Nancy Burton, L.Ac. has spent the last seventeen years of her career helping patients achieve extraordinary healing from issues of chronic pain and fatigue to other hard to define maladies. Nancy has a knack for being able to look at the whole picture to determine the root issues. She then draws from her extensive knowledge and technical training in Traditional Chinese Medicine to arrive at an effective healing protocol. Healing modalities range from Acupuncture and Nutritional Counseling to Tui Na which is a type of Chinese massage. As the healing process begins, Nancy pays close attention to patients, so she can continually adjust, support and move them through the process of healing. In twelve cases of back pain occurring in different individuals, where western medicine hasn’t been able to provide relief, Nancy can isolate twelve entirely different causes ranging from an inflamed gall bladder to a swollen disk. Every detail counts, and all clients are viewed as unique. What results may you expect? Well, we can report that the success of Nancy’s work has spread far and wide making her a much sought after practitioner, professional lecturer and author. Her relocation to Ashland from Cannon Beach, Oregon, five years ago, has given her a much needed reprieve from her coastal Chinese medical “rock star“ status.
Here at LocalsGuide we’ve had the opportunity to learn about Nancy and are pleased to bring you this outstanding interview today.
Nancy, thank you very much for speaking with us today. You achieved somewhat of a celebrity status in Cannon Beach over the years you were there. Please talk about your experience and its impact on your work, along with your present goals.
Thank you for doing this interview with me for the LocalsGuide. I appreciate the opportunity to introduce myself to more people in Ashland. I don’t know about “rock star” status, but when people get results, word travels fast in the coastal community that includes Cannon Beach. I had patients driving to see me from two hours north and three hours south. It got to the point that I couldn’t go anywhere up or down the coast without answering health questions and getting hugs.
First-rate western medicine wasn’t always available as it is in larger towns or cities, so I was more like the “town doctor.” I treated a bit of everything. From a learning perspective, it was a practitioner’s dream but also trial by fire. I ended up seeing many more serious and unusual cases than I would have seen elsewhere. The experience was invaluable for honing my skills.
Moving to Ashland has given me the time for professional writing and speaking which I really enjoy. But my first love will always be treating patients and helping them move through the steps of recovery to optimize their health.
I always felt my purpose in life was to help people, but it took me awhile to figure out how I could do so. Learning about this kind of medicine was like finding an oasis in the dessert. In addition to the four year TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) program and 800 hours of internship, I attended every continuing education seminar I could manage while doubling my internship hours to learn how to incorporate nutritional supplements, homeopathics and kinesiology (muscle testing) into my practice. My classmates thought I was crazy, but they were coming to me for treatments as were some of my professors. One of my professors wanted me to go into practice with her as soon as I graduated and passed my boards. She also asked me to teach her about the additional modalities I was learning. I love this field because there are always new things to learn which means being able to help more people. I can’t imagine ever wanting to retire.
On top of your passion and dedication to your profession you’ve had powerful personal experiences of healing with Chinese Medicine.
It was an auto accident that introduced me to this type of medicine. I had days I couldn’t walk. Months I couldn’t drive, and I couldn’t work anymore. I was told I may never improve. I went to various types of doctors, but no one could help. Then I learned about TCM. In one treatment I could move my neck more than I’d been able to in eight months. After a few months of treatments, I was able to enroll in school, drive back and forth, sit six hours per lecture and start my internship when my classmates did.
I was so impressed because I wasn’t just healing from the dizziness, immobility and pain. My treatments cleared up an array of health issues I had for years; some much of my life. I was learning about the initial causes of many of the health problems I had. The whole time I was getting treatments I was discovering how to help others with similar problems.
I refused to give up the hope that I would find a way to heal. I was told by some of my doctors that I was in complete denial, and I shouldn’t expect to get better. With all I was dealing with, I fought exhaustion and depression. Then driving home from my first TCM appointment, I turned my head to change lanes and I realized I was actually able to do so. I rarely lose control of my emotions, but I started crying because I knew that at last I had found a way to get my life back.
Now, when I see patients for a first visit and tell them I have treated other people with their symptoms who have healed, I see the hope in their eyes. I have assured many people that they aren’t crazy or hypochondriacs, as some of them had been told, because their symptoms didn’t have a name and an insurance code. There is such relief when they learn there are answers for what they have been dealing with for so long. I know firsthand what such relief feels like.
You are accepting new patients. Who would benefit the most from your services?
