Skip to content

Migraines

How To Help Dependence on Hydrocodone and Other Opioid Pain Medication With Acupuncture and TCM

Share

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

 

opioid pain medication dependence
Opioid pain medications can cause side effects and lead to dependence.

Many people are prescribed strong pain medication when they are in need of pain relief. Opioid drugs may help relieve pain, but they can also create a physical dependence as a person develops a tolerance for the painkillers. Acupuncture and TCM offer an alternative to opiate drugs  and opioids like Codeine and Vicodin for treating pain, and a way to help treat both opioid dependence and addiction.

We often hear in the news that the U.S. is facing an “opioid epidemic.” Recent statistics suggest that over ten million Americans may have an opioid use disorder. CDC data showed that over 75,000 people died from opioid overdoses in 2021.

Some of the most commonly used pain medications include:

  • Oxycodone (Oxycontin)
  • Hydrocodone (Vicodin)
  • Oxymorphone
  • Morphine
  • Methadone
  • Fentanyl
  • Codeine
  • Tramadol
  • Buprenorphine

Opioid medications are also known as “narcotics.” “Opiate” drugs are derived naturally from the poppy plant. These include: opium, codeine, and heroin. “Opioids” are synthetically produced in a lab. These include: oxycodone and fentanyl.

People are prescribed opioids or opiates to help them deal with severe pain, but the medications themselves can then become the primary cause of suffering in their lives. Roughly a quarter of people who are prescribed opioid pain medications end up misusing them.

Opioid misuse can mean different things, like: taking more than the prescribed dosage, using someone else’s medication, or continuing to take the medication even though it is having a negative impact on your health and life.

Dependence on opioids is different from addiction, and it is possible to experience drug dependence with or without also having a substance use disorder. 

When a person becomes dependent on a medication, it means that they require a certain dose of that substance in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms. This is why these medications are closely monitored by the prescribing medical doctor, so that the dosage is carefully controlled. A person may need to be slowly weaned off the medications when they are no longer necessary, so as to avoid withdrawal.

It is also possible for a person to develop an addiction to opioids, as they stimulate the release of endorphins, which help to block pain signals and produce positive feelings. When this process is repeated over and over, the body starts producing less endorphins naturally, and a higher dosage of the opioid medication is required to produce the same effect; this is what we mean by “tolerance” to the drug.

Addiction to opioids—or an opioid use disorder—is more likely the longer a person takes them—for example, for a chronic pain condition. Other factors, like depression or anxiety, high levels of stress at work or home, and use of other substances like tobacco and alcohol, can also play a role in addiction risk.

It can be difficult, even for doctors, to distinguish between physical dependence and addiction. Addiction is usually defined by “abuse” or “misuse.” When a person feels that they cannot live without the medication, though, there is clearly a problem. 

Acupuncture and TCM may play an important role in helping both individuals, and society as a whole, overcome dependence on opioid pain medications because it addresses the problem in several ways.

Top 10 Reasons Acupuncture Is a Good Alternative to Opioids for Pain Relief

acupuncture pain management
Acupuncture can help relieve pain.

Acupuncture has a natural analgesic effect and can help relieve severe pain and chronic pain, without negative side effects. 

  1. Acupuncture and other TCM modalities are an effective alternative for pain relief. 
  2. Acupuncture can be used to treat both acute pain and chronic pain.
  3. Acupuncture can help reduce the need for opioid-like medications after surgeries, by helping relieve postoperative pain.
  4. Acupuncture and herbs can help postoperative wounds heal more quickly.
  5. Acupuncture can help cancer patients by providing pain relief and additionally helping to relieve nausea and mitigating other side effects of cancer treatment.
  6. Acupuncture provides pain relief without negative side effects.
  7. Acupuncture can help individuals who are trying to stop taking opiates avoid withdrawal symptoms.
  8. Acupuncture can help alleviate cravings for addictive substances.
  9. Acupuncture helps to effect the release of endorphins naturally, which provides the same good feelings as drugs initially do.
  10. Acupuncture can be a more cost effective way to treat pain and addiction than other methods.

Treatment for Opioid Dependence

methadone opioid dependence
Acupuncture can help people reduce their need for pain medication.

