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How to Treat MCAS With Acupuncture and TCM

By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D. and Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

 

MCAS symptoms dizziness
Dizziness and brain fog can be signs of MCAS.

Shortness of breath, dyspnea? SIBO or fungal infections? Sensitive to smells? Signs of orthostatic low blood pressure? Itchy skin rash or hives? Musculoskeletal pain, joint pain? These can be some of the many different MCAS symptoms. Acupuncture and TCM can offer alternative treatment for MCAS, or mast cell activation disorders. 

Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) is a complex and often underdiagnosed condition characterized by the inappropriate activation of mast cells, which are immune cells involved in allergic and inflammatory responses throughout the body.

In short, mast cells are what cause people to have an allergic reaction to something. When mast cells encounter an allergen (or sometimes a medication, infection, or insect venom), antibodies inside them surface and send out “mediators.” Mast cells can produce hundreds of different types of mediators. These include histamine, leukotrienes and cytokines.

In MCAS, mast cells release excessive amounts of mediators, leading to a wide range of symptoms affecting various organ systems throughout the body. There are so many different mediators that science is not yet able to pinpoint which mediators may be causing which symptoms, in many cases.

This systemic activation of mast cells can occur spontaneously or in response to triggers such as stress, exercise, medications, infections, or environmental factors.

The symptoms of MCAS can vary widely among individuals and may mimic those of other conditions, making diagnosis challenging. There are five categories of MCAS symptom, affecting different parts or systems of the body:

MCAS rash, hives
Itchy skin rashes, hives, and other skin issues can be MCAS symptoms.

Skin-related MCAS Symptoms:
Itching (pruritus)
Hives (urticaria)
Flushing or redness of the skin
Rashes or eczema-like lesions
Swelling (angioedema), particularly of the face, lips, tongue, or throat

Gastrointestinal MCAS Symptoms:
Abdominal pain or cramping
Nausea and vomiting
Diarrhea or constipation
Acid reflux or heartburn
Bloating or abdominal distension

Respiratory MCAS Symptoms:
Wheezing or difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
Chest tightness or pain
Coughing or throat clearing
Nasal congestion or runny nose
Sneezing or postnasal drip

Cardiovascular MCAS symptoms:
Rapid or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
Low blood pressure (hypotension)
Fainting or near-fainting episodes (syncope)
Fluctuations in blood pressure upon standing (orthostatic hypotension)
Raynaud’s phenomenon (abnormal blood vessel spasm in response to cold or stress)

Neurological MCAS symptoms:
Headaches or migraines
Dizziness or lightheadedness
Cognitive dysfunction or brain fog
Anxiety or panic attacks
Fatigue or malaise

These symptoms can vary in severity and may occur intermittently or chronically.

 

What Causes MCAS?

Medical science is unclear about the underlying cause of MCAS. Mastocytosis is a different mast cell disorder, in which people have an elevated number of mast cells. However, with MCAS, people have a normal number of mast cells; they just behave in an exaggerated manner when triggered. 

MCAS is “primary” when there is a particular genetic mutation, which may happen due to mastocytosis or monoclonal mast cell activation syndrome (MMAS,) in which there is a clonal line of mast cells.

In some cases, when a person also has a diagnosed autoimmune disorder, allergy, or infection the MCAS is considered “secondary,” meaning that the overactive mast cell activity may be stemming from that other primary condition.


A diagnosis of “Idiopathic MCAS” indicates that neither of the above factors is present. 

MCAS can begin at any point in a person’s life, including during childhood.

 

MCAS Treatment

MCAS muscle aches, joint pain
Joint pain and muscle aches can be MCAS symptoms.

Treatment for Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) in Western medicine typically involves a combination of medications and lifestyle modifications aimed at stabilizing mast cells and alleviating symptoms. 

Antihistamines, such as H1 receptor blockers (e.g., loratadine, cetirizine) and H2 receptor blockers (e.g., famotidine, ranitidine), are commonly prescribed to reduce the effects of histamine released by mast cells. 

Mast cell stabilizers, such as cromolyn sodium, can help prevent the release of inflammatory mediators from mast cells and may be used as preventive therapy. In cases of severe or refractory symptoms, corticosteroids or leukotriene inhibitors may be prescribed to suppress the immune response and reduce inflammation. 

Medications to manage specific symptoms, such as gastrointestinal distress or cardiovascular symptoms, may be recommended. 

Lifestyle modifications, such as avoiding known triggers, managing stress, and following a healthy diet, may also play a crucial role in managing MCAS symptoms. 

It’s important for individuals with MCAS to work closely with their healthcare providers to develop a personalized treatment plan. Acupuncture and TCM can provide adjunct treatment for MCAS that address each patient’s unique symptoms and needs.

