June Health Tips
In This Issue:
1. Health Tip of the Month
2. How Massage Can Benefit Your Heart
3. Reduce Blood Pressure With Shiatsu Massage
In This Issue:
1. Health Tip of the Month
2. How Massage Can Benefit Your Heart
3. Reduce Blood Pressure With Shiatsu Massage
In This Issue:
1. Welcome to New Ezine
2. Acupuncture for Asthma
3. Deep Tissue for Plantar Fasciitis
4. Upcoming Events
In this issue you will find:
Basketball players, soccer players, and in particular, runners, will often suffer from Tibial Stress Syndrome, commonly referred to as shin splints. The pain of shin splints occurs because the tibia (shinbone) and the connective tissues attached to it become overloaded. This happens when athletes train too hard or for too long, or when they suddenly increase the intensity or duration of exercise. For example, when runners add to their mileage, or alter the terrain or incline of their workout shin splints are a likely result. Shin splints may be accompanied by swelling and hardening of the soft tissues.
While there are a number of physical therapies and medications one can take to relive the symptoms of shin splints, one must begin by resting and limiting any stress or load to the shin area. A physician should be consulted to evaluate the severity of the injury and to suggest possible treatment.
One possible treatment increasingly used by athletes for shin splints is acupuncture.
This treatment is most effective when the symptoms first occur. Based on the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture works on the whole body to release a variety of substances including endorphins, serotonin, neuropeptides, and neurotransmitters. Acupuncture can promote healing, reduce pain, increase local microcirculation, and attract white blood cells to the area. This can speed the rate of healing, reduce swelling, and disperse bruising.
In 2002, researchers conducted a random controlled trial* to assess the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating shin splints. Forty athletes with shin splints were divided among three treatment groups: standard sports medicine, acupuncture, and a combined group who received both. The patients received at least two treatments per week for three weeks. The acupuncture and combined groups reported significantly lower pain levels during all activities and at rest. For overall effectiveness, acupuncture was rated at 72.5%, the combined therapy at 54.5%, and standard sports medicine at 46.5%. Self-medication with anti-inflammatory drugs was also significantly lower in the acupuncture and combined groups.
In the trail, the primary treatment was directed at the edge of the tibia where microtearing of the affected muscle usually occurs. The anterior edge was treated when the tibialis anterior was affected, and the medial edge was treated when the tibialis posterior muscle was involved. Between 10 and 15 needles were threaded obliquely and subcutaneously along the edge of the tibia between the soft tissue and bone. Other points were chosen at the practitioner’s discretion to balance and remove obstructions from the energy channels. The study revealed that acupuncture could be an effective modality for relieving pain associated with shin splints and for reducing reliance on anti-inflammatory medication.
Before attempting any acupuncture therapy for the treatment of shin sprints, one should first consult a primary care physician. If he or she advises that acupuncture may help you, find a licensed massage acupuncturist who is nationally certified through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (www.ncbtmb.org) or the American Massage Therapy Association (www.amtamassage.org).
*Acupuncture & Tibial Stress Syndrome [Shin Splints]. Journal of Chinese Medicine 2002 vol 70.
Hot flashes, mood swings, irregular periods, night sweats, and nutritional deficiencies are premium symptoms of menopause. In 2002 news surfaced that hormone replacement therapy (HRT), the most common treatment provided to ease the main symptoms of menopause, proved a danger to women. Women using HRT showed increased risk for breast cancer, heart disease, stroke, and blood clots. Now substantial evidence shows that moxibustion therapy and other natural solutions are effective alternatives to treat classic symptoms of menopause.
Moxibustion therapy, or moxa treatment, is an Oriental medicine therapy that involves burning moxa (mugwort herb) near or on the skin, particularly at acupoints. Moxa treatment strengthens and stimulates the blood flow and qi. This process is typically used to treat diseases, provide pain relief, expel colds, and upkeep health in general.
A recent study conducted by the Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine in Daejeon, South Korea found that moxa treatment can be used to treat hot flashes, one of the most prominent symptoms of menopause. The study results showed that moxa treatment reduces both the intensity and frequency of hot flashes in menopausal women. The study consisted of 51 women between the ages of 45 and 60 who were experiencing moderate to severe hot flashes at least five times a day. The women were split into three groups. Two of the groups received 14 moxa treatments over the course of four weeks, and the third group was a control group. In four weeks results showed a “statistically significant” difference in the intensity and frequency of hot flashes between the treatment groups and the control group.
