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Dampness Bogging You Down?

Figure Bogged Down by DampnessIn Traditional Chinese Medicine, certain diseases or adverse health conditions can result from an excess of dampness in the body. The buildup of dampness is generally influenced by three things: an individual’s constitution (hereditary factors), an individual’s lifestyle (activity level and exposure to actual dampness in the external environment), and an individual’s diet (consumption of foods which either fortify or weaken the digestive system). The presence of dampness indicates an imbalance of Yin and Yang and a weakness of the spleen; dampness may also indicate weakness in the kidneys or lungs. If dampness continues to accumulate, this imbalance will bog you down, blocking the flow of life force energy (your qi) and ultimately leading to stagnation within the body.

How Dampness Feels

When the humidity outside goes up in the summer months, most of us really feel it. Our physical surroundings—and even the air we breathe—can seem wet, heavy, and waterlogged. Dampness is essentially the equivalent of high humidity inside the body (a physical condition), and it can be experienced in a similar way. Your limbs may feel heavy and you might be slow to get moving. You may feel bloated, swollen, sluggish, and unmotivated. You may notice an increased level of mucus and fluid in the body, loose stools, and a tendency to gain weight. The effects of external dampness (if present in your immediate physical environment) may also cause joint pain, dizziness, and a heavy sensation within the chest. Dampness can occur as both damp-heat and damp-cold.

How Dampness Affects Your Health

In addition to the high-humidity effects felt above, the accumulation of dampness within the body can manifest in a number of other ways. Some of the most common signs of excess dampness include: allergies and sinus congestion, inflammation (arthritis), respiratory problems (asthma), skin conditions (cystic acne and eczema), urinary tract infections, yeast infections, digestive issues, headaches, and edema.

Treating and Preventing Internal Dampness

There is probably not much you can do about your inherited constitution and you may be limited in regard to changing your physical environment. You can, however, make significant changes to your diet with the aim of resolving (and preventing) the accumulation of dampness in the body. It’s imperative that you keep your digestive system running smoothly so that it can process nutrients, remove toxins, and help support the spleen and other organs. Be aware of what you eat and how it affects you (you might even want to keep a food journal). Avoid overeating, as well as excess coffee and alcohol. Limit processed foods, raw fruits and vegetables, refined starch, dairy products, sugar, and anything deep-fried.  Consume foods and beverages at room-temperature. Bump up your intake of lean proteins, broths and soups, bitter spices, whole grains, and legumes. Exercise and adequate rest will also keep your digestive system in tip-top shape.

If you find the concept of dampness inside the body somewhat confusing, consider making an appointment with a licensed acupuncturist. They can help shed light on how this imbalance may be affecting you and suggest both treatment options and dietary/lifestyle changes to improve your overall health.

Resources:

Learn More About TCM Dampness and Food Therapy

Musculoskeletal Pain Acupuncture Model

Poor Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Pain

Musculoskeletal Pain Acupuncture ModelDealing with poor ergonomics (and prolonged sitting) is a challenge in many work environments and office spaces. A less-than-ideal workstation can compromise your posture and result in stressful repetitive movement and overuse of key muscle groups. If you develop musculoskeletal pain, the effects can carry over into the rest of your life and affect your ability to enjoy other physical or social activities. Many people seek relief through nerve block injections, physical therapy, or anti-inflammatory medications. Traditional Chinese Medicine can also help you manage musculoskeletal pain, especially if you want to avoid taking medication or if you have tried other treatment modalities without success.

Symptoms of Musculoskeletal Pain

Musculoskeletal pain refers to discomfort in the bones, muscles, tendons, joints or ligaments. In addition to specific areas of discomfort, it can manifest in any number of ways, including fatigue, stiffness, general aches, muscle spasms, and difficulty sleeping. If poor ergonomics are a factor, you might be experiencing low back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, or muscle strain in the neck or shoulders. Eye strain and headaches are likely to be issues as well.

