Acupressure

Acupuncture and TCM for Cancer – Integrative Oncology

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

acupuncture treatment
acupuncture treatment for cancer support

Until very recently, it seemed cancer was the one illness that had touched everyone’s life in some way. Cancer is the leading cause of death in the world. Almost 40% of the population will be diagnosed with some form of cancer at least once in their lives. We have all lost friends and relatives to this seemingly relentless form of disease. Doctors, scientists, researchers, and organizations have worked tirelessly in recent decades to develop life-saving treatments, and millions of people go on to live full lives as cancer survivors. 

Cancer is a broad term that refers to the unchecked growth of abnormal cells in the body. When the body’s mechanisms for getting rid of old cells begins to break down, these damaged cells begin to divide, in some cases forming masses, or tumors. These types of cancer are usually classified by the organs affected by the tumor, including gynecological cancers such as breast cancer, ovarian cancer, cervical cancer, and endometrial cancer, as well as prostate cancer in men, lung cancer, cancers of the gastrointestinal tract (pancreatic, stomach, esophageal, colon, rectal), thyroid, brain, spine, bladder, liver, and kidneys. Carcinomas refer to cancers affecting the skin, and sarcomas to cancers affecting the musculoskeletal system. Hematological cancers involve the proliferation of abnormal blood cells, including leukemia, lymphomas and multiple myeloma.

Written records of Traditional Chinese Medicine detection and treatment of cancerous growths go back over 2000 years. In recent decades, TCM has become more recognized as a way to complement and enhance contemporary methods of treating cancer. Integrative Oncology, in which the latest technological and pharmacological advances are combined with Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques and philosophy, forms a holistic way of working with cancer patients.

Cancer Treatment Options

chemotherapy
chemotherapy treatment

Cancer screening is a vital component of modern health care, as early detection offers the best chances for successful treatment. Data show that of the 18 million new cases detected in 2018, 5 million could have been discovered sooner and treated more effectively if we had higher rates of screeningUnfortunately, almost half of colorectal and cervical cancers and a third of breast cancers are not diagnosed until the disease is already in later stages, which makes them harder to treat.

When a cancerous growth is still localized, surgery and/or radiation treatment can remove or destroy much or all of the abnormal growth. When cancer has advanced to a later stage, and cells have spread through the body, then more systemic treatments are used, such as:

  • chemotherapy, which uses cytotoxic drugs to kill tumor cells
  • immunotherapy, a newer type of treatment, uses specifically designed synthetic antibodies to boost the body’s immune system. 
  • targeted therapy seeks to destroy the cancer cells without harming healthy tissues surrounding tumors. 

New treatment options are constantly being researched and tested, giving patients a better chance at stopping the cancer in its tracks.

However, most cancer treatments themselves can cause serious side effects that dramatically impact quality of life. Positive outcomes also vitally depend on a person’s ability to strengthen the body’s immune system while fighting the disease, as well as coping with the severe emotional stresses involved. Research has shown that acupuncture can significantly mitigate side effects of chemotherapy, radiation treatments and other conventional methods of treating cancer. 

Chemotherapy and radiation work by killing cancer cells. As these chemicals do not distinguish between normal and malignant cells, they can also damage surrounding tissues, creating more blockages. The synthetic drugs used also increase toxicity levels within the body. Acupuncture can help increase the production of white blood (immune) cells, detoxify the body and increase energy, so that the cancer can be eradicated, and new, healthy cells can flourish. Acupuncture can also improve sleep and relieve anxiety, so that hope and confidence can outweigh fears and exhaustion.

Acupuncture and TCM can be valuable for cancer patients throughout every stage of treatment, recovery and beyond, not only alleviating the pain and nausea associated with cancer treatments, but also boosting  immune function, relieving anxiety and depression, and even helping to prevent the cancer from coming back.

How Can Acupuncture Help with Cancer Treatment?

white blood cells
TCM can help improve white blood cell count

Acupuncture operates based on the philosophy that the body is powered by Qi – a life force energy – that runs along pathways throughout the body called meridians. Pain and diseases are caused by blockages in these pathways that prevent Qi and nutrient-rich blood from reaching and adequately supplying the organ systems of the body. When the body is balanced and functioning smoothly, the immune system is able to detect and eradicate pathogens on its own. Our bodies do this all the time. While genetic predisposition may increase some people’s cancer risk, the truth is everyone is susceptible to the formation of cancerous cells. When the body is healthy, it can sweep away mutated cells. But when the body is in a weakened state and energies are blocked, cancer cells are able to take hold, multiply, and grow.

Acupuncture can help relieve symptoms caused by the disease itself, as well as the side effects of treatment, including but not limited below:

  • neuropathy 
  • pain
  • nausea/vomiting 
  • dry mouth
  • fatigue
  • insomnia
  • depression & anxiety

In addition to providing palliative care for these symptoms, acupuncture treatment works on a deeper level to strengthen Qi, revitalize blood, and restore healthy functioning to the organ systems. The combination of acupuncture treatment to stimulate specific points and herbs to act on chemical/elemental imbalances can approach the root cause of the abnormal cell growth.

