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Shift Work

Shift work refers to both long-term night shifts and work schedules where employees change or rotate shifts between daytime and evening or night schedules. Shift work is a reality for about 25 percent of the North American working population.

Many workers prefer shift work because of the free time and flexibility it provides. However, for most workers, shift work causes at least some disruption to their family and personal life and some degree of negative health symptoms. Being constantly tired is a typical complaint of shift workers, often described as “jet lag”. Shift work can also lead to health problems including insomnia, chronic fatigue and gastrointestinal disorders. Shift work can make it difficult participate in regular social activities and family life, which can cause loneliness and isolation.

A shift worker, particularly one who works nights, must function on a schedule that is not "natural". The body is naturally attuned to a circadian rhythm- many of the body’s functions follow a daily rhythm or a 24-hour cycle. Sleeping, waking, digestion, secretion of adrenalin, body temperature, blood pressure, pulse and many other important body functions and human behaviour are regulated by this 24-hour cycle. These rhythmical processes are synchronized to allow for high activity during the day and low activity at night. However, if a person is working at night, the body rhythms get out of sync with the person's activity pattern. This disorientation can lead to feelings of fatigue and disorientation, or “jet lag”. Also, exposure to light at night can alter sleep-activity patterns and suppress melatonin production, leading to insomnia or difficulty sleeping.

Frequent changes in schedule and disruption to circadian rhythms can lead to chronic fatigue and other health problems, including higher risk for heart attack and cardiovascular conditions, digestive problems such as indigestion, heartburn, stomachache and loss of appetite, and insomnia or sleeping disorders. Shift work can also interfere with medications and the medical treatment of some diseases. Because of the way that shift work disrupts the circadian rhythm, research suggests long-term shift work may also increase the risk of cancer. Shift workers are also at risk of eating a less healthy diet because the loss of appetite at night often leads to increased snacking on "junk" food, while fatigue may encourage the consumption of caffeinated drinks to help the worker stay awake. This can further aggravate health issues particularly gastrointestinal problems and difficulty sleeping.

Where does acupuncture fit into this? Acupuncture can offer stellar results for improving the wellbeing and quality-of-life of shift workers. Acupuncture is very effective for many of the symptoms that accompany shift work: it can improve energy and mental clarity, resolve insomnia, and correct digestive disorders. It can also help shift workers adjust to changes in schedules or days off and help the body bounce back more quickly. One of the ways acupuncture may be particularly helpful for shift workers is the way in which it helps to normalize and regulate the body’s functions. Research has shown that acupuncture can influence many systems within the body, including our hormones, our neurotransmitters, our immune system, our blood pressure, and our circulation, helping to correct any functions that are out of balance or not working properly. What this means is that acupuncture may help the body to get back into its normal circadian rhythm, and help these rhythms to adjust more quickly to changes in the daily routines.

One of the biggest changes that shift workers notice with acupuncture is a boost in their energy levels. There is a huge improvement in quality of life that accompanies this change, as a person is more alert both at work and through the daytime, better able to enjoy time off and to be more involved in their family and social life. Indeed, many people find that with regular treatments, shift work no longer has to take a huge toll on their personal life.

Prevention and healthy lifestyle are also very important for shiftworkers, both for maintaining quality of life, and because shift work puts a worker at higher risk for health problems. Regular exercise and maintaining an adequate level of fitness is important, as is good dietary habits, managing stress, and making time for leisure activities. Participation in family and social life is also important for physical and mental health.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna.

Ulcers (Peptic)

Peptic ulcers are open sores that develop on the inside lining of the esophagus, stomach, and the upper portion of the small intestine. The most common symptom of a peptic ulcer is burning pain that can be felt anywhere from the navel up to the breastbone, and can be worse on an empty stomach or at night and can disappear then return for a few days or weeks. This pain is caused by the ulcer, and is aggravated by stomach acid coming into contact with it. Less common symptoms may include dark blood in stools or stools that are black or tarry, nausea or vomiting, unexplained weight loss, and appetite changes.

Peptic ulcers occur when the acid in the digestive tract eats away at the inner surface of the upper digestive tract, from the esophagus to the small intestine. The acid can create a painful open sore that may bleed. The digestive tract is coated with a mucous layer that normally protects against acid. But if this balance is disrupted, either by an increase in the amount of acid or a decrease in the amount of mucus, an ulcer can develop. Left untreated, peptic ulcers can lead to internal bleeding, infection of the abdominal cavity (peritonitis) and scar tissue that can interfere with the functioning of the digestive tract.

Ulcers can be due to a variety of causes, including a bacterial infection in the digestive tract and frequent or regular use of pain relievers or prescription medications that irritate or inflame the lining of the digestive tract. Other factors that contribute to ulcers are smoking, drinking alcohol, and stress.

Western medical treatment for peptic ulcers typically involves antibiotics along with medications to reduce the level of acid in the digestive system to relieve pain and encourage healing. A switch in medications may be needed if they are contributing to the ulcer.

In Chinese medicine (TCM), peptic ulcers are considered a type of epigastric pain. Internal imbalances in the stomach or liver organs are typically at the root of this. The accompanying symptoms, such as the nature and time of pain, thirst, nausea, taste in the mouth, and feelings of distention or fullness, will point towards the underlying imbalance that is causing the ulcer, and direct the acupuncturist towards the appropriate treatment. This in turn makes acupuncture a very effective tool in the treatment of ulcers. In fact, acupuncture can give excellent results in the treatment of epigastric pain, relieving pain and promoting healing of the ulcer. Acupuncture also works to strengthen the digestive system and encourage its healthy functioning. This makes the stomach less susceptible to digestive disturbances such as ulcers.

A number of factors contribute to ulcers and knowing these can help with the prevention. External factors such as exposure to cold and dampness can play a role, and diet is of course also very important, as poor eating habits can weaken the health of our digestive system and make it more prone to disorders. This can include not only the foods we eat, but also how much we eat (over-eating, under-eating, or eating irregular amounts throughout the day), eating too fast or eating on the run, eating late in the day, eating when emotionally upset, or going back to work too quickly after work. Another contributing factor is our emotions- not only stress but also anger, frustration, worry and over-thinking. Finally, our genes also play a role, as we are all born with our own set of strengths and weaknesses. Knowing these weaknesses means that we can adjust our habits accordingly to prevent problems down the road and  promote optimal health.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna.

Chronic Back Pain

I had been experiencing back pain that limited my ability to walk more than 100 yards. I had dealt with this problem for 7 years. I had tried everything else and nothing worked so I thought I would try acupuncture.

When I first came in the pain was from the back of my knees to my upper back. The pain has been reduced to only my lower back now. It has improved to the point that I am now walking a full kilometer! I am also walking straighter. I am very impressed with my results so far. I hope with continued treatments to completely resolve the pain.

-LD. Kelowna, BC

Morton’s Neuroma / Metatarsalgia

Morton's neuroma, also called metatarsalgia, is a painful swelling of one of the nerves leading to the toes, causing pain in the ball of the foot. It most commonly occurs between the third and fourth toes. Morton's neuroma may cause the feeling of a pebble in your shoe. Other symptoms may be a sharp, burning pain in the ball of the foot and tingling, numbness, stinging or burning in the toes.

Doctors don't understand exactly what causes Morton's neuroma. The condition is believed to be a response to irritation, injury or pressure to one of the nerves that lead to the toes. The body responds to the injury or irritation with the growth of thickened nerve tissue (neuroma). Factors that contribute to Morton’s neuroma include high-impact sports, foot deformities, and choice of footwear, especially high heels or tight shoes (that might be required in certain sports) that put pressure on the toes.

Morton's neuroma may be relieved or resolved by changing footwear or using arch supports or foot pads to help reduce pressure on the nerve and modifying or taking a break from activities that cause stress to the foot. Physiotherapy may also be recommended. In more severe cases, corticosteroid injections or surgery may be recommended.

However, in many cases morton’s neuroma does not resolve on its own and this is where acupuncture can help. Acupuncture can be of great assistance because of the way in which it supports the body's healing processes. By reducing inflammation and increasing circulation to the foot as well as influencing the body’s healing mechanisms, acupuncture helps to shorten recovery time and encourages a more complete recovery.

In Chinese medicine (TCM), pain is seen as a blockage of the body’s circulation of qi-energy and blood, which effectively starves the area of necessary nutrients. When we continue to put our regular demands on the foot and it is unable to properly perform its functions, it becomes vulnerable to pain and injury. Acupuncture helps to remove the blockages so that qi-energy and blood can flow properly again, thus strengthening the area and promoting healthier functioning.

Sometimes there are underlying imbalances or contributing lifestyle factors which may also come into play with pain conditions. Usually the location of the pain will point towards these factors and the meridians affected. In the case of Morton’s neuroma, the foot has all of the meridians passing through it so an imbalance with any of these meridians, but especially the stomach meridian, may also contribute to weakness to this area of the foot. What would cause a meridian imbalance? Well, these can be factors such as our genetics and our lifestyle, whether it be our occupation, the exercise or sports we choose, our response to stress, how much sleep we get, our emotions, or our nutrition and diet. Over time, our habits and patterns can lead to corresponding patterns of imbalance within our bodies- which is why many of our health symptoms start to appear in middle age. By also addressing these underlying factors, we can further strengthen the foot and improve overall health, with the goal of preventing future reoccurrence.

In practice, I have seen acupuncture yield great results for Morton’s neuroma. This condition can be particularly challenging for people to overcome, simply because we require our feet for so much of what we do in daily life. However, acupuncture can usually give results fairly quickly, and with continued treatments can help to resolve the condition, eventually allowing many people to return to their former activities.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna.

Hip Pain

Hip pain is a common problem that can have a wide variety of causes. The exact location of the hip pain can usually provide clues as to the underlying cause. Problems with the hip joint itself typically cause pain on the inside of the hip or the groin. Problems with the muscles, ligaments, tendons and other soft tissues that surround the hip joint will typically cause pain on the outside of the hip, upper thigh or outer buttock.

Because the hip is of course connected to the rest of the body, hip pain can sometimes be caused by problems in other areas of the body, such as the lower back or knees, called referred pain. Other causes of hip pain may be arthritis, including rheumatoid and osteoarthritis; injuries such as bursitis, hip or pelvis fracture, dislocation, sprains, strains, tendinitis, herniated discs, pinched nerves, and sciatica. It can also be caused by more serious conditions such as cancer or osteoporosis.

If hip pain cannot be resolved with self-care measures, treatment for hip pain may vary, depending on the problem that is causing it. Most often it will involve medications such as anti-inflammatories, pain killers, and cortisone shots combined with physiotherapy, exercises, and/or taking a rest from our regular routine to allow the body time to heal. In more severe cases, surgery may be considered.

Of course, we would all prefer a lingering problem to resolve rather than to manage it with medications, and to resolve it before it becomes serious enough to warrant surgery. This is where acupuncture comes in. Acupuncture is a great option for pain and musculo-skeletal problems and typically yields very positive results in all types of pain problems, both chronic and acute. Treatments can help to relieve the pain quite quickly, and also to reduce inflammation and boost the body’s healing mechanisms, which may be just what is needed to resolve a lingering or chronic problem.

In Chinese medicine (TCM) pain is often a due to an obstruction of the flow of qi-energy and blood throughout the body’s meridians or channels. Because qi-energy and blood circulation is what allows the body to perform its regular functions and also to heal when injured, any time the flow is blocked, problems inevitably develop and pain occurs. Acupuncture focuses on removing these blockages to allow full circulation of qi-energy and blood through the body, resolving pain and weakness and allowing the area to function properly again.

While musculo-skeletal problems like hip pain may be due to external causes such as a fall or an overuse injury, internal weaknesses of the body can complicate or aggravate a problem once it is there. Part of an acupuncturist’s job is to look at the overall health of the internal functions to find any areas of imbalance, particularly those that affect the meridians of the hip. Imbalances will contribute to weakness in the hip and make it more prone to injury, as well as more slow to heal. A good example of this is a deficiency of the kidneys, which gradually weaken as we age. This weakness can make us more prone to lower back pain and hip fractures or pain because this area is very closely tied to the health of the kidneys. By improving overall health and correcting imbalances that have an influence on the hip, we can strengthen and improve the health of the hip area so that it functions better and is less prone to future injury down the road- all good news for those suffering from hip pain!

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna.

Rotator Cuff

The rotator cuff is made up of the various muscles and tendons in the shoulder that connect the upper arm bone to the shoulder blade. They also help hold the ball of the upper arm bone firmly in the shoulder socket. The shoulder has the greatest range of motion of any joint in our body.

A rotator cuff injury is fairly common and can involve any type of irritation or damage to the rotator cuff muscles or tendons. The most common problems are tendinitis, when one of the rotator cuff tendons becomes inflamed due to overuse or overload (especially common in athletes), bursitis, when the fluid-filled sac (bursa) between the shoulder joint and rotator cuff tendons become irritated and inflamed, and muscle or tendon strain or tear, which can happen with tendonitis that is left untreated, or with stress from overuse.

