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How To Treat Guillain-Barre Syndrome With Acupuncture and TCM

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

feet in the sand
Guillain-Barré syndrome usually begins with tingling in the legs and feet.

Guillain Barré Syndrome (GBS syndrome) is a neurological disorder and an autoimmune disorder, in which the immune system attacks the nervous system. Also known as acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (AIDP), Guillain-Barre can cause loss of muscular strength, tingling and numbness (neuropathy), and high blood pressure. TCM and Acupuncture can help people recover from Guillain-Barré syndrome.

What causes Guillain Barre syndrome? Scientists are not entirely sure why some people develop this rare functional neurological disorder, but it usually happens when a person has recently had a viral infection, like a respiratory infection or a gastrointestinal infection. GBS is also associated with infections like pneumonia, Epstein-Barr, Hepatitis, and HIV.

This autoimmune disease often progresses quickly and can even lead to paralysis. Most people with Guillain Barre disease will require hospitalization. With treatment,  the majority of people do recover slowly, over the course of several months, or possibly even a few years.

In GBS syndrome, the immune cells damage or destroy the myelin sheaths, which surround and protect nerves. Healthy myelin sheaths allow for the smooth flow of signals around the central nervous system and peripheral nervous system. GBS affects the peripheral nervous system, which includes the cranial nerves, the spinal nerves, the peripheral nerves, and the connections between nerves and muscles.

While some cases may be mild, GBS is a serious condition which requires medical care. Some people will have severe symptoms of Guillain Barre which require urgent care, and treatment will probably last for several months. TCM and Acupuncture can be a helpful adjunct treatment to help patients recover from Guillain Barre more quickly and regain their full function more completely.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome Symptoms

legs cramps muscle weakness
Muscle weakness, leg cramps, especially at night

GBS syndrome symptoms can start suddenly and get worse quickly. Most often, it starts with a tingling or pins and needles sensation in the lower extremities, which then moves up the limbs towards the center of the body. Muscle weakness can become so severe that a person is effectively paralyzed. 

The most common symptoms of Guillain-Barre Syndrome include:

  1. Muscle weakness in the arms, legs, trouble walking
  2. Muscle weakness in the face, for example, unable to control eyelids or eyeballs, difficulty chewing
  3. Vision problems, double vision, can’t move eyes 
  4. Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet, pins and needles in fingers or toes
  5. Severe aches and pains, muscle cramping, especially at night
  6. Lower back pain, low back pain
  7. Loss of reflexes
  8. Loss of bladder control, urinary retention, or loss of bowel function
  9. Nausea, vomiting
  10. Fatigue
  11. Rapid heartbeat
  12. High blood pressure or low blood pressure
  13. Difficulty breathing
  14. Nasal-sounding voice
  15. Abnormal gag reflex

Top 3 Types of Guillain-Barre Syndrome

GBS can be difficult to diagnose because it may look different in different patients, and can sometimes be mistaken for other kinds of neuropathies, or conditions like Lyme disease, myasthenia gravis, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, or sarcoidosis.

Doctors consider Guillain-Barre Syndrome to be a spectrum disorder, meaning different people will display different combinations of symptoms. 

  1. Acute inflammatory demyelinating polyradiculoneuropathy (AIDP) – starts with numbness, weakness, or pain, usually a vague sort of back pain or neck pain. Sometimes called “ascending paralysis” because the muscles of the legs weaken first, then the muscular weakness seems to move up the body.
  2. Acute motor axonal neuropathy (AMAN) or Acute motor and sensory axonal neuropathy (AMSAN) – the first is associated with motor dysfunction; the second with both motor and sensory dysfunction
  3. Miller Fisher syndrome (MFS) – characterized by paralysis of the eye muscles and compromise of the tendon reflexes

The treatments for these different variants of Guillain Barre Syndrome are typically the same.

Guillain-Barre Syndrome Treatment

plasmapheresis plasma exchange
Plasmapheresis or plasma exchange treatment for GBS syndrome

A person experiencing GBS syndrome may need immediate medical treatment to help with breathing and be put on a ventilator or require tube feeding for a period of time until they regain control over these functions. They may also need medications to stabilize their blood pressure.

Current medical treatment for Guillain Barre Syndrome focuses mainly on interfering with the antibodies that are attacking the nervous system. One way to do this is with plasma exchange, also known as plasmapheresis, which can remove antibodies from a person’s blood. Another way is with intravenous immunoglobulin therapy, in which healthy antibodies from other donors are introduced, which can help block the malfunctioning antibodies.

Many patients will go through a period of a few weeks of feeling worse after these types of treatments, but then begin to recover. Most people with Guillain Barre will need to go through a lengthy recovery period that includes physical therapy, exercises and other types of aid in order to regain their full functional mobility. Acupuncture treatment can be a helpful adjunct treatment to speed and optimize the recovery process.

Can Acupuncture Help Guillain-Barre Syndrome?

electroacupuncture
Dr. Tan electroacupuncture treatment

Acupuncture can help people as they are recovering from Guillain Barre syndrome by improving muscle tone and mobility, rebuilding healthy nerve cells and tissues, as well as relieving nerve pain and muscle pain.

