Whether physical or mental, we all experience stress to varying degrees. Stress plays a huge role in our everyday health and can aggravate health conditions that we already have. Routine, chronic stress can in the long run lead to serious physical and mental health consequences if not managed properly. Consider these facts: Up to 90%
Acupuncture is an effective treatment option for regulating hormones and can help: Hormone-related moods such as depression, anxiety, irritability, and anger Improve night sweats and insomnia so that you sleep better and wake up feeling more rested Improve energy and mental clarity during the day Regulate the menstrual cycle to correct symptoms of PMS and PMDD, painful
Anxiety is defined as a vague, uneasy feeling, with its source unknown or non-specific to an individual. The uneasy feeling is mainly associated with anticipation of danger and dread to a level that the normal body functioning is impaired. The anticipation is normally accompanied by factors such as tension, restlessness, breathing difficulty and tachycardia. Generally,
A hormonal imbalance occurs when there is too much estrogen relative to progesterone in a woman's body, also referred to as estrogen dominance. In a normal cycle, estrogen and progesterone hormones work together to maintain a woman’s menstrual cycle, each playing an important role. When a hormone balance occurs and estrogen levels are too high, it
Of all the joints in the body the jaw joints or TMJ’s ( temporo-mandibular joints) are the only ones that move simultaneously. This creates problems that are unique to the jaw area. TMJ disorders can occur when the joint’s disc erodes or moves out of its proper alignment, the joint’s cartilage is damaged by arthritis, the joint is damaged by a blow, or the joint muscles become fatigued from overwork. The muscles that move these joints are small and have to work hard- they are involved in speaking, eating, laughing, yawning and singing- and it is relatively easy to overwork them.
Stress can also take a toll on the TMJ joint- a lot of people grind their teeth when they are stressed, nervous, or angry, or during their sleep, which puts enormous strain on the small joints and muscles. We can also cause strain to the area through our eating habits, like biting off hard food like chocolate or carrots. TMJ disorders can cause pain or tenderness in the jaw, aching pain in and around the ear or in the facial muscles, difficulty chewing, headaches, and difficulty opening the jaw.
In Western medicine,TMJ disorder can be treated with physiotherapy and massage and with exercises, which teach us proper jaw alignment. Usually the results of this treatment are positive. Medications such as anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, and cortisone may be prescribed.
Acupuncture can help with TMJ disorder in a number of ways. When it comes to pain, acupuncture can give fast and positive results. Acupuncture can also help reduce inflammation to the area, as well as bring blood and energy circulation to the area, all of which help to promote healing. The muscles will begin to relax and automatically correct the opening movement.
The meridians that have connections to the jaw belong to the Gallbladder, Triple Burner, Small Intestine, Stomach and Large Intestine (partly). A deficiency of Blood and Energy (Qi) in these meridians is usually the cause of the pain. Blood and Qi will stagnate and can cause severe pain and stiffness.
The combination of acupuncture with other therapies and removing stress to the area can help to resolve this disorder. Things that can be done to reduce stress on the TMJ joints include maintaining a relaxed jaw posture, avoiding clenching or grinding teeth, avoiding overusing the jaw muscles such as avoiding sticky or chewy foods and cutting food into small pieces, and working to reduce stress and anxiety.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.
Depression, also called major depression, major depressive disorder and clinical depression, is a medical illness that involves the mind and body, affecting how a person feels, thinks and behaves. It is characterized by low moods and a loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities. Other symptoms may include preoccupation or over-thinking, irritability or frustration, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, poor concentration and memory, withdrawal from social situations, reduced sex drive, and insomnia, as well as fatigue, headaches, digestive problems, reduced appetite (or in some cases increased appetite), and an agitated or lethargic behaviour.
About 16% of adults in Canada will experience depression at some point in their lives, with women being twice as likely to suffer from depression as men. The risk of depression is increased with certain conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, cardiovascular illnesses, and the first year after childbirth. Depressed individuals have shorter life expectancies than those without depression, in part because of greater susceptibility to medical illnesses and suicide.
The understanding of depression has evolved over the centuries. Although the causes are still not yet fully understood, a variety of factors are believed to be involved. These include biological differences (people with depression appear to have physical changes in their brains), the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, the body’s balance of hormones, genetics, early childhood trauma, and major life events such as the loss of a loved one or high stress. The most common treatments for depression are psychotherapy, anti-depressant medication, and electroconvulsive therapy, used only as a last resort.
