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Insights from TCM and Acupuncture Doctors on Coronavirus COVID-19

coronavirus
corona-shaped virion

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

The on-going outbreak of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, also called SARS-CoV-2, has dramatically changed all of our lives in a very short period of time. As the world confronts this healthcare crisis, it is more important than ever that we all take good care of ourselves and each other in our families, local communities, and globally. As doctors of TCM and Acupuncture with over 30 years of experience, we want to assure you that we are here to help. TCM and Acupuncture have been effectively helping Chinese people fighting with different types of severe widespread viral infection for three thousand years.  Keep calm during the pandemic period; do not panic. Scientists and doctors have enough modern molecular and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) tools to help us manage this if we come together in time. 

The current outbreak of a new type of coronavirus discovered in December of 2019 in China. Since then, the virus has spread quickly. At least 170 countries around the globe have reported confirmed cases. Currently in the U.S. people in every state have tested positive for COVID-19, and the numbers are growing rapidly. As of this writing on March 29, 2020, 721,584 total cases have been confirmed and 33,958 people have died worldwide of SARS-CoV-2 or coronavirus complications.

In this article we will discuss some basics about coronaviruses and how to respond if you start to feel symptoms that may be related to COVID-19. We will review what best practices everyone must observe in order to prevent the spread of the illness. And we will offer advice for self-care based on TCM principles.

What is a Coronavirus from TCM Perspective?

Coronaviruses are a large group of single-strand RNA viruses. This long single RNA strand is highly susceptible to rapid recombination, mutation, and change. Once the virus gets into the cells of its host, it replicates in such a way that infected cells bind with uninfected cells. This is how the virus is able to spread quickly through the body without being detected or attacked by the immune system.

The name “coronavirus” refers to the appearance of the virus particle (virion) as viewed through a microscope, with tiny spiny projections extending out of the central rounded shape so that it resembles a sun with rays (a “corona”).

These viruses move through animal and human populations. In rare circumstances, an animal coronavirus can mutate and be transmitted to a human; this is called a “spillover event.” In humans a coronavirus causes symptoms of illness ranging from those usually experienced with a mild cold all the way to severe respiratory problems. 

Outbreaks of corona-type and other deadly viruses have occurred in 2002, with SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) in 2014, and Ebola from 2013-2016. SARS-CoV also began in China, causing flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, and a dry cough and spreading quickly person-to-person. By the time a vaccine was found, the coronavirus had almost died out on its own. MERS, which had first been detected in 2012, reached an outbreak status and spread throughout the Middle East in 2014. MERS coronavirus also caused fever and cough. Not as easily transmitted as SARS, it nevertheless had a high fatality rate, especially amongst patients with comorbidities. Ebola has emerged periodically in Africa since it was first discovered in 1976. It spreads by direct contact through bodily fluids and contaminated objects. Ebola causes fever, body aches, and gastrointestinal distress like diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain.

Epidemiologists learned a lot from these outbreaks about viruses and how they spread, but each new virus is unique. Experience should have made it clear to scientists and leaders that a new virus could emerge from any corner of the world at any time. Now that it has, all of humanity must do what is necessary to defeat this common enemy. 

In a classic text that dates back to the eighteenth century, Wen Bing Tiao Bian, Traditional Chinese Medicine Master Physician Wu Jutong offered specifics about various differentiations of “warm, seasonal” illnesses and how to treat them. He documented “Wen Yi,” (温疫) translated as “Heat Disease,” which corresponds to our current scientific understanding of coronaviruses. For over 2000 years, since the Han Dynasty, Wen Yi outbreaks have been recorded 321 times, 254 of which became serious epidemics. Throughout history, we have relied on TCM to protect the population.

TCM has its own principles and methods of diagnosis. The appearance of the tongue and the feel and quality of the pulse, in particular, provide important information for the acupuncturist. Highly trained TCM practitioners have clear indications for what type of pulse is an indicator of the illness. We view this type of illness as being due to an excess of dampness with heat that affects the lungs, stomach and spleen. Too much dampness in the body causes inflammation and internal heat. Our approach is to try to stop the virus from moving through the body. Balancing Yin and Yang energies and strengthening Qi can help a person fight off the virus when it’s still in its early stages. COVID-19 is especially dangerous for older people with underlying conditions, but even young people who already have lung conditions such as asthma, a tendency to get bronchitis, a history of pneumonia, or gastrointestinal problems can have trouble fighting off the virus. This illness tends to begin with a scratchy, sore throat; pay attention and take action before the virus takes hold. Call us to discuss an herbal formulation.

If you want to have additional support by acupuncture and TCM for your positive energy (Qi), and to reach your optimal health in preventing and recovering from a viral infection, we encourage you to reach out to us at myartofwellness@gmail.com for further professional advice from the view of Chinese Medicine. We are here so that we can help you through this crisis. Call or email us so that we discuss your symptoms, arrange for treatment in our office if appropriate, and/or ship herbs to you. Feelings of anxiety and panic are also very valid reasons to reach out to us. Excess stress will have a negative effect on mental and physical health.

What Are the Symptoms of COVID-19?

Chronic stress can create health problems
fever and fatigue are signs you may be infected with COVID-19

Some people might have already been infected with the novel coronavirus and are not aware of it. Symptoms of the virus may be mild, or even nonexistent. Some people may have felt sick recently, but thought it was a  flu or even a common cold, because the symptoms are similar from beginning. 

