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%
In 2003 the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a report called “Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials.” The WHO's 87-page report specifically listed 28 diseases, symptoms or conditions for which acupuncture has been proven through controlled trials to be an effective treatment. Nearly
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
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
- Underlying medical conditions such as urinary tract infections, constipation, or neurological disorders (Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke, a brain tumor or a spinal injury)
- In women, urinary incontinence may occur following pregnancy, childbirth, hysterectomy, and menopause
- In men, urinary incontinence may occur with problems or removal of the prostate gland
- Stress incontinence occurs when pressure or stress is exerted on the bladder by coughing, sneezing, laughing, exercising or lifting something heavy and is due to the sphincter muscle of the bladder being weak.
- Urge incontinence is a sudden, intense urge to urinate, followed by an involuntary loss of urine, often causing frequent urination. Urge incontinence may be caused by urinary tract infections, bladder irritants, bowel problems, neurological disorders or in some cases, the cause isn’t known.
- Overflow incontinence is an inability to empty the bladder causing frequent or constant dribbling. This type of incontinence may occur in people with a damaged bladder, blocked urethra or nerve damage.
- Lung-qi deficiency will involve frequent urge to urinate with inability to contain it, as well as dribbling when coughing or sneezing, and other symptoms of tiredness, shortness of breath, and weak voice.
- Spleen-qi deficiency involves incontinence with urgency, frequent urges and inability to contain it, as well as loose stools, tiredness, and poor appetite.
- Kidney-yang deficiency involves frequent urination, dribbling, exhaustion, dizziness, tinnitus, weak and sore back and knees, and feeling cold, and is often the case with incontinence in the elderly.
- Kidney-yin deficiency involves incontinence with dribbling after urination, dark urine, dry throat, dizziness, tinnitus, night sweats, and insomnia.
- Avoiding alcohol, caffeine or other diuretics, as well as carbonated drinks
- Avoiding very spicy, sugary, or acidic foods, artificial sweeteners, and corn syrup, all of which can aggravate the bladder
- Certain medications including those for heart, blood pressure or muscle relaxants can also contribute to bladder problems.
The hypochondrial region of the body is the area along the sides of the ribcage. When there is pain in the side area of the ribs, whether on one side or both, it is referred to as hypochondrial pain. In Western medicine, hypochondrial pain can be very puzzling.
In Chinese Medicine, the liver meridian pathway travels bilaterally through the rib cage, and for this reason rib pain on either side of the body is always related to a liver disharmony. The development of hypochondrial pain can arise from a few factors. One of the most common is emotional strain. Anger, frustration, loathing, and resentment can all block the liver’s energy from circulating, especially if these emotions are repressed. Hypochondrial pain related to stagnation of liver energy would have symptoms of pain and distention along the sides of the ribs, often linked to emotional state, oppression in the chest, poor appetite, frequent sighing, and belching.
Hypochondrial rib pain can also develop from dampness and heat invading the liver meridian, however this type is not too common in northern countries but more so in tropical areas. Diet can also play a role in the development of damp heat. Excessive consumption of dairy and/or greasy-fried foods can cause damp heat to accumulate in the body and settle in the liver channel, especially if the irregular eating is associated with emotional strain. Damp-heat in the liver channel will result in symptoms of dull pain along the sides of the ribs, fullness of the chest, a feeling of heaviness, a sticky taste in the mouth, nausea, yellowing eyes, and dark urine.
Overwork and even too much sexual activity can cause a deficiency of the liver yin or blood and also lead to hypochondrial pain. Because energy and qi are what help the liver circulate blood, if there is a deficiency of the blood, the liver’s energy will stagnate, causing stagnation of liver-energy or in severe cases, blood stasis of the liver. Blood stasis of the liver will cause symptoms of intense, stabbing, fixed location rib pain which is worse at night. Sometimes there is a feeling of a mass on palpation of the area.
Liver-blood deficiency has many of the same symptoms as liver-energy stagnation but not as severe. Symptoms are slight rib pain and distention, premenstrual tension, frequent sighing, depression, moodiness, dizziness, insomnia, tingling of limbs, blurred vision, menstrual irregularities, and fatigue.
Acupuncture addresses rib pain by looking at the accompanying symptoms and determining which of these patterns is the cause of the pain. By doing so we get a clear picture of which areas of the body are in a state of irregular functioning, allowing the acupuncturist to focus on the underlying cause of the pain with the goal of improving health. By correcting imbalances, the body is able to return to normal functioning and the liver’s flow of energy can travel smoothly and without disruption. Healthy liver functioning will resolve rib pain and may result in improvements in other areas of health as well such as emotions, sleep, energy, and digestion.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St in Kelowna, BC.
Menorrhagia is the medical term for menstrual periods in which bleeding is abnormally heavy or prolonged. Officially, the flow of more than 80 ml per menstrual period is considered menorrhagia, however a flow of 45-60 ml per period can also be considered menorrhagia as well, based on statistical norms. Menorrhagia can also include a very long period of a week or longer, and passing large blood clots. Anemia is common in women with menorrhagia and there may be symptoms such as tiredness, fatigue or shortness of breath.
Causes of Menorrhagia
The cause for menorrhagia is not clear. Most women with menorrhagia report regular periods and have been shown to have normal estrogen and progesterone levels. However, menorrhagia is most common in teens and in perimenopause, times in the lifecycle when estrogen levels tend to be higher and progesterone levels to be lower.
Another possible factor is ovulation. Even with regular periods, it is common for women to have menstrual cycles without ovulation. In a normal cycle, the release of an egg from the ovaries stimulates the body's production of progesterone, the female hormone most responsible for keeping periods regular. When no egg is released, insufficient progesterone can cause heavy menstrual bleeding.
This suggests that menorrhagia may be related to increased estrogen action before flow. Very rarely is menorrhagia caused by a primary bleeding disorder. Fibroids are commonly associated with menorrhagia but rarely a reason for it.
Treatment that is effective for very heavy flow includes ibuprofen, drinking extra salty fluids during heavy flow (to treat low blood volume), increasing dietary or supplemental iron and cyclic progesterone therapy. Additional therapies include tranexamic acid (which encourages blood clotting) and the use of a progestin-releasing IUD.
An Alternative Approach to Menstrual Health
In Chinese medicine, any irregularities in a woman’s reproductive cycle whether they be PMS, painful periods, irregular periods, or heavy periods, are a sign of a health imbalance that requires addressing. Menorrhagia is considered a type of abnormal bleeding and may be caused by heat (which interferes with the body’s function of storing blood and controlling blood flow), empty qi-energy (which may be caused by damage to the spleen so that it is unable to perform its function of restraining the blood), or blood stasis. The most common causes for these imbalances are emotional stress, especially depression and excessive emotions, excessive worry and anxiety, poor diet, particularly too much hot, spicy, or greasing foods or consuming alcohol, or lack of exercise. Imbalances can also arise due to excessive fatigue or due to a deficiency of kidney yin energy.
A Path to Better Health
The good news is that acupuncture and Chinese medicine treat menorrhagia quite effectively and regardless of the causes, it responds positively to treatment. An acupuncturist will first work on treating the immediate symptoms, we call this treating the branch. Once the heavy bleeding is under control, we focus treatment on the root cause, whether it is heat, empty qi-energy, or blood stasis, and address this imbalance in order to prevent menorrhagia in the future and to break the pattern of a chronic condition. As the body becomes healthier, we can expect other symptoms to lessen or resolve as well, such as problems sleeping, period cramps or lower back pain, fatigue, and physical and emotional symptoms that relate to the cycle. Ideally, in a woman in perfect health, there should be no cycle-related symptoms and the resolution of these symptoms are a sign of improving health.
Healthy Habits for a Healthy Body
Chinese medicine also has valuable lifestyle principles to prevent menstrual disorders. These include eating and drinking a moderate and balanced diet, maintaining a regular sleep-wake routine, managing stress and emotions, and not dwelling on negative thoughts and frustrations. Also, it is wise to overdo it prior and during menstruation, which may mean cutting back on long work hours, avoiding stress, and doing lighter exercise during this time. While these may seem like common sense habits, they can have real and measurable effects on our health and wellbeing. Chinese medicine teaches us that all of these factors play an important role in our overall wellbeing and can have important consequences to our health.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna. He can be reached at www.okanaganacupuncture.com.
Perimenopause, also called the menopausal transition, is the natural shift in a woman’s reproductive cycle toward menopause, or ceasing of the cycle. When a woman has gone through 12 consecutive months without a menstrual period, she is considered to have reached menopause, and the perimenopause period is over.
Women start perimenopause at different ages, and may start noticing changes in the 40s or even as early as the 30s. During the menopausal transition, the body's production of estrogen and progesterone fluctuates. These hormonal fluctuations are at the root of the changes experienced during perimenopause. These changes may include menstrual irregularity and menopause-like symptoms.
With perimenopause, a woman’s cycle may become irregular, becoming shorter, longer, heavier or lighter, or more or less than 28 days apart. About 65-75% of women experience hot flashes. Sleeping problems are also common, often due to hot flashes or night sweats. Some women experience mood changes such as mood swings, irritability or depression. Fertility decreases, there may be changes in sexual function and desire, and vaginal and bladder problems may also arise such as infections or urinary incontinence. Other health problems that become a concern with declining estrogen levels are loss of bone and higher risk of osteoporosis, and changing cholesterol levels and increased risk of heart disease.
Treatment for perimenopause symptoms will typically involve hormone therapy, oral contraceptives, or progestin therapy. Hormone therapy is less commonly recommended today because of its associated health risks, and contraceptives or progestin therapy may not effectively resolve symptoms for all women.
Acupuncture: A Safe and Effective Approach
Acupuncture is an excellent option for ensuring a healthy transition through this period of a woman’s life and is of benefit to many of the common symptoms. Menopause is a natural stage in life and the healthier a woman is overall, the healthier and smoother this transition will be. For this reason, acupuncturists don’t look at perimenopause as problematic, but rather view the symptoms and their severity as indicators of a woman’s health and possible internal imbalances that may be at the root of these symptoms. A woman in ideal health would transition through menopause with no discomfort at all (and indeed, many women do). However for many women, factors such as diet, stress, overwork, emotional upset, and exercise habits can all contribute to health, stress levels, and the overall experience during the menopause transition.
Getting to the Root of the Problem
An acupuncturist’s first task then, is to determine which internal imbalances are causing the symptoms that a woman is experiencing. Symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, irritability and depression, nervousness and anxiety, fatigue, heart palpitations, digestive issues, joint pain or stiffness, osteoporosis, loss of sex drive, and vaginal dryness are all signs that the body is not functioning at optimum health and that imbalances need to be corrected.With menopause and aging, the organs most involved are the kidneys and the liver. The kidney functioning naturally begins to decline as we age, and the liver is involved in regulating the menstrual cycle as well as balancing our emotions.
Acupuncture helps to move the body’s energy in its proper directions and amounts and to encourage these organs to function properly again. It has a regulating effect on the body, and promotes normal functioning of the various organs and systems at work in our body. By this principle, it can help to regulate hormone functioning, our sleep cycles, our energy, our digestion, and our moods. It is also a great stress reliever.
Promoting A Healthy Transition
With regular treatments we can begin to see a reduction in the severity of perimenopause symptoms and in the frequency that they are experienced, a sign that a healthy balance is being regained. Acupuncture can help with many of the symptoms of perimenopause, from hot flashes and night sweats to moods, energy, and stress, to digestive issues and joint pain. It is an excellent therapy for helping to ensure a healthy transition into menopause, embracing the changes that this new stage of life brings.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna. He can be reached at www.okanaganacupuncture.com.
Sports injuries are injuries that occur in athletic activities. Some sports injuries result from accidents; others are due to poor training practices, improper equipment, lack of conditioning, or insufficient warm up and stretching. Many sports injuries can be due to overuse of a part of the body when participating in an activity. Other types of injuries can be caused by hard contact with something. Sports injuries typically involve the musculoskeletal system, which includes the muscles, bones, and associated tissues like cartilage.
