Acupuncture is a safe and extremely effective healing modality that has been refined over the last thousand years. It uses hair thin needles to stimulate the body’s central nervous system and leads to a targeted normalization of tissue, reduction in pain, swelling and inflammation and permanent healing.
Because the mechanism of acupuncture’s healing effect is through the nervous system it leads to a profound sensation of calm, tranquility, and well being. In other words, acupuncture is the only healing modality that actually uses the brain to direct and focus a healing response.
For pain conditions acupuncture typically causes an immediate change in the pain pattern and will lead to lasting and stable improvement. This improvement occurs because this is not just a way of masking pain, but rather a way to prompt the body to focus and reignite its healing process, strongly re-balancing the sympathetic (fight-or-flight) and parasympathetic (relax and heal) nervous systems and, therefore, can be directed at non-pain conditions as well, such as anxiety, insomnia, depression, and many more.
For many of us living with some form of chronic pain is a part of our everyday life. When we take into account back pain, arthritis, repetitive stress injuries, and sports injuries we realize that the majority of us are often managing some sort of painful condition. Unfortunately, the help we receive when we visit our primary doctor is often minimal. We are usually given six weeks of non-steroidal anti-inflamitories and sent on our way. If that does mask our symptoms enough we are often shuffled straight to the surgeon for the most extreme and invasive type of treatment possible without any counseling as to our other options. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) approaches the treatment of painful conditions in an entirely different way. TCM recognizes that there are many subtleties to the types of pain we experience and many reasons why our bodies are unable to heal themselves. Masking the symptoms is not enough. The pain will never truly go away until the tissue is healed and the underlying factor impairing the body’s natural ability to heal is removed. This type of targeted and supportive care requires a very sophisticated system of diagnosis and specific treatment. TCM differentiates pain according to where in the body it is located, what type of pain is felt (sharp, dull, shooting, etc), what factors make it better or worse, and according to other imbalances in the patient’s constitution. Through this very specific classification of the painful condition targeted and supportive care can be prescribed. The result is individualized treatment plans for the specific patient that often lead to dramatic and rapid reductions in their pain. Commonly used treatment modalities for pain are acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, bodywork, rehabilitative exercise, dietary modification, and relaxation techniques. Painful conditions, which often respond well to care are: Low back pain Rheumatoid arthritis Osteo-arthritis Chronic neck and shoulder pain Carpal Tunnel Repetitve Stress Injuries Fibromyalgia Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy or RSD Ileo-Tibial Band Syndrome or IT Band pain Plantar Fascitis Athletic Injuries Lateral and medial epicondylitis or Tennis Elbow
Many people who suffer from anxiety or depression do not find satisfactory results from conventional therapies, either due to side-effects of pharmaceuticals or the severity of their symptoms. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) developed outside the mind/body dichotomy paradigm of modern medicine and thus offers a holistic approach to treating emotional illness. Different psychological imbalances can create physical symptoms and various physical ailments have psychological repercussions. Although this seems to be the most basic of common sense, this integrated paradigm is only in its infancy within the current medical model. However, TCM has always treated psychological illness from a completely integrated mind-body approach and through 2000 years of recorded clinical usage has developed highly sophisticated treatments for a wide range of mental disorders. From the viewpoint of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) the mind and the body are completely integrated and this philosophy is at its core in the treatment of anxiety disorders. An example of this is the classic panic attack. The genesis of a panic attack lies in a nervous system response. The nervous system becomes overly sensitive to normal stimuli and initiates a strong sympathetic (fight or flight) response at an inappropriate time. This causes a massive release of stress hormones in the body, which leads to heart palpitations, sweating, dizziness, and a strong emotional feeling of anxiety and dread. At the root of this issue is the hypersensitivity of the nervous system and its reaction to our daily stimulus. The western medical treatment is through the use of sedative pharmaceutical medications, which can have many unwanted side-effects, such as drowsiness, a flat affect, etc. Traditional Chinese medicine focuses on re-balancing the nervous system so it no longer generates fight-or-flight responses to non-threatening situations. This is accomplished through the use of acupuncture and gentle herbal therapies. An estimated 19 million Americans live with major depression. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) recognizes that there are many different types of depression. Depression is broken down into subcategroies, which are determined not only by the depression’s emotional quality, such as withdrawal, sadness, anger, frustration, grief, etc., but also by the physical and constitutional nature of the patient. Each of these types of depression has a unique treatment plan based upon the specific symptoms and needs of the patient. Rather than just lumping all depression into a serotonin issue, TCM addresses the root cause of the body’s imbalance, thus naturally correcting physiological function and brain chemistry. Acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbal medicine are powerful tools which can greatly enhance the effects of your overall integrative mental health care. At our San Francisco Bay Area clinic we custom tailor a holistic treatment plan to gently re-balance the nervous and endocrine system and restore proper emotional balance. Acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbal medicine are combined with dietary counseling, exercise, and focused relaxation techniques. Self-care techniques, such as meditation and visualization are taught to bolster the effects of treatment and to help the patient gain control over their own emotional well-being. If necessary, proper referrals to other psychological care professionals are made and treatment plans are coordinated.
