Circulation

How to Treat Leiomyoma of the Uterus With Acupuncture and TCM

Share

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

woman in pain
Painful, heavy periods are debilitating.

Heavy bleeding, menstrual cramps, long periods? This could be a sign that a woman has leiomyoma of the uterus. Also known as uterine fibroids, leiomyomas are growths or benign tumors in or on the wall of the uterus. TCM and Acupuncture provide a natural alternative treatment that can help relieve uterine fibroid symptoms.

A leiomyoma, in general, is a growth in smooth muscle tissue. Leiomyomas can develop in any muscle tissue in the body, including that of the intestines, esophagus, and under the skin, but the most common type of leiomyoma occurs in the uterus.

Many women have uterine fibroids and aren’t aware of them. It is estimated that 60-80% of women will have leiomyomas of the uterus at some point during their reproductive years (“childbearing age” – anytime from menarche to menopause). Only about 30% of women report symptoms of fibroids to their doctor, though, because many women do not notice any signs of leiomyoma of the uterus. It is probably rare for someone to have a single fibroid tumor; usually, there are multiple tumors. Fibroids can be hereditary; if your mother had them, you may be more likely to have them, too. 

Fibroid tumors can grow inside the uterus, or on the outside of the uterine walls. Sometimes they stay small, and in many cases they don’t cause problems. In some cases, though, they can grow large and press against other internal organs. Fibroids of any size can cause symptoms like painful or irregular periods, back pain, and bladder problems.

The primary sign that a woman has uterine fibroids is heavy bleeding during menstruation. In many cases, doctors will say that there is no need for medical intervention. Sometimes hormone suppressing medications are used to try to slow the growth of the tumors and reduce the period-related symptoms. In about 20% of cases, people opt for surgery to remove fibroids. Often the fibroids stop growing and may even shrink after menopause. It is extremely rare for leiomyomas of the uterus to become cancerous. However, uterine fibroids can cause women so much pain that it becomes disabling.

Fortunately, there is natural treatment for fibroids with TCM. Acupuncture and herbs are excellent modalities for helping all kinds of womens’ health issues related to the female reproductive organs. TCM doctors have been observing and treating growths in the pelvic area for many centuries. Acupuncture and herbs can help women with leiomyomas of the uterus, as well as related issues such as endometriosis and ovarian cysts.

Top 10 Signs of Fibroids

woman in bathroom
Fibroids can cause elimination problems as well as heavy bleeding and cramps.

In many–if not most–cases, women do not realize they have fibroids, either because they have no symptoms, or they don’t notice the signs as being something out of the ordinary. Some women will feel these symptoms of leiomyoma of the uterus:

  1. Heavy menstrual bleeding, heavy periods
  2. Longer periods
  3. Irregular menstruation, irregular periods, spotting
  4. Feeling pressure in the pelvic area, fullness in the belly
  5. Frequent urination (have to pee all the time)
  6. Urinary retention (having trouble peeing)
  7. Low back pain
  8. Constipation
  9. Enlarged abdomen, belly bloated
  10. Pain during sex

The sort of heavy bleeding caused by fibroids can lead to anemia. Some fibroids can grow as large as a grapefruit, which clearly is going to cause distension in the abdominal area and put pressure on the other pelvic organs and blood vessels, potentially causing a lot of dysfunction and discomfort. But the size of a fibroid is not necessarily an indicator of whether it will cause painful periods or heavy bleeding. Even small leiomyoma of the uterus can cause pain and excessive bleeding. Emotional imbalance can also be a symptom of uterine fibroids. Leiomyomas of the uterus can cause difficulties during pregnancy, and in some cases, have a negative impact on fertility.

What Is the Treatment for Fibroids?

Sometimes a doctor may discover larger leiomyomas while doing a routine pelvic exam. When women seek medical treatment for fibroids, diagnostic imaging (ultrasound, CT, sonography, MRI, or x-rays) will be used to try to determine the location and size of the growths. 

Current medical science does not provide a clear explanation for what causes leiomyomas to grow in the uterus; it is only understood that estrogens seem to contribute to their growth, so the first line of treatment usually focuses on trying to alter the levels of female hormones in an effort to slow the development of the fibroid tumors.

Hormone medications, oral contraceptives, and even hormone-releasing IUDs are often prescribed to help control the heavy periods (cause spotting or no periods). These drugs do not do anything to change the fibroids themselves, though, and obviously, they are not suitable solutions for women who have plans to become pregnant. 

For women whose bleeding is so excessive that it becomes disabling, Lupron may be recommended. Lupron acts upon the pituitary gland to turn off estrogen production, which can essentially start early menopause. Many women experience menopausal symptoms like hot flashes and headaches while taking Lupron. It is usually prescribed for women who are planning on undergoing surgery, as it can temporarily reduce the size of the leiomyomas to make them easier to remove. It is not viable as a long-term treatment on its own, though; as soon as a woman stops taking the medication, the fibroids will grow back.

