Posts Tagged ‘chinese medicine’
Apr 24, 2013
Skin diseases are one of the most common reasons to see your doctor. Yet, they are often stubborn conditions which do not respond to medications. Or even worse the medications have side effects. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine offers a natural and effective treatment for many skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, perioral dermatitis, and others.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine has been treating skin diseases for at least 3000 years. The treatment of many skin diseases were discussed in the first known book of Chinese medicine, The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic (Huang Di Nei Jing). In the thousands of years since, Chinese medicine doctors and scholars discussed and debated the best approaches to treatment of skin conditions.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Understanding of Skin Conditions
The key to effective Chinese medicine treatment of skin diseases is diagnosis of the underlying imbalance causing the condition. Not everyone with a given skin condition will have the same symptoms. The different symptoms reflect the imbalance which needs to be corrected. My teacher of Chinese Medicine Dermatology, Mazin Al-Khafaji, describes this as Chinese medicine’s method of assessing various types of inflammatory processes causing the skin condition.
Let’s take eczema as an example. Some eczema may presents with wet, weeping, and crusty lesions. In this case, the imbalance is Heat and Damp Eczema. In other cases, the eczema is dry and red. This type of eczema is understood to be caused by Heat and Dryness. The Chinese medicine practitioner will use this imbalance to guide the writing of the acupuncture and herbal prescription.
Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatment Approaches
The acupuncture and herbal formula must address the imbalance causing the skin condition. To do this, the herbal ingredients and acupuncture points are tailored to the specific imbalance causing the disease. Let’s return to the eczema I described earlier. Eczema caused by Heat and Dampness must be treated with herbs that remove heat and damp, such as huang qin and long dan cao, among others. Acupuncture points such as GB 34 and Sp 9 may be used to reduce dampness and heat. While the eczema caused by heat and dryness will require herbs that clear heat and moisten the skin including sheng di huang and mu dan pi, among others. In this case, acupuncture points such as LI 4 and LI 11 may be used to drain heat from the body.
By correcting the underlying imbalance, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can lead to long term improvement.
Here are a number of articles which explain Acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatment of skin conditions.
- Eczema Treatment with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine
- Psoriasis Treatment with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine
- Acne Treatment with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine
- Perioral Dermatitis Treatment with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine
Apr 4, 2013
Spring has sprung. Well not quite yet with this cold weather here in NYC. But my patients are already telling me that their allergy symptoms are coming back.
Acupuncture can help reduce allergies. For those with severe allergies, it is better to start treatment before the allergies season to prevent the intensity of the symptoms.
Read more about how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can reduce you allergies.
Dec 4, 2012
Qi is the body’s energy (Qi is pronounced “chee,” and is sometimes spelled “chi.”)
There is a mystical aspect to qi. In Chinese philosophy, qi is the building blocks of the universe. Energy combines and multiplies. It is the universal energy present in all living things as well as nature.
But there is a practical aspect to qi as well. Qi is the energy we use to keep us healthy. It allows us to work, grow, exercise, and reproduce. Imbalances in the qi can lead to many health issues.
Qi needs to be abundant and circulate through channels in the body or else illness occurs. In Chinese medicine, it is said “When the qi flows there is no pain, when qi stops, there is pain and illness.” Lifestyle habits such as poor diet, overwork, and stress or a person’s constitution can affect the amount and flow of qi. Chinese medicine and acupuncture focus on correcting these imbalances.
Imbalances of Qi
The main imbalances of Qi are Qi vacuity, or too little Qi or the Qi circulation in the channels can be impaired. This is called qi stagnation.
Those with too little qi may experience the symptoms of frequent colds, fatigue, shortness of breath, coughing, soft voice, poor digestion, a weak pulse, and pale tongue. This is also true often for people with chronic respiratory infections or autoimmune conditions, such as asthma, eczema, chronic bronchitis, or sinusitis and chronic sinus headaches.
Qi stagnation, when the qi is not circulating well, can also cause frequent colds and makes it difficult to fight them off. Those with qi stagnation will often get a cold after a stressful or emotional situation. They also may be prone to headaches, irregular bowel movements, ribside pain, and painful menstrual cramps.
Oct 3, 2012
Every year in early October I blog about home remedies for the common cold. That’s because every year my patients come into the office coughing, sneezing, and with sore throats and ask me what to do.
