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How to Treat Crohn’s Disease With Acupuncture and TCM

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

abdominal bloating, stomach pain
Abdominal pain and persistent diarrhea are the common signs of Crohn’s disease.

Abdominal pain that flares up, persistent diarrhea and stomach pain, bloody stool? These can be signs of Crohn’s Disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects the gastrointestinal tract. Along with ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease is a type of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). Acupuncture and TCM herbs can help reduce the inflammation that causes IBD symptoms.

About 3 million people in the U.S. are living with Crohn’s disease; it can affect people of all ages and backgrounds. Crohn’s symptoms sometimes begin to show up in childhood or during the teenage years, but most people are diagnosed with Crohn’s in early adulthood. As it does tend to run in families, it is believed that Crohn’s is caused partially by genetic makeup, but even if you have a close family member who has Crohn’s that doesn’t necessarily mean you will get it.

Crohn’s disease is a type of autoimmune disease. In autoimmune disorders, the body’s immune system, which is designed to fight potentially dangerous pathogens, mistakenly attacks normal cells or tissues. In the case of Crohn’s disease, inflammation is caused by the body’s immune system launching an attack against bacteria that are normally present in the gastrointestinal tract to help with digestion. As with other autoimmune diseases (Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), fibromyalgia, Type 1 diabetes, Graves’ disease, hyperthyroidism, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, etc.), the causes are not fully understood by medical science.

Symptoms of Crohn’s disease are similar to ulcerative colitis symptoms; both are related to chronic inflammation in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. The difference is the specific location. Ulcerative colitis only affects the colon, or the large intestine. Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract, from the mouth, all the way through the stomach, small intestine and large intestine, to the anal area. 

IBDs create inflammation that causes pain, cramping, and compromises the healthy functioning of portions of the GI tract. Over time, Crohn’s can cause so much damage to the tissues of the intestines and other organs that surgeries are required to repair it. 

Treatment of Crohn’s aims not only to reduce symptoms of nausea, diarrhea, and abdominal pain, but to prevent this kind of damage. Conventional medicine for Crohn’s can help control the disease to some extent. TCM methods, used as an alternative or adjunct to pharmacological treatment for Crohn’s, can relieve symptoms and help to restore healthy digestion and bowel function.

Acupuncture and other TCM treatments such as moxibustion have been shown to help patients with Crohn’s disease by reducing inflammation, allowing for the repair and healing of damaged tissues in the GI tract, and reducing IBD symptoms like nausea and joint pain.

Top 5 Types of Crohn’s Disease

Crohn’s Disease is classified according to where in the GI tract inflammation is causing pain and problems.

  1. Ileocolitis – affects the area where the small intestine connects to the large intestine, causing diarrhea and pain in the lower right abdomen.

  2. Ileitis – affects just the lower part of the small intestine, causing diarrhea and abdominal cramps, weight loss, and possibly fistulas developing between sections of the intestine.

  3. Gastroduodenal – affects the connection of the stomach to the small intestine, causing more upper GI symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.

  4. Jejunoileitis – affects the upper part of the small intestine, causing cramping and diarrhea

  5. Granulomatous Colitis – Crohn’s that affects the colon area, causing diarrhea, rectal bleeding, bloody stool, and possible anal fistula or fissure. Skin rashes and joint pain are also more commonly seen with this type of Crohn’s disease.

Top 10 Symptoms of Crohn’s Disease

Crohn's disease stomach cramps
Crohn’s can cause stomach pain and weight loss.

As with other autoimmune disorders, Crohn’s disease causes flares that come and go. You may have periods of time when everything seems fine, then some stress or change in your environment can trigger a flare up of IBD symptoms. Each person will have their own experience of Crohn’s symptoms:

  1. Diarrhea, explosive diarrhea, urgent need to go
  2. Stomach pain, lower abdominal pain, epigastric pain, stomach ache
  3. Stomach cramps, abdominal cramps, cramping
  4. Rectal bleeding, bleeding from anus, bloody stool
  5. Constipation, feeling like you can’t go or you still have to go even after you’ve gone
  6. Fatigue, tired all the time, chronic fatigue, low energy
  7. Poor appetite, not hungry
  8. Mouth sores, cold sores around mouth
  9. Red eyes, watery eyes, blurred vision, dry eyes, eye pain, sensitivity to light
  10. Swollen joints, joint pain, joint inflammation, colitic arthritis

When it shows up early in life, Crohn’s disease can affect a child’s growth and development. In adults, Crohn’s can cause weight loss and anemia. The chronic inflammation of the GI tract and persistent diarrhea associated with Crohn’s can impede the normal absorption of nutrients from food. Fevers, anemia, vitamin deficiencies, dehydration, and electrolyte imbalances can all become concerns for someone with Crohn’s.

Other potentially related problems can include: kidney stones or other kidney problems, urinary problems, and inflammation of the bile ducts (pericholangitis). 

More serious complications of Crohn’s involve tissue damage in the gastrointestinal tract, creating open sores or ulcers. An anal fissure is when there are tears in the rectal tissue, causing bleeding from the anus. A fistula develops when tissue breaks down between sections of the intestine, or between the intestine and the bladder, or the rectal area and the vagina. A stricture occurs when a section of the intestine becomes so inflamed that the passage becomes narrowed or blocked by scar tissue. Many people with Crohn’s disease end up having surgery to help remove these blockages, also called stenosis, due to bowel stricture, or to repair fistulas that have developed in the intestines.

