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How to Stop Snoring With Acupuncture and TCM

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

snoring sleep apnea
Snoring can happen because of the positioning of the neck and throat.

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:

  1. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – this is caused by the improper relaxation of the throat muscles while sleeping.
  2. Central sleep apnea (CSA) – is caused by disordered signalling from the brain to the organs that control breathing.
  3. 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

fatigue tiredness sleep apnea snoring
Daytime sleepiness can be due to 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:

  1. Loud snoring
  2. Interrupted breathing – moments during the night when the person’s breathing actually stops and then starts again
  3. Gasping for air while sleeping
  4. Waking up with a dry mouth or sore throat
  5. Headaches in the morning
  6. Insomnia, difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep during the night
  7. Feeling very sleepy during the daytime (hypersomnia)
  8. Difficulty paying attention
  9. Feeling irritable
  10. Getting up often during the night to urinate (nocturia)

What Causes Snoring?

snoring congestion sleep apnea
respiratory and nasal congestion can cause 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:

  1. Congestion of the nose due to a cold or allergies
  2. In late pregnancy, the growing belly puts upward pressure on the respiratory system
  3. Sleeping pills, medications that work as relaxants, like Ativan or Valium
  4. Alcohol consumption
  5. 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

snoring sleep apnea
Snoring can disrupt your partner’s sleep. A CPAP machine might, too.

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

stomach meridian acupressure points
Acupressure points along the Stomach Meridian can help relieve 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.

 

 

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

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How to Treat Musculoskeletal Pain With Acupuncture and TCM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 Symptoms of Musculoskeletal Pain

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

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

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

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

Top 5 Causes Musculoskeletal Pain Flares

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

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

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

What Is the Treatment for Fibromyalgia?

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

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

Acupuncture for Musculoskeletal Pain

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 5 Tips for Managing Fibromyalgia

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

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

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

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

Acupuncture Near Me for Musculoskeletal Pain

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

 

 

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

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How to Treat Irregular Heartbeat With Acupuncture and TCM

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heart chambers
4 chambers of the heart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 Types of Irregular Heartbeat

irregular heartbeat flutter
Feeling like your heart is fluttering?

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

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

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

What Causes Irregular Heartbeat?

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

Causes of tachycardia include:

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

Causes of atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter include:

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

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

Treatment for Irregular Heartbeat

irregular heartbeat
Medical treatment for irregular heartbeat

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

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

Can Acupuncture Help Irregular Heartbeat?

heartbeat
Electrical impulses control the rhythm of the heart beating.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Acupuncture Near Me for Irregular Heartbeat

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

 

 

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

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How to Treat Lyme Disease With Acupuncture and TCM

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

Lyme disease tick
Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks.

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

Lyme disease fatigue
Extreme fatigue can be a symptom 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.

  1. Joint pain, swollen joins, arthritis
  2. Neuropathy, numbness or tingling, Bell’s palsy (face drooping)
  3. Fatigue
  4. Bulls-eye rash, also known as erythema migrans rash
  5. Headaches, migraines
  6. Sleep problems, sleep apnea, snoring
  7. Brain fog
  8. Trouble breathing
  9. Vertigo, dizziness
  10. 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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

Chinese herbs
Chinese herbs can work to help get rid of deep infections.

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

Lyme disease fatigue
Extra rest is important to help recovery from Lyme disease.

Sometimes re-prioritizing health over all else is necessary in order to heal from a serious infectious disease.

  1. Conserve energy. Rest as much as possible.  
  2. Drink extra water. 
  3. Eliminate coffee, alcohol, spicy foods, chips, roasted nuts, any food that adds heat and inflames further. Try to reduce heat.
  4. Eat more cooling foods. Mung bean tea is an ideal choice.
  5. 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.

 

 

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

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How to Treat Anxiety With TCM and Acupuncture

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

Anxiety and Stress
It isn’t all in your head

Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety or apprehension at times. Sometimes people suffer from excessive feelings of dread or panic, even when they are not in immediate danger. In some cases, the complex cascade of emotional and physical sensations encompassed by the term Anxiety is so pervasive that it becomes a chronic mental health condition. TCM and Acupuncture offer a natural, highly effective treatment option to reduce anxiety symptoms.