The vast majority of people will recover from the virus at home. If you are feeling any of these symptoms, stay home, separate yourself from other  people, rest, take extra care of yourself, and call us for further advice.

  1. A new, persistent, dry cough
  2. Fever, high temperature and/or sense of being very hot
  3. Tiredness, fatigue
  4. Body aches, headache
  5. Nasal congestion
  6. Sore throat
  7. Nausea or diarrhea
  8. Loss of sense of smell/taste

If symptoms become more severe, seek medical assistance. Call your own doctor or the emergency room first before leaving home. If possible, wear a mask when you enter the medical facility to help protect others. Seek medical assistance immediately if you experience these Emergency Warning Signs:

  1. Trouble breathing
  2. High fever
  3. Persistent pain in chest
  4. Confusion, inability to rouse
  5. Bluish cast to skin or lips

The Potential Spread Paths of Coronavirus COVID-19 

hand-washing helps prevent the spread of illness
Wash your hands frequently with soap and hot water.

The novel coronavirus is highly contagious. People are being asked to stay at home. Social distancing will help prevent the disease from spreading as quickly, so that hospitals, supplies, and medical staff are not overwhelmed. One of the unique characteristics of the COVID-19 virus appears to be its ability to remain on surfaces and even in the air for a long time. 

COVID-19 can survive in airborne droplets for up to 3 hours. This is why it’s so important to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and why you must keep at least six feet of distance between yourself and others when you go outside. Face masks help mostly by preventing the virus from being ejected out into the environment by someone who is already sick or carrying the virus. The virus can survive for up to 72 hours in shiny surfaces. Think about door handles, sinks, countertops, toys, cans and bottles. Wipe down surfaces regularly and wash or disinfect everything you bring home from the grocery store before putting it away.

The virus gets into the human body primarily through the nose, mouth and eyes. Avoid touching things unnecessarily, and wear gloves when you’re shopping that can be washed in hot water or thrown away. Avoid touching your face. And, of course, wash your hands frequently and carefully with soap and warm water in at least 22 second each time.

The incubation period for the coronavirus can be as short as 3 days, but cases have been documented in which as many as 27 days passed before an exposed person develops symptoms. This means many people may have the infection without feeling any symptoms. Some people will get sick with the virus, but only experience mild symptoms. But all of these people are contagious and can pass COVID-19 to others, some of whom may have underlying health conditions that make them more vulnerable to serious illness. People who are immunocompromised or who already have respiratory or cardiovascular problems can become seriously ill and need intensive care.

If someone in your household starts showing symptoms, designate a room to keep them separate from everyone else. Bring them food and supplies, check temperature regularly. Do not hesitate to call us and ask for advice. 

Caring for Yourself and Loved Ones at Home with TCM

hot
Keep the throat moist by drinking warm liquids.

Due to the shortage of supplies for testing and treatment at medical facilities, it may be necessary for many people to seek advice regarding how to diagnose coronavirus and how to treat themselves or their family members at home. Only those with the most severe symptoms should go to the hospital.

How to keep yourself strong and balance to prevent viral Infection:

  1. Keep the throat moist. We always recommend starting off the morning with warm water, or, even better with lemon water. Use whole slices of lemon, or squeeze half lemon in warm water, not just the juice. Drink lots of tea. Herb teas and green teas are preferable to black tea and coffee, which have high acidity.
  2. Prioritize healthy eating. Now more than ever it is vital to eat nutritious foods, including lots of vegetables and fruits. Spend a few minutes putting together a vegetable or chicken broth, and let it simmer all day. Then you have the base for healthy soups and stir-frys, or you can just sip broth from a mug.
  3. Limit alcohol consumption. We all need to find ways to unwind, but too much alcohol is disruptive to sleep and can compromise your immune function.
  4. If at all possible, seek out acupuncture treatment and herbs from your trusted practitioner to help boost your immune system. Now is a good time to seek alternative and integrative medicine. Our office is open, or we can help you over the phone.

Acupuncture and TCM for Fevers and Cough

acupressure point for lungs
Stimulate this point to strengthen lung Qi

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine have centuries-old methods for reducing fevers and other symptoms of viruses and forms of the flu, or influenza. TCM doctors in China are currently studying the effects of acupuncture and herbs on patients with coronavirus. Almost 90% of the COVID-19 patients in Beijing received TCM treatments (acupuncture and herbs) in addition to conventional medical intervention. Acupuncture experts are documenting cases where acupuncture brings down fever significantly, and herbs have been shown to help resolve the severe cough.

Stimulating an acupressure point for the lungs can help strengthen Qi and blood flow. Start by giving pressure to this point on the lower corner of the thumbnail. Then begin rubbing the thumb with back and forth strokes from the middle joint down to the fleshy pad at the base of the thumb. Rub until the area feels very warm, 100 times. Then, move to rubbing the whole length of the inside of the arm, from the base of the thumb up to the elbow, again 100 times. Then, rub the whole upper arm, from the the elbow to the shoulder and even the upper back. By doing this, you are warming and stimulating the lung meridian, encouraging a good flow of Qi for the whole lung system.

