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How To Treat Claustrophobia Anxiety Disorder With Acupuncture and TCM

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

claustrophobia anxiety disorder panic attacks
Claustrophobia is an intense fear of enclosed spaces.

Claustrophobia is a specific kind of anxiety disorder in which fear of being in an enclosed space can bring on symptoms similar to those of panic attacks. Claustrophobic feelings like being anxious, hyperventilating, sweating, shaking, and rapid heartbeat can be eased with acupuncture and TCM.

Claustrophobia is actually quite common; at least 10% of people report experiencing some claustrophobic feelings. Women report having a fear of confined spaces more often than men do. Phobias are sometimes rooted in a childhood experience, but they can arise in anyone, at any age, and are considered mental health issues or psychiatric disorders.

Phobias are distinct from regular fears because of their intensity and, to some extent, irrational nature. Phobias are unreasonable fears; feeling very afraid, to the point of physical and emotional distress, of something that isn’t really happening. Claustrophobia becomes a serious mental health problem if it interferes with a person’s daily life or relationships.

Sometimes claustrophobia can get in the way of a person getting help for other health problems. For example, it may cause them to avoid undergoing an MRI. Some people might fear visiting a doctor’s office, which often means facing elevators, public restrooms, and other small rooms without windows. Some women report feeling claustrophobic during pregnancy, as if they are “trapped” inside their own bodies.

Other common triggers of claustrophobia include: airplanes, trains, tunnels, small cars, revolving doors, or amusement park rides with restraints. Even thoughts of having to be trapped in one of these situations can be enough to bring on symptoms of claustrophobia. Signs of claustrophobia can be similar to those of a panic attack.

Top 10 Symptoms of Claustrophobia:

  1. Sweating
  2. Shaking or trembling
  3. Trouble breathing
  4. Rapid heartbeat, fast heart rate, high blood pressure
  5. Tight feeling in chest, chest pain
  6. Flushed face, feeling hot
  7. Dizziness, feeling lightheaded or faint
  8. Ringing in ears, tinnitus
  9. Butterflies in stomach feeling, nausea, queasy feeling
  10. Numbness or tingling in parts of the body

Other signs of anxiety due to claustrophobia could include: dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, choking, chills, confusion, or disorientation. In addition to physical symptoms of panic, claustrophobia may cause a person to cry, yell, or to be overwhelmed by a desire to get out of a situation because they feel that they are in serious danger, even if it seems irrational.

Elevator claustrophobia
Elevators can trigger claustrophobic feelings.

Cleithrophobia is another type of anxiety disorder that is sometimes confused with claustrophobia. Cleithrophobia specifically refers to the fear of being trapped or confined with no way to escape. Claustrophobia is a fear of the small space itself. These two phobias can exist together. Either one could cause serious anticipatory anxiety, for example, if a person has to have an MRI.

Cleithrophobia is related to other “winter phobias,” which may include “cabin fever,” which is a sense that one is stuck inside, or a fear of being literally trapped in the ice or snow. Many people feel an extra sense of sadness or dread during the winter months; this kind of depression is known as SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

Over time, repeated panic attacks or bouts of intense anxiety brought on by claustrophobia can create long-term stress that is harmful to overall physical and mental health. Acupuncture and TCM offer an adjunct or alternative treatment for claustrophobia which can help reduce symptoms and offset the effects of stress.

What Causes Claustrophobia?

Phobias can be triggered by some event or experience in which a person felt endangered and was traumatized, similar to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Like other mental health conditions, claustrophobia is influenced by brain chemistry. Imbalances in the neurotransmitters in the brain can cause some people to experience symptoms of anxiety or panic attacks even if nothing scary is really happening. Then, they may associate those physical and emotional feelings with a specific place or situation, which causes the anxiety to be triggered whenever they approach that place or even think of that situation.

People can perceive things differently. One research study suggested that people with claustrophobia may have a different perception of how near something, like a wall, is to them. In other words, they underestimate distances, or their sense of “personal space” is different from other people’s.

The amygdala is the part of the brain that processes incoming sensory information from the environment and signals the autonomous nervous system if it detects danger. This is essentially the neurological pathway of fear. Some research has suggested that people who experience panic disorders are more likely to have a smaller-than-average amygdala.

Treatment for Claustrophobia

MRI claustrophobia
Having an MRI can make people feel claustrophobic.

To be diagnosed with claustrophobia, a person will need to explain to their doctor that they have been having these intense feelings for a while and that they are having a negative impact on their lives. This could mean that they go out of their way to avoid certain places or situations. A mental health professional will try to determine whether these fears are normal, or could be attributed to some other condition. 

Some doctors may prescribe SSRIs like Zoloft or Lexapro, which influence serotonin levels in the brain, to help patients who are suffering from claustrophobia or anxiety. Often therapy is recommended to help patients learn to cope with their feelings. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and/or exposure therapy aim to retrain the mind and may help people learn to get used to being in a small space without feeling so anxious.

Psychiatric medications can have unwanted side effects and may create a sense of dependence. Some people will avoid therapy because it can be very confronting and become another source of fear.

Acupuncture and other TCM modalities, including herbs and movement techniques like Tai Chi, may offer an alternative solution for panic attacks due to claustrophobia, without side effects or having to work through the problem with uncomfortable talk therapy sessions.

Can Acupuncture Help Claustrophobia?