Injuries are most commonly caused by normal wear and tear of daily life, poor posture or slouching, a sudden fall (and using our arms to break the fall), lifting a too-heavy object or lifting improperly, pulling something heavy, or repetitive arm activities, especially those done overhead, that cause stress to the shoulder.

Symptoms may include shoulder pain, tenderness and weakness, loss of shoulder range of motion, and a tendency to keep the shoulder inactive. Pain is the most common symptom of rotator cuff injuries, and may be experienced when reaching overhead, behind the back, lifting, pulling, or sleeping on the affected shoulder. A severe injury, such as a large tear may cause continuous pain and muscle weakness.

Treatment for rotator cuff injuries typically involves rest, over-the-counter pain relievers, and gentle stretching. Physiotherapy may be recommended to help heal the injury, improve flexibility of the rotator cuff, and develop shoulder muscle strength. Depending on the severity of the injury, full recovery may take from several weeks to several months. In more severe or chronic cases, treatment may involve corticosteroid injections or surgery. About half of the time, a rotator cuff injury can heal with self-care measures or exercise therapy.

Acupuncture can be very helpful in dealing with rotator cuff injuries, and this is good news. Treatments can help to relieve the inflammation, pain and muscle weakness and stiffness caused by the injury, which can speed recovery and bolster the body’s self-healing mechanisms. This makes acupuncture an excellent option in treatment of rotator cuff injuries, as it can complement other treatment therapies and can reduce the length of recovery time. Acupuncture can also be of particular benefit to lagging injuries that seem to just not want to get better. In addition, acupuncture helps the body to function better, and so can help to strengthen the shoulder and promote its proper functioning.

In Chinese medicine, rotator cuff injuries are often due to an obstruction of the flow of qi-energy and blood to the shoulder, causing pain and weakness. Acupuncture can remove these blockages to allow full circulation of qi-energy and blood to the shoulder, allowing it to receive the nourishment it needs for proper functioning. In addition, a person may also have internal balances or weaknesses that make him or her particularly prone to a shoulder injury of some sort. By determining the cause of the pain and looking at each person's individual health, we can not only resolve the pain and weakness that is being experienced, but we can also strengthen the body so that it is functioning in better health and less prone to a repeat injury or pain problem in the future.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna.

Diverticulitis

Diverticulitis occurs when one or more diverticula- small, bulging pouches that form in the digestive tract- become inflamed or infected. Diverticula can form anywhere in the digestive system, from the esophagus to the small intestine, but are most commonly found in the large intestine. They usually develop in naturally weak places in the large intestine that eventually give way under pressure, causing marble-sized pouches to protrude through the colon wall. Diverticula are common, especially after the age of 40, though a person may not ever know they have these pouches because they seldom cause problems.

Sometimes, however, the pouches become inflamed or infected, and diverticulitis occurs. When this happens, it commonly causes symptoms of severe pain in the lower left side of the abdomen, abdominal tenderness, fever, nausea and vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea. Exactly how diverticula become inflamed or infected isn't understood but factors that increase the risk include age (it is most common after the age of 40), a low-fiber diet, lack of exercise, and obesity.

Mild cases of diverticulitis are typically treated with rest, antibiotics, and a liquid or low fiber diet for a few days until symptoms improve and the infection heals. Pain medication may also be prescribed if the pain is moderate or severe. Surgery may be recommended for more serious cases of diverticulitis to remove the diseased part of the colon.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine (TCM) can be an effective option for diverticulitis. Like other digestive disorders, diverticulitis is an inflammatory condition and acupuncture can help to relieve inflammation and strengthen the digestive system to promote proper functioning. In TCM, diverticulitis is classified as a type of abdominal pain because this is the main presenting symptom with the condition. It can develop as a result of our environment, such as cold or dampness, our diet, or emotional stress, which over time, combined with a person’s constitution (genetics), can make the body prone to digestive disorders.

Diagnosis is further made according to the nature of the pain, how it reacts to pressure, food or drink, activity/rest, heat, and bowel movements. This information can point an acupuncturist more specifically towards what is going on inside the body to cause the disorder, in order to target this imbalance in treatment and resolve the condition. There are actually 6 different types of abdominal pain in TCM that could lead to diverticulitis, and by understanding very specifically the cause of the condition, which can vary from person to person, we can very effectively focus on resolving the imbalance. With acupuncture we can relieve the symptoms of diverticulitis such as inflammation, pain, bloating, nausea, diarrhea and constipation. Acupuncture can also help to strengthen the immune system and the digestive system to ensure that both are functioning properly in order to resolve the condition and prevent future flare-ups from occurring.

Of course, with a digestive disorder it is very important to support treatment with lifestyle changes, particularly diet. Diverticulitis can be prevented or improved through a high-fiber diet, regular exercise, and drinking plenty of fluids. In addition, avoiding food or drinks of a cold temperature, sour foods, and greasy foods can help to manage the symptoms and prevent flare-ups. Diverticulitis doesn’t mean a person has to suffer; with healthy habits, one can live a comfortable, symptom-free life.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at the Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

What are tune up or maintenance treatments?

Our bodies are in a constant state of change. Sometimes small problems can develop, and if left unchecked, over time they can become major concerns or leave you susceptible to injury. Just as your dentist recommends periodic checkups to help detect tooth decay before it leads to serious problems, regular acupuncture checkups can help identify and correct small problems before they become bigger ones. This is the idea behind maintenance or “tune-up” treatments, which are periodic treatments to help maintain good health. Visits may be monthly, every other month, or seasonally.

For example, someone with a history of a “bad back” may consider returning once every month or few months for acupuncture to keep the back strong and help prevent re-injury. Another patient going through menopause may come every so few months or so for a series of treatments when she is experiencing symptoms and feels her body needs some rebalancing.

In the interest of your own best health, we encourage our patients to be proactive about wellness. If you feel that something is out of balance, address the problem however you feel is appropriate- whether through acupuncture, other therapies, exercise, or lifestyle changes. Tuning into our bodies in this way can help us to become aware of problems as they first develop, and resolve them early so that they do not develop into bigger problems down the road.

How many treatments do I need?

Acupuncture typically takes a series of treatments to resolve a problem, regardless of what condition it is that we are treating. It is rare for any acupuncturist to be able to resolve a problem in one treatment. The number of treatments you will need depends on the nature of your problem as well as your overall health and how you respond to acupuncture. The longer a problem has been present, usually the more treatments it takes to resolve the problem. A general rule of thumb is for problems older than one year, it usually takes at least 10 treatments to resolve the problem. Acute problems typically take fewer treatments, anywhere from 3-10 treatments on average.

Our 3-treatment starter package is designed to get you acquainted with acupuncture and give you a sense of how acupuncture works but 3 treatments often may not fully resolve a problem. As a general guideline, if after 3 treatments your condition is not fully resolved, consider continuing with acupuncture treatments for best results. Stopping care early can disrupt the progress you have already achieved or cause a relapse.

Even though you may no longer be experiencing symptoms, continuing treatment can help you to further strengthen, build and support your body in order to prevent future problems of the same nature. Acupuncture enables your body’s own healing processes and the goal is to allow your body to regain a balanced state so that it is able to maintain its own health and you are not dependent on any treatment.

Achilles Tendinitis

Achilles tendinitis is inflammation of the Achilles tendon, the large band of tissue that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Achilles tendinitis is caused by repetitive or intense strain on the Achilles tendon. It is most often caused by a sport-related injury that involves overuse, intense exercise, jumping, or other activities that strain the tendon and calf muscles. It can also be caused by exercising without warming up properly, poor flexibility of the calf muscles, or starting a new exercise regimen after a long period of little or no exercise.

Achilles tendinitis usually causes pain that develops and worsens gradually over time. Symptoms can be a mild ache or pain at the back of the leg and above the heel after exercise, more severe pain with prolonged or intense exercise, tenderness or stiffness (particularly in the morning) that may improve with mild activity, mild swelling or a "bump" on the Achilles tendon, a crackling or creaking sound when you touch or move the Achilles tendon, and weakness or sluggishness in the lower leg.

Most cases of Achilles tendinitis are treated with simple at-home care, such as engaging in less strenuous exercise or taking a break from a regular exercise routine, and ice, compression and elevation in the acute stages. Stretching and exercises are important for recovery and for preventing recurring problems. If Achilles tendinitis continues to be a problem, treatment may be anti-inflammatory medications for pain and in more severe cases, a cortisone injection or even surgery. If left untreated, Achilles tendinitis can become a chronic problem, and can lead to more complicated problems such as tendinosis, (a weakening of the tendon that makes it more vulnerable to severe damage) or a tear or rupture in the tendon (a painful injury that usually requires surgery to repair the damaged tendon).

Acupuncture is a great option in the management of Achilles tendinitis and can promote proper healing to ensure full recovery from this condition. As with other injuries, Achilles tendinitis is, according to Chinese medicine (TCM), caused by stagnation of qi-energy and blood. When the body’s energy is blocked or not flowing properly, the area that is blocked is unable to receive proper nourishment to perform its functions, leading to pain, stiffness, and weakness in the area. This blockage can be due to external causes such as trauma or injury, or from internal causes such as a weakness in the leg or heel due to our genetics or accumulated lifestyle habits. Acupuncture treatment focuses on removing the blockage and helping the energy and blood to flow again in order to remove pain and resolve the symptoms of the injury. This also helps the body to get blood and energy to the injured area, so that it can properly heal.

An acupuncturist also looks at what underlying factors have influenced health and weakened the tendon or made it vulnerable to injury. These can be things like our genetic constitution, our overall health, and our lifestyle choices such as nutrition, diet, and stress, that can lead to internal health imbalances that can contribute to injury. By also treating these underlying factors, we can strengthen the injured area and improve health, to help prevent future reoccurrence. In this way, acupuncture can be a great help for the resolution of an Achilles tendon problem.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

Tendinitis

Tendinitis is the inflammation or irritation of a tendon- the thick, fibrous cords that attach muscles to bones. Tendinitis causes pain and tenderness just outside a joint. While tendinitis can occur in any of the body's tendons, it's most common in the shoulders, elbows, wrists and heels.  Tendinitis symptoms typically include pain (usually a dull ache), tenderness, and mild swelling at the point where the tendon attaches to the bone.

Common names for tendinitis are tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, pitcher's shoulder, swimmer's shoulder, and jumper's knee. From this list it’s easy to see that tendinitis typically develops from the stress of a repetitive movement over time. Most people develop tendinitis because of jobs, sports or hobbies that involve repetitive motions, which aggravate the tendons needed to perform the tasks, although tendinitis can also be caused by a sudden injury. Age can also play a factor in tendinitis because as we get older, our tendons become less flexible, making them more prone to injury.

Most cases of tendinitis can be successfully treated with rest and self-care. If symptoms persist for more than a few days and interfere with day-to-day activities, your doctor may recommend medications to reduce the pain and inflammation. Injections of cortisone medication around a tendon may also be recommended to reduce inflammation and help ease pain but repeated injections may weaken a tendon, increasing the risk of tendon rupture. Tendon rupture is a much more serious problem that may require surgical repair. Without proper treatment, tendinitis can develop into a chronic problem and increase the risk of developing into tendon rupture.

Acupuncture can be a great option for resolving tendinitis problems and promoting proper healing. In Chinese medicine, most musculo-skeletal disorders have some relevant underlying imbalance or contributing lifestyle factor. Understanding a person’s general health gives an acupuncturist insight into the internal imbalances that can contribute to injury. Lifestyle can play a role, whether it be our occupation, the exercise or sports we choose, or our nutrition and diet. Chinese medicine also considers the role of emotion and thought in health, as they can be either the cause or the symptom of an internal balance.

With tendinitis, and all types of musculo-skeletal injuries, pain is caused by stagnation of qi-energy and blood. Acupuncture treatment focuses on removing the blockage and helping the energy and blood to flow again in order to remove pain and resolve the symptoms of the injury. This also helps to promote proper and complete healing.

In addition, we look at what underlying factors have influenced health and weakened the joint or made it vulnerable to injury. These causes can be external (such as exposure to the elements or an external trauma or blow to the area) or internal (caused by an imbalance in the body’s normal functioning due to our genetics or our lifestyle). By also treating these underlying factors, we are can strengthen the injured area and improve health, with the goal of preventing future reoccurrence.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

Gastritis

Gastritis is an umbrella term for a group of conditions that all share a common symptom of inflammation of the stomach lining. Gastritis can be chronic or acute, and for most people it is not serious and resolves quickly with treatment.  Symptoms include a gnawing or burning pain or ache in the upper abdomen that may be either worse or better with eating, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, belching, bloating, a feeling of fullness in the upper abdomen after eating, and weight loss.

