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Chinese Medicine

How to Treat Herpes Simplex With Acupuncture and TCM

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

Cold sores on the mouth or around the genitals are signs of herpes simplex.

Cold sores around mouth, blisters on lips? Burning, itching sores around the genital area? Herpes simplex is a skin disorder caused by one of two viral infections: HSV-1 or HSV-2. TCM methods, including acupuncture and herbs, can help clear up a painful herpes outbreak and prevent herpes simplex outbreaks in the future.

Herpes simplex is one of the most common kinds of infectious disease, affecting several billions of people worldwide. It is estimated that about 66% of the world’s population has had a HSV-1 infection at some point in their lives. Herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) is the viral infection that is associated with oral herpes or orolabial herpes–the one that causes sores around the mouth, often referred to as “cold sores” or “fever blisters.” Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) is the kind that causes genital herpes. Herpes virus is related to varicella-zoster viruses, the viruses that cause Chickenpox and Shingles.

How do you get herpes? The skin infection caused by herpes simplex spreads from person to person through close contact. HSV-1, or oral herpes, can spread through sharing utensils, toothbrushes, or towels, or by touching one of the mouth sores, or kissing. HSV-2, or genital herpes, is usually spread through sexual contact is therefore considered a sexually transmitted disease (STD). In fact, either one of the two viral infections can cause sores on the mouth or genital area, or even on other parts of the body. If oral herpes, or HSV-1, gets into the eyes, it can cause serious damage, even causing scarring or permanent loss of vision.

A person can pass herpes to another person even if they aren’t having an active outbreak with visible sores. A pregnant woman can pass the herpes virus to her baby during birth, and the virus can also be passed during breastfeeding. Once a person has been infected with HSV-2, the virus stays in the body and can lie dormant, then resurface in periodic recurrent outbreaks.

Initially, herpes skin disorders manifest in the skin cells, causing the red, painful, blister-like sores. After a while, the infection moves deeper, into the nerve cells, where it can lie dormant until something happens to activate it again, like an illness or stressful life event.

Medical treatment for herpes simplex focuses on minimizing the pain of an outbreak of sores and attempting to prevent future outbreaks with antiviral medications. People who have genital herpes must take care to practice safe sex and avoid sex during outbreaks in order to prevent spreading herpes to their partners. People with herpes can suffer from depression brought on by the knowledge that they may have to live with this highly contagious viral infection for the rest of their lives, and with the danger of possibly transmitting herpes simplex to others with whom they are intimate.

Fortunately, TCM herbs and acupuncture offer an alternative medicine option for dealing with herpes simplex. TCM can help with quick healing of the burning sores that signify an outbreak, but can also work on a deeper level to strengthen the immune system so that it can fight the virus better from within.

Top 5 Symptoms of Herpes Simplex

Signs of a herpes simplex infection depend on which type of viral infection you have, and where the infection spreads. Usually, symptoms manifest either around the mouth or genital area, but sometimes the herpes virus can spread to the eyes (herpes keratitis). The most common symptoms of herpes include:

  1. Itching, burning, tingling around the mouth or genital area
  2. Painful, fluid-filled blisters or sores around the mouth or genital area
  3. Flu-like symptoms: fever, body aches, swollen glands
  4. Trouble urinating, burning sensation when peeing
  5. Pain in eyes, cloudy vision

Once a person has had their first symptomatic period of a herpes infection, they may have recurrence of symptoms periodically–in some cases, frequently. The majority of people who have been infected with HSV-2 experience another outbreak within a year; some people experience recurrent outbreaks several times a year or as often as once a month.

There are a few other skin conditions that might sometimes be mistaken for herpes simplex. Impetigo is a bacterial infection that can cause red sores to form around the mouth and nose. “Jock itch” is a fungal infection that can cause a red rash in the groin area. Folliculitis is when hair follicles become inflamed and form pimples with pus; this can happen in the facial or genital region due to shaving, but it can also be related to herpes, if the viral infection causes irritation and blockages in the hair follicles. Molluscum contagiosum is another viral skin infection that causes raised lesions to form; however, they are generally painless and flesh-colored, not similar to herpes lesions. Bacterial vaginosis, a common bacterial infection which can cause a burning sensation in the vagina, may increase a woman’s chances of getting herpes and other STDs.

What Triggers a Herpes Outbreak?

The herpes virus is similar to the varicella virus (chickenpox) in that it stays in the body long after the initial infection, and can flare up and cause trouble later on. The varicella virus can lie dormant for many years, and then emerge as a case of Shingles late in life, causing a very painful rash.

herpes simplex outbreak
Exposure to sunlight can trigger a herpes outbreak

Herpes can cause rare or frequent outbreaks, depending on the severity of the initial infection, how or if it was treated, and what sort of care a person takes to prevent recurrences. A person who has experienced recurrent outbreaks may become aware of early signs that show up a few days before sores actually break out on the skin, such as tingling or shooting pain in the genital area or around the hips or legs. 

The things that can trigger a herpes simplex outbreaks include:

  • Illness, fever
  • Suppression or weakness of the immune system
  • Exposure to sunlight, changes of the season or temperature
  • Menstrual period, hormonal changes
  • Prolonged period of stress, emotional stress
  • Surgery, trauma

Medical Treatment for Herpes Simplex

The typical treatment for herpes simplex HSV-1 and HSV-2 includes the use of antiviral medications such as acyclovir (Zovirax), famciclovir (Famvir) and valacyclovir (Valtrex). These medications may be taken intermittently, to help treat outbreaks when they occur, or, in some cases, may be recommended for daily usage to help prevent outbreaks from occurring. For some people, these medications help to reduce the frequency of outbreaks, and there is some evidence that they may help prevent a person’s sexual partner from being infected. However, these antiviral medications do not help everyone who has herpes simplex. They can only reduce the spread of the virus in the body; they do not eliminate it completely. Some people may become allergic or resistant to the drugs. Some people experience side effects, including potentially serious kidney problems or unusual bleeding. 

