Acupuncture for Neck Pain

Person placing acupuncture needles in skin

Can Acupuncture help with Anxiety?

I was sitting at a tennis club (similar feel to a small country club) chatting away with two men twice my age and a woman four years younger than me. We were talking about possible treatments for my neck pain. That very moment the contents of acupuncture were spilled on the terrace table next to my chicken Cesar salad. Acupuncture for neck pain? I was being informed of the benefits and positive experiences of acupuncture, such as relief of pain. Here I was suffering from chronic neck pain for over a year with no solution in mind.

I had tried stretching and a change in pillows with no luck. One random weekend evening, I decided to search for acupuncture clinics in my vicinity. Long story short, I arrive at the appointment and inform them of my neck pain. I show the doctor my poor range of flexibility with my neck from side to side. He senses right away after touching my neck that it’s very tight. He instructs me to take off my shirt and lie down on the sanitized table (I can still smell the alcohol).

Acupuncture for Neck Pain: Needle Insertion

He then does a test run and sticks a needle in my anterior scalene muscles. He asks me if I felt anything and I told him no. As a matter of fact, of course you feel it but it feels like a pinprick; literally no pain. So then he instructs me to turn over and he starts going to work finding different meridian points on my body to place the needles. There must have been 6-8 needles in the back of my neck, some in my arms and right elbow region (I suffer from Tennis Elbow at times), and during this last session, in my ankles.

I’ve had four sessions thus far and feel quite satisfied. I noticed an improvement in my neck pain within several days of session #1. The best way I can describe the obvious physical difference is like this: it felt like the back of my neck had become numb; imagine applying a bunch of lidocaine gel. And here I was getting this effect from a few needles placed into my skin! He also instructed me to do some vertical and lateral neck exercises at home which I’ve been doing (sometimes not so consistently).

Acupuncture model of person with meridian points

Acupuncture Conclusion

Overall, my neck feels much more relaxed, loose and tolerant of pain. I don’t think it’s 100%, but sometimes I wonder if I even know what 100% feels like anymore. I’m 31 and I’m expecting to have the body of a 14-year-old who never had to stretch after playing 2-3 hours of intense tennis on a Saturday afternoon. It’s just not realistic. I also enjoy playing tennis on weekends and have been doing so for the last three years while living in New York. The tennis takes a tole on my body and if I don’t stretch consistently, the low back pain that tends to come on after playing for two hours may end up lasting for 3-5 days.

And an interesting fact: acupuncture can help with pain by increasing the release of more endogenous opioids (known as endorphines) within your brain and cerebral spinal fluid.

Bottom line is this: if I want to remain fit and athletic, I must tolerate some pain along the way.

Oh yeah, and can acupuncture help with anxiety? Well, if you don’t consider pain anxiety, then I don’t know what anxiety means to you.

What’s your experience with sports, pain and/or acupuncture?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Acupuncture for neck pain smiley winking GIF face

Panic Attack Symptoms

Beautiful anxious woman experiencing a panic attack

Millions of people all over the world experience panic attack symptoms. These occur out of the blue and involve a great sense of doom, fear and sometimes even physical symptoms. Panic attacks can be treated with cognitive behavioral therapy and/or antidepressants. Don’t be afraid to seek therapy. Would you rather take a chance with therapy and medications or continue to suffer from panic attacks while in public?

What are some Panic Attack symptoms?

The most obvious is fear. I still remember my first panic attack because the fear was insane. It was a Saturday night in Redlands, California the day after I drank a lot; typical freshman college weekend. I went to a Chinese store to order some food with a friend and while standing in line, started to experience fear. I had never just randomly experienced fear before. This time was different because there was nothing to fear besides fear itself. But then the fear started to make more sense. I was afraid of standing in line and being in the store.

Then there are the physical symptoms such as sweaty palms, lightheadedness, dizziness, tachycardia and shortness of breath. Some people also tremble. My physical symptoms weren’t as bad. I would only experience sweaty palms thankfully. But I can imagine how more intense physical symptoms can worsen the panic attacks, worrying the person into thinking that others are aware of their symptoms. For me, sweaty palms were a sign that I was getting anxious and that a panic attack was looming around the corner.

