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Acupuncture, Massage, Newsletter - April 2009 | Issue 62

In this issue you will find:


Important PCOM Dates:

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Naturally Curbing the Effects of Tinnitus

Exposure to sudden, loud music or explosive noises can cause tinnitus, a nerve disorder that involves a consistent ringing sound in a person’s ears. At its worse, tinnitus can lead to deafness. Tinnitus affects one in 10 people, and can range from mild to chronic. While it is a common problem for veterans and the elderly, other common causes include whiplash or even dental work. However, there is evidence that if caught early, tinnitus can be improved and eventually cured with the use of natural medicine, such as acupuncture and certain vitamins.

Tinnitus is linked to nerve and touch sensitivity. For some people, clenching one’s jaws or applying pressure to the neck can bring on or dissipate tinnitus episodes. Acupuncture patients with this disorder will have a high response rate to the nerve’s natural response to pressure and the disorder’s sensitivity to certain points. The practice of acupuncture is based on the stimulation of certain points on the body, as well as meridians and channels. Stimulating specific points (which are determined based on the patient’s unique case) can rebalance the qi (one’s life force) and alleviate the source of the problem. It is integral in traditional Chinese medicine to treat the origin of an ailment as well as the symptoms, and TCM has several theories as to what cases tinnitus.

For example, in more temporary cases of tinnitus, high emotional strain or sudden anger can lead to a ringing in the ears. Also, diet can have an effect. Practitioners of TCM believe that excessive greasy foods or irregular eating can lead to Phlegm (a TCM term that commonly refers to a retention in body fluid), which prevents the rising of clear qi to the head (resulting in the “phantom noise” associated with tinnitus). Overworking or excessive physical strain can lead to a nerve disturbance, causing tinnitus. And lastly, trauma is a common cause of the ringing noise associated with this disorder.

A jarring physical episode, especially one that involves explosive noises, can alter a person’s hearing. Veterans are a large population of people suffering from tinnitus. According to the American Tinnitus Association, the number of veterans receiving disability for tinnitus has increased by 18 percent each year since the year 2000. There is also a link between the nerves involved in tinnitus and those involved with TMJ (temporomandibular joint syndrome), a condition that causes pain and some dislocation in the jaw. Acupuncture can relieve chronic pain, and also help alleviate the root of these two nerve conditions.
Another alternative treatment for tinnitus is to supplement one’s diet with lipoflavonoids. Lipoflavonoids are a combination of B vitamins that can strengthen the blood vessels that deliver nutrients to the hearing nerves. Also, altering one’s diet by limiting salt and caffeine, which may over stimulate ocular nerves, can also help restore the inner ear fluid balance – helping the nerves to function properly. Western medicine is limited in its treatment options for tinnitus; no prescription drug is available for this condition. However, with careful management and the natural remedies found in traditional Chinese medicine, there is a resource waiting to be tapped.

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Iyengar Yoga Shows Promise for Stroke Recovery

In the United States over 700,000 people suffer a stroke each year--two thirds are 60 and older. Many need help to restore their mobility and resume their daily lives. Most who have suffered a stroke report a general decline in overall health due to their decreased level of physical activity. Yoga practitioners insist that the gentle alternative exercises of a well-structured yoga program can be easily adapted for post stroke sufferers. Followers of yoga believe that individuals who have suffered a stroke and who are limited in mobility and stamina can benefit from this ancient healing art. One particular branch of yoga seems ideally suited for, and has demonstrated promise in, post stroke rehabilitation: Iyengar yoga.

What is Iyengar yoga? It’s a form of yoga developed by B.K.S Iyengar. Considered the world's greatest living yoga master, Iyengar was born in 1914 and suffered from tuberculosis and typhoid at a young age. He developed a classical form of yoga using supports and props, which allowed older individuals with reduced mobility or disease to improve their general health and well-being. Using props allows individuals to accurately align their posture for maximum physical, physiological, and psychological benefit. It also allows older individuals to maintain these ideal postures for longer durations so that they can benefit from them. The proper sequence of the different postures also contributes to the overall benefit of this particular type of yoga.