Methadone Maintenance treatment (MMT) is widely used to treat opioid addiction or dependence. This method involves replacing the opioid drug with methadone, which is a synthetic opioid, so it acts on the same centers of the brain, which helps to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms. This can help people wean themselves off of pain medications or heroin. However, there can be side effects, and MMT does not help everyone stop using or misusing opiates or prescription pain medications.

Long-term use of opioids can be detrimental to a person’s overall health, both mentally and physically. Hydrocodone side effects and oxycodone side effects can include: drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, constipation, irregular heartbeat, and increased risk of respiratory problems for people with asthma or COPDs like emphysema or chronic bronchitis.

Mental health issues and opioid misuse often go together. People who suffer from depression or anxiety are much more likely to use opioids to treat pain and then become emotionally dependent on them.

Overall, evidence suggests that pharmacological methods for treating opioid misuse are not very successful. TCM and acupuncture offer an alternative treatment for opioid dependence.

Can Acupuncture Help Relieve Pain Better Than Opioids?

While there is still much to be done in the way of scientific research to demonstrate exactly how acupuncture is able to effect changes in the body and help relieve pain, there is ample enough evidence to convince the medical community that acupuncture does, indeed, have a significant analgesic effect. For two decades now, the WHO has recommended acupuncture and TCM for many different pain conditions, including: 

Acupuncture may work so well to relieve pain because it appears to have an effect on the central nervous system and opioid peptide neurotransmitters, including endorphins. This means that acupuncture works on the opioid receptors in the brain.

One study of patients who were in methadone treatment for opioid dependence found that people who received acupuncture were able to reduce the amount of methadone they needed.

A study on patients who had lumbar spine surgery to help severe back pain showed that acupuncture worked well as a postoperative analgesic.

Acupuncture Near Me for Pain Management and Opioid Dependence in Los Angeles

It is absolutely necessary for so many people to find pain relief when they have an acute condition, or a chronic pain condition, or are in treatment for cancer or other serious illness. Serious pain causes mental anguish as well as physical limitations. Acupuncture and TCM offer an alternative treatment for pain management that helps not only to block pain, but also to relieve stress and anxiety. At Art of Wellness, we have over 30 years of experience helping people to manage pain safely and effectively.



 

*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 Meniere’s Disease With Acupuncture and TCM

Share

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

dizziness vertigo spiral stairs
Vertigo, dizziness, sensation of spinning, are possible signs of Meniere’s disease.

My ear feels clogged sometimes, I get sudden dizzy spells, and sometimes I think I’m losing hearing in one ear! These symptoms could be signs of Meniere’s disease, a condition of the inner ear that causes ringing in the ears or buzzing sounds, sudden hearing loss, and vertigo–that spinning sensation sometimes accompanied by nausea. Acupuncture is an effective vertigo treatment and can help resolve the dizziness and hearing problems associated with Meniere’s.

A lot of people may not realize that they have Meniere’s disease, because the most common symptoms can also be indicators of many other health issues. For example, sudden attacks of vertigo can be caused by a condition called benign paroxysmal postural vertigo, or BPPV. BPPV is another kind of inner ear problem, caused by the movement of small crystals of calcium carbonate into a part of the ear canal where they do not belong. Vestibular migraine and other types of migraine headaches can cause feelings of vertigo and ringing in the ears. Ringing in the ears, also known as tinnitus, can also be a symptom of a sinus or ear infection, thyroid problems, cardiovascular problems, or caused by repeated exposure to excessive noise levels.

Meniere’s disease is a chronic condition that can begin at any time during life, but it is most commonly diagnosed when a person is in their 40s or 50s. Most of the time, Meniere’s symptoms only affect one ear. A “Meniere’s attack” can come on in a way that is similar to a migraine. First there may be subtle signs that it is starting, like changes in hearing, or a feeling of fullness or congestion in one ear. Then, a sudden and strong attack of vertigo can make you feel so dizzy, light-headed, and off balance that you have to lie down. You may even feel nauseated to the point of vomiting. These episodes of intense dizziness can last anywhere from several minutes to several hours, or even a whole day. Afterwards, you may feel exhausted and need to rest. Never knowing when you might have one of these attacks of severe vertigo can be very disruptive and unsettling, really having a negative impact on your life.

Each person’s experience of Meniere’s disease is different, and there is no clear cause for the disorder. Over time, some people may have fewer and fewer symptomatic episodes, while other people may have them more frequently and may begin to develop more serious hearing problems. Hearing loss associated with Meniere’s disease may seem to come and go at first, but it can progress to the point of permanent hearing loss, or deafness.