TCM treatment with herbs and acupuncture can help to reduce the severity of herpes outbreaks and prevent recurrence, without any negative side effects.

Can Acupuncture Help Herpes?

From the TCM point of view, the redness and burning of the blister-like rash that accompanies viral infections like herpes and varicella is caused by heat and dampness. Clearing heat and damp from the liver and gallbladder will usually be one of the primary goals of acupuncture treatment and herbal supplementation, as this will help to quickly cool down an outbreak of the painful sores. Maintaining the health and balance of the liver system long-term will help to prevent future outbreaks. 

TCM also factors in emotional well-being when considering each individual’s presentation of a disease. The flare up of herpes simplex viral infection is associated with stress and negative emotions, especially anger. Anger is connected to the Liver and Gallbladder, and also to the eyes, which is why sometimes the herpes skin disorder will manifest in the eyes. Learning lifestyle behaviors and dietary choices that will help to balance the emotions and reduce excess heat in the body will also help reduce the occurrence of herpes flare ups.

Chinese herbs herpes
Herbs can help relieve herpes simplex outbreaks.

Some herbal formulations work well to heal sores related to herpes outbreak. There are also specific Chinese herbs that function as “antivirals.” These herbs can help control the virus in the body, which, when combined with treatment and herbs that strengthen the immune system, can be effective at reducing the risk of recurrent outbreaks of herpes.

Acupuncture Near Me for Herpes Simplex

While herpes simplex is often considered a disease one has to “learn to live with,” it is not necessary to suffer the pain and emotional burden of herpes simplex infection without relief. Alternative medicine for herpes in the form of acupuncture and herbs offers a holistic treatment option that can help relieve the physical symptoms of recurrent herpes outbreaks as well as associated mental and emotional struggles with shame, anxiety, depression, and relationship concerns. Boosting the immune system, strengthening the Qi and organ systems, reducing heat through proper nutrition, and relieving stress can all work to help people with herpes live free of the fear of the next outbreak.

 

 

*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 Musculoskeletal Pain With Acupuncture and TCM

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

musculoskeletal pain, fibromyalgia
Widespread musculoskeletal pain that moves around may be a sign of fibromyalgia.

Do you experience unexplained pain all over the body? Muscle pain and tenderness, along with feeling tired all the time and having mood issues? Widespread musculoskeletal pain accompanied by fatigue or feeling exhausted may be a sign you have fibromyalgia. Alternative medicine methods like Acupuncture and TCM offer a way to help ease the chronic pain, sleep problems, and emotional disturbances caused by fibromyalgia.

Fibromyalgia (sometimes referred to as “fibro” or FM) is one of the most common chronic pain conditions worldwide, affecting an estimated 10 million people in the United States alone. Still, this chronic condition is still not well understood by medical science. There are no definitive tests to show whether or not fibromyalgia is the cause of pain all over the body along with chronic fatigue, so many people go on having musculoskeletal problems and hurting all over without being diagnosed or treated. There are many people who have fibromyalgia who also suffer from depression and anxiety related to the illness. Fibromyalgia can dramatically impact a person’s quality of life. While people of ages and genders can have fibromyalgia, it is much more prevalent among women.

Fibromyalgia is considered to be a syndrome: a collection of symptoms that often occur together. Fibromyalgia is associated with other conditions like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). It may coexist with these other chronic conditions, or sometimes be mistaken for one of them. However, fibromyalgia is now understood by medical professionals to be its own distinct condition with specific manifestations.

People who have RA have been shown to have an increased risk for also having fibromyalgia. But the quality and location of the musculoskeletal pain differentiates the two conditions. The pain of fibromyalgia shows up in the musculoskeletal system in the areas where there are large muscles, causing pain that may move around throughout the torso, back, thighs and arms. Fibromyalgia pain is often described as a kind of “tenderness,” or when the body aches all over. “Tender points” all over the body are specific to fibromyalgia. This is different from arthritis, which generally causes swelling and pain in the joints. Both RA and lupus are understood to be caused by inflammation, while fibromyalgia is believed to be caused by a problem with the central nervous system (CNS), in which pain signals are amplified, causing extreme sensitivity and pain, even when there is no seeming reason for that area of the body to feel pain.

Some of the fibromyalgia symptoms are very similar to those of myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), which is also known as chronic fatigue (CFS). As with RA and lupus, the two conditions can overlap. The difference is that the overwhelming symptoms of ME/CFS are related to fatigue or post-exertional malaise (PEM), while the predominant symptom of fibromyalgia is widespread muscle pain and tenderness. 

Fibromyalgia seems to show up in some people due to a traumatic or triggering event. There can then be a fibromyalgia flare up due to the presence of other triggers later.

Fortunately, acupuncture, herbs, and other forms of alternative medicine that fall under TCM can approach all of the different symptoms of fibromyalgia holistically. Acupuncture is widely accepted to be effective for helping musculoskeletal conditions of all kinds, as well as neurological problems, rheumatological conditions, sleep issues, and emotional and mental health disorders.

Top 10 Symptoms of Musculoskeletal Pain

fatigue, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia
Fatigue and insomnia are symptoms of fibromyalgia.

As a syndrome, fibromyalgia may manifest as any combination of a few or several of a variety of symptoms. The most common symptoms of fibromyalgia include:

  1. Widespread musculoskeletal pain: pain, tenderness, and/or stiffness in the muscles all over the body that may come and go or migrate from one area to another
  2. Fatigue, exhaustion, extreme tiredness
  3. Emotional and/or mental issues: depression, anxiety, PTSD
  4. Sleep problems, insomnia
  5. Cognitive issues: difficulty concentrating, memory problems, “fibro fog”
  6. Headaches, migraines
  7. Neuropathy: tingling or numbness in the hands and/or feet
  8. TMJ, jaw pain
  9. Digestive problems: irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), abdominal pain, bloating
  10. Bladder pain, interstitial cystitis

Other more subtle signs of fibromyalgia can include: itching all over, a skin crawling sensation (like bugs crawling on skin), extra sensitivity to smells or temperature, a tendency to shiver, or dry eyes or eye pain.