Common sports injuries include:
- Sprains are a stretch or tear of a ligament, causing tenderness, pain, bruising, swelling and inflammation.
- Strains are a twist, pull, or tear of a muscle or tendon, causing pain, muscle spasms, and weakness.
- Knee injuries are very common and can range from mild to severe, from pain or tenderness at the front or side of the knee close to the knee cap, tendinitis, and pain in the iliotibial band (the outer side of the knee), to bone bruises or damage to the knee cartilage or ligaments.
- Shin splints are another common sports injury involving pain along the tibia or shin bone, typically seen in runners.
- Achilles tendon injuries can occur when there is tendinitis already present in the tendon or when a stretch, tear or irritation happens to the tendon.
- More severe can be stress fractures, which occur from repeated stress to a bone over time, most often occurring in the legs or feet, and acute fractures, that can occur from a quick, one-time injury to the bone.
- Dislocations occur when the two bones that come together to form a joint become separated. Dislocations a usually caused by contact sports or high-impact sports.
The great news is that acupuncture can be of benefit to all types of sports injuries. It is of course always best to treat an injury in the acute stage or as soon after an injury occurs as possible, in order to assist the body in healing quickly and fully. Early treatment also helps to prevent the possibility of long-term or chronic problems with the injury down the road due to improper healing. However, acupuncture is also very beneficial in any stage of healing and can also be of great help to old, lingering injuries or injuries that did not properly heal. Acupuncture taps into the body’s own resources to encourage the healing process and the body’s optimal functioning. With sports injuries this can mean reduced inflammation, increased circulation, reduced muscle tension, and of course, pain relief. Treating sports injuries, whether old or new, can help the body to regain former functioning and health levels and prevent more long-term consequences such as reduced mobility, stiffness, weakness, or arthritis.
Our bodies have amazing abilities to self-regulate and repair themselves. In any injury the body attempts to minimize, repair and overcome the damage to its normal functions and in many cases, given adequate rest and support, our bodies are able to recover successfully. However, in cases where the body isn’t able to correct a problem on its own, or in cases where long-term damage can occur if left untreated, acupuncture is a promising treatment that helps bolster the body’s healing abilities so that we can return to our normal, healthy selves.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna. He can be reached at www.okanaganacupuncture.com.
Bed-wetting, or involuntary nighttime urination, is a common occurrence for many children. It’s often simply a developmental stage, though an embarrassing one. It is most common for children under the age of 6 or 7, and most will outgrow it beyond this age. Between ages 8 and 11, fewer than 5% of children continue to have a problem with bed-wetting. It’s generally not a cause for concern because nighttime bladder control may not yet be established.
It’s not clear what causes bed-wetting, but there may be various factors, including a small bladder, inability to recognize a full bladder, hormonal imbalance, stress, sleep apnea, chronic constipation, urinary tract infection, diabetes, or in rare cases an anatomical defect in the neurological or urinary system. Most children outgrow bed-wetting on their own. However, for more difficult cases, treatment may include using moisture alarms, bladder training, or if all else fails, medications.
Of course, many parents are not comfortable with the use of medications for their children. This is where Chinese medicine (TCM) can help. Children are not miniature adults, but have their own special health considerations. Their anatomy and physiology are immature, so treatments used for adults may not be appropriate for a child’s delicate system. Also, because children are generally quite healthy and quick to heal, they respond very quickly to treatment and require lighter treatment than adults. When using acupuncture, this means fewer points, gentler treatment, and fewer sessions to resolve the problem. Also, simple home remedies such as acupressure and diet or lifestyle changes may be enough to resolve the issue.
In Chinese medicine, bed-wetting is mainly due to the immaturity of the kidneys. Because the kidneys are responsible for urination and the bladder’s retention, it follows that a child’s not yet fully developed kidneys may lead to urinary problems. If bed-wetting is due to weak kidneys, it will involve nighttime enuresis of 1, 2 or more times per night, clear urination, pale complexion, lower back or knee soreness or weakness, and possibly cold limbs and an aversion to cold. Bed-wetting may also be due to a weakness in the spleen and lung organ-meridians, in which case the symptoms will involve nighttime enuresis, shortness of breath, white face, weak appetite, loose stools, spontaneous perspiration, lack of strength, and a dispirited nature.
Treatment for bed-wetting is straightforward once the correct cause is determined. Acupuncture can help to strengthen the organs and correct imbalances. But how do you know if acupuncture is appropriate for your child? I always ask parents to discuss acupuncture with their child beforehand, to find out if the child is open to trying it. With their naturally curious nature, most children find the experience to be very positive and do very well in treatment. However, if there is any fear or apprehension, it’s best to leave the idea of acupuncture alone, at least for the time being. With children or with adults, it’s no fun for either patient or practitioner if the person does not want to be there in the first place!
There are simple habits that can be performed at home to help resolve bed-wetting. Patience and understanding are essential, as fear or stress will only further damage the kidneys and aggravate the problem. Avoiding drinking too much in the evening and emptying the bladder before bed is good prevention. Also, the child should not be allowed to become too fatigued before going to bed, as overfatigue can further weaken the kidneys, spleen and lungs. Lastly, a healthy diet without too many rich, greasy, spicy or strong flavours and avoiding chilled or cold food and too much sugar and sweets can also help to strengthen these organs.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.
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.
Thoracic outlet syndrome occurs when the blood vessels or nerves in the thoracic outlet (the space just under the collarbone) become compressed. This can cause pain in the shoulders and neck and numbness in the fingers. The symptoms vary depending on whether it is the nerves or the blood vessels that are affected. When the nerves are compressed, symptoms usually include numbness or tingling in the fingers, pain in the shoulder and neck, ache in the arm or hand, and weakened grip. When a vein or artery is compressed, symptoms can include bluish discoloration or lack of colour in the hand, a blood clot under the collarbone, arm pain and swelling (possibly due to blood clots), a throbbing lump near the collarbone, weak or no pulse in the affected arm, and tiny, black spots (infarcts) on the fingers.
Thoracic outlet syndrome may develop from a variety of causes. Physical trauma from a motor vehicle accident, repetitive stress injury from work or sports, anatomical defects such as having an extra rib, poor posture, and pressure on the joints due to body weight or because of carrying an oversized backpack or purse can all lead to thoracic outlet syndrome. Even a long-ago injury can lead to thoracic outlet syndrome in the present, as can pregnancy, because of the joints loosening. In some cases, the cause of thoracic outlet syndrome cannot be determined.
Treatment for thoracic outlet syndrome usually involves a combination of exercises, relaxation, and medications. Physiotherapy is used to open the thoracic outlet, improve range of motion and posture, and strengthen the shoulder muscles. Relaxation techniques may help to reduce tension in the shoulders and maintain posture. Medications such as muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatories, and pain medications may be prescribed for pain relief. In severe cases where the syndrome does not improve, surgery may be recommended.
Acupuncture is also an option worth considering for thoracic outlet syndrome. Acupuncture is a well-known therapy for pain relief and for musculo-skeletal conditions. Chinese medicine (TCM) does not use the term “thoracic outlet syndrome”, diagnosis instead depends on the specific symptoms that an individual is presenting. Typically thoracic outlet syndrome will be categorised as an injury to the tendon, a bi-syndrome (pain caused by a blockage in one of the body’s meridians and a lack of circulation of qi-energy and blood to the area), or a wei-syndrome (weakening and evening atrophying of a muscle due to a lack of proper nutrients or blood and qi-energy circulation). Depending on the type, the specific symptoms will vary but may include pain, numbness and heaviness of the muscles, tendons or joints, tendon or joint swelling, limitation of movement, and weakness in the limbs.
Acupuncture can help with thoracic outlet syndrome in a number of ways. Acupuncture of course offers very effective pain relief, and it can also reduce inflammation and relax tight muscles or tendons to relieve pressure to the nerve or tendon. Treatment also helps to remove blockages and increase blood circulation and energy, so that the area can receive adequate nourishment to function properly and to heal. Acupuncture can also resolve any imbalances in the meridians that may be causing a weakness in the body, leaving an area prone to injury or strain, as is often the case when a condition develops.
In my practice, I have seen thoracic outlet syndrome respond very positively to acupuncture. A series of treatments can offer relief of symptoms and can help to resolve the condition, depending on the cause. Stretching and postural exercises are also important and can help support recovery from this syndrome.
Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that follows a seasonal pattern, starting in the fall and continuing through the winter, sapping energy and making a person feel moody. Symptoms can include depression, changes in appetite (in particular a craving for sweet or starchy foods), weight gain, decreased energy, fatigue, a tendency to oversleep, difficulty concentrating, irritability, avoidance of social situations, feelings of anxiety and despair, loss of interest in activities, and a heavy or leaden feeling in the arms and legs. These symptoms generally disappear when spring arrives. SAD may be caused by changes to the body’s circadian rhythms, a change in serotonin levels (which affect mood), and a change in melatonin levels (which affect our sleep patterns and moods).
Severe SAD can be very debilitating, and even in its milder form, SAD can affect our ability to cope with daily life. Research suggests that between 2% and 3% of the general population may have SAD while another 15% of us experience a less severe type described as the “winter blues." Indeed, these winter blues are common for many Canadians, because of our much shorter days in the winter months, and particularly in BC where winters also bring overcast, gloomy weather. SAD may also be of concern for shift workers and for urban dwellers that may experience reduced levels of exposure to daylight in their work environments.
It is important to be aware of our sensitivities to the seasons and to adjust our habits and lifestyle accordingly in order to be able to live an enjoyable and productive life year-round. There are many things that we can do to relieve SAD or winter blues, and the best approach seems to be combining the things that work for you. People with severe symptoms of SAD may be recommended antidepressant medications combined with these lifestyle habits, as well as counseling and therapy.
People with SAD can benefit from spending some time outdoors every day, even for just a short duration and even in cloudy weather. Arranging the home or office for maximum sunlight such as keeping the curtains open, pruning back trees in the fall, and sitting near a window can help. Exercise is also very effective for relieving SAD, and daily exercise has been shown to relieve the symptoms of mild depression. Exercising in the morning may also help to regulate our bodies’ melatonin levels. Light therapy is also a common treatment for SAD, and involves daily exposure to a special type of bright, artificial light.
Acupuncture is a very effective option for treating SAD. Depression, anxiety, SAD, and other mood disorders respond very well to acupuncture, as do symptoms such as insomnia, low energy, irritability, and concentration. Because of acupuncture’s stress-relieving and relaxing effects, people suffering from SAD will often feel immediate relief following treatment. With regular, continued treatments, acupuncture can help to minimize and prevent SAD symptoms and help the body adapt to seasonal changes. Acupuncture works by helping our bodies to regain their healthy balance, influencing and correcting our various systems that are responsible for our sleep, our energy, our moods, our digestive system, and our immune system, among others. It is a gentle and health-promoting strategy that works not only to relieve symptoms but also as a preventative to improve health and prevent problems from arising.
SAD is an important reminder to us all to tune in to our body’s cues and to incorporate changes that reflect the changing of the seasons. Winter is a natural time for reflection and inactivity and we need take extra care to nurture ourselves at this time in order to maintain our health. Avoiding over-working and too much stress, increasing our exposure to light, monitoring our diet, sleep patterns and exercise levels are important for all of us. It is also worthwhile to find the strategies that work for each of us personally, whether that is light therapy, meditation, counseling, acupuncture, massage, or any other therapies that enable us to maintain both physical and mental well-being. For warding off the winter blues, acupuncture is well worth-adding to your winter regimen.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC. He can be reached at www.okanaganacupuncture.com.
Surgery is a powerful tool in the modern medical tool kit and is used today in a wide range of applications. Surgery for musculoskeletal conditions is called orthopedic surgery, and is used to treat musculoskeletal trauma, degenerative diseases, sports injuries, infections, tumours, and congenital disorders (disorders we are born with). This includes surgeries such as hip or knee replacement, spinal surgery or fusion, carpal tunnel release, or repair of tendons, ligaments, or cartilage. However, there are many, many other surgeries that are performed for a variety of reasons, such as to help relieve or prevent pain, to reduce a symptom, to improve some body function, or to diagnose conditions.
