Posts Tagged ‘Acupuncture’
It’s Not Just Needles and Herbs: How to choose an Acupuncturist, Herbalist and Practitioner of Oriental MedicineFriday, October 3rd, 2014
You’re looking for an acupuncturist. You launch your browser and type Acupuncture or Traditiona
There are certain steps you can take to make the most informed decision. Licensing requirements vary widely by state and most, but not all, acupuncture schools combine acupuncture and herbal training. So, it is important to know what you are looking for. Licensed Acupuncturists have credentials that use the term L.Ac. or M.Ac. In Pennsylvania, practitioners who have studied Chinese Herbal medicine have taken at least an additional 700 hours of training. Even if you are not necessarily interested in taking herbal medicine that distinction and commitment to additional training, education and specialization is important. Coursework expands entry level training so that more complex principals in the diagnosis and treatment of disease from a Chinese medical paradigm are explored.
While people who have completed this class may be registered with the State as an L.OM. or a licensed Practitioner of Oriental Medicine, it’s ideal to find a practitioner that has gone the “extra mile” and has become Board certified in Oriental Medicine (Dipl. O.M. NCCAOM). This entails not only passing the National Board for Foundational Theory, Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal medicine, but also passing the Board certification for Western Biomedicine. This distinction shows a professional commitment not only to Chinese medicine but to having a comprehensive grasp of Western medicine principals, treatments and appropriate referrals.
The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) is the premier certifying organization recognized by the Oriental Medical profession. A non-profit established in 1982, the mission of NCCAOM is to establish and promote standards of competence and safety in acupuncture and Oriental medicine. NCCAOM certification is a professional distinction and it requires 60 hours of additional study every four years. While not required, my passion for Chinese Medicine and providing the best treatment and health outcomes for my patients has driven me to study an average of 150 hours each year – or 600 hours every four years (compared to the minimum requirement of 60 hours). These studies have included two-year advanced courses in Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture. They have also included studies in chronic autoimmune conditions, care for patients undergoing cancer therapy and dermatology, while also going deeper and integrating into my specialty of pain management.
Selecting a practitioner with a NCCAOM certification in Oriental Medicine ensures that you will be treated with the most comprehensive clinical expertise and the highest level of professional integrity. Oriental Medicine is more than needles and herbs. Mastery of the curriculum requires years of advanced coursework and clinical practice. The Diplomate of Oriental Medicine has demonstrated competence in nutritional principles, biomedicine, herbalism and Oriental medical theory in addition to acupuncture. OM certification expands the acupuncturist’s diagnostic and treatment resources, allowing her to create the most comprehensive, individualized healing plan for each client.
Sharon Sherman holds a NCCAOM certification in Oriental Medicine, placing her nationally among the highest trained in the art and science of acupuncture and the Chinese Medical model, as well as the prescribing of Chinese herbal medicine.
Like modern practitioners, the great masters of Chinese medicine learned from and were influenced by each other’s work. They were not only coming up with original conclusions but were building and refining the work of previous practitioners to form expanded ideas.
Zhang Zi-He, also known as Zhang Cong Zheng, was a military physician who lived from 1156-1228 of the common era. He shared Liu Wan-Su’s belief that medicine needed to be tailored to patients and that medicines and strategies of the Han Dynasty canon were ill equipped to combat present-day illness. After serving in the military, he left to return to his home town in Henan Province to work as a doctor.
His best known theories incorporated some of Liu Wan-Su’s most important contributions to the Chinese Medical canon and are known as the “Gong Xia Pai,” or “The School of Attacking and Purging.” Specifically, Zi-He’s theory of the “Six Doors and Three Methods” referred directly to climatic influences (wind, summer heat, dampness, fire, dryness and cold) that Liu Wan-Su observed. The three methods refer to Zhang’s favored therapeutic regimens: sweating, vomiting and purging. These were not new strategies; Zhang Zhong-Jing, one of the most eminent Chinese physicians during the later years of the Han Dynasty, recorded the use of these approaches in the most studied book of Chinese medicine, the Shang Han Lun. The practice of diaphoresis, emesis and purgation are also documented by Sun Si-Miao, the patriarch and innovator of Tang Dynasty Chinese medicine.
Zhang Zi-He’s treatment strategies are very telling of his seasoned military strategist background. He believed that both life and disease should be treated like battle. Similar to a small fortress, you want to keep the external terrain strong so that disease cannot enter. In Chinese medicine this is the concept of strong Wei Qi. When our interface is strong, pathogens cannot penetrate.
