What We Treat

What Is MS? How to Treat Multiple Sclerosis with Acupuncture and TCM

Qineng Tan, Phd, L.Ac.

Rocks Balanced Traditional Chinese Medicine
Rocks Balanced

Multiple Sclerosis is a progressive autoimmune disorder in which the body’s defense system mistakenly attacks the protective covering of nerve cells. Also known as MS, it is an autoimmune disease that affects many people in the United States and around the world. MS This leads to miscommunication between the brain and the rest of the body. TCM and Acupuncture are among the best approaches for improving the quality of life and managing symptoms of MS, without the negative side effects that other medicines that cause. In this article, we will learn how TCM diagnoses and addresses MS. We will also look at the cases of a few patients who have worked with Dr. Tan at Art of Wellness and experienced positive results.

Causes of MS

MS is an autoimmune disease in which infections or environmental changes can confuse the body’s defense system. Sometimes a foreign antigen mimics a group of the body’s own proteins. When the immune system response by mounting an attack against these foreign invaders, it inadvertently destroys the foreign antigen along with any similar antigens, including the body’s own tissues.

A recent study shows that a virus called adenovirus type 2 looks remarkably similar to the composition of the protective covering around the spinal cord and parts of the brain—the myelin sheath cells. The attacks of the immune system of this virus along with the mistaken attack on the myelin sheath is believed to be the ultimate cause of multiple sclerosis. 

Common symptoms of MS include:

  • numbness or tingling, usually in the leg or arm
  • muscle weakness
  • dizziness
  • spasticity
  • pain (moderate to severe)
  • Ataxia (impaired balance or mobility due to nerve damage)
  • tremor
  • slurred speech
  • blurry, double vision or blindness
  • bladder malfunction
  • bowel dysfunction
  • sexual dysfunction
  • depression
  • euphoria
  • cognitive abnormalities
  • fatigue

How to Treat MS

myelin sheath protects brain cells
myelin sheath protects brain cells

Unfortunately, there is no cure for MS yet. In Western Medicine, the treatment focuses mainly on decreasing the rate and severity of relapse. Beta interferons, anti-cancer drugs (to weaken the immune system), and steroids are commonly used for the treatment of MS. These medicines can reduce the number of MS lesions, delay the progression of the disease, and provide symptomatic relief for the patient.

A condition called “Wei Syndrome” with symptoms similar to MS, was documented 2000 years ago in a classic Traditional Chinese Medicine textbook called the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine has been involved in the treatment ever since. MS patients who have tried acupuncture report improvement in pain, spasticity, numbness and tingling, fatigue, depression, anxiety, bowel and bladder function.

Most commonly, MS first manifests itself in a series of attacks followed by complete or partial remission as symptoms mysteriously lessen. These symptoms, however, will return later after a period of stability. This is called relapsing-remitting (RR) MS.

Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain can be a sign of something else

Dr. Tan Case Study – Diagnosis of MS

Mr. M, a healthy 50-year old gentleman, first visited my office a few years ago. As an attorney, he had been working very

hard to support his two daughters, who were both in college. About four months previous, the onset of severe lower back pain along with tingling in his left leg changed his life completely. He saw several doctors, had a number of x-rays and an MRI which revealed a moderate bulging disk on L4-L5. He tried different pain pills, NSAIDs, and underwent three months of physical therapy, none of which helped. Recently, he had been experiencing numbness and weakness in his left leg, and was suffering from depression due to his inability to carry on with daily work and regular activities. When he talked to me, I noticed that he constantly rubbed his eyes. I asked if he felt any abnormalities in his vision. He answered yes, and that he had periodic occurrences of blurred vision. When I suggested that he show me how he walks, I noticed his poor balance. He tended to fall on his left side because his left leg did not seem to follow his motion. Then I checked his knee and ankle reflex and found that they were excessively active. I was almost certain that the condition that made him suffer so much in the last few months was not a simple bulging disk or sciatica; it was a disorder of the central nervous system: Multiple Sclerosis. Immediately, I referred him to a neurologist and suggested that he have a brain and cervical MRI. Two weeks later, he came back to my office with a confirmed diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.

