Traditional Chinese Medicine

How To Treat Amnesia With Acupuncture and TCM

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

loss of memory amnesia
Anterograde amnesia can make it hard to form new memories.

Are you experiencing unusual forgetfulness? Amnesia due to an injury or a brain disease like Alzheimer’s can cause loss of memory. TCM and acupuncture offer an alternative treatment for problems with memory loss due to different types of amnesia or dementia related to brain diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. 

Amnesia is often depicted in stories as the sudden loss of one’s memory, or even their whole identity, due to a traumatic accident of some sort. That kind of dramatic memory loss is rare in real life. Difficulty remembering events from one’s past is called retrograde amnesia. The most common type of amnesia, however, is anterograde amnesia, which causes short-term memory problems. People with anterograde amnesia may be able to remember facts they learned in school, and how to do things like play a sport or an instrument, but they have trouble remembering what they did earlier this morning, or what day of the week it is. Anterograde amnesia can have a serious impact on a person’s life, as it can make it difficult to retain new information, learn new skills, or form relationships with new people.

Conditions like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s can affect memory and cause other types of cognitive impairment. Memory problems can be a part of dementia; the term “dementia” encompasses other kinds of cognitive decline in addition to memory loss. Being more forgetful is considered a common aspect of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI is the term for changes in thinking patterns that occur in older adults, sometimes as a precursor to more serious dementia. “Amnestic MCI” pertains to short-term memory problems like forgetting recent events, appointments, and facts or names one might have been able to call up easily in the past.

People suffering from depression and/or anxiety, and those with PTSD often experience short-term memory loss, forgetfulness, or a sense of confusion.

At this point, there is no real medical solution for amnesia or other kinds of memory loss. There are no treatments that cure or reverse dementia or Alzheimer’s. Medications like cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine may help to slow the breakdown of certain neurotransmitters–brain chemicals that relate to memory and learning capacity. Cognitive therapy can help people work on their memory skills and teach them coping mechanisms, like using various forms of reminders and creating stable routines that help them continue to perform their daily tasks.

Research has shown that TCM and acupuncture treatment have a positive impact on cognitive impairment, as measured both by memory assessments, as well as the impact on neurotransmitter activity in the brain.

Top 5 Types of Amnesia

Memory loss amnesia cognitive decline
Memory loss can be a sign of cognitive decline or dementia.

Amnesia is classified into two main categories: neurological amnesia and functional amnesia. Neurological amnesia is caused by some type of physical problem with the brain, either due to an injury, a stroke, a tumor, or diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Amnesia could also result from an infection that affects the brain, such as HIV, Lyme disease, or encephalitis. Functional amnesia is caused by some psychologically damaging event that causes a person to “block out” memories. This type of amnesia is considered a psychiatric disorder.

  1. Retrograde amnesia – this type of amnesia occurs after a traumatic event or injury to the brain. It affects memories that were stored before the inciting event, but not necessarily the entire history of memories. Usually the events leading up the trauma are the ones that are compromised. 
  2. Anterograde amnesia – this type of amnesia causes short-term memory loss. While a person can still pay attention, they have trouble retaining new information or forming new memories related to current events.
  3. Transient global amnesia – this type of amnesia incorporates both retrograde and anterograde types of memory loss, but only for a short period of time (anywhere from a few to 24 hours). This temporary loss of memory usually occurs in older people, perhaps because of some loss of blood flow to the brain (ischemia) or loss of oxygen to the brain (hypoxia), or even because of a seizure. 
  4. Dissociative amnesia – a mental health disorder in which a person blocks out memories or certain facts about their life after an emotionally traumatic event. This is sometimes known as “selective amnesia.” 
  5. Infantile amnesia – (or childhood amnesia) this term refers to the fact that most people do not have memories from the early years of their life.

Other factors that can affect memory to the extent that they cause amnesia are severe alcoholism (when a person gets “blackout drunk” and cannot remember what has happened), severe nutritional deficiencies, thyroid issues, or exposure to radiation. Some drugs, like benzodiazepines, or anti-epileptic medications, can cause memory loss while the drug is in effect. Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) is sometimes used in psychiatric treatment to induce selective amnesia.

Sometimes amnesia is temporary, such as after an injury. Once the brain heals, memory will often be restored. Amnesia due to brain damage, such as after a stroke, may be permanent, while amnesia caused by a degenerative disease like Alzheimer’s, may be progressive in nature. Acupuncture treatment can be beneficial for people with various types of memory loss, both by helping people heal after brain trauma, and helping to protect the brain and other organs from degeneration due to aging or other kinds of disease.

Can Acupuncture Help Amnesia?

