- Art of Wellness Acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)11704 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 295, Los Angeles, CA, 90025310-451-5522
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- How to Treat Herpes Simplex With Acupuncture and TCM
- How to Stop Snoring With Acupuncture and TCM
- How to Treat Musculoskeletal Pain With Acupuncture and TCM
- How to Treat Irregular Heartbeat With Acupuncture and TCM
- How to Treat Hemorrhoids With Acupuncture and TCM
- How To Treat Dizziness With Acupuncture and TCM
- How to Treat ADHD With Acupuncture and TCM
- How to Treat TMJ With Acupuncture and TCM
- How to Treat Morning Sickness With Acupuncture and TCM
- How to Treat Lyme Disease With Acupuncture and TCM
- How to Treat Lupus With Acupuncture and TCM
- How To Treat Amnesia With Acupuncture and TCM
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By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.
Have you been told you’re snoring loudly? Do you feel tired even after 8 hours of sleep? Waking up with a dry mouth, feeling tired all the time, and having trouble staying asleep at night are all signs that you might have sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder in which normal breathing is interrupted repeatedly. Acupuncture and TCM offer a natural way to treat obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, fatigue, and other sleep-related problems.
Sleep Apnea (also known as sleep apnoea) is when a person does not breathe normally during sleep. When there is a pause in normal breathing during the night, the body is not getting enough oxygen, and the brain sends an urgent message to start breathing again. The person wakes, so briefly that they usually do not remember it, gasps for air and starts breathing again. Often people do not realize that they are snoring or making snorting or choking sounds while they sleep unless another person tells them it’s happening. Because of this, many cases of sleep apnea go undiagnosed, and people go on feeling fatigued all the time.
While people of any age or gender can experience sleep apnea, it is most common among older men. There are a few different kinds of sleep apnea; the most prevalent type is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), in which the throat and/or airway is physically obstructed by the positioning of the neck, jaw, and soft tissues of the throat, like the tongue and uvula. OSA is associated with being overweight or obese, because extra weight can affect the musculature of the upper respiratory system. Women who have already gone through menopause are more likely to develop sleep apnea because postmenopausal weight gain is more likely to occur in the upper body than it does prior to menopause. Sleep problems and obesity are related in many ways; getting less sleep or poor quality sleep can cause people to gain weight or have trouble losing weight. People with diabetes and/or metabolic syndrome are also at higher risk for obstructive sleep apnea.
Besides disturbing sleep and causing fatigue, apnea can lead to other serious health conditions, especially cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and stroke. Sleep apnea can increase the heart rate and the production of stress hormones. Men with OSA are more likely to experience erectile dysfunction (ED). Lack of quality sleep can also have a negative impact on mental health, contributing to depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline.
The typical treatment for snoring involves the use of a sleep apnea machine, called a CPAP machine (continuous positive air pressure machine), which pushes air into the nose while you sleep, ensuring that the airway stays open and continuously active. This treatment can help people breathe easier throughout the night, but some people may find the machine noisy and uncomfortable.
TCM methods like acupuncture treatment for snoring and sleep apnea offer a way to address these problems at their source holistically, helping people to sleep well and breathe more freely.
Top 3 Types of Sleep Apnea
Sleep apnea causes loss of oxygen due to shallow breathing (hypopnea) and/or interrupted breathing while sleeping. Different types of sleep apnea are classified by their physiological causes:
- Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – this is caused by the improper relaxation of the throat muscles while sleeping.
- Central sleep apnea (CSA) – is caused by disordered signalling from the brain to the organs that control breathing.
- Complex sleep apnea – (or treatment emergent sleep apnea) is a combination of both of the above.
Restless legs syndrome (RLS), also known as Willis-Ekbom disease, is a condition wherein a person has an uncontrollable urge to move the legs, or sometimes arms or other parts of the body, accompanied by a sensation of itching, burning, crawling or throbbing. This usually happens when the person is lying in bed, trying to fall asleep. Restless leg syndrome can coexist with OSA, compounding the problem by making it difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep during the night.
Narcolepsy is a sleeping disorder in which overwhelming sleepiness during the daytime causes people to suddenly and uncontrollably fall asleep. Many people who suffer from narcolepsy also have sleep apnea. In this case, the sleep problem is not related to breathing so much as how the brain and body are moving through sleep cycles, like REM sleep. For people who have narcolepsy, treatment with a CPAP machine is often not very helpful.
Sleep apnea or snoring does not seem to be related to other abnormal sleeping behaviors (parasomnia), such as sleepwalking, night terrors, or sleep-related eating.