Acute gastritis happens suddenly and is more likely to cause nausea and burning pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen. Chronic gastritis develops gradually and symptoms are usually a dull pain and a feeling of fullness or a loss of appetite after a small amount of food. In many people, chronic gastritis may cause no symptoms at all. In rare, severe cases, gastritis may cause stomach bleeding- requiring prompt medical care.

Gastritis is a result of the stomach's protective layer becoming weak or damaged. The stomach has a mucus-lined barrier that protects it from the acids that help digest food. Weakness in the barrier exposes the stomach lining to damage and inflammation from digestive juices. This can result from a bacterial infection, regular use of pain relief medications, severe stress, alcohol intake, bile reflux disease (when bile flows up into the stomach), an auto-immune dysfunction, or it can be a result of different conditions or diseases. Treatment may involve addressing the underlying problem, such as stopping the use of substances which lead to gastritis or taking antibiotics if it is due to a bacterial infection, or taking medications to reduce or neutralize stomach acid.

In Chinese medicine (TCM), gastritis conditions are classified as stomach pain, which includes both gastritis and ulcers. Gastritis is a loose term that can apply to so many different conditions, and Chinese medicine does not rely on Western diagnosis for treatment, but rather looks closely at the specific symptoms experienced, in order to determine the specific causes for each person.

From a TCM perspective, gastritis can be caused by a number of different factors. Acute gastritis can be caused by the abdomen being exposed to cold temperatures or damp conditions, which can cause a blockage in the qi-energy of the stomach and intestines. Diet is of course a major factor. Eating too little or too much food, eating too much cold food, hot-spicy food, sugar and sweets, or greasy, fried, or dairy foods can damage the function of the stomach. Irregular eating habits such as eating too fast or on the go, eating late in the evening or at night, eating while stressed or emotionally upset, skipping breakfast, eating while performing other activities, or eating irregular amounts of food from day to day may also be factors. Emotional upset such as anger, frustration, resentment, worry and stress can lead to stomach problems, as can overwork and physical over-exertion. And finally, our inherited constitution may mean for some people a weakness in the stomach, which makes it prone to disorders such as gastritis.

Because of the accuracy in diagnosis, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can yield excellent results in the treatment of gastritis and promote healing of the stomach lining.  Acupuncture can also help with many of the symptoms of gastritis including nausea, pain, and vomiting, and can help to reduce stress and improve overall digestive functioning. Combined with lifestyle and dietary changes, it can be an effective treatment option for resolving gastritis, strengthening a weak digestive system, and preventing future stomach disorders from occurring.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

Crohn’s Disease

Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation of the digestive tract lining. This inflammation often spreads deep into the layers of affected bowel tissues. Symptoms of Crohn’s disease can range from mild to severe and may develop gradually or come on suddenly, without warning. When the disease is active, the most common symptoms are severe diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, blood in the stool, ulcers in the intestinal walls, and reduced appetite and weight loss as a result of digestive discomfort and the body’s reduced ability to absorb nutrients. Other symptoms that may accompany Crohn’s diease include fever, fatigue, arthritis, eye inflammation, skin disorders, and inflammation of the liver or bile ducts.

The cause of Crohn's disease remains unknown but it is believed to be caused by a combination of heredity and a malfunctioning immune system. Diet, stress, and certain medications may aggravate the condition. There is also no known medical cure for Crohn's disease, and medical treatment focuses on reducing the inflammation in order to relieve symptoms and if possible to promote long-term remission. Treatment for Crohn's disease usually involves medications such as anti-inflammatories, immune system suppressors, and antibiotics, combined with other medications to help with the symptoms. In severe cases, surgery may be performed to remove a section of the intestinal tract.

Because Chinese medicine (TCM) developed independently from Western medicine, it has a different view of Crohn's disease. Chinese medicine has its own disease classifications that do not always correspond with Western medical classifications. TCM diagnosis is based on the collective symptoms that a person is experiencing, and together these symptoms create a picture that leads us to the cause. Depending on symptoms, we may classify Crohn’s disease as a type of abdominal pain or diarrhea, or both.

Because Crohn’s disease affects the body’s digestive system, it may involve a weakness or disorder of the stomach, spleen, large intestine, and/or kidneys. This is usually due to a constitutional weakness (genetics) that can be aggravated by diet, environment, emotional stress, overwork, or chronic illness, leading to the development of this condition. Acupuncture treatments can help to relieve the symptoms of a flare-up of Crohn’s disease. Diarrhea and abdominal pain particularly respond well to acupuncture. Not only does acupuncture help with the symptoms of a flare-up, but it can also help to strengthen the body and correct functioning to promote faster remission and a reduction in the frequency and severity of future flare-ups.

Because we are dealing with a more complex, chronic condition, recovery from Crohn’s disease with acupuncture will be a gradual and steady process, rather than an instant fix. Acupuncture engages the healing process, and each treatment builds on the progress of the last. Conditions like Crohn’s disease that develop over a longer period of time take more time to reverse and undo. However, acupuncture is a positive option that can help sufferers of Crohn’s disease live more symptom-free and experience a better quality of life.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. It develops gradually, often starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. The symptoms can vary from person to person and gradually develop, often unnoticed at first. Symptoms may begin on one side of the body and eventually affect both sides, although one side may remain worse than the other. Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include tremors, slowed or delayed movements, muscle rigidity, impaired posture and balance, speech problems, loss of automatic movements, and in later stages, dementia (impairment of memory and mental clarity). Parkinson's symptoms tend to worsen as the disease progresses.

The reason for Parkinson’s disease is still a mystery, but genetics and environmental factors such as exposure to viruses and toxins seem to both contribute. People suffering from Parkinson’s disease show changes to neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, resulting in reduced stimulation of the motor cortex, the area of our brain responsible for our movement. Parkinson’s disease typically develops in middle or later life, and is more common in men.

Treatment for Parkinson’s includes medications to manage the symptoms of the disease, physiotherapy to help with movement, massage therapy to relax rigid muscles, and in some cases, surgery. Lifestyle changes to diet and exercise may also be recommended. Yoga or tai chi can be particularly beneficial because they can help with flexibility and balance.

Chinese medicine classifies Parkinson’s disease as a type of convulsion or tremor. It is seen as a combination of constitutional (inherited) weakness combined with lifestyle factors such as overwork, diet, and emotional stress, which may be triggers to the development of the disease.  Parkinson’s disease is broken down into 3 sub-categories according to the cause of the disease. 

The first is a deficiency of qi-energy and blood, with specific symptoms of pronounced tremor of a limb, sallow complexion, staring look, occipital stiffness, limb cramping, uncoordinated walking, difficulty moving, dizziness, blurred vision, and sweating. In this case, an acupuncturist would work on building up the body’s qi-energy and nourish the blood in order to improve symptoms and healthy functioning of the body.

The second type is phlegm-heat, which produces symptoms of tremors, dizziness, sweating, dry mouth, staring look, feeling of oppression in the chest, yellow phlegm, obesity, and stiff neck and back. This type can be particularly brought on by diet, and treatment focuses on resolving the phlegm and clearing heat from the body to remove blockages.

The third type is liver and kidney-yin deficiency, resulting in dizziness, tinnitus, insomnia, headache, night sweats, restless mind, sore back and knees, numbness of limbs, head tremors, clenched teeth, poor memory, difficulty walking, and staring look. In this case, treatment must build up the body’s yin energy and the body’s energy circulation.

While Parkinson’s disease cannot be completely cured, regular acupuncture treatments can offer success in the control of symptoms and in slowing or halting the progression of the disease, depending on the type. The sooner treatment is begun after onset, the more success treatment may have. Acupuncture can complement Western medical treatment for Parkinson’s disease and help to improve the quality of life of those suffering from the disease.

Acupuncture can also help with the associated symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. People with Parkinson’s often also suffer from depression, sleep problems, urinary problems, and constipation, and acupuncture has shown positive results in all of these areas. While Parkinson’s is a complex disease, acupuncture can help to improve quality of life and overall health to better manage the condition.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

Asthma

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition where the airways to our lungs narrow and swell. They produce extra mucus, and breathing becomes difficult. The most common symptoms of asthma are coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath but asthma symptoms range from minor to severe and vary from person to person. Some people only experience symptoms when they have asthma flare-ups, that may primarily occur at night, during exercise, or when exposed to specific triggers, allergies, or irritants. These people may have mild symptoms and infrequent asthma attacks and to them, asthma symptoms are a minor nuisance. Others experience severe or constant asthma symptoms that are a major problem and interfere with daily activities.

It isn't well-understood in Western medicine why some people get asthma and others don't, but it is believed to be caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Risk factors include having a parent or sibling with asthma, having an allergic condition, a low birth weight, and being exposed to pollution, chemicals, allergens, and cigarette smoke. One thing we do know is that asthma is very common, affecting millions of adults and children and that number is growing every year.

The Western medicine approach to asthma is to control its symptoms, as asthma is seen as incurable. Treatment involves learning to recognize triggers and taking steps to avoid them, combined with the use of asthma medications such as inhalers and corticosteroids, among others, to keep symptoms under control. Unfortunately, many of these medications have negative side effects or compromise other areas of health or daily living.

Chinese medicine (TCM) has a different approach to asthma, and can be quite effective for this condition. According to Chinese medicine, the root cause of asthma is generally due to a constitutional (hereditary) weakness in the body’s defensive qi-energy system. Our defensive qi (‘chee’) system is a part of our body’s immune system, providing resistance to outside pathogens. Because our lungs are directly exposed to things in our external environment like cold, heat, smoke or pollen, our lungs are an important part of our defense system. People who develop asthma, have a weakness of defensive qi, particularly in the lungs, that may be aggravated by lifestyle such as diet and emotional stress, and exposure to external allergens, irritants, and chemicals. These external allergens, irritants, and pathogens are called invasions of “wind” in Chinese medicine, which essentially refers to anything of external origin that has an effect on our internal health. The combination of a weakened defense system and these “wind” invasions are conditions for asthma to develop.

Acupuncture treatments target these wind invasions which are the trigger for asthma attacks. Regular treatments during asthma attacks or severe asthma symptoms can help to reduce symptoms and lessen the frequency of the attacks. During the periods when asthma attacks are infrequent and symptoms are mild, acupuncture treatment focuses on treating the root problem- the weakness of the defensive-qi systems. By correcting and strengthening immune system functioning and influencing the body to function in a more healthy state, we can produce more lasting results for asthma sufferers. In many cases this can mean living symptom-free or with minimum symptoms for asthma sufferers.

Because asthma is complex condition that has to do with the body’s constitution, the treatment of asthma with acupuncture is usually steady and gradual, requiring a longer series of treatments to produce lasting results. However, what is important is that lasting results can be achieved, making acupuncture a great option for the treatment of asthma.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

  • quit smoking acupuncture

Quitting Smoking

At some point, every smoker faces the prospect of quitting. On one hand, the serious health consequences of smoking and the fear of what it does to our health is a major motivator for quitting. On the other hand, there is the fear of how hard it will be to quit smoking- withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and living without the nicotine that a smoker has come to rely on.

There are two aspects to a smoking addiction: the physical and the mental. The physical aspect- withdrawal- is the most feared part of quitting, but is actually probably the easier to kick as these symptoms can be countered through treatment and through daily coping strategies. It’s true that nicotine is very addictive and quitting smoking can be very difficult. For many people it takes a few failed attempts before they quit smoking for good. But regardless of whether it’s your first time quitting or whether you’ve attempted it in the past, if you are willing to stick with it, you will succeed.

Acupuncture is a great option to help to address the physical aspects of quitting smoking, and can provide support and encouragement to help make quitting a success. One of the effects of nicotine on the body is that it stimulates the body to produce endorphins. When you quit smoking, the endorphin levels in the body initially drop while the body adjusts to producing normal level of endorphins again. This endorphin drop causes withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, tension, anxiety, and restlessness, particularly during the first few weeks of quitting. One of the effects that acupuncture has on the body is that it stimulates endorphin production. The endorphin boost helps to reduce stress and calm the mind, and by relaxing the body, it can help reduce cravings. In this way acupuncture is a very useful tool in overcoming withdrawal symptoms and making the adjustment to a smoke-free lifestyle.

Of course, acupuncture will only help with the physical aspect of the addiction- it won’t make you stop thinking about smoking. People often ask how successful acupuncture is for quitting smoking, and the truth is that long-term success largely depends on a person’s commitment to remaining smoke free, and on overcoming the mental aspect of the addiction, and this is true regardless of what method you choose to help you quit.

The mental aspect of nicotine addiction is where you have to work on seeing yourself as a non-smoker, regardless of any situation. You can tackle this by creating a quit plan. A quit plan is like a road map to success, allowing you to anticipate what's ahead and to prepare for any potential challenges. After years of smoking every day, it may at first feel strange that smoking is no longer a part of your daily routine. Furthermore, living smoke-free doesn't mean living stress-free. In fact, stress is quite often a major reason for relapsing. A quit plan helps you to find ways ahead of time for dealing with changes to your routines and with potentially stressful situations.