Then there are the symptoms of overthinking, a general feeling of anxiety, heightened vigilance for danger and wanting to escape your environment. Some people also get depersonalization and/or derealization. Depersonalization is when you don’t appear real in your surroundings while derealization is when your surroundings don’t appear real to you. I experienced some derealization but it wasn’t until in my late 20s. My panic attacks started when I was 20.

The Fear

The worst part of the entire experience is definitely the fear. It’s like experiencing a sense of doom like something really bad is doing to happen to you. This is accompanied by the thought that others around you could be noticing you having a panic attack. This further motivates you to leave the vicinity. I don’t believe that I ever walked out of a classroom or mall (the majority of my panic attacks occurred in college lecture halls or in the mall). However, I do remember being in an Italian restaurant in Pittsburgh with my mother once, and I had to get up from the table and go outside because the panic attack was too unbearable.

Lastly, the most important feature that distinguishes isolated panic attacks from panic disorder is the worrying about future panic attacks. People with isolated panic attacks have them too randomly to worry about future ones. But people with panic disorder constantly worry about future panic attacks; it becomes part of their daily thought content. This is another worrisome symptom because it can prevent you from going to places where you previously experienced panic attacks. For me, I was worried to go to the mall thinking that I would have another one. This symptom can get tricky because it can easily lead to agoraphobia, which will be discussed elsewhere.

Antidepressant medications for panic attack symptoms

So what do you do about them?

If you keep experiencing them, than what should you do? Honestly, what worked for me was an antidepressant called Prozac. I took about 20 mg once in the morning. Probably within six months of consistent use, my panic attacks significantly went down. The medication was like a miracle. How did I improve so much just from taking one pill every morning? The dose was low too. Prozac goes up to 80 mg. But I can’t complain. I started the medication when I was 20 and continued it until 28. I know, eight years is so long! But the problem was that I stopped taking it a few times and my panic attacks had returned.

The reason I tried to stop again at 28 was because I was ending medical school and had matched into a residency training program. I was in a good place mentally, free of panic attacks for many years and was ready to try going off the medication again. My recommendation is that you need to be in a good place in your life to try to go off an antidepressant for panic attacks. Panic attacks can be induced by drugs, alcohol, stress and genetics, so it’s important that you’re in the right state of mind when discontinuing an antidepressant. Overall, panic attack symptoms are brutal.

Have you had an experience with panic attacks?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Mental Pain

Topless sad woman holding head down with both hands

Positive Affirmation: I am Free of Mental Pain

“I am free of mental pain because I have learned to manage my negative emotions and redirect my attention on the positive things in life. When I feel sad, I allow the pain to surface without any hesitation; fighting back only causes the pain to persist. I give my pain room to breath but I do not identify with it because it is not really mine. The pain just comes and goes like passing gray clouds in the sky above. Just as I cannot feel the clouds in the sky but just observe them, the same applies to my emotional pain. I can’t physically touch my pain but I can observe it from the sidelines. Just as I can’t make a storm go away, the same applies with my emotional pain. I let the pain take its course until it evaporates into the distance. I am free of pain because I have learned how to respect my mental health and take care of it every day!”

Mental pain - green anxiety logo

Chronic Pain

“My chronic mental pain haunts me every day, but I do my best to keep my head above water. I can’t always identify the source behind my pain, but that does not matter. As long as I do my best to stay positive, I am happily moving forward. My mental pain comes at random times. Sometimes it haunts me first thing in the morning, while other times it surprises me before bedtime. I cannot avoid my mental pain because it sporadically appears when it wants to. The only thing I can do is learn to live with it and be happy in the process. How do I stay happy? By practicing positive affirmations and reminding myself that pain is temporary; it always eventually goes away.”

