Acupuncture, Massage, Newsletter - September 2007 | Issue 42
In this issue you will find: Important PCOM Dates
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Tai Ji as a Beneficial Exercise for Seniors
By: Michelle Fletcher
More and more seniors are becoming physically active—reaping the countless health benefits associated with regular exercise. If power walking and your run-of-the-mill strength building exercises are uninteresting, the no-impact Chinese exercise Tai Ji is an excellent way to tone muscle, increase endurance, and gain balance.
In a recent study in Annals of Behavioral Medicine, researchers concluded that the movements associated with Tai Ji helped seniors improve their physical functioning. Study participants who took Tai Ji twice a week for a six-month period noticed a significant improvement in their ability to accomplish daily tasks such as carrying groceries, walking up stairs, or moving medium-sized objects.
“It was concluded that the six month Tai Ji exercise program was effective for improving functional status in healthy, physically inactive older adults. A self-paced and self-controlled activity such as Tai Ji has the potential to be an effective, low-cost means of improving functional status in older persons.” Most notably, those who took Tai Ji were less likely to fall—one of the largest causes of serious injury for seniors.
Tai Ji practice can reduce the inconsistency of arm movement force output by older adults. In a study performed at the University of Houston, scientists concluded, “Tai Ji practice may serve as a better real world exercise for reducing force variability in older adults’ manual performance.”
The movements of Tai Ji combine the elements of balance, toning and aerobic exercises, through slow, graceful actions. When practiced regularly, Tai Ji positively affects overall health and wellbeing. Flexibility enables seniors to reach the top shelf, while balance aids in preventing serious falls. Practitioners will also develop stronger lungs—to walk without becoming winded—and improved leg strength—to easily rise from a seated position. Because it is a no-impact exercise, Tai Ji is especially well-suited for older adults.
Tai Ji has three major components: movement, meditation, and deep breathing. All major muscle groups are utilized to articulate the gentle, slow movements of Tai Ji. Further, its movements improve strength, flexibility, coordination, and muscle tone. The exercise may help slow bone loss, and prevent osteoporosis. The meditative aspect of Tai Ji soothes the mind, reduces anxiety, enhances concentration, and lowers blood pressure. The deep breathing releases tension, enhances blood circulation to the brain, and supplies the body with fresh oxygen.
For older adults seeking an effective, no-impact exercise with a multitude of benefits, Tai Ji is an excellent choice to free the mind and energize the body.
Li, F., et al. “An evaluation of the effects of Tai Chi exercise on physical function among older persons: a randomized control trial.” Annuals of Behavioral Medicine., 2001Spring; 23(2):139-46.
Yan, JH. “Tai Chi practice reduces movement force variability for seniors.” J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 1999 Dec;54(12):M629-34.
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Traditional Chinese Medicine to Lower Blood Pressure
By Kathleen Rushall
Traditional Chinese medicine is a large practice composed of many aspects. There is acupuncture (the use of small needles to free and aid one’s qi), qi gong (a self healing art that combines meditation and movement), massage therapy, herbs, and various manners of meditation, to name a few. Each practice has specific ailments that it can aid, and some may overlap in their benefits. For example, there is new evidence that the ancient arts of acupuncture and qi gong can help with hypertension, also known as high blood pressure.
High blood pressure directly increases the risk of coronary heart disease (which leads to heart attack) and stroke, especially when it's present with other risk factors. It can occur in both adults and children, but is most prevalent in people over 35. Hypertension can be a dangerous condition when left untended, but is also a manageable one. Western medicine generally prescribes medication and healthier eating habits to control hypertension. While these lifestyle changes are always beneficial, there are some Eastern practices that may prove even more successful, particularly when in conjunction with those from the West.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) published a study in 2003 that declared qi gong reduced blood pressure and catecholamine (chemical compound) levels in patients with essential hypertension. Fifty-eight patients volunteered to participate in this study and were randomly divided into either a qi gong group or a wait list control group. In response to 10 weeks of qi gong, systolic blood pressure (SBP), diastolic blood pressure (DBP), and rate pressure product (RPP) were decreased significantly. The conclusion stated that, “There was a significant reduction of norepinephrine, epinephrine, cortisol, and stress level…these results suggest that qi gong may reduce BP and catecholamines via stabilizing the sympathetic nervous system.” This is just one publication that discusses the benefits of Eastern practices for blood pressure.