Top 10 Symptoms of Sleep Apnea
Many people snore and do not realize it. It is important to pay attention to the subtler sleep apnea symptoms. Signs of sleep apnea include:
- Loud snoring
- Interrupted breathing – moments during the night when the person’s breathing actually stops and then starts again
- Gasping for air while sleeping
- Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
- Headaches in the morning
- Insomnia, difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep during the night
- Feeling very sleepy during the daytime (hypersomnia)
- Difficulty paying attention
- Feeling irritable
- Getting up often during the night to urinate (nocturia)
What Causes Snoring?
Sleep apnea is caused either by a physical obstruction of the throat and airways or by problems with brain signals to the breathing apparatus. Not everyone who has sleep apnea snores loudly. On the other hand, not everyone who snores necessarily has sleep apnea. Other reasons people snore may include:
- Congestion of the nose due to a cold or allergies
- In late pregnancy, the growing belly puts upward pressure on the respiratory system
- Sleeping pills, medications that work as relaxants, like Ativan or Valium
- Alcohol consumption
- Anatomy – large tongue or uvula, or swollen tonsils
People with sleep apnea are often advised to sleep on their side rather than on their back, as this helps prevent the obstruction, but it can be difficult for people to control their behavior while sleeping.
Treatment for Sleep Apnea
To firmly establish whether a person has sleep apnea, and what type, doctors will often evaluate the situation in a sleep study session. People will spend the night in a sleep center, where their heart and breathing functions are monitored (polysomnography).
CPAP machines are generally considered to be the best care available for sleep apnea. These devices can help stop snoring, allow a person to get more restful sleep, and cut the risks of serious issues like heart disease that are associated with sleep apnea. However, the machine does not actually do anything to improve the weak musculature that causes OSA or the disordered signalling that causes CSA. It is possible to swallow air while breathing with the CPAP machine, which can lead to gas and a bloated stomach. Some people may find the face mask, which must be strapped to the face, uncomfortable. The noise of the machine may be disturbing to the person using it, as well as to the person’s bed partner. It may be difficult for some patients to get used to using the machine, and if they are not using it regularly, they are not getting the health benefits.
There are also some oral appliances available, such as mandibular advancement devices (MAD), which are worn in the mouth to alter the placement of the jaw and tongue in order to keep the airway open during sleep. These can also be effective in terms of helping people breathe better while they sleep. Compared to CPAP, they are quiet, discreet, and cost-effective. Again, the main question is whether a person will be able to tolerate the device; some people may experience dental pain, TMJ jaw pain, dry mouth, or too much saliva.
Surgery for snoring and sleep apnea is usually only recommended if other methods of treatment have failed. Different procedures involve removing soft tissues (uvula, tonsils, adenoids), or changing the shape of the jaw bones. Small rods may be inserted into the upper palate to help keep the airway open. A device that monitors breathing and stimulates movement of the tongue may be implanted in the chest.
Sometimes people may use melatonin as a natural sleep aid. Melatonin may have a positive impact in terms of helping people fall asleep more easily. It also has strong antioxidant properties, which means it may help with the control of the breathing apparatus and the amount of oxidation a person is getting while sleeping. While it is generally considered safe as a health supplement, melatonin side effects can include problems with dizziness, headaches, and nausea, and it can also be contraindicated with other medications. Melatonin can affect blood coagulation, so it may be unsafe to take if a person is also taking blood thinners, for example.
Can Acupuncture Help Stop Snoring?
According to TCM theory, the spleen and stomach are responsible for transforming nutrients from food and fluids into Qi (life energy), which is then delivered to the heart and lungs. In the TCM view, sleep apnea is often a problem related to phlegm and Qi stagnation, as are many conditions related to fatigue or insomnia. If phlegm builds up and becomes stagnant in the spleen, the lungs cannot get the Qi they need. So, one possible differentiation for sleep apnea is Spleen Deficiency with Qi Stagnation. This condition of dampness and phlegm will often cause people to feel heavy and bloated.
In some cases, too much internal heat contributes to the problem. Snoring, combined with sweating, and waking up with a sore throat, is a sign that we need to clear heat and toxicity from the body.
Sleep disturbed by nightmares is associated with the gallbladder, while difficulty falling asleep is associated with the liver. An acupuncture practitioner will listen carefully to what specific symptoms of sleep apnea each individual patient is experiencing, and tailor the treatment accordingly.
A meta-analysis of over 200 randomized trials involving the use of acupuncture to treat sleep apnea concluded that acupuncture was more effective overall than CPAP treatment, in terms of improving breathing and oxygen levels.
Can Chinese herbs help snoring and sleep apnea? Specific herbs have been shown to help reduce inflammation and improve oxygen levels in patients with sleep apnea. Chinese herbal formulations can help stop snoring and reduce daytime fatigue.