“Pain does not define me. I am not my pain even though it tries to trick me. It can be deceiving too, sometimes manifesting as anxiety, depression or intrusive symptoms such as nightmares. Sometimes my pain makes me avoid certain people and places. I have to constantly fight back to set my pain in its place. It can be a challenge to interact with it, but I often overcome it. I am stronger than my pain and have gotten this far in life. I will continue to flourish despite knowing that my pain will revisit me in the future. No one can prevent me from being the master of my mind; pain is only an uninvited visitor. I am strong and courageous.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Depressed Americans

Depressed Hispanic woman crying while laying on gray furniture

Coronavirus: An Era Of Depression

I have talked to so many mental health patients who are sitting at home in a depressed state of mind ever since the coronavirus pandemic started. The key word is at “home” because they are functional and not so depressed that they require a hospitalization, but this does not mean that they don’t experience some of the symptoms that come with depression. Even before the coronavirus, there were many Americans already depressed; now, that number has substantially increased.

Some of the symptoms of depression may include a decreased sleep, decreased interest in activities, decreased concentration, decreased appetite, guilt, loss of energy, slowing of body movements or even suicidal ideations. Many Americans experience at least a few of these symptoms while sitting at home with no agenda for the rest of the day. The recurring theme is that they lost their job and are not leaving the house; in other words, they lack activities to keep them preoccupied during the day.

Some people also become very anxious at home and anxiety and depression often go together. They will complain that there’s so much negative news or that people in the neighborhood are not wearing masks, “as if they don’t care that there’s a pandemic going on.” What’s important to understand if you are a reader who identifies with these thoughts is that we cannot force others to wear masks, nor should we expect them to; it’s a free world and people have the right to do what they want.

So why am I pointing out the obvious? Because clearly it’s making you anxious and more depressed that others aren’t following health officials’ recommendations. But why are you getting hurt in the process? You should not be anxious or depressed because of external factors; you need to learn how to put uncontrollable external factors aside and focus on bettering your life. Do your due diligence by wearing a mask and washing your hands but don’t expect others to do the same.

It’s not easy being home because of the coronavirus and not having a job. Some people work from home but still feel depressed because their previous routine of leaving the house and coming back in the evening has been taken away from them; they are not used to using their home space as a work environment after working away from home for over twenty years. As I have mentioned in many previous articles, depression is like a wave and many times you don’t see it coming; you just have to ride it out without falling down.

This coronavirus is a similar wave but much bigger and deadlier. It may be harder to hold on but it’s definitely doable. So don’t allow this wave of depression to knock you off your surfboard. Many people are experiencing the negative emotions that you are; you are never alone in this. So maintain a positive mindset, keep yourself preoccupied during the day by finding work, taking long walks outside, reading, exercising and socializing with others. Don’t allow anxiety and depression to get to you and certainly don’t allow them to bring your down!

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

I Am Free Of Panic Attacks

Scared white woman crying while wearing face mask

Positive Affirmation: Free Of Anxiety

“I am free of panic attacks because they no longer control my life, my emotions, my presence in public and they no longer make me experience fear, uncertainty, doubt and sadness!”

COVID-19 And The Illuminati

Paranoid woman screaming with hands on head standing in wooden house

Paranoid And Anxious

Believe it or not, there are people who are decompensating mentally because of conspiracy theories. In the past, conspiracy theories did not contribute to a mental decompensation; if anything, it was other issues in their life that affected their mental health. But during this coronavirus pandemic, some mental health patients who previously entertained conspiracy theories such as The Illuminati aiming for world domination are ending up in the hospital.

It’s not just the conspiracy theories themselves that’s taking a toll on their mental health, but rather the environmental triggers associated with COVID-19. Some of these patients end up losing their jobs and experiencing marital problems, leading to anxiety, stress and paranoia. Substance use also becomes an issue; they start to drink alcohol or even revisit drugs from the past such as cocaine, marijuana and hallucinogens to make them feel better.

When you add all of these stressors together on top of excessive hours spent at home researching topics such as The illuminati, The Bilderberg group and The New World Order, it can be enough for your mind to crack wide open and release all its demons onto you. When this happens, these patients begin to exhibit troublesome and worrisome behavior which causes their families to panic.