I appreciate patients who are interested in utilizing the tools I offer them. Most health issues don’t happen overnight. When people are willing to look at the big picture, what initiated their health problems, and take an active role in their own health care, it accelerates recovery and prevents recurrence.
It is not my place to dictate what people do. It is my job to help people come up with solutions to fit into their busy lives. Unfortunately, when people expect a magic pill or a quick fix without even acknowledging what got them into the shape they’re in or don’t want to take any personal responsibility, I know that they will likely have the same problem repeatedly or are setting themselves up for more serious illness or disease later on.
Of course there are some herbal formulas I wouldn’t prescribe along with certain types of prescription drugs, but for the most part holistic and western medicine are very compatible. It isn’t a matter of having to choose between the two. In other countries they are used together on a regular basis. Many hospitals in the U.S. now employ acupuncturists for their oncology and pain management departments where they use a combination of holistic and western medicine. If patients are on medication for high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, or other health issues, I ask them to let their doctor know when these issues start to resolve. Their doctor and pharmacist can then determine when a reduction or even discontinuation of the drug might be appropriate.
I understand TCM is the first type of preventative medicine. Can you give us an example of this?
A woman in her mid 70’s had varicose veins bulging in her legs. Her ankles and feet were purple from tiny broken blood vessels. A small tap anywhere could cause a bruise. These are all signs of weak blood vessels putting one at risk for stroke which results from broken blood vessels in the brain. With treatments her bruising improved, as did the veins in her legs. Her feet and ankles were no longer discolored. Recently, she fell down three steps and hit the back of her head. The impact caused a large hematoma at the sight of impact, but no bleeding of the brain. We’d also been working to build up her bone mass. She didn’t break any bones.
There are many different sources of pain. Back pain might stem from muscle spasms, knotted muscles, or disc inflammation to name a few. But it could also result from stones or sludge in the gallbladder. A tightness or pain radiating around the ribcage into the back could have been initiated from prolonged stress which has to do with the liver channel in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Breast pain before a period is also associated with sluggish energy in the liver channel or what the Chinese refer to as Liver Qi Stagnation. There are supplements and acupuncture for treating all of the above.
A woman came in who thought she had broken her toe. After treating her hip, the pain went away. Another gentleman was scheduled for a carpal tunnel operation. After working on his neck, he was able to cancel the surgery. Various pains in the knee, ankle or foot joints can be caused by hip problems. Painful joints in the arms or hands can actually be a problem with the neck. Hip or neck issues can cause pain, tingling or numbness in the extremities.
Bending over was nearly impossible for one man. Walking was difficult too. He experienced significant relief and greater mobility from acupuncture and herbs which resolved congestion and inflammation of the gallbladder.
There are effective treatments for tumors, cysts and fibroids causing discomfort and pain. One patient had a large, rapidly growing internal mass. His surgeon wanted to delay removing it until he had more strength. In a few months, he was working out again and felt great. When removing the tumor, his surgeon noted how much it had shrunk.
Traditional western medicine addresses pain with muscle relaxants and pain killers. These may be necessary at times, but they can mask the pain and result in further injury when the patient isn’t aware of the discomfort warning them to slow down or stop. By contrast, the treatments and supplements I use treat pain by resolving the root cause.
Can you tell us how you treat fatigue and depression?
Fatigue and depression can stand alone, but often derive from pain or other health issues. There are many possible sources. Examples include: problems with the adrenals, thyroid, Candida, or digestion. Liver Qi Stagnation is often an underlying factor which can cause a wound-up feeling like a spring ready to be sprung. Not eating sufficient nutrients or eating foods that rob the body of nutrients can be detrimental. The inability to assimilate your food can also be problematic.
I was fortunate to study with a professor who was an international authority on Tui Na, the Chinese medicinal massage. Another of my professors had me do all the Tui Na in her clinic when I was interning. One woman came in with a walker, dragging a foot. While I was doing Tui Na on her, she kept commenting about the energy she felt running through her whole body. When I was done, she got off the table, picked up her walker and went dancing out of the treatment room swinging her leg and exclaiming, “Look what you did! Look what you did!” It wasn’t me. It was just her body responding to the treatment. Needless to say, Tui Na has become one of my favorite tools. When patients are in pain, I usually do Tui Na before the Acupuncture treatment. Often it provides immediate relief.
Nancy, in addition to addressing a patient’s chief complaint what other benefits may the patient receive from a series of treatments?
