“In our culture and society, the stress and demands of life create an imbalance,” the former Key resident explained. “Therefore, nobody is in perfect health. When people say, ‘What can acupuncture or herbal medicine do for me? I’m perfectly healthy,’ the reality is in most cases, they’re not.
“All organisms tend toward homeostasis, which is a natural balance,” he continued. “When in balance, an organism functions at its highest efficiency. I can’t tell you what happens when you stick a pin in a wrist in just one sentence, but Chinese medicine says acupuncture and herbs help the organism restore balance.”
Being a doctor of Chinese medicine makes perfect sense for a man like Chasens, who dresses not in Birks, but in long-sleeved, button down shirts, pressed slacks and loafers and presents a poised, clean-cut professional face to his clientele.
Chasens had worked as a research assistant with the Rosenstiel School, conducting oil pollution surveys in Biscayne Bay, then as a “lab rat” for an electronics company making medical equipment.
“At that point, I became disillusioned with the corporate world,” he recalled. “I was a very small cog in a very big wheel and I didn’t really feel like I was contributing.”
Chasens had the same experience with the six years he spent computer consultant at a real estate development firm. So in 1990, he quit his job and spent the next three years working as a lifeguard in Crandon, surfing some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and collecting his thoughts for the next move.
“I left everything,” he said. “I left it all behind.”
A clue to his future came in the form of a lower back injury in Hawaii which led him to seek the help of an Oriental Medicine Doctor. The 20-year-old injury, which Chasens got from repetitive use, had not responded successfully to conventional Western medicine.
“This accident in Hawaii really crystallized my need for a solution, knowing that pain pills, orthopedic surgery, chiropractics, yoga and meditation were of limited value in this particular case,” he said. “I made a conscious choice to try something different.”
Chasens couldn’t get any more different than the tiny, painless needles the doctor placed at various points in his body.
“With maybe six to eight pins, I knew immediately that I had found something that worked for me, the right type of care, and that’s the message I try to give my patients: that at some point, it’s your responsibility to make decisions about your health. Just as you choose between a healthy and an unhealthy meal, you need to take the responsibility to choose the type of care that gives you the best results.”
Chasens returned to the U.S. and began to study formally with Dr. Fudi, who at that time ran the Community School of Traditional Chinese Health Care in North Miami, an intensive, three-year course. Following his graduation, Chasens studied Chinese herbal medicine intensively, including during a one-month externship in China.
And Chasens feels that professionally, he has come home. Particularly at the Palmer Clinic, where he can combine forces with Dr. Roger Palmer, an internist, for an educated treatment team that blends East and West.
“Because we’re in the same office, he’ll say, ‘Steve, let’s talk about patient X with these symptoms,” Chasens explained. “The ideal is to put together teams that respond to the needs of the community. Traditional Western medicine is very powerful. It’s extremely effective. What we have at the Palmer Clinic is the blend. Take advantage of the U.S. health care system, exercise your choices and find the modality that works best for you.”
Chasens said his hope is to bring Oriental medicine into the health care mainstream.
But, he added, “I don’t practice blindly. I don’t say, ‘Acupuncture is it, Chinese herbs are it and that’s the magic bullet.’ I feel a sensitivity to the patient’s needs, which are the ability to make informed choices about their care.”
Rapid technological advancements coupled with an increasingly globalized economy have made today’s workplace more efficient and interconnected. But the burden to continue this 24-hour nonstop environment has extended the work day and led to a faster-pace of business that is taking its toll on employees, and fueling a stress epidemic on the rise. Employers who recognize the impact that work-related stress has on their business and provide employees with necessary resources to reduce stress levels, can create healthier, happier employees and in turn, a more productive workplace.
Of course, stress is a factor in every one’s life and can sometimes even serve to stimulate creativity. The natural pattern of human behavior is to experience a stress-causing event or situation, react to it with increased tension and then return to a normal, relaxed state. The problem occurs when stress is so overwhelming or constant that this pattern is broken. When stress is extreme, or if it lasts a long time, emotional health and ultimately, physical health begins to suffer. Over time, these symptoms become worse and can develop into anxiety, depression, fatigue, digestive problems and tension headaches.
And while the physical effects should not be minimized, the economic consequences should also be cause for alarm amongst business owners and executive management. According to the American Institute of Stress, job-related stress brings with it an annual price tag for U.S. businesses of over $300 billion annually due to increased absenteeism, employee turnover, diminished productivity, medical, legal and insurance expenses and Workers’ Compensation payments.
Acupuncture is a proven method recognized by the World Health Organization to treat a number of stress-related ailments. And thanks to its wide acceptance by traditional Western medicine, it is in fact covered by most insurance providers, with little or no cost to the insured. Additionally, many alternative treatment centers offer on-site consultation services and customized treatment programs for businesses that want to maximize work performance and mitigate the negative impacts of occupational stress.
In Chinese medicine, stress, anxiety, depression or any strong emotion interrupts the smooth flow of energy throughout the body. Through acupuncture, these energy blockages can be addressed, and help energy flow smoothly to alleviate not only the symptoms of stress and anxiety, but the stress and anxiety itself. From a Western viewpoint, acupuncture improves circulation of blood throughout the body, which oxygenates the tissues and cycles out cortisol and other waste chemicals. The calming nature of acupuncture also decreases heart rate, lowers blood pressure and relaxes the muscles.
Having an efficient and productive workplace is impossible to sustain without addressing solutions to combat employee occupational stress. Forward-thinking employers who incorporate ways to reduce stress indicators amongst employees will be better positioned to cultivate a talented and dedicated workforce, grow their business and stay ahead of the competition.
Steven Chasens is the lead certified acupuncture physician at Coral Gables Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine, as well as the local Chanel 4 television expert on reducing stress in the workplace through acupuncture. He is a member of the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncturists, the National Commission for the Certification of Chinese Herbology, the American Association of Oriental Medicine and the Florida State Oriental Medical Association. For more information, visit www.miamiacupuncture.com.