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Acupuncture Tells Brain To Reduce Pain

acupunctureUse of brain imaging has revealed that acupuncture affects the brain’s ability to reduce and regulate pain. This study was the first of its kind to provide imaging of how acupuncture affects specific receptors in the brain that process and suppress pain signals. Previously, in studies using MRI’s,  research has shown that acupuncture raises a person’s pain threshold levels.

The researchers at the University of Michigan Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center and the University of Michigan Medical School showed that acupuncture increases the binding ability of mu-opioid receptors in areas of the brain that are responsible for regulating pain signals. Morphine, codeine and other opioid pain-killers are believed to be effective because they bind to these opioid receptors in the brain and spinal cord, reducing or eliminating pain. Add to this fact that acupuncture treatments cause the release of opioids like endorphins and you can see why acupuncture can work so well for pain.

Acupuncture has been the subject of many pain studies over the years, and many study results have been encouraging. Low back pain, headaches, knee pain, tooth pain are just a few of the pain syndromes acupuncture can help. Now we know why. And this study also showed that people who take opioids for their pain may be more responsive to their medications after receiving acupuncture. Acupuncture ” tones” the body’s opioid receptor sites in the brain and spinal cord, making them more receptive to pain meds. But, even better, acupuncture can reduce and even eliminate the need to take pain medicines.

Acupuncture relieves Knee Pain

Knee pain is a very common complaint among both children and adults. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, more than 11 million visits are made each year to physicians’ offices because of knee problems.The knee is the largest joint in the body. It is made up of the lower end of the femur and the upper end of the tibia; plus there are numerous ligaments, tendons and muscles that add to the knee’s complex structure. It is the most frequently injured joint in humans, and is also very often affected by arthritis, especially in the elderly and overweight people. Many athletes experience knee injuries, particularly to the ligaments. And as we age the amount of knee cartilage decreases which can cause inflammation and pain.

Acupuncture has been shown in numerous studies to be effective in relieving knee pain and improving knee function, especially in arthritic conditions of the knee and knee joint. Acupuncture can ease the pain some people feel while waiting for knee surgery, and in some cases, it may help avoid surgery. It’s worth having a conversation with your acupuncturist about!

Acupuncture Superior to Drug Therapy for Migraine Pain

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According to the National Headache Foundation, as many as 28 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches each year. Migraines can be caused by a variety of physical, psychological, and environmental factors, including diet, stress, allergens, menstruation, and changes in the weather. They can last from a few minutes to several days, and in some cases can be completely debilitating.

Migraines are also one of the leading causes of time missed from work. It’s estimated that migraine sufferers lose more than 157 million workdays each year, leading to a loss of about 50 billion dollars per year due to absenteeism and loss of work production and medical expenses caused by headache pain. An additional 4 billion dollars a year is spent on pain relievers for migraines and other headaches, but many of these remedies do not work as needed, or simply mask an underlying condition.

In one of the largest studies of its kind to date, a team of investigators in Italy examined the effectiveness of acupuncture versus a variety of prescription drugs in treating migraines. Their results, published in the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, revealed that patients given acupuncture had fewer migraine episodes, missed fewer days from work, and suffered no side effects compared to patients on conventional drug therapy. The study also found acupuncture to be more cost effective, estimating a savings of hundreds of millions of dollars in private and social health expenditures if it were used to treat headaches alone instead of drugs.

One of the most significant aspects of the study was the “total absence of side effects” after acupuncture treatment. Patients in the drug therapy group did not fare so well with 75% of the participants reporting side effects ranging from nausea and diarrhea to flatulence and burning sensations and in some cases difficulty breathing and unwanted weight gain. In addition, the cost of using acupuncture to treat migraine sufferers was significantly less than using drugs.

ACUPUNCTURE and CANCER

Over the past 2 years I have had the opportunity to assist a number of clients with their cancer treatments. Most of them have used acupuncture and herbal medicine as complementary therapies while they underwent conventional cancer care. I am happy to share with you my findings as a result of my experience working with them.