Acupuncture combined with moxibustion treatment has been shown to help improve muscle strength in patients with GBS.  Electroacupuncture can help promote new nerve growth while reducing pain.

TCM modalities can help relieve facial paralysis and decrease symptoms of neuropathy like numbness in the fingers and toes.

Patients who have regular acupuncture treatments may see dramatic improvements in their mobility, coordination, and balance.

One study compared patients with GBS who were treated with intravenous immunoglobulin therapy alone, versus patients who were given TCM herbs in addition to the immunoglobulin. The group given the herbal formula showed better motor nerve function and sensory nerve function. The herbs work to relieve inflammation and aid in tissue repair, while clearing dampness and heat, pathogens that are considered to contribute to impaired function of the limbs.

TCM treatment been shown to help with a variety of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, ALS, Multiple sclerosis, essential tremor, stroke recovery, and Bell’s palsy. Acupuncture can also help with autoimmune disorders, such as celiac disease, lupus, fibromyalgia, Rheumatoid arthritis, and Crohn’s disease.

Acupuncture Near Me in Los Angeles, CA for Guillain Barre Syndrome

Having Guillain Barre Syndrome will probably have a big impact on a person’s life and wellbeing for a while. It is important to take excellent care of yourself while recovering from GBS syndrome, so that you can regain your strength and health fully. At Art of Wellness TCM and Acupuncture, we take every aspect of your health into consideration when we develop a treatment plan to aid in the recovery from serious illness.

 

 

 

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

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How to Detox With Acupuncture and TCM

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

herbal detox tea
Chinese herbs detox tea

Why is it important to do a detox or body cleanse periodically? When done with the right support from an acupuncturist near me, detoxing can help improve your digestion, immune function, fertility, and many other aspects of your health. Store bought colon cleanse products or a juice cleanse won’t really do the job, though. A detox program with acupuncture and Chinese herbs will do more to optimize your health than just a detox diet will.

When we recommend our Detox Program at Art of Wellness, we are not talking about fasting or detox drinks, like a master cleanse. The goal of our program is to detoxify the organ systems of the body: it’s a liver detox, kidney cleanse, lungs, heart, and spleen. This is a full body cleanse designed to give you a health reset. According to TCM philosophy, your body knows how to repair and renew itself, but it cannot do this job when it is congested and out of balance.

In TCM, we have a broad concept of what “toxins” are and how they can affect our bodies and our health. Toxic chemicals that come from our environment, such as food additives, pesticides, cleaning products, and beauty and hygiene products are certainly part of the problem. Drugs, medicines, alcohol, and unhealthy foods can also be toxic. So can behavioral habits, like sitting and looking at our screens and devices too long.

But our own bodies produce toxins, too. The waste products our organs create are “toxic,” and if they are held in the body too long without being adequately cleared out, they can negatively impact organ function. Imbalances in the system can cause conditions of excess heat or phlegm, which can lead to all kinds of problems with both your physical and mental health.

Stress, lack of sleep, and extreme emotions can also contribute to toxic conditions in the body and mind. When the organ systems are out of balance, the body is under constant pressure to keep functioning, but we do not feel our best.

Signs you need to detox include:

Inflammation is largely created by toxic conditions in the body, and most pain conditions and chronic illnesses stem, at least in part, from inflammation somewhere.

Why You Need a Liver Detox

tai qi qigong exercise detox
QiGong and Tai Qi exercises help with detox.

In conventional medicine, we think of the liver as being a sort of filter that removes toxins from the blood and helps metabolize fat. In TCM theory, we consider the liver to be the storehouse and distributor of blood; therefore, it also plays a crucial role in the menstrual cycle. The liver is also strongly connected to a person’s emotional life. 

Stress, lack of sleep, too much sugar, alcohol, fatty, fried foods, pharmaceutical medicines, and recreational drugs all tax the liver above and beyond what it needs to do just to keep the blood flowing to nourish the body. When too many demands are placed on the liver, it can cause all kinds of symptoms, including: fatigue, insomnia, and headaches. Feelings of anger, frustration, anxiety, and irritability may arise. Conversely, when a person is feeling bitter and resentful, and isn’t able to express it, those unresolved emotions may begin to cause trouble with liver function.

Just as the liver governs the blood, in TCM, the kidneys govern the water of the body, controlling elimination through the bladder, and maintaining blood pressure by keeping the right amount of water in the bloodstream. Signs that the kidneys are not balanced include: problems with blood pressure, edema, puffiness in the face or extremities, UTIs, chronic fatigue, and menopause symptoms, like dryness and hot flashes.

Detoxing the organ systems, including the liver and kidneys especially, can help rejuvenate the digestion and allow better nutrition to reach all parts of the body, as the quality and flow of blood and other bodily fluids will be improved.

Making sure that your excretory system is in good working order before starting a cleanse is important. If you are already having problems with constipation, for example, we will want to make sure we get things moving before we start cleansing the organs. Our detox also focuses on the body’s largest excretory organ: the skin.

