Skip to content

Migraines & Headaches

How to Treat Musculoskeletal Pain With Acupuncture and TCM

Share

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, hips, 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.

Share

How To Treat Dizziness With Acupuncture and TCM

Share

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

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

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

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

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

vertigo dizziness spinning
Vertigo feels like the room is spinning

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 10 Causes of Dizziness

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

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

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

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

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) causes dizziness when moving from a seated or position or lying down to standing up.

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

Treatment for Vertigo

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

Can Acupuncture Help Dizziness?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top 5 Tips to Get Rid of Dizziness

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

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

Major 4 types of Vertigo/Dizziness presentation:

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

Acupuncture Near Me for Dizziness

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

 

 

 

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

 

Share

How to Treat TMJ With Acupuncture and TCM

Share

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

tmj jaw pain clicking jaw Ted
The jaw joint

What is TMJ? “TMJ” is an acronym for “temporomandibular joint,” which is the double joint structure that attaches the lower jaw to the skull. “TMJ” is also used as a general term to refer to disorders of the jaw joint. Popping or clicking of the jaw joints, tension or pain in the jaw, grinding teeth, headaches, neck pain, and shoulder pain can all be signs of a TMJ disorder, or TMD. Acupuncture and TCM offer relief from TMJ jaw pain and inflammation.

The jaw joint is totally unique among joints in the human body in a few ways. It is really two joints that must always work together; you cannot choose to just move one side of your jaw. Also, the temporomandibular joint has two ways in which it moves; it “hinges,” and then, it “slides.”

Hinge joints, like the knees and elbows, allow flexion and extension on one plane, while remaining stabilized by a complex group of muscles, ligaments, and other connective tissues. Most of these joints are made of bones that are “molded” to fit and move together. Gliding joints, also called plane joints, like those in the ankles, wrists, and vertebrae, have flat sides that slide alongside each other when they move. The jaw joint combines both of these actions. Essentially the movement of the jaw is a kind of dislocation by design. Small discs of cartilage help to cushion the areas where the jawbone interacts with the sides of the skull in front of the ears.

It can be difficult to determine the exact causes of “TMD,” or temporomandibular disorders that cause pain and dysfunction. Injury to the jaw, dislocation of the jaw, inflammation of tissues, arthritis, and bruxism (clenching or grinding the teeth and jaw) can all potentially lead to jaw pain or clicking in the jaw. Erosion or damage to the cartilage sometimes causes TMD, impacting the usually smooth motion of the opening and closing of the jaw. Structural issues like missing teeth or an uneven bite can cause jaw problems. Dental and orthodontic work that requires the patient to hold the mouth open for long periods of time can sometimes lead to TMJ pain. Habitual movements like teeth grinding, biting on things like pencils, nail biting, or leaning your chin on your hand can also contribute to TMJ pain. Chronic pain syndromes like fibromyalgia can also cause jaw pain.

Most cases of TMJ disorders resolve themselves over time, usually within a few to several months. Resting the jaw and eating soft foods is usually recommended. Medical treatment usually involves medications to reduce inflammation and relieve pain while waiting for the jaw joint to gradually regain its normal function. Only in rare cases is surgery necessary to get rid of jaw pain. 

TMJ, or myofascial pain in the muscles around the jaws, is experienced by a third or more of all adults at some point in their lives. TCM modalities like acupuncture can help alleviate the pain and impeded mobility of the jaw joint caused by TMJ disorders.

Top 10 Symptoms of TMJ

TMJ TMD jaw pain popping jaw
Stiffness and tension in the neck and shoulders can be related to TMJ.

Pain around the jaw joints that comes and goes is the most common complaint of people with TMJ disorders. However, problems with the jaw can contribute to pain and tension in other parts of the head and shoulders, too. The most common signs of TMJ include:

  1. Pain in cheeks, tension in the jaw
  2. Jaw clicking, popping of jaw bones
  3. Limited movement of jaw, can’t open jaw normally
  4. Clenching of jaw, grinding teeth at night
  5. Tooth pain, pain in the back teeth
  6. Ear pain, ringing in the ears, tinnitus
  7. Headaches, migraines, pain behind eye, sensitive to light
  8. Stiffness in shoulders or neck, pain in neck, shoulder pain
  9. Numbness or tingling in arms, hands, or fingers
  10. Dizziness, vertigo

The combination of hard bony structures, muscles, and cartilage that are all involved in TMD causes TMJ pain that is hard to pinpoint because it may move around, and come and go. Most people describe the sensation as a dull ache. Some people don’t experience pain, but still have trouble with jaw clicking or opening and closing the jaw.

