Posts Tagged ‘qi’
Jul 27, 2012
Traditional Chinese Medicine has been used to treat skin conditions for thousands of years. While Perioral Dermatitis is a newly recognized disease, only about 35 years old, the Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments for similar skin conditions remain helpful in addressing the condition.
Symptoms of Perioral Dermatitis
Perioral Dermatitis is a skin disorder which causes an erythema (redness of the skin), red bumps (called papules and pustules), and scaling. Perioral Dermatitis can look like acne, although it is not the same condition.
As the name infers, the most common locations of Perioral Dermatitis include around the mouth, on the chin, cheeks, and next to the nose. It can also occur around the eyes or on the eyelids, which is referred to as Periocular Dermatitis. Characteristic of Perioral Dermatitis is the sparing of the vermillion border around the mouth. The condition is generally not itchy.
Perioral Dermatitis most often affects young women, but the condition can occur in children and men. The cause is unknown. It was thought to be triggered by topical steroid creams. However, there are many people who contract the condition without having used topical steroids. Stress can be a significant factor at the onset of the condition. In children, the dermatitis may be associated with foods or other substances irritating the face.
Although Perioral Dermatitis does not pose a serious risk to your health, it can be very stressful and upsetting to an otherwise healthy person.
Perioral Dermatitis in Traditional Chinese Medicine
Chinese medicine takes a holistic approach to the diagnosis and treatment of skin conditions. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, a state of health is reached when the body is in balance. In order to address Perioral Dermatitis, acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine bring the body back to balance.
During the examination, the acupuncturist will consider physical, emotional, and environmental factors, as well as the appearance of the skin. For example, the degree of redness, presence of papules and pustules, or scales will factor into the determinations of the imbalance. This is combined with information from taking the pulse, observing the tongue and the skin, and asking in-depth questions.
The predominant imbalances causing Perioral Dermatitis are stagnation and heat. If caused by stagnation or lack of circulation, symptoms most often include redness, thin scaling, and only a few pustules. The more redness and pustules, the more heat is present. If the erythema is persistent or becomes worse when you are hot or in the sun, the heat is more intense and deeper in the body. Digestive health can also be a factor.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine Therapy for Perioral Dermatitis
The goal of acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine is to correct the imbalance underlying your condition. Once the imbalance is removed, the body is able to heal itself.
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese herbal therapy are tailored to your specific symptoms and imbalance. Both the herbal ingredients and the acupuncture points will vary, depending on the condition. Chinese herbs are generally given in combinations of 8-12 herbs. The herbs are thought to work by synergistically regulating the inflammatory process underlying the condition.
It is important to consult an acupuncturist or Chinese Medicine practitioner before taking herbs. When treating Perioral Dermatitis from stagnation, the herbs may include those which help circulate the qi such as chai hu. If there is more erythema, herbs such as sheng di huang will help remove the heat. If there are many pustules, herbs that reduce inflammation, such as ye ju hua, are used.
Mar 5, 2012
This is one of the top five common questions in my NYC acupuncture clinic.
Acupuncture does not hurt. We use very thin sterile solid needles which means they do not feel like a doctor’s needle. Upon insertion, some points can feel a prick, but many do not feel anything. The acupuncture needles remain in the acupuncture points for 20-30 minutes. Patients can feel numbness, tingling, warmth, heaviness, or movement at the acupuncture point. All of these feelings are good. At some acupuncture points the muscles will twitch. This is particularly true when using acupuncture points such as GB 30 for treating acupuncture for sciatica and acupuncture for chronic low back pain. Acupuncture is very relaxing and people will often fall asleep while lying on the massage table.
Traditionally, acupuncturists have called the feeling of acupuncture as “de qi.” The has been translated as “getting the qi” which means the acupuncture points has been adequately stimulated. In China, patients will tell their acupuncture doctors “zhong” which means heaviness, when the acupuncture point has been adequately stimulated.
Feb 13, 2012
Traditional Chinese Medicine is a term that refers to medicine practices developed in China and other parts of Asia. Traditional Chinese Medicine generally covers many types of modalities including acupuncture and moxibustion, Chinese Herbal remedies, Tui Na or Chinese Medical Massage, as well as other manual therapies including gua sha (spoon massage or coining) and cupping.
In China, the term Chinese medicine (in Chinese it is called Zhong Yi 中医) often refers to the practice of Chinese herbal medicine. Although it can also refer to the entire practice of Chinese medicine. While acupuncture refers to acupuncture and moxibustion.
