A long-term patient of mine has been using traditional Chinese medicine to address two chronic conditions with incredible results: polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and low back pain. The results have been remarkable. This is her story.

Many years ago she was diagnosed with PCOS because she had very long menstrual cycles (3-6 months sometimes) and did not ovulate. Even when she first started menstruating she had such heavy periods that she would become anemic, once almost needing a blood transfusion due to blood loss. Even after changing diet and self-care habits the problem of heavy and irregular periods persisted. Doctors put her on hormonal birth control, but she did not react well to it. She found acupuncture and Chinese medicine but didn’t get regular care until after graduating from school. An ultrasound at that time showed anovulatory ovaries with many cysts. After having seen very little improvement up until that point, she decided to dedicate herself to making a change. She started to get acupuncture multiple times a week and began practicing Tai Chi regularly. Slowly her periods started to shorten and normalize. That was five years ago. Two years ago she started taking Chinese herbal formulas under the care of a fellow acupuncturist and her cycles continued to improve.

Today, her cycles are more regular than they have ever been and because of that she wanted to see if imaging would show improvement as well; this past week she had a follow-up ultrasound to check the health of her ovaries and uterus. The news was better than she expected. Although there are still cysts on her ovaries, she is ovulating normally and no longer meets the criteria for PCOS. The doctor analyzing the ultrasound thought she should have no problem getting pregnant at this point. Fantastic news and a dramatic improvement.

This was also the case for her with long-standing low back pain that resulted from an injury in 2005. She pulled muscles in her low back while at a martial arts class and could not move for a couple days. Massage and chiropractic helped, but she was still left with chronic pain that she eventually learned to manage with yoga, gentle martial arts, and occasional massage and acupuncture. Two years ago she got out of her normal routine and went through a particularly stressful time in her life. The combination made the back pain flare worse than it had in years. She could barely get out of bed in the morning, grimacing from the pain.

As with the PCOS, from that low point on she vowed anew to dedicate herself to healing. She started to get chiropractic care and some acupuncture (although inconsistent), which gave relief, but didn’t stick. Then she tried a consultation with Shawn and Greg of PDX Bodyworks Physical Therapy. Just one treatment helped the pain considerably. Shawn gave her exercises to strengthen her core and keep her joints in place. At first she was resistant to doing the exercises regularly since it was hard to see how they helped, but after doing them daily for three months she started seeing increased stability in her back and pelvis. Now, after doing the exercises daily for a year, as well as getting regular acupuncture, cupping, chiropractic care, and exercising regularly, her back is stronger than it has been in a decade and she no longer have pain when she wakes up.

This is my story. I have been my both my most difficult and most inspiring patient. I wanted to share my story to make a few points. First, it’s not enough to have tools, we have to use them as well. Even during years of being in acupuncture school it wasn’t until very recently that I truly committed myself to using the resources I knew would help me. The most important thing I did was simply to be consistent about seeking care. Consistent care is key with any problem, but with chronic issues it is often complicated by the length of time it takes to see a major shift. With deeply entrenched issues sometimes it can be necessary to get very regular care over many years, and it can be difficult to stick with the process. It can be hard to believe that change is even possible.

I also wanted to show that having the integrated care at Asha was key in my healing and I am grateful to have been able to see that benefit first-hand. I also think that using traditional Chinese medicine as the base for this process has been invaluable. It was the foundation that made sense of the larger whole, and facilitating a deeper healing that would not have been possible without it.