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Acupuncture, Massage, Newsletter - September 2008 | Issue 55

In this issue you will find: Important PCOM Dates


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Acupuncture Improves Athletic Performance

By, Kathleen Rushall

The Summer 2008 Olympics were held in Beijing, China, in the country where acupuncture originated thousands of years ago. Perhaps it is no surprise then that this ancient practice is gaining further interest and media attention now that China has hosted a world-class athletic event. The Olympic Village in Beijing offered free acupuncture to athletes and officials of the games – making it the first Olympic Village in history to do so. Since the presence of the Olympics in China, acupuncture is finally gaining the recognition it deserves as a remedy for sports ailments.

Especially when combined with Western therapy, there is little that acupuncture cannot do to help improve sports injuries. Acupuncture can quickly lessen inflammation, as well as to release pressure and improve blood circulation. Long used for the relief of chronic pain, acupuncture not only provides instant relief from painful injuries, but can also accelerate the healing process by reducing swelling, boosting the immune system, and providing energy and serenity to the patient. Acupuncture has been found to be especially effective in treating tendon and ligament sprains, which are common injuries for athletes.

One of the differences between Chinese medicine and its Western counterpart is that an Oriental medicine diagnosis always focuses on the root of the problem, rather than merely symptoms of the problem. Chinese medicine focuses on the athlete and the injury; in the West, treatment is usually more geared towards just the injury. By centering on the problem’s origins, more complex issues can be resolved and a complete sense of well-being can be achieved through acupuncture. A traditional Chinese medicine diagnosis will include taking the athlete’s history of past injuries into account as well as other health issues, sleeping and eating patterns, and the strength of various systems throughout his or her body.

The goal of most athletic acupuncture treatments is to increase one’s flexibility, circulation, and mental clarity, usually with a specific competition or game in mind. It’s important to have a set mental goal to achieve regarding one’s performance. The acupuncture treatment will not replace an athlete’s warm-up, but rather, complement it. Knowing one’s own strengths and weaknesses is key, because the acupuncturist will focus on bolstering specific weaknesses in the body or performance. With the proper questions and diagnosis, a good practitioner can even help alert an athlete to their own physical prowess or areas in need of improvement. Every observable factor is taken into account for a treatment – the athlete’s anxieties, temperature, and fatigue are a few examples of this. If nervous, the athlete will be soothed by the treatment. If already prepped and warmed up, the treatment will focus on flexibility.

A recent 2008 edition of the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine published a study regarding the effects of acupuncture on cyclists. Twenty young (between 18 and 30 years of age) male cyclists participated in this study. These men underwent three tests per week, riding a stationary bike for 20 kilometers as fast as possible. Before each biking session, they received a treatment: some received acupuncture, some received a sham treatment, and some received none, once each in a random order. The statistically significant result was that acupuncture gave higher RPE scores compared to the other tests. The men receiving the real acupuncture treatments completed their cycling tests at a higher acceleration than the others.

Another important draw that acupuncture holds for athletes is the fact that it goes above and beyond merely alleviating an injury. Consistent acupuncture treatments can improve performance and provide more energy. Treatments can support the body during training, help to build muscle mass, promote liver glycogen storage, and to lend the body those bursts of energy that are so integral to a great performance.

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The Many Benefits of Chinese Cupping

By, Kathleen Rushall

Traditional Chinese medicine brings to mind acupuncture and the use of natural herbs as healing remedies. Cupping is a lesser-known treatment that is also part of Oriental medicine, one that can provide an especially pleasant experience. One of the earliest documentations of cupping can be found in the work titled A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies, which was written by a Taoist herbalist by the name of Ge Hong and which dates all the way back to 300 AD.
Cupping is the term applied to a technique that uses small glass cups or bamboo jars as suction devices that are placed on the skin. There are several ways that a practitioner can create the suction in the cups. One method involves swabbing rubbing alcohol onto the bottom of the cup, then lighting it and putting the cup immediately against the skin. Suction can also be created by placing an inverted cup over a small flame, or by using an alcohol-soaked cotton pad over an insulating material (like leather) to protect the skin, then lighting the pad and placing an empty cup over the flame to extinguish it. Flames are never used near the skin and are not lit throughout the process of cupping, but rather are a means to create the heat that causes the suction within the small cups.          

