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Acupuncture, Massage, Newsletter - February 2009 | Issue 61


In this issue you will find:

Important PCOM Dates:

 

• March 12th: (Thursday) Chicago Open House
• March 12th: (Thursday) New York Open House
• March 25th: (Wednesday) San Diego Program and Application Workshop

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Acupuncture Eases Battlefield Pain

Chronic pain is one of the most common ailments that acupuncture can relieve. The United States military has recently incorporated this Oriental health benefit into their offered medical services. Andrews Air force Base in Maryland has begun using this ancient Chinese technique to treat wounded troops for chronic pain. This is the first high-level endorsement of acupuncture by the traditionally conservative military medical community, and marks a milestone for Oriental medicine's increasing popularity and accessibility.

The use of acupuncture is proving so successful in the Air Force that a class about "battlefield acupuncture" is scheduled to commence in the New Year. Physicians deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan will soon be adding acupuncture to their list of medical remedies. Auricular acupuncture (acupuncture of the ear) is the primary technique that will be taught. This method can alleviate wide ranges of pain (even unbearable, sharp chronic pain) for days at a time. Patients who have been suffering in a daze of drug-induced sleep as their only means at pain reduction can begin to emerge from that state into fuller consciousness without pain.

Individuals treated with acupuncture report greater reductions in pain both immediately after the first and last treatments, and one week after the last treatment. It is important to have acupuncture treatments consistently for the treatment of chronic pain. Another reason acupuncture may work so well for wounded troops is because it is deemed especially effective in regard to pain caused by motion. Acupuncture is a safe form of treatment for people with chronic neck pain and offers clear clinical advantages over conventional massage or prescribed medication in the reduction of pain and improvement of mobility. It doesn't just attack the symptom as drugs do but, rather, the cause of the pain, thus improving the patient's range of motion and sense of well-being.

Acupuncture can also reduce anxiety, something many wounded troops deal with daily. Battlefield acupuncture has been effective among patients suffering from a combination of combat wounds and psychological injury. Auricular acupuncture, in particular, is known to help patients relax, de-stress, and can greatly improve a patient's sleep pattern. Lastly, this practice is well suited to military bases and physicians on the go because it requires no bulky equipment, and can provide quick relief.

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Qi Gong For Revitalizing and Restoring Qi

Qi, pronounced "chee" and alternatively spelled "Chi" and less often "Ki," is the fundamental basis of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Qi in TCM is the most basic force or energy of the universe, of the body, and of life itself. Qi flows through the body much like blood and other fluids, to and from the vital Zang organs. In TCM, all ailments are caused by blocked, depressed, or inadequate Qi flow. All TCM modalities are designed to enhance or improve Qi, but perhaps none so profoundly or effectively as the ancient art of Qi Gong.

Literally translated "Qi" means "vital force" or "vital energy." "Gong" refers to a skill that is gained through years of practice. So, Qi Gong literally means to gain mastery over your vital energy. And this is why Qi Gong is such an effective form of healing in TCM and other methods in the emerging practice of Energy Medicine.

Much like Tai Chi, Qi Gong is an exercise regimen, a kind of moving mediation that stimulates and regulates the flow of Qi. Qi Gong can be internal - performed by oneself, or external - exercises administered to the patient by a Qi Gong master. The movements of Qi Gong are designed to emulate the rhythms of nature, especially the flow of water, or trees swaying in the breeze. In doing so, according to TCM, areas of Qi stagnation become unblocked, and key energy pathways are stimulated. For centuries, Western medicine has denied the Mind-Body connection and scoffed at practices such as Qi Gong and Yoga that purport to heal by bringing on changes in emotional or psychological states. However, there is mounting scientific evidence that the mind body connection is very real, and whether you accept the concept of "qi" or not - practices such as Qi Gong are undeniably effective in reducing stress. And stress is a very real component of many ailments.