Top 5 Self-Care Practices for Emotional and Mental Health During Coronavirus Social Distancing

Stress management is more vital in this era of uncertainty than ever. All of us have profound reactions to what is happening all around us. Many of us are worried about our loved ones getting sick. Many of us have to learn a whole new way of doing our jobs from home. Many of us are worried about our work drying up completely. Many of us are home-schooling our children and spending much more time either alone or in crowded living quarters than we are used to. All of this has to be processed. Stress is the body’s response to this situation, and in order to remain healthy, it is important to find ways to release the build-up of stress on a daily basis.

  1. If you do not already have a meditation practice, now is the ideal time to begin. There are many methods; find one that works for you. Spend at least 20 minutes quietly cultivating peace, ideally first thing in the morning and at night before bed.
  2. Get your heartrate up and your blood pumping with some form of aerobic exercise. If you live in an area where you can go for a walk or run while maintaining 6 feet of distance between yourself and others, take advantage, and get some sunshine on your skin. Exposure to sunlight raises your Vitamin D levels, which is very beneficial for immunity. Inside, you can find dance or yoga classes online. Get some use out of those hand weights and resistance bands. Working up a sweat will provide great stress relief.
  3. Allocate a set amount of time for catching up with news. Recognize how your stress levels rise when you are dwelling on things beyond your control. 
  4. Everyone is suddenly more dependent than ever on their computers and phones. But long hours spent sitting and staring at the screen cause so much stress to the body and mind. Take frequent breaks to get up, stretch, walk around, look outside. 
  5. Spend plenty of quiet time reading, writing in a journal, or napping.

    Dr. Tan meditating
    Journey inward with meditation practice.

According to TCM theory, each living thing is a microcosm of the entire universe. Each of us has an individual responsibility to maintain healthy habits in order to maintain the health of everyone else. Focus on helping those in your immediate vicinity who may not have access to resources. Every action taken by one of us affects all of us. Only by working in harmony will we be able to make it through this challenging time.

Art of Wellness is currently open for patient visits from 10:00 am. To 3:00 p.m. on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Dr. Tan and Dr. Cai are also available for phone consultations and will ship herb orders to you during those days. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us with your questions and concerns. 

Our bests thoughts and wishes are always with you and your family.

How to Treat Menopause Symptoms with Acupuncture and TCM

By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

Menopause can be a smooth transition
A smooth transition into menopause is possible.

Menopause is a natural, transformative process that is experienced by half of the population of the world. Like any life process that involves change, it can be accompanied by intense discomfort. Menopause symptoms affect women in middle age physically, emotionally, and mentally. TCM and acupuncture treatment are ideally suited to bring balance and allow women to navigate this time with greater ease and menopause symptom relief. Several studies have shown that the three most commonly prescribed forms of Menopausal Hormone Therapy (MHT) or Hormone Replacement all increase the risk of breast cancer, and the risks increase the longer these therapies are used. Acupuncture and TCM treat menopausal hot flashes effectively without any side effects.

Signs of Menopause Symptoms: Hot Flashes, Night Sweats and More

Menopause is technically defined as when a woman has not had a period for a full twelve months. The period of time during which a woman begins experiencing symptoms related to menopause is actually the pre-menopausal or “perimenopausal” state. This phase can unfold over the course of a few months or up to several years; the average amount of time is about four years. Most women begin experiencing perimenopause in their 40s, although some women begin feeling different and having irregular periods as early as their 30s, and other women don’t feel changes until their 50s. 

Perimenopausal symptoms and signs can include:

  1. Irregular menstrual periods
  2. Hot flashes, hot flushes, night sweats
  3. Difficulty sleeping
  4. Vaginal dryness
  5. Low libido
  6. Urinary incontinence
  7. Loss of bone density
  8. Higher “bad” cholesterol and lower “good” cholesterol
  9. Anxiety, irritability, depression
  10. Headaches
  11. Weight gain

About 80% of women will experience hot flashes at some point during their perimenopausal phase. These sudden hot flushes are caused by lower estrogen levels, which can confuse the brain’s typical regulation of internal temperature. These episodes can feel really disconcerting and disruptive. 

Acupuncture for Menopause Treatment and Menopause Supplements

meditation
Finding balance to relieve anxiety and irritability.

Studies have shown that acupuncture treatments can reduce the frequency of hot flashes. As few as three treatments produced significant positive results, while a full course of treatment (at least eight sessions) provided relief for many women for up to six months. In addition to relieving hot flashes, acupuncture also improves quality of life in many other ways: reducing headaches and other body aches, alleviating anxiety and depression, and improving sleep. TCM also offers customized herbal formulae that support the body’s hormone balance and help with menopause symptom relief.  In many ways, the effects of perimenopause and menopause are not quantifiable, as some are more emotional in nature. This change occurs not just in the body, but in the mind. At this time, a woman is seeing herself differently, reevaluating her own sense of identity and purpose, and in some cases, shifting her focus and energies in life.

Acupuncture for PMS Symptoms and Menopause

Physically, a woman goes through many significant changes over the years, and different factors come into play. If a woman’s body is out of balance — due to trauma, stress, illness, injury, diet, environment, etc.–she may experience difficulties with her female organ function. Painful periods, irregular periods, cysts, fibroids and endometriosis are all common conditions — but they do not happen without some imbalances causing them. A lifetime of choices, experiences, pains and pleasures add up to create the health status we live with now, in this moment.