Natural Remedies for Snoring
Acupressure can help snoring and sleep apnea. Since we are trying to clear heat and phlegm from the stomach, spleen, and large intestine, use acupressure points along the Stomach Meridian, which runs down the leg. On the front of the shin, apply pressure, kneading with your thumb, starting to the side of the shin bone a few inches below the knee, then moving down about 3 inches and doing the same thing. Knead each of the four points about 30 times as your move down the leg. If you are aware that one side of the nose is more blocked than the other while you are breathing during the night, practice the acupressure on the opposite leg. For example, if your left nostril is the one that is more stuffed up, do acupressure on the right leg.
Acupuncture Near Me for Snoring
As the population ages, and unfortunately, more people suffer from obesity and metabolic syndrome, sleep apnea is a growing health concern all over the world. Snoring can have a seriously negative impact on quality of life, health, and longevity. Conventional methods of treatment for sleep apnea can be effective, but many people find CPAP uncomfortable and inconvenient for long-term use. If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, or are worried because your partner snores loudly at night and seems to be gasping for air, do not wait to get help. Acupuncture and TCM herbs can help relieve fatigue due to snoring and reduce the risk of more serious problems related to sleep apnea.
By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.
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
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:
- 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
- Fatigue, exhaustion, extreme tiredness
- Emotional and/or mental issues: depression, anxiety, PTSD
- Sleep problems, insomnia
- Cognitive issues: difficulty concentrating, memory problems, “fibro fog”
- Headaches, migraines
- Neuropathy: tingling or numbness in the hands and/or feet
- TMJ, jaw pain
- Digestive problems: irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), abdominal pain, bloating
- 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?
- Hormonal changes during menstrual cycle, miscarriage, pregnancy, or postpartum
- Prolonged stress
- A sudden traumatic event, PTSD trigger, panic attack
- Changes in weather: temperature, humidity, barometric pressure
- 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.
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
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Focus on eating complex carbohydrates, especially vegetables. These help you have a more sustained energy throughout the day. Nuts and seeds are also good.
- 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.
By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.
Red, circular rash that looks like a “bulls-eye?” Joint pain, muscle aches, and fatigue? These are signs that a person may have Lyme disease, an infectious disease that humans can contract when they are bitten by an infected tick. Lyme, a bacterial infection, can take a while to develop, and can cause chronic symptoms if it is not treated effectively. Acupuncture and TCM offer an alternative or adjunct way to help resolve the painful, debilitating symptoms of long-term Lyme disease.
Lyme disease is a type of bacterial infection transmitted by ticks. Ticks are parasitic arachnids, small spider-like creatures who bite other animals and feed on blood. If a tick is infected with a disease, it can infect the person or other animal it bites. Lyme disease, which is caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium, is just one of several infectious diseases that ticks can spread, including Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (RMSF).
These critters are sometimes called “deer ticks” or “bear ticks” because they generally thrive in forest environments where they live symbiotically with these kinds of animals. But being bit by deer tick (tick on deer) doesn’t only happen in deeply wooded areas; anywhere that deer, squirrels, lizards, or birds may come into suburban areas, it is possible to be bitten by a tick. Actually, ticks, and therefore the infectious diseases they carry, are growing more prevalent because of humans encroaching into animals’ habitats. Tick bites most commonly occur in spring and summer.
Ticks do not fly; they can only get onto dogs or humans by crawling on them. This can happen quite easily if a tick is on a bush or other plant, and a person or dog brushes up against it. Ticks attach themselves to a host, and slowly suck their blood.
Lyme disease in dogs cannot be transmitted to humans, nor is lyme disease contagious, passing from human to human; you can only get Lyme disease by being bitten yourself. In order to pass Lyme disease to a person, a tick generally has to have been attached to that person’s skin for 36 hours or more. Ticks can be as small as the head of a pin, and they burrow in moist, hairy areas of their host’s body, so it is actually quite easy to have a tick on you without knowing it. After the tick drops off, a person may not feel anything at all, or only have a small, red bump that resembles a mild insect bite. In some cases, though, a person may feel right away that the area of the bite is hot, swollen, or causing a burning sensation.
If the tick was carrying Lyme disease, it can take several days to a few weeks for the more serious symptoms of Lyme to develop. Even then, the symptoms are not necessarily distinctive.
