After adjusting the music and turning off the lights, I stepped outside to speak with the young boy’s father. Mom had brought their football-playing son in for his first few concussion treatments. Today, dad was the chauffeur. This was his first time visiting Jackupuncture, and he wanted to learn more about his son’s care.
It was a warm summer day in Kaimuki and we were sitting outside on a bench in front of my office. As we got ourselves comfortable on the painted plank of wood, I began mentally preparing my thoughts. Sometimes, I use anecdotes about my clinical experience to help explain things to patients. Today, I was going to use my own recent concussion experience to help answer some of dad’s questions.
I began to share my story and told him that I was currently treating my own concussion. With surprise, he asked a great question: “How did you know!?” He was surprised I identified my own concussion because at no point in my story did I get knocked out or show any of the more commonly known signs of concussion. He didn’t understand how I could’ve known I was concussed.
The truth is, had it happened a year earlier, I wouldn’t have known. I would have been as clueless about my history of concussion as he and his family had been about their son’s injuries. Before deciding to really focus on and specialize in concussion rehab, I didn’t have any reason to believe my brain had been injured any of the times it likely had been. And I didn’t truly understand the extent to which head trauma had impacted my life until treating myself, which I didn’t do until after my first EEG.
Electroacupuncture for Concussions: How It All Started
Almost a year before taking a seat on that bench, I was sitting in the waiting room at Brain Health Hawaii. I had been invited by the Medical Director Dr. Keifer to discuss my electroacupuncture work. Dr. Keifer had heard about Jackupuncture’s success with a boxer who had been experiencing dizziness, brain fog, nausea, and headaches (i.e., persistent chronic concussion symptoms) for months. Dr. Keifer hadn’t heard of any other clinic providing the services or results Jackupuncture achieved and was curious. He invited me to his office to learn more, and that’s when I got my first EEG.
The EEG was a colorful report with lots of lines that illustrated my brain’s electrical activity. The waveforms looked a lot like the lines of the beeping EKG machines that track heartbeats in medical dramas on TV. Except, in my case, there were several lines where the beeping would’ve been that long high tone that tells the viewers the patient is dying. In those areas, Dr. Keifer said, my brain wasn’t performing well.
There were about 8 sections of the report where the waveforms were more like flat lines. Other areas had colorful hills with peaks and valleys, but these 8 were lifeless deserts. These, he explained, were signs of chronic concussions.
He didn’t know anything about me or my sports history. I hadn’t told him I had competed in kickboxing in Japan for nearly a decade or that I had spent years in mosh pits at underground hardcore shows in high school and college. But there it was, a rainbow of proof that indicated my brain had suffered trauma from my life’s youthful adventures.
I reviewed the image and thought about what the doctor said. This brain had helped me graduate at the top of my class at UCSC. With it, I had learned to read, write, and speak Japanese fluently within 2 years. We had earned our Master’s in Acupuncture and started a successful business together!
“If all this was possible with this brain, what would be possible if I fixed it?!” I thought.
So, that’s what I did. I fixed my brain with electroacupuncture. The flat lines and wide bumpy hills became taller, sharper peaks. I felt great. There was no constant pressure like a band wrapped around the inside of my head. The anxiety and unease I would feel before starting the workday was gone. My energy was great. My senses were sharper and I experienced a whole new quality of life.
And then, like with everything else in life, I went even further…
From Acupuncturist to Concussion Nerd
I started taking acupuncture and other courses on concussion. I started reading books about the brain, concussions, and neuroscience. I spent as much free time, money, and energy as I had learning more. Nearly every waking moment became about brain health. Then, I joined the Concussion Nerds, an international panel of healthcare professionals focusing on concussion care and rehabilitation.
As a newly inducted Concussion Nerd, I spent months pouring over a specialized and detailed curriculum that explored every angle of sports-related concussions and concussion rehab. It was in this material that I finally started to see the picture of my life unfold. Many of the symptoms of concussion sounded like the things I had just accepted as part of my life. Even things about my personality and mood.
So, when this football player’s dad asked me how I knew I had been concussed, I was able to share with him the range of symptoms I had been experiencing.
After getting hit in the head a few weeks earlier, I started to get headaches. I felt uncomfortably warm even on cool days or in air conditioning. I was way more irritable and basically had a panic attack in the car because I was so irrationally anxious about being hit by other drivers.
Does that sound like a concussion to you?
Well, after being concussed, all these things are possible. Headaches are a common symptom. Concussions can also lead to issues with body temperature regulation, like feeling hot all the time. Disruption of other systems can lead to the irritability and anxiety I was experiencing. In fact, I would be super grumpy and have piercing headaches for weeks after some of the hardcore shows I went to in college. Little did I know then that I was likely walking around concussed.
My patient’s father was surprised. He didn’t know any of this could be related to concussion. Fortunately, with my education and personal experience, I could help him understand some of his son’s concussion struggles better. It also helped dad recognize some of those same struggles in himself.
Concussion Acupuncture Changes Lives
After completing his series of PeakMIND treatments for concussion, this family’s young athlete passed all the physical assessments he had previously failed. The waveforms in his EEG looked much better. He was much more talkative and upbeat. He also said that it finally felt easy and natural to run. Apparently, he had always felt awkward running and doing certain movements in football and other sports.
I didn’t see dad again after our concussion chat, but mom thanked me and said that if it had just been for the improvements in their son’s mood and depression alone, they would’ve done this all over again.
It was this experience with a young football player struggling to fully experience life, and the realization of how much my own life had been impacted by the effects of unaddressed concussions, that shaped my mission.
Our lives and everyone around us can be affected by the consequences of unaddressed concussions. We can’t be our kindest, best selves when our brain is struggling with the impact of invisible injuries. The ripples of impaired brain waves affect our families and the entire community.
That’s why I specialize in concussion rehab.