Posts Tagged ‘pain’
Jun 5, 2012
Constipation is an issue that I often treat in my NYC acupuncture clinic.
I always teach my patients this simple two-step acupressure routine for relieving constipation to supplement the acupuncture treatment.
Rub belly in clockwise circle
Rubbing your abdomen will help wake up your digestive system. Place your whole palm on the abdomen and apply even pressure. Not so much pressure that it is painful but you should feel your hand.
Rub your belly in a big clockwise circle touching the edge of the ribs and the top of the pelvis. Do this motion for 30 seconds. You can also casually rub your belly in this way during your relaxation time, listening to music, or before you go to sleep.
Sheng Ju Xu- Stomach 37
Stomach 37 is a very important acupuncture point for constipation. When palpating you may notice that it is often tender during episodes of constipation.
Acupressure Point Location: Stomach 37 is located 3 cun below the acupressure point Stomach 36.
First locate the tibial tuberosity, a bump just below the knee. Place your hand just below the tibial tuberosity with the index finger touching the bottom of the tuberosity. Stomach 37 is located level with the pinky finger just to the outside of the shin bone when your hand is in this position.
How to massage
First press on the acupressure point then rub in a circle. You can apply pressure which can help. Pressing very hard may cause a small bruise.
Rub this acupressure point twice a day for 30 seconds.
May 14, 2012
Atopic eczema causes profound itching. Often the itching is the first sign of the condition and scratching leads to the inflammation.
A recent research report examined acupuncture treatment of itch in atopic dermatitis (1). This study was quite sophisticated. They compared acupuncture versus antihistamine treatment to reduce itching. They also compared acupuncture and antihistamine to an acupuncture and an antihistamine placebo. Finally, they looked at if acupuncture was better for preventing the itch or treating the active itching.
The acupuncture was stronger than the antihistamine in its ability to reduce itching. In fact, the acupuncture was the only clinically relevant reduction in the itch. While the antihistamine also reduced itch, it was not as strong as the acupuncture. Also, acupuncture did not have any cognitive adverse effects which were induced by the antihistamine.
Both the antihistamine and the acupuncture were stronger than their placebos.
Interestingly, acupuncture performed before the itching was induced was not as effective as acupuncture done after the patients were itching. So it is important to think about the timing when treating the itch.
How does acupuncture reduce itch?
The authors theorized that acupuncture reduction of itch may act through the similar pathways as pain reduction including the release of endogenous opioids and neurological pathways. Acupuncture may also reduce inflammation which is a significant in atopic eczema.
1. Pfab F, Kirchner MT, Huss-Marp J, et.al. . Acupuncture compared with oral antihistamine for type I hypersensitivity itch and skin response in adults with atopic dermatitis: a patient- and examiner-blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. Allergy. 2012 Apr;67(4):566-73.
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
Mar 26, 2012
The bladder can have a mind of its own. Normally, the bladder relaxes as it fills and contracts only when you need to urinate. Bladder spasms can occur when the bladder muscles suddenly contract causing a sudden need to urinate. In some people this can also cause pain.
Acupuncture is an excellent way to reduce bladder spasms. Acupuncture works by resetting the body to be healthy and allowing the bladder to relax.
Acupuncture therapy for bladder spasms
Acupuncture theory is based upon the idea that channels connect different parts of the body. These channels act like a communication system in the body. For acupuncture to be effective at treating bladder spasms, the correct acupuncture points must be used.
Specific acupuncture channels can be related to bladder spasms. The Bladder channel is one of the very important channels. This channel runs from the inner canthus of the eye, over the scalp, down the back, and to the outside of the foot. Points on the lower back, such as UB 28, UB 32, and UB 33 are very important for bladder spasm. Points near the ankles, like UB 60 is also helpful.
The Spleen and Kidney channel acupuncture points can also be helpful. The spleen channel runs from the inside of the big toe up the leg. Acupuncture points such as Spleen 9 and Spleen 6 are both very effective. Kidney 3 is on the inside of the ankle. The Ren channel is located on the center line of the front of the body. Acupuncture points such as Ren 3 and Ren 4 are also very effective for bladder spasms.
Electroacupuncture for bladder spasms
Electro-acupuncture is very similar to regular acupuncture. The acupuncture point selection is generally the same and the treatment time is also similar. Electro-acupuncture provides additional small amount electric stimulation to the acupuncture needles. The electric stimulation enhances muscle relaxation.
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.
Nov 11, 2011
I like to say that the acupuncture healing process is like hitting the reset switch. It works in the body to correct once healthy pathways that were knocked off kilter.
There is a process to getting to the root cause of the issue in order to reset the body. Like peeling off layers to get to to the core issue.
Many patients come to me with intense symptoms, often severe pain. The first goal is to reduce the pain to make them comfortable. Then we work on correcting the root issue causing the pain which can lead to long term relief.
