Currently viewing the tag: "Acupuncture"

Known as the “Silent Killer”, High blood pressure (BP) or hypertension is quite common and estimated to be responsible for 10.7 million deaths globally each year. In England amongst adults around 31% of men and 26% of women (2015) have been diagnosed with high BP, which equates to 12.5 million individuals.

 

hypertensionHypertension occurs when the pressure of blood flow in your arteries becomes higher than normal. Over a long period of time, it can result in serious damage to the blood vessels leading to the development of further complications, some of which can be life-threatening. Some of these include; heart disease, kidney disease, stroke and other health problems. In all of these cases high BP is a primary cause.

BP is measured as two numbers representing highest and lowest pressure measurements, recorded as millimeters or mercury (mmHg). The top is known as the systolic (on contraction) and the bottom is the diastolic (on relaxation). The ideal adult BP is between 90/60 mmHg and 120/80mmHg.

The good news is that it is quite easy to prevent having high blood pressure. If you are generally in good health then all you need to do is to incorporate some changes in diet and lifestyle. Supplements like potassium and magnesium are helpful for their role in homeostasis by playing a vital role in dilatation of blood vessels. Potassium lowers the high BP by acting on the walls of the blood vessel to relax them. Similarly, magnesium assist in producing prostaglandins (E1), one their function is to, control inflammation and blood flow. It relaxes blood vessels therefore reducing BP. However, magnesium supplement works more effectively when given in combination with potassium supplement1. Further high sodium levels in the body inhibits nitric oxide levels, thus increases the BP. Nitric oxide concentrations help to dilate regulate blood vessel.

Acupuncture lowers blood pressure

Another method for staying in good health or controlling your blood pressure is via Acupuncture. Acupuncture has been used traditionally for over 2000 years for a variety of conditions including BP. Studies have shown that it can aid BP by alleviating stress and stimulating the body’s process through which it can be lowered.

A US trial published in the journal Medical Acupuncture confirmed that acupuncture was helpful for patients with mild to moderate high BP. The study method used electroacupuncture over a period of 6 weeks in patients with hypertension.  In the treatment group blood levels of norepinephrine, a blood vessel constricting hormone dropped significantly (41%), along with a drop in the enzyme renin (67%) and aldosterone (22%). The researchers concluded that with regular use, electroacupuncture could reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke in people by managing their BP2.

Although the exact mechanism is still not know the one of the effectss of acupuncture on BP is said to be on the renin-angiotensin system (RAS). BP is the body is regulated by RAS. Renin is one of the hormones that help to regulate BP by increasing it (when it is abnormally low). Studies show that acupuncture helps to suppress the production of renin that is produced by kidney.

Other effects of acupuncture are on the vascular system, where it is able to relax the walls of the blood vessels.  It also reduces oxidative stress and therefore any inflammation in the blood vessels. Another effect is via the influence of the neuroendocrine system, by releasing endorphins and activating opiod receptors3.

There is much evidence to support the acupuncture can be used as an adjunct to conventional therapy to manage BP in those with hypertension. With a high incidence worldwide, patients with hypertension endure not just complex health implications but also impact on their personal and social life. At times it can also become a heavy financial burden on their family. For this reason prevention and good BP management is essential.

 

Reference:

  1. Houston, MC, Harper, KJ. Potassium, magnesium, and calcium: their role in both the cause and treatment of hypertension. J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2008;10(7 suppl 2):2–11
  2. Li Peng et al. Long-lasting reduction of blood pressue by electroacupuncture in patients with hypertension: Randomised controlled trial. Medical Acupuncture, 2015;27(4) : 253-66.
  3. Li J, Sun M, Ye J, Li Y, Jin R, Zheng H, Liang F. The mechanisam of acupuncture in treating essential hypertension: A narrative review. Int J Hypertens. 2019:8676490.
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Chronic pain affects a significant number of people worldwide. The exact number of people with chronic pain is not known but the numbers are not minuscule. For decades, acupuncture has been used to manage several types of acute and chronic pain disorders.  The therapy utilities very fine needles that are inserted at specific anatomical sites in the body for pain relief. When performed by a qualified acupuncturist, the treatment is said to provide pain relief and has a very good safety profile. Over the years, this old Chinese remedy has been used to manage a variety of pain disorders including joint pain, migraine, sciatica, neck pain, and even headaches. 

