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How to Treat Appendicitis With Acupuncture and TCM


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


lower right abdominal pain
Pain right lower abdomen may be appendicitis.

Sudden pain right lower abdomen or pain that starts around your navel? Nausea or vomiting? These may be appendicitis symptoms. Appendix pain is a sign of appendicitis, or an infected and inflamed appendix. Acupuncture and TCM offer an adjunct treatment for appendicitis that can help relieve appendicitis pain.

The appendix is a small, tube-shaped organ that extends off of the lower part of the large intestine. What side is your appendix on? The appendix location is in the lower right quadrant of your abdomen.

What’s appendicitis? Appendicitis causes are generally related to infection and inflammation

The appendix can become blocked by a bacterial infection, a viral infection, a parasite, or a tumor. Sometimes fecal matter gets into the appendix, causing a blockage.

If the appendix becomes infected and inflamed, it can swell and even rupture; this is often called a “burst appendix,” or ruptured appendix.

If the appendix becomes so swollen that it begins to tear or rupture, stool can leak out into your abdominal area and cause peritonitis, a potentially very dangerous infection.

Acute appendicitis is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical attention.

Studies have shown that acupuncture and TCM treatment can help relieve appendicitis pain and swelling and improve outcomes for patients hospitalized for acute appendicitis.


Appendicitis Symptoms

right side abdomen pain appendicitis
Sudden pain in the middle of the belly that moves to the right side is one of the appendicitis symptoms.

The signs of appendicitis often come on over a short period of time, usually beginning with a sudden pain in the middle of your belly around your navel, and then moving to the lower right side of your abdomen.

Appendicitis symptoms include:

  • Sudden pain near or around the navel that migrates to the lower right side
  • Sudden pain in the lower right quadrant of the abdomen
  • Pain in belly is worse when you cough or are jarred 
  • Right belly is tender to the touch
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Urinary frequency or urinary urgency
  • No appetite
  • Low grade fever
  • Malaise, generally feeling ill

Appendicitis tends to develop through a series of stages. The 4 stages of appendicitis are: 

  1. Early or uncomplicated appendicitis, which is when a blockage has formed and swelling of the appendix begins. At this stage, the pain in the middle of the belly area may be just sort of a vague “stomach ache.”
  2. The appendix begins to fill with mucus. Without proper blood and lymph drainage, bacteria begin to proliferate inside the appendix.
  3. The swelling begins to make the tissue of the appendix and the surrounding intestine and bowel walls become stiff, sometimes forming an inflamed mass, which is called an “appendiceal phlegmon.” This can feel like a hard mass in the lower right abdomen when palpated.
  4. Blocked blood flow causes a lack of oxygen, so the tissues of the appendix become necrotic. At this stage, the wall of the appendix can begin to tear or rupture.

This process usually develops over the course of 12-24 hours. This is why appendicitis is considered a medical emergency. It is very important that anyone experiencing this type of pain and other symptoms seeks urgent care. 


Appendicitis Treatments and Appendectomy

Upon being admitted for testing, a person presenting with severe pain in the right abdomen will first need to undergo testing to be sure of a diagnosis of appendicitis.

There are several other conditions which could also cause abdominal pain in this area, including:

While undergoing diagnostic testing such as MRI, CT-scan, or ultrasound, it is often common practice for doctors not to administer pain medications, the idea being that to do so might mask symptoms and delay proper diagnosis. This when acupuncture treatment can be particularly helpful. Acupuncture can have a proven analgesic effect for abdominal pain, without any side effects.

In general, appendix surgery is considered the gold standard treatment for acute appendicitis. Appendix removal can be done laparoscopically, or via incision. 

Some cases of appendicitis may be treated with antibiotics and other medications over the course of several days or weeks, but often, in a significant number of  cases, the appendicitis recurs.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can serve as an adjunct treatment for appendicitis patients, helping to relieve abdominal pain, regulate body temperature, and reduce inflammation.


Can Acupuncture Help Appendix Pain?

Appendicitis is an emergency situation, and people should definitely seek immediate medical care if they are experiencing right side abdominal pain and fever.

Acupuncture and TCM herbs can be used as complementary medicine, to help reduce hospitalization time and improve overall outcomes of conventional treatment for appendicitis.

