Gale O'Keefe, L.A.c.
Gale’s journey with Oriental Medicine began with a curiosity and led to a calling. While working in the seminar industry assisting large groups of participants work through human potential exercises, she discovered she had sensitivity to the bio-energy field. She could feel a participant’s energetic shift as they worked through their process. Wanting a better understanding of what she was experiencing, she researched the bio-energy field or human aura. All information led her to Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, the only medicine based on body energetics.
    A formal study ensued, allowing her to blend her intuitive skills with this time tested modality to facilitate an individual’s healing response. After completing her master’s degree, she spent an additional year in the study of Acupuncture Orthopedics. She and her mentor, orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Hua Gu, developed a certification program certifying fellow Acupuncturists in the specialty of Acupuncture Orthopedics. She has also completed courses in Facial Rejuvenation and Allergy Elimination and is currently pursuing a doctorate in TCM with an emphasis in Women’s Health and Pain Management.
Gale’s unique approach makes each treatment very individualized. Each session includes Acupuncture, Tuina massage, energy balancing and herbal recommendations. She has successfully treated an array of conditions including: Allergies, Anxiety, Arthritis, Asthma, Bronchitis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Constipation, Degenerative Disc Disease, Depression, Facial Rejuvenation, Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, Frozen Shoulder Syndrome, Gastrointestinal issues, Headaches, Hypertension, Insomnia, Metabolic Syndrome, Migraines, Musculo-skeletal issues, Neuralgia, Pain (acute & chronic), Sciatica, Sports Injuries, Stress, Stroke, Vision problems, Weakened Immunity and Weight Control. 
Gale has been in private practice for fourteen years and is the treating acupuncturist for HeartWise Wellness & Longevity Center and Regional Pain Management Treatment Center in Whittier, CA.  


Masters of Science, Oriental Medicine, SAMRA University, Los Angeles, California 1996
Acupuncture Orthopedics Certification, American Acupuncture Academy, Los Angeles, California 1997
Institute of Orthopedics and Traumatology, China Academy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 
Beijing, China 1997, 1999
Doctoral Candidate, American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 2010



Psychophysiological Component of Low Back Pain

In a recent conversation with a colleague, I was asked if Traditional Chinese Medicine addresses a possible mind/body connection to low back pain. The question posed was a reflective one. After years of recurrent low back pain, routinely diagnosed as progressive lumbar disc degeneration, these flare-ups seemed preluded by events of major emotional stress and/or loss. Since the back is a major support structure, I was asked if giving abundant emotional, mental and financial support to others could contribute to the loss of physiological support of the low back causing pain. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), when we are healthy, happy and our system is in harmony, there is a continual flow of mental, emotional and physiological energy. The TCM concept of the “Three Treasures”: Shen (mind or spirit), Qi (energy) and Jing (essence or constitution) describes the essential energies needed for sustaining human life. Qi is the basic energetic element of this concept and Jing relates to the body’s constitution. Qi circulates continually nourishing the body and the mind. It also acts as a shield protecting us from external elements or evils. Jing, our body’s essence or constitution, is inherited at birth and is continually supported by foods and lifestyle. This essence is housed in the kidneys and with the help the body’s Qi, circulates throughout the channels of the body. Shen refers to our consciousness, mental functions, mental health, vitality, and our “presence”. It’s housed in the Heart, where it retires to sleep during the night. If the Shen is disturbed, there may be insomnia. Shen is specifically said to live in the Blood Vessels (part of the system of the Heart) and to be nourished by the Blood. A Healthy Shen depends on the strength of the Jing and Qi. If Jing and Qi are healthy, the Shen will be nourished. As mentioned above, the Shen lives in the blood vessels, part of the Heart system in TCM. Blood is closely related to Qi in TCM, and is formed from the Postnatal Jing derived from food and fluids. Blood formation is simultaneous with that of the formation of Qi. In TCM pathology, when there is Jing, Qi or blood deficiencies the Shen is deprived of nourishment which leaves the potential for emotional disturbances. 

On the other hand, extreme emotions and mental over-activity are considered internal evils that directly cause the obstruction of Qi and Blood and can negatively impact our organs and Jing. The TCM clinical manifestations and pathology of certain organs is found to be associated with specific emotions. Here are some examples: excessive anger injures the Liver, excessive joy or sorrow injures the Heart, extreme grief and melancholy injures the Lungs, excessive worry injures the Spleen and Stomach, extreme or longterm fear and fright injures the Kidneys. The effect of emotional outbursts or chronic upset disrupts the normal flow of Qi and blood. Anger is said to cause Qi to rise-up, sorrow causes it to move more slowly, grief drastically consumes it, fear causes a depletion of Qi, fright causes it to be deranged and worry causes it to stagnate. The progressive imbalance of Qi flow due to prolonged emotional excess is what then causes blood stasis in the corresponding organs.

How does this information relate to low back pain? As stated above, from the TCM perspective, the body’s constitution is housed in the kidneys. Not a difficult concept considering the adrenal glands, perched on top of the kidneys, are responsible for a significant portion of hormone and immune function. Adrenal glands are the first line of defense when it comes to stress. Under stress, cortisol levels are secreted in massive amounts and DHEA, sometimes referred to as the longevity hormone, is suppressed. Balanced hormones and strong immunity translates to a healthy constitution. Over prolonged periods of stress, adrenal glands can become so fatigued that they will make very little of the hormones intended, ultimately impacting our essence or constitution. Any disturbance in one of the “Three Treasures”, if untreated, creates a cascade of events ultimately depleting one’s constitution and potentially resulting in low back pain and/or other conditions.

So, the pain felt in the low back with little or no physical pathology is not in your head, but the origins could be. Qi and blood stagnation can manifest anywhere and are commonly felt as joint, muscle and soft tissue pain. The majority of low back pain ususally stems from benign musculoskeletal problems, and are referred to as non specific lower back pain. Constitutional weakness from Qi and blood stagnation as a result of Qi deficiency can certainly contribute to chronic and/or recurring back pain. We now understand from a biochemical perspective that stress causes a “fight or flight” reaction which activates our sympathetic nervous system. This causes our heart and nervous system to speed up, muscles to tense and blood vessels to constrict. Great in short durations for life threatening situations, very taxing biochemically in prolonged durations. These prolonged episodes produce large amounts of epinephrine, catecholamines and cortisol to sustain our stress induced ‘fight or flight’ reactions. Our nervous system becomes overly sensitive and reactive to any stressor, including pain, leading to Qi deficiency. The mind becomes stuck in a hyperactive and stressful loop of thinking, leading to Shen disturbances. Our bodies become tense and then atrophy as all of our vital nutrients and energy resources are being tied up by our ‘fight or flight’ stress-response, leading to Qi and Blood stagnation. This ultimately leads to Jing deficiency, or from a bio-physiological perspective, adrenal fatigue.

Low back pain, chronic lethargy, susceptibility to infections, sluggish immune response, an increase in inflammatory conditions and insomnia are just a few of the symptoms resulting from constitutional deficiencies brought on by Shen disturbances. Where the mind goes, the body is obliged to follow...


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