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How to Treat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) With Acupuncture and TCM

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

SAD, seasonal affective disorder, depression
Avoid seasonal affective disorder with TCM and sunlight.

Signs of depression as winter approaches? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a form of depression, with some similarities to bi polar disorder, that recurs at a certain time of year. Sometimes called seasonal depression, or “the winter blues,” SAD symptoms typically peak during the darkest months. Acupuncture and TCM can provide relief from Seasonal Affective Disorder symptoms, including depression and anxiety, insomnia, and fatigue.

SAD is a form of mental illness that affects 5-10% of the population every year. Women are more likely to experience seasonal depression symptoms than men, and this depressive disorder is more common in young adults than other age groups. However, anyone, at any age, can experience some symptoms of seasonal affective disorder.

People who live in colder climates, farther away from the earth’s equator, are statistically much more likely to have SAD than people who live in warmer areas. It is generally believed that shorter periods of daytime sunlight are a big part of what causes seasonal affective disorder. People who work indoors, or at night, are considered to be at a higher risk for developing SAD, because they aren’t exposed to daylight.

Often, signs of SAD begin to appear in late fall, and then worsen as the days get shorter and the winter months drag on. The symptoms of depression then go away as the days get longer, and spring starts. It is possible, though, for some people to have a type of seasonal depression that comes on in the summer, or any time of year. 

Mental health professionals consider SAD to be a specific type of bi polar disorder, or form clinical depression. Winter pattern SAD, or winter depression, is more common, but some people exhibit summer pattern SAD, or summer depression. A doctor will diagnose seasonal affective disorder with the same criteria they use for diagnosing major depression, when the symptoms have appeared at the same time for two or more consecutive years.

People may be more susceptible to SAD if they already suffer from other psychological disorders, like panic attacks, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, or ADHD, or if other people in their family also suffer from depression.

While medical science has not definitively proven what causes SAD, it is believed to be related to lower levels of serotonin and/or higher levels of melatonin. Imbalances in these brain chemicals can lead to the lethargic feelings and depressed mood that characterizes seasonal depression, which can have a dramatic impact on your ability to take part in your normal daily activities for four to five months out of the year.

Less daylight can also affect Vitamin D levels, as we normally get some of our Vitamin D from direct exposure to sunlight. The combination of the time change due to daylight savings time, and the shorter days, can have a major impact on your daily rhythms, and some people have a harder time making this adjustment.

When you are already feeling moody, anxious, or depressed, facing holiday events with your family or other people can feel overwhelming. Feelings of loneliness and sadness can make you feel isolated and unable to enjoy things that seem to be making others so happy. Changes in your appetite can lead to overeating unhealthy foods and weight gain, and you may feel triggered and self-conscious about your body.

TCM can be a highly effective way to treat all types of depression and anxiety, as it approaches mental health disorders holistically. Finding the root cause of emotional and physical symptoms from the TCM point of view can help relieve sleep problems and mood disorders, and help to restimulate mental clarity and a healthy appetite.

Top 10 SAD Symptoms

sleep, insomnia, fatigue, seasonal depression
Sleep problems can be a sign of SAD.

Naturally, most people feel some alteration in their mood and energy as the seasons change. Shorter days, longer nights, and colder temperatures are bound to have an effect on your mood and behavior. But, if you begin feeling persistently low, and notice that it is affecting your sleeping and eating habits, then you may need to pay closer attention to the possibility of seasonal depression. Symptoms of seasonal affective disorder include:

  1. Depression, depressed mood, sadness, feeling low
  2. Fatigue, lack of energy, low energy, tired all the time
  3. Sleep problems, insomnia, poor sleep, oversleeping
  4. Irritability, agitation, anxiety
  5. Changes in appetite, cravings for carbohydrates and/or sugar, or lack of appetite
  6. Weight gain or weight loss
  7. Lack of interest in activities you usually enjoy
  8. Difficulty concentrating, foggy headed
  9. Feelings of worthlessness, futility, guilt
  10. Dark feelings, thoughts of death, suicidal thoughts, suicidal ideation

Sometimes people show behavioral changes that are an indication of SAD. For some people, this might be an increase in repetitive motions, like pacing, hand-wringing, or general restlessness. For others, it may mean that their overall manner and mode of movement slows down and becomes sluggish. They have a hard time getting out of bed or off the couch; when they do, they may shuffle, slowly, and their posture is hunched over. People may avoid socializing and isolate themselves. They may have a low libido.

When people have winter-pattern SAD, the symptoms tend to lean towards depression, heaviness, oversleeping, overeating, and weight gain. Summer-pattern SAD may induce feelings of anxiety, agitation, lack of appetite, insomnia, irritability, and even anger and violent episodes.

Treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

If you seek medical help for seasonal affective disorder, you may be prescribed antidepressant medications, such as SSRIs. SSRIs (like Prozac, Lexapro, Zoloft or Celexa) help to elevate the levels of serotonin in the brain. Bupropion (Wellbutrin) is also used to help relieve symptoms of SAD by increasing serotonin and dopamine. Benzodiazepine (Xanax), which is generally used to help anxiety, may also be prescribed to help seasonal depression.