 

Can Acupuncture Help MCAS?

One of the central concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which dates back many centuries, is that of the meridian system. The 12 meridians are channels of energy, or Qi, that flow throughout the body. Along the meridians are many acupoints: spots where Qi is activated when thin acupuncture needles or acupressure are applied to them. 

But do the meridians exist as physical entities, or are they metaphorical?  

Scientific research in the twentieth century sought to explain the various phenomena produced by the activation and manipulation of acupoints. It was found that both blood vessels and nerves are located near the acupoints in greater concentration than in other areas of the body. These studies suggested that acupuncture treatment functions through the vascular and nervous systems. 

Later, further studies showed that acupuncture has effects on the production and releasing of hormones, such as endorphins, which has a analgesic effect of reducing pain. 

The sensations that people feel as a result of acupuncture treatment cannot be fully explained by saying they are related to blood vessels, nerves, or hormones. Further questioning continued, asking if other cells or tissues could also be involved in how acupuncture works.

One female scientist, researcher, and professor in China, Jimei Song, hypothesized that activity around acupoints may be related to mast cell activation. This idea was Song’s Mast Cell Theory of Acupuncture (now called Song’s MC Theory for short, originally published in the Liaoning Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in 1977.

Chinese herbs for MCAS
Chinese herbs can help manage histamine response.

Studies suggest that when an acupuncture needle penetrates the skin, mast cells are released, which then in turn, affect the blood vessels and nerves, leading to both sensations experienced by the patient in the moments, and systemic effects on the release of histamines, serotonin, and other chemicals than go on to create systemic effects. This is now considered a milestone in TCM research.

Acupuncture has been shown to have a positive effect on histamine response. Specific Chinese herbal formulas have also been shown to be effective in dampening mast cell activation. Compounds found in some herbs can help inhibit the production of cytokines.

An acupuncturist is able to address the problem both at its root, and help take care of the wide variety of symptoms a person may be experiencing. Acupuncture treatment can help relieve problems like itchy skin rash, sensitivities, orthostatic low blood pressure, and joint pain, all in one treatment session. A personalized herb formula can be prescribed to suit each individual patient.

 

Acupuncture Near Me for MCAS in Los Angeles

MCAS can mimic many other conditions and be difficult to diagnose and treat. This is what makes acupuncture, herbs, and moxibustion excellent modalities for helping to relieve MCAS symptoms such as: dizziness, headaches, musculoskeletal pain, insomnia, anxiety, hives, GERD, IBS, interstitial cystitis bladder pressure, and more. Acupuncture and TCM can offer an adjunct or alternative treatment for MCAS symptoms.



 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.







Posted in Acupuncture, Allergies, Migraines & Headaches, Skin, Stress & Anxiety, Uncategorized | Tagged | Comments Off on How to Treat MCAS With Acupuncture and TCM

How to Treat Shin Splints With Acupuncture and TCM

By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. and Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

 

Shin pain and swelling, shin splints
Shin pain and swelling can be a sign of shin splints.

Shin pain, especially during or after exercise? Tenderness and swelling around the shin bone? These may be signs of shin splints, or a shin strain. Acupuncture and TCM can provide shin splints treatment. 

Shin splints, also known as medial tibial stress syndrome (MTSS), are a common condition characterized by pain along the inner edge of the shinbone (tibia). This discomfort typically occurs during or after exercise, particularly activities that involve running, jumping, or repetitive stress on the legs. 

Shin splints are often attributed to overuse or excessive strain on the muscles, tendons, and bone tissue of the lower leg. This condition involves stress to the soft tissues that causes them to become swollen and hard.

Shin splints pain can be similar to compartment syndrome symptoms, but these are two distinctly different conditions. Compartment syndrome occurs when swelling in the calf area causes a blockage of blood flow to the lower leg. This usually happens due to an injury (acute compartment syndrome) or extreme exertion (chronic exertional compartment syndrome)  and causes a severe lack of oxygen in the area. Compartment syndrome usually causes severe pain, sometimes with a tingling or burning sensation, and requires  medical attention.

 

What Causes Shin Splints?

shin splints sports injury
Repetitive stress from increasing your running routine can cause shin splints.

Several factors can contribute to the development of shin splints. One of the primary causes is repetitive stress or overloading of the leg muscles, particularly those responsible for dorsiflexion (lifting the foot upwards) and supporting the arch of the foot. This can occur due to sudden increases in activity level, such as starting a new exercise regimen or intensifying training too quickly, without allowing adequate time for the body to adapt and recover.

Some people may be more prone to developing shin splints because of issues like flat feet, overpronation (excessive inward rolling of the foot), and muscle imbalances in the lower limbs can place additional strain on the shinbone and surrounding soft tissues, increasing the risk of injury.

