What We Treat – Common Conditions

Acupuncture is recognized by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to be effective in the treatment of a wide variety of medical conditions. Below is a list of some health issues that we have addressed in our practice. Click each topic to read more.

Allergies

According to Chinese medical theory, the symptoms and signs that indicate a Western diagnosis of allergies relate to imbalances in the meridian and Organ Systems of the body. These imbalances may stem from a variety of causes, including stress, poor diet, constitutional weakness, pollutants and environmental toxins.

Over time, if imbalances remain within the body, they will affect the functions of the Organ Systems. Some of these Organ Systems are involved in the production of Wei Qi (pronounced “way chee”). According to the theories of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, it is important to have
the correct quality and quantity of Wei Qi circulating around the body in order to stay healthy.

What is Wei Qi?

The Chinese concept of Wei Qi is similar to the Western concept of the immune system. Wei Qi functions to protect and defend the body against foreign substances, that if not caught can lead to allergies. When Wei Qi is strong and abundant, we remain healthy. When the supply of Wei Qi becomes deficient, health is compromised and we become vulnerable to foreign invaders such as dust, mold, animal dander, bacteria, viruses and pollen. People who have a Wei Qi deficiency are prone to allergies and frequent colds.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine support and strengthen the systems of the body that are involved in the production of Wei Qi. By building up the supply of Wei Qi, and facilitating the smooth and free flow of it through the body, symptoms and signs related to allergies could be greatly reduced or eliminated.

Allergies according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can be due to a variety of factors. Below are some of the more common TCM diagnoses that your acupuncturist
may discover and treat.

  • Wei Qi deficiency
  • Spleen weakness
  • Kidney deficiency
  • Lung deficiency

What will an acupuncturist do?

An acupuncturist will conduct a thorough exam, taking a complete health history. They will then develop a unique treatment plan that will address your specific concerns. The goals of the treatment plan will be to eliminate visible symptoms and signs, while addressing the root cause(s) and underlying imbalances affecting the quality and quantity of Wei Qi.

Acupuncture treatments may be combined with herbs, dietary changes, massage (tuina), or exercise. These therapies accelerate the healing process in order to balance, build, and support the body’s Wei Qi.

Seasonal allergy tips:

  1. Flush your nose with a Neti pot.
  2. Add spicy foods and omega-3’s to your diet.
  3. Keep your windows closed during allergy season to prevent dust and pollen from entering.
  4. Put on a dust mask when you are doing yard or house work.
  5. Do not hang your clothes out to dry in the sun, as they
    will gather dust, mold and pollen.
  6. Come in for an acupuncture tune-up.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are a drug-free, safe, natural and effective way to eliminate hay fever, allergies or the common cold.

Anxiety

 

Stress can create health problems
Anxiety is an increasingly common mental health condition.

Anxiety is the most common mental health problem amongst people in the U.S., and the numbers of people seeking medical help for types of anxiety disorders are increasing dramatically. Anxiety is clinically defined as a persistent feeling of apprehension, accompanied by physical sensations such as increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, and sweating. Worrying is a normal response to stressors in the environment, and the attendant physical feelings are the result of a complex series of reactions in the brain, nervous system and endocrine system. Anxiety becomes a disorder when these reactions occur without reason or warning, and the symptoms of anxiety become so severe that they are debilitating.

It is estimated that only about 40% of people who struggle with anxiety actually get medical treatment for anxiety symptoms. Since about 20% of Americans do seek treatment for anxiety disorders each year, that means many, many people are suffering and not getting help. Typically, when people do consult a doctor about anxiety, they are referred for psychotherapy or prescribed medications, or both. Acupuncture and TCM have been shown to be more helpful for relieving panic attacks, sleep anxiety, and shortness of breath anxiety than benzodiazepine drugs, which can cause side effects and lead to dependency and withdrawal symptoms.

7 Types of Anxiety Disorders

Different types of anxiety have different origins and manifest unique combinations of anxiety symptoms in each individual. Some types of anxiety disorders stem from traumatic events in a person’s life, while others may be caused by physical chemical imbalances within the brain and endocrine system. By the time anxiety becomes severe, the mental, emotional and physical effects all trigger one another in a repetitive yet scarily unpredictable pattern. 

Mental health professionals differentiate several types of anxiety disorders:

  1. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – when a person has been experiencing a heightened sense of worry, usually focused on normal circumstances such as work, school, relationships or personal health, daily for a period over six months, it is diagnosed as GAD. The constant sense of fear can have a serious negative impact on the ability to cope with daily routines. Symptoms of GAD include:  persistent tension, feeling “edgy,” fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and restless sleep.
  2. Panic Disorder – when a person has recurrent panic attacks–sudden, intense sensations of fear and dread that peak within a few minutes and gradually subside. These can occur unexpectedly or be triggered by a stressful situation. Symptoms of a panic attack include: palpitations, accelerated heartbeat, sweating, shaking or trembling, difficulty breathing, sensation of choking, feeling of intense dread, sense of being out of control, unable to function. Panic attacks are terrifying when they occur, and create a more persistent feeling of worry, as a person wonders when and why it might happen again at any time.
  3. Phobia-related disorders – involve fear related to a specific object or situation, such as flying in an airplane or a certain animal. Agoraphobia is a common phobia, in which a person is afraid to leave her own home.
  4. Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) – creates unbidden thought patterns that cause a person to compulsively repeat behaviors such as hand-washing, counting items, or constantly checking safety measures. 
  5. Social Anxiety – causes people to avoid social situations, worrying that others are judging them negatively, or feeling excessively embarrassed by perceived awkward interactions. This disorder can negatively impact one’s ability to thrive in educational or work settings, and to feel lacking in social support.
  6. Separation Anxiety – often associated with anxiety in children who are learning to detach from their parents, but separation anxiety in adults is also possible. People of all ages can experience deep fears related to the possibility of being separated from their loved ones. 
  7. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) – is a response to an extremely traumatic life event. Having endured an attack or witnessing something horrifying, a person may experience flashbacks, reliving the moments and feeling the same overwhelming terror. The resulting anxiety and depression can last years if it is inadequately addressed.

Mental health professionals generally treat all of these disorders with psychotherapy or prescribed medications, or both. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for anxiety often focuses on talking about the person’s fears and consciously learning and practicing new ways to think and react in stressful situations. Psychiatric medications are used to try to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety. Benzodiazepines like Valium and Xanax work on the nervous system and have a sedative effect. Antidepressants or SSRIs are often prescribed for anxiety because they work on serotonin levels in the brain. People tend to build up a tolerance to these drugs, and can sometimes form a dependence on them, suffering withdrawal symptoms when they try to stop taking them. 

How to Treat Anxiety Symptoms with Acupuncture

acupuncture for anxiety
Acupuncture is an effective treatment for anxiety symptoms.

One of the greatest benefits of acupuncture for chronic anxiety is that the effects are immediate. Most patients feel calmer right after their first acupuncture treatment, and experience even more anxiety relief as the cumulative results of a full course of treatment build up over time. Sleep anxiety and restless sleep are usually alleviated quickly. 

TCM providers are trained to address the mental, emotional, and physical needs of each patient in a holistic way. A mind-body approach means that every aspect of the patient’s lifestyle, life history, health history and constitution are taken into consideration before a treatment plan is developed. TCM treatment symptoms of anxiety may include a combination of several modalities: acupuncture, electro-acupuncture, auricular acupuncture, herbal supplements, diet and nutrition guidance, and moxibustion.

In conventional medicine, anxiety disorders are considered to be dysfunctions in a person’s brain chemistry. An acupuncturist views anxiety as an imbalance in a person’s organ systems. According to TCM philosophy, there are five zang and six fu organs. Anxiety disorders are generally considered to stem from the zang organs. The zang organs are heart, lung, spleen, liver, and kidneys. These organs are reservoirs of Qi, blood, and other body fluids. The heart is also believed to house the “Shen,” or spirit, of the person, but when a person is coping with anxiety, the Shen is always out of harmony in some way. Each zang organ corresponds to a particular emotion and attendant symptoms.

  • Heart – sadness, despair, trouble sleeping
  • Spleen – worry, focusing too much on one thing, fatigue
  • Liver – anger, bitterness, losing one’s temper
  • Lung – grief, detachment
  • Kidneys – fear, feelings of isolation, weakness

The role of an acupuncturist is to investigate the underlying causes of the anxiety by carrying out a thorough diagnostic evaluation in order to determine which organ system has been affected and is out of balance. The acupuncturist will then seek to restore balance by inserting fine, sterile needles into the points correlating to those organs. 

From a more scientific perspective, Acupuncture has been shown to increase levels of mood-boosting neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and endorphins, helping to produce sensations of relaxation and well-being. Acupuncture can help reduce the occurrence of panic attacks, improve sleep, and reduce apprehension before and after surgical procedures.

TCM Herbs are Natural Remedies for Anxiety Relief

Chinese herbs
Chinese herbs help balance hormones and brain chemistry.

Specific Chinese herb formulas have been shown to have natural anxiolytic properties. Overall, herbal remedies are safer and more effective than prescription medicines for anxiety. One study compared the results of patients taking an SSRI antidepressant medication for anxiety versus patients treated with acupuncture  and a Chinese herb formulation designed to work on the spleen and liver. After two weeks, the patients using TCM showed significantly more improvement of anxiety symptoms over the patients using only pharmacological intervention. SSRIs seek to correct dysfunctions of serotonin production and utilization within the brain, but these medications do not work for everyone, and people build up a tolerance to the effects of the drugs.

Anxiety Relief with TCM Doctors in Santa Monica, CA

If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety, do not hesitate to contact us at Art of Wellness. Receiving regular acupuncture treatments can not only reduce current symptoms of anxiety, but can boost your immune system, improve quality of life and longevity. Establishing a trusting partnership with an experienced, highly qualified TCM provider will allow you to heal and move forward with a more harmonious life.

Arthritis

If you live with arthritis, you know what a challenge it can be to find relief from joint pain and other symptoms. But there are many things you can do to manage and control your arthritis and live a healthy, active life. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can be powerful additions to any treatment plan, without causing harmful side effects.

Arthritis according to Western Medicine

Osteoarthritis (OA) is the most common type of arthritis, affecting more than 21 million Americans. It occurs when the cartilage between the joints breaks down, usually affecting the hips, hands, knees, low back, or neck.

Some factors can increase your risk, including a joint injury, being overweight, aging, and genetics. Putting stress on a joint through repetitive motion can also increase your risk.

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is another common type, affecting 2.1 million people in the United States. This chronic condition occurs when the lining of the joints becomes inflamed, and can lead to long-term joint damage and even loss of movement. Women are two to three times more likely to get RA.

RA often starts in the hands or feet, and usually affects the same joints on both sides of the body. Symptoms include:

  • Warm, swollen or tender joints
  • Joint stiffness, especially in the morning
  • Fatigue
  • Flu-like symptoms such as fever
  • Muscle pain and weakness

Treatment options

Western treatment generally focuses on relieving pain and preventing further joint damage. Often this is done through the use of anti-inflammatory drugs and other medications, as well as through self-care and physical therapy. In some cases, surgery may even be needed.

Causes of arthritis from a TCM perspective
  • Weakness or deficiency of the internal organs
  • Constitutional imbalance
  • Physical injury and/or trauma
  • Changes with the quality and quantity of Qi
  • Blockage or inadequate flow of Qi
  • Invasion from external factors such as Wind, Cold and Heat
  • Unresolved emotional upset, mainly related to stress and anxiety

Acupuncture offers a safe, natural way to control joint pain and other symptoms and maintain overall health. In fact, a 2004 study showed that patients with OA of the knee experienced a 40 percent decrease in pain and a 40 percent increase in function after receiving a series of acupuncture treatments.

A whole-body approach to relief

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) take a holistic, or whole-body approach to health. According to these theories, Qi (pronounced “chee”) is the vital energy that animates the body and protects it from illness. It flows through pathways called meridians, providing nourishment for every cell, tissue, muscle and organ. When there is an imbalance or blockage in the flow of Qi, physical symptoms may result.

During treatment, fine, sterile needles will be inserted at specific acupoints along the meridians in order to unblock any obstruction and allow Qi to flow freely.

Your practitioner may also recommend herbal remedies, massage, and stretching. Be sure to discuss any new medications with your doctor to avoid any potential interactions.

What you can do

It’s important to remember that there is no “quick fix” for arthritis, and it may take time to achieve results. However, there are lifestyle changes you can make that may help you find relief faster.

  • Exercise can help increase your flexibility, strengthen muscles and bones, and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Diet is another important issue. Stick to a healthy diet made up of a wide variety of unprocessed, organic foods. Your acupuncturist may also suggest adding natural anti-inflammatories to your diet.
  • Stress relief can also help. By learning to identify your stressors and lowering your stress through techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, Tai Chi or Qi Gong, you can improve your state of mind and your health.
  • Maintaining balance in your life is also key. A balance of rest and relaxation with activity and exercise will keep you feeling your best.

By working closely with your acupuncturist and other treatment providers, you will be taking charge of your arthritis and taking a step toward a healthier life.

References:
Berman BM, Lao L, Langenberg P, Lee WL, Gilpin AMK, Hochberg MC. Effectiveness of Acupuncture as Adjunctive Therapy in Osteoarthritis of the Knee: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2004; 141 (12):901-910.
What is Osteoarthritis? National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. September 2006.
What is Rheumatoid Arthritis? National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. May 2005.
Joswick, Diane L.Ac. Acupuncture for Arthritis. 2006.
Osteoarthritis Fact Sheet. Arthritis Foundation. 2005.

Asthma

Asthma is a long-term condition that affects more than 20 million Americans. Caring for a chronic condition such as asthma can sometimes be frustrating, but it’s important to remember that it can be controlled. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can be powerful allies in the management of asthma, and they work well in conjunction with other types of treatment.

The facts about asthma

Asthma is an inflammatory disease in which the airways become blocked or narrowed, causing symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, and chest tightness. Some people have long periods without symptoms, while others may always experience difficulty breathing. Asthma attacks occur when something triggers the inflammation of the respiratory system. Flare ups can be severe—sometimes even life-threatening.

A partnership for a healthier life

It is important to remember that you are a key part of controlling your asthma. Here are a few ways you can take an active part in your treatment:

  • Try keeping an asthma diary to track your specific asthma triggers.
  • Be sure to keep all of your health care providers fully informed. This includes talking to them about any medications or herbs you may be taking, as well as any changes in your symptoms.
  • Follow your practitioner’s recommendations for self-care. These might include exercises such as Qi Gong, yoga, dietary changes, or stress-relief measures such as meditation.

By making positive lifestyle choices and working closely with your practitioner, you’ll truly be taking charge of your asthma and your life.

Asthma attacks are generally caused by one or more triggers, including:

  • A cold, flu, bronchitis, or sinus infection
  • Allergens including dust mites, tree and grass pollen, mold, and animal dander
  • Irritants that include tobacco smoke, strong fragrances, and air pollution
  • Certain foods and food additives
  • Aspirin and anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Strenuous exercise
  • Changes in weather
  • Strong emotions such as anxiety, stress, grief and anger

Generally, the available approach of asthma treatment is to try and prevent attacks. This is usually done with regular use of anti-inflammatory medications, inhaled steroids and leukotriene inhibitors. Once an asthma attack is underway, quick-acting medications like corticosteroids may be able to relieve it.

Most of these medications can cause side effects such as nausea, headaches, muscle tremors, and insomnia. However, many people have found that acupuncture treatment may help reduce asthma attacks, improve lung function, and even lower the amount of medication needed.

Asthma according to ancient principles

In TCM, asthma is known as “Xiao Chuan”, which means “wheezing” and “shortness of breath”. It is caused by a variety of factors that involve an imbalance with Wei Qi (pronounced “way chee”), and an imbalance with one or more of the organ systems, generally the Lungs, Spleen or Kidney.

Asthma according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) goes beyond a simple diagnosis of “asthma”.

Below are some of the more common TCM diagnoses that your acupuncturist may discover and treat.

  • Invasion of Wind
  • Lung weakness
  • Kidney weakness
  • Spleen weakness
  • Liver imbalance
  • Liver Heat
  • Wei Qi deficiency
  • Phlegm/damp in the Lungs

An acupuncturist will take a holistic, or whole-body approach in order to determine what areas of the body are affected and out-of-balance and contributing to the attacks.

Since acupuncture and TCM take into account your overall well-being, your practitioner may also address other issues that may be contributing to your asthma, such as exercise, diet and stress. Acupuncture is a safe, effective, and pain-free approach to many conditions, and you may find that your overall health improves along with your asthma symptoms.

References:
Asthma. U.S. National Library of Medicine Medical Encyclopedia. 10/30/2006. Link
Alternative Therapy for Asthma. WebMD. 12/1/2006.
Chen, J., Pharm, D. Treatment of Asthma with Herbs and Acupuncture. Acufinder.com Acupuncture Learning & Resource Center.
Facts about Asthma. American Lung Association. 10/2006.

Autoimmune Disease

Lupus, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Crohn’s disease…You may have heard of these conditions, but do you know what they have in common? They are all types of autoimmune disease and they are all lifelong conditions.

Approximately 50 million Americans are living with an autoimmune disease. If you are facing one of these conditions, you know how crucial it is to have a treatment plan in place to help you manage your symptoms and live the healthiest, most active life possible.

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can be powerful allies in living with an autoimmune disease. They can help:

• Strengthen your immune system
• Relieve painful symptoms
• Reduce your stress, and
• Bolster your overall health

Perhaps most importantly, your practitioner will focus on YOU as an individual. Your care will be tailored to your specific needs and symptoms, so you won’t ever receive a “one-size-fits-all” treatment.