As acupuncture and Chinese medicine gain credence in the West, they are increasingly being used in conjunction with conventional western medicine to treat a range of illnesses, including cancer. Acupuncture has received much attention for its use in cancer pain, and post-operative and chemotherapy induced nausea and vomiting. The American Cancer Society has recommended its use for cancer and cancer-related symptoms like neuropathy, limb edema, and pain. Acupuncture can also help increase energy and appetite as it boosts immunity and relieves stress in patients undergoing cancer treatments.

Cancer arises from abnormal changes in the genetic makeup of cells that causes the malignant cells to multiply uncontrollably. In Chinese medicine this is known as the “Yin and Yang separating”, in which the functional activity of the cell (Yang) loses touch with the intelligent guidance (Yin) of the cell’s activity. In conventional medicine several factors are believed to trigger the cell mutations which cause cancer including genetic heredity, immune dysfunction, diet, extreme stress, hormone therapy, and environmental toxins.

Common conventional cancer therapies include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, immunotherapy, and hormone therapy. All these can be very helpful, but they also cause side effects such as nausea and vomiting, malaise, fatigue, neuropathies, decreased immune activity, lack of appetite, and post-surgical and other pain.

The traditional Chinese medicine treatment of cancer is based on the principle of Fu Zheng Pei Ben. Fu Zheng therapy refers to supporting the Correct Qi of the body, and strengthening the Qi of the organs in order to fight disease. This is based on the belief that the body has the ability to help itself heal and to expel pathogenic influences. Fu Zheng therapy also helps to improve the body’s organs ability, particularly the kidneys and liver, to detoxify and eliminate pathogens and toxins, such as the drugs used in chemotherapy. When combined with conventional cancer treatments, Fu Zheng therapy helps the conventional treatments work more effectively.

Acupuncture can help cancer patients in the following ways:

  • Relieves nausea and vomiting.
  • Boosts immunity thereby reducing risk of secondary infections such as colds, flu, shingles, etc.
  • Increases red blood cells and platelets, both of which are decreased with chemotherapy, thus helping with anemia and fatigue, and allowing patients to tolerate conventional treatments better.
  • Reduces stress, anxiety, and depression.
  • Relieves pain and neuropathy, which are a common side effect of chemo and radiation.
  • Improves overall health and well being.

Cancer is not a death sentence. Educating ourselves about what options are available for treatment and overall healing can only improve our chances to live a healthier and happier life. While conventional medicine has its place, a more pronounced shift towards prevention, treating the whole person, and allowing an individual’s natural healing abilities to take part in the healing process, is necessary if we truly want to promote health. This is where the integration of eastern with western medicine can truly make a difference.

CAN ACUPUNCTURE TREAT DEPRESSION and ANXIETY?

The answer is a resounding YES! A new study by researchers at the University of Arizona confirmed that acupuncture is a promising treatment for depression. Depression is extremely common in the US and is among the 10 most frequently reported conditions. About half the people who seek treatment for depression are not helped by psychotherapy and medication, or withdraw from treatment too early. Of those who recover, more than one third relapse within 18 months.

In the University of Arizona study participants were treated with acupuncture twice a week for 4 weeks, then once a week for 4 more weeks for a total of 12 sessions. After completion of acupuncture, 70% of the people had at least a 50% reduction in their symptoms. Plus acupuncture has none of the side effects or other concerns of antidepressant medications.

Acupuncture seeks to address body, mind, emotions, and spirit. The goal is to create harmony within ourselves, and between ourselves and the world. It is understood that “intellect” and “feeling” reside in all cells of the body. If a person is depressed, Chinese medicine understands this as the result of deficient or stagnant energy, or as an imbalance of yin and yang ( the two polar opposite forces of which all things are comprised ). This imbalance can take many forms, and is ultimately discerned by the acupuncturist through an ongoing evaluation process of observation of posture, gait, mood, skin tone, brightness of the eyes ( referred to as the “shen”), voice, smell, tongue and pulse diagnosis, and other signs and symptoms.

The acupuncturist arrives at a differential diagnosis and chooses acupuncture points which help to address imbalances and bring harmony to our “internal landscape”, much like a gardener nourishes the soil and removes weeds. In western medical thinking this is akin to adjusting serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain and throughout the body. The result is an enhanced feeling of well-being and calm, clearer thinking, more energy, and a better sense of engagement with oneself and the world. So, in summary, acupuncture helps elevate your mood, increases vitality, improves sleep, reduces anxiety, and all with no side effects. sounds like a no-brainer!!