Wearing footwear with insufficient cushioning or support, running on hard or uneven surfaces, and running downhill or on inclined terrain can all exacerbate the stress on the lower legs and contribute to the development of shin splints. Additionally, factors such as tight calf muscles, weak shin muscles, and not warming up or stretching before exercise can further increase susceptibility to this condition. 

Taking care to stretch and warm up before working out, wearing shoes with enough support, and gradually increasing intensity of training can help prevent shin splints. 

However, runners and athletes who play basketball or soccer are likely to experience shin splints when they are training and competing. 

Shin splints treatment generally requires time and patience. Acupuncture can provide pain relief and help speed recovery from shin splints.

 

Top 10 Signs and Symptoms of Shin Splints

These signs and symptoms may vary in severity and duration depending on the individual and the underlying causes of shin splints.

  1. Pain along the inner edge of the shinbone (tibia), typically felt during or after physical activity.
  2. Tenderness and soreness along the shinbone, especially upon palpation or pressure.
  3. Swelling or inflammation of the lower leg, often localized to the area of pain.
  4. Dull, aching pain that may worsen with activity and subside with rest.
  5. Discomfort that initially occurs at the beginning of exercise but may progress to persist throughout the activity.
  6. Pain that gradually increases in intensity or becomes more widespread over time.
  7. Pain that may be accompanied by a feeling of tightness or stiffness in the muscles of the lower leg.
  8. Pain that persists even after cessation of activity and may interfere with daily activities.
  9. Possible development of small lumps or bumps along the inner border of the shinbone due to inflammation or irritation of the surrounding tissues.
  10. Pain that improves with rest but recurs upon resuming physical activity, especially activities that involve impact or weight-bearing on the legs.

 

Shin Splints Treatment

proper support and cushioning in shoes shin splints
Proper support and cushioning in shoes can help prevent shin splints.

Conventional treatment of shin splints usually involves rest and over the counter pain relief. Typically, a doctor will recommend that a person with shin splints limits their exercise to low-impact activities. Icing the area several times per day is advised.

Acupuncture treatment for medial tibial stress syndrome can help relieve shin pain quickly.

One case study showed that a patient who had been suffering from shin splints for six weeks got pain relief after one session of acupuncture treatment, and at a four week follow, was still pain-free.

 

Can Acupuncture Help Shin Splints?

Acupuncture treatment helps with the healing of soft tissue injuries by increasing circulation to the area, relieving inflammation, and aiding in the release of endorphins for pain relief. It does this by activating Qi to move blood and energy more efficiently through the body.

One study of three groups of athletes with shin splints looked at patients who received conventional sports medicine, patients who received acupuncture, and patients who received both. The groups who received acupuncture treatment reported significantly lower pain levels and used less NSAIDs than those who did not receive acupuncture.

 

Acupuncture Near Me for Shin Splints in West Los Angeles

Acupuncture is an effective modality for treating many kinds of repetitive stress injuries and nerve pain conditions, including sprained ankles, Baker’s cyst, tendinitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Dr. Tan has over 35 years of experience helping patients find pain relief and improved mobility through treating all kinds of orthopedic and musculoskeletal conditions. While each case is unique, it is possible to get pain relief quickly with TCM treatment, including acupuncture, electro-acupuncture, therapeutic massage like Tui Na, topical herbal patches, and herbal ointments. If you are in pain and need to heal quickly to get back to your regular activities, acupuncture can help.





*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.



Posted in Exercise, Inflammation, Pain, Sports injury, Uncategorized | Tagged | Comments Off on How to Treat Shin Splints With Acupuncture and TCM

How to Treat Dysautonomia With Acupuncture and TCM

By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. and Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

 

Dysautonomia fatigue
Dizziness and fatigue can be signs of Dysautonomia.

Fast heart rate or irregular heartbeat? Feel faint or dizzy when standing up? Fatigue, brain fog? Chest pain? These can all be Dysautonomia symptoms, or autonomic dysfunction. Acupuncture and TCM offer treatment for dysautonomia and autonomic neuropathy.

“Dysautonomia” is a general term that refers to multiple conditions related to autonomic dysfunction. There are many different types of autonomic nervous system disorders that fall under the umbrella of dysautonomia. 

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) controls body functions like:

  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate
  • Breathing
  • Digestion
  • Temperature regulation
  • Urinary function
  • Sexual function
  • Sweating

Basically, the ANS is in charge of all of the things our bodies do automatically—sometimes called involuntary functions—without us having to think about them.

Dysautonomia symptoms are fairly common, especially later in life, but medical science still has limited options for diagnosing and helping relieve these conditions.

Dysautonomia can be a primary condition, caused by genetic or degenerative disorders, or by damage to nerves (autonomic neuropathy). Secondary dysautonomia can occur as a result of another condition, such as an autoimmune disease, neurological disease, or injury.