According to TCM, the organ systems closely associated with fear are those of the kidneys, liver, and heart. Kidney deficiency, in particular, can cause fear and mental disturbances. These types of mental disorders can also be related to imbalances in Yin and Yang energies, and blood deficiencies. An acupuncture practitioner’s approach to treatment for claustrophobia may, therefore, focus on strengthening and nourishing the kidneys, while soothing the liver and heart.

One study compared patients who knew they had claustrophobic feelings going into an MRI; some were treated with acupuncture based on TCM acupoints. Control groups patients were given sham acupuncture (not really the points that would correspond with TCM theory). They concluded that the real acupuncture treatment did offer a therapeutic effect for claustrophobia, with a 92% rate of effectiveness; meaning, the patients were able to remain calm during the MRI.

A case study of a woman who had experienced bouts of claustrophobic symptoms since her teenage years, including shortness of breath, trembling, sweating, and loss of motor control in her hands and feet. After six acupuncture treatment sessions, she reported much improvement: feeling calmer, no headaches, palpitations, or anxiety. Chinese herbs can also be used, in conjunction with acupuncture treatment, help a person overcome claustrophobia.

Acupressure Points for Claustrophobia

shen men ear point
Shen men ear point for anxiety relief

In between acupuncture sessions, you can use self-care acupressure to relieve claustrophobia. 

Shen Men is a Master point, located in the valley of the upper part of the ear. This is a classic point to help feelings of anxiety.

Shoujie, which is located on the palm of the hand between the metacarpals of the fourth and fifth fingers, along the topmost crease, helps relieve palpitations and dizziness.

Acupuncture for Claustrophobia Near Me in Los Angeles Area

TCM is an excellent way for people to find relief from mental health issues of all kinds, including depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias. We will do all we can to make sure that you are comfortable in one of our larger treatment rooms with a window, and to make your acupuncture treatment experience relaxing and pain-free. If you or someone you know is finding that the thought of enclosed spaces is creating anxiety in day-to-day life, please do not hesitate to try acupuncture for claustrophobia.




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

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How to Improve Mental Health With Acupuncture and TCM

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

mental health acupuncture
TCM can help depression and anxiety.

Mental health problems are becoming more and more prevalent, yet more than half of Americans experiencing mental illness do not get treatment. Mental disorders like depression, anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, SAD (seasonal affective disorder), OCD, and postpartum depression can be improved with acupuncture and TCM, without negative side effects.

According to the most recent statistics, 19% of all adults in America are currently living with mental illness, while 15% of teenagers report having experienced major depression. Anxiety is the most common mental health condition, with 18% of the population reporting some form of anxiety disorder every year.

Addiction and substance abuse are also on the rise among both adults and teens. About 20% of people who have a mental disorder also have a problem with drug or alcohol addiction. Many people use drugs and alcohol to mask symptoms of depression and anxiety, but this only compounds the problem.

Mental health is about our emotions, our thoughts, and our relationships and social interactions with others. Mental health issues affect our behaviors, our thought patterns, and our responses to stress. TCM is an excellent form of care for mental health, because we take the whole person and their symptoms–mental, emotional, and physical–into consideration every time we work with them. 

It is generally understood that mental health problems can come about due to a combination of factors, including imbalances in brain chemistry, trauma or abuse, and genetics or family history of psychological disorders.

Typical treatment for depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems involves talk therapy and/or prescription medications like antidepressants. Many people are not getting the relief they need from these forms of therapy, and medications can cause unwanted side effects, including headaches, nausea, weight gain, and trouble sleeping. 

TCM takes a holistic approach to mental health and can help relieve signs of depression and anxiousness. TCM herbs and acupuncture can also provide an alternative treatment for many chronic illnesses that can contribute to depression.

Who Is At Risk for Depression, Anxiety, and Other Mental Disorders?

anxiety and depression acupuncture
Anxiety and depression can happen to anyone.

Everyone feels deep sadness and worry at times. When these feelings persist for a long time, they need to be addressed. Anyone, at any age, can experience symptoms of anxiety or depression. But some people are more at risk for mental health problems.

Risk Factors for mental illness include:

  • Family history – if other people in your family have experienced mental illness, you may be more likely to have mental health issues, too.
  • Stress – people who are going through financial insecurity, severe job stress, the loss of a loved one, or the breakup of a relationship are more likely to feel depressed.
  • Trauma – having gone through a traumatic experience, such as abuse in a relationship, or being in an accident, or witnessing something terrible, can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, or PTSD.
  • Minority and marginalized communities – people who have experienced discrimination due to their race/ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation are at a higher risk for mental health problems and often face extra barriers when they try to get help.
  • Head trauma – having an injury to the head or brain can cause mental disorders.
  • Chronic illness – having a longstanding serious illness or pain condition that dramatically impacts a person’s quality of life can lead to depression.

Medical science has been able to discern that certain imbalances in brain chemistry, including malfunctioning neurotransmitters in the brain and nervous system, are part of the physical root cause of depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders. Low serotonin, especially, is associated with a depressed mood, insomnia, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and even suicidal ideation. This is why the medical solution for depression and anxiety is often prescription medications like SSRIs, which impact the levels of serotonin in the brain.

Acupuncture and other TCM treatments can also have a positive effect on neurochemistry, without the dependence or side effects that medications can cause.

Can Acupuncture Help Mental Health Problems?

TCM has become more and more accepted by the scientific community as an effective way to relieve depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental disorders.

The Five Elements Theory used in TCM allows us to link physical, emotional, and mental symptoms of depression and anxiety and see specific patterns.