The early symptoms of Lyme disease can feel like a flu; fever, fatigue, aches and pains. Not everyone infected with Lyme will have the characteristic tick bullseye rash that develops around the site of the tick bite. When treated promptly with antibiotics, most cases of Lyme disease will resolve within a few weeks. However, many cases of Lyme disease are not diagnosed right away, and if it goes undetected, chronic problems can develop in the ensuing months. Once the bacteria has spread throughout the body, even a long course of antibiotics may not be able to get rid of it. Long-term Lyme symptoms may appear similar to other chronic inflammatory, autoimmune, or neurological conditions, such as fibromyalgia, Bell’s palsy, MS, or chronic fatigue syndrome.
In extreme cases Lyme disease causes shoulder pain, hip pain, knee pain, fatigue, and other symptoms so severe that people can’t go about their regular daily routine. Sometimes diagnosis and treatment is further complicated by coinfections: concurrent other infections, that can also have been transmitted via the tick bite, or occur independently of it. Lyme and other tick-borne illnesses like RMSF can also trigger sepsis infections, which can be life-threatening, or lead to chronic pain, and/or PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). An MRSA skin infection (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a type of staph infection that enters the skin through a wound, can develop around the infected tick bite; this staph skin infection is particularly resistant to antibiotics.
Unfortunately, symptoms of Lyme can become progressively worse over time, leading to disability and even death. Acupuncture and TCM offer an alternative for helping to heal Lyme disease, whether it is still in the early stages, or when it has become a chronic infectious disease.
Top 10 Symptoms of Lyme Disease
Signs of Lyme disease develop slowly, in stages, and can vary widely from person to person. Without the presence of the tell-tale bulls’ eye rash, both patients and doctors may have difficulty linking the spectrum of symptoms to a Lyme infection.
- Joint pain, swollen joins, arthritis
- Neuropathy, numbness or tingling, Bell’s palsy (face drooping)
- Bulls-eye rash, also known as erythema migrans rash
- Headaches, migraines
- Sleep problems, sleep apnea, snoring
- Brain fog
- Trouble breathing
- Vertigo, dizziness
- Blurred vision
Other possible symptoms of Lyme include: ringing in the ears (tinnitus), heart palpitations, problems with memory and concentration, vision problems or inflammation around the eyes, and liver problems, like hepatitis. Symptoms of lyme disease in dogs are similar to those in humans, including stiff, swollen joints, tiredness, and loss of appetite.
Long-term effects of Lyme disease are sometimes referred to as “post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome.” Doctors are not sure why some people, even after being treated with antibiotics, seem to still be affected by long-term effects of Lyme disease.
Medical Diagnosis and Treatment of Lyme Disease
Getting a clear diagnosis of Lyme disease can be difficult. Currently, there is a two-step diagnostic process recommended to determine if a person has contracted Lyme disease. Two main kinds of tests can detect antibodies the body’s immune system creates to fight off the infection. However, it takes a while–at least several weeks, usually–for the body to build up enough of the antibodies that they become detectable. Often when people are aware early on that they may have been infected, and they get a test, it turns out to be negative. Usually, doctors try first one type of antibody test, and then the other to see if they get a positive result. Even then, medical science acknowledges that many (perhaps half of) Lyme disease cases are not detected this way.
A newer, still somewhat unproven form of testing involves taking a blood culture and trying to grow the bacteria that cause Lyme in a laboratory setting. This testing is more advanced and may be difficult for patients to access.
Once physicians have determined that Lyme infection is present, the usual treatment is a course of antibiotics that lasts a few to several weeks. In many cases, this seems to clear up the infection. In others, though, the antibiotics do not resolve the myriad symptoms patients are experiencing. Using antibiotics on a long-term basis is often not effective, and carries other risks to a person’s health.
Ongoing joint pain and inflammation is then usually treated with steroid medications or NSAIDS. Sleep problems and fatigue are often treated with antidepressants. These medications may help relieve symptoms temporarily, but they come with side effects, and do not address the root causes of the chronic symptoms of Lyme disease.
3 Stages of Lyme Disease
When early detection occurs, the Western medical approach of using antibiotics can often resolve Lyme disease within a few to several weeks. However, if the infectious disease is not found soon enough, Lyme disease will progress to more advanced stages. TCM methods can be helpful during all three stages of Lyme.
- First Stage Lyme disease – Within the first few weeks of the infection, and with early detection, antibiotics can be very helpful, working pretty well to stop the spread of the bacteria. However, because Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed, many people do not receive this treatment soon enough. During this phase, the symptoms are similar to those of the flu: chills, fatigue, heaviness in the limbs. As the infection moves in deeper, it can cause the skin rash, or hives. TCM treatment during the first stage will focus on clearing heat and detoxifying the body to rid it of infection.
