Guys like to pretend that they are invulnerable. Cultural messages tell young men certain stories and life experiences etch them in stone. This might be useful on a surface level. In reality, that tough facade of robust masculinity covers factors that lead men to compromised health, a life that may not be as full and expansive as it could be, and–on the large scale–to higher death rates. But changes in lifestyle and attitude can mean a shift in this trajectory. In my estimation, holistic care for men is key to this process.
~~~Why I Care About (& Practice) Men’s Health~~~
As soon as I got my driver’s license as a teenager in California, I got my first gym membership. This was the start of a decades-long love of gym culture. I had long stints of working with personal trainers; the majority of my trainers have been competitive bodybuilders, and two of them were Olympic athletes. I spent most of my teens and twenties in highly male-dominated arenas as a result.
My career as an academic spanned eighteen years if you count my first graduate program. I taught during that time span, of course, and have a unique familiarity with the mentality and concerns of guys in the age range of 18-23. More than once, guys who seemed so cocky and tough on the outside came to my office hour and broke down, weeping. “I don’t know where to turn, and you have always been so nice to me,” they would invariably say. I’d hand them a tissue and wait, then give them a hug and walk with them to the student counseling center. These were my students, and I loved them, and I wanted them to thrive. Their trust in me was a gift.
When I started my clinical internship for my second career (this one), I treated several men for erectile dysfunction. I treated for diabetes management, PTSD, stress, insomnia, and muscle pain in male patients too, of course, but the erectile dysfunction cases were like seeing my students as middle-aged men who, instead of being concerned about their academic performance, were worried about their capacity in the bedroom. Speaking on a broad a general level? Women feel closer when they share their troubles; men, for their part, often prefer to hide their vulnerability, especially if it pertains to sexual potency or to emotions.
~~~Holistic Care & Men’s Health~~~
Acupuncture and other forms of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) are well known and increasingly widely used for women’s health. Fertility treatment, for example, is an tremendous specialty area. A little less-known are those of us in men’s health. But there is a lot we can do for the guys, whether they come to an appointment on their own steam or because a partner has cajoled them to do so.
I continue to work with ED, and it means a lot to me that my patients understand that there is no reason to be embarrassed or uncomfortable when we discuss their concerns. In my estimation, what the ED says about the whole person is our focus; we look at lack of vigorous function in the organ as symptomatic of a holistic concern to be addressed, rather than as the bellwether of a guy’s value in this world. We address overall health and then, as part of overall health improvement, sexual function can return. There is no reason to be embarrassed. No reason at all. (For more on this topic, go here).
I can also help a patient to manage the effects of emotions like anger or stress. Weight loss and improving the sleep habits can make a man’s life much better and more satisfying. And feeling like there is a safe place to go to where you are listened to and heard matters to college guys and it matters to adults. So does feeling like your practitioner cares about your values surrounding your gym time (or lack thereof) and body image. Feeling like you can get help with your health concerns in a low-key way that doesn’t require emotional displays (but allows them if it helps you to express yourself) is good for everyone, and especially for guys who might not feel comfortable with vulnerability.
I cared about all of my students, no matter the gender, and I feel the same way about patients. Everyone who walks in my doors is important and valuable. I have a special place in my heart for my male patients though. There’s an eighteen year old inside everyone, no matter how old we are in real time. I will never forget the things shared with me as an academic during office hour.
If you’d like more information about my men’s health programs, take a look here.
Paula Bruno, Ph.D., L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, an AOBTA-CP traditional Chinese bodywork therapist, and a wellness educator. She maintains an active and growing practice at her Austin, TX offices. Dr. Bruno is also available for distance appointments for wellness consultation or coaching.
In her first career, she was a Spanish professor.
Dr. Bruno’s specialties as a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner include: • Musculoskeletal health (acute or chronic pain relief; Ehlers Danlos syndrome & hypermobility support) • Digestive support, gut health, and weight loss • Aesthetic treatment, including scar revision • Men’s health • General preventative care and immune support for all persons.
When you are ready to discover what traditional medicine plus a vibrant and engaged approach to holistic health can do for you, either contact Dr. Bruno or book an appointment online.
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Note: Material on this web site site is not intended to diagnose, prevent, treat, or cure any disease, illness, or ailment. A TCM practitioner in Texas identifies syndrome patterns but does not diagnose illness. Material on this web site does not purport to identify syndrome patterns.