Traditional Chinese Medicine

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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How to Treat Hyperthyroidism With Acupuncture and TCM

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

Thyroid problem or menopause?
Thyroid problems or menopause?

Changes in mood, appetite, hair, and skin?  Wondering whether these could be signs of menopause; or could it be a thyroid problem? The symptoms of hyperthyroidism are often similar to what we think of as typical signs of menopause. Acupuncture treatment has been shown to be effective at helping to manage many types of endocrine system conditions, including hyperthyroidism, Graves’ disease, and Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.

Hyperthyroidism, sometimes called “overactive thyroid,” refers to a set of various disorders in which the thyroid gland produces excess hormones. This leads to thyrotoxicosis, a condition in which there is too much thyroid hormone in the body. Sometimes this is indicated by a visible swelling of the thyroid gland in the front of the neck, known as a “goiter.”

Thyroid disorders are much more common in women than in men, and they often develop in young adulthood, between the ages of 20 and 40. However, people of any age can show signs of hyperthyroidism. In older adults, the symptoms of an overactive thyroid can be subtle, and easily confused with those of other hormonal imbalance conditions such as perimenopause symptoms and diabetes. It can often be difficult and take years for patients to be diagnosed with a thyroid disorder, and then to find the right treatment to solve their problem. Hyperthyroidism can have different root causes, and treating it effectively requires finding the correct source of the problem.

It is important to address thyroid problems because hyperthyroidism increases the risk for heart disease and osteoporosis. There is some evidence that people with Graves’ disease are at higher risk for developing thyroid cancers. Acupuncture has been shown to be a safe and effective alternative or adjunct treatment for all kinds of thyroid disorders. The TCM approach can help correct the symptoms of excess thyroid hormone by restoring balance at the source of the problem.

Top 5 Causes of Hyperthyroidism

Several different factors can lead to enlargement or inflammation of the thyroid and the overproduction and output of thyroid hormones. Some causes of hyperthyroidism include:

  • Hyperthyroidism can develop due to nodules or a multinodular goiter on the thyroid gland, which causes it to secrete extra hormones. 
  • Thyroiditis, swelling of the thyroid gland, can linger after a viral infection. Some thyroid problems are caused by autoimmune disorders. 
  • Graves’ disease causes antibodies to mistakenly attack the tissue of the thyroid, causing inflammation and overproduction of thyroid hormones. 
  • The thyroid gland uses the mineral iodine to make thyroid hormones, so sometimes hyperthyroidism is linked with too much iodine in the diet, often due to the use of certain supplements. 
  • Sometimes people are prescribed hormone replacement medications, and taking too much of them leads to hyperthyroidism.

Hashimoto disease also attacks the thyroid gland, but in that case, it causes the thyroid to stop producing enough hormones, leading to hypothyroidism. 

Top 10 Signs of an Overactive Thyroid

check front of neck for enlarged thyroid goiter
Check your neck for signs of an enlarged thyroid

The thyroid gland is located on the lower front of the neck, beneath the larynx, or voice box. Check for signs of swelling that might indicate an enlarged thyroid (goitres) by watching in a mirror as you tilt your head back slightly and swallow a mouthful of water. If you notice any bulging, have it checked by a doctor.

Other signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism include:

  1. Nervousness or anxiety, a “hyperactive” restless feeling
  2. Fast or irregular heart rate
  3. Irritability
  4. Unexplained weight loss, constant thirst and hunger
  5. Having to urinate frequently and/or loose bowels
  6. Difficulty sleeping
  7. Itchiness or “twitching” 
  8. Sensitivity to temperatures, excessive sweating, red hands
  9. Swelling in the neck
  10. Loss of libido

As you can see, many of these are often associated with menopausal symptoms: feeling hot and sweaty (hot flashes), low libido (vaginal atrophy or dryness), irritability/sensitivity, sleep problems, etc. 

When hyperthyroidism is caused by an autoimmune disorder, there is often noticeable bulging or protrusion of the eyes. This is called Graves’ ophthalmopathy, Graves’ eye disease, or Thyroid Eye Disease (TED). This happens because some of the tissues around the eye are chemically similar to those of the thyroid gland, and the immune system is attacking those cells, resulting in inflammation around the eye. This can cause blurry vision, dryness because the lids can’t close fully over the eyeball, and headaches because of pressure behind the eyes. Changes in hair texture or loss of hair are another sign of Graves’ disease.