Recent studies are beginning to show that dysautonomia, especially POTS, can be linked to long Covid. Even if a person had a Covid infection that was not particularly severe, the long-term effects of the virus have been shown to linger in the body, in the brain and nervous system, causing autonomic dysfunction long after the acute phase of the virus has passed.

TCM offers a way to treat dysautonomia, as acupuncture has been shown to have a positive effect on nervous system function.

 

Dysautonomia Symptoms

Different types of autonomic dysfunction will cause various symptoms in individuals. The most common symptoms of ANS include:

  • Dizziness when standing up or changing position, light-headedness
  • Vertigo
  • Fainting, passing out
  • Arrhythmia, irregular heartbeat, heart palpitations
  • Fatigue, feeling tired
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Excessive sweating, or lack of sweating, clammy feeling
  • Thirst
  • Headaches, migraines
  • Dry eyes, or excessive tears
  • Digestive issues: constipation, diarrhea, etc.
  • Frequent urination, incontinence
  • Erectile dysfunction (ED)
  • Sensitivity to sounds

 

Top 10 Types of Autonomia

irregular heart beat, arrhythmia
Irregular heart beat, or feeling dizzy when moving to standing, can be Dysautonomia symptoms.

Dysautonomia symptoms can seem similar to those of other nervous system conditions. This is why it can be difficult to be correctly diagnosed. It is fairly common for a person presenting with symptoms of dysautonomia to be told that they are suffering from anxiety or panic disorder.

Secondary dysautonomia occurs when another condition is the cause of symptoms.  For example, dysautonomia systems can be the result of having disorders, such as:

These conditions can all cause damage to parts of the autonomic nervous system and therefore lead to symptoms of Dysautonomia.

There are at least 15 different types of Primary Dysautonomia. POTS is probably the most common one.

 

POTS Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia SyndromePOTS is a condition characterized by an excessive increase in heart rate when moving from lying down to standing up (orthostatic intolerance). Symptoms may include lightheadedness, palpitations, fatigue, and fainting. It often affects young adults, particularly women.

Hyperadrenergic POTS is a subtype of POTS characterized by excessive sympathetic nervous system activity, leading to symptoms such as palpitations, anxiety, tremors, and hypertension in addition to orthostatic intolerance.

Treatment for POTS often involves a combination of lifestyle modifications, medications, and physical therapy. Lifestyle changes may include increasing fluid and salt intake to expand blood volume, wearing compression stockings to prevent blood pooling in the legs, and gradually increasing physical activity to improve cardiovascular fitness. Medications such as beta-blockers, fludrocortisone, midodrine, and pyridostigmine may be prescribed to help regulate heart rate, blood pressure, and blood volume.

 

IST Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia – Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia (IST) is a condition characterized by a fast heart rate at rest that is not caused by exercise, fever, or stress. It is considered inappropriate because the heart rate is elevated without a physiological reason. People with IST typically experience heart rates exceeding 100 beats per minute while at rest, often accompanied by symptoms such as palpitations, chest discomfort, fatigue, and shortness of breath.

The exact cause of IST is not fully understood, but it is believed to involve dysfunction in the sinus node, the natural pacemaker of the heart, which regulates heart rate. In individuals with IST, the sinus node may become overly sensitive to normal stimuli, leading to excessive firing and a rapid heart rate.

Treatment for IST focuses on controlling symptoms and improving quality of life. Lifestyle modifications like stress reduction, regular exercise, and avoiding triggers such as caffeine and nicotine may be recommended. Medications such as beta-blockers, calcium channel blockers, or ivabradine may be prescribed to help slow the heart rate and alleviate symptoms. In severe cases that do not respond to medication, procedures such as catheter ablation may be considered to modify the electrical pathways in the heart and reduce symptoms.

NCS Neurocardiogenic Syncope or Vasovagal Syncope – NCS, also known as vasovagal syncope, is a form of dysautonomia characterized by a sudden drop in heart rate and blood pressure, leading to fainting. It can be triggered by various factors such as prolonged standing, emotional stress, or pain.

Management of NCS focuses on avoiding triggers like prolonged standing, dehydration, or emotional stress, which can lead to fainting episodes. Increasing fluid and salt intake may help prevent episodes by expanding blood volume. Medications such as beta-blockers or fludrocortisone may be prescribed to help stabilize heart rate and blood pressure. In severe cases, implantation of a pacemaker or other cardiac device may be considered to regulate heart rhythm.

AAG Autoimmune Autonomic Ganglionopathy – AAG is a rare autoimmune disorder characterized by the production of antibodies that target autonomic ganglia, leading to autonomic dysfunction. Symptoms may include orthostatic hypotension, gastrointestinal dysmotility, and urinary dysfunction.

