Chinese medicine is a complete medical system that is used to diagnose and treat illness, prevent disease, and improve well-being. It is effective for many physical, mental, and emotional problems.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes the ability of acupuncture and Oriental Medicine to treat many common disorders. The following are the most common conditions for which people seek acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatment. There are many other conditions for which acupuncture can also be effective. If your condition is not on this list, or if you have more questions about whether acupuncture can be helpful for your condition, please feel free to call us for more information.
Most people experience significant pain at some time in their lives, whether from injury, illness of an unknown cause. Pain is a warning signal that something is wrong and out of balance. The most common response to pain is to take medication to alleviate the pain temporarily. However, treated in this way, the source or cause of the pain will very likely become chronic, and the underlying problem will not be treated. Rest can be helpful, but healing may be slow and it is possible that the pain may return if the wrong type of physical activity is resumed too quickly. Sometimes, for more serious problems, surgery may be the best choice. However, surgery can be risky and expensive, and there is no guarantee that it will be effective.
One of the most common conditions for which acupuncture is used successfully is for pain conditions. The symptoms for which people are seeking relief include arthritis, joint problems, back pain, sciatica, knee pain, shoulder pain, neck pain and stiffness, carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, migraines, jaw pain, sports injuries, muscle strains and sprains, and tendonitis. Acupuncture works on pain in a number of different ways. Research has shown that acupuncture increases the production of endorphins. Naturally produced by the body, these biochemicals have been shown to raise the pain threshold, making it easier to tolerate pain through the chemistry of the brain. Acupuncture can also improve circulation to specific areas of the body, either in areas where the needles are placed, or in other areas related to those point locations. Improving the circulation in specific areas can speed up the healing process. Generally, the sooner you come in for treatment after the initial onset of the pain, the quicker your results will be.
Arthritis, wherever it occurs, is a condition that can respond excellently to acupuncture. The early symptoms are those of localized aching pain, tenderness, and stiffness. These fluctuate from day to day and may cause varying degrees of disability. Internally, there are often changes within the cartilage, within the joint capsule, and formation of bone spurs (osteophytes). The muscles respond to the pain by flexing or shortening, which then may cause tenderness, sore spots within the muscles, and deformities. In early osteoarthritis, acupuncture treatment tends to get quicker results, whereas for patients whose osteoarthritis has progressed to a point where physical changes are seen in the bones, the results will accumulate more slowly.
A German study of more than 3,600 adults with knee or hip arthritis found that acupuncture brought lasting pain relief during treatment, and at 3 and 6 month intervals following the treatment. A recent research study at the University of Maryland examined the effect of acupuncture on 570 patients with knee arthritis and determined that patients who received a series of acupuncture treatments showed improved function and reported less pain than in those who did not.
Back pain is one of the most common health complaints. Back pain can have a number of different causes. The most common are strains from lifting, exercising, or simply moving in the wrong direction. In this case, the lower back is more likely to be injured when the muscles of the back and the abdominal muscles are weak. Another possible cause is osteoarthritis. Bulging or herniated discs can also cause back pain and stiffness by pressing on nerves coming from the spine, causing pain. Bone spurs (osteophytes) can cause pain by pressing on the nerves coming from the spine. If the sciatic nerve is pinched, inflamed, or damaged by any of the above causes, there may be a sharp pain which radiates down into the leg, called sciatica. Yet another cause of back pain in older patients is spinal stenosis, the narrowing of the passageway that contains the spinal cord.
Acupuncture can work on back pain on a number of different levels. As mentioned above, acupuncture can increase the production of endorphins in the brain to decrease the pain response. It can also help to improve circulation to speed up the healing process. Acupuncture also can work to relax the tightened muscles in the back to relieve some of the stress that may cause pinching of nerves exiting the spine. A study published in the British Medical Journal of September 2006 reported that acupuncture treatments provided great benefit for patients who suffer from low back pain, and is a cost-effective way to treat the problem. Patients who received acupuncture reported less pain two years later than those who did not receive acupuncture. Also, the acupuncture group was more likely to report having no pain at the one year mark, and reported less worry about their lower back pain and less use of pain medication.