Women’s health issues can be treated, at any stage of life, with acupuncture and herbs, as well as the right kind of food and lifestyle choices. If a woman finds and partners with a good healthcare practitioner, and practices a lifestyle that helps her achieve optimal health, she does not have to suffer through years of PMS, nor through years of menopausal symptoms, either. Unfortunately, many women do not know there is an alternative to using pain relief medicines, oral contraceptives and hormone replacement to manage symptoms. These drugs do not offer a real solution to the problems; they mask them. As women, we are often expected to simply accept these problems and learn to cope. But why settle for that, when we have the means to correct them?

What is a Natural Remedy for Hot Flashes? Acupuncture and Menopause Supplements

TCM looks at female care as “ovarian care.” Besides paying attention to our liver, heart, lungs, and kidneys, we also focus on menstrual and premenstrual care, pregnancy and postpartum care, and menopause care. These are unique to women. The ovaries are the major players when it comes to female hormones, cycles, and reproductive health. Girls, young women and older women can all benefit from regular treatment, herbal supplementation, and lifestyle improvements to encourage healthy and smooth functioning of these processes. If, as a younger woman, you are able to manage your hormones, then, when menopause comes, it hopefully will not be too much of a problem. If you are already experiencing menopause symptoms, it is not too late to get Yin and Yang balance restored, so that you can enjoy this phase of life and many healthy years to come! 

According to TCM, most menopausal disorders fall under kidney and/or liver Yin deficiency. This manifests in hot flashes, waking often at night around 3:00-4:00 a.m., dreamy light sleep, irritability, memory loss, dry eyes, mood swings, and irregular periods. A smaller percentage of symptoms fall under kidney Yang deficiency; low back soreness, incontinence, water retention, fatigue, indigestion, and weight gain. We use very specific acupuncture points to help with each of these different problems, and are able to treat each woman’s unique combination of issues. We also have our unique techniques (needling and massage) and herbal products to help skin stay firm and smooth.

8 Self-Care Best Practices for Menopause

goji berries
Eat goji berries and other superfoods

Acupuncture and herbal modalities have been taking care of these women’s health issues for thousands of years.  Besides seeking these professional services, there are many things you can do at home to facilitate a smooth transition:

  1. For Yin deficiency, stick with cooling and juicy foods like fresh veggies, fruit, yams, sweet rice, mung beans, lotus roots or seeds. Stay away from alcohol, coffee, and spicy foods which increase internal fire or heat. Snacking on Goji berries is recommended, drinking chrysanthemum tea, chamomile tea or Art of Wellness’s own Night Tea can help you rest and sleep better.
  2. For Yang deficiency, drink warm lemon water upon rising, eat more cooked and warm food, nuts, especially walnuts and pecans, stay away from dairy, icy foods and drinks and greasy, heavy meals. 20-30 minute hot foot spa before bedtime is recommended. Rub the low back along the midline of the spine and on both sides until very warm.
  3. For saggy or loose skin, facial rejuvenation acupuncture needling will help stimulate collagen production and improve facial circulation.
  4. Speed-walk 30-45 minutes per day.
  5. Rub hands to warm them, then rub the soles of each foot 100 times. Practice daily.
  6. Meditate 20 minutes daily, in the morning or ideally, at bedtime.
  7. Suggested Menopause Meditation: focus on the lower abdominal area (Dan Tian), until it feels warm. Then, move the warm sensation into your kidney area.
  8. Try this Lotus smoothie recipe. Good for anyone, but especially for women experiencing menopausal symptoms: ½ cup lotus seed, ½ lily bulbs, 1 tablespoon mung beans, 1 tablespoon sweet rice, 10 pieces of honey dates. Rinse all ingredients but dates. Add 6 cups of water, cook for 20 minutes. Blend. Garnish with a few goji berries. Make 4 servings. Serve warm for breakfast, or cold for an afternoon snack. Feel free to add fruit, such as banana, berries, apple, pear, etc.

If you or a woman you care about is experiencing menopause symptoms, look for acupuncture near me, and call Art of Wellness, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, CA. Our clinic is one of the top 19 pick among 825 similar clinics in the great Los Angeles area. Our doctors have over 30-years experiences of practicing TCM and acupuncture. Dr. Cai is a specialist in all women’s health issues.

 

How to Treat Stress with TCM and Acupuncture

by Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

 

Nowadays, we hear pretty constantly that everyone is “under a lot of stress.” But what is stress?

Stress affects our physical and mental health
Stress affects our physical and mental health

Stress is a natural reaction in the body to any difficulties or changes that we face in life. Stress affects health at every level: physically, mentally, and emotionally. Stress can bring a lot of negative effects to your health and your career. TCM and acupuncture offer a unique treatment to stress management without any of the side effects that anti-depression drugs cause. Acupuncture treatment often brings people immediate stress relief, as they leave the clinic feeling calm, relaxed, sometime even euphoric. But TCM and acupuncture can also provide meaningful reduction in the toxic effects of long-term stress over time.

In this article we will discuss stressors, stress symptoms, and how to combat the negative effects of stress on your body, mind and spirit.

What Are Stress Symptoms?

“But he was so young!” “But there wasn’t anything wrong with her!” Have you heard of someone you know–maybe a friend or a relative, maybe someone famous you admire–dying, suddenly? It’s hard to take it in; we don’t want to believe that these things can happen, especially when someone is only middle aged. It forces us to look at our own lives. Are we taking the time to take care of ourselves? Or are we rushing around from one crisis to another, always stressed out?