Recently a meta-analysis of dozens of high-quality clinical trials that involved nearly 18,000 participants showed that acupuncture is an effective treatment for individuals with neck and back pain, chronic headache, osteoarthritis, and shoulder pain. In addition, one large randomized control study revealed that acupuncture significantly lowered symptoms of depression at 12-weeks compared with traditional therapies. Finally there are other studies showing that acupuncture can also lower the depression associated with cancer and enhance the quality of life.

However, to put things into perspective, there are just as many studies showing that acupuncture has none or only mild pain-relieving effects.

Today, the effectiveness of acupuncture for the treatment of pain continues to be debated. The reason why some patients benefit from acupuncture and others do not has not been well explained. So what is the issue? Does the technique work for pain or not?

Acupuncture is one of the oldest complementary therapies to manage pain and there is evidence from clinical trials that the technique can help lower pain. While many factors that influence acupuncture have been studied in the past, the patient’s psyche, his or her relationship with the acupuncturist and beliefs have not been thoroughly studied, until this recent study.

Now a study by researchers from the University of Southampton sheds more light into this controversy. The lead investigator, Dr. Felicity Bishop from the University conducted this study to determine why some individuals with low back pain gained more pain relief from acupuncture and others did not. What the researchers observed is that individuals with low back pain who have apriori low expectations of acupuncture before the start of the treatment generally gain less benefit than those individuals who believe it will work. Overall the study revealed that individuals who have a positive view of their pain and who feel in control of their health condition had led back-related disability over the course of acupuncture treatment. The findings of this study were just published in the Journal of Clinical Pain.

In this study, it was shown that psychological factors were consistently associated with back pain-related disability. Patients who started out with very low expectations of acupuncture and thought that the treatment would not help them, in fact, had the least benefit. Further, the same patients who changed their psyche and started to develop positive feelings about their pain, then went on to experience less back-related disability; and as their desire to understand why they were having pain increased, they experienced less pain. In summary, patients who were less emotional conflicts and fewer negative feelings about acupuncture and their pain had more benefits.

What this study shows is that perhaps clinicians need to start motivating or help change patient perceptions about their pain and the potential benefits of acupuncture. Improving the psyche is the key and this may be the reason why there is such a great variance in past acupuncture studies and pain control.

Dr. Bishop has stated that to improve the outcomes after acupuncture, acupuncturists should now consider improving the patient’s psyche and positivity about their pain as part of the initial consultation.

Dr Stephen Simpson, director of research at Arthritis Research UK, said: “This study emphasizes the influence of the placebo effect on pain. The process whereby the brain’s processing of different emotions in relation to their treatment can influence outcome is a really important area for research.” He went on to add,

“Factors such as the relationship between practitioner and patient can inform this and we should be able to understand the biological pathways by which this happens. This understanding could lead in the future to better targeting of acupuncture and related therapies in order to maximize patient benefit.”

 

References

  1. Vickers AJ, Cronin AM, Maschino AC, et al. Acupuncture for chronic pain: individual patient data meta-analysis. Arch Intern Med. 2012; 172(19): 1444-53.
  2. University of Southampton. Psychological factors play a part in acupuncture treatment of back pain. (2015, Feb 12) https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/02/150212065036.htm
  3. Felicity L. Bishop, Lucy Yardley, Philip Prescott, Cyrus Cooper, Paul Little, George T. Lewith. Psychological Covariates of Longitudinal Changes in Back-related Disability in Patients Undergoing Acupuncture. The Clinical Journal of Pain, 2015; 31 (3): 254
  4. Fields, Rd. Acupuncture Works–Sort of Acupuncture: Physiology, Psychology, or Placebo? Psychology Today. (2010, Sep 27) https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/the-new-brain/201009/acupuncture-works-sort
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Insomnia is shocking the world with the alarming rise of its incidence among adults. It is one of the most common sleep disorder. 10-15% of world’s adult population is believed to be suffering from insomnia. If you frequently find yourself tired at work or even after just waking up, you are most probably lacking a goodnight sleep. Lack of good quality sleep leads to weary mornings and with that comes grumpiness and sleepiness. According to the American Sleep Association, an adult person requires 7-9 hours of sleep to function at their best1Acupuncture & Sleep

Headaches, distraction, laziness, and feeling stress is the most common symptoms of insomnia. A goodnight sleep is the secret to performing our best; it is vital to keep us going throughout the day without exhaustion.

We may think so, but medications are often not the most ideal solution; it leads to drug resistance and can cause damage to our memory functions. What we need is a natural, non-drug remedy that provides long-term effective solution to your sleeping woes. World renowned health experts have praised as a modern natural remedy to reinforce health and enhance sleep quality.