Treating Musculoskeletal Pain with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

One of the side benefits of utilizing TCM for treating musculoskeletal pain is that it not only relieves discomfort—it can also lower stress and help you to sleep better. Three options you may want to consider: Acupuncture, Tuina, or Qigong.

  • Acupuncture. Treatment of pain is one of its primary uses. Acupuncture stimulates the energy points of the body to encourage blood flow and healing of inflammation. It also encourages the production of cortisol (a natural steroid in the body) and the release of endorphins (the natural “pain killers” generated by the body). Because Acupuncture can quickly reduce pain and swelling, the time required for injured tissue to heal is also reduced. Acupuncture can be used to treat painful areas throughout the body; needles may be placed locally or involve a combination of acupuncture points.
  • Tuina. Like acupuncture, Tuina (pronounced twee-nah) also helps with energy and blood flow in the body. It is a form of body work/massage that is characterized by a variety of rolling hand movements (pushing, pressing, kneading, grasping, and stretching). It is similar to acupuncture in that it is used to stimulate different points on the body to encourage healing, but Tuina involves the fingers and acupressure rather than the use of needles. It can also be used in conjunction with acupuncture as a pain treatment for specific joints, tendons, and muscles in the body. It is especially helpful for treating carpel tunnel syndrome, neck pain, and lower back pain. NOTE: Because Tuina targets specific areas of pain and can include deep-tissue massage, initial treatment of those areas may be uncomfortable or cause minor bruising.
  • Qigong. Qigong (pronounced chee-GONG) is another component of Traditional Chinese Medicine that helps with the flow of energy (qi) in the body, as well as the flow of oxygen. It involves the practice of slow and repetitive movement, meditation, and breathing (the exercises are based on a mind-body connection; you move with your breath.) These body movements are both simple and low-impact, allowing you to gently stretch your muscles and gradually increase mobility in areas affected by pain and tension. Gentle stretching can resolve pain in the hips, thighs, low back, elbows, and knees. Developing a dedicated Qigong practice is beneficial on several levels—it can help ease the depression and anxiety that often accompanies long bouts of pain, while at the same time conditioning your muscles and preventing new aches and pains from occurring.

TCM Has Your Back

Don’t let poor ergonomics get you down—or keep you down. There are a variety of ways to treat musculoskeletal pain beyond the general recommendations associated with Western medicine. Acupuncture, Tuina, and Qigong are highly effective methods for addressing pain complaints. If these treatments are completely new to you, give them a go—you’ll probably wish you’d tried them sooner!

Resources:

Tips For Setting Up an Ergonomic Workspace

Learn More About Tuina

Learn More About Qigong

 

Acupuncture treatment

Acupuncture Versus Dry Needling

Acupuncture Versus Dry Needling: The Finer Points

Many people mistakenly assume that dry needling is simply an alternative labeling term for acupuncture, as they both involve the insertion of thin needles into the skin. The difference between the two is actually more complex. If you have been debating whether to pursue acupuncture or dry needling for treatment of a painful physical condition, it’s important to understand what sets them apart and how your choice of one over the other could result in serious health consequences.

A Difference in Approach

Both acupuncture and dry needling can be used to treat chronic pain, but these treatment methods approach the body differently.

Acupuncture has been around for over 2000 years and is known for treating a broad range of health conditions.  An acupuncturist will treat physical pain by using needles (as well as other modalities) to help move/release an individual’s healing energy, or qi. The needles are strategically placed on the body according to a patient’s symptoms; placement may occur at trigger points (knots in the muscles of the body that feel tight) or along meridians (the energy pathways within the body).

Dry Needling appeared in the late 1940s and was originally done with empty hypodermic needles (a “dry” needle meant that no medication was injected into the body). Dry needling today is done with acupuncture needles. Dry needling is specifically intended to treat musculoskeletal and myofascial pain via muscle trigger points. The needles are used to directly stimulate these trigger points, with the aim of alleviating pain and cramping, improving range of motion, and reducing muscle tension. Needles may also be inserted in the tissue surrounding the primary pain point.

