Treatment

1. What is Acupuncture Good For?

Acupuncture is a modality that uses hair-thin needles at strategic points on the body that can treat a wide variety of conditions addressing the mind, body, and spirit. People may seek acupuncture for a multitude of reasons. As you can imagine, this is very attractive to many patients who may have tried everything else to no avail or want a more natural approach to care for their ailments. Additionally, it is not a one-size-fits-all experience, as each & every patient is treated with carefully chosen acupuncture points to promote a healing effect based on their constitution. However, there are some issues that many patients seek acupuncture for, and are seen commonly across the board by a multitude of licensed acupuncturists. 

Top 5 conditions patients seek acupuncture treatment for: 

  • Back Pain – back pain by far takes the prize for biggest physical pain issue acupuncturists see in their offices. Since our backs carry so much, whether that be material things like backpacks or heavy luggage, extra body weight, slumping over at a computer in a cubicle, or constantly slouching to look at our cell phones, our spine can only do so much for so long to balance us out. Our back muscles attempt to compensate for the strain we put on it, but add in the daily stress of day-to-day, and you end up with back pain. 
     

  • Stress – another big contender for most sought-after condition to treat here in the United States. The world today is a very on the go, fast paced, need things done yesterday kind of world which puts a lot of pressure on people at large. Not to mention the tension we put on ourselves to meet these demands.
     

  • Neck Pain – much like our back, our neck carries so much of our tension. In the terms of traditional Chinese medicine, there is usually a blockage in the liver channel, which builds up in the neck & shoulders from stress. Electroacupuncture is a great way to treat this condition as well as manual acupuncture.
     

  • Anxiety & Depression – most often these conditions are brought to acupuncturists who have either tried everything without success, or those who want to address their anxiety and depression without medication. Many times, patients may already be on psychiatric medication and want to wean off of it or use acupuncture in conjunction so that their dose is decreased. 

    In terms of traditional Chinese medicine, the heart holds the Shen (spirit), and when the Shen is disturbed, the heart becomes restless. Once you find a licensed acupuncturist, it is their job to help heal & reconnect with the heart. Basically, we want to remind the body in these conditions that homeostasis is possible, and reengage the parasympathetic nervous system.

     

  • Fertility – acupuncture can increase the number of follicles produced, decrease the side effects of IVF medications, reduce stress, and help thicken the endometrial lining. These benefits of acupuncture for fertility help to prepare the uterus, (known as the “child’s palace” in TCM) and the female reproductive system.  Many studies are conducted on acupuncture for fertility to evaluate to the efficiency of acupuncture alone & alongside IVF treatments to enhance results.

Here are many other conditions that acupuncture can treat outside of those listed above. Even though the following conditions aren’t on the above list of five, they are still very common conditions one is seen for like other types of musculoskeletal pain, headaches, sleep apnea, food cravings/weight loss, smoking, digestive issues, cold/flu, menstruation/menopause, carpal tunnel, constipation, addiction, and many more. 

Top 5 Reasons to Try Acupuncture

While there are many conditions that acupuncture treats, there are a ton of benefits along with treating the condition to boot! Many patients say they feel relief for many of their conditions even after the first session, but the real kicker are the health benefits throughout the body that allow the results of treatment to last long after your session ends.

Top 5 reasons/benefits to try acupuncture:

  • Relaxation – as we stated above, the world we live in today is so non-stop that it’s rare to find a person in the United States who isn’t stressed out on some level. It seems as though there are just not enough hours in the day to “have it all” with family, work, and trying to fit in self-care. Due to this, most of us are operating in a constant high stress state, and therefore damaging our bodies because of it. Acupuncture relaxes the nervous system, and brings it back to the parasympathetic nervous system instead of operating from the sympathetic (fight or flight).  Acupuncture treatment promotes feelings of relaxation during and after each session.
     

  • Sleep – acupuncture treatment is known to improve sleep. As many of us know, lack of sleep is destructive to one’s quality of life and has considerable health consequences.  Sleeping pills, which many turn to when they have trouble sleeping can be habit forming & lead to other issues like sleep walking, sleep eating, and can even potentially cause long-term cognitive decline depending on the medication.
     