While in some cases, appendicitis surgery may be necessary, there are other options. In some cases a combination of antibiotics to handle the infection, and acupuncture, herbs and moxibustion treatment to help relieve pain and inflammation may help to resolve appendicitis without surgery. This is known as NOTA: non-operative treatment for acute appendicitis.

According to TCM theory, appendicitis is considered to be related to blood stasis and stagnant Qi, as indicated by symptoms like: distended abdomen, nausea and/or vomiting, and a red tongue with a white, greasy coating. If the condition is also characterized by excess heat, then there may also be intense pain and muscle tension in the lower right abdomen, constipation, fever, a dry mouth, and dark-colored urine.

moxibustion treatment
Moxibustion treatment can be helpful for appendix pain.

In this situation, an acupuncturist would use acupuncture points targeting the stomach, spleen, and large intestine to help move blood, Qi, and clear heat from the infected area. Moxibustion treatment, which involves burning a small amount of moxa herbs near acupoints, can also help to relieve fever and irritation.

These TCM treatments can help to support and boost the efficacy of conventional medical treatments for appendicitis.

In situations where an appendectomy is indicated, acupuncture and herbs can help speed recovery and help to improve intestinal function after surgery.

One study done on pediatric patients with appendicitis showed that acupuncture helped reduce inflammation and pain.

Another study compared patients hospitalized and treated for appendicitis. One group received antibiotics, pain relief medications, and a special diet. The other group received these treatments, plus acupuncture and herbs. Overall, the patients who received TCM treatment had reduced abdominal pain, more quickly resolved fevers, and were able to leave the hospital days earlier.

Acupuncture, and electro-acupuncture, can also be used to help with recovery and pain relief post-appendectomy, for those patients who do require surgery to remove the appendix.

Acupuncture for Appendicitis Near Me in West Los Angeles

Acupuncture and TCM can often be used in conjunction with conventional medical care as a way to offer additional support for pain relief, recovery, and regaining functionality. In the case of appendicitis, it is vital to seek medical treatment for what can potentially become a life-threatening emergency. Acupuncture and herbs can be used additionally, to help speed recovery from infection, and, when necessary, from surgery. TCM can help patients regain and improve their digestive function.


*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 Nausea With Acupuncture and TCM


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


Nausea can be caused by many different health conditions.

Feeling nauseous, nauseated, queasy? Feel like vomiting or throwing up? Nausea can be brought on by many different health conditions. Acupuncture and TCM can provide nausea help in many situations, whatever the cause of nausea.

Nausea is that feeling that you have to vomit, or throw up. It’s an uneasy feeling that is often referred to as being “sick to your stomach.” Feeling nauseous may or may not precede actually vomiting.

Nausea is a symptom, not a disease in and of itself. There are many different kinds of health issues that can make you feel nauseated, or cause you to vomit.


Symptoms of Nausea

A queasy stomach is often accompanied by other symptoms. Nausea can often include or coincide with:

  1. Feeling like you are going to vomit
  2. Stomach ache, pain in belly
  3. No appetite, stomach turns at the thought or sight of food
  4. Sweating, clammy skin
  5. Salivating, swallowing a lot
  6. Uneasy feeling in the back of your throat
  7. Contractions of the respiratory or abdominal muscles
  8. Retching
  9. Dizziness
  10. Headache

Sometimes people feel nauseous after eating, or have a headache and nausea, or dizziness and nausea.

Some of the most common causes of nausea are a stomach flu, or gastrointestinal virus, morning sickness during pregnancy, and motion sickness.

There are many reasons why a person may feel nauseated, related to various health conditions. 

Acupuncture and TCM provide a very effective way to help relieve nausea caused by all kinds of health issues.


Why Do I Feel Nauseous?

Stomach upset
Stomach upset, excessive salivation, and dizziness are nausea symptoms.

We all know what it is like to feel car sick or have a 24-hour stomach bug that makes us feel queasy and vomit. But sometimes we have recurrent nausea and do not know why.

The cause of nausea can sometimes be hard to pinpoint, if nausea comes and goes, or becomes a chronic, ongoing problem. 


