Stress Related Conditions

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1 06, 2016

Stress and Acupuncture

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%

9 12, 2015

Hormone Balancing

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

24 10, 2013

Hormone Imbalance / Estrogen Dominance

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

11 06, 2012

Making Menopause a Smooth Transition

Sharon came in complaining about chronic fatigue and low energy. The 58-year-old had been experiencing menopausal symptoms for the past three years and reported having trouble falling and staying asleep. She was also having night sweats and hot flashes that interfered with her sleep.

Getting to the Root of the Problem

At Sharon’s first appointment, she reported feeling fatigue, weakness in the limbs, and memory loss. She also reported digestive issues that included bloating, belching, gas in the stomach, and heartburn. Her tongue was slightly purple, red in the center, and had no coating. The tongue is an accurate indicator of what is going on internally, which is why acupuncturist's use it as a diagnostic tool

Sharon’s symptoms indicated she was suffering from a kidney yin deficiency. The kidneys play an important role in our vitality and as they decline, signs of aging begin to appear including greying hair, memory loss, poor eyesight, and aging skin. If kidney functioning is particularly low we may also experience lower back pain and weak limbs. Digestive issues are an indication of poor spleen functioning, which can also contribute to weakened kidneys.

a successful transition through menopause with acupuncture

Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

I started Sharon at twice weekly acupuncture treatments in order to get her symptoms under control so she could enjoy a better night’s sleep. Sharon experienced improvement after just a few sessions and after five sessions her night sweats and hot flashes decreased by 50%.  

Because of her progress, I reduced her treatments to once a week while we continued to work on her sleep issues and hot flashes. With each treatment, Sharon continued to improve and her symptoms resolved. She was sleeping better, sweating less, and had fewer hot flashes. She reported feeling more energetic and said her digestive issues were improving with each acupuncture treatment. 

After 10 treatments, Sharon was nearly back to normal so we reduced her sessions to twice a month and then to once a month to maintain her progress and prevent her symptoms from returning. Eventually, when the menopausal stage is complete, her symptoms will resolve fully.

Enjoying Life’s New Stages

I see Sharon every two months and she continues to do well. When she does experience sweating and hot flashes now, it is minor and resolves quickly. Best of all, she is sleeping normally and her energy levels are great. 

Sharon is a great example of how acupuncture can reduce menopausal symptoms by helping the body reduce stress and ensure the various organs and systems are functioning optimally so that one can experience a comfortable transition through this natural stage of life.

Wondering if acupuncture can help you achieve better health? Visit Okanagan Acupuncture Centre at our downtown Kelowna location or contact us to find out more!

 

6 03, 2012

Jaw Pain / TMJ Syndrome

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.

24 01, 2012

Meniere’s Disease

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.

24 01, 2012

Depression

Depression, also called major depression, major depressive disorder and clinical depression, is a medical illness that involves the mind and body, affecting how a person feels, thinks and behaves. It is characterized by low moods and a loss of interest or pleasure in normally enjoyable activities. Other symptoms may include preoccupation or over-thinking, irritability or frustration, feelings of worthlessness or guilt, poor concentration and memory, withdrawal from social situations, reduced sex drive, and insomnia, as well as fatigue, headaches, digestive problems, reduced appetite (or in some cases increased appetite), and an agitated or lethargic behaviour.

About 16% of adults in Canada will experience depression at some point in their lives, with women being twice as likely to suffer from depression as men. The risk of depression is increased with certain conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, stroke, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain, cardiovascular illnesses, and the first year after childbirth. Depressed individuals have shorter life expectancies than those without depression, in part because of greater susceptibility to medical illnesses and suicide.

The understanding of depression has evolved over the centuries. Although the causes are still not yet fully understood, a variety of factors are believed to be involved. These include biological differences (people with depression appear to have physical changes in their brains), the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, the body’s balance of hormones, genetics, early childhood trauma, and major life events such as the loss of a loved one or high stress. The most common treatments for depression are psychotherapy, anti-depressant medication, and electroconvulsive therapy, used only as a last resort.

Acupuncture is an excellent option for the treatment of depression, as it is very effective in both relieving the symptoms and in resolving the condition with continued treatments, and without negative side effects. Chinese medicine (TCM) takes a much different approach to depression and focuses much more on the overall functioning of the body and how the various organs and systems are working in relation to each other. According to TCM, there are different causes and mechanisms for depression in different people. For some people it has to do with mental-emotional causes such as continued stress, frustration or worry. Other factors can be either too much or too little exercise and activity. Or it may be due to other diseases in the body, or age or body type. In others it may be faulty diet or lifestyle factors.

By identifying the particular pattern of depression, an acupuncturist can effectively diagnose and treat the depression based on each person’s unique causes and symptoms. This allows for a very effective treatment that is catered to the individual’s needs, from using the appropriate acupuncture points to diet and lifestyle recommendations that can support healing. Acupuncture, particularly when combined with Chinese herbal formulas, is a very effective treatment option for depression and can help a person to regain their lost health and recover from the debilitating symptoms of depression. It can be used as a complement to conventional depression treatments, or as an effective alternative.

Like other chronic conditions such as diabetes, depression is a complex condition that takes time to develop in the body and is caused by many factors. For this reason, there really is no “quick fix”, whether tackling it with acupuncture and Chinese medicine, medications, counseling, or some combination of these. Acupuncture takes time to have an effect on chronic conditions, and the body takes time to heal.

For this reason, it is important to be committed to the healing process, to be patient with our body as it takes time to heal, and to expect some bumps along the way as we are faced with life’s stresses. Typically with acupuncture a series of treatments is needed, on a regular schedule over the course of a few months to achieve lasting results. While depression can be a disabling condition which adversely affects a person's family, work or school life, sleeping and eating habits, and general health, there is hope that we can regain both our health and our happiness.

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

8 10, 2010

Heart Palpitations

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

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

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

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

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

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

21 01, 2009

Hair Loss / Alopecia

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

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

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

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

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

7 01, 2009

Teeth Grinding / Bruxism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7 01, 2009

High Blood Pressure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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