Knee and Hip Pain
Knee pain is most commonly due to either arthritis or to injury. Often a knee which has been injured in the past can develop arthritis, so it is important to treat an injured knee to prevent the problem from becoming chronic. Western medical treatment of knee pain is often done through steroid injections. For some, this treatment offers great relief, but only for a short time. Repeated steroid injections are generally not encouraged because the side effects build up over time. Other causes of knee pain may also respond to acupuncture. Many patients feel relief of their knee pain to some extent after their first treatment, but for most it takes a series of treatments to offer more long lasting relief. Several studies taken together seem to indicate that acupuncture produces at least as much relief, with no side effects. In 1992, a study of 29 patients tested acupuncture on patients with knee pain who were scheduled to have knee surgery. Fifteen received acupuncture, and fourteen did not. Seven of the fifteen patients who received acupuncture ended up cancelling their surgery because of the relief offered them by acupuncture.
Neck and Shoulder pain
The most common causes of neck and shoulder pain are injury and stress. If neck pain is due to an injury, such as a motor vehicle accident, the neck muscles may be stretched too quickly and too strongly, resulting in chronic muscle pain and reduced range of motion. Likewise, an injury of the rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder may again cause chronic muscle pain and reduced range of motion in the shoulder joint. Rest and time may help, but in many cases, more is needed to actively treat the problem. Stress in the neck and shoulders is another problem that causes pain for many people. Generalized stress tends to gather for many people as muscle knots in the area between shoulder and neck, especially for people whose occupations involve working with the computer, lifting objects, or driving for long periods of time. This type of activity can make an old injury worse, or even by itself cause substantial discomfort.
Neck and shoulder pain can cause further symptoms if not treated. The nerves which supply the arm and hand come out of the spine at the neck, and problems with these nerves may result in numbness and/or weakness in the arm and hand. Neck pain can in some cases cause dizziness and tension in the eye muscles; it can also affect the functioning of the immune system, because there are lymphatic glands in the neck which need adequate circulation.
In one research study in 1982, 30 patients with neck pain received acupuncture for 12 weeks, 80% of those patients expressed that they had improvement, with an average 40% reduction in pain, 54% reduction in medication, and 32% increase in activity levels. A separate study showed that over 50% of treated patients attained a significant long-term improvement.
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
Carpal tunnel syndrome is a painful compression of a nerve as it passes through the wrist. It is commonly caused by repeated forceful movements, and the sensations are range from numbness, tingling and pain in the first three fingers. Occasionally other fingers are involved, and a burning and tingling sensation may be felt in the arm and shoulders. Western medicine commonly treats carpal tunnel syndrome with steroid injections or surgery, but acupuncture is a more natural treatment which can provide significant relief without side effects.
Temporo-Mandibular Joint Dysfunction (TMJ or TMD)
TMJ is the term commonly used to describe pain in the Temporo-Mandibular Joint, which is the joint that moves when the jaw is opened and closed. The condition is also known as TMD (temporo-mandibular dysfunction), and involves possible swelling, limited range of motion, muscle spasms, earaches, teeth grinding, facial asymmetry, clicking or popping noises, and occasionally ringing in the ear. Common causes of TMJ pain involve trauma, dental procedures, stress, arthritis, or excessive grinding of the teeth. The current biomedical treatment of TMD consists of temporary relief from anti-inflammatory drugs, and bite guards (occlusal splints). Acupuncture helps TMD through relaxing the muscles specifically involved in the jaw, and also by treating generalized stress, which can make things worse in the jaw. There are research studies that support the use of acupuncture for dental pain, and also preliminary studies on TMD which show promise.
