Author Archives: MonicaLegatt

About MonicaLegatt

Monica Legatt is a licensed acupuncturist practicing Traditional Chinese Medicine in Seattle at her clinic Downtown Seattle Acupuncture & Massage.

I Am Strong; I’m Invisible by Nisi Shawl

b24d5 002 I Am Strong; I’m Invisible by Nisi Shawl

I’m not who people see. None of us are, but I’m really, really not. I’m disabled, though looking at me you’d never think so. I have fibromyalgia, one of hundreds of “invisible” disabilities, and one that I and others are calling on acupuncture to address. Migraines, respiratory illness, multiple sclerosis, depression–the list of nonobvious medical conditions goes on and on. My mother taught me never to assume those I encounter are having an easy time of it; almost every day I’m thankful to have learned that lesson.

Fibromyalgia is characterized by pain and fatigue. Hard to see those. A counselor once asked me how friends would know I was in pain. “I would gasp, or moan, or yell,” I said. It had never occurred to me to simply tell people.

Invisible disabilities are isolating.

If I sit in the disabled folks area when I get on the bus I risk getting the stink-eye from those who presume I’m as healthy as they are. Or healthier. My doctor had no way to gauge my pain till I saw her for an ear infection. She examined me and got a visual point of reference for the scale of my suffering. Her sudden sympathy made me cry, though most of the time I’m able not to.

Most of the time I grit my teeth and go on.

5ed1b 006 I Am Strong; I’m Invisible by Nisi Shawl

Going on is easier lately because I have hope. Hope in something invisible. It’s hard–in fact, pretty much impossible–to see the meridians acupuncturists use to treat patients. Charts show lines with names such as “Triple Warmer” netting diagrams of bodies (usually male). On these lines are strung–like beads–points helpfully labeled “D-7” and “Gv-24” and so forth. Acupuncturists feel these lines and points. The charts are visualizations of a nonvisual phenomenon.

Maybe I should make a chart of what’s wrong with me. But it comes and goes. It changes. I’ve compared fibromyalgia to living an episode of “I Love Lucy.”  “I’ll stub my left toe,” I complained to a woman at the Y, “and 15 minutes later my right one hurts.” Pain is my default setting. Unlike some other invisible disabilities such as certain kinds of arthritis or neurological disorders, conventional medicine can find no firm basis for what I and my fellow sufferers go through.

Acupuncture diagnoses focus on energy imbalances revealed by symptoms. There’s an explanation for my invisible disability, and it’s rooted in understanding a model of an invisible system within my body. That makes sense to me.



Acupuncture for the Respiratory System and Voice: a “Wicked” patient testimonial!

a7a6e the wizard of oz 11601 Acupuncture for the Respiratory System and Voice: a Wicked patient testimonial!

Recently this Winter I was honored to treat with acupuncture three different cast members from the touring Broadway musical Wicked.  I absolutely love musical theatre, especially having a background in dance, so I was really excited when first one, and then two more members of the cast came to see me in my Seattle office for treatment.  

Acupuncture is helpful for throat conditions and the vocal cords as well as respiratory conditions like bronchitis, sinusitis, and allergic rhinitis.  I have worked with many touring singers through the years who were performing at The Paramount Theatre for conditions such as these because the combination of dampness and cold in our Seattle climate can cause them.

I just received this totally “wicked” testimonial: thanks so much P.H.  !!

“I came through Seattle with the national tour of “Wicked” and immediately had a reaction to the climate change, developing bronchitis and acid reflux, which I have never suffered as a singer before. After going to more than one traditional ENTs and getting all kinds of prescription medication that actually made me feel worse, I turned to Monica, hoping that she could help me get back in the show. After just 2 treatments and taking the herbs she gave me, as well as following the diet guidelines she had suggested, I felt so much better, both physically and mentally. She was always there to answer any questions I had and to fit me into her schedule whenever she could. I continued to see Monica until I left Seattle, and every single visit was a calming, healing experience. She has changed my entire opinion of acupuncture and opened my mind to a whole new way of health and wellness. I’m just sad that she doesn’t live in New York, where I’m from!” 