Top 10 Causes of Nausea

The medical conditions that most commonly  cause nausea include:

  1. GERD – Acid reflux can cause excess salivation and regurgitation of food
  2. IBS – irritable bowel syndrome can lead to changing symptoms of nausea, gas, diarrhea, and constipation
  3. IBD – inflammatory bowel disease like ulcerative colitis can cause nausea, abdominal pain, and diarrhea
  4. Hepatitis – HBV or Hepatitis C can cause loss of appetite, nausea, and abdominal pain
  5. Migraines – nausea and vomiting can be part of a migraine headache 
  6. Meniere’s disease – inner ear problem that can cause dizziness, vertigo, and nausea
  7. Anxiety – anxious feelings, depression, and other mental health issues like claustrophobia or PTSD can cause nausea
  8. Pregnancy – morning sickness
  9. Diverticulitis – inflamed sacs in the intestine can cause gas, bloating, and nausea
  10. Guillain-Barre syndrome – autoimmune disease affecting the neurological system can cause nausea in addition to muscle weakness and fatigue
  11. HIV/AIDS – people experiencing the acute phase of HIV often feel nauseated and fatigued

Being constipated can cause nausea. 

Bacterial meningitis, swelling of the brain that can happen due to a bacterial or viral infection, can cause nausea, vomiting, and fever.

Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects digestion, can often cause nausea, bloating, and abdominal pain.

People often feel nauseated or vomit when experiencing a gallbladder attack or when passing a kidney stone.

Hormonal changes during PMS, the menstrual period, ovulation, and pregnancy can cause nausea.

nausea and headache
Nausea and headache may happen due to migraines.

Nausea and vomiting can often be side effects of medications that are used to treat some conditions. Opioid painkillers, in particular, can cause dizziness and nausea.

Antibiotics can cause nausea and diarrhea. Even NSAIDs like Ibuprofen and and Motrin can cause nausea or stomach upset. Some blood pressure medications can also cause queasiness.

Feeling nauseous is a common side effect of chemotherapy for cancer treatment

TCM has acupuncture protocols and herbal formulas to help alleviate the nausea associated with all of the conditions listed above.


Nausea Medicine

Most people probably have OTC preparations to relieve nausea and stomach upset in their medicine cabinet, such as Pepto-Bismol, or Dramamine to prevent motion sickness.

If you seek medical care for recurrent or chronic nausea, you may be prescribed antiemetics (such as promethazine), which block the receptors in the brain that trigger nausea sensation.

Drugs known as prokinetic agents work by affecting the lower esophageal sphincter and moving food more quickly through the digestive system. Erythromycin and domperidone are examples.

Certain antihistamines, like Benadryl, are also sometimes prescribed to help reduce nausea, as they block certain chemical responses and reduce stomach acids that can cause nausea.

More recently, cannabinoids may be used medicinally to help quell nausea. These may be prescribed as a synthetic form of TCH.

While these medications may help to relieve nausea in some cases, they do generally come with side effects, like drowsiness, dizziness, constipation, or vision problems.

Acupuncture is widely considered to be an effective modality to treat nausea, without any side effects.


Can Acupuncture Help Nausea?

One of the foundational principles of TCM theory is that an acupuncturist may use the “same treatment for different diseases.”

This means that while a condition, such as nausea, may be caused by any one of several different internal or external factors, the treatment may be the same. It also refers to the concept that many different types of conditions can be caused by a disharmony in a particular organ system. 

Therefore, using acupuncture and herbs to bring balance to a particular organ system can help relieve many disorders that would be considered separate and distinct from one another in modern conventional medicine.

acupressure point p6 for nausea
acupressure point P6 helps relieve nausea

There are several key acupuncture points that will have a positive effect on the reduction of nausea, and no matter what is the cause of nausea, they will work in many cases to alleviate nausea in the short term. The point known as P6, in particular, is a classic point for quickly quelling queasiness.

Beyond that, a TCM practitioner will look carefully at other symptoms to find the root cause, which may be related to a deficiency of stomach or spleen Qi. These are the organs primarily responsible for the processing of food. If there is too much heat or phlegm in the stomach or spleen, there will be indigestion.

Emotional factors can also affect the stomach Qi. Worry, repetitive thoughts and rumination are associated with stomach problems in TCM. Acupuncture can also help to relieve the physical and emotional symptoms of anxiety.

The liver also plays a role in digestion, by producing bile. So when any one of these organs is stagnant or not functioning smoothly, it can cause indigestion and the reversal of stomach Qi – causing the energy to move upwards rather than downwards.

One study of patients suffering from mild to moderate nausea and dyspepsia who had not responded to conventional medications showed that symptoms were greatly reduced after just three acupuncture sessions.

Acupuncture can help relieve nausea caused by morning sickness and other conditions because it affects the release of endorphins and ACTH, a pituitary hormone that inhibits the vomiting trigger response. 