Headaches are one of the most common medical problems treated by acupuncture. Headaches interfere with the ability to work and to perform daily tasks. They may be caused by a number of different reasons, including stress and tension, hormonal imbalance, trauma or motor vehicle accidents, sinus problems, eye disorders, or and others. Acupuncture can be used to relax muscles and decrease the stress response in tension headaches. For headaches or migraines which are related to the menstrual period in women, acupuncture is used to regulate the hormonal balance. Migraine headache is a more severe headache, usually throbbing in nature, on one side of the head, which is worsened by physical activity, light, sounds, or smells and that is associated with nausea and vomiting. And as stated before, acupuncture treatments can increase the production of endorphins, which decrease pain levels.
According to five separate literature reviews in western medical journals, the conclusion was made that acupuncture appears to be effective for the treatment of headache. One trial in the UK found that patients who received acupuncture treatments for their headaches experienced 22 fewer headache days per year, used 15% less medication and missed 15% fewer days of work.
Exercise is an important way to keep healthy. If a person has an accident during exercise, or exercises improperly, injury may result. Physical trauma, sprain, strain, overexertion, and repetitive injury can all be treated by Chinese medicine. These types of injury may cause problems for the future, especially if not addressed quickly, especially if the exercise is resumed before the problem is addressed. The western medicine approach generally uses painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications to dull the aches, pains, and reduce inflammation. These solutions are only temporary and may have side effects which build up over time. Furthermore, they may mask the pain to the degree where we miss our body’s message to stop, rest, and heal.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be used to naturally eliminate pain and reduce inflammation, while encouraging soft tissue healing, and increasing joint mobility and the potential for muscle strength. In addition to mobilizing the body’s natural healing response, acupuncture can also be used in healthy individuals to enhance performance, prevent future injury, and speed recovery time. Furthermore, acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be used to optimize health and provide a competitive edge in a natural way.
Repetitive Strain Injury/Tendonitis
Repetitive Strain injury is a condition where pain is experienced in a specific area as a result of repetitive muscle activity. Most commonly, the pain is occupational, and involves the hand and the forearm. At first, the pain improves with rest, but after some time, resting no longer helps, and the pain interferes more and more with daily activities. As it gets more severe, it may result in loss of work and disability. Tendinitis is a related condition which involves pain caused by inflammation of the tendons. It also tends to happen in people who perform repetitive tasks, or exercise vigorously.
The western medicine approach generally uses painkillers and anti-inflammatory medications to dull the aches, pains, and reduce inflammation. These solutions are only temporary and may have side effects which build up over time. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be used to naturally eliminate pain and reduce inflammation, while encouraging soft tissue healing, and increasing joint mobility and the potential for muscle strength. In addition to mobilizing the body’s natural healing response, acupuncture can also be used in healthy individuals to prevent future injury and speed recovery time.
Fibromyalgia is a pain condition where the cause is unknown to western medicine. It is characterized by chronic, widespread, severe muscle aching, pain, and stiffness. The pain frequently involves the entire body, but often primarily focuses around the neck, shoulders, low back, and hips. This condition is diagnosed by pressing specific areas, most of which will be tender in people who have fibromyalgia. Even minor exercise will aggravate pain and increase fatigue. Patients with fibromyalgia often also have fatigue, sleep disorders, chronic headaches, and/or irritable bowel syndrome.
Because there is no western understanding as to how this condition develops in an individual, and because there are no lab tests to discover and diagnose, there is little that western medicine has found to be significantly effective to treat the pain of this condition. Because fibromyalgia involves a number of different symptoms, the best that western medicine can do at this point is prescribe drugs for each of the symptoms. Because this is a syndrome which is not very well understood by western physicians, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are useful to explore as an alternative solution. Generally treatment is aimed at first improving sleep so that the tissues affected have time to recover, and also at changing the underlying constitution.
The June 2007 edition of the May Clinic Proceedings reports on a controlled study that found acupuncture helpful in treating the fatigue and anxiety commonly experienced by fibromyalgia patients. In a double blind study, patients who received a series of acupuncture treatments reported less fatigue and anxiety one month after the treatment series. Another study conducted by the University of Washington suggests that more than half of all the participants had clinically meaningful improvements in pain (46%), fatigue (51%), sleep (4%), and general well being (45%). Another study suggests that acupuncture demonstrates positive changed in the number of tender points sand improvement of quality of life.