There are relatively non-invasive surgery techniques that are able to remove fibroids while preserving the uterus; this is called myomectomy, which can be performed via incision or laparoscopically. Uterine Artery Embolization (UAE) is a newer procedure that blocks blood flow to the leiomyomas by injecting particles into the arteries connected to them. Some women opt to have a hysterectomy, a major surgery to remove the entire uterus, to get rid of fibroids for good.

Unfortunately, many women think that painful periods and heavy bleeding during periods is normal. Heavy periods may be common, but they are not “normal” or necessary. Women do not have to suffer with terrible cramps and lose a lot of blood every month. TCM herbs and acupuncture offer a natural way to get relief from painful periods and reduce fibroids.

How Can Acupuncture Help Fibroids?

woman cold drink
Icy cold drinks and foods can cool the uterus and lead to female health problems.

In TCM, we have a category of disorders that we classify as “Zheng Jia,” which mean “masses.” This umbrella concept covers all the womens’ health issues that stem from growths or tumors that affect the female reproductive system, including uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts/PCOS, endometriosis, and reproductive cancers. 

According to TCM theory, Zheng Jia disorders arise from internal factors such as blood stasis,/phlegm (spleen deficiency), liver stagnation (fire), and cold uterus.

Top 3 Factors Causing Fibroids According to TCM:

  1. Blood stasis/Liver Stagnation – Qi (life force energy) helps blood to flow. If Qi is blocked, blood flow gets stuck. Good Qi flow relies strongly on the liver and the emotions related to it. People who tend to have negative PMS symptoms like irritability, breast tenderness, and cramping probably have compromised liver Qi due to long-term stress. Liver Qi stagnation leads to blood stasis, which contributes to the formation of the fibroid tumors. Presenting symptoms: irritability, breast tenderness, distended abdomen, strong emotions, heavy flow during period, bright  or deep red color, possibly with clots, and some cramping. Bright red or deep red blood is an indication of liver fire.
  2. Cold uterus – Habits like always drinking cold beverages (especially during periods) and underdressing in cold environments can cause restricted flow of blood, which, over time, causes circulation issues and gradual development of tumors. Symptoms include: menstrual blood is darker red, cramping which improves with the application of heat (heating pad or hot water bottle) or after passing clots, feeling of being cold all the time, needing extra layers of clothing and blankets (yang deficiency). 
  3. Phlegm/Spleen/Stomach Deficiency – This type of deficiency causes improper digestion of food, creating dampness and phlegm that builds up in the system and affects the blood flow, stagnation that causes the tumors to grow. Symptoms: indigestion, bloating, diarrhea, tendency to gain weight, lighter colored, watery period flow, maybe with some mucus.

When a TCM practitioner works with a patient with fibroids, she will not only choose acupoints and herbs to help shrink the growths themselves, but will also address the underlying factors that have led to the growth of the leiomyomas in the first place. With the right guidance and lifestyle modifications, the deeper stagnation can be resolved, which will help to reduce existing fibroids and prevent more from forming.

One study of Chinese Medicine herbs used to treat uterine fibroids in over 200 women showed a 72% reduction in bleeding, as well as over half of the patients reporting a reduction in back pain and abdominal pain. For over half of the patients in this study, imaging showed a reduction in size or even disappearance of the leiomyomas of the uterus.

Another study compared women receiving acupuncture and herbs versus patients treated with a combination of mifepristone, a steroid medication, and Chinese herbs. All of the women saw some benefits, but the ones who had acupuncture treatment saw an overall greater reduction in the volume of their fibroids.

One of the primary benefits of receiving regular acupuncture treatment is the prevention of blockages along the meridians and in the blood circulation. We believe that women who practice health maintenance with acupuncture are less likely to develop growths in the pelvis and to have better reproductive health and more comfortable periods overall. Acupuncture and herbs can help to manage the pain and bleeding caused by fibroids, offering an effective alternative to hormone medications or surgery.

Top 3 Tips for Fibroid Self-Care

woman meditation
Stress reduction is key to solving many health problems.

Lifestyle and behaviors contribute to the formation of pelvic tumors. Knowing which habits may cause female health problems can help relieve painful periods.

  1. Manage stress – constant stress and anxiety have a profound effect on liver health, which in turn impacts the reproductive organs. Regular exercise, meditation practice, and prioritizing rest and sleep are keys to stress reduction. Don’t take on more projects and responsibilities than you feel you can handle. Ask for help when you are feeling overworked.
  2. Modify diet – avoid mucus-producing foods, especially deep-fried foods, dairy products, and red meat, which are harder for the body to process thoroughly. Undigested foods like this create mucus and stagnation. During the period, the pelvic area is vulnerable, and anything inappropriate can cause extra problems. Choose warm foods, ensure you do not have any indigestion. If you do, address it with acupuncture and herbal supplements. 
  3. Stay away from cold especially during the period, a miscarriage, or post-partum. Anytime there is bleeding from the uterus, the uterus is open, and it is crucial to keep everything warm to allow proper blood flow.