With surgery comes certain post-operative side effects and risks. Some of the major concerns with surgery is dealing with post-surgery pain and the side effects of pain medications, as well as making a complete recovery from surgery and regaining our former mobility and functions.
Doctors rely on powerful medications to relieve pain during and immediately after surgery, including opioids and anesthesia. Opioid pain medications are known to cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, pruritis (itch or a sensation that makes a person want to scratch), constipation, and sleepiness, symptoms which can cause difficulty in the recovery and interfere with our day-to-day life. Use of opioids and their side effects may also delay post-operative recovery.
Acupuncture is an excellent option for post-operative recovery and has been shown to be very effective in the treatment of both post-operative pain and the side effects of opioid medications. Acupuncture is probably best known for the treatment of pain and it is indeed very effective for relieving pain and reducing the need for pain medications. Pain limits your ability to breathe deeply, cough, walk and perform the activities necessary for a speedy recovery, and acupuncture can help to manage the pain so that recovery can happen more quickly.
Acupuncture can also treat the side effects of pain medications including dizziness, upset stomach or nausea, loss of appetite, pruritis (itching sensation), urinary incontinence, and digestive problems, making it an effective option for post-operative recovery.
Acupuncture can also help with the body’s recovery following surgery. While surgical techniques have come a long way, surgery still remains a type of trauma that the body must recover and heal from afterwards. Acupuncture helps to boost the immune system and to restore proper functioning to the body, and in post-operative care can help the body to recover and regain health more quickly. Acupuncture can also help with inflammation, decrease swelling and improve mobility and range of motion after surgery. This is important to recovery in order for a person to regain their full abilities and have full use of the body in the months down the road from surgery. Acupuncture may also help reduce adhesion formation and reduce scarring and scar tissue as the body heals from surgery.
Research shows that acupuncture can indeed be very effective for post-operative recovery when surgery is followed by a series of acupuncture treatments, and it can also be beneficial to perform acupuncture a day or two before surgery. This ensures that the body is in a healthy state going into surgery in order to ensure a complete and healthy recovery!
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC. He can be reached at www.okanaganacupuncture.com.
Meniere's disease is a disorder of the inner ear that causes spontaneous episodes of vertigo along with fluctuating hearing loss, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), and sometimes a feeling of pressure or fullness in the ear. In most cases, Meniere's disease will affect only one ear.
The main symptoms of Meniere's disease are recurring episodes of vertigo that last anywhere from 20 minutes up to 24 hours, tinnitus (typically low-pitched with Meniere’s disease), a feeling of pressure of fullness in the ear, and hearing loss. Hearing loss may come and go in early stages of the disease but as the disease progresses there typically will be some permanent hearing loss. Symptoms will usually come on in bouts, lasting for two to three hours, and then subside, and often a series of episodes will occur followed by periods of remission.
The cause of Meniere's disease isn't well understood but is believed to be closely tied to the fluid in the inner ear. Our inner ear contains a fluid that helps us to maintain our balance and equilibrium. With Meniere’s disease there are changes to the volume and the composition of this inner ear fluid, causing problems with the healthy functioning of our ear and affecting our hearing and our balance. These changes to the ear fluid may be caused by improper fluid drainage (either because of a blockage or because of an anatomic abnormality), abnormal immune response, allergies, viral infection, genetic predisposition, or head trauma.
Meniere's disease is considered a chronic condition, and conventional treatment focuses on management: relieving symptoms and minimizing the long term impacts of the disease. Treatment includes motion sickness or anti-nausea medications for the vertigo, diuretic medications to reduce the amount of fluid in the inner ear, medication injections to the inner ear to relieve vertigo, hearing aids, and rehabilitative exercises to help improve balance and coordination. Surgery may be considered in severe cases.
In Chinese medicine, Meniere’s disease is classified as a type of dizziness. There are important lifestyle factors that contribute to its development. Emotional strain, which can be caused by too much stress or by anger, frustration, or resentment, can lead to health imbalances that over time can lead to chronic conditions such as Meniere’s disease. Overwork or pushing ourselves too hard without adequate rest over years can also deplete the body and lead to health issues. Diet is another important factor, as unhealthy eating particularly the excessive consumption of greasy foods or dairy products or poor or irregular eating habits can lead to problems down the road. All of these factors over time contribute to the development of health problems, which is why Meniere’s disease typically develops in middle age.
Acupuncture is a worthwhile option to consider for those suffering from Meniere’s disease. Because Western medicine has difficulty treating this condition, often people are looking for effective options to help manage the disease. The good news is that acupuncture can help to relieve the symptoms of Meniere’s disease and may also help to improve or resolve the condition. Treatment can help to relieve the dizziness and vertigo, tinnitus, feeling of fullness or pressure in the head, and to reduce the frequency of bouts of symptoms.
Over time and with continued treatments, acupuncture may also help to resolve the condition. The combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can be of particular benefit to the condition as herbal formulas can help to augment the results of acupuncture. Due to the chronic nature of this condition, Meniere’s may be slow to treat and may take time to achieve lasting results. Acupuncture demonstrates that there is hope for difficult, chronic conditions such as Meniere’s disease.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC. He can be reached at www.okanaganacupuncture.com.
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.
A muscle cramp is a sudden and involuntary spasm or contraction of one or more of the muscles in the body, causing a sudden, sharp muscle pain. You may be able to feel or see a hard lump of muscle tissue beneath the skin. Muscle cramps often occur in the legs. Nocturnal cramps that occur in the calf muscles or toes during sleep are also common. Though generally harmless, muscle cramps can make it temporarily impossible to use the affected muscle.
Muscle cramps can be caused by overuse of a muscle, such as long periods of exercise or physical labor, particularly in hot weather. They may also be caused by dehydration, muscle strain, or holding a position for a prolonged period of time. In many cases the cause of a muscle cramp isn’t known. In other cases, they may be caused by certain medications or related to an underlying medical condition such as arteriosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) in the arteries that deliver blood to the legs, causing leg or foot cramps while exercising; compression of the nerves in the spine (lumbar stenosis); or mineral depletion such as a shortage of potassium, calcium, or magnesium due to diet or medications. Muscle cramps can also be due to certain conditions such as kidney, thyroid, nerve, or hormone disorders, diabetes, hypoglycemia, and anemia.
Muscle cramps usually disappear on their own and can be treated with self-care measures such as stretching and massaging the muscle and applying warmth to it. However, for some people, muscle cramps can be an ongoing problem, and can be very difficult to live with, interfering with sleep or daily routines.
Acupuncture is an effective option for relieving and resolving muscle cramps. Muscle cramps are typically a sign that there is a blockage of blood and energy flowing to an area of the body. When this happens, it causes that area to become weak and less able to perform properly, making the area more vulnerable to injury, over-fatigue, and pain. In addition, in Chinese medicine (TCM), the liver and gallbladder meridians are responsible for nourishing the tendons and ligaments of the body. If there is an imbalance in these organs or if they are not functioning properly, muscle cramps can be one of the resulting symptoms. Acupuncture treatment for muscle cramps will typically involve restoring the liver energy flow and treating any problems with the way that it is functioning. By addressing the underlying health conditions or imbalances that may be contributing to the occurrence of muscle cramps, we can help to restore health with the goal of preventing muscle cramps from occurring again in the future.
Acupuncture can help to increase blood circulation, relieve muscle spasms, and relax the body, and the results are usually quite immediate. This makes it a very effective option for treating muscle cramps. With continued treatments, acupuncture can help to improve the body’s health and functioning, so that it is better able to perform and less prone to muscle cramps. In this way it offers not only relief but also resolution of the problem. Whether you are an athlete looking to achieve top performance, or whether you are dealing with a chronic condition and living with muscle cramps as a result, acupuncture can offer relief and help you get back to your daily routine.
It is estimated that 40% of Canadians will develop cancer in their lifetime. The good news is that survival rates are improving thanks to improvements in cancer screening and cancer treatment. Cancer is not a death sentence, but it is a life-changing experience.
There are 3 main types of cancer treatment: primary treatment, adjuvant therapy, and palliative care. The goal of primary treatment is to remove the cancer from the body or kill the cancer cells, such as surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy. The goal of adjuvant therapy is to kill any cancer cells that may remain after primary treatment, common therapies include chemotherapy, radiation therapy and hormone therapy. The goal of palliative care is to decrease pain and help maintain quality of life during and after cancer treatment, by relieving the side effects of both the cancer and its treatment. Acupuncture in the treatment of cancer falls into the category of palliative care.
Acupuncture can be an effective complementary therapy when used with conventional cancer treatments. The purpose of acupuncture treatments is not to treat the cancer itself but rather to help a person cope with cancer, its treatment or side effects, and to feel better. There are many general symptoms associated cancer, including fatigue, digestive problems, and pain. Cancer treatments also create symptoms- chemotherapy and radiation are very powerful treatments that target cancer cells but can also damage healthy cells in the body and weaken the immune system, and can leave a person with symptoms of fatigue, nausea, vomiting, gastrointestinal disturbances, and skin irritation. For many people dealing with cancer treatment, there is a need to manage these symptoms, keep the body and the spirits strong, and maintain quality of life.
Acupuncture can be a very useful tool in this regard. Studies have shown that acupuncture can be effective in the treatment of many cancer symptoms including generalized pain, muscle and joint pain, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, anxiety, depression, and can help to boost the immune system. Because chemotherapy and radiation can be very hard on the immune system and because the body may already be weakened from the cancer, strengthening the immune system and the body with acupuncture can help a person undergoing cancer treatments to experience fewer negative symptoms and to bounce back more quickly from a course of treatments, something that is very important in the recovery process.
In addition, the pain associated with cancer can be an extremely difficult part of a patient’s experience, and acupuncture thankfully can effectively help to relieve this pain and relieve a great deal of the day-to-day discomfort. Fatigue and depression are also common symptoms that respond positively to acupuncture, allowing a person to function better, have a better quality of life, and better maintain a healthy routine while undergoing cancer treatments. By relieving nausea and digestive upset, acupuncture can also help to restore appetite and prevent weight loss that often occurs during cancer treatments.
To benefit from acupuncture during cancer treatment, it is recommended to schedule regular appointments during the course of cancer treatments while symptoms are being experienced. Typically treatments will be scheduled on a weekly basis in order to keep symptoms in check and strengthen the body. Acupuncture can also be used between courses of chemotherapy or radiation treatment to build the immune system, aid the body in recovery and strengthen it in preparation for the next course of treatment. All in all, acupuncture is a very powerful tool in the treatment of cancer and can dramatically improve quality of life.
Indigestion, also called dyspepsia or upset stomach, is not a disease but rather a collection of symptoms that cause discomfort in the upper abdomen. Most people suffering from indigestion have one or more of the common symptoms: nausea, bloating, belching, a sensation of pain, heat, or burning in the upper abdomen, or feeling full early on in a meal or an uncomfortable fullness after a meal that lasts longer than it should. People with indigestion may also experience heartburn, although heartburn and indigestion are two separate conditions. Symptoms of indigestion might be felt occasionally or as often as daily.
There are many possible causes of indigestion. Some are related to how we eat, such as overeating or eating too quickly. Other causes relate to what we eat, such as eating greasy or spicy foods, or too much caffeine, alcohol, carbonated beverages or chocolate. Lifestyle causes can include smoking, nervousness, or stress. Indigestion can also be caused by other digestive conditions like peptic ulcers, pancreatitis, gallstones, or stomach cancer, or by medications, including antibiotics and some pain relievers. In some cases, a cause for indigestion can’t be found and it is labeled ‘functional dyspepsia’- a type of indigestion caused by the stomach's inability to accept and digest food and then pass that food to the small intestine.