  • Boost the Immune System – in traditional Chinese medicine there is something called “Wei Qi” which is the protective energy barrier that keeps our immune systems strong against different types of pathogens. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs help to strengthen “Wei Qi” to expel pathogens from the body ultimately to prevent illness and speed up recovery time.
     

  • Boost Energy – fatigue is another big condition that patients are seen for in the daily life of a licensed acupuncturist. Let’s face it, as we’ve already seen with other issues above, we, in the United States, tend to burn the candle at both ends with our high stress lives trying to do it all. We touched on the idea of “qi” or energy above, and when a person is tired, in traditional Chinese medicine they are “deficient in qi.” This can be due to many factors, anything from stress & emotions to improper diet & too little exercise. Acupuncture allows for an energy boost in a balanced and sustained way.
     

  • All Natural – there is no hiding the fact that the United States has been in a rather big opioid crisis in the last several years. There has been an over prescribing of opiate medications leading to addiction to them. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2017 there were over 70,000 drug overdose deaths in the United states, and 47,000 of those deaths were from prescription opioids. The good news, is that due to alternative treatments like acupuncture becoming more mainstream, overdose deaths has slowed from 21% from 2015-2016 to 10% from 2016-2017. 

As with the top 5 conditions, there are far more benefits to acupuncture treatment than the five listed here. The benefits of acupuncture are truly endless. In addition to the above benefits, acupuncture can also improve your mood, improve your digestion, and improve your health as a whole. 

Why Get Acupuncture?

After your licensed acupuncturist has helped you recover from the condition that brought you to them, think of regular acupuncture treatments as a “tune up” for the body to keep it functioning as it should. Those patients that come in regularly for these “tune up” visits preventatively, usually have an increased sense of well-being.  Using acupuncture as a preventative medicine is the real game-changer for regular patients, and is worth exploring for those who are new to the treatment. 

Now that acupuncture is becoming more mainstream, it is a better time than ever to give it a try if you have been debating it. According to a study in 2018, there are 37,886 licensed acupuncturists in the United States, lending more opportunity new patients to give acupuncture a try.

2. Cupping Therapy

The health benefits of cupping are becoming more mainstream amongst average people. Its benefits are not unknown, however, amongst celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, David Arquette, Michael Phelps, and Gwyneth Paltrow who have all been seen sporting the recognizable cupping circle marks on their skin. Cupping, usually accompanied by acupuncture and other alternative therapies, helps with a variety of conditions, and has been practiced for many centuries. It was even mentioned as far back as 1,550 B.C. with the Egyptians using cupping in the Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, and in 300 A.D. in China.

What is Cupping Therapy?

Cupping is an ancient modality used in the Middle East and China for thousands of years for poor energy flow, tight muscles, and to sedate the nervous system. It is often done in conjunction with acupuncture, but can also be a stand-alone treatment. The cups, historically made of clay or bamboo, are now made of either glass, silicone, or plastic. Cupping, with a physical mechanism involving suction, are usually placed on the back, but can be used for treatment on other places throughout the body such as the arms or thighs. There are many ways that an acupuncture provider can create suction. They can either use a flame to heat the inside of the cup (no worries, the flame does not go on your skin) or use rubber pumps to create suction.

Variations of cupping therapy:

  • Quick Cupping – removing the cups quickly once the skin is vacuumed into the cup.
     

  • Fixed Cupping – the cups are held in place at different variations of strength to treat the problematic area.
     

  • Sliding Cupping – oil is applied to the area where the cups are to be placed which allows the practitioner to move the cups as needed over the skin. This allows them to see where there is poor blood flow. The darker the marks, the worse the circulation is.
     

  • Cupping with Retention – leaving cups on for an extended time of 10 – 15 minutes.
     

