Blog

Home/Blog/

Plantar Fasciitis / Foot Pain

Between the heel bone and the toes runs a strong fascia or ligament. It is made of connective tissue and supports the arch of the foot. The foot has two arches, a length arch and a width arch. The length arch is the one most commonly affected by plantar fasciitis. When the arch is round and strong the bones of the foot are in the right position and there is balance in the foot. When the arch flattens, a lot of strain on the bones and surrounding ligaments is created, resulting in pain, which can easily become excruciating, if not treated properly. Plantar fasciitis is one of the most common causes of heel pain.

Athletes, especially those running on hard surfaces, put a lot of strain on their arches and are prone to developing plantar fasciitis. People carrying extra weight and women who are pregnant also put extra stress on the arch, and the bones and ligaments often cannot recover from the continuous strain. Jobs that require much standing and walking can also contribute to plantar fasciitis, as can wearing shoes with inadequate support. In all cases, the fascia gets overstressed and becomes inflamed.

Western medicine treats this condition with rest and ice in the acute stage and later orthotics can be prescribed. Anti-inflammatory drugs can also help. Very important is the strengthening of the intrinsic muscles in the foot, which support the arch. These muscles have to be strong and wearing the wrong shoes can make them weak. In an acute stage, taping the foot to support the arch, in combination with muscle strengthening exercises, is a good approach to this problem. Stretching the plantar fasciia, Achilles tendon, and calf muscles can also help with recovery.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine the sole of the foot is primarily the area of the Kidney meridian. It is where the Kidney meridian begins and finds its way up to the chest. Close to the fascia runs the Bladder meridian, so weakness in the Kidney and Bladder meridians can result in plantar fasciitis among other symptoms. Pain and inflammation in Chinese terms are stagnation of blood and qi-energy in the involved meridians, because of a malfunctioning of the corresponding organs.

Acupuncture treatment will focus on Kidney points, Bladder points, Galbladder points and the so called “ah shi” points, or local pain points. Allowing the foot muscles to rest and recover is also important- this can mean supporting them with properly fitting shoes, taking a break from exercise or training routine, or reducing the amount of time you spend on your feet while recovering. Plantar fasciitis can be difficult to treat simply because we rely on our feet so much during our day-to-day activities, and this creates a major hindrance to the healing process. Acupuncture, together with some rest, can offer relief in foot pain and improved function in a relatively short amount of time. The key to successful treatment is to address the problem early on, and to treat it fully so as to ensure that there are no lingering problems or that the condition does not recur.

Plantar fasciitis is another example of how acupuncture can successfully treat a common ailment, without using medication or surgery, but simply by harnessing the strength and energy that exists within our bodies.

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

Night Sweats – Sleep Hyperhidrosis

Night sweats, or sleep hyperhidrosis, are episodes of excessive night time sweating even when your bedroom isn’t excessively hot. It is a fairly common problem, with many people experiencing them from time to time. Night sweating usually isn’t considered a serious medical concern, however it can be uncomfortable when it occurs regularly or interferes with sleep.

Night sweats can be a side effect of certain medications such as antidepressants, hypoglycemic agents, temperature-regulating medications, or hormone therapy. Many women also experience night sweating during menopause. In some cases, underlying medical conditions can lead to night sweats, such as infections, cancer, nervous system disorders, or problems with the body’s endocrine (hormone-producing) system. It’s always important to get symptoms checked out by your doctor to be sure that they aren’t a sign of something more serious.

For people experiencing night sweats, acupuncture can offer relief. The development of the Chinese medical system occured through astute observation. Their doctors became masters of accurately diagnosing medical conditions based on a very detailed observation of symptoms. With observation, they discovered that groups of symptoms typically occur together, and together these symptoms point towards a specific pattern of imbalance. By determining which imbalance, you can treat the problem effectively to resolve the symptoms.

For this reason, whenever Chinese medicine trained acupuncturists talk about a symptom such as night sweating, or headaches, or pain, we are never simply talking about the symptom by itself. We are talking about all of the other symptoms that may be accompanying the complaint, in order to understand which pattern of imbalance is the true cause. From a Western medical perspective these patterns may all be lumped together as the same condition (such as “headaches” or “insomnia”), whereas in Chinese medicine we may have a number of different types of one condition that are each different because they are each due to a different pattern.

With night sweating, there are a few different patterns of imbalance that can be at work. The most common pattern involved in night sweating is a yin deficiency. Night sweating is commonly seen in people with a yin deficiency combined with internal heat, but can also occur in a heart blood deficiency or a spleen qi deficiency with internal damp accumulation.

So how do these patterns translate into outward symptoms? A deficiency of heart blood would have night sweating along with symptoms of heart palpitations, insomnia, pale complexion, shortness of breath, and fatigue. With yin deficiency with internal heat, night sweats would be frequent with a tendency to feel warmer in the later afternoon, reddening of the cheeks, heat in the chest, and hot hands and feet.  Spleen qi deficiency with damp accumulation would cause night sweats with headaches with a “head full of cotton” feeling, heavy limbs, poor appetite, and slippery or slimy feeling in the mouth.

As you can see, with night sweats there are a number of different situations that can occur. By determining which type of pattern is at the root of the problem, acupuncture can help the body to correct the imbalance and resolve the symptoms- not just the night sweats but accompanying symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, appetite, headaches, or poor sleep. It is simply a matter of redirecting the body’s energy and to encourage the body’s own natural healing processes.

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

Golfer’s Elbow

Golfer's elbow, or medial epicondylitis, is similar to tennis elbow except that it occurs on the inside, rather than the outside, of the elbow. Golfer’s elbow involves pain and inflammation on the inner side of the elbow, where the tendons of the forearm muscles attach to the bony bump on the inside of the elbow. Symptoms include pain and tenderness on the inner side of the elbow (which may spread into the forearm and wrist), stiffness in the elbow, weakness in the hands and wrists, and numbness or tingling in one or more fingers (usually the ring and little fingers). The pain may get worse when swinging a club or racket, squeezing or pitching a ball, shaking hands, turning a doorknob, flexing the wrist towards the forearm, or picking something up with the palm facing down.

Golfer's elbow is caused by damage to the muscles and tendons that control the wrist and fingers. The damage is typically caused by excess or repetitive stress, particularly forceful wrist and finger motions, but it can also be caused by a sudden force or blow to the elbow or wrist. Golfer's elbow is not limited to golfers- many activities can lead to golfer’s elbow including racket sports, throwing sports, weight training, and any activity that uses repetitive wrist, hand or arm movement such as typing, painting, or hammering.

Rest is the best medicine for golfer’s elbow. But golfer’s elbow that has not been allowed to heal properly or using the arm too strenuously before it has properly healed can lead to chronic elbow pain, a limited range or motion, or a lasting, fixed bend in the elbow. 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 golfer’s elbow and promoting proper healing. With golfer’s elbow, 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 an injury such as golfer’s elbow.

In addition, we look at what underlying factors have influenced the body’s health and weakened the elbow or made it vulnerable to injury. In Chinese medicine (TCM), almost every musculo-skeletal disorder also has some relevant underlying imbalance or contributing lifestyle factor, whether it be our occupation, the exercise or sports we choose, our nutrition and diet, or our genes. Understanding a person’s general health gives an acupuncturist insight into the internal imbalances that can further contribute to an injury. 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 of golfer’s elbow, but goes further to address the heart of the problem and promote proper healing, unlike other treatments which may serve only to relieve symptoms. Indeed, acupuncture can help you get back on the course and into the swing of things.

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

Chronic Fatigue

Fatigue is a feeling that most of us have probably experienced at one time or another. Whether from stress, poor eating habits, sleep deprivation, overwork, or even medical treatments, fatigue often has a lot to do with our habits and routines, though it can sometimes be caused by an underlying medical condition. But sometimes in spite of what we do, fatigue can become an ongoing problem. In severe cases, it may be diagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome, a complicated disorder without obvious onset or causes.

Fatigue in Chinese Medicine (TCM) includes both chronic fatigue syndrome, and short-term or ongoing fatigue. Fatigue can be brought on by a number of factors. A hereditary weak constitution is one common cause, particularly in chronic fatigue syndrome.  A person’s constitution is determined by several factors: the parents' constitution, parents' health and parents' age at time of conception, the conditions of pregnancy, and childhood development.  Hereditary weakness can manifest in any of the five “vital” organs- or yin organs as Chinese Medicine calls them, because they are said to store the body’s essence. 

A hereditary weakness in the heart would produce symptoms of nervousness and disturbed sleep in childhood. Lung weakness would show signs of catching colds easily, chest diseases in childhood, thin chest, and a weak voice. Spleen weakness will cause symptoms of weak muscles and physical tiredness in childhood, a poor appetite and digestive problems. Liver weakness will show myopia and headaches in childhood, and infertility and menstrual irregularities in adulthood. The kidneys will show signs of nocturnal enuresis and childhood fears, poor bone development, and in adulthood infertility and premature aging and graying of hair.

Lifestyle factors also contribute to fatigue, particularly overwork and eating habits. Overwork can mean either excessive mental or physical work of long hours with inadequate rest. This is a very common cause of fatigue in western societies, and in many cases rest is the only treatment needed. Physical overexertion is also a factor, which includes overexertion at work, as well as excessive exercising or sports activities. Again, this can become a problem when not allowing the body proper adequate rest.

Improper diet is by far the most common cause of chronic fatigue. Irregular eating habits, eating poor-quality food, rich, greasy, fatty and even sometimes too much cold-raw foods, can all injure the spleen and stomach. With the spleen and stomach being the main organs for the transformation of food into energy and blood, its always important to assess eating habits because our food is what provides our body with fuel- insufficient fuel will result in insufficient energy.

Other important factors that are not too uncommon for chronic fatigue are severe illness, the long-term use of medications (which can stress the body), and childbirth. Childbirth can mean many births in a short period of time, or having a weak constitution going into pregnancy or delivery.

It is important to understand that lifestyle factors combined with our constitutional weaknesses are what create the formula for a condition to develop- this is why some people may develop this condition, whereas others may experience symptoms in other areas of health. All of these factors can develop weakness in one or more of the vital organs: lungs, spleen, kidney, liver and heart.  There can be a deficiency of either qi, blood, yin, or yang of one or more of these organs. Whereas in western medicine, chronic fatigue syndrome is a difficult to understand syndrome with uncertain causes, in Chinese medicine chronic fatigue has well-understood causes, which explain why it may develop in some people and not others. When the cause is clear, treatment is straightforward and effective.

This makes acupuncture is an effective option for people who suffer from fatigue with no relief, as acupuncture can produce positive results. In fact, an increase in energy for people with normally low energy is a common result of acupuncture, even though it may not have been directly targeted in treatment.

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

Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain is pain and discomfort experienced anywhere in your torso between your chest and your pelvis. Abdominal pain may appear as an accompanying symptom to many diseases such as abdominal masses, appendicitis, hernia, and many gynecological disturbances. Unless the pain is servere, abdominal pain is usually not considered a medical emergency. In many cases of abdominal pain, no definitive diagnosis can be made, and is considered benign. In this article we will be discussing uncomplicated abdominal pain which will not include the diseases just mentioned.