A research study that looked at thousands of cases found the acupuncture was effective at reducing nausea due to morning sickness, as well as postoperative nausea and chemotherapy induced nausea.

Chinese herbs can also be used to help balance the organ Qi and to relieve stomach upset. Your acupuncturist will create a formula that addresses both nausea symptoms and the deeper issues that are the cause of nausea.

Ginger is also one of the most effective natural remedies for nausea. A few slices of fresh ginger, with the skin still on, steeped in hot water as a tea can help relieve nausea in many situations.


Acupuncture Near Me for Nausea in Los Angeles

TCM offers nausea help for people of all ages, with all types of health issues. Drs. Tan and Cai at Art of Wellness in West Los Angeles have 35 years of experience helping people with all types of gastrointestinal disorders, hormonal conditions, and autoimmune conditions. Our expertise in reproductive health allows them to help women who experience morning sickness or nausea during ovulation or menstrual issues. We also have extensive experience helping cancer patients who are undergoing chemotherapy feel more comfortable and deal with side effects of cancer treatment.

*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 Gallbladder Pain With Acupuncture and TCM


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


gallbladder pain gallstones
Gallbladder pain can be severe and accompanied by nausea.

Pain on right side abdomen? Sudden, sharp right abdomen pain? This could be a sign of a gallstone or gallbladder issue. Gallbladder attacks can cause severe gallbladder pain. Acupuncture and TCM can provide an alternative or adjunct treatment for gallstones symptoms.

The gallbladder is a small organ located on the right side of your abdomen, under the liver. The liver produces bile, a liquid that helps break down fats into fatty acids. The gallbladder stores bile and releases it  into the small intestine as needed, to help with digestion.

When the bile that your body produces has too much cholesterol or bilirubin in it, or when bile is not draining out of the gallbladder properly, it can become too concentrated and begin to harden into a solid.

Gallbladder pain usually occurs because a person has gallstones, which are just what they sound like: little stones that develop inside the gallbladder and are made up mostly of cholesterol. The medical term for gallstones is “cholilithiasis.” 

Many people have gallstones and are not aware of it. It is possible to have gallstones with no symptoms at all.


Top 5 Gallstone Symptoms

People who have gallbladder disease or gallstones are likely to experience a condition known as “biliary colic.” This means that they have an intolerance for fatty foods and may experience dyspepsia, nausea, and/or bloating when they eat something that disagrees with them.

Severe, sharp right side stomach pain is the most common sign of a gallbladder attack, which is when a gallstone becomes lodged in one of the small tubes or ducts that lead to and from the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. 


Gallbladder symptoms may include:

  1. Pain in lower right abdomen
  2. Nausea and/or vomiting
  3. Yellow skin and/or yellow eyes, jaundice
  4. Fever and/or chills
  5. Brown pee, brown urine, light-colored poop

Sometimes gallbladder pain can refer to the right shoulder, or between the shoulderblades. 

Gallbladder pain can also happen due to inflammation of the gallbladder. This condition is known as cholecystitis and occurs when a gallstone blocks the duct that leads out of the bladder, causing bile and bacteria to build up and become infected.

Stones can sometimes become lodged in the common bile duct, which not only causes pain, but can lead to pancreatitis. Gallstones are the primary cause of acute pancreatitis, in which the pancreas becomes irritated and inflamed due to a backup of bile and/or digestive enzymes.

The pain of a gallbladder attack is unignorable. If it doesn’t go away within a few hours, most people choose to go to the emergency room for urgent care.

Gallstones may pass on their own, or drugs are sometimes used to help dissolve the gallstones. These drugs can be expensive, and sometimes cause problems like atherosclerosis, or fatty buildup in the arteries.

When gallstone pain comes and goes, and the gallstones are present but not causing the blockage of a duct, usually pain management and patience are the only treatment.

If gallbladder issues keep coming up, the typical medical treatment is gallbladder surgery.

Acupuncture can offer an alternative treatment to help relieve gallbladder pain. TCM is considered an effective treatment for biliary colic due to gallbladder disease.


Gallbladder Removal

gallbladder removal
Gallbladder removal is very common.

It is very common for people presenting with acute pancreatitis or a gallbladder attack to have a cholecystectomy, or gallbladder removal. Over 300,000 cholecystectomies are performed in the U.S. each year.