A quit plan includes learning your triggers: the times, places, situations, feelings and moods that trigger your cigarette cravings. You need to be aware of the triggers so that they don't catch you off guard, and you need to come up with new ways to deal with them to break the smoking association.

A quit plan also includes building coping strategies: these are your techniques for dealing with and eliminating your triggers such as avoiding situations that cause cravings, changing routines, or finding new ways to deal with emotions or stress that you used to deal with by smoking.

As part of your quit plan, you should also build a support team: people or programs that can help and encourage you through rough patches, keep you on track, and share your successes. And last but not least, set a date!

With quitting smoking, there is no magic bullet. The truth is that it does take hard work and commitment. Those of us who don’t smoke can tell you that you will still face stress and challenges in life. But you can look forward to better health and more money in your pocket, among so many other positive changes. And to help you through the initial transition to becoming a non-smoker, acupuncture can help make it a smoother and more comfortable experience.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

Ankle Pain

The ankle joint is an intricate network of bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles. It is built for both strength and flexibility, as it needs to bear the weight of our body while also having the flexibility for the various surfaces we walk on. The ankle joint can be prone to various types of injury and pain and ankle pain may be experienced on the inside or outside of the ankle or along the back where the Achilles tendon connects the muscles in the lower leg to the heel bone.

Most ankle pain results from a sprain, which occurs when the ankle rolls over the foot, causing a ligament to stretch or tear.  Sprains are often sports-related but they can also occur when walking on an uneven surface of from taking a misstep.  Ankle pain can also be caused by injury to any of the bones, ligaments or tendons in the ankle.

The most common causes of ankle pain include Achilles tendinitis, sprains, strains, stress fractures, broken ankle or foot bone, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. Any kind of ankle injury will also affect our gait or walking pattern and in a chain reaction, the knee joint, hip joint, SI joint and spine become involved and so ankle pain can have far-reaching consequences.

Acupuncture is a great option for problems of the ankle and can effectively treat ankle pain of all types. All of the leg meridians can have an influence on muskulo-skeletal disorders of the ankle, and because the toes are the starting point of the body’s meridians, if there is an imbalance or obstruction in any meridian, often it will cause symptoms of pain or muscle imbalance in the foot or ankle.

As with other pain or injuries in the body, Chinese medicine (TCM) usually diagnoses ankle pain and injury as a blockage or lack of proper circulation of blood and qi-energy in the affected area. These blockages lead to pain, weakness, and an inability for the ankle to heal properly because it cannot receive the proper nourishment to do so. Acupuncture helps to remove blockages, increase circulation of the blood and energy, and also resolve any imbalances in the meridians that may be causing a weakness in the ankle and leaving it prone to injury or strain.

In the early stages of an injury, acupuncture can help to remove blockages and promote blood flow to the ankle, as well as relieve swelling and pain. With injuries in the middle stage of healing, acupuncture can help alleviate swelling and pain in the ankle, and promote healing of the tissues and bones. In later stages of injury, where the ankle has become rigid and weak, acupuncture can help to relax the tendons and remove blockages to regain movement and strength in the ankle. In all cases, acupuncture helps to strengthen the body and promote better functioning so that the body is better able to heal and to resolve the problem fully. Whether we are dealing with acute or chronic ankle problems, acupuncture can help to boost the body’s healing so that we can regain our health and return to our regular day to day functioning.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

Elbow Pain

The elbow is a complex joint formed by three long bones. Four sets of muscles help move the joint and are attached to the bones by thick tendons. Damage to any of these structures or to the joint's network of nerves, blood vessels and ligaments can lead to elbow pain.

Often elbow pain isn't serious, but because we use our elbows in so many ways, elbow pain can affect our daily lives and can lead to chronic or lingering problems. Most elbow pain results from overuse injuries, often sports-related but also as a result of activities or work that require repetitive arm, wrist, or hand movements. Elbow pain may also be due to arthritis, but the elbow joint is much less prone to wear-and-tear damage than other joints are. Common causes of elbow pain include ligament sprain and tears, golfer’s elbow, dislocation, elbow fracture, tendinitis, tennis elbow, osteoarthritis, or irritation or damage to one of the nerves in the elbow.

Acupuncture can offer positive results for the various disorders of the elbow. One of the first steps of diagnosis is to determine which meridians have been most affected, depending on where the pain is located. This helps an acupuncturist to determine the focus of treatment, and the points to use.

Although muskulo-skeletal problems like elbow disorders are typically due to external causes such as a blow to the joint or an overuse injury, internal weaknesses of the body can complicate or aggravate a problem once it is there. So we also look at the overall health of the internal functions to find any areas of imbalance, particularly those that affect the meridians of the elbow. Imbalances will contribute to weakness in the elbow and make it more prone to injury, as well as more slow to heal.

Acupuncture can be very effective for the many possible problems of the elbow, both acute and chronic. These can be problems of the muscles, such as spasms, cramps, muscle strains, or overuse injuries; problems of the ligaments and other soft tissue, such as ligament strains, bursitis, adhesions and scar tissue; and problems of the joint, such as with gout and the various types of arthritis. Acupuncture treatment can relieve pain, aid healing and help prevent future problems with elbow disorders.

Our bodies are amazing organisms that have the ability to self-regulate and repair themselves. In any disorder the body attempts to minimize, repair and overcome the damage to its normal functions and in many cases, given adequate rest and support, our bodies are able to recover successfully. However, in cases where the body isn’t able to correct a problem on its own, acupuncture is a promising treatment that helps bolster the body’s healing abilities so that we can return to our normal, healthy selves.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

Trigeminal Neuralgia

Trigeminal neuralgia is a disorder that affects the trigeminal nerve, which runs from the jaw into the face. In trigeminal neuralgia, the nerve function is disrupted. This can cause attacks of mild or intense pain in the cheek, jaw, teeth, gums, lips or even the eye and forehead. The attacks can happen spontaneously or are triggered by mild stimulation to the face such as shaving, smiling, eating, or brushing your teeth. Attacks may initially be occasional twinges of mild pain but as trigeminal neuralgia progresses there may be longer, more frequent bouts of severe, shooting or jabbing pain like an electric shock.  Episodes of frequent attacks can last days, weeks, months or longer, and there can be periods where no pain is experienced.

Trigeminal neuralgia is often a problem of pressure being put on the nerve, usually from an enlarged artery adjacent to the nerve, but in some cases it may be due to a tumor compressing the nerve. In other cases it can be related to multiple sclerosis or a similar disorder that causes damage to certain nerves. In many people who have suffered from shingles, trigeminal neuralgia can be a result of the virus, along with nerve pain in other areas of the body. Trigeminal neuralgia can occur as a result of aging, or in other cases, a cause cannot be found. It occurs in women more often than men, and is more likely to occur in people over the age of 50.

There are a variety of treatments that may be used in Western medicine for trigeminal neuralgia. Medications are usually the first treatment, such as anti-convulsants or muscle relaxing medications. However, over time, some people with the disorder may stop responding to medications or experience unpleasant side effects. In these cases, injections to numb the nerve or surgery to relieve the pressure on the nerve may be considered.

Acupuncture is an option well worth considering for trigeminal neuralgia. Studies in recent years have shown the positive effects of acupuncture for nerve disorders, and the World Health Organization lists acupuncture as a viable treatment for trigeminal neuralgia. From a Chinese medicine perspective, trigeminal neuralgia has two main causes. The first is over-exposure to cold and wind, causing an obstruction of the blood and qi-energy in the meridians of the face, leading to sudden attacks of facial pain and spasms of the facial muscles, symptoms which are aggravated by cold and relieved by heat. The attacks may be accompanied by runny nose and excess salivation. The second cause is due to internal factors, mainly an imbalance of liver and stomach energy, causing sudden attacks of facial pain with more of a burning sensation, accompanied by bloodshot eyes, tearing of the eyes, thirst, and irritability. In this case, the condition may develop as a result of lifestyle and dietary habits which over time may lead to an internal imbalance.

In either case, acupuncture can be remarkably effective in alleviating facial pain without side effects. Treatments help to improve circulation to relieve pain and irritation of the trigeminal nerve. Acupuncture can help to relieve the symptoms during a flare-up and may also promote better functioning of the trigeminal nerve so that flare-ups are less likely to occur or are more mild when they do occur. Indeed, acupuncture is shown to be a great option for trigeminal neuralgia, and can help you regain your lifestyle and live free of pain.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine (colon), causing cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can vary widely from person to person and often resemble those of other diseases. For most people, IBS is a chronic condition, although at times symptoms may be worse and at other times they may improve or even disappear completely. As many as 1 in 5 adults experience IBS.

It's not known exactly what causes irritable bowel syndrome. The walls of the intestines are lined with layers of muscle that contract and relax in a coordinated rhythm as they move food through the intestinal tract. With IBS, the contractions may be stronger and longer than normal, forcing food to move through the intestines more quickly, causing gas, bloating and diarrhea. In other cases, the opposite occurs and food passage slows, and stools become hard and dry. Abnormalities in the nervous system or colon may play a role in IBS. Certain foods, stress, hormones, and illnesses may trigger IBS symptoms.

Because it's not clear what causes irritable bowel syndrome, Western medical treatment focuses on the relieving of symptoms. Treatment may include fiber supplements, eliminating foods that trigger symptoms, and medications such as antibiotics, anti-diarrhea medications, and anti-depressants, among others. Many people may have only mild symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome that can be managed by learning to manage stress and making changes to diet and lifestyle. However, sometimes symptoms can be disabling and may not respond well to medical treatment.

Acupuncture offers a positive option for IBS sufferers. Often irritable bowel syndrome is used as a catch-all phrase for all cases of abdominal pain which do not have another explanation. In Chinese medicine, the various cases of IBS do not fall into one broad disease category, but are broken down into many different disorders because the causes can be so varied. This is why individual symptoms may vary so greatly from person to person, because the underlying problem is usually very different for each person. In Chinese medicine terms, IBS may be classified as a type of abdominal/intestinal pain, epigastric/stomach pain (occurring in roughly half of IBS sufferers), or as a type of diarrhea, depending on the individual symptoms experienced.

For IBS with abdominal/intestinal pain, the cause is usually due to the liver-energy becoming blocked, which may further cause problems with the spleen’s digestive functions. The blocked liver-energy causes symptoms of bloatedness, constipation, and belching, as well as moodiness and irritability, symptoms which may be aggravated by emotional upset. If the spleen is also involved, there will also be fatigue and alternating constipation and diarrhea. Acupuncture treatment helps to move the liver-energy in order to resolve the retention of food, relieve pain and improve digestion, and corrects spleen functioning to resolve diarrhea and improve energy.

For IBS with epigastric/stomach pain, the cause can be due to a variety of different imbalances with the stomach, leading to improper or incomplete digestion of food. This can cause a variety of symptoms ranging from pain, nausea and vomiting, to belching, headaches, diarrhea, or constipation. The specific symptoms experienced will depend on the specific problem that is occurring with the stomach, whether it is due to heat or cold damaging the stomach, or because the stomach-energy is blocked. In any case, acupuncture can help the stomach to function properly so that digestion is corrected, resolving symptoms.

In any case, acupuncture offers very effective and lasting relief for IBS sufferers, helping to resolve symptoms and prevent future flare-ups and allowing those with IBS to live a more regular, symptom-free life.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

Peripheral Neuropathy

Peripheral neuropathy refers to damage to the nerves of the peripheral nervous system (the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord). A common symptom is numbness and pain in the hands and feet, often described as a tingling or burning sensation and a lack of feeling similar to wearing a thin stocking or glove. Peripheral neuropathy can affect many different nerves, from sensory nerves that register heat, pain or touch, to motor nerves that control how your muscles move, or autonomic nerves that control blood pressure, heart rate, digestion and bladder function.

Specific symptoms vary, depending on the types of nerves affected. There may be gradual onset of numbness and tingling in the feet or hands which may spread upward into the legs and arms, burning pain, a sharp or electrical pain, extreme sensitivity to touch, lack of coordination, muscle weakness or paralysis if motor nerves are affected, and bowel or bladder problems if autonomic nerves are affected.

Peripheral neuropathy can result from traumatic injuries, infections, vitamin deficiencies, autoimmune diseases, metabolic problems and exposure to toxins. One of the most common causes is diabetes. Treatment in western medicine depends on the cause. In many cases, peripheral neuropathy symptoms improve with time when the underlying condition that is causing it gets treated. In order to manage the painful symptoms, a number of medications are often used.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, pain and dysfunction as a result of peripheral neuropathy are caused by a blockage of qi-energy and blood. If qi-energy and blood don’t flow properly, it prevents cells from receiving nourishment and can lead to pain and functional problems. In addition, depending on the symptoms experienced, there may be specific meridians that are also affected by the condition. Acupuncture treatment typically will involve both local points to treat the meridians affected and the symptoms experienced, combined with points for strengthening and building up the body to augment qi-energy and blood. In this way, acupuncture can help to relieve many of the symptoms experienced, as well as help to strengthen the body and improve health to improve the functioning of the nerves and the body as a whole.

