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How to Treat Acne With Acupuncture and TCM

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

acne breakout pimples blemishes
Hiding pimples and acne scars? Acupuncture can help clear blemishes.

Acne breakout, pimples, blackheads? Painful cystic acne and acne scars can affect your confidence and even lead to depression. Acupuncture and TCM provide an alternative skin care option to treat hormonal acne and clear up blemishes.

What causes acne? Acne is a skin condition in which bumps on skin form when hair follicles become clogged with dirt and oil. Sebum, the natural oil produced by skin glands, builds up in the pores and causes blockages. Pimples may appear on the face or other parts of the body (back acne, chest acne, bumps on arms, pimples on scalp/scalp acne, etc.).

Acne is most common during the teenage years, but people of any age can experience skin breakouts. Acne is also influenced by fluctuations in hormones, reactions to cosmetics or foods, weather, and perhaps most commonly, stress.

Rosacea is another skin condition that typically causes redness, flushing, and visible blood vessels on the skin, but it can also cause red bumps to break out, similar to acne. This is known as “acne rosacea.”

Everyone gets a few pimples at some point in their lives. However, severe acne that causes scarring can have a serious impact on a person’s confidence in daily life, as well as being physically painful. 

There are many types of products and acne medication available, both over the counter or with a prescription, including: benzoyl peroxide, retinol for acne cream, acne patch, and acne face wash. 

Topical treatment for acne may clear blemishes on a skin-deep level. Acupuncture and other TCM skin treatments can help get rid of acne and other skin problems, like rosacea, by addressing the root causes: hormonal imbalances, inflammation, and stress.

Types of Acne

acne pimples scars treatment
Breakouts and blemishes can be caused by hormone imbalances.

Acne blemishes can show up in different forms. The most commons types of acne include:

  • Whiteheads – small, closed, white bumps that develop when a pore is clogged 
  • Blackheads – open bumps that are filled with oil and dead skin
  • Red bumps on skin – papules are hard, red, inflamed bumps on skin 
  • Pustules – a papule that has a pus-filled tip
  • Nodules – large, painful red bumps
  • Fungal acne or bacterial acne – when red bumps are caused by bacteria or yeast clogging the follicles
  • Acne rosacea – rosacea can cause acne-like breakouts in addition to red flushing
  • Cysts or Cystic acne – large, painful, nodules that are deep down, under many layers of skin

Cystic acne is considered to be the most severe type of acne. The deep, inflamed cysts can get very big, last a long time, and leave permanent scars. Cystic acne may be genetic, as it tends to run in families. 

Hormonal acne, which is also called “adult acne,” occurs because fluctuations in reproductive hormones like progesterone and estrogen and the stress hormone cortisol stimulate the overproduction of sebum. This kind of acne is most common among women in their 20s through their 40s.

Many women have breakouts that occur cyclically, coinciding with their PMS week or their period. Women may also experience pregnancy acne during the postpartum period. Women over 40 may have unexpected patches of pimples during perimenopause and menopause. Acne is also common among women with PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).

Advanced Dermatology Acne Treatment

dermatologist acne treatment
Dermatologists can recommend a variety of acne treatments.

Dermatologists have tools that allow them to help remove pimples, known as acne extraction or blackhead extractions. Injections of corticosteroids can help reduce inflamed blemishes.  Laser resurfacing can help minimize acne scarring.

A dermatologist can also provide acne medication. Cystic acne and hormonal acne will usually be treated with oral birth control pills to help manage hormone levels. Spironolactone is also sometimes prescribed; this is a diuretic, usually used to treat high blood pressure, that also has an effect on the hormones that control oil secretions.

Isotretinoin, also known as Accutane, is a medication used to treat severe acne, cystic acne, or nodules. Antibiotics are usually prescribed to help clear bacterial acne or fungal acne.

Many of these courses of treatment can cause unwanted side effects, and they do not get to the root cause of the hormone imbalance or internal toxicity.

TCM and acupuncture provide a way to get rid of acne that works from the inside out.

Can Acupuncture Help Acne?

According to TCM theory, skin problems reflect imbalances that originate deeper in the body. Heat and dampness are pathogenic forces that can take root in the organ systems. When heat “overflows” due to imbalances in the digestive or reproductive organs, the body tries to release some of the excess by allowing it to erupt out of the skin.

Acupuncture for acne can both help at the deeper, root level and on the surface of the skin.

We use meridian acupuncture points to target the internal organs that are creating toxic levels of heat or producing too much of some hormone. Then, we also use needles to stimulate the localized areas of the skin that are affected by the breakout and encourage healing. 

