“Low back pain is the second most common cause of disability in the United States and a common reason for missing work,” according to Timothy S. Carey, M.D. who was the principle investigator in a study done at the UNC School of Medicine.
As an acupuncturist and healthcare provider I would say that 40% of my practice are people seeking relief for low back pain and/or sciatica. Of the other 60% who have come in with another chief complaint, upon completing a full health history during the initial appointment a majority of them list low back pain or radiculopathy (radiating nerve pain, numbness or tingling) as a secondary or tertiary complaint.
The increased amount of time people are spending at a desk in front of a computer in combination with lack of stretching, strengthening exercises and poor posture from hours of sitting is one major contributor to the rise in low back issues.
Low back pain and Sciatica are actually different from each other. There may be multiple causes of low back pain, but sciatic pain is related to an issue of inflammation or compression specifically of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve emanates from the lower lumbar spine and passes through the buttocks, down the back of each leg, to the soles of the feet and the big toes. Pain associated with sciatica is usually severe, sharp and stabbing and you may also experience numbness, tingling, weakness or sensitivity to touch.
Some causes of Low Back pain:
Degenerative disc disease
Facet joint dysfunction
Sacroiliac joint dysfunction
Some causes of Sciatic pain:
Lumbar herniated disc. The jelly-like center of a lumbar disc can break through the tough outer layer and irritate a nearby nerve root.
Injury or trauma
Years of bending and sitting for long stretches
Osteoarthritis (narrowing of the opening through which the nerve roots exit the lower spine, injuring the nerve fibers)
Piriformis syndrome (piriformis muscle in the buttock compresses the sciatic nerve)
“As many as 40% of people will get sciatica during their life, and it becomes more frequent as you age. People who suffer from acute or chronic back pain tend to be more susceptible to sciatica,” says Dr. Jeffrey N. Katz, professor of medicine and orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School.
What are your treatment options?
Ice: 15-20 minutes, 3 times per day, during first 72 hours to bring down inflammation
Preventative Care (once you are out of pain):
Get moving (low impact activities like water aerobics, riding a stationary bike, daily back stretching and even yoga)
Exercises that help strengthen the muscles around the spine, which may take some pressure off your discs.
Proper posture and body mechanics (For more information read Sandra Blackie’s article below, “Lifting Posture – Neutral Spine”)
How acupuncture alleviates low back pain and sciatica:
Acupuncture helps to reduce pain and inflammation by stimulating specific acupuncture points on the body, which trigger the brain to release neurotransmitters & endorphins (the body’s natural pain relievers). This stimulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary system also regulates our serotonin and dopamine production, which help our body to relax and feel joy. By focusing on acupuncture points of the lower back and legs it is helping to reduce muscle tension and bring more circulation and endorphins to the area, allowing the body to resume healing.
For acute cases a patient may get relief within 2-3 treatments. For more chronic issues it could take up to 8-12 treatments depending on other circumstances, such as disc herniation, stenosis, etc. Acupuncture and strengthening exercises are a great place to start the healing process of low back pain and sciatica.
Your acupuncturist and Personal trainer or Physical Therapist can also work with you in creating a maintenance routine once your back is healed to help you avoid any recurrence in the future.
How to Choose the Best Acupuncturist, and the Right One for You
The Things to Look For and Watch Out For When Finding an Acupuncturist
by Dr. Derek Kirkham
Seeing a new acupuncturist, especially for the first time, can be a little awkward.
You don’t know what to expect.
And even before you make the appointment, you aren’t sure you know how to pick the right one or how to know if the acupuncturist is good.
Of course, no two acupuncturists are going to be the same, and it’s important to go to one who will be perfect for you.
It helps to do your research to make the best choice. This will result in a much better experience as you venture in acupuncture. Luckily for you, we will be going over every possible question you might have in finding the right acupuncturist to help ease the transition in this ancient medical practice.
What Makes a Good Acupuncturist?
There are 3 essential factors that every reputable acupuncturist has:
It’s important that your acupuncturist has proper credentials. Each state in the US has certain requirements that include education, training, and a proper certificate to practice acupuncture. Any acupuncture practice should be able to provide its license and license numbers and will be up to date with continuing education.
It’s vital that your acupuncturist has proper insurance. In case anything goes wrong during the procedure, it’s important that you are both covered for liability reasons.
It’s critical that your acupuncturist has a healthy and clean treatment room. Not only are acupuncturists in the US supposed to use sterilized needles, but practitioners are obliged to have clean hands as well as fresh blankets and pillows for customer use. All equipment should be on carts or tables, with a clean floor for the client to walk on.
What are Some Red Flags to Look Out For?
If your new acupuncturist does any of the following, get out immediately!
Has a dirty treatment room
Tells you how many visits you will need before asking you about your medical history and providing a diagnosis
Doesn’t answer any of your questions
Refuses to show you their credentials, if you ask
Where to Find Your New Acupuncturist
There are two mains ways that you can find your new acupuncturist:
1. Get a Recommendation
Chances are you know somebody who has tried acupuncture in the past. Ask where they went to receive treatment. This is an especially good idea if the treatment was for the same type of condition you are experiencing. Your doctor may also be able to provide a good recommendation.
2. Search Online
If you are unable to find a personal recommendation, the next place to look is the internet. Check review websites like Yelp to find highly rated and popular acupuncture practices. Doing a quick Google search can also help you to find a practitioner who specializes in your condition. This will also allow you to view the websites of potential practices and read about basic services and information.
What Kind of Treatment Are You Looking For?
Many people are unaware that there are many different types of acupuncture, including traditional Chinese acupuncture, Japanese style, 5 Element acupuncture, scalp acupuncture, and more. There are certain styles that are more effective for certain conditions, or that will align more with the kind of approach you are looking for.
If you want to address more emotional and spiritual imbalances while treating your physical conditions, you might want to try a 5 Element acupuncture approach. Or there’s Auricular, or ear acupuncture, which is known to be good for addiction, smoking cessation, and weight loss.
Some acupuncturists can treat all types of conditions whereas some specialize in certain conditions, focusing their practice on getting getting really good at a particular area of expertise.
You may consider seeking out a specialist if you have a serious health condition. It would also be a good idea to go to a specialist if you are pregnant or soon expecting to be.
Before you settle on an acupuncturist, ask what their specialties are, which style of acupuncture they use, and what they have the most experience with.
In addition to acupuncture, there are a number of other treatments that your practitioner may offer. Many of these treatments also fall under the category of Chinese medicine. Some of these treatments include heat therapy, bodywork, cupping, food therapy, and herbalist services. Speak with your acupuncture office to see what, if any, other services they offer.
