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Research Update: Acupuncture for Low Back Pain

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A study published in the British Medical Journal examined how acupuncture can be beneficial for low back pain. The researchers split 241 people into two groups. One group received acupuncture treatments and the other group only received conventional treatments for pain. Over the course of the two-year study, researchers found that those participants receiving acupuncture reported their pain levels were less and that they needed less medication. While the differences in pain scores were not astronomical, this study does demonstrate that the addition of acupuncture to conventional treatments for low back pain can be helpful.

Statistics show that almost eight out of ten people will experience low back pain at some point during their life. Seeking medical treatment for back pain is very common. Typically back pain is fleeting and can be easily resolved with rest, heat and an occasional anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen. However, once the damage is done, the recurrence of back pain can be as high as 50 percent. Part of this is because as we age, things like muscles and tendons become less flexible and pliable. It is also very well known that in the United States people are too sedentary, and this leads to excess weight gain that can create added pressure on the body, especially the low back.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a medical system that dates back nearly 3,000 years. Despite its age, TCM has a lot of validity to offer in the age of modern medicine. Thousands of studies have proven that acupuncture, just one of the modalities used in TCM, can be very beneficial in the treatment of low back pain.

Acupuncture uses hair-thin needles to stimulate specific pressure points on the body. By invigorating these points, the brain is triggered to release endorphins, which are natural painkillers. The energy within the body is also moved and adjusted. According to TCM medical theory, when the energy is blocked or weak, then pain and illness can attack the body.

One of the advantages of utilizing acupuncture to treat low back pain is that the acupuncturist doesn’t need to diagnose the cause of the pain before treating it. Since acupuncture has no real adverse side effects when performed by a qualified and professionally licensed practitioner, pain relief can begin the very first time a patient is treated.

The treatments are very customizable because this medicine is not a “one size fits all” type of solution. This means that as the pain shifts and changes, the patient will receive customized treatments that not only address the pain and inflammation, but they also work on resolving the root of the problem. Most patients who are dealing with pain also have added stress, insomnia and depression or anxiety. Acupuncture is great at treating all of these conditions. So the patient gets more than just pain relief.

Acupuncture is so effective at treating and relieving pain that it is now showing up in hospitals and emergency rooms. In fact, Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis, Minnesota is now successfully using acupuncture in its emergency room to treat conditions ranging from low back pain to car accident injuries to kidney stones. Their initial results show that pain scores are just as low with acupuncture as they are with analgesic painkillers. Another positive action regarding the utilization of acupuncture came just recently. The Food and Drug Administration released proposed changes that plan to educate health care providers about treating pain. The new guidelines recommend that doctors get information about acupuncture and suggest it to their patients before prescribing opioids.

With these kinds of recommendations and testimonials, it is hard to believe that only about ten percent of Americans have ever tried acupuncture. But that statistic is slowly changing as more and more people are seeking natural and alternative methods of dealing with low back pain. Why not check it out for yourself? Contact a licensed acupuncturist in your area and see how they can help you.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/09/060915102553.htm

Extraordinary Vessel – Du Mai

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In addition to the 12 main acupuncture meridians that flow along the surface of the body, practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine also treat deeper channels of energy in the body called the Extraordinary Vessels. If you think of the primary acupuncture meridian as rivers of energy and blood within the body, then the Extraordinary Vessels are deep lakes. They act to regulate the flow of Qi and blood within the 12 main channels – if there is not enough energy in a particular channel, the Extraordinary Vessels can help to fill it. Likewise, if energy is overflowing or erratic in a particular acupuncture meridian, the Extraordinary Vessels can help to redirect the excess energy to other areas of the body.

There are eight Extraordinary Vessels in the body, and only two have acupuncture points along their pathway. One of these is the Governing Vessel, or Du Mai. It originates between the kidneys, flows down to the perineum and then runs up the length of the spine, through the brain, over the top of the head and down the midline of the face.

The Du Mai is also called the “Sea of Yang,” and stores, nourishes and moves the yang energy within the body, and influences all of the yang meridians. It particularly strengthens the yang of the kidneys, which is the root of all yang within the body. Yang is the hot, fiery, expansive, active parts of our physiology. Without yang, there is no life. The main point to nourish kidney yang is located on the Du Mai itself, on the low back.

Due to its pathway inside the spine, the Du Mai is used clinically for strengthening the spine and the back. Acupuncture needles can be inserted into points directly along the Du Mai meridian, or the vessel can be accessed by needling certain opening points on the wrists and ankles, which directly influence the Du Mai. It can be a great distal treatment for back pain, because the Du Mai can be treated with patients lying on their back or seated in a chair, if lying face down is too uncomfortable. It is an important treatment for many back issues such as bulging discs, arthritis or spinal stenosis.