Acupuncture Near Me for Uterine Fibroids

TCM has been used to treat all types of gynecological conditions since at least 1000 B.C. At Art of Wellness, we bring unique expertise to this area of women’s health care, combining over 30 years of experience in both traditional methods of treatment and partnering with the top womens’ medicine and fertility specialists in the Los Angeles area. Find relief from the pain of fibroids through integrative care for leiomyoma with acupuncture.

 

 

 

*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.

Share

How to Treat Bell’s Palsy With Acupuncture and TCM

Share

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

Bell's palsy facial paralysis
Bell’s palsy causes paralysis, usually on one side of the face.

Help, I can’t move half my face! A drooping face is sometimes a sign of stroke, but more often facial droop is caused by Bell’s palsy. Bell’s palsy is a kind of neuropathy that affects the facial muscles, causing weakness or paralysis. Acupuncture and TCM offer a safe and effective method of treatment to help resolve Bell’s palsy.

Also known as idiopathic facial paralysis, Bell’s palsy comes on suddenly and worsens over the course of a day or two, often resulting in the face drooping on one side. Bell’s palsy is related to a lack of blood flow (ischemia) to the 7th cranial nerve, which may be caused by inflammation or compression. Conventional modern medicine has not fully explained what causes Bell’s palsy, but it is believed to be at least sometimes due to recent infections and/or immune responses that create inflammation in this area of the head.

Bell’s palsy affects about 40,000 people in the U.S. each year, men and women alike. People with upper respiratory problems and diabetes have a higher risk for Bell’s palsy–both conditions which can create inflammation in the cranial nerves–but it really can happen to anyone at any age.

Bell’s palsy generally resolves itself over time, which could take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Sometimes people are left with permanent damage, though, and may have some facial weakness for the rest of their lives. Often doctors will recommend Prednisone steroid treatment as a way to help speed recovery. The TCM approach to treating Bell’s palsy with acupuncture and herbs can be helpful as either an adjunct to conventional treatment, or an alternative for those who wish to avoid steroids.

What Causes Bell’s Palsy?

cranial nerve brain
Bell’s palsy is caused by damage to the 7th cranial nerve.

Bell’s palsy occurs due to a compromisation of the 7th cranial nerve, also known as “CN7” or the “facial nerve,” which originates in the center of the skull and has five branches that extend out into all of the areas of the face: around the eyes, nose, mouth, and chin. This nerve controls communications between the brain and the facial muscles, including the tongue, and therefore controls our ability to make facial expressions, as well as being involved in tasting, chewing, and breathing. When tissues surrounding CN7 become inflamed, perhaps due to a lingering infection, it may lose some or all of its functionality due to a lack of blood flow. Viral infections that can cause swelling, or edema, in the parts of the head that affect the facial nerve include:

  • Herpes zoster
  • Herpes simplex
  • Adenovirus
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Epstein-Barr
  • Mumps
  • Rubella
  • Influenza

Diabetes, Lyme Disease, and the inflammatory disorder Sarcoidosis can also cause the sort of swelling and compression that lead to facial nerve palsy. Scientists believe that Bell’s palsy is caused in part by neurodegeneration, or damage to neurons. TCM and acupuncture have been shown in clinical research to help regenerate neurons and promote the repair, growth and development of new nerve cells.

Top 10 Signs and Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy

In Bell’s Palsy, inflammation of the 7th cranial nerve causes a loss of muscle control in part of the face. If this happens to you or someone you know, first review the FAST Stroke test guidelines, to quickly assess whether or not the facial paralysis may be due to a stroke. If no other signs of stroke are present, consider whether there are signs of Bell’s palsy:

  1. Facial weakness or facial paralysis, affecting part or all of the face, most often face droops on one side, sometimes the lower half of the the face drooping
  2. Low grade fever
  3. Headache
  4. Pain behind the ear on the affected side
  5. Stiff neck
  6. Inability to close one eye
  7. Drooling
  8. Loss of sense of taste
  9. Heightened sensitivity to sounds on one side
  10. Dizziness

Occasionally, there may be pain from the swollen facial nerve. More often, though, Bell’s palsy does not cause intense pain. Pain in the face and jaw muscles is more commonly caused by Trigeminal Neuralgia, a more severe and chronic condition related to irritation or inflammation of the trigeminal nerve, which communicates messages of sensation from the face to the brain.

Medical diagnosis for Bell’s palsy will first focus on ruling out other, more serious causes of facial paralysis, like stroke. Then doctors will check for viral infections or undiagnosed diabetes, and administer an EMG, CT, or MRI to assess nerve damage.

How Does Acupuncture Treat Bell’s Palsy?

wind cold
Cold wind getting in the face and head can contribute to Bell’s palsy, according to TCM.

In TCM theory, we attribute health conditions to the effects of internal and/or external pathogenic forces working on the body. Bell’s palsy is considered to be the result of an invasion of wind and cold that blocks Qi (life force energy) and blood from moving through the head and face the way they normally do. Wei Qi is a specific form of energy that protects us from external pathogens, but if Wei Qi is weak (maybe due to stress, exhaustion, cold air blows directly on face, or recent illness), it can be dispersed by a strong invasion of Wind, allowing Cold to enter the head and slow things down.