Zhang was a neoconfucianist and a firm believer that pernicious influences entered the body from the heavens, the earth and through man’s actions. The evils of the heavens included the climate—wind, cold, heat, dryness and fire. Insults from the earth came as damp influences that included fog, dew, rain, hail, ice and mud. Man’s abuses centered on dietary intemperance and vices such as lack of discipline. He believed that these insults were responsible for causing disease and in order to effectively cure an ailment, the responsible influence needed to be eradicated – thus the induction of sweating, vomiting and purging.
He believed if you have problems in your life, you need to take charge to destroy the negative influence. Sweating eliminated the harmful evils on the body’s surface. Zhang Zi-He listed approximately forty herbs, many which are still used today such as Schizonepeta known as Jing Jie and Angelica Dahurica Bai Zhi. In addition to herbs, he advocated the use of hygienic practices that included moxabustion, acupuncture, massage, steaming, washing and exercising.
The category of emesis (induced vomiting) was prescribed for digestive illness in the upper gastric abdominal regions with therapies that in addition to vomiting increased salivation, lacrimation and sneezing. The most popular Chinese herbal emetics he recommended were Dichroa Root, also known as Chang Shan, and stalk of Cucumis Melo, known as Gua Di. His use of acupuncture included the activation of points which would mirror his herbal strategies. He used the upward ascension of the spleen to encourage vomiting. An acupuncture point like Spleen 8 “Di Ji,” which translates to mean “Earth Pivot,” was chosen because it could be activated to encourage vomiting. He believed that employing this strategy would quickly release an evil and restore health by purifying the patient.
He also used other acupuncture channels and points to encourage peristalsis through the bowels. Purging methods (laxative effect) treated climatic and emotional evils that when lodged in the chest or abdomen cause intense discomfort. This phenomenon is known in Chinese medicine as heat clumping. By breaking down and pushing the obstruction down and out, the pain is eliminated and healthy function is restored. Of the many purgatives he employed, several are still popular in the TCM Materia Medica such as Rhubarb, known as the Chinese herb Da Huang and the herb Croton Ba Dou.
Zhang Zi-He was a student of Liu Wan-Su’s Cooling School philosophical doctrine and expanded the use of sweating, purgation and vomiting to include more symptoms and clinical scenarios. Zhang Zi-He believed that there are a myriad of influences that can cause disease. He understood that to move difficult obstructions and obstacles in the body, one needed to initiate a treatment strategy of equal force and measure. He believed these treatment strategies to be hygienic and their use encouraged the refinement of the body, mind and spirit.
It’s summer. The days are looooong. And that is a great thing, but did you know that it can affect your sleep patterns and your ability to get a good, restful night’s sleep? In fact, there are so many things that can affect your sleep – stress, diet, work schedule and even computer or smartphone use – that it can be really difficult to get as much sleep as you need.
Experts at the Mayo Clinic recommend that school age children get 9-10 hours of sleep a night and that adults log at least 7-8 hours. But, there are other factors that can make even more sleep beneficial – factors like aging, pregnancy, previous sleep deprivation and sleep quality.
There have been numerous medical studies about the benefits of good sleep.
Research has shown that people who sleep only a few hours of sleep a night over a number of nights don’t perform as well on complex mental tasks as people who are well-rested (getting 7+ hours of sleep a night). Studies also show that adults who get less than 7 hours of sleep a night have a higher mortality rate than those sleeping 7-8 hours. So, all in all – sleep is good!
But, what happens when you can’t sleep? What can you do? How might acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine help?
The good news is – acupuncture and herbal medicine have been shown to help improve sleep quality:
A 2004 study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry showed that acupuncture increased nocturnal melatonin secretion and reduced insomnia and anxiety
A 1999 study in Germany showed that acupuncture improved sleep quality and lessened insomnia
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been using a variety of herbs to help promote good sleep and treat insomnia for thousands of years. Some herbs commonly found in Chinese herbal formulas for insomnia include:
- Suan zao ren – Sour jujube seed
- Fu shen – Poria
- Zhi mu – Anemarrhena rhizome
- Bai zi ren – Arbor vitae seed
- Mu li – Oyster shell
- He huan pi – Mimosa tree bark
It’s important to note that a licensed acupuncturist or TCM practitioner will examine the patient’s condition and health overall to determine a possible cause of the insomnia, instead of just treating that one symptom. An expert should take into consideration appetite, thirst, mood, tongue color and the quality of the pulse to customize a treatment regimen that is the best fit.