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

TCM theory takes a different view of the organ systems of the body than conventional modern medicine does. Whereas memory loss, cognitive impairment, amnesia, and dementia are seen as primarily having to do with the brain, in TCM we see problems with memory and cognition as also being related to the function of the kidneys, liver, spleen, and heart. The kidneys, in particular, are believed to support the brain, so if the kidneys are weak, or congested with phlegm, this can lead to amnesia. The buildup of phlegm in the body can block the smooth flow of qi and blood, leading to a lack of nourishment to the brain. It can also block the channels of communication between the heart and the brain. This concept of phlegm is roughly analogous to the conventional medical view of how heart disease arises from the buildup of cholesterol clogging the arteries. TCM treatment for amnesia and dementia will often focus, then, on the clearing of phlegm from the channels, and working to resolve other conditions, like high blood pressure or diabetes, that are contributing to the problems of memory loss and cognitive deficits.

Herbs have been used for many centuries in TCM to help improve memory function and stave off cognitive decline. In recent years, scientific research has begun to confirm that these herbs can work to reduce neurodegeneration. TCM herbal formulations have the benefit of being highly customizable, while being relatively free of potential negative side effects. Acupuncture has been demonstrated to help patients recover neurological function after traumatic brain injuries.

Top 5 Tips for Improving Your Memory With TCM

stimulating the fingertips
Pressing the fingertips together

Stimulating more blood flow to the brain can help boost your memory. Try these simple home remedies to help promote better cognitive function.

  1. Acupressure Points for Memory – Find the tender spot right in the center of the top of the head. Stimulate this point, and the four points that can be found one inch away from the center in each direction: right, left, front, and back (see photo above). Apply gentle but deep, downward pressure with your finger to each of these five points 50-60 times each day.
  2. Stimulate the Fingertips and Tips of the Toes – Hold the hands so that the tips of the fingers and thumbs touch. Gently press or stroke the corresponding fingers together, each stimulating the other, up to a hundred times. Practice daily. Similarly, gently press/stroke the tip of each toe, up to a hundred times per day.
  3. Keep the Neck Supported – when the neck is stiff or out of alignment, blood flow to the head and brain may be compromised. If you have neck pain or tightness, be sure to address it adequately with acupuncture, a supportive pillow and appropriate sleeping position, and gentle exercise.
  4. Dry Brush the Scalp – use a brush or comb to stimulate the whole scalp every day. This will help bring good blood flow to the head.
  5. Massage the Ears – gently knead the whole outer ear, especially the ear lobe, until it is warm and red. This will stimulate many beneficial acupressure points located on the ear.

Acupuncture Near Me for Memory Loss

Perhaps someone close to you has begun to show worrying signs of cognitive decline or loss of memory. People who are suffering from amnesia and dementia associated with degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s can benefit from an integrative approach that includes acupuncture and herbs.

 

 

*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 Heel Pain With Acupuncture and TCM

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

heel pain plantar fasciitis
Heel pain is often due to inflammation of the large ligament that crosses the bottom of the foot, known as plantar fasciitis.

Chronic bottom of heel pain, especially when you first get up in the morning? Heel pain can be due to plantar fasciitis, an inflammatory condition of the large ligament that supports the arch of the foot. Bone spurs in the foot (heel spur), Achilles tendonitis, and bursitis can also cause pain in back of heel. Acupuncture and TCM treatment offer relief from chronic plantar fasciitis pain and achilles tendon pain.

Experiencing stiffness or pain in the heel when you first get up in the morning is a sign of plantar fasciitis. The sensation may improve as you warm up and move more throughout the day, or you may have severe, burning pain whenever you put your weight on the back part of your foot. The plantar fascia provides shock absorption and cushioning for the heel; when it is overused, small microtraumas and tears lead to inflammation. People with very flat feet, fallen arches, or very high arches are more prone to plantar fasciitis, as are older people.

Stiffness above the heel is an indication of Achilles tendinitis. When the tendon that connects the muscles of the calf to the heel bone is strained, it can cause an aching sensation or pain in the back of the heel. This usually happens because of sudden overuse, like when a person decides to go for a long run when they haven’t exercised in a while, or when their sneakers are worn out. Achilles tendinitis is more common in men, and in people with high blood pressure.

Stiffness in the ankle and side of foot pain can be due to posterior tibial tendonitis, which can develop when the heel bone shifts in such a way as to put extra stress on the outside of the ankle.

Heel spurs–extra bone tissue on the bottom or back of the heel–develop due to over-stress of the foot. In most cases, the bone spurs on the foot don’t cause pain in and of themselves, but they often coincide with either plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendonitis, and the conditions aggravate each other.

TCM modalities of acupuncture, electro-acupuncture, moxibustion, and herbal formulae have been shown to help relieve heel pain and inflammation due to all types of conditions, including plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinopathy.