Get Your Sleep Worries to Bed with Proven Acupuncture Therapy

The effectiveness of Acupuncture doesn’t need any convincing as research organizations around the world have provided with conclusive evidence that this natural therapy not only provides better sleep at night but also fights off the symptoms that are making you count sheep at night.

This traditional therapy uses tiny needles to access distinct body points to alleviate pain, enhance sleep, reduce stress and anxiety, and improve overall well-being. By stimulating trigger points, it corresponds to the different aspect of physical health including improving sleep quality.

According to the research data published in 2009 acupuncture is known to increase the content of gamma amino butyric acid to improve sleep quality. The study concluded with the statement that Acupuncture therapy can regulate yang and yin to eliminate the pathogenic and reinforce health to promote a relaxing sleep at night2.

Medical studies conducted by the Zhejiang Chinese Medical University1 in 2018 concluded that acupuncture therapy delivers more effective results in comparison with a certain types of drugs prescribed in the cases associated with insomnia. Its strength is its ability to treat the cause behind sleeping problem.

Another study also concluded that acupuncture induces the onset of sleep by stimulating night time melatonin production, but also reduces sleep disruption while sleeping.  These findings were concluded with 18 anxious adult subjects with a history of insomnia were given five weeks of acupuncture treatment. In addition to the increase of nocturnal melatonin secretion, there was also improvement in sleep onset, sleep arousal, total sleep duration and quality of sleep. Anxiety scores were also reduced3.

Acupressure for a Good Night’s Sleep – Get It Right

Here are some acupuncture targets specific trigger points you can try – but not limited to – for better sleep cycle.

  • Kidney 6 or the Shining Sea – Located the inside of the ankle bone on right side. Helps in relieving anxiety, hypertension, and insomnia.
  • Spirit gate or Heart 7 – Located below your pinkie finger, at the crease on your outer wrist. Promotes better sleep by taming overexcitement associated with the cold sweat, anxiety, and emotional issues.
  • Conception Vessel 17, the Sea of Tranquillity, or CV 17 – Located in the center of the breasts. Helps in relieving insomnia associated with chest congestion, nervousness and anxiety.
  • Urinary Bladder 62, the Extending Vessel, or B62 – Located below the outer anklebone on the right side. Helps in relieving headaches, insomnia, nervousness and stiff neck.
  • Vital Diaphragm (B38) – Located between the spine and the shoulder baled. Helps in balancing out the emotions associated with anxiety, grief, and stress.
  • Pericardium 6 – Located in the central point of the inner side of the forearm. Helps in reducing stress levels, insomnia, and indigestion.
  • Governing Vessel 16 or Wind Mansion – Located in a large hollow under the base of the skull, at the center of the back of the head. Helps in fighting off sleep disorders and reliving the symptoms of insomnia.
  • Urinary Bladder10 – Located on the back of the neck, around the outer spine muscles. Helps in relieving stress, exhaustion, and insomnia.
  • Gall Bladder 20 or the Gates of Consciousness – Located below the base of the skull. Helps in relieving migraine, fatigue, and low energy.
  • Governing Vessel 24.5 or the Third Eye Point – Located directly between the eyebrows. Helps in relaxing the central nervous system.

Sleep deprivation has become a public health epidemic. Don’t let chronic loss of sleep ruin your productivity and everyday energy. Acupuncture is a time-tested, natural treatment therapy which is no less than a boon to enhance sleep quality.

Not only it nourishes the body, but also relaxes your mind to promote a peaceful, restful sleeping cycle. Hailed for centuries for its therapeutic effects, acupuncture  is a potent remedy to counter the side-effects of sleep deprivation. Wholesome diet is another amazing lifestyle choice that not only improves your holistic health but also promotes better sleep at night.

 

References:

  1. Modern Acupuncture. Put sleep disorders to bed with acupuncture. Published online: 22 June 2018. https://www.modernacupuncture.com/news/2018-06-22-put-sleep-disorders-to-bed-with-acupuncture-113
  2. Cao H, Pan X, Li H, Liu J. Acupuncture for treatment fo insomnia: A systematic review of randomised controlled trials. J Altern Complement Med. 2009; 15(11): 1171-1186. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3156618/
  3. Spence DW, Kyumov L, Chen A, et al. Acupuncture increases nocturnal melatonin secretion and reduces insomnia and anxiety: a preliminary report. 2004. J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2004; 16(1): 19-28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14990755

 

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Hormonal imbalance is a common female presentation at most acupuncture practices. The human body produces around 50 different types of hormones. Hormones act as the body’s chemical messengers activating target cells. Tightly linked to the nervous system it controls body functions e.g. growth, metabolism, homeostasis, muscle contraction and sexual activity. The effects of hormonal changes start at puberty and continue throughout a women’s life.

