A study published in the Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies looked at the efficacy of acupuncture to control the symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea. The study examined 60 women who were split into two different groups: the study group or the control group. The women in the study group received acupuncture for 15 days per month over a 90-day period.
The women in the control group did not receive acupuncture. At the end of the study, it was concluded the women receiving acupuncture experienced far fewer symptoms with less severity than those who did not receive acupuncture. Symptoms such as cramps, pain, mood changes, diarrhea and fatigue all were reported less frequently in the study group. This study indicates that acupuncture is a viable tool for treating dysmenorrhea.
Dysmenorrhea, also known as painful menstruation, is the most commonly reported gynecological problem in women who are menstruating. Dysmenorrhea is a subgroup of pelvic pain that can manifest as painful menstrual flow. The cause of dysmenorrhea is not specifically known by conventional medicine, but it has been determined that women suffering from this pain have increased levels of the hormones prostaglandin, oxytocin and vasopressin. These three hormones stimulate pain fibers in the uterus, leading to increased overall pain that can last for several hours or days.
To help determine if a woman is truly suffering from dysmenorrhea, a monthly journal is usually kept to note any similarities from one period to the next. Typically, dysmenorrhea is diagnosed through the use of a pelvic exam, blood and urine tests and possibly a pelvic ultrasound or x-rays. Conventional medicine treats dysmenorrhea with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and hormonal supplements, like oral contraceptives. But these are not without their side effects.
Eastern Medicine, however, considers the whole person when diagnosing and treating. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) looks at the patient holistically, considering all aspects, including the mind, the body and the environment of the person. Diagnosis of a person includes inspection and observance of the expressions, colors, appearance, smells and any idiosyncrasies that may be present.
TCM also looks at the patient’s tongue and pulses on both wrists. These two practices are the primary diagnostic tools used in TCM. The tongue and pulses can reveal quite a bit of information about what is going on internally. Different areas of the tongue correspond to body systems and energetic pathways. For example, the tip of the tongue can show irregularities related to the heart and the mind. The rear of the tongue can show irregularities related to the urinary bladder and kidneys and is associated with the emotion of fear. The pulse is also broken down into six locations, three on each side, all of which correspond to a body system and the related energetic pathway.
With dysmenorrhea, the liver energetic pathway is the most commonly involved. When the liver pathway is involved, it is most commonly due to emotional issues, rather than physical problems. However, over time, emotional issues such as anger, irritability and frustration can lead to physical problems in the body, including breast tenderness, large blood clots during menstruation, headaches and high blood pressure.
Acupuncture is one of the tools used by TCM practitioners to help bring balance back to the body. Studies have shown that women who receive regular acupuncture tend to have fewer symptoms of dysmenorrhea or their symptoms are less severe over time. This is because acupuncture helps decrease pain and inflammation, while also calming the mind and digestive tract. Many women who receive regular acupuncture treatments also take power naps while the needles are in place, which can help with the symptoms of dysmenorrhea.
To treat dysmenorrhea, a licensed acupuncturist may use several tools, including acupuncture, herbs, nutrition and possibly even mind body practices like meditation. It all depends upon the severity of the condition. To find out more, contact a practitioner in your area.
Extraordinary Vessels - Chong Mai
Most acupuncture points are located on the 12 primary channels that flow along the surface of the body. However, there are eight Extraordinary Vessels that flow more deeply in the body, and are perhaps even more powerful that the 12 primary channels. The Extraordinary Vessels regulate the 12 channels, and are deep lakes of energy, which can feed the 12 primary channels when they are depleted.
Chong Mai is one of the most important Extraordinary Vessels, and some texts place it as the nexus of the whole Extraordinary Vessel network. It has numerous branches throughout the body and has even more physiological and energetic functions.
