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How to Treat Essential Tremor With Acupuncture and TCM

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

essential tremor, hand shaking
Hand shaking is the most common sign of essential tremor

Shaking hands, body shaking for no reason, head shaking, feel wobbly when you’re walking, maybe your voice quivers when you speak? These could be signs of Essential Tremor (ET). Essential tremor is a neurological condition, often mistaken for Parkinson’s disease, which causes rhythmic shaking of parts of the body, especially the hands. Acupuncture and TCM are an effective way to treat symptoms of essential tremor.

Essential Tremor (ET), also called “kinetic tremor” or “benign essential tremor,” is a chronic nervous system disorder that causes hand tremors, trembling hands, head shaking, body tremors in the arms or legs, and can also affect the voice. The hand shaking most often happens when you try to perform some simple, yet specific task that requires coordinated movements or using tools, such as shaving, writing, or pouring liquid into a glass.

Essential tremor is the most common type of movement disorder, affecting about 4% of older adults, although it can happen at any age. The causes and progression of ET are not fully understood by medical science.

Tremors are categorized into two main types of tremors: resting or active. A resting tremor is when the body shakes even at rest. Active tremors are when there is shaking when a person is attempting to make voluntary movements. Essential tremor is a type of active tremor. 

“Postural tremor” refers to an active tremor that occurs when a person is trying to maintain a position, like standing with the arms outstretched, and cannot do it without shaking. An “internal tremor” is a person’s feeling that a quivering or shaking sensation is taking place inside their body, that cannot be seen by others.

Essential tremor is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease, but, in fact, essential tremor is much more common than Parkinson’s (20 times more common). Like Parkinson’s, essential tremor causes hand shaking, but ET is different in that symptoms usually occur when you’re actively trying to do something, whereas Parkinson’s tremor occurs even when your limbs are at rest. Parkinson’s also typically involves non-motor symptoms as well as motor symptoms.

Other conditions can also cause hand tremors. Vascular parkinsonism, a neurological disorder that is the result of small strokes, causes blockage of blood flow in the brain. Both Parkinson’s and vascular parkinsonism can cause a distinct type of tremor that involves the thumb and fingers brushing together slowly, sometimes called a “pill-rolling tremor.”  Asterixis is another kind of motor control disorder that causes muscles to jerk, resulting in a characteristic hand-flapping gesture, sometimes referred to as “liver flap.”

There are many other conditions that can also cause tremors, including: hyperthyroidism, multiple sclerosis (MS), stroke, liver or kidney disease, and alcohol addiction. Anxiety or panic attacks can also cause a temporary tremor or shakiness.

Essential tremor seems to run in families sometimes, but many people begin to experience tremors for no apparent reason. It is theorized that ET may be caused by something genetic, or it may be caused by neurodegeneration–the gradual degradation and death of cells in the brain. 

Acupuncture, combined with other TCM modalities such as moxibustion and herbs, is a good method for reducing hand tremors and other symptoms of essential tremor, as it has been demonstrated to have positive effects on the generation of cells in the brain and nervous system, as well as reducing stress and anxiety.

Top 5 Essential Tremor Symptoms

hands shaking, hand tremors
Do your hands tremble when you’re trying to hold an object?

Very mild symptoms of essential tremor, such as having trouble threading a needle, often begin to show up when a person is in their 40s. Then, as time goes on, the symptoms of ET become more obvious:

  1. Tremor, especially in hands, that is most noticeable when you’re trying to do something
  2. Head nodding that you can’t control
  3. Shaking on one side of the body more than the other
  4. Voice quivers or voice is shaky when you speak
  5. Tremor gets worse over the years

Some medications (amphetamines, corticosteroids, or asthma medications) or stimulants like caffeine may make the tremors more noticeable. Some people find that the tremor lessens when they drink a moderate amount of wine or other alcohol. Stress, strong emotions, too much exertion, low blood sugar, or being dehydrated can make the tremor more pronounced.

Essential Tremor Treatment 

There is no specific test that shows whether a person has essential tremor. Diagnosis is based on observation of symptoms, and the use of testing to rule out other disorders, such as thyroid disease or Parkinson’s. 

Medications are used to treat tremors with varying levels of success. Propranolol and Atenolol are beta-blockers that can be helpful for some people with ET. Primidone or Topamax are anti-seizure (anti-epileptic) drugs that can also be prescribed to help relieve shaking. In many cases, these medications are not very helpful for relieving the tremors. Doctors may try anti-anxiety medications like Valium, Ativan, or Klonopin. Botox injections have also been tried as a medical treatment for essential tremor.

In some cases surgery to remove parts of the thalamus has helped stop severe tremors, but there is a high risk with this type of brain surgery. Nowadays, when drugs do not seem to provide relief from tremors, people may be referred for a thalamic deep brain stimulation therapy, in which electrodes send an electrical impulse to the brain to interrupt the faulty signals leading to involuntary shaking.

Acupuncture treatment is another way to stimulate brain activity, having a positive effect on neurotransmitters in the brain and reestablishing connections throughout the nervous system.