Acupuncture for Cancer Treatment Side Effects

acupressure point p6 for nausea
acupressure point P6 helps relieve nausea

The most common side effects of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and immunotherapy are gastrointestinal in nature. Nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea are caused by the medications involved, which may be administered intravenously or by mouth. The extent to which a patient feels nauseated depends on many factors: the location of the cancer being treated in the body, the dosage of the medications, the timing of administration, and a person’s prior susceptibility to nausea and vomiting. Treatment for tumors in the brain, liver, or gastrointestinal tract–such as esophageal, pancreatic, colon, or stomach cancers–is more likely to cause vomiting. Women, in general, are more likely to experience severe nausea. Antiemetic drugs or stomach acid-reducing medication like Esmeprazole can sometimes help with the nausea, but they don’t work in many cases. One controlled study showed that acupuncture given to patients undergoing chemotherapy reduced the duration and frequency of unpleasant gastric upsets. The TCM providers in this case used acupuncture points to reduce spasming of the stomach and intestines, while strengthening liver and spleen function to improve digestion and absorption. The patients given acupuncture ended up spending less time in the hospital.

Using acupressure point PC6, located below the wrist on the inner forearm in between the two tendons, is very effective for controlling nausea. Relief of retching and vomiting helps patients withstand chemotherapy sessions better and helps keep appetite and proper nutrition up.

Another side effect of chemotherapy is neutropenia, or low white blood cell count. This is especially prevalent amongst patients being treated for bone marrow cancers, such as leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. The low level of bacteria-fighting immune cells puts people at higher risk for developing infections during the course of their treatment. A study involving women with ovarian cancer suggested that acupuncture treatment helped patients maintain higher levels of white blood cells and neutrophils. The study also suggested that acupuncture measurably reduced cortisol levels, positively impacting patients’ stress.

Protecting cancer patients from side effects of chemotherapy such as neutropenia and severe nausea allows them to adhere more closely to their treatment programs, which can improve outcomes.

Acupuncture for Late Stage Cancer Pain and Neuropathy

Pain is, unfortunately, the most pervasive symptom experienced by people with cancer, yet this pain is often inadequately treated with analgesics. Recent epidemic-level problems with opiate use mean that doctors and patients are hesitant to use these powerful medications, which can lead to addiction. Acupuncture offers an alternative method for reducing pain naturally, without any additional risks involved. 

Cancer pain can be pathophysiologically caused by tumorous growths themselves causing compression around other tissues and nerves. It can also be caused by secondary tissue damage created by chemotherapy, radiation, hormone therapy, or surgeries. When nerves are damaged, neuropathy pain can result.

To manage all of the different types of pain, patients are often prescribed some combination of acetaminophen, opiates, anti-inflammatories, anticonvulsants, corticosteroids, and antidepressants. All of these can cause serious side effects, and some patients will build up a tolerance to the medications, reducing their efficacy. Some people develop a dependence or addiction.

Pain, as a subjective experience, affects emotional and mental health as much as it does the physical body. Pain can be amplified by the very real fear that it will only get worse or never end. Adequate pain management is vital to keeping a positive frame of mind and hopeful attitude. When pain is reduced, attention and energy can be freed up for increased healing and motivation to maintain healthy behaviors that will improve the chances for recovery and prevent recurrence.

Most people who seek out acupuncture do so for chronic pain conditions. While much of how TCM works is still unproven by scientific study, many research studies have shown that acupuncture is an effective modality for pain relief, such that it is now widely accepted as an adjunct by the medical community. Acupuncture treatment can be used on its own to help alleviate pain, or in addition to pain medications, in which case it will help both to address the pain and to mitigate the side effects of the drugs.

Top 3 Tips for Cancer Prevention

green cruciferous vegetables
Eat plenty of greens & cruciferous veggies

TCM is preventative medicine. It is always best to manage lifestyle for maximum health in order to prevent disease from forming in the first place. While some people are more at risk for developing certain kinds of cancer than others, everyone can benefit from healthy habits that reduce these risks. Regular acupuncture treatments help balance Qi and maintain good flow between the organ systems of the body. But it is up to each individual to eat in such a way that the cells receive abundant nutrient-rich blood, to avoid toxins whenever possible, and to move the body frequently and with intention.