While this gallbladder surgery is usually done laparoscopically and is minimally invasive, there are disadvantages to living without a gallbladder.

Some people have what is known as postcholecystectomy syndrome, in which they continue to experience pain on right side abdomen, heartburn, nausea, indigestion, and vomiting, even though their gallbladder is gone.

Some research studies have suggested that gallbladder removal may not be necessary or desirable for everyone. It may be worth considering alternative or adjunct gallbladder pain treatment with TCM and acupuncture.

Can Acupuncture Help Gallbladder Symptoms?

Chinese medicine has been used to treat gallstones for thousands of years, without surgery.

According to TCM theory, the gallbladder is the Yang organ that ideally works cooperatively and in harmony with the Yin liver. The gallbladder is an extraordinary organ in that it is part of the digestive system, but it never comes in direct contact with the food you eat. It stores and secretes bile to help break down fats.

In TCM, we consider the gallbladder to represent the part of our nature that makes decisions, takes action, and feels inspired. When the liver and the gallbladder are not functioning smoothly, we may feel frustrated, angry, and depressed. Repressing anger can exacerbate gallbladder problems, as can eating the wrong foods.

green tea
Green tea and leafy green vegetables are good for your gallbladder health.

In TCM, the gallbladder is associated with spring, and the wood element. It is best nourished with lots of dark, leafy greens, herbs, roots, and green tea. Eating too many fatty, fried foods, and drinking too much alcohol can have a very negative effect on both the liver and gallbladder.

The stimulation of acupoints along the gallbladder meridian can help to regulate the sphincters of the gallbladder and its action, and help to promote the secretion of bile so that it does not remain stagnant inside the gallbladder. 

Acupuncture can also have an analgesic effect that may even be superior to that of NSAIDs pain relief medications, without any of the side effects that may occur with regular use of these drugs.

Acupuncture can also be used to treat chronic cholecystitis, the chronic inflammation of the gallbladder due to infection. TCM treatment can help reduce inflammation and improve immune function so that infections can be more easily fought off.

Acupuncture and TCM can also be used as an adjunct treatment to help boost the efficacy of conventional medications. One study showed that patients who were given cefodizime for chronic cholecystitis and also received acupuncture had a 98% effective rate, as opposed to patients who received the medication only, who had only a 50% effective rate.

There are many Chinese herb preparations designed to help with gallstones. These formulas are based on TCM theories related to clearing the stagnation of Qi and blood in the liver and gallbladder, removing dampness and heat and treating yin deficiency.

These herbs have been shown to help discharge gallstones, control the metabolism of bilirubin, and help to prevent the formation of new stones in the future.


Acupuncture Near Me for Gallbladder Pain in West Los Angeles

Acupuncture and TCM can provide natural treatments for gallstones and many other problems related to the digestive system, such as diarrhea, constipation, Crohn’s disease, colitis, IBS, diverticulitis, and celiac disease. If you are experiencing abdominal pain and other digestive symptoms, consider consulting with a TCM practitioner. Acupuncture can help prevent conditions like gallstones from getting worse.

*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 Kidney Stones With Acupuncture and TCM


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


kidney stones back pain
Severe lower back pain can be a sign of kidney stones.

Severe lower back pain, blood in urine, burning pee? These could be signs of kidney stones. Acupuncture and TCM offer an alternative or adjunct kidney stones treatment that can help relieve kidney stone pain and dysuria, or painful urination.

Kidney stones are hard mineral deposits that form in the kidneys or other parts of the urinary tract. Salt and minerals can crystallize when urine reaches a certain level of concentration. 

Often, kidney stones form when there are calcium oxalate crystals in urine. Calcium levels can be high because of eating too much sodium.

The ureters are the tubes that connect the kidneys to the bladder. If a kidney stone moves into a ureter and becomes lodged there, it can cause left lower back pain or right lower back pain. This is known as “passing a kidney stone.” 

Kidney stones are very common, and many people go to the ER when they are experiencing severe lower back pain on one side and peeing blood. This happens when one or more kidney stones find their way into one of the ureters and become lodged there. This blocks the flow of urine and can cause severe pain and cramping.

Acupuncture can help reduce kidney stone pain in the short term, and help address the imbalances that are the root cause of kidney stones.


What Causes Kidney Stones? 

drink water kidney stones
Drinking enough water and eating more plant foods can help prevent kidney stones.