What Kind of Vibe Appeals to You?
Every practitioner is different – from the more Eastern esoteric feel to the staunchly straightforward and medical… and everything in between.
Find a practitioner that feels like your kind of place!
It will greatly affect your experience.
With the right approach and feel, your chosen practitioner can make you feel at ease and confident. A good place to start is looking at their website and social media. You may be able to get a feel for how they think and what their practice feels like.
Read reviews and look for what appeals to you most.
And then try them out. You’ll never know for sure until you book your first appointment. If they accept insurance, it won’t even be on your dime!
When you find the right one, you’ll know it. Don’t be afraid to try a few and see who most gels with your personality and expectations.
Choosing the Best Acupuncturist for Your Needs
Aside from the basic qualifications that every acupuncturist should meet that we listed above, there are a few other things you should consider when selecting your new specialist. Look for someone who:
1. Asks and Answers Questions
An acupuncturist who asks questions is a good acupuncturist. This allows them to get to the root of your problems and provide you with a good session. Questions also allow them to point you in the right direction on your own wellness and healing journey.
Search for someone who will answer your questions as well. You should be able to feel comfortable asking questions about anything from qualifications to advice. Your acupuncturist should be patient and able to answer any one of your questions.
2. Listens Deeply
Find a practitioner who listens to your symptoms, concerns, and anything else you have to say. This allows them to tailor your treatment to your needs and provide you with the best possible visit every time.
3. Spends Plenty of Time on You
The last thing you want is an acupuncture session that feels rushed. Whether your session is spent talking or with the needles, you should have your acupuncturist’s full attention. With a good practitioner, even a 30 minute session can feel satisfying and fulfilling.
4. Is Upfront About Treatment Plans and Costs
There is nothing worse than enjoying a relaxing acupuncture treatment, getting home, and seeing a surprise charge on your bill. It will completely negate the relaxing treatment you just had. Make sure you discuss at length the exact cost of each visit and follow-up visit. You also want to talk about your treatment plan and create one that works for you.
5. Is Convenient
The location of the practice and the hours of operation are sometimes just as important as the acupuncturist. This is especially true if you have time intensive therapies.
Look for a practitioner that is easy to get to and probably close to your home. Also take note of the operation hours as many acupuncturists have limited hours. If you work full-time, this can be a real hassle.
Make sure you pay attention to the small details as well. Is there parking? Is there an elevator or are they on the first floor? All of these things should contribute to your decision.
How Much Should an Acupuncturist Cost?
Your treatment cost will vary based on a few different factors. The price is often dependent on the style of acupuncture, the experience of the specialist, and where you are located. Make sure you ask for the prices up front before you make any commitment.
For lucky ones in places where their health insurance covers acupuncture treatments (like the state of Washington) you may not have to worry about cost at all! Just go in and have it covered by insurance… just be sure to check first with the practitioner and your insurance company!
Even though it may covered, there may only be a certain number of sessions allowed. Or you may need to pay a certain amount out of pocket for each session.
You will need to check with your insurance company to see if they cover this type of treatment and if so, ask your acupuncturist if they accept your insurance.
Here are a few questions you should ask your health insurance provider before making any decisions.
Is acupuncture covered?
What is the deductible?
How much can be reimbursed for each visit?
Is there a limited number of trips that are covered?
Are you Afraid of Needles?
Never fear! Even those who are afraid of needles can enjoy the benefits of acupuncture. A good acupuncturist can quell those fears and provide a relaxing treatment despite the original anxiety.
Search for a specialist who is:
Understanding of your fears and inhibitions
Calm and can establish a relaxing environment
Attentive and listens to your needs and will stop treatment if you ask
Able to explain the whole process in detail and make it clear that acupuncture needles are different from other needles and cause no pain
If you are still afraid, there may be hope for you yet!
According to a recent study, poke-free acupuncture may be just as effective as regular acupuncture. In this process, also known as sham acupuncture, blunt needles are used and they do not puncture the skin at all.
In fact, there are many acupuncture practices that don’t use needles at all and can be an excellent alternative.
Choose an Acupuncturist Confidently
You are ready to start choosing an acupuncturist you can be confident in.
Now that you know how to choose an acupuncturist, brush up on the types of acupuncture to further choose the right approach for you.
If you’re in Seattle, give me a call. If not, find a local acupuncturist that fits your needs. You won’t regret it!
What is Acupuncture and How Does it Work?
Everything You Need to Know About this Ancient and Modern Practice
12 Ways to Get the Most Out of Your Acupuncture Treatments
Take Advantage of the Full Potential of Working with an Acupuncturist
How to Choose the Best Acupuncturist, and the Right One for You
The Things to Look For and Watch Out For When Finding an Acupuncturist
What to Expect During Your Acupuncture Treatment
Everything You Should Know for Before, During, and After Your Treatment
What is Qi?
Flow and Traffic Jams on the Body’s Energy Superhighway
5 Science-Backed Ways Acupuncture Improves Your Life
Better Sleep, Less Anxiety, More Energy – How to Live Better through Acupuncture
What are Acupuncture Points?
The Foundation of Acupuncture and the Triggers for Healing
When people think of fertility treatments, they think of science and stirrups and injections. But Dr. Jill Blakeway, a leading acupuncturist and renowned Chinese medicine practitioner is changing the way we approach reproductive health in western medicine by introducing eastern medicine into the mix. The author of Sex Again: Recharging Your Libido and Making Babies: A Proven 3-Month Program For Maximum Fertility opened the Yinova Center 20 years ago to offer women fertility support through acupuncture and Chinese herbs. “One of the secrets of our success is that we provide Chinese medical care in a modern way to meet the needs of our patients,” she explains. Her goal is to optimize women’s ability to conceive naturally or in conjunction with medical treatment. Read on for why The New York Times rightfully described her as ‘The Fertility Goddess.’
Acupuncture for Menstruation
Acupuncture has been used for centuries to help men and women improve fertility. However, Blakeway’s use of traditional Chinese methods spans beyond fertility. Through treatment, she regulates women’s menstrual cycles over the course of three months to rid of spotting and PMS. Women who specifically experience amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation) are provided with customized treatments and herbal formulas to boost their ovulation and regulate their cycle. Additionally, studies show that acupuncture has many fertility benefits, including increasing low ovarian reserves, elevating the follicle-stimulating hormone that tells the ovaries to start preparing an egg to ovulate each cycle, and decreasing ovarian cysts.