Top 5 Causes Musculoskeletal Pain Flares

The symptoms of fibromyalgia tend to come and go. Some days a person might feel almost totally fine, then other days, the fibromyalgia flares, causing more pain, exhaustion, and sometimes other symptoms. What triggers a fibromyalgia flare up? 

  1. Hormonal changes during menstrual cycle, miscarriage, pregnancy, or postpartum
  2. Prolonged stress
  3. A sudden traumatic event, PTSD trigger, panic attack
  4. Changes in weather: temperature, humidity, barometric pressure
  5. Lack of sleep

When one of the 18 tender points of fibromyalgia is touched, it can trigger more widespread pain. These points include areas like: the front and sides of the neck, the base of the skull, the elbow, and the backs of the knees.

What Is the Treatment for Fibromyalgia?

Medical treatment for fibromyalgia typically involves a combination of medicine to alleviate pain with psychological support and lifestyle management. Drugs like Lyrica, Cymbalta, and Savella are approved for prescription for patients with fibromyalgia. Lyrica and Cymbalta are also used to treat conditions that involve nerve damage or nerve pain, like diabetes, neuropathy, shingles, while Savella works in a way that is similar to antidepressants. Other pain relievers and/or antidepressant medications may also be prescribed to help people manage pain of fibromyalgia, help them sleep better, and boost mood. All of these medications can come with unwanted side effects, and they do not help to relieve pain in every case.

People with FM pain will often receive counseling on how to manage their condition by being very careful not to exert themselves or become exhausted. Getting quality sleep and reducing stress can help to prevent fibro flare up. It can be hard for people to follow guidelines that ask them to make major lifestyle changes. Fortunately, acupuncture, herbs, and the patient support of a TCM practitioner can offer more help for people with fibromyalgia.

Acupuncture for Musculoskeletal Pain

Can acupuncture help fibromyalgia? Yes. TCM offers a comprehensive system for managing musculoskeletal pain and chronic pain, helping to heal nerve damage and restore central nervous system function, supporting mental health, relieving anxiety and depression, and addressing sleep problems. Whereas with conventional medicine, a patient might go from one doctor to another to handle all of these issues, the acupuncturist can address them all at once. The TCM point of view always takes into consideration the connection between what is going on physically with what is going on emotionally in each individual, so it is really an excellent way to help patients with fibromyalgia.

cold damp chronic pain
Cold and damp deep in the body can cause chronic pain.

Like Western medicine, TCM recognizes that sometimes fibromyalgia can be originally caused by a traumatic event or an extremely stressful time in one’s life. Emotional upheavals cause stress to the liver, which in turn causes stagnation of blood and Qi. TCM also sees coldness and dampness as pathogenic forces that can have a profound effect on overall health. According to TCM, widespread musculoskeletal pain falls under the category of Bi Syndrome. In Bi Syndromes, cold and damp get into the body and take hold on a deep level, causing pain and stiffness. With acupuncture treatment for fibromyalgia, we seek to clear cold and damp, and restore good flow of Qi and blood throughout the body.

Acupuncture has an analgesic effect, relieving muscle pain without side effects. Moxibustion may be utilized to bring warmth to areas of the body. Cupping is another modality used to draw out damp cold and improve blood flow. Tai Qi and Qi Gong, gentle therapeutic movement practices that have been developed over 1000s of years as part of TCM, also may offer great benefits for people with FM.

A systematic review of over 400 studies of fibromyalgia treatment with TCM, acupuncture treatment was found to be effective for reducing both short term pain and long term pain.

Another review found that acupuncture and herbs worked better to reduce pain than standard medication therapy.

Top 5 Tips for Managing Fibromyalgia

Tai Qi
Tai Qi and Qi Gong can be beneficial for people with fibromyalgia, chronic musculoskeletal pain, and fatigue.

Dealing with fibromyalgia and seeing significant improvement in fibro pain will probably involve making some lasting lifestyle changes. Making adjustments to your sleep habits, food choices, and your exercise routine can make a difference in preventing the next FM flare up.

  1. Choose a gentle, enjoyable form of exercise. Start slowly, and gradually increase the amount you can exercise over time. Walking outdoors is a great option, as are Tai Qi and Qi Gong.
  2. Limit or eliminate caffeine and alcohol. These substances can interfere with getting good sleep and exacerbate liver problems. Alcohol is not safe to consume if you are taking medications for fibromyalgia like Lyrica, Cymbalta, and Savella.
  3. Avoid sugar, which may give you a short-lived good feeling, but will lead to a “sugar crash,” and feeling more exhausted than before. Any kind of simple carbohydrates, like foods made of white flour, or bottled fruit juices, can cause highs and lows in blood sugar. Avoid sugar substitutes and food additives like MSG, which can trigger reactions in some people.
  4. Focus on eating complex carbohydrates, especially vegetables. These help you have a more sustained energy throughout the day. Nuts and seeds are also good.
  5. Warm baths with Epsom salts can be very soothing. 

Getting enough sleep at night, and even resting or napping during the day, may be essential to your well-being if you have fibromyalgia. Develop habits that allow for plenty of rest and set yourself up for a good night’s sleep. 

Acupuncture Near Me for Musculoskeletal Pain

Many people who have fibromyalgia choose to try alternative medicine as a way of managing FM pain. Physiological conditions that stem from emotional stress are often not resolved through the use of medications. Acupuncture and TCM have a long history of helping people to heal from emotional disturbances that cause physical pain. Acupuncture treatment works to increase the flow of energy through the body and improve the connections between the brain and nerve endings. If you or someone you know suffers with fibro, consider acupuncture as a way to find relief from musculoskeletal pain and constant fatigue.