What causes Meniere’s disease? Medical science is unclear as to why some people develop this inner ear problem, but it is generally believed to be related to excess fluid in the ear. Meniere’s symptoms might develop after some type of head injury or ear infection, respiratory infection, or viral infection. Meniere’s may be related in some cases to migraine headaches, or to immune system dysfunction. Some women experience Meniere’s symptoms during their premenstrual syndrome (PMS) week. As with many other illnesses, Meniere’s can be triggered by stress or anxiety. Currently, Meniere’s treatment typically involves medications that offer some symptomatic relief, like anti-nausea medications.

Acupuncture and other TCM treatments for Meniere’s disease offer a holistic way to address the varying symptoms of dizziness, vertigo, nausea, tinnitus, and hearing loss. While there is no cure for Meniere’s, it is possible to reduce the symptoms so that they are not so bothersome anymore and even to help prevent further hear loss.

Top 5 Symptoms of Meniere’s Disease

Meniere
Meniere’s usually hearing problems in one ear.

Meniere’s symptoms can be subtle at first, and a person may only have a few episodes of ringing in ear or vertigo once in a while. The common signs of Meniere’s include:

  1. Dizziness, vertigo, spinning sensation, light-headed 
  2. Hearing loss, hearing problems, sudden drop in hearing, sounds are muffled
  3. Tinnitus, ringing in the ears, buzzing sound, roaring in ear
  4. Sensation of fullness in the ear, ear feels plugged up or congested
  5. Nausea, feeling like you’re going to be sick or vomit

In some cases, people with Meniere’s can have sudden falls, sometimes called “drop attacks,” or Tumarkin’s otolithic crisis. You may feel like you’re falling, or the room is tilting around you, and the next thing you know, you’re on the floor. These falls are unpredictable and can cause injuries.

Medical Treatment for Meniere’s Disease

One of the common treatments for Meniere’s vertigo, ringing in the ears, or a sensation of fullness in the ears is the use of diuretics like Lasix, Diamox, or Dyazide, following the logic that they will help reduce the amount of fluid in the inner ear. However, there is not much scientific evidence showing that this method works for everyone, and diuretics may have other negative consequences, such as lowering blood pressure.

Anti-nausea medications, known as antiemetics, may offer some relief from nausea during bouts of vertigo. Histamines and their receptors are understood to be involved with signalling in the brain that may impact balance, so antihistamines, such as Dramamine and Benadryl, are often offered as a way to reduce dizziness. Again, there is not much evidence of the efficacy of antihistamines for vertigo. Drowsiness is a common side effect of taking antihistamines. Antidepressants are also sometimes prescribed to help with vertigo.

In rare instances, doctors may perform surgery to physically alter the inner ear; this is called labyrinthectomy. This may help reduce debilitating vertigo for some patients or help to prevent drop attacks, but for some people, it can cause even more damage to their hearing capabilities, and can even cause deafness. All of these medical treatments only try to reduce symptoms, they don’t help to prevent hearing loss due to Meniere’s disease.

Can Acupuncture Help Meniere’s Disease?

ringing in ear, dizziness, Meniere
Acupuncture can help relieve ringing in the ear, dizziness, and nausea.

According to TCM theory, the sensation that the ear is clogged is related to a buildup of Phlegm, causing both physical obstruction and blocking the flow of Qi (energy). Dampness and Wind are other pathogenic factors that can contribute to Meniere’s symptoms of dizziness, vertigo, and the ringing or whooshing sounds in the ear. Weak Kidney energy, combined with Wind rising from the Liver, can cause dizziness, tinnitus, and headaches. An acupuncturist will listen carefully to find out which symptoms are arising, and when, and will choose acupuncture points on the head to directly address the obstruction in the ear, as well as other points on the body to address issues with Kidney Qi.

It may be helpful to make certain dietary changes to help address the excess fluid involved in Meniere’s disease, including reducing salt and sodium, and limiting caffeine and alcohol. Your acupuncture provider will discuss nutritional choices that will help to relieve Meniere’s symptoms.

One study of Meniere’s patients treated with acupuncture showed not only that their vertigo had subsided after a few treatments, but that their hearing levels were maintained rather than worsening as treatment went on.

