Posts Tagged ‘headache’
A cap-and-gown and pomp-and-circumstance can bring great excitement and usher in a new, change-filled and amazing phase in a graduate’s life. It can also bring endless job interviews, the reality of student loans and a move into either an apartment with a monthly rental bill or your parent’s basement. In short, it can mean STRESS.
I see patients dealing with stress all the time. It is a real health challenge and it manifests itself in difficult and often painful ways – headaches, backaches, fatigue and even colds and flu. But, there are ways that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and, specifically, acupuncture can help improve your health, reduce your stress and make this time more enjoyable.
Here’s a quick list of tips that may be helpful during this time of great change:
1. Remember that stress is normal and OK. Stress is your body’s way of dealing with fears, worries and over-stimulation. Pretty much sums up graduation, right? While you may not be able to just “turn off” stress, you can help manage it and keep it and keep it bay by exercising, taking the right herbal remedies, eating well and, yes, acupuncture is being used to help maintain your health and reduce several types of stress.
2. Get good sleep. Not enough sleep can be hazardous to your overall health, but it can also cause fitful and restless sleep and even contribute to bad dreams. In fact, this NPR segment looks at how graduation stress can prompt nightmares and what you can do to avoid them.
3. Keep moving. Fatigue and depression can be warning signs of too much stress. To help combat these symptoms, it is important to stay in tune with your body and to keep active. Moving and getting your heart rate up can help your body alleviate both mental and physical stress. Think about it – who doesn’t feel better after a brisk walk or a good workout?
4. Stay positive when job searching. This one is easier said than done, I know, but it’s important to remember that you are building a lifelong career. While this first job is important, it’s a stepping stone to several other positions and professional adventures that you’ll probably encounter throughout your lifetime. Even if your career path is a straight arrow in your mind right now, you’ll probably look back in several years at a more winding road. You’ll get there!
5. Keep on a budget. Money is a big source of stress, whether it’s around graduation time or not (wish I could tell you this wasn’t a lifelong stress button!), so the better you are about building a budget and sticking to it, the less financial stress you’ll have. It can be hard to live within your means, but it’s definitely harder to face overdue bills and credit card debt.
So, as you don that cap and gown this graduation season, please remember your health and try to not to let stress weigh you down. You’re accomplishing something amazing and you, your family and your friends should be proud and enjoy the moment. (Your body will thank you).
The vast majority of patients that come to see me are coming in for one reason – chronic pain.
Chronic pain is an increasingly common ailment or condition and most often patients are suffering from lower back pain, general joint or arthritis pain or neck pain. It’s estimated that 26% of Americans suffer from chronic pain, compared to 7% that have diabetes, 6% with heart disease and less than 2% diagnosed with cancer. For those living with chronic pain, neck pain is the third most common cause, according to a survey conducted by the National Institute of Health Statistics.
There are many causes for neck pain. The Mayo Clinic has some great online resources and information about what can lead to neck pain, including muscle strains, worn joints, nerve compression, injuries and diseases.
Physicians and researchers have also been conducting studies to test the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating chronic neck pain. The results have been compelling. A 2001 study showed that acupuncture was effective in relieving neck pain and improving range of motion. In a 2004 study, the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating chronic neck pain was evaluated in 153 patients. Nearly 70% of those patients had a successful outcome from acupuncture, reporting an improvement in pain of at least 50%.
In addition to acupuncture, people have been using Traditional Chinese Medicine – or TCM – and herbal remedies to successfully treat chronic neck pain for thousands of years. One of these remedies, Notopterygium Root, is also known as qiang huo in Chinese pinyin. Qiang huo has long been used in Chinese herbal formulas because it specifically “homes” to the upper spine and neck, opening the area and allowing for release of constraint and greater freedom of movement.
Qiang huo is also considered a foundational herb in the Chinese medicine specialty of Wai Ke. Wai Ke’s focus on external medicine also employs the use of kudzu, which is also known as ge gen. Ge gen is another popular choice in Chinese herbal medicine formulas because is provides directionality in a formula to the upper spine and neck area. Ge gen is very effective for neck pain and has been proven effective in a Yale study for relieving cluster headaches. Both qiang huo and ge gen are known to reduce inflammation and also work as analgesics to reduce neck pain.