Mr. M. is just one of 200 patients who are diagnosed with MS every week in the United States. There are about 400,000 people in the U.S. and 2.5 million patients who are suffering from this disease in the world.

woman in a wheelchair
MS flare-ups can be managed with TCM

Patient Testimonial – Gilly

“I was diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting MS in 1991 and I had no idea what a crazy, unpredictable journey I was about to embark on. I woke up one morning, tried to get out of bed but my legs were like jello, I had no balance and had double vision. I was given a spinal tap and MRI and lesions were detected on my brain & cervical spine. 

When first diagnosed, my neurologist put me on one of the few FDA approved medicines for MS which don’t cure the disease, but delay the progression. For that I inject myself daily and have done so for seventeen years. For the first seven years after being diagnosed, I experienced relapses (flare ups of symptoms) on average twice a year. The treatment for relapses was a five day course of steroids administered through IV, followed by twelve days of oral steroids. The relapses affected my motor skills the most, especially walking, but after a treatment of steroids, I was almost as good as new.  

My friends suggested that I try acupuncture. I was recommended to Dr. Tan because he had studied MS in China. Dr. Tan has been monumental in my life. He has given me treatments for a multitude of injuries I’ve suffered over the years due to frequent falls and is an expert in pain relief. He treats me for stress relief which contributes to my general well-being. Dr. Tan is very knowledgeable about Western medicine and MS treatments, so I always ask his opinion. 

I’ve now been diagnosed with MS for twenty-one years and feel fortunate that Dr Tan has been treating me for a large part of that time. Although I partake in Western medicine, I know that Western medicine only treats the symptoms, but Eastern medicine treats the cause of the symptoms. My MS has progressed to the stage that I now use a wheelchair full time. I go to acupuncture for preventative care. My immune system needs extra help, especially during cold and flu season.

I am very aware that MS is a ‘designer’ disease, and no two people have the exact same symptoms. I would encourage anyone with MS to avoid stress, keep up a healthy immune system and try to stay positive and happy, because your emotional state affects your physical being.

Self-Care for People with MS

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is very important for the MS patient. This includes:

tai chi
tai chi is great exercise
  1. Getting enough time to sleep and rest. Early bedtime is best.
  2. Exercise regularly. Tai Chi and Yoga are very good to help with relaxation, balance and muscle strength.
  3. Balanced diet, including a lot of vegetables and enough protein from white meat.
  4. Stress management
  5. Daily meditation and positive thinking
  6. Staying connected with friends and joining a support group

Our clinic has been chosen as one of the top 19 picks among 825 acupuncturists in the greater Los Angeles area. Dr. Tan is an expert in neurological conditions such as MS. Many patients like Gilly and Mr. M have been able to gain more control over their symptoms with their treatments at Art of Wellness. If you or someone you know has MS, call and visit our Santa Monica clinic to experience the best care available.

How to Treat Lower Back Pain with TCM and Acupuncture

Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain can feel like a real burden.

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

That sudden, scary sensation of pulling in your lower back that lets you know you’re in for more pain later. The nagging, daily ache that develops over time. Lower back pain can really feel like a burden, holding you back from enjoying your life. If you are searching for how to reduce low back pain,  Acupuncture and TCM can provide real relief.

Pain in the lower back is one of the most common complaints heard by healthcare practitioners. The vast majority (80%) of adults experience at least one episode of low back pain at some point in their lives. For some people, lower back pain becomes a chronic condition. It is the second most common cause of disability among adults in the United States.

This article will address the types and common causes of lower back pain, how to treat low back pain with acupuncture and TCM, and eight excellent suggestions for ways you can reduce low back pain and prevent flare-ups with lifestyle change and self care.

 

How to Treat Lower Back Pain – A Common but Complicated Condition

Lower back pain presents a challenge for physicians, because in many cases, there is no clearly discernible cause. Imaging scans may help us get a picture of structural damage to the spine, but they do not tell us the whole story. Pain is not just about structural or mechanical problems in the body. The problem may be mechanical, but it may also be chemical, emotional, behavioral, sociological, or a combination of any of these.

The American College of Physicians has just recently issued new guidelines regarding the treatment of lower back pain specifically advocating that doctors and patients first choose natural and alternative therapies, such as acupuncture and massage, over pain medications.

Dr. Tan treats back pain
Dr. Tan’s healing hands

Acupuncture does not only address the immediate source of pain. TCM treats the whole person. An acupuncturist will study the different factors of each patient’s unique presentation of symptoms in making a diagnosis and designing a course of treatment. This will include not only acupuncture, but herbal formulae to support the healing of the body, and specific exercise and nutrition advice to strengthen the whole body from the inside. Lower back pain can take its toll on a person’s psychological outlook. Stress and depression can turn an acute problem into a chronic one. Treating the underlying causes of an acute condition can prevent it from becoming recurrent or chronic.