The Chong Mai, also called the Penetrating Vessel, originates in the space between the kidneys, along with Extraordinary Vessels Du Mai (Governing Vessel) and Ren Mai (Directing Vessel or Conception Vessel). Its internal branch descends through the uterus and emerges in the perineum. Its descending branch flows down the inner leg to the medial foot and big toe. Meanwhile, its abdominal branch flows upward through the abdomen, following the kidney meridian, and spreads out throughout the abdomen and chest. The head branch further extends through the throat, chin and eyes. While the spinal branch flows along with the Du Mai up the spine.
Based on its pathways alone, it is easy to see why the Chong Mai is such a powerful vessel, as it covers so many areas of the body and touches so many of the 12 primary meridians and organs.
The Chong Mai is called the “Sea of Blood,” making it incredibly important in treating gynecological conditions. It is said to transform kidney essence into menstrual blood, and plays a key role in maintaining healthy menstruation. Particularly concerned with adequate movement of blood throughout the body, it can be used to treat any sort of blood stasis pattern, including certain gynecological, circulatory, musculoskeletal and hormonal pathologies. The Chong Mai is particularly linked to heart blood, through its action of dispersing through the chest. Therefore, the Chong Mai is related to heart rhythm, cardiac function and emotional issues such as anxiety and panic attacks (as the spirit resides in the heart blood, from a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective.)
Chong Mai helps to keep energy and blood moving throughout the whole body – when there is stagnation or pain, the Chong Mai isn’t functioning optimally. By maintaining flow throughout the primary channels, the Chong Mai also is closely tied to the correct directional flow of energy in each system. The Chong Mai also has a close relationship with the stomach, so for nausea as well as other stomach symptoms, treating the Chong Mai can help.
The Chong Mai doesn’t have any points that lie on it directly – rather, it is opened through certain points on the wrists and feet. The Chong Mai can thus be stimulated with acupuncture, but also with Chinese herbal medicine and techniques to direct energy such as Taiji and Qigong.
The kidneys are vital organs that allow our bodies to process waste and turn it into urine and filter our blood of toxins before it gets back to the heart. The kidneys also maintain our overall fluid balance and create hormones that regulate blood pressure, support bone health and produce red blood cells. To support your kidneys, it’s beneficial to stay plenty hydrated and avoid extra salt in your food.
Jam-packed with vitamins and healthy fats and low in sodium from all the fresh fruits and veggies, this smoothie is a kidney-boosting wonder!
Cranberries are often praised for their bladder-healthy benefits. They are also full of Vitamin C and fiber and have anti-inflammatory effects. Walnuts are a great source of healthy fat and also benefit the kidneys, according to traditional Chinese medicine. You can make this smoothie with water or almond milk for an extra calcium boost. Making sure you have enough calcium in your diet can help to prevent kidney stones. Lastly, ginger is always a great smoothie addition, making the flavor more dynamic and contributing to the smoothie’s anti-inflammatory effects.
To make, combine the ingredients in a blender and enjoy!
A study published in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine looked at how acupuncture might be able to inhibit injury to the liver caused by the prescription combination of morphine and acetaminophen. The study was conducted on rats that had been fed morphine and acetaminophen. Then, acupuncture was applied once daily to the rats. The researchers discovered the rats who received acupuncture also had less damage to their livers. This occurs because of the antioxidant-stimulating effects of acupuncture treatments. The researchers concluded acupuncture may provide a safe alternative detox method for people chronically taking morphine or acetaminophen.
Traditional Chinese Medicine, a medical system that has been around for thousands of years, views the human body quite differently from Western medicine. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there are energetic pathways are associated with specific organs in the body. When these pathways, or meridians, and the energy flowing through them, are out of balance, then the body may become diseased.
In TCM, the liver and its corresponding pathway are responsible for the smooth flow of qi (pronounced “chee”) or energy, blood and emotions. The liver is easily affected by excess stress and uncontrolled emotions. The liver is paired with the gallbladder and the two work very closely as a unit. When one is imbalanced, the other may display the symptoms. For example, if a person is consistently stressed, this may cause the liver energy to become blocked. When this happens, the gallbladder may become affected. It is not uncommon for people in high stress jobs to end up with gallstones. The liver becomes blocked and the emotions remain bottled up inside, which then manifests in pain and possibly stones.