  1. Green tea contains chemicals called polyphenols, especially EGCG. These antioxidants inhibit the kind of cell damage that leads to cancer growth. Green tea has less caffeine than coffee or black tea, and can be drunk throughout the day.
  2. Exercise – Many studies have shown that increased physical activity reduces the risks of specific types of cancer, such as: pancreatic, endometrial, breast, colon cancer, esophageal, kidney, and stomach cancer. Exercise prevents cancerous growth by helping to regulate hormone levels, preventing high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and obesity, and reducing inflammation throughout the body.
  3. Healthy diet – A well-rounded food program lowers the risk of cancer. Focus on whole foods such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Salmon is full of omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to help fight cancer. Other fish that can help reduce the risk of endometrial cancer in women include halibut, sardines and tuna. Cruciferous vegetables are especially full of nutrients and fiber. Included in this family of vegetables are broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, brussel sprouts, kale, cabbage, and bok choy. Cruciferous vegetables are high potent anti-cancer phytochemicals. Studies have shown that this vegetable group has the ability to stop the growth of cancer cells for tumors in the breast, uterine lining, lung, colon, liver, and cervix. And studies that track the diets of people over time have found that diets high in cruciferous vegetables are linked to lower rates of prostate cancer. Eat fruits and  vegetables raw or only lightly steamed so they retain their cancer fighting phytochemicals. Go for at least one of these greens on a daily basis: arugula, beet greens, bok choy, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, Napa cabbage, collard greens, daikon, rutabaga, chard, watercress, pea shoots, spinach.

Acupuncture Near Me for Cancer Support

Acupuncture provides palliative care for the many intense discomforts of cancer and cancer treatment. But TCM goes beyond pain relief. Regular acupuncture treatments combined with lifestyle changes can improve patients’ ability to defeat cancer now, and to prevent cancers in the future.

When you or a loved one is fighting cancer, building a team of doctors who will work together to provide integrative health care can increase the chances of survival and recovery.

 

 

*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.

How to Treat Anxiety With TCM and Acupuncture

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

Anxiety and Stress
It isn’t all in your head

Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety or apprehension at times. Sometimes people suffer from excessive feelings of dread or panic, even when they are not in immediate danger. In some cases, the complex cascade of emotional and physical sensations encompassed by the term Anxiety is so pervasive that it becomes a chronic mental health condition. TCM and Acupuncture offer a natural, highly effective treatment option to reduce anxiety symptoms.

We are currently living in a particularly harsh reality in which human life is filled with setbacks and potential danger. There is always a chance that something bad might happen to you or someone close to you. In recent weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has understandably created a pervasive sense of worry amongst the population, and the numbers of people filling prescriptions for anxiety-related medications, antidepressants and sleep aids has increased dramatically.

Anxiety is clinically defined as a persistent feeling of worry, accompanied by physical sensations such as heart palpitations, dizziness, and sweating. Sometimes people describe it as being similar to the sensations you feel when you’ve tripped and you’re falling, except that the scary feeling persists for a long time; it doesn’t go away even when nothing is happening. Anxiety disorder is a very common mental health condition experienced by people of all ages; every year about 20% of Americans seek medical help for symptoms related to anxiety. 

If you are feeling heightened levels of distress that are affecting your ability to sleep, focus, or care for yourself or others, please be assured that help is available. Acupuncture and other TCM treatment modalities offer a safe alternative to pharmacological drugs that can cause side effects and potentially lead to dependency and withdrawal symptoms. A qualified acupuncturist will conduct an in-depth consultation and create a program designed to specifically address each patient’s individual combination of symptoms and life situation.

What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety?

Doctors classify types of anxiety disorders into several sub-categories, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Phobia-related Disorders, and Separation Anxiety (anxiety in children).

The most common symptoms of various types of Anxiety include:

  • Rapid or labored breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat or tachycardia
  • Feeling “on edge” or irritable
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach upset
  • Anxiety headache 

Each person will present with a unique combination of symptoms and sensations, along with her own “triggers” or things that seem to cause the symptoms to manifest. Most people who seek medical care for their anxiety symptoms are either prescribed psychiatric tranquilizing medications such as Xanax or Atavan, referred for psychotherapy, or both. Some doctors use antidepressants such as Zoloft, Lexapro or Prozac to treat anxiety. These Selective Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) may help reduce symptoms in some cases, but all of these types of medications can cause side effects and lead to dependency. TCM and Acupuncture treatments not only address specific symptoms of anxiety, but address the root causes of the disorder.

TCM Deals With All Types of Anxiety Disorders 

anxiety can cause fatigue
Anxiety can increase feelings of isolation.

Anxiety, like all mental health disorders, carries the disadvantage of being “invisible.” Other people, and even many medical professionals, simply can’t see physical evidence of the problem, and can’t empathize with the suffering involved. Well-meaning family members and friends might offer suggestions to “calm down” or reminders to stay positive, all with the implication that nothing is really wrong or that “it’s all in your head.” Being plagued with constant self-doubt further amplifies the problem. Anxiety is a real health issue, and TCM offers effective modalities to address it.