 

Types of Lower Back Pain

Most patients experience a generalized, nonspecific kind of lower back pain. These may be related to muscle strain or stiffness, repetitive movements or unfavorable sitting or sleeping positioning. Other conditions are based on specific injuries or pathologies. Some types of pain, such as sciatica, are rooted in the nerves, possibly due to pinching or other damage. Sometimes the sensation is more like tingling or numbness than fiery pain.

In over 30 years of practice in treating all different types of lower back pain, we have often seen patients who had only minor structural problems but were experiencing severe pain. Many patients who have had surgery to correct a problem; their scans may show that the problem has been “fixed”–but they are still in a lot of pain. In other words, a person’s experience of pain or loss of mobility may not correspond to what we see in an image. 

Common conditions leading to back pain include (but are not limited to):

  • Degenerated disc
  • Bulging or herniated disc
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis (slipped disc)
  • Spinal scoliosis
  • Arthritis
  • Muscle strain
  • Muscle spasm
  • Pinched nerves
  • Nerve damage
  • Kidney stones or gallstones
  • Digestive issues (constipation
Lower Back Stretches
Lower back stretch

Eight Tips for Self Care to Reduce and Prevent Lower Back Pain

With TCM, we aim for long-term, lasting results. At the same time, we guide the patient in vital lifestyle improvements, such as regular de-stress meditation, gentle exercise such as Tai Chi or yoga, and an anti-inflammatory diet.  

Here are some specific things you can do at home to help enhance the effects of acupuncture treatment and reduce lower back pain:

  1. Moderate exercise: walk, swim, Tai Chi, yoga, Pilates, and gentle stretching. It might be tempting to spend a lot of time in bed when you have back pain, but in most cases, lack of movement does more harm than good.
  2. Avoid lifting anything heavy; always remember to bend from the knees and not from the back when lifting any kind of weight. Forward bends as part of an exercise routine can also be aggravating.
  3. Weight control
  4. Anti-Inflammatory Diet: avoid coffee, spicy foods, nightshade vegetables (tomato, potato, eggplant and bell pepper). For more anti-inflammation information , read How to reduce and prevent inflammation 

    Lower Back Strengthening
    Strengthen the lower back
  5. Change posture during your work, move around for a few minutes every hour, at least.
  6. Cold and Heat: Use a cold compress for the first three days if there is an acute injury or any time right after exercise. Use heat 3-5 times per day for chronic pain.
  7. Make sure your mattress is medium firmness and comfortable.
  8. Do stretches and gentle strengthening exercises specifically for the lower back. Also work on strengthening all the core muscles. Remember that the lower part of the spine is actually in the center of the body. Using the abdominal muscles to help you move and lift things takes the strain off of the back muscles.

Acupressure for Low Back Pain

Using your opposite thumb or forefinger, locate the crevice between the bones of your 4th and 5th finger, just beneath the knuckles. Press deeply until you feel tenderness there. Hold the pressure while you gently but vigorously move and stretch your lower spine and hips. Then, drag your thumb or finger down, finding another crevice just above the base where the 4th and 5th metacarpal bones meet. Apply pressure, again, while wiggling and turning from the lower back. This will help release tension and tightness and relieve pain.

 

What Do I Do If the Above Does Not Work?

Acupressure Points for Lower Back Pain
Press between the fourth and fifth fingers, beneath the knuckle

If you are in pain, and nothing has helped, you may be wondering how to find acupuncture near me. Look for an acupuncturist who is board certified in your state. A good acupuncturist is highly trained and has experience in integrative medicine, so that they can work with your primary physician if needed. At Art of Wellness, we suggest a first appointment should include an in-depth consultation and exam. Usually an acupuncturist will recommend a course of treatment that include sessions two or three times per week for the first few weeks, then will reevaluate to keep track of progress and improvement. Look for a place where you feel comfortable, listened to, and able to relax. Your acupuncturist will make recommendations for TCM herbal formulae and dietary changes that will help your condition. These may seem difficult to follow at first, but they will help your body heal better and more quickly. New healthy habits can help prevent your lower back pain from coming back.

 

 

What is Multiple Sclerosis and How to Manage MS with TCM & Acupuncture

Multiples Sclerosis is autoimmune disease,  Traditional Chinese Medicine & Acupuncture are very helpful to improve these condition.

