David J. Kuoch, LAc, author of Acupuncture Desk Reference, details effective acupuncture treatments for 5 different symptoms:
Arthritis is a condition that causes pain, stiffness and swelling in and around joints. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, and each type is characterized by joint and musculoskeletal pain, often the result of inflammation of the joint lining. Arthritis affects hundreds of millions of people across the globe. Approximately 50% of people older than 65 live with arthritis, but it can affect people of all ages, even young children. Although symptoms vary in each person, those with arthritis find that the condition will interfere with daily activities at some point.
Due to the pain and stiffness, patients may have trouble getting out of bed, writing, sewing, buttoning clothes, dressing, walking, and climbing stairs, for example. But this is not always the case. Some days are better than others, and the severity of symptoms can change from day to day. Sometimes living with the loss of function and movement is more difficult than the pain of arthritis itself.
Acupuncture alleviates pain and improves movement for patients suffering from it, whether it is arthritis of the knee, hip, shoulder, hand or back. The effectiveness applies to both rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and osteoarthritis (OA) conditions, and treatments focus on controlling the painful symptoms as well as balancing the immune system. The majority of our patients see immediate results after just a few treatments and experience positive long-term benefits in combination with Chinese formulas and regular exercise.
Lower Back Pain
Acupuncture treatment for low back pain is usually rather straightforward and the condition responds extremely well to acupuncture, Chinese formulas, herbs and herbal plasters. In fact, major studies have shown that acupuncture care serves to re-establish normal health care of the low back. For cases arising out of simple overexertion, strain or knotted muscles, acupuncture increases blood flow to the afflicted area(s), relaxes the muscles, eases pain and relieves inflammation. Even arthritic joints are affected by muscle spasms and can be effectively treated. Your acupuncturist can help.
Constipation and Diarrhea
The term constipation can mean infrequent or hard stools, or it can refer to difficulty passing stools. Constipation may involve pain during the passage of a bowel movement, the inability to have a bowel movement after straining for longer than 10 minutes, or no bowel movements at all for more than 3 days. The most common causes of constipation include a diet with not enough fiber, lack of physical activity, stress, travel, inadequate intake of fluid each day, or delay in going to the bathroom when the urge to defecate presents itself. Other causes are IBS, pregnancy, thyroid conditions, depression, neurological diseases, or certain medications.
Constipation and diarrhea, while very common, are two of the least discussed physical complaints. The effects of irregular bowel movements are often poor food absorption, fatigue, sallow complexion, frequent break-outs, pain in the lower abdomen, upset in appetite and weight control, and more. When someone is not eliminating their waste at a regular rate and consistency, it is a sign of a deeper imbalance within the body.
Regular acupuncture combined with Chinese herbs can have a positive effect on gastrointestinal motility. The treatment will either be used to relax a more spastic colon or to stimulate peristalsis. Within the concepts and theories of TCM, there is a more complete method of interpreting digestive disorders. When someone has stool that is very dry or stubborn to pass, herbs will be given to moisten the intestines and long-term treatment will focus on re-establishing a moister digestive environment.
When someone has chronic, explosive diarrhea that burns or causes other pain, acupuncture will help calm the large intestine and herbs will be administered to remove toxins such as bacteria or viruses and to clear heat from the digestive system. Likewise, when someone experiences chronic watery painless diarrhea, acupuncture will be used to tonify the digestive system and herbs will be administered to warm the digestion so that food is transformed into usable energy more efficiently.
For those who suffer from fibromyalgia, acupuncture is critical for keeping the body in harmony. Within Traditional Chinese Medicine practice, fibromyalgia is generally regarded as a deficiency disorder, manifesting as a deficiency of qi, yin or yang. However, an excess can also be present, usually one of dampness or damp-heat. Treatment, in most cases, seeks to address the underlying deficiencies by moving the qi and blood and strengthening the overall visceral organs of the spleen, heart or kidney. Left untreated, this vicious cycle will continue and, over time, will lead to increased pain and muscle tightness, a loss of movement, and difficulty sleeping.
Chronic fatigue is a difficult condition to address, but acupuncture and custom herbal formulas for which TCM is so justly famous and highly effective in fibromyalgia treatment.
It is not uncommon for those with fibromyalgia to receive treatments three to four times a month to keep everything mobile and relaxed. The biggest concern in treating people with fibromyalgia is that their muscles have a diminished healing ability. For this reason, acupuncture treatments are usually modified slightly to decrease the stress in a patient and keep the qi and blood moving.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs are very helpful for headaches, and patients often feel immediate relief after treatment. Regular treatment prevents future onset of headaches.
Numerous research studies have shown that acupuncture and Chinese herbs are very effective for treating tension headaches, especially headaches that originate in the neck. According to a report published in the June 2003 issue of Medical Acupuncture, doctors found that acupuncture resulted in the resolution or reduction in the frequency and severity of cluster headaches, and a decrease or discontinuation of medications. It was concluded that acupuncture can be used to provide sustained relief from cluster headaches and to stimulate adrenal cortisol to aid in discontinuing corticosteroids.
Researchers found that, compared with standard medical care, acupuncture offers substantial benefits in preventing headaches and improving the quality of life for people who suffer from frequent headaches, especially migraines.
Each individual's case is different and requires a thorough evaluation before a proper course of acupuncture can be determined. However, in most cases of tension headaches, significant improvement is accomplished through Chinese herbal formulation and movement of qi and blood..These treatments are helpful in most cases of migraine headaches, as long as food and lifestyle triggers are avoided as well.
While treatment during tension-type headaches is very beneficial and is not difficult, treatment during migraine attacks needs extra attention. Many migraine medications target migraine headache pain by constricting blood flow. This approach provides symptomatic relief but will not prevent the recurrence of migraine symptoms. Therefore, it is rather important to avoid accumulating stress and to minimize the consistent activation of the sympathetic system in order to prevent eliciting the parasympathetic rebound response. If the early stage of the migraine involving excessive vasosconstriction can be prevented, then the entire headache episode can be avoided.