Diagnosis and Medical Treatment of Crohn’s Disease

Again, as with many autoimmune diseases, it can be difficult to get a clear diagnosis for Crohn’s or IBD. Many people will suffer with stomach pain and diarrhea for a long time without realizing that something deeper is going on, and there is no simple, single test to show that you have Crohn’s. If blood tests and stool tests indicate that there is no other type of infection causing the symptoms, then colonoscopy and/or endoscopy, ultrasound or CT imaging can be used so that doctors can see where the inflammation is and where the ulcerative pain is centered.

Medicine like Imodium is commonly used to help reduce the severity of diarrhea. Immunosuppressant medications, immunomodulators, or monoclonal antibodies may be prescribed to help block the immune responses causing the inflammation. Corticosteroids are often used to help reduce inflammation. These medications, used in combination, can help to reduce symptoms of Crohn’s. However, these drugs can have serious side effects. Biologics can increase the risk of serious respiratory infections and may increase the risk of certain cancers. Corticosteroids can contribute to bone loss (osteoporosis) and cause swelling in other parts of the body. Immunosuppressants can stress the liver and pancreas.

Can Acupuncture Help Crohn’s Disease?

moxibustion
Moxibustion and acupuncture can be effective treatments for Crohn’s disease.

TCM treatments have been proven to be effective for helping to reduce inflammation and relieve pain for many types of conditions, including autoimmune disorders that can be difficult to treat with conventional medicine. TCM works well to help bring relief to people with autoimmune diseases because acupuncture and herbs work upon both the physiological and emotional aspects of the illness. Crohn’s flare ups can be triggered by stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues or strong emotions. Acupuncture can help to relieve stress and worry, so that they are less likely to feed into physical symptoms.

Acupuncture and moxibustion can help improve symptoms of diarrhea, stomach cramps, and epigastric pain. Through using these safe healing modalities, acupuncture practitioners are able to help people with bloated stomach, IBS symptoms, and nausea. Acupuncture treatment can also positively affect the vagus nerve in the brain, which plays an important role both in the functioning of the immune system and the parasympathetic nervous system that controls the action of the entire GI tract. Acupuncture can also positively impact the microbial bacteria that reside in the intestines, bringing them closer to normal levels.

A trial study that compared Crohn’s patients treated with acupuncture and moxibustion for 12 weeks with patients who received “sham acupuncture.” The patients who had real treatment showed significant improvement of symptoms over those in the control group.

A study to discover how electro-acupuncture treatment affects the brain-gut connection in patients with Crohn’s showed that acupuncture and moxibustion had a positive impact on activity in the hippocampus and vagus nerve areas of the brain.

Another study that looked at the chemical composition of intestinal mucosa found that acupuncture treatment helped improve the health of the lining of the intestines and reduced inflammation.

Acupuncture Near Me for Crohn’s Disease in Santa Monica, CA

Living with Crohn’s symptoms can be seriously debilitating. Chronic diarrhea and stomach pain can feel like they’re taking over your whole life. It is possible to manage Crohn’s disease symptoms without negative side effects. If you or someone you know is suffering with an IBD, or possibly an autoimmune disorder, or more than one autoimmune disease, it is worth trying TCM methods to see if they work for you.

 

 

*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 Tennis Elbow With Acupuncture and TCM

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

tennis elbow
Tennis elbow can happen to athletes and manual laborers alike.

Pain in outer elbow or burning sensation in forearm? Tennis Elbow, also called lateral epicondylitis, is a pain condition caused by overuse or repetitive movements of the arm and wrist. Acupuncture and TCM can provide help with healing the muscles and tendons of the elbow and providing elbow pain relief of tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow, or tendonitis, so you can get back to your usual activities.

“Tennis elbow” gets its name from the fact that many people get this type of repetitive use injury from playing tennis and other sports that involve holding a racquet. But tennis elbow doesn’t only occur in athletes; it’s also common among people who have to perform repetitive movements that tax the muscles and tendons of the elbow, forearm, wrist, and hand and involve gripping an object, such as: painting, hammering and sawing (construction workers), cutting or chopping (cooks, chefs, butchers), using a wrench (plumbers), or working on an assembly line.

Tennis elbow is a kind of tendonitis, or inflammation of the soft tissues of the forearm. Tendonitis occurs when the soft tissues that attach muscles to bones sustain microtears and become inflamed. The major muscle involved in movements where the wrist and hand are gripping an object while the elbow is extending, or straightening, is the extensor carpi radialis brevis (ECRB) muscle. The ECRB muscle experiences friction as it moves over the bumpy joining of three bones in the elbow joint. Over time, and with overuse, the tendons that attach the ECRB to the bones can become torn and/or inflamed.

Tennis elbow pain is usually centered right in the outer side of the elbow, and just below the joint, but it can also radiate further down the arm and into the wrist. There might be a burning sensation in the muscle on the outer forearm. Pain and weakness in the elbow and wrist can make it difficult to perform regular actions like holding a cup or using a computer mouse.