Once the suction has occurred, the cups can be gently moved across the skin (often referred to as “gliding cupping). The suction in the cups causes the skin and superficial muscle layer to be lightly drawn into the cup. Cupping is much like the inverse of massage – rather than applying pressure to muscles, it uses gentle pressure to pull them upward. For most patients, this is a particularly relaxing and relieving sensation. Once suctioned, the cups are generally left in place for about ten minutes while the patient relaxes. This is similar to the practice of Tui Na, a traditional Chinese medicine massage technique that targets acupuncture points as well as painful body parts, and is well known to provide relief through pressure.

Generally, cupping is combined with acupuncture in one treatment, but it can also be used alone. The suction and negative pressure provided by cupping can loosen muscles, encourage blood flow, and sedate the nervous system (which makes it an excellent treatment for high blood pressure). Cupping is used to relieve back and neck pains, stiff muscles, anxiety, fatigue, migraines, rheumatism, and even cellulite. For weight loss and cellulite treatments, oil is first applied to the skin, and then the cups are moved up and down the surrounding area.

Like acupuncture, cupping follows the lines of the meridians. There are five meridian lines on the back, and these are where the cups are usually placed. Using these points, cupping can help to align and relax qi, as well as target more specific maladies. By targeting the meridian channels, cupping strives to ‘open’ these channels – the paths through which life energy flows freely throughout the body, through all tissues and organs, thus providing a smoother and more free-flowing qi (life force). Cupping is one of the best deep-tissue therapies available. It is thought to affect tissues up to four inches deep from the external skin. Toxins can be released, blockages can be cleared, and veins and arteries can be refreshed within these four inches of affected materials. Even hands, wrists, legs, and ankles can be ‘cupped,’ thus applying the healing to specific organs that correlate with these points.

This treatment is also valuable for the lungs, and can clear congestion from a common cold or help to control a person’s asthma. In fact, respiratory conditions are one of the most common maladies that cupping is used to relieve. Three thousand years ago, in the earliest Chinese documentation of cupping, it was recommended for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis.

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Relieve Infant Colic with Massage

By: Michelle Fletcher

For some, it appears constant crying is a normal occurrence in newborns. But is it? Colic is one of the most common reported ailments in infants aged 3 weeks to about 3 or 4 months. Extended periods of loud crying lasting longer than an hour are trademarks of the ailment, and are most frequent after being fed or late into the evenings.

Colic stems from problems with the infant’s immature digestive system. Trapped gas may cause the baby’s stomach to become distended, resulting in pain, bloating, the inability to pass gas, and frequent crying or screaming. Luckily, stimulation of the digestive process through careful massage may help ease the pain and urge relief from colic.

A study printed in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics supported the effects of massage on colicky infants. The researchers claim that massage therapy stimulated melatonin secretion and rest-activity rhythms in full-term infants. “Massage therapy by mothers in the prenatal period serves as a strong time cue, enhancing coordination of the developing circadian system with environmental cues.” In essence, massage helped relax infants and urge them to sleep, observing the natural circadian rhythms.

A Danish study further supports the claim that massage and reflexological treatments eased symptoms of colic in infants. The purpose of the study was to investigate and treat infants with colic by conventional medicine, followed by an investigation of the effect of reflexological treatment. “Infantile colic had a significant cure rate at pediatric consultation and the children who did not benefit from this intervention had a significantly better outcome after reflexological treatment than had the observation group.” The addition of massage to treatments in the study proved more effective than traditional medicine alone.

Massage for colicky infants is simple and stress-free. A few minutes of your time is enough to soothe the child, relieve symptoms of colic, and help create a tighter bond between parent and child.

The first step is called the paddlewheel. You may want to use a little massage oil or lotion on your hands before beginning. Place your palm under the infant’s chin, with fingers pointing towards the child’s shoulder. Draw your hand downward along the chest, towards their diaper. Repeat with slow, gentle motions.

In the second step, place your infant’s heel next to their bottom by bending the knee. With the leg still bent, move the thigh towards their stomach until it rests on their tummy. Move the other leg to this position as well. Slowly and carefully move the legs in a bicycle pattern. The infant may be confused at first, but they grow to love it.

Part three is also simple. Using as much of your palm and fingers as possible, circle the belly button in a clockwise motion. This motion will move the gas around, making it easier to pass for the infant.

For most parents, only five minutes per diaper change is enough to encourage a healthy digestive system, ease symptoms of colic, and promote a quiet and restful evening.

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Chinese Wisdom: Quote of the Day

“A bit of fragrance clings to the hand that gives flowers”
~ Anonymous