MSA Multiple System Atrophy – Management of MSA is focused on addressing specific symptoms related to autonomic dysfunction, parkinsonism, and cerebellar ataxia. Medications such as levodopa-carbidopa may be prescribed to alleviate motor symptoms, while medications such as fludrocortisone or midodrine may be used to manage orthostatic hypotension. Physical therapy and speech therapy may also be beneficial for managing motor and speech difficulties associated with MSA.

Management of MSA is focused on addressing specific symptoms related to autonomic dysfunction, parkinsonism, and cerebellar ataxia. Medications such as levodopa-carbidopa may be prescribed to alleviate motor symptoms, while medications such as fludrocortisone or midodrine may be used to manage orthostatic hypotension. Physical therapy and speech therapy may also be beneficial for managing motor and speech difficulties associated with MSA.

PAF Pure Autonomic Failure – PAF is a rare condition characterized by dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, leading to problems with blood pressure regulation, heart rate variability, and temperature control. Symptoms may include orthostatic hypotension, urinary retention, and gastrointestinal issues.

Treatment for PAF aims to manage symptoms related to autonomic dysfunction. Lifestyle modifications like elevating the head of the bed, wearing compression garments, and increasing fluid and salt intake may help alleviate symptoms of orthostatic hypotension. Medications such as midodrine, fludrocortisone, and droxidopa may be prescribed to raise blood pressure and improve symptoms.

 

FD Familial Dysautonomia – begins at birth as a result of a genetic mutation inherited from the parents. FD affects the central nervous system, breathing, digestion, ability to form tears, regulation of temperature, regulation of blood pressure, taste, and pain sensitivity. Usually diagnosed in infancy, as babies will have trouble with feeding, will not cry tears, and will show poor growth. As the disease progresses, there may be development of arrhythmia, GERD, dry eyes and vision problems, scoliosis and/or weak bones.

Sensitivity to sounds and noises can be a Dysautonomia symptom.
Sensitivity to sounds and noises can be a Dysautonomia symptom.

DBHD Dopamine-Beta Hydrolase Deficiency – a rare genetic disorder characterized by the body’s inability to produce the enzyme dopamine-beta hydroxylase (DBH). This enzyme is essential for converting dopamine to norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter involved in regulating blood pressure and other autonomic functions.

Treatment for DBH deficiency focuses on managing symptoms by increasing fluid and salt intake to help maintain blood pressure, wearing compression garments to reduce symptoms of orthostatic hypotension, and avoiding triggers such as hot environments and prolonged standing.

In some cases, medications that increase blood volume or constrict blood vessels may be prescribed to help alleviate symptoms. However, treatment options for DBH deficiency are limited, and management typically involves ongoing monitoring and adjustment of therapies to address specific symptoms and complications as they arise.

OI Orthostatic Intolerance – Orthostatic intolerance (OI) refers to a group of conditions characterized by symptoms such as lightheadedness, dizziness, fatigue, and fainting when a person moves from lying down into an upright position.

There are various types of orthostatic intolerance, including postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), neurally mediated hypotension (NMH), and vasovagal syncope. Each type presents with its own set of symptoms and underlying mechanisms.

Besides lifestyle modifications such as increasing fluid and salt intake, wearing compression garments, and engaging in regular exercise can help improve blood flow and cardiovascular function, medications such as beta-blockers, fludrocortisone, and midodrine may also be prescribed to help regulate heart rate and blood pressure.

BF Baroreflex Failure – Baroreflex failure is a condition characterized by the inability of the body to regulate blood pressure in response to changes in posture or stress. It can result in symptoms such as orthostatic hypotension, hypertension, and fluctuations in heart rate.

 

Can Acupuncture Help Dysautonomia?

Acupuncture for dysautonomia
Stimulating acupoints can hep improve Autonomic Nervous System function.

From the perspective of conventional medicine, dysautonomia is still considered a mysterious, confusing problem to solve. But TCM philosophy has recognized this type of disorder for many centuries. Acupuncture has been used since ancient times to help regulate the autonomic nervous system, although we have not always used that terminology for it.

A Chinese medical text that dates back to the first century B.C.E. describes “Ying-Wei Disharmony,” the symptoms of which include: breathing dysfunction, palpitations, irregular heartbeat, anxiety, digestive problems, nausea, dizziness, chronic pain, pressure headaches, tingling and numbness (neuropathy), and insomnia.

For a long time, medical science has looked for the mechanisms that make acupuncture work.

Recent studies have begun to show more clearly that the stimulation of acupoints affects the neural pathways, including the autonomic nervous system.

Acupuncture has been shown to help regulate ANS functions such as temperature regulation, blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle sympathetic nerve activities. 