 

 

*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 Irregular Heartbeat With Acupuncture and TCM

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heart chambers
4 chambers of the heart

Does if feel like your heart “skips a beat,” or your heart is “fluttering?” Maybe you feel your heart beat is fast or slow, compared to your normal heart rate. Lots of things can cause your resting heart rate to be uneven. Acupuncture and TCM can be beneficial as both an adjunct or alternative to drug therapy for paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia, paroxysmal atrial fibrillation, and other types of arrhythmia that cause heart palpitations or a fast heart rate.

The pulse rate is controlled by electrical impulses that originate in the sinus node, which is located in the right atrium, or upper chamber, of the heart. The feeling that your heart rhythm is off, or different from your normal pulse rate is called Arrhythmia. The average resting heart rate is 60 to 100 beats per minute. A fast heart rate–more than 100 beats per minute–is called tachycardia. A slow heart rate–less than 60 beats per minute– is called bradycardia.

It is natural to have a slightly high heart rate during or just after exercise, or or a slow heart rate during sleep or times of relaxation, as when meditating. In some cases, a rapid heartbeat is related to anxiety or panic attacks. Sometimes a rapid or irregular heart rate may be related to caffeine consumption or a side effect of some medication. Other times, it may be a sign of heart disease or other chronic condition that needs to be addressed. Other symptoms related to irregular heartbeat include: shortness of breath, chest pain, sweating, and dizziness.

The heart is composed of four chambers; the top two chambers are called the atria, into which blood is received, and the two bottom chambers, the ventricles, from which blood is pumped out to the lungs and the rest of the body. Medical science classifies deviations from a normal resting heart rate both according to their rapidity and the chamber of the heart that seems to be problematic. 

There are different medications available to help restore the regular rhythm of the heart, as well as therapies that deliver electrical impulses to the heart through a catheter, and devices, such as pacemakers or defibrillators.

In many cases, arrhythmia is not a serious problem. But in other cases, it can increase the risk of blood clots, stroke, and other life-threatening conditions. It is advisable to consult a medical professional if you are having an irregular heartbeat often enough to be concerned.

Acupuncture and TCM offer a natural way to help restore heart function and a good resting heart rate without the unwanted side effects of medications or invasive procedures.

Top 10 Types of Irregular Heartbeat

irregular heartbeat flutter
Feeling like your heart is fluttering?

There are many different terms that describe deviations from a regular, healthy heart rate. Some irregular heartbeat issues are due to congenital conditions, while others may occur due to trauma, disease, or aging.

  1. Atrial flutter – an accelerated heart rate that occurs in an organized and rhythmic way due to rapid electric impulses in the atria.
  2. Atrial fibrillation (AFib or AF) – a rapid heart rate, also caused by increased electrical impulses in the atria that happen in a chaotic, arrhythmic way. Fibrillation refers to the rapid and irregular movement of muscles. In the case of AFib, the upper chambers of the heart quiver quickly. This condition is associated with stroke. AFib with RVR (rapid ventricular response) is a condition that occurs when patients are critically ill, often in the ICU, when the atrial fibrillation causes the ventricles to beat faster.
  3. Ventricular fibrillation – rapid impulses in the ventricles (the lower chambers of the heart) cause ineffective pumping of blood out to the body.
  4. Supraventricular tachycardia – this refers to types of arrhythmia that originate in the atria (above the ventricles) and cause brief episodes of accelerated heart rate.
  5. Ventricular tachycardia – a fast but regular heart rate that does not allow the ventricles to fill with as much blood as usual.
  6. Sick sinus syndrome – more common among older people, this is when the sinus node is malfunctioning and may sometimes cause a fast heart rate, and other times, a slow heart rate.
  7. Long QT Syndrome – a heart disorder found in people with a particular genetic mutation that causes rapid heartbeat and fainting spells.
  8. Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome – some people are born with an extra electrical pathway that can cause extra or irregular signalling to occur.
  9. Conduction Block – a block of the electrical pathways that sometimes results in a slower heart rate.
  10. Premature ventricular contractions – this is when an extra heartbeat beat originates from the ventricles, rather than the atria. It can feel like a “skipped” beat, or your heart pounding or jumping in your chest, but it is actually a kind of extra beat. This can happen occasionally due to drug stimulants like caffeine or nicotine, or other medications like decongestants or antihistamines. It can also be due to heart disease creating scarring in the ventricles or in the structural parts of the heart that hold the pathways for electrical impulses.

Atrial fibrillation increases the risk of blood clots and strokes because blood is not being effectively pushed from the atria into the ventricles, so blood pools or collects in the atria.

What Causes Irregular Heartbeat?

In general, most types of arrhythmia are caused by some disorder of the electrical conduction system that controls the beating of the heart valves, or weakness of the heart itself, which is known as cardiomyopathy

Causes of tachycardia include:

  • Not enough blood nourishing the muscles of the heart.
  • Dilation or one or more valves of the heart, meaning that the muscle tissue becomes thinner and the chamber becomes enlarged.
  • Thickening of the walls of the heart chamber makes them stiff; this is known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.
  • Scar tissue makes the heart tissue more rigid (restrictive cardiomyopathy or dysplasia). This can happen due to inflammation, high levels of iron or protein in the tissues, sometimes as a side effect of cancer treatments (radiation and/or chemotherapy). Arrhythmic right ventricular dysplasia may be an inherited condition.

Causes of atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter include:

  • High blood pressure
  • damage to the heart from a heart attack or heart surgery
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Congenital heart defects
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Lung disease, infections, or pneumonia
  • Sleep apnea, snoring
  • Smoking or overuse of other chemical stimulants

Chronic conditions like diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, kidney problems, alcoholism, or a family history of heart problems increase a person’s risk for developing an arrhythmia.