In acupuncture and Chinese medicine we call this treating the root and the branch, that is treating the branch symptoms and the root cause. This is the key to the healing effect of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese medicine.
Nov 9, 2011
Acupuncture is very effective at treating chronic migraines, tension headaches, and sinus headaches. Acupuncture therapy has been used for over 2000 years to treat chronic headaches.
How does acupuncture treat headaches?
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine scholars theorize that health is based upon balance in the body. Imbalances can cause long term illnesses and pain. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine work by correcting these imbalances in the body. Once the imbalance is corrected, the body can then works to heal itself.
Physiological, acupuncture works to reduce pain and inflammation through regulating neural pain pathways, stimulating the release of natural pain relievers in the body, such as opioids, as well as regulating pain relieving opioid receptors. Many studies have also shown acupuncture to have a anti-inflammatory effect, reducing the circulating inflammatory hormones in the blood (1).
Chronic headaches and migraines there is often a terrible cycle of tension and pain. The muscles tense up in reaction to the pain and then the pain causes the muscles to tense up more. Some believe this cycle of pain further exasperates the decreased blood flow to and from the skull, which may be one of the causes of migraines. Acupuncture cuts off this cycle of tension and pain by relaxing the muscles and relieving tension.
Acupuncture is also very relaxing. Most people feel very calm during the treatment and this lasts for a period of time afterwards. Over time, treatment helps influence you to be calm and increase your ability to deal with stress. This is because acupuncture does not separate the body and the mind. The mind influences the body, and the body influences the mind. So in treating the body we also relax the mind.
What are the most common imbalances that cause headaches?
When comes to headaches, the imbalance is often rooted in the circulation or production of the body’s energy called qi (pronounced chee). 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.” When there is stress, trauma, or other illness, the qi circulation can slow down and become stagnated. Someone with qi stagnation will have headaches that are intense, worse with stress, neck pain, ribside pain, possible insomnia, and digestive problems.
Another imbalance can be too little energy, or what is called qi deficiency. If there is too little energy, then people will feel tired, get bloated after they eat, and have a weak pulse.
Acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and acupressure all help to build more qi and smooth the flow of qi.
What is acupuncture treatment like?
An effective acupuncture treatment is based upon a specific and accurate diagnosis. The root imbalance of the condition and by asking in depth questions, taking your pulse, and examining your body. 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.
Research on Acupuncture for Headaches
A recent metanalysis of 31 studies, showed that acupuncture was more effective than both medication and placebo acupuncture (2). For those who do not know, a metanalysis is a more definitive study which examines many many previously performed studies. The studies showed that acupuncture was stronger than placebo acupuncture for reducing headaches, and even stronger than medication for reducing headache frequency, intensity, and overall physical function.
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. Sun Y, Gan TJ. Acupuncture for the management of chronic headache: a systematic review. Anesth Analg. 2008 Dec;107(6):2038-47.
written by Joseph Alban
edited: November 7, 2011
Nov 3, 2011
Acupuncturists have a choice in terms of how long the needles are left in the acupuncture points. Different times have different clinical effects.
Most often, the acupuncture needles are retained in the acupuncture points for 20-30 minutes. Traditionally we say it takes 30 minutes for the qi, the body’s energy, to circulate in the channels.
But if it is an acute situation, such as a back spasm, it is generally better to leave the acupuncture needles in for about 20 minutes. This is because the muscles will relax quicker in an acute injury like a back spasm.
When the energy is weak, what we call qi deficiency, it is better to leave the needles in for a longer period of time, such as 35 or 40 minutes in some cases. This provides and opportunity for the body to work on improving the energy.
When using electro-acupuncture, as I often do for pain, 20 minutes has been shown to be the optimal amount of time. In this case, I retain the acupuncture needles for 30 or 35 minutes total. The first 20 are with electro-acupuncture. The second I remove the electro-acupuncture and twirl the needles. The combination of electro-acupuncture stimulation and manual stimulation I find is effective at pain reduction.
Nov 3, 2011
“The Heartbreak of Psoriasis” is a phase the author John Updike, a sufferer of psoriasis himself, used to describe his experience with the condition. While psoriasis is a skin condition, it impacts people’s daily lives in social situations and has a significant emotional impact. In addition, psoriasis may cause itching, physical discomfort, and is often associated with arthritic joint pain. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine has been extensively used to treat psoriasis.
What Causes Psoriasis?
In both acupuncture theory and western medicine, psoriasis is more than skin deep. Psoriasis is caused by dysfunction and dysregulation of the immune system, leading to an auto immune reaction. In acupuncture, this dysfunction is described as imbalances which disrupt the body and keep it from healing. Once the imbalances are corrected, your body can work to heal itself and stay healthy.