Can Acupuncture Help Essential Tremor?

Dr. Cai Tai Chi 5
Tai Chi exercise can help tremor.

According to TCM theory, the symptom of hand tremors generally originates from the liver and kidney systems. Liver blood deficiency and kidney deficiency are closely related, and can lead to rising Liver Yang, and Liver Wind. It is the pathogenic factor of wind that causes the hand shaking. We use acupuncture treatment and herbs to nourish the liver and kidney so that wind is subdued and yin and yang energies are balanced.

One study compared groups of people with ET who were treated with medication (Propranolol) versus patients treated with both acupuncture and medication. The results showed better results for the patients who received the combined therapies.

A hospital study in China showed that a combination of acupuncture treatment and herbal formulation had an over 80% efficacy rate for patients with benign essential tremor.

A recorded case study of a woman treated with acupuncture for tremor showed that she was better able to write and hold objects, and that the improvements were maintained even a year after she had completed acupuncture treatment.

Best Exercise for Hand Tremors

Regular exercise is important for everyone, especially as we age, in order to keep our physical and mental faculties strong and agile. Exercises that can be beneficial for people with essential tremor include:

  1. Regular cardiovascular exercise and light strength training
  2. Tai Qi
  3. Yoga
  4. Meditation
  5. Puzzles, math games, brain teasers, word searches, etc.

Acupuncture Near Me for Essential Tremor in West Los Angeles, Brentwood area

If you’ve started to notice your hands shaking, voice trembling, or that you’re feeling unsteady on your feet, don’t wait until the situation gets worse. Acupuncture treatment can help reduce the frequency and severity of hand tremors, and prevent essential tremor from progressing. The TCM doctors at Art of Wellness have over 35 years of experience treating all kinds of neurological disorders and helping people maintain their quality of life as they get older.

 

*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 Meniere’s Disease With Acupuncture and TCM

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

dizziness vertigo spiral stairs
Vertigo, dizziness, sensation of spinning, are possible signs of Meniere’s disease.

My ear feels clogged sometimes, I get sudden dizzy spells, and sometimes I think I’m losing hearing in one ear! These symptoms could be signs of Meniere’s disease, a condition of the inner ear that causes ringing in the ears or buzzing sounds, sudden hearing loss, and vertigo–that spinning sensation sometimes accompanied by nausea. Acupuncture is an effective vertigo treatment and can help resolve the dizziness and hearing problems associated with Meniere’s.

A lot of people may not realize that they have Meniere’s disease, because the most common symptoms can also be indicators of many other health issues. For example, sudden attacks of vertigo can be caused by a condition called benign paroxysmal postural vertigo, or BPPV. BPPV is another kind of inner ear problem, caused by the movement of small crystals of calcium carbonate into a part of the ear canal where they do not belong. Vestibular migraine and other types of migraine headaches can cause feelings of vertigo and ringing in the ears. Ringing in the ears, also known as tinnitus, can also be a symptom of a sinus or ear infection, thyroid problems, cardiovascular problems, or caused by repeated exposure to excessive noise levels.

Meniere’s disease is a chronic condition that can begin at any time during life, but it is most commonly diagnosed when a person is in their 40s or 50s. Most of the time, Meniere’s symptoms only affect one ear. A “Meniere’s attack” can come on in a way that is similar to a migraine. First there may be subtle signs that it is starting, like changes in hearing, or a feeling of fullness or congestion in one ear. Then, a sudden and strong attack of vertigo can make you feel so dizzy, light-headed, and off balance that you have to lie down. You may even feel nauseated to the point of vomiting. These episodes of intense dizziness can last anywhere from several minutes to several hours, or even a whole day. Afterwards, you may feel exhausted and need to rest. Never knowing when you might have one of these attacks of severe vertigo can be very disruptive and unsettling, really having a negative impact on your life.

Each person’s experience of Meniere’s disease is different, and there is no clear cause for the disorder. Over time, some people may have fewer and fewer symptomatic episodes, while other people may have them more frequently and may begin to develop more serious hearing problems. Hearing loss associated with Meniere’s disease may seem to come and go at first, but it can progress to the point of permanent hearing loss, or deafness.

What causes Meniere’s disease? Medical science is unclear as to why some people develop this inner ear problem, but it is generally believed to be related to excess fluid in the ear. Meniere’s symptoms might develop after some type of head injury or ear infection, respiratory infection, or viral infection. Meniere’s may be related in some cases to migraine headaches, or to immune system dysfunction. Some women experience Meniere’s symptoms during their premenstrual syndrome (PMS) week. As with many other illnesses, Meniere’s can be triggered by stress or anxiety. Currently, Meniere’s treatment typically involves medications that offer some symptomatic relief, like anti-nausea medications.

Acupuncture and other TCM treatments for Meniere’s disease offer a holistic way to address the varying symptoms of dizziness, vertigo, nausea, tinnitus, and hearing loss. While there is no cure for Meniere’s, it is possible to reduce the symptoms so that they are not so bothersome anymore and even to help prevent further hear loss.