Stress is the body’s natural reaction to any difficulties that appear in our lives, physically or emotionally. It’s a normal response to adverse conditions. It’s actually healthy to experience some low-degree, short-term stress occasionally, because this lets the body practice protecting itself. Unfortunately, our modern lifestyle creates a lot of stressful situations for us to endure, and most people are not taught or encouraged to release the effects of stress from their bodies and minds. When stress builds up, it can lead to health problems. It may be that when you go to an M.D. who orders tests, nothing shows up in a scan or a blood test. But that does not mean you don’t have a serious problem.

Chronic stress can cause a variety of symptoms and illnesses and affect overall health and well-being. Many diseases, including cancer, can be linked to stress. Job changes, the illness or death of a family member, relationship issues, financial or business difficulties, caring for and educating children – we all face these stressors at one time or another. For some people, the problems begin in childhood. If a child experiences trauma–parents fighting, or bullying at school, for example–that kind of severe stress can develop into permanent health problems as he or she grows up.

What Does Stress Do to Your Body?

Stress can affect all systems in the body. It starts with the central nervous system and the endocrine system. When something unusual happens, the brain gets a

Chronic stress can create health problems
Chronic stress can create health problems

signal: something needs to be done! The brain sends out a message, alerting the body to start producing hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline increases the heart rate, elevates the blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisone increases sugar in the bloodstream, enhances the brain’s use of glucose and increases the body’s ability to repair tissues.

The body’s initial reaction to stress is to protect itself. But if you are under this kind of stress constantly–think about it–your body will keep producing adrenaline, causing the heart to beat constantly at a high rate and keep the blood pressure high. Eventually, the body will become exhausted, leading to chronic fatigue, hypertension, diabetes, risk of stroke and heart attack. The lungs become vulnerable, which can trigger asthma. When the cortisone level is high, it causes a constant immune response. Eventually, the immune system becomes imbalanced. 

When stressful periods are prolonged, the body can lose the ability to shut off the alert that says something is wrong: what we call the “fight or flight” response. Say you send a soldier to a war zone. The soldier’s job is to shoot the enemy. When the enemy approaches, the soldier starts to shoot. But if the soldier is there fighting for days, weeks, years, and his job is to keep shooting, at some point he stops recognizing who is an enemy or who is an ally. He will shoot anybody. Likewise, the body loses the ability to recognize what is good and what is not good. Stressful life events are often a main factor in the onset of an autoimmune condition, like ALS, MS, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis. When a person has experienced shocking, perhaps life-threatening, events such as being attacked or surviving in a war zone, he or she may exhibit PTSD symptoms.

When a person is under chronic stress, the liver has to work much harder. We rely on the liver to clean the blood, but if it gets tired out, it can’t do its job. So toxins don’t always come from outside the body; they can come from stress, when the body becomes more acidic and toxic, increasing inflammation and risk of cancer.

When we’re upset, the appetite changes, causing us to eat too much or too little, affecting our nutrition. Many digestive problems are related to long term stress: heartburn and reflux, ulcers, cramping, nausea, vomiting, obesity, constipation, bloat, IBS, diarrhea. Sometimes stress shows itself externally, on the surface of the skin, as with eczema or psoriasis.

Stress causes the muscles to become tight and makes the nerves more sensitive. This causes more pain and inflammation.

The reproductive system and the sex drive are, naturally, affected by hormone imbalances. For women, this can cause PMS, fertility issues related to ovarian function, blocked tubes, or unstable uterine lining, and more severe menopausal symptoms. For men, long term stress can cause the testosterone level to drop, the prostate and the urethra to become inflamed and prone to infection. With all of this, it is no wonder that libido and sexual function take a dive, too.

Stress Management by TCM and Acupuncture

TCM is based on the philosophy that the body, mind, and spirit are inextricably linked. It is only in recent years that Western science has begun to acknowledge the

Acupuncture
Acupuncture

connection between the emotions and our physical health. In TCM, we always look at the whole person. If the emotions are out of balance, the body’s functions will be, too. Keep in mind that without a spirit, the body is nothing more than a container: a box. Likewise, if the body is not healthy, the spirit doesn’t have a good home to live in. That is why we treat stress, emotional fluctuations, and balance the body’s organ systems all at the same time with acupuncture.

Acupuncture is one great way to help you manage your stress and protect you from permanent health damage. Even though you may not be able to avoid stress, you do have the power to manage stress better so that it can’t build up, hurt you internally, and turn into serious health issues.

Top 7 Habits for Stress Relief

Every day, we encounter people and situations that cause frustration. Sometimes several minor incidents over the course of a day can build up until we feel we are at the end of our ability to cope. Other times, we are hit with a big problem that we have no choice but to face. These  stressors are unavoidable. What we can do is pay attention to our responses, and train ourselves to respond more calmly when situations arise. 

Here are some things you can do in your daily life to manage stress.