Fortunately I don’t get a cold this time of year because I know a few techniques to prevent it.
Why do people get colds during the change of seasons?
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine explain that you are more susceptible to a cold because body’s energy, or qi, is stressed. The qi is responsible for your immune functioning. So when your qi is taxed, your immune system is also slightly run down.
How to boost your qi?
The good news is that there are many techniques to boost your qi.
Acupuncture for the common cold can be effective for boosting your qi to prevent a cold or help you get over it faster when you have a cold.
There are many Chinese herbs that help treat a cold. Ling zhi, a medicinal mushroom, is excellent for boosting your immune system. Gan mao ling, the common cold formula, is effective for treating the first stages of the common cold.
Eating delicious aromatic vegetables can help prevent you from getting a cold. Trying making a vegetable soup for the change of seasons.
Other home remedies, such as gargling with apple cider vinegar or salt are effective for making the environment of your throat and respiratory system inhospitable for viruses.
Oct 2, 2012
Eye twitching is annoying. A fluttering eye will buzz on and off throughout the day causing distraction and frustration. Sometimes, the fluttering can be quite strong leading to total closing of the eye and impairing your vision.
Most often eye twitching is caused by stress, fatigue, use of alcohol, or irritation of the eye. In some, the eye twitch becomes chronic which is called benign essential blepharospasm. Benign essential blepharospasm not only is annoying but can lead to periodic trouble seeing.
In a very small number of individuals, chronic eye twitching is a sign of a neurological condition. If the eye twitching goes on for many weeks, it is best to consult a physician or healthcare professional.
Acupuncture and acupressure are very helpful for reducing eye twitches.
How does acupuncture understand eye twitches?
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine has beautiful imagery to describe health and illness. Health is a state of balance within the body as well as between the body and the environment. Environmental factors such as cold, heat, and wind can cause illness. These environmental factors also represent certain illness within the body.
Eye twitching is caused by wind. Just as the leaves in the trees are rattled by wind, the rattling in the body is caused by wind as well. We use acupuncture points along the proper channels to remove this wind from the body.
What is the root of the wind? This is from inhibition in the flow of qi.
The body’s qi or energy flows through channel and meridians. Stress, anxiety, and lack of sleep disrupts the flow of qi throughout the body leading to what we call stagnation. The stagnation causes pressure to develop and leads to the development of wind. This is why acupuncture treatment also should include points for moving the qi.
Acupressure for Eye Twitching
For many people with periodic eye twitching, acupressure can help stop the annoying twitch.
The acupressure point to start with would be San Jiao 5 (SJ 5). This point is located on the outside of the arm, 2 thumb widths up from the wrist between the radius bone and the the large tendons (extensor digitorum tendons) on the back of the arm.
Start by pressing this point for 30 seconds.
After finishing with SJ 5, GB 34 is the next point to treat. This point is located on the lateral aspect of the leg just below the knee. It is just below and in front of the head of the fibula. Press this point for 30 second on each side.
What’s Acupuncture treatment like for Eye Twitching?
For those with stronger, more persistent eye twitching, acupuncture may be needed. The acupuncture points for eye twitching are on the arms and legs. These points will help to reduce wind, promote the flow of qi, and are on the channels that address eye problems.
The channels of the San Jiao and Gallbladder both go to the eyes. Acupuncture points such as SJ 5 on the arm, GB 34 and GB 39 on the leg can help with the wind. Liver 3 and LI 4 on the hands and feet help to remove the stagnation.
Jul 11, 2012
Acupressure is the massage of acupressure points and channels. I often use acupressure and tui na (Chinese medical massage) combined with with acupuncture in my NYC acupuncture clinic.
Acupressure in context
To really understand how acupressure works, we have to see it as part of the whole of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Chinese medicine dates back thousands of years. The first book of Chinese medicine is called the Huang di nei jing, or the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Cannon.
The book is a conversation between the Yellow Emperor and his doctor, named Qi Bo. Qi bo explains that health comes from a state of balance within the body, and between the body and the environment. To prevent illness, people should live a balanced life. It is a very simple idea.
Chinese medicine uses many therapies, including acupuncture, acupressure, and Chinese herbs to bring balance to the body by regulating the nervous system, decreasing inflammation, and improving circulation. Once the body is in balance, it can work to heal itself.
