Horses Staying On Track Thanks To Acupuncture

It’s the time of year, where every few weeks we gather around the television for a couple thrilling minutes in anticipation of who’s going to win the big race (or have the greatest hat, the best tasting mint julep, and win the most money, of course).

And while this year’s Kentucky Derby ended in bigtime controversy, there’s a crystal clear winner when it comes to treating horses for many of their physical issues.

Acupuncture is one of the best ways to treat equine injuries and illnesses, whether the horse is being groomed for racing or not. One disorder that is debilitating to horses that acupuncture is uniquely suited to treating is laminitis. Laminitis is a very painful hoof disease that can result in lameness—greatly affecting the horse’s mobility and total quality of life.

California-based veterinarian Kevin May conducted a study of 12 horses with laminitis, ensuring their caretakers didn’t give them any other treatments while he administered acupuncture to each horse. Despite the horses ranging in age, condition, and breed, all 12 responded positively to the treatment.

This is important, because while laminitis sounds like it may not be serious, it can often lead to serious outcomes.

According to May, “Thirteen percent of barns and/or owners deal with laminitis each year, with 50% of those referred to hospitals eventually euthanized.”

Thankfully, May seems to have found a way to help horses affected by laminitis stay on their feet, happy, and healthy.

Popular Acupuncture Points and What They Heal

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When you come in for an acupuncture treatment, it can seem at first like your acupuncturist is placing needles in your body seemingly at random. And it can be confusing—if I’m dealing with digestion issues, why aren’t any needles going into my abdomen?

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are about 2,000 points on the body which are all connected by 20 paths, which we call meridians. The meridians are what conduct the energy, or qi, between the surface of our body and its internal organs and systems. When that energy gets stifled is when something doesn’t feel right in our body. When that happens, acupuncturists know where the meridian blockages could be.

So that’s why if you come to receive an acupuncture treatment for insomnia or depression, your acupuncturist will treat point HT7, which is located on the outside of the wrist.

That’s just one example. Here are some of the more well known and popular acupuncture points (that you can also try and massage yourself for symptom relief).

Large Intestine Channel LI4 - Treats general pain and inflammation. Located in between the thumb and pointer finger on the back of the hand.

Lung Channel LU7 - Treats mainly upper body issues like headaches, sore throats, and coughs, as well as neck and wrist stiffness and pain. Located on inside of arm, above the wrist.

Stomach Channel ST36 - Treats most digestive issues and anemia, immune orders, and fatigue. It’s located on the back of the neck, where it meets the skull.

Governing Vessel GV20 - Is connected to many mental disorders and also treats headaches and nasal obstructions. Locates at the very top of the head.

Urinary Bladder Channel BL40 - Treats pain in the back, hips, leg and abdomen, as well as nausea. Located in the back of the knee.

There are literally thousands of other points that your acupuncturist knows that will help heal whatever discomfort you’re in. Thankfully, you don’t need to know them all. We’ve got you covered there.

Head Injuries Can Heal Faster Thanks to Acupuncture

Over the past few years awareness around head injuries and concussions has grown, and thankfully. Many of us spend our weekends in the fall and winter watching football, unaware of how common head injuries are for those who are playing the game. It’s easy to see when a player takes one big hit that causes them to lose consciousness—we see that and know that a concussion has been suffered. But we now know that repeated blows to the head which don’t cause unconsciousness add up, and over time, can ravage the brain and cause cognitive problems down the line.

And it’s not just athletes that suffer from head injuries either. Anyone whose work requires physical activity can be at risk, and once a head injury is sustained it can lead to long-term and ongoing problems.

Unfortunately, for concussions and conditions related to chronic head trauma, effective treatment can be hard to come by. Headaches, nausea and other side effects can be hard to predict, and often times narcotic solutions only exacerbate the problem, or stir up other issues.

Acupuncture is unfortunately an under-utilized treatment for head injuries. However, it’s something everyone suffering from post-concussion symptoms should seek out. Licensed acupuncturist Amy Moll writes: “Acupuncture has a regulatory, or modulatory effect on a person’s physiology and is a great tool that can be used as part of a concussion recovery program for many reasons.”

Among those reasons is that acupuncture promotes blood flow to the brain, when a concussion results in the opposite. Rather than treating a symptom of concussions, acupuncture in part addresses the root cause. In addition, acupuncture is well-known for its benefits of treating many of the underlying symptoms of post-concussion life like nausea, insomnia, and depression.

Hopefully you don’t know anyone who is suffering through post-concussion life—but if so, we are here and ready to help as soon as possible.

Acupuncture Helping San Diego's Homeless

“I was desperate. My back was so sore.”