Infertility is a growing problem in modern times. Our lifestyles in the last few decades have become more and more hectic, and the age at which we are hoping to have children has risen due to the costs of raising a family. The human body is designed to reproduce, and yet for many this goal seems painfully out of reach.
Chinese medicine has a great amount of literature which addresses infertility. More importantly, couples are turning to Chinese medicine for treatment because of new research and results. Chinese medicine can also be used in conjunction with conventional medical methods of infertility treatment such as IUI (intrauterine insemination) or IVF (in vitro fertilization). A recent German study found that the rates of implantation after IVF procedures increased implantation success by 50%. Mechanisms proposed for the effectiveness of acupuncture include relieving stress and anxiety, and also improving blood flow to the pelvic area. Other research suggests that acupuncture and Chinese herbs can normalize the hormone production in the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis, which plays a key role in controlling ovulation and menstruation, and therefore, fertility.
While it has been shown that only a couple of treatments may improve outcomes for IVF, to gain full benefit from Chinese medicine treatment for this condition takes time. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been shown to increase the number of quality eggs, and to improve the conditions in the uterus for implantation. To prepare the body as an environment for implantation and nurturing, several months of treatment are usually required for a substantial difference in fertility. However, if you have a conventional medical infertility procedure scheduled soon, it is not too late for Chinese medicine to help you in your journey.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS), and other Menstrual disorders
Premenstrual Syndrome is a group of physical and psychological symptoms associated with the onset of a menstrual period. Typically, the symptoms which may occur before the period begins include irritability, bloating, breast tenderness, and headaches. These symptoms may be due to fluctuating hormonal levels, and the type and intensity of the symptoms may vary from person to person and also from month to month. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine have been used for centuries to alleviate these symptoms, and it has been recently shown to alter levels of hormones, thus having the potential to smooth out this uncomfortable time for many women.
Other symptoms associated with the period include cramping in the pelvic area and lower back pain. Dysmenorrhea is the name for pelvic pain during the menstrual period, which may be due to endometriosis, fibroids, pelvic infection, or other reasons. Often the western medical treatment is temporary painkillers, or birth control pills designed to strongly alter the hormonal landscape. Amenorrhea, the absence of menstrual periods, is also an indication that there may be an underlying imbalance. For both of the above conditions, as well as for any problems involving irregularity in menstruation, acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help to regulate and normalize the monthly cycle.
Menopause itself is not a condition or disease. It is a normal physiological change in life. Unfortunately, many women experience uncomfortable symptoms during this transition time, including hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, fatigue, insomnia, and menstrual irregularity. The main conventional medical treatment, hormone replacement therapy, has some potential undesired side effects. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine focuses on correcting the underlying imbalance which causes these symptoms and signs, without these side effects. In one controlled study, women who received acupuncture reported an average of 50% fewer hot flashes at the end of ten treatments.
Click here for a video describing the effect of acupuncture on menopause.
Immune System imbalance
The function of the immune system is to protect and defend the body against foreign pathogens. When the immune system is out of balance, the body either fails to protect, or does not recognize what is foreign. Research has been done to examine the effect of acupuncture on the immune system. A research study in China showed that stimulating certain acupuncture points can increase the levels of white blood cells and thereby boost the immune system of normal patients or patients with decreased immune function. Research has also shown that acupuncture can reduce fever, increase the production of antibodies, and increase the body’s resistance to inflammation. At the same time, when the actions of the immune system go beyond what is normal, acupuncture can help to regulate it. Acupuncture has been used to treat seasonal allergies and hayfever by influencing the immune system to reduce the allergic response.
Chinese medical treatments of asthma and allergies have two main goals. During the acute attack, we will primarily try to alleviate your discomfort, but in between attacks, we will focus on the root cause of the imbalance. Many patients who have had seasonal allergies or asthma in the past will benefit from acupuncture to regulate the immune system before the uncomfortable season begins.