Acupuncture channels, called the jing lou in Chinese, connect the body. These channels provide a pathway for the circulation. Qi flows through the channels, warming the body and protecting it from disease.
Acupressure and acupuncture manipulates these channels to bring you back to a healthy state.
May 22, 2012
Itching is an annoying and curious phenomenon. Your body feels an annoying sensation so you irritate the skin by scratching. It makes you feel extremely uncomfortable.
This causes pain. The pain trumps the itching sensation and you no longer feel the annoyance. But the scratching causes inflammation and irritation in the area. The scratch causes more itch and the cycle continues.
Pain trumps itch because the sensations are felt through many of the same nerve endings. Although researchers looking at itch specifically are finding more itch specific pathways in the spinal cord and brain.
Itching takes a toll on people’s lives. This annoying symptom keeps people awake at night, distracts from daily activities, and leads to habitual irritation of the skin.
The causes of itching
Itching can be caused by several conditions. Sometimes you know what causes the itch such as a mosquito bite. Or it may occur from inflammatory skin diseases like eczema. It may occur in other conditions such as psoriasis and even acne sometimes. In lichen simplex for example, itching is caused by anxiety or being nervous. Elderly patients may have pruritus which from unknown causes. Some serious diseases such as cancer, liver disease, and HIV can cause itching.
But even seeing another person scratch or thinking about itching can cause an itch sensation.
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Causes of Itch
Acupuncture and TCM discusses has long discussed the many causes of itching. Chinese medicine imagines a complex interaction between the environment and the body.
Imbalances in the body or the environment cause the itch. Common causes of itching are heat, dampness, and wind. These are descriptions of different presentations of the disease.
Each herb or acupuncture point is chosen to correct that specific imbalance. If the skin is red and dry, then heat may be predominating. If there is swelling and weeping, then it may be caused by dampness.
Acupuncture can be used for treating acute itching in atopic dermatitis as well as other conditions. I like to use auricular acupuncture and magnets which help to reduce itch in between sessions. Acupuncture may work to stop itch through similar mechanisms as pain relief.
photo: Tambako the Jaguar
Mar 19, 2012
Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to reduce joint pain, swelling, and stiffness which comes from arthritis.
Acupuncture and Arthritis Symptoms
Pain and stiffness are the most common symptoms from arthritis. Arthritis can effect both small joints, such as the hands and feet, as well as larger joints, such as the hips, back, knees, and shoulder. Arthritis may cause your joints to crack, swell, and have limited movement.
Acupuncture works to relieve pain and stiffness of arthritis by stimulating the release of natural pain relievers, such as opioids, as well as regulating pain relieving opioid receptors. Acupuncture also changes the way the nervous system feels pain, helping to relieve pain for long periods of time. In addition, acupuncture has an anti-inflammatory effect, reducing the circulating inflammatory hormones in the blood (1). Many clinical trials of acupuncture have shown acupuncture to be effective for reducing pain in patients with arthritis (2).
Acupuncture view of Arthritis
Most people with arthritis experience greater pain in the cold and damp weather. In acupuncture and Chinese medicine, the reason this occurs is because the cold and damp impede circulation in the joints. The lack of circulation leads pain, stiffness, and swelling. The goal of the acupuncture is to increase circulation and warm the joints to relieve pain.
What is the Acupuncture treatment for arthritis like?
During the first visit, we will complete a medical history and physical examination, which focuses on an examination of effected and painful joints. Acupuncture diagnosis and treatment focuses on identifying the specific root imbalance causing the condition and tailoring the treatment for you.
In addition to the acupuncture, treatment often includes manual therapies such as tui na (acupressure), cupping, and heat. Electroacupuncture is particularly effective for pain relief in arthritis.
Acupuncture is most effective through a treatment course. The treatment should decrease pain and inflammation and improve mobility in the joints. Many people find rapid relief, within a few weeks of beginning the treatment. For others, it may take longer to have an effect. Generally, patients come in for acupuncture once to twice a week depending on the severity, and gradually get acupuncture less frequently. The treatment course generally last 2-4 months. Often, patients will experience be long lasting pain relief.
1. Napadow V, Ahn A, Longhurst J, et.al. The Status and Future of Acupuncture Mechanism Research. J Altern Complement Med. 2008 September; 14(7): 861–869.