Acupuncture treatment for acne will often focus on clearing heat from the stomach, intestines, liver, and lungs. This will help lead to fewer breakouts.

Acupuncture needles can be placed on the face where blemishes occur. The tiny “wounds” created by the very thin needles bring blood flow to the area and encourage the body’s repair and rebuilding mechanisms. The thin needles create a micro-trauma that brings blood flow to the area and encourages the body’s repair and rebuilding mechanisms to kick in. This is why acupuncture is also effective as an anti-aging treatment and a good alternative to botox injections.

One study showed a 94% effective rate for patients given 10 sessions of acupuncture for acne. A systematic review of acupuncture treatment for acne concluded that TCM offered an alternative with fewer side effects than conventional medical treatment.

TCM skin care for acne is highly individualized. An acupuncturist finds clues about which organ system is out of balance by observing the placement and appearance of recurrent breakouts, in addition to other symptoms related to digestion, hormone cycles, and emotional health. Cupping is another TCM treatment that can help draw out toxins and excess heat and improve circulation. Herbal supplements and dietary recommendations will be based on each person’s individual situation.

Top 3 Tips to Get Rid of Acne Naturally

melon cooling foods
Cooling foods like melons help get rid of excess internal heat.

Reducing stress is probably the most important thing you can do to help stop breakouts from happening. It is also generally advisable to avoid or limit spicy or greasy foods. Here are some of our best tips for clear skin.

  1. Start your day by drinking a cup of warm water with slices of lemon.
  2. Eat cooling foods and avoid foods that produce heat. Melons, mung beans, and radishes are top choices, along with lots of greens and purple-blue berries and plums.
  3. Try a homemade skin mask made from cooked, mashed dandelion greens. Apply for 20 minutes to get rid of blemishes and redness. Dandelion is a natural antibacterial and antifungal herb and is also good for the liver.

Acupuncture Near Me for Acne in West Los Angeles

Acne affects almost everyone at some point in their life. Breakouts can have a negative impact on your self-esteem, especially when we live in a culture that is so focused on appearances. The best acne treatment involves reduction of stress and inflammation, good nutrition, and restoring internal balance. At Art of Wellness we have over 30 years of experience helping patients heal skin conditions of all kinds.




*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 Encephalitis With Acupuncture and TCM

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

encephalitis neck pain stiff
Neck pain or stiffness can be a sign of encephalitis.

Headache, sensitivity to light, stiff neck, short-term memory loss? These could be signs of encephalitis, or inflammation in the brain. Infectious encephalitis can happen due to an infection; autoimmune encephalitis (AIE) is a type of autoimmune disorder. Acupuncture and TCM offer an adjunct treatment for encephalitis recovery.

What is encephalitis? Encephalitis refers to a serious condition in which the tissues of the brain become inflamed. It can happen to anyone, but is more common among children and older people.

The symptoms of encephalitis are sometimes ignored, because headaches, neck pain, and “brain fog” are so common and may not seem that serious at first. However, in combination, these signs should not be taken lightly. Like meningitis (inflammation of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord), encephalitis can cause serious complications if left untreated. Encephalitis needs to be caught early and treated in order for people to make a full recovery.

What causes encephalitis? Brain inflammation can be caused by the body’s immune response to an infection, or due to an autoimmune disorder, in which the body produces antibodies that attack the brain tissues. 

Top 10 Causes of Encephalitis

Viral infections are the primary reason that people develop encephalitis. These could be viruses carried by insects, especially mosquitoes, which are then contracted by humans through bites. Other communicable viral infections that pass from person to person through bodily fluids or close contact can also cause infectious encephalitis.

Infections that can lead to encephalitis include:

  1. Mosquito-borne viruses such as: West Nile Virus, Eastern Equine encephalitis, Western Equine encephalitis, St. Louis encephalitis, LaCrosse encephalitis
  2. Tick-borne viruses
  3. Rabies virus – can be contracted through being bitten by an infected animal
  4. Polio virus
  5. Herpes Simplex, Type 1 and Type 2 (HPV1 and HPV2)
  6. Epstein-Barr virus (mono, mononucleosis)
  7. Varicella Oster virus (chicken pox, shingles)
  8. Measles (rubeola)
  9. German measles (rubella)
  10. Mumps

There have been cases of people developing encephalitis as a complication of a COVID-19 infection.

Some cases of encephalitis can be caused by bacterial or fungal infections, or by a parasite. It could also be caused by exposure to some sort of allergen or toxin in the environment.

People with weakened immune systems—for example, due to HIV/AIDs—or who take immunosuppressant medications are at a higher risk for developing encephalitis.

Immunotherapy used to treat certain kinds of cancer, such as melanoma, ovarian cancer or lung cancer, has been shown to cause encephalitis in some cases.