Acupuncture shows promising results for those suffering from peripheral neuropathy. Studies have demonstrated that acupuncture may help to improve nerve conduction, and the World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture as a useful therapy for neurologic symptoms like peripheral neuropathy. Although an individual may not recover immediately or completely through acupuncture, treatment can make a difference in the symptoms experienced and one's comfort level. With time, treatments may have a lasting positive impact on peripheral neuropathy.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

Menstrual Cramps / Dysmenorrhea

Most women have experienced menstrual cramps, or "dysmenorrhea," at one time or another.  Menstrual cramps are dull, throbbing or cramping pains in the lower abdomen and are often experienced just before and during a period. For some women, it is merely an annoying discomfort but for others, it can be severe enough to interfere with everyday activities for a few days every month. Dysmenorrhea can be accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, loose stools, sweating, and dizziness.

In many situations, there is no identifiable cause of dysmenorrhea. Many experts believe that constricted blood vessels during the period cause menstrual cramps, much in the way that angina occurs when blocked coronary arteries starve portions of the heart of food and oxygen. Most of the time painful menstruation is not considered a cause for concern and western medical treatment usually involves non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or hormonal birth control to manage the symptoms of dysmenorrhea.

In Chinese medicine, dysmenorrhea or painful periods are not considered a normal part of a woman's life but rather a sign of an imbalance, which can be treated effectively in order to resolve the symptoms. As with western medical theory, Chinese medicine sees a lack of flow of blood and qi-energy as the cause for menstrual cramps. Whereas western medicine sees menstrual cramps as all belonging to the same class of problem, Chinese medicine breaks it down into six different types, depending on the internal imbalance causing the symptoms. Factors that can contribute to dysmenorrhea include emotional strain, prolonged exposure to cold and dampness, overwork or chronic illness, and childbirth.

A feeling of cold and pain in the lower abdomen that is aggravated by pressure and relieved by heat points toward an internal accumulation of cold and damp. Distention and pain in the lower abdomen that is aggravated by pressure and accompanied by pain in the rib flanks, chest, and breasts indicates an internal imbalance involving the liver energy. Lower abdominal pain that is aggravated by pressure and accompanied by a burning or distending pain in the lower back and sacrum indicates an internal damp heat accumulation. A feeling of cold and pain in the lower abdomen that is relieved by pressure or heat indicates internal cold and a deficiency of yang energy. A general lower abdominal pain that is somewhat relieved by pressure and is accompanied by fatigue, dizziness, and aching of the lower back and spine indicates a deficiency of liver and kidney energy. A general lower abdominal pain with a down-bearing sensation in the lower abdomen accompanied by fatigue and pale complexion indicates a deficiency of blood and qi-energy.

Acupuncture can be quite successful in the treatment of dysmenorrhea. Treatments can help to relieve symptoms very quickly, however it typically takes at least 3 cycles to get the body back into balance and fully resolve the problem. A real positive of acupuncture is that it is working to promote health while also managing and resolving the symptom. It’s very common to see other areas of health improve, such as energy levels, sleep, moods and stress levels, and pre-menstrual symptoms. Indeed, acupuncture is an excellent option for treating and resolving menstrual cramps.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

Stroke

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is reduced or interrupted, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within a few minutes, brain cells begin to die. Ischemic stroke, the most common type, occurs when the arteries to the brain are narrowed or blocked, severely reducing blood flow (ischemia). The other type of stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, occurs when a blood vessel in the brain leaks or ruptures, causing too much blood within the skull. Hemorrhages can result from a number of conditions that affect the blood vessels, including uncontrolled high blood pressure, weak spots in the blood vessel walls, and the rupture of a malformed blood vessel.

Symptoms of stroke include trouble walking, loss of balance or coordination, dizziness, trouble speaking, blurred or double vision, severe headache, stiff neck, facial pain, and paralysis or numbness on one side of the body. A stroke can lead to temporary or permanent disability, such as paralysis or loss of control of certain muscles, difficulty talking or swallowing, memory loss or trouble with understanding, and pain, tingling or numbness in certain parts of the body. Early treatment can minimize damage to the brain and potential stroke complications.

Recovery and rehabilitation depend on the area of the brain and the amount of tissue damaged. Harm to the right side of the brain may affect movement and sensation on the left side of the body. Damage to brain tissue on the left side may affect movement on the right side, as well as speech and language functions. In addition, people who've had a stroke may have problems with breathing, swallowing, balancing and hearing, and loss of vision and bladder or bowel function.

Every person's stroke recovery is different, depending on what complications a person might have. The goal of stroke rehabilitation is to help the person recover as much independence and functioning as possible. Much of stroke rehabilitation involves relearning lost skills, such as walking or communicating. The speed of recovery depends on the extent of damage to the brain, the intensity and duration of therapy received, as well as personality, coping styles, and motivation.

In Chinese medicine, stroke is caused by a number of factors that tend to play out over a long period of time, and depending on the factors involved, this will determine the type of symptoms experienced during and after a stroke. Chinese medicine distinguishes two general types of stroke: the most severe type attacks the internal organs as well as the energy pathways (meridians) and the milder type attacks only the meridians. Lifestyle factors that put a person at greater risk include long term stress or overwork, excessive or strenuous physical activity, emotional strain, and irregular or poor eating habits.

Acupuncture can be a very helpful therapy during the stroke rehabilitation process. As with other types of therapies, acupuncture tends to have the most positive effect on stroke recovery if treatment is started as early on as possible, ideally within the first 3 to 6 months of the stroke.

Acupuncture treatments can offer the stroke patient improvements in the areas of walking, balance, emotions, quality of life, ease of daily activity, and mobility. Studies show that acupuncture can have an effect on nerve regeneration, blood viscosity and blood pressure, hormone regulation, and aid surviving nerve cells in finding new pathways. Acupuncture is also helpful in the treatment of headache, dizziness and hypertension. Because a stroke is a more complex problem, treating this condition with acupuncture will take a series of treatments in order to improve symptoms and achieve the best results.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease where the body's immune system attacks the body’s myelin, the protective sheath that encases the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, eventually causing deterioration of the nerves themselves. When myelin is damaged, the messages that travel along that nerve may be slowed or blocked, interfering with the communication between the brain and the rest of the body.

It is not yet understand exactly why multiple sclerosis occurs in some people and not other although a combination of factors, ranging from genetics to childhood infections, may play a role. Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world.

Multiple sclerosis can be difficult to diagnose early in the course of the disease, because symptoms often occur in periods of relapse and remission, sometimes disappearing for months. Symptoms vary widely, depending on the amount of damage and the particular nerves that are affected. Symptoms can include dizziness, fatigue, tremors, lack of coordination or unsteady walk, double vision or blurring of vision, tingling or pain in parts of the body, deterioration of vision, electrical jolt sensations that occur with certain head movements, and numbness or weakness in one or more limbs, which typically occurs on one side of the body at a time or the bottom half of the body. Symptoms of multiple sclerosis often are triggered or worsened by an increase in body temperature.

Because there is presently no cure for multiple sclerosis, treatment typically focuses on combating the autoimmune response and managing the symptoms. Western medical treatment mainly consists of medications to manage symptoms, although many disease-modifying treatments are being developed. Some people have such mild symptoms that no treatment is necessary.

In Chinese medicine, a number of factors are considered to contribute to the development of multiple sclerosis, including diet, lifestyle, and constitutional factors that may cause a vulnerability to developing this condition. MS is considered a dampness pattern, meaning that there is an obstruction of the flow of energy through the body’s channels, causing a feeling of heaviness in the legs as well as numbness and tingling. Over time, the blocked energy has an effect on other areas, causing a deficiency in the liver and kidneys that leads to blurred vision, weakness of the legs, dizziness, and vertigo.

Acupuncture cannot cure multiple sclerosis, but it can offer considerable help in alleviating the symptoms and slowing down the progress of the condition. However, the extent to which acupuncture can help depends on when treatment is started- the earlier treatment is started, the better.

If treatment is started in the very early stages, symptoms can be minimized and even eliminated, and the disease progression slowed or halted. Later stages of multiple sclerosis can be more difficult to treat, however acupuncture can still be of benefit in the relief of symptoms, and is an option well worth considering for the management of this condition. One can expect a schedule of 2-3 treatments per week for the first few weeks, going down to once a week as progress is made.

Living with a chronic illness such as MS is a challenge that means managing symptoms and preventing and minimizing flare-ups. Staying healthy, exercising, decreasing stress, avoiding heat, and lots of rest can play a big part in managing the condition and maintaining quality of life. Finding therapies that can help to manage symptoms and keep the body healthy are also important, and acupuncture can play a role in this management.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre’s new location, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis, sometimes called degenerative joint disease, is the most common form of arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when cartilage in the joints wears down over time. The smooth surface of the cartilage becomes rough, causing irritation. Eventually, if the cartilage wears down completely, there may be no cushion left between the bones and the joint may be left with bone rubbing on bone, causing damage to the ends of the bones and the joints to become painful. The disorder can affect any joint in your body, but most commonly affects joints in your hands, hips, knees, neck, and lower back.

Osteoarthritis symptoms often develop slowly and worsen over time. Symptoms of osteoarthritis include joint pain (during or after movement), joint tenderness when palpated, joint stiffness (especially upon awakening or after a period of inactivity), loss of flexibility in the joint, a grating sensation in the joint, and bone spurs (extra bone that may form around the affected joint and feel like hard lumps).

It isn't clear what causes osteoarthritis in most cases. Researchers suspect that a combination of factors may play a role in the condition, including the aging process, joint injury or stress, heredity, muscle weakness, and obesity.

There is no known cure for osteoarthritis, and those suffering from osteoarthritis must look for treatments to relieve pain and manage symptoms. Western medical treatment for osteoarthritis includes pain relievers, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), cortisone shots, and in more severe cases surgery to replace the joint, to fuse the bones in the affected joint, or to realign the affected bones. Physiotherapy, occupational therapists, and braces or shoe inserts may also be recommended, to reduce stress on the joint.

Acupuncture is a useful option to help manage osteoarthritis and help prevent further progression of this condition. Acupuncture sees osteoarthritis as a “bi syndrome”, meaning that it is caused by a blockage that prevents circulation of blood and qi-energy to the joint, leading to pain and stiffness. Over time, the syndrome progresses and the joint deteriorates because of the lack of proper nourishment. Acupuncture focuses on removing the obstruction to the joint and increasing circulation so that the can joint receive proper nourishment. In this way, the symptoms of pain, inflammation, and stiffness can be relieved, and the joint can become stronger and healthier.

This is one of the strengths of acupuncture, especially in the treatment of chronic conditions such as osteoarthritis- acupuncture focuses not only on relieving the symptoms but also on strengthening the body and supporting healing, to address the cause of the problem. In this way, acupuncture can help a person with osteoarthritis not only live symptom-free, but also help them to manage the condition in a healthy way and prevent or slow the progression of the condition.

With osteoarthritis, we should remember that this is a problem that will not go away and a proactive approach is necessary. Having osteoarthritis does not necessarily mean that a person must be resigned to pain and suffering- steps can be taken to minimize or prevent symptoms. The key to living with a condition such as this is to take steps towards healthy management through exercise, lifestyle changes, and therapies which relieve symptoms and help manage the condition. Acupuncture is certainly worth considering as part of this routine.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain can be debilitating to live with and can interfere with all aspects of daily life. Pain is generally considered chronic if it lasts 6 months or more, and chronic pain may remain constant, or it can come and go. The quality of the pain can be tingling, jolting, burning, dull, aching or sharp.

The cause of chronic pain often isn’t well understood. There may be no evidence of disease or damage that points directly to pain. Or pain may remain after the original injury shows every indication of being healed. It can be due to a chronic condition, such as arthritis or fibromyalgia, but often there is still no clear understanding of the physical cause of the pain. Damage to a peripheral or spinal nerve may also lead to chronic pain, where the damaged nerve, not the original injury, is causing the pain. Nerve damage can result from accidents, infections or surgery.

Researchers think chronic pain may be partly caused by sensitization, a process where the nervous system amplifies and distorts pain, resulting in pain that is severe and out of proportion to the disease or original injury. Sensitization may affect all the pain-processing regions of your nervous system, including the sensing, feeling and thinking centers of your brain. When this occurs, chronic pain may be associated with emotional and psychological suffering.

Treatment for chronic pain often means managing the pain through over-the-counter pain relievers, prescription opioids, cortisone, or NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatories). Unfortunately for many, medications often have undesirable side-effects and may offer only limited effectiveness for dealing with the pain. Other treatments may include physiotherapy, massage, chiropractic, counseling, and acupuncture, therapies which aim more at resolving the pain. Often, a combination of approaches is needed to effectively treat this problem.