Another study compared patients with Meniere’s who were treated with antihistamines to a group of patients who received acupuncture treatment for 12 weeks in addition to the antihistamine medication. The patients who received acupuncture reported significantly less vertigo and dizziness, less tinnitus, and actual improvements in their hearing over the patients who received medicine only.

A review of studies using TCM methods, including acupuncture treatment, moxibustion, cupping, and herbal supplementation, to treat Meniere’s disease found that symptoms of vertigo and dizziness were, by and large, greatly reduced, to the point of patients reporting their vertigo as being fully resolved.

A study in which patients were given acupuncture and herbs for 10 days resulted in a 95% effective rate, with the majority of people treated reporting no symptoms at all after the treatment, even after a two-year follow-up.

Acupuncture Near Me for Meniere’s Disease in West Los Angeles

Vertigo is a deeply unpleasant sensation, and never knowing when an attack of dizziness and nausea may strike can really disrupt your daily life. TCM has a proven track record of effectively helping people get over symptoms like dizzy spells and ringing in the ears, and may even help to prevent further hearing loss. If you know you have Meniere’s disease, or if you have some combination of these symptoms but aren’t sure what’s going on, it may be a good time to visit a qualified acupuncturist to see if acupuncture can help relieve dizziness due to Meniere’s, migraines, or BPPV.

 

 

*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 Toothaches With Acupuncture and TCM

Share

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

toothache tooth pain
Acupuncture can help relieve tooth pain and dental anxiety.

Sharp tooth pain, toothache, or throbbing pain in teeth usually means you need to see the dentist. The pain of dental work often necessitates the use of anesthetics, while post-operative pain from dental surgery is usually treated with over the counter pain medications or opioid painkillers. Acupuncture offers an alternative way of dealing with dental pain and can also relieve the dental anxiety many people experience when they have to have dental work done.

Oral pain makes it hard to eat, hard to talk, hard to even think straight. Mouth pain felt in relation to problems with the teeth, or a hurting tooth, is often nerve pain that may be sharp in one place, or radiate to other parts of your face and head. Acupuncture acts upon the neurotransmitters that carry signals between parts of the body and the brain, helping to block pain sensations and relieving tooth pain. 

Different types of mouth pain, not necessarily related to dental problems or the teeth, can also be alleviated by acupuncture, including TMJ jaw pain, clicking or locking of the jaw, tension from grinding teeth, and dry mouth (xerostomia). Myofascial pain, pain in the muscles of the face, and migraines that cause pain in the neck and side of the head can also be helped with acupuncture treatment.

Acupuncture and herbs do not replace the need for regular dental visits or necessary dental procedures. However, TCM methods, used in conjunction with good oral hygiene, can help to promote the development of strong teeth in children, and the maintenance of healthy teeth and gums in adults. TCM treatments help improve immune function, as well, which can help prevent mouth infections.

While dentists have a variety of anesthetics they can use to help reduce pain during dental procedures, many people find the injection of anesthetic to be painful and anxiety-inducing in and of itself. There are definitely downsides to the pain relief offered during dental visits, so much so that many people avoid going to the dentist, or at the very least wish there was some alternative form of anesthesia. Recently, there is growing interest and research to show that acupuncture can be an effective means of providing pain relief before, during, and after dental procedures.

It is estimated that up to 30% of people report feeling dental anxiety, while about 10% of patients experience dental phobia. Acupuncture has been shown to help produce a clinically significant decrease in feelings of anxiety or fear of going to the dentist.

Managing Dental Pain

dental pain dental anxiety
Acupuncture can help reduce the need for dental anesthesia.

It is common to experience pain while you are waiting to get into the dentist for a toothache caused by a broken filling or because a crown has fallen out. Most dental pain is usually managed with non-steroidal inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), also known as OTC pain medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen. However, some people cannot tolerate the regular use of these medicines, as they can cause damage to the lining of the stomach.