Some cases of autoimmune encephalitis, called Anti-NMDAR encephalitis, appear to be related to a certain kind of tumor called a teteroma. In women and young women, especially, this can be an ovarian tumor that produces the antibodies for NMDAR.

Symptoms of Encephalitis

encephalitis in children
Children can develop encephalitis due to a viral or bacterial infection.

A mild case of encephalitis might only cause some flu-like symptoms that clear up within a few weeks. These types of symptoms include:

  • Headache
  • Stiff neck, neck pain
  • Muscle aches, joint pain
  • Fever
  • Fatigue, feeling tired and weak
  • Sensitivity to light

More severe symptoms of encephalitis can affect both cognitive and motor function:

  • Mental confusion, brain fog, difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems, short term memory loss
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Severe headache
  • Trouble with coordination or balance
  • Loss of sensations in parts of the body or face
  • Loss of muscle control in parts of the body or face
  • Problems with speaking or hearing
  • Mood swings, changes in personality

Anti-NMDAR encephalitis (when there may be an ovarian tumor involved, especially) can cause symptoms like pro-domal headache, nausea, and fever, which may then progress to more severe complications, including involuntary movements or tremors, urinary incontinence, rapid heartbeat, and psychiatric symptoms like anxiety, paranoia, or mania.

In severe cases, encephalitis can cause loss of consciousness and even cause a person to go into a coma. It is very important to seek urgent medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms.

Treatment for Encephalitis

encephalitis brain inflammation
Imaging may show inflammation in the brain.

Blood tests can confirm whether a viral or bacterial infection is causing encephalitis. Imaging tests like an MRI or CT scan may show the inflammation in the brain. A spinal tap may show an imbalance in cerebral fluids, or an EEG may show unusual electrical impulses in the brain.

However, there are times when these tests will not show exactly what is causing the encephalitis. As with many autoimmune disorders, it can be hard to pinpoint a clear diagnosis for autoimmune encephalitis (AIE).

Medical treatment for encephalitis will depend on what type it is determined to be. Mild inflammation will usually be treated with over the counter anti-inflammatory medications. Antivirals or antibiotics will be prescribed if a specific infection is found to be the cause. Steroids will often be used to help reduce inflammation. In more serious cases, a person may require breathing assistance or anti-seizure medications.

 In cases where the cause is believed to be an autoimmune response, immunotherapy is used to try to interfere with the antibodies that are attacking the brain tissues. Steroids will be usually used in combination with other treatments. Plasmapheresis, or plasma exchange, removes some of these antibodies from the blood. Intravenous immunoglobulin therapy introduces healthy antibodies to block the action of the malfunctioning antibodies.

In cases of anti-NMDAR encephalitis where a tumor is present, treatment will include the removal of the tumor in addition to immunotherapy. Patients with this type of encephalitis may also be prescribed antipsychotic drugs to relieve psychiatric symptoms.

Immunotherapy works for some patients, but not all. Many patients will be offered second-line treatments such as monoclonal antibodies or antimetabolites. In some cases, people may seem to recover from encephalitis for a while, and then have a relapse in which the inflammation flares up again.

Most people will need significant time and rehabilitation to help them make a full recovery from encephalitis. Some people will have long-lasting effects, such as memory problems, balance and coordination issues, speech problems, and emotional volatility. 

Many of the pharmaceutical treatments available for encephalitis cause significant side effects and can even lead to more physical, emotional and mental health issues. Fortunately, acupuncture and other TCM modalities offer a way to reduce inflammation in the brain and help relieve encephalitis, as well as helping to offset any side effects from other medical interventions.

Can Acupuncture Help Encephalitis?

Chinese herbs reduce inflammation
Chinese herbs can help reduce inflammation.

With acupuncture and Chinese herbs, we seek to treat the root cause and the various symptoms and complications of each condition according to recognizable patterns. This allows us to effectively treat some conditions, such as autoimmune diseases, neurological disorders, and inflammatory conditions that may not readily respond to conventional medicine. 

In the TCM view, inflammation occurs because there is too much heat in the body. Yang energy provides the “fire” we need to keep the body warm and energetic. But, if there is an imbalance, and too much heat, this leads to conditions like fever, infections, and inflammation. So, we see pathogenic internal heat as contributing to encephalitis, in addition to outside pathogens like viruses or bacteria. To clear heat that is trapped or stagnant in the body, we will use specific herbs and cooling foods, along with acupuncture treatment and lifestyle changes to reduce physical and mental stress. TCM herbs can also be highly effective against bacterial and viral infections.