A medical doctor or therapist may hear that a patient has headaches, gastric upset, sleep problems, and episodes of anger, and view these as separate symptoms, treatable by separate medications. The acupuncturist sees a pattern that points to a particular imbalance in the organ systems. 

TCM can help many mental health issues, including:

  1. Depression – according to TCM, depressed mood is usually related to some form of stagnation in the Qi of the liver, kidney, spleen, and/or heart. Feelings of grief are associated with the lungs.
  2. Anxiety – Depression with anxiety is often due to a deficiency of Yin, which can cause sleep problems, back pain, and irritability. Excessive worrying is related to the spleen. Studies have indicated that acupuncture treatment facilitates the release of serotonin, endorphins, and norepinephrine, which can help to calm feelings of anxiety, even immediately after treatment.
  3. Panic Attacks – TCM can help people with panic disorders. The intense feelings of fear that can come on with a panic attack may be related to the kidneys, which are involved in the release of adrenaline and cortisol, the “fight or flight” hormones. 
  4. PTSD – Sometimes people suffering from PTSD or other trauma-related mental health problems are unable to go through talk therapy in order to deal with their feelings. There can be all kinds of reasons why a person is not able to speak about abuse or horrors they have suffered. Acupuncture treatments offer a real solution to ease the heavy feelings. A TCM provider offers healing by being able to sense a person’s energy, and facilitate shifts in that energy.
  5. SAD – Some forms of depression are temporary, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t serious or don’t require attention. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) affects many people, year after year. Acupuncture can help prevent this cycle from recurring.
  6. PMS/PMDD – People who menstruate often experience PMS (premenstrual syndrome), which can have emotional and mental symptoms. PMDD, an extreme form of PMS, can cause severe feelings of depression and even suicidal ideation. Acupuncture and herbs are an excellent way to address all kinds of problems with the menstrual cycle, including intense mood swings.
  7. Postpartum Depression – Many women experience depression during pregnancy and postpartum depression after having given birth. This condition, brought on by dramatic changes in hormones, can affect a new parent’s ability to care for themselves and their baby. Acupuncture treatment can effectively address postpartum depression, without fear of side effects from drugs.
  8. ADD/ADHD – ADD/ADHD are mental health disorders that affect a person’s ability to concentrate and can cause hyperactivity, mood swings, and social problems. Acupuncture and TCM can help both adults and children who are having problems with attentiveness, frustration, and restlessness.
acupuncture treatment
TCM can help all types of mental health issues.

Acupuncture can also help people who are struggling with substance abuse and addiction. Addictive behaviors are related to brain chemistry, and acupuncture can be utilized as an effective treatment for symptoms of withdrawal and as support for the mental and emotional aspects of recovery from alcohol or drug addiction.

Many people who are living with serious chronic illnesses also suffer from depression. When a health condition impacts a person’s quality of life every day, it can feel defeating and exhausting. 

Neurological disorders that affect the brain, such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease, can create feelings of anger and frustration, bringing about changes in personality. 

Autoimmune disorders like Crohn’s disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, ME/CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome), Lyme disease, MS (multiple sclerosis), and Lupus–can also engender feelings of depression because it can be so difficult to find treatment for their symptoms. People with serious conditions like HIV/AIDS and ALS are also apt to suffer from depression. Acupuncture and TCM not only provide help for the depression, but may be able to provide an adjunct or alternative treatment for these conditions, providing long-sought relief from symptoms and frustration.

Acupuncture Near Me For Mental Health Care in Los Angeles

If you or someone you know is suffering from mental illness, consider acupuncture as an alternative or adjunct to therapy and medications. People with mental health issues need a support system. At Art of Wellness in West LA, we have over 30 years of experience helping people find relief from the emotional, mental, and physical symptoms of anxiety and depression.

 

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

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How to Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) With Acupuncture and TCM

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

SAD, seasonal affective disorder, depression
Avoid seasonal affective disorder with TCM and sunlight.

Signs of depression as winter approaches? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression, with some similarities to bi polar disorder, that recurs at a certain time of year. Sometimes called seasonal depression, or “the winter blues,” SAD symptoms typically peak during the darkest months. Acupuncture and TCM can provide relief from Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms, including depression and anxiety, insomnia, and fatigue.

SAD is a form of mental illness that affects 5-10% of the population every year. Women are more likely to experience seasonal depression symptoms than men, and this depressive disorder is more common in young adults than other age groups. However, anyone, at any age, can experience some symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.

People who live in colder climates, farther away from the earth’s equator, are statistically much more likely to have SAD than people who live in warmer areas. It is generally believed that shorter periods of daytime sunlight are a big part of what causes seasonal affective disorder. People who work indoors, or at night, are considered to be at a higher risk for developing SAD, because they aren’t exposed to daylight.

Often, signs of SAD begin to appear in late fall, and then worsen as the days get shorter and the winter months drag on. The symptoms of depression then go away as the days get longer, and spring starts. It is possible, though, for some people to have a type of seasonal depression that comes on in the summer, or any time of year. 

Mental health professionals consider SAD to be a specific type of bi polar disorder, or form clinical depression. Winter pattern SAD, or winter depression, is more common, but some people exhibit summer pattern SAD, or summer depression. A doctor will diagnose seasonal affective disorder with the same criteria they use for diagnosing major depression, when the symptoms have appeared at the same time for two or more consecutive years.

People may be more susceptible to SAD if they already suffer from other psychological disorders, like panic attacks, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, or ADHD, or if other people in their family also suffer from depression.