The above was said by David Knoles, of San Diego. David is homeless, living alone in a canyon. Being homeless takes an unbelievable toll on the body. Constantly trying to create comfort in the places that most of us use for walking, traveling, hiking or other activities puts tons of strain on the bones and muscles of the homeless. David, in particular, once threw out his back while trying to move a rock that he says weighed about 150 pounds.

When you or I get injured like that, we have the benefit of seeking a number of medical care options. The homeless don’t have that luxury, if they can even receive any care at all.

But at the Pacific Beach United Methodist Church in San Diego, Knoles and the areas other homeless are being offered free acupuncture every week.

“Primarily, it’s for chronic illness and injuries,” Robin Kohler of Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and the UC San Diego School of Medicine told the San Diego Tribune. “A lot of them had injuries sustained on a job where there was no insurance.”

Acupuncture is an especially beneficial treatment for folks like Knoles because of its versatility. Acupuncture is well known for it’s effectiveness at treating physical pain, but also emotional and mental conditions like insomnia, stress and anxiety, and depression—which our homeless are unfortunately susceptible to.

“I liked it so much, I kept coming in,” Knoles said, speaking to acupuncture’s wide-ranging benefits. “I wanted to keep doing it. It was not just healing my back, but other pains I was having.”

Hopefully, other locations around the country will follow this community’s lead and help those out who need our help the most.

Acupuncture In The Media: GQ Covers Acu!

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It’s always good to see when a big media outlet takes a deep dive into the wonderful world of acupuncture. Though acupuncture has been on this earth for thousands of years, and in the United States for around a half a century, there still remains plenty of room for awareness around acupuncture to grow. So we were encouraged to come across a new article in GQ by Emily Abbate that breaks down how acupuncture can help folks manage pain avoid injury.

One of the interesting notes in the article is, indeed, how popular acupuncture is becoming. More than 14 million people in the US have tried acupuncture, and while we’d love to see that number go up, there’s reason to believe that it is. The article notes how the number of Veterans Health Centers that offer acupuncture has nearly doubled over the past seven years. As opioids and other potentially damaging drugs are too often prescribed to veterans, seeing that more will have access to acupuncture is a welcome sign.

The article highlights that acupuncture is effective at treating “chronic pain, including back, neck, and shoulder pain, as well as conditions like chronic headaches and osteoarthritis,” as well as helping athletes’ bodies recover quicker from soreness and improve range of motion. That’s all true, but a quick look at our blog shows that acupuncture is an effective treatment for so much more, too. It’s always worth asking us if we can help you with your specific pain management issues; acupuncture can address just about any issue in the body where the energy is out of whack.

Finally, it’s good to see that the article also took a little bit of time to speak to the preparations that a new patient should take before their first visit. Since acupuncture is foreign to many people, it’s understandable to be intimidated. But as the article states, there isn’t much one needs to do before coming. Wearing some comfy clothes and coming in with a positive attitude and ready to relax is pretty much it. Leave the rest up to us!

How Long Does Acupuncture Take to Work?

When you’re suffering from pain or a chronic ailment, waiting to see results can be frustrating. So often, we’re asked at the center “when will I feel better?” Or, “when will this start to work?”

Often, it depends on the specific concern you’re seeking treatment for, the level of your pain (if it is pain related, of course)

Many times, patients that are seen for chronic pain feel immediate relief when specific acupoints are utilized, and then notice longer lasting relief as days pass, and sessions continue.

Here are some general guidelines in regards to frequency, and when effects can be seen.

  • For fertility patients undergoing IVF/IUI, treatments will depend on your cycle. We recommend coming while taking your medications, before retrieval, and right around implantation. We also encourage treatments at least throughout the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.

  • If you’re having terrible pain (like 10/10) daily treatments are possible until improvement is noted. For middle level pain, biweekly treatments are suggested.

  • Chronic issues that are not severe, once a week for 6-8 weeks and then we will re-evaluate.

    Really long term chronic issues, once a week for ten weeks or twice a week for 5 weeks.

  • For PMS, endometriosis, and/or menstrual cycle related issues, having treatments weekly until you have a more manageable cycle is ideal. Then, biweekly to maintain the improvements.

  • For stress or anxiety, once a week works well, but twice a week is better! These sessions will work well combined with meditation, aromatherapy, and massage.

  • For injury/surgical recovery, your practitioner will work with you to devise a plan of healing. It’s important to ensure circulation is restored and qi is balanced as your tissues heal.

Generally speaking, your best bet is to come in at least once a week in the beginning and then for maintenance treatment after that. Your acupuncturist will guide you towards a personalized treatment plan that is uniquely yours.