The Taoist Sanctuary of San Diego published an article that details the practice of qi gong. In this article it is explained that, “Various types of breathing will affect the body in different ways. Abdominal diaphragmatic breathing will lower the blood pressure, activate peristalsis, and increase the venous return of oxygenated blood. This increases the overall oxygen level of the blood.” In a mind over matter practice, qi gong can help to keep blood pressure under control along with levels of stress, anxiety, and energy.
Medscape Medical News published an article called Blood Pressure Changes with Acupuncture Comparable to Those with ACE Inhibitor Monotherapy. Shelley Wood describes the study that the article was based on and explains that it’s the first randomized trial in the West to test acupuncture against sham needle technique to treat hypertension. The conclusion of the study was positive in regard to acupuncture, stating that “…performed properly, acupuncture may produce blood pressure changes on par with monotherapy in mild-to-moderate hypertension.” This is the best possible effect of acupuncture regarding blood pressure.
Wood also explains that, “After three and six months, the blood pressure reductions disappeared, leading investigators to conclude that ongoing acupuncture treatments would be required to maintain the blood pressure reductions.” So, acupuncture must be consistently practiced to maintain its benefits on high blood pressure. Like healthy eating or exercise, acupuncture treatments should be consistent for the best long-term results. Once high blood pressure occurs, it can last a lifetime. It becomes integral to the quality of one’s life to control and treat high blood pressure. Known as the silent killer because of its lack of symptoms, it makes perfect sense that alternative medical practices that focus on being in tune with one’s own body, such as qi gong or acupuncture, are successful tools for monitoring and lowering blood pressure.
NCBI. Qi gong reduced blood pressure and catecholamine levels of patients with essential hypertension. 2003 Dec. 113 (12): 1691-701.
Wood, Shelley. Blood Pressure Changes with Acupuncture Comparable to Those with ACE Inhibitor Monotherapy. Medscape, Medical News. 2007, June, 15.
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Benefits of Shiatsu Massage
By Michelle Fletcher
Over the past few decades, massage has grown from a periodic indulgence to a key component of overall fitness, wellness, and health in Western society. Massage has proven to reduce stress, rejuvenate the body, and provide therapy for various medical ailments. Many health providers now list massage therapists with general practitioners, optometrists, and dentists. Each year, thousands of individuals are exposed to massage therapy for their first time.
Massage takes on many forms; the most common is Swedish or deep-tissue massage. Techniques designed to increase blood flow to problem areas and invigorate the muscles, Swedish massage is made up of long, rhythmic strokes, circular actions, and kneading. Those receiving Swedish massage experience improved circulation, relaxation, and reduction of stress.
Shiatsu is yet another form of massage, based upon the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Shiatsu is a Japanese word meaning, “finger pressure,” and its goal is similar to that of acupuncture or acupressure: to restore the balance of energy (qi) in the body. Practitioners of Chinese medicine and shiatsu massage assert that disease and physical infirmities are caused by blockages or imbalances in the flow of energy throughout the body. Shiatsu practitioners strive to balance positive and negative energies (yin and yang) within the body to achieve balance and homeostasis within the body. A buildup or deficiency of one type of energy can cause illness, pain, or other problems in the body.
Using the concepts of Traditional Chinese Medicine, shiatsu massage utilizes points along one of the body’s meridians, applying force pressure to the point with hand. These points may be anywhere on the body, including the hands, feet, elbows, back, arms, legs, etc. Shiatsu is a mind-body experience, providing both physical and spiritual benefits. Balanced qi energy promotes physical comfort, improved health, and emotional health and stability.
Shiatsu is not merely a tool of Chinese medicine, but an applicable treatment for common ailments. A study at Drake University proved that shiatsu massage helped alleviate back pain in patients. “Shiatsu… was used as an intervention in the study of 66 individuals complaining of lower back pain.” After following a designated number of treatments, subjects showed a great deal of improvement in mobility, energy, and pain in the lower back region. “Both pain and anxiety decreased significantly over time. …These subjects would recommend shiatsu massage for others suffering from lower back pain and indicated the treatments decreased the major inconveniencies they experiences with their lower back pain.”
A Swiss study confirmed these results. “Shiatsu massage can rapidly induce measurable relaxation in distant muscles not directly massaged, and is accompanied by signs of neurovegetative calming.” Clearly, shiatsu massage affects both the body in mind, restoring the body’s energy balance and promoting an overall feeling of satiety and wellbeing.