What Is the Treatment for TMJ?

tmj treatment bite plate splint
Splinting or use of a bite plate is part of the standard treatment for TMJ disorders.

A doctor or dentist may check for signs of TMJ by observing and manually examining the movement of the jaw joint. Dental X-rays may be used to help determine the cause of jaw pain. CT scan or MRI may be recommended to get a more detailed look at the bones and cartilage. 

The primary recommendations for jaw pain and clicking is to rest the jaw as much as possible and eat only soft foods. Physical therapy (PT) can help strengthen the muscles of the face and encourage people to change habitual behaviors that might be contributing to TMJ. Wearing a splint or bite plate keeps the mouth and jaw in place and prevents grinding teeth in the night. This combination of PT and splinting is called stomatognathic treatment. If pain is serious enough to require further medical treatment, doctors will usually prescribe either pain relievers, anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, or some combination of these. Surgery is only used in rare cases when the jaw has become “locked,” or TMJ inflammation and pain has become chronic.

Acupuncture and TCM treatment offer a way to reduce inflammation and pain related to TMJ disorders without risky surgical procedures or the adverse side effects sometimes caused by corticosteroids and other medications.

Acupuncture Treatment for TMJ

Acupuncture can work to reduce inflammation and pain from many different conditions, including musculoskeletal disorders like TMD. Acupuncture is effective at reducing sensations of pain, both by reducing inflammation in areas from which the pain is originating and by stimulating the release of endorphins and other neurotransmitters that help boost feelings of well-being. Acupuncture treatment can also help the muscles involved with jaw function to relax, alleviating the “clicking” or “popping” associated with TMJ disorders. 

In TCM theory, TMJ is often related to what we call different types of “obstruction” syndrome. Stress and trauma, both physical and emotional, can cause Qi stagnation and/or blood stagnation. Pathogenic forces like cold, heat, wind, and damp can cause painful obstruction, or blockages of energy and blood in certain areas of the body. People suffering from TMJ do not necessarily only have dental pain or myofascial pain, a clicking jaw, or limited movement. They may also be experiencing a variety of other symptoms that are actually related. A TCM practitioner will look at the whole picture of what each patient is feeling, and treat accordingly. 

myofascial pain, face pain, tmj jaw pain, pain behind eye
Pain in the face or behind the eye can be signs of a TMJ disorder.

For example, a person with Liver Qi stagnation may have: 

  • tension in the facial muscles
  • neck pain
  • feelings of anger or anxiety,
  • ringing in the ear, tinnitus
  • headaches

A person with a Wind/Cold Bi Syndrome presentation might feel:

  • acute onset of pain
  • pain moves around from one area to another
  • aversion to wind and cold
  • fever, chills
  • ear ache, ringing in the ears

As a holistic form of medicine, TCM works not only to relieve jaw pain and swelling, but to get to the root of the problem.

A comparative study designed to evaluate TCM treatment for TMJ found that patients who received acupuncture treatment reported less pain and muscle tenderness than those that did not. 

A clinical study that compared groups of patients who received acupuncture treatment for TMJ pain and limited motion to patients treated with decompression splints. Both groups experienced reduction in pain and increased mobility, and the researchers concluded that acupuncture can be considered beneficial as either an adjunct or alternative treatment.

In some cases, a stiff, painful jaw joint can be a secondary symptom of another, more systemic problem like rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia. These conditions can also be addressed with acupuncture.

Acupuncture Near Me for TMJ Disorders

TMJ disorders interfere with a person’s most basic activity: eating. While most cases of TMD improve within a matter of months with the proper rest, they can cause a lot of pain and frustration while a person is waiting to heal. Acupuncture and TCM herbs can help relieve TMJ pain and restore normal jaw function, helping people get back to normal more quickly than rest alone. At Art of Wellness, we have over 30 years of experience helping patients with musculoskeletal disorders and pain of all kinds find relief and a return to their usual mobility.

 

 

 

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

Share

How to Treat Lyme Disease With Acupuncture and TCM

Share

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, MSchronic fatigue syndrome, or PTSD.

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. Our TCM detox program may also be helpful.

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.

Share
310-451-5522 Directions Contact/Schedule