In Chinese medicine (TCM), abdominal pain can be caused by a problem with the actual organs contained in the abdomen as well as a disruption in the energetic meridian that passes through the abdomen. There are many factors that can cause these kind of disruptions such as the body retaining either excess heat or cold from our environment, excessive diet and drinking, emotional upset leading to stagnation of energy causing obstruction or lack of nourishment to the meridians, or yang energy deficiency causing again a lack of nourishment as well as obstruction, all of which can result in abdominal pain.

With Chinese medicine it is important to differentiate what type of abdominal pain is being experienced. To do this we look at the symptoms of the abdominal pain to see what they represent. It is important to first differentiate whether it the imbalance is due to heatt, cold, excess or deficiency. Abdominal pain that is aggravated by pressure and occurs after eating usually indicates excess, while abdominal pain relievable by pressure and occurring during hunger usually shows deficiency. If the pain is relieved by heat it means a cold syndrome, while if it were relieved by cold it indicates a heat syndrome. All of these are diagnostic descriptions that help an acupuncturist determine what aspect of the body is experiencing imbalance.

Differentiation also considers whether the pain is caused by qi-energy or blood disorders. A migrating and distending pain indicates stagnation of qi-energy, and a localized stabbing pain indicates blood stasis. In order to identify what organs are involved, we look at where the pain is located. If the abdominal pain radiates to the upper side abdominal region, it usually indicates a disorder of the liver and gallbladder. If it is located around the belly button it indicates a disorder of the spleen, stomach, intestine and bladder. If the pain radiates to the lower back it relates to the kidneys.

All of these indicators help an acupuncturist determine a treatment plan for treating abdominal pain and help identify the underlying cause. By doing so, we are able to address the problem in a way that allows us to resolve the problem, rather than simply relieve or mask symptoms.

Because abdominal pain is an example of a symptom that can have so many different causes depending on the individual, it is a good example of why acupuncture is so effective and how it can cater to each person’s individual health picture in order to best address health problems and improve all-round health.

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

Frequent Urination

Frequent urination can have wide-ranging causes, whether due to a medical condition such as diabetes or a neurological disorder, or from poor kidney function, urinary tract inflammation, bladder infection, or certain medications. In many cases, doctors are unable to exactly identify what’s causing this symptom but nonetheless it can be an uncomfortable and difficult problem to live with.

Frequent or urgent urination in Chinese Medicine (TCM) is most commonly caused by two things. One cause is considered an excess pattern, and the other a deficiency pattern. The excess pattern is that of dampness and heat accumulating in the bladder. Damp-heat can be brought on by a number of reasons, but the biggest reason is poor diet from over-intake of greasy or rich foods, dairy, or hot, spicy foods. Another reason for damp-heat is poor digestion due to a weak spleen and stomach, which can again be caused by poor dietary habits that over time weaken the digestive system.

When dampness accumulates it tends to do so in the lower abdomen where it then stagnates and creates heat or inflammation. If this damp-heat accumulates in the bladder it causes symptoms such as frequent urination with urgency, burning pain on urination, and scanty, yellow, cloudy urine. In Western medicine, this translates into a bladder infection.

The deficiency pattern is due to kidney yang deficiency. The kidneys’ yang energy is responsible for warming and transporting of fluid in the lower abdomen, as well as supplying the bladder with enough energy to contain the urine. Symptoms due to the kidney yang failing to contain urine can include copious clear urine, nighttime urination, lack of warmth in the hands and feet, dizziness, tinnitus and aching low back and knees.

Acupuncture can help strengthen the body to decrease the frequency of urination in many cases. However, in the case of damp-heat in the bladder, stronger treatment is required due to the nature of the problem being an infection, and a visit to your doctor is recommended. In this case acupuncture can be helpful in preventing future bladder infections in people who are prone to them. Acupuncture can help to strengthen a weak spleen and stomach and to clear problems of damp and heat in the bladder that typically lead to bladder infections. This is a good example of how an imbalance in the body can give rise to other health issues, the cause of which may not always be evident.

Acupuncture can be very beneficial in correcting any imbalances in the body that may be impeding optimal health, making acupuncture a very effective treatment method for a wide range of health concerns.

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

Dizziness

Dizziness is one of the most common reasons adults visit their doctors. Although it may seriously interfere with a person’s day-to-day life, it is usually not indicative of a serious or life-threatening condition. Dizziness can be caused by many things such as an ear infection, stroke, migraine, heart problems, or anxiety disorders.

Dizziness in Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a symptom that can range from a very slight dizziness, sometimes only occurring when changing posture, to very severe vertigo with loss of balance as everything around the person seems to be spinning. Also, in Chinese medicine, the term dizziness includes the very common sensation of mugginess and a heavy feeling as if the head was full of cotton, with clouded thinking and an inability to concentrate.

The common factors that may lead to dizziness are emotional strain, overworking the body, and diet. Emotions such as anger, frustration, resentment, and bottled-up animosity affect the liver and over time, cause heat to accumulate in it. This type of dizziness is due to an excess in the body.

Overwork and also sexual taxation, over many years can cause dizziness by slowly weakening the kidneys. Over time the kidneys, our main storehouse and production facilty of energy, fail to create enough energy to nourish the brain, and dizziness occurs. This is considered a deficiency type. 

Diet with an excessive consumption of greasy foods or dairy products or irregular eating habits will weaken the spleen and stomach, creating a damp environment in the body and eventually an accumulation of phlegm. This dampness and phlegm then blocks the body's clear, clean qi-energy from properly circulating to the head, which gives rise to dizziness.

The severity of dizziness can vary according to the cause. For example, if the liver is the cause, the dizziness would be severe, with other symptoms that may include tinnitus, irritability, headache, red face, bitter taste, vertigo, tremors, and loss of balance. If the spleen and stomach are involved, and in an early stage before dampness and phlegm have accumulated, there would be slight dizziness, perhaps accompanying a posture change, fatigue, dull-pale complexion, and poor appetite. When phlegm has accumulated the dizziness would be accompanied with heavy-headedness, difficulty thinking and concentrating (especially in the morning), nausea, poor appetite, and a sticky taste in the mouth.

Treating dizziness with acupuncture involves looking at the underlying pattern that is causing the dizziness, and then targeting this imbalance. The idea is to treat the cause of the symptom to resolve it, treating the underlying condition rather than just the symptoms, and in this way many symptoms can be addressed and overall health is improved.

With Chinese medicine, health is based on the idea that the body is never static- our internal environment is constantly fluctuating as it responds to our external environment. We know this to be true through the study of modern medicine, and the various systems within our body that act to maintain homeostasis, or a stable norm in our body’s functioning. Chinese medicine sees disease as occurring when your body fluctuates too far from its normal healthy state and then becomes stuck in that imbalance, rather than naturally correcting the imbalance as it normally would do.

Acupuncture treatment works with your body to promote homeostasis and healing, influencing things like blood pressure, heart rate, hormones, endorphins, and sympathetic and parasympathetic systems to bring your body back into a healthy- and in this case, "balanced"- functioning state.

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

Heart Palpitations

Heart palpitations are the sensation of rapid, fluttering, or pounding heartbeats. Common causes of heartbeats include anxiety, stress, exercise, caffeine, nicotine, fever, hormonal changes in women (due to pregnancy, menses, or menopause), and certain medications. Heart palpitations may sometimes be a sign of an underlying disorder such as hyperthyroidism or abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia). Heart palpitations are often harmless, although in Chinese medicine they are usually a sign of an underlying imbalance that may lead to potential health problems down the road.

Chinese Medicine (TCM) has determined many causes of palpitations. The symptoms that accompany the palpitations often point to the underlying disease pattern. Here are some of the different patterns which may cause heart palpitations:

  • Prolonged emotional upset such as timidity, fright and excessive anger may cause dysfunction of the liver and kidneys, or cause a disruption in the body’s balance of yin and yang. As a result, the energy of the heart and gallbladder can become weakened and the mind becomes scattered. In this case, the palpitations may be accompanied by restlessness, timidity, insomnia, excessive dreaming, feeble, rapid or slow irregular pulse and emotional unrest such as anxiety, panic, or phobias.
  • Prolonged illness, anxiety and overstrain, or deficiency of blood due to blood loss, can also lead to heart palpitations because they can weaken the functioning of the heart. In this case, the heart palpitations may be accompanied by fatigue, pale complexion, insomnia, poor memory, and dizziness.
  • Prolonged illness, overwork or overstrain, or frequent childbirth can deplete the body and lead to kidney yin deficiency. When kidney yin is deficient, this causes an excess of yang heat or fire which rises up in the body and disturbs the heart and mind, resulting in palpitations. Palpitations in this case may be accompanied by agitation, restlessness, insomnia, dizziness, lower back pain, tinnitus, and sweaty palms and feet.
  • A serious or longstanding disease may consume and weaken yang qi so that the heart and blood vessels are not properly warmed and nourished. Heart palpitations due to deficiency of heart yang would be accompanied by restlessness, shortness of breath, chest distress, pale complexion, and cold limbs. In addition, deficiency of spleen and kidney yang can create fluid that will obstruct heart yang and cause heart palpitations with dizziness, a feeling of fullness in the chest, nausea, salivation, and edema.

Heart palpitations are an example of how Chinese medicine takes into account all symptoms that a person experiences in order to make a very detailed diagnosis. This in turn allows the acupuncturist to make a much more effective and tailored treatment plan. Often a symptom may have very different causes in different people. By understanding the overall pattern of disharmony in each patient, we can not only treat the main complaint of a patient, but the patient will typically also see an improvement in other symptoms and in overall health.

Heart palpitations are also a good illustration of the different approaches of Western medicine versus Chinese medicine. Whereas Western medicine may view heart palpitations as a harmless symptoms, Chinese medicine views this symptom as an important indication of what may be going on beneath the surface of what may look like otherwise good health. Symptoms are a sign of an internal imbalance, which may be the early stages of a more serious health problem down the road, if left unchecked. What makes Chinese medicine and acupuncture such an excellent complement to Western medicine is its ability to detect health problems very early on, and correct them to prevent potentially bigger problems in the future. Through acupuncture, we can bring the body back to balance, resolving symptoms like heart palpitations and enabling the body to function at optimal health.

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

Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder, also known as adhesive capsulitis, is a condition where there is stiffness and pain in the shoulder joint leading to a limited range of motion in the joint. Frozen shoulder usually only affects one shoulder, but some people may eventually develop it in the other shoulder as well. This condition usually develops slowly, over a period of months. The shoulder starts out in the painful stage, where pain occurs with movement and the range of motion begins to become limited. Gradually there is a decrease in pain along with a drastic decrease in the range of motion of the shoulder.

Frozen shoulder can occur after an injury to the shoulder, a surgery or an arm fracture, or it may occur in people with other health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, thyroid problems, and Parkinson’s disease. Frozen shoulder is also more common over the age of 40. With frozen shoulder, the shoulder capsule (the connective tissue in our shoulder joint) becomes inflamed and stiff, which in turn can cause adhesions to develop between the joint’s surfaces and a decrease in the natural lubricating fluids in the joint, all of which contribute to the pain and reduced mobility. At night the shoulder might hurt when sleeping on the painful side and there can be a numbness or tingling in the arm and hand. With the limited use and mobility, strength is lost in the surrounding muscles.