As women age – gracefully and with awe-inspiring beauty, of course! – two-out-of-three will experience sudden momentary sensations of heat, red, flushed faces and sweating. This is known as the “hot flash” that comes with menopause and it can also bring with it mood swings, rapid heart rate, chills and insomnia. The cause of hot flashes is not known, but they may be related to changes in circulation that occur when a women is experiencing menopause.
While there are hormone replacement therapies and over-the-counter treatments used for menopausal symptoms, there is a growing body of evidence that Traditional Chinese Medicine, including acupuncture, can be extremely effective.
ABC News recently highlighted a medical study that concluded that acupuncture curbed the severity of hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, largely related to mood. The authors of the study based their findings on the experience of 53 post menopausal women whose symptoms were measured on a 5-point scale before and after treatment. One group of 27 women received acupuncture for 20 minutes, twice a week for 10 weeks. The other group thought they were given acupuncture treatment, but the needles didn’t actually penetrate the skin. The women who received real acupuncture showed significant drops in the severity of their hot flashes. You can watch news video of the study here.
A National Institutes of Health (NIH) effort to educate Americans about the benefits of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) also outlines the ways that CAM could help treat the symptoms of menopause. This helpful NIH Fact Sheet talks about how mind and body practices such as yoga, tai chi, qi gong and acupuncture may help reduce the severity of menopausal symptoms.
So, yes, while it’s summer and everyone is a bit warmer these days, you don’t have to suffer through the hot flashes associated with menopause. Think about Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture as a potential treatment and speak to a licensed acupuncturist to see if it may be an option for you.
Did you know that in ancient China, eating disorders were considered to be the result of a ghost or demon invading the body? While modern science and medicine have ruled out that root cause, treating an eating disorder is still very much a battle for each patient…one that can be long, arduous and require several different treatment approaches to ultimately triumph.
There are two eating disorders that are most common here in the U.S. – anorexia nervosa (when a patient severely limits food intake) and bulimia nervosa (when a patient binge eats and then purges by inducing vomiting). Both are serious medical conditions that are best treated by psychological counseling and conventional medical treatment and supervision.
Chinese Medicine and acupuncture can also play a role in supporting eating disorder patients and accelerating their recovery. Specifically, there are three types of symptoms or conditions associated with eating disorders for which Chinese Medicine has been shown to be effective:
While an eating disorder has outward physical signs, symptoms and hallmarks, the root of the disease is psychological and driven by the patient’s desire to be thin. This unending quest takes a toll on the body, but also on the patient’s stress levels and emotional well-being. A recent study showed that eating disorder patients receiving acupuncture as an adjunctive treatment felt less stress and anxiety.
Eating disorder patients that are not on a regular diet or are struggling to return to a healthier eating regimen may be experiencing GI issues associated with their eating habits. This can result in abdominal bloating, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and acid reflux. A review article in the Journal of Gastroenterology concluded that acupuncture was effective in helping treat GI issues and that “in the future, it is anticipated that acupuncture will be used to treat these [GI] patients in addition to the current therapy. This would also signiﬁcantly reduce the cost of medical treatment.”
Because diet and nutrition are literally the fuel for your body’s engine, eating disorders negatively impact your overall health by weakening all of the body’s systems – cardiac, GI, immune and reproductive. Studies have shown that patients with eating disorders can struggle with infertility later in life. Studies have also shown that Chinese Medicine and acupuncture can be used to effectively treat infertility, as highlighted in this recent WebMD article about “The Ancient Art of Infertility Treatment.”
Eating disorders are devastating to the patient, as well as his/her family and loved ones. Thankfully, there is an ever-increasing body of research and conventional and alternative treatments available to help patients conquer this disease.
Yes, the crisp air is here. Maybe like me, you’ve felt it the past few mornings as you saw your breath in front of you on a chilly walk to your car. Maybe also like me, you are OK with the colder weather as it means no more hurricanes (at least not this year – I hope you are all doing OK and fared well through the recent storms).
As welcome as this autumn chill may be, it also means that peak cold and flu season is upon us. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says that peak flu season is usually between late November and early March. Each year, we all battle it – the kids fight it off at school, you steer clear of handles and germy phones at work…but, nonetheless, between 5% and 20% of Americans will get the flu this year and more than 200,000 will be hospitalized for seasonal flu symptoms.
Many doctors and the CDC recommend that you get a flu vaccine, especially if you are very young, older than 60 or already susceptible to the flu due to any other conditions or illnesses. Many of my patients take this route.
Still, for those that do get a flu vaccination as well as for those that choose not to, Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture can be great ways to keep your immune system strong and hold the seasonal flu at bay.