Top 5 Heel Pain Causes

anatomy of the foot
the ligaments and tendons of the foot

Pain in the heel and other types of bottom of foot pain can be due to one of or a combination of several different types of conditions: 

  1. Plantar fasciitis – about 2 million people are diagnosed in the U.S. each year with plantar fasciitis, which occurs when the connective tissues that support the bottom of the foot become inflamed, usually from repetitive use or being overloaded. Some athletes are prone to this type of inflammation due to constant stress on the foot. Health conditions like obesity and diabetes also make people more susceptible to plantar fasciitis heel pain. While this type of heel pain walking is generally attributed to inflammation, it is also due to the natural degeneration of collagen that occurs with age, making the connective tissues weaker and more brittle. 
  2. Heel spur – (bone spurs foot) refers to the extra growth of bone tissue on the bottom of the calcaneus (bone spur heel). Heel spurs often grow as the body’s reaction to plantar fasciitis; the two conditions can exist together or separately. Sometimes people with heel spurs aren’t aware of them, but bone spurs foot can cause sharp bottom of foot pain. Heel spurs often develop because of the stress of running or jogging, or wearing improper footwear. Posterior calcaneal exostosis, colloquially known as “pump bump”, is when there is abnormal growth of bone tissue on the back of the heel, usually due to wearing a certain style of shoe (pumps or high heels).
  3. Bursitis – Bursa are small sacs of fluid that help to provide cushioning in various joints of the body. Calcaneal bursitis occurs when the bursae that sit between the Achilles tendon and the heel bone become inflamed. Heel bursitis is usually caused by too much impact on the ankle joint and heel while running or by wearing shoes that create a lot of pressure on the back of the heel.
  4. Achilles tendonitis – (also spelled achilles tendinitis) When the tendon that runs from the heel up the back of the lower leg becomes inflamed, often due to a lot of jumping movements, it can create pain and stiffness in the back of the heel. This overuse injury is very common in middle aged adults who engage in sports like tennis or basketball only sporadically, and may not warm up adequately before running and jumping.
  5. Gout – an arthritic condition in which a buildup of uric acid crystals causes swelling and pain in the joints of the foot.

Pain in the heel can also be caused by a pinched nerve, or compression of the plantar nerve, or by bruising on the heel. Peroneal tendonitis, when the tendon that runs along the side of the ankle and then under the foot becomes inflamed and swollen, can also cause pain in the back of the heel.

What Is the Treatment for Plantar Fasciitis?

Conventional clinical medicine considers plantar fasciitis to be a self-limiting condition, which means that it will eventually improve on its own, with rest and modifications of movement. Doctors will usually recommend that people cease weight-bearing activities as much as possible. This can be extremely frustrating for patients, though, as it often means being advised to rest the foot for six to eighteen months. Physical therapy for plantar fasciitis that focuses on stretching and strengthening the plantar ligament may be recommended. Special orthotics, arch supports, or heel cups that provide cushioning can be helpful. Night splints are sometimes used to keep the foot and ankle in a position that keeps the ligament on the bottom of the foot stretched long, rather than shortened, while sleeping. 

For heel pain relief, doctors may administer steroid injections and other anti-inflammatory medications. Steroid injections do carry some risks; about one out of ten patients treated this way for plantar fasciitis pain experience a rupture of the plantar tissues, which can lead to an even more severely chronic condition. Of course, the problem with taking NSAIDS on a regular basis is that they can cause problems with the stomach lining and gastro-intestinal bleeding. If rest and other methods do not improve the situation after many months, then surgical release of the plantar fascia may be considered.

Achilles tendonitis treatment is usually similarly conservative, involving rest and pain relievers. Unfortunately, recovery from the heel pain caused by plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendinitis is often a long, tedious process of abstaining from physical activity. For many people, whether they have jobs that require them to be on their feet or simply enjoy engaging in sports, it may feel impossible to stick to the standard treatment program. Acupuncture treatment offers a way to help relieve pain and inflammation and speed the healing of plantar fasciitis.

Acupuncture for Heel Pain

heel pain foot soak
Soaking feet in warm water with TCM herbs can help reduce inflammation and heel pain.

TCM takes a holistic view of pain conditions such as heel pain. While undoubtedly heel pain is caused largely by inflammation in the soft tissues of the foot and calf, there are often other underlying factors that cause these kinds of injuries to happen to people in middle age. In TCM philosophy the kidneys are believed to provide support and nourishment to the bones; this concept is called “kidney governing bone.” Heel pain and heel spurs occur due to deficiencies or excesses of the kidney Qi. Soft tissues such as the plantar ligament and the Achilles tendon are governed by the liver. Thus, acupuncture treatment for heel pain, heel spurs, plantar fasciitis, and Achilles tendinitis will often involve using acupoints to strengthen and tonify the Kidney Qi and Liver Qi. 

Acupuncture is known to be effective for helping to relieve pain due to inflammatory conditions of all kinds, and also for helping to increase the production of collagen, which helps to keep the connective tissues of the foot and calf strong and supple. Acupuncture helps the healing of ligaments and tendons by improving reducing inflammation, improving blood flow and cell repair. The ancient textbook of Chinese medicine, The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, even describes a specific acupuncture technique used to promote healing in the Achilles tendon.