Treatment for Irregular Heartbeat

irregular heartbeat
Medical treatment for irregular heartbeat

There are several different types of medications to treat irregular heartbeat. Tachycardia may be treated with antiarrhythmic drugs, which work by suppressing or depressing the electrical impulses that are misfiring or transmitting signals too quickly. Beta blockers slow down the heart rate and reduce blood pressure by reducing the production of adrenaline. AFib treatment often involves anticoagulants or blood thinners, which prevent the formation of blood clots. In some cases, these medications can work to help people maintain a steady heart rate and prevent serious events like strokes. The downside is that they must be taken daily on an ongoing basis, and in some cases, they can actually cause the heartbeat to become even more erratic. 

Medical procedures that are designed to help irregular heartbeat include: electrical cardioversion, in which an electric shock is used to help “reset” the heart rate, and ablation, in which the tissues that contain the electric impulse pathways are intentionally scarred in order to reduce their output. Implantable devices such as defibrillators or pacemaker monitor the heart rate and deliver small “shocks” to alter the rhythm of the heartbeat. For some people, these methods work to keep the heart functioning. In some cases, though, the surgery to implant the device causes complications or damage to critical tissues around the heart or lungs.

Can Acupuncture Help Irregular Heartbeat?

heartbeat
Electrical impulses control the rhythm of the heart beating.

In conventional medicine, and indeed, in Western culture, the heart is seen as one of the most important, if not the most important, organ in the body. Not only does it supply the whole body with oxygenated blood, but it also is associated with our deepest emotions. TCM also views the heart as a central organ that governs the blood and vessels, and also the mind and spirit. 

The traditional diagnostic methods employed by TCM practitioners can tell us a lot about the health of the heart. The feeling of the pulse gives us detailed information about the strength, quality, and speed of the heart rate. According to TCM theory, the heart “opens” out into the face, and so observing the pallor or color of the face, the brightness of the eyes, and the appearance, especially, of the tongue, also gives the acupuncturist vital information about the heart.

TCM providers classify different causes of irregular heartbeat by looking at the whole concert of presenting symptoms:

  • Heart Qi deficiency or Blood deficiency: may happen after a long illness or loss of blood and be marked by heart palpitations, dizziness, memory problems, and/or insomnia. The pulse will be weak, and the tongue pale pink.
  • Kidney yin deficiency with Heart Fire: chronic illness can deplete the kidneys so that they can no longer manage the balance of fluids and heat, so heat rises and disturbs the Heart. With this presentation, a person may be experiencing strong feelings of fear or anger, depression, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and stomach problems.

Depending on the type of arrhythmia, the acupuncturist will choose acupuncture points and herbs to clear heat and dampness, nourish the blood, and calm and strengthen the heart. Specific herbal formulae work to activate and maintain blood flow, removing stasis, while also helping to protect the spleen and stomach.

A controlled study that compared patients with arrhythmias and tachycardias who were treated with medication (Lopressor) versus patients treated with both the medication and acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulations. The patients who received integrative care showed statistically very significant improvement over the patients using medication only.

A systematic review of randomized trials that compared acupuncture treatment versus typical medication treatment found that both types of treatment were equally effective for paroxysmal supraventricular tachycardia, that acupuncture in addition to medication was effective for ventricular premature beat, and that acupuncture was beneficial over no treatment at all for sinus tachycardia.

Acupuncture Near Me for Irregular Heartbeat

Unfortunately, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among Americans. Over five million people in the U.S. experience atrial fibrillation, or heart flutter. The conventional methods of treating heart problems such as AFib and other types of arrhythmia can work, but they require people to become completely dependent upon medications or devices. These methods of treatment are also very expensive. Acupuncture and TCM offer an alternative or adjunct approach that can help improve heart function and restore a healthy heart rate without side effects.

 

 

*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 Hemorrhoids With Acupuncture and TCM

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

hemorrhoid pain
Hemorrhoids can cause pain, itching, and bleeding.

Bleeding and discomfort when you go to the bathroom? Burning or itching around the anus? Hemorrhoid pain is caused by swollen blood vessels around the rectum. Acupuncture and TCM reduce inflammation and can bring swift hemorrhoid relief.

Sometimes called “piles,” (from the Latin “pila,” meaning “balls”), hemorrhoids often do resemble little balls or clusters of grapes. The word “hemorrhoid” actually refers to the specific formation of blood vessels and cushioning tissues that surround the anus. Colloquially, though, the term is usually used to describe the condition of inflammation and irritation that can occur in this area.

Hemorrhoids are very common; probably more than half the population experiences them at some point in their life. However, the discomfort of talking to a doctor about hemorrhoids can be almost as miserable as the physical discomfort of having them, so many people avoid getting hemorrhoid help.

How do you know if you have a hemorrhoid? Sometimes people have a lot of itching, burning and discomfort after a bowel movement, or throughout the day. Sometimes there is no pain, but you may see a little bit of blood in the toilet bowl, or when you wipe with toilet paper. When you touch the area, you may feel a lump, or swollen tissue.

Hemorrhoids are generally classified into two categories based on their location: internal hemorrhoid and external hemorrhoid. Internal hemorrhoids form inside the anus and lower rectum and can cause bleeding, usually without pain. In some cases, though, the swollen veins can protrude out from the anal sphincter during or after a bowel movement and then need to be pushed back in. This is called a “prolapsed internal hemorrhoid.” The situation can become more serious if the internal hemorrhoid can’t be pushed back in, or if a blood clot develops in the vessel (thrombosis); then, it becomes painful to go to the bathroom, or even sit. In some cases, a prolapsed hemorrhoid becomes “strangulated,” meaning the blood supply is cut off, which can cause severe pain. Hemorrhoids become prolapsed because the connective tissues in the area weaken due to intense pressure, usually due to straining during a bowel movement, or because of the extra weight of pregnancy or obesity.

