oriental medicine

Joint pain

Joint pain can arise from many different sources. Overuse of the joints leads to pain, which is common in osteoarthritis. Various autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriatic arthritis can also lead to joint pain.

 

When it comes down to it, all joint pain is inflammation. When there’s any type of trauma, whether internal or external, the body urgently tries to repair itself. It sends a whole army of defender cells, clearing damaged and foreign particles out, as well as trying to repair the damaged tissue. Often in the case of chronic joint pain, the damage is either too great to be repaired by the body’s endogenous systems, or something has gone wrong and the body’s immune system is attacking itself.

 

Arthritis and joint diseases are incredibly widespread. Approximately 350 million people worldwide and around 43 million people in the United States suffer from some form of chronic joint inflammation. Nearly 2.1 million Americans suffer from rheumatoid arthritis (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/). These numbers are expected to keep rising drastically in the coming years.

 

Increasing age, improper diet, smoking, obesity, stress, and lack of sleep can greatly increase the likelihood that a person will experience increased inflammation and joint pain (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK493173/). In today’s world, it’s easy to check off several things on the list of these risk factors. Our jobs are stressful, our sleep cycles are erratic, our diets are often quick, on-the-go foods, containing pro-inflammatory trans fats and sugars. Our bodies end up taking the brunt of this lifestyle.

 

Chronic inflammation can last from several months to several years. It becomes part of people’s day-to-day lives. The joints keep hurting and they accept it as something that will be there for the rest of their lives. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or Corticosteroids are often used to treat painful, inflamed joints. Both of those options, however, come with a host of side effects associated with repeated and long-term use.

 

Acupuncture and herbal medicine are great, safer alternatives to conventional medication. Studies have shown that acupuncture works to down-regulate inflammation in various conditions. Blood tests during studies suggest that after receiving acupuncture, inflammatory markers were reduced (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1781596/pdf/12775355.pdf). In the clinic, joint pain is one of the most common conditions that we treat. A steady regiment of treatments, lasting 1-3 months, returns people to a pain-free life. Often times, this has to be combined with lifestyle modifications. When we have an underlying offending factor that keeps causing the problem, no amount of treatment will make the problem go away completely. Unlike conventional treatments, that often just mask the problem, eastern medicine gets to the root of the issue and keeps it from recurring.

 

If you or someone you know suffers from arthritis or any joint pain, acupuncture might be a great solution for them. We are always happy to help people get their life back!

 

Sources:
Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health topics but does not constitute medical advice. If you have any questions related to your condition, you should contact your doctor or healthcare provider. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention
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Meno-Pause or Meno-Start? Life After 50

 

According to statistics at World Health Rankings, women’s life expectancy is 81.6 years (ranges between 74 and 84 depending on the state you live in). Menopause typically onsets at about 50. Theoretically, this means that the average woman should have more than 30 years of living after menopause!.

Women stress about these changes and are constantly looking for ways to beat the biological clock. It is time to shift our way of thinking and gracefully accept that menopause is a natural physiological process.

The first step is to educate ourselves about what to expect so we can be prepared to handle these changes. The climacteric phase or perimenopausal stage marks the beginning of the transition from reproductive years to non-reproductive years.  Women are born with a fixed number of eggs stored within ovaries and are shed during each menstrual period.The hormones used to maintain this cycle are mainly estrogen and progesterone. Subsequently, as women age, the number of eggs and these hormones steadily decline. The severity of menopause symptoms can be attributed to the fluctuating hormone levels but can also be affected by lifestyle and dietary habits throughout a woman’s life prior to 50. Furthermore, it is important to note that 45-85% of women may experience any of these symptoms up to 5-10 years after hormone levels have decreased.

 

Eastern vs. Western Medicine

Western medicine practitioners contribute symptoms to be directly related to hormone imbalances. In addition to that, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)  practitioners believe these symptoms to be a result of systemic imbalances in combination with the body’s way of dealing with the natural aging process of menopause. Therefore, each woman’s experience is different depending on the systems affected.

 

Common symptoms include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Headaches
  • Lethargy
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Night Sweats
  • Vaginal dryness

TCM considers the menopausal symptoms as indications that the Kidney energy is waning, termed as  Kidney Yin Deficiency. Additional symptoms can include presentations of Kidney Yin Deficiency such as soreness and weakness of the lumbar regions and knees, dizziness, ringing in the ears, hearing problems, a dry mouth and throat, a hot sensation in the palms, soles of the feet, and chest and spontaneous sweating. We address both Kidney Yin Deficiency (the “root”) and the symptoms with acupuncture and Chinese herbs to tonify Kidney and clear heat.