For those who are seeking relief from current allergy symptoms, acupuncture can also be very helpful. One research study showed that needling one single point increases nasal airflow by 50%. There have been a number of positive studies on asthma from the US, Australia, Denmark, China, and Britain where patients showed significant improvement in symptoms and were able to reduce asthma medication. Whether or not you are being treated with western medicines for your asthma, acupuncture and Chinese herbs can help to regulate your breathing and immune system. We will also discuss nutritional recommendations and breathing exercises in your treatment plan.
Acupuncture, either alone or in combination with conventional treatment, can slow down or even reverse some degenerative diseases. A US study concluded that acupuncture should be considered as an alternative treatment for rheumatoid arthritis because of its pain-alleviating effects and suppression of inflammation. A number of research studies collectively showed that patients with lupus who received acupuncture were able to manage stress better, showed less fatigue, and had fewer risks from the side effects of steroid medications. Immune-related conditions are often the most difficult conditions for western biomedicine to find effective treatments for. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can offer a helpful alternative to many people, and often times the best results occur with a combination of both western and Chinese medicine.
It is estimated that one out of six people suffer from depression at some time in their life. Some signs and symptoms that may occur include a persistent sad or empty mood, fatigue or lack of energy, loss of interest in formerly enjoyable activities, problems with sleep, changes in appetite and eating, difficulty concentrating, remembering, and making decisions, feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless, irritability, or thoughts of death or suicide.
Biomedicine addresses these kinds of symptoms with anti-depressant drugs, which can cause a variety of side effects, including insomnia, anxiety, listlessness, fatigue, rash, tremors, facial tics, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and sexual dysfunction. Depression alone is stressful enough on the body, and while medications may provide temporary relief, they can further compromise our health. In addition, these drugs do not cure depression, they only manage its symptoms and must be taken continually in order to work.
Recently, a study funded by the National Institutes of Health showed that acupuncture was at least as effective as either drugs or psychotherapy, and there are no side effects. Another research study showed that taking one Chinese herbal formula resulted in increased levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, two neurochemicals known to have effects on depression.
Chinese medicine recognizes the interconnectedness between our physical body and our emotions. When we experience physical symptoms, the emotions can be affected, and when we experience emotional upset, often physical symptoms may result. Acupuncture treatment for depression does not just alleviate the symptoms of depression but seeks to find and then eradicate the root cause of this disease.
Anxiety can be a normal healthy response to the stresses of daily life and new situations. However, anxiety that begins to happen unpredictably and excessively is a cause for concern. The goal of acupuncture and Chinese medicine is to restore balance – in many cases, physical, but mental and emotional balance are also important aspects of good health.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is a pattern of frequent, constant worry and tension over many different activities, including everyday routine life events. People with GAD very often anticipate the worst even though there is little reason to expect it. This condition is also often accompanied by physical symptoms, such as fatigue, trembling, muscle tension, headache, or nausea.
Panic disorder is a more severe disorder where a person experiences repeated episodes of intense fear that strike often and without warning. Physical symptoms include shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, heart palpitations, abdominal distress, feelings of unreality, and fear of dying.
Acupuncture can help with anxiety by modulating the brain chemistry. Acupuncture has been shown to increase the production of endorphins, hormones, and other neurotransmitters important to proper balance. A recent German study showed that for patients with minor depression or general anxiety disorders, that acupuncture treatment leads to a significant clinical improvement as well as to a remarkable reduction in anxiety symptoms. Acupuncture locations used often include auricular (ear) acupuncture, and generally a series of treatments is required.
Fatigue is a natural response to let us know that our bodies and minds need rest. According to Chinese philosophy, in life there is a balance of work and rest. In the modern world, we often push ourselves to do more and sleep less. Overexertion, lack of exercise, sleep disturbance, obesity, and poor nutrition can be some causes for fatigue. Both physical and mental/emotional stress can also make us fatigued. For some, this leads to poor sleeping habits, and over time, we begin to feel the strain.