Top 10 Reasons To Detox

detox herbs bath
Relax with detox herbs in your own bath.

It is a good idea for everyone to detox periodically; detoxing every six months is reasonable for most people. Sometimes we will specifically recommend a detox for a patient when they are struggling with a particular health problem, or if they are planning a pregnancy.

Detoxing can help:

  1. Boost Immunity – a cleanse will help get your lymphatic system, which produces and transports immune cells and removes waste from cells, moving, improving the efficacy of your immune system.
  2. Break Free From Addiction – if you are ready, a commitment to the detox program and food plan can help you end patterns of substance abuse, drug use, alcohol addiction, smoking, and other types of dependency.
  3. Infertility – We often advise people who come to Art of Wellness for fertility treatment to begin with the Detox Program. Not only will this help increase the chances of conception occurring, whether naturally or with the aid of ART, but it will also lay the foundation for your child’s health in the future.
  4. Improve sleep – This works both ways. In order for the body to do its routine daily work of removing toxic waste, it needs plenty of sleep. The Liver, in particular, is working hard through the night to clean and deliver fresh blood to the cells. Sleeping on your side enhances your body’s ability to do this work, allowing the internal organs to drain properly. When your body is functioning well, your sleep will be of better quality, more restful and refreshing.
  5. Improve skin and hair – Dull eyes and skin, dark circles or bags, puffiness, and thinning hair are signs of stagnant blood and Qi. Nutrients from the right foods and Chinese herbs help to nourish the skin, and clear heat, dampness, and dryness. When old cells are removed, hair and eyes can shine again. Acupuncture treatment can help stimulate collagen production, which also happens while you sleep.
  6. Weight loss – While our acupuncture detox is not about how to lose belly fat fast, many people will find that it gives them a good foundation for new eating habits. Detoxing the liver and kidneys will help your body metabolize fat better. 
  7. Balance hormones – severe PMS symptoms, bloated stomach and mood swings, perimenopause symptoms, infertility in women and infertility in men (oligospermia) can all be improved when hormone function improves. Acupuncture treatment can also help relieve conditions like PCOS, fibroids/leiomyoma, and endometriosis for women, and BPH in men.
  8. Reduce inflammation – many illnesses and pain conditions are inflammatory in nature. If you are suffering from pain due to plantar fasciitis, gout, rheumatoid arthritis, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, shoulder or hip pain, acupuncture can help.
  9. Increased energy – better nutrition, better circulation, better sleep, and better organ function will all work synergistically to help you feel more energetic.
  10. Chronic illness – many chronic illnesses are rooted in toxic conditions within the body or exposure to toxins. Hard-to-treat conditions like autoimmune conditions and other systemic problems may be helped with alternative medicine when conventional medical treatments have not been successful. We treat many conditions with acupuncture and herbs, such as: lupus, lyme disease, celiac disease, fibromyalgia, and Crohn’s disease. We also provide support for people going through cancer treatment.

7 Steps of Detox Program With TCM Acupuncture and Herbs

cupping acupuncture detox
Cupping draws Qi and blood from deep inside the body.

Pain and dysfunction occur when there is imbalance and when there are areas of stagnation within the body. Think of the metaphor of a house that needs to be deep-cleaned; there are dark corners of the body that have been ignored for a while, where dust and cobwebs have gathered. The Detox program reaches into these pockets of stagnation, sweeps them clean, and makes sure they get some fresh air and sunlight shining on them, in the form of invigorated Qi and blood.

  1. Acupuncture Treatments – the primary goal of acupuncture treatments during the detox phase is to get Qi moving freely, remove blockages, and to assist in elimination of toxins from the body.
  2. Cupping Treatment – the TCM modality of cupping creates a vacuum-like suction that moves Qi and blood from the innermost parts of the body outwards. During the detox program, cupping helps to pull toxins out of the lungs and other organs.
  3. Detox Herbs – the Chinese herb detox tea helps to clear heat and toxins from the body and improve digestion and elimination.
  4. Foot Pad Detox – detox foot patches, worn as you sleep at night and removed in the morning, help to pull toxins and fatty deposits from the body. 
  5. Detox Bath – Sweating is an excellent way to remove toxins through the skin; this is why so many traditions rely on saunas and hot baths. Our herbal sachets allow you to enjoy a therapeutic herbal soak in your own bathtub.
  6. Exercise – Your acupuncturist will instruct you on how to practice daily exercises, based on QiGong movements, that will help to get Qi and blood moving.
  7. Nutrition – the food plan during the detox is based on whole grains, lean proteins, and plenty of vegetables, flooding your system with nutrients.

Detox Near Me Los Angeles, Westside

The beginning of the year, springtime, after recovery from a long illness, while preparing for a healthy pregnancy–anytime may be the right time for you to detoxify your system and get a fresh start. We recommend that you take the time to dedicate yourself to a week of cleansing with the Art of Wellness Detox Program at least twice a year for optimal health benefits.

 

 

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

 

 

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How to Treat Trigeminal Neuralgia With Acupuncture and TCM

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

Trigeminal Neuralgia face pain
Trigeminal Neuralgia causes pain in the cheek, jaw, or behind the eye.