Premenstrual symptoms, both physical and emotional represent hormonal changes. Women struggle with hormonal changes experiencing symptoms like fatigue, mood swings, anxiety and changes in libido. There are many reasons for hormone imbalance such as, age, stress, birth control pills, lifestyle, diet and weight. Symptoms can greatly affect a women’s quality of life.

In women, hormones oestrogen and progesterone work together to maintain the menstrual cycle, both are equally important. When oestrogen levels are abnormally high there is oestrogen dominance causing PMS symptoms, menstrual problems, mood swings, weight gain, and increase in stress hormones, fibroids, ovarian cysts (PCOS), heart disease and breast cancer.

In Chinese medicine hormone imbalance can be linked to menstrual and gynaecological but also to other conditions e.g. mood swings, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia. Depending on the condition conventional medicine offers treatments using birth control pills, anti-depressants, diabetes medication, IVF and fertility treatment drugs. Fortunately, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can offer a safe and effective option for many health problems including alleviating hormonal imbalance.

  • Acupuncture, balances cortisol levelsand regulates adrenal function to relieve stress and normalize stress response, positively affecting the hormone response1.
  • A study found the acupuncture balances the production of follicle-stimulating hormone in women experiencing menopause related symptoms2.
  • Acupuncture helps fertility issuesdue to hormone imbalance by supporting production of healthy levels of sex hormones3.
  • A study of 30 women with PCOS and decreased insulin resistance found improvement in symptoms after acupuncture treatments4.
  • Researchers analyzed 31 RCT with a total 2,433 participants and found that acupuncture has a homeostatic and regulatory effect on three hormones which significantly5;
    • reduce sleep problems
    • increase oestrogen levels
    • reduce follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
  • One case study of a woman with endometriosis causing infertility saw a decrease in the size of the endometrial cysts and later became pregnant after acupuncture treatment6.

Treating hormone imbalance can be complex and often diet, lifestyle and stress play an important role in its successful management. Acupuncture’s regulating effects on the body enables regaining normal function of the body systems including; energy levels, sleep, mood and digestion. With regular treatments the body realizes a healthy equilibrium by correcting imbalances.

References:

  1. Yang JW, Li QQ, Li F, Fu QN, Zeng XH, Liu CZ. The holistic effects of acupuncture treatment. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:739708. doi:10.1155/2014/739708
  2. Aziz H, Feng Lui Y, Du L, et al. Menopause-related symptoms: traditional Chinese medicine vs hormone therapy. 2011. Altern Ther Health Med. 2011; 17(4): 48-53.
  3. Zhu J, Arsovska B, Kozovska K. Acupuncture Treatment for Fertility. Open Access Maced J Med Sci. 2018;6(9):1685–1687. Published 2018 Sep 19. doi:10.3889/oamjms.2018.379
  4. Shen LY, Liang CM, Yang WJ, et al. Acupuncture treatment of polycystic ovarian syndrome patients with abdominal obesity by regulating dai meridian: A randomized controlled clinical trial. Zhen Ci Yab Jiu. 2018; 43(4): 255-9.
  5. Acupuncture decreases insomnia due to menopause, increases estrogen. (2017, Jan 17) https://www.healthcmi.com/Acupuncture-Continuing-Education-News/1707-acupuncture-decreases-insomnia-due-to-menopause-increases-estrogen
  6. Zhu J, Arsovsk B, Sterjovska-Aleksovska A, Kozovska K. Acupuncture treatment of subfertility and ovarian endometrioma. Open Access Maced J Med Sci. 2018; 6(3): 519-522.

 

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Medicines are well known life savers; they save millions of lives every year from hundreds of dreadful diseases.

No matter how prepared we are, we can still be susceptible to infectious diseases and they can come back to haunt us.

The human microbiome is an ecosystem that is a collection of trillions of microbes; human and microbial cells, each have a specific genetic expression and collectively make us a ‘super organism’. Newborns start to pick up microbes at birth. This is a selective process and gradually introduces complementary and useful microbes that help the body to undertake essential body functions.   It adds around 8 million genes to the estimated 20,000-25,000 human genome. Within a period of three years a mature microbiome is developed.