Modern medicine has only recently begun to make the connection between emotional and physical maladies. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), on the other hand, has acknowledged for centuries that the mental, emotional and physical experiences of human beings are all inextricably linked. Sometimes a physical injury or traumatic experience can set the stage for a mental health problem. For example, a car accident that creates even minor injuries to the body might trigger future panic attacks, phobias, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Other times, a mental health condition like chronic Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) can affect sleep, eating, and other behaviors to such an extent that a person becomes more susceptible to illness and disease. It would not be surprising to see an increase in cases of Agoraphobia (fear of leaving one’s home) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD, which sometimes causes compulsive hand-washing and cleaning as well as hoarding behaviors) as a result of the current coronavirus pandemic. 

Anxiety disorders already tend to lead to feelings of isolation. Now that most people are spending far more time alone or sequestered with family members and roommates, already existing feelings of fear may be exacerbated. People who have never had to cope with anything beyond normal, mild anxiety may suddenly find themselves feeling real panic for the first time. Additionally, some might feel guilty or ashamed about reaching out for help for these problems when there are so many other people hurting for more apparent reasons. But there is real help for anxiety, and getting that help during this time of crisis makes sense. There is no need to suffer. Find acupuncture near me to address anxiety symptoms and the root causes before the problem becomes more severe and chronic.

Acupuncture for Controlling Anxiety

shen men ear point
Shen men ear point for anxiety relief

Conventional medicine generally attributes anxiety disorders to abnormal functioning of the brain and nervous system. The feelings associated with anxiety – the emotional sense of worry, the breathlessness and restlessness of the body, the behavioral instincts to freeze or to run – are all exaggerated responses to stress. Stress is the body’s natural reaction to perceived dangers in the environment. When something threatens us, the sympathetic nervous system kicks into gear, and the adrenal glands pump out the hormones that flood the body with energy–what is often referred to as the “fight or flight” response. Normally, once the threat has passed, adrenaline will take some time to move through the body and then dissipate, and a feeling of relaxation is eventually restored. When a person has an anxiety disorder, this hormone release can be triggered by thoughts, and the fear of the physical response itself becomes a part of the vicious cycle.

Acupuncture treatment has been shown to act upon the nervous system, facilitating the release of serotonin, endorphins and noradrenaline, all of which contribute to relaxation and a sense of well-being. Stimulation of specific points have been clinically proven to reduce perceived feelings of anxiety as well as reducing the heart rate and blood pressure of patients. Auricular acupuncture, which specifically uses points on the ear, has been shown to be effective for anxiety. This method is particularly useful, as patients can be fitted with a tiny needle that can be stimulated with gentle pressure as needed to help alleviate symptoms as they appear.

Auricular acupuncture has been used for thousands of years, not only in China, but all over the world. Modern critical analysis has demonstrated that auricular acupuncture affects the parasympathetic nervous system in ways that help alleviate pain and reduce anxiety symptoms. Electro-stim acupuncture, or electro-acupuncture, is another effective modality used by TCM doctors.

How Does Acupuncture Benefit  Anxiety Relief of Panic Attacks?

One of the great advantages of acupuncture treatment over conventional methods of talk therapy and pharmacological intervention is that it has an immediately discernible effect. Patients often leave an acupuncture session with a deep sense of calm and relaxation. Reports of improved sleep usually follow quickly. In addition, the long-term effects of regular acupuncture sessions are cumulative, and people report a sustained decrease in episodes of anxiety and panic attacks.

One controlled study compared groups of patients treated with a regimen of acupuncture with moxibustion to a group prescribed a type of benzodiazepine medication. The results showed higher efficacy in reducing anxiety symptoms among the patients receiving acupuncture.

TCM Doctors’ Top 10  Suggestions on Self Care for Anxiety 

Dr. Tan meditating
Journey inward with meditation practice.

Here are some natural remedies for anxiety you can utilize at home. With consistent practice, these habits will help alleviate stress and reduce anxiety symptoms. 