Sudden, sharp, shooting pain in the cheek or jaw that feels like an electric shock? Intense facial pain that lasts for a few seconds or a few minutes, and then goes away? This could be a sign of Trigeminal Neuralgia, a type of nerve pain or neuropathy that affects the nerves in the face. TCM and acupuncture provide a safe, effective trigeminal neuralgia treatment to relieve pain.

Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic pain disorder associated with the trigeminal nerve, which branches out across the face along each eye, cheek, and the upper and lower jaws. It communicates signals from the face to the brain related to pressure and temperature, and is also involved with the motor action of chewing.

Neuropathy is a general term that refers to any kind of nerve damage or dysfunction that leads to sensations of pain, tingling, or numbness. When there is something wrong with the trigeminal nerve–maybe compression, a lesion on the nerve, or some other problem–then even a light touch, or eating something hot or cold, can cause a very intense pain signal. Trigeminal neuralgia is sometimes called tic douloureux, meaning “painful tic,” because the jolt of pain causes people to wince or grimace. Sometimes people think the pain they’re feeling is dental pain.

The pain of trigeminal neuralgia is often described in terms like: stabbing, burning, and excruciating pain. Sometimes people say it feels like a sudden electric shock. This pain may last only a few seconds, or a few minutes, or it can come and go over the course of hours or days.

Trigeminal neuralgia pain often flares up on just one side of the face, sometimes isolated to one area. Pain may be around or behind the eye, across the cheek, along the jaw, or inside the mouth. Doctors categorize trigeminal neuralgia into 2 types:

  1. Type 1 – Typical – facial pain occurs in sporadic, sudden bursts which may last seconds or minutes, or come and go over the course of a few hours. There are periods of times between episodes when there is no pain.
  2. Types 2 – Atypical – pain in face is constant, with aching, burning sensations present over a widespread area.

Trigeminal neuropathy is similar in some ways to other cranial neuropathy conditions like Bell’s Palsy. In the case of Bell’s palsy, lack of blood flow to the 7th cranial nerve causes a temporary paralysis of the facial muscles and one side of the face to droop. Bell’s Palsy usually goes away after a while, but Trigeminal neuropathy tends to become a chronic condition that gets worse as time goes on.

Acupuncture and TCM are an excellent way to help relieve pain and dysfunction due to all types of neuropathies, including Bell’s Palsy, peripheral neuropathy, sciatica/sciatic nerve pain, piriformis syndrome, radiculopathy (pinched nerve) that can cause neck pain, thoracic or low back pain, or shoulder pain, occipital neuralgia, Morton’s neuroma, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Acupuncture treatment can help not only to relieve pain caused by nerve disorders, but can actually help to repair damaged nerves, regenerate nerve tissues, and facilitate better communication throughout the nervous system.

Top 10 Trigeminal Neuralgia Triggers

hot cold trigger Trigeminal Neuralgia
Eating or drinking things that are hot or cold can trigger Trigeminal Neuralgia pain.

Trigeminal neuralgia pain can occur spontaneously for no apparent reason, but it is often triggered by some sort of touch, movement, or other stimulus. Some common triggers of trigeminal neuralgia pain include:

  1. Brushing your teeth
  2. Eating or drinking something hot, cold, or spicy
  3. Touching your face, leaning your face on your hand
  4. Shaving facial hair
  5. Putting on makeup
  6. Washing your face
  7. Talking
  8. Smiling, laughing
  9. A breeze blowing in your face, wind in your face
  10. Vibrations from being in a car or airplane, etc.

While the nerve pain caused by trigeminal neuralgia is not life-threatening, and doesn’t really affect your ability to move your face, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have an impact on your life. Never knowing when you might suddenly experience severe pain is debilitating. Many people with this type of neuropathy pain can fall into a depression and even begin to experience suicidal thoughts because the thought of having to live with this kind of pain forever is scary.

What Causes Trigeminal Neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia tends to occur more frequently in women, and in people who are over 50.  While the exact cause is not always apparent, it usually has to do with a blood vessel creating extra pressure somewhere along the nerve. Sometimes it can be due to a head injury or a tumor in the brain. Multiple sclerosis (MS) can sometimes contribute to trigeminal neuralgia. Sometimes people develop trigeminal neuralgia after a dental procedure.

Trigeminal Neuralgia Treatment Medications

The medications most commonly prescribed for people suffering from trigeminal neuralgia are a class of drugs called anticonvulsants. These medications were originally intended to be used to treat seizures and epilepsy, but they have been found to help some people with neuropathy pain, too. Medicines like Neurontin and Topamax can help disrupt the nerve signals that are causing the pain.

The side effects of these medications can include dizziness, trouble concentrating or remembering things, drowsiness, headaches, vision problems, and nausea.

If a patient has not found relief from trigeminal neuralgia nerve pain with medication, then surgery may be attempted. Doctors may drill into the skull to expose the trigeminal nerve and try to remove blood vessels that may be pressing against the nerve. This is called microvascular decompression (MVD), and is an invasive operation that carries risks and requires a few weeks of recovery time. Not everyone gets pain relief from this procedure, in which case, other options may be tried.

