August 2004 articles:
DID YOU KNOW?…..
• Approximately 42% of all Americans are using complementary therapies, spending more than $34 billion annually. This is comparable to all out-of-pocket expenditures for physician visits and exceeds out-of-pocket expenditures for all hospitalizations. (Journal of the American Medical Association)
• Nearly one out of every 10 adults in the U.S has tried acupuncture. (National Certification Commission for Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine)
• More than one in four Americans report having had a massage from a massage therapist in the past five years, spending a total of between $4 and $6 billion on 114 million visits each year. (Massage Magazine)
• In recent years, massage therapy has reached some of the nations’ top hospitals, including Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and Stanford Hospital in California. Fifteen percent of hospitals now offer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) therapies and almost 60% of medical schools offer courses in CAM. (American Hospital Association)
• Acupuncture has been cited by the World Health Organization (WHO) to treat over forty-three conditions. The 1997 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Conference on Acupuncture stated, "The data in support of acupuncture are as strong as those for many accepted Western medical therapies. One of the advantages of acupuncture is that the incidence of adverse effects is substantially lower than that of many drugs or other medial procedures used for the same conditions." (WHO & NIH)
For the 4.5 million couples experiencing infertility each year, acupuncture may be just what the doctor ordered. Acupuncture can increase fertility by reducing stress, increasing blood flow to the reproductive organs and balancing the endocrine system, according to several studies and medical research.
Acupuncture consists of the gentle insertion and stimulation of thin, disposable sterile needles at strategic points near the surface of the body. Over 2,000 acupuncture points on the human body connect with 14 major pathways, called meridians. Chinese medicine practitioners believe that these meridians conduct qi, or energy, between the surface of the body and internal organs. It is qi that regulates spiritual, emotional, mental and physical balance. When the flow of qi is disrupted through poor health habits or other circumstances, pain and/or disease can result. Acupuncture helps to keep the normal flow of this energy unblocked, thereby increasing a couple’s chances of conceiving.
Acupuncture can improve almost every cause of infertility. While 40 percent of infertility is caused by problems in the female, such as anovulation and endometriosis, another 40 percent is caused by problems in the male, such as low sperm counts or motility. The remaining 20 percent is caused by unknown factors.
One of the ways acupuncture increases fertility is by reducing stress, which is often a key factor in the fertility of both men and women. When people are under stress, the hormone cortizol is released in the brain. This alters the brain’s neurochemical balance, thus changing hormone levels and disrupting the pituitary balance that is key to the reproductive cycle.
Because of the delicate balance between the hypothalamus, pituitary and reproductive glands, stress is capable of preventing a woman from ovulating entirely. Stress can also cause spasms in both the fallopian tubes and the uterus, which can interfere with movement and implantation of a fertilized egg. In men, stress can alter sperm counts, motility, and cause impotence.
Acupuncture counters the effects of stress and cortizol by releasing endorphins in the brain, which exert a calming effect.
Hormonal balance does not have to be disrupted by cortizol to cause infertility. The most common female infertility factor is an ovulation disorder, in which the release of a mature egg from the ovary is prevented, usually because of a hormonal imbalance. Without enough progesterone, for example, the fetus is unable to attach to the uterus. High levels of prolactin, the hormone that stimulates the production of breast milk, can also prevent ovulation.
High levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) can also impair the female’s ability to become pregnant. However, according to infertility specialist Miki Shima in the February 2004 issue of Alternative Medicine, “if your FSH levels are nine or below, and there are no physical obstructions, traditional Chinese medicine alone can substantially improve your odds” of conception.
An imbalance in reproductive hormones can also negatively affect male reproductive function, such as sperm motility and production. However, the fertility drugs that stimulate ovulation in women by regulating the hypothalamus and pituitary, the glands that control reproductive hormones, don't perform nearly as well for men (success rates are about a third of those for women), nor have they been approved for men by the FDA.
According to Shima, men over the age of 45 are likely to have low sperm motility as well as misshapen sperm, which can prevent conception. Shima, who is the president of the Japanese-American Acupuncture Foundation, says, “both of these problems are very responsive to Chinese medicine and supplements.”
While the fertility drugs commonly prescribed for women can produce a 20 to 60 percent pregnancy rate, they also commonly include such side effects as abdominal tenderness, bloating, fluid retention, weight gain, and nausea. Some studies show that they may also cause breast cancer.
Acupuncture, by contrast, produces few or no side effects while performing the same function as the drugs do: stimulating the hypothalamus to effectively balance the endocrine system and its hormones.