At your acupuncture treatment, we can discuss a number of possible lifestyle changes to bring the daily cycle into a better state of balance. Acupuncture can help to reduce the physical and mental stress that makes us tired, and can also improve the quality of sleep in cases where difficulty sleeping at night compounds the daytime fatigue. Chinese herbs can be prescribed for those same effects, and also to give a boost to your overall energy if need be.
The biomedical treatment of insomnia mostly focuses on the use of drugs, which can have unpleasant side effects. Although they can help one sleep, they often make a person drowsy and unclear the next day. There also may be several dangers to watch out for with sedatives other medications for insomnia, including addiction, overdose, and withdrawal effects. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are effective natural therapies for treating fatigue and insomnia.
The digestive system is responsible for absorbing nutrients and fluids, producing digestive fluids, and getting rid of waste products. Symptoms associated with poor digestive function include acid reflux, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, poor appetite or extreme hunger, flatulence, belching, and others. Acupuncture has been shown to affect the balance of the digestive system. For instance, research has shown that needling one specific point regulates secretion of acids in the stomach. What is interesting to note is that for patients with low levels of stomach acid, this point which increases the acid secretion, while for patients with high levels of stomach acid, the same point has been shown to decrease the acid level. The levels of digestive enzymes are also regulated in a similar way. The mechanisms are complex and not well understood, but the goal in all cases is to bring the body back into balance.
The cause of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is still unknown. The lower esophageal sphincter is an important muscle which regulates the passage of food into the stomach. In people who have acid reflux, the muscle relaxes at the wrong times, allowing stomach acid to churn up into the esophagus and result in heartburn symptoms. Acupuncture has been shown to reduce the abnormal function of this important sphincter muscle, and thereby reduce the discomfort of acid reflux.
Constipation, a condition with decreased frequency of bowel movements, is often accompanied by hard stools, and difficulty and pain in emptying the bowels. On occasion, there may be blood in the stool or hemorrhoids. Acupuncture can improve the smooth movement of stools through the intestines by relaxing areas of spasm and regulating peristalsis. On the other end of the spectrum, diarrhea or loose bowel movements can be caused by a number of possible causes, including inflammation, motility problems, or poor absorption. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be formulated to address each of these causes.
Irritable bowel syndrome is a digestive disorder associated with abdominal pain, constipation, and/or diarrhea. Many patients with IBS have alternating constipation and diarrhea, which may be accompanied by other symptoms including flatulence, bloating, and nausea. Symptoms are almost always aggravated by stress. No one knows why some people develop sensitivity of the digestive tract in biomedicine, but some researchers are working on the theory that there are direct links between the GI tract and the central nervous system. This connection could explain why emotional upsets affect the intestines and why intestinal symptoms affect the mood. Acupuncture has well-documented effects on both the nervous system and the digestive system. From several different directions, acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be very effective natural treatments for a variety of digestive problems.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have been used for centuries to alleviate circulatory and cardiovascular symptoms. When acupuncture needles are inserted into acupuncture points, the sensation can sometimes be warm. This indicates that blood flow is increasing in that area. Acupuncture not only increases blood flow in the areas where the needles are placed, but there are locations which can be used to improve overall circulation.
For certain cardiovascular problems, such as chest pain and irregular heart rate, it is important to get a western medical examination to make sure that there is not an emergency situation. Acupuncture is commonly used to relieve heart palpitations. The effect of acupuncture on the rate of the heart beat is regulative: a fast heart rate is decreased, a slow one increased. It is believed that acupuncture works on the sympathetic nervous system to regulate the heart rate. These palpitations can sometimes be brought on by stress, which can also be reduced through acupuncture.