  1. Meditation for anxiety– Those struggling with anxiety may well be tired of hearing well-meaning friends suggesting they “Relax!” or “just breathe.” But studies have shown that regular meditation practice can significantly reduce anxiety. There are many methods; it is important to find a method that works for you. This study suggested mindfulness meditation may be especially effective.
  2. Waterfall Meditation –  In this exercise, imagine yourself at the base of a waterfall. As you breathe in and out, picture the water gently raining down on you, trickling down each route until the tension inside you releases, relaxing parts of your body one section at a time. Allow your entire body to enter a peaceful and relaxed state. Let the image of the water wash away any stress or anxiety that burdens you.
  3. Physical Exercise – By now it has been well documented that regular exercise is good for health in every way, lowering the risks of all types of chronic disease. Movement helps reduce anxiety symptoms by reducing adrenal reactivity, increasing the output of endorphins and endogenous (naturally produced in the body) opioids, and even stimulating the growth of new brain cells. It is also suggested that exercise functions as a type of exposure therapy. When people become more used to the sensations of an increased heart rate, heavier breathing, and sweating due to cardiovascular activity, it increases their tolerance for these same symptoms when they appear as part of an episode of anxiety. If you are able to go for a walk or run while following social distancing guidelines, it is especially helpful to get some sun exposure, as well. Put on some music or a favorite workout video; rhythmic movement that engages the large muscle groups provides great benefits.
  4. Tai Chi and Chi Gong –These ancient traditional forms are “moving meditations” that work upon the endocrine circulatory, and nervous systems to balance energies and strengthen Qi.
  5. Good Eating Habits – Caffeine, sugar, processed and spicy foods can trigger anxiety. Complex carbohydrates like brown rice, barley, quinoa and oats are relaxing, as are nuts and chickpeas, which contain tryptophan. Now is a good time to become more intimately involved with preparing dishes at home, and this process can also be soothing: a mindfulness exercise that results in a healthy meal! Your TCM provider will provide more detailed instructions for a nutrition program for your specific situation.
  6. Stress Reduction –Reducing stress goes hand in hand with reducing anxiety. Especially now, carefully manage your daily activities so as not to become overwhelmed. Allot a short period of time for checking the latest news and catching up with friends; then consciously disengage from screens and virtual realities. Social media has already been called into question for its apparent increase of anxiety among teenagers, but it has a real impact on people of all ages. Comparing your situation and surroundings to the carefully curated content you see on sharing platforms can make you feel pressure, shame, a sense of inadequacy. Commit to being grounded in your immediate surroundings and grateful for the blessings that are in your life right now. Recognize that, while it is important to educate yourself about the novel coronavirus, many of the opinions being expressed online are not informed and are designed to provoke an emotional reaction. Avoid reading comments that you know might be triggering. 
  7. Sleep position can affect headaches
    Acupuncture treatments can alleviate sleep anxiety.

    Sleep Better to Combat Sleep Anxiety – Repetitive, OCD intrusive thoughts and restless energy within the body can make sleeping difficult when you are experiencing sleep anxiety. Cortisol–another stress hormone–levels tend to rise in the evening, and many people register this sensation as anxiety at night. Eating simple carbohydrates like sweets or chips suppresses cortisol and offers a temporary feeling of relaxation. But consuming these foods or alcohol to artificially reduce stress leads to less restful sleep later. Dr. Tan and Dr. Cai can offer many suggestions for how to modify your habits to achieve a better night’s sleep.

  8. Learn a Language – Distance learning has quickly become an integral part of our lives. Many people are using their time at home to learn new skills. Now is a great time to learn a new language. Studying and practicing will help you focus your mind and instill a sense of accomplishment to help relieve anxiety.  
  9. Structure Your Days – Even though daily life has taken an unusual turn, maintaining a consistent schedule helps keep hormone and energy levels more consistent. Rise and retire at about the same time each day. Eat regular meals. Set aside hours for work and much-needed time for rest and relaxation. Creating a structure for your life helps you feel that you are controlling what you can.
  10. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercise – Use this exercise when feeling anxious or suffering a panic attack. This helps you ground yourself in reality by actively using your five senses. Look for the things, and then name them out loud. 
    1. 5 – Count five things in your immediate environment that you can SEE. 
    2. 4 – Count four things near you that you can TOUCH. 
    3. 3 – Count three things near you that you can HEAR. 
    4. 2 – Count two things you can SMELL. 
    5. 1 – Count one thing you can TASTE.     

How to Use 3 Acupressure Points for Anxiety Relief

shen men acupressure point
Shen Men acupressure point

Acupressure is a technique patients can use anytime for symptom relief. Apply gentle, firm pressure to these points.

  1. Liver 3 is a grounding point that helps redirect rising energy downward. Located between the first and second toes, you will find a very tender spot. Try applying gentle pressure here to alleviate irritability, headaches, TMJ, and anxiety. 
  2. You have probably seen the bands people sometimes wear around their wrists to prevent nausea. These are designed to put pressure on Pericardium 6, which quells queasiness. The point is located between the two tendons on your wrist, two fingers up from the wrist crease. Pressing on it is immediately calming. It helps to open the chest, as well, so if you feel tightness in the chest or shallow breathing, use this point. 
  3. Shen Men, called the “Spiritual gate” point, releases heart fire, excitement, anger, irritation and anxiety.

Look for Acupuncture near me in Los Angeles for Anxiety 

At Art of Wellness, one of the top 20 clinics in greater Los Angeles selected by experts, we are concerned that so many people are feeling the weight of these difficult times and having to go it alone. But we are here, committed to helping people whether they are suffering possible symptoms of COVID-19 or intense anxious feelings related to fear of the virus. Our office is currently open on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday during the pandemic period for acupuncture sessions. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us at 310-451-5522 or email us at myartofwellness@gmail.com if you or someone you love is battling anxiety.

 

*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.

How to Treat Lower Back Pain with TCM and Acupuncture

Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain can feel like a real burden.

by Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

That sudden, scary sensation of pulling in your lower back that lets you know you’re in for more pain later. The nagging, daily ache that develops over time. Lower back pain can really feel like a burden, holding you back from enjoying your life. If you are searching for how to reduce low back pain,  Acupuncture and TCM can provide real relief.