The Du Mai can also be used to nourish the brain for symptoms such as dizziness or poor memory. Because a small branch of the Du Mai passes close to the heart, it can also be used to strengthen the mind and spirit. Lastly, some traditions of acupuncture use the Du Mai to expel wind from the body – it can be used to expel exterior wind-causing symptoms like runny nose, headache, fever and stiff neck. It can also be used to expel internally generated wind, for symptoms like tremors, tics, convulsions or vertigo.

The Du Mai can be stimulated with acupuncture needles during acupuncture treatment, or can be accessed internally through the use of qi gong breathing and movement techniques. Certain herbs stimulate the Du Mai and can be used in herbal formulas to carry the actions of other herbs to this Extraordinary Vessel, as well.

Acupuncture Research: Chronic Pain

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In May 2018, a team of researchers from the Acupuncture Trialists Collaboration published an update to previous chronic pain research in the Journal of Pain, the journal associated with the American Pain Society. The new article updates a study first released in 2008 that looked at acupuncture as a treatment for four chronic pain conditions. The updated study now includes data from nearly 21,000 patients.

The new study confirms what was shown in the researchers’ previous work: acupuncture relieved pain and improved function when compared with sham acupuncture and not receiving any acupuncture. The researchers also showed that the effects persisted over at least a 12-month period. This study adds to the body of literature that suggests acupuncture can be a viable treatment for chronic pain, and the findings cannot be explained solely by placebo effects since they did not observe significant changes in the group that received sham acupuncture.

Chronic pain affects approximately 50 million Americans or just over 20 percent of the adult population, according to a study from the Center for Disease Control released in September 2018. That statistic, when combined with the growing opioid epidemic in the United States led one of the country’s largest health-insurance providers, Blue Cross Blue Shield, to start covering acupuncture as an alternative to opioids. The change went into effect January 1, 2019.

Acupuncture relieves pain by releasing endorphins, the body’s natural pain-killing chemicals, at the acupoints in which the needles are inserted. Licensed acupuncturists can access the specific areas of their patients’ bodies that are causing them pain by inserting needles at acupoints connected to those painful areas. Acupuncture may also help relieve pain by affecting the area of the brain that governs serotonin, a chemical in the brain involved in regulating our moods.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture meridian points activate the body’s innate healing abilities acupuncturists call Qi (chee). According to TCM, Qi is the vital energy that animates the body and protects it from illness. Qi flows through pathways called meridians and provides nourishment to the body’s cells, tissues, muscles, organs, and glands. When there is an imbalance or blockage in the flow of Qi, symptoms such as chronic pain may appear.

If you or someone you know suffers from chronic pain, suffer no more! Contact a licensed acupuncturist in your area to learn how they may be able to help you find relief in an all-natural way with no risk of harmful side effects.

https://www.painnewsnetwork.org/stories/2018/9/13/cdc-50-millionamericanshavechronicpain

http://americanpainsociety.org/education/enews/2018/may/summaries

https://dailymemphian.com/article/2059/BlueCrossremovesOxycontinaddsacupunctureamidopioidcrisis

Potent Organs in Spring Time

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Spring is generally regarded as a happy season, especially for those that live in areas where winter is cold and dark. Spring brings with it longer, warmer days, more sunshine, the rebirth of plants and more activity. But for many, the months of spring can also bring irritability, anxiety, sinus issues, allergy flare-ups and colds.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been around for nearly 3,000 years, which gives the medical system, as a whole, a lot of credibility. TCM classifies things in many different ways. There are five seasonal associations in TCM – winter, spring, summer, late summer and fall. Each season has its own unique set of properties and associations. Spring is associated with the wood element. The wood element governs the liver and the gallbladder and their energetic pathways. The five seasons and their corresponding elements interact with one another daily, creating balance and harmony or complete chaos within the body.

Spring is a time of growth, which is evident by all the plants and flowers coming into bloom, as well as the wildlife awakening from winter slumber. Spring is the time of birth and regeneration. This season tends to be trademarked by optimism and opportunity.

Spring is linked to the wood element in TCM due to the prospects of growth and development. When a tree is nourished properly, it will grow and expand. This is very similar to what happens with the body and spirit within every living being. Just like the wood that makes up the trunk of the tree, we must be able to be flexible and bend, always changing and adapting to whatever comes our way. We need to remain strong and rooted, yet be able to give a little if needed.