Stroke is another condition where acupuncture can provide some benefit. Symptoms after a stroke can be mild (numbness) or severe (loss of the ability to speak or paralysis of limbs). Research shows that if acupuncture treatment is added to western medical treatment, the outcome is significantly better than the western medical treatment alone. Also, the sooner acupuncture is begun after the condition has stabilized, the better the results of treatment are. In a research study performed in Sweden, patients who received 2 treatments per week for 10 weeks showed a faster and greater recovery in the areas of balance, mobility, activities of daily living, quality of life, and admission times in hospital/nursing homes, as compared to patients who received no treatment.
Using acupuncture for patients with anemia can help to raise the red blood cell count. Increases in platelet counts have also been noted in research. Acupuncture can relieve spasms in the lymph vessels, improve the circulation of the lymph, and lessen the swelling associated with inflammation. There are many aspects of circulation which can be regulated with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine.
Incontinence, unintentional leakage of urine, can have any of a number of different causes. These range from weakness of the sphincter muscle, prostatitis, spinal injuries, pelvic surgery, pregnancy, and more. The symptom can be inconvenient, with sudden urges to urinate, or embarrassing, if one does not make it to the restroom in time.
It is thought that acupuncture affects bladder conditions primarily through regulating bladder pressure. On patients with urine retention, acupuncture causes increased pressure, where on patients with too much pressure, acupuncture induced relaxation of the bladder. This type of regulation occurs through the nervous system.
Researchers at the Oregon Health and Science University found that patients who received 4-6 weekly acupuncture sessions showed significant improvement in bladder control, frequency of urination, and the urgent need to urinate, as compared with the control group which received sham acupuncture as a placebo. In a British study of patients with bladder symptoms of urinary frequency, night urination, urgency, and urge incontinence, 77% of the patients showed significant symptomatic improvement. A Chinese research study examining the effect of acupuncture on those same symptoms in women showed an 85% success rate after 10-12 acupuncture treatments.
Urinary tract infections (UTI), a bacterial infection which causes pain, frequent urination, incontinence, and other related symptoms, affects up to 11 million people each year in the US. Some patients are prone to recurrent urinary tract infections, and with antibiotics as the main biomedical treatment, bacteria build up resistance with repeated treatment. Acupuncture can offer an effective alternative treatment for the pain and urinary symptoms associated with UTI. A recent Norwegian study showed that women with chronic UTI (more than twice a year) who received 12 acupuncture treatments showed a decrease in the number of urinary tract infections by 50% in the 6 months following treatment, as compared to those in the study who did not receive acupuncture.
Nocturia, or the need to wake at night to urinate, is an often bothersome symptom which can interrupt sleep. One small US research study showed that 90% of patients who received acupuncture had statistically significant reductions in the number of nighttime urinations.
Kidney stones usually result in excruciating pain felt in the side or in the low back. An emergency room research study showed that 86% of patients receiving acupuncture experienced significant pain relief, where 63% of patients receiving a pain relief injection experienced the same degree of pain relief.
Research has also shown that acupuncture can be helpful for prostatitis. Two clinical papers from China have shown that 49% of patients who receive acupuncture achieve substantial relief of symptoms, and up to 35% of patients achieve moderate relief.
Numbness and tingling are abnormal sensations that can occur anywhere in your body, but are often felt in your fingers, hands, feet, arms, or legs. There are many possible causes, ranging from nerve damage or pressure on nerves, to poor circulation. Acupuncture can help reduce inflammation in tissues adjacent to nerves, thus releasing pressure which may be the cause of numbness. Increasing circulation in the small blood vessels by using acupuncture and Chinese herbs can speed up the healing process of damaged nerves. Researchers believe that acupuncture also has a regulative effect on the permeability of the capillaries. In terms of the larger picture, acupuncture can increase stroke volume of the heart and increase cardiac output, boosting overall circulation. One study showed that acupuncture was able to increase blood flow throughout the body during and after acupuncture treatment, by regulating the nervous system, specifically sympathetic tone.
Multiple sclerosis may also be a cause of numbness, and acupuncture can be used to regulate the immune system and stave off episodes of symptoms. Peripheral neuropathy from diabetes involves damage to the nerves because of inadequate circulation to those areas. The numbness resulting from these conditions and others can also be addressed with acupuncture.