The human microbiome resides in the mouth, gut, vagina and on the skin, but varies greatly between the different body sites. As an example the microbiome difference between the mouth and the gut is comparable to the difference in microbes in the ocean and soil.  Skin microbes prevent pathogens from colonising the skin and stimulate the immune system. Similarly gut bacteria functions include; synthesis of vitamins and neurochemicals, assist digestion and strengthen the immune system. For this reason science has firmly established the relationship between a healthy gut microbiome to overall wellness and good health.

Although comparable, the mibrobiome also varies from one person to the other. Likely influencing factors include, host genetics, diet, environment and exposure to specific microbes in early life.

Medicines: A Miracle or a Martyr?

Over decades we have been witnessing a serious rise in antibiotic prescriptions. Historically, antibiotics have a proven role in warring against harmful bacteria/viruses saving us from countless infections. Unfortunately they are not discriminatory and like many battles the price we pay is in the collateral damage to our microbiome.

According to the research data published by the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), one out of four antibiotics negatively affects the growth of gut bacteria. The carefully nurtured gut microbiome falls out of balance, thus upsetting our delicate intestinal ecosystem consequently increasing our risk for disease and chronic conditions e.g. IBS, diabetes, leaky gut, food intolerances.

These findings raise another serious question; could these changes also contribute to antibiotic resistance?, and in the same way can other non-antibiotic drugs similarly damage the microbiome ? Commonly prescribed medicines (NSAIDs, antipsychotics, anti-diabetics, proton pump inhibitors, and so on) have been known to create changes in microbiome composition.

To further answer this the EMBL study screened more than 1,000 marketed drugs to try and understand their effects on 40 strains of gut bacteria. The study’s conclusive statement was that more than 24% of the marketed drugs affected the growth of at least one bacterial species.

In 2019, Belenky and his colleagues published a study in Cell Metabolism. The study was conducted in mice. It was found that antibiotics changed the metabolism and composition of the mice gut microbiome.

Although still not the full picture, these studies offer a snap shot of the potential damage common drugs can do to healthy gut microbial function.

Therapy, Diet & Microbiome

Medical studies suggest that a healthy diet; low in simple sugars and high in fiber increases the susceptibility of gut microbiome to certain antibiotics. Researchers found that adding glucose to a mouse’s diet (normally low sugar, high fiber) increased the susceptibility of certain bacteroides to amoxicillin.  This validates the importance of how our diet can protect gut microbiome from the disturbing effects of antibiotics.

Most importantly, any excessive or unnecessary medication can seriously damage your gut function. Changes to your diet, and seeking alternative therapies can help to reduce the need for medicines, whilst the introduction of prebiotic foods (e.g. garlic, onions, yogurt, kefir, fermented food, bone broth) and probiotic supplements will enhance microbiome function.

A new study has shown improvements in mice gut microbiome with electro acupuncture and moxibustion treatments. Similar microfloral changes were reported by another study using electro acupuncture on obese rats.

To further reduce the need for prescription medicines, therapies like acupuncture, massage and hypnotherapy can be effectively used in place of or as an adjunct for many conditions e.g. pain, anxiety, depression and other conditions.

 

Dizziness is a common medical complaint prevalent in 15-30% 1, 2 of the general population. However, it is a non-specific symptom which can refer to light headedness, imbalance, true vertigo or syncope (partial of full loss of consciousness). It can be a symptom of several diseases ranging from minor circulatory problems such as blood pressure fluctuations, inner ear balance problems to more serious nervous system disorders. Unlike dizziness, true vertigo is the sensation of spinning around. This can be migraine related, benign positional paroxysmal vertigo and Meniere’s disease.  Treatment for dizziness and vertigo varies but commonly includes anti-emetics and benzodiazepines, and specifically for vertigo the ‘Epley manuever’ can be useful. In unresponsive or resistant cases longer term and use of stronger medicines increases the threat of unwanted side-effects. 

Acupuncture is an ancient form of Chinese medicine that has been used to successfully treat many diseases for over thousands of years. Research3 on sixty emergency patients who presented with dizziness or vertigo divided into two groups; one received acupuncture and the other control.  Results showed significant improvements in their overall discomfort, dizziness and vertigo symptoms and lowered heart rate.

How Does Acupuncture Treat Dizziness?

Acupuncture is known to work locally at the point of needle insertion as well as stimulate the nervous system causing the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. It increases the release of endorphins and neuropeptides, thus triggers biochemical changes which works on body’s homeostatic mechanisms to boost emotional and physical health4. These anti-inflammatory and stress reducing mechanisms alleviate factors responsible for causing dizziness, including nervous tension. In uncomplicated cases a 100% recovery is possible. In the case of low blood pressure, acupuncture improves the body’s ability to regulate the blood pressure, and the ability to handle anxiety and stress more effectively.

