The ancient Chinese believed that there is a universal life energy called chi or qi present in every living being. This energy is said to circulate throughout the body along specific pathways called meridians. As long as qi flows freely throughout the meridians, health is maintained; once the flow of energy is blocked, the system experiences imbalance and pain and illness occur. Acupuncture works to restore optimal functioning by stimulating certain points on the meridians in order to “free up” or “unblock” the qi energy.
From a biochemical perspective, we know that acupuncture has many positive effects on the body. It increases the body’s natural production of endorphins, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system (which shuts down in chronic stress), and increases blood flow to local areas.
Conditions successfully treated with acupuncture include:
Musculoskeletal Arthritis, neck and back pain, fibromyalgia, bursitis, sciatica, sports injuries, TMJ, tendonitis
Cardiovascular Chest pain, atherosclerosis, anemia, hypertension, palpitations, coronary heart disease
Gastrointestinal Food allergies, peptic ulcers, constipation, colitis, Crohn’s disease, diarrhea, gastritis, IBS, nausea, vomiting
Skin Acne, dermatitis, eczema, herpes, hives, warts
Emotional and Neurologic Anxiety, depression, insomnia, stress, Bell’s palsy, headaches, migraines, MS, neuralgia, paralysis, tremors
Reproductive Endometriosis, infertility, menstrual problems, menopause, morning sickness, PMS, prostate problems, sexual dysfunction, UTI, vaginal infections
Endocrine, Cancer, and Immune Diabetes, fatigue, hypoglycemia, hepatitis, HIV and related conditions, relief from the side effects of other therapies (i.e. chemo, radiation, surgical)
Ear Nose and Throat Allergies, asthma, bronchitis, common colds, flu, emphysema, eye diseases, tinnitus, vertigo, sore throat, sinusitis
Acupuncture and Low Back Pain
In the United States, low back pain is one of the most common reasons patients go to a physician. It is one of the most frequent causes of missed workdays and one of the most expensive conditions in the United States; according to a recent government report, in 1999, nearly one million people in the U.S. missed work to treat some form of back pain.
Back pain can be caused from many issues including poor posture, weak muscles, joint malalignment, nerve pain, kidney problems, etc. and half of all adults will experience some form of low back pain during their lifetime. The fact that humans walk upright puts a large amount of pressure on the lumbar spine and the muscles that support it. Unfortunately, modern medicine is lagging in the ability to diagnose the true cause of back pain. This is due to the fact that 60% of all Americans have some sort of structural abnormality on an X-ray or MRI that causes them no pain. When physicians go to image a back pain sufferer, often what they see may not be the true cause of pain and many orthopedic surgeries do not correct the problem or make the pain worse.
Most back pain is muscular in origin. Muscle pain perpetuates what is known as the pain cycle, a phenomenon of which the back is particularly prone. In the pain cycle, pain causes a muscle to spasm, which may move the discs, joints and nerves of the spine. This spasm leads to further pain, leading to further misalignment, which compounds the original problem.
Acupuncture can play an important role in the reduction or elimination of back pain and preventing a chronic condition from developing. Oftentimes, relief from back pain is immediate after an acupuncture treatment. Remember, acupuncture stimulates qi (or energy) to circulate in an area and can often stop a pain cycle.
Research has shown that acupuncture causes the body to produce natural endorphins, or pain killers. A traditional medical prescription might lead to pain killers, muscle relaxers, or corticosteroid injections which eventually mask the pain. These medications are often costlier and with greater side effects than acupuncture.
As with any other form of care, however, remember that not all patients will respond to acupuncture. Make sure to discuss the situation completely with your acupuncturist before undergoing treatment for back pain.
Acupuncture and Infertility
Chinese medicine has a long history of treating women’s issues such as menstrual irregularities, cramps, PMS, heavy bleeding, and ovarian cysts. Included in this list is also infertility. Oftentimes, a Chinese medicine diagnosis is completely different that a traditional Western diagnosis of “we don’t know why you aren’t getting pregnant.” A Chinese practitioner will use your symptom picture as a diagnostic tool for an imbalance in your overall energy and then address the imbalance with acupuncture and/or herbal medicines.
A woman’s 28 day cycle is a complicated orchestra of hormones from the brain, the ovaries, the adrenal glands, and the uterus. All work together to create a natural and healthy 28 day cycle. If an imbalance exists, women will not menstruate or ovulate properly. Traditional Western medicine has very few treatments to coax the body to fall in line with this rhythm. Their approach is to drive the body to ovulate with injectable drugs or cover over a “sick rhythm” with birth control pills.