Golfer’s elbow is a similar condition in that it is also an overuse injury that causes weakness and pain in the forearm. The difference is that with golfer’s elbow, also known as medial epicondylitis, the inflammation and microtearing occur in the muscles and tendons involved in flexing the arm rather than extending it, or bending the wrist inward towards the palm with a lot of force or speed. These are located on the inner part of the elbow and forearm. This type of repetitive use condition can be the result of swinging a golf club, throwing a baseball, hitting a forceful spin serve in tennis, but also such activities as shovelling, using a heavy tool like an axe or chainsaw, or even just carrying a heavy suitcase with your hand and wrist wrapped around the handle.

Tennis elbow pain can be resolved with rest, but for many people, complete rest is not a feasible or desirable option. Acupuncture treatment has been shown to help provide significant pain relief for tennis elbow. Acupuncture treatment can help to reduce inflammation and improve blood flow to injured areas to aid and speed healing of various types of tendonitis.

Top 5 Symptoms of Tennis Elbow

elbow pain forearm pain
Pain in the outer elbow or forearm pain are signs of tennis elbow.

Signs of tennis elbow usually develop slowly over time and are not caused by any obvious single injury. 

  1. Elbow pain or pain on the outside of the forearm, burning sensation in the outer part of elbow, stiff elbow
  2. Pain that radiates down to the wrist, wrist pain, stiff wrist
  3. Stiffness of the elbow, especially first thing in the morning
  4. Weak grip strength, reduced grip strength
  5. More severe pain when gripping an object, like a mug or racquet

Symptoms of golfer’s elbow are similar, except that the pain is located on the inner side of the elbow or forearm, as opposed to the outer side. Pain is more likely to radiate to the fourth and fifth fingers (ring finger and pinky finger) than to the wrist. You may feel pain when making a fist.

Wrist pain, tingling in the fingers, and weak grip strength can also be signs of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Medical Treatment for Tennis Elbow

The standard treatment for Tennis Elbow begins with rest, icing, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs like Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen) to reduce pain and swelling. If the pain persists, or perhaps if a person is not able to avoid the activities that are causing the inflammation, doctors may recommend wearing a brace and may administer steroid injections. 

Surgical treatment for tennis elbow is relatively rare and only recommended in cases where rest and pain management medications are not working. An arthroscopic procedure to remove damaged and scarred tissue can help repair the muscles and tendons, but there is usually a long recovery time after the surgery.

A newer form of treatment for chronic tendon pain and inflammation is the F.A.S.T. procedure (Focused Aspiration of Scar Tissue). This is a less invasive procedure that uses ultrasound imaging and ultrasonic technology to remove tiny bits of damaged tissue without any incisions. Recovery time after this procedure is much shorter than with regular tennis elbow surgery.

While pharmacological treatment for pain may help to reduce immediate suffering, medications like NSAIDs and steroid injections come with significant side effects, even if they aren’t immediately apparent. Using these kinds of medications long-term to alleviate chronic pain can take their toll, sometimes causing gastrointestinal distress, weight gain, sleep problems, and other side effects that have a negative impact on overall health. Acupuncture treatment can act as an analgesic to relieve pain without any negative side effects. In fact, the side effects of acupuncture treatment are usually beneficial, including increased circulation, immune function, and stress relief.

Can Acupuncture Treat Tennis Elbow?

TCM massage pain relief
TCM massage can relieve tennis elbow pain.

The treatment of chronic pain and inflammation with TCM goes back for many centuries. We use acupuncture and other methods to help relieve pain and reduce inflammation related to shoulder pain, knee pain, hip pain, neck pain, sprained ankle, and foot pain. TCM uses a variety of modalities to treat orthopedic pain conditions, including: acupuncture treatment, electro-acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, Tui Na massage, exercise, and Chinese herbs in formulations for both internal (tea or pills) and external (pain patches) use. This multi-pronged approach can be very effective for reducing pain in the short term, while helping tissues to heal over time.

A controlled study in which patients suffering from lateral epicondylitis were divided into three groups and treated with either massage or acupuncture, or a combination of both, showed that patients who received the combination treatment experienced, for the most part, a complete recovery after twenty sessions.

Another controlled study that compared people suffering from chronic tennis elbow who were treated with real acupuncture versus sham acupuncture showed that at both the two week mark and the two month mark, people who had received acupuncture reported less pain and improved function of the arm joints.

Exercises and Pressure Points for Tennis Elbow Pain Prevention

tennis elbow exercises
Working with a flex bar can help improve grip strength.

If you are already experiencing tennis elbow pain or signs of golfer’s elbow, you may need to take some time off from sports or make accommodations to your work in order to rest the muscles and tendons of the forearm. Resting the arm is important for allowing inflammation to go down. Once you’re able to start exercising again, try these home remedies for tennis elbow that will help to prevent tendon problems in the future:

  1. To prevent repetitive stress conditions like tennis elbow and golfer’s elbow when playing sports, be sure to always warm up before playing and cool down afterwards. Practice your form, with a trainer if warranted, so that you know your technique is good and not contributing to pain or injury. Check your sports equipment regularly to make sure everything is in good condition and the right size and balance for you.
  2. Pressure points for tennis elbow: If you are experiencing pain in the elbow and forearm, you might try using this acupressure point to help tennis elbow pain: LI11 (Large Intestine Meridian 11) – located right in the crevice of the elbow crease, applying pressure to this point can help move Qi and blood through the joint and bring relief from tennis elbow pain. This point is also helpful for clearing heat and cooling you down after exercise, so it’s a good one to use right after a game or when you finish work.
  3. Exercises for Tennis Elbow – practicing gentle exercises that strengthen the muscles of the wrist and forearm can help prevent pain and tissue damage. Using light dumbbells or a flex bar can help with grip strength.