Thanks Monica!


Let’s All Get in our Little Bubbles…. by Nisi Shawl

2f6d5 thegarden Let’s All Get in our Little Bubbles….  by Nisi Shawl



What does it feel like? People who’ve never had acupuncture fixate on the needles and getting poked by pointy things. For me, that’s not what treatment is about.

 Let me take you through a session with Monica Legatt, a typical one for me.

 Sitting in a quiet room I answer Monica’s questions about my symptoms. I stick out my tongue and waggle it around at her. She leaves while I settle onto the massage table and arrange my clothing so she’ll have access to the areas where she’s going to stimulate me. Currently that’s my feet, lower legs, belly, wrists, shoulders, and forehead.

 A soft knock and Monica re-enters. I have my glasses off, so everything’s a blur, but I know from past visits that the needles she unwraps from crinkling envelopes are very, very fine–very nearly wires rather than needles.

 Before each insertion she tells me where she’s placing the next needle and why. Most of the time my level of discomfort is roughly the same as if I were plucking a hair from my eyebrows. Often Monica makes small adjustments in a needle to ensure it’s doing what needs to be done.

The result is a bit hard to describe: It’s like that pull and click when a magnet clings to a refrigerator door. Like getting a dance step right. Even though I’m not moving.

 Occasionally Monica warns me I’m going to experience something more due to a particular needle’s insertion. “This is a strong point,” she’ll say, or “This could be pretty hot,” or “This is probably going to be kind of shocky.” She’s usually right. My reaction to a “strong” stimulation can take the form of a not-unpleasant sort of flutter in my muscles or a slight cramp. “Hot” is the right word for the way that a hot stimulation feels. My least favorite is “shocky,” which can range from a mild tingle to–once–a wild buzz I yelped out loud at.

 Within seconds, all this mutes to the barest whispers of sensation. Monica leaves me alone on the table for a timeless time of meditation and fizzing light. I honestly can’t say how long this part of a treatment session lasts. I should be able to, because acupuncture appointments are scheduled, and when they end I check my watch to figure out which bus to catch. Got to be less than an hour.

 I lie still enough not to disturb the needles. I lie comfortably, dreaming yet awake. If I keep my eyes open I may see haloes of color emanating from objects on the ceiling. If I close them it’s to concentrate on pulses of–pleasure’s too loaded a word. “Pulses of relaxation” comes closer to what I’m trying to say. But that implies passivity…pulses of well-being? Whatever they are, Ilike them a lot.

  I’m never bored.

 This, for me, is the core, the essence of how acupuncture feels.

 After a while, Monica comes to check on how I’m doing. So far I’ve always been fine, but I appreciate her attentiveness. Eventually she returns once more, removes the needles, and leaves me again to slowly return to verticality. At the front desk I pick up prescribed herbs to reinforce her treatments between sessions.

 In the introduction to the punk classic by X-Ray Spex, “Let’s Submerge,” lead singer Poly Styrene invites listeners to get into our little bubbles and “gently drift down…” That’s what acupuncture does for me: provides a restorative respite from everyday life’s noisy anthem. I float down, then rise up refreshed, ready to sing. Loud.



To learn more about the author, see Nisi Shawl

Acupuncture for IVF

Current research in reproductive medicine shows that acupuncture improves pregnancy outcomes in women undergoing IVF.  Research also demonstrates the effectiveness of Chinese herbs to improve embryo quality in women who have undergone failed IVF cycles.  Acupuncture can help with fertility in many ways, both physically and emotionally.  An excellent example of the successful combination of Traditional Chinese Medicne and IVF comes from my patient Tracy:  

About 9 years ago (2001) my husband and I experienced primary infertility when starting our family. At the time, we were both about 29 years old. We started seeing a reproductive endocrinologist (RE) in 2003. The diagnosis at the time was primary infertility because my husband had a very low sperm count (between 6-12 million.) I also was diagnosed with a bicornuate uterus, but our RE told us that would only be a factor if I couldn’t carry our children to term. Our first treatment plan with our reproductive endocrinologist (RE) was to try IUI’s. On our fourth IUI (our first with Clomid) we were able to conceive our first daughter.