Some of these behaviors may include making impulsive decisions, getting drunk, doing cocaine and staring into space while not responding. Their families will describe it as, “It’s like he’s lost his mind. He just stands there and stares.” When these patients arrive on the inpatient psychiatric ward, they admit to their disturbing behavior but still stick by their beliefs of The illuminati being responsible for releasing COVID-19 into society.

Some of you may ask, “What in the world is The illuminati and why would they do that?” It’s a conspiracy theory based on the idea that really wealthy elite individuals are calling the shots regarding what is going on in the world. In this scenario, the conspiracy is based on the idea that this cabal created COVID-19 in order to cause as many deaths worldwide, based on their longtime agenda of population control. Conspiracy theorists believe that The illuminati got the right virus but too low of a lethality.

Unfortunately, when you have underlying mental health problems and environmental stressors such as the coronavirus in your life, brushing up on your conspiracy theories is not the best idea. It may very well end you up in the hospital and as one psychiatric patient said,

“I can’t believe what’s happening to me. I’m in the hospital sitting here talking about the illuminati.”

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Silently Panicking

Brown and black desk globe with yellow "stay home" sticky note on top of it

Living In A Ghost Town

The coronavirus pandemic is every bit as mental as it is physical. You are not in the clear if you don’t have physical symptoms because your perception on reality has now been altered. It’s not like you purposely altered your perception; it just happened as a reaction to the virus infecting humanity. Just take a look outside and you will see how quiet the streets are; ghosts have replaced human beings.

New York is not what it used to be. It now takes 30 minutes to get from eastern Queens to Washington Heights where Columbia University is located; on a normal day, it would take 45-60 minutes. Walking down the streets of Manhattan, very few people can be observed. Almost everyone is wearing a mask and you don’t even have to wait at a red light if you are attempting to cross the street; no cars are coming in the opposite direction!

There are more parked cars than there are moving vehicles. Sadly, people are either at home or in the hospital; society feels totally shut down. At least hospital cafeterias and coffee shops remain open; there are no lines and the food options have decreased greatly. But you can still get a nice warm veggie pizza however!

No more long Starbucks lines. You can now receive your Caramel Frappuccino in a couple of minutes. But as you slowly make your way back outside, you unconsciously start to panic after you see the empty streets again. You also develop a dry cough . . . “Does this mean that I have COVID-19?”

As you very well may now, this time of the year you are still susceptible to acquiring a common cold or the flu. But because of the coronavirus slowly destroying society, you start to freak out when your cough persists. Your anxiety level starts to build as you wonder if you are walking around infected. If you are living alone at home, you start to become sad as you start to feel isolated and distanced from society.

But then you remind yourself that the rest of the world is isolated at home too and that you’re not the only one. But does that help?

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Coronavirus Madness

Worried man in black suit banging his head against stone wall

Corona In The Air

Many people are showing up to the emergency room despite a nationwide recommendation to self-quarantine; not for coronavirus symptoms per say, but from anxiety due to the coronavirus. For many in society, this whole scare of quarantining, evacuating college dormitories and working from home is affecting their mental health. It’s not every day that we go through this; in fact, it’s not every decade that we go through this. Coronavirus madness is here.

Patients are showing up to the emergency room with rhinorrhea, cough and chills and are worried that they’ve caught the coronavirus. They forget that during these months, they can still catch other illnesses such as the cold or the flu. But combine physical symptoms with the scare portrayed by CNN and Fox News, and you have people who just can’t handle the situation.

Believe it or not, this situation is very stressful for many, especially when they have symptoms of the cold. The fear of actually having the coronavirus puts them on the verge of experiencing suicidal ideations; they believe that their “body is shutting down,” so they rather be dead by taking matters in their own hands, rather than dying as portrayed on television.

Many mental health patients were previously stabilized before the whole coronavirus pandemic: they were taking their medications and experiencing minimal psychiatric symptoms. But when the pandemic hit, their past symptoms came back to life: they’ve become negativistic, withdrawn and taking about 30-60 seconds to respond to a question; they’ve even become catatonic!