Top 5 Symptoms of Meniere’s Disease

Meniere's dizziness vertigo hearing loss
Meniere’s usually hearing problems in one ear.

Meniere’s symptoms can be subtle at first, and a person may only have a few episodes of ringing in ear or vertigo once in a while. The common signs of Meniere’s include:

  1. Dizziness, vertigo, spinning sensation, light-headed 
  2. Hearing loss, hearing problems, sudden drop in hearing, sounds are muffled
  3. Tinnitus, ringing in the ears, buzzing sound, roaring in ear
  4. Sensation of fullness in the ear, ear feels plugged up or congested
  5. Nausea, feeling like you’re going to be sick or vomit

In some cases, people with Meniere’s can have sudden falls, sometimes called “drop attacks,” or Tumarkin’s otolithic crisis. You may feel like you’re falling, or the room is tilting around you, and the next thing you know, you’re on the floor. These falls are unpredictable and can cause injuries.

Medical Treatment for Meniere’s Disease

One of the common treatments for Meniere’s vertigo, ringing in the ears, or a sensation of fullness in the ears is the use of diuretics like Lasix, Diamox, or Dyazide, following the logic that they will help reduce the amount of fluid in the inner ear. However, there is not much scientific evidence showing that this method works for everyone, and diuretics may have other negative consequences, such as lowering blood pressure.

Anti-nausea medications, known as antiemetics, may offer some relief from nausea during bouts of vertigo. Histamines and their receptors are understood to be involved with signalling in the brain that may impact balance, so antihistamines, such as Dramamine and Benadryl, are often offered as a way to reduce dizziness. Again, there is not much evidence of the efficacy of antihistamines for vertigo. Drowsiness is a common side effect of taking antihistamines. Antidepressants are also sometimes prescribed to help with vertigo.

In rare instances, doctors may perform surgery to physically alter the inner ear; this is called labyrinthectomy. This may help reduce debilitating vertigo for some patients or help to prevent drop attacks, but for some people, it can cause even more damage to their hearing capabilities, and can even cause deafness. All of these medical treatments only try to reduce symptoms, they don’t help to prevent hearing loss due to Meniere’s disease.

Can Acupuncture Help Meniere’s Disease?

ringing in ear, dizziness, Meniere's
Acupuncture can help relieve ringing in the ear, dizziness, and nausea.

According to TCM theory, the sensation that the ear is clogged is related to a buildup of Phlegm, causing both physical obstruction and blocking the flow of Qi (energy). Dampness and Wind are other pathogenic factors that can contribute to Meniere’s symptoms of dizziness, vertigo, and the ringing or whooshing sounds in the ear. Weak Kidney energy, combined with Wind rising from the Liver, can cause dizziness, tinnitus, and headaches. An acupuncturist will listen carefully to find out which symptoms are arising, and when, and will choose acupuncture points on the head to directly address the obstruction in the ear, as well as other points on the body to address issues with Kidney Qi.

It may be helpful to make certain dietary changes to help address the excess fluid involved in Meniere’s disease, including reducing salt and sodium, and limiting caffeine and alcohol. Your acupuncture provider will discuss nutritional choices that will help to relieve Meniere’s symptoms.

One study of Meniere’s patients treated with acupuncture showed not only that their vertigo had subsided after a few treatments, but that their hearing levels were maintained rather than worsening as treatment went on.

Another study compared patients with Meniere’s who were treated with antihistamines to a group of patients who received acupuncture treatment for 12 weeks in addition to the antihistamine medication. The patients who received acupuncture reported significantly less vertigo and dizziness, less tinnitus, and actual improvements in their hearing over the patients who received medicine only.

A review of studies using TCM methods, including acupuncture treatment, moxibustion, cupping, and herbal supplementation, to treat Meniere’s disease found that symptoms of vertigo and dizziness were, by and large, greatly reduced, to the point of patients reporting their vertigo as being fully resolved.

A study in which patients were given acupuncture and herbs for 10 days resulted in a 95% effective rate, with the majority of people treated reporting no symptoms at all after the treatment, even after a two-year follow-up.

Acupuncture Near Me for Meniere’s Disease in West Los Angeles

Vertigo is a deeply unpleasant sensation, and never knowing when an attack of dizziness and nausea may strike can really disrupt your daily life. TCM has a proven track record of effectively helping people get over symptoms like dizzy spells and ringing in the ears, and may even help to prevent further hearing loss. If you know you have Meniere’s disease, or if you have some combination of these symptoms but aren’t sure what’s going on, it may be a good time to visit a qualified acupuncturist to see if acupuncture can help relieve dizziness due to Meniere’s, migraines, or BPPV.

 

 

*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 PTSD With Acupuncture and TCM

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

PTSD post traumatic stress disorder
Many veteran soldiers suffer from PTSD.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a type of mental illness that develops after a person has gone through a traumatic life event. PTSD flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and sleep disorders are a few of the most common signs of PTSD. Acupuncture and TCM are widely accepted as a highly effective way to treat complex PTSD and other stress disorders, as well as anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and insomnia.