Acupuncture helps modulate transmitters in the brain, restoring balance when these activities have become dysregulated. More specifically, electro-acupuncture has been shown to work upon the hypothalamus, the medulla oblongata, the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, and other regions of the brain that contribute to ANS function.

One study involving 30 female patients with dysautonomia symptoms showed that acupuncture treatment helped relieve heart palpitations, abdominal issues, and helped patients sleep better.

In addition to helping to regulate the autonomic nervous system, an acupuncturist will look for signs that other organ systems are out of balance and contributing to symptoms. For example, some patients with dysautonomia may need acupuncture and herbs to help balance the spleen and kidneys, which will in turn help improve adrenal function.

Stagnation of blood or phlegm can sometimes be causing blockages that contribute to nervous system dysfunction.

 

Acupuncture Near Me for Dysautonomia in Los Angeles Area

Dysautonomia is a complex condition to treat. A multi-faceted approach, combining conventional medical approaches with medications with acupuncture and herbal remedies can be helpful for managing the variety of symptoms a person may be experiencing. TCM is an excellent modality for working with this type of condition. If you or someone you know is struggling to get help for POTS or other autonomic disorders, call us at Art of Wellness in West L.A..





*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.



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How to Treat Myofascial Pain Syndrome With Acupuncture and TCM

By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D. and Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

 

myofascial pain disease
Muscle tightness and tenderness can be a sign of myofascial pain syndrome.

Muscle aches and pains? Knotted muscles? Pain in trigger points? These could be signs of myofascial pain syndrome. Acupuncture and TCM can provide myofascial release and help relieve chronic myofascial pain (MPS pain).

Myofascial pain disorder is a common, yet often overlooked chronic pain condition that affects the muscles and fascia. Fascia is the thin connective tissue that is found all over the body, holding muscles, organs, and blood vessels together. Fascia is also filled with nerves, which makes it highly sensitive.

Healthy fascia is thin, stretchy and pliable. Stress, injuries, weakness and other issues can cause fascia to tighten up, become sticky, dry, or thicker. This can cause painful knots to develop in your muscles.

These areas are sometimes called fascial adhesions, or myofascial trigger points, and they can be very tender to the touch and cause muscle soreness, aches and pains. 

Chronic myofascial pain can seem very similar to fibromyalgia, or symptoms of ME/CFS, and is sometimes misdiagnosed as such. However, these conditions are distinct from one another. 

Fibromyalgia causes widespread, diffuse pain and tenderness all over the body, while myofascial pain is centered around specific trigger point sites. Fibro, as it is sometimes called, is believed to be caused by a disorder within the central nervous system. Fibromyalgia is usually triggered by stress, trauma, hormonal changes, lack of sleep, or sensitivities to weather changes.

It has been suggested that long-term myofascial pain syndrome may ultimately lead to a person developing fibromyalgia, as the brain and nervous system become so used to experiencing pain that they begin to produce disordered pain signaling.

Acupuncture treatment, cupping, and therapeutic Chinese massage can provide trigger point therapy that is effective for relieving tight muscles and soreness.

Myofascial Pain Syndrome Symptoms

myofascial pain syndrome trigger points
Myofascial pain can be localized or refer to other areas.

People experience myofascial pain differently from one another; each case is unique. For some people, the pain can come and go suddenly; for others, it’s a constant, dull pain.

Myofascial pain syndrome can feel like:

 

  1. Tight muscles, stiffness
  2. Throbbing pain
  3. Dull, aching pain
  4. Sore muscles, tender areas
  5. Knotted muscles, nodules or bumps in specific areas that are sore
  6. Muscle weakness
  7. Limited range of motion
  8. Trouble sleeping
  9. Headaches
  10. Fatigue

Myofascial pain can be localized in one area, or referred pain, which spreads to other nearby areas. Myofascial referred pain patterns can look like pain that originates in the rotator cuff which then spreads to the deltoid, and even down the arm to the hand.

What Causes Myofascial Pain?

 

Medical science is not entirely clear on the causes of myofascial pain syndrome, but it seems to occur more often in people who have experienced things like:

 

  • Periods of inactivity, such as having one of your limbs in a cast
  • Repetitive movements in your work
  • Pinched nerves
  • Injury to a muscle or muscle group
  • Having to work outdoors in the cold
  • Diabetic neuropathy
  • Thyroid disorders, hypothyroidism
  • Deficiencies in Vitamin D or folate, or iron deficiency
  • Stress, chronic tension that leads to clenched muscles
  • Structural conditions like scoliosis, spondylosis, or osteoarthritis

Estimates suggest that the majority of people who are treated for chronic musculoskeletal pain may have myofascial pain syndrome. Up to 85% of the general population may experience myofascial pain at some point in time.