When the immune response goes wrong

To understand autoimmune disease, we must first understand how the immune system works. The immune system generally acts as the body’s protection against foreign substances and microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses. When the immune system is working properly, it can tell the difference between the body’s own tissues and outside organisms.

In the case of autoimmune diseases the immune system stops being able to differentiate, and begins to attack the body’s own cells, tissues, and organs. This immune response causes harmful inflammation that eventually leads to an autoimmune condition. There are about 80 recognized autoimmune diseases, and several other conditions such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and fibromyalgia that are currently believed to have an autoimmune component.

Autoimmune conditions are often difficult to diagnose and treat because their symptoms and progression can vary from person to person. These conditions may either affect many organs or target one specific part of the body. The symptoms may be persistent, get progressively worse, or go into remission with occasional “flare-ups,” and can range from being mild to so severe that they become disabling.

The exact causes of autoimmune diseases are unknown, but since many conditions run in families, it’s believed there is a genetic relationship. Since women are at a much higher risk for many autoimmune diseases, hormones may also play a part.

Treatments generally rely upon a variety of medications, which can help to relieve symptoms, but may have uncomfortable side effects.

How acupuncture can help

Acupuncture and TCM take a holistic, or whole body approach to healing based on the idea of Qi, or vital energy. Qi flows through pathways called meridians to nourish all of the body’s organs, protect us from illness and keep us healthy. When the flow of Qi becomes diminished or blocked, disease can result.

The goal of treatment will be to find and treat the underlying imbalances that are affecting the flow of Qi. By addressing the root cause of the disease, TCM can help your body regain balance and help improve your overall health. Acupuncture and TCM can also help reduce inflammation, soothe uncomfortable symptoms, relieve side effects from medication, and increase your energy levels.

During treatment, fine, sterile needles will be inserted at specific points along the meridians in order to unblock any obstruction and allow Qi to flow freely. Your practitioner may also help improve your nutrition, reduce your stress, or start you on an exercise program.

In addition, your practitioner may recommend herbal remedies and supplements designed to support your health and boost your immune system. It’s important to communicate with all of your health providers in order to maximize your healing potential.

Acupuncture and TCM have proven effective against a wide variety of health concerns. By incorporating these powerful tools into your treatment program, you’re making the decision to support and nourish your body and take control of your autoimmune condition.

References:
Autoimmune diseases: overview. The National Women’s Health Information Center. Link
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. WebMD. May 17, 2007. Link

Back Pain

Back pain is a very common problem–one that will strike four out of five Americans at some time in their lives. In fact, it’s one of the top reasons people seek medical care. Unfortunately, back pain isn’t always easy to diagnose or relieve. Low back pain in particular can become a chronic or ongoing problem.

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are very effective in treating back pain naturally. They can also be used together with traditional Western treatments to maximize your healing and recovery.

How back pain happens

There are many possible causes for back pain, including strained muscles or ligaments, often caused by improper lifting, sudden movements or traumatic injury. Other culprits can include arthritis, structural abnormalities of the spine, or the disks between the vertebrae bulging or rupturing and pressing on a nerve. Depending on the specific diagnosis, back pain is generally treated with medications, physical therapy, chiropractic care, and in some cases, surgery.

“Acupuncture represents a highly promising and effective treatment option for chronic back pain. Patients experienced not only reduced pain intensity, but also reported improvements in the disability that often results from back pain, and therefore in their quality of life.” – H. Endres, MD

 

A more natural approach

Practitioners of acupuncture and TCM view back pain another way. An acupuncturist will not only work to relieve your symptoms, but will also work to find and treat the underlying cause of your pain. In a study conducted at a Swedish hospital, doctors concluded that acupuncture provided long-term relief along with improvements in physical activity levels, quality of sleep and the diminished use of pain medication.

Acupuncture and TCM are based on the concept that Qi (pronounced “chee”), or vital energy, flows through the body in channels called meridians. If Qi becomes stagnant, unbalanced or deficient, symptoms such as back pain, ache and inflammation can result. This can happen for any number of reasons, from injury and illness to stress or external invaders such as wind or dampness. Back pain can arise from disharmonies such as:

Stagnation – type pain that is often linked to sudden, stabbing, severe pain and related to sprains, strains or trauma. It can be accompanied by stiffness and tightness and becomes worse with rest. If it occurs often in the same area(s) it may reflect an underlying deficiency.

Cold, damp obstruction – type pain that is generally worse in the morning and exacerbated by cold or damp weather. This type of pain condition may be associated with numbness, swelling and a sense of “heaviness.” Heat improves this condition.

Deficiency – type pain that is usually
a chronic condition that presents with
a “dull” pain and improves with rest.

Restoring balance

Once your practitioner has determined the cause(s) of your back pain, he or she will create a specific treatment plan designed to address your concerns and boost your overall health and vitality. During acupuncture treatments, your practitioner will insert fine, sterile needles into specific acupuncture points along the meridian pathways in order to restore the balance and flow of Qi. He or she may also perform acupressure or other types of therapy, based on your unique issues and symptoms.

Your practitioner may also suggest lifestyle changes and self-care techniques, especially if you struggle with chronic pain. These may include:

Improving your posture – Examine your posture in a mirror. Try to stand with your head up, shoulders back and pelvis in a neutral position. When sitting, try to sit upright with your feet flat on the floor and your knees and hips level. Try to balance your weight evenly when walking and standing.

Exercising – Keep your back and abdominal muscles strong with regular exercise. Yoga and Qi Gong are both gentle and effective. Consider adding aerobic exercise as well to improve your overall health and reduce stress.

Managing stress – Stress can take a real toll on your health and contribute to muscle pain. Meditation or deep-breathing techniques can help you stay calm and relaxed. Massage is another great way to help relieve stress and loosen tense muscles.

More and more people are finding relief for both acute and chronic back pain through acupuncture and TCM. If you or someone you love is struggling with back pain, call today to find out how acupuncture can help.

References:
Back pain. MayoClinic.com. Feb. 8, 2008. Link
Sollars, David W. L.Ac. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Acupuncture and Acupressure. Alpha Books, 2000.
Stone, Al. L.Ac. Chinese Medicine for Back Pain. Acupuncture.Com. Link

Cancer Care

acupuncture treatment
acupuncture treatment relieves the side effects of cancer treatment

Every day in the United States almost 5000 people are newly diagnosed with some form of cancer. Every year over 600,000 Americans die, making cancer the most common cause of death. Cancer touches all of our lives, but it is in many cases preventable and treatable. Acupuncture and TCM offer alternative methods of care that can help people who are at risk or already battling cancer to improve their chances against this seemingly relentless form of disease.

In the past few decades, complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) have become widely recognized as effective ways to both enhance the efficacy of conventional medical treatments for cancer, as well as providing palliative care for the pain and other unpleasant symptoms caused by both the disease itself and the negative side effects caused by cancer treatments.

A systematic review of the use of acupuncture as an adjunct to surgery and/or chemotherapy concluded: “Recent advances in acupuncture clinical research suggest that acupuncture may provide clinical benefit for cancer patients with treatment-related side effects such as nausea and vomiting, post operative pain, cancer related pain, chemotherapy-induced leukopenia, post chemotherapy fatigue, xerostomia, and possibly insomnia, anxiety and quality of life.”

Top 5 Types of Cancer Treatments

radiation therapy for cancer
radiation therapy

Cancer is a comprehensive term that refers to a wide variety of diseases caused by abnormal cell growth in the body. When old or mutated cells begin to duplicate they can create masses, or tumors, that compress and damage adjacent healthy tissues. Some forms of cancer cause abnormal cells to multiply within the blood. Most cancers are named according to where they begin in the body, and there are over a hundred different types. The most common are breast cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, colon cancer, and prostate cancer.

Cancers are usually diagnosed based on physical examinations, laboratory tests, imaging tests (CT scan, MRI, bone scan, or ultrasound), and/or tissue biopsy. A treatment plan will be based on many factors, including the type and stage (how far it has spread) of the cancer and a patient’s overall health aside from the cancer. 

The most common types of oncology procedures are:

  1. Surgery: Performed to remove cancerous growths and malignant tumors, when possible. Surgery may be used alone or along with radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or immunotherapy. Surgery works only for some forms of cancer, and works best when tumors are detected early, before the cancer has spread to other parts of the body. Patients must be in relatively good health otherwise in order to withstand the anesthesia and recovery. Sometimes cancerous cells may be left in the body even after the surgery.
  2. Chemotherapy: The use of medications to destroy cancer cells. Chemotherapy generally lasts from three to nine months, and can have side effects including fatigue, nausea, vomiting, hair loss, early menopause, and hot flashes.
  3. Radiation therapy: The use of high doses of radiation to destroy cancer cells. Side effects generally include fatigue, hair loss, and skin darkening at the site of the treatment.
  4. Targeted therapy: uses chemical drugs to target the way genes and proteins behave within the specific cells affected by the mutation. Targeted therapy can prevent the cancerous cells from dividing and growing, and in some cases kill them, while aiming to avoid damaging surrounding tissues. 
  5. Immunotherapy: This treatment works by increasing the number of antibodies and cytokines to fight cancer cells. Side effects depend on the specific type of therapy, but they can include rashes or swelling, flu-like symptoms, fatigue, nausea, and loss of appetite.

The side effects of these treatments will affect people to different degrees depending on their constitution, but in many cases, they are severe. They can totally disrupt life and work, leading to feelings of loss and depression.

How Can Acupuncture Help Cancer Treatment Side Effects?

Committing to conventional treatment for cancer is a difficult decision for every individual. Treatment requires a lot of scheduled time, help from friends and relatives, and extra resources so that the patient can recuperate. Some people may have mixed feelings about aggressive treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation and be uncomfortable with the idea of putting toxic chemicals into their bodies. Concerns about how serious side effects may impact their lives and those of their family can lead to even more anxiety. 

Acupuncture and TCM offer an alternative form of care that can in many cases mitigate the uncomfortable side effects caused by medical treatments, allowing patients to withstand the courses of treatment recommended by their oncologists. For those who may want to forego or delay aggressive treatment to pursue a more natural course, acupuncture and TCM can provide a comprehensive, holistic plan to boost immunity, improve nutrition and sleep, remove toxins from the body, and clear the way for healing. 

Side effects of common oncology treatments that can be helped with acupuncture include:

  • Post-operative pain
  • Nausea and vomiting https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2666860/
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Hot flashes
  • Leukopenia (low white blood cell count)
  • Fatigue
  • Neuropathy
  • Insomnia
  • Radiation induced xerostomia – dry mouth

The concept of the balancing energies of yin and yang is central to TCM. From the TCM viewpoint, radiation therapy applies extreme yang energy to the body, in effect, “cooking” the tissues. This can destroy the cancerous tumors, but it also dries and weakens blood and bone marrow, which can compromise nutrition and natural immune function. Chemotherapy is a form of yin energy, poisoning the cancer cells, but also inhibiting the flow of nourishment and warm energy through the body. TCM attempts not only to alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms caused by these oncology treatments, but to offset their negative effects on the organ systems. 

Cancer Causes and Care From the TCM Point of View

acupuncture needles
TCM uses fine needles to relieve pain and nausea

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) have been used for thousands of years to treat conditions known today as cancers. Today in China, using combinations of Western medical practices and TCM modalities to treat cancer is widely accepted. In China, doctors who train in Western-style medicine also receive training in TCM, and vice versa, so physicians of all specialties are aware of alternatives and integrative possibilities. In the United States, oncology research and progress is highly advanced, and we have the opportunity to create excellent integral care for patients who seek out CAM modalities such as acupuncture to complement their other care.

Over 3000 years of written records show how in ancient times Chinese doctors identified and treated liu yan, or “lumps hard as rocks,” and zhong yang, or “inflamed ulcers.” Cancer treatment according to Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Fu Zheng Gu Ben principles. This means to “strengthen what is correct” and “secure the root.” This theory incorporates specific immune enhancing herbs. The objective is to support and stimulate deep energy systems within the body to make them more resistant to degeneration.

According to this TCM theory, tumors and other abnormal cellular formations are the result of accumulated blood, Qi, and dampness that have become toxic, causing stagnation and depletion of the vital essences of the life force energy. When masses form, they cause further obstruction and blockage of the free flow of Qi and blood. Acupuncture and herbal interventions will focus on:

  • Removing toxins that may contribute to cancer
  • Increasing the flow of blood and Qi
  • Clearing accumulations of tissue
  • Restoring self-regulation and balance among the Jing, Qi and Shen (essence, energy, and spirit)

Treating the person, not just the disease, Acupuncture practitioners take a holistic approach to cancer care. This means that not only test results and symptoms are considered, but also lifestyle, emotional state, and overall health. The whole being is taken into account, not just the localized cancer.

TCM acknowledges that the emotional life of the person plays a key role in health maintenance. According to TCM, cancers form because of stagnation due to constriction; long periods of grief and sadness can create these circumstances. Anger and anxiety can generate excess heat and lead to toxicity in the body. When these forces combine with exposure to toxins in the environment, food choices that exacerbate toxicity, lack of sleep, and increased stress, diseases like cancer can take hold. A qualified TCM provider works with patients to create the deep, lasting changes necessary to turn these forces around and bring the body back into balance.

Acupuncture and Herbs for Integrative Cancer Care

Chinese Herbs
Chinese herbs for cancer care

Many recent studies aimed at investigating the effects of acupuncture for specific types of cancer have shown that patients experience statistically significant improvements.

Acupuncture can help relieve the joint pain and stiffness many women have due to the aromatase inhibitors they are prescribed after breast cancer surgery. It has also been shown to reduce hot flashes and night sweats, which affect the majority of breast cancer patients and survivors.

People with advanced stage lung cancer had less pain and clinically significant improvement of overall well-being after receiving at least six acupuncture treatments. 

Chinese herbal formulae are vital to the TCM approach to cancer. Herbs can work on a deep level to initiate change in the body. Depending on each individual presentation, an acupuncturist will choose herbs that help to inhibit growth of masses, dispel heat or cold, revitalize the blood and Qi, and resolve phlegm. One study treated advanced non-small-cell lung cancer patients with both chemotherapy and two decoctions of herbs meant to nourish Qi and replenish jing. The patients taking Chinese herbs had higher survival rates than those in the control group.

Research into how TCM specifically treats liver cancer with herbal formulations to strengthen the spleen and clear heat and toxins showed that patients taking the herbs in addition to chemotherapy experienced decreases in the size, growth and spread of cancerous liver masses and lived longer.

Aside from pain and nausea, insomnia and anxiety are the most common problems related to undergoing cancer treatment. Acupuncture is a highly useful modality for helping to restore healthy sleep and prevent worries from becoming a chronic mental health issue. When acupuncture and TCM are integrated into oncology care, maintaining a positive outlook during recovery and even establishing an overall healthier attitude towards life and health feels more achievable. 

Find Acupuncture in Los Angeles for Integrative Cancer Treatment

Successful recovery from cancer requires teamwork. A patient has the best chances of navigating this difficult path when doctors work together to provide the most advanced techniques as well as caring support. Adding a qualified acupuncturist to your oncology team gives you an alternative means to improve quality of life and long-term chances of living cancer-free. Drs. Tan and Cai have over 30 years of expertise and are highly trained in both TCM and conventional medicine. They are ready to work with you, your family and friends, and your oncology specialists to provide the optimal cancer care.

 

*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.

Carpal Tunnel

Do you experience tingling in your hand or fingers? Pain that radiates from your wrist to your shoulder? Maybe even difficulty holding small objects? If so, you could be suffering from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS), an uncomfortable and sometimes disabling condition that affects up to five million Americans.

The good news is that lifestyle changes can relieve symptoms, and there are many treatments available to help. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can effectively treat CTS without side effects or harmful medications.

What is CTS?

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway in the wrist that protects the median nerve which innervates the hand as well as tendons that control the fingers. This nerve controls sensation and muscle movements in the hand. If the carpal tunnel becomes narrowed from swelling or injury, the nerve is compressed and impinged. This can cause numbness, pain, and severe weakness in the hands.

There are several causes of CTS, but the main culprit is repetitive flexion and extension of the tendons in the hands and wrists, especially when performed for long periods, leading to Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI). Diabetic neuropathy can also contribute to carpal tunnel.

Symptoms usually start with dull wrist pain that gradually worsens. Other symptoms may include:

  • Loss of feeling in the fingers
  • Numbness, tingling, or burning sensations in the fingers or hand
  • Pain extending from the wrist up the arm to the shoulder or down into the palm or fingers
  • Weakness in the hands and difficulty holding objects

How can acupuncture help?

Typically, treatment for CTS is based on how severe the symptoms are, and may include immobilizing the wrist and hand, using anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids to reduce swelling, and surgery in severe cases. Acupuncture and TCM can safely be used in conjunction with Western treatments to relieve CTS symptoms.

Self-care for a pain-free life

Actively taking part in your treatment is key. Consider these self-care techniques:

  • Take plenty of breaks during the day, especially if you perform repetitive tasks.
  • Try yoga to increase your flexibility and strength.
  • Remember to gently stretch your hands, arms, and shoulders throughout the day.
  • If you work at a computer, consult an ergonomics specialist to ensure that your workstation is set up properly.
  • Ask your practitioner about supplements such as B2, B6, and Omega-3 fatty acids for reducing numbness and inflammation.

Studies suggest that acupuncture can both reduce swelling of soft tissue and stimulate production of cortisol, a hormone that reduces inflammation. Since CTS is caused by the swelling of the soft tissue that leads to inflammation of the carpal tunnel, acupuncture can be effective in treating CTS. In addition to improving your CTS, treatment may also improve other symptoms often associated with this condition such as headaches, neck pain, and shoulder stiffness. More importantly, acupuncture and TCM can help relieve the emotional stress of living with this painful condition.