Acupuncture for Conceiving
Many of Blakeway’s patients try to conceive during those aforementioned three months of regulation, so she simultaneously monitors their BBT (basal body temperature, which determines when a woman’s fertile), and gives advice on how and when to have intercourse. “The Yinova team uses acupuncture, moxibustion, herbal medicine, dietary advice, massage, cupping, and lifestyle adjustments to support fertility by increasing blood flow to the uterus and ovaries to promote a healthy uterine lining and ovarian follicles. We also decrease inflammation to aid embryo implantation and balance hormones,” Blakeway explains. The Middle East Society Journal breaks down the science: Acupuncture mediates the release of neurotransmitters, which in turn, stimulate secretion of gonadotropin-releasing hormone that ultimately influences the menstrual cycle, ovulation, and fertility.
Acupuncture During IVF
Clinical research shows a 50 percent increase in fertility success rate with patients who underwent acupuncture than those who didn’t in a controlled group study. Blakeway’s patients come twice a week during the stimulation phase of their IVF cycles—one treatment before retrieval, one between retrieval and transfer, one just after transfer, and one a week after transfer. Senior acupuncturist, Amanda Silver, recommends women come in a month before starting IVF to start taking Chinese herbs and receiving acupuncture which can make them stronger upon taking medication. During the downregulation cycle month, where birth control or lupron is taken for a week or two to suppress current hormones so the IVF takes effect, there’s a lot of stagnant energy (qui). Silver and her team break up the qui to reduce stress before starting the most critical process.
As the stimulation procedure begins, their team focuses more on ovary blood flow and essentially calming the uterus for the incoming embryo during retrieval. After the transfer treatment, women have a couple of days to receive acupuncture which can relieve uterus spasms and improve the efficacy of IVF. During IVF, Chinese herbs are usually not recommended because it may complicate matters. Patients undergoing IUI (intrauterine insemination) typically come in for treatment once a week throughout.
A 2002 study published in the Fertility and Sterility journal showed that acupuncture given at the time of embryo transfer during an IVF cycle improved pregnancy rates compared to a control group that was not given acupuncture. In the British American Journal, researchers found that using WS-TCM (Whole Systems Traditional Chinese Medicine) for three months prior to an IVF cycle (approximately 12 treatments) may increase the odds of achieving a live birth over usual IVF care alone or the more limited two acupuncture treatments administered around embryo transfer.
Acupuncture for Endometriosis
The leading cause of pelvic pain seen at Blakway’s center comes from endometriosis. “It can seriously affect a woman’s ability to conceive and can also cause uncomfortable, heavy or irregular periods,” she explains. Using a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbs, the acupuncturists aim to improve blood circulation, clear inflammation, relieve pain, and treat the patient’s underlying condition associated with their endometriosis. This may involve specific dietary changes suggested by a practitioner.
How to Choose an Acupuncturist
First things first, ensure that your acupuncturist is certified! You can choose any practitioner but when dealing with matters of reproductive health it’s important they have an understanding of gynecology, fertility, and reproductive medicine. It also helps to find someone who can work around your schedule and IVF treatments.
Does it Really Work?
One testimonial on Yinova’s site reads, “I owe a huge thank you to Katy Hogan at the Yinova Center for helping me to conceive the handsome baby boy that I am holding in my arms right now. Years of hormonal birth control use had destroyed the natural balance in my body and my cycle was non-existent. I came to Katy hoping that she would be able to restore my cycle in hopes of eventually getting pregnant. My first appointment was 8/30/17 and by mid-September I was pregnant. Her skill in acupuncture and knowing exactly which herbs I needed helped prepare my body, and my husband and I conceived our son naturally on my first cycle since coming off birth control. Thank you, Katy and the Yinova Center for helping me become a Mom!”
Of course, the Yinova Center can’t guarantee a pregnancy any more than IVF can. But, if you believe in acupuncture’s healing powers and delve into the research, you’ll be surprised at what alternative medicine can do for your body.
All you need to know about the AIP diet
Last reviewed Thu 30 November 2017
By Lana Burgess
Reviewed by Natalie Butler, RD, LD
What is the AIP diet? Foods to eat on the AIP diet Recipes and snack options Does the AIP diet work? Takeaway
The autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet is designed to help reduce inflammation in the body to relieve symptoms of autoimmune disorders. But what can you eat on this diet and what evidence is there of the benefits?
An autoimmune disease is any condition where a person’s immune system mistakenly attacks and damages its own bodily tissues. Inflammation is a common feature of an autoimmune disease. Examples include psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus.
This article explores what the AIP diet is and what foods a person can and cannot eat if they want to follow the diet. It also considers the scientific evidence available to support the effectiveness of the AIP diet in the management and treatment of autoimmune diseases.
What is the AIP diet?
The AIP diet is a version of the Paleo diet, designed to help treat automimmune diseases.
Also known as the paleo autoimmune protocol, the AIP diet is a much stricter version of the Paleo diet (which is based on meat, fish, vegetables, nuts and seeds).
It advises eliminating foods that may cause inflammation in the gut and eating nutrient-rich foods.
The AIP diet is based on a belief that autoimmune conditions are caused by something called a “leaky gut”, which is medically now referred to as altered intestinal permeability.
The theory is that small holes in the gut cause food to leak into the body. This is thought to cause the immune system to overreact and start attacking bodily tissues in error.
By eating nutrient-rich foods and avoiding inflammatory ones, the AIP diet aims to heal any holes in the gut. This is thought to help:
reset the immune system
prevent the autoimmune response
reduce symptoms of autoimmune diseases
prevent the occurrence of secondary autoimmune diseases
People who do the AIP diet should follow it strictly for a few weeks and then slowly reintroduce foods that they have avoided.
The idea is to see if there is a reaction when the food is reintroduced. If there is a reaction, the suggestion is that a person should exclude this food from their diet long-term.
Foods to eat on the AIP diet
meat and fish, preferably not factory raised
vegetables (but not nightshades, such as tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and potatoes)
fruit (in small quantities)
avocado, olive, and coconut oil
dairy-free fermented foods, such as kombucha, kefir made with coconut milk, sauerkraut, and kimchi
honey or maple syrup (but only to be used occasionally, in small quantities)
fresh non-seed herbs, such as basil, mint, and oregano
green tea and non-seed herbal teas
vinegars, such as apple cider and balsamic
Foods to avoid on the AIP diet
all grains, such as oats, rice, and wheat
legumes, such as beans and peanuts
nightshade vegetables (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and potatoes)
all sugars, including sugar replacements (except for occasional use of honey)
butter and ghee
all oils (except for avocado, coconut, and olive)
Autoimmune diseases: All you need to know
There are so many autoimmune disease and disorders, some more serious than others. Learn all about them here.
Recipes and snack options
Here are some AIP meal plans to get started.