These medications can all have some negative side effects, and people may feel dependent on them, even when their SAD might naturally be abating.

Talk therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy can help people cope with their feelings and find ways to manage their behavior so that their health doesn’t suffer during the months they are having SAD symptoms.

Light therapy is now considered a viable way to treat SAD. This involves buying and using a special lamp to simulate sunlight. This can be helpful for some people, but for others, it can cause sleeplessness, eye strain, and headaches. People who have diabetes or eye problems should probably not use a light box because it could cause damage to the retina of the eye.  People who take certain kinds of anti-inflammatory medications or antibiotics can also be more sensitive to light. The light can also trigger manic episodes in people who already have bipolar disorder.

Acupuncture and TCM herbs offer a very safe way to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety, without unwanted side effects.

Can Acupuncture Help SAD or Seasonal Depression?

seasonal affective disorder, winter blues
The winter blues are a form of recurring depression.

In the practice of TCM, we pay close attention to the way the seasons impact our health, as our bodies and minds reflect the transformation of the world around us. Winter and Summer are times when the energy in our environment can feel the most dramatic, and the feelings these times inspire in us can go deep. Extreme heat and cold definitely have an effect on our bodies, and being surrounded by darkness or intense brightness can have a real impact on our mental outlook. 

The Five Elements theory in TCM gives us a framework for understanding how temperatures, light and colors, and other aspects of seasonal changes affect and interplay with the organ systems of the body. The Liver, for example, is considered to be responsible for moving Qi through the body. If the Liver Qi is stagnant and slow, it can lead to very real feelings of frustration and ultimately, depression. The Kidney is associated with sun energy, so lack of sunlight can lead to feeling cold and sad.

It is possible to balance this energy within ourselves, so that we can experience the seasons without harm to our physical or mental health. By using specific acupuncture points, we can help to nourish and strengthen the energy in the organ systems. We can also use acupressure points and herbs to help promote better sleep, relieve fatigue, restlessness, and irritability.

Top Tips from TCM to Help Prevent Seasonal Affective Disorder

soup, warm foods, SAD
Eat more warming, cooked foods like soups and stews.

Making changes to your lifestyle is essential in order to banish the winter blues. It is easy to get trapped in a cycle of unhealthy eating and sleeping behaviors, and it may take some effort to get back on track. To avoid sluggish energy and loss of fitness, make it your goal to adopt these daily habits:

 

  1. Eat More Nourishing, Warm Foods – Many people crave sweets and starchy foods during the winter months, but the combination of eating too many carbohydrates and not getting enough exercise can lead to weight gain. This will likely add to feelings of heaviness and depression. According to the TCM philosophy of nutrition, we want to concentrate on eating more warming foods like soups and stews with lots of vegetables, including hearty, filling foods like sweet potatoes and winter squashes. Add sour flavor and probiotics with fermented foods like pickled cabbage.
  2. Avoid Cold Foods and Drinks – Now it is especially important to avoid cold foods like iced treats, smoothies, or raw salads. Eating too much sugar or drinking alcohol, especially in the evening, can cause blood sugar levels to rise and then fall, which can cause you to wake up in the night. 
  3. Exercise in the Morning Light – A brisk walk around the neighborhood or a short hike in the fresh air is ideal. You want to get your heart pumping and take in as much sunlight as you can in the early part of the day. 
  4. Get Some Sun – Take every opportunity to sit by a window. If this is not possible, keep your work and home space well lit during the daytime, so that you don’t get drowsy. Go for one more walk in the afternoon to catch the sunset, if you can.
  5. Adjust Your Sleep Cycle – Go to bed earlier, and wake with the sun. It is natural that we want more rest and time in our cozy, warm beds in the winter. Avoid staying up in the darkness with the unnatural light from your screens shining in your eyes before bedtime. Wind down with a warm drink and a self-care foot massage.

 

Acupuncture Near Me for SAD and Seasonal Depression – Los Angeles Area

Acupuncture and TCM are now widely accepted as effective treatments for mental health issues and psychological disorders of all kinds: depression, anxiety, PTSD, panic disorder. A TCM practitioner will listen carefully to all of the physical and emotional symptoms each individual presents, and structure each acupuncture treatment and herbal formula accordingly. Thus, as the seasons change, and you go through life changes, your treatment plan changes, too. To avoid Seasonal Affective Disorder, it is best to see your acupuncturist a few months before the difficult season will arrive, so that this year, you can prevent seasonal depression from coming on.

 

*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 Pneumonia Symptoms With Acupuncture and TCM

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

lungs pneumonia
Pneumonia occurs when the air sacs at the ends of the bronchial tubes become inflamed.

Persistent cough with green or yellow mucus? Chest pain when you cough? High fever, sweating, trouble breathing? It’s important to know the signs of pneumonia, a serious lung infection that can be caused by bacterial infections or viruses like the flu, COVID-19, or even the common cold. You should seek medical help if you believe you have pneumonia; acupuncture and herbs can be considered as integrative care to help relieve symptoms of pneumonia.