The treatment in Western medicine consists of pain management by using painkillers, muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatory drugs. To regain mobility, physiotherapy or acupuncture may be recommended. A frozen shoulder that isn’t treated well can become a lengthy condition.

What can acupuncture do in these cases? There are several meridians (energy pathways) running over the shoulder or close to the shoulder. When the qi-energy and blood flow in these meridians is obstructed, problems begin to arise. This obstruction can be the result of an underlying problem in one or more of the related organs- in other words, if we have a constitutional weakness in our body due either to genetics or to the accumulated effects of our lifestyle, it can create the conditions for a problem to occur. Because there are many meridians that run over or near the shoulder, internal weaknesses or imbalances can create a weakness in the shoulder, leaving it prone to injury.

An acupuncturist investigates where exactly there is improper functioning within the patient and then will treat the underlying organ problems to get the blood and energy flowing again in the meridians. By increasing circulation and blood flow to the shoulder and reducing inflammation, we can relieve the symptoms of pain and increase mobility in the shoulder, setting the stage for further healing.

The significant difference between Western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is that Western medicine will treat the shoulder mainly locally, while in TCM we will treat the organ-related problems together with the meridians, addressing internal factors that contribute to the health and healing of the shoulder area. In fact we will treat the whole person and their imbalances, stimulating the body to return to its own natural equilibrium. By going to the core of the problem, relief through acupuncture can be long lasting if treated properly.

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

Hyperhidrosis / Excessive Sweating

Sweating is the body’s mechanism to cool itself and in most cases it is a natural and healthy response. But some people suffer from what is called hyperhidrosis- frequent or constant excessive sweating, much more than is needed to maintain a normal body temperature.

Sweating is a normal reaction of the body when it becomes overheated. By sweating, fluids evaporate on the surface of the skin and extract warmth from the body. When this process happens spontaneously, without need, it is called excessive sweating. Usually this happens on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and the underarms, and may also happen on the head or the chest. It usually occurs at least once a week and for no obvious reason. It can be an embarrassing thing in public and makes people nervous and therefore even more prone to sweating.

Sweating is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, a part of the autonomic nervous system. When the sympathetic system is overactive or no longer in balance with its opponent, the parasympathetic system, excessive sweating can be the result.

There are two kinds of excessive sweating: focal hyperhidrosis and generalized hyperhidrosis. Generalized hyperhidrosis affects large areas of the body and happens suddenly. This type of hyperhidrosis is part of an underlying condition such as menopause, hormonal imbalance, low blood sugar, some diseases, or thyroid problems. Treating the underlying condition or adjusting medication often solves this problem. Focal hyperhidrosis is excessive daytime sweating on the palms, soles, and sometimes the armpits, for no apparent reason. The cause of focal hyperhidrosis is unknown and it is not due to any underlying condition. This type of excessive sweating is much more of a mystery to western medicine.

Treatment in Western medicine consists of antiperspirants, iontophoresis (applying electric current on affected areas to block the action of the sweat glands), medications, botox, and in extreme cases, surgery (cutting nerves of the sympathetic nervous system or removing sweat glands). These therapies can sometimes be successful in moderate cases of hyperhidrosis, but are often not the final solution.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) sweating can have many causes. Sweating occurs as a result of internal heat (too much heat in the body), a deficiency of energy failing to contain body fluid, or an internal injury/weakness. A differentiation is made between spontaneous sweating and night sweating. Spontaneous sweating, which is a tendency to sweat in the daytime with no obvious cause, is due to a yang qi-energy deficiency, whereas night sweating, which is sweating at night that ceases upon waking, is most commonly associated with a yin deficiency. There are many areas a person can perspire from, and understanding the nature and location of the sweating can provide more diagnostic details in understanding the cause. Determining this underlying cause is what gives acupuncture its effectiveness in treating conditions and providing relief of symptoms.

According to more modern insights, acupuncture helps balance the sympathetic and parasympathetic functions of the autonomic nerve system, responsible for sweating. It does this by activating certain parts of the brain. Acupuncture influences the body’s internal systems to bring them back to their normal state of being, which is often the way in which acupuncture promotes healing- by correcting a bodily function that is caught in a state of dysfunction.

The advantage of acupuncture over conventional treatment methods is that the therapy is natural, non-aggressive and often very effective. Acupuncture is definitely a valuable alternative in treating this annoying and embarrassing condition and has shown its value many times over in the past.

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

Cervical Spondylosis / Neck Pain

Cervical spondylosis is a neck condition due to age-related wear and tear to the neck vertebrae. There can be soreness, distention, radiating pain or heaviness of the neck, shoulder, arm or head, and even numbness of the fingers. It is usually seen in patients over the age of forty. The cause is commonly due to degeneration of the discs and cervical vertebra which stimulates or oppresses the spinal cord or surrounding nerves in the neck region.

The tender tissues of spinal cord and blood vessels are mostly protected by the bone of the spinal column. As long as we are healthy, everything is fine, but when we get older these bones can start to degenerate and bony protrusions can threaten the soft tissues. Spondylosis means that the actual body of the vertebra starts to wear out and the disc in between becomes flatter and dryer. This can lead to compression of the nerve or closing of the blood vessels.

Symptoms of cervical spondylosis are pain and stiffness in the neck, tingling and numbness in the arms, hands, legs or feet, limited range of motion, dizziness and headache. The pain can be so severe that we can’t think clearly and it can keep us awake at night. The condition can also affect coordination, reflexes and walking.

Exercises, gentle manipulations, traction, massage and warmth applications can be helpful to this condition. Surgery is a last-case option, because of the delicacy of the surrounding tissues.

Acupuncture can be an effective treatment option for this condition also. In Chinese medicine (TCM) we say the cause of this condition is due to kidney deficiency, and qi-energy and blood stagnation. The kidney are said to control the bones and have an influence particularly on the spine. As the kidneys weaken with age, the bones get weak. In some people, the bones get weaker faster and this is a direct cause of a kidney deficiency.

Acupuncture works by stimulating qi-energy and blood circulation in the area of pain and discomfort. We do this by stimulating the meridian pathway associated with the pain, both locally and distally. Of course, it is important to also treat the root cause of this condition, the kidneys, in order to strengthen the neck and spine and prevent the condition from progressing further.

One of the reasons for the pain experienced with cervical spondylosis can be a high level of tension in the surrounding muscles. This is a defensive reaction by the body to protect the neck. But this tension can also maintain the pain. In this case, we must also release the tension gently – not too fast – and acupuncture can help here.

Acupuncture is a very helpful alternative in treating cervical spondylosis and is very effective in reducing the pain. It mobilizes the body’s own reserves and helps to stimulate the body’s natural healing processes. In addition, acupuncture can actually improve the body's healthy functioning, so that the neck is stronger and functioning more healthily and is less prone to pain and further problems. Like many pain conditions, both chronic and acute, acupuncture is an excellent option in the treatment and management of this condition.

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

What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a a distinct and separate medical system and practice from modern Western medicine. TCM is a highly developed professional medicine with a history of more than 2,000 years, making it the oldest, continuously practiced professional medicine in the world. It is used by one quarter of the world's population- and growing! In fact, Chinese medicine has been proven to work so well that the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended TCM for worldwide use.

Whereas modern Western medicine treats diseases, TCM views healing as a process of restoring the harmony and balance of the entire individual. By looking at each individual's particular pattern of imbalance, TCM is able to design a treatment specifically catered to bring the patient back to balance without short or long-term side effects. Because we are all so unique in our constitution and our symptoms, it follows that no two people should necessarily receive the same treatment, even if both have been diagnosed with the same Western disease.This is one of the incredible strengths of TCM, and part of what makes it such an effective complement to Western medicine.

Traditional Chinese Medicine uses a number of different therapies to enact healing. These include acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, dietary therapy, therapeutic massage (tui na), and healing exercises (qi gong).

Pulled Hamstring

I have had a light hamstring pull and a sore leg for 20 years or more, after 8 treatments the leg is feeling better than I can remember.  -Richard, Kelowna, BC

Quit Smoking

I wanted to quit smoking. I feel by coming in and relaxing with acupuncture that it certainly helped keep me honest by having a constant reminder that I am actually quitting smoking and also after many previous attempts at quitting, the acupuncture certainly seemed to completely eliminate any side effects due to quitting.  -Todd, Kelowna, BC

Will my insurance cover acupuncture? What about MSP, ICBC, WCB, DVA?

Acupuncture is very widely accepted and most extended medical plans do cover acupuncture. However, because every policy is different, we recommend you check with your insurer to find out the exact coverage. Most insurance plans do not require a doctor’s referral for acupuncture, however some do so again, check with your plan. We do not bill insurance companies directly, but we will provide you with an insurance receipt that you can submit to your plan for reimbursement.

MSP: MSP covers a portion of acupuncture treatments for those enrolled in the premium assistance program. This means that you are not paying full premiums for BC Medical; eligibility is based on income. If you are on the premium assistance program, MSP will cover a portion of the treatment, up to 10 treatments per calendar year. If you are not on this program but feel you should be, please contact MSP for application information.

ICBC: ICBC may allow acupuncture as part of your treatment program; if you would like to receive acupuncture, please discuss with your claims adjuster to find out more.

WCB: WSIB (WCB) may allow acupuncture as part of your treatment program; if you would like to receive acupuncture, please discuss with your claims adjuster to find out more.

DVA: Department of Veteran's Affairs covers acupuncture for certain conditions. If you would like to receive acupuncture, we will require a doctor's referral for treatment, your K number, and some additional information from you. Please call our office for more information.

5 Questions to ask your insurance company:

There is a 1-800 number on the back of your insurance card. Please call your insurance company to find out if your plan includes acupuncture benefits. Questions to ask:

1. Does your insurance policy cover acupuncture care?yes / no
2. Do you need a referral from a primary care doctor?yes / no
If yes, is your referral for a specific number of visits or specific time limit?yes / no
Does your referral need to be proved by the insurance company first?yes / no
3. Is there a dollar limit per year?
yes / no
If yes, what is the dollar limit?
4. Is there a limit to the number of visits allowed per year?yes / no
If yes, how many are allowed per year? 
5. Does your insurance company cover your conditions?yes / no

 

What is an acupuncture treatment like?

During treatment, the needles will be placed in various points on your body, then you will be left to relax with the needles in place for roughly 30 minutes. We may be using points on the torso, back, legs, or arms so loose, comfortable clothing that can be pulled up to access these areas is best. If removing some articles of clothing for treatment, we have very lightweight paper sheets available for cover if you prefer. Some patients bring clothes that they change into before treatment, such as shorts or a skirt and tank top.

During your first consultation, the practitioner will collect a complete history and detailed evaluation of your condition. The acupuncturist will ask questions relating to many different aspects of your life, not only the condition for which you are seeking treatment. The initial visit usually lasts 1.5 hours including the treatment and filling out forms. Subsequent visits usually last about 1 hour. The initial consultation is included in the first appointment at no extra cost.