The skin is an important organ which is quite vulnerable to outside influences. Common skin problems, such as acne, rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis can be very uncomfortable, and their appearance, if severe, can sometimes cause psychological distress. The western biomedical treatments for these conditions can sometimes be very effective, but for many individuals, biomedical treatments are not enough to control their symptoms. Chinese medicine and acupuncture have a long history of treating these conditions.
The skin is often a reflection of the balance of internal organs and processes. Internal imbalances which may lead to skin problems include weak immune system, digestive disorders, poor diet, unbalanced lifestyle, stress, genetic constitution, and unbalanced emotions. Pathological external environmental factors are often weather related and which invade the body causing symptoms to appear on the skin.
Eczema, also called atopic dermatitis, is a chronic allergic reaction which causes the skin to become red, inflamed, and itchy. People who have eczema often also have asthma and allergies. Acupuncture has been shown to decrease the intensity and area of itching. The research literature also supports the use of acupuncture to treat psoriasis, with a correlation between the number of sessions of acupuncture and the effectiveness of the treatment.
The goals of acupuncture and Chinese herbal treatment of skin disorders include strengthening the immune system, thereby decreasing sensitivity to external or environmental influences. Another goal is to balance the internal organ systems to eliminate the internal imbalances that are contributing to or causing the skin problems. Acupuncture can also help to release toxins from the skin, and to nourish and repair damaged skin.
Acupuncture has been used more recently for facial rejuvenation, to reduce signs of aging. It can help to improve muscle tone of the face and neck, enhance elasticity of the skin, and address underlying imbalances that may contribute to the aging process.
Many experts agree that quitting smoking is the single most important thing you can do for your health. Some serious conditions have been associated with tobacco use, including cancer of the lungs, bladder, mouth, larynx, pharynx, esophagus, pancreas, kidney, uterus, and cervix. Smoking also raises the chances of developing emphysema and increases the risk of stroke by 30%.
Acupuncture treatment is aimed at calming and relaxing the mind, reducing anxiety, and alleviating depressive feelings. Smokers have developed a persistent habit of reducing stress by smoking. Stress increases their cravings for nicotine, but acupuncture can reduce stress, decreasing the need for the nicotine and thereby breaking the cycle. Additional points may be included that help to suppress the appetite and to stimulate healing of organ systems damaged by smoking.
Acupuncture is used in the withdrawal of addictive substances in one of two ways. It can help to relieve anxiety or depression which can occur during withdrawal, or it may be used specifically to deal with withdrawal symptoms. One of the earliest pieces of acupuncture research showed that acupuncture was effective at reducing withdrawal symptoms from opiate addiction; this makes sense because acupuncture increases the production of endorphins in the brain, which replace the need for the chemical stimulation.
Acupuncture treatment for smoking requires a commitment to quit, and often requires very frequent treatments for one to two weeks. I have often described quitting smoking as a hurdle to jump. For some, it seems impossibly high. Acupuncture can help to lower that hurdle and make it easier to quit.
At one time or another, all of us experience stress. When we are healthy and the stress is temporary, we are usually able to recover quickly without too much damage to our overall health. However, when the stress is extreme, or if it lasts a long time, our emotional health, and eventually our physical health begin to suffer.
People who have a lot of stress in their lives often complain of headaches, pain in the upper back, shoulder, and neck. This is because stress is causing tension in those areas, causing pain, and tightness. Stress may affect many other parts of the body, most notably digestion, the ability to sleep, pain conditions, and more. Over time, a high level of stress may cause other physical changes – cortisol, the body’s stress hormone, elevates, blood pressure increases, and our immune function is suppressed.
Acupuncture works to alleviate stress by releasing natural pain-killing chemicals in the brain, called endorphins. In addition, acupuncture improves circulation of blood throughout the body, which brings more oxygen and fresh supplies to the tissues while eliminating waste products. The calming nature of acupuncture also relaxes the muscles, and when the body begins to unwind, the mind does as well.