This is an instance when an acupuncturist may choose to use electro acupuncture technique. Electroacupuncture uses fine needles inserted into the skin at specific points along the meridians, which are then attached to a small machine that produces an electrical impulse, so that an electrical current passes between the needles. The current of electricity is not actually entering the body, and the patient will only feel a small pulsing sensation or vibration at the site of the needles being stimulated. The muscles affected might twitch a little. This technique is sometimes called “electro stim,” and it has really only been developed in the past century, although it is still based on the same fundamental concepts of Qi that have been used in TCM for many hundreds of years. Electro acupuncture offers the advantage of being able to stimulate a point in a way that is deeper and wider than with a needle alone. We will often use electro stim acupuncture when dealing with neurological disorders. In the case of Bell’s palsy, the goal is to bring blood flow, Qi, and healing to the cranial nerve root and branches that control the facial muscles. 

In some cases, Bell’s palsy does not completely resolve itself, and people are left with long-term effects. Weakness of the facial muscles that negatively impacts a person’s eating mechanisms or causes them to be unable to express themselves naturally with their facial muscles can have a real impact on quality of life and the ability to enjoy social interactions. 

One study sought to test the efficacy of acupuncture treatment on patients who had been diagnosed with Bell’s palsy at least six month prior, and who were still affected by it. After several weeks of acupuncture treatment, patients reported less stiffness in the face and improved symmetry of facial features.

People who have suffered from Bell’s palsy at some point are at higher risk overall for having a stroke. One retrospective study concluded that patients who received acupuncture and TCM treatment regularly were less likely to have a stroke later on than those who didn’t.

A review of controlled trials studying acupuncture treatment versus drug therapy for Bell’s palsy showed an overall higher effective rate for the groups being treated with acupuncture.

Acupuncture Near Me for Bell’s Palsy

While Bell’s palsy is a relatively mild form of neuropathy that does often resolve itself in time, it is recommended that people do seek treatment for this condition as soon as possible. Losing muscular control of the facial muscles affects your day to day life and interactions with other people, and getting treatment can help the situation improve more quickly. With Bell’s palsy, it is important to make sure that the inflammation of the 7th cranial nerve is reduced and that whatever underlying conditions that may have contributed to the facial paralysis are taken care of, too. Otherwise, people who have had Bell’s palsy once have the potential to experience it again in the future.

 

*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.

 

Share

How to Treat Gout With Acupuncture and TCM

Share

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

toes feet
Gout often affects the big toe, the foot, or the ankle.

Sudden, intense pain and swelling in the big toe? Foot, ankle, knee, or elbow is red, hot, swollen and very painful? It may be a type of arthritis called gout that is caused by unusually high uric acid levels in the body. TCM methods have been used to effectively manage gout with acupuncture and herbs for thousands of years.

Gout, sometimes called gouty arthritis, is a kind of arthritis that develops over time due to other underlying conditions. When there is a sudden flare-up that creates a lot of pain and swelling in a joint, it is called an acute attack of gout. Gout is almost always related to a person’s diet and lifestyle, and part of any treatment plan is reducing intake of beverages and foods that cause gout.

Conventional treatment for gout involves first allowing the acute attack to subside, then using medications and monitoring to bring down high uric acid levels. Acupuncture and TCM have been shown in clinical studies to be even more effective at providing immediate gout pain relief and bringing down uric acid levels than typical drug therapies.

What Is Gout? 

Gout is a very painful form of inflammatory arthritis caused by the buildup of uric acid crystals in a joint, often the big toe joint. Uric acid is formed as a byproduct of digestion; when the body breaks down purines–chemicals in certain foods–the resulting uric acid is processed by the kidneys and leaves the body in liquid waste. If too much uric acid is being produced, or if the kidneys are weak and unable to process it adequately, the level of uric acid in the bloodstream rises (hyperuricemia), and deposits of uric acid crystals begin to gather in the joints. These crystals have sharp edges, which are what cause the severe pain and swelling of a gout attack.

While older men are generally at higher risk for developing gout, gout can affect people of all ages and genders. Women are more likely to develop gout after menopause, when their uric acid levels tend to rise. People who are high risk for gout are those who already suffer from:

People  who have a family history of gout, or who tend to eat a lot of meat and/or drink a lot of alcohol also face a higher risk for gout. Regular use of diuretics can precede attacks of gout.

The symptoms of gout can be very similar to those of other types of arthritis, but gout causes are different than those of rheumatoid arthritis. Thus is it important to seek help from your health care providers for diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis versus gout.

Top 5 Signs and Symptoms of Gout

elbow knee
pain, swelling, or redness in your elbow or knee could be gout

The underlying condition that causes gout is related to the kidneys, but the actual experience of gout is a form of acute inflammation, usually in one of the smaller joints of the limbs or extremities– most often there is gout in feet, especially the big toe joint. A person may have hyperuricemia for a long time, causing uric acid buildup in the body, but it doesn’t actually become “gout” until there is a flare-up of painful symptoms. The signs of a gout attack are:

  1. Intense pain in a joint (gout in big toe, gout in foot, gout in ankle, gout in hands are all common)
  2. Redness
  3. Swelling
  4. Tenderness to even a slight touch
  5. Hot to the touch

Diagnostics for gouty arthritis include blood tests to check for uric acid levels, or extraction of fluids from the joint to check for uric acid crystals. Signs of gout in the joint may also show up in x-rays, or in an ultrasound or CT scan. 