Acupuncture Near Me for Tennis Elbow on the Westside of Los Angeles

Whether you are an avid tennis player, or someone who works hard doing physical labor, elbow pain from lateral epicondylitis can really cramp your style. Athletes and active people of all ages need to take care of their bodies appropriately so as to avoid injuries that can lead to chronic pain. Adding acupuncture to your health regimen is a great way of providing basic maintenance for your body. Acupuncture treatment, therapeutic massage, and a good nutrition program can all help you keep your joints moving smoothly, without pain. At Art of Wellness, we have over 30 years of experience in helping to relieve orthopedic and musculoskeletal pain conditions.

 

 

*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 Toothaches With Acupuncture and TCM

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

toothache tooth pain
Acupuncture can help relieve tooth pain and dental anxiety.

Sharp tooth pain, toothache, or throbbing pain in teeth usually means you need to see the dentist. The pain of dental work often necessitates the use of anesthetics, while post-operative pain from dental surgery is usually treated with over the counter pain medications or opioid painkillers. Acupuncture offers an alternative way of dealing with dental pain and can also relieve the dental anxiety many people experience when they have to have dental work done.

Oral pain makes it hard to eat, hard to talk, hard to even think straight. Mouth pain felt in relation to problems with the teeth, or a hurting tooth, is often nerve pain that may be sharp in one place, or radiate to other parts of your face and head. Acupuncture acts upon the neurotransmitters that carry signals between parts of the body and the brain, helping to block pain sensations and relieving tooth pain. 

Different types of mouth pain, not necessarily related to dental problems or the teeth, can also be alleviated by acupuncture, including TMJ jaw pain, clicking or locking of the jaw, tension from grinding teeth, and dry mouth (xerostomia). Myofascial pain, pain in the muscles of the face, and migraines that cause pain in the neck and side of the head can also be helped with acupuncture treatment.

Acupuncture and herbs do not replace the need for regular dental visits or necessary dental procedures. However, TCM methods, used in conjunction with good oral hygiene, can help to promote the development of strong teeth in children, and the maintenance of healthy teeth and gums in adults. TCM treatments help improve immune function, as well, which can help prevent mouth infections.

While dentists have a variety of anesthetics they can use to help reduce pain during dental procedures, many people find the injection of anesthetic to be painful and anxiety-inducing in and of itself. There are definitely downsides to the pain relief offered during dental visits, so much so that many people avoid going to the dentist, or at the very least wish there was some alternative form of anesthesia. Recently, there is growing interest and research to show that acupuncture can be an effective means of providing pain relief before, during, and after dental procedures.

It is estimated that up to 30% of people report feeling dental anxiety, while about 10% of patients experience dental phobia. Acupuncture has been shown to help produce a clinically significant decrease in feelings of anxiety or fear of going to the dentist.

Managing Dental Pain

dental pain dental anxiety
Acupuncture can help reduce the need for dental anesthesia.

It is common to experience pain while you are waiting to get into the dentist for a toothache caused by a broken filling or because a crown has fallen out. Most dental pain is usually managed with non-steroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), also known as OTC pain medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. However, some people cannot tolerate the regular use of these medicines, as they can cause damage to the lining of the stomach.

Different types of anesthesia used during dental work include: 

  • local anesthetics (lidocaine, articaine, etc.), which numb the area where a tooth is being worked on 
  • sedation (nitrous oxide gas, Valium, Versed, etc.), which helps relax the patient
  • general anesthesia, which means a patient is rendered unconscious for the duration of the dental procedure

Pain after oral surgery is most often treated with over the counter analgesics like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, but severe dental pain may be treated with opioid painkillers. Dentists in the U.S. are far more likely to prescribe opioid pain medications than they do in other countries. Dentists are also more likely to prescribe long-acting opioids, and to prescribe opioids for a longer period of time. The growing numbers of people addicted to opioids in America is largely due to over-prescription of these drugs. TCM methods like acupuncture can relieve a toothache and reduce post-operative pain and bleeding without side effects or risk of dependence.

Can Acupuncture Help Tooth Pain?

Acupuncture treatment has an analgesic effect, reducing pain and inflammation of all kinds. Acupuncture not only offers natural pain relief for toothache, but can also help reduce bleeding during dental procedures such as tooth extractions.

A controlled study that compared two groups of patients have teeth extracted, one group treated with articaine hydrochloride injections and the other groups treated with acupuncture needles, found that pain relief was comparable between the anesthesia and acupuncture groups, while bleeding was less amongst those patients given acupuncture.

In addition to helping with pain and bleeding during and after a dental procedure, many people find it helpful to come in and have an acupuncture treatment just prior to their dental appointment in order to help alleviate anxiety. Acupuncture may also help to reduce a person’s gag reflex, which can be easily triggered during fittings for orthodontic devices, or impressions.

With acupuncture treatment, we can also effectively treat dental anxiety, allowing for patients to feel more relaxed going into their dental appointment and feel less pain during and after a dental procedure.

Top 3 Pressure Points to Help Tooth Pain

acupressure point LI4 for tension-type headaches
Acupressure point LI4 is helpful for both headaches and toothaches.