Pain in the lower back is one of the most common complaints heard by healthcare practitioners. The vast majority (80%) of adults experience at least one episode of low back pain at some point in their lives. For some people, lower back pain becomes a chronic condition. It is the second most common cause of disability among adults in the United States.

This article will address the types and common causes of lower back pain, how to treat low back pain with acupuncture and TCM, and eight excellent suggestions for ways you can reduce low back pain and prevent flare-ups with lifestyle change and self care.

 

How to Treat Lower Back Pain – A Common but Complicated Condition

Lower back pain presents a challenge for physicians, because in many cases, there is no clearly discernible cause. Imaging scans may help us get a picture of structural damage to the spine, but they do not tell us the whole story. Pain is not just about structural or mechanical problems in the body. The problem may be mechanical, but it may also be chemical, emotional, behavioral, sociological, or a combination of any of these.

The American College of Physicians has just recently issued new guidelines regarding the treatment of lower back pain specifically advocating that doctors and patients first choose natural and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and massage, over pain medications.

Dr. Tan treats back pain
Dr. Tan’s healing hands

Acupuncture does not only address the immediate source of pain. TCM treats the whole person. An acupuncturist will study the different factors of each patient’s unique presentation of symptoms in making a diagnosis and designing a course of treatment. This will include not only acupuncture, but herbal formulae to support the healing of the body, and specific exercise and nutrition advice to strengthen the whole body from the inside. Lower back pain can take its toll on a person’s psychological outlook. Stress and depression can turn an acute problem into a chronic one. Treating the underlying causes of an acute condition can prevent it from becoming recurrent or chronic.

 

Types of Lower Back Pain

Most patients experience a generalized, nonspecific kind of lower back pain. These may be related to muscle strain or stiffness, repetitive movements or unfavorable sitting or sleeping positioning. Other conditions are based on specific injuries or pathologies. Some types of pain, such as sciatica, are rooted in the nerves, possibly due to pinching or other damage. Sometimes the sensation is more like tingling or numbness than fiery pain.

In over 30 years of practice in treating all different types of lower back pain, we have often seen patients who had only minor structural problems but were experiencing severe pain. Many patients who have had surgery to correct a problem; their scans may show that the problem has been “fixed”–but they are still in a lot of pain. In other words, a person’s experience of pain or loss of mobility may not correspond to what we see in an image. 

Common conditions leading to back pain include (but are not limited to):

  • Degenerated disc
  • Bulging or herniated disc
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis (slipped disc)
  • Spinal scoliosis
  • Arthritis
  • Muscle strain
  • Muscle spasm
  • Pinched nerves
  • Nerve damage
  • Kidney stones or gallstones
  • Digestive issues (constipation
Lower Back Stretches
Lower back stretch

Eight Tips for Self Care to Reduce and Prevent Lower Back Pain

With TCM, we aim for long-term, lasting results. At the same time, we guide the patient in vital lifestyle improvements, such as regular de-stress meditation, gentle exercise such as Tai Chi or yoga, and an anti-inflammatory diet.  

Here are some specific things you can do at home to help enhance the effects of acupuncture treatment and reduce lower back pain:

  1. Moderate exercise: walk, swim, Tai Chi, yoga, Pilates, and gentle stretching. It might be tempting to spend a lot of time in bed when you have back pain, but in most cases, lack of movement does more harm than good.
  2. Avoid lifting anything heavy; always remember to bend from the knees and not from the back when lifting any kind of weight. Forward bends as part of an exercise routine can also be aggravating.
  3. Weight control
  4. Anti-Inflammatory Diet: avoid coffee, spicy foods, nightshade vegetables (tomato, potato, eggplant and bell pepper). For more anti-inflammation information , read How to reduce and prevent inflammation 

    Lower Back Strengthening
    Strengthen the lower back
  5. Change posture during your work, move around for a few minutes every hour, at least.
  6. Cold and Heat: Use a cold compress for the first three days if there is an acute injury or any time right after exercise. Use heat 3-5 times per day for chronic pain.
  7. Make sure your mattress is medium firmness and comfortable.
  8. Do stretches and gentle strengthening exercises specifically for the lower back. Also work on strengthening all the core muscles. Remember that the lower part of the spine is actually in the center of the body. Using the abdominal muscles to help you move and lift things takes the strain off of the back muscles.

Acupressure for Low Back Pain

Using your opposite thumb or forefinger, locate the crevice between the bones of your 4th and 5th finger, just beneath the knuckles. Press deeply until you feel tenderness there. Hold the pressure while you gently but vigorously move and stretch your lower spine and hips. Then, drag your thumb or finger down, finding another crevice just above the base where the 4th and 5th metacarpal bones meet. Apply pressure, again, while wiggling and turning from the lower back. This will help release tension and tightness and relieve pain.