Virtually everyone is familiar with the pain of a headache. However, for some of us the repeat attacks of migraines or chronic headaches grealy reduce our quality of life. To properly understand and treat chronic headaches and migraines they must first be accurately diagnosed, their triggers and relieving factors identified, followed by the application of appropriate treatment using an integration of standard medicine and traditional Chinese medicine (acupuncture, herbal medicine, diet modification, lifestyle counseling). When evaluating the medical research on using acupuncture and natural medicine to treat chronic headaches and migraines the evidence of efficacy is strong. The largest study of acupuncture and chronic headaches recently published in the prestigious British Medical Journal in 2004 declared, “Acupuncture leads to persisting, clinically relevant benefits for primary care patients with chronic headache, particularly migraine.” It has since been adopted as one of the primary therapies of choice for migraine sufferers in the British healthcare system. The magnitude of the headache problem in the United States and worldwide is enormous. Tens of millions of Americans suffer from headaches and 78% of Americans have problems with recurrent headaches at some point in their lives. Over 20% of adult females suffer from migraine headaches, and half of these women are severely disabled during headache episodes. Headaches are categorized into two types. Primary headaches, such as migraines, cluster headaches, tension headaches and depression headaches, are due to intrinsic dysfunction in the nervous system. Secondary headaches, such as flu headaches, sinus headaches and blood sugar headaches, have their source outside the central nervous system. Traditional Chinese medicine further breaks down the classification of headaches by the type of pain, location and triggers. This further breakdown becomes vitally important when successfully treating the root cause of the headache disorder. By far the most commonly seen headaches clinically are migraines, tension headaches, cluster headaches and sinus headaches. Migraine headaches occur in women three times more frequently than men. In 90% of these cases there is a family history of migraines. Typically, migraines are severe, unilateral, throbbing and may be accompanied by nausea, visual disturbances and noise/light sensitivity. The pathophysiology is complex and standard treatment has limited success through the use of pharmaceuticals, such as Imitrex and Zomig. Tension headaches are most common in the mid-afternoon and are associated with the muscles of the shulders, neck and back of head. They often feel like a tight band around the head which slowly expands until it affects the entire head. Standard treatment includes migraine medications and even botox injections, which I would not recommend as it can lead to atrophy of the affected muscles. Cluster headaches mostly affect middle age men. Their pathophysiology is largely unknown and they are described as excruciating pain behind one eye or over the temple. Standard treatment is limited to anti-migraine agents or DHE. Sinus headaches are typically confined to the front of the head and face and are described as pressure pain. They are often triggered by colds, allergies, chronic sinusitis and changes in barometric pressure. The pain of these headaches is often worsened when leaning forward. Standard treatment is typically limited to chronic antihistamine/decongestant use. Unfortunately, the standard Western medical treatments for these headaches often fall short of preventing or addressing pain. Furthermore, the root cause of headaches typically goes unaddressed. It is through its holistic view of the body and powerful targeted treatments that traditional Chinese medicine is able to not only treat the pain of headaches, but also identify and treat the headache disorder’s root cause. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) recognizes that these headache categories are far from the same in every person. Not only are the types of pain and triggers different from person to person, but each of us has an individual constitution, with all its inherent strengths and weaknesses. For instance, for many women migraines frequently occur at certain times during the menstrual cycle. TCM recognizes that the pain of these attacks needs to be addressed, but also a gentle balancing of the hormones responsible for proper function of the menstrual cycle needs to be provided. In tension headaches, it is not enough to simply release tension from the muscles of the neck and shoulders, but the fundamental way the patient’s body responds to day-to-day stress needs to be addressed. TCM has many tools at its disposal for the treatment of headaches, but the most commonly used are acupuncture, herbal therapy, dietary therapy and lifestyle counseling. Acupuncture is the insertion of sterile hair-thin needles at neurologically sensitive points of the body to stimulate a targeted central nervous system regulating response. It has profound effect on the neurovascular system, and there is no other medical modality which works by the same mechanism of action. TCM herbal therapy makes use of the largest and most clinically used pharmacopoeia on the planet. Traditional formulas are extremely safe and effective in treating all types of headaches. Many headaches also have dietary triggers and TCM recognizes that certain foods need to be eliminated or added to the diet during treatment. Finally, lifestyle is powerful medicine. Often certain activities, such as the way we sleep, work or exercise are greatly affecting our headache symptoms and need to be adjusted. Furthermore, targeted relaxation exercises can often be helpful to relax the nervous system and prevent attacks. Headaches are so commonplace that many of us have accepted the pain and disruption of our lives as normal. However, it is not normal, and it is extremely treatable. I ask that you please foward this to anyone your know who is currently suffering from recurring headaches, so that their path to wellness can begin.
