Monthly Archives: November 2012

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.


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


 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.  


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