The term pneumonia refers to an infection in the lungs that causes inflammation in the alveoli, or air sacs. These air sacs are clustered like fruits around the ends of the branches of the bronchial tubes that extend deep into the lungs. The alveoli inflate and deflate like tiny balloons. They are responsible for taking the oxygen from the air you inhale and depositing it into the bloodstream. When they become inflamed and filled with fluid due to infection, it is hard to breathe. If pneumonia infection is so severe that your body is not getting enough oxygen, then it can become quite dangerous.

Pneumonia can be caused by a variety of infectious bacteria or viruses, and often develops after, or in the tail end, of some other type of illness. A pneumonia infection can range in seriousness from mild to very severe. Bacterial pneumonia requires treatment, especially for people who are considered high risk, or it can be potentially life-threatening. Acupuncture and TCM offer an effective adjunct to conventional pneumonia treatment, allowing people to recover more quickly and fully.

Early Signs of Pneumonia

pneumonia persistent cough
A persistent cough with mucus and chest pain may indicate pneumonia.

In many cases, you start out having a cold, flu, or some other illness, and then it “turns into” pneumonia, as your lungs become inflamed and filled with pus or mucus. Symptoms of pneumonia include:

  • Cough with green or yellow mucus
  • High fever
  • Sweating
  • Trouble breathing, breathing fast
  • Fatigue
  • Fast heart beat
  • Chest pain, especially when coughing
  • Feeling confused or delirious
  • Lips and/or nails turn blue
  • Loss of appetite

Signs of pneumonia in children may be different that symptoms of pneumonia in adults. There may be coughing, wheezing and high fever, but there may also be vomiting and/or diarrhea, especially if the infection is in the lower part of the lungs. Children are at risk for becoming dehydrated under these circumstances.

Walking pneumonia symptoms are generally milder than other types of pneumonia, similar to symptoms of the common cold, like a low grade fever and hacking cough. A person may not feel so seriously ill that they can’t go about normal activities: hence the name “walking pneumonia.”

Pneumonia can affect just one one lung, or both. When both lungs are infected, it is called bilateral pneumonia, or double pneumonia. This does not necessarily mean the case is more severe.

Is Pneumonia Contagious?

Some types of pneumonia are caused by exposure to bacteria or viral particles in the air or on surfaces. Germs that cause colds and flu can lead to some people developing pneumonia, while other people could be exposed to those same germs and not get pneumonia. It really depends on a person’s constitutional health and immune system.

Other kinds, like fungal pneumonia or aspiration pneumonia, are not caught through contagion. They develop because of some substance, other than germs, getting into the lungs.

hospital acquired pneumonia
Sometimes people get pneumonia after being hospitalized for some other condition.

Some types of bacterial pneumonia would not be passed from person to person in normal day-to-day contact, but they may occur when a person is in a weakened state and/or an institutional setting. For example, klebsiella pneumoniae is a type of  bacteria that normally lives in the intestines and doesn’t cause illness. However, in a hospital, it is possible to be exposed to this type of bacteria via a worker’s hands or contaminated equipment, such as a catheter or ventilator. If this bacteria then reaches the lungs, it can cause pneumonia symptoms. 

Many people “catch” pneumonia when they are in a hospital or rehab setting. Sometimes, people develop pneumonia after being on a ventilator as treatment for some other illness or while recovering from surgery. When this happens, it is called hospital-acquired pneumonia, or health care-acquired pneumonia.

Top 5 Pneumonia Causes

Pneumonia can be caused by various types of infections: bacterial, viral, or fungal. 

  1. Bacterial Pneumonia – also called pneumococcal pneumonia, or streptococcus pneumonia, this is the most common type of pneumonia, and is caused by strep germs that cause upper respiratory illnesses. Almost a million Americans get this kind of pneumonia every year. It can happen at the tail-end of a cold or flu, or after having surgery or being hospitalized for some other reason. People with respiratory problems like asthma or emphysema are at higher risk, as are people who are immunocompromised.
  2. Viral Pneumonia – this is caused by an influenza virus or respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). This is the type that children may get more often. If a person who already has heart disease or lung disease, or someone who is pregnant, develops pneumonia after a flu, it can be very dangerous. 
  3. Mycoplasma Pneumoniae (Walking Pneumonia) – this type of pneumonia is caused by a bacterial strain. This usually affects younger people who are living, working, or going to school, and is often mild enough that people think they just have a cold. This is sometimes called “atypical pneumonia,” but that doesn’t mean it isn’t common.  
  4. Fungal Pneumonia – it is possible to get this kind of pneumonia if you are exposed to certain fungi in the environment, like those that live in soil and cause “valley fever,” or fungi that are found in bird droppings. 
  5. Legionnaires Disease –  legionella is a bacteria that can live in water or soil, and is sometimes present in plumbing, air conditioning systems, pools, or jacuzzis. People can sometimes breathe it in while gardening. If an at-risk individual breathes in this bacteria, they may develop a kind of pneumonia that also causes body aches. In some cases, people may go into septic shock or kidney failure.