In the case of vertigo due to Meniere’s disease5 immunomodulatory and vascular elements acts as anti-inflammatory and modulate any related infection, as a result alleviating symptoms. Similarly, in migraine related vertigo changes the way pain is processed in the brain and spinal cord thus reducing the migraine frequency. According to a Cochrane6 review of 22 trails the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment for migraines could be as good as prophylactic drugs.

 

You can live without Dizziness or Vertigo

The dreadful feeling of recurring dizziness or spinning is a handicap to normal life. In many cases sufferers are unable to continue to work, or struggle to care for their family and themselves. Where medical treatment is ineffective, people start to believe that they have to live with it, but this is not the case.

Chinese medicine is based on healthy flow of Qi throughout the body. Qi is the body’s vital energy that flows in pathways known as meridians or channels.  From this perspective the cause of dizziness or vertigo is a condition of either a Deficiency or Excess. In the case of Deficiency, there is not enough Kidney Qi reaching the head, whilst a condition of Excess is an accumulation of Phlegm and other pathogenic elements that cause stagnation, preventing the body’s warming Qi from reaching the head. Acupuncture treatment aims to strengthen the body function to remove the Deficiency, or clear any Excess so that Qi can flow freely. Consequently, re-balancing and maximizing the body function.

Acupuncture has the advantage of being a safe treatment option without the risk of side effects or taking additional medication. It focuses on normalizing the body functions by stimulating the body’s parasympathetic nervous system lowering stress, reinstating body homeostasis and promoting healthy blood flow particularly in the head.

 

 

Plantar fasciitis (PF) is a general cause of heel pain affecting 10% of the population. Symptoms of Plantar fasciitis are generally sharp, acute pain in the sole as well as a heel with strain, or when you stand after periods of rest. The portion of the foot that’s inflamed with plantar fasciitis ‘plantar fascia’ is a tendon that connects to the base of the heel bone and lengthens into five bands that joins to the bones of the toes. As a weight-holding structure, it is influenced by over-use through recurring strain or too little exercise and movement. Small injuries to the tendon after a while cause inflammation and pain. Frequently, a slight bony growth (known as a spur) also develops on your heel bone (calcaneus). This heel pain can also be caused by arthritic conditions, for example, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.

Plantar fasciitis is particularly common in runners, in jobs involving prolonged standing or walking, overweight people, and individuals with foot alignment issues or those who have one leg longer than the other. Most cases recover with moderately conservative treatment, which includes home remedies, for instance, rest, stretching and massage, followed by conventional treatments including pain killers, shockwave therapy and steroid injections. However, for many these treatments offer no benefit and they have to seek alternative options. Research tells us that much can be gained by seeking acupuncture treatment.

A review published in Acupuncture in Medicine assessed eight clinical trials on acupuncture for plantar fasciitis. One study found significant improvement when it is combined with standard treatment, whilst in another treatment on acupuncture point PC7 improved threshold for pain and pressure (compared to LI4). Other studies were of lower quality, but consistently reported benefits from acupuncture.  Researchers at Guangxi People’s Hospital found that when acupuncture is added to the use of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) foot baths significantly decreases pain and swelling, as well as relapse rates. Another more recent review on 4 studies found that there was significant benefit between 4-8 wks after treatment.

Acupuncture treats plantar fasciitis through a self-healing phenomenon via a few pathways. Needle insertion activates the body’s own opioids, while also increasing the brain’s sensitivity to them. Other pain reducing biochemicals like ATP, adenosine, GABA and substance P are also released. Acupuncture needle manipulation techniques also stimulate cellular responses in the subcutaneous connective tissue increasing the spread and production of fibroblasts, an important healing component. Another mechanism is via the release of nitrous oxide at the acupuncture sites that enable the healing process.

Plantar fasciitis can be extremely debilitating. Acupuncture treatment is effective, however sometimes response can be slow. Therefore a minimum of 6-8 treatments is essential before any significant results can be expected. A combined treatment with acupressure massage can increase the benefits greatly.

 

The latest  US death linked to vaping has been reported. This makes it the ninth person to die from an outbreak of a mysterious lung diseases, with the Centre of Disease Control confirming over 530 people now affected. First reported in April this year, symptoms include fatigue, coughing, breathlessness, vomiting or diarrhoea. The first case has now been reported in Canada.  The White House has announced plans to ban flavoured e-cigarettes.  Over 20 countries, mainly in South America, the Middle East and South-East Asia, have already banned the sale of vaping products, India and Korea being the latest to join them. With such uncertainty on e-cigarette (EC) legislation and amidst calls to ban, the US supermarket giant  Walmart has ceased all sales entirely.