Acupressure has been shown to help reduce anxiety, gag reflex, and the need for dental injections for pain during fittings for prosthetics. Specific points on the head and face, in particular, can help relieve toothache and swelling.

If you are experiencing acute tooth pain, plan to see your dentist as soon as possible. In the meantime, using these acupressure points for toothaches can help you stay calm and alleviate the pain until you can get treatment.

  1. ST6, Stomach Meridian Point 6, is located in the cheek, equidistant between the corner of the mouth and the earlobe. Apply pressure to the jaw muscle here to help relieve toothache and jaw pain.
  2. SI18, Small Intestine Meridian Point 18, is right in the cheek hollow, perpendicular to the corner of the eye and outside of the nose. Apply pressure to this point to help relieve tooth pain and swollen gums.
  3. LI4, Large Intestine Meridian Point 4, is located in the webbing between the thumb and index finger. Squeeze with firm pressure here. Often used to relieve headaches, but this point helps tooth pain, as well.

Acupuncture Near Me for Tooth Pain on the Westside of Los Angeles

No one likes going to the dentist. However, if you have a hurting tooth but you’ve been avoiding the dentist out of fear, or if you know you have to have some major work done, and you are dreading it, please consider scheduling an acupuncture appointment before your next dentist appointment. Discover for yourself how acupuncture can help relieve dental anxiety and post-procedural dental pain. You may find you feel much more relaxed about the whole thing, and herbs and acupuncture can help staunch bleeding and speed recovery after dental work.

 

 

*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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The Ultimate Guide to the Acupuncture Point on Head for Headaches

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by Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

acupuncture pressure points on head
There are many pressure points on the head

Why does the TCM doctor always put an acupuncture needle in top of head? If you’ve had acupuncture before, it’s likely that your acupuncturist used some acupuncture points on head during your treatments. Using pressure points on the head is something TCM doctors do often, because there are so many useful acupressure points on the head, especially acupuncture points top of head. There are head pressure points for headaches, points to relieve migraines, acupressure head points to help anxiety, fatigue, allergies, and many other conditions.

Even if you’re coming in for acupuncture to help some other condition, whether it’s chronic pain, an autoimmune disease, heart problems, or kidney problems, probably at some point your acupuncture practitioner is going to use acupoints on head to help you relax during your treatment. Every single person who comes into our office for acupuncture is suffering from some form of stress, and using certain points on the top of the head can help with stress relief right away.

Other common reasons to use pressure points in neck and head include:

Why are pressure points on the head so powerful? To answer this question, let us explain a bit about the meridian system in TCM.

TCM Meridian Head Points

meridians acupuncture TCM acupuncture points head
Points along the meridians

TCM is based on interdependent systems of organs and energy channels that run through the body. The channels are known as meridians, and along them flows Qi, the life energy that animates the body and all of its functions. There are 12 major meridians and 8 major vessels; the meridians are close to the surface of the skin, and the vessels, which essentially connect all the meridians, are deeper inside the body. While the way in which we think of the meridian pathways is more metaphorical than physical in nature, they can be considered roughly analogous to the circulatory system of blood vessels or the network of nerves of the nervous system as we think of them in conventional Western medicine. 

Along the meridians lie acupoints, specific points that we stimulate with acupuncture needles during acupuncture treatment or with the fingers and thumbs during acupressure massage. The interconnectedness of the organs, meridians, and individual points is the foundation of acupuncture theory.

We use specific points on a meridian in order to address issues in a particular organ or organ system that corresponds (energetically) with that meridian. There are several pressure points for head and neck pain, points to help relieve allergies, pressure points for frontal headache, and more.

Several of the major meridians originate or end in the head: 

  • Gall Bladder (GB) meridian – points of the gall bladder meridian wrap around the side of the head, the forehead above the eyebrow, the temple, around the ear, and down the back side of the neck–just as the pain of a migraine often does. Then it continues down from the intersection of the neck and shoulder, zig-zagging across the torso, and finally running down the leg and ending in the fourth toe. This meridian is used to treat severe headaches, stress, tension that affects the shoulder and neck, and bile-related problems.
  • Large Intestine (LI) meridian – begins at the points of the index finger, travels up the arm, through the shoulder and neck, then comes up to the lower corner of the nose. This meridian is involved in “letting go,” both from the eliminatory organs of the lower body, and exhalations from the nose.
  • Stomach (ST) meridian – the ST meridian starts near the eye, swoops up to the side of the top of the head, comes down next to the mouth, and continues down through the neck, chest, center of the body, down the leg, ending at the point of the second toe. This meridian is used to treat Shen (spirit) disorders, like insomnia, anxiety, palpitations, memory problems, and blood deficiency.
  • Small intestine (SI) meridian – originates in the little finger, runs up the arm into the shoulder and then branches out, some of it going into the major organs of the heart, stomach, and small intestine; then other branches go up into the face, by the cheekbone and right in front of the center of the ear. The SI is used to treat fevers and mental health conditions, among other things.
  • Bladder (UB) Meridian – begins at the inner canthus of the eyes, goes up and over the top of the head, about an inch away from the midline on either side, and then all the way down the back and leg, ending in the little toe. Used to help with invasion disorders (wind, cold, heat etc.) that affect the eyes, sinus headaches, allergies, stuffy head, neck pain and stiffness.
  • Triple burner meridian, also known as San Jiao (SJ) – begins at the tip of the ring finger, then goes up the arm, through the shoulder and chest, up the side of the neck and comes up around the ear, and into the temple and outer brow bone. The San Jiao head points are used to work on dizziness, headaches, eye twitching, and dental pain.
  • Conception vessel – also known as the Functional Channel, or the Front Channel, or Ren Mai, this vessel originates at the navel, then drops down to the perineal area, and  runs back up the center of the front of the body, ending in a point on the chin, in the dip just under the lower lip. This vessel controls the Yin energy of the body and is essential to the health of the reproductive organs and fertility.
  • Governing vessel, also known as the Extraordinary vessel, the “Sea of Yang” or Du Mai – originates in the lower back near the kidneys, runs up the spine and around and over the top of the head, ending in the middle of the face. This vessel controls the Yang energy of the body, and in particular the kidneys, the back and spine.