People who have weakened immunity due to conditions like HIV/AIDS, or because they are going through chemotherapy for cancer, are at heightened risk for developing pneumonia, as are people who have trouble swallowing due to neurological conditions like stroke, Alzheimer’s disease/dementia, Parkinson’s disease, or ALS

Smoking or using other drugs can also increase the risk of aspiration pneumonia, which can occur if a person breathes something–such as saliva, vomit, or food particles–into their bronchial tubes instead of swallowing it.

People with pre-existing lung conditions like COPD or Cystic Fibrosis (CF), or other chronic illnesses, like diabetes, are also at higher risk for getting a serious case of pneumonia.

Medical Pneumonia Treatment

pneumonia lungs x-ray
X-rays will show inflammation in the lungs.

It is important to seek treatment if you believe you have pneumonia, because it can become very serious very quickly. First, doctors will do testing to determine what is causing the pneumonia. They will probably perform an x-ray to see where the lungs are inflamed. 

Bacterial forms of pneumonia are typically treated with antibiotics, usually some form of amoxicillin. Pneumonia antibiotics cannot help if you have viral pneumonia, although some doctors may recommend medicines like Tamiflu, to help with symptoms. 

Recovering from pneumonia takes time, no matter what kind of medication you take. It is normal to feel very tired, possibly for up to a month, or more. Rest, and drink lots of liquids, reduce your workload, and accept help whenever possible.

Acupuncture treatment and Chinese herb preparations can be very helpful for helping facilitate a more comfortable recovery from pneumonia.

Can Acupuncture Help Pneumonia?

According to TCM theory of disease, pneumonia is considered an invasion of the lungs by dampness and heat that leads to the production of phlegm. Wind and heat cause the fever and chills and sweating associated with the pneumonia.

TCM treatment for pneumonia can help on multiple levels: first, by addressing the infection in the lungs, second, by alleviating respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms, and third, by helping to offset any negative side effects of conventional medical treatments.

Chinese herbs in powder form
Chinese herbs in powder form.

Chinese herbal formulations can help to clear heat and congestion from the lungs, reduce fever, and relieve coughing. One study observed two groups of pneumonia patients: both groups were given conventional antibiotics, but one group also received acupuncture herbs, which increased the total effectiveness rate by 10%.

Acupuncture was found to help patients who were hospitalized with severe pneumonia, reducing the amount of time they needed to be on ventilator machines and improving their symptoms.

Another study of children being treated in the hospital for pneumonia found that those who had acupuncture treatment had shorter hospital stays and needed less medication.

TCM works effectively as preventive medicine, so coming in for a regular “acupuncture tune-up” can help you avoid the seasonal colds and flus that can turn into pneumonia. It can also help immunocompromised people and those at higher risk of aspiration pneumonia due to neurological conditions avoid becoming ill.

Acupuncture Near Me for Pneumonia 

If you are experiencing fever, chest pain when coughing, extreme fatigue, sweating, and/or looking blue around the lips, do not hesitate to get medical attention. Pneumonia requires urgent care. Once diagnostics have determined whether you have bacterial pneumonia or some other type, then it can be beneficial for you to add integrative care in the form of acupuncture and herbs to your recovery program. TCM methods can help clear phlegm from your lungs and help you regain your strength.

 

 

*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 the Common Cold With Acupuncture and TCM

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

common cold acupuncture
The common cold is an infection that mainly affects your nose and throat.

Sneezing, runny nose, nasal congestion, cough? How can you tell if it’s a cold symptom, a flu, COVID-19, mononucleosis, croup, or maybe an allergy? All of these illnesses can cause fatigue and a stuffy nose. The common cold, however, does not cause a high fever, and the cough is usually mild, not a persistent cough. Acupuncture and TCM herbs offer a highly effective way to relieve common cold symptoms.

A cold is a kind of viral infection that affects your upper respiratory tract, centering mostly in the nose and throat. Different viruses can cause the common cold; rhinovirus is the most common kind of cold virus.

You can catch a cold virus when you are near someone else who sneezes or coughs, and you get droplets containing the virus into your own nose, mouth, or eyes, or you touch something they coughed or sneezed on, and then touch your own face.

Young children and people with weakened immune systems are more prone to catching colds, as are people who smoke. You’re more likely to catch a cold if you spend a lot of time in crowded places, like schools, airports, public transportation, etc. More people get colds during the winter, because more people are packed together indoors, but cold-causing viruses are circulating all through the year.

You will start feeling cold symptoms within a few days of being exposed to the virus. Typically, without any medical intervention, a cold will last about a week or ten days. For some people, though, a cold can lead to other, more serious infections, like an ear infection, asthma and wheezing, sinusitis/sinus infection, bronchitis, or even pneumonia.

Cold symptoms aren’t so much caused by the virus, but by the workings of the body’s own immune system to expel the virus. Coughing and a runny nose are the body’s way of getting the virus out of the respiratory system. While the common cold doesn’t necessarily require any medical treatment, it is best to take steps to strengthen your immune system and clear the virus as soon as you can.