Gamma knife radiosurgery and Radiofrequency lesioning are less invasive procedures that involve applying radiation or heat from an electrode to the trigeminal nerve. The idea is to purposely damage the nerve in order to stop the pain signals. In some cases, this can lead to numbness, or loss of sensation in the face. For some patients, the pain comes back in a matter of years, in which case the surgery can be repeated.

Acupuncture offers an alternative treatment that can relieve pain from trigeminal neuralgia without side effects or risk of permanent nerve damage.

Can Acupuncture Help Trigeminal Neuralgia?

trigeminal neuralgia acupuncture
An invasion of cold wind can lead to facial nerve pain.

According to the TCM view, different people can suffer from the same type of pain condition or disease but have different underlying problems that are the root cause of the pain. When treating individual patients, an acupuncture practitioner first listens carefully and observes all of a person’s symptoms to determine what kind of internal pathogens or imbalances may be contributing to the pain disorder.

In the case of trigeminal neuralgia, the cause may be related to a blockage in the stomach meridian, which extends into the same facial areas as the trigeminal nerve does. As with other neurological conditions (like Bell’s Palsy and Parkinson’s disease), this blockage may be related to an invasion of wind, either hot or cold, that affects the flow of Qi through the face and head.

In addition to acupuncture treatment, Chinese herbs can help strengthen Qi and help with the rejuvenation of nerve cells. It is also important for a person struggling with trigeminal neuralgia to be cautious of eating or drinking anything that is too hot or too cold. It is also advised that you avoid spicy foods, caffeine, sugar, and processed foods.

Acupuncture works as a natural analgesic to relieve pain, affecting the way that nerve cells transmit pain signals and activating the opioid receptors in the brain.

A case study of a woman who had suffered from trigeminal neuralgia pain for 25 years found that after six weeks of acupuncture treatment, she was free of pain, and was still free of pain six months later.

A review of studies related to trigeminal neuralgia treatments concluded that acupuncture was more effective for pain management of trigeminal neuralgia than medication or surgery, and had fewer adverse effects than either of the other solutions. Over a five year period, acupuncture treatment also cost significantly less money than other treatments.

A study that compared patients who had had trigeminal neuralgia symptoms for an average of 10 years. Half were treated with acupuncture and the other half treated with the anticonvulsant medication Carbamazepine. The acupuncture group reported a higher percentage of effective pain reduction; 95% of the patients found relief, with 30 out of 40 people reporting that their pain was totally resolved.

One study of a dozen patients treated with acupuncture found that all of the participants had reduced pain, to the point that they no longer needed to take medications for trigeminal neuralgia.

Acupuncture Near Me for Trigeminal Neuralgia in the Los Angeles Area

Trigeminal neuralgia can have a serious impact on a person’s quality of life. The pain of this nerve condition can be so extreme that it inspires fear and depression. The standard medical treatments for trigeminal neuralgia don’t work for everyone, and they can come with significant negative side effects. If you or someone you love is suffering from facial pain, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at Art of Wellness Acupuncture. Drs. Tan and Cai have been serving the Westside and Santa Monica since 1995, with expertise in TCM and integrative medicine.

 

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

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How to Treat Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) With Acupuncture and TCM

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

hand pain pain in hands
Arthritis joint pain in fingers and hands can be an early sign of Rheumatoid arthritis.

Do you have joint pain, swelling or stiffness in the joints, especially finger joint pain or a swollen knee? Maybe you feel that the joint pain is moving to other parts of your body, or flares up sometimes, and then seems to go away. Joint pain accompanied by fever and fatigue may be a sign of Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), an auto immune disease that causes inflammation and can lead to serious physical disability. Acupuncture and TCM offer a way to help people who suffer from Rheumatoid arthritis, as well as other types of arthritis and autoimmune disorders.

Arthritis is a general term that refers to all kinds of joint pain. Most types of arthritis begin to occur due to aging and the repeated “wear and tear” on the joints of the body that happens as we move through life. Any place in the body where two bones meet is considered a joint, so arthritis pain and inflammation can occur in the large joints of the limbs, causing shoulder pain or hip pain, in the spine, causing back pain, or in the extremities: arthritis in hands and feet. Rheumatoid arthritis most commonly shows up first as arthritis in fingers, hands, and knees.

Rheumatoid arthritis used to be commonly known as “rheumatism,” and now may be referred to as “RA.” It is different from other types of arthritis because the joint pain is caused by immune system problems, not injury or overuse of the joint.

When a person develops an autoimmune disorder, their immune system is mistakenly attacking normal tissues in the body. In the case of RA, an immune response attacks the lining of the joints, a soft tissue membrane called synovium. This creates inflammation and can ultimately begin to cause damage to the bones themselves (osteoporosis). Affected parts of the body can begin to change shape, become weak, and eventually lose their ability to function properly.