Don't Get It Twisted—What Your Tongue Says About Your Health

If you go to an acupuncture session and your acupuncturist asks to look at your tongue, don’t worry. They’re not about to plunge a needle into your mouth! The fact of the matter is that all healthcare professionals should ask their patients the same request. That’s because you can tell a lot about somebody’s health simply by looking at their tongue and knowing what to look for.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, a general map of the tongue is drawn that corresponds to different parts of the body, important organs that our health depends on. The very tip of the tongue corresponds with the heart and lung; the two side edges to the liver and gallbladder; the back (near the throat) to the kidney, bladder, and intestines; and the center corresponds to the spleen and stomach. Issues on those areas of the tongue could lead an acupuncturist to treat a specific area of the body that can be the root cause of the pain or discomfort the patient is experiencing—even if it might be different from what the patient is physically experiencing. See the image below via Village Wellness:

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In general, what practitioners would be looking for is the color and texture of the tongue. A healthy tongue is pink with a thin white coating, and should be proportionate to the person’s body. If a tongue is larger than it should be, swollen or puffy, that means there is likely a qi deficiency. A dark or blue/purplish-ish tongue may indicate stagnation as well, from heat or cold, while a reddish tongue indicates the body temperature is running high. A thick coated white tongue, as many people know, usually relates to some sort of cold/sinus/respiratory issue, and likely means there is extra fluid in the body.

While it won’t tell us everything, the tongue gives a good high level indication as to what is going on in the rest of the body. If the body’s energy isn’t regulated, it will show in the most unlikely of places. So if you can’t quite articulate what’s brought you to seek out acupuncture, your tongue can do some of the talking for you.

What To Expect At Your First Acupuncture Appointment

So…you’ve been dealing with discomfort and pain for too long now, tried every medication and over-the-counter pill and did all the research and reading you possibly could…but still no results. Your friends and family have been urging you to try acupuncture, and you’re finally ready to give it a shot. As human beings we understandably fear the unknown, and one of the main reasons acupuncture is still growing in the United States.

But have no fear. When you’re ready to really solve the root cause of your pain and discomfort with an acupuncture treatment, you’ll have us to thank for getting you prepared. Here’s what you can expect at your first acupuncture appointment.

After you’ve checked in and been brought to your room, your acupuncturist will ask you what brought you in the door. This is the most important step, because an acupuncturist can only reliably and effectively treat a patient if they know what’s ailing them. Be as specific as you can in terms of what type of pain and discomfort you’re experiencing, how long you’ve been experiencing it, and what illnesses and/or conditions you’re battling.

Next, your acupuncturist will determine your treatment, how many needles and where to place them. And here’s one of the most important things to remember: acupuncture needles do not hurt! A fear of needles keeps many folks away from acupuncture, but those who experience the treatment are amazed at how they can barely feel the tiny needles. Once your acupuncturist has finished placing the needles in, it’s time for you to relax!

Your acupuncturist will likely leave you alone in the room for a bit while the needles do their job, opening up your pathways and balancing the energy in the body. Most acupuncturists will put on calming music or ambient noise, and/or calming scents and lights to help you center yourself during your treatment. It’s your chance to lie down and gather your thoughts, meditate, or do whatever makes you feel calm. Put that phone away!

Most times your acupuncturist will come back to check on you and make sure everything is feeling right. Depending on your specific treatment, your acupuncturist may at this time add a warm heat lamp to a certain area of your body. They’ll then leave the room again for the remainder of the treatment.

After a period of time determined by your acupuncturist, depending on your condition, your acupuncturist will return and remove the needles. This final step is a follow up, where your acupuncturist will ask you how you’re feeling and let you know the preferred treatment regimen moving forward. It’s likely that return visits will be necessary in order for acupuncture to have a lasting effect.

But now that you know what to expect, those future sessions will be a breeze.

Thaw Out Your Frozen Shoulder With Acupuncture

It’s getting dark earlier, and winter and all the colder weather that follows is on its way. When things freeze over, you’ll need a little help thawing out—while acupuncture can’t help you clear your steps or driveway, it can certainly warm things up for those suffering from frozen shoulder.

What, exactly, is frozen shoulder? You may not have heard of this ailment, but it affects over 200,000 Americans each year. It’s more common in women than men, and usually affects those aged 40-60. Additionally, those who suffer from diabetes are more susceptible to it. Frozen shoulder is when the shoulder capsule becomes so thick and tight that the shoulder becomes incredibly painful and can be difficult or even impossible to move.