Deborah and Pete Mokris know from personal experience how much acupuncture can increase both sperm count and sperm motility. According to Deborah, “We tried zucchini flour pollen, vitamin C, standing on my head after lovemaking and every old-wives tale we came across. Pete's sperm count and motility remained low: about 7 million to 14 million motile sperm. We did intrauterine insemination twice. Our hopes rose and fell as the negative results persisted.”
It was then that Pete started getting regular acupuncture treatments.
“After two months of treatment, we had another semen analysis done,” Deborah said. “The sperm count had skyrocketed to 117 million with a 65 percent motility! We went for one more intrauterine insemination, and again it was unsuccessful. It was then [that] I decided to try acupuncture. Within three weeks of treatment, I conceived.”
Acupuncture also increases fertility by strengthening the immune system, which can play an important role in conception. Studies show that the endorphins released by acupuncture can raise the amount of white blood cells, T-cells and anti-bodies in the body, which increase the body's level of immunity. According to Chatelaine Magazine, 20 to 25 percent of miscarriages are due to immune system problems.
Shima agreed with these findings in Alternative Medicine.
“Where Western medicine concentrates solely on the reproductive organs, Chinese medicine works to strengthen ad balance all systems of the body, using a combination of acupuncture, herbs and nutritional supplements.”
Acupuncture can also increase fertility by increasing blood flow in the body. This can provide a woman’s reproductive organs with more nourishment and can increase the density of the uterine wall. For women who cannot become pregnant because of endometriosis, in which the uterine lining grows outside the uterus, acupuncture can increase blood flow to relax and quiet the endometrium – something Western doctors achieve through progestogen hormonal therapies.
“The main reason why a lot of doctors are so excited about acupuncture is the relaxation of the uterus,” said Donna Keefe, a licensed acupuncturist and faculty member at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego, Calif. In her private practice, Keefe treats about 32 patients a week for infertility.
Increasing the flow of blood throughout the body can also help with male fertility problems. If men are experiencing problems with impotence, an increase in blood flow can increase potency.
According to a study conducted by the Guangzhou University of Traditional Chinese Medicine in which 29 patients were treated for sexual impotence with weekly acupuncture from 1997 to 1999, 72 percent recovered normal sexual function.
Short of assisted reproductive techniques, Western medicine doesn’t offer many solutions to men with low sperm counts or motility. Keefe said that acupuncture can increase motility as quickly as the night a couple wants to conceive.
Other studies show that when used in conjunction with in vitro fertilization (IVF), acupuncture is even more successful at increasing fertility. IVF involves the mixing of sperm and egg outside the human body. After fertilization takes place, the fertilized egg is surgically placed in the woman's uterus. While the average cost of each IVF procedure is $12,400, the American Society of Reproductive Medicine reports that it has a 25 percent success rate in women under 35.
Researchers at the Christian-Lauritzen-Institut in Ulm, Germany reported this year that acupuncture can increase the success rate of IVF. Of 160 women undergoing IVF, half were given acupuncture both before and after the procedure. The pregnancy rate for the 80 women who received acupuncture was 42.5 percent, while those who did not receive acupuncture had only a 23 percent success rate.
A study published in the April 2002 issue of Fertility and Sterility magazine also supports the fact that acupuncture increases fertility. Researchers examined 80 patients who received acupuncture while undergoing IVFs. After six weeks, 42 percent of the women who received acupuncture became pregnant, compared to 26 percent who became pregnant without acupuncture.
Shima’s personal experience with infertility corroborates this evidence; according to Shima, “Many of my patients are women undergoing IVF or egg donation, and I’ve found that adding acupuncture, supplements and herbs to the mix can raise their success rate by 15 to 25 percent.”
According to Raymond Chang of Cornell University and Meridian Medical in New York in an interview with Reuters Health, studies show that women who used acupuncture without any other fertility treatments were just as likely to conceive in the same period of time as women who took fertility drugs.
Keefe said that she always prefers when her patients try to conceive naturally rather than using IVF. Along with acupuncture, Keefe usually prescribes Chinese herbs to increase nourishment.
“Infertility is usually due to some sort of imbalance,” Keefe said. “Herbs nourish that balance – they nourish the blood. Acupuncture moves qi, which facilitates the movement of blood, but acupuncture doesn’t build blood. And of course the menses are based on the condition of the blood.”
Keefe will occasionally also instruct patients to use food therapy, exercises such as qi gong, and stress reduction techniques to increase fertility. However, when receiving acupuncture in conjunction with an IVF, Keefe never prescribes Chinese herbs because their effects on fertility drugs haven’t been researched.
One of the reasons Keefe prefers her patients to attempt natural conception is because of the hormonal imbalances procedures like IVF can cause.