Acupuncture is an excellent option for the treatment of depression, as it is very effective in both relieving the symptoms and in resolving the condition with continued treatments, and without negative side effects. Chinese medicine (TCM) takes a much different approach to depression and focuses much more on the overall functioning of the body and how the various organs and systems are working in relation to each other. According to TCM, there are different causes and mechanisms for depression in different people. For some people it has to do with mental-emotional causes such as continued stress, frustration or worry. Other factors can be either too much or too little exercise and activity. Or it may be due to other diseases in the body, or age or body type. In others it may be faulty diet or lifestyle factors.
By identifying the particular pattern of depression, an acupuncturist can effectively diagnose and treat the depression based on each person’s unique causes and symptoms. This allows for a very effective treatment that is catered to the individual’s needs, from using the appropriate acupuncture points to diet and lifestyle recommendations that can support healing. Acupuncture, particularly when combined with Chinese herbal formulas, is a very effective treatment option for depression and can help a person to regain their lost health and recover from the debilitating symptoms of depression. It can be used as a complement to conventional depression treatments, or as an effective alternative.
Like other chronic conditions such as diabetes, depression is a complex condition that takes time to develop in the body and is caused by many factors. For this reason, there really is no “quick fix”, whether tackling it with acupuncture and Chinese medicine, medications, counseling, or some combination of these. Acupuncture takes time to have an effect on chronic conditions, and the body takes time to heal.
For this reason, it is important to be committed to the healing process, to be patient with our body as it takes time to heal, and to expect some bumps along the way as we are faced with life’s stresses. Typically with acupuncture a series of treatments is needed, on a regular schedule over the course of a few months to achieve lasting results. While depression can be a disabling condition which adversely affects a person's family, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and general health, there is hope that we can regain both our health and our happiness.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC. He can be reached at www.okanaganacupuncture.com.
With stress so common in our lives today, more and more people are suffering from anxiety. Ongoing anxiety can interfere with day-to-day activities and relationships and when this happens, it may be diagnosed as Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Anxiety can develop from a combination of stress, personality, gender, and life events such as an illness or past troubles. Those suffering from generalized anxiety experience symptoms such as constant over-thinking and worrying, restlessness, irritability, muscle tension, and fatigue.
Chronic anxiety can also lead to other health problems, such as headaches, insomnia, digestive problems, or teeth grinding. Of course, all of us worry from time to time about finances, family, health, and future, but it becomes a problem for us when we are thinking and worrying constantly or when it prevents us from relaxing or unwinding from our daily stresses.
Western medical treatment for anxiety usually is with medications and/or counseling or therapy. Lifestyle changes, coping skills and relaxation techniques can also help.
Acupuncture fortunately has a great deal to offer anxiety sufferers. Stress responds very positively to acupuncture, and so do the many stress-related health problems we experience, including chronic anxiety. Acupuncture has a regulating effect on the body- it works by normalizing the body’s internal systems and processes. One of those systems is our autonomic nervous system, which manages our body’s states of arousal (“fight-or-flight”) and relaxation (“rest-and-digest”).
Normally our body fluctuates somewhere between states of arousal/stress and states of calm/relaxation. However, ongoing stressors can leave our body in a state of chronic stress or anxiety, leading to health problems. Acupuncture helps to bring our body back to its calm, relaxed state of healthy functioning.
This is a western perspective of how acupuncture can help with anxiety. However, Chinese medicine (TCM) has its own language for talking about patterns of disease and offers a different perspective. A big difference between Chinese medicine and Western medicine is the way in which disease is viewed- Chinese medicine sees health and disease as a continuum. Anxiety is seen as an imbalance or excess of the emotion “worry”. Worry is a normal emotional state which enables concentration, memorization, and focus, however when worry gets out of balance it leads to constant thinking, brooding, worrying, and anxiety.
Anxiety can be caused by our lifestyle, if we have too many stressors or too often, or we can be prone to it due to a constitutional imbalance or weakness in the spleen, heart, lungs, or a combination of these organs. Excessive worry causes our qi-energy to get stuck and not flow properly. This, in turn, can injure the organs, causing additional symptoms, depending on the organ(s) affected.
By redirecting the body’s energy flow with acupuncture, we can help the body to correct internal imbalances and treat the cause of anxiety symptoms. Acupuncture also works towards emotional balance, so that we are better able to deal with daily stresses without falling into excessive worry.
Acupuncture is also an excellent complement to therapy or counseling, helping to relieve the physical symptoms of anxiety and calm the emotions while a person works through the behavioural aspects of their anxiety. Making lifestyle changes to reduce stress and to better deal with it can also contribute positively to treatment.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St., downtown Kelowna. He can be reached at www.okanaganacupuncture.com.
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.