Your practitioner will create a unique, personalized treatment plan designed to address your body’s imbalances. During treatment, fine, sterile needles will be inserted at specific acupoints along the meridians in order to support and strengthen your body and eliminate pain.

Your practitioner may also recommend herbal remedies, vitamin supplements, massage, and stretching as part of your treatment.

Acupuncture and TCM offer a safe, pain-free, natural way to treat Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. With proper care, you can recover from CTS. As you continue with treatment, you may even find that your overall health and well being improve along with your symptoms.

References:
Carpal tunnel syndrome. Mayo Clinic. Feb. 21, 2007. Link
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Nov. 2002. Link
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. American Physical Therapy Association. Accessed April 20, 2008. Link
Tanaka, Tim H., Ph.D., D.Ac., CST, RMT, BCIAC. TECH PAINS: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Eye for the Future Magazine. 1997.

Colds & Flu

keep warm
Colder weather brings “Cold & Flu Season”

Every year, millions of people become ill with the common cold and the flu, or influenza, most often during the winter months. These respiratory conditions are caused by viruses. The flu can cause much more severe illness than colds and sometimes requires hospitalization. There is currently no medical cure for a viral infection. Most treatment methods aim to keep patients more comfortable while the illness runs its course. TCM and acupuncture methods actually boost the body’s ability to defend itself from germs and viruses in addition to helping to alleviate the symptoms of colds and flu.

A strong immune system is able to fight off colds and flus, but if a person’s natural defenses are compromised, a simple cold or flu is apt to turn into something more serious, like pneumonia, bronchitis, or a sinus infection. TCM focuses on year-round prevention of these types of illness by offering herbs and treatments that help create and maintain a healthy immune system.

TCM for Cold and Flu

TCM has a history of treating illness going back thousands of years. For centuries, acupuncturists and herbalists did not charge their patients when they were sick, because it was believed to be their job to keep people healthy in the first place. The best offense has always been a good defense. 

Sun Simiao, a well-known doctor of the Ming dynasty (6th Century A.D.), wrote a 30-volume encyclopedia called Prescriptions for Emergencies Worth a Thousand Pieces of Gold. This work not only described herbal formulas (although it did detail over 4000 of them), but treatments for all types of conditions, including entire volumes on the care of women and children.

Sun Simiao was practicing during a time of widespread infectious disease in China, and he developed herbal treatments for all types of illnesses, including what he would have called “blood fever.” His pioneering work is the basis for treatments we still use today for treating viruses. TCM herbal formulae not only help reduce suffering from uncomfortable symptoms; they offer proven efficacy in helping to stave off and slow down the spread of pathogens in the body. They can also help for speedier and more thorough recovery from illness.

Acupuncture and Herbal Formulas for Different Types of Cold and Flu

cupping
Cupping draws out pathogens and increases blood flow,

Typical symptoms of a cold include a runny nose, sneezing, congestion, coughing, sinus pressure, watery eyes, fatigue, muscle aches and headaches. Signs of a flu usually include fever, chills, sore throat, congestion, fatigue, muscle and body aches, runny nose, dry cough, sneezing and watery eyes. Different people react differently to viral infections. The specific combination of symptoms each individual experiences depends on his or her own constitution. 

In TCM, we generally categorize the causes of illness into four types: internal factors, external factors, injuries, and exposure to toxins. External factors generally account for colds and flus. There are six sources of pathogens according to TCM:

  1. Wind
  2. Cold
  3. Heat
  4. Dampness
  5. Dryness
  6. Toxins

The external pathogens responsible for colds are seen as invasions of wind, sometimes accompanied by cold and other times, heat. Chinese herbs and TCM modalities like acupuncture, cupping and gua sha can all be utilized when a wind pathogen enters the body. Gua sha and cupping draw toxins from the muscles and the blood and bring increased blood supply to those areas; this can be useful in the event of a wind-cold invasion. Chinese herbs have antiviral and antibacterial properties that help ward off the pathogens. Some herbs induce sweating that helps expel the pathogens from the system. The other type of cold is the wind-heat invasion, which can cause fever and chills.

TCM is Preventative Medicine for Colds and Flu

Clinical studies have suggested that using acupuncture as a preventative approach to colds and flu can reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infection and shorten the length of the illness. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine work by rebalancing the body’s systems, regulating the body’s healing energies and enhancing the immune system.

One of the main theories supporting acupuncture and its treatment of colds and the flu is the concept of Wei Qi. Wei Q is a defensive energy, similar to the Western concept of the immune system. Wei Qi functions as a barrier, protecting and defending the body against foreign substances that cause disease. When Wei Qi is strong and abundant, we remain healthy. Stress, lack of sleep, and poor diet can have a negative impact on Wei Qi, leaving the body more susceptible to pathogens.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are natural and effective ways to support the body’s own healing systems. If illness does occur, acupuncture can help you get back on your feet again, helping to stave off prolonged illness without the use of medication and over-the-counter drugs.

The best way to stay healthy and keep your loved ones healthy, whether it’s just another wintertime “cold and flu” season, or a global pandemic, is to be well-informed about prevention, how contagion spreads, and first steps to take when someone around you falls ill.

Prevention of Colds and Flu

  1. hot tea
    Drink tea to keep the throat warm and moist.

    First, pay close attention to the changing of the seasons and how your body is affected. 

  2. Dress appropriately for the cooler temperatures and brisk winds of the fall season. 
  3. Don’t try to fight the early dying of the light each day. Instead, be gentle with yourself, and find seasonal routines that involve turning in early and rising with the sun. 
  4. As always, drink tea for good health!
  5. Limit sugar intake. Sugar taxes the immune system, especially when feeling under the weather.
  6. Regular acupuncture treatments help keep your entire body, especially the immune system, functioning at peak efficiency, so that when you come into contact with pathogens, your body is ready to fight them off quickly.
  7. Maintain a healthy diet, with as little processed food as possible.
  8. Drink lots of clean water with good mineral content.
  9. Avoid chemical medications that suppress your body’s natural functioning to overcome illness.
  10. Get plenty of exercise, fresh air, and sunlight–Vitamin D is very important.

To help stop contagious illness from spreading, you should, of course, wash your hands thoroughly and often. Pay attention to your sensations and intuition. If you start to feel run-down, weak, head-achey, or feverish, don’t dismiss it and try to push through your day. Slow down, and take it easy. Make an extra effort to avoid eating junk food or consuming alcohol. Don’t drink caffeine, either, even if you think you need to keep your energy up. Caffeine produces false feelings of energy that can cause you to overexert yourself, when you should try to rest.

Regular acupuncture “tune-ups” throughout the year are recommended to keep your immune system at the ready whenever cold and flu season appears. And if you or someone in your home is already feeling symptoms, call us at Art of Wellness right away, before it becomes more serious.

 

Depression

Depression affects about 121 million people worldwide and can be debilitating for those who experience it.1 Prolonged feelings of sadness, discouragement and hopelessness greatly affect the quality of life.

At one time or another, most of us have experienced some form of depression. It is a healthy response to events in our lives that seem overwhelming. When we are balanced, physically and emotionally, we can easily bounce back from a depressed state and move on with our lives. When negative feelings and emotions become persistent and consistent, depression may set in.

A meta-analysis published in Journal of Affective Disorders in 2010 covered 207 clinical studies conducted on the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating depressive disorders. According to this, the efficacy of acupuncture was comparable to antidepressants alone in improving clinical response and alleviating symptom severity of Major Depressive Disorder. Additionally, the incidence of side adverse reactions in acupuncture treatment was significantly lower than that
of antidepressants.2

How can acupuncture help?

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) incorporate thousands of years of experience in treating depression. Not only can they help to alleviate the signs and symptoms accompanying depression, they can address the root cause(s) and underlying imbalances that have contributed to the problem, safely and naturally.

Acupuncturists are aware of the powerful interplay between our body and emotions, and that the two are inseparable. When we experience emotional upset, our physiological state may become disrupted. Likewise, when we experience physical problems, our emotions can become greatly affected.

Depressed Qi?

Over time, this disruption leads to what an acupuncturist calls “stagnant” or “depressed” Qi, (pronounced “chee”) or vital energy. Qi is a concept unique to the theories and principles of TCM. According to these theories, Qi is the vital energy that animates the body and protects it from illness and pain. Qi flows through the body in pathways called meridians. When Qi becomes stagnant or depressed, physical and/or emotional symptoms result. Practitioners of acupuncture and TCM are specifically trained to detect and correct the balance and movement of Qi within the human body. Treatments are focused on balancing and activating the Qi by manipulating corresponding points
on the body.

The stagnant or depressed Qi diagnosis is unique to acupuncture and TCM. Over time, if it is not addressed it can lead to a disharmony
within our body, affecting our physical and emotional well-being.
If not properly treated, this imbalance may lead to depression.

What will an acupuncturist do?

An acupuncturist will take a complete health history in order to find out where, why, and how Qi has become stagnant or depressed. They will develop a unique treatment plan tailored to specific symptoms and signs of each individual.

The goals of such a plan will be to activate the movement of Qi throughout the entire body, as well as to address the root cause(s) and underlying imbalances. By treating the body as a whole and unique organism, your acupuncturist will support you in your recovery from illness and disease, moving you toward health and happiness.

Acupuncture and TCM provide safe, natural, drug-free and effective ways to address depression. The focus is to restore a balanced and continuous flow of Qi throughout the body and mind. Acupuncture
is not a “quick fix.” You may need to receive weeks or months of treatment in order to see lasting results. Give yourself the time
required so that you can experience the maximum benefits
acupuncture and TCM have to offer.

Here are some tips to help combat depressive symptoms:

  • Surround yourself with people whom you trust to provide
    objective and unbiased input and insight. Develop a supportive
    group of friends, loved ones, family and co-workers who can
    lend an ear and listen to you.
  • Breathe, go slow, and think things through. Do not make too
    many life changes all at once. A few at a time will support you
    and not overwhelm your emotions.
  • Try to get at least twenty minutes of simple exercise at least three days per week, if not more. Take a daily walk, breathe
    deeply and let it all go.
  • Remember, you are not alone. Others are having similar experiences.
  • Smile.


References:

1 “Depression.” World Health Organization. 7 March 2011. ‹http://www.who.int/›.

2 “The effectiveness and safety of acupuncture therapy in depressive disorders: Systematic review and meta-analysis.” Zhang-Jin Zhang, Hai-Yong Chen, Ka-chee Yip, Roger Ng, Vivian Taam Wong Journal of Affective Disorders – July 2010 (Vol. 124, Issue 1, Pages 9-21).

Diabetes

Chances are that you or someone you know has been affected by diabetes. It’s an increasingly common condition—one that approximately 1.3 million people in the U.S. will be diagnosed with this year alone. While it is generally a long-term condition, diabetes can be managed through self-care, nutrition, and medication. Another safe, effective approach to managing diabetes and its symptoms is acupuncture. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) help promote health and well-being. Both can be used safely along with your current medical treatment to provide the best results for you.

Understanding a complex condition

The body gets its energy from food through the process of digestion. Food is broken down into glucose (or sugar) which passes into the bloodstream. Then the glucose is moved into muscle, fat, and liver cells by the hormone insulin, which is produced by the pancreas. However, if you have diabetes, your body either does not produce enough insulin, or doesn’t respond to it properly, and this leads to high levels of sugar in the blood.

Uncontrolled blood-sugar levels can cause serious complications if left untreated, including blindness, heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, amputations, and nerve damage.

There are two main types of diabetes

Type I diabetes: Usually diagnosed during childhood, type I is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks insulin-producing cells. Symptoms usually come on suddenly, and treatment includes daily injections of insulin.

Symptoms of Type II Diabetes include:
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Increased appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow-healing infections
  • Impotence in men

Type II diabetes: This type accounts for 90-95% of all diabetes cases, and is usually diagnosed during adulthood. Major risk factors include family history, having high blood pressure or high cholesterol and being overweight and sedentary.

Since symptoms may be mild, many people don’t know they have diabetes, which is why it’s important to get tested regularly, especially after age 45. Testing can also detect pre-diabetes, where blood sugar is high, but not yet at diabetic levels. With early detection and treatment, it is far easier to stop the disease from progressing, control your symptoms, and prevent complications. Treatments often include regular blood-sugar monitoring and medications to control blood sugar, as well as diet and exercise.

Diabetes according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) goes beyond a simple diagnosis of Type I or Type II diabetes.

Below are some of the more common TCM diagnoses that your acupuncturist may discover and treat.

  • Upper Wasting
  • Middle Wasting
  • Lower Wasting
  • Spleen deficiency
  • Liver Qi Stagnation

A natural approach that works

The good news is that certain types of diabetes respond very well to acupuncture along with other holistic health care choices and lifestyle changes—sometimes even making medications unnecessary.

Acupuncture and TCM can help put you on the path to a healthier lifestyle. Since diabetes has an impact on every part of your body, it makes sense to try a therapy that takes a holistic, or whole-body, approach to health.

According to TCM, Qi (pronounced “chee”) is the vital energy that animates the body and protects it from illness. Qi flows through pathways called meridians and provides nourishment to all of the body’s organs and glands. When there is an imbalance or blockage in the flow of Qi, symptoms associated with diabetes may appear.

According to TCM, diabetes is known as “Xiao Ke” or “wasting and thirsting disease”, caused by an imbalance of Qi and Yin. This produces heat which drains and consumes the body’s fluids. That is why symptoms related to heat appear—excessive thirst, irritability, itchy skin, dry mouth and red, swollen gums.

During treatment, fine, sterile needles will be inserted in specific acupuncture points along the meridian pathways in order to restore the flow of Qi and nourish Yin. This can ultimately relieve symptoms, improve pancreatic function and control blood sugar levels. Your acupuncturist will also work to resolve other imbalances or concerns that may be complicating your condition, and can help with common symptoms such as pain.

In addition to acupuncture care, your practitioner may offer recommendations for dietary changes, exercise plans, and herbal remedies.

Acupuncture and TCM address each patient’s individual needs in eliminating symptoms and potentially reduce the need for medication. The best approach to controlling your diabetes is to work with a team of health care providers who can address the many aspects of diabetes. Including an acupuncturist to your team—and working together to manage your diabetes—can have lasting benefits and help you live a healthy, active life.

 

Choate, C. Diabetes Mellitus From Western and TCM Perspectives. Accessed 2/10/2007.
Diabetes. U.S. National Library of Medicine Medical Encyclopedia. 2/8/2007.
Diabetes Overview and Facts. WebMD. Accessed 6/9/2007.
Treating Diabetes with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. Acufinder.com. Accessed 6/4/2007.

Facial Rejuvenation

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can provide a safe, effective, natural, and drug-free approach to reducing the signs of aging. A facial rejuvenation using this ancient technique can improve muscle tone of the face and neck while addressing underlying imbalances that may have contributed to the aging process.

Why does skin sag?

According to TCM, wrinkles begin internally from a constitutional imbalance and fundamental weakness of Qi (pronounced “chee”). Qi circulates throughout the body within a series of pathways called meridians. Flowing through these pathways, Qi provides nourishment, support, and energy to every cell, tissue, muscle, and organ.

As we get older it becomes more difficult for Qi to flow upwards to “lift” the face. This leads to inadequate muscle tone, and over time, wrinkles and sagging skin. A variety of factors can contribute to this—poor diet, digestion and circulation, or emotional and environmental stresses.

Give your skin a lift

A facial rejuvenation using acupuncture, tightens pores, improves muscle tone and dermal contraction, while enhancing and increasing the elasticity of the skin. Acupuncture can reduce signs of aging by strengthening and stimulating the circulation of Qi within the meridian pathways, especially those of the face. You will look and feel more energetic, calm, vibrant and healthy.

Acupuncture treatments may be combined with herbal supplements, exercise and acupressure in order to maximize results.

Facial rejuvenation with acupuncture and TCM is virtually painless, and a non-surgical method to reduce the signs of aging. Before using drugs or surgery to improve appearance, consider acupuncture. It is an effective, natural, safe, drug free and painless alternative. It helps your whole body to look and feel younger.

Self-care techniques:

1) Herbal poultice—Thoroughly clean face. Make a poultice using equal parts of ground organic almonds, lavender and rose flowers, ground flax seeds, and oats. Add water and French clay, and stir into a thick paste. Apply to the face, avoiding the eyes, and let dry. Wash off after 15-20 minutes.

2) Stay hydrated— drink plenty of fresh spring water. This can keep the muscles and skin hydrated to prevent drying.

3) Gently massage the face.

4) Walk at least 20 minutes a day, and remember to breathe deeply.


Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia affects about 3-6% of the world’s population, an estimated 200-400 million people worldwide, with higher numbers among women than men.1 People diagnosed with fibromyalgia experience a wide range of symptoms, including fatigue, pain, stiffness, aches and muscle tenderness, along with sleep disorders and intestinal and bowel troubles.

The diagnosis of fibromyalgia can be confirmed when eleven out of eighteen specific points on the body are tender to pressure. Interestingly, some of these tender points closely correspond to the location of ancient acupuncture points.2

How acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help.

According to
the theories of acupuncture and Chinese medicine, an imbalance in the flow of Qi can create symptoms and signs that reflect a Western diagnosis of fibromyalgia. Qi (pronounced “chee”) is the vital energy that animates and supports the functions of the body. It flows through specific pathways, called meridians,
and provides nourishment
for the entire body.

When Qi is abundant and freely circulating throughout the body, there is health and pain-free living. When Qi becomes “blocked,” or the supply is inadequate, pain, stiffness
and other symptoms related to fibromyalgia can appear.

What does an acupuncturist do?

