Posts Tagged ‘health’
May 10, 2013
Acupuncture is mysterious, acupuncture is unique, but above all acupuncture is practical.
Often patients come in my New York acupuncture clinic and they are surprised how practical it is. And the main reason that acupuncture is practical is that it works. It’s not about the body’s energy or imbalances that are the root of your problem. It’s about feeling better and staying healthy.
Feel Better, Get Acupuncture
Acupuncture is about staying healthy, but the way it works is by correcting imbalances in the body. When the imbalance is removed you feel better. The acupuncture is just reminding the body how to be healthy.
When a patient comes into the our acupuncture office, we assess what the problems is, where and what imbalance is impending your health. The acupuncture treatment works to correct the imbalance. There are many imbalances that cause diseases. The key is to address the correct one with the correct approach. For example, if there is not enough Qi, the body’s energy, the acupuncture helps to boost the body’s qi.
Acupuncture is a simple idea but complicated in practice
Creating an effective therapy is where it gets more complicated, because addressing the underlying imbalance effectively depends upon the acupuncturist’s technique. This includes choosing the right acupuncture points, the most powerful combination of acupuncture points, and also how your acupuncturist stimulates the acupuncture points.
The correct acupuncture points must be chosen. Take the example I already used, if there is not enough Qi in the body, then we should use acupuncture points that stimulate production of Qi like St 36 or Kid 3.
Location of the acupuncture point is important as well. For example, when treating migraine headaches, I prefer to use acupuncture points that are not on the head, but rather on the shoulders, arms, and legs. This helps to reduce the imbalanced energy in the head causing the migraine. But for a back spasm in the lower back, I would use more acupuncture points close to the issue.
Acupuncture Technique is in the Hands
Another aspect is how acupuncture points are combined together. Sometimes it is important to put a few points close together to stimulate healing in a specific area. For example, with a muscles spasm in the lower back I may use a technique called surround the dragon. The surround the dragon technique uses four or five needles in the circle around the muscle in spasm. This communicates with the muscles to relax and return to a healthy states.
Part of the acupuncture technique is manual. How do we use the needles to stimulate the acupuncture points, nervous system, muscles, and fascia.
One technique to get a trigger point to release is twirling. The needles are twirled slightly to create a twitch in the muscle. The twitch is a signal that the body is acupuncture point is activated and it is initialing the healing process.
Apr 30, 2013
“Can I get acupuncture during my lunch break?” is a common question we get when new patients call.
The answer is Yes. Many of our patients enjoy coming to our calm, serene office for their lunch hour. An acupuncture break is wonderful way to relax and stay healthy during your workday.
One of the great qualities of acupuncture is that it can help a specific health concern and you also feel relaxed. Come in for your back pain, neck and shoulder pain, headache, acne, or eczema, and you leave feeling relaxed and balanced.
Our office is conveniently located in Midtown near Grand Central. An acupuncture treatment takes about 50 minutes and we pride ourselves on running on time. The new patient acupuncture visits are a little longer due to the examination.
Let us know when you want to come in, you can request an appointment by clicking here or giving us a call.
Nov 27, 2012
Yesterday, an acupressure student of mine asked “What is Chinese Herbal Medicine?”. This is a good question that deserves a proper explanation.
Chinese herbal therapies have been used for centuries for improving health and treating disease. Chinese herbs work to bring the body’s systems back into balance so the body can heal itself, naturally.
The Chinese herbal pharmacy consists of over 500 herbs. Herbs are taken as combinations of 5-15 medicinal substances, which is called an herbal formula. Each formula is tailored to correct the specific imbalance that is the cause of the illness.
The herbal formula can be taken in a number of forms: raw herbs, pills, tinctures, or granules. “Raw herbs” are dried herbs which are then cooked together to make a strong tea or soup called a decoction. Tinctures are herbs which are extracted in an alcohol base. Granules are made by extracting the herbs and condensing the cooked formula to make a powder. To take the herbs, you can reconstituted them as a tea.
How do Chinese herbs work?
The basic idea of Chinese medicine is that the Chinese herbs and acupuncture work by correcting imbalances in the body. For example, if you have eczema which is caused by damp heat and toxins, the herbal formula will contain herbs that rid the body of damp heat such as long dan cao and huang qin.