“When you go into an IVF, you shut down the body’s natural processes and use hormones to produce a false cycle,” Keefe said. “That can be hard on a woman’s hormonal system.”
IVF can sometimes create complications for the unborn child. According to the Wall Street Journal, more than 12 scientific papers have been published in the past year suggesting a connection between fertility treatments and low-birthweight infants or disorders such as hypospadia, heart malformations, chromosomal abnormalities or other major birth defects.
Keefe said that some of her patients report that their insurance companies won’t cover IVF, an already expensive procedure, because of possible health risks.
“We don’t know if [IVF] may cause ovarian cancer,” Keefe said. “There just hasn’t been enough research.”
One of the obvious benefits of acupuncture is that it lacks the side effects associated with IVF and other Western fertility treatments, such as hormonal therapies and surgery. And considering its success rate, acupuncture may even make other treatments unnecessary.
Keefe said that she began treating a patient who was considering an IVF, and after seven acupuncture treatments, she became pregnant before she could even undergo a surgical procedure. Keefe also spoke of another patient who had tried six IVFs with no success, but after three months of acupuncture, had recently conceived. With patients who try to conceive naturally, Keefe estimates that she has an 80 percent success rate, though the number of acupuncture treatments needed and the length of time it takes each couple to conceive varies, since every individual is different. Shima recommends at least four months of weekly acupuncture treatments.
Dawn Morrin was preparing to go on fertility drugs to conceive when she decided to try acupuncture first.
“It was only six weeks after beginning the acupuncture that I found out that I was finally pregnant,” Morrin said. “After 20 months of waiting, we were elated. Acupuncture was the only thing I had changed in my lifestyle during that last cycle, so I firmly believe that it was our saving grace.”
Acupuncture is also extremely cost-effective in comparison to IVF. While one IVF treatment can cost over $12,000 – with no guarantee of success - the average cost per individual for one acupuncture treatment is between $40 and $100.
However, when patients do chose to have IVF, Keefe said that it’s best to get acupuncture treatments both before and after the procedure. While the IVF may disrupt the body’s natural cycle and cause undue stress, receiving acupuncture in conjunction with that process helps keep the body balanced, increasing the chances of conception.
Keefe said that she continues to treat her patients throughout the first trimester. These continued treatments keep stress levels down to avoid miscarriages, as well as help with the nausea and back pain commonly experienced by women during pregnancy.
Many couples already know that conceiving a child can be hard enough without the added risks and discomfort of using hormones and IVF. Acupuncture allows pregnancies to occur the safest, most comfortable way there is: naturally.
For more information on how acupuncture can increase fertility, please call 800-729-0941.
For almost 3,000 years, millions of people in China have used Tai Chi and Qi Gong as a form of daily exercise. More and more Americans are trying and reaping the health benefits of Tai Chi and Qi Gong: two of the most effective balance and coordination conditioners in the world.
Developed more than six centuries ago by Taoist monks, Tai Chi consists of a series of gentle moves carried out in a slow, continuous manner that allows every part of the body to exercise. Suitable for individuals in varying degrees of health, Tai Chi and Qi Gong requires no special equipment and takes only 8-20 minutes to do.
Much like acupuncture, Tai Chi and Qi Gong release blocks in the body’s energy channels. Tai Chi and Qi Gong exercises consist of gentle movements carried out in a continuous, non-strenuous and systematic manner that allow every part of the body to exercise. The rhythmic movements of the muscles, spine and joints remove the tense state of muscles, allowing qi and blood to circulate freely throughout the body.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong also provide the benefits of exercise by building strength, restoring balance, increasing flexibility and reducing stress. A low-impact exercise, Tai Chi and Qi Gong are believed to: boost the immune system; slow the aging process; lower blood pressure; reduce the incidence of anxiety, depression, fatigue and overall mood disturbances; minimize the effects of chronic conditions such as allergies and asthma; and improve breathing capacity. Tai Chi and Qi Gong have also been recommended as an adjunct therapy for people suffering from chronic pain, arthritis, insomnia, asthma, high blood pressure, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, fibromyalgia, and psychosomatic illnesses. Other benefits of Tai Chi include building strength, restoring balance, increasing flexibility and reducing stress.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong exercises can alleviate stress symptoms by releasing endorphins, the body’s own natural painkillers, and improving the circulation of blood and lymphatic fluids, which brings fresh oxygen to body tissues. This increased oxygen flow eliminates waste products from inside the body and enhances recovery from diseases. Tai Chi and Qi Gong can also decrease the stress hormone cortisol, lower blood pressure, reduce heart rate, and relax muscle tissue.
