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