In April 2019, a team of Italian researchers published a study in Medical Acupuncture that suggests acupuncture may be effective for reducing symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a natural disaster. The research team looked at residents of Amatrice, Italy, were a 6.0-magnitude earthquake in 2016 left nearly 300 people dead and almost 30,000 homeless. Natural hazards, like earthquakes, that are unpredictable and wreak widespread havoc on communities, have been shown to cause psychiatric disorders in survivors, including PTSD.
The participants in this study received five weeks of acupuncture treatments starting about a month after the earthquake. Researchers used patient-reported numbers on a pain scale to evaluate the effectiveness of the treatments. Before the treatments, 68 percent of the patients reported having psychological and pain symptoms associated with PTSD. Already after the third treatment, 54 percent of patients reported improvements in their psychological symptoms and 60 percent reported improvements in their pain symptoms. Using a statistical analysis, researchers measured a significant reduction between the initial reported psychological and pain scores and the scores after the third treatment. The researchers did not report any adverse side effects or events.
In the aftermath of natural disasters, communities are thrown into stress-provoking situations for myriad reasons, including loss of life, loss of property, loss of job, other economic losses, loss of community in the case some members move away and loss of infrastructure like schools or restaurants, among other things. Studies show individual mental health plays an important role in the success of communities rebuilding efforts after a natural disaster.
Although more research is needed to bolster the findings of this study, it suggests acupuncture can be an effective therapy for communities in the aftermath of a natural disaster. Studies show acupuncture is effective at balancing hormone levels that contribute to moderating stress levels in the body. The most significant body of research on acupuncture is in the field of acupuncture’s ability to reduce physical pain. This study suggests the effects of acupuncture extend to stress and pain brought on by a natural disaster.
Statistics show eight out of 10 people will experience low back pain at some point during their life. Seeking medical treatment for back pain is very common. Typically back pain is fleeting and can be easily resolved with rest, heat and an occasional anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen. However, once the damage is done, the recurrence of back pain can be as high as 50 percent. Part of this is because as we age, things like muscles and tendons become less flexible and pliable. It is also very well known in the United States, people are too sedentary and this leads to excess weight gain that can create added pressure on the body, especially the low back.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a medical system that dates back nearly 3,000 years. But despite its age, TCM has a lot of validity to offer in the age of modern medicine. Thousands of studies have proven acupuncture, just one of the modalities used in TCM, can be very beneficial in the treatment of low back pain. Here are five reasons why someone should consider getting acupuncture to treat low back pain.
1. Acupuncture has no harmful side effects. In comparison to most Western medical approaches to treating low back pain, acupuncture is the clear winner. There are no real negative side effects associated with acupuncture treatments. There can be a bruise or a little tenderness after the treatments, but that pales in comparison to the side effects from most pharmaceuticals or surgical procedures. Even regular ingestion of ibuprofen can deteriorate the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, eventually leading to ulceration.
2. Acupuncture is personalized healthcare. One thing truly different about TCM is every patient is treated differently. There could be 10 people with the exact same Western medical diagnosis in an acupuncturist's’ office, but they may all be treated differently. This is because not everybody’s root cause of the ailment is the same. This makes acupuncture treatments very personalized.
3. Acupuncture reduces inflammation. Back pain is frequently accompanied by joint inflammation in the spinal column. Acupuncture promotes the release of vascular and immune-mediating factors that actually decrease inflammation. Usually when inflammation is decreased, so is pain.
4. Acupuncture improves sleep. Low back pain can frequently disrupt sleep. With regular acupuncture treatments, not only is the pain and inflammation of back pain decreased, but so is the sleep interruptions due to the aforementioned pain. This is just one of the positive side effects of acupuncture.
5. Get your life back. Regular acupuncture treatments can improve a person’s overall well-being. And when it comes to low back pain, life can be changed dramatically. People sometimes have to miss work due to the pain and lack of sleep caused by the pain. But acupuncture can change all of that, allowing people to resume regular everyday activities.
For anybody who has ongoing low back pain, the five reasons listed above should give you hope acupuncture can provide relief. Let us help you along your path to wellness.
Also, if you have specific questions about common causes of Low Back Pain for Athletes, check out this great post by Volt about that very subject with some great exercise based prevention tips: https://fitnessvolt.com/lower-back-pain-athletes/
There are many factors involved with fatigue. If you are overtired, Traditional Chinese Medicine might be able to pinpoint the culprit, give some extra pep and help you kick those afternoon blues.