In later stages of RA, other body systems can be affected, as well. The joint lining contains blood vessels and nerves, so damage to the synovium can also impact the cardiovascular system and the nervous system. People with RA are at greater risk for developing nerve damage, heart disease, lung disease, and problems with the eyes. People with Rheumatoid arthritis can also be more prone to getting infections like the flu or pneumonia, and certain types of cancers, like lymphoma. 

RA can affect your body composition, leading to obesity. Some people may lose weight initially, but it is usually muscle mass that is lost, as RA makes exercise difficult. This means that people can end up with an unhealthy ratio of fat to muscle.

RA is different from osteoarthritis in that it can show up at any time in life. Sometime children develop Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis (also known as Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis). Like RA in adults, this is an autoimmune disorder, and can cause other symptoms like fever and rashes. Some children will grow out of their RA symptoms; others may carry this disorder with them into adulthood.

Most people with RA begin to show signs in their middle age. Women are more likely to have RA than men. As with other autoimmune diseases, medical science has not determined the exact Rheumatoid arthritis causes, but they may be partly genetic, and partly having to do with hormones. Environmental factors may contribute to RA, as can stress and strong emotions. Past illnesses or viral infections, like Epstein Barr virus, can also be a factor.

TCM and acupuncture treatment for Rheumatoid arthritis works on multiple levels. Acupuncture can help to reduce inflammation and stiffness in the joints. TCM treatment with herbs helps to improve and balance immune function. Acupuncture can also relieve emotional symptoms related to stress, fatigue, and depression.

Top 10 Rheumatoid Arthritis Symptoms

rheumatoid arthritis joint pain
Pain in the fingers and hands is one of the most common symptoms of RA.

For some people the symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis may develop slowly over many years; for others, they may start suddenly. People will experience RA symptoms as different sensations, in different parts of the body, which is part of what makes it difficult to diagnose. The most common symptoms of RA include:

  1. Joint pain that starts in the smaller joints: pain in hands, pain in knees, pain in toes
  2. Redness and swelling in joints: swollen fingers, swollen knee, hands swollen, ankle swollen
  3. A sensation of heat or warmth in the joints
  4. Stiffness first thing in the morning that gets better as the day goes on
  5. Fatigue, feeling exhausted, tired all the time
  6. Pain in same joint on both sides, for example, pain in both knees
  7. Hard lumps under the skin near the painful joints (Rheumatoid nodules)
  8. Eye pain, dry eyes,  blurry vision
  9. Low grade fever
  10. Depression, feelings of frustration or hopelessness

People with RA that affects their hips, knees, or ankles may begin to walk with a limp. Diminished function of the joints may cause a person to lose their grip strength and coordination. Over time, the hands and fingers or feet and toes may begin to become disfigured, as loss of soft tissue and bone changes their shape. 

Rheumatoid Arthritis Treatment

At this time, treatments for rheumatoid arthritis are mainly directed towards relieving pain, reducing chronic inflammation, and slowing down the progression of this inflammatory disease.

 A primary care physician will probably refer patients to a rheumatologist for rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis and treatment. Rheumatologists specialize in joint diseases and all types of arthritis, so they treat joint pain related to conditions like osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, reactive arthritis, musculoskeletal pain related to fibromyalgia, tendonitis, and autoimmune diseases like lupus.

Typical medical options for RA include NSAIDs and corticosteroids, to quickly reduce pain inflammation. Anti-rheumatic drugs, known as DMARDS, have both anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive properties. They work more slowly, but if started soon after diagnosis, they can help to prevent more damage to joint tissues, and relieve RA symptoms.

Unfortunately, all of these medications carry side effects. In the case of DMARDS, some patients experience gastric upset, headaches, and fatigue. They can also increase chances of infections, which is already a problem for people with RA.

Biologics are another type of injectable medication used to help relieve chronic inflammation by suppressing certain immune responses. These can also put people at higher risk for infections and certain cancers.

Acupuncture and TCM offer a way to reduce inflammation and pain without side effects.

Can Acupuncture Help Rheumatoid Arthritis?

Acupuncture Rheumatoid Arthritis
Acupuncture can relieve pain and swelling due to Rheumatoid arthritis.

TCM has its own way of categorizing diseases. According to TCM theory, Rheumatoid arthritis falls under the category of “Bi” disorders. In TCM, environmental factors like cold, wind, heat, and dampness can invade the body and affect the organs, ultimately causing organ systems to malfunction. When they manifest in the body, pathogenic factors like cold and dampness can slow down or block the flow of blood and Qi (life force energy) through the body. 

“Bi” conditions involve obstructions of Qi and blood that then lead to stiffness, swelling, soreness, redness, and heat in the joints. The famous TCM medical text known as “The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine,” which was written a few centuries B.C., recorded identification of Bi syndromes. Bi syndromes can certainly be in part related to outside environmental conditions, such as living in a cold, wet, windy place. They can also be related to a weakness of protective Qi that would translate into conventional terms as being a weakened immune system. Thus, Bi syndromes include rheumatoid arthritis, other types of arthritis, and other painful joint conditions like gout, lupus, and neuralgia.