What is the Medical Treatment for Gout?

There are two components to conventional medical gout treatment: treatment for immediate gout pain relief, to reduce the pain and swelling of an acute attack of gout, and treatment to prevent a future gout attack by reducing the levels of uric acid in the blood. 

For pain and swelling, most patients with gout are recommended NSAIDS for pain relief. People who cannot take NSAIDS due to stomach ulcers or kidney problems are often given corticosteroid injections in the affected joint. Many patients are also prescribed a drug called colchicine, which works by disrupting a specific inflammatory response in the body, which can help to reduce the formation of uric acid crystals. The rate of colchicine side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain is fairly high.

To stabilize blood uric acid levels, there are medications that block the production of uric acid (Lopurin, Zyloprim, Uloric) and medications that break down and/or remove uric acid (Benemid, Zurampic, Krystexxa). These medications have to be carefully managed according to changes in uric acid formation and kidney function, as well as possible interactions with other medications. Many people who have gout also have heart problems or high blood pressure. This type of medical treatment for preventing and controlling gout often goes on for years, or even for the rest of a person’s life. Unfortunately, because it can be so difficult for both doctor and patient to keep up with monitoring, taking medication consistently, and changing dosages frequently, this sort of medical treatment often doesn’t work to prevent more gout attacks.

Can Acupuncture Help Gout?

acupuncture
acupuncture treatment can help relieve gout pain and prevent future gout attacks

TCM theory designates several internal pathogenic processes that can occur within the organ systems. TCM views gout as a problem of dampness and heat, and/or stagnation and buildup of phlegm in the joints. As we mentioned earlier, many, if not most, people who suffer from gout also have other health problems like hypertension or diabetes. So, the TCM provider is also looking at the root causes of those health issues and will treat those with acupuncture and herbs at the same time. The goal of acupuncture and herb supplementation is always to bring the all of the organ systems back into harmony. TCM herbs to help gout will work to strengthen the spleen, kidneys, and liver, clear heat and dampness, and improve blood circulation.

A systematic review of studies relating to TCM treatment of gout with acupuncture showed that patients receiving acupuncture and herbs fared better overall than those in the control group being given typical medical therapy. The studies measured the “resolution” of an attack of gout; meaning, whether or not the pain and swelling was completely reduced within a 24-hour period. They also measured the reduction of uric acid levels in the blood before and after treatment. According to both measures, patients who received TCM treatment for gout had better results than those taking western medicines like colchicine or allopurinol.

A controlled clinical trial conducted at a research hospital showed a 92.5% efficacy rate for treating an acute gout attack, versus an 82.5% efficacy rate for patients who were given NSAIDS to treat the pain.

Top 5 Home Remedies for Gout According to TCM

alcohol beer sweet sodas
beer, wine, liquor, and sugary sodas can trigger gout

First and foremost, it is necessary to plan and follow through on an appropriate gout diet: knowing what foods to avoid with gout is vital to prevent future attacks.

  1. Avoid Foods that cause Gout – foods that are high in purines include red meat, organ meats, seafood and alcoholic beverages, including beer, wine, and liquors. Risk for gout rises dramatically when people drink 2-4 or more alcoholic beverages per day. This may be because the body has to prioritize processing the alcohol over removing uric acid.
  2. Avoid sugar – Especially sugary drinks like sodas, and sweetened juices. Fructose appears to be particularly linked to higher incidence of gout, so read labels and avoid products sweetened with fructose or high fructose corn syrup.
  3. Avoid refined flours and yeast – the combination of yeast, white flour, and white sugar does not provide much nutritional value, and can raise uric acid levels.
  4. Emphasize whole, natural foods – all fruits, vegetables, and legumes are safe to eat with gout. Eggs and low-fat dairy products are safe sources of protein.
  5. Drink more water – this helps your body to more effectively flush out excess uric acid.

Exercising more and working on healthy, gradual weight loss will also help to prevent future gout attacks. Your acupuncturist can help you to develop a specific gout diet that will work for your constitution.

Acupuncture Near Me for Gout

While treating gout can be tricky due to the fact that it is usually not the only health issue that needs attention, the good news is that gout is one of the few types of arthritis that can be reversed. A holistic approach that takes into consideration a person’s diet, lifestyle, and other health problems is the best way to keep the intense pain of gout at bay. Acupuncture and TCM offer a solid alternative treatment method that can relieve gout and improve your overall health, all without unwanted 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.

 

 

Share

How to Treat Aging Skin With Cosmetic Acupuncture

Share

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

cosmetic acupuncture
Cosmetic acupuncture is natural and holistic.