Some of these therapies are performed only by experienced physicians, such as prescribing complex herbal formulas or doing acupuncture. But others are considered more home remedies. This may include folk herbal remedies for common colds or manual therapies such as gua sha which can be used for nausea, car sickness, the common cold, and other common illnesses.
Common ideas in Chinese Medicine
While the therapies are diverse, done both by physician and family members, they all rest on the holistic view of the body and health that developed over 2000 years ago. A primary idea is that health is a state of balance in the body and between the body and the environment. The body has qi, energy, which flows through channel and meridians. Also, that environmental factors such as cold, heat, and dampness can cause illness. And these environmental factors represent certain illness within the body.
For example, if you have a cold, a physician may write an herbal prescription to release the heat to help you get rid of the cold. But the home remedy of gua sha spoon massage on the neck and upper back can also release the heat.
Chinese Medicine: An Evolution of Ideas
Many of the dominant concepts in Chinese medicine were discussed in the early books of the Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classics as well as the Treatise on Cold Diseases. Although they referenced older works, they are no longer in existence. Over the years, physicians and scholars have debated these ideas evolving into the contemporary tradition of modern Chinese Medicine.
Yet, it is important to understand that Chinese medicine is an evolving tradition. These are not static concepts, but ideas that scholars, physicians and even individual family lineages have expanded on and explored. Chinese medicine has a strong tradition of writing, discussion, and debate. There is a great diversity of ideas. Through experience and training a Chinese Medicine practitioner will develop their own style.
For example, certain physicians believed that the best way to use Chinese medicine for psoriasis was to clear heat and toxins from the body. However, other physicians believed that psoriasis developed from internal cold and the body must be warmed. These debates continue today.
In fact, some of the significant therapeutic strategies of modern Chinese medicine physicians were not developed until recently. As I mentioned in my last post, the development of electro-acupuncture for pain was only developed within the last century, a relatively short time for the history of Chinese medicine.
Jan 9, 2012
The Meaning of Zhen Jiu ( 针灸)
Acupuncture is not just acupuncture. In fact, the word for acupuncture in Chinese, Zhen Jiu, actually translates to “acupuncture and moxibustion” which shows how central moxibustion is within acupuncture.
Moxibustion is the warming of acupuncture points or needles. Most often, this is done through burning an herb called mugwort. It can also be done with heat lamps as well as herbal lotions.
In my office, we use smokeless moxibustion because it is treated and does not create much smoke.
How does Moxibustion work?
Just like with acupuncture, moxibustion focuses on correcting the underlying imbalance in the body.
Because it is warming, generally moxibustion is used when there is cold in the body. Moxibustion can help to warm the body and add qi as well. The warmth also helps to increase circulation.
Boosting the Qi
There is a tradition that one can use moxibustion on the acupuncture point Stomach 36 for 100 consecutive days in order to boost the body’s qi. I think this therapy is particularly effective for those with poor digestion or asthma due to low energy.
Nov 29, 2011
“And when you do find one, observe with care…they almost always have crystals in their hearts.”
From Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
To understand Chinese medicine better, we also have to think about how acupuncture and Chinese medicine conceptualize and describe the body.
The Language of Acupuncture and Chinese medicine
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese medicine is a comprehensive medical system with it own diagnosis and treatment. The terminology and language is also unique.
Sometimes, acupuncture language may sound a little magical. We may say that a headache is caused by liver qi stagnation in one person but in another person it may be from heat. Similarly, anxiety can come from heart blood vacuity but it also can be related to heat irritating the heart.
It is very important that the language and theory is consistent throughout the acupuncture diagnosis and treatment. In fact, if the wrong diagnosis is made, say heat instead of liver qi stagnation, the incorrect treatment will be used which can make the condition worse.
I like to think of these imbalances as metaphors describing the symptoms of your illness.
A Scholarly History
The causes and treatment of disease have been debated, discussed, and experimented with by clinicians and scholars throughout the more than 2500 years of Chinese medicine history.
They have evolved, as historian Paul Unschuld has written, into a system of medical correspondences. These debates still continue today about the best methods to approach and treat different diseases.
Health in Traditional Chinese Medicine
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine view health as a state of balance in the body, as well as balance within the enviornment.
Some of the most common imbalances pertain to the body’s energy, or qi. The qi can be too little, what we call qi vacuity, or it may not circulate as it should, called qi stagnation.
Other imbalances coorespond to the enviornment. Cold, heat, dryness, and wind can all cause diseases.