E-cigarettes

In 2014 and 2018 I wrote about the potential dangers and long term harm of EC, which at the time was extremely high on the media agenda when UK sales had sored 340% in a single year (2012). Its was promoted as the safe alternative to tobacco smoking. Significant rise in the number of never-smoking youths taking up EC has been noticeable. Advertisements of nicotine-free liquids with fruity and sweet flavours offer a sizeable incentive and social approval to young people to start using EC. The Forum of International Respiratory Societies has deemed EC smoking to be a significant public health issue as it encourages smoking behaviour.

No firm evidence has been established on the exact causal constituent but the finger is still on the many ‘flavours’ and ‘carrier substances’ that cause physiological effects. Effects include changes to our immune system and alter the healthy biology of the lung tissue. The inhaled gaseous mixture is deposited in our lungs and undergo changes. A chemical propylene glycol causes upper airway irritation. EC smoking releases volatile organic compounds and (ultra) fine particles into the atmosphere giving rise to potentially toxic passive vaping for others.

After the experiences of tobacco smoking, we have still now learnt that inhaling anything other than clean air is not good for our health.  In the UK there is still a belief that vaping is a safer alternative to tobacco smoking, however, this may be changing.  A small study conducted with GPs and nurses found that practitioners were uncertain of the safety and longer-term risks of EC. Some were unsure about their ability to advise on its use.

Acupuncture is widely used for addictions. In particular smoking and drug addiction. It offers a safer alternative when compared to the suspect risks of EC smoking, and a useful adjunct to prescription opiates for difficult cases of drug addictions. Auricular acupuncture or acudetox techniques involves inserting small needles into the patient’s ear. These can be used in conjunction with body points. Treatments help to ease withdrawal symptoms, reductions in cravings, anxiety, sleep disturbances and the need for pharmaceutical medicines.

 

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Unfortunately, there are many endless factors that are not in our control. Stress needs no invitation to sneak up on us. Sometimes, it feels like no matter how hard we try to get rid of, stress finds its way to crawl back into our life.

We blame our jobs, relationships, financial aspects, and/or other personal reasons for being under stress; however, the truth is that it is us that ultimately have to pay the price, and not anyone else. Managing stress is in your hands only.

Failing to cope with everyday stress can mess with body physiology to cause health disorders including heart disease, digestive problems, anxiety, depression, headaches, weight gain, sleep problems, memory loss, and lack of concentration.

Stress Affects Body Functions  

While we try our best to lead a healthy lifestyle by taking care of our internal health, both acute and chronic stress can spoil that plan. Adverse effects of chronic stress are not only restricted to our mental health since it creates havoc in many essential body systems.

Brain Functions

Our brain is constantly engaged to everyday stressors; it processes, analyses and reacts to everyday situations. Studies on human health conclude that stress can cause structural changes in certain brain areas and affects the functionality of the human nervous system. This is evidenced by the phenomenon of “Steroid psychosis”, which is induced by anti-inflammatory drugs (considered to be synthetic hormones) when used on behvioural and cognitive disorders.

Chronic stress can lead to brain mass atrophy, and can even reduce its weight. It affects cognition, learning, and memory functions. In summary, researchers concluded that chronic stress is linked to reduced cognition, neurogenesis disorders, weakened verbal memory, and disruption of memory & judgement.

Long term brain changes due to stress leads to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Immune System

For decades, health researchers have shown interest in understanding the relationship between the immune system and stress. Impaired immune system is one of the most critical adverse effects of stress. A compromised immune state leads to higher risk of illness. Stress can modulate processes in the central nervous system to affect the functionality of immune system. In fact, the secretion of hormones, managing numerous immune functions, can also be affected by stress.

Studies investigated and concluded that stress mediators like glucocorticoid hormone can adversely affect immune functions as they are capable of passing through the blood-brain barrier, thus affecting processing and cognition abilities long-term. Severe stress can also lead to malignancy.

Cardiovascular System

Cardiovascular diseases and stress are positively correlated. Both acute and chronic stress leads to an increase in heart rate due to constriction of blood vessels, which in turn increases blood pressure. Stress can cause blood clotting disorders, increase in blood lipids, atherogenesis (fat deposition), leading to cardiac arrhythmias and subsequent myocardial infarction.