It is best to eat a light meal before your appointment so that your body has energy to work with. Sometimes a person who has not eaten will feel lightheaded or weak when receiving an acupuncture treatment. In this case, inform your practitioner immediately and they will take the appropriate actions.

Do not engage in strenuous activity, drink alcohol, smoke excessively, or ingest heavy meals before or after your treatment. This will allow the body to adjust to the effects of the acupuncture.

Acupuncture typically takes a series of treatments to get the best results. 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, your age, and how you respond to acupuncture. Problems that have been around for a long time usually take more treatments to resolve than ones that have come about recently.  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, ranging anywhere from 3-10 treatments.

Treatments are done on a weekly basis, usually twice a week for the first two to three weeks, and once a week thereafter. Once the condition has been controlled and you are symptom-free, the treatments are done less frequently.

What can acupuncture treat? Can it help me with my problem?

Most people think of acupuncture and its effectiveness for the treatment of pain. It is indeed very effective for all types of acute and chronic pain, ranging from injuries to arthritis, back pain, frozen shoulder and more. But acupuncture can also treat almost any condition in the body. It is effective for most internal problems such as migraines, insomnia, digestive problems, PMS and menopause, asthma, and allergies. It can also be very effective with conditions that Western medicine typically has trouble treating- conditions such as fibromyalgia, chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, and much more. For this reason, many people turn to acupuncture because they have tried other forms of treatment with little or no success. At Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, we have seen clients for a wide range of ailments and conditions over the years.

Acupuncture is a great option because it is very safe, has few and minor side-effects, and it aims to actually improve health. It is helping your body to perform better and helping promote your body’s own innate healing ability.

If you are wondering if acupuncture can help with your specific problem or condition, please explore the articles on our website- we have many, many articles on various health concerns and how they can be addressed with acupuncture. You may also call our office and we will be happy to answer any questions, or arrange for you to speak with our acupuncturist.

Click here to explore our acupuncture articles.

What are an acupuncturist’s qualifications?

As a provincially regulated profession, Registered Acupuncturists are required to acquire a strict level of education and practical hours and pass licensing exams in order to legally practice in BC. This ensures that Registered Acupuncturists are knowledgeable and qualified to perform safe and effective acupuncture treatments.

You may find various other health practitioners that perform acupuncture in addition to their other therapies. However, we recommend that, as with anything, if you are seeking acupuncture, to seek a practitioner with the highest level of training: a Registered Acupuncturist.

Registered Acupuncturists undergo by far the most rigorous training in the theory and practice of acupuncture. This ensures that you receive the safest and most effective treatment, and with more complex conditions, that your practitioner is well-trained in the diagnosis and treatment of such problems.

Registered Acupuncturists are licensed and regulated by the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupunturists of British Columbia (CTCMA).

Acupuncture is extremely safe and side-effects are rare when performed by a highly-trained practitioner.

Neck and Shoulder Pain

I had been suffering with a painful neck and shoulder for almost four years following a car accident. Also I was experiencing pain with my hand for a few weeks. Then I went for a few acupuncture treatments and I am happy to report that they have helped me greatly to have me free of pain.

During each treatment I was able to take a short "cat-nap", altogether an enjoyable experience. I must add here that the staff are very caring, and the treatment rooms very comfortable.   -Beatrice, Kelowna, BC

Sports Injuries

I am a local rock climber. I am 50 years old. I come for acupuncture first when I am injured. My body is in top form. I am also a vegetarian. I do not drink or smoke. I am expecting to climb hard into my 60's. Thanks for keeping me well.     -John, Kelowna, BC

Lower Back Pain

I was having severe lower back pain. I saw my medical doctor and was given pain killers. I could only sleep 3 hours at a time, waking up in pain.

I decided to try acupuncture as my father did 40 years ago and the results are way beyond my expectation. My pain is virtually gone and I am again enjoying life to its fullest.  -Ron, Kelowna, BC

Migraines

Migraines are severe, chronic headaches that can cause significant pain for 4 to 72 hours. The frequency with which these headaches occur varies from person to person, from several times a month to much less frequently. A typical migraine attack may include symptoms of moderate to severe pain on one or both sides of the head, head pain with a pulsating or throbbing quality, pain that worsens with physical activity, pain that interferes with regular activities, nausea, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound.

A migraine may be preceded by sensations of “premonition” several hours or a day or so before the migraine actually strikes, such as auras (changes to vision, such as seeing flashes of light, and feelings of pins and needles in an arm or leg), feelings of elation or intense energy, cravings for sweets, thirst, drowsiness, or irritability or depression.

Migraines usually begin in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. Although much about the cause of migraines isn't understood, genetics and environmental factors seem to both play a role. They may be due to changes in the trigeminal nerve, a major nerve in the head or imbalances in brain chemicals such as serotonin (which drops during migraines). Migraines may be more common in people under 40, in women, and in people with a family history of migraines. Stress, certain foods, strong stimuli (such as lights, sounds or smells), disruptions to sleeping patterns, physical exertion, changes in the weather, medications, and hormonal changes can all trigger migraines.

Western medicine treatment for migraines includes medications to help reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. Unfortunately, medications may cause side effects such as abdominal pain or ulcers or rebound headaches, which is when a medication stops being effective for the treatment of headaches and actually becomes the cause of headaches. Lifestyle changes that can help manage migraines include being well-rested and getting enough sleep, meditation or muscle relaxation exercises, and keeping a diary to identify migraine triggers.

From a Chinese medicine (TCM) perspective, migraines can be caused by a combination of inherited constitution and lifestyle factors such as diet and stress, including emotional stress and overwork. Over time these factors can contribute to a pattern of imbalance that leads to migraines. Because there are different causes for migraines, the symptoms that are experienced will differ from person to person, and so will the treatment. An acupuncturist can create a very targeted and effective treatment by catering it to a person’s specific causes.

For migraine sufferers, acupuncture is an option well worth considering, offering both immediate and long-term relief. Initially, acupuncture can help to relieve both the severity and frequency of migraine symptoms. In fact, it is common for people to see relief after a few acupuncture treatments, although more treatments are typically needed to resolve the problem.

As treatments progress and begin to rebalance the body, the frequency of migraine episodes begins to decrease. And long-term relief is possible- many patients reduce or eliminate their need for migraine medication through acupuncture, demonstrating just how effective an option acupuncture can be.

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

Menopause

Menopause is the transitional phase of a woman’s life when menstrual function ceases, which typically spans a 2-5 year period. During this time, hormonal levels in the body are fluctuating, as estrogen and progesterone levels gradually decline and the body responds by producing higher than normal levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). The main symptoms likely to be experienced (with varying degrees of severity) are headaches, tiredness, lethargy, irritability, anxiety, nervousness, depression, insomnia, inability to concentrate, hot flashes, and sweating.

Menopause typically occurs between the ages of 48 and 55, but menopause is a gradual physiological process that really begins with birth, and the cycle of gradual maturation and decline of a woman’s reproductive system. This certainly agrees with theChinese medicine (TCM) view of menopause, in which menopause is not viewed as a syndrome so much as a normal transition in a woman’s life that is influenced greatly by a woman’s lifestyle, emotional stress, experiences, and dietary habits.

There are many characteristics of the modern western lifestyle that can lead to increased menopausal symptoms. Emotional stress is an extremely important cause of menopausal problems, as worry, anxiety and fear all weaken the kidneys and lead to yin deficiency. Considering the increased stress posed on women through work and family in the past 40-50 years, it is not uncommon for many women to deal with ongoing overwork and stress both physical and emotional, all of which contribute to a woman’s experience during menopause. Other impacts of a fast-paced lifestyle can be poor or rushed meals, and not having the time or energy for regular exercise or stress release.

From a Chinese medicine perspective, menopausal symptoms are generally due to a decline of the kidneys as we age, often as either a deficiency of kidney-yin, kidney-yang, or both, each of which will present its own set of symptoms. Sweating in the middle of the night indicates a kidney yin deficiency, whereas sweating in the early morning upon waking indicates a kidney yang deficiency. A kidney yang deficiency will also be accompanied by a feeling of cold, especially in the feet, whereas a kidney yin deficiency will be accompanied by a feeling of heat, particularly in the chest, the palms of the hands, and the soles of the feet.

A kidney yin or yang deficiency pattern may also be combined with other patterns of imbalance, which might involve the liver, a stagnation of qi (energy), deficiency of blood. These imbalances can contribute to other menopausal symptoms: hot flashes, insomnia, irritability, depression, nervousness and anxiety, fatigue, palpitations, nausea, diarrhea and constipation, and stiffness, bloating, cramps and joint pain, among other symptoms.

Acupuncture offers a more natural approach to managing menopausal symptoms. Whereas some types of menopausal treatments may have negative side-effects, acupuncture can help to manage symptoms without any negative impact on health, indeed by bringing the body into a more balanced state of functioning, health can actually be improved. Acupuncture can help to relieve menopausal symptoms to make this transition a much more enjoyable and comfortable time of a woman’s life.

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

Insomnia

Insomnia is one of the most common medical complaints- more than one-third of adults have insomnia at one time or another, while 10-15% suffer from chronic insomnia. With insomnia, a person usually awakes feeling unrefreshed, over-fatigued and has a hard time concentrating during the day. This lack of sleep can sap energy levels and moods, as well as health, work performance, and quality of life. Insomnia can cause daytime fatigue or sleepiness, as well as irritability, depression or anxiety, a loss in concentration and focus on tasks, increased errors or accidents, tension headaches and gastro-intestinal problems. It is a problem that takes a huge toll on a person’s health and well-being.

From a Western medical perspective, insomnia can be caused by stress, anxiety, or depression, medications, caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol, eating too much late in the evening, work schedule, changes in your environment or routine, poor sleep habits, and a variety of underlying medical conditions. Insomnia can also be a result of aging or changes in health or lifestyle. Typical treatment may include making changes to sleeping habits, relaxation techniques, light therapy, behavioural therapy, and in difficult cases, medications.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), insomnia covers a number of different sleep-related problems such as an inability to fall asleep easily, waking up during the night, sleeping restlessly, waking up early in the morning, and dream-disturbed sleep. As with Western medicine, the amount and quality of sleep depend on the state of the mind. Because the organ most closely related to the mind is the heart, this organ is often affected in cases of insomnia. If the heart organ is healthy, the mind will be grounded and sleep will be sound; if the heart is deficient or if it is being affected by other internal pathogenic factors in the body, the mind becomes agitated and sleep is affected.

There are seven major factors that lead to insomnia in Chinese medicine: overexertion and worry, overwork (both mental and physical and working long hours without adequate rest), anger-related emotions (including frustration, resentment, and irritation), constitutional weakness that leads to timid character, irregular diet, childbirth, and internal heat in the body. The most important differentiation for insomnia is whether it is due to an excess or deficiency in the body. Once this differentiation is made, there are a number of different patterns that lead to insomnia. Although there are many different patterns that lead to insomnia, treatment will always have the end goal of calming the mind because it is at the root of insomnia, but how this is achieved varies greatly according to the pattern presented.