The Body Acupuncture
Acupuncture visualizes the body as a complex interconnected web. Meridians travelling throughout the body, connecting the surface to the interior, the upper body with the lower body.
The body’s energy circulates freely. If there is too little energy or if the energy gets stuck, imbalances occur. A build up of any imbalance, heat, cold, stagnation, or others leads to developing into an illness.
To correct the imbalance, we use acupuncture points and treatment methods specific to your imbalance.
For example, a headache from liver qi stagnation, we could use the acupuncture points LI 4, Liver 3, and Liver 14. But if it is from heat, we may choose Liver 2, Gallbladder 34, and San Jiao 5.
Nov 28, 2011
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. Everyone gets them from time to time, but in some it may become chronic. There is no need to suffer, acupuncture can treat your headaches and help you feel better.
You probably know when you have a tension headache. It is usually a dull aching pain that can come from being stressed out, upset, too tired, overworked, or stared at your computer too long.
There is often accompanied with tension of the neck muscles, pressure in the forehead, temples, or base of the skull.
For most people, the headache will last a few minutes to a few hours, but some have chronic headaches which occur for a long time. Severe chronic headache suffers can have it for more than a few days or months. Most cases are not an emergency, but if you experience an abrupt severe headache with a feeling of a snap in you head or if you headache is accompanied by a fever or trauma, you should go to the emergency room.
How does Acupuncture approach headaches?
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine work by addressing imbalances in the body. Once the imbalance is corrected, the body works to heal itself.
Each person’s imbalance can be different. The treatment is tailored specifically to your symptoms and complaints.
When it comes to chronic pain conditions, it is important to consider both the mind and the body, which effect one another. Chinese medicine is quite specific about this, and each organ is effected by different emotions.
Often with headaches, the diagnosis can be associated with imbalances in the body’s energy, or qi. Qi is the body’s energy (Qi is pronounced “chee,” and is sometimes spelled “chi.”).
In Chinese medicine, it is said “When the qi flows there is no pain, when qi stops, there is pain and illness.” When qi circulation is damaged, it is called qi stagnation. This can often happen from stress and anxiety. There can also be too little qi, what we call qi vacuity.
Acupuncture Treatment of Headaches
Acupuncture works to correct the imbalance causing the qi stagnation. An effective acupuncture treatment is based upon a specific and accurate diagnosis. The acupuncture point selection is tailored to the patients imbalance. For example, if there is qi vacuity, we may focus on the acupuncture points Kidney 3, Spleen 9, and Lung 5. But if it is based in qi stagnation, the the acupuncture points liver 3, Large Inesting 4, and Gall Bladder 34 may be selected.
Also combining acupressure with the acupuncture helps to relieve the muscle tension also associated with the tension headaches. Usually people will feel relief after only a few weekly visits.
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.
Acupuncture is also very relaxing. Most people feel very calm during the treatment and after the acupuncture treatment. 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.
written by Joseph Alban
Last Edited 11/14/2011
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.
Oct 21, 2011
Acupuncture is helpful to treat the symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis/Painful Bladder Syndrome. This guide will explain how acupuncture works for Interstitial Cystitis/Painful Bladder Syndrome.
Interstitial cystitis (IC), also called painful bladder syndrome, is a chronic condition characterized by pelvic pain, urinary frequency, and urgency. Interstitial cystitis impacts almost all aspects of your life, including professional, educational, and personal, and can be an overwhelming experience.
Both men and women can get IC, although it occurs mostly in women. People with interstitial cystitis can have symptoms similar to a urinary tract infection, but without an infection (1). Often, there is painful, frequent, urgent, inhibited, or incomplete urination. Sometimes there may be blood in the urine. There may be a dull feeling of fullness in the lower abdomen and bladder. The pain in the bladder can be intense or dull, and sometimes it is located in the pelvis, or on the pelvic floor. Some people experience sexual dysfunction.
These symptoms can resemble many different conditions. It is important to see a urologist to get a complete exam to rule out other illnesses.
Acupuncture for Interstitial Cystitis
Over two thousand years ago, acupuncture physicians described a syndrome which is characterized by painful and frequent urination called Lin Syndrome (2). Accompanying symptoms can be tenderness in the lower abdomen, a feeling of incomplete urination, sexual dysfunction, changes in the color of urination, urinating at night, and also depression and anxiety. Although they were not speaking specifically about interstitial cystitis, these same principles can be used to create an effective acupuncture treatment.