If not treated, frozen shoulder can heal on it’s own…but it can take a very long time. The frozen stage, where the shoulder is very limited in movement, can last anywhere from 4-12 months, while the thawing stage, the gradual return of movement and elimination of pain, can last 6 months to 2 years. That is far too long.

Thankfully, acupuncture is known as an effective holistic remedy for speeding up the thawing process and healing frozen shoulder. An study conducted in Guangdong, China, revealed that acupuncture alleviates pain and restores range of motion to the shoulder for patients with frozen shoulder. Subjects receiving the local acupuncture points had a 71.8% total effective rate, showing improved pain and better range of motion in the shoulder. Patients receiving abdominal acupuncture had a 92.4% total effective rate. 

Specifically, the study concluded, “This underscores acupuncture’s ability to provide anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and recuperative effective actions.”

So if you or someone you know is suffering from frozen shoulder, let them know that cozying up to the fire this winter won’t help them out. Acupuncture will!

Why Acupuncture Should be Offered in the ER

Chances are that, unfortunately, either you or someone you know has visited the emergency room recently. Visits to the ER have become incredibly common and are continuing to rise. A study released last year showed that in 2014, ER visits spiked to 141 million in the United States, a record-high. And the University of Maryland School of Medicine estimates that nearly half of all medical care in the country is delivered by emergency room departments. That number is even higher for women and minorities.

The stark fact is that ER visits are all too common. And there are a few things that are just about consistent across all emergency rooms—the use of NSAIDs and painkillers, and a lack of choice for patients. Slowly but surely, a welcoming change may be on the horizon.

For 4 years, Adam Reinstein, LAc, has been administering acupuncture in the ER of Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis. Five days a week, Reinstein operates in the busy, hectic environment that doesn’t seem well suited for acupuncture. But Reinstein, who used to practice communcity acupuncture, has adapted by offering shorter sessions (15-20 minutes), focusing on points in the hands, arms, ears, head, feet, and lower legs, and sees patients only once. The ER can be a stressful place, and Reinstein often focuses on helping patients to feel more comfortable.

"By and large, patients get some relaxation and decrease of anxiety or discomfort. Others get some pain relief or nausea relief...What I do just fits in with everything else that is going on [in the ER],” Reinstein said. “One talks a lot about patient-centered care but usually patients have little or no choice.”

We wholeheartedly agree with Reinstein, and would love to see more emergency departments offer acupuncture to their patients. In addition from it being a better treatment for pain, anxiety, and nausea than medication, acupuncture could also help patients recover more quickly, which allows ER staffs to work more efficiently and cut down wait times.

Acupuncture in the ER? It’s a win-win.

Kick Motion Sickness to the Curb With Acupuncture

If you’re susceptible to motion sickness, you know how rough it can be. Sometimes the simple experience of riding in a car, bus, or train can trigger headaches, sweats, feelings of nausea and at worst cases, vomiting. The unpredictable nature of motion sickness can really put a damper on one’s life, when not knowing how you’ll deal with a car ride can affect whether or not you enjoy your night out.

There are medications available for folks who deal with motion sickness to take, but they often come with their own host of side effects. And like most medications, symptoms are treated and temporarily improved, while the root causes of the issue remains. In 2017, researchers in China found that the treatment those who suffer from motion sickness should seek out is none other than acupuncture.

A group of 20 men were studied, broken into three groups: one that received electroacpuncture (Group A), one that received sham acupuncture (Group B), and one group that received no therapy or treatment at all (Group C). The acupuncture group received treatment in three acupuncture points: Pericardium 6, Stomach 36 and Large Intestine 4. After the treatment, all of the subjects were put into a moving chair that is meant to bring upon many of the symptoms of motion sickness. Before and after the session, the subjects’ motion sickness symptoms were checked, and compared.

The study found that: “The volunteers in Group A mentioned less sweating or cold sweating symptoms, as well as less flashing and heat sensations in comparison to their Group C counterparts. Given that peripheral symptoms are attributed to sympathetic nervous system activation, it is possible, that acupuncture alters autonomic nervous system activity in a certain way.”

Those who suffer from motion sickness know what it’s like when things are thrown just a little bit off. We know that acupuncture helps treat root causes of pain and discomfort because it targets and regulates the body’s energy flow. If you’re fearing your next car ride, perhaps you should make a pit stop here and kick motion sickness to the curb for good!

Acu Students Training With Virtual Reality

Virtual reality used to be something you’d see only in sci-fi movies. But now, virtual reality is becoming more and more popular, being used in everything from gaming to marketing to entertainment. And in fact, one of the most effective and popular uses thus far for virtual reality is with training, particularly in the medical field. And if the U.S. follows the lead from China, acupuncturists-in-training may soon be putting on those headsets themselves.