It is this very specific diagnosis that makes Chinese medicine so effective for insomnia. Treatment will focus on improving quality of sleep but also accompanying symptoms according to the type of insomnia. Thus acupuncture can treat insomnia that consists of restless sleep combined with nightmares, irritability, headaches and dizziness. But it can also treat insomnia that involves difficulty falling asleep, combined with tiredness, poor appetite, anxiety, poor memory and palpitations. Or it can treat insomnia that involves waking up during the night combined with excessive dreaming, talking or walking in one’s sleep, irritability, sore, dry eyes, dry skin and hair, and dizziness. Each of these is considered insomnia, yet each represents a very different type of insomnia and the way that we approach treatment is also different.

In this way, acupuncture uses the body’s own energy to help it to rebalance and return to its natural rhythm, to correct the underlying cause of insomnia and prevent future problems from re-occurring.

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

Hay Fever / Seasonal Allergies

Hay fever, also called allergic rhinitis or seasonal allergies, is an allergic response to indoor or outdoor airborn allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, or pet dander. This causes cold-like symptoms such as runny nose, congestion, sneezing and sinus pressure. For many people, hay fever is seasonal, worse at certain times of year, especially in the spring, summer or fall. But some people experience hay fever year-round. Hay fever affects about 1 in 5 people and can begin at any age but is most likely to develop in childhood or early adulthood.

Hay fever is due to an over-reactivity of the immune system. The immune system mistakenly identifies a harmless airborne substance as something harmful, and then starts producing allergy-causing antibodies in a process called sensitization. Every time the body comes in contact with the substance after that, these antibodies recognize it and signal the immune system to react, releasing chemicals (such as histamine) that lead to the irritating symptoms of hay fever.

Hay fever can be triggered by either seasonal or year-round (perennial) allergens. Seasonal triggers include tree pollen, grass pollen, weed pollen, and spores from fungi and molds, which can be worse in warm-weather months. Year-round triggers include dust mites, cockroaches, pet dander, or spores from indoor and outdoor fungi and molds. Symptoms of hay fever usually develop immediately after exposure to allergens and often start or worsen at a particular time of year, such as in the spring when they are triggered by tree pollen, grasses, or weeds. People with sensitivities to indoor allergens such as dust mites, cockroaches, mold or pet dander may have year-round symptoms.

Common symptoms include runny nose and nasal congestion, watery or itchy eyes, sneezing, cough, itchy nose, roof of mouth or throat, sinus pressure and facial pain, swollen, blue-colored skin under the eyes (allergic shiners), and decreased sense of smell or taste. More intrusive are symptoms of sleeplessness, fatigue, and irritability. Conventional treatment may involve over-the-counter and/or prescription medications to relieve symptoms. Medications may include nasal or pill-form corticosteroids to treat and prevent the inflammation symptoms, antihistamines for itching, sneezing, and runny nose, decongestants, or medications that have an effect on the immune system.

With Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the lungs, kidney, and immune system often play a role in the cause of hay fever. Hay fever is very often due to a kidney deficiency because the kidneys are responsible for breathing as well as sneezing. The kidneys also play a role in our immune system so when the kidneys are weak, our immunity is affected. In the case of hay fever, this manifests as a hyper-reactive immune response. The more severe the kidney deficiency, the more frequently the allergic reactions are experienced- this includes year-round allergies to allergens such as dust, fungus, or animals.

A kidney deficiency leaves the body susceptible to external environmental invasions, leading to an invasion of wind in the nose, and this is when allergy symptoms begin to occur. Wind-cold pattern will produce symptoms of sneezing, profuse runny nose with white-watery discharge, pale complexion, stuffed nose, slight headache and no thirst. Wind-heat pattern will lead to sneezing, runny nose with white-watery discharge, itchy throat, itchy red eyes, and slight thirst.

During allergy season, frequent acupuncture treatments focus on alleviating the symptoms experienced and often yield a quick response. Patients may notice a decrease in their nose stuffiness, sneezes, and number of itching episodes around the eyes, as well as an increase in overall energy levels. Outside of allergy season, treatments may be less frequent and focus on correcting the underlying imbalance in order to strengthen the body and boost the immune system in order to prevent future allergic reactions from reoccurring. Acupuncture offers effective relief for hay fever, either as an alternative to conventional methods of treatment, or in conjunction with them, and for sufferers of hay fever, is well worth considering.

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

Headaches

Headaches are a common ailment and can make life very difficult. Headaches can have a wide range of causes, but often the causes are not well understood by Western medicine, and in most cases do not have an identifiable underlying physical cause. To make matters worse, headaches can often be a rebound effect of the very medication that people take to relieve them. Medications are usually the standard treatment method, however some chronic daily headaches are resistant to all medications.

Fortunately, acupuncture can offer both immediate as well as long-term relief. In Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), a number of factors are always considered in headaches. These are constitution, emotions, overwork, diet, accidents, childbirth and external pathogenic factors (such as common cold). There are a few ways to diagnose the cause of headaches, one is according to the where the headache is located on the head and which meridian is being affected, another is according to the pain type. 

A headache on the top of the head is part of the liver channel and is commonly due to a liver-blood deficiency; this type of headache gives a dull pain and will usually improve when lying down. A headache on the sides of the head indicates gallbladder channel and is commonly due to too much heat or fire in the liver. This headache will be sharp and/or throbbing.

Headache behind the eyes, a frequent location for migraines, is also due to liver-blood deficiency if the pain is dull, or liver heat if the pain is sharp and severe. The forehead is part of the stomach channel and is either a stomach deficiency if the headache is dull, or stomach heat if it is sharp.

The back of the head is part of the bladder channel and if headaches in this area are chronic, it usually indicates a kidney deficiency manifesting on that channel. An acute headache on the back of the head is most commonly due to exposure to cold weather and usually indicates the beginning stage of a common cold.

If the whole head is affected and the pain is chronic, it is due to a kidney-essence deficiency. The kidney essence is said to nourish the brain, if it is deficient and the brains lack this nourishment there will be a chronic dull headache with a sensation of emptiness.

When diagnosing according to pain type, dull pain means deficiency. A feeling of heaviness is characteristic of dampness or phlegm obstructing the head and preventing proper circulation. A distending headache that is throbbing, bursting, or pulsating is typically due to the liver (liver-heat). Stabbing headaches with a sensation of very intense pain and fixed in one location are due to blood stasis. Stiffness or tension headache is commonly due to overactive heat in the liver if chronic and invasion of cold if acute. 

There are other factors that can be used in understanding headaches such as what aggravates or eliminates the headaches, including time of day, activity/rest, weather, emotions, food, posture, time of month, and if there is relief or more pain with palpation.

Overall, this analysis gives an acupuncturist a very accurate picture of what is causing the headaches, therefore treatment is very targeted and effective. In fact, it is common for people to see relief after one or a few acupuncture treatments, although more treatments are often needed to resolve the problem. And long-term relief is possible- many patients reduce or eliminate their need for headache medication through acupuncture, demonstrating the effectiveness of this safe and natural therapy.

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

Knee Pain

The knee is a complex joint that works much like the hinge of a door, allowing the joint to move backward and forward, but also has the ability to twist and rotate. This makes the knee joints especially vulnerable to damage, which is why they typically sustain more injuries than do other joints.

The knee joint is made up of the thighbone (femur), the two lower leg bones (the tibia and the fibula), and the patella, a bone that slides in a groove on the end of the femur. These bones are held together by four main ligaments, large bands of tissue that connect the bones together and help stabilize the knee joint during motion. Other structures in the knee include tendons (fibrous bands of tissue that connect muscles to bones and allow you to straighten or extend your leg), the meniscus (a C-shaped cartilage that cushions the knee joint), and bursae, (fluid-filled sacs that cushion the knee joint, allowing the ligaments and tendons to slide across it smoothly).

Normally, all of these structures work together smoothly. But injury and disease can disrupt this interplay, resulting in pain, muscle weakness and decreased function. A knee injury can affect any of the bones, cartilage and ligaments that make up the knee joint, as well as the ligaments, tendons, or fluid-filled sacs (bursae) that surround your knee joint.

The symptoms of knee problems can vary widely because of the number of structures involved and the range of injuries and diseases that can cause knee pain. Knee pain can be caused by an injury due to sports or a car accident, an awkward landing from a jump or fall, repetitive stress or overuse of the knee joint, sudden stopping or turning (such as in sports), hyperextension of the knee joint, degeneration of the knee joint from aging, and diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and gout.

Acupuncture can be an effective way to treat knee pain. First we must find out the quality of the pain we are dealing with in order to understand the cause. For example, if we have a feeling of heavy pain we will know that a damp pattern is involved. A damp pattern occurs when the body’s internal functions are disrupted, causing the body to retain excess moisture, kind of like a basement. People with this pattern will notice more predominant pain in damp weather. If the pain is heavy and burning then we have damp-heat, or if it is heavy and cold, we have damp-cold. Sharp pain would mean blood stasis. A common pain for older people is weak, achy knees, which would mean a kidney deficiency.

It is also very important to understand where the pain is located around the knee. There are 6 energetic meridians that travel through the knee. When we understand which meridian is being affected, it can help us to understand which organs are being affected to determine the most important and effective acupuncture points to use.

By understanding what lies behind the pain, we are able to go deeper into the problem to resolve the contributing causes. Acupuncture can be very effective to give the body the stimulation that it needs to resolve these internal imbalances so that healing can occur. It can help to relieve pain, as well as to promote healing and strengthen internal weakness that makes the knee joint vulnerable, making acupuncture a treatment option that is safe, effective, and free from negative side-effects.

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

Anemia

Anemia is a condition where there are not enough red blood cells in the blood to carry oxygen to the tissues. There are many different kinds of anemia, each with its own symptoms. The main symptoms of anemia are tiredness and fatigue. Further symptoms include weakness, pale skin, headaches, numbness or coldness in the arms and legs, problems thinking, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest pain, and dizziness.

Our blood is made of fluid called plasma and cells floating within the plasma. One type of cell in our blood is red blood cells, which carry oxygen from the lungs to the other tissues in the body. Red blood cells do this with hemoglobin, a red protein that gives blood its red color. Hemoglobin not only helps the red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues, it also helps to take carbon dioxide from the tissues to the lungs to be expelled. Anemia is a condition in which either the number of red blood cells is too low, or the number of hemoglobin within the blood cells is to low.

There are different kinds of anemia such as iron deficiency anemia, the most common one, when there is not enough iron for the bone marrow to produce enough hemoglobin, or vitamin-deficiency anemia, for example because of a lack of vitamin B12. Anemia can also be caused by certain chronic diseases like cancer and rheumatoid arthritis, medications, or have genetic causes.

A poor diet, intestinal disorders, menstruation, pregnancy and family history are all factors that increase the chance of developing anemia. Western medical treatment depends on the cause and may involve making diet changes, taking supplements, changing medications, and treating the underlying disease.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) anemia is called blood deficiency. There are several causes that can lead to a blood deficiency such as a situation where there is excessive blood loss and the body is unable to replace it, an insufficiency of the building blocks required to create blood due the spleen and stomach not functioning properly, or blood stasis, which means that the body is unable to generate new blood because of an inability to get rid of old blood which is stuck or sluggish.