A green smoothie can be nutritionally dense, and filling enough to replace a small meal.
This AIP smoothie recipe, from Paleo Mum, is a tasty breakfast meal replacement:
1 cup vegetable juice
2-3 cups fresh leafy greens (for example, spinach and kale)
1-2 scoops AIP-friendly (collagen) protein powder
Blend all the ingredients except for the protein powder in a food processor for up to 2 minutes. Add the protein powder and pulse the food processor to blend it in.
This soup recipe from AIP Lifestyle is a simple and tasty idea for lunch that a person can make in advance:
3 cups of fresh, washed baby arugula
2 ½ cups of bone broth
2 cups steamed parsnips
1 cup roasted spring onions
1 tbsp. olive oil
pinch of salt
After heating the bone broth in a pan and steaming the parsnips, add all the ingredients into a food processor and blend.
This quick and easy AIP chicken dinner idea is inspired by Eat Something Delicious:
1 whole chicken
1 lb. frozen cubed sweet potato
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 tsp. salt
2 ¾ AIP-friendly herb blend (such as garlic and herbs)
1 lb. frozen broccoli
Arrange the frozen vegetables and chicken in a baking tray and season with the oil, salt, and herb blend.
Cover the tray with foil and roast in the oven for 45 minutes. Remove the foil and roast in the oven for a further 20 minutes, or so.
Carob chip bars for snacking
This tasty snack idea is from Angel Slice:
2 large ripe plantains
2 tbsp. tigernut flour
½ tsp. baking soda
3 tbsp. coconut butter
¼ coconut oil
2 tbsp. honey
¼ carob chips
Blend all ingredients except for carob chips in a food processor. Pour into a greased loaf pan and add in the carob chips. Bake for up to 50 minutes. The bars can be served with whipped coconut cream on top as an addition.
Does the AIP diet work?
The logic behind the AIP diet is that avoiding gut-irritating foods and eating nutrient-rich ones will reduce inflammation and heal any holes in the gut.
This is believed to reduce or prevent the immune system from attacking bodily tissues. In this way, the AIP diet aims to reduce the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. But what evidence is there that it works?
The link between gut health and autoimmune disease
Gut health may affect inflammatory diseases. The AIP diet attempts to treat such diseases with a specific diet.
There is some scientific evidence to support the link between gut health and inflammatory disease.
A 2012 study suggested bacterial growth in the gut might be linked to inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.
This study in 2014 notes that the gut wall is maintained by networks of proteins. It explains that inflammation affects how well the gut wall functions. It also notes that food allergies can make the gut wall more porous.
The study concludes that problems with the gut wall are associated with autoimmune diseases. This goes some way to support the idea of the “leaky gut” proposed by supporters of the AIP diet.
However, the study adds that more research is needed to confirm that gut wall dysfunction is a primary risk factor in the development of inflammatory disease.
The AIP diet and autoimmune disease symptom reduction
A 2017 study found that eliminating certain foods as part of the AIP diet can improve symptoms of the autoimmune disease inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
This is one of the first clinical studies into the effectiveness of AIP diet. Further studies are required to support claims that it can reduce symptoms of other autoimmune diseases.
Research suggests that autoimmune diseases may be linked to how porous the gut wall may be.
It follows that a diet that promotes gut health may be beneficial for those with autoimmune diseases. There is evidence that one such regime, the AIP diet, may reduce symptoms of the autoimmune disease IBD.
More research is needed to say with certainty that the AIP diet can improve symptoms of all autoimmune diseases. However, the AIP diet is a healthful diet that people with autoimmune diseases may find beneficial. This diet may also reduce the need for certain medications or high dosages.
Anyone with an autoimmune disease looking to try the AIP diet should discuss this with their doctor.
What is the Stone Age or Paleo diet?
The Stone Age diet, or paleolithic diet, is based on the foods early humans would have eaten in the Stone Age. It may help in weight loss. Supporters argue that, since our genes have changed little in millions of years, items such as meat, herbs, and insects are more suitable foods for humans than grains and flours.
The raw food diet: Should I try it?
The raw food diet includes uncooked and unprocessed whole plant-based, ideally organic foods. Uncooked foods should make up 75% of the person’s diet.
How safe is the Paleo diet?
The popular low-carbohydrate, high-fat ‘Paleo’ diet can cause weight gain and predispose followers to diabetes, say researchers, who recommend a Mediterranean diet instead.
What is the truth about clean eating?
A look at clean eating, a concept where someone avoids artificial foods or additives. Included is detail on the facts and fiction behind the diet.
Nut lovers rejoice: Your favorite snack protects your heart
Nuts are widely considered beneficial to the heart. A new study dives deeper into the specifics and finds out exactly what nuts can do for our tickers.
Study lists 33 foods proven to relieve rheumatoid arthritis
A major review of existing studies narrows down the research findings to 33 foods clearly proven to relieve the progression of rheumatoid arthritis.
TCM to Treat Infertility
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) suggests that there are three main causes of infertility: deficiency syndrome, stagnancy syndrome and heat syndrome.
According to Dr. Subhuti Dharmananda from the Institute for Traditional Medicine, the deficiency syndrome prevents the hormonal system from properly influencing the sexual and reproductive functions.
The stagnancy syndrome prevents the sexual and reproductive organs from functioning despite normal hormone levels and a normal ability to respond to hormones. This has the impact of restricting circulation to tissues.
The heat syndrome may be associated with an infection or inflammatory process. It can produce abnormal semen quality leading to male infertility, while gynecologic infections can maintain female infertility by blocking the passages, altering the mucous membrane conditions or influencing the local temperature.
All three syndromes can be treated with Chinese herbs, acupuncture or a combination of both. These traditional Chinese approaches can also, and are often, combined with Western medicine in treating infertility.Evidence of using herbs to treat infertility dates back to around 2,000 years ago. With the cultural importance of family, it is no wonder that TCM has been used to treat infertility for thousands of years.
TCM practitioners treat infertility by getting to the deeper,underlying root of the problem, instead of treating the most apparent problem. Like and architect, TCM practitioners believe that the foundation is most important in a “home” or body. Therefore, they strive to balance the “foundation” of the body. Once the foundation of the body is healthy and qi (life energy) flows freely throughout the body, the body should be able to correct the problem of infertility on its own.
In China, the use of herbs have generally taken three to six months to restore fertility, according to Chinese clinical studies. Japan’s treatment times tend to be longer on average, six to 15 months, due to doctors giving lower dosages of herbs and because they are restricted to using a smaller variety of herbs. The U.S. is generally in between at about six to 12 months; it has nearly the full range of Chinese materials, but it generally gives smaller doses.