Acupuncture is an excellent option for chronic pain. Although Western medicine has not yet uncovered the mechanisms of acupuncture, it is clear that acupuncture is very effective for treating all kinds of pain, both acute and chronic. This goes beyond the “placebo effect”, as acupuncture works just as well on animals (who bring no expectation to the treatment table). One of the reasons that acupuncture is good for pain is the way in which it stimulates the production of endorphins, the body’s natural pain relievers.

In addition, acupuncture focuses on correcting imbalances in the body and encouraging normal, healthy functioning of the body’s various systems, which may help the body to correct the sensitization process as described above, or changes or disruptions to the body as a result of injury or illness. In this way, it can help both to manage and relieve the pain in the short term, and help to address the underlying causes of the pain to help to resolve chronic pain over time.

In my practice, I have seen patients with chronic pain respond very positively to acupuncture, with a reduction in pain symptoms and the overall level of pain. As pain diminishes, acupuncture helps open the door for healing, allowing a person to regain aspects of their former lifestyle and quality of life. It is very rewarding to see patients who have lived with debilitating pain on a daily basis for many years begin to see improvements in their pain and to see their pain slowly resolve, as is often the case with acupuncture treatment. Although chronic pain is a complex problem, acupuncture is a treatment option certainly worth considering!

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory disorder that affects the lining of the joints, causing a painful swelling that can eventually lead to bone erosion and joint deformity. This condition is an autoimmune disorder where the immune system mistakenly attacks the body's own tissues.

Rheumatoid arthritis can cause symptoms of joint pain, swelling and tenderness, as well as red and puffy hands, firm bumps of tissue under the skin on the arms (rheumatoid nodules), and morning stiffness that may last throughout the day. It can also affect the whole body with fevers, fatigue, and weight loss.

Rheumatoid arthritis tends to affect the smaller joints first, such as the wrists, hands, ankles and feet, but as the disease progresses, the shoulders, elbows, knees, hips, jaw and neck can also become involved. Symptoms may vary in severity and may come and go. Flare-ups of disease activity alternate with periods of relative remission, during which the swelling, pain, difficulty sleeping and weakness lessen or disappear.

Doctors don’t know what causes rheumatoid arthritis, though it may have a genetic factor that is triggered by environmental factors such as a bacterial or viral infection. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, and treatment involves managing symptoms to prevent flare-ups and further progression of the disease. Western medical treatment may involve medications to reduce joint inflammation, relieve pain and prevent or slow joint damage; physiotherapy to teach better movements to protect the joints; and in severe cases, surgery.

In Chinese medicine, rheumatoid arthritis is considered a “bi syndrome”. “Bi” means obstruction or blockage, and bi syndromes are characterized by an obstruction of qi-energy and blood by wind, cold, dampness, or heat. This causes symptoms of aching, pain, heaviness, numbness, stiffness, redness, and swelling. Bi syndromes usually arise because of an underlying weakness or imbalance in the body that makes us vulnerable to injury or disease.

Bi syndromes that lead to rheumatoid arthritis typically arises from an imbalance of the kidneys, because of their role in the functioning of the bones and marrow, and the spleen, because problems with the spleen can lead to internal dampness in the body, as with joint swelling during a flare-up. The liver is also often involved with rheumatoid arthritis, because liver dysfunction can lead to blockages of qi-energy and shortage of blood, and the liver is also closely tied into the health of the tendons and ligaments.

However, rheumatic arthritis may have different causes depending on the person, and determining the organs involved is done by looking at the specific symptoms for each person. In this way, treatment is tailored to the individual’s symptoms and constitution, to better target the causes and relieve the symptoms.

Acupuncture has a lot to offer those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. It offers a healthy way to manage the symptoms of the condition, helping to reduce pain and inflammation and prevent flare-ups from occurring. Acupuncture improves the body’s healthy functioning, including the immune system. It is also very effective for the relief of pain and inflammation- in the case of rheumatoid arthritis, relieving joint pain and stiffness and helping the joints to function more healthily.

For those who suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, acupuncture offers a safe and healthy option to help manage the condition, prevent further progression, and enjoy life symptom-free.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

Bell’s Palsy

Bell's palsy is a condition where the nerve that controls the facial muscles becomes swollen or compressed, causing sudden facial paralysis or weakness on one side of the face and making it difficult to smile or close the eye on the affected side. Symptoms may include facial droop and difficulty with facial expressions, pain behind or in front of the ear on the affected side, sounds that seem louder on the affected side, headaches, loss of taste, and changes in the amount of tears and saliva the body produces.

The nerve that controls the facial muscles passes through a narrow corridor of bone on its way to the face. With Bell’s palsy, this nerve becomes inflamed and swollen, usually from infection with a virus, and gets pinched in this tight corridor. Pressure from the bone can damage the protective covering of the nerve and interfere with communication between the nerve and the facial muscles, resulting in weakness and paralysis. The most common virus that causes Bell’s palsy is herpes simplex, the virus that causes cold sores. Other viruses that are believed to cause Bell’s palsy are the viruses that cause chicken pox, shingles, flu, and mononeucleosis.

Most people with Bell’s palsy recover fully, with symptoms beginning to improve within a few weeks, and complete recovery within three to six months. A small number of people never fully recover and continue to have some symptoms for life. Western medical treatment may include medications such as corticosteroids or antiviral drugs, exercise and massage, and in very rare cases, surgery to relieve the pressure on the facial nerve. It’s also very important to protect the eye on the affected side, using eye drops and eye salves to prevent the eye from drying out and causing permanent damage.

Chinese medicine (TCM) takes a slightly different approach to Bell’s palsy. After all, there are many of us who suffer from these common viruses such as cold sores, flu, chicken pox, and shingles, but only about 1% of people will experience Bell’s palsy. This is where lifestyle and our natural constitution come into play, two factors which Chinese medicine always considers to be very important to any health condition. Typically, Bell’s palsy can arise when the body is left vulnerable because of what we call a qi-energy deficiency. Our qi-energy is what powers all of our body’s normal functions, and a shortage of qi-energy naturally will have an effect on our body’s ability to function at its optimum health. It is then easier for us to be affected by outside influences or injury. A qi-energy vacuity is a pattern that develops slowly over time, and can be caused by lifestyle factors that deplete the body, such as a diet of incorrect foods, overwork, or chronic stress.

Acupuncture can offer Bell’s palsy sufferers a quicker and more complete recovery. Treatment promotes the flow of qi-energy and blood to relieve the rigidity and paralysis of the facial muscles and to supply them with a sufficient flow of energy and blood for healing. Because Bell’s palsy is seen as an external attack on the body (such as with cold or flu, where something “invades” the body), treatment also works to “drive out” the pathogen, as it would with a virus- which is very much in line with Western medicine thinking as to the causes of Bell’s palsy. In this way, acupuncture can help to diminish the symptoms of Bell’s palsy, as well as strengthen the body for a better recovery and reduced likelihood of re-occurrence.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

 

Whiplash

Whiplash is a common neck injury that often occurs during rear-end automobile collisions, but it can also occur from other activities such as contact sports or amusement park rides. The head suddenly moves backward and then forward, causing tissue damage known as whiplash. These extreme motions push your neck muscles and ligaments beyond their normal range of motion, usually resulting in an acute sprain of the spinal ligaments and joints, most frequently in the C3- C6 vertebrae. Whiplash symptoms can occur immediately after the injury, or may develop only after a few days following the injury.

Whiplash injuries can be mild or severe. Symptoms may include neck pain and stiffness, headaches, pain in the shoulder or between the shoulder blades, dizziness, ringing in the ears, and blurred vision and may even cause difficulty concentrating, memory problems, irritability, sleep disturbances and fatigue. Most people recover from whiplash within 4-6 weeks, but for some people, whiplash injuries become chronic symptoms that can be extremely painful and disabling.

Western medical treatment typically begins with over-the-counter pain relievers and ice applied to the painful neck muscles to reduce swelling. If pain persists, prescription medications, massage therapy, and physiotherapy may be recommended, and possibly cortisone shots in more severe problems.

With whiplash, acupuncture is very helpful in preventing an acute problem from turning into a chronic problem. There are many factors which can contribute weakness or vulnerability in the neck when a trauma such as whiplash is experienced. Firstly, the neck has attributes of both flexibility and strength, two factors that conflict because the required flexibility of the neck has been gained at the expense of some strength, leaving the area naturally somewhat vulnerable.

Also, the neck is the part of the spine most likely to be exposed to wind and cold, both of which can lead to or aggravate pain or problems in the neck. Emotions such as stress and anger may also contribute to neck pain, as it is common for us to hold our tension in the neck and shoulders. Many important meridians pass through the neck on their way to and from the head, so internal imbalances in our body may also show up as symptoms in the neck area. All of these factors contribute to how well our body heals from whiplash, and whether or not this condition leads to a chronic problem.

Acupuncture can help to relieve inflammation and release the stiffness and tension of the neck, relieving the pain of whiplash usually within a few treatments. Additional treatments help to further strengthen the neck, improving circulation of energy and blood to the area, so that the neck is better able to heal the injury and recover fully.

Ice in the first 48 hours will help with the inflammation, but after that acupuncturists typically do not recommend icing, as we see the extreme cold as potentially aggravating to the pain and stiffness. Usually, heat is recommended instead in order to relax the muscles and promote circulation. Massage is also very helpful for neck injuries, particularly chronic disorders and acupuncture and massage complement each other very well.

A series of acupuncture treatments can typically help to resolve whiplash, though the exact number of treatments needed depends on a number of factors including how long the injury has been present as well as a person’s age and overall health. However, acupuncture offers real relief for whiplash sufferers and can help to minimize the neck’s vulnerability to future injury.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

Nausea

Nausea is a common ailment with many different causes, from stomach flu, morning sickness and medications to vertigo, motion sickness, migraines, surgery, cancer treatment, the foods we eat, and GERD, among many others. Morning sickness is a type of nausea commonly experienced during the first trimester of pregnancy. It varies in severity and there is no clear cause, although it is thought to be the result of hormonal changes in the body.

In Western medicine we can treat nausea at home with plenty of rest and sipping small amounts of fluids to stay hydrated, eventually moving to small amounts of bland, easily-digested foods. Of course if there is no real change over a long period of time, other more serious, medical conditions should be considered.

Acupuncture offers great relief for nausea and vomiting with little or no side-effects. There has been a lot of research into the benefits of acupuncture for nausea caused by chemotherapy and radiation, pregnancy and morning sickness, surgery, and HIV, demonstrating its effectiveness for nausea.

Nausea and vomiting are signs that the stomach qi-energy is flowing in the wrong direction. Normally, the action of the stomach is to move food downwards. However, sometimes the stomach energy will begin to flow upwards due to a disorder of the stomach due to stomach vacuity, cold, heat, dampness, or food stagnation in the stomach. Depending on the type of pattern, there may be a variety accompanying symptoms ranging from bloating and loss of appetite to headaches, dizziness, chest pain, and acid reflux.

Acupuncture focuses on harmonizing the stomach energy and promoting the proper flow of qi-energy so that the stomach is functioning properly again. We combine this with correcting any other presenting imbalances such as warming the stomach if there is cold, draining fire for stomach heat, and drying dampness. A series of treatments is typically necessary to resolve nausea or vomiting, although relief can be quite immediate. Indeed, as many studies have shown, acupuncture is in fact very effective for the relief of nausea, whatever the cause.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

Chest Pain

Chest pain is one of the most common reasons people call for emergency medical help. The first thing that crosses our mind with chest pain is that we may be having a heart attack. Fortunately, chest pain doesn't always signal a heart attack and it is often unrelated to any heart problem.

There are many conditions that can cause chest pain, from cardiac causes such as heart attack, angina, and pericarditis, to non-cardiac causes such as heartburn, panic attack, pleurisy, esophageal spasms, sore muscles, injured ribs, or pinched nerves, shingles, and gallbladder or pancreas problems. If your chest pain has been evaluated by your doctor and determined to be non-life-threatening, acupuncture may offer a safe treatment option for addressing this problem.

In Chinese medicine (TCM), chest pain is characterized by a feeling of oppression and pain in the chest, extending to the shoulders. Chest pain is broken down into three broad categories: pain in the chest, pain in the chest with cold limbs, and in severe cases, pain in the chest with bluish colouring of the face, arms, and feet.

Chest pain can be caused by exposure to cold when the body is already weak or vulnerable; poor diet including irregular eating and over-consumption of fats, sweets, dairy food, or cold raw foods; emotional stresses such as worry, overthinking, frustration, anger and depression; and decline in health due to old age. The heart plays a central role in the pathology but the lungs and stomach may also play a role in the development of chest pain. The improper functioning of these organs leads to an obstruction of the flow of blood through the blood vessels, leading to chest pain.