Herbs can be used both internally and externally to help heel pain. An herbal formula that is steeped in warm water and used as a daily foot soak can be especially helpful for relieving swelling in the heel and pain in the bottom of the foot.

One research study compared patients treated with corticosteroid injections for plantar fasciitis versus patients treated with acupuncture. Six months later, the patients who had steroid shots reported a 76% effective rate, while the patients who’d had acupuncture reported a 97% effective rate.

A hospital study compared two groups of patients – some treated with integrated protocol of acupuncture and warm herbal foot baths, and the others treated with the herbal foot baths only. The effective rate for the foot-soaking only was 69%, and the effective rate jumped up another 22% for the patients who also had acupuncture.

A systematic review of four studies involving acupuncture for patients with plantar fasciitis heel pain showed a significant reduction in pain after 4-8 weeks of treatment.

Top 5 Tips for Heel Pain

good athletic shoes
Be sure to choose supportive shoes with plenty of cushioning.

Prevention of heel pain involves mindfulness around your preparations for physical activity. The right gear and the regular practice of plantar fasciitis exercises can help prevent injury to the tendons of the foot.

  1. Wear good-fitting, properly supportive shoes – whenever you walk, run, or work out. Replace them regularly, even if you haven’t worn them much, because cushioning materials can break down over time, even when the shoes are just sitting in your closet. 
  2. Warm up – taking the extra time to warm up before and cool down after running and jumping is always important, for all of the muscles of the body, but especially for the feet and lower legs. Be sure to adequately warm up the calf muscles, and stretch them before and after your primary workout.
  3. Vary your workout – cross-training, which means alternating different types of activities, not only helps to improve your overall cardiovascular and muscular fitness, but it also prevents repetitive use injuries that can occur when you run every day. Focus on resting the feet some days, by riding your bike or swimming instead of running or doing high-intensity aerobics.
  4. Soak your feet – before bed, soak heels in warm water to help improve circulation.
  5. Manage your weight – Heel pain is usually related to how much pressure the foot has to withstand on a daily basis. Maintaining a lower body weight will help take the pressure off the heels. Losing weight while being asked to stay off your feet can be especially difficult, so talk with your TCM provider about a healthy food plan for weight loss.

Once your heel pain has improved, you will need to take these steps to prevent heel pain from returning in the future.

Acupuncture Near Me for Heel Pain

The typical treatment for heel pain can last for several months, with unpredictable results. If you have been suffering from plantar fasciitis or Achilles tendonitis, and want to heal from heel pain more quickly, it is worth it to give acupuncture a try. At Art of Wellness, we have over 30 years of experience helping patients get relief from pain conditions of all kinds. Get back on your feet again with acupuncture for heel 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 Bell’s Palsy With Acupuncture and TCM

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

Bell's palsy facial paralysis
Bell’s palsy causes paralysis, usually on one side of the face.

Help, I can’t move half my face! A drooping face is sometimes a sign of stroke, but more often facial droop is caused by Bell’s palsy. Bell’s palsy is a kind of neuropathy that affects the facial muscles, causing weakness or paralysis. Acupuncture and TCM offer a safe and effective method of treatment to help resolve Bell’s palsy.

Also known as idiopathic facial paralysis, Bell’s palsy comes on suddenly and worsens over the course of a day or two, often resulting in the face drooping on one side. Bell’s palsy is related to a lack of blood flow (ischemia) to the 7th cranial nerve, which may be caused by inflammation or compression. Conventional modern medicine has not fully explained what causes Bell’s palsy, but it is believed to be at least sometimes due to recent infections and/or immune responses that create inflammation in this area of the head.

Bell’s palsy affects about 40,000 people in the U.S. each year, men and women alike. People with upper respiratory problems and diabetes have a higher risk for Bell’s palsy–both conditions which can create inflammation in the cranial nerves–but it really can happen to anyone at any age.

Bell’s palsy generally resolves itself over time, which could take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. Sometimes people are left with permanent damage, though, and may have some facial weakness for the rest of their lives. Often doctors will recommend Prednisone steroid treatment as a way to help speed recovery. The TCM approach to treating Bell’s palsy with acupuncture and herbs can be helpful as either an adjunct to conventional treatment, or an alternative for those who wish to avoid steroids.

What Causes Bell’s Palsy?

cranial nerve brain
Bell’s palsy is caused by damage to the 7th cranial nerve.