Blood deficiency syndromes can also involve one or more of the major organs, adding certain symptoms, specific to each organ:

  • Heart blood deficiency will show symptoms of restlessness, disturbing dreams, insomnia, heart palpitations, forgetfulness, and the lips are likely to be pale.
  • Heart and spleen blood deficiency will show symptoms of difficulty falling asleep, poor memory, feeling tired, palpitations, poor appetite, anxiety, and anorexia.
  • Liver blood deficiency has symptoms of numbness in the extremities, tics, tremors, dizziness, blurred vision, floaters, and dry and withering nails.

With acupuncture we invigorate energy and help the body nourish the blood by stimulating points for the spleen and stomach as well as any other organ that is functioning poorly or is contributing to a blood deficiency. Acupuncture can help to bring back the energy levels, improve memory and concentration, relieve anxiety and stress, and strengthen the body so that it is better able to produce the blood it requires. Of course lifestyle, stress reduction and a good diet are also very important factors for success!

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


Shingles

Shingles (herpes zoster) is a viral infection that causes a painful skin rash with fluid-filled blisters. The rash is usually limited to one side of the body, occuring along the spine and running towards the chest and abdomen, but it can also appear on the head or on the arms and legs on one side. Normally the blisters disappear within a couple of days to weeks, but the pain remains. As long as the fluid-filled blisters are there the disease is contagious.

Shingles causes symptoms of pain, burning, numbness,tingling, and itching. It may also be accompanied by fever and chills, general achiness, headaches, and fatigue.  In severe cases, the skin can be so irritated that it makes wearing clothing or even covering it with a bedsheet very painful, thus interfering with sleep and daily activities.

The same virus that causes chickenpox causes shingles. After a case of chickenpox the virus disappears, but remains dormant in the nervous system of the body and can return years later in periods of stress or fatigue (low resistance). Sometimes shingles can cause a painful complication called post-herpatic neuralgia, where the skin remains painful and sensitive to the touch long after the shingles has cleared up- a condition can last a very long time and with no real solution.

In Western Medicine shingles may be treated with painkillers, tranquilizers and steroids. When diagnosed in an early stage antiviral drugs may bring some relief. There are also vaccines which may help to prevent shingles.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) shingles are caused by a condition called liver fire and damp-heat. The dampness causes the fluids in the blisters and heat causes the redness, burning and itching of the skin. With this internal environment of heat in the liver and damp heat in the spleen, the virus is able to quickly grow and easily penetrate into the blood and move throughout the body. Commonly if there is more dampness there will be more blistering of fluids and will appearing in the lower parts of the body. If heat is predominant there will less fluids, and the blisters will show more redness and severe pain, and lesions can show on the upper part of the body. 

Acupuncture is a very effective tool in the treatment of shingles. An acupuncturist uses points to remove stagnation, which is commonly the cause of heat building up in the liver. This will help clear the blood and cool the heat. We can also use points to strengthen the energy of the spleen, to help dredge the dampness and heat. Treatments can help to reduce the pain and inflammation of the nerves, boost the immune system, and promote healing and a faster, more complete recovery.

With shingles, it is very important not to delay treatment as early treatment can ease pain, speed healing, and reduce the risk of complications, such as postherpetic neuralgia. The longer the onset of shingles, the more damage the virus can do to the nerve roots and the harder it can be to treat it. A very advanced case of shingles can take many more treatments to resolve, as compared to patients with very early stages of shingles who have seen the problem clear up very quickly with acupuncture.

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

Sciatica

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body, running from the spinal cord to the buttock and hip area and down the back of each leg, and about the size of your little finger. Sciatica is a condition where the sciatic nerve is irritated. The most telltale symptom of sciatica is pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve- from the lumbar area to the buttock and down the back of the leg. The pain can be anywhere from a mild ache to a severe sharp or burning pain, numbness or weak muscles along the nerve pathway, and tingling or pins and needles feeling in the toes or foot.

The irritation of the sciatic nerve can be the result of pressure from muscles that are too tense or too short, a bulging disc in the lumbar vertebral column that pushes on the nerve, an inflammation of the nerve, or bad posture or heavy work that involves a lot of lifting and bending over. The pain can be severe and often gets worse while sitting too long, driving, bending over and lifting heavy objects. Sciatica is a widespread injury and about 40% of us will eventually be affected by it in some form. Sciatic pain will sometimes be the sign of a herniated disc and it is certainly wise to pay attention to it in an early stage and get expert advice.

In Western medicine sciatica can be treated by many different health care professionals. The massage therapist will loosen the tension in the muscles of the back and leg, in order to relieve the sciatic nerve, the physiotherapist will give exercises to improve posture and stretch muscles and can apply ultrasound or interferential current. The chiropractor will align the spine in order to relieve pressure on the nerve. The doctor can prescribe painkillers or anti-inflammatories and the surgeon can do surgery to remove the bulging of the disc or contributing problem.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), sciatica is considered to be a lower back problem, an area that is strongly influenced by the bladder and kidney channels. Sciatica can be differentiated into different types, depending on the exact cause. Damp-cold invading the back channels can occur in both acute and chronic cases, causing a dull, heavy, radiating pain that may be worse with cold or dampness. Sciatica due to stagnation of qi-energy and blood in the back area can cause either an acute or chronic condition that is aggravated with the absence of movement. Sciatica due to kidney deficiency will result in a chronic condition because of the fact that weak kidneys are unable to properly nourish the lower back area, making it susceptible to injury and dysfunction. This type of sciatica has a slow, gradual onset and typically will get worse in the evening and with fatigue.

Acupuncture can be extremely effective in the treatment of both acute and chronic back pain, including sciatica, regardless of how long the condition has been present. Sciatica often takes longer to treat than other types of back pain, but acupuncture can produce great results, both in treating the pain and in addressing the underlying weakness that is contributing to a sciatic problem.

Often in cases where there is a stubborn problem that doesn’t seem to respond to treatment, acupuncture can remove the blockages and open the doors for healing. Combined with exercises and postural advice, is a very valuable tool in treating sciatica.

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

Heartburn / GERD

GERD, or gastroesophageal reflux disease, is commonly known as chronic heartburn or acid reflux, because of the burning sensation in the chest and sometimes throat, as well as a sour taste in the mouth, which are tell-tale symptoms. Heartburn is a symptom of a condition in which stomach acid or occasionally bile flows back into the esophagus. This constant backwash or reflux can irritate the lining of the food pipe and cause inflammation, and lead to further problems such as ulcers and constricting of the esophagus.

Many people manage the discomfort of heartburn with over-the-counter remedies, which may offer temporary or only partial relief. For more severe GERD, prescription medications or even surgery may be recommended, and new alternative treatments are being developed.

GERD occurs when the muscle that holds the esophagus closed where it meets the stomach relaxes abnormally or weakens, allowing stomach acid to flow up into the esophagus. GERD can also be caused by anything that puts extra pressure on the stomach and diaphragm, such as a hernia, obesity, or pregnancy. GERD commonly develops in people who have diabetes, and there is also a link between GERD and asthma sufferers.

Certain foods can aggravate GERD such as fatty or spicy foods, chocolate, caffeine, onions, tomato sauce, carbonated beverages, mint, and alcohol. Eating large meals or lying down soon after eating can also aggravate GERD, as can taking certain medications. Smoking may also aggravate GERD. Eating smaller meals, wearing clothes that do not constrict the abdomen, and eliminating heartburn triggers, such as certain foods, can help to reduce this condition.

In Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), GERD is seen as a liver and stomach function disorder. The condition may worsen in the spring, when the liver is most active, or with emotional upset, which aggravates the stomach. Conventional medicine often does not make the connection between the liver and the stomach, and therefore treatment often focuses solely on treating the stomach, which may help alleviate the symptoms but not the root cause. In Chinese medicine, the liver and stomach are very closely related, with the liver helping to regulate the stomach and keep it in balance if it becomes too excessive or unbalanced. If the liver is not functioning properly, it can cause problems in the stomach. One of these problems is the disruption of the flow of stomach energy, which normally moves in a downward direction. When the stomach energy is pushed upwards, acid reflux is the result.

Acupuncture treatment balances the function of the liver and the stomach, so that these organs work in harmony again. To support a healthy balance between the liver and stomach, healthy eating habits are important, as are finding ways to manage stress and emotions. Because the liver is very closely tied to our emotions, prolonged anger, stress, frustration, or emotional upset can cause the liver to become unbalanced and interfere with its ability to do its job properly. Bringing it back into balance will see many symptoms resolving without the need for medications or other interventions. As with many conditions, acupuncture can give positive results to heartburn sufferers, in a gentle and non-invasive way.

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

 

Tinnitus

Tinnitus is a sensation of hearing noise when no external sound is present. It is a ringing, buzzing, clicking, whistling, hissing, or roaring sound that can vary in pitch and can come and go or be present all the time. In many cases the sound can be so severe that it can interfere with a person’s daily activities or even sleep. Tinnitus is not a condition itself but a symptom of an underlying condition such as hearing loss, ear injury, or a circulatory disorder. Tinnitus is a common problem, affecting about 1 in 5 people, and becomes more common as we age. It is a difficult problem to live with and can cause fatigue, stress, sleeping problems, trouble with concentration and memory, and depression, anxiety and irritability

From a Western Medicine perspective, tinnitus can be caused by a number of factors such as loss of hearing (people with different kinds of hearing loss may also have tinnitus); loud noise (too much exposure to loud noise can also cause noise-induced hearing loss or tinnitus); medications (there are hundreds of prescription medications that can cause tinnitus); and other health problems (allergies, tumors, and problems in the heart and blood vessels, jaws, and neck can all cause tinnitus). However, in many cases, an exact cause is never found. Conventional treatment may include hearing aids, medications or a change in medication that may be a suspected cause, masking devices to mask the noise, and treating underlying vascular problems that may be causing the condition.

In Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), there are different syndromes that lead to tinnitus, and the treatment approach will vary depending on which syndrome is identified as the cause. Tinnitus is generally differentiated according to excess or deficiency. Excess conditions can be caused by emotional stress causing heat in liver and gallbladder, leading to sudden onset of tinnitus with sounds of ocean waves or claps of thunder that may increase in severity with anger, stress, or frustration.  Excessive consumption of alcohol and rich foods can cause an excess condition where there is a build-up of heat and phlegm which will lead to tinnitus accompanied by dizziness, heavy headedness, and excess phlegm.

Deficiency syndromes can be a result of a kidney essence deficiency due to poor physical constitution, over work, and extended illness. This condition typically results in tinnitus that is more of a high-pitched buzzing experienced intermittently and worsening at night.  Poor diet and excessive work leads us to another deficiency syndrome causing a weakness in the spleen and stomach. This syndrome causes tinnitus that is most commonly aggravated by overwork, and there can also be a sensation of emptiness and coolness within the ears.  A person with spleen and stomach deficiency will also experience fatigue, poor appetite, and loose stools.