The important point of difference with Iyengar yoga is that it focuses more intensely on the precise postures and controlled movements than other forms of yoga. This slower and less dynamic approach is ideal for older and/or post stroke individuals, allowing them to gain the full benefits of yoga without strain or exertion.

A yoga-based exercise program for individuals with chronic post stroke hemiparesis (a weakness on one side of the body) can be beneficial. In a pilot study with poststroke patients, a gentle yoga exercise program adapted for people who had recently suffered a stroke showed some benefit. This was a preliminary investigation of the effects of a yoga-based exercise program on people with chronic (greater than 9 months) post stroke hemiparesis.

The pilot study included four individuals with chronic poststroke hemiparesis. The primary outcome measures were the Berg Balance Scale (14-item scale designed to measure balance of older, impaired people with brain injury). Also used was the Timed Movement Battery (designed to measure the range of mobility in elderly individuals). Finally, the Stroke Impact Scale  (a test to assess changes in impairments, disabilities and handicaps following a stroke) was also administered. The baseline testing phase varied for each individual and ranged from four to seven weeks. The eight week intervention phase was made up of 1.5-hour yoga sessions, twice a week in the person’s home. The results: three of the four individuals showed an improved range of mobility, and two individuals showed improved balance. These results, although demonstrated on a small percentage of poststroke individuals, suggest that yoga may be beneficial to people who have had a stroke.

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Herbal Therapy and Traditional Chinese Medicine

When most people think of Chinese medicine they think of acupuncture, and perhaps some have heard of other techniques such as Qi Gong. Indeed, these modalities are all part of Chinese medicine, more accurately referred to as traditional Chinese medicine, or TCM. However, an equally important, if not more important, aspect of TCM is the use of herbal medications in conjunction with these other practices.

Western medicine tends to ridicule the efficacy of nutritional supplements and herbal medication. However, over 50 percent of so-called modern pharmaceuticals are derived from botanical substances. There are about 600 different herbs that are most commonly prescribed by Chinese herbalists. Yet the Chinese pharmacopoeia lists over 6,000 different medicinal substances by their properties and by the qi disturbances they can help to correct.

In TCM all things, especially living things, have qi (a life force). Herbal medicinal formulations are not only created to treat specific qi disorders, each herb and plant has its own qi, which forms the basis of its mechanism of action. In TCM, herbs are categorized by their natural makeup; their qi. The herbs are described and organized by “Temperature” and “Taste”. Herbs are either cold, cool, hot, or neutral, and/or spicy, sweet, and bitter. Herbs are also designated by the four directions, based on quadrants of the body related to the specific areas they treat.

Unlike other forms of herbal medicine, the Chinese herbalist will rarely prescribe a single herb for the treatment of an illness. Chinese herbs are almost always used in combination. It is the herbalist’s ability to diagnose and the skills with which the practitioner creates these formulations, that gives the herbs their healing power. Each herb itself is often a mix of temperature and taste, and therefore doesn’t posses a single property. It is up to the herbalist to weave them together like the notes of symphony to deliver a cure.

How are Chinese Herbs Taken?

The traditional way that Chinese Herbal Medicines are administered is in an infusion, or decoction, a concentrated form of tea. However, there are practitioners that will create herbal pills or capsules of herbal formulations. You may find some practitioners who will also use tinctures and granules, but the tea is still the more common, and some would say the most effective.

What Are Chinese Herbs Used to Treat?

Chinese herbal medicines are a pillar of TCM and, therefore, are used to treat any and all ailments. However, Chinese herbs have proven to be very effective in treating colds, digestive disorders, arthritis, and those who suffer from allergies. There has been a recent and growing interest in the anti-aging benefits of various Chinese herbs as well.

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Chinese Wisdom: Proverb of the Day

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”

~ Confucius