When she was 18 months old we went back to our RE. I knew it would take a little while to get pregnant, but we thought we knew the formula. I was very in tune with my body because we had practiced Natural Family Planning (NFP) in order to avoid pregnancy the first years of our marriage. So when the normal signs of fertility were not occurring during the time I was ovulating, I knew something was wrong. We had tried 7 IUI’s (with Clomid & Follistim,) each one with a much higher sperm count than the cycle I had conceived our daughter on. I spoke with the RE and the nurses about this, but they all had a different answer and none of them made sense to me. Because of the absence of my normal fertility signs, I knew something was wrong with my body.

We decided to start seeing a new RE at another practice. When we did this, they had us redo all the tests we did a few years early. When they took the hormone tests for me they saw that I had an elevated FSH level (12.5.) They told me that if my FSH were any higher I wouldn’t be eligible for IVF. Because it was that high I had a lower chance of conceiving then other women in my age group.

This is when I decided to turn to acupuncture. I read a review about Monica from a lady in England who had been to her a couple of times, but swore Monica was the reason her IVF procedure worked. I decided to give Monica a try.

When I explained everything to Monica, she thought that there were definitely things she could do to help. During my next cycle my fertility signs did return (I know that was because of the acupuncture). My RE had also given me an HSG and ordered an ultrasound and then an MRI to diagnose my uterine anomaly correctly. Finally something showed up that explained the cause of my secondary infertility…a dermoid cyst on my ovary. This needed to be removed before we could proceed with any other procedures. While I was waiting on the surgery I continued to see Monica and continued to get healthier. My husband even went to her to increase and improve his sperm count and motility.

I had the cyst removed and we were able to finally do our first and only IVF cycle in November 2007. Monica was so accommodating during this time. She made sure she was available for us any time of the day while we were going through our procedure. She was there to give me a treatment before & after my cycle which she had to come in on the weekend for.

We were very successful with our procedure, even with my elevated FSH level the RE was able to remove 22 eggs and 16 fertilitized and 7 went to blast stage. She even thought of putting one blast back, but because my age (35) and FSH levels were high she recommended two. They were able to put two grade A eggs back in 5 days later. Needless to say a week and a half after that we found out we were pregnant and a few weeks after that we found out we were having twins.

I really feel like if I were not seeing Monica during this time that I would not have become pregnant. She was understanding and very involved and interested in my overall health. I carried my twins to full term, even with my bicornuate uterus.

Thank you Monica for my wonderful girls!!!!

Tracy H.

9cfb4 014 Acupuncture for IVF

See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me

Nisi Shawl here to say why I’m saying things.  And who I am.  And why acupuncture matters.

First point:  Why am I saying things?  Because I want to, and also because I can.  Because Monica Legatt, this blog’s owner, is letting me

Third point:  Why does acupuncture matter?  Because it will probably change your life.  For the better.

Second point: Who am I?  That’s complicated.  To start, let’s summarize: I’m an award-winning author who makes most of my living writing science fiction, fantasy, essays, and book reviews (Google me, or visit my website  for details on that stuff.)  I’m an African American woman, 57 years old.  I’m 5’ 8”, 280 pounds, and a deep-down acupuncture enthusiast.

For most of my life I’ve been a proponent of natural foods and holistic medicine.  As a right and proper hippy in the 70s I worked at a food co-op, then at a natural foods warehouse.  That’s where I got interested in acupressure and shiatsu, the East Asian systems using pressure points along energy meridians to treat medical conditions, which is much like acupuncture’s use of extremely fine needles to stimulate these same points.  I also began consulting the I Ching via the yarrow stalk oracle.   These sorts of interests harmonized well with my growing exploration of the roots of West African spirituality (more about that another time).  Also with my homeopathic doctor’s practice–homeopathy is all about balance and energy, too (more about that, as well, another time).