Tinnitus can be difficult to treat with acupuncture but it is an alternative worth considering, particularly for those who have had limited success with other treatments. Acupuncture seeks to address the underlying condition in order to resolve the problem. With excess conditions, the idea is to drain the energy from the area of excess so that it is more evenly dispersed throughout the body, whereas with deficiency conditions, acupuncture focuses on bringing energy to the area to build and strengthen a weak spot.

As with many complaints, treatment may often yield improvement in other seemingly-unrelated health symptoms within the body as well, because Chinese medicine tends to diagnose and treat groupings of symptoms that are typically seen together, rather than isolated symptoms. In fact, acupuncture can help us to better ‘tune in’ to our own bodies and become more aware of the various symptoms that may point towards an imbalance within the body, helping us to correct these imbalances early on before they lead to bigger health issues down the road.

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

Cataracts / Vision Problems

The eye is the special sensory organ which in Chinese Medicine is directly connected to the liver. The eyes require nourishment from the liver in order to see properly- if the liver is unable to do its job properly there can be blurred vision, floaters, colour blindness, dryness, soreness, itchiness, and other eye disorders. If problems continue uncorrected over time, they can develop into cataracts, or a clouding of the lens of the eye.

Symptoms of cataracts include clouded, blurred, or dim vision, loss of night vision, sensitivity to light and glare, halos around lights, fading or yellowing of colours, double vision in one eye, a need for brighter light when reading or doing other activities, and frequent changes in eye prescriptions. Eye surgery is now a very standard and safe procedure for cataract removal, however acupuncture is a gentle and safe treatment option that can offer help to cataracts and eye disorders, especially in the early stages.

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, cataracts most often are a result of one of three constitutional patterns. Although a cataract may not have developed, these patterns can eventually lead to cataracts of the eyes. An acupuncturist determines the underlying pattern according to the symptoms that the individual is experiencing.

The first pattern of cataracts develops from a weakness in the liver and kidneys. The liver relies on the kidneys for nourishment, and if the liver is healthy, the eyes will have good quality and clarity of the vision, whereas if the kidneys and liver are weak, vision will be unclear. People with this pattern may also have symptoms of dizziness, tinnitus (ringing in ears), weak and aching low back, and weak knees, along with unclear vision.

The second pattern of cataracts develops from a weakness in the spleen. The spleen has a function of transporting extracted nutrients from our food throughout our body, particularly in an upward direction, and when this organ loses its ability to do its job, the eyes lose their nourishment. People with this pattern have symptoms such as blurred vision, tiredness, fatigue, sallow complexion, poor appetite, and loose stools. 

The third pattern develops from an excess of heat in the liver itself. This pattern can develop in many ways such as through an existing yin deficiency, blood deficiency, or even an emotional problem. With a build up of heat in the liver, people will have symptoms of headache, discomfort of the eyes, blurred vision, excessive secretion of mucus and tears from the eyes, bitter taste in the mouth, and even a dry throat.

All of these patterns of visual impairment can be helped through Chinese medicine by correcting the imbalance through acupuncture and lifestyle changes. In order to have great results with this problem, it’s always good to recognize any vision problems early on before the problems fully develop. I always tell people, regardless of their condition, that prevention is the best treatment for any disease. Risk factors for cataracts are age, diabetes, family history, previous eye injury, surgery or inflammation, prolonged use of cortical steroids, excessive exposure to sunlight, and smoking, so schedule eye check-ups regularly, especially if you fall into a higher risk category.

Acupuncture can help to strengthen eyes which are prone to vision problems, helping to correct or diminish problems and helping to prevent further problems down the road. However, if a problem has already developed, acupuncture can offer some support in slowing the speed of progression of this condition. Acupuncture is in fact a friendly, harmless and effective way of treating many different conditions as well as for maintaining health, and can also be safely combined with a patient’s other treatment methods to improve results.

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

Hair Loss / Alopecia

Hair loss and balding, or alopecia, typically refers to excessive hair loss from the scalp and can be experienced by men, women, and children of any age. There are many types of hair loss and balding, however the focus of this article is health-related hair loss rather than genetic hair loss such as receding hair line and baldness.

Health-related hair loss may include patch balding, sudden hair loss, or gradual hair thinning over time. Patch balding is a condition where hair loss occurs in patches the size of a coin, often occurring repeatedly, followed by hair regrowth. Sudden hair loss is a condition occurs when hair comes out in large tufts from all over the scalp, typically following a sudden emotional or physical shock to the system which disrupts the normal cycle of hair growth. Another type of hair loss is a gradual thinning of hair that occurs over a long period of time. These types of hair loss are caused by a disruption in the growth and resting cycles of hair growth. Certain factors can disrupt this natural cycle, leading to hair loss that lasts for a period of time. In Western medicine, hair loss is considered incurable, and treatments focus on promoting hair growth or hiding hair loss.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), hair loss is typically related to the blood, where there is poor blood quality and/or poor blood and energy circulation to the scalp. As we know, our blood circulates throughout our body delivering nutrients and oxygen; if the blood is not providing adequate supplies, cells will be undernourished, resulting in reduced functioning. Blood deficiency may arise from poor diet, stress, emotional upsets (including worry, anxiety, depression), excessive use of drugs, the aging process, and debilitating disease. This type of blood deficiency typically also occurs with a kidney deficiency and problems with circulation in the liver. The kidney and liver contribute to blood deficiency for two reasons: when the body experiences stressors over time, the liver can become blocked and have problems circulating energy and blood, and because the health of our hair is very closely tied to the health of our kidneys, any disruption or imbalance in the kidneys can lead to hair problems including graying, thinning, or balding. 

Acupuncture treatment for health-related hair loss focuses on improving blood circulation to the scalp to ensure that nutrients are being properly transported, and on improving the blood quality. This may be done by strengthening the kidneys and removing blockages in the liver, or by focusing on strengthening blood directly and improving blood and energy flow throughout the body. This helps to improve blood circulation to the scalp, as well as to improve the quality and nourishment of the blood. By doing so we improve the scalp’s ability to regrow and to nourish the hair. Eating a healthy, nutritional diet can also help to improve the condition.

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

Eczema

Eczema is an itchy eruption of the skin that is usually more common in children but can appear in adulthood. Eczema symptoms include discoloured patches of skin, itching which may be worse at night and can be quite severe, small, raised bumps that may leak fluid and crust over when scratched, and thickened, cracked, or scaly skin. Patches most often occur on hands, wrists, arms, feet, ankles, face, neck and upper chest, and behind the knees. Eczema typically flares up for a period of time and then subsides, often becoming a chronic condition.

The cause of eczema is unknown, though it is considered an immune system dysfunction that is aggravated by environmental factors and dry, irritated skin. Eczema frequently occurs with allergies and quite often runs in the family. Three out of four children who experience eczema later develop asthma or hay fever.

Eczema can be a very uncomfortable condition to live with and can cause additional problems, such as scarring and skin discolorations and can leave a person more vulnerable to skin and eye infections. Treatment for eczema may include anti-itch creams and medications such as corticosteroids and antihistamines to reduce inflammation, relieve itching, and prevent future flare ups. Light therapy is another option, which involves exposing the skin to controlled amounts of natural sunlight, or to artificial ultraviolet A or B light.

Prevention and lifestyle are a large part of managing eczema and focus on avoiding dry skin and skin irritants such as avoiding long, hot baths or showers, bathing less frequently, using gentle, mild soaps and cleaners, moisturizing skin, using a humidifier, and avoiding clothing that is rough, tight, scratchy, or woolen. It is also helpful to identify and avoid triggers, such as sudden changes in temperature, sweating, dust, sand, or cigarette smoke, or certain cleaning or body products. Stress and other emotional upsets can trigger or worsen eczema, so finding ways to manage stress is also helpful.

Acupuncture can offer another alternative to treating eczema, because of the different approach that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) brings to healing. Chinese medicine views eczema as an expression of a deeper imbalance in the body, and the idea is to correct the internal imbalance so that the condition will resolve. Eczema is most often caused by internal damp heat, however in chronic cases there may also be blood deficiency, which creates an environment of dryness in the body and an inability to nourish the skin. In a damp heat condition, if the heat is more predominant a person may also notice abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea, and dark, scanty urine, whereas if damp is more predominant, the eczema may be more weepy, and accompanied by fatigue, loss of appetite, loose stools and copious, clear urine. If blood deficiency is involved, it tends to be in chronic eczema conditions and may be accompanied by weak limbs, lower back ache, fatigue, dizziness, vertigo, pale, lusterless complexion, and problems sleeping. 

Eczema can be difficult to treat but acupuncture can help. Treatment can help to reduce itching and to reduce the severity and length of time of eczema flare ups, and lessen the hot and dry condition of the skin which aggravates eczema. When treating eczema, people usually also find an improvement in the accompanying symptoms such as lower back pain, sleeping problems, and low energy, a sign of the underlying imbalance being corrected. By improving the overall health of the body and dealing with the contributing factors, acupuncture can offer positive results for eczema sufferers.

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

High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the force of the flowing blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when the blood pressure rises and stays high over a period of time, causing damage to blood vessel walls. Hypertension is a dangerous condition because it often shows no symptoms, which means that a person can have it for many years before realizing it. If left uncontrolled, hypertension can lead to serious health problems including heart attack, stroke, brain damage, kidney damage, and blindness.

There are two types of hypertension, classified according to their cause. Primary or essential hypertension has no identifiable cause, and tends to develop gradually over many years. Secondary hypertension tends to develop more suddenly and is the result of another condition, most commonly kidney or thyroid disease, or is a result of taking certain medications. There are many factors that increase the risk of hypertension, some of which we can’t control, such as genetics, age, and race, and some of which we can control, such as long-term stress, obesity, smoking, high-salt diet, alcohol abuse and a sedentary life style.

Because diet, stress, and lifestyle play such important roles in the development of hypertension, they are key factors in managing and preventing it. Diet is an important factor, and lowering salt intake, eating less packaged and fast foods (which are high in sodium and fat), and eating fruits and vegetables regularly will all have a positive effect on blood pressure. Cutting back or cutting out smoking and excessive alcohol intake will also reduce blood pressure. Physical activity is a necessity in fighting hypertension; this can be as simple as a half hour walk every day. Managing stress and taking time to relax is also important because constant stress and emotional instability can cause blood vessels to contract.

In Western medicine the treatment of high blood pressure depends on the severity of it. Mild hypertension can be treated with lifestyle changes and relaxation. More severe cases require medication. Unfortunately, there is no real cure for hypertension, which means a patient usually has to take medication for life, and may also be dealing with side-effects for life.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) hypertension is also the result of emotional imbalance, poor nutrition and stress but in TCM there is a different view of hypertension.  Western medicine approach considers hypertension to be a disease of the cardiovascular system. TCM takes into account the dysfunction of the whole body, which commonly involves the improper functioning of the liver and kidneys that may affect the function of heart. Emotional problems and stress may lead to improper liver functioning, whereas poor nutrition will have an effect on the stomach and spleen. High blood pressure and the symptoms are seen as the superficial aspect of the deeper underlying health condition, so treatment is not just to eliminate or alleviate the symptoms, but to treat the underlying cause, and to prevent further progression of other illness or disease associated by the disorder.