Kidney stones form when there is not enough urine, and it becomes too concentrated. This often is due to not drinking enough fluids and getting dehydrated. Other kidney stone causes include:

  • Not drinking enough water, dehydration
  • Too much salt
  • Too much sugar, fructose, or high fructose corn syrup
  • Too much meat, too few fruits and vegetables
  • Lack of exercise or too much exercise
  • weight loss surgery, bariatric surgery, which can cause chronic diarrhea
  • Infections, UTIs
  • Gout
  • Chronic diarrhea due to Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis
  • Type 2 Diabetes, high blood sugar levels

Kidney stones are differentiated into different types, depending on their mineral composition. The types of kidney stones are:

  • Calcium stones – deposits of calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate
  • Uric acid stones – high levels of uric acid can be due to eating a lot of animal proteins
  • Struvite stones – can form after a UTI
  • Cystine stones – cystinuria is an inherited condition that causes buildup of the amino acid cystine in the urinary tract


Top 10 Symptoms of Kidney Stones

Many people have kidney stones and are not aware of them. It is possible to have kidney stones without pain or kidney stones without urinary symptoms. You may only find out about them when having imaging tests done for some other reason.

However, passing a kidney stone can certainly cause intense pain and other upsetting symptoms. The most common signs of kidney stones include:

  1. Sharp pain on one side of the lower back
  2. Cramps in one side
  3. Pain in the lower abdomen or groin
  4. Urgent need to pee, urinary urgency
  5. Peeing a lot, urinary frequency
  6. Burning sensation when peeing, dysuria
  7. Dark urine, blood in urine
  8. Nausea, vomiting
  9. Pain at the tip of the penis
  10. Fever and/or chills

Kidney stone pain can range from mild to severe, and it can come and go or be constant.

Acupuncture treatment has been shown to be effective for reducing kidney stone pain when used as an adjunct in emergency medical care settings when someone is waiting for conventional treatment.


Treatment for Kidney Stones

Kidney stones are diagnosed through blood tests and urine tests, which will show if there is too much uric acid, calcium, or other minerals that can cause stones to form. Imaging tests, such as ultrasound, may be able to detect where stones are stuck in the urinary tract.

If a person is passing stones (kidney stones in toilet), they may be analyzed to determine what sort of mineral has formed them.

In many cases, people will be encouraged to wait until the stones pass on their own. In this case, simply drinking adequate fluids and using pain medication to manage the intermittent pain and cramping will be recommended. Medications such as alpha blockers (Flomax) may be prescribed to help relax the ureters.

If the kidney stones are too large to be passed, then surgery may be indicated. Procedures using sound waves are sometimes used to help break up the stones. Surgery using small scopes and instruments can also remove the stones. A stent may be placed in the ureter to help keep it open until swelling goes down and it heals.

Studies have indicated that a combination of medications like Flomax and Chinese herbs may help to expel kidney stones. TCM treatment can help prevent the need for surgery.

Can Acupuncture and Herbs Help Kidney Stones?

acupuncture can help kidney stones
Acupuncture and TCM can help relieve kidney stone back pain.

According to TCM theory, kidney stones are in the category of “Shilin” conditions, in which urination is difficult. Chinese herbs have traditionally been used to help balance the electrolyte minerals in the body, which helps prevent stones from forming in the urinary tract.

TCM treatment for kidney stones includes herbal medicine to help increase urine volume and excretion of minerals and inhibits the formation of calcium crystals. 

Acupuncture treatment has an anesthetic effect which can help relieve the pain of kidney stones while other treatments take effect to help reduce and prevent the formation of new kidney stones.

One trial found that acupuncture treatment helped relieve kidney stone pain faster than pharmacological medications. Acupuncture treatment has no side effects, while 43% of the people in the study who were given intramuscular anesthesia report side effects like skin rash, irregular heartbeat, and drowsiness.

Acupuncture and acupressure can help relieve severe back pain and pelvic pain due to various urinary and other reproductive system conditions. It can also help reduce the anxiety and depression that people sometimes experience when faced with severe pain.