Looking for a treatment that can help smooth fine wrinkles, boost collagen and firm skin? Maybe you’ve heard about cosmetic acupuncture, also known as facial rejuvenation, or an acupuncture face lift, and you’re wondering if it really works. TCM and acupuncture offer a natural, health-centered skin care alternative to surgery and other  procedures for people of all ages who want to look younger and more well-rested.

We all want to look in the mirror and see ourselves looking our best. Cosmetic procedures like plastic surgery and minimally-invasive aesthetic treatments have increased by well over 200% in the past twenty years. People of all genders and ages are showing more interest than ever in anti-aging treatments that can tighten, tone, and brighten the skin, banish puffiness and dark circles under the eyes, and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. While advances are continually being made in the field of aesthetic medicine, and the stigma surrounding such treatments has been largely reduced, some of these procedures can be harsh and invasive. Many people may prefer to seek a natural alternative.

The TCM approach to skin care is holistic and health-oriented, focusing on creating healthy, lively skin from the inside out. Finding the root internal causes of dull, sagging skin, lack of muscle tone, dryness and other skin problems, and treating them with targeted acupuncture points, herbs used both topically and internally, and the right nutrition program, can all lead to a more youthful and invigorated appearance. The results, of course, will not change your face so dramatically that you look like a different person. It is important that any time you consider an aesthetic procedure, you manage and maintain realistic expectations. But cosmetic acupuncture treatment can help you to feel better about yourself, inside and out.

What Is an Acupuncture Face Lift?

Cosmetic acupuncture, while seeking to improve the overall appearance of the face and neck, is really based in optimizing the patient’s health throughout the body. Acupuncture needling works on several levels. Usually, we explain how stimulating points with acupuncture affects Qi (life force energy) as it flows through the meridian pathways of the body, producing changes in the function of the organ systems. But it also works on the skin-deep level, creating micro-trauma to the skin and underlying tissues that triggers repair and rebuilding. If you have had acupuncture before, you might have felt your acupuncturist gently turn the needles after inserting them. Research has shown how this age-old technique actually does produce a direct effect on collagen fibers. This is partly why acupuncture treatment helps you heal from musculoskeletal injuries and chronic pain conditions. It also helps your skin heal and regenerate.

Acupuncture is also proven to aid in the release of endorphins, which help you feel happier and more relaxed. We all know that a positive outlook can do wonders for your looks. Acupuncture treatment not only gives you the appearance of being well-rested; it actually helps you sleep better and relieves stress that can cause frowning and worry lines.

Your practitioner will choose specific acupoints to target your individual needs, addressing other skin concerns in addition to the signs of aging, including acne and rosacea.

Often, people notice a difference in their appearance right away, as even one treatment can help the skin take on a new glow, and most people emerge from their acupuncture session feeling that they have had a good rest. Generally, we recommend that, in order to see noticeable results, you start with 1-2 treatments per week for at least a few weeks, then continue with a monthly treatment to maintain the results.

A scientific study used topographic imaging to measure the contours of patient’s faces as they underwent a course of five cosmetic acupuncture treatments. The researchers concluded, based on the images and patients’ self-assessments, that facial cosmetic acupuncture produced significant improvement in skin elasticity

A systematic review of TCM cosmetic acupuncture study data showed that patients reported positive results, including: fewer wrinkles and better skin condition, with improved moisture content.

Cosmetic Acupuncture Vs. Botox

botox treatment
Acupuncture is a natural alternative to Botox injections.

In recent years, Botox injections have become an extremely popular and acceptable way to combat the primary “problem” of aging skin: wrinkles. Facial skin is creased every time we move the facial muscles to express ourselves. Over time, as skin loses its elasticity, these creases become deeper and more defined. Botox (short for botulinum toxin) is a paralytic agent, which means it temporarily “freezes” or paralyses the muscles that lie under the skin of the face, so that they will not move when a person frowns or smiles. This helps prevent the formation of deeper lines between the eyebrows, for example, or along the nasal-labial folds on either side of the mouth. 

While Botox injections are widely considered safe these days, there are risks involved with treatment. Minor short term side effects can include redness, swelling, headaches, or nausea. In some instances, the muscle paralysing action can spread to more necessary parts of the facial musculature, causing speech problems, trouble swallowing, or trouble breathing. It can also cause parts of the face to droop due to muscle weakness. While many people have experienced satisfaction with wrinkle reduction due to Botox treatment, we have probably all noticed cases in which a person ends up looking unnaturally startled, lop-sided, or simply incapable of normal expression.

The effects of Botox are temporary, and in order to maintain the smoother skin, people must return for more injections every few months. Facial acupuncture, too, should be performed regularly to maintain results, but TCM offers a more comprehensive approach to smoothing and preventing wrinkles by boosting collagen production and circulation, improving skin elasticity. Massage techniques such as Gua Sha can firm and tone the facial muscles so that the whole face still moves naturally. Botox injections don’t do anything to improve the health of your skin or light up your eyes from within. Facial rejuvenation with TCM is essentially a risk-free procedure that can provide natural-looking results.