While medical science has not definitively proven what causes SAD, it is believed to be related to lower levels of serotonin and/or higher levels of melatonin. Imbalances in these brain chemicals can lead to the lethargic feelings and depressed mood that characterizes seasonal depression, which can have a dramatic impact on your ability to take part in your normal daily activities for four to five months out of the year.

Less daylight can also affect Vitamin D levels, as we normally get some of our Vitamin D from direct exposure to sunlight. The combination of the time change due to daylight savings time, and the shorter days, can have a major impact on your daily rhythms, and some people have a harder time making this adjustment.

When you are already feeling moody, anxious, or depressed, facing holiday events with your family or other people can feel overwhelming. Feelings of loneliness and sadness can make you feel isolated and unable to enjoy things that seem to be making others so happy. Changes in your appetite can lead to overeating unhealthy foods and weight gain, and you may feel triggered and self-conscious about your body.

TCM can be a highly effective way to treat all types of depression and anxiety, as it approaches mental health disorders holistically. Finding the root cause of emotional and physical symptoms from the TCM point of view can help relieve sleep problems and mood disorders, and help to restimulate mental clarity and a healthy appetite.

Top 10 SAD Symptoms

sleep, insomnia, fatigue, seasonal depression
Sleep problems can be a sign of SAD.

Naturally, most people feel some alteration in their mood and energy as the seasons change. Shorter days, longer nights, and colder temperatures are bound to have an effect on your mood and behavior. But, if you begin feeling persistently low, and notice that it is affecting your sleeping and eating habits, then you may need to pay closer attention to the possibility of seasonal depression. Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include:

  1. Depression, depressed mood, sadness, feeling low
  2. Fatigue, lack of energy, low energy, tired all the time
  3. Sleep problems, insomnia, poor sleep, oversleeping
  4. Irritability, agitation, anxiety
  5. Changes in appetite, cravings for carbohydrates and/or sugar, or lack of appetite
  6. Weight gain or weight loss
  7. Lack of interest in activities you usually enjoy
  8. Difficulty concentrating, foggy headed
  9. Feelings of worthlessness, futility, guilt
  10. Dark feelings, thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicidal ideation

Sometimes people show behavioral changes that are an indication of SAD. For some people, this might be an increase in repetitive motions, like pacing, hand-wringing, or general restlessness. For others, it may mean that their overall manner and mode of movement slows down and becomes sluggish. They have a hard time getting out of bed or off the couch; when they do, they may shuffle, slowly, and their posture is hunched over. People may avoid socializing and isolate themselves. They may have a low libido.

When people have winter-pattern SAD, the symptoms tend to lean towards depression, heaviness, oversleeping, overeating, and weight gain. Summer-pattern SAD may induce feelings of anxiety, agitation, lack of appetite, insomnia, irritability, and even anger and violent episodes.

Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

If you seek medical help for seasonal affective disorder, you may be prescribed antidepressant medications, such as SSRIs. SSRIs (like Prozac, Lexapro, Zoloft or Celexa) help to elevate the levels of serotonin in the brain. Bupropion (Wellbutrin) is also used to help relieve symptoms of SAD by increasing serotonin and dopamine. Benzodiazepine (Xanax), which is generally used to help anxiety, may also be prescribed to help seasonal depression.

These medications can all have some negative side effects, and people may feel dependent on them, even when their SAD might naturally be abating.

Talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy can help people cope with their feelings and find ways to manage their behavior so that their health doesn’t suffer during the months they are having SAD symptoms.

Light therapy is now considered a viable way to treat SAD. This involves buying and using a special lamp to simulate sunlight. This can be helpful for some people, but for others, it can cause sleeplessness, eye strain, and headaches. People who have diabetes or eye problems should probably not use a light box because it could cause damage to the retina of the eye.  People who take certain kinds of anti-inflammatory medications or antibiotics can also be more sensitive to light. The light can also trigger manic episodes in people who already have bipolar disorder.

Acupuncture and TCM herbs offer a very safe way to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, without unwanted side effects.

Can Acupuncture Help SAD or Seasonal Depression?

seasonal affective disorder, winter blues
The winter blues are a form of recurring depression.

In the practice of TCM, we pay close attention to the way the seasons impact our health, as our bodies and minds reflect the transformation of the world around us. Winter and Summer are times when the energy in our environment can feel the most dramatic, and the feelings these times inspire in us can go deep. Extreme heat and cold definitely have an effect on our bodies, and being surrounded by darkness or intense brightness can have a real impact on our mental outlook. 

The Five Elements theory in TCM gives us a framework for understanding how temperatures, light and colors, and other aspects of seasonal changes affect and interplay with the organ systems of the body. The Liver, for example, is considered to be responsible for moving Qi through the body. If the Liver Qi is stagnant and slow, it can lead to very real feelings of frustration and ultimately, depression. The Kidney is associated with sun energy, so lack of sunlight can lead to feeling cold and sad.

It is possible to balance this energy within ourselves, so that we can experience the seasons without harm to our physical or mental health. By using specific acupuncture points, we can help to nourish and strengthen the energy in the organ systems. We can also use acupressure points and herbs to help promote better sleep, relieve fatigue, restlessness, and irritability.

Top Tips from TCM to Help Prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder

soup, warm foods, SAD
Eat more warming, cooked foods like soups and stews.

