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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.


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.


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.




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.






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 anxiety

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.

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