 

Rocks Balanced Traditional Chinese Medicine
Rocks Balanced

 

Dr.Tan’s Case and Testimony

 

Mr. M- a healthy 50-year old Caucasian gentleman—first visited my office Art of Wellness Acupuncture a few years ago. As an attorney, he had been working very hard to support his two daughters, who were both in college. About four months ago, the onset of serve lower back pain along with tingling in his left leg changed his life completely. He saw several doctors, had a number of x-rays and an MRI which revealed a moderate bulging disk on L4-L5. He tried different pain pills, NSAIDs, and underwent three months of physical therapy, none of which had helped. Recently, he had been experiencing numbness and weakness in his left leg, and was suffering from depression due to his inability to carry on with daily work and regular activities. When he talked to me, I noticed that he constantly rubbed his eyes. I asked if he felt any abnormalities in his vision. He answered yes, and that he had periodic occurrences of blurred vision. When I suggested that he showed me how he walks, I noticed his poor balance. He tended to fall on his left side because his left leg did not seem to follow his motion. Then I checked his knee and ankle reflex and found that they were excessively active. I was almost certain that the condition that made him suffer so much in the last few months was not a simple bulging disk or sciatica; it was a disorder of the central nervous system-Multiple Sclerosis. Immediately, referred him to a neurologist and suggested that he have a brain and cervical MRI. Two weeks later, he came back to my office with a confirmed diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis.

Mr. M. is just one of 200 patients who are diagnosed with MS every week in the United States. There are about 400,000 people in the U.S. and 2.5 million patients who are suffering from this disease in the world.

 

Cause of MS

MS is an autoimmune disease in which infections or environmental changes can confuse the body’s defense system. Sometimes a foreign antigen mimics a group of the body’s own proteins. When the immune system response by mounting an attack against these foreign invaders, it inadvertently destroys the foreign antigen along with any similar antigens, including the body’s own tissues.

 

A recent study shows that a virus called adenovirus type 2 looks remarkably similar to the composition of the protective covering around the spinal cord and parts of the brain—the myelin sheath cells. The attacks of the immune system of this virus along with the mistaken attack on the myelin sheath is believed to be the ultimate cause of multiple sclerosis。

 

Common symptoms of MS

  1. numbness or tingling, usually in the leg or arm
  2. muscle weakness
  3. dizziness
  4. spasticity
  5. pain (moderate to severe)

    Neuron surrounded by mylin sheath near brain
    Neuron surrounded by mylin sheath near brain
  6. Ataxia
  7. Tremor
  8. Slurred speech
  9. Blurry, double vision or blindness
  10. bladder malfunction
  11. bowel dysfunction
  12. sexual dysfunction
  13. depression
  14. euphoria
  15. cognitive abnormalities
  16. fatigue

Most commonly, MS first manifests itself in a series of attacks followed by complete or partial remission as symptoms mysteriously lessen. These symptoms, however, will return later after a period of stability. This is called relapsing-remitting (RR) MS.

Treatment of MS

Unfortunately, there is no cure for MS yet. In Western Medicine, the treatment focuses mainly on decreasing the rate and severity of relapse. Beta interferons, anti-cancer drugs (to weaken the immune system), and steroids are commonly used for the treatment of MS. These medicines can reduce the number of MS lesions, delay the progression of the disease, and provide symptomatic relief for the patient.

 

In TCM, a condition called “Wei Syndrome” with symptoms similar to MS, was documented 2000 years ago in a classic Traditional Chinese Medicine book called Emperor Classic Medicine. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine has been involved in the treatment ever since. MS patients who have tried acupuncture report improvement in pain, spasticity, numbness and tingling, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and bowl, bladder function.

 

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is very important for the MS patient. This includes:

  1. Getting enough time to sleep and rest. Go to bed early
  2. Exercise regularly. Tai Chi and Yoga are very good to help patient relax, balance and with muscle strength
  3. Balanced diet, a lot of vegetables and enough protein from white meat
  4. Stress management
  5. Daily meditation and positive thinking
  6. Staying connected with friends and joining a support group
  7. How to reduce and prevent inflammation 
                                   

Patient Story- Gilly

I was diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting MS in 1991 and I had no idea what a crazy, unpredictable journey I was about to embark on.