Making changes to your lifestyle is essential in order to banish the winter blues. It is easy to get trapped in a cycle of unhealthy eating and sleeping behaviors, and it may take some effort to get back on track. To avoid sluggish energy and loss of fitness, make it your goal to adopt these daily habits:

 

  1. Eat More Nourishing, Warm Foods – Many people crave sweets and starchy foods during the winter months, but the combination of eating too many carbohydrates and not getting enough exercise can lead to weight gain. This will likely add to feelings of heaviness and depression. According to the TCM philosophy of nutrition, we want to concentrate on eating more warming foods like soups and stews with lots of vegetables, including hearty, filling foods like sweet potatoes and winter squashes. Add sour flavor and probiotics with fermented foods like pickled cabbage.
  2. Avoid Cold Foods and Drinks – Now it is especially important to avoid cold foods like iced treats, smoothies, or raw salads. Eating too much sugar or drinking alcohol, especially in the evening, can cause blood sugar levels to rise and then fall, which can cause you to wake up in the night. 
  3. Exercise in the Morning Light – A brisk walk around the neighborhood or a short hike in the fresh air is ideal. You want to get your heart pumping and take in as much sunlight as you can in the early part of the day. 
  4. Get Some Sun – Take every opportunity to sit by a window. If this is not possible, keep your work and home space well lit during the daytime, so that you don’t get drowsy. Go for one more walk in the afternoon to catch the sunset, if you can.
  5. Adjust Your Sleep Cycle – Go to bed earlier, and wake with the sun. It is natural that we want more rest and time in our cozy, warm beds in the winter. Avoid staying up in the darkness with the unnatural light from your screens shining in your eyes before bedtime. Wind down with a warm drink and a self-care foot massage.

 

Acupuncture Near Me for SAD and Seasonal Depression – Los Angeles Area

Acupuncture and TCM are now widely accepted as effective treatments for mental health issues and psychological disorders of all kinds: depression, anxiety, PTSD, panic disorder. A TCM practitioner will listen carefully to all of the physical and emotional symptoms each individual presents, and structure each acupuncture treatment and herbal formula accordingly. Thus, as the seasons change, and you go through life changes, your treatment plan changes, too. To avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder, it is best to see your acupuncturist a few months before the difficult season will arrive, so that this year, you can prevent seasonal depression from coming on.

 

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

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How to Treat Addiction With Acupuncture and TCM

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

addiction, substance use disorder
Most people with substance use disorders (SUDs) need help to quit.

Are you, or is someone you love, struggling with alcohol addiction or some other substance abuse problem? Alcoholism, drug addiction, and other issues like porn addiction problems or food addiction can be helped with TCM treatment. Acupuncture for addiction can help people overcome the physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, and help them deal with the mental and emotional aspects of substance abuse recovery. 

Drug use, drinking, and smoking are behaviors that are widely practiced and deeply ingrained in our modern society. If we consider tobacco smoking and alcohol consumption in addition to “harder” drugs, then over 60% of the population uses some type of addictive substance on a regular basis.

Substance use disorders (SUDs) are a major health concern worldwide. It is estimated that over 20 million Americans are currently suffering from some type of addiction to drugs or alcohol. While addiction can happen to people of all ages, young people are especially at risk for substance abuse. When teens and young adults start binge drinking or abusing drugs, it can have a serious effect on their brain development and increase their chances of developing a substance abuse problem.

More recently, the surge of opioid use has dramatically increased the number of people who are dangerously dependent on prescription painkillers or deliberately misusing opioid medications like fentanyl or Oxycontin. People can become addicted to opioid medications in a short period of time. Accidental overdose is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., which has contributed to the recent decline in average life expectancy.

Even moderate drinking and use of recreational drugs can affect a person’s overall health, sleep habits, and fertility. There are many benefits to reducing your alcohol consumption, or choosing to go through an alcohol detox or a designated period of sobriety, like “Sober October” or “Dry January.” A TCM herbal detox with acupuncture treatment can help improve your vitality and get rid of nagging health issues.

If you know you have a serious problem with addictive behaviors, though, you will probably need some sort of treatment and support system to help you get sober and recover physically and mentally from substance use disorder.

What Causes Addiction?

opioids, oxycontin, prescription painkillers
Some prescription painkillers are highly addictive.

When we talk about addiction, we are usually referring to the relationship of the body and mind to psychoactive substances such as: alcohol, nicotine, marijuana, heroin, cocaine, amphetamines, methamphetamine, hallucinogens, etc. The chemical composition of these substances causes them to have a profound effect on the brain chemistry of human beings.

Unfortunately, many drugs that are prescribed by doctors to help relieve pain and other symptoms of illness are habit-forming, too. When people try to stop taking the medication they’ve been using to help with post-surgical pain, for example, or to help them sleep, or to relieve situational depression and anxiety, they find they can’t just “quit.”

Even “milder” substances like caffeine and sugar, which many people consider to be a regular part of their daily diet, can be abused to the point that they become detrimental to your health. And, of course, we all know how hard it is for people to quit smoking. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances out there.

Most of these drugs affect the way the brain produces dopamine and other neurochemicals. When you stop drinking or using the drug, the brain is not ready to go back to its old ways of creating and releasing dopamine. There is a period of adjustment, during which symptoms of withdrawal can make a person very uncomfortable, or even violently sick. 

Certain behaviors, like scrolling through social media websites on your phone, or looking at pornography, or even engaging in sexual activity, can also be addictive because of the way they impact dopamine production and other brain activity.

There has been a lot of shame and stigma attached to alcoholism and addiction. Sometimes, people live in denial of the fact that they are too heavily reliant on drinking or using drugs to help them cope with stress. Alcohol abuse or drug abuse are still considered by some people to be personal problems, having to do with a lack of willpower or gratitude.