Treatment for indigestion includes lifestyle changes, including avoiding offending foods, eating smaller and more frequent meals, managing stress, and getting regular exercise. Your doctor may change medications you are taking if they are causing indigestion, or other medications may be recommended to reduce stomach acid, reduce pain, or aid digestion.
In Chinese medicine, indigestion usually falls into the category of epigastric pain, because the symptoms are typically experienced in the epigastric region of the body, the area of the abdomen from the sternum to the navel. There are different patterns of disharmony that cause indigestion, which account for the very different ways in which people will experience the symptoms of indigestion. Indigestion can be caused by a number of factors, including our external environment such as being exposed to cold or damp conditions; our diet, including how much we eat, what type of food we eat, and when or how we eat; emotional upset such as frustration or worry; overwork; and a constitutional or genetic weakness that can make a person prone to digestive disorders. These factors can over time weaken the stomach and disrupt the digestive system’s normal functions.
When pinpointing the cause of indigestion and epigastric pain, we look at various symptoms. What is the nature of the pain- is it dull or severe, stabbing, burning, is it accompanied by a feeling of fullness? When does the pain occur: in the morning, afternoon, or at night? What relieves or aggravates the pain- is it better or worse after eating, with pressure, with heat or cold, with rest or exercise? Is there belching, nausea, vomiting, or regurgitation? Is there a feeling of bloating and if so, how does it feel? These questions help an acupuncturist to determine what aspect of digestion is not functioning properly and what imbalances need to be corrected.
Acupuncture can be very effective in helping to resolve the symptoms of indigestion. Treatment can help the stomach to better digest food and move it through the digestive tract, so that the stomach and other digestive processes are functioning properly again. It can also help to relieve pain, nausea, and bloating that often accompany this type of digestive condition. Indeed, like many digestive disorders, acupuncture is an excellent option for resolving indigestion and getting you back to your regular self.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna. For more information visit www.okanaganacupuncture.com.
Shift work refers to both long-term night shifts and work schedules where employees change or rotate shifts between daytime and evening or night schedules. Shift work is a reality for about 25 percent of the North American working population.
Many workers prefer shift work because of the free time and flexibility it provides. However, for most workers, shift work causes at least some disruption to their family and personal life and some degree of negative health symptoms. Being constantly tired is a typical complaint of shift workers, often described as “jet lag”. Shift work can also lead to health problems including insomnia, chronic fatigue and gastrointestinal disorders. Shift work can make it difficult participate in regular social activities and family life, which can cause loneliness and isolation.
A shift worker, particularly one who works nights, must function on a schedule that is not "natural". The body is naturally attuned to a circadian rhythm- many of the body’s functions follow a daily rhythm or a 24-hour cycle. Sleeping, waking, digestion, secretion of adrenalin, body temperature, blood pressure, pulse and many other important body functions and human behaviour are regulated by this 24-hour cycle. These rhythmical processes are synchronized to allow for high activity during the day and low activity at night. However, if a person is working at night, the body rhythms get out of sync with the person's activity pattern. This disorientation can lead to feelings of fatigue and disorientation, or “jet lag”. Also, exposure to light at night can alter sleep-activity patterns and suppress melatonin production, leading to insomnia or difficulty sleeping.
Frequent changes in schedule and disruption to circadian rhythms can lead to chronic fatigue and other health problems, including higher risk for heart attack and cardiovascular conditions, digestive problems such as indigestion, heartburn, stomachache and loss of appetite, and insomnia or sleeping disorders. Shift work can also interfere with medications and the medical treatment of some diseases. Because of the way that shift work disrupts the circadian rhythm, research suggests long-term shift work may also increase the risk of cancer. Shift workers are also at risk of eating a less healthy diet because the loss of appetite at night often leads to increased snacking on "junk" food, while fatigue may encourage the consumption of caffeinated drinks to help the worker stay awake. This can further aggravate health issues particularly gastrointestinal problems and difficulty sleeping.
Where does acupuncture fit into this? Acupuncture can offer stellar results for improving the wellbeing and quality-of-life of shift workers. Acupuncture is very effective for many of the symptoms that accompany shift work: it can improve energy and mental clarity, resolve insomnia, and correct digestive disorders. It can also help shift workers adjust to changes in schedules or days off and help the body bounce back more quickly. One of the ways acupuncture may be particularly helpful for shift workers is the way in which it helps to normalize and regulate the body’s functions. Research has shown that acupuncture can influence many systems within the body, including our hormones, our neurotransmitters, our immune system, our blood pressure, and our circulation, helping to correct any functions that are out of balance or not working properly. What this means is that acupuncture may help the body to get back into its normal circadian rhythm, and help these rhythms to adjust more quickly to changes in the daily routines.
One of the biggest changes that shift workers notice with acupuncture is a boost in their energy levels. There is a huge improvement in quality of life that accompanies this change, as a person is more alert both at work and through the daytime, better able to enjoy time off and to be more involved in their family and social life. Indeed, many people find that with regular treatments, shift work no longer has to take a huge toll on their personal life.
Prevention and healthy lifestyle are also very important for shiftworkers, both for maintaining quality of life, and because shift work puts a worker at higher risk for health problems. Regular exercise and maintaining an adequate level of fitness is important, as is good dietary habits, managing stress, and making time for leisure activities. Participation in family and social life is also important for physical and mental health.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna.
Peptic ulcers are open sores that develop on the inside lining of the esophagus, stomach, and the upper portion of the small intestine. The most common symptom of a peptic ulcer is burning pain that can be felt anywhere from the navel up to the breastbone, and can be worse on an empty stomach or at night and can disappear then return for a few days or weeks. This pain is caused by the ulcer, and is aggravated by stomach acid coming into contact with it. Less common symptoms may include dark blood in stools or stools that are black or tarry, nausea or vomiting, unexplained weight loss, and appetite changes.
Peptic ulcers occur when the acid in the digestive tract eats away at the inner surface of the upper digestive tract, from the esophagus to the small intestine. The acid can create a painful open sore that may bleed. The digestive tract is coated with a mucous layer that normally protects against acid. But if this balance is disrupted, either by an increase in the amount of acid or a decrease in the amount of mucus, an ulcer can develop. Left untreated, peptic ulcers can lead to internal bleeding, infection of the abdominal cavity (peritonitis) and scar tissue that can interfere with the functioning of the digestive tract.
Ulcers can be due to a variety of causes, including a bacterial infection in the digestive tract and frequent or regular use of pain relievers or prescription medications that irritate or inflame the lining of the digestive tract. Other factors that contribute to ulcers are smoking, drinking alcohol, and stress.
Western medical treatment for peptic ulcers typically involves antibiotics along with medications to reduce the level of acid in the digestive system to relieve pain and encourage healing. A switch in medications may be needed if they are contributing to the ulcer.
In Chinese medicine (TCM), peptic ulcers are considered a type of epigastric pain. Internal imbalances in the stomach or liver organs are typically at the root of this. The accompanying symptoms, such as the nature and time of pain, thirst, nausea, taste in the mouth, and feelings of distention or fullness, will point towards the underlying imbalance that is causing the ulcer, and direct the acupuncturist towards the appropriate treatment. This in turn makes acupuncture a very effective tool in the treatment of ulcers. In fact, acupuncture can give excellent results in the treatment of epigastric pain, relieving pain and promoting healing of the ulcer. Acupuncture also works to strengthen the digestive system and encourage its healthy functioning. This makes the stomach less susceptible to digestive disturbances such as ulcers.
A number of factors contribute to ulcers and knowing these can help with the prevention. External factors such as exposure to cold and dampness can play a role, and diet is of course also very important, as poor eating habits can weaken the health of our digestive system and make it more prone to disorders. This can include not only the foods we eat, but also how much we eat (over-eating, under-eating, or eating irregular amounts throughout the day), eating too fast or eating on the run, eating late in the day, eating when emotionally upset, or going back to work too quickly after work. Another contributing factor is our emotions- not only stress but also anger, frustration, worry and over-thinking. Finally, our genes also play a role, as we are all born with our own set of strengths and weaknesses. Knowing these weaknesses means that we can adjust our habits accordingly to prevent problems down the road and promote optimal health.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna.
Morton's neuroma, also called metatarsalgia, is a painful swelling of one of the nerves leading to the toes, causing pain in the ball of the foot. It most commonly occurs between the third and fourth toes. Morton's neuroma may cause the feeling of a pebble in your shoe. Other symptoms may be a sharp, burning pain in the ball of the foot and tingling, numbness, stinging or burning in the toes.
Doctors don't understand exactly what causes Morton's neuroma. The condition is believed to be a response to irritation, injury or pressure to one of the nerves that lead to the toes. The body responds to the injury or irritation with the growth of thickened nerve tissue (neuroma). Factors that contribute to Morton’s neuroma include high-impact sports, foot deformities, and choice of footwear, especially high heels or tight shoes (that might be required in certain sports) that put pressure on the toes.
Morton's neuroma may be relieved or resolved by changing footwear or using arch supports or foot pads to help reduce pressure on the nerve and modifying or taking a break from activities that cause stress to the foot. Physiotherapy may also be recommended. In more severe cases, corticosteroid injections or surgery may be recommended.
However, in many cases morton’s neuroma does not resolve on its own and this is where acupuncture can help. Acupuncture can be of great assistance because of the way in which it supports the body's healing processes. By reducing inflammation and increasing circulation to the foot as well as influencing the body’s healing mechanisms, acupuncture helps to shorten recovery time and encourages a more complete recovery.
In Chinese medicine (TCM), pain is seen as a blockage of the body’s circulation of qi-energy and blood, which effectively starves the area of necessary nutrients. When we continue to put our regular demands on the foot and it is unable to properly perform its functions, it becomes vulnerable to pain and injury. Acupuncture helps to remove the blockages so that qi-energy and blood can flow properly again, thus strengthening the area and promoting healthier functioning.
Sometimes there are underlying imbalances or contributing lifestyle factors which may also come into play with pain conditions. Usually the location of the pain will point towards these factors and the meridians affected. In the case of Morton’s neuroma, the foot has all of the meridians passing through it so an imbalance with any of these meridians, but especially the stomach meridian, may also contribute to weakness to this area of the foot. What would cause a meridian imbalance? Well, these can be factors such as our genetics and our lifestyle, whether it be our occupation, the exercise or sports we choose, our response to stress, how much sleep we get, our emotions, or our nutrition and diet. Over time, our habits and patterns can lead to corresponding patterns of imbalance within our bodies- which is why many of our health symptoms start to appear in middle age. By also addressing these underlying factors, we can further strengthen the foot and improve overall health, with the goal of preventing future reoccurrence.
In practice, I have seen acupuncture yield great results for Morton’s neuroma. This condition can be particularly challenging for people to overcome, simply because we require our feet for so much of what we do in daily life. However, acupuncture can usually give results fairly quickly, and with continued treatments can help to resolve the condition, eventually allowing many people to return to their former activities.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna.
Hip pain is a common problem that can have a wide variety of causes. The exact location of the hip pain can usually provide clues as to the underlying cause. Problems with the hip joint itself typically cause pain on the inside of the hip or the groin. Problems with the muscles, ligaments, tendons and other soft tissues that surround the hip joint will typically cause pain on the outside of the hip, upper thigh or outer buttock.
Because the hip is of course connected to the rest of the body, hip pain can sometimes be caused by problems in other areas of the body, such as the lower back or knees, called referred pain. Other causes of hip pain may be arthritis, including rheumatoid and osteoarthritis; injuries such as bursitis, hip or pelvis fracture, dislocation, sprains, strains, tendinitis, herniated discs, pinched nerves, and sciatica. It can also be caused by more serious conditions such as cancer or osteoporosis.
If hip pain cannot be resolved with self-care measures, treatment for hip pain may vary, depending on the problem that is causing it. Most often it will involve medications such as anti-inflammatories, pain killers, and cortisone shots combined with physiotherapy, exercises, and/or taking a rest from our regular routine to allow the body time to heal. In more severe cases, surgery may be considered.
