Posts Tagged ‘Acupuncture’
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?
When I think about the most common ailments my patients are battling, pain is definitely at the top of the list. Whether it’s migraines, neck pain, joint stiffness, arthritis or lower back pain, dealing with pain is an everyday occurrence for many.
Pain is – unfortunately – extremely common. In fact, a national NIH survey found that more than 25% of U.S. adults had experienced some sort of pain lasting more than a day. Often, an aspirin, acetaminophen or other over-the-counter pain medication can keep the aches at bay, but for serious pain, stronger medications can be prescribed. To avoid these medications’ risk of side effects or addiction and because they are looking for an alternative approach, more and more people are turning to acupuncture for pain treatment.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) analysis recently showed that pain or musculoskeletal complaints accounted for 7 of the top 10 conditions for which people use acupuncture. The most common condition was back pain, followed by joint pain, neck pain, severe headaches and recurring pain.
And…there’s an increasing body of scientific evidence showing that acupuncture is working.
A 2010 study was able to shed some light on exactly how acupuncture helps relieve pain – the study looked at mice and found that the insertion of an acupuncture needle activated pain-suppressing receptors near the insertion site. It also showed that the insertion and movement of the acupuncture needles released adenosine, a naturally occurring compound that boosts the response of the receptors, increasing pain relief.
Other clinical studies have showed promising results for acupuncture for pain in: lower back pain, menstrual cramps, fibromyalgia, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, neck pain and tennis elbow.
In short, using acupuncture for pain is on the rise and I am seeing more and more patients benefit from this approach. If you are coping with pain, a licensed acupuncturist may be able to help.
It’s our weight.
Today, more than one out of every three U.S. adults are obese and this number is rising every year. Obesity-related conditions are reaching epidemic levels and include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. In 2008, medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion (yes, with a “B”).
As people struggle to find ways to reduce and then maintain a healthy weight, acupuncture for weight loss has shown promising effects and could be a key to stemming this rising tide.
In fact, a 2009 review article published in the International Journal of Obesity analyzed 31 different studies of acupuncture for weight loss and the treatment of obesity and looked at its effects for more than 3,000 people. The results showed that people that used acupuncture for weight loss or to treat obesity had a significant reduction of average body weight, compared to placebo or sham treatments.
Exercise and a healthy diet are still the foundation for reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, but traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture are emerging as effective, non-pharmaceutical methods that could help countless Americans in their own personal “battle of the bulge.”