  1. Change the way you view problems. It is human nature to protect ourselves from danger by recognizing the negative energies coming at us. But we can become too accustomed to looking for the “dark side.”A lot of time we needlessly take things negatively. Say you wake up to the sounds of a bird, chattering in a tree. You can think, “Ah, the beautiful music of nature!” Or you can get annoyed. Same situation, different response. Learn how to think positively. Often I ask a patient to “show me your hand.”  They show me the palm side, but don’t think to look at the back of the hand. In the world, nothing can exist that has one side only. This is the concept of Yin and Yang; nothing is only good or only bad. There is good and bad in everything. Learn to pay attention to both, but “accentuate the positive.”
  2. Connect yourself to nature; consciously choose to make yourself one with the Universe. Connect to energy outside of yourself by going to the mountains or the
    Spending time in nature can alleviate stress
    Spending more time outdoors can help alleviate stress

    beach, walking barefoot on the sand and listening to the waves. Sit by a river and feel the flow of the water. When you feel anger inside, go out and face something – a mountain, or the woods – breathe out, remove that negative energy from your body, absorb positive energy; make that exchange. By doing this, you gain the perspective of playing a small, yet integral part within the greatness of the universe. This will release stress and give you new strength.

  3. Learn some techniques: Tai Chi, yoga, meditation, Qi Gong. Tai Chi, for example, trains you physically and emotionally at the same time, cultivating your internal Qi. Deep breathing will make your body more balanced and calm; exhale negative energy and inhale fresh air and energy.
  4. Engage in regular physical activity, especially cardiovascular varieties. Walk, jog, bike, swim. Going outdoors, getting fresh air and sunshine, is even more beneficial than going to the gym.
  5. Encourage yourself to engage in some social activity. Stress can cause sadness and depression. People tend to close themselves off. So, you must push yourself to go out, keep up your activities. Talking with friends will release the stagnation from your body and mind. Sign up to volunteer; helping other people will reduce your stress.
  6. Take time for a hobby. Whatever you enjoy: walking, swimming, reading, listening to music, going to dance class, fishing, golfing. Do it regularly. But it should be something active for your body or mind. Inactive pastimes– like watching television or playing video games, surfing the internet–may seem relaxing, but they can actually increase stress long term. Keep time spent on those passive activities to a minimum.
  7. Work on your sense of humor! When you laugh, you are happier and so are others around you. Be generous with your positive energy and others will be there to help you when you need it.

Managing stress will pay off, not only by making you happier, but probably also allowing you to enjoy a longer and healthier life.  Practicing stress management will help you to recover from existing conditions and prevent other issues from becoming serious in the future. If you need treatment and look for acupuncture near me, come to our clinic Art of Wellness, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, CA. Our clinic is one of the top 19 pick among 825 similar clinics in the great Los Angeles area. Our doctors have over 30 years of experience of practicing TCM and acupuncture. 

How To Treat Sprained Ankles by Acupuncture and TCM

by Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

acupuncture for sprained ankle
Acupuncture treatment for sprained ankles


Prompt treatment of sprained ankles by Acupuncture and TCM can reduce pain, swelling, and recovery time. Acupuncture improves circulation to alleviate inflammation and generates the flow of endorphins to relieve pain.

A sprained ankle is one of the most common injuries. It can happen to kids and adults of all ages. It can happen when you’re actively playing a sport, or just walking around in your own home. A sprain is a soft tissue injury that results from the overstretching or tearing of ligaments due to the ankle being pushed beyond its normal range of motion by a sudden twist or turn. Ligaments are the strong tissues that stabilize all of the small bones of the foot and support the joint where the leg bones meet the foot. This injury most often affects the outer side of the ankle.

Acupuncture Near Me for Sprained Ankle

Acupuncture treatment can provide immediate analgesic pain relief for soft tissue injuries such as an ankle sprain. The stimulation of appropriate acupoints has been proven to release natural endorphins in the body that reduce pain while also blocking the nervous system processes that signal pain. Soft tissue injuries are those that affect the ligaments, tendons and muscles. Symptoms of soft tissue injuries such as sprains and contusions include pain, swelling, bruising and limited ability to use the affected area. Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to treat these types of injuries. Inadequate care for a sprained ankle or other similar injury can lead to a long-term loss of mobility and strength in that part of the body. That’s why we recommend you seek acupuncture treatment as soon as possible after the occurrence of the sprain and continue until the area is truly healed.

 

3 Types of Ankle Sprain

A sprain can be one of three severity levels:

  1. Grade I
    A minor sprain can occur when you are just walking. The ankle turns in sharply, causing the muscles and ligaments to pull and tear slightly.
  2. Grade II
    A moderate sprain might happen when running, or because of a fall. In this case, the ankle is twisted further in, causing a partial tear of the ligament.
  3. Grade III
    A severe sprain happens because of significant impact—such as a fall at great speed or from a height, or a fall compounded by another person’s weight, such as might happen while playing a sport like football, soccer or baseball. In this case, the ligament might be torn completely. In very severe cases, it may also cause some fracturing of the ankle and/or even dislocation.

The ankle is a wonder of design; it is a very stable joint that not only carries your body weight, but withstands a lot of pressure and impact when you run and jump.

Anatomy of the ankle
Anatomy of the ankle

It is really made up of two joints; the true ankle joint is formed by the meeting of three bones–the tibia, fibula and talus—and works like a hinge to create the up and down movement of the ankle. The subtalar joint is formed by the talus and the calcaneus, and allows for the side-to-side motion of the ankle. Ligaments are the soft tissues that connect bones to bones, while tendons are the soft tissues that connect muscles to bones; both are made up of small fibers of collagen. Cartilage is the tough yet soft, slippery tissue that creates cushioning and slip between the bones. A sprained ankle can result in torn tissues in the muscles, tendons or ligaments, damage the cartilage, and in severe cases, may involve fractures in the bones.