We are currently living in a particularly harsh reality in which human life is filled with setbacks and potential danger. There is always a chance that something bad might happen to you or someone close to you. In recent weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has understandably created a pervasive sense of worry amongst the population, and the numbers of people filling prescriptions for anxiety-related medications, antidepressants and sleep aids has increased dramatically.

Anxiety is clinically defined as a persistent feeling of worry, accompanied by physical sensations such as heart palpitations, dizziness, and sweating. Sometimes people describe it as being similar to the sensations you feel when you’ve tripped and you’re falling, except that the scary feeling persists for a long time; it doesn’t go away even when nothing is happening. Anxiety disorder is a very common mental health condition experienced by people of all ages; every year about 20% of Americans seek medical help for symptoms related to anxiety. 

If you are feeling heightened levels of distress that are affecting your ability to sleep, focus, or care for yourself or others, please be assured that help is available. Acupuncture and other TCM treatment modalities offer a safe alternative to pharmacological drugs that can cause side effects and potentially lead to dependency and withdrawal symptoms. A qualified acupuncturist will conduct an in-depth consultation and create a program designed to specifically address each patient’s individual combination of symptoms and life situation.

What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety?

Doctors classify types of anxiety disorders into several sub-categories, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Phobia-related Disorders, and Separation Anxiety (anxiety in children).

The most common symptoms of various types of Anxiety include:

  • Rapid or labored breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat or tachycardia
  • Feeling “on edge” or irritable
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty concentrating 
  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach upset
  • Anxiety headache 

Each person will present with a unique combination of symptoms and sensations, along with her own “triggers” or things that seem to cause the symptoms to manifest. Most people who seek medical care for their anxiety symptoms are either prescribed psychiatric tranquilizing medications such as Xanax or Atavan, referred for psychotherapy, or both. Some doctors use antidepressants such as Zoloft, Lexapro or Prozac to treat anxiety. These Selective Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) may help reduce symptoms in some cases, but all of these types of medications can cause side effects and lead to dependency. TCM and Acupuncture treatments not only address specific symptoms of anxiety, but address the root causes of the disorder.

TCM Deals With All Types of Anxiety Disorders 

anxiety can cause fatigue
Anxiety can increase feelings of isolation.

Anxiety, like depression and other mental health disorders, carries the disadvantage of being “invisible.” Other people, and even many medical professionals, simply can’t see physical evidence of the problem, and can’t empathize with the suffering involved. Well-meaning family members and friends might offer suggestions to “calm down” or reminders to stay positive, all with the implication that nothing is really wrong or that “it’s all in your head.” Being plagued with constant self-doubt further amplifies the problem. Anxiety is a real health issue, and TCM offers effective modalities to address it.

Modern medicine has only recently begun to make the connection between emotional and physical maladies. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), on the other hand, has acknowledged for centuries that the mental, emotional and physical experiences of human beings are all inextricably linked. Sometimes a physical injury or traumatic experience can set the stage for a mental health problem. For example, a car accident that creates even minor injuries to the body might trigger future panic attacks, phobias, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Other times, a mental health condition like chronic Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) can affect sleep, eating, and other behaviors to such an extent that a person becomes more susceptible to illness and disease. It would not be surprising to see an increase in cases of Agoraphobia (fear of leaving one’s home) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD, which sometimes causes compulsive hand-washing and cleaning as well as hoarding behaviors) as a result of the current coronavirus pandemic. People who experience multiple panic attacks may be diagnosed with panic disorder.

Anxiety disorders already tend to lead to feelings of isolation. Now that most people are spending far more time alone or sequestered with family members and roommates, already existing feelings of fear may be exacerbated. People who have never had to cope with anything beyond normal, mild anxiety may suddenly find themselves feeling real panic for the first time. Additionally, some might feel guilty or ashamed about reaching out for help for these problems when there are so many other people hurting for more apparent reasons. But there is real help for anxiety, and getting that help during this time of crisis makes sense. There is no need to suffer. Find acupuncture near me to address anxiety symptoms and the root causes before the problem becomes more severe and chronic.