The motor control and cognitive problems that can result from encephalitis occur because the inflammation in the brain is affecting the functioning of the central nervous system. With acupuncture, we can help to reestablish connections and neural pathways.

Autoimmune disorders are still not well understood by Western medicine, but with acupuncture we can help to balance and regulate the immune system, so that it is not being inappropriately triggered. This is why acupuncture works well as an adjunct treatment for encephalitis and many other autoimmune disorders.

Acupuncture Near Me for Encephalitis in Los Angeles and West Los Angeles

It can be very difficult when you or someone you love is facing a serious illness and a long, difficult recovery. TCM offers a healthcare option that treats each person in a highly individualized and caring way. At Art of Wellness, we have over 30 years of experience helping people gain back their strength and mobility after suffering from conditions like encephalitis, meningitis, Lyme disease, Guillain Barré Syndrome, Myasthenia Gravisand many others.




*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 Chronic Fatigue Syndrome With Acupuncture and TCM

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

 

chronic fatigue syndrome
When you have CFS, sleep doesn’t feel refreshing.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), also known as myalgic encephalitis (ME/CFS), is a condition marked by extreme fatigue that doesn’t get better, even with rest, and gets worse with physical and mental exertion. Chronic fatigue is not well understood by medical science, but acupuncture and Chinese medicine for chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms can be an effective treatment option.

People with chronic fatigue syndrome are always tired, even after getting a normal amount of sleep, and the condition persists for weeks, months, or years. Other chronic fatigue symptoms include body aches, cognitive problems, vision problems, and emotional or mental health problems, like depression and anxiety.

If a person feels tired all the time, with no medical explanation, for six months or more, and has several other chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms like dizziness, difficulty concentrating, headaches, or sensitivity to light, then they might be diagnosed with CFS, or myalgic encephalitis (ME CFS).

By definition, a syndrome is a collection of symptoms that often appear together in combination, for which the exact explanation is unknown. Chronic fatigue has been considered a syndrome for some time, but has more recently been given the designation of a “disease;” hence, the newer term “myalgic encephalitis,” which refers to muscle pain and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord.

Chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms can be very similar to those of fibromyalgia. People with fibromyalgia also experience severe fatigue, but the primary symptoms of fibromyalgia are musculoskeletal pain that comes and goes all over, especially in “tender points” around the major muscles and joints, along with swelling and inflammation. It is possible to have both ME/CFS and fibromyalgia.

Women are much more likely to have chronic fatigue than men. MECFS can begin to appear at any stage of life, but most usually develops in adulthood. It is estimated that up to 90% of people who have chronic fatigue go undiagnosed.

ME/CFS is a serious and disabling condition that can interfere with even the most basic daily activities. People with chronic fatigue may be able to participate in some events where they exert themselves mentally and/or physically, but afterwards, they will feel completely wiped out and have to take time to recover, often confined to bed. This is called post-exertional malaise (PEM).

Top 10 Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Symptoms

ME CFS chronic fatigue
Dizziness and headaches can be signs of chronic fatigue.

The most common ME/CFS symptoms include:

  1. Fatigue, tired all the time, weakness
  2. Sensitivity to light
  3. Trouble concentrating, hard to focus, memory problems, confusion
  4. Dizziness, especially when getting up from lying down
  5. Headaches
  6. Muscle aches, body ache, muscle weakness, joint pain
  7. Enlarged lymph nodes in neck or armpit area, sore throat
  8. Tired after exercise or mental exertion (post-exertional malaise)
  9. Depression, mood swings, moodiness
  10. Insomnia, sleep problems 

Other signs of chronic fatigue syndrome may include: fever, abdominal pain, weight loss or weight gain, allergies, rash, rapid heart beat, and night sweats/hot flashes.

What Causes Chronic Fatigue?

The cause of ME/CFS is not known. Immune system dysfunction, the aftereffects of having a virus, and psychological factors have all been associated with the development of chronic fatigue.

Some people begin to have symptoms of chronic fatigue after having a viral infection, such as Epstein Barr, mononucleosis, or herpes.

While it does seem that some people who suffer from CFS also have immune system problems, chronic fatigue is not considered to be an autoimmune disorder in and of itself.  As with other conditions like lupus or fibromyalgia, CFS sometimes appears after a person has gone through some sort of emotional trauma or physical injury. 

Some people with chronic fatigue have hormone imbalances related to pituitary hormone, adrenal hormone, or hypothalamus hormones, but it is not understood how these might be related to their condition. Diabetes, anemia, or hypothyroidism can also create hormonal imbalances that can contribute to chronic fatigue.