The pathology of a sprain begins in the acute stage—the first 1-2 days–with internal bleeding at the injury site. Fluid builds up in the tissues of the joint, which leads to swelling. After a few days, the active bleeding stops and inflammation begins to exert pressure around the area, compressing the blood vessels and slowing down the flow of fresh blood. This results in blood stagnation.
When blood has built up in the joint and stopped moving freely, it has a negative effect on the healing process. Incomplete healing can mean that the ankle loses some of both its stability and flexibility. The tendons and ligaments can become fragile, which means the joint is now more susceptible to re-injury. 

Self Care for Sprained Ankles

For immediate home care of a sprain, follow the Universal Rule of RICE.

  1. R – Rest
  2. I – Ice

    Acupressure point for sprained ankle
    Acupressure Point for Sprained Ankle
  3. C – Compression
  4. E – Elevate

Ice a new injury for the first three days. Then, begin alternating between ice and heat. For chronic pain conditions, use a heating pad more than cold therapy.

You can stimulate Xiao Jie acupressure point with gentle pressure. Press this point on the base of the thumb joint: right thumb for left ankle, left thumb for right ankle.

Do not massage the area during the first week of recovery. After that, gentle self-massage between the knee and ankle, focusing on releasing tightness in the shin and calf, is best. Don’t walk or put any weight on the foot for 3-7 days, depending on the severity of the injury. When you are ready to begin exercising the ankle, begin with gentle, non-weight-bearing movements.
A good exercise to try is the “A to Z Exercise”:
Lift the injured leg, or cross it over the other leg so the ankle and foot can move freely. Using the big toe as the point of your “pencil,” draw the letters of the alphabet in the air, using at first very small, circular movements of the ankle joint. Gradually, work up to making the letters larger.
After 2-3 weeks, you may be ready to begin engaging in activities that increase the range of motion, yet still keep most of your weight off the ankle, doing exercises such as pedaling a bike, swimming, or walking through water.
Gradually, after 4-5 weeks, you will be able to resume walking on a flat surface.

7 Ways to Prevent Sprained Ankles

A person who has sprained an ankle is more susceptible to future injuries in that area. To prevent such injuries:

Man running on a mountain road
Exercise smart to strengthen your ankles
  1. Regularly practice exercises to strengthen and improve the flexibility of the ankle.
  2. Practice all-over muscle strengthening exercises and focus on balance training.
  3. Wear properly supportive shoes, both when playing sports and in normal everyday life. (Minimize wearing high heels, flip-flops, etc.)
  4. Always warm up before engaging in sports and workouts.
  5. Be extra careful walking on uneven surfaces. 
  6. Wear a stretchy brace if you start feeling soreness.
  7. Receive acupuncture “tune-ups” regularly to maintain good flow of qi and blood.

It is good to see your acupuncturist as soon as possible after spraining an ankle. We use various modalities including acupuncture, herbal supplements to facilitate healing, and possibly moxibustion to bring more energy to the area.  The treatment will focus on stopping the internal bleeding and reducing the swelling of the joint. Minimizing inflammation and maximizing the constant circulation of blood will speed healing and help to ensure that the injury does not become a chronic one.

How to Treat Infertility in Women with Acupuncture and TCM

by Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

Heart Hands on Belly
TCM for Infertility

About one in ten women who are ready to conceive find that they have trouble doing so naturally. Infertility in women is thus a very common condition, one that has a profound impact on women and their partners. Acupuncture and TCM is proven to be extremely beneficial to women who are trying to get pregnant, both as primary and complementary care. 

Dr. Cai at Art of Wellness has thirty years of experience, both in China and in the U.S., as a specialist in women’s healthcare and infertility in women. She has studied and worked with some of the most influential doctors in the field in both countries, and has helped hundreds of women achieve healthy pregnancies.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)  is a system of health care that goes back thousands of years. Women’s health care has been a key part of this system all of that time. Conditions such as irregular or painful menstrual periods, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, and infertility have all been recognized, studied and effectively addressed by TCM for many centuries. Women who are having difficulty solving these problems with their medical doctor may find not only relief from pain, but a true solution that addresses their whole being–body, mind, and spirit.

Diagnosis of Infertility in Women in 8 Exact Steps

Any time a woman of childbearing age has a partner with healthy sperm, and they’ve been trying for two years without conceiving, we define this as infertility. But age makes a difference. If the woman is over 35, and it has been one year, we will diagnose infertility.

There can be many factors or causes involved in the infertility diagnosis, some chemical, some mechanical: 

Fertilization
Fertilization
  1. Hormonal imbalances can cause irregular cycles, which means shorter or longer than the usual number of days (28-30), sometimes with no sign of ovulation, sometimes with high FSH (follicle stimulating hormone). 
  2. Fallopian tubes may not be open due to scarring or previous PID (pelvic inflammatory disease). 
  3. Endometriosis or an STD (sexually transmitted disease) can also cause blockage. 
  4. Sometimes the uterus can be congenitally misshapen, or inside there may be fibroids, polyps, lining issues, twisting, chronic inflammation, etc. 
  5. Occasionally, antibodies can get into the cervix and block the sperm.
  6. In rare cases, the uterus may be tilted to the front or back, positioning the cervix so that it is either very high or very low or over to the side, making it difficult to receive sperm. These patients must rely on IUI (intrauterine insemination) to get the sperm where they need to go.
  7. Autoimmune issues can cause a woman’s immune system to produce antibodies that reject the sperm. 
  8. Blood incompatibility between the parents–for example, if the woman is RH (Rhesus factor) negative with a RH positive man–can happen sometimes after a first pregnancy or miscarriage. This is more common in older women.