Bell’s palsy occurs due to a compromisation of the 7th cranial nerve, also known as “CN7” or the “facial nerve,” which originates in the center of the skull and has five branches that extend out into all of the areas of the face: around the eyes, nose, mouth, and chin. This nerve controls communications between the brain and the facial muscles, including the tongue, and therefore controls our ability to make facial expressions, as well as being involved in tasting, chewing, and breathing. When tissues surrounding CN7 become inflamed, perhaps due to a lingering infection, it may lose some or all of its functionality due to a lack of blood flow. Viral infections that can cause swelling, or edema, in the parts of the head that affect the facial nerve include:

  • Herpes zoster
  • Herpes simplex
  • Adenovirus
  • Cytomegalovirus
  • Epstein-Barr
  • Mumps
  • Rubella
  • Influenza

Diabetes, Lyme Disease, and the inflammatory disorder Sarcoidosis can also cause the sort of swelling and compression that lead to facial nerve palsy. Scientists believe that Bell’s palsy is caused in part by neurodegeneration, or damage to neurons. TCM and acupuncture have been shown in clinical research to help regenerate neurons and promote the repair, growth and development of new nerve cells.

Top 10 Signs and Symptoms of Bell’s Palsy

In Bell’s Palsy, inflammation of the 7th cranial nerve causes a loss of muscle control in part of the face. If this happens to you or someone you know, first review the FAST Stroke test guidelines, to quickly assess whether or not the facial paralysis may be due to a stroke. If no other signs of stroke are present, consider whether there are signs of Bell’s palsy:

  1. Facial weakness or facial paralysis, affecting part or all of the face, most often face droops on one side, sometimes the lower half of the the face drooping
  2. Low grade fever
  3. Headache
  4. Pain behind the ear on the affected side
  5. Stiff neck
  6. Inability to close one eye
  7. Drooling
  8. Loss of sense of taste
  9. Heightened sensitivity to sounds on one side
  10. Dizziness

Occasionally, there may be pain from the swollen facial nerve. More often, though, Bell’s palsy does not cause intense pain. Pain in the face and jaw muscles is more commonly caused by Trigeminal Neuralgia, a more severe and chronic condition related to irritation or inflammation of the trigeminal nerve, which communicates messages of sensation from the face to the brain.

Medical diagnosis for Bell’s palsy will first focus on ruling out other, more serious causes of facial paralysis, like stroke. Then doctors will check for viral infections or undiagnosed diabetes, and administer an EMG, CT, or MRI to assess nerve damage.

How Does Acupuncture Treat Bell’s Palsy?

wind cold
Cold wind getting in the face and head can contribute to Bell’s palsy, according to TCM.

In TCM theory, we attribute health conditions to the effects of internal and/or external pathogenic forces working on the body. Bell’s palsy is considered to be the result of an invasion of wind and cold that blocks Qi (life force energy) and blood from moving through the head and face the way they normally do. Wei Qi is a specific form of energy that protects us from external pathogens, but if Wei Qi is weak (maybe due to stress, exhaustion, cold air blows directly on face, or recent illness), it can be dispersed by a strong invasion of Wind, allowing Cold to enter the head and slow things down.

This is an instance when an acupuncturist may choose to use electro acupuncture technique. Electroacupuncture uses fine needles inserted into the skin at specific points along the meridians, which are then attached to a small machine that produces an electrical impulse, so that an electrical current passes between the needles. The current of electricity is not actually entering the body, and the patient will only feel a small pulsing sensation or vibration at the site of the needles being stimulated. The muscles affected might twitch a little. This technique is sometimes called “electro stim,” and it has really only been developed in the past century, although it is still based on the same fundamental concepts of Qi that have been used in TCM for many hundreds of years. Electro acupuncture offers the advantage of being able to stimulate a point in a way that is deeper and wider than with a needle alone. We will often use electro stim acupuncture when dealing with neurological disorders. In the case of Bell’s palsy, the goal is to bring blood flow, Qi, and healing to the cranial nerve root and branches that control the facial muscles. 

In some cases, Bell’s palsy does not completely resolve itself, and people are left with long-term effects. Weakness of the facial muscles that negatively impacts a person’s eating mechanisms or causes them to be unable to express themselves naturally with their facial muscles can have a real impact on quality of life and the ability to enjoy social interactions. 

One study sought to test the efficacy of acupuncture treatment on patients who had been diagnosed with Bell’s palsy at least six month prior, and who were still affected by it. After several weeks of acupuncture treatment, patients reported less stiffness in the face and improved symmetry of facial features.

People who have suffered from Bell’s palsy at some point are at higher risk overall for having a stroke. One retrospective study concluded that patients who received acupuncture and TCM treatment regularly were less likely to have a stroke later on than those who didn’t.

A review of controlled trials studying acupuncture treatment versus drug therapy for Bell’s palsy showed an overall higher effective rate for the groups being treated with acupuncture.

Acupuncture Near Me for Bell’s Palsy

While Bell’s palsy is a relatively mild form of neuropathy that does often resolve itself in time, it is recommended that people do seek treatment for this condition as soon as possible. Losing muscular control of the facial muscles affects your day to day life and interactions with other people, and getting treatment can help the situation improve more quickly. With Bell’s palsy, it is important to make sure that the inflammation of the 7th cranial nerve is reduced and that whatever underlying conditions that may have contributed to the facial paralysis are taken care of, too. Otherwise, people who have had Bell’s palsy once have the potential to experience it again in the future.