A review of studies conducted on patients who received acupuncture treatment for Rheumatoid arthritis concluded that TCM is a good method for helping patients with this type of condition. TCM acknowledges that within one disease, different people may have very different symptoms, due to their genetics, or what we sometimes call “constitution.” One person will show hot symptoms like redness, swelling, and fever. Another person may find that their joint pain is particularly affected by cold, wet weather. An acupuncturist near me will look and listen to see what sort of pattern has developed, and will treat each individual accordingly with acupuncture points for joint pain.

Acupuncture Near Me for Rheumatoid Arthritis in Greater Los Angeles

TCM offers a framework in which we are able to see autoimmune disease as a collection of issues that can all be addressed in concert. With acupuncture and herbs, we can help relieve pain and inflammation, while also building back up of the systems of the body that have become weak. At Art of Wellness in West LA, we have many years of experience helping people manage autoimmune disorders and get relief from joint pain.

 

 

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

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How to Treat Celiac Disease With Acupuncture and TCM

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

gluten free celiac disease
Bread and many other foods contain gluten.

Do you have digestive problems like a bloated stomach, diarrhea, and abdominal pain? Unintentional weight loss, fatigue, skin rashes? These can all be signs of Celiac disease. Different from food allergies, Celiac is a serious autoimmune disorder that can lead to malnutrition and other debilitating health problems. TCM herbs and acupuncture treatment offer a good alternative way of managing Celiac disease and gluten intolerance symptoms.

In recent years, you have probably heard a lot of people saying they are switching to a gluten free diet because they have a gluten allergy or gluten intolerance. Sometimes people may just be trying to see if they feel better when they cut out wheat products, or they are going on a low carb diet to help them lose weight. Other people may be experiencing symptoms like diarrhea and nausea and hope that going on an IBS diet will help.

What is gluten? Gluten is a protein that is present in some grains, including wheat, barley, and rye. When a person has Celiac disease, gluten is perceived by the immune system as a dangerous foreign substance, triggering an immune response. Antibodies (white blood cells) are produced as a reaction to gluten entering the body, and the antibodies end up causing inflammation and damage to the inside of the intestinal tract.

This damage to the small intestine is called villous atrophy, and this is what causes inflammation and malabsorption of nutrients, leading to the myriad symptoms of Celiac. Celiac symptoms vary widely, and can include both digestive problems, and other conditions, like anemia, that stem from the lack of proper nourishment to the body.

wheat allergy food allergies
Some people are allergic to wheat; others have gluten intolerance.

There is such a thing as a true wheat allergy, which for some people causes respiratory problems like difficulty breathing and nasal congestion, and other allergy symptoms like swelling and itching around the mouth and throat, hives or other itchy skin rashes, and headaches. Wheat allergies are a response to chemical compounds in wheat, which is found in a wide variety of food products. In some cases, exposure to wheat can cause anaphylaxis, which requires emergency medical attention because it can involve trouble breathing and swallowing, chest tightening, throat swelling, dizziness, and fainting.

Some doctors now recognize gluten intolerance or non-celiac gluten sensitivity as a separate condition from Celiac disease. For some people, gluten causes an immune response and symptoms, but not the same kind of damage to the intestines that Celiac does. If gluten intolerance is suspected, then following a gluten free diet for a period of time and noticing if symptoms clear up is usually the recommended course of action.

Celiac disease tends to run in families, and so is considered to be passed genetically. People can begin to show signs of Celiac at any age. It is estimated that at least 1% of the population has Celiac disease, but that number may be significantly higher, as it is still not a very well understood condition. Many people who have Celiac disease are unaware of it, or have been misdiagnosed with other conditions. Researchers believe that the incidence of Celiac disease is increasing worldwide, probably due to some environmental factors.

Acupuncture and TCM herbs provide a holistic way to treat Celiac disease, relieving the painful symptoms and providing detailed guidance for lifestyle and dietary changes that can help people manage Celiac and gluten intolerance. Nutrition is considered to be one of the primary branches of TCM, along with acupuncture and herbs. A TCM practitioner will be able to give you dietary recommendations far beyond just telling you to eat gluten free foods.

Top 10 Celiac Disease Symptoms

People can experience a variety of gluten intolerance symptoms, including digestive problems, allergy symptoms like skin rash, and other symptoms related to nutritional deficiency, like anemia and weight loss. Signs of gluten intolerance may be different in children, who are more susceptible to malnourishment that can lead to a failure to thrive.

headache stomach pain fatigue celiac
Fatigue, headaches, and stomach pain can all be signs of Celiac disease.

Celiac symptoms include:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Weight loss
  3. Diarrhea, pale colored stools, foul-smelling, fatty, greasy stool
  4. Abdominal bloating, bloated stomach, gas, stomach pain, abdominal pain
  5. Nausea, vomiting
  6. Constipation
  7. Headache, headaches, migraines, migraine headaches
  8. Skin rash, mouth ulcers, mouth sores, canker sores
  9. Neuropathy, numbness or tingling in hands and feet, problems with balance, joint pain
  10. Cognitive problems, foggy head, difficulty concentrating

Celiac can lead to anemia, iron deficiency, loss of bone density (osteoporosis), weak bones, soft bones, bone loss (osteopenia), joint pain, or arthritis. People can also have liver problems, including fatty liver.