Different types of anesthesia used during dental work include: 

  • local anesthetics (lidocaine, articaine, etc.), which numb the area where a tooth is being worked on 
  • sedation (nitrous oxide gas, Valium, Versed, etc.), which helps relax the patient
  • general anesthesia, which means a patient is rendered unconscious for the duration of the dental procedure

Pain after oral surgery is most often treated with over the counter analgesics like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, but severe dental pain may be treated with opioid painkillers. Dentists in the U.S. are far more likely to prescribe opioid pain medications than they do in other countries. Dentists are also more likely to prescribe long-acting opioids, and to prescribe opioids for a longer period of time. The growing numbers of people addicted to opioids in America is largely due to over-prescription of these drugs. TCM methods like acupuncture can relieve a toothache and reduce post-operative pain and bleeding without side effects or risk of dependence.

Can Acupuncture Help Tooth Pain?

Acupuncture treatment has an analgesic effect, reducing pain and inflammation of all kinds. Acupuncture not only offers natural pain relief for toothache, but can also help reduce bleeding during dental procedures such as tooth extractions.

A controlled study that compared two groups of patients have teeth extracted, one group treated with articaine hydrochloride injections and the other groups treated with acupuncture needles, found that pain relief was comparable between the anesthesia and acupuncture groups, while bleeding was less amongst those patients given acupuncture.

In addition to helping with pain and bleeding during and after a dental procedure, many people find it helpful to come in and have an acupuncture treatment just prior to their dental appointment in order to help alleviate anxiety. Acupuncture may also help to reduce a person’s gag reflex, which can be easily triggered during fittings for orthodontic devices, or impressions.

With acupuncture treatment, we can also effectively treat dental anxiety, allowing for patients to feel more relaxed going into their dental appointment and feel less pain during and after a dental procedure.

Top 3 Pressure Points to Help Tooth Pain

acupressure point LI4 for tension-type headaches
Acupressure point LI4 is helpful for both headaches and toothaches.

Acupressure has been shown to help reduce anxiety, gag reflex, and the need for dental injections for pain during fittings for prosthetics. Specific points on the head and face, in particular, can help relieve toothache and swelling.

If you are experiencing acute tooth pain, plan to see your dentist as soon as possible. In the meantime, using these acupressure points for toothaches can help you stay calm and alleviate the pain until you can get treatment.

  1. ST6, Stomach Meridian Point 6, is located in the cheek, equidistant between the corner of the mouth and the earlobe. Apply pressure to the jaw muscle here to help relieve toothache and jaw pain.
  2. SI18, Small Intestine Meridian Point 18, is right in the cheek hollow, perpendicular to the corner of the eye and outside of the nose. Apply pressure to this point to help relieve tooth pain and swollen gums.
  3. LI4, Large Intestine Meridian Point 4, is located in the webbing between the thumb and index finger. Squeeze with firm pressure here. Often used to relieve headaches, but this point helps tooth pain, as well.

Acupuncture Near Me for Tooth Pain on the Westside of Los Angeles

No one likes going to the dentist. However, if you have a hurting tooth but you’ve been avoiding the dentist out of fear, or if you know you have to have some major work done, and you are dreading it, please consider scheduling an acupuncture appointment before your next dentist appointment. Discover for yourself how acupuncture can help relieve dental anxiety and post-procedural dental pain. You may find you feel much more relaxed about the whole thing, and herbs and acupuncture can help staunch bleeding and speed recovery after dental work.

 

 

*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

The Ultimate Guide to the Acupuncture Point on Head for Headaches

Share

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

acupuncture pressure points on head
There are many pressure points on the head

Why does the TCM doctor always put an acupuncture needle in top of head? If you’ve had acupuncture before, it’s likely that your acupuncturist used some acupuncture points on head during your treatments. Using pressure points on the head is something TCM doctors do often, because there are so many useful acupressure points on the head, especially acupuncture points top of head. There are head pressure points for headaches, points to relieve migraines, acupressure head points to help anxiety, fatigue, allergies, and many other conditions.

Even if you’re coming in for acupuncture to help some other condition, whether it’s chronic pain, an autoimmune disease, heart problems, or kidney problems, probably at some point your acupuncture practitioner is going to use acupoints on head to help you relax during your treatment. Every single person who comes into our office for acupuncture is suffering from some form of stress, and using certain points on the top of the head can help with stress relief right away.

Other common reasons to use pressure points in neck and head include:

Why are pressure points on the head so powerful? To answer this question, let us explain a bit about the meridian system in TCM.