PTSD is mostly commonly associated with veterans of the military, as many soldiers who have served in combat experience trauma related to war violence. A significant amount of scientific research and psychiatric study has been devoted to finding out about PTSD and what treatments for PTSD are effective. Relative to other conditions, there have been quite a few studies showing that acupuncture can be helpful for PTSD. The U.S. Navy has even started an acupuncture training program in San Diego, after a Pentagon study showed that TCM is beneficial for veterans.

PTSD is not only a problem for military veterans, though. PTSD can result from all kinds of traumatic life events, including things like: accidents, natural disasters, surgeries, assaults, attacks, abandonment, or the death of a loved one. More than 8 million Americans are currently living with post traumatic stress. People of all ages can experience PTSD. PTSD can result from experiencing something traumatic directly, or being a witness to such an event. People whose jobs involve exposure to violence or disturbing situations, such as first responders, social workers, or police officers, can also have PTSD because of things they have seen. A person can be deeply traumatised by something they didn’t see happen firsthand, but that they heard happened to someone close to them.

The body’s response to extreme stress is one of its ways of protecting us. Stressful situations cause the “fight-or-flight” response and chemicals like adrenaline to be released. When this happens repeatedly, or to an extreme degree, because a person is literally in fear for their life, there can be long-lasting physical and emotional effects. Normal, everyday stress we hope to release from the body through exercise, meditation, laughter, and other stress-reducing activities. But when a person has endured abuse or life-threatening danger, they may not be able to release the stress from their bodies so easily.

TCM theory offers a way to help people deal with mental health issues like PTSD because it creates a context in which emotional and mental symptoms interact with physical symptoms. TCM addresses the way that trauma and negative emotions are stored in the body, sometimes causing overwhelming emotional and physical symptoms. Acupuncture and herbs are holistic treatments for PTSD that can be used as an adjunct to therapy and medications to help relieve stress, sleep problems, mood disorders, negative emotions, and problems with cognitive function.

Top 10 Signs of PTSD

ptsd anxiety depression
PTSD can result from assault or abuse.

Many people don’t realize that they are experiencing post traumatic stress. PTSD can overlap with several other types of mental health problems, and the symptoms of PTSD can often seem similar to those of other anxiety disorders or symptoms of depression. What PTSD feels like can be highly individual to each person and what caused their initial trauma.

The most commonly recognized symptoms of PTSD include:

  1. Flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, reliving traumatic events, can’t stop thinking about what happened 
  2. Nightmares, recurrent, vivid, disturbing dreams
  3. Avoidance of triggering places, activities, or people
  4. Memory loss, amnesia, unable to remember periods of time related to the traumatic event
  5. Negative perception of self, negative perception of the world, blaming self or others
  6. Isolation, unable to connect with other people, relationship problems
  7. Feelings of anger, irritability
  8. Hypervigilance, always aware of perceived threat, can’t relax, exaggerated startle response, always on guard, panic attacks
  9. Difficulty concentrating, inability to focus on the present 
  10. Insomnia, can’t sleep

PTSD often coexists with other mental health issues like anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. Chronic fatigue syndrome has been associated with PTSD. Fibromyalgia, a syndrome that can cause generalized muscle pain, sleep problems, fatigue, and other problems can be related to PTSD. Sometimes fibro manifests after a traumatic event.

Types of PTSD

ptsd panic attacks
Intrusive thoughts, flashbacks, and nightmares are signs of PTSD.

The term “stress disorder” refers to a combination of physical and emotional symptoms that are the body’s and mind’s stress responses to some type of trauma. 

Different types of stress disorders include:

  • Normal stress response – even common everyday work stress and relationship stress can cause widespread health problems. Serious issues like a relationship breakup, or job loss can lead to negative emotions and physical problems due to stress. People of all ages can experience debilitating symptoms of stress like: stomachaches, headaches, trouble concentrating, rapid heartbeat or trouble sleeping. If stress is allowed to build up over time, it can seriously damage health.
  • Acute stress disorders – acute post traumatic stress is the immediate aftereffect of some sort of traumatic event or life-or-death situation. If the short-term (30 days or less) acute signs of trauma are left unaddressed, they can turn into PTSD.
  • Uncomplicated PTSD – this refers to PTSD symptoms related to a specific traumatic event, such as a car accident, being the victim of a crime or assault, or surviving a natural disaster and its aftermath. This type of PTSD causes symptoms like: flashbacks, nightmares, avoiding a particular area, thing, or person, and strong feelings of anger, blame, and fear that impact your relationships and sleep patterns.
  • Complex PTSD – complex trauma is the result of multiple, repeated traumatic episodes, like suffering abuse as a child, being in an abusive relationship, domestic violence, or repeated sexual abuse. Complex PTSD could also happen to people living in wartime conditions or who are part of a targeted community under brutal conditions.  PTSD attacks can be brought on by complex PTSD triggers that remind you of the traumatic events, such as: a particular place or smell, a time of year or date, a physical pain or sensation in a particular part of the body, or reading a story or seeing a movie or TV show that brings up the memory. 
  • Comorbid PTSD – this refers to PTSD that coexists with other serious issues such as substance abuse, addiction, and/or depression. Comorbid PTSD is very common, because many people suffer from more than one of these mental health conditions at the same time.