Chinese herbs and acupuncture treatment are an excellent way to shorten the duration and lessen the severity of a cold. Regular acupuncture treatment also functions as preventive medicine, so that you and your family don’t catch cold nearly as often.

Top 10 Common Cold Symptoms

common cold sneezing stuffy nose
Sneezing, stuffy nose, and sore throat are the most common cold symptoms.

How can you tell if you have a cold or a flu? Usually, cold symptoms are more centered in the nose and throat, and are milder than flu symptoms. A flu is more likely to cause serious fatigue, chills and fever, and body aches than a cold is. 

The typical symptoms of common cold include:

  1. Runny nose, stuffy nose, nasal congestion
  2. Sneezing
  3. Sore throat
  4. Cough
  5. Post-nasal drip
  6. Watery eyes
  7. Headache
  8. Body aches
  9. Low grade fever
  10. Fatigue, feeling tired

Sometimes people differentiate between head cold symptoms and a chest cold. A head cold describes the way most rhinovirus colds manifest in the upper respiratory organs: with a stuffed up nose, sniffling, headaches, and a red, sore throat.

If the cold “moves” down into the chest, causing inflamed bronchial tubes, and mucus production in the lungs, this is called acute bronchitis. This feels more like chest congestion, with a more persistent cough. Once a cold turns into bronchitis, you are more likely to have a serious cough, with or without coughing up phlegm.

How Is the Common Cold Usually Treated?

The accepted wisdom is that there is no cure for a cold; you just have to do whatever you can to make yourself more comfortable while the illness runs its course. Antibiotics only help get rid of bacterial infections. They do not help when you have a viral infection.

While it is true that there is no medication you can take to get rid of a cold, there are many remedies, both traditional home remedies for cough, and popular over-the-counter medicines and health store supplements that claim to take care of your cold symptoms.

common cold remedies
Hot soup is a popular remedy for a cold.

Many people swear by things like Vitamin C, Zinc lozenges, or echinacea preparations. Other people will tell you to drink hot honey water and eat chicken soup. All of these natural cold remedies may have some benefits. At least, they don’t do any harm.

Other cold medicines may do more harm than good. Cough suppressants and nasal decongestants actually work against your body’s natural defenses. Your body is producing mucus and the cough reflex in order to expel the virus and keep it out of your lungs. Repressing these natural immune responses can prolong your cold. 

Nasal decongestants like Sudafed can cause a fast heart rate and jittery feelings, especially in young children. Cough syrup with antitussive properties, or cough suppressant, can have negative side effects besides just making you drowsy or irritable. Some cough medicines can interact with other medications, making them inappropriate for people who have problems like high blood pressure, enlarged prostate (BPH), or glaucoma.

Trying to power on through your days with the help of OTC cold relief medications, caffeinated drinks, and sugary cough drops, without getting the rest you need, is not a good idea. Getting extra rest and drinking plenty of fluids are definitely tried and true ways to get over your cold.

Consider that acupuncture and herbal medicine developed over centuries of TCM tradition can help address cold symptoms without any side effects, and may help you recover more quickly than rest alone.

TCM for Colds: How to Get Rid of a Cold Fast

TCM cupping acupuncture
Cupping treatment helps move Qi, blood, and lymph to relieve congestion.

In TCM we consider some conditions to be external, meaning that they come from outside the body, in the form of pathogenic factors like heat, cold, wind, and dampness. Based on the environment, and the types of symptoms, we determine whether a cold follows a pattern of a cold-wind type, or a heat-wind type, or sometimes a hot-damp type as might occur during the summertime. An acupuncture practitioner will then base the treatment on the pattern of cold presented.

Acupuncture treatment influences the immune system’s response, and since that is what is actually causing the symptoms of a cold, the use of acupuncture points for cold and sore throat can really have a positive effect on reducing cold symptoms.

Cupping is a TCM modality that may be used to help treat colds and other respiratory conditions. Cupping helps to relieve congestion and gets lymph and blood circulation moving.

When you come in with a cold, your TCM provider will tailor your acupuncture treatment and prepare an herb formula specific to your needs. That said, our patients who have been coming into Art of Wellness for many years know that there is a

TCM herbs for colds
Take Yin Chiao pills at the first sign of a cold.

standard formula that is excellent for “knocking out” a cold if you can catch it at the very beginning. Right when you begin to feel that tickle in the back of your throat, that is the time to reach for your supply of Yin Chiao pills!

Ginger tea, made by simply slicing a bit of fresh ginger and steeping it in hot water, is also a great way to stop a cold in its tracks, before it gets worse.

Acupuncture Near Me for Common Cold in Santa Monica, West LA

Making time for regular acupuncture “tune-up” visits can help keep your body and mind balanced and your immune system in good working order. In the ancient TCM tradition, acupuncturists used to treat their patients for free when they caught a cold type illness, because it meant they hadn’t done their job of boosting immunity well enough. Prevention is certainly the best medicine when it comes to colds and flus. When you do begin to feel the first signs of a cold, though, it isn’t too late. Come in for a treatment, or call us at Art of Wellness to order some herbs to be shipped to you. We can help you get over your cold symptoms quickly.