Compared to acupuncture, dry needling has only been around for a very short period of time. Limited research has been done in regard to its safety and health benefits. Some studies even suggest that stretching and massage therapy may be just as effective as dry needling.

A Difference in Opinion

Dry needling here in the U.S. is promoted as a stand-alone treatment modality performed by physical therapists, massage therapists, chiropractors, and athletic trainers. These practitioners often claim that dry needling is not acupuncture because it is not based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, yet they sometimes use acupuncture studies to support the argument that their treatment is effective. It should be noted that dry needling is actually a well-established treatment method that is recognized by the World Health Organization as a subtype of acupuncture.

Training and Regulation Issues

There are no standard guidelines or licensing requirements for dry needling as a therapeutic treatment, which means that it can be performed with minimal training. It is not uncommon for a non-acupuncturist to receive as little as 20 hours of training during a weekend workshop. This is in contrast to a licensed acupuncturist, who receives more than 1300 hours of combined acupuncture training, hands-on training, and supervised clinical training. Acupuncturists also receive over 400 hours of training in diagnosis and biomedicine—all through an accredited program of study that requires a national board examination followed by continuing education.

Safety Issues and the Patient Experience

Acupuncturists are highly skilled and educated practitioners. Because they have had extensive training, their patients experience little (if any) discomfort during treatment. Practitioners of dry needling do not have the same level of training and proficiency. They can sometimes be too aggressive with needle insertion or inadvertently contaminate the needles; this often results in additional pain for the patient and potential bleeding, bruising, and infection. Needles up to 4 inches in length may be required to reach muscle tissue located deep within the body, leading to more serious complications, such as pneumothorax/collapsed lung and nerve injury.

Dry needling is widely recognized as an invasive procedure. Several national acupuncture associations and organizations, as well as the American Academy of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and the American Medical Association, have voiced strong concern about patient safety. In 2011, The American Association of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine issued the following Position Statement:

The U.S. Department of Education recognizes ACAOM as the sole accrediting agency for Acupuncture training institutions as well as their Master’s and Doctoral Degree programs. Training in Acupuncture, which has been rigorously refined over the course of hundreds of years internationally and forty years domestically, is well established and designed to support safe and effective practice. Attempts to circumvent Acupuncture training standards, licensing or regulatory laws by administratively re-titling acupuncture as “dry needling” or any other name is confusing to the public, misleading and creates a significant endangerment to public welfare.

Acupuncture Versus Dry Needling: Choosing a Practitioner

If you are interested in acupuncture or dry needling as a treatment option for pain, please take the time to investigate options in your area.  Here in the U.S., you can easily search for board-certified acupuncturists through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). You can also check with your state’s Acupuncture Licensing Board. If you are searching online for the credentials of a dry needling practitioner, you likely won’t find much. Ask questions about their background and training before you agree to any kind of treatment plan. Be safe out there.

Resources:

Dry Needling Controversy and Background

Relationship Between Acupuncture and Dry Needling: Clarifying Myths and Misinformation

Position Statements on Dry Needling

Evaluating the International Standards Gap for the Use of Acupuncture Needles

Love is in the Air Balloons

Heart-Qi: Love and Health are in the Air

Today is Valentine’s Day and love is in the air! Whether you plan to acknowledge someone special with a box of chocolates, a dozen roses, or a stuffed pink teddy bear, don’t forget to lavish a little extra attention on your Heart-Qi! It’s easy to get swept up in the range of emotions surrounding romantic love, but protecting our hearts involves more than just protecting our feelings. We also need to protect the connection between our emotional state and our Qi.

The Heart-Qi Connection

Healthy Heart-Qi: Love is in the Air Balloons

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has long recognized that physical health and emotional well-being are closely connected. This connection is based on Qi, which can be defined as both “life force energy” and “air/breath”. The energy (Qi) of the emotions you experience fall into seven distinct categories and correspond with one or more major organs (heart, liver, lung, spleen, and kidney).