Do not underestimate the power that a viral pandemic can have on the mental health of society. Many mentally crack when they hear all the negative news on television; the fear overwhelms them and worsens their mental health. Some are perfectly healthy and have no signs of being sick, but their mental health drops greatly from their baseline just from hearing about the coronavirus pandemic.

Corona is in the air and it can infect your mental health! Make sure that you are surrounded by positive people and always share your feelings and worries with others.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

Psychological War

Drawings of Chinese man with face mask on wall

Coronavirus Eating My Brain Away

Times have really changed during the last couple of months. Countries all over the world are battling a viral pandemic that is not only affecting the human body, but the mind as well. The virus is causing great damage to not only the elderly but young folks with no comorbidities. More hospitals in the U.S. and Italy are seeing younger people being admitted and even intubated! This virus is causing panic and skyrocketing anxiety levels; it has become a psychological war.

Store shelves all across the world are emptying at an alarming rate. Walmart and other big chains are decreasing their employee work hours. Countries in Europe such as France, Italy and Spain are under nationwide lockdowns. Public events such as sporting games, concerts and shows have all been canceled.

This virus is now even causing anxiety from one’s home. You don’t even have to leave your living room to feel anxious; your perception on reality is slowly changing. You’re starting to view society as a dangerous place to be. But then again, you don’t want to remain locked inside your home because you want to continue living a normal life.

So you’re gridlocked; you either isolate yourself in your home or you take a chance and go about in society. Either way, your anxiety has never been this high. Psychiatric patients are also suffering more, especially those with a preexisting anxiety disorder or OCD. Those with anxiety are even more worried about their everyday lives and those with OCD are washing their hands until they turn red.

The coronavirus is slowly entering our minds and controlling us. It wants us paralyzed with fear. It whispers to us, “If I can’t get you sick physically, at least I’ll torture you mentally.” Many of us can control our anxiety and go about living our normal lives, but many people are vulnerable to freezing and allowing their preexisting mental illness to get the better half of them.

The most important thing to remember during these types of psychological wars is to remain positive and go about living your normal life without fear. Once you allow fear to plant a seed in your mind, you become a victim before anything even hatches. Take care of your physical health by washing your hands, avoiding touching your face, eating healthy and exercising and maintaining a positive outlook on life.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)

So You’re Afraid Of The Coronavirus

Scared woman with face mask leaning on fence during daytime

Self-Harming Your Mental Health

The most effective tool for control of the masses is fear. When fear is used as a form of control, it penetrates the mind of the individual to a great degree, influencing his thoughts, emotions and behavior. Unfortunately, many people do not even realize that they are being controlled by fear; they view fear as a deer views the bright lights of a Chevy pickup in the middle of the Pennsylvania turnpike. So you’re afraid of the coronavirus? It’s time to stop this.

Mass hysteria is why fear spreads faster than the virus itself. The media doesn’t care about spreading fear; it cares about raising its viewership. So why do you continue to watch negative news about the coronavirus? When you continuously harbor doubts about the status of society, you slowly start to self-harm your mental health.

Rather than panicking and allowing fear to get to you, you must continue to live your life as if nothing is happening. What are you going to gain out of stockpiling on toilet paper and masks? Just the very act of doing this should prove to you how you are under the influence of fear; you are being controlled and your actions are proof of this external control.

There are conspiracy theories floating around that the coronavirus was manmade in a laboratory to analyze how the world would react in a time of crisis. What if this scenario were true? What if a group of elite individuals are sitting somewhere in Switzerland analyzing how the world is running around to buy more toilet paper?

While no one is suggesting that this is the case, it’s just an example to keep in mind how fear can manifest from any source and how you can become a victim of fear if you don’t control your mind. Whatever the source of the coronavirus is, no one can doubt its existence and deadly potential.

But what is also extremely harmful is allowing the coronavirus to affect your mental health. Anxiety can have a great toll on the way you think, view the world and even your physical health, such as blood pressure. You’ll be in much better shape if you don’t worry about the coronavirus and go on living your life as if nothing is happening.

Focus on staying positive and bettering yourself. This too shall pass.

Are you Ready? (This is Defeating Stigma Mindfully)