During the Acupuncture and Chinese medicine diagnosis process, urinary symptoms along with your overall health are considered. This paints a picture of the underlying imbalance that is causing the disease. Common imbalances for interstitial cystitis are qi (energy, pronounced “chee”) weakness, lack of circulation of qi, and heat. It is not uncommon for women to suffer from more than one of these imbalances.
People with qi weakness, or lack of energy are often tired and have digestive problems. This can cause frequent urination, urination at night, and a feeling of fullness in the abdomen. Qi stagnation is a lack of circulation of the energy and can cause pain, bloating, and muscle spasms. Qi stagnation may cause spasm in the muscles of the pelvic floor.
Heat is also a frequent cause of interstitial cystitis symptoms. Heat in the body can cause dryness, burning urination, abnormal sweating, stiff joints, and headaches. Often, heat is a reflection of inflammation. Heat may develop after having a urinary tract infection. Infection may also lead to qi vacuity.
Once the proper imbalance is identified, the acupuncture point prescription is tailored to correct that imbalance.
How does acupuncture treat interstitial cystitis?
Traditional Chinese Medicine works by identifying specific imbalances in the body and using acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and acupressure to correct them. Physiologically, acupuncture helps to reduce the symptoms of interstitial cystitis by regulating pain sensation, releasing pain relieving chemicals in the nervous system, and reducing inflammation (3). Correcting the imbalance does not just treat the symptoms or mask the condition, but rather corrects the root of the problem by encouraging self-healing of the body.
The acupuncture point prescription will vary based upon the underlying imbalance. Generally, the acupuncture points for interstitial cystitis are located on the arms and legs, as well as the lower abdomen and lower back.
Auricular, or ear, acupuncture is very helpful for pain and spasm of the bladder. Points such as bladder, ureter, pelvis, and the spirit gate are helpful. Often, I will use small magnets on these points to stimulate them in between acupuncture treatments.
Acupressure massage helps to support the acupuncture in relaxing the muscles as well as relieve stress. Sometimes electro-acupuncture can relieve the constant feeling of fullness and urgency in the bladder.
The results of acupuncture are cumulative over a series of treatments. Once the imbalance is corrected, the body can work to heal itself and can result in long lasting benefit. Relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises and meditation can be a vital support for relieving stress and preventing the tension from returning.
Interstitial Cystitis Resources
- National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse
- Interstitial Cystitis Association
- Interstitial Cystitis Network
1. Genitourinary Pain and Inflammation: Diagnosis and Management . Ed. J.M. Potts. Humana Press. NJ
2. Wiseman N, Feng Y. A Practical Dictionary of Chinese Medicine
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.
by Joseph Alban
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
Oct 13, 2011
Observing the tongue and taking the pulse are two of the most common diagnostic techniques in Chinese medicine.
Why look at the tongue?
Chinese medicine uses diagnostic approaches, like the tongue and the pulse, because they reflect the imbalances that are causing your health problem.
What are we looking for in the tongue?
When I am looking at the tongue, I am looking at the the color of the tongue, the size and shape of the tongue body, and the coating on top of the tongue.
If the tongue is very red, or very pale that can show there is heat, or qi deficiency. If the tongue body is purplish, it can show stagnation, a lack of circulation in the body’s channels. If the tongue coating is very thick and white, it can be dampness. But if the tongue coating is yellow and sticky, that can signal intense heat. If the tongue is very red and there is very little tongue coating, then the heat has damaged the fluids in the body.
The size of the tongue can differ as well. A common tongue sign is called toothmarked, where the sides of the tongue almost look like they have teeth marks in them. The tongue body can also be cracked, which can show too little yin.
Eczema: A clinical example of the holistic diagnosis
The information from the tongue is not taken in isolation, but rather combined with other techniques, such as the pulse, asking questions, and in the case of eczema, observing the skin.
When it comes to eczema, looking at the skin is very important. If the skin is very red, irritated, dry, and itchy, then it is probably caused by heat. We then look at the tongue. If the tongue is red with a sticky yellow coating, then it is certainly excess heat causing the eczema. The herbs and acupuncture are focused clearing heat.
But if the tongue is pale and large, with a thick white coat, then it may be heat mixed with qi deficiency, or lack of energy. The herbs and acupuncture would have to also address the underlying lack of energy.
Read more on Acupuncture for Eczema
- Chinese herbs for Winter Eczema: A Success Story
- TCM Treatment for Dyshidrotic Eczema
- Personalized Acupuncture and Herbs for Eczema
Photo: Mike Burns