Many studies using brain mapping and MRI's have shown that practices such as Qi Gong and meditation trigger what is known as the "relaxation response". The relaxation response is the opposite of the "fight or flight response." The concept has been the basis for Qi Gong for thousands of years but the phrase was first coined by researcher Herbert Bensen, M.D. during his studies of practitioners of Transcendental Meditation (TM). The relaxation response is best described as a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress. According to Dr. Bensen, "Repeated activation of the relaxation response can reverse sustained problems in the body and mend the internal wear and tear brought on by stress." Once achieved, the Relaxation Response:

 

  • Causes metabolism to slow
  • Causes the heart to beat slower and your muscles to relax
  • Causes your breathing to become slower
  • Lowers your blood pressure

 

EEGs taken while people where practicing Qi Gong indicated that the cerebral cortex enters a state of calm unknown in most people even during sleep. Qi Gong turns off the "fight or flight" mode of the nervous system, and switches on the parasympathetic branch, or the nervous system's healing mode. Furthermore, studies show that Qi Gong activates and stimulates neurons and the production of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, which can result in significant memory improvement, learning, and enhancement of the physiological functions controlled by the brain - or as TCM would put it - enhance and restore your Qi.

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Acupuncture Can Reduce Side Effects of Cancer Treatments

Millions of patients undergo chemotherapy as part of their cancer treatment. Though controversial, chemotherapy uses very powerful drugs in an attempt to kill cancer cells. Although this may control some types of cancers and possibly prolong the lives of some patients, chemotherapy has many negative side effects. Among these are nausea and vomiting, loss of appetite, fatigue, anemia, body ache, headache, night sweats, stomach cramps and diarrhea. This has caused many patients to refuse this marginally effective and life-debilitating treatment. For those who still believe chemotherapy is worth pursuing, acupuncture can provide some relief in controlling the many undesirable side effects of chemotherapy.

Women undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, for example, have found that acupuncture can be effective in managing such common side effects as hot flashes, night sweats, and excessive sweating. Compared to conventional drug therapy, acupuncture produces no side effects, according to a study presented in 2008 at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology's 50th Annual Meeting in Boston.*

Regrettably, a majority of women suffer from hot flashes after being treated with chemotherapy and/or anti-estrogen hormones, such as Tamoxifen and Arimidex. Hormone replacement therapy is often used to relieve hot flashes, but breast cancer patients can't avail themselves of this therapy due to an increased risk of a cancer's return. This leaves many women with the unpleasant alternative of being treated with steroids and/or antidepressant drugs. Unfortunately, these drugs have undesirable side effects, such as nausea, weight gain, constipation and fatigue. One of the most common drugs used to treat hot flashes, an antidepressant known as venlafaxine (Effexor), is plagued with side effects-including decreased libido, insomnia, dizziness and nausea.

A randomized clinical trial compared acupuncture to venlafaxine for 12 weeks to determine which was more effective in reducing night sweats, hot flashes, and sweating in breast cancer patients receiving hormonal therapy. The study involved 47 patients who received either Tamoxifen or Arimidex and suffered from at least 14 hot flashes per week. The Results were quite promising and showed that acupuncture reduced hot flashes as effectively as venlafaxine, with no side effects.*

Acupuncture also offers a number of positive benefits, including an increased sense of well-being, more energy, and in some cases, a stronger sex drive. Breast cancer survivors enjoy these benefits with a drug-free therapy that has no side effects. What's more, these benefits last longer than many drugs commonly used to treat night sweats. It's also more cost-effective for insurance companies.

Acupuncture uses thin, sterile needles inserted in specific points on your body to redirect energy through key channels (or meridians). During the procedure, you may experience a brief discomfort as the needles penetrate your skin, but once the needles are in place, most people relax and many even fall asleep. The number and frequency of treatments will vary. Typical treatments last from five to 30 minutes and may be administered once or twice a week.

Always consult your medical doctor before beginning any acupuncture therapy, or altering any physician-prescribed drug or other treatment program.

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Chinese Wisdom: Proverb of the Day

"If you know, recognize that you know. If you don't know, then realize that you don't know: That is knowledge. "

 ~ Confucius