  • Fire Cupping – using usually either an alcohol-soaked cotton ball or herbs, the practitioner will light it placing it inside of the cup to burn up all of the oxygen inside the cup to create a vacuum. The cups will then be placed on the skin at strategic points creating a vacuum, and depending on the acupuncturist or alternative practitioner, they will either move the cups around using massage oil or leave the cups in place for an amount of time for your specific issue.
     

  • Needle Cupping – done by acupuncturists, this variation is when the cups are placed over an acupuncture needle once it is inserted.

Types of Cupping:

  • Dry Cupping – a noninvasive technique that uses suction to increase the blood flow.
     

  • Wet Cupping – the same as dry cupping, but takes it a step further by making small incisions to the cupped area to release a small amount of blood. Wet cupping needs to be performed in a sterile environment with sterile tools.

No matter which type of cupping is involved, it is important that you see a skilled practitioner who is trained in cupping, and using sterilized cups.

There are an infinite number of conditions/issues that cupping can be utilized for, and accompanying it with acupuncture only amplifies the results.

Conditions cupping could help with:

  • Varicose veins
     

  • Neck pain
     

  • Back pain
     

  • Herpes zoster
     

  • High blood pressure
     

  • Blood disorders
     

  • Cellulite
     

  • Eczema
     

  • Acne
     

  • Cholesterol (lowering it)
     

  • Allergies
     

  • Migraines & Headaches
     

  • Fibromyalgia
     

  • Fatigue
     

  • Disc Herniation
     

  • Bronchial Congestion
     

  • Anxiety/Depression
     

  • Digestive issues
     

  • Rheumatic diseases

There are many conditions treated with cupping, and although the amount of research concerning cupping is small, the results are encouraging.

Cupping Benefits

 The benefits of cupping may surprise you as there is still so much that most people do not know about it.

  • Alleviate stress & emotional trauma – in the on-the-go world we live in, stress is a huge factor in many chronic health conditions including anxiety and depression, digestive disorders, and fatigue. Cupping relieves the physical tension that often accompanies heavy emotions and stress. 
     

  • Decreases congestion – in ancient times, cupping was used for conditions like pneumonia, bronchitis, and pulmonary tuberculosis. It still yields healing for alleviating chest congestion, clearing mucus from allergies, and suppressing coughs. The most common place on the body to have a cupping treatment, the upper back, benefits the lungs to release phlegm while making space for deeper breathing. 
     

  • Reduces pain – cupping is very helpful for pain related to the back, neck, shoulders, headaches, tight muscles, and sports injuries. While it seems too good to be sure, the science behind it says it all. In this systematic review from 2014, Cupping Therapy for Acute and Chronic Pain Management, concluding there to be positive effects on reducing pain intensity compared with heat therapy, conventional drugs, and no treatment at all.
     

  • Improves the immune system – According to a study done in 2017, The Medical Perspective of Cupping Therapy, stating that “cupping seems to play a role in the activation of a complement system as well as modulation of a cellular part of the immune system.” Cupping benefits the immune system by launching “artificial local inflammation” which cues the body to deliver antibodies that clear damaged cells.
     

  • Improves recovery time – cupping is known to aid in sports injuries, and can help speed up recovery time for optimum performance. It is also used by many athletes as a preventative for soreness, mobility, and loosening tight muscles. 

Overall, if you are interested in cupping, make sure you speak with your acupuncture provider for an evaluation, and come up with your cupping and/or acupuncture treatment plan. 

Cupping Treatment Information

 

In general, you will get anywhere from 3 – 5 cups for your first session, and rarely more than 5 – 7 cups thereafter according to the British Cupping Society. The cups are left on usually between 5 and 10 minutes with dry cupping, and only for a few minutes with wet cupping before the cup is removed to create a small incision. After your treatment, the treated areas get an ointment and bandages to prevent infection.

Side effects of cupping:

  • Sweating
     

  • Dizziness
     

  • Nausea
     

  • Lightheadedness
     

  • Swelling
     

  • Discolored circular marks on the skin

The infamous discolored marks left on the skin are a therapeutic and anticipated side effect, and usually in about a week to 10 days depending on the person. That being said, cupping is not the right treatment for everyone, and there are times when it should be avoided.