TCM Meridian Head Points

meridians acupuncture TCM acupuncture points head
Points along the meridians

TCM is based on interdependent systems of organs and energy channels that run through the body. The channels are known as meridians, and along them flows Qi, the life energy that animates the body and all of its functions. There are 12 major meridians and 8 major vessels; the meridians are close to the surface of the skin, and the vessels, which essentially connect all the meridians, are deeper inside the body. While the way in which we think of the meridian pathways is more metaphorical than physical in nature, they can be considered roughly analogous to the circulatory system of blood vessels or the network of nerves of the nervous system as we think of them in conventional Western medicine. 

Along the meridians lie acupoints, specific points that we stimulate with acupuncture needles during acupuncture treatment or with the fingers and thumbs during acupressure massage. The interconnectedness of the organs, meridians, and individual points is the foundation of acupuncture theory.

We use specific points on a meridian in order to address issues in a particular organ or organ system that corresponds (energetically) with that meridian. There are several pressure points for head and neck pain, points to help relieve allergies, pressure points for frontal headache, and more.

Several of the major meridians originate or end in the head: 

  • Gall Bladder (GB) meridian – points of the gall bladder meridian wrap around the side of the head, the forehead above the eyebrow, the temple, around the ear, and down the back side of the neck–just as the pain of a migraine often does. Then it continues down from the intersection of the neck and shoulder, zig-zagging across the torso, and finally running down the leg and ending in the fourth toe. This meridian is used to treat severe headaches, stress, tension that affects the shoulder and neck, and bile-related problems.
  • Large Intestine (LI) meridian – begins at the points of the index finger, travels up the arm, through the shoulder and neck, then comes up to the lower corner of the nose. This meridian is involved in “letting go,” both from the eliminatory organs of the lower body, and exhalations from the nose.
  • Stomach (ST) meridian – the ST meridian starts near the eye, swoops up to the side of the top of the head, comes down next to the mouth, and continues down through the neck, chest, center of the body, down the leg, ending at the point of the second toe. This meridian is used to treat Shen (spirit) disorders, like insomnia, anxiety, palpitations, memory problems, and blood deficiency.
  • Small intestine (SI) meridian – originates in the little finger, runs up the arm into the shoulder and then branches out, some of it going into the major organs of the heart, stomach, and small intestine; then other branches go up into the face, by the cheekbone and right in front of the center of the ear. The SI is used to treat fevers and mental health conditions, among other things.
  • Bladder (UB) Meridian – begins at the inner canthus of the eyes, goes up and over the top of the head, about an inch away from the midline on either side, and then all the way down the back and leg, ending in the little toe. Used to help with invasion disorders (wind, cold, heat etc.) that affect the eyes, sinus headaches, allergies, stuffy head, neck pain and stiffness.
  • Triple burner meridian, also known as San Jiao (SJ) – begins at the tip of the ring finger, then goes up the arm, through the shoulder and chest, up the side of the neck and comes up around the ear, and into the temple and outer brow bone. The San Jiao head points are used to work on dizziness, headaches, eye twitching, and dental pain.
  • Conception vessel – also known as the Functional Channel, or the Front Channel, or Ren Mai, this vessel originates at the navel, then drops down to the perineal area, and  runs back up the center of the front of the body, ending in a point on the chin, in the dip just under the lower lip. This vessel controls the Yin energy of the body and is essential to the health of the reproductive organs and fertility.
  • Governing vessel, also known as the Extraordinary vessel, the “Sea of Yang” or Du Mai – originates in the lower back near the kidneys, runs up the spine and around and over the top of the head, ending in the middle of the face. This vessel controls the Yang energy of the body, and in particular the kidneys, the back and spine.

Top 10 Acupuncture Points on Head

acupressure point for memory
These acupressure points on the top of the head can help improve your memory.

Of course, your acupuncturist will not only use acupoints on your head during a treatment session. We choose a variety of points that will work together to alleviate symptoms and help optimize the functioning of the organs. These specific head points may be used as part of a treatment to work on a specific symptom or condition:

  1. Yin Tang, or the “Hall of Impression” – this is what is called an “extraordinary point,” meaning it doesn’t really belong to a meridian; it stands on its own. Right in the third eye, it is used to reduce anxiety, vertigo (dizziness), help promote better sleep, clear wind and congestion, and relieve sinus pain and headache.
  2. DU21 –  Shen Ting, “Spirit Court” – Right in the front middle of the top of the head, about an inch above the hairline. This is one of the pressure points for frontal headache, also good for sinusitis, nosebleeds, anxiety, panic attacks, and sleep problems. 
  3. DU 20 – Baihui, or “The meeting of the 100s” – right in the very center of the top of the head, master of endocrine and nervous system, used for anxiety, fatigue, mental focus, relaxation, hypothyroid, adrenal problems, hormone imbalance, headaches.
  4. Si Shen Chong – “Four Alert Spirit” – this is actually a set of four “extraordinary points,” which surround DU20. Very helpful for sleep disorders, memory disorders, dizziness, and headaches.
  5. GB20 – Feng Chi, “Wind Pool,” low back of the head, where the skull meets the neck muscles, helps headaches, migraine, blurred vision, fatigue, neck pain and stiffness. We may use this point when a patient has a cold; this is a point where cold wind can get into the body, and why it is important to wear a scarf to protect your neck when it’s cold and windy out.
  6. Taiyang “Great Sun” –  Right in the depression of the temple, this point can help dizziness, one-sided headaches, migraines, sensitivity to light, and jaw pain, TMJ.
  7. GV26 Shui Gou – in the mustache area, between the nose and mouth, right in the center of the crease, this point helps to calm the mind and restore mental focus. Also used as first aid when a person faints or is in shock. Helps stop hiccups. Helps with serious neurological disorders like epilepsy, seizures. Also good for low back strain. 
  8. LI20 Ying Xiang “Welcome Fragrance” – located in the lower corner of the nose, right in the nasolabial groove, used to alleviate congestion, allergy itching in the nose, and to clear the nasal passages.
  9. ST8 – Touwei, about 5 finger widths above the eyebrow, dispels dampness, used for “splitting headaches,” frontal headache, migraines, headache with nausea and/or vomiting, vision problems, tearing eyes, eye twitching, dizziness/vertigo, hair loss. Helps with mental health, when a person is “overthinking” things, or having repetitive thoughts. 
  10. BL2 – Zhanzhu – located at the inner corner of the eyebrow, good for itchy, watery eyes due to allergies, other eyes problems like glaucoma, night blindness, and sinus headache. 

Facial Acupuncture Points

cosmetic acupuncture
Facial acupuncture points help improve skin’s elasticity for a more youthful look.

As we have mentioned, some pressure points on the face are used to help relieve sinus congestion, nasal congestion, and other issues related to common colds and flus or allergies. Points on the face may also be used to help the facial paralysis of Bell’s Palsy, or TMJ jaw pain.

Naturally, we also use acupuncture points on the face as acupuncture points for the face, that is, when we are striving for facial rejuvenation. This technique is sometimes called an acupuncture facial. Using points on the face can help to stimulate collagen production, help to tighten the skin, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and strengthen the facial muscles. People of all ages and genders can benefit from acupuncture skin care. Cosmetic acupuncture can treat signs of aging skin like sagging, puffiness under the eyes, and dryness.

Self-Care With Acupressure Head Points

acupressure head neck
Stimulating pressure points on your head and neck can relieve headache, migraine, and neck pain.

What is acupressure? Acupressure is a form of massage that goes back thousands of years in Chinese Medicine. Stimulating the same points we needle in acupuncture treatment with your fingers and thumbs can be beneficial for different types of headaches and neck stiffness, to calm anxiety, and bring more mental clarity.

Choose a time when your environment is quiet and free of distractions, the same as you would for a meditation practice or home workout. Be sure to breathe deeply and smoothly as you perform self-acupressure. Press firmly, applying deep pressure to a point in a small, gentle circular motion. Giving yourself an acupressure treatment only takes a few minutes, and it is a great way to take care of yourself between acupuncture sessions.

Acupuncture Near Me for Headaches and More

Every time you come in for acupuncture treatment, your TCM doctor is looking for ways to treat your overall condition, but also focusing on how you are feeling right now, today. Often, people are feeling tired and stressed, beyond and in addition to the health condition that caused them to seek out alternative medicine in the first place. Using points on the head that help fatigue, calm a racing mind, and reduce the physical effects of stress is one way that your acupuncturist is practicing preventative care, while at the same time, making sure you leave your treatment feeling rested and reenergized. The next time you come in for a visit, be sure to let us know how you’re feeling, and feel free to ask us, “What is that point on my head for?”

 

 

*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 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
310-451-5522 Directions Contact/Schedule