Herbal remedies that many people may be familiar with are menthol and camphor – if you’ve ever used Ben Gay or IcyHot, you’ve used these key ingredients. Well, they can also be used on their own as an herbal remedy and are rubbed into the skin to increase blood flow and produce a warm or cool feeling that soothes muscles and eases aches.
So, while having chronic neck pain can be…well, a pain in the neck, acupuncture can make a significant difference and traditional Chinese medicine offers a wide range of herbal treatments that can reduce inflammation and pain. A licensed acupuncturist or practitioner of TCM can help develop a plan that is customized for you and eases that ache.
Summer is almost here and the bright sunshine and longer days are a welcome treat. For some people, though, that bright light can trigger headaches or, worse, a migraine.
For those people that suffer regular headaches or chronic migraines, the pain and discomfort can be debilitating. But, acupuncture has been shown to be an effective treatment that can offer relief. In fact, there is a wealth of information available that outlines the effect acupuncture can have on reducing headaches and migraines. One study in the British Medical Journal followed a group of 400 patients suffering from headaches – half of the patients received acupuncture treatments. A year later, researchers found that the patients that received acupuncture treatments experienced 22 fewer days with headaches, used 15% less medication, made 25% fewer visits to their doctor and took 15% fewer days off sick from work than the patients that did NOT receive acupuncture.
Migraines can be particularly painful and can render a patient unable to participate in daily activities or go to school or work. Acupuncture treatments and herbal medicine regimens that are customized to each patient’s needs can make a huge difference. Working with individual patients to determine their headache profile, migraine triggers, optimal diet and the most effective treatment approach is one way Chinese Medicine experts can help minimize the strain and pain this condition can have. Here’s an interesting online resource from the University of Maryland Medical Center with more useful information about foods, triggers and treatments.
Ligusticum (chuan xiong) is a popular herb in Chinese medicine. While the root and rhizomes have therapeutic properties, ligusticum is also used for flavoring and fragrance due to its pungent and warm qualities. Ligusticum’s properties are well suited for autumn and ailments that typically occur during the change of seasons.
Ligusticum is featured is the formula chuan xiong cha tiao san or “ligusticum chuan xiong powder to be taken with green tea”. The Chinese Medicine Materia Medica specifies this formula for exterior disorders with head and neck symptoms. Exterior disorders affect the most yang aspects of the body. In the perspective of Chinese medicine, the head and neck are located furthest from the earth and therefore the most yang. Wind-heat or wind-cold disorders often manifest in the head and neck. The common symptom profile is headache with chills and fever, dizziness, and nasal congestion.
From a western medical slant, chuan xiong cha tiao san can be seen as a formula that treats conditions such as upper respiratory infection, migraine headache, tension headache, neurogenic headache and acute and chronic sinusitis. Ligusticum helps to promote healthy bloodflow and relieve pain. Many Chinese medicine practitioners also prescribe Ligusticum as part of an individualized formula to treat irregular menses, migraine headache and infertility.
Acupuncture has long been endorsed by the National Institutes of Health as an effective treatment for chronic migraines and tension headaches.
Recent studies conducted at Duke University show that acupuncture is even more effective than frequently prescribed medication for relief of tension headaches and migraines. Patients often report an increased feeling of well being in addition to the abatement of headache pain after acupuncture treatment.
In 2008, a German study of more than 15,000 individuals showed a decrease in the frequency of chronic headaches by nearly one half in those whose routine medical treatment was supplemented with acupuncture versus those who underwent routine care alone. Lead researchers deem this “…a clinically relevant and persistent benefit…”, concluding that acupuncture is a viable and promising treatment for headache sufferers.
One in six Americans lives with chronic headaches, and almost half of those afflicted are women. Acupuncture has become increasingly recognized by the mainstream medical community as a favorable treatment for headaches, due its high success rate and lack of negative side effects.