- Second Stage Lyme disease – If the bacteria causing Lyme disease is not halted in its spread, it begins to affect the organs and the blood. The central nervous system and heart can become infected. These infections can last for months, and if not taken care of, can develop into the third phase. This is when a person may begin to feel joint aches, and arthritis-like symptoms. The body’s Qi and blood become deficient. Treatment with acupuncture and herbs at this point will work to help boost the Qi, clear heat and strengthen the whole immune system, and clear inflammation.
- Advanced stage Lyme disease – As the infection drags on, it can cause joint, skin, and nerve damage can take hold. Ongoing Qi and blood deficiency and stagnation cause fatigue, dizziness, insomnia, and memory loss.
A TCM provider will recognize what stage of Lyme disease a patient is in according to their symptoms, and customize the acupuncture points and herbal formulae used depending on their needs.
Acupuncture for Infectious Diseases
For millennia, TCM has recognized a type of disease that is caused by infection and can affect all systems of the body. We call this type of illness Gu zheng, or “Gu syndrome.” This classification covers illnesses caused by “invisible” pathogens, like viruses, funguses, and parasites. Along with the toxins from the tick bite, we consider how pathogens like heat, wind, and dampness all play a role in the illness. According to TCM theory, extreme heat in the body is also considered “toxic.” This category of condition helps us understand a variety of different systemic inflammatory illnesses, and gives us a framework for addressing each individual’s presenting symptoms.
One of the key features of Gu syndrome illnesses is how terrible and hopeless they can make people feel. Not only do people suffering from chronic inflammatory or immune-related conditions feel constantly tired and ache-y, but some of the sensations seem to come and go and feel so mysterious that they can’t be explained satisfactorily. If this is then compounded with the fact that many doctors don’t understand or know how to deal with the illness, it can leave patients feeling very frustrated and helpless. After months or years of this, debilitating physical symptoms may be accompanied by feelings of depression and anxiety.
A Yale Medical University study of patients, all in their 40s, suffering from long-term Lyme complications found that they had to reduce their activities, or even give up working, and doubted that they would ever recover. In interviews, patients made it clear that working with doctors who were more holistic was far preferred, and thus many had turned to CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) providers for help with Lyme disease.
Making a full recovery from long-term Lyme disease is possible, but it can take a long time to get rid of a bacterial infection that has woven itself deeply into the body’s organ systems. The benefit of Chinese herbal medicine for Lyme is that the powerful substances in the herbs can penetrate deep into the body at a cellular level. Working with an experienced acupuncturist means that your Chinese herbs for Lyme disease can be regularly updated, according to your individual needs, as you progress. This, in combination with acupuncture treatment for Lyme disease, moxibustion, and nutrition guidelines for an anti-inflammatory diet can all help patients feel better faster and prevent any further damage to the organs and the nervous system.
Top 5 Tips for Lyme Disease Self-Care
Sometimes re-prioritizing health over all else is necessary in order to heal from a serious infectious disease.
- Conserve energy. Rest as much as possible.
- Drink extra water.
- Eliminate coffee, alcohol, spicy foods, chips, roasted nuts, any food that adds heat and inflames further. Try to reduce heat.
- Eat more cooling foods. Mung bean tea is an ideal choice.
- In the later stages of the disease, we may need to add more strengthening foods, like chicken stock and soup, and will recommend different herbal formulae, as well.
Overall, reducing stress and finding a meditation practice is helpful. For more detailed instructions on how to eat right to reduce inflammation, see our article specifically addressing anti-inflammatory food and lifestyle choices.
Acupuncture Near Me for Lyme Disease
Dealing with a complicated illness like Lyme disease is challenging for people and doctors. A long process of discovery and commitment may be necessary. Working with an experienced TCM provider gives patients the benefits of a multi-pronged, holistic way of addressing multiple symptoms, both physical and emotional. Acupuncture for infectious diseases like Lyme takes into account each patient’s individual concerns, and addresses the complex symptoms of Lyme in concert.
By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.
What is Lupus? Lupus is considered a chronic autoimmune disease, a condition which causes the immune system to attack the body’s own normal tissues. The most common lupus symptoms are extreme fatigue and a particularly characteristic lupus butterfly rash, a skin rash that appears on the face. Acupuncture and TCM treatment for lupus can help to relieve joint pain, inflammation, rashes, and fatigue.
Lupus is much more common in women than in men, and usually first appears during a woman’s reproductive years – between the ages of 18-45. About 90% of people who have lupus are women. Women of color have an even higher risk of developing lupus.
As with other autoimmune diseases, the precise causes of lupus are somewhat mysterious. What causes lupus is still not clear to medical researchers. It may have something to do with a person’s genetic makeup. Because lupus is so much more common in women, it is believed that it may have something to do with estrogen, the female hormone.