An emotional imbalance might express itself as a physical ailment, or a physical ailment (linked to a specific organ) might express itself as a heightened or intense emotion. Keep in mind that the heart oversees all of the emotions. Any Qi imbalance within the organs of the body will ultimately affect the heart.

The Key Emotions of TCM

  • Joy (a negative state of agitation) affects the heart and may cause palpitations, spontaneous sweating, mood swings, and insomnia.
  • Anger affects the liver and may cause dizziness, migraines, high blood pressure, and depression.
  • Grief (sadness) affects the lungs and may cause chest tightness, asthma, and allergies.
  • Pensiveness (worry) affects the spleen and may cause loss of appetite, fatigue, and bleeding disorders.
  • Fear affects the kidneys and may cause night sweats, incontinence, and infertility.
  • Shock and fright can affect both the heart and kidneys and may cause headaches, constipation, and shoulder pain.

Preventing Emotional Turbulence

Strengthening the Heart-Qi makes it easier to resolve other Qi deficiencies that may be present in the body. If you are dealing with chronic physical ailments or you feel mentally and emotionally out of sorts, practicing self-care is a great place to start. Be mindful of what you eat. Exercise regularly. Get a good night’s sleep. Visit with cherished friends and loved ones.

And remember to schedule an acupuncture treatment! Detoxifying with acupuncture and herbal supplements can help relieve the physical and/or mental disharmony you may be experiencing. We’ll help you come up with a flight plan to maintain and support a healthy Heart-Qi!

Resources:

http://www.shen-nong.com/eng/principles/sevenemotions.html

https://www.verywellmind.com/emotions-in-traditional-chinese-medicine-88196

https://holosapiens.com/physiology/deficiency-of-heart-energy

https://www.sakara.com/blogs/mag/116573893-the-root-of-emotional-imbalance-according-to-your-organs

Read more

Acupuncture for Depression

shutterstock_130152032We have all felt sad or depressed at one time or another in our lives, but it tends to quickly pass. For those who are clinically depressed, this feeling tends to last for a much longer period of time and not only does it affect their lives, but the lives of those around them as well. Depression is a mental illness that if left untreated can lead to more emotional problems and also manifest into physical problems. It is characterized by prolonged feelings of hopelessness, sadness, worthlessness and thoughts of death/suicide. Depression affects physical health as well in that a person who suffers from depression may have trouble sleeping, eating, and working. It is estimated that there are 20 million Americans who are affected by depression and it is on the rise. The World Health Organization believes that depression will be the second highest medical cause of disability by the year 2030, second only to HIV/AIDS.

Today, the most common form of treatment for depression is medication. However, more than 60% of patients on anti-depressants are responding with below satisfactory results. They are receiving partial temporary benefit or no benefit at all. Those who do respond to medication only receive temporary benefit/relief from the symptoms. Anti-depressants don’t treat the cause, they only mask the symptoms, and the side effects of depression medication have been reported to sometimes be worse than the depression itself.  Even knowing all of this, 11.3 billion dollars a year is spent on anti-depressant medications in the United States.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) does not see depression as a specific illness for everyone who experiences it.  Chinese Medicine focuses on each individual and customizes the treatments specific to that particular person. Acupuncture is seen as an alternative treatment to reduce the severity of depression. Acupuncture can alleviate the signs and symptoms the person is experiencing as well as address the root cause and underlying imbalances.

Many studies have been done to support acupuncture as a treatment to alleviate depression.  Recently, a randomized controlled study was done. The results showed that the brain chemistry that is changed due to depression can be altered with acupuncture. Electro-acupuncture was performed on points Baihui and Yintang. At the end of the trial, the genes that were imbalanced from depression had become normalized. Acupuncture provides a safe, natural, drug-free way to treat depression.

You can read more about the study here: http://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1363-acupuncture-relieves-depression-regulates-gene-expression

“The greatest mistake in the treatment of diseases is that there are physicians for the body and physicians for the soul, although the two cannot be separated.” -Plato