 But my adventures in acupuncture were bootless till I moved to Seattle and met Monica Legatt.

Twelve years ago I added acupuncture to my health regimen, which included exercise, diet, massage, supplements, and meditation.  Monica seems young to me for a medical practitioner, and of course she was even younger then than now.  But her methods got immediate results.  She did something no one else working on me had done before: she confirmed correct placement of the stimulating needles.  I could feel the unmistakable difference.

She asked for my feedback, and she got it.  The high quality of the treatment she has been giving me in response to that feedback is testament to her expertise.  She sees me–she doesn’t just look, she _sees_.  She makes sure she feels what I’m feeling, touches the points that need touching, heals what must be healed: my migraines, exhaustion, weight issues, and chronic pain.

In part it’s because of her that I am who I am.  Complicated.  Creative.  And enthusiastic when it comes to acupuncture.

I have a bunch more I want to say.  In future posts I plan to write about how an acupuncture session feels to me, and about the correlation between invisible disabilities and non-pharmaceutical modes of treatment, and about balance as a concept in East Asian medicine and West African spirituality.  I have questions to explore: What drew Monica to this particular discipline?  What sort of research validates its usefulness?  Are we truly made of light?

Come back and there’ll be more.  Another time.

Nisi Shawl

e658d nisicat86 See Me, Feel Me, Touch Me, Heal Me

 Nisi with her neighbor cat Olive, photo courtesy of Caren Corley, 2010


Acupuncture for Depression

It’s that time of year for many Seattlites: SAD (Seasonal Affect Disoerder) time.  With the long grey days and rain many people suffer from depression in the Winter in the Pacific Northwest.  Acupuncture can help you! Researchers discovered that both acupuncture and electroacupuncture improved the quality of life in depressed patients in this study: 

Acupuncture Ups Antidepressant Therapy – New Research


In the above referenced study patients who were undergoing treatment 

Acupuncture for Low Back Pain

I treat low back pain with acupuncture many times every week, and sometimes many times in one day in my acupuncture office!   I can tell you unequivocally that acupuncture does work wonders for back pain as well as other kinds of pain including migraines, sports injuries, menstrual pain, and abdominal pain.  Acupuncture is without side effects and covered by insurance in Washington State: what have you got to lose by trying it?  This form of medicine has been in existence and flourishing for thousands of years.

Research shows that for chronic low back pain relief in the acupuncture groups was significantly more effective than sham treatment and with no additional treatment. 

If your low back pain is acute, meaning only a few days old at the most, you should have between one and three acupuncture treatments.  If your low back pain is chronic, you should have treatments once per week for a minimum of two months: maybe longer.  You may benefit from a Chinese herbal prescription as well, depending upon your personal circumstances.  

My recommendation in choosing a practitioner is that he or she has experience treating neuromuscular conditions and that he or she is board certified by the NCCAOM.  Acupuncturists who maintain their current diplomate standing with the NCCAOM uphold themselved to the highest standard of continuing education requirements.

Feel free to contact me with questions!  I can be reached at Downtown Seattle Acupuncture.  

458fb 017 Acupuncture for Low Back Pain

Optimize Your Fertility with Wild Salmon

Many of my patients who are undergoing  fertility acupuncture treatments ask me what they can do nutritionally to enhance their fertility.  One food that is excellent for fertility according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is wild salmon.  In Seattle where my practice is located we are blessed with ample supplies of wild salmon coming from Alaska such as Copper River salmon and Yukon River salmon.  Specifically, salmon is good for nourishing the yin and the blood in TCM.  Abundant yin in a woman is an essential factor in her ability to generate healthy follicles and ample amounts of cervical fluid, an indicator of good fertility.   A woman’s production of red blood cells may be directly correlated with a thick and healthy endometrial lining which is necessary for a fertilized follicle to implant.  