Scenarios/groups where cupping should be avoided:

  • If you are sunburned
     

  • Are on blood thinning medication
     

  • Internal organ disorder
     

  • Have a skin ulcer
     

  • Have a wound (broken, irritated, or inflamed) where the cups will be placed
     

  • Children under the age of four
     

  • Seniors as their skin is more fragile
     

  • Women who are pregnant for the abdomen and lower back
     

  • Those on their menstruation cycle

While cupping is a safe treatment, it is important to take considerations when selecting a practitioner to perform your cupping therapy. For acupuncturists, cupping is usually a part of their curriculum in their education. Do not be afraid to ask questions, and do your research. Do you have a condition that may benefit from cupping? What method of cupping does the acupuncturist use? Is the facility clean? All of these things are good starting questions before booking a cupping treatment. It is also important to note that cupping is great for ongoing pain, but is not for a health emergency.

Cupping Treatment for You

Although cupping is in its earlier stages of research for various conditions, it shows great results and promise for future larger studies in its favor. It is safe, effective, and worth giving a try in the hands of a well-trained professional such as a licensed acupuncture provider. Speak with your acupuncturist to see if cupping is right for you.

3. What is traditional Chinese medicine?

Traditional Chinese medicine is a system of medicine partly based on the idea that an energy, called qi (say "chee"), flows along pathways in the body called meridians. In this belief, if the flow of qi along these meridians is blocked or unbalanced, illness can occur. In China, doctors have practiced traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, and it is gaining in popularity in many Western countries.

Causes of qi imbalance are thought to involve:

  • External forces, such as wind, cold, or heat.

  • Internal forces, such as emotions of joy, anger, or fear.

  • Lifestyle factors, such as poor diet, too little sleep, or too much alcohol.

Another important concept in traditional Chinese medicine is the concept of yin and yang. In this approach, all things, including the body, are composed of opposing forces called yin and yang. Health is said to depend on the balance of these forces. Traditional Chinese medicine focuses on maintaining the yin-yang balance to maintain health and prevent illness.

Traditional Chinese medicine doctors look at the balance of body, mind, and spirit to determine how to restore qi, the yin-yang balance, and good health.

What is traditional Chinese medicine used for?

Some people use traditional Chinese medicine to treat problems such as asthma, allergies, and infertility. Traditional Chinese medicine doctors may use several types of treatment to restore qi balance.

Traditional Chinese medicine therapies include:

  • Acupuncture, which uses thin metal needles placed along the body's meridians.

  • Acupressure, which uses the hands or fingers to apply direct pressure to points along the body's meridians.

  • Chinese herbs, combinations of herbs, roots, powders, or animal substances to help restore balance in the body.

  • Cupping, which uses warm air in glass jars to create suction placed on areas of the body to help stimulate qi.

  • Diet. Yin and yang foods can help restore the yin-yang balance in the body.

  • Massage (tui na) on specific areas of the body or along the body's meridians.

  • Moxibustion, which uses small amounts of heated plant fiber (moxa, or Chinese mugwort) on specific areas of the body.

  • Qi gong, which uses movement, breathing techniques, and meditation.

Is traditional Chinese medicine safe?

Research in China and worldwide has shown traditional Chinese medicine to be helpful for many types of illness. Because traditional Chinese medicine differs from Western medical practice in diagnosis and treatment methods, it is difficult to apply Western scientific standards to it.

For example, in Western medical practice, any two people with a similar infection (such as sinusitis) may be treated with a standard course of antibiotics. In traditional Chinese medicine, each person might receive a different treatment for the same illness depending on the person's own qi and yin-yang balance.

The United States accredits schools in traditional Chinese medicine, so a practitioner certified by an accredited school has had extensive training in traditional Chinese medicine.

The National Institutes of Health, through the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health and other institutes, funds ongoing research of many complementary therapies to determine their benefits and risks. In general, acupuncture is safe when done by a certified acupuncturist. 

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