There are different types of lupus. Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE lupus) is the most common form of lupus, and it can affect the whole body, causing widespread inflammation and serious chronic fatigue.
Cutaneous lupus erythematosus primarily affects the skin, causing rashes, skin lesions (discoid lupus), irritated blood vessels, photosensitivity, and hair loss. The most common chronic form of cutaneous lupus is discoid lupus erythematosus, which causes scaly, round lesions to form on the skin. People with skin lupus are very sensitive to sunlight and must take precautions to avoid too much sun exposure, or even fluorescent lights. Lupus rash may resemble a bad sunburn.
It can often take a long time to get a lupus diagnosis. There is no one test that can conclusively show that a person has lupus. Doctors will generally look at a person’s range of symptoms, and run a variety of lab tests. An antinuclear antibody test (ANA) can indicate if the body’s immune system is producing autoantibodies–antibodies that attack normal tissue. Lupus symptoms can change, seeming to come and go, or “flare-up” when a person is triggered by something in their environment–often light exposure or emotional stress. During other periods of remission, symptoms abate, and a person with lupus may feel well for a while until another flare occurs.
Often lupus causes extreme fatigue, to the extent that people may find it difficult or impossible to get on with their daily work and activities when they are in the throes of a flare-up. The combination of chronic pain and chronic fatigue can lead to feelings of depression. With this kind of disease, a defeating sort of cycle can develop, in which stress, anxiety, pain, and fatigue keep feeding and perpetuating each other. Lupus is also associated with fibromyalgia; sometimes the two conditions overlap.
There is currently no cure for lupus. Medical treatment usually involves the use of medications like corticosteroids to reduce inflammation. Acupuncture and TCM can be used as an alternative or adjunct therapy for lupus, as acupuncture can help alleviate systemic inflammation, reduce joint pain, and help to improve fatigue. Acupuncture can also help to relieve the physical and emotional effects of stress and depression.
Top 10 Lupus Symptoms
Lupus can affect each individual person differently. Signs of lupus that might occur in both men and women include:
- Joint pain and swelling
- Swelling in hands, feet, and/or around the eyes
- Low grade fever
- Butterfly rash on face, sores around the mouth and/or nose (lupus erythematosus)
- Hair loss
- Sensitivity to light
- Raynaud’s disease – loss of sensation in digits, finger and/or toes turn yellow, white or blue when cold, or under stress
- Chest pain when taking a deep breath
The lupus butterfly rash, also known as “malar rash”, may be the most distinctive symptom of lupus; it covers the cheeks and nose. The rash is red and patchy, caused by the dilation of capillaries under the surface of the skin, known as erythema, or lupus erythematosus. This lupus rash does not appear in every case, but it may appear in the majority of cases.
Other lupus symptoms can include: sores around the mouth, dry eyes, a rash around the eyes, problems with memory, a tendency towards anemia, and a higher risk of blood clots.
Lupus anticoagulant (LA) is an antibody that is abnormally produced in some people with lupus. While its name sounds like it works against clotting; it actually does the opposite. High levels of LA can cause inappropriate blood clotting, or thrombosis. This problem can cause increased risk of miscarriage in women. Some people have LA without necessarily having lupus.
Women may experience menstrual problems like irregular periods or heavy bleeding that are related to lupus. Women with lupus are also at a higher risk for developing heart disease, kidney disease, and osteoporosis. Lupus symptoms women of color, in particular, (African-American women and Hispanic women) may develop are serious complications related to lupus at a younger age, including an increased tendency to suffer from seizures, strokes, and swelling around the heart.
Rheumatologists specialize in treating musculoskeletal problems and the autoimmune diseases that often cause joint pain and inflammation, like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, and gout, as well as lupus.
Symptoms of joint pain due to lupus are usually treated with steroid medications like prednisone that help to reduce inflammation. Hydroxychloroquine, (an anti-malarial medication), is often prescribed to help prevent flares of symptoms from SLE lupus. Unfortunately, both of these types of medications can cause serious side effects, especially when they are used on a long-term basis. They do not address the root causes of lupus.
A relatively new treatment for lupus, Benlysta, is administered intravenously. It works by blocking a kind of protein that is involved in the production of autoantibodies – the immune cells that attack healthy tissues. This treatment, while different from other immunosuppressive drugs, can also cause side effects, including being more susceptible to infections. Some people have a severe allergic reaction to Benlysta, while others experience insomnia and severe depression.
Acupuncture for lupus and other rheumatologic conditions offers relief from painful symptoms and chronic fatigue without negative side effects.
How Can Acupuncture Help Lupus?
Lupus manifests as massive systemic inflammation in the body: in the tissues, organs, skin, and joints. Western medicine tends to always rely on cortisone/steroids to deal with inflammation, but this only works temporarily, like a band-aid.