In some cases, chronic fatigue could be due to a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea or chronic insomnia. Long-standing mental health issues like depression, anxiety, or PTSD can interfere with sleep and hormone responses, contributing to the chronic fatigue syndrome symptoms.

Treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Symptoms

tired all the time fatigue
Feeling exhausted after mental or physical activity is called post exertional malaise (PEM).

There is no clear treatment protocol within conventional Western medicine for ME/CFS. A doctor may diagnose myalgic encephalitis if they have ruled out other possibilities and then try to recommend medications or various types of therapy to help people deal with the symptoms of chronic fatigue.

Pain relievers or NSAIDs will often be the standard recommendation for handling ME/CFS related pain like headaches or muscles aches. 

Doctors may prescribe antidepressants as a way of helping patients cope with depression and anxiety related to chronic fatigue. However, these medications can sometimes cause side effects that will exacerbate the chronic fatigue rather than helping it.

Some doctors have tried treating CFS with antiviral medications, corticosteroids, or thyroid hormone medications. None of the pharmacological interventions that have been used to treat chronic fatigue syndrome have proved to be very effective.

Thus, many patients with ME/CFS consider turning to alternative medicine or complementary therapies to relieve CFS symptoms. Acupuncture is now widely recognized as an alternative therapy for chronic fatigue. 

Can Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Help Chronic Fatigue Syndrome?

Traditional Chinese medicine is well suited to treatment for ME/CFS. Overall, TCM philosophy pays close attention to the subtle balance of energy, known as Qi, within the body as a whole, as well as within the various organ systems. By observing the specific symptoms each person experiences as part of chronic fatigue syndrome, we can pinpoint which organ systems are deficient and need strengthening. 

Classic TCM patterns related to chronic fatigue diagnosis include:

  • Spleen Qi deficiency
  • Liver Qi stagnation
  • Kidney deficiency
  • Yin deficiency
  • Heat toxicity
  • Phlegm obstruction/dampness

Latent heat and dampness are sometimes the long-term effects of a viral infection or other illness, or a long period of emotional stress. These conditions originate from an external pathogenic factor, but then cause a series of imbalances which weaken the kidneys and other organs over time. Acupuncture treatment and herbs can help reduce inflammation and strengthen Qi.

A TCM doctor will choose acupuncture points and a combination of herbs that will help harmonize the affected systems. With herbs, we are able to get nutrients into the body beyond what you can do with foods alone. A balanced diet that cools heat and tonifies the organs will also be important for recovering strength and energy.

One controlled trial found that four weeks of acupuncture treatment led to improvements in CFS symptoms. 

A systematic review of studies regarding acupuncture treatment for ME CFS showed a reduction in the severity of fatigue.

A study using acupuncture and moxibustion treatment for CFS showed a 90% effective rate, with half of the patients feeling that their CFS was “cured.”

Another study involving acupuncture and moxibustion found that the moxa treatment in particular became more and more effective as treatment sessions continued past the 10th treatment. Moxibustion was shown to have an effect on the vagus nerve, which controls the parasympathetic nervous system.

How long it takes to get results from acupuncture treatment for chronic fatigue will vary from person to person, depending on how long the person has been experiencing CFS, and how deeply the organ systems are affected. TCM treatment has a cumulative effect which strengthens over time and several sessions.

Acupuncture Near Me for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS) in the Los Angeles Area

ME CFS is far more common than statistics show, because many people suffer in silence and invisibility. Now, many people are struggling with chronic fatigue after having COVID-19. TCM modalities like acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and moxibustion, can help relieve fatigue, depression, mental fogginess, poor sleep, and other symptoms of CFS. If you or someone you love has been feeling exhausted for months without improvement, it may be time to consider trying acupuncture for chronic fatigue.



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



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How To Treat Claustrophobia Anxiety Disorder With Acupuncture and TCM

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

claustrophobia anxiety disorder panic attacks
Claustrophobia is an intense fear of enclosed spaces.

Claustrophobia is a specific kind of anxiety disorder in which fear of being in an enclosed space can bring on symptoms similar to those of panic attacks. Claustrophobic feelings like being anxious, hyperventilating, sweating, shaking, and rapid heartbeat can be eased with acupuncture and TCM.

Claustrophobia is actually quite common; at least 10% of people report experiencing some claustrophobic feelings. Women report having a fear of confined spaces more often than men do. Phobias are sometimes rooted in a childhood experience, but they can arise in anyone, at any age, and are considered mental health issues or psychiatric disorders.

Phobias are distinct from regular fears because of their intensity and, to some extent, irrational nature. Phobias are unreasonable fears; feeling very afraid, to the point of physical and emotional distress, of something that isn’t really happening. Claustrophobia becomes a serious mental health problem if it interferes with a person’s daily life or relationships.