Top 5 Different Causes of Infertility in Women

Infertility can feel isolating
Infertility can feel isolating

According to TCM, there are several differentiations of an infertility diagnosis. TCM practitioners differentiate between various causes and treatment plans for dysmenorrhea based on when the pain occurs (before the onset/during the period), the quality and location of the pain, associated symptoms like bloating, the appearance and volume of flow and accompanying emotions and sensations such as dizziness or fatigue. Some types are due to an excess, either of cold, or of stagnation of qi or blood. Others are due to a deficiency of qi or blood.  

  1. Kidney Deficiency – If a woman’s menarche occurred later than usual (typical is age 12-14), that might indicate some weakness of the reproductive system. To perform its normal functions, the uterus needs a rich and plentiful blood supply. Constriction of the capillaries that supply blood to the uterus occurs when there is too much cold in this area. Certain lifestyle behaviors can cause diminishment of ovarian health, sometimes leading to premature ovarian failure. Naturally over the age of 35, many women can begin to show signs of kidney deficiency.
  2. Blood deficiency – Poor digestion or a diet with insufficient nutrition can create a situation in which blood is not providing enough nourishment to support the ovaries and uterus.
  3. Liver qi stagnationLong periods of emotional stress and irritability can cause qi/blood flow to become stagnated, interrupting the flow of energy through the system.This can cause irregular periods or a lack of ovulation. Blockage in the flow of qi restricts the supply of necessary energy to developing eggs, fertilized egg or embryo.
  4. Dampness – Insufficient nutrition from diet, poor digestion, and/or being overweight can cause dampness and water retention to accumulate in the reproductive system. This condition can lead to pelvic inflammation, PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome), painful periods and blockage of qi.
  5. Blood stasis – Can be caused by physical trauma to the uterus due to surgery or injury. It can also stem from a Cold uterus condition (too much cold exposure or icy-cold drinks/raw food during periods). Lack of proper blood circulation relates to painful conditions such as the formation of clots, ovarian cysts, tumors or fibroids that create a physical blockage. Blood stasis can also lead to thin lining or even absence of periods.

Both kidney and blood deficiency can cause irregular periods, anovulation, short cycles, light flow, poor uterine lining, and the type of pain during periods that is helped by massage or heat.

Blood stasis and dampness can cause endometriosis, severe menstrual pain (not helped by heat or massage), ovarian cysts, strong hormone suppression, and lack of ovulation.

Top 5 Infertility Treatments with TCM

moxibustion
moxibustion

TCM treatments for the different kinds of infertility in women include: 

  1. Acupuncture: In TCM, the objective is always to use the stimulation of specific points to clear blockages in the systems in order to keep qi and blood moving fluidly, clearing the way for harmonious cooperation between the organs involved in the system. Weak areas are tonified, or strengthened, while areas bloated with excess are relieved of pressure. 
  2. Cupping: This is a method of acupressure that uses glass cups to create a vacuum effect in specific points. It is used to dispel stagnation and excess heat and stimulate circulation of blood and qi.
  3. Moxibustion: burning a stick made of mugwort near a specific acupuncture point is something patients can do at home to help a cold uterus condition.
  4. Herbal supplements: Herbs can really help to support the woman’s cycle and even re-activate ovaries until average menopause at age 45-55.
  5. Nutrition and Lifestyle Guidance: An acupuncturist will recommend an appropriate diet for nourishing the whole body as well as correcting any Yin/Yang imbalances. In addition, certain behaviors related to bathing, exercise and even clothing choices may be affecting a cold uterus condition and need attention and adjustment.

TCM Doctors Offer Solutions for Infertility in Women

Welcoming a new baby
Helping women have healthy babies

Advances in technology in recent years have been a boon to couples who are struggling, especially for women who have physical barriers to achieving conception and carrying a pregnancy, such as blocked tubes. IVF (in vitro fertilization) allows us to move past these roadblocks with surgery.

However, a woman still needs good hormone levels for better outcomes for conception, pregnancy and birth. For those with elevated FSH or low AMH (anti-müllerian hormone) who require IVF, adjunctive acupuncture and TCM will help to address these problems and increase the chances of success. One German study showed that success with IVF cycle was 15% higher than without acupuncture.

Each woman’s situation is unique and personal to her. Scientific study and medical research are only in recent decades beginning to acknowledge the connections between a person’s thoughts and emotions and her physical well-being, but women intuitively know that their less visible, harder-to-describe feelings are inextricably linked to their reproductive processes. Finding an acupuncturist who really listens and understands this might be the key to reaching a new level of quality of life, as well as realizing a dream of having a child.

For additional resources, visit our Fertility FAQs page. For more examples, visit our success stories of women who found solutions from Dr. Cai’s treatment. 

If your family suffers from infertility and  you are looking for infertility clinics, visit Art of Wellness at Santa Monica, Los Angeles, one of top 19 picks among 825 clinics in the great LA area.