Yin is the moistening and cooling agent in the body: it can be a substance, such as cervical fluid or tears in the eyes, or it can be a type of energy.  In its insubstantial form yin is the energy in your body that keeps you cool and also relaxed, so conditions such as hot flashes, night sweats, restless leg syndrome and insomnia all result from a deficiency in the body of yin.  When a woman has poor follicle quality resulting in miscarriage or failure to conceive, low antral reserve, poor quality or quantities of cervical fluid or a shortened follicular phase she has deficiency of yin. The oils in wild salmon, specifically the omega 3 fatty acids are good for supplementing yin.  During pregnancy both mother and baby can benefit from the oils in salmon, but it is better to eat salmon containing these oils than to take capsules of fish oil for reasons I will explain below.  

The deep red color of wild salmon is an indicator of the ample amount of iron it contains, making it an excellent food to increase your red blood cell production.  You can increase the thickness of your endometrial lining and increase your chances of conceiving by eating foods that are deep red in color so it is advisable to choose the deepest red colored salmon for maximum benefit.  If your specific goal is to optimize yoru fertility the white fishes are not as beneficial for your uterine lining as salmon.  In order to avoid mercury content which is found in the larger fish higher up on the food chain such as king salmon, you can eat smaller wild salmon such as Chinook salmon or Sockeye salmon.  A smaller fish will be lower in the food chain and aquire a fraction of the amount of mercury during its life cycle than the large fish at the top of the food chain do.

The concept of energy or “chi” in our food is lost in Western culture and not something we hear about from Western-medicine nutritionists.  In Asian culture and in indiginous cultures it is known that we are not only eating the “body” of a fish or animal or vegetable: we are eating the vital energy that is contained within that living thing.  The fresher something is, meaning the more recently it has been harvested, whether we mean catching a fish or picking tomatoes, the more chi is still there within that organism.  When we eat fresh food, the energy within that food as well as the nutrients found in the physical form of the food both serve to nourish us.  As time passes after the death of an animal or fish, the vital energy disburses.  When food is manually broken down by human intervention, such as when oil is extracted from fish and encapsulated, or when grains are highly processed into cereals and granola bars, all of the energy disburses more quickly and we are left with food devoid of any energy.  This is one reason why processed food is not healthy: it is lacking any remaining enrgy or chi: it is more “dead” than any freshly harvested food.  The longer the shelf-life, the less chi or vital energy your food contains.  

Why wild salmon?  A fish swimming in the sea is the ultimate free-range living thing, and swimming in an endless ocean helps the fish cultivate a lot of chi.  It becomes strong and powerful: it has a lot of energy.  The cultivation of chi in our food sources is one reason why free-range chickens, cattle, and in this case fish are healthier.  They have more chi: they are stronger and healthier and they therefore make us stronger and healthier.  In summary, you can optimize your health and your fertility by eating salmon that is fresh, wild, red, and sustainably caught so we can continue to have salmon around for future generations to enjoy too!

Please contact me if you have additional questions about fertility, acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, or nutrition for pregnancy.  

Salmon Recipes

aed36 spawning salmon Optimize Your Fertility with Wild Salmon

Acupuncture for Menstrual Pain (Dysmenorrhea)

Menstrual pain is a condition that afflicts many women, and it is not managed well by Western medicine.  Taking birth control pills is helpful for some women, but they are not an option for a woman trying to conceive.  Ibuprofen and related medications like alleve are harmful for kidney function and they are not adequate for pain relief for women with severe menstrual pain.  Acupuncture is a safe and effective non-pharmaceutical treatment for dysmenorrhea that is without adverse side effects.  Research demonstrates the effectiveness of acupuncture for reducing menstrual pain: within the first month of treatment the pain can be dramatically decreased and with regular acupuncture treatments in combination with Chinese herbs over a period of several months the pain can be eliminated.  Rectifying the cause of a woman’s menstrual pain will improve her fertility by improving the overall health and function of her reproductive system.  