Sometimes claustrophobia can get in the way of a person getting help for other health problems. For example, it may cause them to avoid undergoing an MRI. Some people might fear visiting a doctor’s office, which often means facing elevators, public restrooms, and other small rooms without windows. Some women report feeling claustrophobic during pregnancy, as if they are “trapped” inside their own bodies.

Other common triggers of claustrophobia include: airplanes, trains, tunnels, small cars, revolving doors, or amusement park rides with restraints. Even thoughts of having to be trapped in one of these situations can be enough to bring on symptoms of claustrophobia. Signs of claustrophobia can be similar to those of a panic attack.

Top 10 Symptoms of Claustrophobia:

  1. Sweating
  2. Shaking or trembling
  3. Trouble breathing
  4. Rapid heartbeat, fast heart rate, high blood pressure
  5. Tight feeling in chest, chest pain
  6. Flushed face, feeling hot
  7. Dizziness, feeling lightheaded or faint
  8. Ringing in ears, tinnitus
  9. Butterflies in stomach feeling, nausea, queasy feeling
  10. Numbness or tingling in parts of the body

Other signs of anxiety due to claustrophobia could include: dry mouth, difficulty swallowing, choking, chills, confusion, or disorientation. In addition to physical symptoms of panic, claustrophobia may cause a person to cry, yell, or to be overwhelmed by a desire to get out of a situation because they feel that they are in serious danger, even if it seems irrational.

Elevator claustrophobia
Elevators can trigger claustrophobic feelings.

Cleithrophobia is another type of anxiety disorder that is sometimes confused with claustrophobia. Cleithrophobia specifically refers to the fear of being trapped or confined with no way to escape. Claustrophobia is a fear of the small space itself. These two phobias can exist together. Either one could cause serious anticipatory anxiety, for example, if a person has to have an MRI.

Cleithrophobia is related to other “winter phobias,” which may include “cabin fever,” which is a sense that one is stuck inside, or a fear of being literally trapped in the ice or snow. Many people feel an extra sense of sadness or dread during the winter months; this kind of depression is known as SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

Over time, repeated panic attacks or bouts of intense anxiety brought on by claustrophobia can create long-term stress that is harmful to overall physical and mental health. Acupuncture and TCM offer an adjunct or alternative treatment for claustrophobia which can help reduce symptoms and offset the effects of stress.

What Causes Claustrophobia?

Phobias can be triggered by some event or experience in which a person felt endangered and was traumatized, similar to PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Like other mental health conditions, claustrophobia is influenced by brain chemistry. Imbalances in the neurotransmitters in the brain can cause some people to experience symptoms of anxiety or panic attacks even if nothing scary is really happening. Then, they may associate those physical and emotional feelings with a specific place or situation, which causes the anxiety to be triggered whenever they approach that place or even think of that situation.

People can perceive things differently. One research study suggested that people with claustrophobia may have a different perception of how near something, like a wall, is to them. In other words, they underestimate distances, or their sense of “personal space” is different from other people’s.

The amygdala is the part of the brain that processes incoming sensory information from the environment and signals the autonomous nervous system if it detects danger. This is essentially the neurological pathway of fear. Some research has suggested that people who experience panic disorders are more likely to have a smaller-than-average amygdala.

Treatment for Claustrophobia

MRI claustrophobia
Having an MRI can make people feel claustrophobic.

To be diagnosed with claustrophobia, a person will need to explain to their doctor that they have been having these intense feelings for a while and that they are having a negative impact on their lives. This could mean that they go out of their way to avoid certain places or situations. A mental health professional will try to determine whether these fears are normal, or could be attributed to some other condition. 

Some doctors may prescribe SSRIs like Zoloft or Lexapro, which influence serotonin levels in the brain, to help patients who are suffering from claustrophobia or anxiety. Often therapy is recommended to help patients learn to cope with their feelings. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and/or exposure therapy aim to retrain the mind and may help people learn to get used to being in a small space without feeling so anxious.

Psychiatric medications can have unwanted side effects and may create a sense of dependence. Some people will avoid therapy because it can be very confronting and become another source of fear.

Acupuncture and other TCM modalities, including herbs and movement techniques like Tai Chi, may offer an alternative solution for panic attacks due to claustrophobia, without side effects or having to work through the problem with uncomfortable talk therapy sessions.

Can Acupuncture Help Claustrophobia?

According to TCM, the organ systems closely associated with fear are those of the kidneys, liver, and heart. Kidney deficiency, in particular, can cause fear and mental disturbances. These types of mental disorders can also be related to imbalances in Yin and Yang energies, and blood deficiencies. An acupuncture practitioner’s approach to treatment for claustrophobia may, therefore, focus on strengthening and nourishing the kidneys, while soothing the liver and heart.

