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Acupuncture, Massage, Newsletter - January 2007 | Issue 33

In this issue you will find:

Important PCOM Dates

  • January 17 – Chicago Open House
  • February 6 – San Diego Prospective Student Workshop
  • February 10 – New York Open House
  • February 10 – New York Chinese New Year Celebration
  • February 24 – Chicago Chinese New Year Celebration

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Tai Chi as a Beneficial Exercise for Seniors

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 Chi 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 Chi helped seniors improve their physical functioning. Study participants who took Tai Chi twice a week for a 6 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 6-month Tai Chi exercise program was effective for improving functional status in healthy, physically inactive older adults. A self-paced and self-controlled activity such as Tai Chi has the potential to be an effective, low-cost means of improving functional status in older persons.” Most notably, those who took Tai Chi were less likely to fall—one of the largest causes of serious injury for seniors.

Tai Chi 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 Chi practice may serve as a better real world exercise for reducing force variability in older adults’ manual performance.”

The movements of Tai Chi combine the elements of balance, toning and aerobic exercises, through slow, graceful actions. When practiced regularly, Tai Chi 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 Chi is especially well suited for older adults.

Tai Chi has three major components: movement, meditation, and deep breathing. All major muscle groups are utilized to articulate the gentle, slow movements of Tai Chi. 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 Chi 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 Chi is an excellent choice to free the mind and energize the body.

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Massage Benefits Women with Breast Cancer Courtesy of MassageMag.com

Massage therapy reduced depression, anxiety and anger in women with breast cancer, and increased their levels of dopamine, serotonin, natural killer cells and lymphocytes, according to recent research.

"Breast cancer patients have improved immune and neuroendocrine functions following massage therapy" was conducted by the Touch Research Institutes, Department of Pediatrics, Hematology/Oncology Clinics, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and Department of Medicine at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

Thirty-four women with Stage 1 or 2 breast cancer were randomly assigned to either a massage-therapy group or a standard-treatment control group. Each participant had completed radiation or chemotherapy treatment at least three months before the study started.

Women in the massage-therapy group received three 30-minute massages per week for five weeks. The massage involved stroking, squeezing and stretching techniques on the head, arms, legs, feet and back. Women in the control group received standard treatment only, with the option to receive massage after the study.

The State Trait Anxiety Inventory, Profile of Mood States and the Symptom Checklist-90-R were used to evaluate participants’ anxiety and mood at the beginning and end of the study period.

Urine samples were taken from the women on the first and last days of the study, and their blood was drawn.
Results of the urine tests showed that serotonin and dopamine levels for the massage group increased, and the blood tests showed that there was a significant increase in their natural killer (NK) cell numbers and lymphocytes.

"NK cells spontaneously destroy a wide variety of cancer and virus-infected cells and are involved in eliminating metastases," state the study’s authors. "Lymphocytes are precursor cells of immunological function as well as regulators and effectors of immunity."

Results of the questionnaires showed that women in the massage-therapy group had reduced anxiety, depression, anger and hostility.

"In the current study, massage therapy was found to be a safe treatment, as no adverse effects were reported, and massage was found to positively impact the psychology, immunology, and biochemistry of women with breast cancer," state the study’s authors.

"In summary, the self-reports of reduced stress, anxiety, anger/hostility, and improved mood, and the corroborating findings of increased dopamine and serotonin levels and increased NK cell number (the primary outcome measure) and lymphocytes suggest that massage therapy has positive applications for breast cancer survivors."

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Chinese Medicine Helps Shed Those Extra Pounds

Now that the holidays are over and the long nights of eating and merry-making are behind us, January is once again a fresh start to losing weight and feeling great for the New Year.

According to the American Obesity Association, 127 million adults are overweight, and 60 million meet the criteria for obesity.  This health epidemic affects not only the patient’s quality of life, but also results in a cost of $12.7 billion dollars annually to US businesses in loss of productivity and health and life insurance costs. Additionally, obesity is linked to over 30 health medical conditions including Type 2 Diabetes, and Heart Disease. Approximately 300,000 deaths each year are attributed to obesity.
Although Americans spend $35 billion annually on weight-loss products and services, the rate of obesity has spread to 30.5% of adults over the age of twenty. With the high failure rate of fad diets many Americans are now turning to alternative solutions. Those seeking long term lifestyle changes and true health stability are now including the use of Acupuncture and Tai Chi to achieve their health goals.
Acupuncture and Tai Chi are a great addition to any weight loss plan. When beginning a diet, many people experience food withdrawals from a lack of endorphins they are used to receiving through comfort foods. These cravings can lead to dangerous food binges, guilt, and shame. Acupuncture and Tai Chi are a great way to counter-balance these cravings, as they release endorphins into the brain, which helps alleviate the withdrawal symptoms of various foods.
Weight gain can also be caused by stress, which increases Cortizol in the body. An increase in Cortizol can alter a person’s metabolism causing a stressed-out person to store more fat than usual. By releasing endorphins into the body these therapies reduce the level of stress and curtail the over-production of Cortizol in the body.
Tai Chi and Acupuncture are also effective in stimulating the hypothalamus, an area of the brain that regulates the autonomic nervous system and controls appetite and hormone production. Regulating the body’s thyroid and hormone levels, through these therapies are effective in aiding weight-loss.
Still, the ultimate means of regulating weight is through eating healthy and increasing exercise. The use of Acupuncture and Tai Chi provide a fun form of exercise and release from unhealthy food cravings, stress, and dependencies. Tai Chi improves metabolism by increasing strength, flexibility, and restoring internal balance. Tai Chi’s gentle movements are also a great low impact exercise for aging bodies, people recovering from injuries, or those looking to change up their current exercise routine. Together these therapies are an extremely effective means of losing weight and feeling great in the New Year.

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Chinese Wisdom: Quote of the Day

“He who depends on himself will attain the greatest happiness”

- Book of Odes