We now understand that addiction is a disease, and that it can be difficult and actually dangerous for people to try to stop using some drugs without some form of treatment. Doctors and mental health professionals are trained to help people safely recover from substance abuse, and treatments exist to provide relief from drug withdrawal symptoms. In addition to the 12 step program Alcoholics Anonymous, which provides emotional support through group interactions, many other clinics and rehab centers provide care for those trying to stop using drugs and alcohol.

hard alcohol, drinking
Acupuncture and herbs can help with alcohol detox.

Still, most people find that recovering from addiction is extremely difficult, probably the hardest thing they have ever tried to do. Many people, no matter what kind of treatment they receive, or how many times they go through a 12 step program, still relapse. First a person needs to decide that they are ready to commit to recovery. Then, finding the right support is crucial to success.

TCM methods of acupuncture and herbs offer an alternative or adjunctive treatment for addiction. Acupuncture treatment has been shown to help patients suffering from alcoholism and depression, reducing cravings and symptoms of withdrawal and improving mental health.

Acupuncture can help people overcome substance abuse, addressing both the physical effects of drug use with an effective alcohol detox or drug detox, and the emotional problems most people face when they begin recovery treatment.

Top 10 Symptoms of Withdrawal from Alcohol Dependence and Drug Abuse

Withdrawal is the body’s reaction when a person stops using drugs or alcohol after having been ingesting them regularly for a significant period of time. When the body and brain have become addicted to a substance, the physical and emotional need for that substance can cause a severe reaction when a person stops abruptly, making it very difficult for a person to resist using again. Withdrawal symptoms can vary, depending on what type of substance you’ve been using, and how long you’ve been using it. 

Symptoms of withdrawal include:

  1. Tremor, hands shaking, body shaking, seizures
  2. Anxiety, depression, agitation, feeling jumpy, irritability, delirium, hallucinations
  3. Watery eyes, tearing, runny nose
  4. Hot flashes, chills, hot flushes, hot and cold, sweating, clammy skin
  5. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  6. Muscle cramps, muscle aches, muscle pain, muscle tension 
  7. Dehydration
  8. High blood pressure, fast heartbeat, irregular heartbeat, palpitations
  9. Anxiety, depression, overwhelming negative emotions
  10. Insomnia, trouble sleeping, restlessness

Other signs of withdrawal can include: trouble concentrating, memory loss, foggy headedness, pupils dilated, loss of appetite.

Some medical detox programs are designed to help people gradually taper their use of drugs like amphetamines or sleep medications so as to minimize withdrawal symptoms. Treatment centers, such as a methadone clinic, may use certain approved medications to help relieve cravings when people are coming off of heroin or prescription pain medications.

Acupuncture, a TCM detox program, and other TCM treatments can serve as an alternative or adjunct treatment to help alleviate withdrawal and help people survive through the toughest parts of recovery.

Top 5 Ways Acupuncture Can Help Addiction

phone internet addiction
Internet addiction is also related to dopamine production.

The relationship between Chinese medicine and alcohol goes back many centuries. As early as 1600 B.C., we have records of alcohol being used in medicinal preparations and for its anesthetic properties. Problems with overuse of alcohol, however, are also a longstanding part of Chinese culture, so TCM has developed treatments to help people reduce their consumption of alcohol.

According to TCM philosophy, too much alcohol creates excessive heat in the body, and disturbs the balance of Yin and Yang. In conventional medicine, the focus tends to be on how alcohol abuse impacts the liver. In TCM, we see that binge drinking also taxes the stomach and spleen, and encourages dampness to take hold. Thus, acupuncture treatment for alcohol addiction will often focus on clearing heat and dampness from the organ systems, while strengthening the stomach and spleen.

TCM takes a holistic approach to treating Substance use disorders, meaning we focus not only on the physical symptoms of withdrawal, but also on the emotional, mental, and spiritual problems associated with addiction. 

Most people become dependent on drugs or alcohol because they are already experiencing some form of emotional struggle or mental health issue. When the substance is taken away, those feelings come up to the surface again, demanding attention. For many people, the anxiety and depression they face when they quit drinking or using drugs is overwhelming. 

Some people may avoid 12 step programs, an AA meeting, alcohol rehab, drug addiction centers for substance use disorders, or even one-on-one talk therapy because they are not ready to talk about the trauma that triggered their anxiety or depression. Acupuncture treatment can be very helpful for anxiety and depression, without having to delve into these conversations.

TCM treatment for addiction works on multiple levels:

  1. Detox –  TCM has a history going back for many centuries of actively seeking to remove toxic substances from the body to improve both physical and mental health. The practice of using Chinese herbs used in combination has been developed to be highly effective as a detox from all kinds of drugs. A TCM detox treatment program uses acupuncture treatment as well as herbs taken internally (as a tea or capsule) and used externally (detox patches) to draw toxins from the body, providing a deep cleansing for the liver and other organ systems. 
  2. Reduces cravings – whether the problem is nicotine, alcohol, opiates, food, or some behavior like engaging with porn, the use of auricular acupuncture and applying pressure to acupressure points on the head and ears for cravings can be very effective.
  3. Withdrawal Symptoms – Acupuncture has been shown to help people with symptoms of opioid withdrawal, heroin withdrawal, and prevent relapses.
  4. Mental Health – people who were treated with acupuncture for addiction reported that it helped them feel more confidence in their ability to quit. Acupuncture helps relieve anxiety and the negative effects of stress.
  5. Sleep aid – many people start using drugs in the first place because they have trouble sleeping. When people quit drinking and using drugs, they can suffer from insomnia and restlessness. Acupuncture is an excellent modality for helping people to relax and experience deeper, higher quality sleep.