Top 10 Acupuncture Points on Head

acupressure point for memory
These acupressure points on the top of the head can help improve your memory.

Of course, your acupuncturist will not only use acupoints on your head during a treatment session. We choose a variety of points that will work together to alleviate symptoms and help optimize the functioning of the organs. These specific head points may be used as part of a treatment to work on a specific symptom or condition:

  1. Yin Tang, or the “Hall of Impression” – this is what is called an “extraordinary point,” meaning it doesn’t really belong to a meridian; it stands on its own. Right in the third eye, it is used to reduce anxiety, vertigo (dizziness), help promote better sleep, clear wind and congestion, and relieve sinus pain and headache.
  2. DU21 –  Shen Ting, “Spirit Court” – Right in the front middle of the top of the head, about an inch above the hairline. This is one of the pressure points for frontal headache, also good for sinusitis, nosebleeds, anxiety, panic attacks, and sleep problems. 
  3. DU 20 – Baihui, or “The meeting of the 100s” – right in the very center of the top of the head, master of endocrine and nervous system, used for anxiety, fatigue, mental focus, relaxation, hypothyroid, adrenal problems, hormone imbalance, headaches.
  4. Si Shen Chong – “Four Alert Spirit” – this is actually a set of four “extraordinary points,” which surround DU20. Very helpful for sleep disorders, memory disorders, dizziness, and headaches.
  5. GB20 – Feng Chi, “Wind Pool,” low back of the head, where the skull meets the neck muscles, helps headaches, migraine, blurred vision, fatigue, neck pain and stiffness. We may use this point when a patient has a cold; this is a point where cold wind can get into the body, and why it is important to wear a scarf to protect your neck when it’s cold and windy out.
  6. Taiyang “Great Sun” –  Right in the depression of the temple, this point can help dizziness, one-sided headaches, migraines, sensitivity to light, and jaw pain, TMJ.
  7. GV26 Shui Gou – in the mustache area, between the nose and mouth, right in the center of the crease, this point helps to calm the mind and restore mental focus. Also used as first aid when a person faints or is in shock. Helps stop hiccups. Helps with serious neurological disorders like epilepsy, seizures. Also good for low back strain. 
  8. LI20 Ying Xiang “Welcome Fragrance” – located in the lower corner of the nose, right in the nasolabial groove, used to alleviate congestion, allergy itching in the nose, and to clear the nasal passages.
  9. ST8 – Touwei, about 5 finger widths above the eyebrow, dispels dampness, used for “splitting headaches,” frontal headache, migraines, headache with nausea and/or vomiting, vision problems, tearing eyes, eye twitching, dizziness/vertigo, hair loss. Helps with mental health, when a person is “overthinking” things, or having repetitive thoughts. 
  10. BL2 – Zhanzhu – located at the inner corner of the eyebrow, good for itchy, watery eyes due to allergies, other eyes problems like glaucoma, night blindness, and sinus headache. 

Facial Acupuncture Points

cosmetic acupuncture
Facial acupuncture points help improve skin’s elasticity for a more youthful look.

As we have mentioned, some pressure points on the face are used to help relieve sinus congestion, nasal congestion, and other issues related to common colds and flus or allergies. Points on the face may also be used to help the facial paralysis of Bell’s Palsy, or TMJ jaw pain.

Naturally, we also use acupuncture points on the face as acupuncture points for the face, that is, when we are striving for facial rejuvenation. This technique is sometimes called an acupuncture facial. Using points on the face can help to stimulate collagen production, help to tighten the skin, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and strengthen the facial muscles. People of all ages and genders can benefit from acupuncture skin care. Cosmetic acupuncture can treat signs of aging skin like sagging, puffiness under the eyes, and dryness.

Self-Care With Acupressure Head Points

acupressure head neck
Stimulating pressure points on your head and neck can relieve headache, migraine, and neck pain.

What is acupressure? Acupressure is a form of massage that goes back thousands of years in Chinese Medicine. Stimulating the same points we needle in acupuncture treatment with your fingers and thumbs can be beneficial for different types of headaches and neck stiffness, to calm anxiety, and bring more mental clarity.

Choose a time when your environment is quiet and free of distractions, the same as you would for a meditation practice or home workout. Be sure to breathe deeply and smoothly as you perform self-acupressure. Press firmly, applying deep pressure to a point in a small, gentle circular motion. Giving yourself an acupressure treatment only takes a few minutes, and it is a great way to take care of yourself between acupuncture sessions.