Of course, we would all prefer a lingering problem to resolve rather than to manage it with medications, and to resolve it before it becomes serious enough to warrant surgery. This is where acupuncture comes in. Acupuncture is a great option for pain and musculo-skeletal problems and typically yields very positive results in all types of pain problems, both chronic and acute. Treatments can help to relieve the pain quite quickly, and also to reduce inflammation and boost the body’s healing mechanisms, which may be just what is needed to resolve a lingering or chronic problem.
In Chinese medicine (TCM) pain is often a due to an obstruction of the flow of qi-energy and blood throughout the body’s meridians or channels. Because qi-energy and blood circulation is what allows the body to perform its regular functions and also to heal when injured, any time the flow is blocked, problems inevitably develop and pain occurs. Acupuncture focuses on removing these blockages to allow full circulation of qi-energy and blood through the body, resolving pain and weakness and allowing the area to function properly again.
While musculo-skeletal problems like hip pain may be due to external causes such as a fall or an overuse injury, internal weaknesses of the body can complicate or aggravate a problem once it is there. Part of an acupuncturist’s job is to look at the overall health of the internal functions to find any areas of imbalance, particularly those that affect the meridians of the hip. Imbalances will contribute to weakness in the hip and make it more prone to injury, as well as more slow to heal. A good example of this is a deficiency of the kidneys, which gradually weaken as we age. This weakness can make us more prone to lower back pain and hip fractures or pain because this area is very closely tied to the health of the kidneys. By improving overall health and correcting imbalances that have an influence on the hip, we can strengthen and improve the health of the hip area so that it functions better and is less prone to future injury down the road- all good news for those suffering from hip pain!
The rotator cuff is made up of the various muscles and tendons in the shoulder that connect the upper arm bone to the shoulder blade. They also help hold the ball of the upper arm bone firmly in the shoulder socket. The shoulder has the greatest range of motion of any joint in our body.
A rotator cuff injury is fairly common and can involve any type of irritation or damage to the rotator cuff muscles or tendons. The most common problems are tendinitis, when one of the rotator cuff tendons becomes inflamed due to overuse or overload (especially common in athletes), bursitis, when the fluid-filled sac (bursa) between the shoulder joint and rotator cuff tendons become irritated and inflamed, and muscle or tendon strain or tear, which can happen with tendonitis that is left untreated, or with stress from overuse.
Injuries are most commonly caused by normal wear and tear of daily life, poor posture or slouching, a sudden fall (and using our arms to break the fall), lifting a too-heavy object or lifting improperly, pulling something heavy, or repetitive arm activities, especially those done overhead, that cause stress to the shoulder.
Symptoms may include shoulder pain, tenderness and weakness, loss of shoulder range of motion, and a tendency to keep the shoulder inactive. Pain is the most common symptom of rotator cuff injuries, and may be experienced when reaching overhead, behind the back, lifting, pulling, or sleeping on the affected shoulder. A severe injury, such as a large tear may cause continuous pain and muscle weakness.
Treatment for rotator cuff injuries typically involves rest, over-the-counter pain relievers, and gentle stretching. Physiotherapy may be recommended to help heal the injury, improve flexibility of the rotator cuff, and develop shoulder muscle strength. Depending on the severity of the injury, full recovery may take from several weeks to several months. In more severe or chronic cases, treatment may involve corticosteroid injections or surgery. About half of the time, a rotator cuff injury can heal with self-care measures or exercise therapy.
Acupuncture can be very helpful in dealing with rotator cuff injuries, and this is good news. Treatments can help to relieve the inflammation, pain and muscle weakness and stiffness caused by the injury, which can speed recovery and bolster the body’s self-healing mechanisms. This makes acupuncture an excellent option in treatment of rotator cuff injuries, as it can complement other treatment therapies and can reduce the length of recovery time. Acupuncture can also be of particular benefit to lagging injuries that seem to just not want to get better. In addition, acupuncture helps the body to function better, and so can help to strengthen the shoulder and promote its proper functioning.
In Chinese medicine, rotator cuff injuries are often due to an obstruction of the flow of qi-energy and blood to the shoulder, causing pain and weakness. Acupuncture can remove these blockages to allow full circulation of qi-energy and blood to the shoulder, allowing it to receive the nourishment it needs for proper functioning. In addition, a person may also have internal balances or weaknesses that make him or her particularly prone to a shoulder injury of some sort. By determining the cause of the pain and looking at each person's individual health, we can not only resolve the pain and weakness that is being experienced, but we can also strengthen the body so that it is functioning in better health and less prone to a repeat injury or pain problem in the future.
Diverticulitis occurs when one or more diverticula- small, bulging pouches that form in the digestive tract- become inflamed or infected. Diverticula can form anywhere in the digestive system, from the esophagus to the small intestine, but are most commonly found in the large intestine. They usually develop in naturally weak places in the large intestine that eventually give way under pressure, causing marble-sized pouches to protrude through the colon wall. Diverticula are common, especially after the age of 40, though a person may not ever know they have these pouches because they seldom cause problems.
Sometimes, however, the pouches become inflamed or infected, and diverticulitis occurs. When this happens, it commonly causes symptoms of severe pain in the lower left side of the abdomen, abdominal tenderness, fever, nausea and vomiting, constipation, and diarrhea. Exactly how diverticula become inflamed or infected isn't understood but factors that increase the risk include age (it is most common after the age of 40), a low-fiber diet, lack of exercise, and obesity.
Mild cases of diverticulitis are typically treated with rest, antibiotics, and a liquid or low fiber diet for a few days until symptoms improve and the infection heals. Pain medication may also be prescribed if the pain is moderate or severe. Surgery may be recommended for more serious cases of diverticulitis to remove the diseased part of the colon.
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine (TCM) can be an effective option for diverticulitis. Like other digestive disorders, diverticulitis is an inflammatory condition and acupuncture can help to relieve inflammation and strengthen the digestive system to promote proper functioning. In TCM, diverticulitis is classified as a type of abdominal pain because this is the main presenting symptom with the condition. It can develop as a result of our environment, such as cold or dampness, our diet, or emotional stress, which over time, combined with a person’s constitution (genetics), can make the body prone to digestive disorders.
Diagnosis is further made according to the nature of the pain, how it reacts to pressure, food or drink, activity/rest, heat, and bowel movements. This information can point an acupuncturist more specifically towards what is going on inside the body to cause the disorder, in order to target this imbalance in treatment and resolve the condition. There are actually 6 different types of abdominal pain in TCM that could lead to diverticulitis, and by understanding very specifically the cause of the condition, which can vary from person to person, we can very effectively focus on resolving the imbalance. With acupuncture we can relieve the symptoms of diverticulitis such as inflammation, pain, bloating, nausea, diarrhea and constipation. Acupuncture can also help to strengthen the immune system and the digestive system to ensure that both are functioning properly in order to resolve the condition and prevent future flare-ups from occurring.
Of course, with a digestive disorder it is very important to support treatment with lifestyle changes, particularly diet. Diverticulitis can be prevented or improved through a high-fiber diet, regular exercise, and drinking plenty of fluids. In addition, avoiding food or drinks of a cold temperature, sour foods, and greasy foods can help to manage the symptoms and prevent flare-ups. Diverticulitis doesn’t mean a person has to suffer; with healthy habits, one can live a comfortable, symptom-free life.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at the Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.
Achilles tendinitis is inflammation of the Achilles tendon, the large band of tissue that connects the calf muscles to the heel bone. Achilles tendinitis is caused by repetitive or intense strain on the Achilles tendon. It is most often caused by a sport-related injury that involves overuse, intense exercise, jumping, or other activities that strain the tendon and calf muscles. It can also be caused by exercising without warming up properly, poor flexibility of the calf muscles, or starting a new exercise regimen after a long period of little or no exercise.
Achilles tendinitis usually causes pain that develops and worsens gradually over time. Symptoms can be a mild ache or pain at the back of the leg and above the heel after exercise, more severe pain with prolonged or intense exercise, tenderness or stiffness (particularly in the morning) that may improve with mild activity, mild swelling or a "bump" on the Achilles tendon, a crackling or creaking sound when you touch or move the Achilles tendon, and weakness or sluggishness in the lower leg.
Most cases of Achilles tendinitis are treated with simple at-home care, such as engaging in less strenuous exercise or taking a break from a regular exercise routine, and ice, compression and elevation in the acute stages. Stretching and exercises are important for recovery and for preventing recurring problems. If Achilles tendinitis continues to be a problem, treatment may be anti-inflammatory medications for pain and in more severe cases, a cortisone injection or even surgery. If left untreated, Achilles tendinitis can become a chronic problem, and can lead to more complicated problems such as tendinosis, (a weakening of the tendon that makes it more vulnerable to severe damage) or a tear or rupture in the tendon (a painful injury that usually requires surgery to repair the damaged tendon).
Acupuncture is a great option in the management of Achilles tendinitis and can promote proper healing to ensure full recovery from this condition. As with other injuries, Achilles tendinitis is, according to Chinese medicine (TCM), caused by stagnation of qi-energy and blood. When the body’s energy is blocked or not flowing properly, the area that is blocked is unable to receive proper nourishment to perform its functions, leading to pain, stiffness, and weakness in the area. This blockage can be due to external causes such as trauma or injury, or from internal causes such as a weakness in the leg or heel due to our genetics or accumulated lifestyle habits. Acupuncture treatment focuses on removing the blockage and helping the energy and blood to flow again in order to remove pain and resolve the symptoms of the injury. This also helps the body to get blood and energy to the injured area, so that it can properly heal.
An acupuncturist also looks at what underlying factors have influenced health and weakened the tendon or made it vulnerable to injury. These can be things like our genetic constitution, our overall health, and our lifestyle choices such as nutrition, diet, and stress, that can lead to internal health imbalances that can contribute to injury. By also treating these underlying factors, we can strengthen the injured area and improve health, to help prevent future reoccurrence. In this way, acupuncture can be a great help for the resolution of an Achilles tendon problem.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.
Tendinitis is the inflammation or irritation of a tendon- the thick, fibrous cords that attach muscles to bones. Tendinitis causes pain and tenderness just outside a joint. While tendinitis can occur in any of the body's tendons, it's most common in the shoulders, elbows, wrists and heels. Tendinitis symptoms typically include pain (usually a dull ache), tenderness, and mild swelling at the point where the tendon attaches to the bone.
Common names for tendinitis are tennis elbow, golfer's elbow, pitcher's shoulder, swimmer's shoulder, and jumper's knee. From this list it’s easy to see that tendinitis typically develops from the stress of a repetitive movement over time. Most people develop tendinitis because of jobs, sports or hobbies that involve repetitive motions, which aggravate the tendons needed to perform the tasks, although tendinitis can also be caused by a sudden injury. Age can also play a factor in tendinitis because as we get older, our tendons become less flexible, making them more prone to injury.
Most cases of tendinitis can be successfully treated with rest and self-care. If symptoms persist for more than a few days and interfere with day-to-day activities, your doctor may recommend medications to reduce the pain and inflammation. Injections of cortisone medication around a tendon may also be recommended to reduce inflammation and help ease pain but repeated injections may weaken a tendon, increasing the risk of tendon rupture. Tendon rupture is a much more serious problem that may require surgical repair. Without proper treatment, tendinitis can develop into a chronic problem and increase the risk of developing into tendon rupture.
Acupuncture can be a great option for resolving tendinitis problems and promoting proper healing. In Chinese medicine, most musculo-skeletal disorders have some relevant underlying imbalance or contributing lifestyle factor. Understanding a person’s general health gives an acupuncturist insight into the internal imbalances that can contribute to injury. Lifestyle can play a role, whether it be our occupation, the exercise or sports we choose, or our nutrition and diet. Chinese medicine also considers the role of emotion and thought in health, as they can be either the cause or the symptom of an internal balance.
With tendinitis, and all types of musculo-skeletal injuries, pain is caused by stagnation of qi-energy and blood. Acupuncture treatment focuses on removing the blockage and helping the energy and blood to flow again in order to remove pain and resolve the symptoms of the injury. This also helps to promote proper and complete healing.