An acupuncturist will take a complete health history in order to find out where Qi has become blocked, and/or why the amount of Qi within the body has changed. He or she will then develop a treatment plan tailored to address the meridian pathways that are out of balance. The goal of such a plan will be to eliminate visible symptoms, while addressing the root cause(s) and underlying imbalances.

What is out-of-balance?

The body constantly strives to maintain a healthy balance of Qi traveling through the meridian pathways. When the flow of Qi has been disrupted, or the supply of Qi has changed, the body becomes unbalanced and the meridians cannot properly nourish the body. This is when signs and symptoms appear.

Most cases of fibromyalgia fit into the Chinese diagnosis of a Liver, Spleen, and/or Heart disharmony. This does not mean that these organs have a problem, it means that the functions of these organ/meridian pathways according to Chinese medical diagnosis are out of balance.

Liver. The functions related to the Liver organ, according to Chinese medicine, are to control the smooth flow of blood, Qi, and emotions and to nourish the tendons. When the Liver meridian becomes blocked there will be an inadequate supply of blood and Qi flowing throughout the body. The tendons and muscles will not be properly nourished, leading to stiffness and pain. Other symptoms of a blocked Liver are depression, anger, anxiety, and insomnia. A Liver imbalance may be caused by improper diet, stress, deep, unexpressed anger, drugs, and alcohol.

Spleen. The Chinese function of the Spleen is to transform the food that we ingest into Qi and blood. The health of the Spleen is affected by diet, over-concentration, and worry. An unbalanced Spleen can result in fatigue, digestive troubles, muscle stiffness, and pain.

Heart. When there is an insufficient amount of Qi and blood produced by the Spleen, the Heart organ will be affected. The role of the Heart is to pump blood throughout the body. It is also considered to be the home of the Spirit. If the Spleen cannot generate enough blood to nourish the Heart, the Heart Qi does not have enough control to properly house the Spirit. Symptoms can include anxiety, palpitations, insomnia, and emotional unrest.

A study conducted in 2010, suggests that acupuncture treatment is effective in relieving pain and improving quality of life for fibromyalgia patients.3 Not only can Acupuncture treat the pain and discomfort, but it can also address the underlying problems that have caused the imbalance.
In other research, subjects who received acupuncture experienced an overall improvement in fatigue, anxiety and the hypersensitivity associated with fibromyalgia.4

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can provide a safe alternative in
the effective treatment of fibromyalgia. Along with acupuncture, natural herbal formulas, dietary recommendations and calming exercises can also help promote balance and health.

 

References

  1. National Fibromyalgia Association.
  2. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/fibromyalgia-symptoms/AR00054.
  3. Itoh K, Kitakoji H. Effects of acupuncture to treat fibromyalgia: A preliminary randomised controlled trial. Chinese Medicine Journal. 2010, 5(1):11.
  4. Sletten, C., Berger, I., et al., Mayo Clinic Proceedings Report, June 2006.

Headaches

If you suffer from headaches, you are not alone. Over 50 million of us experience some form of a severe headache at some point in our lives. Whether you experience minor head pain or severe migraines, headaches can take valuable time out of your day and your life, and leave you searching for relief.

One way to seek relief is by reaching for drugs and other medications. This is fine for the short run, and can help you get out of pain fast. Unfortunately, common headache medications do not address the root cause(s), and when used over long periods of time can cause unwanted side effects.

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offer a safe and effective approach to relieving headache pain, without causing harmful side effects, and incorporate a comprehensive diagnostic protocol that can help your acupuncturist understand and address the root cause(s)
of your headaches.

Understanding headache types.

There are many factors in TCM theory that may play a key role in the root cause(s) of a headache.
These include body constitution, emotional health, excessive work,
social and exercise activities, improper diet, physical trauma and hormones. Headaches can also be diagnosed according to specific symptoms, times of occurrence, location on the body, type of pain, triggers and remedies which provide relief.

A natural path to relief.

Acupuncture and TCM takes a holistic, or whole-body approach to health. Your practitioner will take a detailed health history, and perform a physical exam to determine how and why your body’s vital energy, or Qi, is out of balance and identify what type of headache you are experiencing. He/she will also attempt to determine what root cause(s) are contributing to the overall problem. By identifying and treating the underlying cause(s), not just the symptoms, he/she can apply the most effective care.

What do you mean my Qi is out of balance?

An important part of acupuncture and TCM is the concept of Qi. Qi (pronounced “chee”)
is the vital energy that animates the body and protects it from illness.
It flows through pathways called meridians, and provides nourishment
to all the body’s organs. When there is an imbalance or blockage in the flow of Qi, physical symptoms may result. Qi stagnation may be the cause of your headaches.

During treatment, in order to restore the balance and flow of Qi, fine sterile needles will be inserted at specific points along the meridian pathways. Based on your unique symptoms, your acupuncturist will choose to concentrate on acupuncture points related to specific organs. Afterwards, a variety of self-care techniques may be prescribed to
further expedite your healing process.

It is important to remember that acupuncture is not a “quick fix.” Changes may occur quickly or over a longer period of time, depending upon your overall constitution and health. It is also important to closely follow care recommendations suggested by your acupuncturist. Whether it is one visit to address an acute problem, or several visits to address a chronic problem, your acupuncturist will create a treatment protocol
that will maximize your healing potential.

Below are a few ways that you can participate in your own healing, by making simple lifestyle changes that may help soothe—or even prevent—head pain.

  • Track those triggers: Try to keep track of when your headaches start. Migraine sufferers may find it especially helpful to keep a diary of symptoms and possible causes. Triggers might include anything from eating chocolate, to anxiety or inhaling specific smells. Pinpointing these triggers—and avoiding them when possible—could help.
  • Stress relief: Stress puts a lot of strain on the body, and can contribute to many types of health concerns, including headaches. Talk to your practitioner about healthy ways to
    handle stress, such as meditation or breathing techniques.
  • Exercise: Physical activity is an important part of any healthy lifestyle, and is a great antidote to stress. Your acupuncturist can recommend types of exercises that may work best for you.
  • Healthy habits: Making minor changes can make a big difference in your overall health and vitality. Do your best to eat healthy, organic foods, and make sure to get enough sleep every day.

Naturally, acupuncture care is extremely effective in reducing the frequency and severity of many types of painful conditions, including headache pain. By working with your acupuncturist and adopting some simple lifestyle changes, you will be on your way toward a healthier, happier, pain-free life.

High Blood Pressure

Help for High Blood Pressure with Acupuncture

Let us think of the circulatory system as plumbing. The heart is the water pump, and the veins and arteries are pipes. The condition of hypertension describes a system wherein the pump has to work harder and faster than it should. This happens for two reasons-one, because the pipes are clogged and pinched and the pump has to push harder and faster to get the same amount of liquid through the channels, and/or, two, because the network of pipes has become extended, covering a larger area, and the pump has to push more liquid, further. Often while this kind of a problem is growing and becoming more serious within a plumbing system, there are no signs until something finally breaks down, and a pipe springs a leak. Unfortunately, the same is true of the human body. Often, a person feels no symptoms of high blood pressure (hypertension) until the condition is found by a doctor’s measurements or damage has already been done to the circulatory organs.

Blood vessels, like pipes, become clogged with build-up of waste that sticks to the inside walls and reduces the circumference of the tubes. Also, vessels can become constricted and spasm due to the over-activity of the bundles of nerves that surround them. This repetitive, in some cases constant, tightening of the nerves is often caused by stress and anxiety, and it causes the vessel walls to lose their flexibility and become rigid. A healthy vein or artery has some elasticity that allows it to respond to variances in pressure, which naturally occur when we exercises or are stimulated y certain situations or emotions that cause blood pressure to rise. An artery that is stiff with fatty and calcified deposits or chronically constricted with nervous tension cannot withstand an increase in pressure very well.

When overall body mass increases due to weight gain, managing the amounts and types of fats and cholesterol in our diets, reducing stress and getting adequate exercise will go some distance in helping to create a system in which the heart is not overtaxed, and clean, supple blood vessels can do their jobs appropriately.

However, there are many cases in which the body needs extra help to achieve and maintain healthy blood pressure levels-diet and exercise alone may not accomplish the job. In Western medicine, the treatment for managing hypertension usually involves prescription medications: diuretics, ACE inhibitors, or beta-blockers. These medicines produce various chemical actions to alter the force of the heart’s heating or prevent increases in blood pressure by suppressing enzymes or hormones that control those functions. In the case of diuretics, they simply reduce the overall amount of fluid travelling though the vessel. None of these pharmacological remedies actually affect the sources of the problem either the plaque built up within the arteries, or the constriction of the nerves around the arteries. And many high blood pressure medications come with unfavorable side effects.

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can be an effective alternative modality for treating the source of this condition, whether on its own, combined with lifestyle changes, or as an adjunct to a prescription medication. Acupuncture works of the parasympathetic nervous system, simultaneously stimulating and relaxing the bundles of nerves that surround the arteries. This helps to open up blockages and create more flexibility within the network of blood vessels. In the same way, acupuncture works upon the action of the heart valves so that they can do their job of contracting and relaxing with less pressure and effort. A treatment may also be customized for each patient to help alleviate stresses in the mind and body, improve sleep, and release excess heat or “fire” from body.

TCM seeks to treat the whole person, and prevent illness before it arises. It is advisable for everyone to seek regular maintenance treatment in order to prevent conditions like hypertension from getting out of control. While high blood pressure can be controlled in various ways, because it is a possible indicator of more serious heart disease, it should never be ignored.

HIV & AIDS

Living with a positive HIV diagnosis means focusing on your health in a whole new way. Caring for your body’s needs and your emotional well-being is more important than ever, and is the key to living well with this disease.

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can be powerful allies in staying as healthy as possible and slowing the progression of the disease.

A Western view of HIV

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), is the virus that causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). This virus works by attacking a part of the immune system known as CD4 cells, or T-cells. These white blood cells fight off disease, so if a person’s CD4 count gets too low, the immune system becomes compromised, rendering you susceptible to illness and disease. AIDS, the final stage of HIV, occurs when the body’s immune system becomes so weak and imbalanced that it can no longer fight off illness.

The progression of HIV can take from months to many years, so it’s important to seek treatment as soon as you are diagnosed. Your medical doctor will work with you to determine the best strategy to slow the progression and relieve your symptoms. This will generally include the use of antiretroviral drugs in various combinations designed to lower the amount of virus in your blood. These are very powerful medications, and they may lead to a wide range of side effects, including:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems
  • Dizziness
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Insomnia
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath

These side effects can have a major impact on the quality of life, especially when combined with some of the more common symptoms of the virus itself, such as:

  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Night sweats
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Swollen lymph nodes

Acupuncture can be used as an effective adjunct therapy to help support you and your immune system while receiving traditional Western medicine treatment.

A whole-person approach

It makes sense that acupuncture and TCM are one of the most commonly used complementary therapies for HIV. Practiced for thousands of years, TCM is a complete medical system known to be especially effective in supporting the immune system, strengthening the body, as well as calming the mind and spirit.

TCM tells us that Qi (pronounced “chee”) is the vital energy that animates the body and protects it from illness. When a powerful external invader such as HIV attacks the body, it causes a severe disharmony and imbalance of Qi. Incorporating acupuncture and TCM into your healing process, can serve to address various signs and symptoms associated with the virus and the side-effects of HIV “cocktail” medications.

Your practitioner will work to restore the natural harmony and strengthen your body. Acupuncture and TCM offer a holistic, or whole-body, approach to care. This means that your mind, body, and spirit will all be taken into account, not just your symptoms. Practitioners understand that your emotional state is tied to your health, and that it’s critical to tackle the stress, anxiety, and depression that can accompany a diagnosis of HIV.

In addition to acupuncture, your treatment may include the use of herbal remedies. It’s important to discuss these with all of your medical care providers in order to prevent any potential interactions. Other therapies your practitioner may recommend include diet and nutrition counseling, exercise programs and stress relief techniques to support your mind, body, and spirit.

During this challenging time, it’s important to take as much control as you can over your health. By working with a team of medical care providers and incorporating acupuncture and TCM into your treatment, you’ll be taking an important step toward regaining balance and living your healthiest possible life.

References:
HIV & AIDS Guide. WebMD. Accessed Feb. 15, 2008. Link
HIV/AIDS. MayoClinic.com. January 30, 2008. Link
Ruth Cohen, Misha. HIV Wellness: Living well with HIV. Link
Webber, Eleanor. Acupuncture and HIV: The ‘New’ Weapon in the Fight Against HIV/AIDS. Acufinder Magazine: Summer 2007. AcuFinder.com. Link

Hypertension

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, affects more than one in three Americans, but most people may not even know they have it. Since hypertension can lead to heart attacks and other life-threatening health problems, it’s very important to learn all you can and take action to lower your risk.

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offer a safe, natural, and pain-free way to keep your blood pressure in check.

What is hypertension?

Blood pressure is the actual force of blood flowing against your artery walls. Getting your blood pressure tested is a quick, simple process. It’s measured in two numbers: systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. Blood pressure is considered high if your systolic pressure is at or above 140 mm Hg, and/or your diastolic pressure is at or above 90 mm Hg.

Often called “the silent killer,” hypertension doesn’t usually cause symptoms until it gets severe enough to lead to major health problems such as heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and metabolic disorders. It has also been linked to dementia and cognitive impairment.

Self-care for lowering blood pressure. Consider these self-care techniques:
  • Get daily aerobic exercise.
  • Add Tai-Chi and Qi-Gong to your workout.
  • Meditate or sapend time alone to reduce stress.
  • Practice slow, deep breathing.
    Get plenty of rest.
  • Reduce the amount of fat and salt in your diet and increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Avoid smoking, alcohol, coffee, and spicy foods.

What causes hypertension?

More than 90% of cases of high blood pressure are known as “essential hypertension” and have no identifiable cause. “Secondary hypertension,” on the other hand, is caused by underlying conditions such as kidney disease or certain medications.

The risk factors for essential hypertension include age (the risk is higher after age 35), race (African Americans are at higher risk), and a family history of the condition. While you can’t control those factors, there are many you can control, including:

  • Being overweight
  • Being stressed
  • Consuming too much salt
  • Drinking heavily
  • Not exercising
  • Using tobacco

How can acupuncture and TCM help?

Fortunately, there are many ways to lower your blood pressure. Typical Western treatments includes controlling your risk factors and taking medication if needed. By incorporating acupuncture and TCM into your treatment plan, you can treat your hypertension and improve your overall health and well-being.

Acupuncture and TCM practitioners take a holistic, or “whole body,” approach for the treatment of hypertension, and take into account inharmonious conditions of the whole system than can involve the function of the liver, kidneys, digestive system and heart.

Treatment is based upon the idea of Qi (pronounced “chee”), the vital energy that flows through pathways called meridians, providing nourishment for all of the body’s organs and protecting it from illness. When the flow of Qi becomes diminished or blocked, disease and illness result.

The goal of treatment is to find and address the underlying imbalance(s) affecting the flow of Qi, leading to the elevated blood pressure and various symptoms. By addressing the root cause of your high blood pressure, TCM can help your body regain its natural balance. In doing so, you’ll also be strengthening your health and reducing the risk of future health conditions.

Acupuncture and TCM have proven effective against a wide variety of health concerns. Studies have found that a special form of acupuncture called electro-acupuncture, which uses electrical stimulation, may be particularly helpful in lowering blood pressure. By working together with your practitioner, you’ll be on your way to successfully treating your hypertension and improving your health, for today and the days ahead. Similar to healthy eating and regular exercise, consistent acupuncture treatments should be considered for the greatest long-term results.

References:
High Blood Pressure. American Heart Association. March 20, 2008. Link
High Blood Pressure. MayoClinic.com. June 5, 2007. Link
Hypertension. Acupuncture.com. Accessed April 20, 2008. Link
Williams T; Mueller K; Cornwall MW. Effect of acupuncture-point stimulation on diastolic blood pressure in hypertensive subjects. Physical Therapy. 1991 Jul, 71(7):523-9.
Wood, Shelley. Blood Pressure Changes with Acupuncture Comparable to Those with ACE Inhibitor Monotherapy. Medscape, Medical News. 2007, June, 15.

IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a complex disorder in which the intestines lose their ability to efficiently move their contents. The main symptoms of IBS are abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, and/or constipation. Less common symptoms may include headaches, fatigue, depression and anxiety. Symptoms may be triggered by stress, diet, emotional factors, hormone levels and medications.

Let’s talk acupuncture

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can offer a safe, effective, natural and drug-free way to address IBS. This holistic healthcare system looks at the body differently than Western medicine. According to Chinese medicine, the body is like a garden that must be cultivated and maintained in order to grow strong and remain healthy. Good health happens when all of the organs and meridian systems are balanced and working together.

How does your garden grow?

According to Chinese medical theories, there are several possible causes for IBS.

One of these is an imbalance of the spleen. The spleen is the organ in charge of digestion and assimilation of foods and liquids. One of the main functions of the spleen is to aid in the production of spleen Qi. Spleen Qi is the energy that provides power and nourishment for the entire body.

Another function of the spleen is to produce blood from the food it breaks down and to convert it into usable energy to power your body. If your spleen isn’t properly cared for, the body’s energy levels will not be supported and illness may occur.

The spleen is easily affected and weakened by poor eating habits and diet, antibiotics, excessive worry, or a weak constitution. When a weakened spleen cannot metabolize or process food efficiently, “dampness” appears in the body. Dampness occurs when rotting, undigested food sits in the gut, causing a variety of symptoms. If dampness “rises” to your head, you may experience headaches, a “foggy” feeling and an inability to concentrate. Over time, dampness can lead to bloating, fullness and loose stools.