Acupuncture Near Me for Headaches and More

Every time you come in for acupuncture treatment, your TCM doctor is looking for ways to treat your overall condition, but also focusing on how you are feeling right now, today. Often, people are feeling tired and stressed, beyond and in addition to the health condition that caused them to seek out alternative medicine in the first place. Using points on the head that help fatigue, calm a racing mind, and reduce the physical effects of stress is one way that your acupuncturist is practicing preventative care, while at the same time, making sure you leave your treatment feeling rested and reenergized. The next time you come in for a visit, be sure to let us know how you’re feeling, and feel free to ask us, “What is that point on my head for?”

 

 

*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 Stop Snoring With Acupuncture and TCM

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

snoring sleep apnea
Snoring can happen because of the positioning of the neck and throat.

Have you been told you’re snoring loudly? Do you feel tired even after 8 hours of sleep? Waking up with a dry mouth, feeling tired all the time, and having trouble staying asleep at night are all signs that you might have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder in which normal breathing is interrupted repeatedly. Acupuncture and TCM offer a natural way to treat obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, fatigue, and other sleep-related problems.

Sleep Apnea (also known as sleep apnoea) is when a person does not breathe normally during sleep. When there is a pause in normal breathing during the night, the body is not getting enough oxygen, and the brain sends an urgent message to start breathing again. The person wakes, so briefly that they usually do not remember it, gasps for air and starts breathing again. Often people do not realize that they are snoring or making snorting or choking sounds while they sleep unless another person tells them it’s happening. Because of this, many cases of sleep apnea go undiagnosed, and people go on feeling fatigued all the time.

While people of any age or gender can experience sleep apnea, it is most common among older men. There are a few different kinds of sleep apnea; the most prevalent type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), in which the throat and/or airway is physically obstructed by the positioning of the neck, jaw, and soft tissues of the throat, like the tongue and uvula. OSA is associated with being overweight or obese, because extra weight can affect the musculature of the upper respiratory system. Women who have already gone through menopause are more likely to develop sleep apnea because postmenopausal weight gain is more likely to occur in the upper body than it does prior to menopause. Sleep problems and obesity are related in many ways; getting less sleep or poor quality sleep can cause people to gain weight or have trouble losing weight. People with diabetes and/or metabolic syndrome are also at higher risk for obstructive sleep apnea.

Besides disturbing sleep and causing fatigue, apnea can lead to other serious health conditions, especially cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and stroke. Sleep apnea can increase the heart rate and the production of stress hormones. Men with OSA are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction (ED). Lack of quality sleep can also have a negative impact on mental health, contributing to depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline.

The typical treatment for snoring involves the use of a sleep apnea machine, called a CPAP machine (continuous positive air pressure machine), which pushes air into the nose while you sleep, ensuring that the airway stays open and continuously active. This treatment can help people breathe easier throughout the night, but some people may find the machine noisy and uncomfortable.

TCM methods like acupuncture treatment for snoring and sleep apnea offer a way to address these problems at their source holistically, helping people to sleep well and breathe more freely.

Top 3 Types of Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea causes loss of oxygen due to shallow breathing (hypopnea) and/or interrupted breathing while sleeping. Different types of sleep apnea are classified by their physiological causes:

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – this is caused by the improper relaxation of the throat muscles while sleeping.
  2. Central sleep apnea (CSA) – is caused by disordered signalling from the brain to the organs that control breathing.
  3. Complex sleep apnea – (or treatment emergent sleep apnea) is a combination of both of the above.

Restless legs syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a condition wherein a person has an uncontrollable urge to move the legs, or sometimes arms or other parts of the body, accompanied by a sensation of itching, burning, crawling or throbbing. This usually happens when the person is lying in bed, trying to fall asleep. Restless leg syndrome can coexist with OSA, compounding the problem by making it difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep during the night.

Narcolepsy is a sleeping disorder in which overwhelming sleepiness during the daytime causes people to suddenly and uncontrollably fall asleep. Many people who suffer from narcolepsy also have sleep apnea. In this case, the sleep problem is not related to breathing so much as how the brain and body are moving through sleep cycles, like REM sleep. For people who have narcolepsy, treatment with a CPAP machine is often not very helpful.  

Sleep apnea or snoring does not seem to be related to other abnormal sleeping behaviors (parasomnia), such as sleepwalking, night terrors, or sleep-related eating.

Top 10 Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

fatigue tiredness sleep apnea snoring
Daytime sleepiness can be due to sleep apnea.

Many people snore and do not realize it. It is important to pay attention to the subtler sleep apnea symptoms. Signs of sleep apnea include:

  1. Loud snoring
  2. Interrupted breathing – moments during the night when the person’s breathing actually stops and then starts again
  3. Gasping for air while sleeping
  4. Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
  5. Headaches in the morning
  6. Insomnia, difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep during the night
  7. Feeling very sleepy during the daytime (hypersomnia)
  8. Difficulty paying attention
  9. Feeling irritable
  10. Getting up often during the night to urinate (nocturia)

What Causes Snoring?

snoring congestion sleep apnea
respiratory and nasal congestion can cause snoring

Sleep apnea is caused either by a physical obstruction of the throat and airways or by problems with brain signals to the breathing apparatus. Not everyone who has sleep apnea snores loudly. On the other hand, not everyone who snores necessarily has sleep apnea. Other reasons people snore may include:

  1. Congestion of the nose due to a cold or allergies
  2. In late pregnancy, the growing belly puts upward pressure on the respiratory system
  3. Sleeping pills, medications that work as relaxants, like Ativan or Valium
  4. Alcohol consumption
  5. Anatomy – large tongue or uvula, or swollen tonsils

People with sleep apnea are often advised to sleep on their side rather than on their back, as this helps prevent the obstruction, but it can be difficult for people to control their behavior while sleeping.