In addition, we look at what underlying factors have influenced health and weakened the joint or made it vulnerable to injury. These causes can be external (such as exposure to the elements or an external trauma or blow to the area) or internal (caused by an imbalance in the body’s normal functioning due to our genetics or our lifestyle). By also treating these underlying factors, we are can strengthen the injured area and improve health, with the goal of preventing future reoccurrence.
Gastritis is an umbrella term for a group of conditions that all share a common symptom of inflammation of the stomach lining. Gastritis can be chronic or acute, and for most people it is not serious and resolves quickly with treatment. Symptoms include a gnawing or burning pain or ache in the upper abdomen that may be either worse or better with eating, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, belching, bloating, a feeling of fullness in the upper abdomen after eating, and weight loss.
Acute gastritis happens suddenly and is more likely to cause nausea and burning pain or discomfort in the upper abdomen. Chronic gastritis develops gradually and symptoms are usually a dull pain and a feeling of fullness or a loss of appetite after a small amount of food. In many people, chronic gastritis may cause no symptoms at all. In rare, severe cases, gastritis may cause stomach bleeding- requiring prompt medical care.
Gastritis is a result of the stomach's protective layer becoming weak or damaged. The stomach has a mucus-lined barrier that protects it from the acids that help digest food. Weakness in the barrier exposes the stomach lining to damage and inflammation from digestive juices. This can result from a bacterial infection, regular use of pain relief medications, severe stress, alcohol intake, bile reflux disease (when bile flows up into the stomach), an auto-immune dysfunction, or it can be a result of different conditions or diseases. Treatment may involve addressing the underlying problem, such as stopping the use of substances which lead to gastritis or taking antibiotics if it is due to a bacterial infection, or taking medications to reduce or neutralize stomach acid.
In Chinese medicine (TCM), gastritis conditions are classified as stomach pain, which includes both gastritis and ulcers. Gastritis is a loose term that can apply to so many different conditions, and Chinese medicine does not rely on Western diagnosis for treatment, but rather looks closely at the specific symptoms experienced, in order to determine the specific causes for each person.
From a TCM perspective, gastritis can be caused by a number of different factors. Acute gastritis can be caused by the abdomen being exposed to cold temperatures or damp conditions, which can cause a blockage in the qi-energy of the stomach and intestines. Diet is of course a major factor. Eating too little or too much food, eating too much cold food, hot-spicy food, sugar and sweets, or greasy, fried, or dairy foods can damage the function of the stomach. Irregular eating habits such as eating too fast or on the go, eating late in the evening or at night, eating while stressed or emotionally upset, skipping breakfast, eating while performing other activities, or eating irregular amounts of food from day to day may also be factors. Emotional upset such as anger, frustration, resentment, worry and stress can lead to stomach problems, as can overwork and physical over-exertion. And finally, our inherited constitution may mean for some people a weakness in the stomach, which makes it prone to disorders such as gastritis.
Because of the accuracy in diagnosis, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can yield excellent results in the treatment of gastritis and promote healing of the stomach lining. Acupuncture can also help with many of the symptoms of gastritis including nausea, pain, and vomiting, and can help to reduce stress and improve overall digestive functioning. Combined with lifestyle and dietary changes, it can be an effective treatment option for resolving gastritis, strengthening a weak digestive system, and preventing future stomach disorders from occurring.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.
Crohn's disease is an inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) that causes inflammation of the digestive tract lining. This inflammation often spreads deep into the layers of affected bowel tissues. Symptoms of Crohn’s disease can range from mild to severe and may develop gradually or come on suddenly, without warning. When the disease is active, the most common symptoms are severe diarrhea, abdominal pain and cramping, blood in the stool, ulcers in the intestinal walls, and reduced appetite and weight loss as a result of digestive discomfort and the body’s reduced ability to absorb nutrients. Other symptoms that may accompany Crohn’s diease include fever, fatigue, arthritis, eye inflammation, skin disorders, and inflammation of the liver or bile ducts.
The cause of Crohn's disease remains unknown but it is believed to be caused by a combination of heredity and a malfunctioning immune system. Diet, stress, and certain medications may aggravate the condition. There is also no known medical cure for Crohn's disease, and medical treatment focuses on reducing the inflammation in order to relieve symptoms and if possible to promote long-term remission. Treatment for Crohn's disease usually involves medications such as anti-inflammatories, immune system suppressors, and antibiotics, combined with other medications to help with the symptoms. In severe cases, surgery may be performed to remove a section of the intestinal tract.
Because Chinese medicine (TCM) developed independently from Western medicine, it has a different view of Crohn's disease. Chinese medicine has its own disease classifications that do not always correspond with Western medical classifications. TCM diagnosis is based on the collective symptoms that a person is experiencing, and together these symptoms create a picture that leads us to the cause. Depending on symptoms, we may classify Crohn’s disease as a type of abdominal pain or diarrhea, or both.
Because Crohn’s disease affects the body’s digestive system, it may involve a weakness or disorder of the stomach, spleen, large intestine, and/or kidneys. This is usually due to a constitutional weakness (genetics) that can be aggravated by diet, environment, emotional stress, overwork, or chronic illness, leading to the development of this condition. Acupuncture treatments can help to relieve the symptoms of a flare-up of Crohn’s disease. Diarrhea and abdominal pain particularly respond well to acupuncture. Not only does acupuncture help with the symptoms of a flare-up, but it can also help to strengthen the body and correct functioning to promote faster remission and a reduction in the frequency and severity of future flare-ups.
Because we are dealing with a more complex, chronic condition, recovery from Crohn’s disease with acupuncture will be a gradual and steady process, rather than an instant fix. Acupuncture engages the healing process, and each treatment builds on the progress of the last. Conditions like Crohn’s disease that develop over a longer period of time take more time to reverse and undo. However, acupuncture is a positive option that can help sufferers of Crohn’s disease live more symptom-free and experience a better quality of life.
Parkinson's disease is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. It develops gradually, often starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. The symptoms can vary from person to person and gradually develop, often unnoticed at first. Symptoms may begin on one side of the body and eventually affect both sides, although one side may remain worse than the other. Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include tremors, slowed or delayed movements, muscle rigidity, impaired posture and balance, speech problems, loss of automatic movements, and in later stages, dementia (impairment of memory and mental clarity). Parkinson's symptoms tend to worsen as the disease progresses.
The reason for Parkinson’s disease is still a mystery, but genetics and environmental factors such as exposure to viruses and toxins seem to both contribute. People suffering from Parkinson’s disease show changes to neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and norepinephrine, resulting in reduced stimulation of the motor cortex, the area of our brain responsible for our movement. Parkinson’s disease typically develops in middle or later life, and is more common in men.
Treatment for Parkinson’s includes medications to manage the symptoms of the disease, physiotherapy to help with movement, massage therapy to relax rigid muscles, and in some cases, surgery. Lifestyle changes to diet and exercise may also be recommended. Yoga or tai chi can be particularly beneficial because they can help with flexibility and balance.
Chinese medicine classifies Parkinson’s disease as a type of convulsion or tremor. It is seen as a combination of constitutional (inherited) weakness combined with lifestyle factors such as overwork, diet, and emotional stress, which may be triggers to the development of the disease. Parkinson’s disease is broken down into 3 sub-categories according to the cause of the disease.
The first is a deficiency of qi-energy and blood, with specific symptoms of pronounced tremor of a limb, sallow complexion, staring look, occipital stiffness, limb cramping, uncoordinated walking, difficulty moving, dizziness, blurred vision, and sweating. In this case, an acupuncturist would work on building up the body’s qi-energy and nourish the blood in order to improve symptoms and healthy functioning of the body.
The second type is phlegm-heat, which produces symptoms of tremors, dizziness, sweating, dry mouth, staring look, feeling of oppression in the chest, yellow phlegm, obesity, and stiff neck and back. This type can be particularly brought on by diet, and treatment focuses on resolving the phlegm and clearing heat from the body to remove blockages.
The third type is liver and kidney-yin deficiency, resulting in dizziness, tinnitus, insomnia, headache, night sweats, restless mind, sore back and knees, numbness of limbs, head tremors, clenched teeth, poor memory, difficulty walking, and staring look. In this case, treatment must build up the body’s yin energy and the body’s energy circulation.
While Parkinson’s disease cannot be completely cured, regular acupuncture treatments can offer success in the control of symptoms and in slowing or halting the progression of the disease, depending on the type. The sooner treatment is begun after onset, the more success treatment may have. Acupuncture can complement Western medical treatment for Parkinson’s disease and help to improve the quality of life of those suffering from the disease.
Acupuncture can also help with the associated symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. People with Parkinson’s often also suffer from depression, sleep problems, urinary problems, and constipation, and acupuncture has shown positive results in all of these areas. While Parkinson’s is a complex disease, acupuncture can help to improve quality of life and overall health to better manage the condition.
Asthma is a chronic inflammatory condition where the airways to our lungs narrow and swell. They produce extra mucus, and breathing becomes difficult. The most common symptoms of asthma are coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath but asthma symptoms range from minor to severe and vary from person to person. Some people only experience symptoms when they have asthma flare-ups, that may primarily occur at night, during exercise, or when exposed to specific triggers, allergies, or irritants. These people may have mild symptoms and infrequent asthma attacks and to them, asthma symptoms are a minor nuisance. Others experience severe or constant asthma symptoms that are a major problem and interfere with daily activities.
It isn't well-understood in Western medicine why some people get asthma and others don't, but it is believed to be caused by a combination of environmental and genetic factors. Risk factors include having a parent or sibling with asthma, having an allergic condition, a low birth weight, and being exposed to pollution, chemicals, allergens, and cigarette smoke. One thing we do know is that asthma is very common, affecting millions of adults and children and that number is growing every year.
The Western medicine approach to asthma is to control its symptoms, as asthma is seen as incurable. Treatment involves learning to recognize triggers and taking steps to avoid them, combined with the use of asthma medications such as inhalers and corticosteroids, among others, to keep symptoms under control. Unfortunately, many of these medications have negative side effects or compromise other areas of health or daily living.
Chinese medicine (TCM) has a different approach to asthma, and can be quite effective for this condition. According to Chinese medicine, the root cause of asthma is generally due to a constitutional (hereditary) weakness in the body’s defensive qi-energy system. Our defensive qi (‘chee’) system is a part of our body’s immune system, providing resistance to outside pathogens. Because our lungs are directly exposed to things in our external environment like cold, heat, smoke or pollen, our lungs are an important part of our defense system. People who develop asthma, have a weakness of defensive qi, particularly in the lungs, that may be aggravated by lifestyle such as diet and emotional stress, and exposure to external allergens, irritants, and chemicals. These external allergens, irritants, and pathogens are called invasions of “wind” in Chinese medicine, which essentially refers to anything of external origin that has an effect on our internal health. The combination of a weakened defense system and these “wind” invasions are conditions for asthma to develop.
Acupuncture treatments target these wind invasions which are the trigger for asthma attacks. Regular treatments during asthma attacks or severe asthma symptoms can help to reduce symptoms and lessen the frequency of the attacks. During the periods when asthma attacks are infrequent and symptoms are mild, acupuncture treatment focuses on treating the root problem- the weakness of the defensive-qi systems. By correcting and strengthening immune system functioning and influencing the body to function in a more healthy state, we can produce more lasting results for asthma sufferers. In many cases this can mean living symptom-free or with minimum symptoms for asthma sufferers.
Because asthma is complex condition that has to do with the body’s constitution, the treatment of asthma with acupuncture is usually steady and gradual, requiring a longer series of treatments to produce lasting results. However, what is important is that lasting results can be achieved, making acupuncture a great option for the treatment of asthma.
At some point, every smoker faces the prospect of quitting. On one hand, the serious health consequences of smoking and the fear of what it does to our health is a major motivator for quitting. On the other hand, there is the fear of how hard it will be to quit smoking- withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and living without the nicotine that a smoker has come to rely on.