Here are my tips for using making it through flu season happy and healthy:
Drink plenty of fluids – water is best. Your body needs to stay clean and if there is any virus working its way into your system, flushing it out with plenty of water will help. Also, if you do catch a cold or are battling the flu, staying hydrated will help combat any fever.
Keep moving – this is more a preventative tip, but remember that a healthy body is less likely to succumb to colds and flu. Even if you only walk 20 minutes every day, keeping your body moving and your system in good shape is the best way to stave off illness. (And it’s great for stress, muscle tone and weight loss, too!)
Acupuncture can help – rebalancing the body’s energy and regulating your Qi will help stimulate the immune system, which can help fight off colds and the flu virus.
Eat (and drink) well – a balanced, healthy diet will keep you body fueled and provide you with critical vitamins and minerals that can protect against colds and flu. Here are some great foods to eat to keep your body strong against the flu:
- Apples are great for the digestion and can also be cooked. They really help to keep the lungs moist.
- Pears help stop coughs and aid the body in the expulsion of phlegm and heat in the lungs.
- Aged tangerine peel in Chinese medicine is known as chen pi and is one of the most commonly used Chinese herbs. It helps expel excess phlegm and mucus, as well as harmonize digestive complains such as nausea and vomiting to prevent illness.
- The inner bark of cinnamon is known as Rou Gui. This commonly used spice is very warming and is effective if your ailment includes a feeling of cold or cold with shivering. I also offer patients ready-made and customized herbal medicines that can be used during flu season to prevent illness.
So, follow these tips to avoid the autumn flu season and stay healthy.
And, enjoy the last few days of this crisp fall air…it will be winter before you know it!
Here are some additional resources that may be interesting and helpful:
DrOz.com article on acupuncture and the flu
AcuFinder.com article about herbal treatments for colds and flu
Livestrong.com article outlines Top 10 Foods to Eat to Avoid the Flu
So, you are thinking about trying acupuncture to help improve and maintain your health? Or, perhaps you are a long-time devotee of the approach to balancing your energy and improving your well-being? No? Maybe you are a skeptic?
No matter what your relationship with or thoughts about acupuncture are, I think you may agree that its origins and history are fascinating. I’m often asked by my patients, friends and colleagues and collaborators in the “Western medicine” field about the history of acupuncture. Here is a brief overview.
Most researchers and historians agree that Chinese medicine and acupuncture predate recorded history. In fact, sharpened stones and bones that date from about 6000 BCE have been interpreted as instruments for acupuncture treatment and the philosophy that shapes and drives current acupuncture theory is at least 2,000 years old.
The pivotal texts that reframe and reshape Chinese medicine and acupuncture from a supernatural medicine to cohesive somatic preventative practice were compiled during the Warring States period (475-221 BCE) and the early Han period (206 BCE–220 CE). These are known as the “Huang Di Nei Jing” or “The Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine.” They have a very conversational style and are written as a series of questions that are posed by the Yellow Emperor to a learned physician named Qi-Bo. They emphasize Daoist philosophy, including yin-yang theory and nature’s five element doctrine. The first book is commonly known as the “Su Wen,” or “Fundamental Questions” and covers the theoretical foundation of Chinese Medicine and its diagnostic methods. The second book is named “Ling Shu,” or “Spiritual Axis/Pivot” and is essentially a detailed acupuncture manual. These texts were revolutionary for the time due to their systemized content. The “Huang Di Nei Jing” departs from the commonly held societal shamanistic beliefs that disease was caused by demonic influences. These “conversations” between the Yellow Emperor and Qi-Bo revolutionized Chinese medicine and laid the foundation of a complete holistic medical system, emphasizing the premise that disease develops due to natural causes of diet, lifestyle, emotions, environment, and age.
Throughout the history of China, acupuncture and herbal medicine continued to advance and develop into a nuanced medicine. The Tai Ping, Imperial Academy, was very instrumental to this process. The Imperial physicians were often the “cream of the crop” physicians and scholars in Chinese medicine. They created criteria for excellence in medicine by developing detailed models for disease transmission, treatment and prognosis. Depending on the historical period, often societal and social constructs made their way into the medicine. Confucianism and moves back to renewed interest in mysticism often show up in the recorded medicine of the time.
Chinese medicine and acupuncture in the modern era was again morphing in the 1950’s. Chairman Mao declared that Traditional Chinese Medicine and Western Medicine would be united and acupuncture became widely available in all hospitals. “Barefoot Doctors’ were also trained in a very elementary manner to employ the use of Chinese medicine and acupuncture so that some form of healthcare could be deployed to meet the challenges of the rural populations. At this point in history, only 2% of China’s population lived in cities.