In general, complex PTSD and comorbid PTSD are considered more difficult to treat and more likely to affect people throughout their lives than uncomplicated PTSD.

PTSD Treatment

Treatment for PTSD typically involves a combination of psychotherapy/cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychiatric medications for PTSD such as antidepressants (SSRIs like Zoloft, Prozac, or Paxil) and anti-anxiety medications (like Xanax, Ativan, Valium, or Klonopin). Long-term use of anti-anxiety medications is generally not recommended, as patients can become dependent on them, leading to abuse of the drugs. SSRIs can be helpful for symptoms of depression, but they can also have negative side effects, like sexual dysfunction (ED), weight gain, nausea, dizziness, and making sleep problems worse.

ptsd treatment
Treating PTSD with therapy can be hard because people don’t want to talk about it.

Exposure therapy is a specific type of therapy that helps people learn coping skills by working with the distressing memories or exploring possibly frightening situations in a safe environment with a therapist. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) helps patients learn to adapt to the stress tied to the past trauma by thinking about it while looking at a movement pattern or listening to a repetitive sound. This treatment has been shown to help PTSD patients heal emotional trauma more quickly than talk therapy or CBT alone. 

The conventional treatments for PTSD can help some patients, to different degrees, but many people with complex trauma do not want to go through this type of treatment. Talk therapy, trauma-based CBT, and exposure therapy may be terribly intimidating to people who are suffering with PTSD, and patients may be more afraid of entering into these kinds of therapy than continuing on with their current symptoms.

The TCM modality of acupuncture can have a positive effect on neurotransmitters, the brain chemicals that influence cognitive thought patterns and moods, without the potential negative side effects or dependency that can result from medications. Acupuncture can be a helpful alternative or complementary treatment to other types of therapy for PTSD.

Can Acupuncture Help PTSD?

In historical records of TCM, we do not see a word or description of a condition that is directly synonymous with PTSD. However, in TCM, we view emotional states as being related to the function, or dysfunction, of specific organ systems. The symptoms of PTSD can correlate with these relationships between the organs, the mental state, and physical manifestation of symptoms:

  • Lung – Grief – Wheezing, trouble breathing, sweating, fatigue
  • Spleen – Worry – Nausea, gastric problems, loss of appetite
  • Liver – Anger – Headaches, muscle pain, dizziness
  • Heart – Anxiety – Palpitations, insomnia
  • Kidney – Fear – Urinary frequency, night sweats, memory problems

A TCM provider will look carefully at how each individual describes their physical symptoms and emotional state, and will choose acupuncture points for PTSD and herbs to help strengthen the organ systems that need nourishment.

In regards specifically to military veterans with PTSD, many survivors are wary of seeking medical or psychological treatment for complex trauma. The majority of soldiers who have served in the Middle East in recent years have been diagnosed with PTSD, but less than half of those veterans are receiving medical treatment for PTSD. Many people, in general, are reluctant to seek care, either because they don’t trust that it will work, or their complicated feelings of shame, guilt, grief, and anger are too overwhelming to share with others.

Acupuncture can be particularly helpful for some people suffering from PTSD because it does not necessarily have to involve talking about the original trauma or abuse. Some patients may avoid psychotherapy for this very reason, as they are not ready, and may never be ready, to go over these details with another person. An acupuncturist can help relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression by focusing on the person’s emotional and physical needs and tailoring the treatment to fit their symptoms and lifestyles. 

A clinical study done by the Long Beach V.A. randomly divided patients into “real acupuncture” and “sham acupuncture” groups, and the patients received treatments twice per week over the course of 12 weeks. The veterans who received real acupuncture showed significant physiological improvement, with less startle reactions, as measured by skin sensors, than the sham group.

A Rand review found that acupuncture helped improve symptoms of depression, anxiety, and sleep problems in PTSD patients.

Acupuncture Near Me for PTSD in Los Angeles

It can be a long and challenging process to overcome complex PTSD, but with the right combination of PTSD treatment, it is possible to reduce or even eliminate symptoms. With a TCM approach and acupuncture treatment, we can help reduce anxiety and depression, address feelings of anger and grief in a clinically meaningful way, and help to promote better sleep. If you or a loved one is dealing with unresolved trauma and needs help, you may find that acupuncture is a low-risk and supportive way to treat PTSD.

 

*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 BPH With Acupuncture and TCM

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

men's health, prostate, BPH, male infertility
BPH is a common men’s health issue.

Men, are you getting up to pee in the night? Having trouble beginning urinating when you have to go, or the flow of urine starts and stops? These may be signs of BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia), also known as an enlarged prostate. Many men begin to have prostate problems as they get older, including UTIs, prostate infections, and inflammation of the prostate gland. Acupuncture and TCM can help relieve prostatitis symptoms and urinary symptoms of BPH.