Moxa treatment, herbal remedies, acupuncture, and a multitude of other alternative treatment options have proven effective in easing symptoms of menopause. But no single treatment is a panacea. While some women will experience severe hot flashes, others may only experience mild symptoms or none at all. Some will experience fatigue and others will experience severe nutrition deficiencies. Menopausal symptoms vary and their level of intensity ranges. Optimal treatment methods will vary from woman to woman, but HRT is hardly the only available remedy. Alternative solutions are out there, and they are effective.
TCM and Thyroid Disease
Thyroid disorders fall into two categories. There is hyperthyroidism characterized by an overactive thyroid gland that produces too much thyroid hormone. Typical symptoms of hyperthyroidism include high blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, moist skin, increased sweating, tremor, nervousness, increased appetite with weight loss, diarrhea, and/or frequent bowel movements. Hypothyroidism, on the other hand, is characterized by an under-active thyroid gland. Typical symptoms include a hoarse voice, slowed speech, puffy face, drooping eyelids, sensitivity to cold, constipation, weight gain, dry hair and skin, and depression.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) regards both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism as a Yin/Yang imbalance. When treating either condition, TCM will typically employ acupuncture, herbal medicine, and dietary therapy to rebalance an individual's Yin and Yang.
Recent research by Oriental medicine practitioners suggests that Yin and Yang balance can be linked to charged particles that exist in living cells and that move freely through the body. Practitioners postulate that these "bioelectrons" move along the classic energy pathways (meridians) that carry qi through the body. External factors (such as diet and physical injury) and internal factors (such as emotional states, mental stimulation, and hereditary conditions) can affect bioelectrical movement in the body and cause a Yin/Yang imbalance of electrons at the cellular level.
According to the World Health Organization, acupuncture can be used to treat thyroid diseases. Several studies suggest that acupuncture and TCM can be beneficial in treating hypothyroidism. In one study at the Shanghai Medical University in China, 32 patients with hypothyroidism were treated for one year with a Chinese herbal preparation to stimulate the kidney meridian (energy channel). The results were compared with a control group of 34 people. The study found that the clinical symptoms of hypothyroidism were markedly improved, which confirmed that hypothyroidism is closely related to a deficiency in kidney energy.
TCM herbs for treating hyperthyroidism include Rehmannia (shu di huang), Dioscorea (shan yao), and Cornus (shan zhu yu). Kidney Yin Tonic (Liu Wei Di Huang Wan) is the herbal formula most often used. Other herbal formulas such as Liver Cleansing (Zhi Zi Qing Gan Tang) and Heart Yin Tonic (Tian Wang Bu Xin Dan) are also used.
In treating hypothyroidism, TCM practitioners would recommend cinnamon (rou gui) and Aconite (fu zi). The most often used herbal formula is Kidney Yang Tonic (Jin Gui Shen Qi Wan), and formulas such as Right Restoration Formula (You Gui Wan) are also widely used.
“Never tire to study. And to teach to others”
In this issue you will find:
Still locked in the troughs of winter in much of the country, many of us continue a daily battle with head colds and sinusitis. Yet, with the coming of spring, for these same individuals there is not necessarily relief in sight. As spring blooms, it brings with it allergies, hay fever, and continued sinus pressure and pain for patients.
It is estimated that some 30 million Americans suffer from sinus problems. Sinus infections are usually the result of a cold, a sudden change in weather conditions, or an allergic reaction. No matter the cause, the resulting condition, sinusitis, is a swelling of the mucous membranes and increases production of mucus. This swelling and increased mucous production causes the symptoms most associated with sinus congestion, the pressure and pain of sinus headaches along with an annoying stuffy and/or runny nose.
In Western medicine, typical treatment for sinusitis is the prescription of antihistamines or antibiotics that may relieve the symptoms, but do little to get at the cause of the condition. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has been effectively treating sinusitis naturally for centuries with herbal and acupuncture modalities.
Sinusitis in many individuals tends to become a chronic condition. The reason is that after each recurring infection, most methods of treatment fail to drain the sinus cavities completely of mucus and discharge. This creates an ongoing pattern of infection after infection. Continually treating the infections with antibiotics can weaken the immune system, causing further problems. TCM modalities can break this pattern, and are actually designed to boost, not damage, the body’s immune response.