Dermatitis herpetiformis is a specific type of skin rash that causes itching and blisters to appear, primarily on the knees, elbows, torso, top of the head, and buttocks.

Women may find that celiac disease affects their hormones, menstrual periods, and can have an impact on fertility, even causing recurrent miscarriages

Celiac disease can also contribute to infertility and low sperm count in men.

When a child develops celiac disease, the inability to absorb nutrients from food can cause problems with normal growth, such as short stature, delayed puberty, and damage to tooth enamel. Developmental disorders and behavioral issues can also be related to celiac, like ADD/ADHD and irritability. 

In extreme cases, Celiac can cause seizures.

Celiac Disease Diagnosis and Treatment 

stomach pain abdominal pain
Abdominal pain and bloating can be symptoms of Celiac or gluten intolerance.

Going through the process of being diagnosed with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance is quite complicated and involves multiple tests. From the medical standpoint, it is best that you do not eliminate gluten or change your diet before the testing, so that it can accurately show how gluten is affecting your immune system and your intestines.

First, you will probably have a blood test that looks for certain antibodies that would indicate an autoimmune reaction to gluten. Some people may test negative for antibodies, and yet still have Celiac, though, so this blood testing is not enough to be conclusive. Genetic testing may be done, which looks for specific antigens to rule out Celiac. If testing shows that a person has antibodies, and they also have a specific type of skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis), that is usually enough for a doctor to give an official diagnosis of Celiac disease.

Endoscopy is an imaging test which uses a little camera to see if there is damage to the intestinal lining. They will also take some tissue samples from the lining of the intestine to check for inflammation and damage. The results of these tests may lead to a formal Celiac diagnosis. People will often need to have an endoscopy to find out if they have Celiac disease, and then possibly repeated endoscopies to see if the inflammation is getting better or worse.

Sometimes people will try figuring out what is going on themselves with a food sensitivity test or food intolerance test kit that you can do at home and send in for results. Food allergy testing may give you some information as to whether you have a reaction to a specific allergen (egg allergy, milk allergy, peanut allergy, shellfish allergy) or have a food sensitivity, but they cannot tell you if you really have Celiac disease or gut inflammation.

Going through the diagnostic process for autoimmune diseases like Celiac disease can be exhausting in and of itself. Meanwhile, you aren’t yet getting treatment for your symptoms. The only treatment available in conventional medicine for Celiac disease really is to follow a gluten free diet. Most doctors are not able to do much beyond give you a list of foods you shouldn’t eat, or refer you to a dietitian.

TCM has the ability to provide more comprehensive care for people with Celiac disease, and many other autoimmune conditions. Acupuncturists are highly trained professionals when it comes to offering patients detailed guidance for following an effective Celiac disease diet.

Can Acupuncture Help Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance?

gluten free foods
Your acupuncturist will help you follow a gluten free diet.

TCM has more to offer than just acupuncture treatment and herbal medicine. Nutrition is one of core competencies every TCM practitioner must master. 

Acupuncture treatment can help relieve digestive symptoms like abdominal pain and bloating, and also have a positive impact on the system malfunctioning that leads to autoimmune reactions. With Chinese herbs, we are able to get very potent nutrients into the body that wouldn’t normally come from food. For people with Celiac, or other problems like food allergies or sensitivities, malnutrition due to malabsorption is a real problem. 

A TCM nutrition approach can help restore the body’s health with foods and herbs better than a simple elimination diet for Celiac disease can. An acupuncturist listens carefully to the particular symptoms and sensations you describe. These provide important clues as to which organ systems are involved, and where yin and yang are out of balance. Then TCM provides a framework for tailoring the treatment and food plan for Celiac disease to each individual’s needs.

According to TCM theory, the stomach and spleen are responsible for digesting food. Celiac disease symptoms are, according to a typical TCM diagnosis, related to a spleen deficiency. When Qi in the spleen is weak, the body is not getting the nutrients it needs. Building up the strength of the spleen will often be the focus of the acupuncture portion of the treatment. Herbs and specific nourishing foods will be recommended, which will help anemia and soothe the digestive tract.

Acupuncture Near Me For Celiac Disease, West Los Angeles

Autoimmune diseases like Celiac disease can be especially frustrating because they seem to take over your whole life. Not only physical health, but mental health is compromised. Treatment options are limited. Fortunately, TCM offers a complementary form of medicine that is able to provide multi-faceted care for autoimmune disorders like Celiac, including: Crohn’s disease, Type 1 diabetes, hyperthyroidism, Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and multiple sclerosis (MS). Acupuncture treatment can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression as you learn to manage your illness.

If you or someone you know has been suffering from digestive issues, and you suspect it may have something to do with gluten intolerance or Celiac disease, be prepared to go through testing, but also give some thought to adding a TCM provider to your health care team. At Art of Wellness, we have over 35 years of providing excellent care through TCM treatments, including expert nutrition services. It is like getting an acupuncturist and dietitian in one.

 

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

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