Acupuncture is another effective way of restoring fertility. It can be used as a complementary treatment with Chinese herbs, Western medicine or both.
Acupuncture helps qi flow through the body along pathways, also known as meridians. It aims to balance this flow by stimulating points along the meridians with thin needles. Acupuncture aids in blood flow to the reproductive organs and stabilizes hormone levels. This will increase ovarian function in women and sperm production in men.
A German study published in 2002 showed that acupuncture may be helpful to couples undergoing in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Of 80 women in the study who underwent IVF and received acupuncture, 34 women got pregnant. Of another 80 women who only received IVF without acupuncture treatment, only 21 women became pregnant. A later American study revealed similar results, showing that 51 percent of the women who had both acupuncture and IVF treatments became pregnant, while only 36 percent of the women who only received IVF treatment without acupuncture became pregnant.
Acupuncture also helps with men’s sperm count and sperm quality. In a study published in Fertility and Sterility in 2005, men who received acupuncture had fewer structural defects in sperm and an increase in the number of normal sperm than men who received no acupuncture.
If the herbal and acupuncture treatments succeed, not only will there be restored fertility in the patient, but he or she should feel better as a whole, because the TCM practitioner would have created balance throughout the entire body.
Our clinic has very high successful rates (83.3%)for fertility treatment . 3months to 6 months herbal and acupuncture treatment plan is the best way .
Acupuncture Stops Coughing, Soothes Passages
07 June 2017
Researchers find acupuncture effective for the alleviation of chronic coughing. In a controlled clinical investigation, researchers determined that a combination of electroacupuncture and herbal medicine nasal irrigation produces significant positive patient outcome rates for patients with upper airway cough syndrome (previously termed postnasal drip syndrome). The application of electroacupuncture plus herbal medicine nasal irrigation significantly outperformed the use of either modality as a standalone procedure. Based on the results of the investigation, Heilongjiang Traditional Chinese Medicine University researchers determined that the combination of electroacupuncture plus herbal medicine nasal irrigation produces a 94.5% total effective rate (Bao et al.).
The American College of Chest Physicians (ACCP) currently defines upper airway cough syndrome (UACS) as the more current way to refer to postnasal drip syndrome (PNDS). UACS is defined by the ACCP as a critical pathogenesis involved in chronic coughing. Causes of UACS are several, including upper respiratory disorders (nasal and sinus diseases), anatomical abnormalities, chemically induced rhinitis, neural hypersensitivity, and inflammatory diseases of the larynx and pharynx. The term UACS is an umbrella diagnosis for chronic coughing resulting from these etiologies.
Bao et al. determined that herbal medicine nasal irrigation produces a 73.7% total effective rate. Electroacupuncture produces an 84.2% total effective rate. However, a combination of the two therapies produces a 94.7% total effective rate for the alleviation of chronic coughing.
Today, we take a look at how the researchers achieved the results. We’ll look at the acupuncture points proven effective for the alleviation of chronic coughing and the herbal medicine too. First, let’s take a look at the study design to get a better overview of the results.
All patients admitted to the acupuncture continuing education study had a cough lasting three weeks or more. Patients with hemoptysis were not admitted to the study and all patients in the study had the type of cough that is worse in the morning and improves by the evening. Patients also had a confirmed history of upper respiratory illness including disorders such as chronic rhinitis, nasopharyngitis, nasosinusitis, nasal polyps, allergic rhinitis, or chronic pharyngolaryngitis. In addition, patients admitted to the study had the presence of mucus with a cobblestone appearance and nodular lymphoid hyperplasia of the oropharyngeal mucosa. In addition, patients in the study reported postnasal drip sensations, itchiness, or the feeling of a foreign irritant in the posterior pharyngeal wall. Diagnostics were confirmed by X-ray, CT, or allergy tests.
The study involved the selection of 114 patients at the acupuncture department of the second affiliated hospital of Heilongjiang Traditional Chinese Medicine University. Patients were randomly divided into three groups, with 38 patients in each group. Group A received electroacupuncture. Group B received nasal irrigation. Group C received both acupuncture and nasal irrigation. Group A achieved an 84.2% total treatment effective rate. Group B achieved a 73.7% total effective rate. Group C achieved a 94.7% total effective rate.
The statistical breakdown for each randomized group was as follows. Group A was comprised of 18 males and 20 females. The average age in group A was 43 (±10) years. The average course of disease in group A was 58.97 (±30.67) weeks. Group B was comprised of 15 males and 23 females. The average age in group B was 44 (±11) years. The average course of disease in group B was 63.50 (±26.86) weeks. Group C was comprised of 23 males and 15 females. The average age in group C was 41 (±10) years. For all three groups, there were no significant differences in terms of their gender, age, and course of disease. The primary acupoints applied to patients in the study were the following:
Upon elicitation of a deqi sensation, mild reinforcement and attenuation techniques were applied during needle manipulation. The rotation manipulation technique was then used to stimulate each acupoint for 15 seconds, at a rate of 3 – 6 rotations per second. After rotation, the needles were retained and connected to an electroacupuncture device. A disperse-dense electroacupuncture wave was applied with an intensity level set to patient tolerance levels or until muscle contractions were observable. The needles were retained for 30 minutes, once electroacupuncture began. One 30 minute electroacupuncture session was conducted daily, for a total of 7 consecutive days. Each treatment course consisted of 7 days. A total of 4 treatment courses were conducted.
The group receiving nasal irrigation received a special preparation of Shuang Huang Lian powder. A total of 1.8 grams of freeze-dried Shuang Huang Lian was combined with 500 ml of 0.9% sodium chloride solution. The three herbs in the formula were Jin Yin Hua, Huang Qin, and Lian Qiao. The herbs were chosen for their properties as indicated for use in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) system. Individually and combined, these herbs are used within the TCM system for the treatment of viral infections, respiratory infections (both lower and upper), and acute bronchiolitis (inflammation of the bronchioles). For the nasal irrigation group, treatment was conducted daily, for a total of 7 consecutive days. Each treatment course consisted of 7 days. A total of 4 treatment courses were applied.
Group C received both acupuncture and nasal irrigation. Both treatments were conducted daily, for a total of 7 consecutive days. Each treatment course consisted of 7 days. A total of 4 treatment courses were applied. After completion of all treatment, the treatment efficacy for each patient was categorized into 1 of 3 tiers:
Recovery: Complete absence of cough. Absence of accompanying symptoms. No feeling of mucus attachment.
Effective: Cough and accompanying symptoms significantly improved. Decreased feeling of mucus attachment.
Not effective: No improvement.