Treatment for Sleep Apnea

snoring sleep apnea
Snoring can disrupt your partner’s sleep. A CPAP machine might, too.

To firmly establish whether a person has sleep apnea, and what type, doctors will often evaluate the situation in a sleep study session. People will spend the night in a sleep center, where their heart and breathing functions are monitored (polysomnography). 

CPAP machines are generally considered to be the best care available for sleep apnea. These devices can help stop snoring, allow a person to get more restful sleep, and cut the risks of serious issues like heart disease that are associated with sleep apnea. However, the machine does not actually do anything to improve the weak musculature that causes OSA or the disordered signalling that causes CSA. It is possible to swallow air while breathing with the CPAP machine, which can lead to gas and a bloated stomach. Some people may find the face mask, which must be strapped to the face, uncomfortable. The noise of the machine may be disturbing to the person using it, as well as to the person’s bed partner. It may be difficult for some patients to get used to using the machine, and if they are not using it regularly, they are not getting the health benefits.

There are also some oral appliances available, such as mandibular advancement devices (MAD), which are worn in the mouth to alter the placement of the jaw and tongue in order to keep the airway open during sleep. These can also be effective in terms of helping people breathe better while they sleep. Compared to CPAP, they are quiet, discreet, and cost-effective. Again, the main question is whether a person will be able to tolerate the device; some people may experience toothache or dental pain, TMJ jaw pain, dry mouth, or too much saliva.

Surgery for snoring and sleep apnea is usually only recommended if other methods of treatment have failed. Different procedures involve removing soft tissues (uvula, tonsils, adenoids), or changing the shape of the jaw bones. Small rods may be inserted into the upper palate to help keep the airway open. A device that monitors breathing and stimulates movement of the tongue may be implanted in the chest.

Sometimes people may use melatonin as a natural sleep aid. Melatonin may have a positive impact in terms of helping people fall asleep more easily. It also has strong antioxidant properties, which means it may help with the control of the breathing apparatus and the amount of oxidation a person is getting while sleeping. While it is generally considered safe as a health supplement, melatonin side effects can include problems with dizziness, headaches, and nausea, and it can also be contraindicated with other medications. Melatonin can affect blood coagulation, so it may be unsafe to take if a person is also taking blood thinners, for example.

Can Acupuncture Help Stop Snoring?

According to TCM theory, the spleen and stomach are responsible for transforming nutrients from food and fluids into Qi (life energy), which is then delivered to the heart and lungs. In the TCM view, sleep apnea is often a problem related to phlegm and Qi stagnation, as are many conditions related to fatigue or insomnia. If phlegm builds up and becomes stagnant in the spleen, the lungs cannot get the Qi they need. So, one possible differentiation for sleep apnea is Spleen Deficiency with Qi Stagnation. This condition of dampness and phlegm will often cause people to feel heavy and bloated.

In some cases, too much internal heat contributes to the problem. Snoring, combined with sweating, and waking up with a sore throat, is a sign that we need to clear heat and toxicity from the body.

Sleep disturbed by nightmares is associated with the gallbladder, while difficulty falling asleep is associated with the liver. An acupuncture practitioner will listen carefully to what specific symptoms of sleep apnea each individual patient is experiencing, and tailor the treatment accordingly. 

A meta-analysis of over 200 randomized trials involving the use of acupuncture to treat sleep apnea concluded that acupuncture was more effective overall than CPAP treatment, in terms of improving breathing and oxygen levels.

Can Chinese herbs help snoring and sleep apnea? Specific herbs have been shown to help reduce inflammation and improve oxygen levels in patients with sleep apnea. Chinese herbal formulations can help stop snoring and reduce daytime fatigue.

Natural Remedies for Snoring

stomach meridian acupressure points
Acupressure points along the Stomach Meridian can help relieve snoring.

Acupressure can help snoring and sleep apnea. Since we are trying to clear heat and phlegm from the stomach, spleen, and large intestine, use acupressure points along the Stomach Meridian, which runs down the leg. On the front of the shin, apply pressure, kneading with your thumb, starting to the side of the shin bone a few inches below the knee, then moving down about 3 inches and doing the same thing. Knead each of the four points about 30 times as your move down the leg. If you are aware that one side of the nose is more blocked than the other while you are breathing during the night, practice the acupressure on the opposite leg. For example, if your left nostril is the one that is more stuffed up, do acupressure on the right leg.

Acupuncture Near Me for Snoring 

As the population ages, and unfortunately, more people suffer from obesity and metabolic syndrome, sleep apnea is a growing health concern all over the world. Snoring can have a seriously negative impact on quality of life, health, and longevity. Conventional methods of treatment for sleep apnea can be effective, but many people find CPAP uncomfortable and inconvenient for long-term use. If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, or are worried because your partner snores loudly at night and seems to be gasping for air, do not wait to get help. Acupuncture and TCM herbs can help relieve fatigue due to snoring and reduce the risk of more serious problems related to sleep apnea.

 

 

*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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