External hemorrhoids develop outside the anus, under the skin. These are the kind of hemorrhoids that tend to cause itching and a little bit of bright red bleeding. Again, they are aggravating, but not too serious unless a blood clot forms; then, it is called a “thrombosed external hemorrhoid.” This type of hemorrhoid can turn blue or purple in color and become acutely painful. In some cases, surgery will be performed to drain blood from the clot, or remove the hemorrhoid.

Most of the time, people suffer quietly with hemorrhoids, waiting for them to go away on their own. Only when they cause severe pain and bleeding are medical treatments considered. However, TCM and acupuncture offer a way to deal with hemorrhoids so that they heal more quickly and reduce the chance to return.

Top 10 Hemorrhoid Causes

fiber cereal and fruit prevent hemorrhoids
Eating more fiber can help prevent constipation and hemorrhoids.

What causes hemorrhoids? The tissues and blood vessels around the anal area can become weak, irritated, and inflamed. The upright posture of our human bodies naturally puts pressure on the elimination organs. Many women get hemorrhoids during pregnancy and/or birth because of intense pressure on the perineal area.The major reasons for hemorrhoids include:

  1. Pregnancy
  2. Constipation
  3. Diarrhea
  4. Sedentary lifestyle
  5. Straining while on the toilet
  6. Sitting too long on the toilet without progress
  7. Lack of dietary fiber
  8. Obesity
  9. Family history of hemorrhoids
  10. Aging

Overall, focusing on eating a diet that includes plenty of fiber, drinking enough water, maintaining good bathroom habits (going when you feel the urge and not waiting) and a healthy weight will go a long way towards preventing hemorrhoids. But what can you do when you already have hemorrhoids?

Treatment for Hemorrhoids

hemorrhoid suppositories
hemorrhoid suppositories

Often, people will just deal with hemorrhoid itching and pain on their own by using over-the-counter products like creams that contain phenylephrine, which constricts blood vessels (Preparation H), or disposable wipes impregnated with witch hazel and other soothing ingredients (Tucks medicated pads). These treatments may help reduce pain and swelling temporarily, but they do not get rid of hemorrhoids at their root.

When people do talk to their doctor about hemorrhoids, they may be prescribed something stronger, like a steroid cream, or hydrocortisone rectal suppositories.

If the situation persists or becomes more severe, there are several types of outpatient procedure to treat hemorrhoids, including rubber band ligation, sclerotherapy, infrared photocoagulation, and electrocoagulation. All of these procedures cut off blood supply to the hemorrhoid, so that it will form scar tissue and fall off. Hemorrhoid stapling and hemorrhoidectomy are outpatient procedures in which the hemorrhoids are surgically removed, and/or prolapsed tissues are affixed back inside the anus. While these surgeries may be helpful in some cases, recovery can be painful, and there can be problems with the way things work afterwards, potentially leading to more surgery later on.

When hemorrhoids are severe, it is a good idea to consult your doctor, as there are more serious conditions that may produce similar symptoms of pain, itching, or bleeding, including anal fissure (torn tissue or open sore in the anus due to trauma), anal abcess (infected cavity in the anus) or anal fistula (an opening from the anal or rectal area that drains pus and/or fecal matter). Sometimes skin tags develop around the area where a hemorrhoid has healed. These can be irritating and difficult to keep clean, so they may need to be surgically removed.

For the treatment of hemorrhoids, TCM methods can provide relief from symptoms and help to reduce the inflammation that caused them.

Can Acupuncture Help Hemorrhoids?

According to TCM philosophy, hemorrhoids can often be related to a build-up of heat and/or dampness in the lower abdominal area; it’s the heat and dampness that cause the blood vessels to swell. You might be concerned by the idea that acupuncture treatment for hemorrhoids would involve needles being placed in a highly sensitive, private area. Let us reassure you this is not the case. The Du Mai meridian, also known as the “Sea of Yang,” is the channel which runs from the rectum area up along the spine to the top of head and then down to the mouth, controlling Yang energy throughout the body. We use points along this meridian, on the top of the head, and in other parts of the body to draw excess heat and dampness away from the area where the hemorrhoids are.

Other presentations of hemorrhoids include:

Top 5 Types of Hemorrhoids Presentation in TCM

  1. Spleen Qi Deficiency – This is when people tend to have poor digestion, bloating, gas, and diarrhea, going to the bathroom very often; the hemorrhoids feel swollen, but not as red. We use moxibustion to work on stomach point 36 meridian point, CV points 6 and 4, and spleen 6 in the middle of the abdomen to help digestion. 
  2. Spleen Qi Sinking-  This presentation tends to happen to people who are thinner, not only having hemorrhoids, but all the organs tend to be lower than usual; may also have prolapsed bladder or uterus, and poor digestion. Moxibustion applied to the middle of the top of the head will head the Qi rise up. For both types, doing Kegel type exercises regularly can help to strengthen the rectal area, also the uterus and bladder. Do three sets, increasing a bit every time: for example squeeze 30 times, release, do again 35, rest, next 40, then rest. Do this exercise every morning and evening.
  3. Blood Stasis – This type is more and more common because of our modern lifestyle, due to sitting a lot for work, which causes blood circulation to be compromised. In Chinese, we have a proverb: “for 10 people who sit too long, 9 will have hemorrhoids.” These manifest more as red, swollen, maybe bleeding. Kegels will also be helpful here, too.
  4. Lower Jiao Fire/Heat – This is when the lower part of the body has too much fire. For this type of hemorrhoids, people tend to have more bleeding, especially triggered by having alcohol, spicy food, crunchy food. These are the kind that may feel very sore with a burning sensation and tend to bleed, especially when wiping. 
  5. Intestinal Dryness – especially here in California, where we have hot, dry weather, without a good habit of drinking water, people can tend to constipation, even going only once or twice a week. These types of hemorrhoids are due to dry, uncomfortable bowel movements, and may have itching and bleeding. Adding more water (warm is better) and more moisturizing foods (sesame oil and lots of ripe bananas, flax seeds, chia, sweet potato/yam, prunes) will be helpful.