BodyMap is a virtual reality system developed here in the US that is being used at China’s top medicine university to teach students acupuncture. The program is sort of like a Google Maps for the body, showing 3D images of a human body and specifically in the acupuncture training, the different acupoints on the body. The major “qi” pathways, where the energy flows through our body, are illustrated as well, letting students more easily learn exactly where on the body they will need to treat once they become practicing acupuncturists.

Generally, training is done on 2D images or by using real people as models, but that carries both increased costs and potential risks. The software is used for other medical training purposes as well, such as brain surgery.

“There’s a very high level of requirement for precision in acupuncture teaching,” says Cheng Kai, a professor. “For example, there’s an acupoint called jinming, which is situated very near the optic nerve. Needling this acupoint carries a certain danger [if the practitioner does not grasp the precise depth and angle for the insertion of the needle].”

The founder of BodyMap, Sam Jang, says he was inspired to create the virtual reality tool for medical purposes after he received acupuncture treatment that helped cure his chronic pain.

“I met a Chinese medicine practitioner who cured my condition with acupuncture in just over a week,” Jang said. “So I was amazed by acupuncture’s efficacy and started studying it. We are the first company in the world to combine VR and acupuncture training.”

So if your medical professional of the future has been trained in VR, you have acupuncture to thank!

Know the Different Types of Acupuncture

Acupuncture continues to grow across the world as a popular treatment for pain and symptoms of a number of diseases and conditions. Most of the time when you hear that someone has received acupuncture, you have one thing in mind. However, the term “acupuncture” has sort of become a catch-all for many different types of treatments that are available to patients. Since acupuncture is an ancient treatment, there have been updates and iterations over the years. Now, many different forms of acupuncture are out there, with their own strengths at treating different conditions. It’s always good to be informed, so we’ve put together a list for you of the most common types of treatments that often fall under the “acupuncture” umbrella.

Body Acupuncture – This is what likely comes to mind when you hear the word acupuncture. Tiny needles inserted into certain points and meridians along the body that regulate the flow of energy and promote healing.

Ear Acupuncture – Traditional Chinese Medicine says that the ear contains acupuncture points that can heal every area of the body. So, many acupuncturists will focus their acupuncture in the ear, using the same needles as in the body, whether on its own or in conjunction with body acupuncture points.

Electroacupuncture – Particularly useful for treating pain, electroacupuncture uses small clips on top of regular acupuncture needles to send an electric current in between two acupuncture needle points. The extra stimulation can improve the flow of energy between the points, helping heal pain.

Acupressure – Utilizing the knowledge of acupuncture points and meridians, acupressure pinpoints these same areas to heal pain, but uses massage and pressure instead of inserting a needle. Many acupuncturists will teach patients the proper areas, since patients can perform it themselves at home.

Moxibustion – When small amounts of herbs are placed on top body acupuncture needles and then lit, giving the area an extra boost of warmth.

Cupping – Usually done in tandem with acupuncture, cupping uses rubber or glass cups that are suctioned onto specific areas of the body. This can help when traditional body acupuncture needs a little bit of a boost when energy along a certain point has become stagnant. Cupping can leave marks on the body where the cup has suctioned on, but they are temporary.

How Acupuncture Grew in the US

October 24 is National Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine Day. We all know that acupuncture is an ancient Chinese practice that has been utilized to treat pain and illness in the far east for thousands of years. Acupuncture is now popular all over the world, including here in the US, and it is continuing to gain a foothold as a safe, effective way to treat myriad forms of pain.

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But how did acupuncture make its way to the US?

Some believe that acupuncture’s rise in popularity can be traced to the 1970s, when President Richard Nixon’s Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was in China on a diplomatic trip. Kissinger fell ill and was treated at a Chinese hospital where he received acupuncture as part of his treatment. A journalist for the New York Times was covering Kissinger’s trip and reported on the Secretary’s hospital stay. This was the first exposure in the popular press for acupuncture for many people, and soon after the practice started gaining traction. In 1972, shortly after the publication of the story, the first legal acupuncture center in the country was established.

But acupuncture had been around long before the 1970s. Back in the beginning of the 20th century, acupuncture-like tapping treatments were being used. In the 1950s, some treatments were occurring where needles were being kept in place for up to a week! But soon, practitioners were using correct techniques, and acupuncture started becoming more and more accepted. After the Times article, things really took off.

Fast forward to today, and acupuncture is popular all across the US. There are over 18,000 licensed acupuncturists operating in the country. So while acupuncture can and will still grow even more, now you know that it has a long and interesting history here at home!