Psoriasis causes auto-immune reactions which make skin cells overgrow, leading to the development of plaques and scales. The environment also influences the development of the condition including drugs, trauma, infection, and stress.
What are Psoriasis symptoms?
Psoriasis causes the formation of round and oval raised lesions. Often there is silvery white scale over these lesions. If removed it may bleed easily, which is called an Auspitz’s sign. Itching is common, and can be severe in certain cases, but it is very variable. In those with psoriasis, the lesion may appear at a site of physical trauma, which is called a Koebner phenomenon. Many people with psoriasis also suffer from chronic joint pain and arthritis.
Psoriasis tends to affect the outside of the arms and legs more than the inside. Common areas that are most effected from psoriasis are the back, elbows, scalp, groin area, fingernails, and toenails. Some medications and drugs may exacerbate the development of this condition.
There are many types of psoriasis, the most common type being chronic plaque psoriasis. This chronic form is the most common and the lesions may last for months, even years when they develop. This form reacts well to acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatment.
There are some acute inflammatory forms of psoriasis, which must be treated immediately by a physician or in the emergency department.
Psoriasis in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine
In acupuncture and Chinese medicine, psoriasis is caused by imbalances in the body. For autoimmune conditions like psoriasis, the concept of imbalances really makes sense. The immune system is overactive and the body attacks itself.
The diagnosis of the specific imbalance is based upon your symptoms, such as itch, pain, or irritation, the appearance of the skin lesions. The most common imbalances, which cause psoriasis, are blood heat, dryness, and blood stagnation. Damp heat can also be a factor, particularly in pustular psoriasis.
Chinese medicine and acupuncture doctors have long said that removing these imbalances is like hitting the reset switch. In this case, resetting the immune system.
The Most Common Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Imbalances
Blood Heat- Blood heat is characterized by the acute onset of psoriasis with possible severe itching. The lesions are often bright red irregular patterns of plaque. The size and extent of the lesions suggest the amount of heat. The greater number and larger the lesions, the greater amount of heat. The bleeding upon scratching is easy to elicit (1).
Blood Dryness- Blood dryness occurs with chronic cases of psoriasis. Itching may or may not be present. The lesions can appear pale red or dull red in color. The scales may appear to be dryer with blood dryness.
Blood Stagnation- Blood stagnation also occurs when there is long term chronic psoriasis. It often is characterized by remission and relapses. The plaques are irregular, hard, and thick and may be purplish and dry in color. Bleeding may be difficult to elicit but itching is still present.
Damp heat occurs in pustular psoriasis. This is when there is a large amount of inflammation, swelling, fissures, and exudate. The lesions may be moist and swollen and there may be pus.
Psoriasis Treatment with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine
Chinese herbal therapy works by correcting the specific imbalance causing underlying psoraisis. The prescription is tailored to your symptoms and imbalance specifically.
The treatment usually combines both acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy. Acupuncture can help to reduce itch and, if there is pain associated with the condition, help to kill the pain. Acupuncture points such as LI 11 and LI 4 help to clear heat. GB 34 and GB 31 can help relieve the itching. Ear acupuncture and ear magnet therapy I find helps to relieve itching very quickly.
In addition to acupuncture, Chinese herbal therapy is necessary for having substantial results with psoriasis. Chinese herbs are given in formulas, which may contain 10-15 herbs. They are most often cooked and drank as teas. The ingredients are chosen specifically for your condition. For example, if there is blood stagnation and blood dryness, the formula would focus on moving the blood stagnation and nourishing the dryness.
The Immunologic Effects of Herbs for Psoriasis
A review of herbs used for psoriasis explored the immunologic effects of commonly used herbs for psoriasis (2). Chinese herbs are complex natural products. Rather than being a single chemical, like most medications, they are combinations of naturally occurring substances. Formulas are even more complex because they can have 10 or more herbs.
Three of the most powerful and commonly used herbs for psoriasis are Sheng di huang (Rehmania glutinosa), Dan shen (Salvia miltiorriza), and Zi cao (lithospermum erythrohizon).
Sheng di huang is used to cool the blood and clear heat. It is effective for many types of psoriasis, including psoriasis from blood heat and blood dryness. In the laboratory, sheng di has shown to inhibit histamine release from mast cells and regulate the cytokines TNF-α and IL-1 in astrocytes.
Dan shen is good for blood stagnation and heat type psoriasis. Dan shen was shown to reduce edema, inhibit the secretion of IFN-γ and IL-12, and inhibited the degranulation of mast cells.
Zi cao very strongly cools the blood and is often used with psoriasis. This in combination with other herbs showed a complete suppression of IL-α and TNF-α, which are factors in psoriasis. These anti-inflammatory effects may have a beneficial effect for psoriasis.
Chinese Herbal Formulas
Some of the herbs may not directly correct the immune system, but rather work synergistically with other herbs in the formula to enhance their action, or in some cases, protect from side effects. You can see how complicated the situation is and why it is important to be well trained in Chinese herbal medicine.