 

What Do I Do If the Above Does Not Work?

Acupressure Points for Lower Back Pain
Press between the fourth and fifth fingers, beneath the knuckle

If you are in pain, and nothing has helped, you may be wondering how to find acupuncture near me. Look for an acupuncturist who is board certified in your state. A good acupuncturist is highly trained and has experience in integrative medicine, so that they can work with your primary physician if needed. At Art of Wellness, we suggest a first appointment should include an in-depth consultation and exam. Usually an acupuncturist will recommend a course of treatment that include sessions two or three times per week for the first few weeks, then will reevaluate to keep track of progress and improvement. Look for a place where you feel comfortable, listened to, and able to relax. Your acupuncturist will make recommendations for TCM herbal formulae and dietary changes that will help your condition. These may seem difficult to follow at first, but they will help your body heal better and more quickly. New healthy habits can help prevent your lower back pain from coming back.

 

 

How to Sleep Better with Acupuncture and TCM

By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

Do you suffer from insomnia or do you have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep? Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers many solutions on how to sleep better without sleeping aids. TCM stresses the importance of getting a good night sleep. Chinese medicine has tools such as; exercise, Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, and meditation all which can help you get a good sleep so you can function at the highest potential throughout the day. Below you will read about TCM and the history it provides in regards to sleep and the many tips that can help you get the best sleep tonight.

 

History of Sleep with TCM

Sleep is a part of the interplay of yin and yang: yang energy is dominant when we are awake and active, and yin energy rules sleep. Night is yin; daylight is yang. This is all in keeping with the holistic, universal nature of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) theory. Our bodies are designed to work with the movements of the earth, sun, and moon. When a person experiences insomnia, either hard to fall asleep or wake up often then difficult to fall back to sleep, there is a lack of balance. The body is out of sync with its environment. The yang energy is taking over, or not interplaying with yin appropriately.

Sleeping and Chinese Medicine
Sleeping and Chinese Medicine

In TCM terminology, “Shen” is the spirit, the energy which controls our mental activities and thought. During sleep, Shen “hides” in the organs – predominantly the Heart and the Liver – resting, so that it can function with sharpness during our waking hours. Insomnia, in TCM, is often viewed, then, as a problem of the Heart system, or the Liver system. If one of these major organs is unable to “house” the Shen, then the Shen will wander restlessly, causing sleeplessness.

Protective Qi cycles through the body continuously, but it follows different paths along the meridians at different times of the day and night.  During the day, protective Qi, which fights off pathogens, moves through the yang meridians, and during the night, it flows through the yin meridians. If you find yourself waking up at a particular hour in the middle of the night every night – or feeling sluggish at one particular time every day – it is probably related to some deficiency of Qi in that area.

Between the hours between 1:00 and 3:00 a.m. the liver meridian is actively supplying Qi to the liver system so that it can clean toxins from the blood. Then, between 3:00 and 5:00 a.m., the freshly cleaned blood and energy is being delivered to the organ systems. It is especially important to be sleeping soundly during that time.  The liver does all the heavy lifting of cleaning and detoxifying the blood and therefore, the whole body. If the liver is stinted of its full rest and rejuvenation, night after night, we can be left feeling truly sick and tired.

Sleeplessness may be the central problem for some people; for others, it’s just a part of the big picture. Many people have gone so long without restful sleep that they have become used to it and just consider it their new “normal.” When you come in to Art of Wellness for a visit, our doctors will ask many questions to get a sense of what kind of sleep problems you’re having, including other symptoms that may be related to the same root issue.

  •      Having trouble falling asleep may be related to an excess condition of the liver and/or gall bladder.
  •      Waking easily and then having trouble falling back to sleep may point to a deficiency of the Heart Yin or too much internal heat.
  •      Nightmares may indicate a gall bladder meridian problem, while repetitive, literal dreams (about work, for example) might indicate a heart/spleen problem.

Sleep problems can be related to other conditions, such as depression, menopause in women, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.

 

How to Make Winter A Time of Rest and Renewal

Getting a good night  sleep is always important, but in the Wintertime. Nature and our bodies are really asking us to rest more, and more deeply, than we do during other times of the year.  This is a time for the body to store energy. If we go at a frantic pace, and behave the same way we do in the middle of summer, we will become depleted.

Unfortunately, our current culture does not necessarily support this idea. It seems we are asked to do more and be more than ever during the rush of the winter holiday season. It really is vital to prioritize “doing less” in order to preserve good health.

People with sleep problems seek tips for help. The practices in acupuncture and TCM help you to be calm. Visit the link and read some TCM tips for sleep.