Acupuncture treats nerve pain

Neurological pain is one of the most difficult kinds of pain to tolerate. Nerve pain can be a sharp, shooting pain, or burning pain. There may also be overly sensitive skin and numbness in the affected area. Nerve pain can be caused by trauma, surgery, inflammation, spinal disc pathologies, disease, radiation treatments, infection, nerve degeneration, and even exposure to toxic drugs or chemicals, including chemotherapy agents. Some of the more common kinds of nerve pain are shingles, sciatica, trigeminal neuralgia, and neuropathy.

How Acupuncture Can Help

Not only is the pain from these and other neurological conditions debilitating in its intensity, pain medications are generally ineffective in treating the pain. Fortunately acupuncture is often very effective at nerve pain relief and also helps restore normal function. Acupuncture stimulates the brain and spinal cord to release an impressive array of chemicals, foremost of which are endorphins, which are natural opiates that kill pain. Acupuncture also raises the body’s pain threshold levels and promotes nerve tissue healing. If you or someone you know is suffering from nerve pain, consult with a licensed acupuncturist so that they, or you, can get relief.

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Allergy Relief with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs

Springtime is a wonderful time of year and many people’s favorite season; flowers blooming, warmer weather, sunshine and being outdoors. For many of us though, Spring is the beginning of allergy season. Tree and flower pollens cause millions of Americans sneezing, itchy eyes and throat, sinus congestion, and pure misery.

Allergic Rhinitus, or hay fever, is a  good example of an immune system run amok! Typically, exposure to an allergen like tree or flower pollen elicits a massive release of IgE antibodies which attach to white blood cells known as mast cells. These cells live in the lungs, upper respiratory tract, stomach, and the skin. When these cells are stimulated they release histamines and other chemicals which produce allergy symptoms.

While many over-the-counter medicines ( antihistamines like Benedryl and Claritin) promise symptomatic relief, they also cause numerous side effects like drowsiness, immune suppression, dry mouth and insomnia, to name a few.

According to the 8 Principles of traditional Chinese medicine, allergies are the result of an imbalance in the Wei Qi, or Protective Qi, a concept roughly akin to our immune system. People with a Wei Qi imbalance tend to catch colds easily and are more susceptible to “external evils” like wind, cold, heat, and damp. Usually allergies are a combination of wind and cold or heat. The wind enters the acupuncture meridians and disrupts the normal flow of Qi, especially in the Lungs, which gives rise to sneezing and sinus congestion.

The treatment is a combination of acupuncture and herbs that strengthen the Lungs and Wei Qi and expel the pathogenic wind.

Meditation gives Chronic Pain Relief in Pittsburgh Study

In a recent study researchers found that regular meditation eased low back pain in a group of Pittsburgh-area senior citizens. Participants were assessed on measures of pain, physical function, and quality of life before meditation, after 8 weeks of meditation, and again after 3 months of regular meditation. Chronic low back pain sufferers noted a significant decrease in  pain, an increase in daily physical functioning, and a corresponding improvement in the quality of their lives.

Meditation as medicine has its roots in Buddhism. In Traditional Chinese medicine, meditation is considered the highest form of treatment. We know meditation can relieve pain because it reduces stress and relieves muscle tension, both of which contribute to elevated pain levels. Meditation also can lower blood pressure and heart rate and is a great way to maintain a healthy, positive outlook on life.

Acupuncture Provides Long-Term Relief of Low Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people seek medical attention. It’s estimated that 80% of the world’s population will experience low back pain at some point in their lives. Although most episodes of back pain last less than 2 weeks, research shows recurrence rates can be as high as 50% in the first few months following the initial pain.

While there is no definitive way to resolve low back pain, the use of acupuncture has increased dramatically in recent years, motivated by controlled studies that validate it as a reliable method of pain relief. The results of a 2006 study published in the Clinical Journal of Pain provide further proof of acupuncture’s safety and effectiveness for low back pain, and patients maintained the pain relief they achieved for 6 months and longer with none of the negative side effects common to more typical pain modalities.