Another possible scenario is an imbalance in the liver. According to Chinese medicine, the liver is associated with emotional health. Stress and anger directly influence the function of your liver. Alcohol, drugs and medications, or a poor diet further compromise its function. When this happens, your liver energy overflows, in a figurative sense, and attacks the spleen. If your spleen is already weakened, it can be easily overcome. The result can be stress-induced IBS.

If your liver is compromised, you may experience alternating diarrhea and constipation, as well as bloating, gas, headaches, and dull pain. In this case, your liver may be the root of the problem, and your spleen the secondary problem.

An imbalance in kidney Yang could also cause IBS symptoms. kidney Yang is energy that provides warmth for your body. This energy warms up your spleen to aid in the digestion and breakdown of food. If your kidney energies are compromised, you may experience early-morning diarrhea and possibly bladder incontinence, cold limbs, weak knees and a sore back.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can create a clear picture of the root imbalance(s) that lead to IBS symptoms. When you meet with your practitioner, he or she will determine what organ and meridian systems are contributing to your IBS. They may also suggest adjunct therapies such as herbs, dietary changes, breathing techniques and exercises in order to maximize your healing.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can provide a safe, natural, drug-free and effective way to address IBS.

Infertility

Whether you are looking for a natural alternative or want to increase your chances of success by combining acupuncture with other ART (Assisted Reproductive Technologies), TCM provides comprehensive, effective treatment.

Infertility Treatment with Acupuncture and TCM

Infertility treatment with acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) dates back for thousands of years. Infertility is a common condition, affecting about one in ten couples who want to conceive. Approximately 40% of cases are due to problems on the woman’s side, 40% to problems on the man’s side, and 20% are unexplained

TCM infertility treatment includes the use of several modalities, including:

  1. Acupuncture   

    Dr. Cai Treats Infertility
    Dr. Cai Infertility Treatment
  2. Herbal supplements   
  3. Moxibustion
  4. Cupping
  5. Nutrition and lifestyle guidance

Dr. Cai of Art of Wellness in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, CA is an expert in women’s health and infertility in women with over thirty years of experience. She has helped hundreds of couples fulfill their dream of bringing a healthy baby into the world. In China, Dr. Cai worked with pioneering doctors on the forefront of integrating Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) methods with cutting-edge gynecological and infertility treatments. Since bringing her practice to Los Angeles in 1997, she has worked in concert with the top medical professionals in the field to help improve outcomes for couples who choose this integrative concept.

Infertility in Women

Modern women are now able to choose many paths in life. The journey towards motherhood has evolved. When a woman is ready to create her family, she may need to seek extra support. TCM brings a traditional and time-tested approach to a process that can be daunting at times. Establishing a trusting relationship with an acupuncture practitioner can help a woman feel empowered to better understand her cycles, her relationship to her body, and ultimately, to move into the experience of pregnancy and mothering with confidence and vitality.

Infertility treatment means taking care of the whole woman. A TCM practitioner looks at every aspect of the constitution, history, lifestyle and emotional world of each patient. Many different conditions can contribute to infertility, directly or indirectly, including:

  1. Irregular and/or painful periods
  2. PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
  3. Low AMH levels (anti-müllerian hormone)
  4. High FSH
  5. Endometriosis
  6. Autoimmune issues/multiple miscarriage
  7. Stress/anxiety

TCM treatments for infertility in women begins with addressing any underlying health problems. It is tremendously helpful to start working with your acupuncturist at least a few months (menstrual cycles) before beginning an ART cycle. In some cases, women conceive naturally during this time, their issues resolved through TCM alone. It can take 2-3 months for the treatment to regulate hormone imbalances and improve egg and uterine lining quality.

How To Treat Infertility with Acupuncture

The combination of acupuncture and supplementation with personalized herbal formulation increases a patient’s chances of conceiving by harmonizing all of the reproductive organs and systems synergistically. Recent studies have concluded that acupuncture helps to:

  1. Regulate menstrual cycle
  2. Increase blood flow to the uterus, which improves the chances of implantation 
  3. Normalize hormone and endocrine systems that regulate ovulation
  4. Positively affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis
  5. Reduce anxiety and stress
  6. Reduce the side effects and pain associated with ART hormone medications and procedures

Acupuncture operates on the premise that most health issues are caused by an imbalance of Qi (life force energy) and blood, affecting the healthy functioning of one or more of the organ systems. When Qi and blood are circulating freely throughout the body, every cell, tissue and organ is properly nourished and can function well. Acupuncture and TCM can raise the fertility potential of women by positively affecting the quality, quantity, balance and flow of Qi and blood.

For more detailed information about how TCM practitioners diagnose and differentiate different causes of infertility in women, visit our article here.

 

Infertility in Men

Problems with sperm quality are becoming increasingly common. Most men are not aware, though, that there is a problem until they are trying to have a baby.

Causes of male infertility often involve the existence of a condition that creates too much heat in the body. Sperm cannot survive at high temperatures. Stagnation of blood and qi in the reproductive organs can create blockages and increase heat. Sometimes a history of infection, either with an STI (sexually transmitted infection) or UTI (urinary tract infection), has caused damage to the organs. There can be hormonal imbalances, too, that cause semen to be coagulated, too thick for the sperm to move effectively.

In TCM, we differentiate male infertility according to our philosophy of organ systems:

  1. Kidney deficiency – can mean that there is some constitutional weakness going to back to early development. Onset of puberty may have been later in teenage years. The testes may not have developed or descended fully.
  2. Dampness/Excess Heat – indicated by a past or latent infection. What we call jiao, or the lowest of the “three burners” in the body, does not function properly, creating too much dampness and heat in the pelvic floor area, compromising sperm formation and travel.
  3. Toxic exposure/Stress and Anxiety – can lead to stagnation. The sperm does not have enough vitality to move.

Acupuncture and herbal supplementation combined with some lifestyle and dietary adjustments can dramatically strengthen the quality, quantity and motility of sperm. Avoiding hot baths and soaking in jacuzzi is important. We also recommend that men do not carry their cell phones in their front pocket; if you must, put it in your back pocket, away from the groin area. Above all, keep in mind that men also need holistic care that helps them approach the family-making and parenting process in optimal health.

 

Continuing acupuncture treatment during pregnancy and the post-partum period is beneficial for mother and baby, as it is effective for a host of related issues, including nausea and vomiting, back and hip pain, management of blood sugar levels, as well as reducing pain during labor and helping to encourage an abundant supply of breast milk.

Building a team of trusted professionals to support you can make all the difference in both your experience of the process and the success of the outcome. We hope you will schedule a visit for an initial consultation with Dr. Cai so you can get started creating optimal health for yourself and your growing family.

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

 

 

Insomnia

 

insomnia and restless sleep
Insomnia can impact your overall health.

Insomnia is a common condition that involves difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Everyone experiences a sleepless night once in a while, but trouble sleeping at night that persists from a few nights up to a few weeks indicates acute insomnia, while experiencing difficulty sleeping at least a few nights per week over the course of months would be classified as chronic insomnia. Lack of sleep causes physical and mental distress that can seriously impact daily functioning and mood. While there are many types of medication available to help with sleep, they are only meant to be used on a short-term basis, and they can cause negative side effects. Acupuncture has been shown to be effective for people struggling with insomnia, with no side effects.

Prescription drugs like Ambien and Belsomra work on receptors in the brain to induce sleep. However, both of these medications are metabolized by the liver and therefore contraindicated for anyone with an impaired liver. According to TCM, many sleep complaints are related to the health of the liver 气(). Medications that further exhaust the liver’s ability to do its job are not meant to be long-term remedies for insomnia. One sleep lab study showed that, as measured objectively by polysomnography, sleep quality improved in patients receiving acupuncture treatment.

Symptoms of Insomnia

Onset Insomnia refers to the experience of having trouble falling asleep, while maintenance insomnia means waking during the night and being unable to get back to sleep. Some of the symptoms of insomnia and other sleep problems are clearly related to actual sleep behaviors. Others affect seemingly unrelated parts of the body. Persistent lack of sleep affects the health of the whole body, as well as the mind and spirit. Insomnia can cause the following signs and symptoms:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Difficulty staying asleep
  • Excessive dreaming, nightmares
  • Restless sleep, frequently awakening with a start
  • Difficulty getting back to sleep
  • “Half sleep” or shallow sleep
  • Daytime drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Poor memory
  • Dry mouth or bitter taste in the mouth
  • Palpitations
  • Heavy feeling in the chest
  • Feverish sensations in the palms, soles and chest
  • Skin pale and lifeless
  • Ruddy/red complexion
  • Irritability
  • Poor appetite, loss of taste sensation
  • Constipation
  • Headache
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Tinnitus
  • Back pain
  • Knee pain

Many people suffering from insomnia report feelings of depression and/or anxiety. Sleep problems can also affect weight, causing weight gain for some and weight loss for others. Acupuncturists look carefully at the whole range of both somatic and psychological symptoms displayed before coming to a conclusion about what is causing the sleep difficulty.

How to Sleep Better with Acupuncture and TCM

acupuncture for insomnia
Acupuncture treatment can help restore restful sleep.

TCM treats symptoms holistically and in concert. Records of insomnia as an affliction to be treated with acupuncture and herbs go back over 2000 years. A qualified acupuncturist looks at the whole picture of a person’s symptoms, habits, lifestyle, and foundational constitution and then creates a unique, personalized treatment plan to address the underlying causes of the sleep problems. TCM providers use observations of a patient’s tongue, skin pallor, and pulse to diagnose what is going on in the organ systems of the body that is creating the particular collection of symptoms. 

TCM theory incorporates concepts for bodily processes that relate to the elements: fire, wind, dampness, and cold. Qi, the life force energy that flows through the body, carrying vitality, needs support and nourishment, or it can become depleted. Yin and Yang energies balance each other. TCM classifies insomnia by patterns of symptoms that indicate which energies and elements are too abundant or too scarce.

Top 3 Insomnia Causes According to TCM

Each person’s sleep experience and pattern of symptoms is unique. Your TCM provider will ask many questions about your schedule, habits, and healthy history to get a sense of your situation. Feelings throughout the body are clues as to what is going on with the organ systems and how to bring them back into balance.

  1. Deficiency of heart and spleen – often seen in older people, it is easy to fall asleep, but then dreams cause disturbance, and once awakened, it is hard to get back to sleep. During the daytime, they may feel dizzy, low energy, absent-minded, fatigued. Pale complexion and tongue and a weak pulse are indicators. In these cases, the spleen, which acts as a major producer of nutrients within the body, has become overworked and is not nourishing the heart enough. In turn, the heart, which normally houses the Shen (spirit), can’t contain it. Thus, the Shen wanders, causing forgetfulness and restlessness. In these cases, the TCM doctor will work with acupuncture points and herbs to strengthen the spleen and heart and promote an increase in nutrient-rich blood and Qi.
  2. Hyperactivity of fire due to yin deficiency – this presentation involves difficulty falling asleep, a sense of having been “up all night.” Patients with this pattern may also experience night sweats, hot sensations in their hands, feet, and chest, heart palpitations, ringing in the ears, and dry mouth. In this case, exhaustion of the kidneys affects the nourishment of the brain, causing the symptoms in the head and sense organs. Kidney weakness also gives rise to more fire energy in the heart and liver. TCM methods are used to cool the fire and strengthen the Yin energy.
  3. Liver qi stagnation transforming into fire – difficult to fall asleep, excessive dreaming, accompanied by impatience and irritability, headache, red face, constipation, heavy feeling in chest, frequent sighing, thirst. In some cases, the TCM modality of moxibustion will be used to stimulate the liver qi and improve the quality of sleep.

There are many more types of insomnia classified by Traditional Chinese Medicine theory and practice. A qualified acupuncturist will be able to diagnose a condition so that the health of the whole body and mind is adequately addressed to not only banish sleepless nights, but to boost immunity and overall wellness.

TCM for Insomnia and Anxiety

daytime fatigue related to insomnia
Insomnia can impair daytime functioning.

For many people, insomnia and anxiety are clearly related, so much so that one seems to be causing the other. Sometimes sufferers feel that they lay awake all night, worrying about tomorrow, and then spend the whole day worrying that they won’t be able to sleep again. According to conventional medical thinking, sleep anxiety is essentially a problem of brain chemistry. Acupuncture has been shown to positively influence the secretion of melatonin at night. Acupuncture treatment acts upon the nervous system, facilitating the release of serotonin, endorphins and noradrenaline, neurotransmitters which contribute to relaxation and a sense of well-being.

Pregnancy Insomnia

Approximately 78% of women experience some sleeplessness during pregnancy. Many physical changes–hormone levels, a growing body, aches and pain, itchy skin, frequent urination–disrupt sleep. Vivid dreams and real worries about the baby’s arrival can impair sleep, too. Acupuncture is a safe and effective way to treat aches and pains, hormone balance, and improve sleep quality all at once. One controlled study showed that women receiving acupuncture slept better than those attempting behavioral changes without acupuncture.

Acupuncture for Insomnia and Menopause

Sleep problems are a common complaint among women in their middle years who are experiencing perimenopause or are menopausal. Night sweats or hot flashes disrupt sleep. Kidney or liver yin deficiency can cause light, dreamy sleep, sudden waking between 3:00 – 4:00 a.m., along with daytime fatigue and memory loss. Acupuncture has been shown to help improve sleep, mood and overall quality of life for women in menopause.

Find the Best Acupuncture Near Me for Insomnia

When insomnia is ongoing, your body is unable to get the rest and renewal it needs. Disturbed sleep can cause difficulty concentrating, diminished energy, low mood, and trouble performing everyday tasks. Since sleep strengthens the immune system, insomnia can also leave you susceptible to many other health concerns. Luckily, you don’t have to continue to struggle with chronic insomnia. TCM and acupuncture offer natural remedies for sleep. You may find that you sleep better after your very first session, though you will most likely benefit most from a series of treatments. At Art of Wellness, our doctors are ready to help you get a good night’s sleep.

Menopause

Middle Aged Woman
Most women start feeling perimenopausal symptoms in their 40s.

Menopause is a natural, physiological transition that marks the cessation of ovulation and menstruation. Apart from periods becoming less regular, about 80% of women also experience hot flashes, night sweats, and other uncomfortable signs of menopause. Conventional medicine tends to offer women some menopause relief through Menopause Hormone Therapy (MHT), but this approach carries risk. Hormone Replacement has been shown to significantly increase the risk of breast cancer, and the danger grows with every year that a woman continues using hormone replacements for menopause. TCM and Acupuncture offer real menopause symptom relief without any of these negative side effects.

The time during which symptoms appear is actually called perimenopause, and it can last anywhere from a few months up to several years. Women generally begin to experience pre-menopausal symptoms in their 40s, but for some women, they can begin as early as their 30s, or not until their 50s. On average, women spend about four years experiencing a gradual change. Menopause is said to have occurred when a woman has gone a full twelve months without a period. During perimenopause, women are confronted with many changes, not only in their menstrual cycles, but in all aspects of their lives: physical, mental, and emotional.

What Are the Symptoms of Menopause?

As a woman moves through the transition of perimenopause, she is likely to experience a host of various symptoms. Some of these are undeniably visceral, such as waking up in the night drenched in sweat, while others might be very subtle–like having trouble remembering names that used to come effortlessly. Each woman’s experience is different, but most women notice at least some of these perimenopausal symptoms.

Top 15 Common Signs of Menopause that Can Be Improved with Acupuncture Treatment

  1. Irregular menstrual periods
  2. Hot flashes, hot flushes, night sweats
  3. Anxiety, depression, irritability
  4. Trouble sleeping through the night
  5. Fatigue
  6. Memory problems, difficulty concentrating
  7. Weight gain, low metabolism, thickening around the middle
  8. Looser skin, brittle nails
  9. Headaches
  10. Vaginal dryness
  11. Low libido
  12. Sensations such as: mouth tingling, itchy skin, electric shocks, nerve tingling in hands and feet
  13. Loss of bone density
  14. Bladder incontinence
  15. Joint pain

Current medical science views these symptoms as a hormonal imbalance, and seeks to correct that imbalance. Estrogen levels do indeed begin to fluctuate during perimenopause, rising and falling unpredictably. TCM theory and practice view these changes as being due to changing body chemistry, and also in natural changes that occur in the more subtle energies of the body.

Insomnia and restless sleep are also common complaints among premenopausal women. This problem can then contribute to an overall sensation of fatigue and fogginess. The stimulation of specific acupuncture points can help induce more restful sleep, while TCM herbal supplements that support the liver and kidneys balance the endocrine and nervous systems.

How Does an Acupuncturist Treat Menopause?

Woman reaching towards the sky
Finding balance and vitality through this transition

Estrogen is similar to what acupuncturists call Jing Qi, a foundational energy with which we are born. As we age, our supply of this potent energy decreases over time. Lifestyles that involve a lot of stress, long hours spent sitting or standing, unhealthy eating and drinking habits can also contribute to loss of Jing Qi. Another factor that can contribute to menopause is an imbalance in Yin and Yang energies. Yin can be thought of as the cooling system of the body. When this cooling system declines, heat symptoms will appear, such as night sweats, restlessness, hot flashes, mood swings, heart palpitations and insomnia. The decline of Yang energy can also lead to imbalance. Yang represents the warming and metabolizing functions of the body. When Yang is unbalanced, symptoms may include water retention, cold hands and feet, weight gain, edema, indigestion, hypertension, or raised cholesterol levels.

An acupuncturist will conduct a thorough evaluation and a complete health history and develop a unique treatment plan that will address each patient’s individual concerns. When treating menopausal symptoms, an acupuncturist must first determine where the energy has changed, and what organ systems have become unbalanced. Once this is known, various natural therapies such as acupuncture, herbs, meditation, Qi Gong and diet can be used to correct the imbalances. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine offer a safe, natural, drug-free and effective way to address menopause symptoms. 