The total effective rate for group A was 84.2%, with the following breakdown of improvement tiers: 7 cases fully recovered, 25 cases improvements (effective), 6 cases no improvements. The total effective rate for group B was 73.7%, with the following breakdown of improvement tiers: 6 cases fully recovered, 22 cases improvements, 10 cases no improvements. The total effective rate for group C was 94.7%, with the following breakdown of improvement tiers: 14 cases fully recovered, 22 cases improvements, 2 cases no improvements. Here, the integrative model of acupuncture with herbal nasal irrigation outperforms using only acupuncture or only herbal nasal irrigation, either of which serves as an isolated therapeutic approach to patient care.
Acupuncture and Herbs Podcast >
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, upper airway cough syndrome (UACS) falls under the Ke Sou (translated as cough) class of disorders. The researchers selected acupoints traditionally used for benefitting the lungs to relieve coughing. BL13 is a Back-Shu (Bei-Shu) point of the lungs. Acupuncture at this acupoint regulates lung qi and relieves coughing. LU1 is the Front-Mu point of the lung channel. In a clinical setting, this Front-Mu point may be combined with BL13 for the relief of coughing. LU5 is a He-Sea point on the lung channel and is traditionally indicated for the treatment of coughing, vomiting, and diarrhea. LU7 is a Luo-Connecting point, Gao Wu command point, and Ma Dan-Yang heavenly star point. In addition, LU7 is the confluent point of the conception vessel (Ren Mai). The particular properties of this Gao Wu command point indicate that LU7 is particularly beneficial for the treatment of head and neck disorders.
In TCM, herbal medicine is often taken in pill, powder, or liquid decoction form for the purposes of oral ingestion for patients with chronic coughing. In the study by Bao et al., a nasal irrigation approach to herbal medicine patient care is used. Although manual acupuncture is also a common selection for the treatment of respiratory conditions, the researchers selected a combination of manual acupuncture and electroacupuncture techniques. They noted that this combined approach to acupuncture needle stimulation was designed to increase the strength and efficacy of the therapeutic regimen of care. Based on the results, the researchers conclude that acupuncture and herbal medicine nasal irrigation are effective treatment modalities for the alleviation of chronic coughing.
To learn more about the treatment of respiratory disorders with herbal medicine, visit the Healthcare Medicine Institute’s website to learn about Prof. Richard Liao’s online acupuncture continuing education course entitled Herbal Medicine For Respiratory Conditions >
Bao DP, et al. Therapeutic Observation of Electroacupuncture plus Nasal Irrigation for Upper Airway Cough Syndrome. Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 2017 (05).
November 1, 2017 by Dr. Caitlin Bree Nespoli
“I tried Acupuncture once and it didn’t work for me.”
I hear this statement at least once or twice a month. I usually respond kindly stating, “I’m sorry to hear that,” but I follow that up with questions to understand why that person did not respond to treatment. It’s important for me to find out why someone didn’t respond to acupuncture because it’s usually not for the reason the person assumes. Acupuncture always works. I’m going to repeat that for impact: acupuncture always works. I found that when people say acupuncture didn’t work for them it’s for one of several reasons. I’ve listed them below so you can have a better idea why acupuncture might not be working for you!
1. You don’t follow the treatment plan that your acupuncturist prescribed for you. Normally when you first come to see an acupuncturist they recommend you come in 1-2x/week (depending on your condition) for the first few weeks and then at least once a week after that. Slowly, your treatments begin to decrease to once a month “tune up” sessions to make sure you’re feeling healthy and any other conditions stay at bay. Acupuncturists are not doing this to steal your money, or take you away from other things that need your attention, they are doing this because they genuinely want to see you get better. I try to explain to my patients that when they come see me that their body is energetically out of balance. When they come in for treatment, their body gets closer to being more energetically balanced. If you go too long without treatment in the beginning, your body is going to try to go right back to where it was, which was causing you discomfort and pain. Remember, you can never have acupuncture too close together, but you can have it too far apart. If you want to get better, I recommend following the treatment plan.
Acupuncturists will often prescribe nutritional recommendations or herbs as well, and these are expected to be followed as closely as possible. You as a patient have to take part in your own healing. I had a patient once that had eczema and when we went over what she ate in a day I realized the days she was having the worst flare-ups she had eaten a lot of wheat. She agreed to stay off of it for a week and with acupuncture treatments her eczema improved dramatically! When I gave her substitutes the next few weeks and told her to avoid wheat she was happy to agree and was feeling great. After a few weeks of getting tired of that lifestyle she went right back to her wheat, claimed acupuncture didn’t work and was frustrated. The same can be said for herbs. Herbs are tailored to each person. Herbal medicine is not like a prescription a doctor gives you, there is no “one size fits all”. So when we ask you to take some herbs and let us know how you feel, its important to give us the best feedback possible and stay as strict with the herbs as possible. Perhaps there is a better formula for you, or perhaps herbs aren’t for you. If you don’t stick to the plan, I can’t help you.
2. You’re seeing a medical doctor trained in acupuncture and not a licensed acupuncturist. This makes all the difference in the world. I’m not knocking medical doctors or their understanding of acupuncture, but much of the time doctors do not have the extensive training that a Doctor of Acupuncture receives. Medical Doctors, Physical Therapists and Chiropractors can all take a 300-hour course to become certified in Acupuncture. A licensed acupuncturist is required to do over 3,000 of training at a master’s level over 3-4 years at a full-time, year-round school. Medical Doctors are able to do their “hands on/clinical training” online, whereas licensed acupuncturists are required to do it on site at their school. Licensed acupuncturists are required to have over 100 patient contact hours, which others are not. Lastly, L.Ac is required to pass several different National Board exams that doctors are not required to take. As an acupuncturist, I have spent years learning about each point, how patients should react to each point and how mixing and matching points can help the patients. You are just not going to get the same experience from someone who only had a quarter of the training.
3. You’re holding onto your illness/pain or there is something emotionally stuck preventing you from getting better. I often see this with elderly patients who identify with their disease. They are so used to identifying as their disease that it is all they know how to be. They are so used to going to doctors and talking about their illness that they don’t know who they would be without it. Many people find this to be a problem when they begin to see results, they are almost afraid of who they might be without their illness.
Many people also have emotional things preventing them from getting better. Whether people realize it or not, the mind and body are connected. If you are someone who is always in pain with no real answer as to why, this might be the cause. Many people experience symptoms like this: vivid dreams, menstrual cramps and clots, pain, headaches and depending on the type of emotions, colds, asthma and cough. I always tell patients to find a way to release their emotions: journaling, running, walking, screaming, crying, singing. Whatever makes the patient feel their best and releases all that emotion is what is going to help them in the long run.