In TCM, sinusitis is the result usually of a wind pathogen, wind cold or wind heat, that has entered and concentrated in the head. Acupuncture can be very effective in opening up the nasal passages, and allowing patients with sinusitis to breathe more easily. The most common acupuncture point for sinusitis is the Bitong point, which literally means "opening up the nose."
Herbal medications indicated for the treatment of sinusitis include Xanthium Powder, magnolia flower, Angelica root, and field mint or peppermint. These are considered “warm herbs.” If the sinusitis is accompanied by a fever, which is often the case, herbal formations will likely be used in conjunction with “cooling” herbs. Cooling formulations may include honeysuckle flowers and Scutellaria root. Since sinusitis can also be caused by floral or pollen allergies, TCM practitioners must take particular care when prescribing herbal medications for sinusitis, and as always in TCM, evaluate the patient overall, basing his or her treatment on a detailed patient history.
As in all modes of TCM, observation is very important to make a proper diagnosis and determine a course of treatment. To the TCM practitioner, the color and nature of the mucus and nasal discharges are indicative of the qi disharmonies causing the sinus condition.
Once the sinus infection has been cleared, to prevent recurrence the patient is given treatment to strengthen Spleen Qi. Strong Spleen Qi prevents the build up of mucous and improves the immune system overall, preventing colds and other infections which can lead to sinusitis.
The value of herbal supplementation is being increasingly validated by scientific research. Herbal supplements such as Ashwagandha, Ginseng, Ginkgo, Bromelain, and many others have been proven time and again in published studies to have measurable therapeutic benefits. Herbs can be used to promote heath and well-being in any individual, but also, there are specific herbal formulations that are particularly conducive to boosting a woman’s health, and dealing with common health issues unique to women. There are multi-formula herbal supplements that combine many ingredients that are specifically tailored to a woman’s metabolism.
Cranberry juice, and cranberry extracts have been widely used by many women for the treatment of cystitis, urinary tract infection, (UTI) and other bladder conditions.
With the recent controversy over Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), more and more women are turning toward herbal medications for relief of the symptoms of menopause. Such formulas abound on the internet and drug store shelves, but a careful examination of the ingredients will reveal that they are usually a combination of the same botanical derivatives.
Soybeans, yams, and related plants are natural sources of estrogen, and estrogen-like compounds. These will be common ingredients in herbal supplements for women that are intended to ease the symptoms of menopause.
Kava Kava and Valerian root are also commonly found in women’s herbal formulas, as they can help with sleep, relaxation, and restoring emotional balance.
Black Cohosh has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to provide relief from hot flashes. Black Cohosh is also indicated for the relief of menstrual cramps and period pain, as are, Evening Primrose Oil, Dong Quai, and Red raspberry, Chamomile and Ginger Root teas.
Women dealing with sexual, or fertility issues can also find help in the garden, rather then the medicine cabinet. Low libido or decreased sex drive in women can be treated botanically with Damiana Leaf, which has been found in studies to increase sexual desire and pleasure, and stimulate arousal in women. Muira Puama has also been shown to increase libido and aide in sexual hormone production. Again, estrogen-mimicking herbs such as Black Cohosh can help improve a woman’s sex drive, in pre or postmenopausal women. While not specifically prescribed for female sexual dysfunction, herbs that are known to improve blood flow and stimulate the nervous system can also help alleviate this condition. Ginger Root, Aloe Vera, Gingko Biloba, Guarana, Black Walnut, and Passion Flower, are some such herbs.
Women dealing with fertility issues may stimulate egg production with many of the same hormone replacing, or hormone mimicking herbs that relieve the symptoms of menopause. Dong Quia, Red Clover, Wild Yam and Soy extract have all also been found to increase fertility in women.
Both men and women can benefit from herbal supplements to look and feel their best. Yet women do have certain unique metabolic needs, which fortunately can be fulfilled with some safe, proven effective, and readily available herbs and botanical supplements.
A Model for the Action of Massage
Massage therapy has been practiced for thousands of years by many cultures. Today, Americans spend approximately $3 billion each year on visits to massage therapists.
While debate continues on the physiology of massage, experts agree that massage draws its benefits from more that just applying pressure to specific areas of the human anatomy. The Chinese believe, and so do many practitioners, that touch can serve as a natural, essential component to healing and the maintenance of good health. When administered properly by a trained professional, massage can reduce pain or adhesions, promote sedation, mobilize fluids, increase muscular relaxation, and facilitate vasodilatation (the widening of blood vessels due to the relaxation of smooth muscle cells within the vessel walls).