Women who look for acupuncture near me to address hot flashes, in particular, find relief from menopause symptoms after as few as three treatments, but a full session of eight acupuncture treatment for menopause has been shown to produce significant reduction of symptoms for up to six months. Acupuncture and its related modalities are also effective at relieving perimenopausal symptoms such as anxiety, irritability, headaches and sleep difficulties.

A TCM practitioner uses all of the tools at her disposal, including the careful consideration of combinations of traditional herbal supplements to help alleviate discomfort and restore harmony to the body. Some herbs have been clinically demonstrated to help raise estrogen levels. Different presentations of perimenopausal symptoms call for different classic herbal formulae. Consistent use of this type of natural remedy for hot flashes and other signs of menopause, along with appropriate modifications to diet and lifestyle, can make a real difference in the quality of life experienced during this transition.

TCM and Acupuncture Treat Menopause Symptoms Naturally

Women rowing a boat together
Life after menopause can be a new adventure.

TCM offers a holistic, whole-person approach. A qualified acupuncturist with expertise in womens’ health and menopause will offer patients invaluable advice regarding specific lifestyle changes that will help restore balance. Each woman’s unique situation can be eased with adjustments to offer menopause symptom relief. Feelings of anxiety and irritability, accompanied by restless sleep, can make life feel uncertain, like the foundation we have spent so many years building is crumbling. An acupuncturist understands, and helps patients deal with these subtle yet troubling pre-menopausal symptoms in a productive way. TCM encourages each patient to take responsibility for her own well-being, and gives her the tools with which to do exactly that.

As with everything in life, and especially in the search for optimal health, attitude is key. In TCM and in traditional Chinese culture, menopause is often referred to as “the Second Spring.” Even in contemporary culture, women still do the lion’s share of childcare and household duties within the family. Now that the “childbearing” years of a woman’s life have drawn to a close, she is free to direct her energies towards new pursuits. All women, whether or not they have spent their earlier adult years raising a family, can view this transformative time as an opportunity to focus on her own goals and desires, to bring her own dreams to fruition. Sometimes women struggle with this time emotionally, feeling that something is ending, that they are being diminished. Far from it! Second Spring is a time to plant the seeds of new projects, envision new adventures, and gently nurture growth.

The best time to treat symptoms of menopause is as soon as they begin to appear, when they are still mild. A acupuncturist with special expertise in womens’ health will be able to balance the female hormones so that the whole process will proceed smoothly. At any point, though, a woman with moderate or severe perimenopausal symptoms can feel the benefits of acupuncture treatment. If you or someone you know is experiencing menopause, find acupuncture near me to help navigate the path of perimenopause with ease.

For more tips on how to best manage hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause, read our Dr. Cai’s blog article on how to treat menopause symptoms.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a complex condition that currently affects approximately 400,000 people in the United States—with 200 more people diagnosed every week. This chronic disease causes uncomfortable, sometimes debilitating symptoms that can make it difficult to perform everyday tasks.

An unpredictable condition

The exact causes of MS are not entirely understood, and there is currently no cure, though there have been many advances in treatment in recent years. Western medicine considers MS an autoimmune condition–a condition that occurs when the immune system attacks the body’s own tissues. In the case of MS, the immune system starts attacking and breaking down a substance called myelin, the sheath that surrounds the nerve fibers of the central nervous system. Myelin increases the speed of the transmission of nerve signals.

When myelin becomes “broken” or destroyed, nerve impulses are slowed down, leading to a progression of nerve-related problems. When these nerve fibers become damaged, symptoms can result, including:

  • Blurred vision
  • Loss of balance
  • Poor coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Fatigue
  • Memory problems
  • Numbness or weakness of
    the limbs

The symptoms of MS vary from person to person, can range from minor to severe and can even disappear for a period of time only to flare up unexpectedly.

Treatment options

Depending upon your symptoms and the progression of the disease, your doctor may suggest medications designed to slow the disease and/or medications for the symptoms.

It is important to take an active role in your treatment. More and more, people living with MS are choosing to complement their Western treatment with acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Acupuncture and TCM can provide a safe, natural way for those living with MS to stay as healthy as possible. Including acupuncture and TCM in your treatment plan can help boost your overall health and relieve symptoms. Practitioners of TCM view MS differently than Western medicine practitioners, taking into account each individual’s overall health, lifestyle and emotional well-being—not just their symptoms.

TCM is based on the concept that Qi (pronounced “chee”), or vital energy, flows through the body in channels called meridians. If Qi becomes stagnant, unbalanced or deficient, symptoms such as those linked to MS can result. This can occur for any number of reasons, from an inherited constitutional imbalance or illness to stress or an external invader such as wind or dampness.

Your practitioner will work to determine the condition at the root of your symptoms in order to create a treatment plan. For example, the muscular stiffness and numbness associated with MS are often related to excessive dampness within the meridians, or a deficiency in the liver and kidney organ systems.

Based on their diagnosis, your acupuncture practitioner will work to balance the Qi in the body’s organ systems by manipulating corresponding points on the body with hair-thin acupuncture needles. While acupuncture alone can’t cure MS, it has been found to be particularly useful in managing symptoms such as pain, muscle spasms and bladder problems.

Self-care for MS

MS can have an impact on every part of your life. To help support both your physical and emotional well-being, your practitioner may suggest some of these lifestyle changes and self-care techniques.

Herbal remedies – Your practitioner may provide herbs or nutritional supplements designed to help relieve symptoms and boost your overall health. Be sure to let your other health care providers know if you take supplements in order to avoid any potential drug interactions.

Staying cool– Heat can make symptoms of MS worse. Tepid baths, cool drinks and air conditioning may help make you more comfortable.

Exercise – Yoga and Qi Gong can help improve strength, balance and depression. Consider adding gentle aerobic exercise as well to improve your overall health and reduce stress.

Stress relief– Stress can exacerbate symptoms and cause other health problems, so it’s important to keep your stress levels in check. Meditation or deep-breathing techniques can help you stay calm and relaxed. Massage is another great way to help relieve stress and loosen tense muscles. If your anxiety becomes overwhelming, consider talking to a professional.

MS is a serious condition, but many people with MS live long, happy, fulfilled lives. Acupuncture and TCM can provide the support you need to cope with MS and its effects. If you or someone you love is facing MS, contact an acupuncturist today.

References:
Chinese herbal treatment for Multiple Sclerosis and other flaccidity syndromes. S. Dharmananda, Ph.D. Inst. for Traditional Medicine.
Traditional Chinese medicine and Multiple Sclerosis. A patient guide. E. Vickers, N.D., L.Ac.
Acupuncture for Multiple Sclerosis. 6/27/08. Link

Neck Pain

acupuncture for neck pain
Acupuncture relieves neck pain and restores mobility.

Neck pain is a very common complaint, affecting at least 14% of Americans per year. A sore neck or neck stiffness is sometimes a mechanical problem, arising from poor posture or repetitive motions. In other cases, pain in the side of the neck or a neck pain headache can signal a deeper problem with the structure of the cervical spine or the complex system of nerves and blood vessels that run through the neck. TCM and acupuncture have been shown to be effective for treating neck pain and musculoskeletal disorders of all kinds. 

Because neck strain can stem from a wide variety of physical and behavioral causes, medical doctors often have a hard time pinpointing the specific source of the sore neck. Most conventional treatments for neck pain involve the prescription of pain relievers or muscle relaxers. These drugs may help alleviate some of the discomfort, but they do not address the problems that may be developing in the cervical spine. 

Neck Anatomy 

The neck is part of the long, flexible connected row of vertebrae known as the spinal column. Technically called the cervical spine, the neck consists of seven vertebrae interspersed with discs that provide cushioning, absorb shock and provide for free movement. Each vertebra has a hollow tube that contains the spinal cord and bundles of nerves which run along the entire spinal column, creating stimulus and sensation throughout the body. The skeletal spine is then supported by a complex of muscles and ligaments that attach to the bones.

In front of the cervical spine, the neck also houses the esophagus, trachea (windpipe), the thyroid gland, and many blood vessels. The relatively narrow neck structure holds up the head, which weighs an average of about eleven pounds. The neck is a delicate marvel of design with a heavy load to carry, day in and day out.

Neck Pain Causes

While neck pain is a common complaint, it is often very difficult for doctors to diagnose the specific causes of neck pain. Even sophisticated modern diagnostic testing techniques and equipment do not necessarily reveal exactly what is causing the painful sensations. Causes of neck pain include:

In some cases, neck pain is being caused by tension or neck strain in the soft tissues (muscles and ligaments) in or surrounding the neck. This type of musculoskeletal pain might stem from the positioning of the neck while working or sleeping or from some sudden injury to the tissues. Chronic stress that creates a buildup of tension in the tissues can also cause neck spasms. Torticollis refers to the phenomenon of waking up with a stiff neck that feels like it is twisted to one side. These types of neck pain may resolve themselves in a few days or weeks without medical treatment, but they can cause significant pain and loss of mobility.

A headache at the base of the skull, sometimes called a “neck headache,” or cervicogenic headache, is a secondary headache disorder caused by a problem in one or more of the neck joints. Researchers believe that up to 20% of headaches are actually caused by problems in the cervical spine, usually one of the top three neck joints: the Atlanto-occipital joint (O-C1), the Atlanto-axial joint (C1/2), or the C2/3 cervical spine joints.

Sharp pains around the back of the head and neck can also be caused by irritated nerves or a pinched nerve. Sometimes a malformation of the bone of one of the vertebra, or the bulging of a disc can put pressure on the nerve bundles and cause radiating neck and shoulder pain.

Degenerative conditions that affect the vertebrae and cartilaginous discs can cause severe and/or chronic neck pain (lasting more than three months). For patients with chronic neck pain, doctors usually prescribe pain medications or muscle relaxers and may refer patients to physical therapy (PT). Drugs may or may not alleviate pain symptoms, and depending on the situation, PT may or may not address the root cause of the problem. This is why many people suffering from acute neck pain or chronic neck pain turn to alternative providers for help. Acupuncture has been shown to help provide pain relief and restore movement after as little as one treatment.

TCM and Acupuncture for Neck Pain

When you consult with an acupuncture provider regarding neck pain, she will take a detailed history and make a diagnosis very specific to the range of symptoms you are experiencing, as well as your underlying constitution. Even mechanical problems having to do with the musculoskeletal system of the body are viewed as manifestations of pathogens from both internal and external sources. 

neck pain is gone
Free yourself from neck pain and stiffness

According to TCM, Bi Syndromes create obstructions in the flow of Qi (life force energy) and blood throughout the body. Bi Syndromes correspond to what conventional medicine refers to as rheumatological disorders. Rheumatism, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and fibrositis would fall under this category, and can all be the root causes of stiff neck, sore neck, and swelling in the cervical joints. Bi Syndromes are considered to be caused by the pathogens of Heat, Wind, Dampness and/or Heat. In some cases, the pathogenic factor is coming from an Internal source; in others, from an External source. Bi Syndromes cause blockages in the pathways within the body, causing pain. Different Bi Syndromes will manifest as sensations of soreness, aches, swelling, numbness, or burning. Sometimes these symptoms appear particularly in the neck area. TCM treats Bi Syndromes through acupuncture and herbs with the aim of moving the blood and balancing the Qi, dispelling wind, and clearing dampness.

Acupuncture for Whiplash Neck Injuries

When an accident such as a car crash occurs, objects and bodies collide with great force and speed, the head and neck sway forward, then snap back.  Even a seemingly minor fall or “fender bender” can have lasting consequences. A soft tissue injury that is often simply called “whiplash” can actually be a painful symphony of problems: fractures of the vertebrae, herniations of the spinal discs, torn ligaments, strained muscles and tendons. Other symptoms arise due to nerve damage and loss of mobility: stiffness, limited mobility, headache, numbness, tingling, along with sympathetic emotional problems.

The trauma of even a “minor” sudden injury creates blood stagnation—“stuck energy” within the body. An x-ray or MRI may not show this, but you can feel the effects: possibly fatigue, foggy-headedness, headache, dizziness, and even long-term depression.

Acupuncture is a natural and highly effective way to treat all types of injuries. Acupuncture will help to reduce swelling and inflammation of tissues, while unblocking the stagnation of Qi and blood and regenerating energy so that the body can return to proper function.

Comprehensive Pain Management with Acupuncture and TCM

Acupuncture helps both acute and chronic injuries. The sooner you can begin treatment after an accident, the better your recovery will be. However, even those suffering from the lingering effects of an old injury can benefit from treatment. Not only can acupuncture treatment reduce the pain you’re feeling, but it will improve your overall health so that you have the power to heal.

Your practitioner may also recommend herbs, changes in diet, stretches and other exercises to work in conjunction with acupuncture treatment. These adjunct therapies help you regain your health and prevent future problems. By working together with your acupuncturist, you can resolve your neck pain and create more optimal health.

 

 

Osteoarthritis

By Qineng Tan, L.Ac. Ph.D.

Osteoarthritis of the knee is one of the most common complaints causing people pain and loss of total mobility worldwide. Pain, stiffness of the joint, limited function, and sometimes a “clicking” or other sound, are symptomatic of this condition, which tends to worsen with age. Degeneration of the cartilage that cushions the knee joint, along with injury or degeneration of the ligaments, tendons, muscles and surrounding tissues that support the functioning of the knee, all play a role in the development of osteoarthritis of the knee.

The treatment typically offered is the prescription of anti-inflammatory drugs, which may provide some temporary relief but does not really heal the condition. Fortunately, Traditional Chinese Medicine can treat osteoarthritis, and several scientific studies conducted in recent years have demonstrated that acupuncture offers significant relief for this condition.

From a Chinese Medicine perspective, we do not view this problem as being isolated in the knee. We pay close attention to any blockage in the lower extremities because the legs are likeknee a “second heart” for the body. We rely on the large muscles of the legs to push the blood upwards, completing the “circle” of circulation. So if there is a problem in the leg, it not only affects the knees, but all of the organs.

In TCM, arthritis is called “Bi Syndrome.” Bi syndrome refers to conditions that create pain, stiffness, soreness, or numbness in the muscles, tendons and joints. There are various differentiations of Bi Syndrome, each referring to a type of bodily invasion by external climate factors: Wind, Dampness, Heat, and Cold. A TCM practitioner makes a determination about what type of Bi Syndrome is being presented based on the patient’s description of their pain and other symptoms, as well as by studying the appearance of the tongue and feeling the pulse. For example, if a person describes knee pain that improves when warmth is applied, and worsens when the area is exposed to cold, and we observe a thin, white coating on the tongue, along with a wiry, tight pulse, we will diagnose this as a “Cold Pattern Bi.” A “Damp Pattern Bi” is characterized by pain and swelling in the joint, and a feeling of heaviness and numbness in the limbs, a sticky tongue coating, and a slow, “soggy” pulse.

The point is, while many people suffer “knee pain,” not every case is the same, and the same treatment will not work for everyone. A TCM provider will zero in on the specific situation surrounding your knee pain, and treat it accordingly with acupuncture treatment, herbal formulae, and a dietary plan that will address the type of inflammation you are experiencing.

One recent study treated 32 patients who were waiting to have knee replacement surgery. The patients who received acupuncture treatment during the nine weeks of the study reported decreased pain, and the ability to walk farther and faster, while those who did not receive acupuncture reported continued increase in their pain.

How exactly does acupuncture help? From a scientific point of view, it increases the production of endorphins and the anti-inflammatory hormone adrenalcorticotropin. A treatment plan may include electro-acupuncture, moxa, cupping, herbs, dietary recommendations and lifestyle changes. Herbal formulas that address Bi Syndrome patterns have been in use for hundreds of years in TCM. They can help resolve dampness and cold and bring more warmth and circulation to the knee joint. A proper diet can go several steps further in treating inflammation, and preventing it from recurring.

If you or someone you love is experiencing chronic joint pain and loss of motion, there is hope for relief. Give Traditional Chinese Medicine a try.

 

Pain

Acupuncture is the best way to treat pain without negative side effects. TCM has been used for thousands of years not only to alleviate pain, but to actively work to treat the root cause of the pain.

acupuncture treats pain
Acupuncture can help alleviate pain

No one wants to suffer through pain, yet it is an integral part of life. Pain is the body’s way of communicating that something is wrong. From the perspective of medical experts, pain is defined as a sensory experience associated with damage of tissues. It can vary widely in intensity, and can be felt in a very specific area, or in a more diffuse way.

The pain may be due to an injury, or an illness, or something even more elusive. Covering up the pain with medications is only a temporary and very partial solution. Over the counter pain relievers work by blocking specific chemicals that damaged cells release as signals to the brain. They can block the transmission of the signals, but they don’t do anything to fix what’s causing the pain. It may lead someone to keep injuring herself or to inadequately treat the underlying illness. And pain medications can create many side effects, such as nausea, constipation, fuzzy-headedness. Over time, people build up a tolerance, so they have to take more to get the same effect.

How Acupuncture Treats Pain

TCM is a complex multi-disciplined approach to healing. An acupuncture practitioner uses various modalities to work with each patient’s individual symptoms and overall health condition. 

In the TCM view, qi (vital energy) flows through the body along pathways called meridians. Pain is usually a sign that there is a blockage of qi in the body. 

When treating a pain condition, the TCM practitioner is working on several levels. She can simultaneously use points to provide immediate pain relief while also freeing up the blockage and touching on whatever it was that started causing the blockage in the first place. Personalized herbal formulations can also address the deeper part of the issue, restoring a baseline of good health. 