Of course, herbs also affect the body physiologically. For eczema, many of the herbs that are used are known to have immunoregulatory properties that help to regulate the inflammatory process causing the eczema. Other herbs have immune boosting properties or anti-bacterial and antiviral capabilities.
Chinese herbal therapies are very safe when taken under the care of a Chinese medicine practitioner.
Aug 29, 2012
This morning NPR ran an interesting story discussing weight loss and food choices for women of the Baby Boomer generation.
The take home message is simple, focus on what you can eat. Rather than bemoaning all the desserts and rich foods you cannot indulge in, think about increasing the fruits and vegetables. This will help you to be satisfied so it is easier to cut down on dessert. Not that you can’t have dessert, but a smaller portion and less often is better.
Simple choices and voila, you have yourself a healthy diet. These healthy habits will follow you around, even when going out to eat at a restaurant.
Jul 9, 2012
Yesterday in the Times there was an informative article about the corruption issues with organic food production.
Big companies have been getting into the organic market for years because it makes big profits. The author highlights how many corporations don’t care much about organic standards and healthy food. They care more about their profits.
For example many organic companies would be happy to have additives and herbicides, not caring about pollution or quality of the produce. As long as it increases profits.
There are exceptions. Eden organic (I love their beans) maintains pride in their product and organic food.
As a consumer it is hard to know what to purchase. My recommendation is to skip organic and go directly to the farmer. Your food travels less far, is less handled, fresher, healthier, and above all tastes better.
See you at the markets.
images: Ed Yourdon
May 8, 2012
Acupuncture has a unique effect to help individuals who have stubborn injuries and chronic pain which have not improved despite treatment.
A recent report at the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting suggests that acupuncture helps to stimulate muscle tissue regrowth. The research group showed that acupuncture reversed the decrease in muscle mass in mice and in the mRNA expression level of the E3 ubiquitin ligase atrogin-1.
A story from the acupuncture clinic
This report is very important because it helps to explain why acupuncture can help patients can regain strength after an injury.
It is quite common for patients to come to the acupuncture clinic with chronic injuries and pain that are not improving. These patients are very diligent in seeking help yet their muscle weakness and pain are stubborn.
I have a patient who is in her 60’s who had an injury from falling. After her injury it was very difficult to regain muscle strength and decrease her pain despite physical therapy. She had weakness in her arm and shoulder.
I recommended that in addition to the acupuncture she continue with physical therapy. Within two weeks her muscle strength improved almost 50%. After two months of treatment she had very little pain and her muscle strength almost completely returned.
This is an exciting theory to explore new ways acupuncture helps to reduce pain and improve health.
photo: Journal of Cell Biology
Jan 23, 2012
Acupuncture has a powerful ability to address pain all over the body. Often, the acupuncture treatment will focus on areas that are far away from the pain. For example, in Chronic Pelvic Pain Syndrome, the treatment will use many acupuncture points on the arms and legs. This is because the acupuncture channels can be used to reduce pain all along that particular channel.
I like to think of the acupuncture channels as an map of the body to address pain in specific areas. The acupuncturist will try to locate the area of the pain and determine which acupuncture channel is effected. The most powerful acupuncture treatment will address the acupuncture points for that specific channel.
It is particularly important to focus on the proper acupuncture channel when treating complex chronic pain conditions, such as chronic pelvic pain syndrome. In chronic pelvic pain syndrome, the pain can be located throughout the pelvis, pelvic floor, genitals, hips, lower back, or buttock. Careful examination and precise location of the acupuncture points helps to create a more accurate and effective treatment.
The acupuncture points I select focus on the most effected acupuncture channels. For example, if there is pain and sensitivity on the lower abdomen or near the lower ribs, the GB channel may most effected. In this case, I would uses the acupuncture point GB 34 near the knee. If there is pain in the pelvic floor, the LIV channel is often imbalanced. I may choose points such as LIV 3 or LIV 5 on the lower leg or foot.
Acupuncture points close to the pain
In addition to acupuncture points far from the pain, some powerful acupuncture points will be located close to the pain. For chronic pelvic pain syndrome, many sensitive points are located on the lower abdomen, hips, and pelvis. These acupuncture points may also be used if they are tender or sensitive.
Jan 9, 2012
Chronic low back pain is one of the most common reasons to go to the doctor as well as miss work. It decreases quality of life and causes people to avoid activities they would normally enjoy. Acupuncture is a very well accepted and safe method to treat chronic low back pain (1,2).