How to Prevent Kidney Stones

Drinking plenty of water is probably the most important thing you need to do to prevent dehydration and low volume of urine. In addition to staying hydrated, you should:

  1. Reduce sodium intake by eating less salt and fewer processed and packaged foods.
  2. Reduce foods that encourage calcium oxalate stones: meats, berries, beer, black pepper, spinach, chocolate/cocoa, and tea.
  3. Combine calcium-rich foods or drinks with foods that contain oxalate, so that they can be absorbed well together. This could mean eating spinach with cheese, or berries with yogurt. The citrate in citrus juices can also help discourage stone formation.
  4. Add foods with a high ratio of magnesium to calcium, such as: brown rice, oats, barley, bananas, soybeans, and flaxseeds.
  5. Be sure to replace lost fluids when you sweat through exercise or by being in a sauna, steam room, or hot tub, or just by being in the heat during the summertime.
  6. Balance your Ph levels. For some people this may mean increasing alkaline foods. As your acupuncturist about checking your Ph levels.


Acupuncture Near Me for Kidney Stones, Los Angeles

TCM treatment can help reduce pain and address the root causes of many conditions that cause urinary urgency and frequency, like BPH, UTIs and interstitial cystitis. Acupuncture can also help relieve pelvic pain and low back pain due to many other conditions, like endometriosis, and mittelschmerz. If you are experiencing urinary symptoms or recurring bladder pain or back pain, consider consulting an experienced acupuncture practitioner to resolve the root issue.

*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 Interstitial Cystitis With Acupuncture and TCM


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


bladder pain urinary frequency
Urinary frequency and urgency can be signs of interstitial cystitis

Bladder pain and pressure? Urinary urgency? Pelvic pain that feels like a UTI or bladder infection? Interstitial cystitis is a painful bladder syndrome caused by bladder inflammation. Acupuncture and TCM offer an alternative interstitial cystitis treatment that can help relieve interstitial cystitis symptoms.

Interstitial cystitis is a chronic pain condition that is difficult to diagnose and treat with conventional medicine. It is generally considered a urological or gynecological condition, but actually, men and women can both experience what is sometimes referred to as painful bladder syndrome (IC/PBS) or “frequency-urgency-dysuria syndrome.” Dysuria means “painful urination.”

While interstitial cystitis can be different from person to person, the best way to describe it is feeling like you have the urinary frequency that is characteristic of a UTI or symptoms bladder infection all the time—except that there is no bacterial infection present, so the condition does not get better with antibiotics. 

Interstitial cystitis and overactive bladder (OAB) share many of the same signs and symptoms and can sometimes overlap. The primary difference between these two conditions is that interstitial cystitis usually involves pelvic pain in addition to urinary urgency, while overactive bladder involves urinary incontinence, but usually not significant bladder pain.

That feeling of bladder pressure and urinary urgency can really get in the way of your daily activities. People who suffer from interstitial cystitis may feel like they’re going to the bathroom every few minutes all day long. Even though they’re peeing a lot, though, the painful urgency to urinate again returns quickly. 

Interstitial cystitis involves irritation and inflammation of the bladder that can ultimately cause a buildup of scar tissue in the bladder and may decrease its capacity to hold urine. There may also be small amounts of blood in the urine (hematuria) due to pinpoint bleeding on the bladder walls.


What Causes Interstitial Cystitis? 

Medical science has not yet discovered why some people experience interstitial cystitis (IC). It has been suggested that it may be related to an autoimmune disease attacking the bladder or causing inflammatory cells to develop in the bladder, nerve signals that are causing painful sensations even though nothing is wrong, some type of allergic reaction to chemicals in the urine, or sores developing in the bladder lining.

Some people who suffer from interstitial cystitis may also have IBS, fibromyalgia, migraines, or other chronic pain conditions. There is some evidence that IC is associated with also having an autoimmune condition, such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or a thyroid disorder.

Interstitial cystitis bladder pain is a complex problem with both physical and emotional components. The urgency to pee can become so persistent and painful that it gets in the way of normal life, and even relationships. Fortunately, TCM and acupuncture offer holistic treatment for interstitial cystitis that can help relieve pain and anxiety.


Top 5 Interstitial Cystitis Symptoms

interstitial cystitis bladder pain
Bladder pain may be intermittent or persistent

Each person’s experience of interstitial cystitis is unique. For some, the uncomfortable sensations of urinary frequency and bladder pressure may come and go. For others, bladder pain may be constant.

The common symptoms of interstitial cystitis include:

  1. Urinary frequency, peeing a lot
  2. Urinary urgency, feeling like you have to pee even when you just went
  3. Only peeing a small amount when you go
  4. Bladder pain, bladder pressure, pelvic pain, pain in the perineum
  5. Pain during sex

Menstruation can cause interstitial cystitis pain to worsen, as can certain foods or drinks, having sex, or sitting for long stretches of time.