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the cause of menstrual pain is stagnation of chi and blood.  Blood stasis and chi stagnation cause pain and also are an inhibitor to implantation for women trying to conceive. The liver meridian is always involved in this pattern, but other meridians such as the conception channel, kidney channel and stomach channel are also involved.  There can be underlying conditions of yin deficiency, spleen chi deficiency, or blood deficiency that are contributing factors to the stagnation of the chi and blood resulting in menstrual pain.  Your practitioner will treat the symptom of pain by moving stagnant chi and blood with acupuncture, and also address the root-cause of the pain with herbs, which may be a combination of the factors listed above.  An acupuncturist who is experienced working with gynecology can explain to you your exact diagnosis and how many menstrual cycles you should undergo treatment.  If you have had menstrual pain for many years, then you will derive the best results if you receive acupuncture treatments for several months.  

 The adjunct symptoms that accompany menstrual pain will also improve with acupuncture treatment.  This includes PMS, menstrual-migraines, breast pain, bloating, sugar cravings, low back pain, fatigue, unexplained infertility, irritability and mood swings.  Endometriosis can be treated with acupuncture in combination with Chinese herbs and if the patient is willing to undergo treatment for many months it can be cured without surgery. 

 In gynecology herbal medicine is considered very important and almost always your acupuncturist will combine an herbal prescription with your acupuncture treatments for optimal results.  Typical formulas used for menstrual pain include Xiao Yao Wan or  Shao Fu Zhu Yu Wan

 In TCM the constitutional imbalances that make a woman suffer from menstrual pain also make her more likely to suffer from fertility challenges when she is in her childbearing years and menopause-related problems when she is older.  When a woman shifts her constitution and eliminates the cause of her menstrual pain with acupuncture and herbal treatment, she is also preventing menopausal hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, frequent urination and helping to preserve her fertility should she decide to have children later in life. 

 If you have questions about acupuncture and the treatment of gynecological conditions or fertility do not hesitate to contact me!  

bf13b 006 Acupuncture for Menstrual Pain (Dysmenorrhea)


Acupuncture for Neck Pain

It is estimated that 45% of today’s workers have neck pain, and at any given time 12% of all women and 9% of men are suffering from neck pain.  Acupuncture can safely and effectively treat neck pain: not only does it reduce pain and stiffness in the short-term, but with regular weekly treatments and appropriate lifestyle changes acupuncture can cure even longstanding neck pain. 

 In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) neck pain is caused by the blockage of energy (Chi) flowing through the gallbladder and urinary bladder acupuncture meridians.  When we have an injury such as whiplash or chronic tension from long hours at a computer, the energy in our neck is impaired and slows down like a bottleneck in traffic, or like a dam on a river.  The ensuing symptoms of neck pain, inflammation and stiffness can all be alleviated with acupuncture treatments.

 Acupuncture works by stimulating the break-up and release of the blocked energy in your neck, thereby increasing the blood flow to the region to expedite the healing process.  You can expect from your acupuncture treatments:

            ∙Decreased neck pain

            ∙Increased neck range of motion and mobility

            ∙Decrease in local inflammation

            ∙Increased neck strength

            ∙A decrease in related conditions such as headache and back pain

 If your neck pain is acute, you should receive acupuncture treatments two or three times in the first week.  If you have chronic neck pain, weekly treatments for several weeks is necessary for good results.  Other treatment modalities such as massage therapy, cupping, or physical therapy in combination with acupuncture will give you even faster results.   A licensed acupuncturist can perform massage therapy and cupping in addition to acupuncture as part of your TCM treatment plan.  You may be prescribed a Chinese herbal formula for neck pain to take such as Jing Zhui Kan or Du Huo Ji Sheng Tang. 

 Please contact me if you have questions about acupuncture and neck pain, or anything else related to Traditional Chinese Medicine!

fca87 zen 0016 Acupuncture for Neck Pain