2. Berman BM, Lao L, Langenberg P, Lee WL, Gilpin AMK, Hochberg MC. Effectiveness of Acupuncture as Adjunctive Therapy in Osteoarthritis of the Knee: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2004; 141(12):901910.
Mar 16, 2012
Everyone knows that seasonal allergies are painful and uncomfortable causing runny nose, sneezing, sinus pain, fatigue, watery eyes, and other debilitating symptoms. Allergies also effect your productivity at work and school and may be linked to depression, insomnia, and anxiety.(1)
Acupuncture offers an effective drug free treatment so you can smell the flowers.
Acupuncture for Allergies
Acupuncture is different than taking a pill. Acupuncture helps to reduce pain and inflammation. But rather than adding a medication that will temporarily block a receptor, histamine in the case of allergies, acupuncture works to regulate the body’s functioning. The goals is for long term improvement from the acupuncture treatment.
The idea is that acupuncture helps to reset the body and remind it how to be healthy. As balance is achieved, your body is able to maintain the healthy state without medications. So instead of simply suppressing the body’s reaction, it works to correct the root cause of the problem.
Acupuncture’s Understanding of Allergies
Acupuncture has its own view of the body and health. Acupuncturists look for an imbalance that is causing of allergies.
Qi (pronounced chee) is the body’s vital energy, it gives you the power to work, study, exercise, and fight illness. In acupuncture, the cause of allergies is often a qi imbalance. There are two major qi imbalances. The most common one for allergies is when there is too little qi, we call this a qi vacuity. When your qi is vacuous, you feel tired, can get colds easily, may have poor digestion, coughing, wheezing, and possibly asthma. The acupuncture and herbs work to boost up your qi, giving you more energy and protecting you from allergies.
The second imbalance is called qi stagnation. This is when your qi does not circulate well. This is often caused by stress, and can cause pain, headaches, menstrual cramps, and in some cases, bring on asthma attacks.
Inflammation is a cause of allergies and chronic sinus pain. In acupuncture, this is often related to an imbalance called heat. Heat can cause dryness, irritation, and pain. This is often common in chronic sinusitis.
The Acupuncture Treatment
An effective acupuncture treatment is based upon a specific and accurate diagnosis of the imbalance. Chinese herbs can also be helpful in reducing inflammation and sinus pain. By targeting the exact root of the condition leads to the most successful treatment.
I combine acupressure, Chinese medicine massage, with the acupuncture to create greater results and a stronger sense of relaxation. Usually people will feel some relief after only a few weekly visits.
How Acupuncture Works
Acupuncture helps to reduce inflammation and increase circulation. Acupuncture also helps to regulate the brain to reduce pain, so it is also possible that is another way it works to help regulate the immune response to allergies (2).
1. Marcus MB. Seasonal allergies could spark depression, fatigue. USA Today. 3/18/2008.
2. Napadow V, Ahn A, Longhurst J, et.al. The Status and Future of Acupuncture Mechanism Research. J Altern Complement Med. 2008 September; 14(7): 861–869.
written by: Joseph Alban, L.Ac.
Late Edited: 2/22/2012
Feb 20, 2012
Overactive bladder is a syndrome characterized by the frequent and sudden urge to urinate. Some people will feel a constant fullness and discomfort in their bladder. The syndrome can seriously disrupt your life disturbing both work and social situations.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help. Acupuncture has been treating syndromes of frequent urination for over 2000 years.
Causes of Overactive Bladder
The precise cause of overactive bladder is often unknown. Like many other syndromes, the search for the single cause is often impossible as the condition arises from a complex interaction within the body. For overactive bladder, the syndrome probably involved many of the organs and muscles involved in urination.
Urination is a complex action involving the nervous system, smooth muscles of the bladder, the urinary sphincters, and pelvic floor muscles. The symptoms of overactive bladder may be from any one of these functions: involuntary bladder spasms creating the sudden need to urinate or a feeling of urination when the bladder is filling, although it is not totally full, or contraction of the pelvic floor muscles.
The symptoms of overactive bladder are serious, yet the syndrome itself does not pose a threat to your health. But in rare cases it can be due to a growth or obstruction or a neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, strokes, and multiple sclerosis. So it is important to check in with your physician about these symptoms.