Even though we don’t know exactly what causes lupus, we do know it is an endocrine disorder, or an inherited condition, or something in the environment that is causing the body’s atypical autoimmune response.
According to TCM, inflammation comes from too much heat in the body, or what we call “empty heat:” a lack of fluid. Without sufficient water, the body can’t control excess heat. We call this yin deficiency or kidney yin deficiency. This excessive heat condition can be triggered by external forces like the heat and light of the sun’s rays, or by spending a lot of time in a hot, dry space with a heater and no humidifier. This is part of what might cause the inflammation, fevers, and skin rashes associated with lupus.
Lupus nephritis, which involves the kidneys, is viewed by TCM as being related to deficiencies of qi or yang energy in the kidneys and spleen. Blood stasis can also be a part of the presentation. Treatment with acupuncture and herbs will often focus on removing blockages that cause stagnation of blood and qi, strengthening the kidneys, and clearing heat and toxins from the body.
Clinical trials in China have compared patients with SLE lupus treated with prednisone only to those treated both with steroids and Chinese herbs, and found that patients receiving TCM treatment as an adjunct fared better overall and were able to reduce their use of the steroids.
One study showed that 80% of participants experienced a significant improvement in joint pain, fatigue, and skin rash after ten sessions of acupuncture treatment.
Another case study of patients with discoid lupus showed that lesions had improved by 87% after receiving a course of auricular-acupuncture (ear acupuncture) therapy.
Top 3 Tips for Helping Lupus Naturally
Reducing inflammation at its source usually means making some changes in behaviors. Not only lupus, but other chronic illnesses like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, etc. have so much to do with lifestyle and habits that are not conducive to optimal health. For a more thorough discussion of how to eat right and manage your habits to reduce inflammation, see our blog article specifically addressing Inflammation. Here are some basic anti-inflammatory habits to embrace:
- Reduce or eliminate all non-necessary drugs and medications. Long-term reliance on drugs to cover up pain hampers your ability to know what is really going on with your body. It also potentially damages the immune system and organs.
- Reduce or eliminate foods that create more heat and and acidity in the body. This includes coffee, alcohol, red meat, spicy foods, and crispy, fried foods. TCM nutrition provides very specific guidelines for warming and cooling foods, so working with a qualified acupuncture professional will be very helpful to each individual patient.
- Get adequate sleep – ideally, eight hours every night. This is when the immune system repairs itself. When people go for years, only sleeping three or fours hours a night, they can do serious damage, causing massive problems like lupus to develop.
It is up to you to care for your body as if it were your most precious resource, because it is. When you make your health your top priority, every decision you make about what to eat, when to sleep, and how to spend your time and energy matters. Be mindful of your own needs; don’t cover up your pain with drugs, or trash your body with junk food. Your best chance for a happy life starts with healthy habits.
Acupuncture Near Me for Lupus
Autoimmune disorders like lupus can be devastating, not only because they are physically and mentally debilitating, but because they can be so difficult for doctors to understand and treat effectively. The TCM approach to lupus is holistic and takes into consideration a person’s foundational constitution, lifestyle, and emotions, as well as looking carefully at which imbalances in the organ systems are causing the physical symptoms. If you have been diagnosed with lupus, or are not sure about what might be causing severe fatigue, joint pain, or skin rashes to flare up periodically, working with an experienced acupuncture practitioner may help you to manage these symptoms and experience a marked improvement in your quality of life.
By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.
Let’s face it: most men have probably had trouble getting hard on occasion, but if it’s happening 50% of the time, or more often, then it may be a sign of men ED, or erectile dysfunction. ED refers to the inability to get or maintain an erection, making it difficult to have sexual intercourse. Acupuncture and TCM offer a natural solution for low sex drive and reproductive health problems, without over the counter ED pills.
In the past few decades, this condition, which used to be referred to as “impotence,” has come to be perceived as a men’s health issue or a men’s fitness issue that can be treated medically, rather than a personal problem. While it’s great that men can get help from doctors for this condition without embarrassment or shame, ED medications may not solve the problem for everyone. Stress, hormones, nutrition, exercise, emotions, and relationship dynamics all play a role in ED. ED can have a serious impact on a man’s quality of life, as it affects self-esteem, romantic relationships, and fertility.
It is estimated that about 30 million men in the U.S. experience erectile dysfunction (ED). By age 60, over 40% of men will probably experience ED. While ED drugs and over the counter ED pills help some men with ED symptoms, many men cannot use these medications because they interfere with others that are commonly used to treat heart disease. Acupuncture and TCM provide an alternative treatment for ED that can help men with this issue.