According to TCM theory, the liver and gallbladder are associated with the tendons and are responsible for the smooth flow of energy and blood throughout the body. Our daily activities should reflect this. Being more active and spending more time outside can be great ways to strengthen the liver and gallbladder energies during the months of spring. Fresh air helps the liver and gallbladder function properly and decreases any stagnation being experienced in the body. We should imitate the budding trees and flowers and allow ourselves to grow and reach for bigger and better goals during the spring.

Green is the color of spring in TCM. During these months, fresh greens are abundant. It is highly recommended that we incorporate more fresh greens into our daily diets. Greens have been shown to be very beneficial for helping the liver detoxify the blood. Dandelion greens, in particular, are a good source for detoxification, which ultimately strengthens the liver and gallbladder meridians.

Sour drinks and foods are believed to stimulate the liver’s healing abilities. Adding lemon slices in your drinking water or using vinegar and oil as a salad dressing are some good examples. However, if you are a person that has anger issues, sour tastes should be avoided, as this can send the liver into overdrive.

It is also recommended to avoid excessive stimulants during the spring months. Things like coffee are considered expansive and energizing, which can be somewhat helpful during the cold winter months. But during the spring, when life is abounding, excess energy can actually be harmful to the body. It can create headaches, insomnia, anger and more.

As with any seasonal change, adding acupuncture treatments can be a huge asset, but especially in the transition from winter to spring. Due to the winds picking up and the weather becoming warmer, things like bell’s palsy, allergies or sinus infections can become more prevalent. Using acupuncture as preventive medicine can vastly improve your chances of remaining healthy throughout the transition. So for the sake of your liver and your overall health, be sure to connect with a locally licensed acupuncturist today. You won’t regret it.

Research Update – Acupuncture and the Liver

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A study published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine looked at how acupuncture might be able to inhibit injury to the liver caused by the prescription combination of morphine and acetaminophen. The study was conducted on rats that had been fed morphine and acetaminophen. Then, acupuncture was applied once daily to the rats. The researchers discovered the rats who received acupuncture also had less damage to their livers. This occurs because of the antioxidant-stimulating effects of acupuncture treatments. The researchers concluded acupuncture may provide a safe alternative detox method for people chronically taking morphine or acetaminophen.

Traditional Chinese Medicine, a medical system that has been around for thousands of years, views the human body quite differently from Western medicine. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there are energetic pathways are associated with specific organs in the body. When these pathways, or meridians, and the energy flowing through them, are out of balance, then the body may become diseased.

In TCM, the liver and its corresponding pathway are responsible for the smooth flow of qi (pronounced “chee”) or energy, blood and emotions. The liver is easily affected by excess stress and uncontrolled emotions. The liver is paired with the gallbladder and the two work very closely as a unit. When one is imbalanced, the other may display the symptoms. For example, if a person is consistently stressed, this may cause the liver energy to become blocked. When this happens, the gallbladder may become affected. It is not uncommon for people in high stress jobs to end up with gallstones. The liver becomes blocked and the emotions remain bottled up inside, which then manifests in pain and possibly stones.

Anger is the emotion commonly associated with the liver and gallbladder. If a person gets angered easily, frequently feels frustrated, has difficulty relaxing or letting things go, and is unreasonable, it is safe to guess their liver energy isn’t flowing smoothly. There are many methods of balancing liver energy and returning proper flow throughout the body. Learning to stay calm and channel one’s anger appropriately is a good place to start. Practice some deep breathing, meditation, yoga or even take a walk. All of these things are great for balancing stagnant liver energy.

Another way to smooth liver energy is a technique known as dry brushing. Using a hairbrush with rounded bristles or a soft bristle brush, one can lightly brush down along the liver energetic meridian, which runs along the inner thighs and inner calves, all the way down to the inside corner of the big toe. This can be done for about five minutes per leg. Dry brushing gently stimulates the liver meridian, allowing the blood and energy to flow more freely and relaxing not only the liver, but the whole body.

Acupuncture is another great way to balance the liver energies. Regular acupuncture treatments help balance the body holistically and without any real side effects. Acupuncture can increase the flow of energy throughout the body, remove blockages and stagnation and allow the liver to function properly, which will ultimately allow the body to detox more effectively.

If you deal with anger, stress or have a history of gallstones, it might be a good idea to give acupuncture a try. Be sure to find a fully licensed and properly trained acupuncturist who can help guide you through balancing the energy of the liver meridian. Over time, your body will most likely respond favorably.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S187638201530072X