Acupuncture and Overactive Bladder
Acupuncture offers a holistic approach to address overactive bladder. Acupuncture views the body as an interconnected whole. Rather than examining the body to find a specific organ, muscle, or tissue that is diseased, Acupuncture seeks to understand the imbalance of the interactions between the organs, muscles, and tissues. Once the imbalance is corrected, the root of the problem is improved and body can work to heal itself.
Overactive bladder is very similar to the acupuncture syndrome of frequent urination. This can be caused by many factors such as an injury to the pelvic floor while giving birth, congenital issues, an injury, and factors in your life, such as stress, grief, and pain.
The root of this imbalance can be in the kidneys, spleen, urinary bladder, or liver, and, more often than not, these imbalances are interconnected. Please note that while the organ names and some of the functions are the same in both Chinese medicine and Western medicine, a dysfunction of the Chinese medicine kidney, spleen, and liver does not mean a disease in the western medicine organ.
In Chinese medicine, the kidneys are said to “govern water.” In other words, the kidneys are in charge of water metabolism and urination. Just like in western medicine, the kidneys filter out the urine. But unlike western medicine, kidney qi (or energy) also contributes to the ability to hold urine in the bladder. So problems with the kidney qi may cause overactive bladder.
The functions of the kidney can be described in terms of yin and yang. Yin and yang are metaphors for describing different qualities. They can also be used to describe functions in the body. The ability for the bladder to sufficiently hold urine is a yin function. When there is too little kidney yin, the bladder cannot hold urine and may result in overactive bladder symptoms, such as the frequent and sudden need to urinate, which is called urge incontinence. Weak kidney yin can also cause stress incontinence, which is when urine leaks while laughing, coughing, or sneezing. Other symptoms of kidney yin deficiency are night sweats, hot flashes, a red face, thirst, frequent nighttime urination, a rapid pulse, and a red tongue.
The spleen is also an important organ in overactive bladder. If the overactive bladder is accompanied by extreme fatigue especially in the morning, loose stools, poor digestion, and a pale swollen tongue, the imbalance may be in the spleen. Often, the spleen problem is combined with an imbalance in the liver.
The liver is said to “govern the muscles and sinews,” which means the liver reflects the general health of the muscles in the body. Because the many different muscles are the key to having the ability to hold urination, imbalances in the liver can lead to overactive bladder. Another sign of liver involvement is when the condition is worsened by stress or anger.
A Holistic Treatment with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs
The acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatment are focused on correcting the root imbalance in the body. The treatment is usually once or twice a week with acupuncture and a treatment series is usually 10-12 sessions. For some people this may be shorter and for others it may take longer. The treatment should increase one’s ability hold urination, decrease number of times one urinates at night, decrease urinary urgency, and create a smoother urine flow.
Acupuncture points such as Ren 4 and 6 on the lower abdomen as well as Bladder 23 and Du 4 on the lower back all tonify the Kidney. Kidney 7 can be added to tonify the yang, while Kidney 2 will be used if there is more yin deficiency with heat. Other points, such as Ren 3 and Bladder 64 can directly tonify the Bladder and help with incontinence. If the spleen is involved, Spleen 3 and 9 will be helpful. If the liver is in disharmony, Liver 5, 3, or 2 can help move the qi and open the channels in the genitals.
Chinese Herbal Formulas
Chinese herbal medicine can also be effective for Overactive Bladder. When taking Chinese herbs, it is very important to get diagnosed and treated by a trained practitioner of Chinese medicine. Herbal formulas such as liu wei di huang tang can be used for kidney yin deficiency, while ba wei di huang tang is effective for yang deficiency. If the root imbalance is in the spleen, wu ling san or bu zhong yi qi tang can be effective
Research on Acupuncture or Overactive Bladder
There is some research into acupuncture for overactive bladder. In one randomized controlled trial, women with overactive bladder who received acupuncture once a week for 4 weeks saw a decrease in urge incontinence and urinary frequency.
If you have questions about acupuncture for Overactive Bladder, call us 917-887-4946 or click below to make an appointment online.
1. Emmons SL, Otto L. Acupuncture for overactive bladder: a randomized controlled trial. Obstet Gynecol. 2005 Jul;106(1):138-43.
written by Joseph Alban, L.Ac.
Last Edited 2/20/2012