Anger is the emotion commonly associated with the liver and gallbladder. If a person gets angered easily, frequently feels frustrated, has difficulty relaxing or letting things go, and is unreasonable, it is safe to guess their liver energy isn’t flowing smoothly. There are many methods of balancing liver energy and returning proper flow throughout the body. Learning to stay calm and channel one’s anger appropriately is a good place to start. Practice some deep breathing, meditation, yoga or even take a walk. All of these things are great for balancing stagnant liver energy.
Another way to smooth liver energy is a technique known as dry brushing. Using a hairbrush with rounded bristles or a soft bristle brush, one can lightly brush down along the liver energetic meridian, which runs along the inner thighs and inner calves, all the way down to the inside corner of the big toe. This can be done for about five minutes per leg. Dry brushing gently stimulates the liver meridian, allowing the blood and energy to flow more freely and relaxing not only the liver, but the whole body.
Acupuncture is another great way to balance the liver energies. Regular acupuncture treatments help balance the body holistically and without any real side effects. Acupuncture can increase the flow of energy throughout the body, remove blockages and stagnation and allow the liver to function properly, which will ultimately allow the body to detox more effectively.
If you deal with anger, stress or have a history of gallstones, it might be a good idea to give acupuncture a try. Be sure to find a fully licensed and properly trained acupuncturist who can help guide you through balancing the energy of the liver meridian. Over time, your body will most likely respond favorably.
In May 2018, a team of researchers from the Acupuncture Trialists Collaboration published an update to previous chronic pain research in the Journal of Pain, the journal associated with the American Pain Society. The new article updates a study first released in 2008 that looked at acupuncture as a treatment for four chronic pain conditions. The updated study now includes data from nearly 21,000 patients.
The new study confirms what was shown in the researchers’ previous work: acupuncture relieved pain and improved function when compared with sham acupuncture and not receiving any acupuncture. The researchers also showed that the effects persisted over at least a 12-month period. This study adds to the body of literature that suggests acupuncture can be a viable treatment for chronic pain, and the findings cannot be explained solely by placebo effects since they did not observe significant changes in the group that received sham acupuncture.
Chronic pain affects approximately 50 million Americans or just over 20 percent of the adult population, according to a study from the Center for Disease Control released in September 2018. That statistic, when combined with the growing opioid epidemic in the United States led one of the country’s largest health-insurance providers, Blue Cross Blue Shield, to start covering acupuncture as an alternative to opioids. The change went into effect January 1, 2019.
Acupuncture relieves pain by releasing endorphins, the body’s natural pain-killing chemicals, at the acupoints in which the needles are inserted. Licensed acupuncturists can access the specific areas of their patients’ bodies that are causing them pain by inserting needles at acupoints connected to those painful areas. Acupuncture may also help relieve pain by affecting the area of the brain that governs serotonin, a chemical in the brain involved in regulating our moods.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture meridian points activate the body’s innate healing abilities acupuncturists call Qi (chee). According to TCM, Qi is the vital energy that animates the body and protects it from illness. Qi flows through pathways called meridians and provides nourishment to the body’s cells, tissues, muscles, organs, and glands. When there is an imbalance or blockage in the flow of Qi, symptoms such as chronic pain may appear.
If you or someone you know suffers from chronic pain, suffer no more! Contact a licensed acupuncturist in your area to learn how they may be able to help you find relief in an all-natural way with no risk of harmful side effects.
Rebecca M H Kitzerow is a Licensed Acupuncturist practicing in La Center, Washington. With over a decade of experience she has won 10 Nattie consumer choice awards from Natural Awakenings Magazine since 2014.