Licorice root, or gan cao (Glycyrrhiza uralensis), is widely used in Chinese medicine for psoriasis by boosting qi and harmonizing the effects of other herbs. It has long been know for immunoregulatory abilities. Studies are now showing that it can also reduce possible toxicity and helped to repair damaged liver cells. This is the harmonizing effect Chinese medicine doctors have been talking about for centuries.
How long does acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatment take?
Overall, a treatment course for psoriasis is about 3-6 months. This time period can vary depending on the severity and symptoms you are experiencing.
I want to see psoriasis symptoms such as itching and pain to improve within the first month to 6 weeks of treatment. By the end of the second month, I would like to see a reduction in the amount of redness and size of the plaque, which will continue throughout the treatment course.
One of the phenomenal aspects of acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatment is that it can lead to long term reduction in psoriasis. We describe this as correcting the imbalances in the body rather than masking the psoriasis symptoms.
1. Treatment of psoriasis with traditional Chinese medicine. Lin Li. Hai Feng Publishing, 1990.
2. Tse, T. W. Use of common Chinese herbs in the treatment of psoriasis. Clinical and Experimental Dermatology. 28: 5. 469-475. 2003
Photos: The Wednesday Island of English Wikipedia
Oct 20, 2011
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine are effective treatments for atopic eczema. This guide will explain how acupuncture and Chinese herbs work to treat atopic eczema.
Atopic eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is the most common type of chronic eczema (1). Those with atopic eczema often have a family history eczema, hay fever, and asthma.
Symptoms of Atopic Eczema
Atopic eczema nearly always begins in childhood. For most people, it clears before becoming an adult. However, for some it will cycle between flare ups and remittance. Flare up can be caused by infection, stress, chemical irritants, or sometimes changes in the weather.
Eczema causes terrible itching. Particularly in atopic patients, the scratching of an itch in many cases is what leads to the development of dry, irritated, and inflamed skin associated with eczema. The itch is very intense it is often difficult to control during sleep.
Eczema can occur on the face, or patches in the body. Commonly, eczema occurs on the inside of the elbows and back of the knees. Chronic, long term eczema, may lead to thickening of the skin called lichenification.
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine approach to Atopic Eczema
Traditionally, Chinese medicine called eczema the “wind of four crooks” referring to the eczema rashes on the inside of the elbows and knees (2).
Chinese medicine takes a holistic approach to diagnosing eczema, considering physical, emotional, and environmental factors. The primary diagnosis is made by looking at the skin. This is combined with information from taking the pulse, observing the tongue and the skin, and asking in depth questions.
In Chinese medicine, too much “heat” is a common cause of eczema, which leads to the itch, redness, and irritation. Other imbalances called “dampness” can result in swelling and in some cases vesicles. Another possible imbalance is too little energy, or what we call “qi deficiency.” The acupuncture and herbs help to clear the heat from the body or to boost the body’s energy.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatment of Atopic Eczema
The treatment will often combine acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and topical herbal creams. Acupuncture is very effective to control the itching in eczema. I find that auricular and body acupuncture combination to be the most effective. After the acupuncture, I often will use magnet stickers in ear acupuncture points that correspond to the specific area of the body the itch is found. It is possible that the same physiological mechanisms which acupuncture uses to reduce pain are effective for stopping itch in eczema (3).
Chinese medicine focuses on correcting the imbalance. If heat is the cause of the eczema, we will use herbs that traditionally are used to “clear heat” from the body, such as sheng di huang (rehmannia) and jin yin hua (honey suckle) may be used to clear heat. Many of the heat reducing herbs are also potent anti-inflammatory and perhaps have immunoregulatory properties. Dampness is also a possible cause of eczema. For this, ku shen (sophroa) is effective. There are also herbs specifically for the symptoms. For example, di fu zi (broom cypress) is very effective in reducing itch.
External herbal creams are very effective at decreasing inflammation and stopping itching. For some people, reduction in inflammation and itching happens after the first visit. Generally, I want to see some reduction in itching and inflammation within the first 2-4 weeks. The treatment course is about 3-4 months.
For many patients, acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine leads to long term reduction of symptoms.
1. PubMed Health. Atoptic Eczema. Accessed 10/21/2011.
2. Mazin Al-Khafaji. Atopic Eczema “Wind of the four crooks.” Journal of Chinese Medicine. Number 77: p5-8. February 2005.
3. Pfab F, Huss-Marp J, Gatti A., et al. Influence of acupuncture on type I hypersensitivity itch and the wheal and flare response in adults with atopic eczema – a blinded, randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover trial.Allergy. 2010 Jul;65(7):903-10. Epub 2009 Dec 11.
written by Joseph Alban