Acupuncture works to gently balance the subtle energies in your body that create hormonal rhythms. It works by addressing disturbances in qi and removing blockages to qi. These are determined by tongue and pulse diagnosis, as well as a lengthy current and past medical history intake.
Acupuncture and Allergies
In China, acupuncture and herbal remedies have been used to combat symptoms similar to seasonal allergies (allergic rhinitis) successfully for centuries.
Symptoms of allergic rhinitis include itchy eyes, watery eyes, sneezing, runny nose, fatigue, and increased risk of sinus infection. From a Western outlook, allergies are caused by an imbalance in the immune system – in which it becomes overactive and reacts to normal particles in the air. Western treatments include a number of different drugs used to suppress the immune system. Eastern treatments focus on balancing the immune system so that it is naturally less reactive.
A study in the September 2004 issue of Allergy has concluded that a combination of Chinese herbs and weekly acupuncture sessions may be more effective than a placebo at relieving the symptoms of seasonal allergic rhinitis. In the study, a total of 52 patients between the ages of 20 and 58, all diagnosed with seasonal allergies, were randomly assigned to a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) group or a control group. In the Chinese medicine group, patients received a standardized 20-minute acupuncture treatment once a week for six weeks. Additional points were selected based on each patient’s individual symptoms.
Along with acupuncture, TCM patients received a basic herbal formula, which they were instructed to take three times per day, parallel to acupuncture treatment. In addition to the basic formula, every patient received a second formula tailored to his or her individual TCM diagnosis.
In the control group, patients were given acupuncture at standardized non-acupuncture points distant from meridians, and were treated superficially with needles smaller than those used on the TCM patients. The needles were not manipulated, and the same points were needled at each acupuncture session. Control patients also received a non-specific herbal formula.
To measure the effect of each therapy, patients used a visual analogue scale to rate the severity of hay fever suffered during the previous week on a 10-point scale, and an assessment-of-change scale to measure any changes in symptoms. Patients also filled out an allergic rhinitis questionnaire to rate the severity of symptoms, and a pair of quality-of-life surveys. In addition, patients were asked to document the number of anti-allergy drugs taken for one week.
At the start of the study, visual analogue scores for each group were nearly identical (4.1 for the TCM group, 4.2 for the control group). By the end of the study period, however, the severity of hay fever was “significantly less pronounced in the TCM group” than in the control patients, and instances of remission (represented by a 0 or 1 on the visual analogue scale) occurred twice as often in TCM patients compared to patients in the control group. Source: www.acupuncturetoday.com
Acupuncture and Insomnia
Insomnia can be defined as poor sleep followed by daytime fatigue, symptoms which persist over time and affect quality of life. Because sleep needs, such as number of hours, varies for different people, the real issue of insomnia is energy level during the day.
Insomnia may have a number of causes, including depression or anxiety, irregular work schedules, medication side effects, alcohol abuse, chronic pain, hyperthyroidism, or sleep apnea. Acupuncture and herbs for insomnia have high success rates with each insomnia symptom and can therefore treat insomnia at its root cause.
A study published recently in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine, reports that patients who received acupressure and transcutaneous electrical acupoint stimulation (TEAS) experienced a significant improvement in their insomnia symptom, including problems of fatigue, sleep quality and depression.
Oriental medicine relates insomnia to the heart meridians. Of course, an insomnia remedy would include a complete diagnosis and treatment system that would focus on each individual, and the many syndromes that are differentiated within the context of insomnia would be explored. Other organ systems and syndromes may be involved, and until the body is brought back into balance through Chinese medicine treatment such as herbs for insomnia and acupuncture, each insomnia symptom will continue.
One contributor to insomnia, stress, weakens the function of the Liver, which in turn affects the health of your nerves. Stress-related insomnia is often accompanied by another nerve-induced problem: restless leg syndrome. This can make bedtime even more of a battle for sleep. When the liver is unbalanced and being asked to deliver energy it does not have, uncomfortable symptoms are your body’s way of signaling the need to get things back into harmony.
Acupuncture has a calming effect on the nervous system. It clears obstructions in the muscle and nerve channels, facilitates the flow of oxygen-enriched energy and relaxes the heart system. Common noted benefits of acupuncture include deeper breathing, improved digestive abilities, better sleeping patterns, stress reduction, decrease in pain and a general sense of well being, which are all excellent treatments for insomnia.
An example acupuncture protocol for the treatment of chronic insomnia may include 6 initial treatments at two to three treatments per week, followed by a two to four week observational period and possibly one treatment per every month afterwards. Source: www.acufinder.com