BPH is a very common men’s health concern. About half of all men over 60 feel some symptoms of BPH, and by the time men are in their 80s, the vast majority of men will have an enlarged prostate. Prostate enlargement or prostate infections are not necessarily signs of prostate cancer symptoms, but they can cause trouble peeing. Urinary problems due to BPH can be painful and frustrating. 

In a man’s body, the prostate gland is located right below the bladder. The urethra, the tube through which both urine and semen flow out of the body through the penis, passes through the prostate. This means there is a small area of the prostate that surrounds the urethra. As the prostate grows naturally over time, or becomes inflamed due to infection or injury, this area of the prostate can press on the urethra and bladder, affecting the process of urination.

The prostate gland is a reproductive organ that produces seminal fluid, which, when combined with sperm from the testes and other fluid from the seminal vesicles, produces semen: the cloudy white fluid that comes out of the urethra through the penis when a man ejaculates. The prostate contains smooth muscle tissue that squeezes the fluid out, and small ducts that block the urethra when ejaculation happens, so that urine doesn’t come out with the semen. Seminal fluid provides nutrients and energy for the sperm, and it also interacts with the chemistry in a woman’s reproductive organs, so prostate health is really important for men’s fertility.

The prostate gland is different from most organs in that it continues to grow throughout a person’s lifetime. This enlargement of the prostate is not entirely understood by medical science, but it is believed to be due to some mechanism of men’s hormone functioning. BPH is called “benign,” because it has nothing to do with the cause of prostate cancer and does not even mean you are at higher risk for prostate cancer.

According to conventional medicine, BPH is a normal part of aging. According to TCM theory, an enlarged prostate is more likely to cause problems when Qi is weak and specific organ systems are subject to too much damp heat. Acupuncture and herbs for BPH can help to restore healthy urinary function and reduce pain and inflammation in the prostate area.

What Is BPH?

The prostate gland goes through two periods of growth: during puberty, when it doubles in size, and then from age 25 until old age. Prostate growth varies from individual to individual, but overall, the prostate grows larger at a rate of 1.5 – 2.0% per year. As the prostate is getting bigger, it can start to press on the urinary tract organs. As men get older, they may begin to feel changes that make it more difficult to pass urine.

Top 5 Signs of BPH include:

  1. urination frequency, trouble urinating, trouble peeing
    Frequent trips to the bathroom may be a sign of BPH or prostatitis.

    Trouble starting to urinate, having to strain to start peeing, hesitancy

  2. Feeling like you can’t completely empty your bladder, like you still need to pee
  3. Feeling like you need to pee more often, reduced bladder capacity
  4. Weak stream of urine, “start and stop” peeing, dribbling pee
  5. Having to get up to pee at night, nocturia

Having urine left in the bladder even after you went to the bathroom can cause bacteria to build up and lead to prostate infections, UTIs, and chronic urinary symptoms that come and go over months. Prostatitis can mean a variety of men’s health issues that cause urinary symptoms and pain that are similar to symptoms of BPH.

Prostatitis Symptoms

The term prostatitis covers a few different kinds of men’s health issues that cause swelling and pain in the male reproductive organs, including bacterial bladder infections, UTIs, bladder stones, prostate stones, or after having some sort of procedure (like a surgery, biopsy, or catheterization). It also includes CPPS, chronic pelvic pain syndrome, where there is pain in the genitals without any apparent cause. 

Prostatitis symptoms include:

  1. Pain in the penis, testicles, or the area behind the testicles, the perineum
  2. Painful urination, hurts to pee, dysuria
  3. Urgency, frequency, feels like you have to pee all the time
  4. Urine flow starts and stops, weak stream of urine
  5. Painful ejaculation, burning ejaculation, hurts to pee after sex
  6. Blood in semen
  7. ED, erectile dysfunction

Prostate infections and related infections can be either acute (serious in the short term) or chronic (lasting a long time and difficult to get rid of). An acute bacterial infection of the prostate or urinary tract can cause painful urination, a frequent need to pee, feeling urgency to urinate, or having trouble urinating. If left untreated, this kind of infection can lead to fever, chills, and feeling seriously ill. Chronic bacterial infection of the prostate gland can cause someone to have recurrent infections and symptoms that come and go over a period of months. 

Some men can have prostatitis without any symptoms; this is known as asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis. Many men don’t realize they have this kind of inflammation in the prostate until they are trying to get their partner pregnant and go through male infertility testing. Chronic prostatitis can negatively affect sperm count and male fertility. 

CPPS, pain in the prostate area or sexual organs, is thought to be related to autoimmune disorders, and/or stress. Obesity can also affect pain in prostate by adding extra pressure.

