Tag Archives: acupuncture

Acupuncture for Chronic Pain

We treat people with acupuncture for chronic pain every day at Acupuncture Together, usually with successful outcomes.  Chronic pain is defined as any pain lasting 3-6 or more months.  There are various types of chronic pain, such as pain from past injuries or surgeries, arthritis, nerve damage, headaches/migraines and fibromyalgia.  According to WebMD, “the feeling of pain comes from a series of messages that zip through your nervous system.  When you hurt yourself, the injury turns on pain sensors in that area.  They send a message in the form of an electrical signal, which travels from nerve to nerve until it reaches your brain.  Your brain processes the signal and sends out the message that you hurt.  Usually the signal stops when the cause of the pain is resolved — your body repairs the wound on your finger or your torn muscle.  But with chronic pain, the nerve signals keep firing even after you’ve healed.”

A meta-analysis of nearly 18,000 randomized patients in high quality randomized controlled trials (RCTs) provides solid evidence that acupuncture is a useful treatment for chronic pain.  Acupuncture was shown to be more effective than both sham acupuncture and no acupuncture, with patients experiencing less back and neck pain, osteoarthritis and chronic headaches.

Acupuncture helps alleviate pain by activating the nervous system and stimulating the immune response.  This article explains these processes nicely.    Research has shown that acupuncture increases the response of opioid receptors, helping the body process its own endogenous opioids, thereby relieving pain.    Studies have also been done on the use of acupuncture for autoimmune related pain.  This study on arthritic mice showed acupuncture being effective for anti-arthritic, anti-inflammatory and immuno-regulatory affects of acupuncture with the stimulation of just one acupuncture point.   More research is being done on the mechanisms of acupuncture, but we hope that this information is a good start in educating you about the efficacy of acupuncture for chronic pain.

If you’re struggling with chronic pain it is certainly worth trying acupuncture, and we at Acupuncture Together will do our best to help.  With regular acupuncture treatments you may be able to reduce or possibly even eliminate your pain, or use acupuncture for pain management.  With the reduction of pain you can live a fuller and more active life.

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 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.

Late Summer and Fall Allergy prevention

LATE SUMMER & FALL ALLERGY PREVENTION

If you suffer from allergies to ragweed pollen and mold, the 2 most common late summer and fall allergens in Massachusetts, now is a good time to get acupuncture for management and reduction of allergy symptoms.  Acupuncture can help reduce and relieve allergy symptoms such as runny nose, congestion, sneezing and itchy, watery eyes.

Starting acupuncture once a week now, before allergy season is at its peak, can help to reduce the severity of allergy symptoms by strengthening your body’s resistance and immune function.  During allergy season it is recommended to get acupuncture once a week for mild symptoms, twice a week for moderate symptoms or 3 times a week for severe symptoms – or to combine some over the counter herb pills with acupuncture 1-2 times a week.  We have 3 types of helpful over-the-counter herbs available for allergies, so please ask us about them if you’re interested and we’ll point out the ones that will be right for you.

Acupuncture is an Art

Usually when we think about acupuncture, we think about it being a medical treatment for various health conditions. What is really fun about acupuncture, however, is that it is also a craft. If you have ever been treated by more than one acupuncturist for one specific condition you would notice that most likely their needling techniques are (slightly or substantially) different and the points they select may (most likely) be different. There is actually a very wide variation in methods that can be used when it comes to acupuncture; in that way, acupuncture is very generous and very versatile, and each acupuncturist is a bit like an artist making a beautiful healing treatment with needles in the canvas of a human being’s body.

Sometimes our patients will ask us why we select certain points for their treatments when another acupuncturist chose different ones or used different diagnostic methods to determine their choices of points. There are several reasons why treatments vary. First, acupuncturists use different diagnostic tools to create their treatments: asking questions and looking at our patient’s bodies are diagnostic tools we use on all of our patients. Some acupuncturists will base their treatments heavily on what they feel with abdominal palpation and/or pulse diagnosis, which isn’t our style at Acupuncture Together but is typical of those who practice a classical Japanese style of acupuncture. An acupuncturist’s choice of diagnostic tools is the first step to selecting points. Next, certain points are indicated for specific conditions and other points have a broader application. For example, when someone comes in for low back pain, there are a large number of options of points which are useful specifically for low back pain (let’s say there are 20 points – it’s probably something close to that number). In addition, depending on the cause of the condition or age of the patient, an acupuncturist would also think about what the cause of the pain is and choose points based on that (if it’s age related, for example, different points may be chosen than if it was due to an accidental fall by a young person or if it’s due to muscle tension or spasm) so an acupuncturist would choose points based on all of those factors combined. Rather than using all 20 of those low back points PLUS the muscle tension point PLUS the age or accident point, the acupuncturist chooses a subset of the optional points. Therefore, you end up with different points when being treated for the same condition.

Any acupuncturist and acupuncture student would tell you that when reading and studying books about acupuncture that there are no “musts” when it comes to acupuncture point selection. It’s actually very interesting to read a variety of acupuncture literature and see different point combinations given for the same condition. Using the low back pain example again, if you choose several acupuncture textbooks written by different authors you would see different point combinations in every book. Oftentimes when I’ve attended continuing education courses and we have discussed the treatment of any specific condition, the instructors have suggested different points and/or point combinations than I had previously considered. At the last community acupuncture conference I attended (June 2015), a foot point I had never used was discussed as being effective for low back pain due to one particular theory (there are LOTS of theories in acupuncture), so I’ve been using it a lot since then. Most of the time we make selections based empirical evidence of efficacy, so here’s a chance to see it for myself. As an experienced acupuncturist I often like to stick with my tried and true methods that I’ve seen work time and again on the patients I’ve treated, but it’s also exciting to learn from someone else with substantial clinical experience and try something I’ve learned from them.

In the end, when you receive acupuncture at Acupuncture Together, we, the acupuncturists, are always thinking about the way we think we’ll be able to help you in the best way possible, using the knowledge and skills that we have from our clinical experience and years of study which have enabled us to hone our crafts.

 

(Written by Justine Myers, Lic. Ac. on 8/20/15)