Unlike clinical settings, shiatsu massage provides a welcoming environment. Those new to shiatsu should enjoy the arm, comforting atmosphere and relax into the specialized bodywork provided. It is best to wear light cotton clothing, as treatments are made on a fully clothed body. Most treatments take about 45 – 60 minutes, offering time for the mind to drift and meditate.
There are many benefits from shiatsu massage:
- Deep tissue and muscle relaxation
- The releasing of toxins from the body
- Stress reduction
- Disease prevention
- Improved blood circulation
- Increased flexibility
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced anxiety
- Balanced life energy (qi)
- Increased mental awareness
Whether seeking treatment for ailing muscles, a mental release, or complement to physical therapy, shiatsu massage is an excellent way to relax, align energies, and promote overall wellbeing in the body.
Brady, LH., Henry, K., et al. The effects of shiatsu on lower back pain. Journal of Holistic Nursing
. 2001 Mar;19(1):57-70.
Zullino, DF., et al. Local back massage with an automated massage chair: general muscle and psychophysiologic relaxing properties. Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine. 2005 Dec;11(6):1103-6.
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Chinese Wisdom: Quote of the Day
The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.
Acupuncture, Massage, Newsletter - July 2007 | Issue 40
In this issue you will find: Important PCOM Dates
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TCM During Summer
The Five Element Theory serves as a major diagnostic and treatment tool in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is based on the observation of the natural cycles and interrelationships in the environment and within ourselves. For example, there are five environmental elements – Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood – each corresponding with certain body organs, such as the heart, spleen, lungs, kidneys, liver, intestines, stomach, urinary bladder and gull bladder. The five different elements are associated with different times of the year: Fire with summer, Earth with late-summer, Metal with autumn, Water with winter and Wood with spring.
The five elements interact with each other (they depend on each other). For example, the liver, belonging to the Wood element, directly affects the spleen, which belongs to the Earth element. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners try to maintain a balance among the body’s organs.
TCM practitioners pay attention to weather, especially very extreme weather, like an unusually windy spring, warm spells during winter or cold snaps during summer. Extreme or unusual weather can cause health imbalances in people. Health problems tend to occur during or immediately following certain seasons. It is important to notice these changes in weather, so preventative action can be taken against an imbalance.
If a person is imbalanced, he or she may become depressed or, on the other side of the spectrum, have an excess of joy. Agitation, nervous exhaustion, heartburn and insomnia are other indicators of an imbalance. When balanced, the heart circulates blood properly, creating a healthy breakdown of food in the small intestines. Emotionally, there is a fulfillment from the balanced equilibrium of the heart and mind.
Fire is the element of summer. It is connected with the heart and pericardium as well as the small intestine and triple heater. Growth, joy and spiritual awareness between the heart and mind are the focus during summer.
The small intestine represents our ability to take in and to save what we want and to discard the things we don’t want. What we eat, see, hear and feel are all processed by the small intestine’s energy.
We relate to others through the Fire element. Therefore, summer is a good time to change our connections with the external world. We can change our relationships with people. The energy of the pericardium relates to our intimate bonding with partners, making summer a great time to ponder your relationships with others and manifest them to your liking.
TCM practitioners believe that a person should cater his or her diet to the seasons. Because summer is associated with the heart, it is important to eat foods that benefit the heart. For example, using olive oil, which is low in cholesterol, is a great way to prevent heart attacks.
It is important in any season to prevent illness. Summer heat can produce excess body heat, profuse sweating, parched mouth and throat, constipation and heart palpitations. Therefore, it is important to keep hydrated and cool. In order to maintain balance, it is important to be aware of the seasons and to modify your habits according to them.
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Yoga eases menopause symptoms
By: Michelle Fletcher, B.A., http://michellefletcher.net
The benefits of yoga extend beyond the flexibility and relaxation gleaned from our Saturday morning class. Men and women of all ages have benefited from regular yoga sessions, but now studies are highlighting yoga’s many benefits for menopausal women.
Yoga stretches can benefit both the body and the mind, bringing energy and balance, says Susan M. Lark, M.D. in her book, The Estrogen Decision Self Help Book. This is particularly helpful to women who are currently in menopause or in menopause transition because their hormonal levels and body chemistry may be fluctuating rapidly. This can leave women feeling out of balance and truly victims of their changing bodies. Yoga exercises level out this physiological instability by relaxing and gently stretching every muscle in the body, promoting better blood circulation and oxygenation to all cells and tissues. This helps optimize the function of the endocrine glands and the organs of the female reproductive tract. Yoga exercises also improve the health and well-being of the digestive tract, nervous system, and all other organ systems.