Medical Treatment for BPH and Prostatitis

When you go see your medical doctor about BPH, first they will likely do a rectal exam, which is how they can check the size of the prostate gland, and blood and urine tests to check for bladder infection, kidney infection, or prostate infection. They will also check PSA levels (prostate-specific antigen), which can indicate enlargement of the prostate. Normal PSA levels vary depending on age. If PSA levels go up significantly over a short period of time, it is considered a possible indication of prostate cancer risk, and your doctor may recommend further testing, like a biopsy.

Treatment for BPH can involve medications called alpha-blockers that relax the muscles of the bladder and prostate (Flomax). 5-alpha reductase inhibitors are drugs that affect the hormones and can cause the prostate to shrink. These medications can take a while to be effective, and for some patients, they are not particularly helpful.

There are also several types of surgery that are used to help BPH by removing parts of the prostate to help relieve pressure on the urethra, or by blocking blood flow to the prostate to prevent further growth. These surgeries are not indicated for all cases, though, and can have negative results for some men, including infections, bleeding, and ED.

Antibiotics are used to treat prostatitis and other UTIs related to enlarged prostate. These usually work well for acute infections, but not so well for chronic cases. Antibiotics are not effective for treating CPPS, which is by far the most common type of prostate problem.

Can Acupuncture Help BPH Enlarged Prostate?

bph, prostate
TCM can be helpful for men’s sexual health.

TCM is a complete medical system that goes back thousands of years in China, with many written records of acupuncture points and herbal formulations used to treat all kinds of health problems. The TCM view of the organ systems of the body is a bit different from the way they are understood in western medicine. For example, TCM sees the reproductive organs as being related to the functioning of other organs, like the kidneys and liver.

The prostate is considered to be closely related to the kidney system, and if the Qi (life force energy) of the kidneys or liver is weak, excess dampness and heat can begin to build up in the lower region of the pelvic area.

TCM recognizes the strong connections between emotions and physical health. Feelings of anger and pent-up frustrations are associated with liver stagnation, while stress, anxiety, worrying, and overworking can impact the kidneys and spleen. Lifestyle habits like lack of sleep, lack of exercise, poor diet, using drugs, or overdoing sexual activities can also create conditions for men’s health issues like BPH to become problematic.

An acupuncturist will look at each individual’s situation to determine which organs are involved, and will use acupuncture points for prostate pain and Chinese herbs for prostate inflammation to help restore balance to men’s hormones and energy. 

Acupuncture to treat BPH and acupuncture points for prostatitis can help to relieve difficult urination, and pain in the prostate area, without down time or negative side effects.

A clinical trial of 100 patients treated with acupuncture for BPH over the course of 6 weeks showed that over 90% of the men responded positively, reporting less pain in the prostate and improved urinary functioning.

A systematic review of eight studies involving over 650 men treated for BPH with TCM showed significant positive changes in men’s health outcomes.

A review of studies using Chinese herbs for BPH suggested that herbal treatment for BPH may work even better than alpha-blockers.

Acupuncture Near Me for BPH in Santa Monica, California

Most men will deal with BPH as they go through the aging process, but there are steps you can take to minimize prostate problems. If you are feeling pain in the prostate, urgency to urinate, peeing more frequently, or like you can’t empty your bladder completely, it might be worth it to try acupuncture and herbs to help prostate enlargement. Unlike medical treatments for BPH, there really is no downside to trying acupuncture for men’s health issues. Dr. Tan and Dr. Cai at Art of Wellness in West Los Angeles have over 30 years of experience helping men improve their fertility and sexual 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 Alzheimer’s Disease With Acupuncture and TCM

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

Alzheimer's disease dementia
Having trouble thinking and remembering things is an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

Problems with thinking clearly or remembering things? Feeling disoriented and confused? These may be signs of Alzheimer’s disease or early onset dementia. Alzeimers is a progressive brain disorder that can cause memory loss and cognitive problems. TCM treatment with herbs and acupuncture for Alzheimer’s disease can have a positive effect on brain activity and help relieve symptoms of vascular dementia.

Dementia is a general term that refers to changes in the brain that impact a person’s ability to focus, think in an organized way, learn new things, and keep track of their normal routine. Over 5 million adults are affected with dementia, 60-80% of them due to Alzeimer’s. Most people who develop Alzheimer’s do so when they are over 65, but 5-6% of all Alzheimer’s patients develop young-onset Alzheimer’s or early onset Alzheimer’s between the ages of 30 and 60. Alzheimer’s disease is one of the primary causes of dementia; the other common types of dementia are Lewy Body dementia (LBD) and vascular dementia.

Increased forgetfulness and changes in cognitive function are not just normal parts of aging. The first signs of dementia occur due to changes in brain cell function and initially affect the part of the brain that learns new information and remembers it. While medical science has not conclusively discovered what exactly causes Alzheimer’s dementia, it is believed to be related to protein deposits called “plaques” and “tangles” developing in the brain, disrupting the communication between the brain cells and damaging nerves. Lewy bodies, are also a type of protein that can build up in the brain.