In TCM the idea of treatment is to find the root of the problem instead of simply treating the symptoms. In the case of fatigue, there are many possible root causes to feeling tired including: stress, depression, over exercising, lack of sleep, poor diet, poor absorption of nutrients and vitamin deficiency. Of course, these can overlap and one can exacerbate the other.
In TCM, there are a few basic syndromes associated with fatigue.
-Spleen Qi deficiency and dampness: This mainly comes from poor digestion and malabsorption of nutrients from an insufficient diet. Associated symptoms are a pale complexion, gas and bloating, to name a few. Dampness is excessive mucus and a feeling of heaviness in the head and body usually seen in overweight individuals. Since food is not transformed and transported well, food is not being absorbed adequately, which can lead to feeling sluggish. Treatment focuses on digestive issues and lifestyle choices to increase energy.
-Blood deficiency: Similar to anemia, symptoms are pale complexion, dizziness and fatigue. Treatment focuses on building blood,herbal formulas and dietary advice.
-Yin or yang deficiency: The body continually strives to achieve a yin and yang balance, as does everything in the universe. If there is an imbalance in one of these, there will be a relative change in the other. For example, if one is yin deficient the symptoms would include heat, dryness, sweating, irritability and thirst. This is seen typically in menopausal women, as the yin declines with hormone changes and normal aging.
On the other hand, yang deficiency (common in male aging and low testosterone) would have cold signs such as feeling cold, having low energy, weakness in the legs and wanting to curl up. The lower yang energy influences the balance of yin. This is so the yin is relatively higher. Treatment consists of building the deficiency and balancing your yin and yang.
In other terms, if it is a hormone imbalance, treatment would safely adjust hormone levels with safe and effective herbal formulas and acupuncture.
-Shen disturbance: Shen refers to the mind and spirit. If one is stressed, angry and having anxiety, it may disrupt sleep patterns, which would cause fatigue. Unhappiness with one’s situation causes great emotional fatigue and lethargy. Feeling stuck causes stagnation in the liver channel and disrupts the free flow of energy. Treatment would include calming the mind and adjusting lifestyle choices.
Temporomandibular disorders refers to a group of conditions that affect the joints of the jaw or the temporomandibular joints. These joints are located bilaterally on the face, in front of the ears and connecting the jaw bone to the skull. These joints are complicated, allowing for movement in multiple directions.
For some, temporomandibular disorders (TMD) can be caused by trauma such as a car accident or a hit to the face. But for most, these issues seem to appear out of nowhere. Many people do things on a daily basis or have underlying conditions that can cause or contribute to the development of temporomandibular disorders. Things like teeth grinding, gum chewing, excessive stress, malocclusion of teeth and even arthritis can all be reasons that TMD occurs. The most common symptoms of TMD include pain, headaches, muffled hearing, earaches, pain when chewing, dental pain, chipped or worn teeth, jaw clicking, dizziness, neck pain and difficulty moving the jaw.
Conventional treatments for TMD vary from eating soft foods to taking over-the-counter pain medications and using hot or cold packs. Often, mouth guards and physical therapy are also prescribed. Sometimes specific dental work may also be suggested. And as a last resort, steroid injections and jaw surgery may be used. Unfortunately, the success of these treatments is limited.
Traditional Chinese Medicine can be a great alternative. Acupuncture, moxibustion and electroacupuncture can be especially beneficial for people with TMD.
Numerous studies have shown acupuncture can reduce pain and inflammation caused by TMD. Acupuncture reduces the sensation of pain by directly stimulating the nerves, which changes the signaling to the brain. Acupuncture stimulates the release of neurotransmitters and endorphins in the body. These are naturally occurring substances that help decrease and block pain perception by the brain.
Placing acupuncture needles directly into the belly of the jaw muscle can also elicit a muscle twitch. This muscle twitch can then release the built up tension throughout the muscle, allowing it to reset. When the muscle tension is released, so too is the pain and tightness. By adding in electroacupuncture, the muscle is then reminded of how it is supposed to act.
Acupuncture is also proven to help reduce stress that is often associated with painful disorders like TMD. When people feel stressed, the brain releases a hormone called cortisol. Too much cortisol can alter the way the brain perceives pain, and it can also cause involuntary muscle spasms in the jaw muscles. This can lead to excessive pain in the temporomandibular joints.
If you or somebody you love is facing the pain of TMD, consider utilizing acupuncture and the other modalities of TCM to treat the issue. It is a much safer alternative, it can save a lot of money and these modalities offer improved overall health.
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.