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? In terms of addressing lifestyle habits impacting blood pressure, 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. This article discusses benefits of acupuncture for hypertension according to several studies, and the use of specific acupuncture points. One small scientific study showed that acupuncture was beneficial for hypertension in patients who were taking medication for hypertension, but whose hypertension wasn’t well controlled. A weekly acupuncture treatment is a great way to reduce and maintain healthier blood pressure levels.
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. It is important that people try to find ways to overcome the causes of their stress. Some like to use cannabis products, in a wide variety of ways courtesy of the many dispensary supplies that are available.
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.
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.
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!
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:
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.
A recent review by the NIH found acupuncture to be an effective treatment for back pain and osteoarthritis of the knee. This is no surprise to us! We’re happy to say we frequently treat all kinds of pain conditions with acupuncture and in the majority of cases it is helpful. We think this study is great because it acknowledges and promotes the use of acupuncture and other non-drug approaches for pain management. The study may encourage more doctors to recommend acupuncture to patients seeking pain relief and may help patients cut back on pain medication usage.
An OB-GYN maternal fetal medicine specialist published this recent opinion article recommending acupuncture for fertility. This is a very positive article, and we’re very happy to say that we’ve seen many of our patients using acupuncture for infertility who went on to become pregnant and deliver healthy babies! The author, Dr. Clark, highlights the stress and emotional difficulties around infertility and the role of acupuncture in harmonizing the mind and body. Acupuncture not only helps with the physiological aspects of fertility, it also helps with stress reduction and feelings of well-being, and these in turn can help promote fertility.