 

*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 Gout With Acupuncture and TCM

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

toes feet
Gout often affects the big toe, the foot, or the ankle.

Sudden, intense pain and swelling in the big toe? Foot, ankle, knee, or elbow is red, hot, swollen and very painful? It may be a type of arthritis called gout that is caused by unusually high uric acid levels in the body. TCM methods have been used to effectively manage gout with acupuncture and herbs for thousands of years.

Gout, sometimes called gouty arthritis, is a kind of arthritis that develops over time due to other underlying conditions. When there is a sudden flare-up that creates a lot of pain and swelling in a joint, it is called an acute attack of gout. Gout is almost always related to a person’s diet and lifestyle, and part of any treatment plan is reducing intake of beverages and foods that cause gout.

Conventional treatment for gout involves first allowing the acute attack to subside, then using medications and monitoring to bring down high uric acid levels. Acupuncture and TCM have been shown in clinical studies to be even more effective at providing immediate gout pain relief and bringing down uric acid levels than typical drug therapies.

What Is Gout? 

Gout is a very painful form of inflammatory arthritis caused by the buildup of uric acid crystals in a joint, often the big toe joint. Uric acid is formed as a byproduct of digestion; when the body breaks down purines–chemicals in certain foods–the resulting uric acid is processed by the kidneys and leaves the body in liquid waste. If too much uric acid is being produced, or if the kidneys are weak and unable to process it adequately, the level of uric acid in the bloodstream rises (hyperuricemia), and deposits of uric acid crystals begin to gather in the joints. These crystals have sharp edges, which are what cause the severe pain and swelling of a gout attack.

While older men are generally at higher risk for developing gout, gout can affect people of all ages and genders. Women are more likely to develop gout after menopause, when their uric acid levels tend to rise. People who are high risk for gout are those who already suffer from:

People  who have a family history of gout, or who tend to eat a lot of meat and/or drink a lot of alcohol also face a higher risk for gout. Regular use of diuretics can precede attacks of gout.

The symptoms of gout can be very similar to those of other types of arthritis, but gout causes are different than those of rheumatoid arthritis. Thus is it important to seek help from your health care providers for diagnosing rheumatoid arthritis versus gout.

Top 5 Signs and Symptoms of Gout

elbow knee
pain, swelling, or redness in your elbow or knee could be gout

The underlying condition that causes gout is related to the kidneys, but the actual experience of gout is a form of acute inflammation, usually in one of the smaller joints of the limbs or extremities– most often there is gout in feet, especially the big toe joint. A person may have hyperuricemia for a long time, causing uric acid buildup in the body, but it doesn’t actually become “gout” until there is a flare-up of painful symptoms. The signs of a gout attack are:

  1. Intense pain in a joint (gout in big toe, gout in foot, gout in ankle, gout in hands, heel pain are all common)
  2. Redness
  3. Swelling
  4. Tenderness to even a slight touch
  5. Hot to the touch

Diagnostics for gouty arthritis include blood tests to check for uric acid levels, or extraction of fluids from the joint to check for uric acid crystals. Signs of gout in the joint may also show up in x-rays, or in an ultrasound or CT scan. 

What is the Medical Treatment for Gout?

There are two components to conventional medical gout treatment: treatment for immediate gout pain relief, to reduce the pain and swelling of an acute attack of gout, and treatment to prevent a future gout attack by reducing the levels of uric acid in the blood. 

For pain and swelling, most patients with gout are recommended NSAIDS for pain relief. People who cannot take NSAIDS due to stomach ulcers or kidney problems are often given corticosteroid injections in the affected joint. Many patients are also prescribed a drug called colchicine, which works by disrupting a specific inflammatory response in the body, which can help to reduce the formation of uric acid crystals. The rate of colchicine side effects such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach pain is fairly high.

To stabilize blood uric acid levels, there are medications that block the production of uric acid (Lopurin, Zyloprim, Uloric) and medications that break down and/or remove uric acid (Benemid, Zurampic, Krystexxa). These medications have to be carefully managed according to changes in uric acid formation and kidney function, as well as possible interactions with other medications. Many people who have gout also have heart problems or high blood pressure. This type of medical treatment for preventing and controlling gout often goes on for years, or even for the rest of a person’s life. Unfortunately, because it can be so difficult for both doctor and patient to keep up with monitoring, taking medication consistently, and changing dosages frequently, this sort of medical treatment often doesn’t work to prevent more gout attacks.