Hormone Testing for Thyroid Problems

The endocrine system is very complex and relies upon the harmonious functioning of several different endocrine glands producing hormones that work in concert to maintain stability of a person’s whole life process: waking, sleeping, self-regulating temperature, eating and digesting, and many other more subtle processes. The proper working of the thyroid gland is in close relationship with the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus, both located in the brain.

The thyroid gland produces various hormones which have to do with growth, metabolism, and reproduction, including thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). The pituitary gland produces TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), which triggers production of the thyroid hormones T4, T3, and others. Thus the pituitary gland is responsible for gauging how much thyroid hormone is flowing through the body in the bloodstream, and making adjustments as necessary. 

When a thyroid problem is suspected, the first kind of testing done is usually a TSH blood test. A TSH test showing a high TSH level would suggest that thyroid hormone levels are low, and that the pituitary gland is making more TSH to try to stimulate production, while a low TSH would indicate that the thyroid may be producing too much hormone, and the pituitary gland is trying to slow down production. Either kind of abnormal TSH level might lead to more specific testing to determine levels of T4, “free T4 (FT4),” or T3.

Medical treatment for hyperactive thyroid depends on what is causing the problem. If the thyroid is producing too much hormone “autonomously,” that is, if there are normal TSH levels and the pituitary gland seems to be functioning, then radioactive iodine is usually employed to bring down the thyroid hormone levels. When the problem is an autoimmune problem, as in Graves’ disease, a course of “anti-thyroid” medication, such as thiamazole, may bring the hormone levels back to normal. An enlarged thyroid gland may indicate a surgical solution.

Can Acupuncture Help Thyroid Problems?

dry itchy eyes
Dry, itchy eyes and skin can be a symptom of a thyroid disorder

In TCM philosophy, most disease stems from imbalances in the key energies of the body and spirit. “Qi” a life force energy that flows along pathways through the body called “meridians,” must be kept strong and flowing freely; if Qi is weak, or the meridians are blocked, certain organs will not get the nourishment they need, and illness will result. Yin and Yang are two energies that work together in opposition to maintain balance, like a scale. If either Yin or Yang becomes dominant, the other one becomes weaker, and there will be problems of “deficiency” and/or “excess.”

In the case of an overactive thyroid, the constant striving of Yang energy creates a deficiency of Yin, and the overall Qi energy is also weakened. The hyperactive energy of hyperthyroidism is interpreted through TCM as being related to heat, and especially too much fiery energy from the liver. We view blockages as being related to stagnation of Qi, or blood, or phlegm. In this case, phlegm stagnation is impeding the flow to and from the thyroid gland.

  • Liver heat causes symptoms like: redness of the skin, itchiness, irritability, hunger and high metabolism, and a quickened pulse. 
  • Weakness of Qi and Yin causes: trouble breathing, trouble sleeping, sweating, and dryness of the eyes and mouth. 
  • Phlegm stagnation is considered the reason for the swelling of the thyroid gland itself.

TCM treatment for hyperthyroidism uses acupuncture and individualized herbal formulations to clear heat and phlegm, strengthen Qi and Yin, and cool down liver fire and overworked Yang.

One study showed improvement in hyperthyroid symptoms of over 88% of patients after having received a course of acupuncture, with some patients making full recoveries. A study that focused on the use of a specific Chinese herb formulation in addition to methimazole medication for patients with Graves’ disease concluded that TCM herbs were effective as an adjunct treatment for helping to bring FT3, FT4, and TSH levels back to normal.

Acupuncture Near Me for Hyperthyroidism

Disorders of the thyroid and the endocrine system in general, especially those that are related to autoimmune disorders, can be very challenging to manage. At Art of Wellness, we have over 30 years of experience dealing with all types of hormone imbalances. The TCM approach offers a highly personalized course of treatment for hyperthyroidism, which can be a valuable adjunct to conventional medicine. If you or someone you know suspects they may have an overactive thyroid, consider consulting with a qualified acupuncturist as part of your health care plan.

 

*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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