New Blood Pressure Guidelines: How Acupuncture Can Help

New blood pressure guidelines have recently been published.  The new standard is 130/80, a significant decrease from the old standard of 140/90.  The good news is that medical professionals are recommending lifestyle modifications in an effort to reduce and control blood pressure before trying medications.  Healthy lifestyle habits include stress reduction, a healthy diet with less sodium and increased potassium (essentially more fruits/vegetables and less salt/processed foods), exercising regularly and getting enough sleep.

Where does acupuncture fit in?  Acupuncture is great for stress reduction and for improving sleep quality (reducing frequency/severity of insomnia and restless sleep).  There are also certain acupuncture points which can help directly with reducing blood pressure.  A weekly acupuncture treatment is a great way to reduce and maintain healthier blood pressure levels.

Here are several articles about the new blood pressure guidelines:
ABC
CNN
MASS LIVE
NPR

Acupuncture for Stress and Stress-Related Health Conditions

Many health conditions can crop up as a result of chronic stress and/or worsen due to stress.  Some examples are indigestion and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS); weakened immune function (i.e. frequent colds); hypertension (high blood pressure); headaches and migraines; menstrual irregularities, menstrual cramps, PMS and PMDD; anxiety, panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression; insomnia; fatigue; low libido; and muscle tension and pain.  Stress is often a factor in these conditions and others because it affects the nervous system and various hormones that are released in times of stress, affecting various systems of the body.

Acupuncture is helpful for stress and stress-related ailments because it helps to regulate the nervous system and hormones.  There are also acupuncture points used for particular health conditions and symptoms, whether those symptoms are related to stress or not.  The holistic approach of acupuncture takes into account both the “root,” meaning issues underlying one’s health condition(s), and the “branch,” or symptoms one experiences stemming from the root.  With each treatment points are selected to treat both the roots and branches.

What can you do about ongoing stress, particularly when it’s situational (work-related, family-related, caretaking, etc.)?  Take care of yourself as best as possible and find outlets for stress relief when you can.  Exercise, deep breathing, time outside and talking with loved ones are all healthy ways to manage stress on a day to day basis.   Acupuncture once every week or two is a great way to de-stress and stay healthy.  If you have a health condition that is linked to stress, it’s helpful to obtain acupuncture regularly depending on the severity: once a week when mild, twice a week when moderate, and 3 or more times if severe.  You can always ask an acupuncturist for a recommended course of treatment, and feel free to experiment with frequency for yourself to obtain an outcome that feels helpful for you.

Acupuncture, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and the Brain

A study on acupuncture for carpal tunnel syndrome focusing on how acupuncture works via its effects on the brain was recently completed at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.  Acupuncture was found to be effective for carpal tunnel, and the acupuncture treatments induced changes in the somatosensory cortex of the brain.  Results were published in the neurology journal Brain.  Various articles about the study followed: Boston Magazine discussed the study in Acupuncture Actually Works, According to MGH Research; The New York Times elaborated on the study in the article Acupuncture Can Ease Wrist Pain of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome; and Time Magazine explained the study The Weird Way Acupuncture Helps Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.

New Guidelines for the Treatment of Low Back Pain Include Acupuncture

The American College of Physicians recently issued new guidelines for the treatment of low back pain, which include acupuncture.  More details are given by this article by The Annals of Internal Medicine.

Here’s a great video from CBS news and another from NBC news highlighting the new guidelines.

Low back pain is one of the most common conditions we treat at Acupuncture Together, often with good success.  We’re pleased to know that acupuncture and other non-invasive, low-risk treatments are being recommended.

Acupuncture for Self Care

Self care has become a trendy phrase, but it shouldn’t be considered a fad; rather, learning to be in touch with our physical and emotional needs and providing our bodies with timely care is a healthy long-term goal to have. Some self care is preventive (eating a balanced diet; regular exercise; getting enough sleep) and some is responsive (getting extra rest when you’re sick).
Where does acupuncture fit in? Acupuncture can be used as both preventive and responsive self care. Many of our patients find a weekly, biweekly or monthly acupuncture session to be a healthy preventive method of self care that keeps them feeling more relaxed, better able to cope with stress, sleeping more soundly or experiencing less pain. Others are so relieved when they can pop in for an acupuncture treatment on short notice for any number of things: relief after a stressful day, fatigue, a headache or migraine, acute pain, etc.
You can add acupuncture to your self care tool kit with other methods such as exercise, a warm bath or a nap. When your body is telling you it needs some relief, acupuncture may be just the thing that can help!

Staying Healthy and Relaxed This Holiday Season

In Chinese medicine we talk about causes of disease and health imbalances in terms of “excess” and “deficiency.”  The holiday season is typically a time of excess:Acupuncture T 2016-318

  • Excess indulgence of rich foods, drinks and alcohol
  • Excess activity: running around shopping, attending parties and social events, cooking, cleaning, hosting parties and house guests, traveling, etc.
  • Excessive stress and emotions that often occur at this time of year: difficult family dynamics; feelings of sadness, loss and grief that may come up when we find ourselves missing loved ones during this time; Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – aka the winter blues; and societal pressure for this to be “the most wonderful time of the year” when we just aren’t feeling that way.

All of this excess can then cause deficiency – or depletion – of energy and/or motivation, or a mix of stress (excess) and fatigue (deficiency).  We may feel drained, exhausted, unmotivated and/or depressed, or perhaps we feel “wired and tired,” revved-up but unable to wind down, with restless sleep or insomnia at night and adrenaline keeping us going during the day masking the underlying fatigue.  Maybe we feel sluggish or our digestion is off-kilter.

Our activities and our emotions are intertwined and the great thing about Chinese medicine is that it addresses all of these issues at the same time.  Acupuncture can help us feel more balanced at times when we may be experiencing highs and lows by calming the nervous system and releasing our own endogenous opioids, helping us to experience a feeling of well-being and calm.  Enjoy a happier, more relaxing and balanced holiday season with acupuncture.