Can Acupuncture Help Gout?

acupuncture
acupuncture treatment can help relieve gout pain and prevent future gout attacks

TCM theory designates several internal pathogenic processes that can occur within the organ systems. TCM views gout as a problem of dampness and heat, and/or stagnation and buildup of phlegm in the joints. As we mentioned earlier, many, if not most, people who suffer from gout also have other health problems like hypertension or diabetes. So, the TCM provider is also looking at the root causes of those health issues and will treat those with acupuncture and herbs at the same time. The goal of acupuncture and herb supplementation is always to bring the all of the organ systems back into harmony. TCM herbs to help gout will work to strengthen the spleen, kidneys, and liver, clear heat and dampness, and improve blood circulation.

A systematic review of studies relating to TCM treatment of gout with acupuncture showed that patients receiving acupuncture and herbs fared better overall than those in the control group being given typical medical therapy. The studies measured the “resolution” of an attack of gout; meaning, whether or not the pain and swelling was completely reduced within a 24-hour period. They also measured the reduction of uric acid levels in the blood before and after treatment. According to both measures, patients who received TCM treatment for gout had better results than those taking western medicines like colchicine or allopurinol.

A controlled clinical trial conducted at a research hospital showed a 92.5% efficacy rate for treating an acute gout attack, versus an 82.5% efficacy rate for patients who were given NSAIDS to treat the pain.

Top 5 Home Remedies for Gout According to TCM

alcohol beer sweet sodas
beer, wine, liquor, and sugary sodas can trigger gout

First and foremost, it is necessary to plan and follow through on an appropriate gout diet: knowing what foods to avoid with gout is vital to prevent future attacks.

  1. Avoid Foods that cause Gout – foods that are high in purines include red meat, organ meats, seafood and alcoholic beverages, including beer, wine, and liquors. Risk for gout rises dramatically when people drink 2-4 or more alcoholic beverages per day. This may be because the body has to prioritize processing the alcohol over removing uric acid.
  2. Avoid sugar – Especially sugary drinks like sodas, and sweetened juices. Fructose appears to be particularly linked to higher incidence of gout, so read labels and avoid products sweetened with fructose or high fructose corn syrup.
  3. Avoid refined flours and yeast – the combination of yeast, white flour, and white sugar does not provide much nutritional value, and can raise uric acid levels.
  4. Emphasize whole, natural foods – all fruits, vegetables, and legumes are safe to eat with gout. Eggs and low-fat dairy products are safe sources of protein.
  5. Drink more water – this helps your body to more effectively flush out excess uric acid.

Exercising more and working on healthy, gradual weight loss will also help to prevent future gout attacks. Your acupuncturist can help you to develop a specific gout diet that will work for your constitution.

Acupuncture Near Me for Gout

While treating gout can be tricky due to the fact that it is usually not the only health issue that needs attention, the good news is that gout is one of the few types of arthritis that can be reversed. A holistic approach that takes into consideration a person’s diet, lifestyle, and other health problems is the best way to keep the intense pain of gout at bay. Acupuncture and TCM offer a solid alternative treatment method that can relieve gout and improve your overall health, all without unwanted side effects.

 

 

 

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

 

 

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Chinese New Year 2021 Year of the Ox

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

metal ox
2021 is the Year of the Metal Ox

The Chinese New Year celebration will begin on February 12, 2021 this upcoming year. Throughout Asia, the start of the new year according to the lunar calendar is the most exuberant holiday, the time when families gather together to give gifts, eat special foods, honor long-held traditions, and show their love for one another. All around the world, the 2021 New Year holidays will look different, and many families will have to share their New Year greetings from afar. However, the new energy of the Metal Ox, according to Chinese Astrology, offers a way to view our situation with hope and purpose.

In Western astrology, your sun sign derives from the time of the year and place where you were born; whereas in Chinese Astrology, people who share an entire birth year also share a birth sign. The Chinese Astrological calendar runs through a twelve-year cycle. 

The Ox is the second of the Chinese zodiac animals, following the Rat, who has been representative of 2020. (Looking back, we can see how the Rat’s frantic energy led to multiplying numbers, and tendencies to hoard.) Like this past year, ruled by the Metal Rat, the Ox is still influenced by the Metal element, which brings strength and steely resolve, but also rigidity, and a tendency to try to do things alone. The Ox, also known as the Cow, is all about hard work and persistence, so the Metal energy is complementary at a time when people, as individuals and as a global community, must work through intense difficulties with the ultimate diligence. 

In TCM, the Metal element is considered to be connected in particular to the lungs and respiratory system. It cannot be overemphasized; top priority for the upcoming year must be taking care of your health, protecting and strengthening your Wei Qi (the Qi that helps prevent colds and flus), and getting plenty of rest. If you do not already have a regular practice of deep breathing and meditation in place, now is the time to begin. 

Metal Ox, sometimes thought of as “Gold Ox,” or “Iron Ox,” is good at developing relationships, but does so with total, and sometimes brutal, honesty. She will demand truth and righteousness from others, too. In 2021, we have an opportunity to find new ways to build community even as we contemplate a world that feels more isolating than ever. 