 

Treatment for Myofascial Pain Syndrome

One of the primary approaches to managing myofascial pain syndrome is physical therapy. Physical therapists may use manual therapy, stretching exercises, and postural correction to address muscle imbalances, improve flexibility, and release tension in affected muscles. Trigger point therapy, which involves applying pressure to trigger points to release muscle knots and promote relaxation, is a common component of physical therapy for MPS.

Modalities such as heat therapy and cold therapy may also be used in conjunction with physical therapy to provide pain relief and enhance the effectiveness of treatment. Heat therapy helps to increase blood flow and promote muscle relaxation, while cold therapy can reduce inflammation and numb the affected area. 

In addition to physical therapy and modalities, medications may be prescribed to manage pain and improve symptoms associated with myofascial pain syndrome. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen may be recommended to reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. Muscle relaxants such as cyclobenzaprine or benzodiazepines may also be prescribed to help relax tense muscles and improve sleep quality. In some cases, tricyclic antidepressants or anticonvulsant medications may be used to modulate pain signals and improve overall pain management.

Trigger point injections are another treatment option for myofascial pain syndrome, particularly for individuals who experience severe or persistent symptoms that do not respond adequately to conservative measures. During a trigger point injection procedure, a local anesthetic or corticosteroid is injected directly into the trigger point to help alleviate pain and reduce muscle tension.

Acupuncture needling is also considered an effective and valuable treatment option for myofascial release and relief of musculoskeletal pain.

 

Can Acupuncture Help Myofascial Pain Syndrome?

myofascial pain syndrome acupuncture
The acupoints used in acupuncture correspond with myofascial trigger point.

Many studies conducted over the past two decades point to acupuncture as an effective mode of treatment for myofascial pain syndrome.

Acupuncture is effective for myofascial pain because it can positively affect the central nervous system, increase blood flow, increase endorphin production, improve fascial adhesions, and promote muscle relaxation. Acupoints used in TCM correspond closely with myofascial trigger points.

One study looked at patients who received two acupuncture treatments per week for four weeks on trigger points in the upper trapezius. Patients reported significant reduction in pain after just two weeks.

Another study followed two groups of patients with myofascial pain centered in the neck area. One group received acupuncture treatment. The other group had acupuncture and also engaged in regular aerobic exercise. Findings showed that both groups experienced significant improvement in pain symptoms.

A review of studies found that acupuncture was effective both for reducing myofascial pain and improving function and mobility.

Acupuncturists may also use electro-acupuncture, cupping, and massage techniques like gua sha and tui na to help move lymph and blood, release muscle trigger points, and improve muscular movement that has been limited by pain.

 

Acupuncture Near Me for Myofascial Pain Syndrome in Los Angeles

At Art of Wellness Acupuncture in West L.A., we have over 35 years of experience helping people find relief from musculoskeletal pain of all kinds. Dr. Tan and Dr. Cai are able to use electro-acupuncture, cupping, and massage techniques like Tuina for myofascial release. If you are suffering from muscle pain and tenderness, do not hesitate to make an appointment with us.



 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

Posted in Connective Tissue Disorders, Cupping, ElectroAcupuncture, Fibromyalgia, Massage, Pain, Sports injury, Uncategorized | Tagged , | Comments Off on How to Treat Myofascial Pain Syndrome With Acupuncture and TCM

How to Treat Costochondritis With Acupuncture and TCM

By Qineng Tan, L.Ac. Ph.D. and Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

 

sternum pain, chest pain
Chest pain where the ribs meet the breast bone can be Costochondritis.

Chest pain? Rib pain, sternum pain? These can be costochondritis symptoms, caused by inflammation of the cartilage that connects the ribs to the sternum. Acupuncture and TCM can provide costochondritis treatment to relieve pain and inflammation.

Costochondritis is a pain condition caused by inflammation of cartilage in the rib cage. It can be scary, because the pain can feel like a heart attack or a symptom of heart disease. 

It is quite common for people who are experiencing costochondritis pain to visit the emergency room complaining of chest pain. Almost 10% of ER visits are related to chest pain symptoms, and a significant number of those turn out to be related to something other than heart problems.

Sometimes called “chest wall pain syndrome,” or costosternal syndrome, costochondritis is considered a syndrome because it presents as a set of symptoms that often does not have a clear cause.

Possible causes of costochondritis include:

  • Trauma or injury to the chest or ribs
  • Persistent cough
  • Repeated bouts of vomiting
  • Chest or lung infection
  • Allergies that affect the lungs
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Tietze syndrome

Suddenly doing some kind of heavy labor or intense workout that you’re not used to, that causes you to be winded, could cause inflammation of the chest. Playing contact sports in which you may be tackled or collide with another player or get hit hard with a ball in the chest could also cause costochondritis.