TCM treats the whole person, not only localized physical symptoms. Pain can have its origins in some shock or emotional trauma a person went through, or because of dietary habits or exposure to some toxicity, either chemical or energetic. An experienced practitioner will ask lots of questions until the underlying issues are revealed.

5 Ways Acupuncture Treats Acute Pain Due to Sprained Ankles or Other Injuries

When a person first sustains an injury, such as a sprained ankle, shoulder strain, or even broken bone, it can be very beneficial to seek treatment by acupuncture right away. Acupuncture treats sprained ankles, strains and other injuries by:

acupuncture for sprained ankle
Acupuncture treatment for sprained ankles
  1. Stopping internal bleeding
  2. Reducing swelling and inflammation
  3. Stimulating the production and release of endorphins
  4. Block neural signals of pain
  5. Maximizing the flow of blood and qi to the area

Acupuncture and TCM for Chronic Pain Management

Many millions of people are affected by chronic pain conditions and have not been able to find relief from the care they are receiving, whether it be strong pain medications that carry side effects or surgeries that have not resolved their pain. Acupuncture has been shown to be an effective modality for reducing chronic pain.

Shoulder pain, neck pain, back pain, arthritis pain and chronic headache pain can all be treated by acupuncture with significant improvements demonstrated over time.

Acupuncture and TCM for Pain and Depression

Often pain and depression go hand in hand. Pain can arise from a traumatic experience that creates a double burden of mental and physical unease. Long periods of intense stress can put a stranglehold on the flow of qi through the meridians, further disrupting communications between the mind and body. In any case, pain that is severe and long-lasting can cause a person to feel helpless and hopeless. Acupuncture has been shown to help treat both the pain and the depression simultaneously.

Acupuncture for Cancer Treatment Pain and Symptoms

Patients fighting cancer often face pain both from the tissue damage caused by the cancer itself and pain that results from the various types of cancer treatment. More than half of cancer patients struggle with significant pain, and many of them go undertreated. Pain medications often do not do enough to ease the pain, and they carry side effects that further weaken the person who is fighting the sickness. Acupuncture can alleviate pain and boost the immune system, while also helping with related symptoms like nausea, neuropathy, and constipation.

20 Types of Pain Treated by Acupuncture and TCM

Acupuncture can provide pain relief for many pain conditions, including:

Headaches can disrupt your life
Acupuncture treats tension headaches and migraines
  1. Musculoskeletal pains of all kinds
  2. Sports injuries
  3. Sprained joints
  4. Neck pain
  5. Back pain
  6. Tension headaches
  7. Migraines
  8. Tennis elbow
  9. Knee pain
  10. Arthritis
  11. Cancer
  12. Body aches
  13. Fibromyalgia
  14. Stomach pain
  15. Liver disease
  16. Pancreatic disease
  17. Gall bladder stones
  18. Kidney stones
  19. Menstrual pain
  20. Endometriosis

If you or someone you love is suffering from pain, please call us right away to schedule an initial consultation. There is something you can do, and that is seek treatment from a highly qualified TCM professional.

PMS

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is often viewed as a “problem” or illness. It’s not. Instead, PMS is a variety of responses to an ordinary event in women’s lives: menstruation. PMS usually occurs monthly, accompanied with specific symptoms and signs that can appear seven to ten days before menstruation and then disappear after the onset of the menstrual flow. To better understand PMS, it is important to look at the whole picture.

Although PMS is due to unbalanced hormonal fluctuations, other factors such as stress, a nutritionally inadequate diet, lack of exercise and sleep, and a hectic or sedentary lifestyle can exacerbate the symptoms. Because most women exhibit as many as four to ten symptoms one to two weeks prior to menstruation, their lives—from relationships with family and friends, to work productivity and the ability to appreciate and take pleasure in their own bodies—may become diminished.

To make matters worse, women may be at increased risk for PMS if

  1. They are over 30 years old
  2. They are experiencing significant amounts of stress
  3. Their nutritional habits are poor
  4. They have suffered side effects from birth control pills
  5. They have difficulty maintaining a stable weight
  6. They do not get enough exercise
  7. They’ve had a pregnancy complicated by toxemia
  8. They have had children (the more children, the more severe the symptoms)
  9. They have a family history of depression

What to do about PMS

In treating PMS, Western medicine recommends diet and lifestyle changes coupled with medications that manipulate the levels of progesterone and estrogen (i.e. birth control pills), tranquilizers and/or antidepressants (for nervousness, anxiety and depression) that affect mood and emotions. Although prescription medications can sometimes bring immediate relief, they unfortunately do not address the underlying cause of PMS, and they can cause unwanted side effects that may mimic PMS symptoms.

A natural approach

In 1997, the National Institute of Health (NIH)1 issued a consensus report that suggested acupuncture is effective in the treatment of menstrual cramps, and other symptoms associated with PMS. Acupuncture can address PMS symptoms naturally, without medication, by restoring balance and harmony, both physically and emotionally. In Chinese medicine, the root cause of PMS is usually an imbalance or blockage of Qi, (pronounced “chee”) or vital energy, and blood within specific organ and meridian systems. When Qi and blood become imbalanced or blocked, symptoms and signs associated with PMS will appear.

The role of an acupuncturist is to investigate the underlying causes leading to PMS symptoms. After a thorough diagnostic evaluation to determine what organ and meridian systems are out of balance, they treat PMS symptoms according to each individual patient’s imbalances and concerns.

By inserting fine, sterile needles into specific points on the body, an acupuncturist is able to stimulate and activate the movement of Qi and blood. When Qi and blood begin to travel freely throughout the body, balance and normal function are restored and PMS symptoms are alleviated. Acupuncture restores hormonal balance and provides deep relaxation to help reduce stress, ultimately encouraging and supporting greater health and well-being of both body and mind.

A practitioner may also recommend lifestyle changes such as eating a nourishing, organic, whole foods diet, getting regular aerobic exercise and adequate sleep, enjoying warm baths, supplementing the diet with vitamins and herbs, and practicing deep relaxation exercises such as meditation, breathing exercises, or yoga.

Whether you suffer from PMS symptoms on an occasional or a monthly basis, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can offer a safe, natural and effective approach to alleviating these symptoms. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine may hold the key to a healthier, balanced, PMS-free life.

Resources:
1 National Institutes of Health (NIH) – National Institutes of Health Consensus Conference on Acupuncture, Program & Abstracts (Bethesda, MD, November 3-5, 1997). Office of Alternative Medicine and Office of Medical Applications of Research. Bethesda.

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome

by Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D. 

pcos endometriosis pain
PCOS can cause missed periods and painful periods

PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) is a complex condition that affects at least 10% of women during their reproductive years. In many cases, PCOS begins when a woman is still in her teens, and, if left unaddressed, can continue all the way through her 40s. The major complaint is irregular cycles; sometimes women with PCOS only have a period every few months, or even only a few in a year. PCOS is considered to be both a disorder of both the reproductive and endocrine systems. As such, medical treatment typically involves using hormone therapy to restore the menstrual cycle. Acupuncture and TCM offer an alternative to the use of synthetic hormones for PCOS by helping to balance hormones, restore natural ovulation, and boost fertility.

As a syndrome, PCOS is not a fully understood disease, but a collection of symptoms that often appear together. What is clear is that PCOS is one of the primary causes of infertility among women. This is due to the fact that most women with PCOS ovulate rarely, if at all. Women with PCOS tend to have hyperandrogenemia, which means higher than normal levels of androgens, especially testosterone. Insulin resistance is also common in women with PCOS, increasing risks of diabetes, glucose intolerance, and obesity.

Women frequently do not realize they have this condition. Even when women do seek medical advice for missed periods and occasionally heavy periods, PCOS is largely left undiagnosed. Rather, young women are usually given birth control pills, which seem to alleviate the symptoms by bringing on regular menstrual cycles. This means that many women do not discover that they have PCOS until they have stopped taking contraceptive medication and their periods stop.

Top 10 Symptoms of PCOS

PCOS is correlated with imbalances of both the reproductive hormones and metabolic hormones. While missed periods and infertility are often the red flags that alert patients and their healthcare providers to the problem, there are several symptoms common to the condition:

  1. Irregular menstrual cycle or no periods at all
  2. Abnormally heavy/painful periods
  3. Infertility
  4. Unexplained weight gain
  5. Excessive body or facial hair
  6. Thinning of hair on top
  7. Darkening of skin
  8. Acne, oily skin
  9. Fatigue
  10. Mood swings, depression

This syndrome gets its name from the small cysts that form on the ovaries. These are undeveloped eggs that are not released. These do not cause a problem in and of themselves; they are detected by means of an internal ultrasound. An official diagnosis of PCOS is made when a patient demonstrates two of these three primary indicators: hyperandrogenism, ovulatory dysfunction, and polycystic ovaries.

What Causes PCOS?

PCOS is not only a reproductive disorder; it is related to the metabolic/digestive system and endocrine system, as well. According to Western medicine, the causes of PCOS are still mysterious. Treatment for PCOS generally involves some type of hormone therapy medication, usually birth control pills, to regulate the menstrual cycle. Some patients may be given metformin to regulate their insulin. Women with PCOS who want to become pregnant are given Clomid and Letrozole. Women are advised to use various hair removal methods and given antibiotics to help their acne. But the condition is not being treated at its source.

Acupuncture can help improve the metabolic dysfunction that causes the insulin resistance and weight problems associated with PCOS. Specific Chinese herbs have been shown to help increase insulin sensitivity and reduce blood glucose levels. Acupuncture can also have a positive effect on the balance of LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), which is key to normal egg development and ovulation. One study concluded that a combination of electro-acupuncture treatment and regular exercise over a course of sixteen weeks reduced androgen (testosterone) levels, increased menstrual frequency, and improved acne.

PCOS Causes According to TCM

Tai Chai
Practice Tai Chi to reduce stress and bring balance.

In TCM, we have been studying and treating PCOS-related conditions for thousands of years. PCOS is not classified as an isolated condition; it is related to other conditions, such as irregular menstruation, amenorrhea, and infertility. More specifically, PCOS falls under a category of conditions called “Zheng Jia” –roughly translated as “masses”– in which we would also include endometriosis and uterine fibroids. All of these are caused by stasis or stagnation in Qi, Blood, and Fluid. In TCM, we view the woman as Yin, related to water. Women’s menstrual cycles correspond to the moon cycles. Women with PCOS have their Qi flow obstructed, causing fluid stasis. Irregular cycles and anovulatory periods can then cause women to have problems with their fertility. Some women do not realize they have PCOS until they start trying to get pregnant.

In general, in TCM, we view disease as being due to either external factors or internal factors. External factors include elemental forces that come into the body from the outside, like wind, cold, damp, heat, and dryness. An injury that causes damage or blockage to organs would also be considered an external factor. Internal factors arise within the body, and are related to lifestyle habits and emotions. These include: nutrition/diet, exercise or lack thereof, sleep issues, worry, over-thinking, anger, sadness, and stress.

PCOS is caused by internal factors. One typical PCOS manifestation according to TCM is spleen and kidney yang deficiency, which presents as overweight, pale, water retention, long cycles, and light period flow. This might be hereditary, or due to lifestyle. Overconsumption of ice-cold food and beverages is one of the primary examples among American patients, who tend to have cold drinks and ice cream often. Cold can weaken the body’s yang fire energy, which can negatively affect the processing of fluid, leading to water retention. Cold also creates more stagnation, especially before or during the period. For menstruation to work well, there must be a good flow of energy, blood and fluid throughout the systems.

Acupuncture for PCOS and Painful Period (Dysmenorrhea)

With acupuncture treatment, we work on this energy flow. Chinese herbal tea formula will strengthen the kidney and spleen yang. But lifestyle changes are very important, too. Stress management through meditation and movement modalities like Qi gong, Tai Chi, and yoga will help balance the emotions. Mind-Body exercises such as Tai Chi or yoga can help alleviate stress, balance the emotions, clear the mind, and allow for smooth functioning of the body’s complex systems. Take time for yourself. Eating properly, especially reducing mucus-producing foods like dairy, deep-fried items, and sugar is crucial. These types of foods create stagnant mucus that can contribute to the development of cysts and tumors. We recommend eating more foods that are warming, both temperature-wise and energy-wise. We view diet/food not just in terms of calories or vitamins, but as energy.

TCM principle is simple; if a part of you is weak, we need to strengthen it; if its action is excessive, we need to reduce it. In TCM, we always view each patient as a unique individual, and each treatment session as a unique opportunity to work with the patient on what is happening in her life and her body at that moment. Especially when we are treating a woman in relation to her menstrual cycle and the development of follicles on her ovaries, it is no exaggeration to say that every day, every moment is different, with different requirements. A fluid condition such as PCOS requires flexible treatment options from health care practitioners.

Best Acupuncture for PCOS in Los Angeles

Dr. Xiaomei Cai acupuncturist
Dr. Cai speaking at PCOS Conference

At Art of Wellness, our doctors have dedicated their lives to helping patients achieve optimal health and fertility. Dr. Cai recently had the honor of giving a presentation at the 2nd World Congress on Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome in Orlando, Florida, where she gave a presentation on the TCM perspective of this condition.

As a TCM practitioner who has been passionate about treating Women’s Health issues for 30 years, Dr. Cai believes that women everywhere, in every stage of life, can benefit from an integrative approach. Combining the best of Western and Traditional Chinese medicine allows women to find not only palliative care, but true solutions to their problems. PCOS is a perfect example of a condition that can be helped by acupuncture and Chinese herbal 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.

Pregnancy Support

Pregnancy is a time of extraordinary physical and emotional change. It’s also a time when it’s more important than ever to support and care for your well-being. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can help you meet the unique challenges of pregnancy, ensuring optimal health for you and your baby in a safe and natural way, without the use of harmful medications.

During pregnancy acupuncture can help with:
  • Back pain and sciatica
  • Breech birth
  • Constipation
  • Edema
  • Excessive lactation
  • Fatigue
  • Heartburn
  • Hemorrhoids
  • Insufficient lactation
  • Labor and delivery pain
  • Mastitis
  • Morning sickness
  • Physical problems
  • Postoperative healing
  • Postpartum discharge
  • Psychological problems

What to expect

Acupuncture has been used in China for thousands of years to regulate the female reproductive system. Acupuncture and TCM are based on the concept that Qi (pronounced “chee”), or vital energy, flows through the body in channels called meridians. Practitioners of acupuncture and TCM work to balance the Qi in the body’s meridian and organ systems by manipulating corresponding points on the body.

For a healthy pregnancy, regular weekly and/or monthly treatments are recommended. However, your practitioner will tailor your treatment entirely to your needs and suggest treatment based on your unique symptoms and concerns.

Because some acupuncture points should not be used during pregnancy, it’s important to choose a practitioner experienced in prenatal acupuncture. It’s also important to discuss any treatments or herbal supplements with all of your prenatal health care providers.

Relief for common concerns

Regular balancing treatments throughout your pregnancy can enhance your health as well as your baby’s health, potentially preventing complications and positively influencing the development of your baby. Many mothers-to-be find themselves facing anxiety, fatigue, back pain, heartburn, nausea and other symptoms as a result of the many new demands being placed on their bodies. Acupuncture has been found to effectively relieve many of these symptoms.

Acupuncture can support your health during your pregnancy by addressing these trimester symptoms:
  • First trimester – Sets the foundation for a healthy pregnancy. It can alleviate morning sickness, vomiting, fatigue and headaches.
  • Second trimester – Offers relief and balances the body from common complaints. It helps to alleviate heartburn, hemorrhoids, stress, sleep problems, edema, elevated blood pressure and weight gain.
  • Third trimester – Prepares the body for labor and delivery. It helps to alleviate sciatica, hip, joint, pubic and back pain.

Morning sickness responds particularly well to acupuncture, and your practitioner can even show you specific points that you can massage at home to help restore your appetite. Recent studies have also shown promising results in using acupuncture for depression during and after pregnancy.

Breech babies and other issues

Acupuncture can also help with more serious issues during pregnancy. Specific acupuncture points and techniques are very useful for turning “breech babies” (those positioned feet first). One study concluded that acupuncture is useful for babies that position themselves in a difficult presentation, and it is a relatively simple, effective and inexpensive method for breech birth presentation.1 Treatment involves moxibustion, or applying heat from the burning of the herb mugwort to a point on the little toes. The treatment causes no adverse side effects.

If your due date has passed, acupuncture can also be used to induce labor through gentler means than traditional Western labor-inducing treatments and medications. Acupuncture and acupressure can even be used to help control pain, calm the mind and reduce stress during delivery.

After baby has arrived

It’s important to recover properly after childbirth. Acupuncture can help you heal and regain your strength and vitality, rebalance your energy, boost your body’s defenses and help address concerns such as pain, fatigue, and postpartum depression.

Acupuncture and TCM provide a safe, gentle way to nurture and care for your health, and that of your baby, throughout your pregnancy and beyond. If you are pregnant or considering having a baby, contact an acupuncturist today!

References:
1 Acupuncture Conversion of Fetal Breech Presentation. D. Habek, et. al. Fetal Diagn Ther 2003;18:418-421
Non-Stress Test Changes During Acupuncture Plus Moxibustion on BL67 Point in Breech Presentation. I. Neri, PhD., et al. Journal of the Society for Gynecologic Investigation, Vol. 9, No. 3, 158-162 (2002)
Acupuncture during IVF improves pregnancy chances.Link
Research Articles on Acupuncture and Pregnancy.Link

Quit Smoking

Congratulations! If you’re reading this, you are on your way to kicking the habit and becoming smoke-free and healthier. Every year, more than 3 million Americans try to quit smoking, but only half of them succeed. With the help of acupuncture you have a greater chance of success!