Acupuncture for Controlling Anxiety

shen men ear point
Shen men ear point for anxiety relief

Conventional medicine generally attributes anxiety disorders to abnormal functioning of the brain and nervous system. The feelings associated with anxiety – the emotional sense of worry, the breathlessness and restlessness of the body, the behavioral instincts to freeze or to run – are all exaggerated responses to stress. Stress is the body’s natural reaction to perceived dangers in the environment. When something threatens us, the sympathetic nervous system kicks into gear, and the adrenal glands pump out the hormones that flood the body with energy–what is often referred to as the “fight or flight” response. Normally, once the threat has passed, adrenaline will take some time to move through the body and then dissipate, and a feeling of relaxation is eventually restored. When a person has an anxiety disorder, this hormone release can be triggered by thoughts, and the fear of the physical response itself becomes a part of the vicious cycle.

Acupuncture treatment has been shown to act upon the nervous system, facilitating the release of serotonin, endorphins and noradrenaline, all of which contribute to relaxation and a sense of well-being. Stimulation of specific points have been clinically proven to reduce perceived feelings of anxiety as well as reducing the heart rate and blood pressure of patients. Auricular acupuncture, which specifically uses points on the ear, has been shown to be effective for anxiety. This method is particularly useful, as patients can be fitted with a tiny needle that can be stimulated with gentle pressure as needed to help alleviate symptoms as they appear.

Auricular acupuncture has been used for thousands of years, not only in China, but all over the world. Modern critical analysis has demonstrated that auricular acupuncture affects the parasympathetic nervous system in ways that help alleviate pain and reduce anxiety symptoms. Electro-stim acupuncture, or electro-acupuncture, is another effective modality used by TCM doctors.

How Does Acupuncture Benefit  Anxiety Relief of Panic Attacks?

One of the great advantages of acupuncture treatment over conventional methods of talk therapy and pharmacological intervention is that it has an immediately discernible effect. Patients often leave an acupuncture session with a deep sense of calm and relaxation. Reports of improved sleep usually follow quickly. In addition, the long-term effects of regular acupuncture sessions are cumulative, and people report a sustained decrease in episodes of anxiety and panic attacks.

One controlled study compared groups of patients treated with a regimen of acupuncture with moxibustion to a group prescribed a type of benzodiazepine medication. The results showed higher efficacy in reducing anxiety symptoms among the patients receiving acupuncture.

TCM Doctors’ Top 10  Suggestions on Self Care for Anxiety 

Dr. Tan meditating
Journey inward with meditation practice.

Here are some natural remedies for anxiety you can utilize at home. With consistent practice, these habits will help alleviate stress and reduce anxiety symptoms. 

  1. Meditation for anxiety– Those struggling with anxiety may well be tired of hearing well-meaning friends suggesting they “Relax!” or “just breathe.” But studies have shown that regular meditation practice can significantly reduce anxiety. There are many methods; it is important to find a method that works for you. This study suggested mindfulness meditation may be especially effective.
  2. Waterfall Meditation –  In this exercise, imagine yourself at the base of a waterfall. As you breathe in and out, picture the water gently raining down on you, trickling down each route until the tension inside you releases, relaxing parts of your body one section at a time. Allow your entire body to enter a peaceful and relaxed state. Let the image of the water wash away any stress or anxiety that burdens you.
  3. Physical Exercise – By now it has been well documented that regular exercise is good for health in every way, lowering the risks of all types of chronic disease. Movement helps reduce anxiety symptoms by reducing adrenal reactivity, increasing the output of endorphins and endogenous (naturally produced in the body) opioids, and even stimulating the growth of new brain cells. It is also suggested that exercise functions as a type of exposure therapy. When people become more used to the sensations of an increased heart rate, heavier breathing, and sweating due to cardiovascular activity, it increases their tolerance for these same symptoms when they appear as part of an episode of anxiety. If you are able to go for a walk or run while following social distancing guidelines, it is especially helpful to get some sun exposure, as well. Put on some music or a favorite workout video; rhythmic movement that engages the large muscle groups provides great benefits.
  4. Tai Chi and Chi Gong –These ancient traditional forms are “moving meditations” that work upon the endocrine circulatory, and nervous systems to balance energies and strengthen Qi.
  5. Good Eating Habits – Caffeine, sugar, processed and spicy foods can trigger anxiety. Complex carbohydrates like brown rice, barley, quinoa and oats are relaxing, as are nuts and chickpeas, which contain tryptophan. Now is a good time to become more intimately involved with preparing dishes at home, and this process can also be soothing: a mindfulness exercise that results in a healthy meal! Your TCM provider will provide more detailed instructions for a nutrition program for your specific situation.
  6. Stress Reduction –Reducing stress goes hand in hand with reducing anxiety. Especially now, carefully manage your daily activities so as not to become overwhelmed. Allot a short period of time for checking the latest news and catching up with friends; then consciously disengage from screens and virtual realities. Social media has already been called into question for its apparent increase of anxiety among teenagers, but it has a real impact on people of all ages. Comparing your situation and surroundings to the carefully curated content you see on sharing platforms can make you feel pressure, shame, a sense of inadequacy. Commit to being grounded in your immediate surroundings and grateful for the blessings that are in your life right now. Recognize that, while it is important to educate yourself about the novel coronavirus, many of the opinions being expressed online are not informed and are designed to provoke an emotional reaction. Avoid reading comments that you know might be triggering. 
  7. Sleep position can affect headaches
    Acupuncture treatments can alleviate sleep anxiety.