Acupuncture for Chronic Low Back Pain
Acupuncture is over 2000 years old, and has a long track record of treating back pain. Acupuncture needles are solid, there is no medication in or on the needle. It is not anesthesia that helps to reduce the pain. Acupuncture works by stimulating the body to heal itself. It does this through relaxing the back muscles, stimulating the release of anti-inflammatory chemicals, and regulating how the brain feels pain (3).
Chinese medicine and acupuncture theorize that there are underlying imbalances in the body which leads to chronic low back pain. A successful acupuncture treatment must be tailored specifically to what is going on with your back. Acupuncture needles are placed in specific points correct imbalances that can cause back pain.
Lower back pain treatment will most often be focused on the back. Needles will also be placed in other areas to stimulate movement of the energy and increase production of the energy.
What Causes Back Pain?
According to acupuncture and Chinese medicine, the two major imbalances which cause back pain are deficiency and stagnation.
An old acupuncture saying goes, “When there is no movement, there is pain. When there is movement, there is no pain.”
Stagnation is when there is not enough flow of energy through the back. Trauma, stress, or injury can cause the qi flow, or energy flow, in the body to slow down and gets stuck. When there is no flow, pain develops. Car accident, sports injury, and stress can lead to development of stagnation.
Deficiency is when there is not enough energy in body. The body needs qi, or energy, in order to function healthy. Gradual, slow, chronic onset of back pain can be a sign that there is not enough energy, or a qi deficiency.
Sometimes there is a combination of deficiency and stagnation. This can happen after a long period of time after an accident and not getting better.
Acupuncture therapy is individualized for each patient
During the initial acupuncture visit, there is generally an examination and assessment of the root cause of the back pain. The acupuncture treatment is individualized for your specific issues.
An effective acupuncture treatment may involve acupuncture and electro -acupuncture stimulation. Other therapies including acupressure or cupping are very helpful for chronic low back pain. For some people ear magnets or auricular acupuncture is very powerful for pain relief. The proper combination of these treatments leads to profound and long term pain relief.
Read More about Acupuncture for Chronic Lower Back Pain:
1. Sherman KJ, Cherkin DC, Eisenberg DM, et.al. The Practice of Acupuncture: Who Are the Providers and What Do They Do? Ann Fam Med 2005;3:151-158.
2. Berman BM, Langevin HM, Witt CM, Dubner R. Acupuncture for Chronic Low Back Pain. N Engl J Med 2010; 363:454-461.
3. 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
Last Edited: 1/09/2012
Dec 22, 2011
It’s that time of year again. Resolution time.
Are you going to get in shape? Eat healthier? Take care of that chronic back pain?
New years is a natural time to think about the future. That’s a wonderful aspect to New Years resolutions. It gives us a natural moment to think about change.
We all know the problem with New Year’s resolutions. They’re made to be broken. So what to do?
1. It’s about change
The key to a new years resolution is not to think of it as a special occasion to make a change. You’re just ready to improve yourself, that’s it.
2. Make it small
One key way to stick with a resolution is to make it simple. Changing our habits’ isn’t easy. Start small. Do something reasonable.
A great change to make is trying to eat non-processed organic food. When my family started to eat local organic food we started slowly.
We started with only dairy, moved to meats and vegetables from there. Then we started going to the farmer’s market. Finally after a couple of years we joined a CSA.
3. Make it fit in your schedule
Biking to work is one of the best ways to stay in shape. We all have to commute anyway. By getting on your bike, you’re combining getting to work with your exercise routine. I find it to be one of the most relaxing times of the day.
Dec 12, 2011
For the last 50 years, the placebo effect has been a dirty word. Real interventions make a physiological change in the body. Placebos do nothing but convince the patient that something is different. Reality states otherwise. Ted Katpchuk, an acupuncturist and Chinese medicine doctor who focuses on the placebo effect in his research, wants to change all that.
In last week’s New Yorker, an article focuses on the placebo and the scholars who think about and examine the placebo.
What is a Placebo?
One of the difficult and fundamental questions is what is a placebo? We’ve come to believe a placebo is an inert intervention. A sugar pill.
In most clinical trials of medication, or even with some physical interventions, a group of people with a given condition are given active therapy or medication. The outcomes in this group are compared with a group of people who are given a placebo, but most often are not told which group they are in. Usually both groups improve, even people give the placebo. If the medication is successful, the people on active medication will improve more. The the placebo group improvement is called the placebo effect.