Chinese medicine treatment typically involves two levels: treatment of the root (the underlying cause) and the manifestation (the symptoms). Because Chinese medicine recognizes that every disease has both root and manifestation and because both aspects are important factors in treatment, Chinese medicine has become very effective for not only dealing with symptoms but for also resolving the actual cause of a condition. Depending on the disease or condition an acupuncturist is faced with, we may decide to focus treatment on the root (cause), a combination of the root and the manifestation, or the manifestation (symptoms).

Chest pain is an example of when an acupuncturist will choose to deal with both symptoms and root cause, focusing early stages of treatment on resolving the symptoms. As symptoms improve and resolve, treatment can delve deeper into the causes of the chest pain, in order to strengthen the body, correct imbalances, and improve health. Lifestyle factors are also an important part of treatment and prevention, including regular, moderate exercise, quitting smoking, and avoiding excessive dairy or greasy foods.

Chest pain can be slow to treat with acupuncture, with treatment typically taking several months to resolve the condition, and sometimes longer. However, as is the case with any condition that has developed over many years, there is no instant fix.

With acupuncture, consider that treatment is working to improve health and can play an important role in prevention of more serious conditions developing further down the road. Regardless of how we choose to approach a problem such as chest pain, it is our responsibility to ourselves to make changes to our habits and lifestyle when warning signs arise.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is an overuse injury that affects the area where the tendons of the forearm muscles attach to the bony part of the outside elbow. This causes pain in the outside of the elbow, which can also radiate from the outside of the elbow into the forearm and wrist. There can be pain when you extend your wrist and pain during certain activities such as shaking hands, turning a doorknob, or holding certain objects, such as a coffee cup. The condition can also cause forearm weakness. The pain of tennis elbow is similar to golfer's elbow, but golfer's elbow occurs on the inside, rather than on the outside, of the elbow.

Tennis elbow is caused by repeated contraction of the forearm muscles that are used to straighten and raise the hand and wrist- such as with the backhand stroke when playing tennis. However, there are many other common causes of tennis elbow, including using plumbing tools, playing other racket sports, painting, raking and weaving. The repeated motions and stress to the tissue may result in inflammation or a series of tiny tears in the tendons that attach the forearm muscles to the bone at the outside of the elbow.

Generally, rest is the best medicine for tennis elbow. But tennis elbow that has not been allowed to heal properly can lead to chronic pain. Using your arm too strenuously before it has properly healed can cause further damage or prevent proper healing. Analyzing what motions are causing the problem can help you to change your habits to reduce stress on the elbow. Exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles of the forearm can also help recovery and prevent re-injury.

Acupuncture can be a great option for dealing with tennis elbow and promoting proper healing. In Chinese medicine, almost every musculo-skeletal disorder has some relevant underlying imbalance or contributing lifestyle factor. Understanding a person’s general health gives an acupuncturist insight into the internal imbalances that can contribute to injury. Lifestyle can play a role, whether it be our occupation, the exercise or sports we choose, or our nutrition and diet. Chinese medicine also considers the role of emotion and thought in health, as they can be either the cause or the symptom of an internal balance.

With tennis elbow, and all types of musculo-skeletal injuries, pain occurs when there is stagnation of qi-energy and blood. Acupuncture treatment focuses on removing the blockage and helping the energy and blood to flow again in order to remove pain and resolve the symptoms of an injury such as tennis elbow.

In addition, we look at what underlying factors have influenced health and weakened the elbow or made it vulnerable to injury. These causes can be external (such as exposure to the elements or an external trauma or blow to the area) or internal (caused by an imbalance in the body’s normal functioning due to our genetics or our lifestyle). By also treating these underlying factors, we are actually strengthening the injured area and improving health, with the goal of preventing future reoccurrence.

In this way, acupuncture not only relieves symptoms, but goes further to address the heart of the problem, unlike other treatments such as medications, which serve only to relieve symptoms. Acupuncture shows us that the pain of tennis elbow doesn't have to keep you from enjoying your favorite activities.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

Upper Back Pain

The upper back is a section of 12 vertebrae, where the rib cage connects to the spine. Upper back pain can be a common problem for a few reasons, a lot of which have to do with our lifestyle. Because we spend a lot of time sitting, we can put extra strain on the upper back as well as create postural problems. This, combined with lack of exercise which weakens the muscles in the upper back, can lead to upper back pain. Also, many of us carry tension in the shoulders, neck, and upper back, leading to further pain. The spine is a connected unit, so problems in the neck or lower back can lead to pain in the upper back as well.

The two most common causes of upper back pain are muscular pain and joint disorders. Muscular pain can develop easily in the large upper back muscles, either due to lack of strength, or injury from overuse through sports, work, or repetitive use. Joint dysfunctions can also lead to upper back pain. Because the vertebrae in the upper back are connected both to each other and to the ribs, there is more possibility for problems. Problems can arise where the ribs connect to the vertebrae, such as with a rib fracture or a rib that shifts out of place.

Less common causes of upper back pain include Sheurmann’s disease (adolescent kyphosis) and ankylosing spondylitis. With kyphosis, there is a disturbance in the growth of the thoracic vertebrae in adolescence, leading to misshapen, wedge-shaped vertebrae that cause the spine to be curved forward. Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammation of the spine that results in a progressive ossification or fusing of the spine. Scoliosis, a condition where the spine curves to the side, can also cause upper back pain.

In the treatment of upper back pain, exercise and postural correction are very important. Acupuncture can also help in the healing process, by helping to relieve pain, inflammation, and stiffness and strengthen the area. By looking at what is causing the pain, we can determine how to correct the problem. Is it due to trauma, whether through an injury or over time through poor posture or repetitive stress? Is it due to our external environment such as too much exposure to cold, heat, damp, or wind? Or is it due to an underlying internal imbalance that is weakening the musculo-skeletal tissues?

In understanding what’s at the root of the problem, we can tailor acupuncture treatment in order to resolve it. While working very well for dealing with the pain and inflammation of upper back pain, acupuncture can also help to strengthen the upper back and to correct internal imbalances that may be contributing to weakness or pain or hampering proper healing. Acupuncture reconnects the interrupted energy flow and corrects imbalances so that the body can better go about its healing, making acupuncture an excellent form of treatment for problems of the upper back.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

Leg Pain

Leg pain can occur anywhere from the hip down to the heel, and can come in many forms, such as pain that is constant versus intermittent, pain that develops suddenly versus gradually, or pain that affects the entire leg versus a certain area such as the knee or shin. The quality of the pain can also range, from dull and aching to tingling or sharp and stabbing. Because we rely on our legs to get us around, leg pain can interfere with our daily lives by affecting our ability to walk, put weight on the leg or feel stable standing on our own two feet.

Most often leg pain is caused by damage to a bone, muscle, ligament or tendon. However, leg pain doesn't always originate in your leg, spinal problems or injuries can cause pain to radiate into the leg from the lower back, such as with sciatica. Other conditions can also cause leg pain such as infections; vascular disorders including blood clots or varicose veins; and narrowed arteries that can reduce blood flow to the legs and cause pain with exercise.

In Chinese medicine pain is typically due to an obstruction of the flow of qi (energy) and blood throughout the body’s meridians or channels. Often the reason for this is an invasion of the body by “external evils”: wind, cold, dampness and heat. External evils are basically terms for the various ways that our environment affects our health- a good example of this is during the winter season when we are more prone to catching “cold”. In the case of pain, an external invasion will affect the muscles, bones, tendons and joints, and will present symptoms of either aching pain, heaviness, numbness, lack of mobility, or swelling and redness.

Each type of invasion presents symptoms according to the characteristics of its nature. A wind-pattern will cause leg pain which moves throughout various locations in the leg for short periods of time. Cold-pattern will have symptoms of severe pain in the leg or leg joints in a fixed location, as well as a cold sensation, pain decreasing with application of heat and increasing with exposure to cold, and a lack of mobility in the leg. Dampness-pattern pain will have symptoms of heaviness and aching in the leg or the leg joints, swelling, numbness, pain in a fixed location, and an increase in the pain during rainy or overcast weather. Heat-pattern pain will also have severe pain as with cold-pattern, but will show symptoms of heat, redness and swelling in the area of pain, lack of mobility in the leg and general body symptoms of feverishness, thirst, and irritability.

Because qi-energy and blood circulate through the body to allow it to function properly and to heal when injured, any time the flow is blocked (such as with external invasions), problems inevitably develop. This is especially true when the blockage occurs in an area of the body that we constantly rely on, such as our legs. If we continue to make our regular demands on our legs, over time these demands will deplete and weaken the area, leading to pain, weakness, or injury.

With acupuncture we can remove these blockages to allow full circulation of qi-energy and blood to the legs. By determining the cause of the pain, we can cater treatment to the specific problem of each individual. A person may also have internal imbalances or weaknesses that make him or her particularly prone to a leg injury of some sort. By looking at each person's individual health, we can not only resolve the pain and weakness that is being experienced, but we can also strengthen the body so that it is functioning in better health and less prone to a repeat injury or pain problem in the future.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by a constant dull pain throughout the body accompanied by fatigue and sleep disturbances. Symptoms can vary depending on the weather, stress, physical activity, and even time of day. Generally the pain is widespread and occurs in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, along with especially sore spots called “tender points” on various areas of the body.

Fibromyalgia can be accompanied by many other conditions including chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, headaches, IBS, arthritis, and restless legs syndrome, among others. There is still no clear cause for this condition, though it is believed to be a combination of genetics, stressful events such as car accidents, emotional stress or trauma, repetitive strain on the body, infections and other illnesses- basically everything that drains our immune system.

Fibromyalgia is a complicated condition and Western medicine often finds it difficult to treat. Fortunately, acupuncture has a lot to offer for sufferers of fibromyalgia. Acupuncture is widely known as being very effective for the treatment of pain, a big topic of research studies for years. In addition, sleeping disorders, anxiety, depression, and energy levels all respond well to the influence of acupuncture. Acupuncture acts on the body by normalizing our internal processes, so when a system is not functioning properly- such as our digestion, our sleep, our emotions, our stress, our immunity, our nervous system, etc- acupuncture is able to influence and correct that system to help it to resume it’s normal functioning.

With fibromyalgia, there are a number of patterns in Chinese medicine (TCM) that can contribute. The first is spleen deficiency, which can be responsible for many of the symptoms of fibromyalgia, including fatigue, digestive problems, muscle weakness, and poor thinking. Liver qi/energy stagnation or blockage can also be a factor, causing emotional symptoms and muscle-joint stiffness. Blood deficiency prevents the body from being properly nourished, causing the constant pain typical of fibromyalgia. Kidney deficiency also plays a role, as all chronic muscle-joint pain tends to include the kidneys, and the kidneys are at the foundation of good health.

Acupuncture can help to reduce tender points, relieve body aching and pain, and improve mood, sleep and digestion, as well as many of the other symptoms associated with fibromyalgia. The key to remember with acupuncture is that it is a healing process, rather than an instant fix, so recovery takes time and each treatment builds on the progress of the last, producing a steady and gradual improvement. We must also factor in the complexity of the condition and consider that conditions that are more complex or that have been developing over a longer period of time take more time to reverse and undo.

That being said, fibromyalgia sufferers can typically see pain relief quite early on in treatments, and with continued treatments, notice gradual improvement of the other symptoms as well. For this, acupuncture makes an excellent treatment option for fibromyalgia, one that does not produce negative side effects and in fact improves the body’s overall health while targeting the symptoms.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

Diarrhea

Diarrhea is characterized by loose, watery stools, bloating, and abdominal cramps or pain, as well as more frequent trips to the toilet. Acute diarrhea is something that nearly everyone has likely experienced at one time or another and usually lasts only a couple of days. Chronic diarrhea, however, typically lasts longer and can be a discomfort and disruption to our lives.

Diarrhea can be caused by foods we eat, medications we take, viruses, bacteria, or parasites, surgery, or digestive disorders such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, or ulcerative colitis. Our digestive system takes a lot of stress because in our busy lives we often eat poorly or eat on the go or when we are stressed.

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine (TCM) can help with diarrhea. In Chinese Medicine there are six patterns that can lead to diarrhea. For all of them, the main cause is a disruption in the normal function of the spleen and stomach, which affects our digestion. Acute diarrhea is often brought on by poor diet; external cold, heat, or damp climate or living conditions; or emotional stress. Chronic diarrhea is most often caused by a yang deficiency of both the spleen and kidneys, which in turn impairs the spleen and stomach’s ability to break down food into something useful, and then transport the useful part throughout the body.

The first three types of diarrhea are often acute, causing a sudden onset which will also include other symptoms depending on the cause. A cold-damp pattern of diarrhea will be accompanied by abdominal pain, fever, aversion to cold, stuffy nose, headache, and general aches and pains. Damp-heat pattern diarrhea will be accompanied by abdominal pain, urgency, burning sensation, irritability, and thirst. The third acute pattern is called “retention of food”- this is common when people have eaten poorly or have eaten far too much undigestible food or poor-quality food. This causes diarrhea with abdominal pain, rumbling digestive sounds, fullness in the abdomen, burping, acid reflux, and loss of appetite.