According to the National Institutes of Health, 70 percent of all illness is due to unmanaged stress. Because mind/body therapies can treat or prevent these illnesses, the integration of tools such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong into our health institutions could save the U.S. $700 billion per year, and save trillions per year worldwide. Tai Chi and Qi Gong’s gentle movements and low physical impact make it a great activity for aging bodies, those recovering from injury, young children or people looking to change up their exercise routine.
The presence of massage therapy in hospital-based settings confirms its popularity in the fall 2002-released Health Forum/American Hospital Association’s 2000-2001 Complementary and Alternative Medicine Survey. Of the more than 23 percent of responding hospitals that offer complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) services, massage therapy was the second-most popular inpatient and outpatient service.
Massage therapy topped several other types of CAM therapies mentioned in the survey, and followed behind the most popular CAM service - pastoral care. In total, 16 CAM services were examined.
Some other interesting findings from the survey include:
- In a three-year span, the number of hospital with CAM programs more than doubled;
- Approximately half of hospitals that offer CAM mentioned patient demand s a reason for implementing such therapies;
- When general information about CAM therapies is sought out by physicians and hospitals, the majority (73 percent) turn to CAM-focused periodicals; and
- Physician resistance to CAM therapies ranked high (63 percent) in why hospitals are facing difficulties in implementing CAM programs.
In recent years, massage therapy has reached some of the nations’ top hospitals, including Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York and Stanford Hospital in California. According to the American Hospital Association, 15% of hospitals now offer CAM therapies and almost 60% of medical schools offer courses in CAM. And according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 42% of adults in the United States utilize at least one of the sixteen forms of alternative therapies surveyed. Total out of pocket expenditures related to alternative therapies are conservatively estimated at $34 billion. This is comparable to all out-of-pocket expenditures for physician visits and exceeds out-of-pocket expenditures for all hospitalizations.
Massage practitioners looking to expand their practices, or those considering becoming a licensed massage professional, can be encouraged by these findings, as the chance to work in hospital settings appears promising in the near future.
Popular among all age groups, massage is effective for relaxation and stress reduction, as well as medical reasons, including muscle soreness/stiffness/spasms, injury, headaches, pain reduction, blood and lymph circulation and improved immune system function. Massage has been shown to reduce blood pressure and heart rate and increase endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers. More than one in four Americans report having had a massage from a massage therapist in the past five years, spending a total of between $4 and $6 billion on 114 million visits each year.
The explosion in the popularity of massage can be attributed to the growing population of aging baby boomers and an increased awareness of the effects of stress and the physiological benefits of massage. Doctors are now prescribing massage to their patients, and sports teams are hiring massage therapists as well. A growing number of businesses and organizations, including the U.S. Department of Justice, are also offering massage in the workplace to decrease job stress and increase productivity.Acupuncture Superior to Drug Therapy for Migraines & Headaches
Most people already have personal experience with headaches or migraines. According to the National Headache Foundation, nearly 28 million Americans experience migraine headaches each year.
In one of the largest studies of its kind to date, a team of investigators in Italy examined the effectiveness of acupuncture versus a variety of pharmacological therapies in treating migraines. Their results, published in a 2001 issue of the Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, revealed that patients given acupuncture experienced fewer migraine episodes, missed fewer days from work, and suffered no side effects compared to patients on conventional drug therapy. They also found acupuncture to be more cost-efficient, estimating a savings of hundreds of millions of dollars in private and social health expenditures if it were used to treat headaches alone instead of drugs.
Migraines can be caused by a variety of physical and environmental factors including diet, stress, allergens, menstruation, and changes in the weather. They can last from a few minutes to several days, which in some cases may completely incapacitate the person suffering an attack.
Migraine headaches are also one of the leading causes of time missed from work. It is estimated that migraine sufferers lose more than 157 million workdays each year, leading to a loss of approximately $50 billion per year due to absenteeism and medical expenses caused by headache. An additional four billion dollars a year is spent on pain relievers for migraines and other headaches, but many of these remedies do not work as needed, or simply mask an underlying condition.
Acupuncture has been cited by the World Health Organization to treat over 43 conditions, including headaches and migraines, but without the side effects typically associated with drugs.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine our bodies and our selves reflect the natural world we live in. Being in harmony with the seasons increases health and well being.
•Summer is a great time to run, jump, and play.
• Put your heart into activities and relationships that bring joy to you and those around you. Find reasons to laugh. Seeking out and spreading positive energy can benefit your health, especially at this time of year.
• The color of summer is red. Wearing bright colors, flowers in the home, and eating fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables can enhance your well being and your enjoyment of summer.
• Drink lots of water, and spend time with your feet in the water, to balance the heat of summer and prevent many common summer