The placebo effect is thought to stem from a belief that a given intervention will help. People convince themselves that the medication is working, and miraculously it does. But the placebo does not change the body physiologically. Or so we thought.
Is the Placebo Inert?
One colossal challenge to the concept of a placebo, is that many studies have shown that a placebo is not inert. Meaning that your body has physiological reactions to taking a placebo. This could mean that belief in a specific drug or intervention actually stimulates your body to heal.
This is particularly true with chronic pain. Early placebo studies have shown that placebo intervention for pain relief actually influence the releases natural pain killers in your brain.
The All Encompassing Placebo
Many of the placebo researchers go further. A placebo is any aspect of a given intervention that may help you feel better, but without a specific physiological interaction with the body. This idea encompasses the whole experience of an individual. The environment of the office, the taste of the pill or tea, and how much the practitioner listens to you. The article even discusses how different colors and shapes of pills have various placebo effects.
A powerful concept in placebo research examines how a given intervention, be it medication, massage, or surgery, is more than simply the intervention itself. For example, my statistics professor at Mount Sinai would often discuss the fact that the clinical trial itself is a placebo. Patients in a clinical trial tend to do better on their medication than the general public. This could be because they feel special, receiving a new medication, being treated by expert doctors with a large staff at their disposal. Then, in the general public, the medications tend to work less well.
Doctor Patient relationship
Kaptchuk would like to explore how best to harness the power of placebos in the healing process. He has focused on the patient doctor interaction as placebo. He even ran a clinical trial of a placebo intervention on IBS where the patients were actually told they were taking a placebo, and that it had clinical efficacy in the past. And amazingly, it worked.
However, this dilemma brings a difficulty with the word placebo. Doctor patient relationship is a skill. A skill that many medical schools have begun to teach, as we loose this skill to technological advances.
Perhaps careful explanation, a caring tone, and an ear to listen can be called a placebo, as it is a non-specific intervention. It is not a chemical pill or an herbal remedy. However, it is also a skill, that can be developed and improved. Kaptchuk would certainly agree with teaching how to wield the healing power of the doctor patient relationship.
Yet, the placebo has a negative tone with the medical establishment, and also much of the population, because we are being fooled into getting better. Perhaps there needs to be a new name for a non-specific intervention.
Placebo: The Social Stigma
What is radical about the placebo idea is that nobody wants to believe that a placebo helps them. And its not just Western medical physicians. Acupuncturists, Chiropractors, and other modalities, as well as patients, fight against the idea that whatever intervention is helping, is a placebo. That means its all in your head.
Kaptchuk and others want to change this stigma. Even if the placebo is all in your head, so what. You feel better. You’re healthier and that’s what counts. But what’s interesting, in some cases, the placebo intervention can actually alter physiology of the body.
A Placebo or Common Sense
A comforting office environment has often be chalked up to placebo. But why would you not want to be comfortable in a doctor’s office with soothing colors and music? It is nerve wrecking enough to go to the doctor. And stress has a real effect on the body. It is just common sense to make the office nice.
I think there is a danger when discussing design of a pill and patient doctor interaction both as placebo because this could reduce the importance of the doctor patient relationship.
Acupuncture itself is an interesting question about the placebo effect. I have a hunch that Kaptchuk believes that acupuncture has a real physiological effect, as he has been involved in many studies comparing acupuncture physiology to placebo physiology, and there is often a difference. But it is not discussed in the article, because the point is that it helps people feel better.
Harnessing the Placebo
The field of studying the placebo itself is young. It questions central tenets to clinical research and shows that our bodies can physically heal ourselves of certain chronic conditions. We do not just react to medication, but also to caring, touch, and the environment.
Like much of good science, these studies bring up more questions than they answer. What is the most important aspect of placebo to focus on. Soft voice, listening to the patient, the examination. Or is it the office lighting, soft colors, and music. As the definition expands, the concept of the placebo can encompass almost anything.
Probably the best way to harness the power of many aspects of the placebo is by not calling it a placebo. Doctor patient relationship, a comforting healing environment, and physical touch are all words that don’t have the placebo stigma. These all help the patient get better, which is what is most important.
Lack of social acceptance in the public and medical community is a challenge that the research will not be able to overcome.