Gastrointestinal System

Stress is known to reduce appetite, and can adversely affect gastrointestinal (GI) track functions. Studies have shown that stress can lead to GI inflammation. Moreover, it affects the absorption process, ion channel functions (critical for movement of substances across cell membrane), and stomach acid secretion. Stress can cause critical GI diseases such as irritable bowel disease (IBS), Crohn’s disease and other ulcerative diseases.

Are you aware that a nutrient poor diet can also contribute to worsening your stress level? Hundreds of health studies have suggested a strong connection between stress and poor nutrition. Nutrition is a vital stress buster. Switching to a healthier diet is quite a common recommendation from physicians and health experts for better stress management.

Managing stress should be an important part of a healthy lifestyle.  Another efficient way to manage your stress is by introducing stress reducing techniques, or therapies.  

Acupuncture is blessed with body relaxing and calming effects, it enables physiological changes that release endorphins and other calming chemicals. This makes acupuncture a great enabler to relieve stress and anxiety.

Do not let stress disrupt your brain health & body chemistry? After all, we all deserve a stress-free, healthy lifestyle.

 

References:

  1. Yaribeygi H, Panahi Y, Sahraei H, Johnston TP, Sahebkar A. The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI J. 2017;16:1057-1072. Published 2017 Jul 21. doi:10.17179/excli2017-480 
  2. Mayo Clinic Staff. Chronic stress puts your health at risk. Mayo Clinic. 2016 [Online] Available from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress/art-20046037   [Accessed: 9 March 2019]
  3. Harvard Health Publishing. Protect your brain from stress. Harvard Medical School. 2018 [Online] Available from https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/protect-your-brain-from-stress [Accessed: 9 March 2019]
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Infertility can be both emotionally and financial exhausting. Every year, millions of couples face the challenge to overcome their infertility issues. The great news that it is not end of the world for them. Largely, because it can be managed with therapies such as Acupuncture.

Infamous Infertility  

In the UK 1 in 7 couples (14%) will have difficulty conceiving. In the US data released by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), infertility affects about 12% of women belonging to age group of 15-44. Infertility is defined in broad term as inability to conceive for more than 12 months despite having regular unprotected sex.   Often couples turn to expensive medical treatments, costing a huge financial burden. Medical studies suggest that in 35% cases, both male and female contribute to infertility issues. Male factors only contributed to 8% of all cases.

Acupuncture to Boost Fertility

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicinal therapy. It is amazing traditional treatment that has been used to treat and manage hundreds of medical conditions. Acupuncture consists of inserting tiny, thin needles into specific points of a body to stimulate Qi energy and blood flow within targeting specific areas or body systems.

This ancient treatment modality has been known to improve fertility in both women and men. It is complete safe therapy with minimal after effects such as pinpoint bleeding, increased relaxation and sometimes flu-like symptoms. Despite the fact that Acupuncture is seldom used as a primary treatment option to improve fertility, it plays a vital role in maximizing the success of fertility treatments.

The use of acupuncture for infertility management is not a recent phenomenon, but has been used for more than 3000 years. Apart from balancing hormones and relieving stress, this remarkable treatment helps to stimulate blood flow to reproductive organs.

Stress & Infertility

Ovulation disorder is one major reason for infertility in women. It is an established medical fact that the hypothalamus, reproductive and pituitary glands are physiologically interconnected; stress can have adverse physiological effects, thus preventing ovulation entirely by triggering hormonal imbalance. Stress can also cause spasm in the fallopian tubes and the uterus, which in turn can creates issues with implantation of a fertilized egg. Acupuncture helps release endorphins in our brain to control the adverse effects of stress and cortisol. According to several medical research studies, acupuncture helps to balance the endocrine system and increases blood flow to the reproductive organs. Collectively, with reduced stressors and improved hormonal balance and healthier reproductive organs, fertility is improved.

Improved Blood Circulation

Acupuncture not only aims at getting pregnant; rather, it also aims at staying pregnant. It helps to facilitate improved blood flow to the ovaries and uterus. Such improved blood circulation strongly increases the chances for an egg to be well nourished and healthy. It significantly improves its chances to be carried to term.

Strategic acupuncture points stimulated during acupuncture improves the Qi energy flow throughout the body.  It helps to restore physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual balance. This restorative effect considerably increases a couple’s chances to conceive. However, acupuncture will be less effective if infertility is due to tubal blockage or adhesions.

Being hailed as the most popular alternative therapies by world renowned health experts and physicians, Acupuncture continues to be a feasible and reliable ancient therapy to boost fertility.

 

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