Stepping Down: Rethinking the Fitness Tracker – The Atlantic.

I’m loving this piece in the Atlantic about the unorthodox use of a fitness tracker to monitor recovery from surgery.  Instead of using the step counting as a goal to surpass the author uses it as a limit to see if she is doing too much for this stage in her recovery.  I think it’s important to recognize, as the author states below, that one standard measure of fitness is not necessarily appropriate for everyone, nor for one person at all times.  Injuries, illness, life circumstances – all these change the physiological responses in our bodies – so, too, our needs change.

My definition of fitness is changing over time as my body changes over time. I used to think running and doing yoga at least a couple times a week was what made me feel fit. Today, my metric is how long I lay on my stomach to stretch my mending hip. Next week, it will be how long I can pedal on a recumbent bike without resistance. In the future, it will be the physical therapy that preemptively strengthens my loose joints to support a child. And long after that, it will how much time I can spend in the vegetable garden before I get tired.

It’s not always going to be 10,000 steps a day, 30 minutes of brisk activity. I don’t have to accept Apple’s, Fitbit’s, or anyone else’s technocratic, prescriptive vision for global health. These best-fit statistics are no longer my numbers.

Fitness is dynamic. I want my fitness technology to be dynamic, too.
Stepping Down: Rethinking the Fitness Tracker – The Atlantic.

Recovery from injury is difficult – more often mentally than physically – I know this from personal experience as well as seeing over and over again with patients.  Many times it’s not getting through surgery that’s the hard part, it’s the recovery afterward – where we have to SLOW DOWN and change our expectations (usually not forever).  Bodies are complicated things, healing takes time, and the state of our well-being is dynamic; make sure your expectations, fitness programs and healthcare are, too.

PS – one of the things I love most about Traditional Chinese Medicine is it’s perspective that we are never the same person twice  – our body is changing all the time, we are constantly experiencing and adapting –  so our treatments shouldn’t be cookie-cutter – we should assess and treat what is happening in the body now.

Doctor’s Orders: For Better Health, Put Your Hands in the Dirt | TakePart

I love this!  Prescriptions not only for eating fruits and vegetables instead of taking pills, but actually to get out and garden, grow your own food.

Instead of scribbling out a drug dosage, some doctors are asking patients to incorporate good habits of self-care (like more movement and leafy greens) into their routine, not just as rote advice but as a medical directive—often before their health goes haywire. Doctor’s orders.

-via Doctor’s Orders: For Better Health, Put Your Hands in the Dirt | TakePart.

And not only does  gardening provide moderate activity and let you be intimately involved with your own food produce, but research has also show that getting your hands in the dirt can make you happier (really! UK researchers found a friendly bacteria that is common in soil produces similar effects in the brain as antidepressants).   So what are you waiting for!  Get out and garden!

NIH VideoCast – The acupuncture trials from Germany – What do they tell us about efficacy, effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and safety?

Have an hour? Check out what the NIH has to say about the acupuncture trials from Germany:

via NIH VideoCast – The acupuncture trials from Germany – What do they tell us about efficacy, effectiveness, cost-effectiveness and safety?.

Acupuncture not working for you? It could be your coffee habit.

Even though acupuncture usually works well for you – do you sometimes find that a treatment may not give you the pain relief you were hoping for?  There are lots of possible reasons why, but your caffeine intake could be part of it.


In this study Caffeine inhibits analgesic effect of acupuncture – from The Journal of Chinese Medicine, the researchers found that both acute and chronic caffeine administration could reverse acupuncture’s pain relieving effect.  In the animal model studied, a dose of caffeine immediately preceding acupuncture as well as a daily intake  of 70mg/kg/day (average daily dose in Western countries) for 8 days, both negated the acupuncture -induced analgesia.

What does this mean for you? While this was an animal study, it does raise the question of caffeine consumption and beneficial outcomes in clinical practice.

Coffee (and caffeine in general) consumption can be a touchy subject in clinic.  I often work with patients in pain or dealing with insomnia, anxiety or digestive complaints.  Caffeine can negatively affect every one of those conditions – so reducing or eliminating coffee often becomes a topic of conversation.  A difficult topic – people are really attached to their coffee.  Don’t get me wrong.  I happen to love coffee. I’m not here to demonize it (or worship it for that matter).  But, I also find it enlightening to take a little break from it every now and then and watch what changes.

From observation of patients who come having just consumed coffee, I find they generally have a less pleasant experience – they are usually a little jumpier, more sensitive to the needles and aren’t able to relax quite as well.  This isn’t surprising if you are at all familiar with the sensations that result after drinking a strong coffee, and it makes sense considering the properties of coffee from a TCM perspective.

The Institute for Traditional Medicine has an excellent article about the history and use of coffee in China and has this to say about coffee’s medicinal properties from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) paradigm:

“In sum, coffee dredges the liver to regulate the flow of liver qi, purges the gallbladder, opens the heart orifices, warms the blood circulation, detoxifies, and gently tonifies. However, while coffee dredges the liver qi, it does not necessarily smooth or soothe the liver qi. Therefore, one has to be cautious about the amount consumed and certain individuals will find the otherwise desirable effects distressing: releasing stagnated qi but not regulating its flow. As with other Chinese herbs, coffee would best be used in combination with herbs to moderate and enhance its effects. As an example, peony root (baishao) is often used to “soften” the liver, and smooth the flow of qi. Because coffee is consumed as a flavorful beverage, to pursue such an approach would best be done by having additional herbs taken in a form that wouldn’t alter the taste of the coffee, such as in pills. Excessive amounts of coffee will agitate the liver yang and even stimulate internal wind. Prolonged use of excessive amounts could thereby damage the blood, but for moderate amounts it serves as a valuable therapy for stagnated liver qi, with constricted circulation of blood, and constrained gallbladder function, with constricted elimination of damp and heat.” 
-COFFEE IN CHINA and the Analysis of Coffee According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, by Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D., Director, Institute for Traditional Medicine

I’m not asking you to give up coffee forever but if you either consume caffeine on a regular basis and/or prior to treatment you may well be setting yourself up for less relief.   If you’re in pain and not getting the results you’d been hoping for, it may be worth laying off the coffee for a bit and giving acupuncture another try!

Have you taken some time off from coffee – have you noticed any changes in your health for better or worse? Share your experience in the comments!