Typical treatment for Alzheimer’s involves the use of medications that affect brain chemistry, slowing down the effects of cell damage in the brain. Acupuncture treatment and the use of specific Chinese herb formulae can work as an effective and safe adjunctive treatment, helping to stimulate brain activity, improve blood circulation, and reduce inflammation in the brain to help improve the cognitive function that can be lost to Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Top 10 Early Signs of Dementia

Alzheimer's dementia
People with dementia may avoid socializing and may seem angry or hostile.

It can be difficult for a person who is beginning to show signs of Alzheimer’s disease to recognize it themselves; often, their loved ones will begin to notice changes in their behavior first. In addition to the more obvious forgetfulness and disorientation of dementia, people may notice more subtle changes in a person’s personality and behavior.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:

  1. Forgetting important things, like dates or appointments (more than just occasionally)

  2. Having to ask the same question repeatedly because you can’t retain information

  3. Trouble completing basic tasks that require following instructions

  4. Losing track of where you are or what day or time it is, getting lost

  5. Losing items, forgetting where you put something

  6. Having trouble finding the right words or carrying on a conversation

  7. Changes in vision or spatial perception

  8. Changes in mood, emotions: anger, aggression, feeling suspicious towards others

  9. Avoiding social situations

  10. Progressively more difficult to walk, speak, or swallow

Signs of dementia in women can look different from signs of dementia in men. While it is often noted that people with dementia may become more irritable and take an attitude of blaming others for their forgetfulness, sometimes it may be the opposite. A person may seem more docile and easy-going. You might notice that a person is driving either more slowly and cautiously than they used to, or perhaps making more erratic decisions and moves. Having difficulty hearing when there is a lot of ambient noise, and losing one’s sense of smell can also be signs of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease tend to progress over time, while signs of Lewy Body dementia (LBD) can change more dramatically from day to day. A person with LBD may, for example, recognize their relatives sometimes, and be confused and unresponsive on other days. Having trouble walking, risk of falling, acting out dreams while sleeping, and having a blank facial expression can also be signs of LBD, although they can also be signs of another neurological disorder, such as Parkinson’s disease.

Medical Treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease

Drug treatment for Alzheimer’s disease may help a person maintain their cognitive abilities and memory longer, although it can be difficult to determine just how much a particular medication for dementia is helping, as the effects are limited and can be hard to quantify.

Cholinesterase inhibitors slow the breakdown of brain chemicals involved in memory and thinking, which can help some people with Alzheimer’s manage these symptoms for a while. For other people, these medications (such as Donepezil and Galantamine) may not help much, and they can also cause side effects like nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Cholinesterase inhibitors cannot be taken by people who also suffer from arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat conditions. No medications available currently actually work to repair or reverse the damage to the brain caused by Alzheimer’s disease. Some studies, as noted below, have actually seen better results in patients receiving TCM treatments over conventional medication therapies for dementia and Alzheimer’s.

How Can Acupuncture Help Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer's disease brain
Alzheimer’s disease appears to be caused by buildup of plaque or phlegm in the brain.

In TCM, we consider that many diseases are caused by a buildup of what we call “phlegm” in the organ systems of the body. The protein deposits in the brain referred to as “plaques” and “tangles” that seem to be the cause of dementia in older adults may be roughly analogous to the TCM concept of phlegm. Phlegm causes obstructions that block the free flow of Qi and blood through the body, causing breakdown in proper communication and cooperation between systems. There are records going back for hundreds of years of TCM herbal formulations being used to treat dementia by helping to get rid of pathogenic phlegm that blocks the meridians, or energy channels of the body.

According to TCM theory, the brain and the kidneys are closely related; the kidneys nourish the brain. If there is weakness or deficiency of Qi in the kidneys, it can lead  to symptoms like dizziness, confusion, amnesia and memory problems. TCM treatment for dementia related to Alzheimer’s disease and Lewy Body dementia, will focus on strengthening the kidneys and clearing phlegm from the body.

Acupuncture treatment can have a positive effect on neurotransmitters and neurochemical activity, helping to alleviate a variety of neurological and mental health disorders. Current research is helping to show that stimulating specific pressure points can activate parts of the brain in a way that may reduce the cognitive and memory-related symptoms of dementia.

A study was done to determine if using the traditional “Four Gates” acupuncture points increased brain activity and improved cognitive function. The testing showed that patients who received acupuncture treatment in these points experienced significant changes in the cognitive-related parts of the brain versus patients who were given “sham” acupuncture.
A recent review of several studies showed that acupuncture treatment for Alzheimer’s can improve memory and cognitive function.

A review of 12 studies involving the use of acupuncture and TCM herbs to treat Alzheimer’s showed improvement in symptoms that was more effective than conventional drug treatment.

Acupuncture Near Me for Alzheimer’s in Santa Monica, West Los Angeles

It can be painful to watch a loved one struggling with dementia caused by Alzheimer’s or some other progressive neurological disease. It is best to initiate treatment for dementia as soon as it becomes apparent, so that we can help to limit the progress of cognitive decline. TCM provides a holistic way to treat each individual so that they can continue to live a full, active life. At Art of Wellness, we have over 30 years of experience helping patients with neurological conditions of all kinds.

 

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

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