I expect to see improvement with every appointment. Patients report the following: reduction of pain, increased mobility, enhanced energy, stress reduction, improved sleep, clearer mind, improved memory and a sense of well-being. Blood tests usually improve. Sweet cravings are also addressed. Often in a week’s time, sweets aren’t “calling to people” as they have been. Many patients tell me they can do more and feel better than they have felt in years.
Are you sometimes challenged with more difficult cases?
I enjoy complex cases. The more symptoms presented, the more I can see patterns of disharmony. While I can help the majority of my patients, I can’t help everyone. Challenging cases motivate me to study more for the benefit of future patients.
After a few treatments, a recent patient, who’d had a number of debilitating accidents over a period of time, was able to lift his four-year old grandchild for the first time. He was also able to engage in physical work for the first time in 27 years. He even went out and built a fence.
You take a very thorough approach to working with your patients. Please say more.
The first appointment with patients lasts about two and a half hours. I want to know all about any health issues they have, their diet, exercise, lifestyle and past traumas. I also ask my patients to bring any supplements they are taking to be sure they are beneficial, and they aren’t just flushing money down the drain. After the first appointment, I schedule an hour and a half per visit. We re-evaluate each symptom and re-check supplements, dietary changes or problems assimilating food which effected or contributed to initial problems. Then, I check for structural issues and discuss exercises, stretches, and certain foods or recipes that could accelerate healing. As opposed to demanding patient compliance, it is my job to figure out ways to empower my patients. This includes sharing the knowledge of what their problems stem from, easy ways to remember to take pills, and ways to incorporate delicious and healing foods into busy lifestyles.
How about pricing?
I try to keep my fees affordable. More insurance companies now have plans available that cover acupuncture. If yours doesn’t, it is often available under a different plan for a minimal additional fee. Medicare unfortunately does not cover acupuncture even with studies that show how much money it saves to do so. Auto insurance and Workman’s Compensation cases always cover acupuncture and typically reimburse the patient for any supplements as well.
I feel it’s important to take the time to help my patients incorporate the tools of healing into their lives. Knowledge is one of the greatest tools people can have. We can provide answers to the questions: Why do I have this type of pain or problem? Or what foods or inability to break down certain foods might cause additional problems? I never prescribe a supplement without explaining what it’s for or suggest a diet change without discussing the reasons behind it.
Cause and effect is important to me. When I was young and had old cars that broke down, I would go from mechanic to mechanic until I found one who didn’t mind me looking at the car with him as he explained what the problem was and what he proposed to do about it. Why would I be any less picky about my body than I am about my car? How could I expect my patients to be? I’ve had people who’ve attended my talks approach me years later to thank me for the information I shared because it dramatically improved the quality of their lives.
You mentioned assimilation of food as a key factor in the approach you take.
You can have the perfect diet, but if you aren’t assimilating your food, breaking down the fats, proteins, carbohydrates, your body is not getting the nutrients it needs to function and heal. The blood’s job is to distribute nutrients to all parts of your body. If there are not enough nutrients available, the blood borrows from organs, tissue or bone. If you borrow and pay it back in a timely manner, everyone is happy. But if you borrow and don’t pay it back, it’s like our housing market a few years ago, things start to crash. This depletion is the basis for many health problems.
What has been one of the most significant results you have seen in your work?
One of my patients accidentally cut off the end of his finger from the joint up. A small part was surgically reattached, but it turned black. He was told the whole finger would have to come off. We did acupuncture every other day and gave him herbs to promote circulation and it turned pink. He was told he could keep the finger. He was also taking herbs for regenerating bone, ligaments and tendons. The bone started growing so fast they had to do an operation to put a flap of skin over the tip. His doctors said, “That was weird but the nail will never grow back.” The nails in TCM are connected with the ligaments and tendons. The nail grew back. About a year later, the patient came back in because when he went fishing the tip of the finger burned with cold. Herbs and acupuncture quickly resolved that as well. The body has an extraordinary capacity to heal. I provide the tools, and I get to see incredible results.
What is your current availability for taking new patients?
I currently have openings in my schedule. I’m arranging my life so I’ll see patients, but also have time for my writing, speaking engagements, exercise, and enjoying life, including spending quality time with my husband. For anyone who would like help with their health, call me at: 541-646-0134.
In conclusion do you have any last thoughts or comments you might like to share with our readers?
Thank you for taking the time to read this interview. I look forward to meeting more Ashland residents and helping them reclaim their health.
Nancy Burton, L.Ac.
534 Washington St.
Ashland, OR 97520