There are two aspects to a smoking addiction: the physical and the mental. The physical aspect- withdrawal- is the most feared part of quitting, but is actually probably the easier to kick as these symptoms can be countered through treatment and through daily coping strategies. It’s true that nicotine is very addictive and quitting smoking can be very difficult. For many people it takes a few failed attempts before they quit smoking for good. But regardless of whether it’s your first time quitting or whether you’ve attempted it in the past, if you are willing to stick with it, you will succeed.
Acupuncture is a great option to help to address the physical aspects of quitting smoking, and can provide support and encouragement to help make quitting a success. One of the effects of nicotine on the body is that it stimulates the body to produce endorphins. When you quit smoking, the endorphin levels in the body initially drop while the body adjusts to producing normal level of endorphins again. This endorphin drop causes withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, tension, anxiety, and restlessness, particularly during the first few weeks of quitting. One of the effects that acupuncture has on the body is that it stimulates endorphin production. The endorphin boost helps to reduce stress and calm the mind, and by relaxing the body, it can help reduce cravings. In this way acupuncture is a very useful tool in overcoming withdrawal symptoms and making the adjustment to a smoke-free lifestyle.
Of course, acupuncture will only help with the physical aspect of the addiction- it won’t make you stop thinking about smoking. People often ask how successful acupuncture is for quitting smoking, and the truth is that long-term success largely depends on a person’s commitment to remaining smoke free, and on overcoming the mental aspect of the addiction, and this is true regardless of what method you choose to help you quit.
The mental aspect of nicotine addiction is where you have to work on seeing yourself as a non-smoker, regardless of any situation. You can tackle this by creating a quit plan. A quit plan is like a road map to success, allowing you to anticipate what's ahead and to prepare for any potential challenges. After years of smoking every day, it may at first feel strange that smoking is no longer a part of your daily routine. Furthermore, living smoke-free doesn't mean living stress-free. In fact, stress is quite often a major reason for relapsing. A quit plan helps you to find ways ahead of time for dealing with changes to your routines and with potentially stressful situations.
A quit plan includes learning your triggers: the times, places, situations, feelings and moods that trigger your cigarette cravings. You need to be aware of the triggers so that they don't catch you off guard, and you need to come up with new ways to deal with them to break the smoking association.
A quit plan also includes building coping strategies: these are your techniques for dealing with and eliminating your triggers such as avoiding situations that cause cravings, changing routines, or finding new ways to deal with emotions or stress that you used to deal with by smoking.
As part of your quit plan, you should also build a support team: people or programs that can help and encourage you through rough patches, keep you on track, and share your successes. And last but not least, set a date!
With quitting smoking, there is no magic bullet. The truth is that it does take hard work and commitment. Those of us who don’t smoke can tell you that you will still face stress and challenges in life. But you can look forward to better health and more money in your pocket, among so many other positive changes. And to help you through the initial transition to becoming a non-smoker, acupuncture can help make it a smoother and more comfortable experience.
The ankle joint is an intricate network of bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles. It is built for both strength and flexibility, as it needs to bear the weight of our body while also having the flexibility for the various surfaces we walk on. The ankle joint can be prone to various types of injury and pain and ankle pain may be experienced on the inside or outside of the ankle or along the back where the Achilles tendon connects the muscles in the lower leg to the heel bone.
Most ankle pain results from a sprain, which occurs when the ankle rolls over the foot, causing a ligament to stretch or tear. Sprains are often sports-related but they can also occur when walking on an uneven surface of from taking a misstep. Ankle pain can also be caused by injury to any of the bones, ligaments or tendons in the ankle.
The most common causes of ankle pain include Achilles tendinitis, sprains, strains, stress fractures, broken ankle or foot bone, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and gout. Any kind of ankle injury will also affect our gait or walking pattern and in a chain reaction, the knee joint, hip joint, SI joint and spine become involved and so ankle pain can have far-reaching consequences.
Acupuncture is a great option for problems of the ankle and can effectively treat ankle pain of all types. All of the leg meridians can have an influence on muskulo-skeletal disorders of the ankle, and because the toes are the starting point of the body’s meridians, if there is an imbalance or obstruction in any meridian, often it will cause symptoms of pain or muscle imbalance in the foot or ankle.
As with other pain or injuries in the body, Chinese medicine (TCM) usually diagnoses ankle pain and injury as a blockage or lack of proper circulation of blood and qi-energy in the affected area. These blockages lead to pain, weakness, and an inability for the ankle to heal properly because it cannot receive the proper nourishment to do so. Acupuncture helps to remove blockages, increase circulation of the blood and energy, and also resolve any imbalances in the meridians that may be causing a weakness in the ankle and leaving it prone to injury or strain.
In the early stages of an injury, acupuncture can help to remove blockages and promote blood flow to the ankle, as well as relieve swelling and pain. With injuries in the middle stage of healing, acupuncture can help alleviate swelling and pain in the ankle, and promote healing of the tissues and bones. In later stages of injury, where the ankle has become rigid and weak, acupuncture can help to relax the tendons and remove blockages to regain movement and strength in the ankle. In all cases, acupuncture helps to strengthen the body and promote better functioning so that the body is better able to heal and to resolve the problem fully. Whether we are dealing with acute or chronic ankle problems, acupuncture can help to boost the body’s healing so that we can regain our health and return to our regular day to day functioning.
The elbow is a complex joint formed by three long bones. Four sets of muscles help move the joint and are attached to the bones by thick tendons. Damage to any of these structures or to the joint's network of nerves, blood vessels and ligaments can lead to elbow pain.
Often elbow pain isn't serious, but because we use our elbows in so many ways, elbow pain can affect our daily lives and can lead to chronic or lingering problems. Most elbow pain results from overuse injuries, often sports-related but also as a result of activities or work that require repetitive arm, wrist, or hand movements. Elbow pain may also be due to arthritis, but the elbow joint is much less prone to wear-and-tear damage than other joints are. Common causes of elbow pain include ligament sprain and tears, golfer’s elbow, dislocation, elbow fracture, tendinitis, tennis elbow, osteoarthritis, or irritation or damage to one of the nerves in the elbow.
Acupuncture can offer positive results for the various disorders of the elbow. One of the first steps of diagnosis is to determine which meridians have been most affected, depending on where the pain is located. This helps an acupuncturist to determine the focus of treatment, and the points to use.
Although muskulo-skeletal problems like elbow disorders are typically due to external causes such as a blow to the joint or an overuse injury, internal weaknesses of the body can complicate or aggravate a problem once it is there. So we also look at the overall health of the internal functions to find any areas of imbalance, particularly those that affect the meridians of the elbow. Imbalances will contribute to weakness in the elbow and make it more prone to injury, as well as more slow to heal.
Acupuncture can be very effective for the many possible problems of the elbow, both acute and chronic. These can be problems of the muscles, such as spasms, cramps, muscle strains, or overuse injuries; problems of the ligaments and other soft tissue, such as ligament strains, bursitis, adhesions and scar tissue; and problems of the joint, such as with gout and the various types of arthritis. Acupuncture treatment can relieve pain, aid healing and help prevent future problems with elbow disorders.
Our bodies are amazing organisms that have the ability to self-regulate and repair themselves. In any disorder the body attempts to minimize, repair and overcome the damage to its normal functions and in many cases, given adequate rest and support, our bodies are able to recover successfully. However, in cases where the body isn’t able to correct a problem on its own, acupuncture is a promising treatment that helps bolster the body’s healing abilities so that we can return to our normal, healthy selves.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre, 1625 Ellis St, downtown Kelowna, BC.
Trigeminal neuralgia is a disorder that affects the trigeminal nerve, which runs from the jaw into the face. In trigeminal neuralgia, the nerve function is disrupted. This can cause attacks of mild or intense pain in the cheek, jaw, teeth, gums, lips or even the eye and forehead. The attacks can happen spontaneously or are triggered by mild stimulation to the face such as shaving, smiling, eating, or brushing your teeth. Attacks may initially be occasional twinges of mild pain but as trigeminal neuralgia progresses there may be longer, more frequent bouts of severe, shooting or jabbing pain like an electric shock. Episodes of frequent attacks can last days, weeks, months or longer, and there can be periods where no pain is experienced.
Trigeminal neuralgia is often a problem of pressure being put on the nerve, usually from an enlarged artery adjacent to the nerve, but in some cases it may be due to a tumor compressing the nerve. In other cases it can be related to multiple sclerosis or a similar disorder that causes damage to certain nerves. In many people who have suffered from shingles, trigeminal neuralgia can be a result of the virus, along with nerve pain in other areas of the body. Trigeminal neuralgia can occur as a result of aging, or in other cases, a cause cannot be found. It occurs in women more often than men, and is more likely to occur in people over the age of 50.
There are a variety of treatments that may be used in Western medicine for trigeminal neuralgia. Medications are usually the first treatment, such as anti-convulsants or muscle relaxing medications. However, over time, some people with the disorder may stop responding to medications or experience unpleasant side effects. In these cases, injections to numb the nerve or surgery to relieve the pressure on the nerve may be considered.
Acupuncture is an option well worth considering for trigeminal neuralgia. Studies in recent years have shown the positive effects of acupuncture for nerve disorders, and the World Health Organization lists acupuncture as a viable treatment for trigeminal neuralgia. From a Chinese medicine perspective, trigeminal neuralgia has two main causes. The first is over-exposure to cold and wind, causing an obstruction of the blood and qi-energy in the meridians of the face, leading to sudden attacks of facial pain and spasms of the facial muscles, symptoms which are aggravated by cold and relieved by heat. The attacks may be accompanied by runny nose and excess salivation. The second cause is due to internal factors, mainly an imbalance of liver and stomach energy, causing sudden attacks of facial pain with more of a burning sensation, accompanied by bloodshot eyes, tearing of the eyes, thirst, and irritability. In this case, the condition may develop as a result of lifestyle and dietary habits which over time may lead to an internal imbalance.
In either case, acupuncture can be remarkably effective in alleviating facial pain without side effects. Treatments help to improve circulation to relieve pain and irritation of the trigeminal nerve. Acupuncture can help to relieve the symptoms during a flare-up and may also promote better functioning of the trigeminal nerve so that flare-ups are less likely to occur or are more mild when they do occur. Indeed, acupuncture is shown to be a great option for trigeminal neuralgia, and can help you regain your lifestyle and live free of pain.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common disorder that affects the large intestine (colon), causing cramping, abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea and constipation. The symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome can vary widely from person to person and often resemble those of other diseases. For most people, IBS is a chronic condition, although at times symptoms may be worse and at other times they may improve or even disappear completely. As many as 1 in 5 adults experience IBS.
It's not known exactly what causes irritable bowel syndrome. The walls of the intestines are lined with layers of muscle that contract and relax in a coordinated rhythm as they move food through the intestinal tract. With IBS, the contractions may be stronger and longer than normal, forcing food to move through the intestines more quickly, causing gas, bloating and diarrhea. In other cases, the opposite occurs and food passage slows, and stools become hard and dry. Abnormalities in the nervous system or colon may play a role in IBS. Certain foods, stress, hormones, and illnesses may trigger IBS symptoms.
Because it's not clear what causes irritable bowel syndrome, Western medical treatment focuses on the relieving of symptoms. Treatment may include fiber supplements, eliminating foods that trigger symptoms, and medications such as antibiotics, anti-diarrhea medications, and anti-depressants, among others. Many people may have only mild symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome that can be managed by learning to manage stress and making changes to diet and lifestyle. However, sometimes symptoms can be disabling and may not respond well to medical treatment.
Acupuncture offers a positive option for IBS sufferers. Often irritable bowel syndrome is used as a catch-all phrase for all cases of abdominal pain which do not have another explanation. In Chinese medicine, the various cases of IBS do not fall into one broad disease category, but are broken down into many different disorders because the causes can be so varied. This is why individual symptoms may vary so greatly from person to person, because the underlying problem is usually very different for each person. In Chinese medicine terms, IBS may be classified as a type of abdominal/intestinal pain, epigastric/stomach pain (occurring in roughly half of IBS sufferers), or as a type of diarrhea, depending on the individual symptoms experienced.