Most experts agree that quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do for your health. More than 25 diseases are associated with tobacco use, including cancer of the lungs, bladder, mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, pancreas, kidney, uterus and cervix. Smoking also raises the chances of developing emphysema and increases the risk of having a stroke by 30 percent.

There is plenty of incentive to quit, but it isn’t necessarily easy. The good news is that acupuncture has helped millions of people to kick the smoking habit.

How acupuncture can help

Some of the largest stumbling blocks to becoming smoke-free are the stress, anxiety and depression associated with quitting. Fortunately, acupuncture treatment is quite successful at calming and relaxing the mind, reducing anxiety and alleviating depressive feelings. Specific acupoints in the ear and wrist are used to accomplish this. Additional acupoints may be included that help suppress your appetite, stimulate repair and healing of organ systems, and reduce food and nicotine cravings.

More than just kicking the habit

Using acupuncture to quit smoking yields enormous benefits. Aside from taking care of the stumbling blocks that can cause you to resume the habit, acupuncture can help restore your body to a healthy state of balance and well-being. If you are ready to become smoke-free, acupuncture can provide you with the support you need.

Here are a few tips to guide you through your acupuncture care:

  • Drink plenty of filtered water during the process.
  • Eat balanced, healthy meals with a variety of vegetables and fruits.
  • Refrain from sugar, which can cause further sugar cravings and unwanted weight gain.
  • Manage your cravings. They will actually fade within a few minutes. When cravings arise, distract yourself. Before you know it, the craving will have passed.
  • Scrub your skin with a dry brush or loofa to facilitate the cleansing process and help blood circulation. Take daily baths or showers.
  • Avoid spending time with other smokers so that you are less tempted to smoke.
  • Take a walk outside and take deep breaths. Upon exhale, gently place your teeth together and exhaling with the sound of “sssssssss.” This sound stimulates the lungs.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can provide a safe, natural, drug-free and effective way to quit smoking. The focus is upon achieving a balance of body and mind, and eliminating cravings so you can become smoke-free and healthier.

Shoulder Pain

 

Shoulder pain
Shoulder pain can make the simplest activities difficult to perform

Shoulder pain, which may arise from repetitive movements, sports injuries, or slow degeneration of tissues over time, is one of the most common types of musculoskeletal pain. Most pain in the shoulder is related to the soft tissues of the joints, primarily the rotator cuff tendons and muscles. In most cases doctors recommend medications to reduce pain and inflammation, modifications to normal activity, and take a “wait and see” approach. Serious conditions of frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis), torn rotator cuff, or chronic tendonitis in shoulder can be disabling. That is why shoulder pain is one of the complaints most often referred to physical therapy (PT) specialists.

Severe cases of shoulder impingement, collarbone pain due to fractures, or torn tendons may require surgery. Acupuncture and TCM offer an excellent complementary or alternative form of treatment that can reduce pain and inflammation and help restore mobility to a sore shoulder.

What Causes Shoulder Pain?

The shoulder is actually made up of three joints: where the arm bone fits into a small socket, where the collarbone meets the shoulder blade, and where the collarbone meets the breastbone. Muscles and tendons hold these bones together and allow them a wide range of movement. Shoulder problems can be caused by wear and tear on the tendons or cartilage, or inflammation of the small fluid-filled bursae that provide cushioning. Common causes of shoulder pain include:

  • Bursitis – inflammation of bursae
  • Tendonitis – inflammation of rotator cuff tendons
  • Biceps tendonitis – inflammation of the upper arm tendons
  • Torn rotator cuff – damage to the shoulder tendons due to injury or overuse
  • Labral tears – damage to cartilage that supports the ball and socket joint 
  • Frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) – extreme stiffness of the capsule of soft tissues that surrounds the shoulder joints
  • Dislocation – when the upper arm bone comes out of the shoulder socket due to injury
  • Shoulder separation – when the ligaments that hold the collarbone and shoulder blade together are damaged
  • Arthritis/osteoarthritis – loss of cartilage and synovial fluid causes bones to rub together
  • Impingement – when swollen soft tissues get pinched between the bones
  • Break or fracture of collarbone (clavicle)
  • Pinched nerve in the neck – causes radiating neck and shoulder pain
  • Strained muscles – on the top of the shoulder (deltoid pain), upper back (rhomboid pain), or connecting the shoulder to neck (trapezius pain)

While some types of shoulder pain are due to sudden injury of the bones or tendons, most shoulder pain manifests gradually over time due to degeneration of the tissues and repetitive movements, especially ones where the arm is reaching overhead. Lying on one’s side can also put extra pressure on the joints, causing shoulder pain from sleeping. 

5 Types of Shoulder Surgery

Most often, patients with shoulder pain are treated with pain relievers and referred to PT, in which exercises to develop strength and flexibility help to rehabilitate the joints. In some cases, though, shoulder problems require surgery. The most common types of shoulder surgery include:

  1. Debridement – arthroscopic surgery to remove bone spurs and scar tissue.
  2. Labral repair – when the cartilage in the socket joint has been damaged due to dislocation, this procedure uses sutures to anchor the cartilage and tighten up the tendons.
  3. Rotator cuff repair – torn tendons are reattached to the bones with sutures.
  4. Fracture repair – if the collarbone (clavicle) is broken in such a way that the fracture ends do not meet, surgery is required to realign them.
  5. Shoulder replacement – most often used in cases where arthritis has caused loss of cartilage. The bone of the upper arm is replaced with a metal or plastic ball that fits into the socket joint.

Recent research has shown that acupuncture can be helpful in recovery after shoulder surgery. In one study, patients who were finding regular analgesic medications insufficient to control post operative pain were fully evaluated according to TCM methods. Acupuncture treatment was designed to address not only the post-surgical pain but the underlying clinical patterns observed. The patients reported significant reduction in pain both locally in the shoulder and throughout the body. According to TCM, phlegm patterns that create Qi stagnation can disrupt  healing. The production of phlegm is associated with emotional trauma, particularly the fear that is common when people must undergo surgery. When the phlegm is cleared with TCM treatment, people report not only less physical pain, but a sense of emotional relief, as well.

TCM View of Shoulder Pain 

Acupressure point for shoulder pain
Acupressure point for shoulder pain

In TCM theory, health depends on the free flow of Qi (life force energy) and blood throughout the body. Pain is caused by blockages that create stagnation, when Qi and blood get stuck. This can happen because of injury, but it can also be caused by what we call external pathogenic factors, such as Wind, Cold, and Dampness. When Cold and Dampness accumulate in the shoulder area, they obstruct the flow of blood, and this blood stagnation causes pain. In Chinese Medicine, we call obstructions due to these external pathogens “Bi Syndromes.” Joint pain–sometimes referred to as arthralgia–is one of the primary symptoms of Bi Syndromes. Thus, according to TCM, shoulder pain would be considered a symptom of a wider problem. We focus on the deeper roots of the disorder, rather than simply trying to get rid of the pain.

An acupuncturist will look closely at the whole picture: other symptoms that may or may not seem to be related, the quality and degree of pain, the specific limitations of movement, when the pain is worse, and what makes it feel better. The TCM practitioner will then make a diagnosis that pinpoints the combination of pathogenic factors that underlies the pain in the shoulder.

TCM differentiation of shoulder pain:

  • Wind-Cold – acute shoulder pain that may move around and get worse with cold weather.
  • Cold-Damp – shoulder feels heavy and swollen, worse in rainy weather, helped by heating pad
  • Damp-Phlegm – shoulder muscles feel sore and heavy, hard to move
  • Qi Stagnation – sensation of numbness, shoulder is aggravated by stress and emotions
  • Blood Stagnation – chronic, stabbing pain, gets worse at night

Chinese herbs are a key component of TCM treatment for shoulder pain. Specific herbs are used to dispel Wind and Cold, clear Dampness and Phlegm, and promote circulation of blood and Qi. 

Chinese herb pain patches
Chinese herb patches for pain

Acupuncture for Frozen Shoulder

In China, we have a nickname for frozen shoulder that translates as “50s shoulder.” This condition occurs most frequently in middle age, and more often in women than in men. Repetitive movements over many years eventually take a toll on the muscles and tendons of the shoulder, and the soft tissues become less resilient to minor injuries.

One of the main problems of a frozen shoulder is that in order to improve the condition, the joints must be moved in ways that will increase flexibility. However, the pain can be too intense, creating a fear of movement that only makes the situation worse.

TCM has very specific acupuncture techniques that are designed to help “thaw” the frozen shoulder. A systematic review of controlled trials utilizing a specific acupoint (ST38) to address shoulder adhesive capsulitis found positive results in clinical efficacy for easing pain and restoring mobility. During an acupuncture session, which may include the addition of electrostimulation, the patient’s pain is reduced to an extent that the practitioner can direct and manipulate the joint with other techniques (acupressure, Tuina or Gua Sha therapeutic massage, and gentle passive movements). In some cases, we may ask a patient to perform active movements of the shoulder while needles are inserted. This technique is called motion style acupuncture (MSAT), and has been shown in one controlled trial to help improve shoulder functionality. These modalities used in combination can help break down scar tissue and increase the range of motion in the shoulder joints. 

Best Acupuncture in Los Angeles for Shoulder Pain

Acupuncture is a great modality to help reduce shoulder pain and improve range of motion of the shoulder without negative effects. Dr. Tan and Dr. Cai have been practicing acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine with their unique background and knowledge in both Chinese Medicine and traditional Orthopedics for over 30 years. They will work with you and your other specialists to create a treatment program that will have your shoulder moving freely again.

 

*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.

Stress

Stress is a natural response of the body to the various demands we place upon it. Stress symptoms affect both our physical health and emotional health. Addressing the negative effects of stress can have a profound impact on overall health and longevity. Acupuncture and TCM provide stress relief and address the myriad other issues to which stress can contribute.

Daily Stressors can affect health
The effects of daily stress can build up over time.

Everyone experiences stress in many forms. Mild stressors like getting through traffic, meeting work deadlines, and handling relationship difficulties crop up daily. These stressors are usually short lived, keep us alert to what is going on around us, and can keep us motivated to meet problems with energy. Acute stress occurs when we face a sudden, negative change in our life, such as a personal loss or damaging accident. Both of these kinds of stress can build up in the body and mind, like a pressure valve that needs to be released. Otherwise, the compound effects can trigger the formation of disease and mental health issues. Acupuncture treatment releases blockages created by recurring and/or chronic stress.

How Do You Respond to Stress Symptoms?

In ancient times, the human stress response–also known as our “fight or flight” instinct–provided us with energy to defend ourselves in potentially dangerous situations, such as an attack or threat by a wild animal. Today, we do not have to look much further than our cell phone screens to be bombarded with stress-inducing news, images, and situations. Being constantly on high alert is the new normal. Even when the stressors are removed, the body continues to keep the stress response active. This results in the depletion of the nervous system, lymphatic organs (spleen, thymus, and lymph nodes), kidneys and adrenal glands.

Many health conditions are triggered or exacerbated by external stressors. Sometimes the body and mind become so accustomed to the stress response that we begin to initiate the response internally, as with anxiety. In other cases, the organs and systems respond to being overworked by beginning to malfunction, such as with heart disease and hormone imbalances, or becoming inflamed, as in joint problems or digestive troubles. Medical studies have shown that with increased and consistent stress, the white blood cells which defend us against viruses decrease in number. This results in lower immune resistance, ultimately leading to physical disease and emotional instability.

Constant stimulation of the glands that produce adrenaline and cortisol can trigger the development of debilitating conditions that can be difficult to diagnose and treat, such as anxiety, depression, panic attacks, adrenal fatigue, chronic fatigue syndrome, and weight gain. 

15 Health Problems Related to Stress

These are just some of the health conditions related to stress:

Stress can create health problems
Chronic stress can lead to serious physical and mental health problems
  1. Anger
  2. Anxiety
  3. Asthma
  4. Cancer
  5. Depression
  6. Depressed immune system
  7. Digestive disorders
  8. Headaches
  9. Heart disease
  10. High blood pressure
  11. Joint pain
  12. Weight problems
  13. Decreased sexual function
  14. Infertility
  15. PTSD symptoms
  16. Chronic fatigue

How to Treat Stress Relief with TCM and Acupuncture

Acupuncture and TCM can provide a safe, effective and drug-free alternative for the treatment of stress. Acupuncture addresses the immediate effects of stress, helping reduce not only symptoms but the person’s perception of stress. Over time, working with an acupuncturist near me can not only resolve underlying issues, but help the patient to strengthen the immune system and exercise better conscious control of responses to stress through lifestyle change. 

One way that stress affects the body is by causing a depletion or blockage of Qi (pronounced “chee”), especially that of the kidneys and adrenals. With acupuncture and TCM, the practitioner’s job is to support and restore the integrity of the various organs affected and depleted by the stress response, along with evaluating the quality and quantity of Qi.

Self Care for Stress Management

Our response to stressors and our overall approach to life can either help or hinder our body’s ability to cope. Healthy responses to stress include appropriate physical exercise, good eating habits, positive thinking, adequate rest, and reaching out to friends and family for support. Unhealthy responses to stress include negative thinking, overexertion, poor eating habits, lack of sleep, and isolation. These unhealthy responses can cause the body to work harder than it needs to and can trigger physical and mental health issues.

5 Ways to Combat Stress

  1. Get adequate sleep. Aim to get at least eight hours. Daytime naps are also restorative.

    get out in nature to release stress
    Exercise, especially connecting to nature, can help release stress
  2. Practice meditation. Qi Gong, Tai Chi and Yoga can help create a healthy awareness of the body and mind connection. Learning to free the mind from repetitive negative thoughts is a powerful way to reduce stress.
  3. Focus on balanced, mindful eating. Maintain a healthy diet with adequate amounts of complex carbs, vegetables, fruits, protein and healthy fats. Disengage from media while eating. Recognize and reduce episodes of “stress” eating. 
  4. Have fun! Make time for relaxing activities, enjoyable hobbies and laughter in your life.
  5. Breathe. Relaxed deep breathing is one of the most simple and easy techniques that can be used for reducing stress.

Receiving regular acupuncture treatments can go a long way towards preventing accumulation of the effects of stress on the body and emotions. Establishing a trusting relationship with an experienced, highly qualified TCM provider will boost your health, quality of life, and longevity.

Weight Loss

If you struggle with your weight, you’re not alone. In fact, more than 30% of all U.S. adults meet the criteria for being obese.1

A Variety of Reasons:

Acupuncture works to control weight on various levels.

Release Endorphins – With diet changes, many people experience cravings, which can lead to binge eating. Cravings in the body are often due to a lack of endorphins. Acupuncture can help to balance out the cravings by helping the body to release endorphins.

Reduce Stress – An increase in the “stress hormone” cortisol can alter the metabolism. Through the release of endorphins, the “stress hormone” can also be neutralized.

Support Digestion – Acupuncture can support the body to generate an efficient digestive process.

Americans spend billions of dollars annually on weight loss products, but obesity is still on the rise. People are even turning to surgery as a weight loss option. This is a drastic measure and can cause unwanted side effects.

Unfortunately, excess weight is not just a cosmetic issue. Being overweight is a risk factor for many conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. The good news is that maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk, and it’s never too late to get started. People seeking to address their weight concerns are turning to acupuncture as a natural and effective way to approach weight loss.

A traditional approach to healing

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) take a holistic, or whole-body approach to health. This ancient form of healthcare works to restore the balance and flow of the body’s Qi (pronounced “chee”), or vital energy. According to TCM, the reasons why people gain weight, or find it difficult to lose weight, are numerous. Your acupuncturist is well versed in uncovering the root cause(s) or imbalances that have affected your weight.

Your acupuncturist will also take into consideration other factors that may have led to weight gain, including your lifestyle, and emotional and mental well-being. By taking your whole self into account, you and your acupuncturist can get to the root of your health concerns, rather than just treating the symptoms.

Other ways to support your path toward a happier, leaner you!
  • Exercise is an important component of any weight loss program. Adding aerobic exercise, weight training, and other types of exercise to your daily routine will have a positive effect on your weight and general health.
  • Diet is another important issue to consider. In general, a healthy diet is made up of unprocessed, organic foods, including a wide variety of whole grains and vegetables. Your acupuncturist may offer nutritional counseling designed for your specific needs.
  • Stress relief may also be a part of your treatment. By learning to lower stress and anxiety through techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation, or gentle exercise, you may lose weight more easily, and possibly stop destructive habits such as overeating.

What will my acupuncturist do?

During your first visit, your acupuncturist will take an extensive health history and perform various exams. At the completion of your first visit, your acupuncturist will provide you with a comprehensive diagnosis and an explanation of your treatment plan. Your treatments will focus on correcting any underlying imbalances in your body, and will also help to support you in reaching your weight loss goals.

Based on your unique symptoms, your acupuncturist will choose to concentrate on acupuncture points related to specific organs. For example, restoring balance to the flow of Qi in the Stomach can help promote good digestion and suppress an overactive appetite. Emotional issues, such as anxiety and stress, both of which can lead to overeating, can be addressed by balancing the Liver.

A partnership for better health

It is important to remember that acupuncture is not a “quick fix.” By working with your acupuncturist, and committing to long-term goals, you will experience positive changes in your overall health, including maintaining a healthy body weight.

In addition to acupuncture treatments, your practitioner may also recommend other lifestyle changes. Whether you want to lose a few pounds or a significant amount, people are turning to acupuncture as a natural and effective way to approach weight loss. By working together with your practitioner, you can help your body regain its natural balance—and start taking steps toward true health and vitality.

Sources:
1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity
U.S. National Library of Medicine Medical Encyclopedia, Article – Obesity. 4/19/2004.
Komada, J., Article – Acupuncture for Weight Loss, 2003.
Pitchford, P., Healing with Whole Foods, North Atlantic Books, 1993.