    Sleep Better to Combat Sleep Anxiety – Repetitive, OCD intrusive thoughts and restless energy within the body can make sleeping difficult when you are experiencing sleep anxiety. Cortisol–another stress hormone–levels tend to rise in the evening, and many people register this sensation as anxiety at night. Eating simple carbohydrates like sweets or chips suppresses cortisol and offers a temporary feeling of relaxation. But consuming these foods or alcohol to artificially reduce stress leads to less restful sleep later. Dr. Tan and Dr. Cai can offer many suggestions for how to modify your habits to achieve a better night’s sleep.

  8. Learn a Language – Distance learning has quickly become an integral part of our lives. Many people are using their time at home to learn new skills. Now is a great time to learn a new language. Studying and practicing will help you focus your mind and instill a sense of accomplishment to help relieve anxiety.  
  9. Structure Your Days – Even though daily life has taken an unusual turn, maintaining a consistent schedule helps keep hormone and energy levels more consistent. Rise and retire at about the same time each day. Eat regular meals. Set aside hours for work and much-needed time for rest and relaxation. Creating a structure for your life helps you feel that you are controlling what you can.
  10. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercise – Use this exercise when feeling anxious or suffering a panic attack. This helps you ground yourself in reality by actively using your five senses. Look for the things, and then name them out loud. 
    1. 5 – Count five things in your immediate environment that you can SEE. 
    2. 4 – Count four things near you that you can TOUCH. 
    3. 3 – Count three things near you that you can HEAR. 
    4. 2 – Count two things you can SMELL. 
    5. 1 – Count one thing you can TASTE.     

How to Use 3 Acupressure Points for Anxiety Relief

shen men acupressure point
Shen Men acupressure point

Acupressure is a technique patients can use anytime for symptom relief. Apply gentle, firm pressure to these points.

  1. Liver 3 is a grounding point that helps redirect rising energy downward. Located between the first and second toes, you will find a very tender spot. Try applying gentle pressure here to alleviate irritability, headaches, TMJ, and anxiety. 
  2. You have probably seen the bands people sometimes wear around their wrists to prevent nausea. These are designed to put pressure on Pericardium 6, which quells queasiness. The point is located between the two tendons on your wrist, two fingers up from the wrist crease. Pressing on it is immediately calming. It helps to open the chest, as well, so if you feel tightness in the chest or shallow breathing, use this point. 
  3. Shen Men, called the “Spiritual gate” point, releases heart fire, excitement, anger, irritation and anxiety.

Look for Acupuncture near me in Los Angeles for Anxiety 

At Art of Wellness, one of the top 20 clinics in greater Los Angeles selected by experts, we are concerned that so many people are feeling the weight of these difficult times and having to go it alone. But we are here, committed to helping people whether they are suffering possible symptoms of COVID-19 or intense anxious feelings related to fear of the virus. Our office is currently open on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday during the pandemic period for acupuncture sessions. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us at 310-451-5522 or email us at myartofwellness@gmail.com if you or someone you love is battling anxiety.

 

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

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