Kidney deficiency is recognized in the clinic when the above-mentioned heat symptoms appear, which is characterized as “Empty heat” or “Heat from Deficiency”  Empty heat can lead to insomnia, hot flashes, menopausal syndrome and anxiety disorders.

Symptom Relief
Current Western medicine treatments for menopause symptoms include hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which reduces vasomotor symptoms such as hot flashes by 20-30%. However, HRT comes with concerning side effects such as increased rates of heart attack, stroke, and breast cancer (1).

As a result, there have been several studies supporting alternative modalities in the treatment of the menopausal symptoms. Randomized control trials in the U.S., Norway, and parts of China have proven Traditional Chinese Medicine methods such acupuncture to result in as much as a 50% reduction in some of these symptoms with an average of 10-12 treatments over a 3-month period. (1,2,4)

The acupuncture points I use in my treatments target the Kidney and Heart meridians to alleviate these common distressing symptoms.

Fig 1                                    Fig 2                                               Fig 3                                         Fig 4

 

Fig. 1: Lung 7 and Kidney 6 combined to regulate the Conception Vessel (Ren), regulates the uterus and nourish Kidney yin, supports sleep.
Fig. 2: SP 6 benefits Kidney, reduces night sweats and helps sleep.
To clear heat and support sleep, I may use other points such as:
Fig. 3: Large Intestine 11 or 4

Fig: 4: Liver 3  – spreads Liver Qi,  helps with moodiness, headaches and blood pressure (in combination with other points)
Heart acupoints – if insomnia is the main problem

 

Therefore, fear not. Approaching the age of 50 does not have to be a dreaded process. We don’t have to fit the stereotype of a woman with raging hormones, having no control of her emotions or internal temperature gauge. The comprehensive components of TCM include lifestyle advice, acupuncture, and Chinese herbs. Each patient’s treatment is unique and personalized based on the systemic imbalances. Given this information, we now have the knowledge and the tools to take the appropriate steps to ease into this transition and let this milestone be an exciting new phase of life!

 

Stay tuned for future posts…..

“Just remember, once you’re over the hill you begin to pick up speed.” —Charles Schulz

 

 

 

Discussion Question:  What are some of your fears for approaching menopause?

 

 

 

Bibliography

  1.     Borud EK, Alraek T, White A, Fonnebo V, Grimsgaard S. The effect of TCM acupuncture on hot flushes among menopausal women (ACUFLASH) study: a study protocol of an ongoing multi-centre randomised controlled clinical trial. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2007 Feb 26;7:6. PubMed PMID: 17324253; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1819392.
  2.     Fu C, Zhao N, Liu Z, Yuan LH, Xie C, Yang WJ, Yu XT, Yu H, Chen YF. Acupuncture Improves Peri-menopausal Insomnia: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Sleep. 2017 Nov 1;40(11). doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsx153. PubMed PMID: 29029258.
  3.     Maciocia, Giovanni. “Obstetrics and Gynecology in CM.” (2011): 740-741.
  4.     Venzke L, Calvert JF Jr, Gilbertson B. A randomized trial of acupuncture for vasomotor symptoms in post-menopausal women.Complement Ther Med. 2010 Apr;18(2):59-66. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2010.02.002. Epub 2010 Mar 23. PubMed PMID: 20430288.
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Post-partum vulnerability

New Mom
New Mom

Early in the summer, a young mother with her newborn baby was at the mall, doing some shopping. She was wearing a cute summer dress with no sleeves. The temperature at the store was pretty chilly and I could not help but get concerned about that girl’s health for being exposed to such a cold environment during her post-partum period that consists of about six weeks after childbirth.

In China, the post-partum period is considered a very vulnerable time for the mother, and they ensure that the mother receives proper care at home. There is a tradition called Zuo Yue Zi Postpartum confinement passed to women from generation to generation. Generally speaking, the new mother should follow a special care routine that involves a special diet and avoiding drafts and physical work for an entire month.

This makes sense from the traditional Chinese medicine perspective. After childbirth, the mother’s body is deficient in terms of energy and blood (Qi and Blood deficiency), so the focus should be on replenishing blood by providing high-quality nutrients and facilitating the digestive system’s ability to process and obtain nutrients from food.