4. You’re not open minded to acupuncture working. This is something that has to do with mind/body again. Now listen, I have had patients that were skeptical when they came in and easily made them see the magic and beauty of acupuncture, but they wanted to be there and they wanted to get better.
I always remember the story my professor told me about the couple he had coming in. The woman wanted her husband to come in and he wanted no part of it. He came in, barely answered any questions and expected a miracle. Even though the woman explained that acupuncture was a series of treatments, he said it didn’t work the first time and gave up all hope of acupuncture working. Going back to what we just said in the last bullet point, mind matters. You can’t have a negative mind and expect a positive result.
5. Acupuncture can be supplemental to another treatment. This one is so important! People often think that just because I am an acupuncturist I hate all kinds of western medicine and pharmacology. That is not true at all! I don’t like the fact that MD’s put patients on medications without trying other things first such as diet and lifestyle changes. Many doctors even prescribe medications to help people with the side effects of other medications! It drives me crazy!
I am a firm believer that acupuncture can cure just about anything, but I am never going to tell a cancer patient to see me exclusively. The best treatment in that case would be acupuncture to supplement the side effects of the chemotherapy and radiation.
In my practice, I treat a lot of children and I absolutely love it. I’m able to confidently say acupuncture always works because children respond to the treatment every time. They don’t have preconceived notions about what medicine should be or why acupuncture might not be able to work. They just go to the doctor and come out feeling a lot better. The fact that children respond best to acupuncture shows that acupuncture really does work!
So, the next time you or someone you know tells you, “I tried acupuncture once and it didn’t work for me,” ask them a few questions and you will quickly learn why! Remember, Acupuncture always works!
By Laura L. Eckland
Acupuncture is one of the oldest medical procedures in the world, with its origins dating back to China more than 2,000 years ago. When properly administered, it can have an amazing ability to naturally relieve arthritic conditions: pain and inflammation of the joints.
Traditional Chinese medicine is based on the belief that an essential like force call “qi”(pronounced “chee”) flows through the body along channels called meridians. These Meridains are like rivers that irrigate the body and nourish the tissues. Any obstructions (called “bi”) aling these channels is like a dam that blocks vital energy flow, creating pain and diseases. Acupuncture is a very effective fomr of pain control in that it can relieve soreness in threee ways. First, it casuses the body to produce chemicals called endorphins, whick inhibit the perception of pain naturally. Secont, it blocks the transmission of pain signals to the brain through the nervous system. Thirdly, it deactivates trigger points. Trigger points are tender and extremely reactivate areas that develope within muscles. The result of acupuncture is widespread relaxation of both mind and body.
Arthritis is a pervasive disease that causes pain and inflammation in joints and can be widely spread throughout the body. Arhritis isn’t just one disease, it is a complex disorder that comprises more that 100 distinct conditions and can affect people at any stage of life. The commmon thread among arthritis symptom is persistant joint pain and inflammation of the joints. While arthritis pain and inflammation cannot be avoided as the body agess, with the aid of acupuncture and Oriental medicine the pain can be managed to a greater degree and improve functioning.
Acupunture treatment points for arthritis are located all over the body, not just directly over the affected area. During the treatment, tiny needles are place along the patient’s legs, arms, shoulders and even toes. These needles are so tiny that multiple acupuncture needles can fit inside a human hair. The needles stay on the area for set amount of time , and then removed. Most people relax and even fall asleep during the treatment. The length, number and frequency of treatments will vary according to the intensity of the pain, and its severity and pervasiveness with the patient.
The relief of arthritis pain through acupuncture has been studied many times. Results indicate that the use of acupuncture and Oriental medicine can be an effective form of pain management. Many studies throughout the world have been given on a range of arthritis sufferers- from patients awaiting full-hip replacements, to knee surgery patients, as well as people suffering from the affects of rheumatoid and osteoarthritis. In most studies, the patients are split into groups- one group participating in acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in conjunction with a self-help course for managing their condition and conventional therapy; the other group receiving only the conventional therapy and self-help course information. The studies indicated that between 25-40 percent who received acupuncture in conjunction with the conventional and self therapy had a decrease in pain and a noted improvement in function of arthritic joints.
The latest study by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) is one of the largest and longest clinical trials to show such conclusive effects and patients who underwent acupuncture treatment reported a 44% average reduction in pain and a 40% improvement in mobility.
Combining acupuncture with standard drug therapy can relieve pain and improve movement in people with arthritis of the knee, according to a new study conducted by Dr Brian Berman, from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, and was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS).
In the trial, Dr. Berman and his colleagues studied 570 patients with an average age of 65 who had osteoarthritis of the knee. Participants were randomly assigned to receive one of three treatments for 26 weeks, in addition to standard care such as anti-inflammatory medications and pain relievers:
Acupuncture – inserting thin needles into certain body points to stimulate improved health.
Sham acupuncture – patients feel some sensation from a needle but it isn’t actually inserted.
A self-help course for managing pain.
Throughout the 26 week trial, participants continued to receive their normal standard medical care, including anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relievers.
By the eighth week, acupuncture patients showed a significant increase in function compared with both the sham treatment and self-help groups. By week 14, they were also experiencing a significant decrease in pain. By the end of the trial overall pain was reduced by about 40% and function improved by almost 40% in the volunteers receiving acupuncture.
he popularity of acupuncture as a treatment for arthritis continues to grow because more and more people have found significant relief from Oriental medicine without the negative effects that sometimes accompany conventional Western medicine.. The best results for drastic reduction in pain and inflammation caused by arthritis is seen by combining conventional medicine with Oriental medicine- acupuncture, herbs, and therapeutic massage. Herbal medicine strengthens the body and enhances the immune system. Massage increases circulation in affected areas and helps to deactivate painful trigger points.
Acupuncture is effective for relieving period pain
Published Friday 21 July 2017
By Maria Cohut
The findings of a new study have shown that the intensity and duration of period pain can be reduced by up to 50 percent by administering manual acupuncture.
Acupuncture can significantly reduce period pain, according to new study.
Period pain, or dysmenorrhea, is a condition affecting up to 95 percent of menstruating women, according to a report published in the journal Human Reproduction Update.
Dysmenorrhea is classified into two types: primary, wherein no known health conditions can account for the painful cramps, and secondary, during which the pain occurs as a result of a diagnosed disorder, such as endometriosis or uterine fibroids.
A new study led by Australian researchers tests the effectiveness of acupuncture treatments in relieving period pain.
The study was conducted by Dr. Mike Armour, of the National Institute of Complementary Medicine (NICM) at Western Sydney University in Australia, and his colleagues from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the University of Auckland, also in Australia. Their findings were published in the journal PLOS One.