 

 

*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 Trigeminal Neuralgia With Acupuncture and TCM

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

Trigeminal Neuralgia face pain
Trigeminal Neuralgia causes pain in the cheek, jaw, or behind the eye.

Sudden, sharp, shooting pain in the cheek or jaw that feels like an electric shock? Intense facial pain that lasts for a few seconds or a few minutes, and then goes away? This could be a sign of Trigeminal Neuralgia, a type of nerve pain or neuropathy that affects the nerves in the face. TCM and acupuncture provide a safe, effective trigeminal neuralgia treatment to relieve pain.

Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic pain disorder associated with the trigeminal nerve, which branches out across the face along each eye, cheek, and the upper and lower jaws. It communicates signals from the face to the brain related to pressure and temperature, and is also involved with the motor action of chewing.

Neuropathy is a general term that refers to any kind of nerve damage or dysfunction that leads to sensations of pain, tingling, or numbness. When there is something wrong with the trigeminal nerve–maybe compression, a lesion on the nerve, or some other problem–then even a light touch, or eating something hot or cold, can cause a very intense pain signal. Trigeminal neuralgia is sometimes called tic douloureux, meaning “painful tic,” because the jolt of pain causes people to wince or grimace. Sometimes people think the pain they’re feeling is dental pain.

The pain of trigeminal neuralgia is often described in terms like: stabbing, burning, and excruciating pain. Sometimes people say it feels like a sudden electric shock. This pain may last only a few seconds, or a few minutes, or it can come and go over the course of hours or days.

Trigeminal neuralgia pain often flares up on just one side of the face, sometimes isolated to one area. Pain may be around or behind the eye, across the cheek, along the jaw, or inside the mouth. Doctors categorize trigeminal neuralgia into 2 types:

  1. Type 1 – Typical – facial pain occurs in sporadic, sudden bursts which may last seconds or minutes, or come and go over the course of a few hours. There are periods of times between episodes when there is no pain.
  2. Types 2 – Atypical – pain in face is constant, with aching, burning sensations present over a widespread area.

Trigeminal neuropathy is similar in some ways to other cranial neuropathy conditions like Bell’s Palsy. In the case of Bell’s palsy, lack of blood flow to the 7th cranial nerve causes a temporary paralysis of the facial muscles and one side of the face to droop. Bell’s Palsy usually goes away after a while, but Trigeminal neuropathy tends to become a chronic condition that gets worse as time goes on.

Acupuncture and TCM are an excellent way to help relieve pain and dysfunction due to all types of neuropathies, including Bell’s Palsy, peripheral neuropathy, sciatica/sciatic nerve pain, piriformis syndrome, radiculopathy (pinched nerve) that can cause neck pain, thoracic or low back pain, or shoulder pain, occipital neuralgia, Morton’s neuroma, and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Acupuncture treatment can help not only to relieve pain caused by nerve disorders, but can actually help to repair damaged nerves, regenerate nerve tissues, and facilitate better communication throughout the nervous system.

Top 10 Trigeminal Neuralgia Triggers

hot cold trigger Trigeminal Neuralgia
Eating or drinking things that are hot or cold can trigger Trigeminal Neuralgia pain.

Trigeminal neuralgia pain can occur spontaneously for no apparent reason, but it is often triggered by some sort of touch, movement, or other stimulus. Some common triggers of trigeminal neuralgia pain include:

  1. Brushing your teeth
  2. Eating or drinking something hot, cold, or spicy
  3. Touching your face, leaning your face on your hand
  4. Shaving facial hair
  5. Putting on makeup
  6. Washing your face
  7. Talking
  8. Smiling, laughing
  9. A breeze blowing in your face, wind in your face
  10. Vibrations from being in a car or airplane, etc.

While the nerve pain caused by trigeminal neuralgia is not life-threatening, and doesn’t really affect your ability to move your face, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have an impact on your life. Never knowing when you might suddenly experience severe pain is debilitating. Many people with this type of neuropathy pain can fall into a depression and even begin to experience suicidal thoughts because the thought of having to live with this kind of pain forever is scary.

What Causes Trigeminal Neuralgia?

Trigeminal neuralgia tends to occur more frequently in women, and in people who are over 50.  While the exact cause is not always apparent, it usually has to do with a blood vessel creating extra pressure somewhere along the nerve. Sometimes it can be due to a head injury or a tumor in the brain. Multiple sclerosis (MS) can sometimes contribute to trigeminal neuralgia. Sometimes people develop trigeminal neuralgia after a dental procedure.

Trigeminal Neuralgia Treatment Medications

The medications most commonly prescribed for people suffering from trigeminal neuralgia are a class of drugs called anticonvulsants. These medications were originally intended to be used to treat seizures and epilepsy, but they have been found to help some people with neuropathy pain, too. Medicines like Neurontin and Topamax can help disrupt the nerve signals that are causing the pain.