The TCM Approach to Skin Care

acupuncture face lift
TCM facial rejuvenation starts with your practitioner carefully reading your face.

One of the subtler techniques used by TCM practitioners is that of examining a patient’s physiognomy; that is, deducing problems of physical, emotional, and spiritual health by “reading” a person’s face. We can also tell a lot about a person’s internal condition by studying the skin and nails on their hands. This is an art that the acupuncturist can only master with many years of experience.

For example, if there is a tendency to develop dark circles or bags under the eyes and bruise easily, this indicates a stagnation of blood circulation. That deep crease or “frown line” between the eyebrows may indicate a Liver Qi stagnation. The acupuncturist will choose points to stimulate based on each individual’s constitution, working on deeper levels of stagnation in the organ systems, while also targeting specific muscles in the face and neck that need toning.

Naturally, we also use herbs to help nourish the skin. Traditionally, poultices or face masks have been used to directly bring nutrients to the facial skin, while internal herbs taken as teas help to clear heat and dampness from the body. Your TCM provider may also use cupping to draw out toxins and stimulate the lymphatic system; basically, this is like a deep cleaning for your whole body. 

Top 5 Tips for Natural Skin Care 

facial massage
massage helps tone facial muscles

We cannot emphasize enough that glowing skin starts within. You may already have a daily skin care routine that involves cleansers and moisturizers, but for the best results, be sure to focus equally on keeping the whole body hydrated, cool, and free of toxins. No matter what age you are right now, you can start making your skin a priority with these simple practices:

  1. Drink water and green tea – plenty of water keeps the skin cells “plump.” Green tea has been used for centuries to help maintain clear, hydrated skin.
  2. Get plenty of sleep – There is solid reasoning behind the expression “I need my beauty sleep.” Our cells regenerate and repair themselves while we sleep; this is when the collagen production happens, so give your body plenty of time to do its work. 
  3. Eat the right foods – for healthy skin, make sure to take in enough Omega 3 fatty acids (found in fish oil, good quality eggs, and fresh walnuts), and eat more cooling foods. These include: melon, cucumbers, citrus fruits, cabbage, seaweed, and other greens, mung beans, and soy foods like tofu and tempeh.
  4. Reduce stress –  Stress negatively impacts your skin in a number of ways. Stress can contribute to acne, bags under your eyes, rashes, worry and frown lines, and dryness. Make stress reduction a top priority to improve the overall health of your skin.
  5. Sun Protection – Getting a little sun (about 30 minutes of exposure) every day is important for the proper functioning of your immune system, but too much sun can be damaging to the skin. Whenever possible, protect your skin with light garments and a hat; this is preferable to the constant use of cosmetic sunscreens, most of which contain potentially toxic chemicals. When you must expose more skin to the sun’s rays, use a sunscreen with natural ingredients

Cosmetic Acupuncture Near Me

If you’ve been thinking about what sort of medical aesthetic treatments might be right for you, try cosmetic acupuncture for a more youthful look without any side effects or recovery time. There really is no down side to an acupuncture face lift; in fact, your acupuncturist can treat all of your health concerns–back pain, headache, menopause, etc.–,and add the needles for facial rejuvenation all in the same treatment session. Maybe it’s time to give yourself the gift of a little lift with cosmetic acupuncture.

 

 

*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.

Share

How to Help Stroke Recovery With Acupuncture and TCM

Share

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

man with walker
Stroke victims often need rehabilitation to regain motor skills.

Can acupuncture help stroke recovery? After even a mild stroke, people will often have many problems: weakness in parts of the body, pain or tingling in hands, arms or legs, lack of awareness (or neglect) of parts of the body, and slurred speech. There can also be emotional and mental health issues after a stroke, like depression, anxiety, or anger. Stroke recovery acupuncture can have a positive impact on balance, coordination, and overall sense of wellbeing.

A stroke is a medical emergency event that occurs when the flow of blood to some part of the brain is blocked, starving that part of the brain of the oxygen and nutrients it needs to function. Sometimes this happens because of a burst blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke), or a blood clot (ischemic stroke) creating the blockage. A “mini stroke,” or transient ischemic attack, is when blood flow is only compromised for a few minutes, and then the situation improves. Without adequate blood flow, brain cells deteriorate and die very quickly. Any type of stroke is very dangerous to a person’s health and requires immediate medical care. Even in the case of a mini stroke, or mild stroke, a person must seek care to check for damage and to help prevent a stroke from occurring again.

Strokes are one of the leading causes of death and disability worldwide. Many people who suffer a stroke end up losing some of their physical and mental faculties. How a person goes through the recovery process after a stroke can make a huge difference in the ultimate outcome. Typical post-stroke treatment includes physical therapy to help people regain motor function. 

The human brain is actually amazingly able to regenerate itself, given the appropriate nourishment and circumstances. With good nutrition and the right exercise, blood vessels will rebuild themselves, and new neurons (specialized brain cells) will be created. It is vital, though, that the flow of nutrient-rich blood to the brain is maximized, and that a person is motivated and able to work through the difficulties of retraining the brain and body to function. 