The metal Ox cannot be manipulated, but will charge straight ahead to tackle obstacles. Ox is ready to be tested; in fact, she relishes the chance to prove herself. On the other hand, Ox can be stubborn and unwilling to listen to alternative ideas that might call for a change of plans. Metal Ox is ready to put in the hard work, not because she seeks reward or accolades, but because without consistent effort, she knows nothing will get done or change. The overall energy of the Metal Cow is Yin, and associated with the cold months of Winter, when seeds and bulbs are buried underground, waiting and developing in quiet darkness. 

Chinese Astrology, like Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Chinese philosophy in general, views the world through microcosm and macrocosm. That is, we see the entire universe represented in every living creature; and each individual, by creating harmony within, can help to create harmony in the universe as a whole. As we move into 2021, it feels especially necessary that we all take care of our bodies, our families, our communities, and by doing so, we extend that sense of taking care out to the whole world.

Top 3 Tips for Good Luck in the New Year

wearing red is good luck
In Chinese culture, wearing red is thought to bring good luck.

Are you an Ox? If so, this year is your “ben ming nian!” Literally translated as the “year of original destiny,” this is the term for when it is “your year;” in other words, the Zodiac sign matches that of the year you were born. It is generally believed that your ben ming nian can be a tumultuous year with a lot of ups and downs. People who want to ensure good luck during their Zodiac Year practice these habits for good fortune:

  1. Wearing Red – the color red is believed to chase away bad luck, so wearing even a little bit of red – red socks, red underwear – daily is advisable when it is your ben ming nian. However, there is one important point to remember; the red item must be given to you as a gift–not something you buy for yourself. So, now you know what to put on your holiday wish list if you’re an Ox: red accessories!
  2. Carry or Wear Jade – jade also has protective qualities, and is believed to help bring peace, harmony, and abundance to the wearer. It is common to see people always wearing a favorite pendant or bracelet made of jade. 
  3. Avoid Facing “Tai Sui” – In Chinese Astrology, Tai Sui is a star that opposes Jupiter in the sky, and represents the “God of Age.” Some signs, including the ben ming nian, are in conflict with Tai Sui each year. Feng Shui principles give instructions as to how people who need to avoid “offending” Tai Sui can arrange their furniture so as not to cause unfortunate clashes.

Whatever your sign, the New Year is always a time to clean the house thoroughly, settle all accounts, and get organized so that the beginning of the year truly represents a fresh start.

Find Your Sign in Chinese Astrology

Chinese New Year red lanterns and door sign
Red lanterns and door signs signify the Chinese New Year holiday.

Because your Chinese sign is determined by the Lunar calendar, be sure to check the exact dates of your birth year. People born in January or February may belong to the former or later year.

  • Ox 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009 
  • Tiger 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010 
  • Rabbit 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011 
  • Dragon 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012 
  • Snake 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013 
  • Horse 1942, 1954,1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014 
  • Goat 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015 
  • Monkey 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016 
  • Rooster 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017 
  • Dog 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018 
  • Pig 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019
  • Rat 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008 

Seeds for the New Year Grow Into Conversations

At New Year’s parties–indeed, at any sort of gathering–you are bound to see a big bowl of unshelled sunflower seeds on the table. In China, people have been preparing seeds to be eaten as a shared snack for centuries. During the Yuan Dynasty (13th-14th century), people would stir-fry and eat melon seeds. Even though nowadays people almost always eat sunflower seeds instead, the common phrase for doing so in Chinese, 吃瓜, is still translated literally as “eating melon seeds,” or even simply “eating watermelon.” This phrase can also mean “gossiping,” because people love to nibble on the seeds while they chat with their friends and relatives.  

sunflower seeds
Sunflower seeds are a traditional snack for get-togethers.

Traditionally, the seeds are cooked inside their shells, and the shells are left on, which helps them stay fresh longer (about six months), but it also means that they take longer to eat. This is why the habit naturally accompanies long, leisurely talks with friends and family. You can sit for hours, cracking the seed casings open with your teeth one by one, enjoying an activity that occupies your hands and mouth, without actually eating too many seeds.

According to TCM nutrition guidelines, sunflower seeds belong to the category of bitter foods, and are fairly neutral, in terms of yin and yang energies. Baking or frying seeds adds more heat energy, while boiling helps preserve the nutrients better. Sunflower seeds are high in fat, which is what makes them so tasty, so do be sure to enjoy them in moderation, with only a light sprinkling of salt, and lots of good, easy-going conversation!

Best Wishes From All of Us at Art of Wellness

There are many ways to wish friends and loved ones a Happy New Year in Chinese. This year, we want to say to all of our patients and friends: 祝财运亨通 Zhù cáiyùn hēngtōng! I want to wish you longevity and health! 

 

 

*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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