Kegel type exercise is helpful for all of these types, to strengthen the sphincter muscle and bring more circulation to the area. Add more movement overall. At bedtime, leg lifts, bicycle movements in the air, upside down, are a good way to exercise without putting pressure on the lower body.

Ideally, when there is good digestion, between 5:00 – 7:00 a.m. is when people should naturally want to go, quickly, without too much need to push. Sitting on the toilet for too long creates the pressure that leads to hemorrhoids.

moxibustion moxa treatment
Moxibustion treatment can help relieve hemorrhoid pain.

Moxibustion treatment–the burning of the herb mugwort near an area–can be very effective for reducing pain quickly. Chinese herbal formulations, used both internally and externally, can help relieve inflammation and pain. An herbal tea formula may include herbs to help strengthen the energy of the spleen, and to lubricate the digestive tract.

We also recommend sitz baths as a home remedy for hemorrhoids: short, 15-minute baths in warm water, to help soothe the area and keep it clean. Your acupuncturist may give you an herbal bath sachet to use to help reduce inflammation and soother the tissues.

One study of acupuncture treatment for internal hemorrhoids showed that, after 24 days, 86% of patients were “cured,” while another 8% showed significant improvement.

Your acupuncture practitioner will also talk with you about changes you can make in your diet and bathroom habits that will help you get things moving more easily.

Acupuncture Near Me for Hemorrhoids

Hemorrhoids are not only irritating; they are a sign that you may need to pay more attention to what you’re eating, and that you need to give yourself a little more time for relaxation, in and out of the bathroom. A combination of acupuncture, herbs, and other TCM treatment for hemorrhoids can help get the pain and swelling behind you.

 

 

 

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

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How To Treat Dizziness With Acupuncture and TCM

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

dizziness vertigo
Feeling dizzy or off-balance can be a sign of an inner ear problem.

Feeling light-headed and dizzy? Maybe you feel like your head is spinning, or that the world is spinning around you? Headache, nausea, dizziness, and vertigo are symptoms that can be caused by a variety of health problems. Acupuncture and TCM offer vertigo treatment that can help relieve that sense of dizziness and nausea, or feeling light-headed and tired all the time.

Feeling dizzy is one the most common reasons that people go in for a doctor’s visit, or even visit the emergency room. Dizziness is a fairly general term that can mean anything from feeling light-headed, woozy, faint, off-balance, or unsteady to feeling nauseated or like you’re about to pass out.

Vertigo is a specific type of dizziness that refers to a sensation of spinning, as if the room around you is moving. You might feel like you’re leaning to one side, or about to fall over. It can make you feel sick to your stomach, similar to motion sickness. In popular culture, the word “vertigo” is sometimes used to mean a “fear of heights,” but that is actually called “acrophobia.” The sensation of vertigo can be triggered by looking down from above, or looking up at something very tall, but this is not the cause of most episodes of vertigo.

vertigo dizziness spinning
Vertigo feels like the room is spinning

Vertigo causes include migraines and problems with the inner ear. The inner ear and eyes both relay information to the brain about a person’s spatial relation to the environment, so when the functioning of the eyes or ears is disrupted, it can cause a sense of imbalance, and even nausea. Migraine headaches, particularly a specific type called a vestibular migraine, can cause pressure in the head and dizziness and nausea.

Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV) is one type of vertigo that causes short-term bouts of sudden dizziness. Benign positional vertigo is caused by the shifting of calcium crystals (canaliths) in the inner ear. This can happen due to a head injury or simply aging.

Other inner ear problems that can cause signs of vertigo include Meniere’s disease and Labyrinthitis. Meniere’s disease is a chronic disorder related to abnormal amounts of fluid (endolymph) collecting in the inner ear. The exact cause of Meniere’s is unknown, but it develops more frequently later in life. Meniere’s disease causes attacks of vertigo that can last from a few hours up to 24 hours. Like migraines with an aura, there is often a period of time during which a set of “warning symptoms” begin to occur, such as: a feeling of uneasiness, being off-balance, headache and dizziness, queasiness, hearing loss or ringing in the ears, or extra sensitivity to sound. Once an attack of vertigo hits, it can be quite severe, causing intense pressure in the ear, blurred vision, vomiting or diarrhea, cold sweats, rapid heart rate, and feelings of fear and panic. There is currently no cure for Meniere’s.

Labyrinthitis refers to inflammation of the small parts of the inner ear, or around the nerves of the inner ear that can be caused by viral or bacterial infections, such as: a flu, measles, herpes, hepatitis, Epstein-Barr, chicken pox, or childhood ear infections. Symptoms of labyrinthitis can include: dizziness, nausea, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and difficulty concentrating.

Lightheadedness is a similar sensation to dizziness in some ways, but is usually caused by a sudden change in blood pressure or the flow of blood to the head. You have probably experienced feeling light headed and dizzy when you get up too fast from sitting or lying down. Other causes of lightheadedness include: allergies, anxiety, hyperventilating, arrhythmia, or heavy bleeding (as during menstruation).

Dizzy spells happen to everyone once in a while. But recurrent headache and dizziness should be addressed. Acupuncture and TCM have been used to help dizziness for thousands of years and offer natural solutions to the underlying causes of vertigo.

Top 10 Causes of Dizziness

dizziness inner ear
Problems with the inner ear can cause dizziness and nausea.