The actual mechanism of massage action is to revitalize the nervous system. By properly stimulating the pathways of nerve endings, massage affects the body's vital organs and tissues. A skilled massage therapist can positively influence the nervous system, accelerating the metabolic processes, and stimulating blood and lymph vessels. This helps to excrete metabolic products and excess fluids and relieve venous congestion. A good massage also enhances blood supply to the skin, subcutaneous tissue, muscle tissue, and internal organs.
Additional research suggests that massage may reduce inflammation, stimulate tissue oxygenation, and soften scar tissue. It may also reduce the excess buildup of lactic acid in muscles, and stimulate the healing of connective tissues or damaged muscles.
The basic techniques that facilitate these therapeutic mechanisms include:
Stroking—Characterized by even movements without losing contact with the skin. Uses a firm rhythmic pressure on an upward stroke, then glides down to the starting point with a very light touch.
Kneading—The skin is pulled together with subcutaneous fat and muscle to compress the tissues, which enhances muscle tone and stimulates blood circulation.
Rubbing—The skin is stretched along with subcutaneous fat and muscles in different directions. Here, the fingertips of both hands are continuously applied to a broad surface area.
Vibration—Moving the hands rapidly to stimulate tissues and other parts of the body. Vibration serves to enhance muscle tone and alerts nerves, dilates blood vessels, and speeds up metabolism.
Circulatory massage -- which uses vigorous kneading, rolling, vibration, percussive, and tapping to manipulate the body's soft tissues -- can help deliver nutrients and remove waste products from various tissues. It can help transform nervous energy into a more steady state. The rhythmic procedures of this massage can help re-establish balance by calming the nervous system.
When suffering from a disorder, consult a primary care physician before attempting massage therapy. The doctor may recommend the appropriate treatment that is best suited for the disorder. If massage is suggested, find a licensed massage therapist who is nationally certified through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (www.ncbtmb.org) or the American Massage Therapy Association (www.amtamassage.org). Note: Medicare and most private insurance do not cover massage.
“Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.”
In this issue you will find:
Millions of Americans report that they cannot perform simple everyday tasks such as tying a tie or opening a jar, because of the debilitating pain of arthritis. Twenty percent of all Americans say that their arthritis symptoms are so severe that it has affected their job performance and their general ability to enjoy life. Despite what one may think, arthritis is not just an “old persons” disease. In fact, almost two-thirds of those with some form of arthritis are younger than age 65. There are two main forms of arthritis: rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. In recent studies, acupuncture has been shown to be effective in reducing the symptoms of both.
A study conducted in Germany looked at over 300,000 people with osteoarthritis of the knee. Participants in the study received 15 sessions of acupuncture combined with their usual medical care. During the study, those that had the treatments reported less pain and stiffness, improved function, and better quality of life, than those who had received routine medical care alone. Interestingly enough, those that had the acupuncture treatments, also reported less severity of their symptoms for three months after the study, when they were not receiving acupuncture at all.
Another study was conducted in China on victims of rheumatoid arthritis. Here, participants were treated with traditional acupuncture as well as another technique called electroacupuncture, which uses minute bursts of electricity to stimulate the acupressure points. Participants receiving both the traditional and the electroacupuncture reported significant decreases in the severity of their symptoms.
As when it is used to treat any condition, according to TCM, acupuncture relieves the symptoms associated with arthritis by improving blood and qi flow to the affected areas.
Acupuncture decreases the pain associated with arthritis by increasing the release of neurotransmitters that block pain. The meridians or acu-points that are located along nerve pathways are stimulated by the needles and then send signals to the brain to release endorphins. Endorphins are chemicals that are very similar in nature to morphine that are released in the body during times of pain or stress. The painless acupressure needles “fool” the nerves into thinking they are in pain, and the brain releases the chemicals in response.
Today, acupuncture is now so widely accepted as a treatment for arthritis that it is even covered by some health insurance companies. So if one is suffering from any form of arthritis, always consult a doctor first, and if acupuncture is recommended, be sure to check and see if the treatment is covered by insurance.
Chronic Pelvic Pain occurs in both men and women. In men the problem is usually related to the prostate. In women, it is usually associated with endometriosis, menstrual pain, or other factors related to the reproductory organs. The good news is that traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has modalities that have proven to be effective in treating Chronic Pelvic Pain (CPP) in both men and women.