Top 10 Causes of ED
ED is a complex problem, which can involve both physical and mental components. A physical problem that causes a man to experience ED a few times may lead to emotional stress around sex and low sex drive, making the problem worse. Because the brain and hormones contribute so vitally to arousal and erection, sometimes depression, anxiety, or interpersonal feelings are the main cause of the issue. Some of the most common physical causes of ED include:
- Heart problems, high blood pressure, clogged arteries, high cholesterol
- Use of certain prescription medications (antihypertensives, antidepressants)
- Neurological conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease or Multiple Sclerosis
- Alcoholism or excessive consumption of alcohol
- Smoking cigarettes/tobacco
- Prostate problems like enlarged prostate or prostate cancer
- Lack of sleep, sleep disorders
- Low testosterone
Sometimes erectile dysfunction is the reason men discover that they have a heart condition or diabetes that they didn’t realize they had. When high cholesterol causes plaque to build up in the blood vessels, it’s not only the heart that is affected. Atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) can also affect a man’s ability to get an erection by restricting blood flow to the penis. Inability to maintain an erection can be a sign that a man has hypertension.
What Is the Treatment for ED?
The most common medical treatment for men with ED are PDE-5 medications (like Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra), which work to dilate the blood vessels that supply blood to the penis. These ED drugs lower the blood pressure, which is why they cannot be used in conjunction with some other medications, including nitroglycerin or Imdur. If a man were to take both his ED pills and these medications, it could cause dangerously low blood pressure.
Some men experience side effects of taking these ED meds, including: headaches, blurred vision, dizziness, hot flushes, muscle pain, and diarrhea. In rare cases, men may have a painful erection that lasts longer than four hours (priapism), which can require medical treatment and/or cause permanent damage. If necessary, a doctor may numb the penis and use a needle to drain the blood that is trapped there, or use decongestant medications to help relieve the swelling. Other forms of therapy for ED include penile implants and penile injections. TCM acupuncture treatment for ED does not involve any needles inserted into the penis itself.
How Can Acupuncture Help ED?
According to TCM theory, ED is classified as a Jin Wei disorder and can follow one of a few patterns:
- Liver qi stagnation
- Blood stasis
- Kidney deficiency
TCM also acknowledges that stress, emotional and mental health disturbances are often a primary cause of ED, and seeks to incorporate counseling and awareness-building, both with the patient, and with the patient’s partner, if applicable. Sessions with a TCM provider usually involve plenty of discussion and feedback; patients feel heard and understood, which can go a long way towards relieving anxiety surrounding the ED or other sexual disorders.
TCM treatment for ED will include both acupuncture and herbs, which, combined, help to address the weakness or blockages that have developed around the liver and kidneys, strengthening the liver qi, relieving stagnation, and clearing dampness.
One study showed that, after a course of treatment including 3-5 acupuncture treatment sessions and daily herbal supplementation, almost half of the men reported satisfaction with the results.
Another study found that about two-thirds of the men who received TCM treatment reported feeling that they were “cure,” while the other third reported improved erections, but still felt that they needed more help. The group who received placebo treatment did not report improvement.
Top 5 Tips for ED Men’s Fitness
The desire to overcome ED and get your sex life back on track can be a great motivation to clean up your diet and get rid of habits you know have been holding you back from peak men’s health. Your acupuncturist can help you plan the best diet for men to help regulate hormones, reduce cholesterol, improve circulation, boost heart health and energy.
- Eliminate alcohol, tobacco, and other recreational drugs. You may feel like these substances help you to relax and get in the mood, but on a deeper physiological level, they are compounding the problem.
- Get more exercise. Ideally, balance cardio with some weight training. Losing fat and building muscle will help to balance the hormones and increase testosterone levels.
- Take care of your mental health and emotional well-being. Foster open and honest communication about ED with your partner. Acquaint yourself with men’s and women’s health issues, so that you can care for each other with empathy.
- Reduce stress. Prioritize a balanced, healthy lifestyle. Making time for yourself through regular exercise, meditation, and healing modalities like acupuncture can help improve your performance in all other areas of your life
- Get adequate sleep. When the body doesn’t get the deep rest it needs, it can lose all kinds of functionality.
Acupuncture Near Me for ED
ED is a sensitive men’s health issue. Knowing that it’s a common problem that affects lots of other men may help a little, but if ED is becoming a sexual problem that is negatively affecting your life and relationships, it’s worth it to seek out help for erectile dysfunction. If conventional medical treatment for ED isn’t working or isn’t an option, or if you want to take a more holistic approach that will help also boost your fertility and longevity, consider acupuncture treatment for ED.