A Pennsylvania State University study confirms Lark’s findings. “The surprising aspect of the study is that we found a significant association between changes in cardiorespiratory fitness and changes in menopausal symptoms,” said lead author Steriani Elavsky, Ph.D., of Penn State University. One hundred sixty-four sedentary menopausal women were randomly assigned to a walking program, a yoga program or a control group that did no additional exercise for four months. The women who walked or took yoga classes reported a better quality of life and reduced negative effects of menopause compared to the no-exercise group. The women who walked or took yoga classes reported improvements in mood and menopause-related quality of life compared to the no-exercise group.
Walking was chosen because it is an aerobic activity, while yoga was chosen because it is not aerobic, Elavsky said in an article in Annuals of Behavioral Medicine. The results concluded that both yoga and walking were effective at enhancing subjects’ quality of life. Whether menopausal symptoms improved or worsened appeared to be determined by increases or decreases in cardiorespiratory fitness. Women who experienced decreases in menopausal symptoms in the study also experienced improvements in all positive mental health and quality of life outcomes.
Each year, over 1.5 million women reach menopause. In addition, over 80% of these women will suffer unpleasant symptoms, including night sweats, hot flashes, anxiety, irritability or emotional instability.
A study performed at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center researched the feasibility and acceptability of a restorative yoga intervention for the treatment of hot flashes in postmenopausal women. Feasability was measured by recruitment rates, subject retention and adherence to the designed program. The majority of subjects – over 93% completed the trial – and felt overall satisfied by the results. “This pilot trial demonstrates that it is feasible to teach restorative yoga to middle-aged women without prior yoga experience,” according to the study. “The high rates of subject retention and satisfaction suggest that yoga is an acceptable intervention in this population. Our results indicate that a larger, randomized controlled trial to explore the efficacy of restorative yoga for treatment of menopausal symptoms would be safe and feasible.”
Just an hour of yoga three times a week is enough to make a difference in one’s body. Yoga is rejuvenating, revitalizing, relaxing and energizing: sure to improve uncomfortable side-effects of nature’s course through menopause. Through the ageless art of yoga, says Susan Winter Ward in an article on the Yoga Learning Center Web site, women can balance their energies physically, emotionally, and spiritually as they go through menopause.
Yoga instructors recommend making a commitment to two or three classes a week for a month, then assess how you feel. Do you have more energy? Are you more relaxed? How is your flexibility? Have you been less irritable? Most women notice a difference after just a month of regular practice.
The benefits of regular yoga practice have been demonstrated for over 5,000 years: more the reason to give it a chance when battling menopausal symptoms.
Ward concludes, “Through consciously embracing the menopause experience and deciding how we want to live the rest of our lives; by being responsible for how we choose to navigate this transition time; and by taking care of ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually, we can regard menopause as the opportunity for rejuvenation that it is and live more fully than ever with renewed vitality, inner peace and power.”
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Antioxidant Properties of Black Tea
Tea is a natural beverage without any artificial coloring, flavoring or preservatives. It is also free of cholesterol and calories. Tea is one of the most common beverages consumed around the globe. One out of every two people in the world today is a tea drinker. It has been estimated that around 3.2 million tons of tea were produced in the year 2004.
Tea is made by processing the leaves or buds of the tea bush. The degree of fermentation that the tea leaves undergo determines what type of tea will be produced: white tea, green tea, or black tea.
Different teas contain different amounts of caffeine. The exact proportion of caffeine in each type of tea is still under consideration. Black tea, which is made from leaves that have been fully oxidized, contains more caffeine than green or white tea.
Apart from caffeine, tea also contains certain amounts of antioxidants. Tea, especially black tea, contains a similar amount of antioxidants as fruits and vegetables
Antioxidants are the properties found in some foods and tea, which help reduce the risk of certain diseases, such as cancer and heart ailments. The antioxidants contained in tea play a major role in protecting the body against certain illnesses. The intake of food that is rich in fats increases the blood lipid levels, which in turn produces free radicals. These free radicals cause blood vessels to stiffen and shrink. Antioxidants attack these free radicals in the blood.
Tea could be a great replacement to coffee. It has caffeine to keep you alert and studies show that is can be beneficial to your health. Tea is also easily available as it is so widely used around the world.
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Chinese Wisdom: Quote of the Day
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.”