 

Handful of nuts and a small glass of milk before bed
Handful of nuts and a small glass of milk before bed

Top 20 Tips For Creating Calm so That You Can Get A Good Sleep

  1. Choose carefully how many social commitments you make. You don’t have to attend every gathering – only the ones that are meaningful to you. If it feels more like an obligation than fun, make a plan to stop in, extend your greetings, and then leave early. This way, you won’t overeat, drink too much, and you can still get to bed a reasonable hour
  2. Don’t exercise too vigorously close to bedtime. An evening walk, or gentle program of Tai Qi or yoga will help you work out excess energy with stimulating you further
  3. Deep breaking techniques: using you lower abdomen, inhale deeply. Hold it for about 5 seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat ten times. Deep breathing exercises not only relax your mind, but they help to dispel negative Qi from the body before bed
  4. Create an oasis of calm in your bedroom, with good ventilation, restful colors and no devices. Set a time, half an hour to hour before going to bed, when you will discontinue watching TV or looking at your computer and phone. The light stimulus from the screen is not helpful for falling asleep. Reading a book, writing in a journal, coloring in a coloring book, are all activities that help you wind down for the night.
  5. Change your eating habits: many people wake up around 3 AM and find it difficult to fall back asleep. This may be cause by low blood sugar level due to the over activity for the adrenal gland. For a better sleep, try to balance your blood sugar level daily by eating small portions of food about every 3 hours and drinking a glass of warm, low fat milk or eating a handful of nuts—such as raw walnuts or almonds, before bedtime. It helps to balance your blood sugar. Waking up in the middle of the night can be caused by fluctuating insulin levels – the result of too much sugar or alcohol in the evening.
  6. Keep your feet warm by soaking them in hot water for 15-20 minutes before bedtime. Also, massaging the bottom of the feet can help to stimulate key kidney points. Give a good, fast rub to the center of your soles for a few minutes to warm them while getting into bed.
  7. Stimulating acupressure points just before bedtime can be helpful. Use your thumb or fingertip to apply moderate pressure and rotate clockwise for 2-3 minutes.
  8. Shen Men, called the “Spiritual gate” point, releases heart fire, excitement, anger, irritation and anxiety.
  9. Tai Chong, a liver point can help alleviate insomnia due to excessive heat or stagnation in the liver, which can cause feelings of depression, stress, sadness.
  10. Take off any constricting clothing (underwear), and wear loose, comfortable pajamas for bedtime.
  11. There is an old saying: “sleep like the crescent moon.” Sleeping in a fetal position on your right side puts your heart above your liver, which helps drain blood, giving the heart some relief and extra nourishment to the liver. It also helps food move through your digestive system properly.
  12. Keep away from interruptions: Turn off your phone after dinner or keep a note book by your bed. If you keep thinking about sometime important to do, write it down.
  13. Listen to calm and relaxing music
  14. Sleep and wake at the same time every day, yes that includes weekends. Do not stay in bed for too long even when you do not have to go to work. Your body needs to have a regular sleep-wake cycle in order to function at its maximum

    Shen Men Point
    Shen Men Point
  15. Reduce the water temperature for baths and showers: when the water temperature is well about body temperature, your body heat increases. Then when you get out of the water, your body heat decreases. Try to avoid such fluctuation of the body temperature.

    Tai Chong Point
    Tai Chong Point
  16. Keep your bedroom simple and clean: limit the number of electronic devices such as TV’s, computers from your bed room
  17. Do not play video games at night
  18. Obey the 20-minute rule: if you do not successfully fall asleep in twenty minutes, get up and do something else until you feel tired and ready to sleep again.
  19. Waterfall Meditation. In this exercise, imagine yourself at the base of a waterfall. As you breathe in and out, picture the water gently raining down on you, trickling down each route until the tension inside you releases, allowing your entire body to enter a peaceful and relaxed state.
  20. Oneness Meditation. Just as in the Waterfall exercise, picture yourself standing beneath a waterfall. This time, however, instead of relaxing parts of your body one section at a time, allow your entire body to relax simultaneously. Let the image of the water wash away any stress or anxiety that burdens you.

 

If you have tried all of these things are still not sleeping well, please come see us to find the underlying problem. Acupuncture and herbs can help address and correct deeper issues that are affecting your ability to find rest and peace. If you find you are experiencing insomnia or any other sleep disturbance, seek out solutions. Left unaddressed, a sleep problem can become chronic and debilitating. Talk to us, so we can help you pinpoint and fix the problem with lifestyle adjustments, acupuncture treatments, and herbal formulae.

3 Acupressure Points for Low Back Pain

Statistics show that almost eight out of 10 people experience low back pain at some point during their life. Seeking medical treatment for back pain is very common. Typically back pain is fleeting and can be easily resolved with rest, heat and an occasional anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen. However, once the damage is done, the recurrence of back pain can be as high as 50 percent. Part of this is because as we age, things like muscles and tendons become less flexible and pliable. This can also be attributed to the fact that many people suffer from low-grade dehydration because they don’t drink enough water and they don’t ingest enough healthy fats that keep the muscles and tendons loose. It is also very well known that in the United States, people are too sedentary, and this leads to excess weight gain that can create added pressure on the body, especially the low back. continue reading »