that place that makes you feel a little better and seek it out as needed. Take some time there, center yourself with deep breathing, and collect your qi for the next part of your day.

4. Treat yo self.

(Shout out to all my Parks & Rec fans with this tip!) Treating yourself can mean anything that feels good to you. Many times chronic pain patients suffer financial consequences- treatments (especially ones not covered by insurance) can be expensive and sometimes work is limited by pain levels. So treating yourself doesn’t have to be buying something (although it certainly can be!). Listen to a favorite CD, go for a walk, meet up with a friend for lunch, etc. And if you don’t have the energy or finances to do those things, just treat yourself with kindness. Don’t get mad at your body for experiencing pain- think of what you would say to a loved one suffering and then say those words to yourself.

This also means doing other things that make your body feel good- for me it’s also making sure I’m getting chiropractic adjustments, massage, and treating myself with acupuncture whenever possible. It can be helpful to manage pain symptoms through several routes, and obviously, I am a big fan of regularly receiving body work of whatever type floats your boat!

And that’s enough tips to start! I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend, and until next time, be well.