Chronic diarrhea makes up the other three types of patterns. Liver and spleen dysfunction pattern diarrhea will be accompanied by distention and congestion in the chest and rib side, burping, poor appetite, abdominal pain, diarrhea brought on by depressed moods, and frequent irritable or angry moods. Deficiency of the spleen and stomach pattern diarrhea is accompanied by chronic loose stools, frequent bowel movements after eating heavy, oily or greasy foods, loss of appetite, bloating after eating, and fatigue after eating and throughout the day. Kidney and spleen deficiency pattern is due a lack of yang, or warming, energy. The yang energy is what supplies the warmth and the ability to “cook” the food in our stomach as well to transform it into something useful and transport it throughout the body. When this function is impaired due to deficiency, there is early morning diarrhea, a cold sensation in the abdomen with pain and rumbling just before bowel movement, a feeling of always being physically cold, and a sore low-back and knees.

Acupuncture helps to strengthen these weakened organs and resolve imbalances in order to improve the transformation and transportation of food. A real positive of acupuncture is the ability to differentiate the cause of a person’s diarrhea, and so to treat it effectively and fully resolve the problem. With the digestive system functioning properly, diarrhea and other digestive problems are relieved. Also, a strengthened digestive system and healthy functioning means that future digestive upsets are less likely to occur.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

Chronic Cough

A cough is our body’s way of responding to irritants in the throat and airways. A cough that persists for long periods of time is not just frustrating, it can interfere with daily life and ruin a good night’s sleep. Chronic cough can usually be resolved by treating the underlying problem, however the difficulty is in figuring out what exactly is the cause. The most common causes are postnasal drip, asthma, and acid reflux, but it can also be caused by GERD, medications, and respiratory tract conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, or an infection, among other things.

Chinese medicine (TCM) particularly excels at accurate diagnosis, because it is based on a very careful examination and analysis of a person’s overall symptoms. For this reason, it can often find a successful avenue of treatment for mysterious problems that Western medicine finds difficult.

In Chinese medicine, cough is divided into two categories. The first category is due to external causes, which are invasions of the body by environmental causes such as wind-cold, wind-heat, or wind-dryness. The second category is due to internal causes, which are internal dysfunctions of specific organs due to our genetic makeup or our lifestyle choices. These are commonly phlegm-dampness cough, liver-fire cough, and yin-deficiency cough.

The symptoms experienced with the different externally-caused cough are quite similar but there are some distinct differences. A wind-cold cough will have a choking cough, scratchy throat with thin white phlegm, aversion to cold, headache and stuffy runny nose.  A wind-heat cough will have frequent coughing, heavy breathing, sore throat, dry mouth, sticky white phlegm, fever, sweating, aversion to wind, headache, and thirst.  Wind-dryness cough will have a dry cough with very little or no phlegm, or blood in the phlegm, scratchy or sore dry throat, dry nose, dry mouth, stuffy nose, headache, and aversion to cold.

Internally-caused phlegm-dampness is due to a deficiency of the lungs and spleen leading to the excess production of phlegm and dampness. A phlegm-dampness cough commonly occurs in the morning with the spitting up of a great deal of white phlegm. There will also be symptoms of oppression in the chest, fullness and distention of the stomach, nausea, fatigue, poor appetite, and loose stools.

Liver-fire cough is commonly due to emotional stress which causes the liver’s energy to stagnate instead of circulating, and then turn into heat.  This heat/fire then rises up and injures the lungs. Symptoms of a liver-fire cough are a hacking cough, distention and pain throughout the chest and rib-side, flushed complexion, bitter taste in the mouth, dry throat, and an increase of these symptoms with emotional stress.

A yin-deficiency cough is due to the yin aspect of the lungs becoming weak.  This causes a dry hacking cough with no phlegm, or scanty phlegm that is blood tinged.  Other symptoms are gradual hoarseness, dry throat and mouth, afternoon fever, heat in the soles of the hands, feet and chest, night sweats, and weight loss.

Acupuncture can help with chronic cough by looking to these underlying causes to resolve the problem. By seeing the cough as a symptom of a larger pattern of imbalance, we can focus on improving health and correcting imbalances in order to resolve the symptoms. Of course, there are also limits to what acupuncture can do. In the case of cough, it’s also important to speak with your doctor to make sure that it’s not a result of a serious underlying problem such as an infection.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.

Constipation

Constipation is a frequent gastrointestinal problem that can cause a lot of discomfort and put strain on the digestive system. Being constipated means not being able to have regular bowel movements but it can also include having difficulty passing stools, hard stools, or a feeling of blockage or of incomplete passage after a bowel movement. Fortunately, constipation is usually temporary, but chronic constipation can cause further problems or can be a sign of an underlying disorder. A number of factors can cause constipation, including not drinking enough fluids, eating a poor diet or not enough fiber, not enough physical activity, illness, long term use of laxatives, or it can be a result of certain medications or diseases.

In Western medicine, the solution for constipation in most cases is simple and involves eliminating the factors that are causing the problem. In other words, eating lots of dietary fibers (vegetables, fruits, beans, and whole grains), drinking a lot of fluids, getting regular exercise, and taking time for the toilet and not ignoring the urge for a bowel movement. However, in some cases, constipation can be a chronic problem that isn’t easy to resolve in spite of our efforts. This is where acupuncture can help.

In Chinese medicine (TCM), constipation results from a stagnation of internal heat and dryness resulting in a lack of fluids, stagnation of the flow of energy from emotional upsets, deficiency of qi-energy or blood from internal injury, strain, stress or a lack of physical exercise.  Constipation is classified into five categories of imbalance that inhibit the proper function of the large intestine, as well as the spleen, stomach and kidneys.  In order to understand what type of constipation we are dealing with, we look at other symptoms that a person may also be experiencing along with the constipation.

  • Heat constipation will have added symptoms of flushed, red complexion, fever, thirst, dark, scanty urine, halitosis, abdominal distention and sometimes even pain, and elimination every several days.
  • Qi stagnation type will have symptoms of frequent belching, rib distention or pain, reduced food intake, and abdominal distention.
  • Qi deficiency type will show a difficulty in elimination with the desire to go, lack of strength to move the bowels, stools will be neither dry nor soft, shortness of breath, fatigue, spontaneous sweating.
  • Blood deficiency constipation will have other symptoms of dry hard stool, pale complexion, dizziness and vertigo, palpitations, pale lips and nails, pale tongue.
  •  With cold type constipation there will be difficulty eliminating, large quantities of urine, pale complexion, dizziness and vertigo, cold limbs, a preference for heat and aversion to cold, abdominal coldness and pain, and cold achy low back and knees.

It is interesting that Chinese medicine has such specific differentiations for constipation, whereas Western medicine sees all of the different types of constipation as the single same problem. Once again, it is this very specific diagnosis that makes acupuncture so effective. Because we are pinpointing where exactly the problem lies, we really get an understanding of what pattern of imbalance is causing the constipation to occur. From there it is a matter of targeting the imbalance and correcting it in order to restore the body’s normal, healthy functioning. This in turn, helps to resolve not only the problem of constipation and improve digestion, but also help with the various and seemingly unrelated symptoms that tend to go along with the constipation.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.

Anxiety / Generalized Anxiety Disorder

With stress so common in our lives today, more and more people are suffering from anxiety. Ongoing anxiety can interfere with day-to-day activities and relationships and when this happens, it may be diagnosed as Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Anxiety can develop from a combination of stress, personality, gender, and life events such as an illness or past troubles. Those suffering from generalized anxiety experience symptoms such as constant over-thinking and worrying, restlessness, irritability, muscle tension, and fatigue.

Chronic anxiety can also lead to other health problems, such as headaches, insomnia, digestive problems, or teeth grinding. Of course, all of us worry from time to time about finances, family, health, and future, but it becomes a problem for us when we are thinking and worrying constantly or when it prevents us from relaxing or unwinding from our daily stresses.

Western medical treatment for anxiety usually is with medications and/or counseling or therapy.  Lifestyle changes, coping skills and relaxation techniques can also help.

Acupuncture fortunately has a great deal to offer anxiety sufferers. Stress responds very positively to acupuncture, and so do the many stress-related health problems we experience, including chronic anxiety. Acupuncture has a regulating effect on the body- it works by normalizing the body’s internal systems and processes. One of those systems is our autonomic nervous system, which manages our body’s states of arousal (“fight-or-flight”) and relaxation (“rest-and-digest”).

Normally our body fluctuates somewhere between states of arousal/stress and states of calm/relaxation. However, ongoing stressors can leave our body in a state of chronic stress or anxiety, leading to health problems. Acupuncture helps to bring our body back to its calm, relaxed state of healthy functioning.

This is a western perspective of how acupuncture can help with anxiety. However, Chinese medicine (TCM) has its own language for talking about patterns of disease and offers a different perspective. A big difference between Chinese medicine and Western medicine is the way in which disease is viewed- Chinese medicine sees health and disease as a continuum. Anxiety is seen as an imbalance or excess of the emotion “worry”. Worry is a normal emotional state which enables concentration, memorization, and focus, however when worry gets out of balance it leads to constant thinking, brooding, worrying, and anxiety.

Anxiety can be caused by our lifestyle, if we have too many stressors or too often, or we can be prone to it due to a constitutional imbalance or weakness in the spleen, heart, lungs, or a combination of these organs.  Excessive worry causes our qi-energy to get stuck and not flow properly. This, in turn, can injure the organs, causing additional symptoms, depending on the organ(s) affected.

By redirecting the body’s energy flow with acupuncture, we can help the body to correct internal imbalances and treat the cause of anxiety symptoms. Acupuncture also works towards emotional balance, so that we are better able to deal with daily stresses without falling into excessive worry.

Acupuncture is also an excellent complement to therapy or counseling, helping to relieve the physical symptoms of anxiety and calm the emotions while a person works through the behavioural aspects of their anxiety. Making lifestyle changes to reduce stress and to better deal with it can also contribute positively to treatment.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St., downtown Kelowna. He can be reached at www.okanaganacupuncture.com. 

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

The carpal tunnel is a narrow passageway bound by bones and ligaments located on the inside of your wrist. It protects the main nerve to your hand and the tendons that bend your fingers. When there is pressure placed on the nerve, it produces numbness, tingling, pain and over time, loss of strength in the hand, a condition that is known as carpal tunnel syndrome. Pressure on the nerve can stem from anything that reduces the space for it in the carpal tunnel, such as overusing the hand in work, sports and daily activities particularly through repetitive motions, injury to the area, or other health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, certain hormonal disorders, or fluid retention during pregnancy. In many cases, carpal tunnel symptoms may actually be caused by a nerve compression in the neck rather than by a narrowing of the carpal tunnel. Bad posture, for example, can cause compression of the nerves that run down the arm and eventually pass through the carpal tunnel.

In Western medicine, carpal tunnel syndrome is treated with anti-inflammatory drugs or corticosteroids to reduce swelling, with physiotherapy to stretch the ligaments and maintain mobility and muscle strength, with massage for relaxation and – as a last resort – with surgery, to cut the ligament in order to create more space for the confined structures in the carpal tunnel.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there are many different reasons why a person develops symptoms like those of CTS. There are two organs that are commonly involved in many bone and muscle/sinew problems, the kidney and liver. The kidneys are said to produce marrow and control the strength of the bones. Therefore if the kidneys are strong and healthy, the bones will be also, whereas if the kidneys are weak the bones may also be weak and/or brittle. The liver controls the state of the sinews (muscle and tendons), so if the liver is strong and functioning properly, the sinews will be properly lubricated and nourished to have the capacity to contract and relax in a healthy manner.

When a problem arises in a joint, whether due to injury or overuse, the body is normally able to recover and heal the tissues. However, with injuries, what can commonly happen at the initial stage is that the qi-energy and blood get stuck and no longer circulate through the joint properly, causing pain. If the quality of blood is generally poor, which is common in a liver yin deficiency, the injured site will of course take longer to heal or even fail to heal completely, because the blood doesn’t provide the proper nourishment to heal the weakened area. When injury occurs in the case of overuse of a joint, the kidneys and liver are also involved, because the joint may sustain damage if it isn’t receiving a sufficient quality of nourishment and moistening of qi-energy and blood. 

With acupuncture we can reinforce the energy of kidneys and liver in order to strengthen the bones, muscles and tendons to allow them to heal properly and prevent future injury. We can also encourage circulation of the stuck energy and blood in order to break up the blockages in the injured area and promote healing. Acupuncture provides relief from pain and inflammation, but also encourages healing to the area and a healthier state of functioning, so that the carpal tunnel area is more able to withstand injury and sustain health during frequent use.

James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.