Feeling light headed and dizzy, or having headache, nausea, dizziness, can occur as symptoms of a variety of imbalances. Reasons for dizziness may include:

  1. Inner ear imbalance, or labyrinthitis
  2. Meniere’s disease
  3. Sleep apnea, snoring
  4. Migraine – vestibular migraine
  5. Dehydration – alcohol, diuretics
  6. Sinus issues
  7. Ear infection
  8. Low Blood Sugar – diabetes, hypoglycemia
  9. Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
  10. Prescription Medication side effects

Dizzy spells that occur first thing in the morning are common for some people. This can be simply due to the change in pressure in the ear when you get out of bed. Waking up dizzy due to sleep apnea occurs because this condition obstructs your breathing during the night, and you may have lower oxygen levels when you wake up. Being dehydrated is another common cause of dizziness, which is exacerbated by drinking alcohol before bed. In general, drinking too much caffeine, too much alcohol, and not enough water, or taking diuretics can all lead to dizzy spells. Low blood sugar, whether due to diabetes, or simply not eating regularly enough, can also be a cause of light-headedness.

Cervical vertigo, or cervicogenic dizziness, is another type of vertigo caused by the positioning of the neck or cervical spine; in this case, the feelings of imbalance and spinning may be accompanied by neck pain. This type of vertigo may happen, for instance, after a whiplash injury.

Treatment for Vertigo

The medical treatment for dizziness and vertigo depends wholly on the underlying causes for the symptoms. If a bacterial infection in the ear is confirmed, then antibiotics may be used. In cases of BPPV, a canalith repositioning procedure (CRP) is a non-invasive technique that can help the crystals within the inner ear move back into their proper place. Migraine-related vertigo may be treated with the medications typically prescribed for migraines. Anti-nausea drugs like Dramamine may be suggested. Patients suffering from cervical vertigo may be referred to physical therapy to help improve the positioning and strength of their neck/cervical spine.

Can Acupuncture Help Dizziness?

acupuncture point dizziness vertigo
Dizziness can occur when energy to the head is blocked.

One of the central concepts of TCM is that of the root and the branches. The branches are the visible, outward signs or symptoms of a problem, while the root refers to what is going on deeper in the organ systems of the body. In the cases of dizziness and vertigo, there is deficiency in the root and excess in the branches.

Pathogenic factors involved in dizziness and vertigo are phlegm, wind, fire, and deficient Qi. When there is weakness in organs like the spleen, stomach, kidney, or heart, pathogens like wind, heat, and phlegm can take hold. The San Jiao, also known as the “triple burner,” is another important concept in TCM; one of its primary functions is to control the movements of fluids in the body so that they don’t collect and build up inappropriately. In case of vertigo, phlegm and heat develop to the point of causing stagnation and malfunctioning of the Jiao, pushing phlegm upwards in the body. An acupuncture practitioner will carefully listen and observe to discover which organ systems are out of balance, and work to strengthen those areas. For example, dizziness combined with emotional disturbances like anger and depression is a sign of too much wind or heat in the Liver. Weakness in the heart or spleen may follow a long illness or period of stress and anxiety. Too much phlegm, heat, and dampness in the stomach and spleen can result from an improper diet and too much stress. 

Acupuncture and herbs to tonify these organs and clear heat and phlegm will take care of the root of the dizziness. Meanwhile, specific acupuncture points can have an almost immediate effect at relieving immediate discomfort, facilitating a natural vertigo cure. 

A study conducted at a hospital in Taiwan used acupuncture to treat patients with dizziness and vertigo. The findings conclusively showed immediate improvement in symptoms.

A study of 60 patients who were admitted to an emergency room suffering from vertigo from a variety of causes, including Meniere’s and BPPV, showed that acupuncture treatment provided immediate relief of symptoms and is therefore a good alternative for dizziness due to various causes.

Top 5 Tips to Get Rid of Dizziness

Depending on the cause of the vertigo, there are different ways to manage with TCM techniques, including vertigo exercises, acupressure for dizziness, moxibustion, and foods to avoid.

Liver 2 & 3 acupressure point
Liver 2 & 3 acupressure points

Major 4 types of Vertigo/Dizziness presentation:

  1. Hypertension type – When a person has high blood pressure, too much liver yang, and is overheated, it can cause dizziness. For this, we use acupressure Liver points 2 and 3 on the toes. 
  2. Qi and Blood deficiency – if a person shows signs of anemia, or has heavy periods, hemoglobin is low, or if a person has chronic conditions, or has suffered a major injury, or recently given birth, experienced major blood loss. For this we want to ensure a good diet with plenty of soups and easy to digest foods. Moxa on the back can help to strengthen the body’s Qi and produce enough blood. Qi Gong exercise of  squeezing the earlobes and outer ear up and down is helpful.
  3. Kidney essence deficiency – this could be due to some constitutional weakness, or due to old age, or someone who tends to have chronic illness, diarrhea. The kidney essence can’t support rising essence to the head. For this, acupressure for Kidney 1 – on the bottom of the foot. 
  4. Phlegm stagnation – when the middle jiao is not working due to stagnation of phlegm creating blockage so Qi cannot ascend. This happens when people are overweight, or have poor digestion, diarrhea. Avoid dairy and fried foods, which encourage phlegm. Moxibustion treatment to the back is helpful, and applying pressure to Stomach-36 acupressure point can help the middle jiao open up.
  5. Neck Pain – if a neck problem is causing a blockage, due to a neck disease or bulging disc, unhealthy cervical disks, compression, tension, and muscle spasms can block upwards energy. Exercises to encourage the health of the neck discs, loosen up the muscles and allow flow of Qi and blood up to the head. Your acupuncture practitioner will recommend neck exercises to help with this.

Acupuncture Near Me for Dizziness

Vertigo and dizziness may not be life-threatening symptoms, but they can have a big impact on your daily life. Frequently being blindsided by unexpected dizziness, spinning sensations, nausea, and headaches is unsettling and debilitating. Medications can be helpful in some cases, but they can also cause unwanted side effects. Getting to the root cause of vertigo with acupuncture and TCM will help get rid of dizzy spells so they don’t keep coming back.

 

 

 

*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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