This is where TCM and acupuncture come in. Acupuncture treatment works to enhance the flow of Qi and blood to blocked areas of the body, while TCM herbs are carefully chosen to provide nutrients people may not be able to get from foods. Acupuncture helps reestablish connections in the nervous system, and stimulates muscle and organ tissues to aid in healing after stroke.

How To Tell If You’re Having a Stroke

“Am I having a stroke?” It’s important to review the signs of a stroke, so that if you or someone close to you could be having a stroke, you can act quickly to get help. If you are having a stroke, seeking immediate medical attention is crucial. A stroke causes damage to brain cells, so every moment is critical when it comes to surviving a stroke and maintaining functional abilities.

“FAST stroke” is the first way to tell if someone is having a stroke; start by remembering the acronym FAST for stroke test:

  • F – Face drooping, often on one side, mouth especially looks lopsided
  • A – Arm weakness, usually on one side, person cannot lift arm, or it feels numb
  • S – Speech difficulty – speech is slurred, or the person is unable to speak or has trouble forming thoughts into words (aphasia)
  • T – Time to call 911. If a person shows the signs of stroke, they need medical attention right away. Get them to the emergency room as quickly as possible.
brain model
Brain cells can sustain damage quickly when starved of oxygen.

Depending on where in the brain the stroke has occurred, symptoms will vary somewhat. A stroke that occurs in the right hemisphere in the brain will cause weakness and numbness on the left side of the body. It may also affect a person’s ability to recognize what is going on with the weakened parts of the body; this is what we call “neglect.” Visual and/or spatial impairment are common signs of right side stroke; it may be hard to see or find things. 

Strokes on the left side of the brain cause weakness on the right side of the body, and may also impair vision and/or the ability to orient oneself in space. The ability to reason, read, and perform mathematical calculations may be impaired. Left side stroke is more likely to cause feelings of depression and change a person’s personality so that they become more anxious and hesitant.

Once a person has been gotten to medical help, health care providers use the NIH stroke scale to assess how severe the stroke is. In some cases the use of anti-clotting medications will restore blood flow to the affected area. This works best if the patient can be given this medication within three hours of the beginning of the stroke. Other times, a procedure called a thrombectomy may need to be performed, in which a surgeon will remove the clot with a thin catheter instrument. In the case of a hemorrhagic stroke, patients may require surgery or a blood transfusion to manage bleeding in the brain. 

Can Acupuncture Help Prevent Stroke?

old man
A stroke can lead to problems with memory, vision, speech, and cognition.

A stroke occurs in the brain, but from the TCM perspective, the problem doesn’t begin or end in the head. A stroke is the result of disruption of the normal flow of blood and Qi in the body, and some type of inciting event causing the blood to rush suddenly upwards into the head. A stroke is often the result of conditions in the body that have developed over time, but then too much stress or an emotional upheaval causes the immediate emergency event of a stroke.

Western medicine views high blood pressure as one of the main factors that can lead to stroke. So, while an acupuncturist also views stroke as being related to problems with the movement of blood, we have concepts that explain what problems within the body are causing the impeding of proper flow. According to TCM, stroke happens due to internal factors of deficiency, stagnation, fire/heat, phlegm and wind:

  • Yin Deficiency – especially affecting the liver and kidney systems. This happens often due to behaviors like staying up late, not getting enough sleep, and eating more heat-producing foods.
  • Heat – strong emotions of anger and frustration, due to stress and conflict, can contribute to a build up of too much hot energy in the body, especially impacting the heart and liver.
  • Phlegm – another internal factor, the formation of phlegm in the body can happen due to unhealthy eating habits. The build up of phlegm particularly affects the spleen and contributes to post-stroke problems with speech, numbness in the limbs, and mental fog.
  • Stagnation – this refers to blood and/or Qi being stuck, unable to flow freely through the vessels and meridians. Acupuncture treatment and exercise can help get Qi and blood moving again.
  • Wind – In TCM, Wind is a pathogenic factor that can enter the body from the outside environment (external), or wind can be an internal factor, generated within the body. In the case of stroke, internal wind is considered to be the cause of a person losing their conscious awareness of their body and becoming mentally disconnected and/or physically paralysed. 

Cupping may be used in addition to acupuncture to aid stroke recovery. Cupping increases blood flow and may be helpful in particular for one of the lesser known symptoms following a stroke: persistent hiccups.

Stroke Rehabilitation Acupuncture Near Me

Your acupuncture and TCM provider has lots of tools at his or her disposal to help you manage your health and longevity. If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, or a history of heart problems, your risk for having a stroke is higher. Your acupuncturist can help you manage these conditions and provide counseling so that you can make the optimal lifestyle changes to prevent stroke. If you have suffered a stroke, you will need lots of support and may need a fairly rigorous course of therapy to help you regain your strength and ability. Patients who are recovering from a stroke should ideally receive 2-3 acupuncture treatments per week in order to get the most benefit. Integrative care may be the key to making the fullest recovery possible after a stroke.

 

 

*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.

Share