Frequent sessions most effective
Seventy-four adult women aged between 18 and 45 were involved in the study. They all had confirmed or suspected primary dysmenorrhea, and no diagnosis leading to the detection of secondary dysmenorrhea.
The women were randomly split into four groups: two high frequency groups and two low frequency groups. One high frequency and one low frequency group were assigned manual acupuncture treatments, with the remaining two undergoing electroacupuncture, wherein the needles are connected to a device that transmits electric impulses to the body.
The participants in the high frequency groups received three acupuncture treatments 1 week prior to the start of their menstrual period. Meanwhile, the women in the low frequency groups received three treatments every 7 to 10 days, between their menstrual periods.
Study shows why acupuncture might work
Why is acupuncture an effective alternative treatment?
All participants were administered 12 acupuncture treatments over three menstrual cycles. They also underwent a treatment in the first 48 hours of their menstrual period.
It was found that the women undergoing acupuncture more frequently experienced more significant improvements in period pain intensity and related symptoms, as well as in overall quality of life.
The researchers do acknowledge, however, that larger trials are needed if specialists are to develop detailed, accurate guidelines for the use of acupuncture in the treatment of this complaint.
“Pragmatic trials of acupuncture have shown a reduction in pain intensity and an improvement in quality of life in women with period pain, however evidence has been limited for how changing the ‘dosage’ of acupuncture might affect the outcome,” says Dr. Armour.
Manual or electroacupuncture?
All the participants involved in the study were asked to keep a diary providing details about the development of their menstrual period symptoms throughout the trial.
The researchers were surprised to find that more than half the women undergoing manual acupuncture experienced a decrease in period pain and related symptoms of up to 50 percent.
This made manual acupuncture significantly more effective in treating period pain than electroacupuncture, overall.
Our pilot study found that using manual stimulation of the needles, rather than an electrical pulse […] resulted in reduced need for pain-relieving medication and improvement in secondary symptoms such as headaches and nausea.”
Dr. Mike Armour
All the treatments administered over the course of the study conformed to a manualized protocol relying on data collected from a survey of specialized acupuncturists from Australia and New Zealand, alongside focus groups.
The treatment was grounded in traditional Chinese medicine practices as well as the Zang Fu system, which identifies the unique attributes of each organ and the ways in which they relate to each other.
Dr. Armour and colleagues’ findings are intriguing, and they may point to a new treatment for women seeking to minimize the impact of dysmenorrhea on their lives.
Upper Crossed Syndrome is the name given to a particular type of muscle imbalance caused by poor posture. It can result in neck pain, cervical disk injury, headaches, upper back pain, shoulder pain, rotator cuff tendon injuries, numbness of the hands, and it can even play a role in the development of lower back pain. It is one of the most common postural imbalance I see in the clinic, and it is the result of spending long hours working at a computer, driving, texting, and slouching in general as the result of fatigue or poor postural awareness. You could say that upper crossed syndrome has become a modern epidemic, and it is at the root of a lot of chronic neck and back pain. So what exactly is upper crossed syndrome, and what can you do to correct it?
Upper crossed syndrome is the result of having a forward head, rounded shoulders, and collapsed chest posture, which you will notice all the time if you start looking at people working at a computer.
Does any of this look familiar?
In upper crossed syndrome, the pectoral muscles, upper trapezius, and levator scapula muscles are shortened and tight, and the rhomboids, serratus anterior, and neck flexor muscles are lengthened and inhibited. This posture can cause painful, aching or burning neck and shoulder muscles, and it can restrict blood flow to the extremities and head, resulting in numbness of the hands or headaches. It may also trigger migraines in people who are susceptible. Tight levator scapula and upper trapezius muscles can also pinch nerves that will cause a sharp pain to refer down between the shoulder blades or up into the head. This posture also restricts proper breathing, and this shallow breathing causes increased tension in the neck. Prolonged shallow breathing can also contribute to fatigue and sleepiness as the body becomes deprived of oxygen.
For every inch forward the head travels off the central axis of the body, it adds 10lbs of pressure on the vertebrae of the neck and upper back. As you can imagine, over time this can contribute to herniated disks, bone spurs, and other degenerative joint problems.
So how do you fix upper crossed syndrome? The simple answer is to correct your posture. However, while this is a simple answer, it is not so easy for a lot of people. After many years of postural dysfunction, this muscle memory becomes imbedded in the unconscious body. Not only do certain muscles become stuck in a shortened position, but connective tissue fibers of the fascia (which is like a woven fabric that binds the muscles together in long kinetic chains) becomes knotted and tight. Fascia is dense and tough and can be challenging to stretch. As the nervous system has been holding this posture for so long, it is also difficult for the brain to locate and activate certain muscles as you try and correct your posture. It can feel as if there is a tug-of-war going on in the body, and there are dead zones of awareness and control around the muscles that have been lengthened and inhibited for so long. Although postural correction can be a challenge, there are some great tools you can use to help the process along and build greater support and awareness.
The first great tool is a revolutionary system of acupuncture called Sports Medicine Acupuncture®. This system combines Western sports medicine and traditional acupuncture to help restructure the body posture and promote optimal function. It can help to reset muscle function (either relax a tight muscle or turn on an inhibited muscle), lengthen connective tissue bands, and improve mind-body awareness and control. It achieves this by stimulating specific acupuncture points called motor points, which are where the nerve fibers that tell the muscle to turn on or off enter the muscle fibers in the main belly of a muscle. These are not traditional acupuncture points (they are a modern discovery) and they are more effective than more commonly used trigger points for relieving pain, reducing muscle tension and improving function, and increasing range of motion. While motor points are a modern discovery, they can be combined with more traditional acupuncture points to enhance treatment effects. Traditional acupuncture points can help to relax connective tissue bands, calm the nervous system to reduce stress induces muscle tension, improve blood flow to heal damaged tissues, and release the body’s natural pain-killing endorphins. Following acupuncture, Sports Medicine Acupuncture® utilizes special manual therapy techniques to help further stretch the fascia so the muscles are not working against resistance. This helps to improve range of motion even further.
Once tight muscles and connective tissue have been released, and weak, inhibited muscles have been activated, corrective exercises are prescribed in order to correct the posture and improve postural awareness. The corrective exercises are a vital component of treatment that is often missing from other acupuncture and pain specialty clinics. Combining Sports Medicine Acupuncture® with corrective exercises enables you to a get greater benefit that either method could produce on their own, and it is a highly effective way to relieve chronic pain and discomfort and prevent worse, degenerative injuries of the spine from occurring.