Acupuncture has been shown to have an effect on neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, which are involved in the brain processes that make certain substances so addictive.

Several types of Chinese medicines based on herbal formulation have been tested and approved for treatment of opiate addiction in China.

Studies have shown that electro-acupuncture, and auricular acupuncture can reduce cravings, and alleviate anxiety related to drinking cessation.

Acupuncture for Addiction Treatment Near Me in Los Angeles Area

Addiction can be devastating for individuals and their loved ones, but substance abuse and other kinds of addictions can be overcome with time, dedication, and the right treatment plan. At Art of Wellness, we are ready to become part of your support team, providing consistently excellent health care through acupuncture and herbs, as well as being there for you when you need emotional support. We want our patients to think of our clinic as a second home, where they can find peace and strength to help them overcome their substance use disorder.

 

 

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

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How to Treat Oligospermia With Acupuncture and TCM

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

low sperm count, oligospermia, male infertility
Acupuncture can help men produce healthy sperm.

If you and your partner have been trying to get pregnant but it hasn’t happened yet, maybe you are concerned that it could be due to male infertility, or low sperm count, also known as Oligospermia. Male factor infertility is an issue in 40-50% of cases when a couple is having trouble conceiving. Acupuncture and TCM herbs offer a male infertility treatment that can help improve sperm production, increase sperm count, and help men produce healthy sperm.

Infertility in men is more common than you might think. Statistics show that infertility increasing worldwide is an issue, as many couples are having trouble conceiving. Roughly one in ten couples find that they are not able to get pregnant without some form of fertility treatment. Most men don’t know they may have this problem until they are trying to get their partner pregnant and things aren’t working. When couples go in for a female and male infertility test, about half of the time they find that male fertility is compromised. The cause of infertility in male can be due to many variables, so it may take more testing to discover why there is a problem. In many cases, infertility in men and women is never fully explained medically.

You can take a sperm count test at home, but that doesn’t tell you the whole story. A fertility test for men, or semen analysis, performed through a doctor will give you more information about sperm motility, sperm shape, the concentration of sperm in your semen, the Ph balance of the semen, and other details that may help to determine if there is a problem with male factor infertility. Other, more specific tests can show: swimming speed and direction, whether there are antisperm antibodies (ASAs) present, the sperm’s effectiveness at breaking through the outer wall of an egg, etc. Of men who are experiencing problems with infertility, about ten percent have azoospermia, which means a sperm count of zero, or no sperm in the semen. This can happen due to genetic conditions, radiation or chemotherapy treatments, use of some drugs, or anatomical abnormalities.

One of the most common causes of infertility in men is varicoceles, which are swollen veins in the testicles, similar to varicose veins. Varicoceles are not always noticeable, and often don’t cause any problems. However, they can block proper blood flow in the testicles, cause the temperature of the scrotum to rise, and have a negative impact on sperm production. This condition can be treated with surgery to repair the veins, or redirect blood flow to healthier veins.

Perhaps you have already heard about how beneficial TCM treatment can be for infertility in women, but you may not know that acupuncture for male infertility is also effective, whether used as an adjunct to ART (assisted reproductive technologies) treatment for male fertility, or as an alternative to conventional medical treatment. In the case of varicoceles, for example, studies have shown that men treated with acupuncture showed similar improvement in sperm motility and quality to men who had had minimally invasive surgery to help repair varicoceles. 

Acupuncture treatment works on many levels, helping to improve blood circulation, reduce inflammation, cool excess heat, boost testosterone and erectile function, as well as helping to optimize overall health by reducing the effects of stress and anxiety, and improving sleep.

Top 10 Cause of Low Sperm Count

male infertility low sperm count oligospermia
Getting a male infertility test is the first step to solving the problem of low sperm count.

Problems with low sperm count and low sperm motility can be related to underlying health issues, or in some cases, lifestyle habits that may affect sperm production.

