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Acupuncture, Massage, Newsletter - March 2010 | Issue 75

In this issue you will find:

Important PCOM Dates:


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Acupuncture for Shin Splints

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.

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Moxa Treatment for Menopause Symptoms

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.

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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.

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Chinese Wisdom: Proverb of the Day

“Never tire to study. And to teach to others”

~ Confucius

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