The side effects of these medications can include dizziness, trouble concentrating or remembering things, drowsiness, headaches, vision problems, and nausea.

If a patient has not found relief from trigeminal neuralgia nerve pain with medication, then surgery may be attempted. Doctors may drill into the skull to expose the trigeminal nerve and try to remove blood vessels that may be pressing against the nerve. This is called microvascular decompression (MVD), and is an invasive operation that carries risks and requires a few weeks of recovery time. Not everyone gets pain relief from this procedure, in which case, other options may be tried.

Gamma knife radiosurgery and Radiofrequency lesioning are less invasive procedures that involve applying radiation or heat from an electrode to the trigeminal nerve. The idea is to purposely damage the nerve in order to stop the pain signals. In some cases, this can lead to numbness, or loss of sensation in the face. For some patients, the pain comes back in a matter of years, in which case the surgery can be repeated.

Acupuncture offers an alternative treatment that can relieve pain from trigeminal neuralgia without side effects or risk of permanent nerve damage.

Can Acupuncture Help Trigeminal Neuralgia?

trigeminal neuralgia acupuncture
An invasion of cold wind can lead to facial nerve pain.

According to the TCM view, different people can suffer from the same type of pain condition or disease but have different underlying problems that are the root cause of the pain. When treating individual patients, an acupuncture practitioner first listens carefully and observes all of a person’s symptoms to determine what kind of internal pathogens or imbalances may be contributing to the pain disorder.

In the case of trigeminal neuralgia, the cause may be related to a blockage in the stomach meridian, which extends into the same facial areas as the trigeminal nerve does. As with other neurological conditions (like Bell’s Palsy and Parkinson’s disease), this blockage may be related to an invasion of wind, either hot or cold, that affects the flow of Qi through the face and head.

In addition to acupuncture treatment, Chinese herbs can help strengthen Qi and help with the rejuvenation of nerve cells. It is also important for a person struggling with trigeminal neuralgia to be cautious of eating or drinking anything that is too hot or too cold. It is also advised that you avoid spicy foods, caffeine, sugar, and processed foods.

Acupuncture works as a natural analgesic to relieve pain, affecting the way that nerve cells transmit pain signals and activating the opioid receptors in the brain.

A case study of a woman who had suffered from trigeminal neuralgia pain for 25 years found that after six weeks of acupuncture treatment, she was free of pain, and was still free of pain six months later.

A review of studies related to trigeminal neuralgia treatments concluded that acupuncture was more effective for pain management of trigeminal neuralgia than medication or surgery, and had fewer adverse effects than either of the other solutions. Over a five year period, acupuncture treatment also cost significantly less money than other treatments.

A study that compared patients who had had trigeminal neuralgia symptoms for an average of 10 years. Half were treated with acupuncture and the other half treated with the anticonvulsant medication Carbamazepine. The acupuncture group reported a higher percentage of effective pain reduction; 95% of the patients found relief, with 30 out of 40 people reporting that their pain was totally resolved.

One study of a dozen patients treated with acupuncture found that all of the participants had reduced pain, to the point that they no longer needed to take medications for trigeminal neuralgia.

Acupuncture Near Me for Trigeminal Neuralgia in the Los Angeles Area

Trigeminal neuralgia can have a serious impact on a person’s quality of life. The pain of this nerve condition can be so extreme that it inspires fear and depression. The standard medical treatments for trigeminal neuralgia don’t work for everyone, and they can come with significant negative side effects. If you or someone you love is suffering from facial pain, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at Art of Wellness Acupuncture. Drs. Tan and Cai have been serving the Westside and Santa Monica since 1995, with expertise in TCM and integrative medicine.

 

*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 Mononucleosis With Acupuncture and TCM

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

mono Epstein Barr virus chronic fatigue
EBV can lead to mono and chronic fatigue.

Fatigue, fever, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, rash? These might be mono symptoms. Mononucleosis, often referred to as “mono,” is an illness caused by the Epstein Barr virus, also known as “EBV.” Epstein Barr is a very common contagious virus. An EBV infection sometimes leads to mononucleosis symptoms. Acupuncture and TCM herbs can help relieve mono symptoms in adults, teens, and children.

Mononucleosis is an infectious disease caused by the Epstein Barr virus. EBV is one of the family of herpes viral infections. Most people (over 90%) are infected with EBV at some time in their lives, but many aren’t aware of it.

How is mono contagious? Epstein Barr spreads through body fluids, especially saliva. This is why mononucleosis is sometimes called the “kissing disease.” You can catch EBV by sharing a cup or bottle, for example. It can also be spread through sexual contact, sharing needles, blood transfusions, or organ transplants.

The Epstein Barr virus can be present for several weeks before a person starts showing any mononucleosis symptoms. Often people will have the virus, but not show any Epstein Barr symptoms at all. During that time, they may be contagious and able to pass the virus to others.

Mono symptoms can take a while to develop, and may not be recognized right away as anything other than a simple cold or flu. For some people, especially children, EPV will cause a short-term illness that seems like a common cold. However, some people, especially teenagers and young adults, will develop mononucleosis, which causes serious fatigue and other symptoms.