Here are some symptoms that correlate to “Qi and Blood deficiency” that are common after childbirth:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Loss of memory
  • Dry eyes
  • Poor appetite
  • Insomnia
  • Blurred vision
  • Melancholy, sadness or depressive mood

Note: A more severe presentation may indicate post-partum depression, which is a condition that requires medical attention. If that is the case, seek immediate medical attention.

Recommended foods to support blood replenishment:

  • Grains: barley, corn, oats, rice, sweet rice, wheat, bran.
  • Vegetables: alfalfa sprout, artichoke, beetroot, button mushroom, cabbage, celery, dandelion leaf, dark leafy greens, kelp, shiitake mushroom, spinach, watercress, wheatgrass (in particular artichoke, beets, dandelion leaf, kelp).
  • Fruit: avocado, dates, mulberries, grapes, figs, apricots, plums.
  • Nuts and seeds: almonds, black sesame.
  • Fish: mussel, octopus, oyster, sardine, tuna.
  • Meats: chicken, red meat, liver (pork and sheep).
  • Beans: adzuki, black soya, kidney beans, black beans.
  • Spices: ginger, cardamom, vanilla, cinnamon.
  • Herbs: nettle, parsley.
  • Eggs: chicken eggs.
  • Condiments that are warming and may increase the digestion are ginger, cardamom.

 

In addition, your Chinese herbalist can recommend appropriate decoctions or formulas for your individual needs (e.g. variations of Ba Zhen Tang or Gui Pi Tang) to speed up your recovery.

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health topics but does not constitute medical advice. If you have any questions related to your condition, you should contact your doctor or healthcare provider. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention.

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Pain management with acupuncture

As a doctor, one of my big concerns is the increased use of pain medication, in particular, those opioid derivatives that are causing an epidemic problem of overuse in the United States of America, as mentioned in several publications and now more widely covered in the news.

Acupuncture is a well-known technique used to treat pain in the US for some decades now and in China for thousands of years. Pain management is the most studied indication linked to acupuncture in the Western world. If you are in pain, I would like to recommend that you opt for a more natural, non-pharmacological approach to avoid risks of pain medication side effects such as constipation and those mentioned in the Harvard Health Publications report on pain relief with natural methods.

The practice of acupuncture requires board certification and is a licensed profession in most states in the US. The training involves the basis of Chinese medical practice and diagnosis which takes around four years in graduate school involving over 600 hours of clinical practice.

I suggest finding a certified acupuncturist in your area who will guide you in this individualized approach that looks for the root of the problem rather than just minimizing the symptoms.

One frequently observed, “side effect” of acupuncture is a feeling of relaxation and well-being, so why not to give it a try?

A good resource to find a certified practitioner is the NCCAOM website.  If you live in the Chicago area, we would be glad to make an evaluation on your particular case.   Schedule an appointment with us!

 

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health topics but does not constitute medical advice. If you have any questions related to your condition, you should contact your doctor or healthcare provider. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention.

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Allergies and Alternative Medicine

canstockphoto4836101Allergies are common in the spring season, so I would like to share our perspective on this topic.

 

What is it?

 

An allergy is described by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “1: altered bodily reactivity (such as hypersensitivity) to an antigen in response to a first exposure; 2: exaggerated or pathological immunological reaction (as by sneezing, difficulty breathing, itching, or skin rashes) to substances, situations, or physical states that are without comparable effect on the average individual.”

In terms of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), sneezing, itching, or skin rashes are considered pathological effects of “wind,” and the causes may be multiple. In general, it represents a weakness in the “protective qi” or protective shield of the body.

What can TCM do for allergies?

There are several approaches available to the TCM practitioner, such as acupuncture, herbal remedies, and dietary and lifestyle recommendations.

Using a combination of the above-mentioned methods helps the body to rebuild the protective shield.

TCM is not meant for emergency situations, however.

It may take a few months for you to notice changes to your reactivity to seme allergens, so we recommend not stopping the medication your doctor has prescribed to manage allergic symptoms.

If you would like to learn more about allergies from a TCM perspective, you may find  You may find this article useful.

 

Disclaimer: This article contains general information about health topics but does not constitute medical advice. If you have any questions related to your condition, you should contact your doctor or healthcare provider. If you think you may be suffering from any medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention.

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