A recently published study of a traditional Western style clinical trial conducted by the Fujian College of TCM in China looked at the effectiveness of three separate TCM protocols for the treatment of Chronic Pelvic Pain, or prostatitus in men. Using the standard National Institutes of Health (NIH) scale to measure symptoms of CPP, specifically, pain, urinary difficulties, and quality of life, the study concluded that all three modalities did more to relieve the symptoms of CPP than the placebo group. Of the three groups receiving an actual treatment, the group treated with a decoction of the Chinese herb, Aike, did the best.
Similar positive results were found in pilot studies that examined the effectiveness of acupuncture on benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH), prostatitus, and Chronic Pelvic Pain.
In general, Chronic Pelvic Pain is a condition usually more associated with women than men. Here too, TCM has offered substantial, and verifiable relief. Both acupuncture and herbal medications have been used to successfully treat CPP in women. In women CPP takes on many forms. It can occur monthly with the menstrual cycle, a few times a year, or some women are forced to endure CPP almost every day of their reproductive lives. Often “medical science” can find no cause for CPP. Even when the etiology is known, allopathic medicine offers little in the way of relief other than the use of powerful hormonal drugs and painkillers, or invasive surgeries. Western doctors have even resorted to prescribing antidepressants to treat CPP in women with no apparent physical cause for the pain, claiming the problem is emotionally related.
TCM modalities for CPP in women have proven particularly effective in those cases where traditional medicine cannot find an organic cause. Given that TCM treats CPP as it does all conditions, as a problem stemming from qi stagnation or blockage, in this case the problem most likely lies in the Zang fu organs of the liver, kidneys, and heart. Acupuncture has been shown to be effective in treating women suffering from Chronic Pelvic Pain even when a source of origin such as an infection, inflammation, or adhesions can be found.
Chronic Pelvic Pain, especially in women, is a complex disorder often occurring with no single discernable cause. TCM takes a holistic approach to each patient treating not just the symptom, but taking into consideration everything from diet to emotional states. This makes TCM modalities particularly effective for treating CPP, since the source of the discomfort can be due to any number of internal, or external factors.
OM for Prevention and Treatment of the Flu
With H1N1 or the so-called Swine Flu, and its predecessor, the Avian Flu, making headlines world wide – influenza is in the news, and on the minds of many people. As potentially hazardous as these two strains can be – the truth is, the typical seasonal flu takes far more lives in the United States every year then these two strains ever have.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and other Oriental medical practices have a long and successful history of treating and preventing winter colds and the flu. The most common way that Western medicine offers for dealing with the potentially deadly complications of seasonal flu is to use vaccination. The potential risks of vaccines have been well documented. While vaccines have proven to prevent certain strains of the flu, one vaccine cannot prevent all variants of the disease, and a flu shot does absolutely nothing to prevent or lessen the severity of colds.
Oriental medicine, on the other hand, is designed to strengthen the immune system when it is at its most vulnerable – during the winter and flu season. Qi, when restored and strengthened, can prevent the acquisition of colds, flu, and other seasonal viral infections. In the TCM tradition, the symptoms of H1N1 and any flu are the result of pathogenic heat, cold, or dampness. Oriental medicine has an old tradition of using herbal medications to boost qi, and prevent these pathogens from gaining egress into the body. In fact, in China, school children are served herbal teas during flu season to prevent the spread of colds and flu.
Herbal Medications and Flu
Various herbal formulas are used in TCM to treat the different symptoms of the flu. Respiratory issues are treated with herbs such as Jiu ma huang (aka Chinese ephedra). Other treatments for the respiratory conditions associated with colds and flu used in China include an oral liquid called Shuanghuanglian, which is a formula made up of baikal skullcap root, honeysuckle, and forsythia. For the digestive distress that is also often associated with flu, TCM suggests herbs in the family of Ge gen (radix puerariae) and ageratum.
The fever that is common to viral infections such as colds and the flu is believed in TCM to be caused by a heat pathogen. Heat pathogens are traditionally and effectively treated in TCM with herbs such as Huang Lian (Coptis chinensis), which has specifically shown promise against influenza viruses in clinical trials.
It is interesting to note that viruses, such as those that cause colds and the flu, mutate rapidly. Western medicine traditionally develops ant-viral medications with a single active ingredient. TCM herbal medications use many ingredients, with individual practitioners often developing their own unique formulations. It is therefore much easier for mutated viruses to become resistant to traditional pharmaceuticals then to the herbal elixirs of TCM.
“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.”