One study compared patients who knew they had claustrophobic feelings going into an MRI; some were treated with acupuncture based on TCM acupoints. Control groups patients were given sham acupuncture (not really the points that would correspond with TCM theory). They concluded that the real acupuncture treatment did offer a therapeutic effect for claustrophobia, with a 92% rate of effectiveness; meaning, the patients were able to remain calm during the MRI.

A case study of a woman who had experienced bouts of claustrophobic symptoms since her teenage years, including shortness of breath, trembling, sweating, and loss of motor control in her hands and feet. After six acupuncture treatment sessions, she reported much improvement: feeling calmer, no headaches, palpitations, or anxiety. Chinese herbs can also be used, in conjunction with acupuncture treatment, help a person overcome claustrophobia.

Acupressure Points for Claustrophobia

shen men ear point
Shen men ear point for anxiety relief

In between acupuncture sessions, you can use self-care acupressure to relieve claustrophobia. 

Shen Men is a Master point, located in the valley of the upper part of the ear. This is a classic point to help feelings of anxiety.

Shoujie, which is located on the palm of the hand between the metacarpals of the fourth and fifth fingers, along the topmost crease, helps relieve palpitations and dizziness.

Acupuncture for Claustrophobia Near Me in Los Angeles Area

TCM is an excellent way for people to find relief from mental health issues of all kinds, including depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and phobias. We will do all we can to make sure that you are comfortable in one of our larger treatment rooms with a window, and to make your acupuncture treatment experience relaxing and pain-free. If you or someone you know is finding that the thought of enclosed spaces is creating anxiety in day-to-day life, please do not hesitate to try acupuncture for claustrophobia.




*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 Huntington’s Disease With Acupuncture and TCM

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

 

Huntington
People with Huntington’s disease will begin to have trouble walking and holding objects.

Huntington’s disease is a rare genetic disorder that causes progressive neurodegenerative disease. A neurological disorder, Huntington’s causes damage to brain cells, which leads to physical symptoms like tremor, cognitive problems, and mental disorders, including feelings of depression.

Signs of Huntington’s disease (HD) can begin to show up at any time after age two, and in some cases, a child may develop juvenile Huntington’s disease. Most often, though, a person does not begin to have symptoms of Huntington’s disease until adulthood, usually when they are in their 30s or 40s. Huntington’s is a progressive disease in which symptoms become increasingly severe over time.

Medical science does not currently have a cure for Huntington’s, nor a treatment that will halt the progression of Huntington’s disease. Patients may receive treatment in the form of medications and physical therapy to help control physical symptoms like shaking hands and involuntary movements. They may also be prescribed psychiatric medications to try to help with depression and anxiety. 

Acupuncture and TCM can be an effective adjunct and alternative treatment for Huntington’s disease, helping to protect and stimulate the nervous system. TCM can also help address mental health and emotional disorders, like depression, anxiety, and mood swings.

Huntington’s Disease Symptoms

People with Huntington’s disease may start off having a variety of mild symptoms. Over time, the symptoms may change, with some coming or going, and some getting worse. Signs of Huntington’s disease can be related to involuntary movements of the body, cognitive decline that affects a person’s thinking processes, and psychiatric disorders that cause emotional upset. Some of the most common symptoms of Huntington’s disease include:

  • Uncontrollable movements: involuntary jerking of the limbs, or writhing, also known as chorea
  • Stiff limbs, muscle stiffness, neck stiffness
  • Tremor, shaky hands, difficulty holding things
  • Slow or unusual eye movements
  • Problems with balance or walking
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Speech problems, slurred speech
  • Having a hard time focusing on a a task
  • Having a hard time finding the right words or processing information
  • Getting completely caught up with a task or thought pattern
  • Impulsive behavior or emotional outbursts
  • Lack of awareness of how one is behaving or one’s own changing abilities
  • Feelings of apathy, sadness, depression, suicidal ideation
  • Manic behaviors or OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)
  • Trouble sleeping, insomnia
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Weight loss

Symptoms of Huntington’s disease worsen gradually over time, until ultimately, a person will need assistance to move and eat.

What Are the 5 Stages of Huntington’s Disease?

Huntington’s is a progressive disorder of the brain that causes symptoms to increase in severity over the course of several years. The progression from experiencing mild symptoms to needing assistance due to disability could take 10 years, or a person might live another 30 years. 