Tietze syndrome is a rare condition in which the cartilage connecting the ribs to the breastbone becomes inflamed and swollen. With Tietze syndrome, the pain and swelling in the chest is usually higher up, around the second and third ribs.

Costochondritis pain usually is felt more on the left side of the chest, radiating outward, and there isn’t any swelling involved. 

Rib pain may be exacerbated when lying down, which can make it difficult to sleep comfortably.

Costochondritis is most commonly experienced by people in middle age (40-50s), but it can occur in children and adolescents, as well as adults.

In most cases, costochondritis is temporary. However, costochondritis pain can limit your activities and be debilitating for weeks, or even months. One study showed that up to a third of adults reported pain persisting beyond a year.

Acupuncture has been shown to help alleviate costochondritis pain, often in a matter of weeks.

Costochondritis Symptoms

Costochondritis pain can range anywhere from a slight tenderness to severe chest pain. In mild cases, the pain may go away in a matter of days, but in other cases, the pain can become serious.

Symptoms of costochondritis include:

  1. Sharp chest pain
  2. Chest pressure, chest ache, tenderness in breastbone
  3. Pain on the left side of chest, to the left of the breastbone
  4. Rib pain in more than one rib
  5. Pain radiating to shoulders and/or arms
  6. Chest pain when coughing, sneezing, or taking a deep breath
  7. Pain in chest when reaching up or twisting the torso
  8. Rib pain when lying down
  9. Pain when hugging someone
  10. Pain when putting on a seatbelt

 

Medical Diagnosis and Costochondritis Treatment

chest pain, rib pain, Costochondritis
Pain near the sternum can be Costochondritis.

Other than the doctor palpating the area around your breastbone and ribs, there is no specific test to determine if you have costochondritis.

Chest pain can be an indicator of a variety of health conditions, including heart problems or lung problems, so it is always important to get it checked out with a healthcare professional. They will rule out other problems by ordering an EKG or chest X-ray in order to get to a diagnosis of costochondritis.

Treatment will consist of recommendations for ways to alleviate pain. Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB) or naproxen (Aleve) can help reduce inflammation and pain.

In cases of more severe or persistent pain, a doctor may prescribe stronger pain medications such as prescription-strength Motrin or muscle relaxers.

Applying heat or cold packs to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. Some individuals find relief by alternating between heat and cold therapy.

In cases where pain is severe and not responding to other treatments, corticosteroid injections directly into the affected area may provide temporary relief by reducing inflammation.

Acupuncture treatment is a great way to relieve pain and reduce inflammation, without the side effects that can result from using pain medications or steroids for several weeks or months.

 

Can Acupuncture Help Costochondritis?

Adolescents and children can have costochrondritis.
Costochrondritis can happen during adolescence.

Acupuncture has been used for many centuries to treat pain and inflammation. Now, research is able to show how and why this modality is able to regulate inflammatory responses. Acupuncture affects the nerve signaling that produces hormones like dopamine and can reduce the production of cytokine storms. This is why acupuncture can help relieve inflammation and chest pain of costochondritis.

In TCM theory, pain and inflammation are usually considered to occur because of stagnation, or stasis, of blood and/or Qi (life force energy). The same symptoms can occur in different individuals because of different imbalances in the organs systems that are causing the blockages and different pathogenic factors, such as excess heat, dampness, etc. 

Costochondritis inflammation can occur due to dampness and stagnation of Qi in the liver, spleen, and/or kidney systems. Depending on each patient’s specific situation, your acupuncturist will choose acupoints to open channels, clear dampness, heat, and phlegm. This allows for Qi and blood to flow smoothly again, cooling down the inflammation and relieving pain.

One case study of six women who were treated for costochondritis pain with acupuncture found that all patients reported improvement and were able to discontinue taking OTC pain medications.

One pediatric study looked at young students suffering from costochondritis; they were missing school, limiting their sports, dance, and work, and having trouble sleeping. After 4-6 weeks of acupuncture treatment, these patients reported a significant reduction in pain, and were able to resume their usual activities.

Not only is acupuncture treatment effective for relief of costochondritis pain; it can work quickly. In many cases, patients feel better after one or two treatments.

Acupuncture Near Me for Costochondritis in Los Angeles Area

Dr. Tan and Dr. Cai of Art of Wellness Acupuncture in West L.A. have been helping treat pain conditions for over 35 years. Our office is a home away from home where patients are able to relax and find relief from pain and inflammation. If you or someone you love is experiencing chest pain due to costochondritis, please do not hesitate to come in for a consultation.



*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

Posted in Acupuncture, ElectroAcupuncture, Fibromyalgia, Inflammation, Pain, Sports injury, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on How to Treat Costochondritis With Acupuncture and TCM
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