I woke up one morning, tried to get out of bed but my legs were like jello, I had no balance and had double vision.

I was given a spinal tap and MRI and lesions were detected on my brain & cervical spine.

When first diagnosed, my neurologist put me on one of the few FDA approved medicines for MS which don’t cure the disease, but delay the progression. For that I inject myself daily and have done so for 17 years

For the first 7 years after being diagnosed, I experienced relapses (flare up of symptoms) on average twice a year. The treatment for relapses was a 5 day course of steroids administered through IV, followed by 12 days of oral steroids.

The relapses affected my motor skills the most, especially walking but after a treatment of steroids, I was almost as good as new.

My friends suggested I try acupuncture. I was recommended to Dr Tan because he had studied MS in China. *

Dr Tan has been monumental in my life. He has given me treatments for a multitude of injuries I’ve suffered over the years due to frequent falls and is an expert in pain relief. He treats me for stress relief which contributes my general wellbeing. Dr Tan is very knowledgeable about Western medicine and MS treatments so I always ask his opinion.

I’ve been diagnosed with MS for 21 years and feel fortunate that Dr Tan has been treating me for a large part of that time. Although I partake in Western medicine, I know that Western medicine only treats the symptoms but Eastern medicine treats the cause of the symptoms.

My MS has progressed to the stage that I now use a wheelchair full time.

I go to acupuncture for preventative care. My immune system needs extra help especially during cold & flu season.

I am very aware that MS is a ‘designer’ disease, and no two people have the exact same symptoms. I would encourage anyone with MS to avoid stress, keep up a healthy immune system and try to stay positive and happy, because your emotional state affects your physical being.

Menopause

 Welcome Into Second Spring

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

 

Mixed Feelings about Menopause?

When it comes to menopause, how is a woman supposed to feel?

Relieved? Finally! We no longer have to deal with periods, no more worrying about the possibility of pregnancy and the many complications of childbearing. But, there is also fear of the unknown. The ovaries are shutting down, our hormone levels are decreasing, which means everything feels different. And for some, there are unpleasant sensations–hot flashes and body aches–and uncomfortable changes–like looser skin and lower metabolism. But, there is hope in every new phase! We can choose to welcome menopause as the “Second Spring” of our lives. If we make positive choices to take care of our health, we can feel more vibrant, and wiser, than ever.

The Ages of Woman

Menopause is a transitional time, similar to adolescence. If we look back to those years when we first got our periods, we can see the roots of our womanhood. Our youth is when we are “in bloom.” Then, during our childbearing years, our bodies are in a constant state of readiness to bear “fruit,” and to feed others. We grow up, then we spend many years focusing our energies outward–helping others grow, too: our partners, our children, our careers. Now, in the Second Spring of life, we get to turn our attention back inward, to choose our own projects and to reserve our energy for those things we want to nurture.

Early in life, girls and women may often feel limited from all sorts of pursuits — physically, athletically, in education and career goals — because of our periods, our hormone shifts, and our ability to get pregnant. We face issues, because of the way our bodies work, that men never have to face. And, in most cultures, still, it is the woman who bears the primary responsibility for taking care of the family. The Second Spring offers an opportunity to make up for some of those times we felt held back, to live for ourselves without feeling so obligated to others. We have a chance to “rebloom,” to enjoy new freedoms and follow our dearly held dreams to fruition.

Go Back to the Root

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 difficulties, 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?

TCM Offers Comprehensive Womens’ Health Care

TCM looks at female care as “ovarian care.” Beside 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.

 

Self-Care for Menopause

Acupuncture and herbal modality 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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • For saggy or loose skin, facial rejuvenation acupuncture needling will help stimulate collagen production and improve facial circulation.
  • Speed-walk 30-45 minutes per day.
  • Rub hands to warm them, then rub the soles of each foot 100 times. Practice daily.
  • Meditate 20 minutes daily, in the morning or ideally, at bedtime.
  • Suggested Menopause Meditation: focus on the lower abdominal area (Dan Tan), until it feels warm. Then, move the warm sensation into your kidney area.

Sprains and Strains

We’ve all heard of and maybe even experienced a sprain or a strain. But do you really know the difference? A sprain is defined as a stretch or tear of a ligament. A strain, on the other hand, is defined as an injury to a muscle or tendon. Sprains can result from a fall, a sudden twist or a blow to the body that forces a joint out of place, while a strain can happen from twisting or pulling a muscle or tendon. continue reading »