Immunology is a highly specialized field within traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Chinese medicine holds a holistic view of immune function, rather than seeing it as just a collection of specific cells. The Chinese recognized that proper immune strength and function can only occur when all the systems of the body are working together properly. TCM also categorizes the immune system based upon what type of immune reaction is occurring, thus developing specific treatments for a wide range of immune related diseases. Commonly treated immune related conditions are allergies, autoimmune diseases, and HIV/AIDS. Immune diseases are complex in nature, and it is only possible to touch on the basic strategies of TCM treatment in this text. For more information please contact our office directly. Seasonal Allergies Allergic diseases, such as hayfever or seasonal allergies, are an extremely common hyper-immune response. The immune system is set up for “zero tolerance,” meaning it cannot ignore any pathogenic substance. Thus, when the immune system becomes hypersensitized it often reacts to substances, such as pollen, that are completely harmless. Traditional Chinese medicine treats this type of hyper-immune response by calming and stabilizing the immune function, without prescribing immune suppressants, such as Claritan Allegra or Benadryl. At the same time TCM works to address the underlying cause of the hyperactive immune response. This restores proper function to the systems of the body and can usually eliminate the need for ongoing treatment. Autoimmune Diseases Autoimmune diseases are rampant in the United States. Rheumatoid arthritis affects over 2 million Americans. Lupus, in its four forms, affects another 1 million. Multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, Hashimoto’s disease, chronic fatigue, and fibromyalgia affect millions more. At the root of these diseases is the body’s own immune system attacking itself. The cause of this immune dysfunction is poorly understood by our current medical system. However, Chinese medicine has classified and treated these diseases for thousands of years. TCM recognizes that this type of severe immune dysfunction occurs when multiple systems of the body are severely impaired. The treatment is almost always a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbs. HIV/AIDS The treatment of HIV/AIDS in traditional Chinese medicine involves both using antiviral herbal therapies and treatments which support the body’s natural immune function. TCM works synergistically with pharmaceutical treatments by minimizing drug side effects and supporting normal body function. TCM is appropriate for supportive care at any stage of the disease. By supporting normal body function, such as digestion and sleep, and by minimizing the effects of stress on the body, it is possible to support healthy immune function and minimize viral load.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, over 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia. This leaves many of us incapable of productively living our lives. The stress of too little sleep affects every bodily system, often progressing to other health issues, such as immune suppression, depression, and digestive disorders. Unfortunately, standard medical care treats all types of insomnia the same and pharmaceuticals are the primary treatment. These pharmaceuticals interfere with our normal sleep cycle and physiology and can have dangerous side effects, as well as lead to dependence. Traditional Chinese medicine views insomnia as a complex medical disorder, which has many potential causes and treatments. The sleep disorder is characterized in terms of the nature of the symptoms, such as trouble falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, feelings of anxiousness, as well as the general constitution of the patient. Often there are other physiological imbalances that are at the root of the insomnia problem, and if these are not addressed, the sleep disorder cannot be truly healed. Treatment typically consists of acupuncture, herbal therapy, and life style adjustment. A detailed and thorough medical history is crucial to make an accurate diagnosis. Because insomnia can be caused by a wide range of problems, the exact course of treatment can only be concluded after a proper evaluation. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.
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