Sometimes you will hear doctors refer to 3 stages of Huntington’s Disease, or the following 5 stages:

  1. Preclinical Stage – during this time, a person with Huntington’s may begin to notice mood swings, irritability, and other emotional and cognitive issues beginning to develop, but they have not yet been diagnosed with Huntington’s. 
  2. Early Stage – as physical symptoms like tremors and trouble with eating and sleeping begin to become more and more noticeable, a person will seek medical help and be diagnosed. At this point, they can still carry on with most normal activities without help.
  3. Middle Stage – during the middle stages of Huntington’s a person will begin to need assistance with things like driving and domestic tasks, as they may not be able to coordinate movements reliably or think through problems or take in new information.
  4. Late Stage – as Hungtington’s disease progresses further, a person may have memory loss, dementia, and changes in personality. They will likely be bedridden and need help with eating, possibly requiring a feeding tube because of trouble swallowing.
  5. End of Life Stage – there comes a point when a person with Huntington’s will need end of life care, either in a hospital or at home, when they will need to be as comfortable as possible. The most common cause of death with Huntington’s is pneumonia, which can happen when a person aspirates food particles into the lungs. 

How is Huntington’s Disease Inherited?

genes DNA Huntington
Huntington’s disease is caused by a genetic mutation in the DNA.

Huntington’s disease is a type of autosomal dominant disorder, which means that a person only needs to inherit one dominant gene from one parent in order to inherit this disorder. If a person has HD, there is a 50% chance that they will pass it on to a child. If a child of a person with HD does not inherit the gene, and therefore does not have HD, then that means they will not pass it on to their children. It is rare, but possible, for a person to be born with a new mutation in the specific gene, and so does not actually inherit HD from a parent.

Because HD typically does not begin to show up until close to middle age, some people who know that they may have the genetic mutation will have genetic testing for Huntington’s disease. This test will tell most people whether or not they will begin to develop Huntington’s symptoms as they age. However, there is a “gray area,” in which a person may have some of the mutated sequencing in their genetic makeup, but not enough to necessarily lead to the development of the disease. These people can still pass on the mutation to their children, and they may have a less severe form of Huntington’s, and/or not develop symptoms until later in life.

Can Acupuncture Help Huntington’s Disease?

Scientific research has been demonstrating more and more that acupuncture can help with many conditions by maintaining the health and connectivity of brain cells and nerve cells. Cells are constantly going through processes of generation and degeneration. The stimulation of certain acupoints has been shown to have a positive effect on these processes, which can be beneficial for people with neurological disorders like HD and Parkinson’s.

Even though we know that Huntington’s and Parkinson’s are specifically related to protein production, we also know that disease is not merely about one small, isolated thing happening in the body. We must take the whole person into account. Stress and many other factors also play a role in how a disease affects each individual. Acupuncture can be a helpful modality that reduces stress in the body and facilitates regeneration and protection of cells.

With TCM, we are able to address the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of Huntington’s disease all at the same time.

Chinese herbs have traditionally been used to help symptoms such as tremors, stiff limbs, muscle weakness, and slow movements. While from the medical point of view these problems are related to the nervous system, in TCM theory we also see them as being related to deficiencies in the kidney Qi, and excess wind. Therefore, herbs that help strengthen the Kidneys and dispel wind may be used in different combinations to treat conditions like Huntington’s disease.

Acupuncture treatment has been shown to help reduce tremors and shaky hands. One study showed that Chinese herbal preparations were effective at helping to reduce involuntary movements. Another study showed that herbs helped with the normal production of proteins and brain cell function.

Neurological Treatment With Acupuncture

Huntington
People with Huntington’s may struggle with depression and mood swings.

Acupuncture and TCM can help with many different kinds of neurodegenerative disorders, whether they are caused by genetics, autoimmune disease, or some other neurological problem.

Neurodegenerative diseases cause the degeneration and death of neurons, or brain cells that communicate with the nervous system. In that sense, Huntington’s disease bears some similarities to other neurodegenerative diseases like:

Many of these conditions can be helped with acupuncture, which is known to help improve the health of the brain, nerves, spinal cord, and the electrical impulses that create connectivity and functionality in the movements of the musculoskeletal system. TCM modalities can also help to relieve stress, improve sleep, boost cognitive function, and regulate mood swings.

Acupuncture Near Me for Huntington’s Disease, Los Angeles Area

Huntington’s disease is a progressive illness, and it becomes harder and harder for a person with HD to communicate what they are feeling. People with Huntington’s may experience both physical and emotional pain. Patients with Huntington’s need a caring team of healthcare providers who can help treat the disease, but also help their emotional and mental health. 

At Art of Wellness, we have over 30 years of experience helping people with neurodegenerative disorders feel more comfortable and live the fullest life possible.

 

 

*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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