For IBS with abdominal/intestinal pain, the cause is usually due to the liver-energy becoming blocked, which may further cause problems with the spleen’s digestive functions. The blocked liver-energy causes symptoms of bloatedness, constipation, and belching, as well as moodiness and irritability, symptoms which may be aggravated by emotional upset. If the spleen is also involved, there will also be fatigue and alternating constipation and diarrhea. Acupuncture treatment helps to move the liver-energy in order to resolve the retention of food, relieve pain and improve digestion, and corrects spleen functioning to resolve diarrhea and improve energy.
For IBS with epigastric/stomach pain, the cause can be due to a variety of different imbalances with the stomach, leading to improper or incomplete digestion of food. This can cause a variety of symptoms ranging from pain, nausea and vomiting, to belching, headaches, diarrhea, or constipation. The specific symptoms experienced will depend on the specific problem that is occurring with the stomach, whether it is due to heat or cold damaging the stomach, or because the stomach-energy is blocked. In any case, acupuncture can help the stomach to function properly so that digestion is corrected, resolving symptoms.
In any case, acupuncture offers very effective and lasting relief for IBS sufferers, helping to resolve symptoms and prevent future flare-ups and allowing those with IBS to live a more regular, symptom-free life.
Peripheral neuropathy refers to damage to the nerves of the peripheral nervous system (the nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord). A common symptom is numbness and pain in the hands and feet, often described as a tingling or burning sensation and a lack of feeling similar to wearing a thin stocking or glove. Peripheral neuropathy can affect many different nerves, from sensory nerves that register heat, pain or touch, to motor nerves that control how your muscles move, or autonomic nerves that control blood pressure, heart rate, digestion and bladder function.
Specific symptoms vary, depending on the types of nerves affected. There may be gradual onset of numbness and tingling in the feet or hands which may spread upward into the legs and arms, burning pain, a sharp or electrical pain, extreme sensitivity to touch, lack of coordination, muscle weakness or paralysis if motor nerves are affected, and bowel or bladder problems if autonomic nerves are affected.
Peripheral neuropathy can result from traumatic injuries, infections, vitamin deficiencies, autoimmune diseases, metabolic problems and exposure to toxins. One of the most common causes is diabetes. Treatment in western medicine depends on the cause. In many cases, peripheral neuropathy symptoms improve with time when the underlying condition that is causing it gets treated. In order to manage the painful symptoms, a number of medications are often used.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, pain and dysfunction as a result of peripheral neuropathy are caused by a blockage of qi-energy and blood. If qi-energy and blood don’t flow properly, it prevents cells from receiving nourishment and can lead to pain and functional problems. In addition, depending on the symptoms experienced, there may be specific meridians that are also affected by the condition. Acupuncture treatment typically will involve both local points to treat the meridians affected and the symptoms experienced, combined with points for strengthening and building up the body to augment qi-energy and blood. In this way, acupuncture can help to relieve many of the symptoms experienced, as well as help to strengthen the body and improve health to improve the functioning of the nerves and the body as a whole.
Acupuncture shows promising results for those suffering from peripheral neuropathy. Studies have demonstrated that acupuncture may help to improve nerve conduction, and the World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture as a useful therapy for neurologic symptoms like peripheral neuropathy. Although an individual may not recover immediately or completely through acupuncture, treatment can make a difference in the symptoms experienced and one's comfort level. With time, treatments may have a lasting positive impact on peripheral neuropathy.
Most women have experienced menstrual cramps, or "dysmenorrhea," at one time or another. Menstrual cramps are dull, throbbing or cramping pains in the lower abdomen and are often experienced just before and during a period. For some women, it is merely an annoying discomfort but for others, it can be severe enough to interfere with everyday activities for a few days every month. Dysmenorrhea can be accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea and vomiting, loose stools, sweating, and dizziness.
In many situations, there is no identifiable cause of dysmenorrhea. Many experts believe that constricted blood vessels during the period cause menstrual cramps, much in the way that angina occurs when blocked coronary arteries starve portions of the heart of food and oxygen. Most of the time painful menstruation is not considered a cause for concern and western medical treatment usually involves non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or hormonal birth control to manage the symptoms of dysmenorrhea.
In Chinese medicine, dysmenorrhea or painful periods are not considered a normal part of a woman's life but rather a sign of an imbalance, which can be treated effectively in order to resolve the symptoms. As with western medical theory, Chinese medicine sees a lack of flow of blood and qi-energy as the cause for menstrual cramps. Whereas western medicine sees menstrual cramps as all belonging to the same class of problem, Chinese medicine breaks it down into six different types, depending on the internal imbalance causing the symptoms. Factors that can contribute to dysmenorrhea include emotional strain, prolonged exposure to cold and dampness, overwork or chronic illness, and childbirth.
A feeling of cold and pain in the lower abdomen that is aggravated by pressure and relieved by heat points toward an internal accumulation of cold and damp. Distention and pain in the lower abdomen that is aggravated by pressure and accompanied by pain in the rib flanks, chest, and breasts indicates an internal imbalance involving the liver energy. Lower abdominal pain that is aggravated by pressure and accompanied by a burning or distending pain in the lower back and sacrum indicates an internal damp heat accumulation. A feeling of cold and pain in the lower abdomen that is relieved by pressure or heat indicates internal cold and a deficiency of yang energy. A general lower abdominal pain that is somewhat relieved by pressure and is accompanied by fatigue, dizziness, and aching of the lower back and spine indicates a deficiency of liver and kidney energy. A general lower abdominal pain with a down-bearing sensation in the lower abdomen accompanied by fatigue and pale complexion indicates a deficiency of blood and qi-energy.
Acupuncture can be quite successful in the treatment of dysmenorrhea. Treatments can help to relieve symptoms very quickly, however it typically takes at least 3 cycles to get the body back into balance and fully resolve the problem. A real positive of acupuncture is that it is working to promote health while also managing and resolving the symptom. It’s very common to see other areas of health improve, such as energy levels, sleep, moods and stress levels, and pre-menstrual symptoms. Indeed, acupuncture is an excellent option for treating and resolving menstrual cramps.
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to a part of the brain is reduced or interrupted, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within a few minutes, brain cells begin to die. Ischemic stroke, the most common type, occurs when the arteries to the brain are narrowed or blocked, severely reducing blood flow (ischemia). The other type of stroke, hemorrhagic stroke, occurs when a blood vessel in the brain leaks or ruptures, causing too much blood within the skull. Hemorrhages can result from a number of conditions that affect the blood vessels, including uncontrolled high blood pressure, weak spots in the blood vessel walls, and the rupture of a malformed blood vessel.
Symptoms of stroke include trouble walking, loss of balance or coordination, dizziness, trouble speaking, blurred or double vision, severe headache, stiff neck, facial pain, and paralysis or numbness on one side of the body. A stroke can lead to temporary or permanent disability, such as paralysis or loss of control of certain muscles, difficulty talking or swallowing, memory loss or trouble with understanding, and pain, tingling or numbness in certain parts of the body. Early treatment can minimize damage to the brain and potential stroke complications.
Recovery and rehabilitation depend on the area of the brain and the amount of tissue damaged. Harm to the right side of the brain may affect movement and sensation on the left side of the body. Damage to brain tissue on the left side may affect movement on the right side, as well as speech and language functions. In addition, people who've had a stroke may have problems with breathing, swallowing, balancing and hearing, and loss of vision and bladder or bowel function.
Every person's stroke recovery is different, depending on what complications a person might have. The goal of stroke rehabilitation is to help the person recover as much independence and functioning as possible. Much of stroke rehabilitation involves relearning lost skills, such as walking or communicating. The speed of recovery depends on the extent of damage to the brain, the intensity and duration of therapy received, as well as personality, coping styles, and motivation.
In Chinese medicine, stroke is caused by a number of factors that tend to play out over a long period of time, and depending on the factors involved, this will determine the type of symptoms experienced during and after a stroke. Chinese medicine distinguishes two general types of stroke: the most severe type attacks the internal organs as well as the energy pathways (meridians) and the milder type attacks only the meridians. Lifestyle factors that put a person at greater risk include long term stress or overwork, excessive or strenuous physical activity, emotional strain, and irregular or poor eating habits.
Acupuncture can be a very helpful therapy during the stroke rehabilitation process. As with other types of therapies, acupuncture tends to have the most positive effect on stroke recovery if treatment is started as early on as possible, ideally within the first 3 to 6 months of the stroke.
Acupuncture treatments can offer the stroke patient improvements in the areas of walking, balance, emotions, quality of life, ease of daily activity, and mobility. Studies show that acupuncture can have an effect on nerve regeneration, blood viscosity and blood pressure, hormone regulation, and aid surviving nerve cells in finding new pathways. Acupuncture is also helpful in the treatment of headache, dizziness and hypertension. Because a stroke is a more complex problem, treating this condition with acupuncture will take a series of treatments in order to improve symptoms and achieve the best results.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease where the body's immune system attacks the body’s myelin, the protective sheath that encases the nerves in the brain and spinal cord, eventually causing deterioration of the nerves themselves. When myelin is damaged, the messages that travel along that nerve may be slowed or blocked, interfering with the communication between the brain and the rest of the body.
It is not yet understand exactly why multiple sclerosis occurs in some people and not other although a combination of factors, ranging from genetics to childhood infections, may play a role. Canada has one of the highest rates of MS in the world.
Multiple sclerosis can be difficult to diagnose early in the course of the disease, because symptoms often occur in periods of relapse and remission, sometimes disappearing for months. Symptoms vary widely, depending on the amount of damage and the particular nerves that are affected. Symptoms can include dizziness, fatigue, tremors, lack of coordination or unsteady walk, double vision or blurring of vision, tingling or pain in parts of the body, deterioration of vision, electrical jolt sensations that occur with certain head movements, and numbness or weakness in one or more limbs, which typically occurs on one side of the body at a time or the bottom half of the body. Symptoms of multiple sclerosis often are triggered or worsened by an increase in body temperature.
Because there is presently no cure for multiple sclerosis, treatment typically focuses on combating the autoimmune response and managing the symptoms. Western medical treatment mainly consists of medications to manage symptoms, although many disease-modifying treatments are being developed. Some people have such mild symptoms that no treatment is necessary.
In Chinese medicine, a number of factors are considered to contribute to the development of multiple sclerosis, including diet, lifestyle, and constitutional factors that may cause a vulnerability to developing this condition. MS is considered a dampness pattern, meaning that there is an obstruction of the flow of energy through the body’s channels, causing a feeling of heaviness in the legs as well as numbness and tingling. Over time, the blocked energy has an effect on other areas, causing a deficiency in the liver and kidneys that leads to blurred vision, weakness of the legs, dizziness, and vertigo.
Acupuncture cannot cure multiple sclerosis, but it can offer considerable help in alleviating the symptoms and slowing down the progress of the condition. However, the extent to which acupuncture can help depends on when treatment is started- the earlier treatment is started, the better.
If treatment is started in the very early stages, symptoms can be minimized and even eliminated, and the disease progression slowed or halted. Later stages of multiple sclerosis can be more difficult to treat, however acupuncture can still be of benefit in the relief of symptoms, and is an option well worth considering for the management of this condition. One can expect a schedule of 2-3 treatments per week for the first few weeks, going down to once a week as progress is made.
Living with a chronic illness such as MS is a challenge that means managing symptoms and preventing and minimizing flare-ups. Staying healthy, exercising, decreasing stress, avoiding heat, and lots of rest can play a big part in managing the condition and maintaining quality of life. Finding therapies that can help to manage symptoms and keep the body healthy are also important, and acupuncture can play a role in this management.
James Kaufman is a Registered Acupuncturist at Okanagan Acupuncture Centre’s new location, 1625 Ellis St, Kelowna, BC.