Acupuncture is used to help correct the improper function of the underlying problems in the body by returning them to their normal state. A German study in 2007 showed that acupuncture can indeed lower blood pressure, making it a safe and effective option for managing high blood pressure. Combined with the necessary lifestyle changes, acupuncture can help get the condition under control and can help to manage the condition without side effects, offering an alternative treatment for those who are looking for a more natural way to treat high blood pressure.

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

Teeth Grinding / Bruxism

Teeth grinding is a condition of clenching, grinding, or gnashing the teeth either unconsciously during the day, or at night while sleeping. The medical term for teeth grinding is bruxism, and nighttime teeth grinding is called sleep bruxism. Bruxism, if severe enough, can cause headaches, tooth damage and jaw problems or disorders, but it may often go undiagnosed, especially with sleep bruxism.

Symptoms of bruxism are grinding or clenching teeth, worn, flattened, chipped, or overly sensitive teeth, tight jaw or jaw pain, earache because of a tight jaw, disrupted sleep, neck and shoulder tension, or headaches. Conventional medicine doesn’t entirely understand the causes of teeth grinding, however adult teeth grinding is linked to certain behaviours including anxiety, stress, or tension, suppressed anger or frustration, or aggressive, competitive or hyperactive personalities. Other causes may be poor alignment of upper and lower teeth or the body’s natural sleep cycles. In some cases, bruxism can be a result of another disease, such as Parkinson’s or Huntington diseases. In children, teeth grinding may be due to the growth and development of teeth and jaws, and is usually outgrown by adolescence.

There isn’t much that medical treatment can do to resolve teeth grinding- medications are largely ineffective but muscle relaxants may be prescribed or your doctor may consider changing one of your medications if teeth grinding is a side effect. A mouth guard may also be fitted to protect teeth while sleeping, or your dentist may correct misaligned teeth, however this may not stop the grinding. The best solutions seem to be lifestyle and behavioural changes, including reducing stress and learning to manage stress better through relaxation and exercise, and practicing an awareness of proper jaw and mouth position, with the tongue on the roof of the mouth, jaw relaxed, the teeth slightly parted, and the mouth closed.

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, teeth grinding can be treated quite effectively with acupuncture. There are five main patterns commonly seen in this disorder. Out of these, four are considered excessive conditions where one or two organs are functioning at an excessive or hyperactive rate, commonly the heart, stomach, and liver.  Excess types of bruxism are typically seen in people with stress, anxiety, tension, anger and frustration, and hyperactivity or competitiveness because the hyperactive state of these organs leaves the mind and body in a restless or agitated state.

Another excess pattern is caused largely by poor diet that weakens the digestion and causes food stagnation in the digestive system, leading to the inability for a proper restful sleep, and symptoms such as feeling of oppression in the chest and stomach, no desire to think of food, diarrhea or constipation, abdominal pain, and nighttime bruxism.

The final cause of bruxism from a TCM perspective is a deficient condition of blood and qi-energy weakness.  The symptoms common in this pattern are pale complexion, dizziness, vertigo, heart palpitations, pale lips and nails and disinclination to sleep.  The main differentiation in this pattern is that the teeth grinding would be rather quiet, low, dull sounding, rather than rougher and louder sounding in the excess patterns. Factors that may lead to bruxism are poor diet, weak digestive system, or age.

Acupuncture improves bruxism by correcting the functioning of the organs that are excessive or deficient.  Points are selected along the energetic trajectory (meridian) of the organ in imbalance.  The points can be located on the trunk, limbs, and/or face.  However, points don’t have to be done on the face or jaw just because this is the area of the symptoms, although local points may be used to relieve muscle tension and pain.  They key to acupuncture and Chinese Medicine and its effectiveness is focusing on not only the symptoms, but the cause.  Some simple changes to diet and lifestyle habits are also easy, effective ways to increase the results of acupuncture.

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

Sinusitis

Sinusitis is an acute or chronic inflammation of the mucus membranes that line the sinus cavities, causing the sinus membranes to secrete excessive mucus. Acute sinusitis is usually caused by a bacterial infection following an upper respiratory viral infection or an attack of allergic rhinitis (seasonal allergies). Acute sinusitis may also be caused by allergies, pressure or temperature changes, and airborne irritants such as smoke or dust. Chronic sinusitis can be due to incomplete treatment of acute sinusitis or repeated attacks of acute sinusitis.

Western medical diagnosis and treatment for sinusitis is based on signs, symptoms and history. As far as treatment goes, antibiotics are the main method for both acute and chronic sinusitis. Antibiotics are often effective in relieving the symptoms of bacterial-caused sinusitis but may have no effect on conditions caused by allergies or environmental irritants. After symptoms have disappeared due to antibiotic treatment, people often have reoccurrences, which then become a chronic sinusitis condition. Antibiotics are then repeatedly prescribed, which may offer some relief but not fully resolve the condition.

Other medications that may be used to treat sinusitis are antihistamines and saline solution washes, and cortical steroid sprays. These treatments reduce inflammation and open the sinuses, allowing for better drainage and offering relief from symptoms again without resolving the condition.

Chinese Medicine categorizes both acute and chronic sinusitis as similar diseases. In both cases sinusitis begins with the body having a damp environment, and this condition causes the body’s immune system to be weak. The weakened immune system opens the door for an invasion of cold or heat to penetrate the body’s defense and lodge in the nasal passages. This now becomes what is called a damp heat condition which produces thick phlegm and other common symptoms of sinusitis. A damp condition with heat creates an environment that quite often leads to a bacterial infection, further contributing to the symptoms. Overwork, illness, or weakness in the body, overuse of antibiotics, or poor diet may also aggravate the condition causing more dampness and a weaker immune system.

Treatment mainly involves resolving a damp-phlegm condition. There are a few reasons why there may be dampness in the body such as a weakness of the spleen, stagnation of liver, kidney weakness, lung weakness, or a combination of a few. To effectively treat the condition, it is important to determine the underlying cause in order to address both the body’s ability to transform and transport fluids properly, as well as strengthen the body according to the underlying weakness. Many times people don’t realize that they are eating the wrong foods for their constitution and that their diet is causing a lot of the problem. A treatment that combines acupuncture and simple diet changes usually produces great results, as the combination can greatly increase the therapeutic effect of the acupuncture treatment.

The treatment of sinusitis with acupuncture is an excellent example of how Chinese medicine and Western medicine can complement each other, using the particular strengths of each system for the best solution to a health problem. In the case of sinusitis, Western medicine can be effective for treating acute sinusitis due to bacterial infection, whereas Chinese medicine can be used together with Western medicine for bacterial-related sinusitis and is better suited to the treatment of chronic conditions or those conditions that have other causes. In combining these systems, we can draw upon their unique strengths to effectively resolve many health conditions and bring the body back into a healthy, balanced state.

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

Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is a common complaint that we see often at our clinic. It is most commonly attributed to chronic ligament strain, spinal degeneration or osteoarthritis, or a prolapsed lumbar disc, problems that can be aggravated by a modern lifestyle that may involve a lot of sitting, or heavy strain from physical work or exercise.

Treatment often can include pain medication, chiropractic to realign the vertebrae, massage therapy to relax the muscles, and physiotherapy to correct posture and strengthen the muscles. Surgery may also be considered in severe cases.

Acupuncture can thankfully give very positive results to lower back pain sufferers, in part because Chinese medicine brings quite a different approach to the treatment of lower back pain, and one that is very effective. Back pain in Chinese medicine can be due to a number of factors that either make the back more susceptible to pain or lead to the pain itself, the most common being a weakness of the kidneys, causing a lack of nourishment of the lower back and spine.

The kidneys have a strong influence on the strength and nourishment of the tissue and bones of the lower back area so we always look at the strength of the kidneys when treating back pain, and what may be causing a kidney weakness. It is common for back pain to have a number of causes which create different kinds of pain. The type of pain that is experienced often tells the acupuncturist the underlying cause of the pain and helps point towards the proper diagnosis for treatment.

Invasion of cold and/or damp in the low back area can be a factor. It is usually due to the lower back being exposed during cold and damp weather, which allows the cold and dampness to invade and block the flow of energy and blood circulation.  This type of low back pain usually produces pain that is worse in the morning, better with exercise, better with heat, and worse when weather is cold and damp. 

Back pain due to stagnation of qi-energy and blood is usually caused by an acute sprain or, in chronic conditions, repeated sprain and underlying kidney weakness. Excessive physical work and over-lifting can often lead to this type of pain. Back pain due to qi-energy and blood stagnation is characterized by pain that is severe and stabbing, which gets worse with rest and better with light exercise. The area will be tender to the touch and there will be stiffness of the back muscles and inability to flex, extend or turn the waist.

Because the kidneys have an important function in the creation of energy, general overwork can also lead to chronic pain due to the constant drain on the kidneys’ energy, leading to an overall kidney weakness. Chronic back pain due to kidney weakness is usually dull and comes in bouts. It is better with rest and worse when a person is tired. This type of weakness creates a further vulnerability for an invasion of cold and damp or sprains. 

These are just a few examples of how Chinese Medicine diagnoses lower back pain. Acupuncture is then used to remove blockage in the lower back area which cause pain and weakness, and to stimulate and strengthen weak and depleted kidneys to aid their function of nourishing the tissues of the lower back. Treatment targets many internal factors, the goal being not only to alleviate the pain, but also to effectively resolve chronic conditions and strengthen the body to prevent future pain from arising.

Lower back pain is a common ailment that I see in my practice, and it generally responds very positively to acupuncture, whether it is a recent problem or a chronic problem. A person will usually first notice a reduction in the pain within a few acupuncture treatments, followed by an overall improvement of health, strength, and mobility in the lower back. With additional treatments, many cases of lower back pain can be resolved, allowing a person to resume their former lifestyle free of pain and negative symptoms.

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

Is acupuncture good for children?

We often get the question, "Is acupuncture safe for children?" When parents experience how well acupuncture can benefit their own condition, they wonder whether it might be an option for their child. And parents today are looking for safer alternatives to medications for conditions like asthma, allergies, insomnia, digestive ailments, anxiety, skin conditions, and more.

The great news is that acupuncture is an excellent option for children. Children are ideal acupuncture patients because they respond quickly to treatment and because of their youth and overall good health, they recover from ailments very quickly. Children typically require fewer treatments than adults. We also use extra fine needles and fewer acupuncture points in pediatric treatments, to ensure a comfortable experience.

We suggest that children be 7 years of age or older to be considered for acupuncture. You should also discuss the idea of acupuncture treatment with your child, to ensure that they are open to receiving treatment. Because children are generally quite inquisitive by nature, they generally do very well in treatment and in fact usually find the acupuncture to be quite fascinating, providing that they are open to trying the treatment.

Acupuncture is a positive option for many childhood ailments, including allergies, asthma, ear infections, digestive ailments, skin conditions, anxiety, and injuries. Please explore our articles to learn more about how acupuncture can help with these specific conditions.

If you are interested in acupuncture for your child, please call our office to discuss treatment.