  1. Varicocele – swelling in the blood vessels in the testicles that has a negative impact on sperm production and sperm quality.
  2. Infections – some illnesses, like mumps, or sexually-transmitted diseases, like gonorrhea or HIV, can cause inflammation, damage, and/or scarring in the testicles that can affect sperm health or the mechanical release of sperm from the testicles.
  3. Ejaculation problems – chronic health conditions like diabetes, the use of blood pressure medications like alpha-blockers, or injury to the urinary tract or spine, can cause problems with the process of sperm being mixed with semen from the prostate and exiting the body through the penis. Retrograde ejaculation, for example, means that semen and sperm are going into the bladder instead of being expelled through the penis during ejaculation. Erectile dysfunction (ED) can also be an issue.
  4. Immune Infertility – autoimmune disorders can cause antibodies (antisperm antibodies, or ASA) to mistakenly attack sperm as if they were foreign bodies. This can happen in both men and women. (If a woman is producing ASAs, they attack the sperm when they enter the female reproductive system.) Some men who have had a vasectomy begin to develop these antibodies, and then, even after reversal of the vasectomy (vasovasostomy), they still have male infertility issues.
  5. Blocked tubes – several sets of tubes are involved in proper functioning of the male reproductive system and the male urinary system. If any of these tubes (the vas deferens, epididymis, seminal vesicle, urethra) are blocked, due to infection, inflammation, scarring, or other damage, it can affect sperm making it into the semen and out of the body during ejaculation. BPH and other prostate problems can cause inflammation in this area.
  6. Hormone imbalance – low testosterone levels or imbalances in levels of FSH and LH, hormones can cause low sperm production.
  7. Undescended testicles – a small number of male babies are born with one or both testicles that have not descended into the scrotum. In some cases, the testicles will descend within a few months on their own; in other cases, surgery is performed to correct the problem. If a boy grows into adulthood with his testes undescended, it can affect male fertility.
  8. Cancer or other tumors – a tumor or imbalance in hormones due to cancer (testicular cancer, prostate cancer, or bladder cancer) can disrupt sperm production. Side effects of cancer treatments like radiation, chemotherapy, and hormone therapy can also slow down sperm production or stop it. These side effects can also affect libido and sexual function.
  9. Chromosomal defects – several genetic disorders can cause infertility in men due to chromosomal abnormalities (Noonan’s syndrome, Cystic fibrosis, Kleinfelter syndrome)
  10. Celiac disease – While there has only been limited research done thus far, there have been some connections made between male infertility and celiac disease, which is a type of autoimmune disorder. One study suggested that a gluten-free diet helped men with celiac disease to increase sperm count. 

Other things that can impact sperm count and sperm motility include the use of recreational drugs like marijuana, opiates, hormone supplements meant to boost testosterone, or anabolic steroids taken to build more muscle mass. Medications used to treat autoimmune disorders, like IBDs, Crohn’s disease, etc., can also affect male fertility.

How to Increase Sperm Count – Medical Treatments

male infertility low sperm count oligospermia
Couples must work together, creating healthy habits and reducing stress in order to optimize fertility.

Medical treatment and ART for male infertility depends first on testing to get as clear a diagnosis as possible. If it seems like some infection is causing problems, antibiotics may be prescribed, although in some cases, an extended infection may have already done some damage to the organs involved. If hormone imbalance is the problem, medications that alter the balance of FSH and LH, hormones crucial to sperm production, may be used, including estrogen receptor blockers, or human chorionic gonadotropin. As previously mentioned, surgeries to repair varicoceles can help to restore fertility.

In many cases, though, the exact cause of male infertility is not known. Male infertility is a complex health issue. The physical mechanics of sperm production, erectile function, and ejaculation are all important. It is important to acknowledge that these forces are closely connected to a man’s mental health and emotional health. If there is a lot of stress around trying to get pregnant, stress about having sex, stress in the relationship, or many other issues that may come into play, then the stress itself can have a real impact on sexual function and sperm production. Acupuncture and TCM is a good treatment method to address all of these physical and emotional issues at the same time, without unwanted side effects.

Can Acupuncture Help Male Infertility and Oligospermia?

First, let’s make it clear: acupuncture treatment for low sperm count is not going to involve needles being placed anywhere near the scrotum or penis. Acupuncture works on a subtle level and is relatively painless. Patients usually find it relaxing, and often take a nap during the treatment.

male infertility low sperm count, oligospermia
Infertility treatment is stressful. Be sure to put together a caring team to help you and your partner achieve your dream.

According to TCM theory, both blood and Qi need to flow smoothly throughout the channels of the body, nourishing the organs, for there to be optimal health. This is particularly true when it comes to promoting good reproductive health. Sperms must be ready to move through both the man’s reproductive system and the woman’s reproductive system, penetrate an egg, and start a new life. In order for healthy sperm to be produced, there needs to be a lot of blood and energy flowing to the testicles, where sperm are created.

In TCM, dampness and phlegm are often the causes of blockages. Acupuncture treatment focuses on improving blood flow, not only to testicles, but also to the kidneys and liver. TCM theory considers the kidney to be the keeper of a person’s “essence.” Essence is the life material that we inherit from our parents and pass on to our children. The kidneys are also considered to be responsible for the regulation and transformation of fluids in the body. Strengthening the kidneys, clearing heat, phlegm, and dampness from the organs, and nourishing the blood and Qi are the main focus of acupuncture treatment for low sperm count.

Nutrition, diet, exercise, stress reduction, adequate sleep, and other lifestyle habits are important factors in treating low sperm count. Your acupuncturist near me will go over the details in order to help you choose foods that boost fertility and adjust your routines so that they are most beneficial for infertility.

It helps to realize that sperm take about two to three months to mature, so acupuncture, herbs, and  changes in lifestyle, as part of a holistic treatment regimen, need to be given adequate time and commitment to take effect. 

One study confirmed that scrotal temperature and sperm count were improved in a significant number of men treated for oligospermia with acupuncture.

A study measuring sperm maturity and functionality found that patients treated with acupuncture for five weeks showed an increase in sperm function at the end of the five weeks, and then scored higher for sperm function again five weeks after treatment had ended.

Another study looked at acupuncture for low sperm motility and found that acupuncture helped increase sperm motility in a significant number of men.
Chinese herbs have been shown to have a positive effect on balancing FSH and LH levels.

Acupuncture Near Me for Oligospermia in Los Angeles

Dealing with male infertility due to low sperm count can be frustrating and stressful. It’s important that you and your partner put together a team of supportive health care providers who are also experts in the field of infertility treatment. At Art of Wellness, we have over thirty-five years of experience providing the very best in integrative care for infertility. We have worked with many of the top ART providers in Los Angeles, providing adjunctive care for couples going through fertility 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.

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