Top 10 Triggers of Interstitial Cystitis Pain

People with interstitial cystitis are often advised to keep a record of their eating habits and pay attention to what foods or beverages seem to make their symptoms worse.

Things that may trigger bladder pain include:

  1. Tomatoes
  2. Citrus fruits
  3. Alcohol
  4. Caffeine – coffee, tea
  5. Carbonated beverages, soda, pop
  6. Fruit juice
  7. Chocolate
  8. Artificial sweeteners
  9. Milk and other dairy foods
  10. Spicy foods

Going on an elimination diet, in which you avoid certain foods for a period of time and see if your symptoms abate, may help.


Interstitial Cystitis Treatment

Medical treatment for interstitial cystitis is focused mainly on mitigating symptoms. Painkillers, antihistamines, and antidepressants are most commonly prescribed to help relieve painful bladder syndrome. 

Amitriptyline is approved to treat depression, but is sometimes used to help treat autoimmune-related chronic pain due to fibromyalgia and MS, as well as interstitial cystitis.

Elmiron is a drug specifically approved to help protect the lining of the bladder from irritation. It can take several months for it to start working. It has some serious side effects, including potentially permanent damage to the retinas of the eyes.

Bladder instillations for interstitial cystitis are “cocktails” of medicines that are injected into the bladder with a catheter and held for 15-30 minutes. Treatments may be given weekly or a few times per week over the course of several weeks. Some people get relief from their symptoms with this method. Others may find the catheterization process uncomfortable or painful.

None of these treatments are a cure for interstitial cystitis. TCM and acupuncture offer an alternative treatment for painful bladder syndrome that can relieve pain and address the root cause of the problem.


Can Acupuncture Help Interstitial Cystitis?

According to TCM, the healthy function of the bladder relies heavily on the kidney and spleen, which provide yang energy to warm the bladder. When the Kidney Qi is deficient, the bladder may be too weak to hold urine. 

Kidney Qi can be weakened by a long illness, or by repeated UTIs that have not been adequately addressed. It has been noted through medical imaging that prolonged illnesses can cause the bladder to contract in size. It can also become much more sensitive.

interstitial cystitis bladder pain syndrome
Interstitial cystitis can get in the way of normal daily life.

Painful urination can begin after someone has a difficult childbirth or other trauma to the pelvic organs. This can have consequences that affect someone both physically and emotionally. 

Stagnation of Liver Qi can occur due to a strong emotional upset or depression. The Liver channel moves around and through the pelvis and external genital organs, so when Liver Qi is not moving freely, it can lead to pain or dysfunction in this area. Particularly if Liver Qi has too much heat, it can negatively impact the function of the bladder and pelvic floor area.

To determine what is causing interstitial cystitis pain, an acupuncturist will look carefully at other, seemingly unrelated symptoms that person is experiencing. 

For example, if bladder pain is accompanied by fatigue, ear ringing (tinnitus), and cold hands and feet, those are all indicators that Kidney Yang is deficient and cold. Ears are considered to be the opening of the Kidney meridian.

If they are thirsty all the time, have a lot of allergies, warm hands, and tend to feel anxious, these are signs that Kidney Yang is too hot.

An acupuncture treatment protocol will then be developed accordingly to address both the pain and pressure on the bladder, as well as the underlying conditions that are causing imbalances in the organ systems.

Moxibustion treatment and electro-acupuncture may also be used to help relieve bladder pain symptoms.

One study in which patients diagnosed with interstitial cystitis were given one acupuncture treatment per week for four consecutive weeks found that urinary frequency was significantly decreased.

Another study showed that a majority of patients who received weekly acupuncture for three months showed significant improvement or complete relief from urinary symptoms.

Another study suggested that acupuncture treatment may help to relieve bladder irritation and urgency by helping to block nerve impulses around the urethra, the neck of the bladder, and the pelvic floor area.


Acupuncture Near Me for Interstitial Cystitis

Acupuncture is a particularly good modality for helping to treat complicated issues when conventional medicine is not working. Interstitial cystitis is still not well understood by modern science, but TCM methods work well to relieve both physical and emotional pain associated with painful bladder syndrome. If you are experiencing urinary frequency and bladder pressure, but know that you don’t have an infection, please consider giving acupuncture a try.

*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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