Mono may clear up in a few weeks, but for some people it can drag on for months. Sometimes mononucleosis turns into a long-standing illness, causing extreme fatigue that just doesn’t seem to want to go away.

As with other viruses, like herpes simplex or varicella/chicken pox, which can later lead to shingles, EBV can stay in the body in a dormant state for a long time. Some people with weakened immune systems may have EBV reactivate and cause illness again, or cause them to be contagious to others again. 

It is now believed that reactivation of the Epstein Barr virus may be an underlying cause that contributes to some chronic autoimmune disorders, like ME/CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome), lupus, MS, celiac disease, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and hyperthyroidism.

There is really no specific medical mono treatment. Doctors and patients will usually treat it the same as they would a cold, recommending rest and over the counter medicines to reduce fever and pain while they wait it out.

Acupuncture and Chinese herbs offer a more comprehensive way to deal with the fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and muscle aches associated with mononucleosis. TCM treatment can also boost the immune system so that an Epstein Barr viral infection doesn’t lead to more serious illness or autoimmune disorders later on.

Top 10 Mononucleosis Symptoms

mononucleosis fatigue
Mono can cause extreme fatigue.

Many people contract the Epstein Barr virus and are never aware of it, either because they experience no symptoms, or the symptoms are similar to those of a mild cold or flu. How do you know if you have mono? Mononucleosis symptoms develop differently in each individual, but the most common Epstein Barr symptoms include:

  1. Fatigue, extreme fatigue, tired all the time, exhausted, feeling weak
  2. Foggy head, difficulty concentrating
  3. Sore throat
  4. Swollen lymph nodes, swollen glands in the neck and armpits
  5. Fever, high fever
  6. Headaches
  7. Rash, skin rash, mono rash, viral rash 
  8. Loss of appetite, no appetite
  9. Muscle pain, joint pain
  10. Abdominal pain, swollen spleen, enlarged spleen, enlarged liver

Mono affects the liver and spleen, sometimes causing swelling, jaundice, and even a kind of temporary mono hepatitis. In rare cases, EBV can cause serious liver problems, leading to acute liver failure, and the need for a liver transplant.

EBV can also cause further complications, like swollen tonsils, anemia, low blood platelet count, and inflammation of the heart. Epstein Barr sometimes leads to other nervous system disorders, like: viral meningitis, encephalitis, and Guillain-Barre syndrome.

The TCM approach to Epstein Barr virus can provide a natural remedy for mononucleosis symptoms, and work to strengthen the immune system, as well as the liver and spleen.

Can Acupuncture Help Mono?

fatigue headaches mono
Mono headaches and chronic fatigue can drag on for months.

We now know that mononucleosis is caused by a specific viral infection. Most people get this virus, but relatively few people have a full-blown case of mononucleosis. Most people who do get mono have it when they are teenagers, or in college. Why do some people get mono and others don’t? It has to do with the immune system. People who have a weakened immune system are more likely to get mono, and more likely to have mono for a long time. In some cases, the virus takes a deep hold in the body, and can be triggered again some time later, causing more illness. 

Acupuncture and TCM healing modalities can work well for diseases that can be hard to treat with conventional medicine. Chinese herbs and acupuncture treatment can help address the specific cold and flu-like symptoms of mono, like sore throat, fever, headache, muscle ache, headaches, and skin rash. Acupuncture treatment can also help to restore normal function of the spleen and liver. Finally, acupuncture treatment can be used as an ongoing preventive care to build up the immune system. 

This means also taking steps to address mental and emotional well-being. It is now understood that autoimmune disorders can be triggered by life stress, mental health disorders like anxiety or depression, or post-traumatic stress. This means, if a person has had EBV, has weakened immunity, and then goes through some difficult period, event, loss, or illness, they may have an increased chance of developing an autoimmune disorder, like chronic fatigue. 

By taking a proactive attitude in addressing Epstein Barr and mononucleosis, and working holistically to address underlying problems with the immune system, TCM herbs and acupuncture treatment can help prevent EBV from showing up later in the form of an autoimmune disorder. 

Not much scientific research has yet been done to show how acupuncture helps EBV or mono. However, more medical doctors are beginning to recognize that Eastern medicine can offer benefits for illnesses like mononucleosis, Epstein Barr, and other diseases.

One clinical study of children treated with conventional medicine versus TCM herbal formulations showed that the herbs helped children recover from EBV symptoms like swollen tonsils more quickly.

Acupuncture Near Me for Mononucleosis/Epstein Barr Virus – West Los Angeles

TCM has developed methods for treating illnesses of all kinds over many centuries; the paradigm for categorizing diseases and what causes them is different than that in Western medicine. Thus, we are able to look at each person’s symptoms and constitution on an individual basis, and provide treatment so that they feel better and their organ systems actually get stronger. The doctors at Art of Wellness have over 35 years of experience helping people overcome lengthy illnesses and chronic fatigue.

 

*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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