Acupuncture made its way to the U.S. in the early 1970s. In 1971, New York Times reporter James Reston was treated with acupuncture during a visit to Beijing and wrote an article about how it helped treat post-operative pain. The following year, the first legal acupuncture center in the U.S. opened in Washington, D.C. and in 1973, the IRS allowed taxpayers to take acupuncture treatments as a medical expense deduction.
Now, nearly 40 years later, acupuncture has become more mainstream and is rapidly growing in use and acceptance. Building on its thousands of years of history and practice, acupuncture is continuing to impact patients’ health and overall well being.
Sources and more interesting information:
If you’re like me, you’ve been watching the athletes in London go for gold and wow us with their amazing speed, strength and grace. When I watch, though, I must admit that I take a special interest in the athletes’ training regimens, the way they treat an injury or favor a sprain…I’m interested in how they take care of their greatest athletic resource – their bodies.
In reading about this year’s Olympic athletes, I’ve found that many of them are using traditional Chinese medicine and, specifically, acupuncture to prepare, train and compete. Athletes from all over the world – the US, Japan, China, Australia, the UK and South Korea – are all employing TCM and acupuncture at the Games.
The Japanese triathlon team swears by it and an interesting article in The Examiner gives even more insight into their approach:
“If an athlete feels pain, we use acupuncture as first aid,” explains Minoru Yajima, medical advisor and physiotherapist for Japan’s Triathlon team. Most of Team Japan’s medal winning medical strategy is preventative and based on a time tested Japanese tradition – shiatsu massage.
USA’s own wonder vaulter McKayla Maroney has been using it to treat a broken toe, according to NPR:
Since that dismount [injury], Maroney has reduced her training to ice the injury and undergo electronic stimulation and acupuncture therapy, to speed healing.
Numerous track and field athletes have traveled to the Olympics with their acupuncturists, including US runner Dee Dee Trotter. US pole vaulter Jeremy Scott uses acupuncture in his treatment regimen for a knee injury and track and field competitor Amy Acuff is not only a five-time Olympian, but a licensed acupuncturist herself! She has attributed some of her long-term success in the strenuous, high injury sport to acupuncture.
Also, the South Korean athletes use it almost exclusively for pains, strains and muscle injuries. Athletes on their volleyball and handball teams use acupuncture to recover rapidly from injuries and the athletes have said that it helps boost their performance, as well.
Now, I know that we are not all Olympic athletes and we may not be making it to the next summer games in Rio de Janeiro (as competitors, anyway), but it is interesting to see the world’s elite sportsmen and women employing more and more traditional Chinese medicine treatments and acupuncture. If this trend continues, I expect that I will be working with an even greater number of local athletes, runners, cyclists and even just ‘weekend warriors’ in the years to come.
Long live (healthy) sport!
I see a lot of patients in my practice that are battling serious diseases – cancer, heart failure, diabetes – or very painful injuries – torn ligaments, back pain. These patients have found that acupuncture can help relieve pain, ease symptoms and strengthen their body to better fight the disease or condition.
But, it should be noted that acupuncture has been shown to be effective in helping ease less life-threatening conditions – fatigue, stress and even some of the signs of aging. Yes, you heard me right…acupuncture is becoming a hot new beauty treatment!
This should not come as a surprise as acupuncture is designed to free up the flow of the body’s natural energy, or qi. When it is able to do so, the body can relax, function properly – in short, it is rejuvenated and you can actually look younger and more vibrant.
Take for instance, this WebMD article about “Acupuncture is the New Facelift.” In the patient example discussed in the piece, a woman has 30-40 thin acupuncture needles applied to her body and face, which stimulates the production of collagen and elastin and “plumps up” the skin for a youthful glow and fewer wrinkles.
Another recent article in O Magazine had editors investigating and sampling new beauty treatments and regimens to report back to readers on the experience and their effectiveness. They spoke to a cosmetic acupuncturist, who said that the treatments can “result in firmer skin, a reduction of wrinkles and a tightening of the jowls.” She went on to say that her patients have reported “healthy side effects, such as improved digestion, better quality sleep, increased energy and a sense of overall well-being.” The editor’s final assessment: “Hey, doc, sign me up!”
Now, is acupuncture a fix-all for wrinkles or aging? Is it the fountain of youth? No, of course not…but, increasingly, people are turning to acupuncture as a key component of more effective beauty regimens and a step in improving overall health. And who doesn’t want that?