If You Suffer From Acid Reflux, You’re Not Alone

Woman has reflux acids at park

If you suffer from acid reflux, you’re not alone. An estimated 50 million Americans struggle with this condition, and about half of those people report having symptoms on a daily basis. Acid reflux is also known as heartburn, gastro esophageal reflux disease, or GERD.

Many people believe that their acid reflux is the result of having too much stomach acid, which is actually not the case. The culprit is the loosening of a ring of muscle at the base of your esophagus, called the lower esophageal sphincter. A healthy esophageal muscle keeps food and stomach acid where they belong—in your stomach. However, when the sphincter becomes lax, stomach acid and sometimes undigested food seeps upward into your esophagus, causing discomfort, a burning sensation, pressure in your chest, regurgitation, and a lump in your throat.

Acid reflux is more than just uncomfortable symptoms. Chronic exposure to stomach acid changes the tissue of your lower esophagus, a condition called Barrett’s Esophagus. About ten percent of people with GERD, or acid reflux, develop Barrett’s Esophagus, which is associated with an increased risk for esophageal cancer.

Typical Western medical treatments depend on the frequency and severity of your symptoms. For infrequent bouts of reflux, over the counter antacids may be enough to keep your symptoms under control. If your symptoms occur more often than occasionally, your doctor may prescribe an H2 blocker, which decreases the amount of acid that your stomach makes. If your symptoms are severe or occur daily, you may be prescribed a medication called a proton pump inhibitor (PPI), which blocks stomach acid where it’s produced by the cells in the lining of your stomach.

The downside of blocking stomach acid is that it affects your digestion. PPI’s slow the emptying of food out of your stomach. In addition, stomach acid acts as a natural barrier to harmful bacteria, so when the production of acid is suppressed, bacteria may proliferate, raising your risk of developing pneumonia and an intestinal infection called c. difficile. Scientists have also discovered that long-term use of PPIs may be tied to thinning bones, a condition called osteoporosis.

For people with acid reflux or GERD, acupuncture and Chinese medicine can offer a drug-free way to treat this condition. Researchers studying the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating acid reflux found that subjects who were treated with acupuncture reported a significant reduction in symptoms; a reduction similar or better than subjects who were treated with medications.

In Chinese medicine, there are a number of underlying causes of GERD or acid reflux. For example, chronic stress, slow stomach emptying, improper diet, or something called Stomach Heat (similar to inflammation) may be at the source of your symptoms. In order to best treat you, your practitioner must first determine the cause of your imbalance, and then develop a treatment plan best suited to your specific needs.

A first line of treatment usually includes acupuncture to support your digestion, decrease inflammation, and help to relieve your stress. Your practitioner may also prescribe an herbal formula to support and extend your acupuncture treatments at home. Furthermore, your practitioner would likely include Chinese food therapy into your treatment plan, in which the best foods for your overall health and digestion would be recommended, along with guidelines for foods to avoid. Simply put, if you suffer from acid reflux or GERD, acupuncture and Chinese medicine have a number of healing tools to help you become symptom free.

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Good Advice For Tendonitis Involves Patience And Participation

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What do playing tennis, golf, running, shoveling, painting, raking, and throwing all have in common? Yes, they’re all physical activities. However, there’s more; when done too much or with poor form, these are all activities that could trigger tendinitis.

You may have heard of tendinitis (also spelled tendonitis), and have some vague notion that it’s painful and takes a long time to heal. Your tendons are tough bands of connective tissue that attach your muscles to bones. Your tendons are thick and fibrous, and made to withstand heavy loads. Ligaments are very similar to tendons in structure, except that ligaments connect bones to other bones.

Tendinitis occurs when a tendon has become inflamed from trauma, overuse or repetitive stress. Over time, if the tendon continues to be aggravated, the fibers may degenerate and become distorted and develop micro tears. This condition is called tendinosis, and tends to be more chronic and involve less inflammation than tendinitis.

Tendinitis occurs most commonly at the base of your thumb, elbow, shoulder, knee, hip, and Achilles tendon. Tendinitis can be a frustrating condition because it can take up to six months or more to heal. It may take up to a year or more if your tendinitis progresses to chronic tendinosis, and even longer if scar tissue develops as the result micro tears.

Standard treatment for tendinitis are to rest the affected tendon, ice, the use of NSAIDs for pain and inflammation, and physical therapy. For severe pain or chronic cases that aren’t healing, your doctor may recommend steroid injections into the tendon to decrease inflammation. However, if your tendinitis has progressed into chronic tendinosis, steroid injections may not be recommended, as the tendon fibers are damaged, but not necessarily inflamed. In that case, injecting steroids may only serve to aggravate and further damage the already injured tendon.

Because tendinitis is slow to heal despite the best of care, many people turn to acupuncture for help. Research on the effectiveness of acupuncture for specific tendon problems is promising, and scientists have found that acupuncture or acupuncture plus electrical stimulation is more helpful than just rest alone.

There are a number of ways to explain why acupuncture is a valuable treatment for tendonitis problems. Acupuncture helps relieve the pain associated with tendinitis by releasing the chemical adenosine, which suppresses the transmission of pain signals traveling to your brain. In addition, acupuncture affects your brain chemistry to boost the circulation of specific neurotransmitters that act as your body’s own opioid system. Acupuncture reduces inflammation in the area of injury, where the needles have been placed, by increasing the circulation of white blood cells that help to clear away inflammation, and by increasing circulation overall.

In addition, your tendons are connective tissue made of collagen. When acupuncture needles are placed in or near the tendons, it creates tiny wounds, which as they heal, promote an increase in collagen and elastin; the very building blocks of your injured tendon.

Good advice for tendon problems involves patience and participation. Patience comes from understanding that it often takes months for tendinitis or tendinosis to heal completely. Participation means taking care of your injured tendon by resting it, avoiding aggravating activities, and seeking out appropriate treatments, including acupuncture.

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Lack Of Sleep Can Lead To Various Health Problems

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Causes Of Insomnia

If you don’t get enough sleep, you’re not alone. More than one third of American adults get less than the seven hours of sleep recommended to maintain overall health and well-being. While insomnia is a primary reason that many people don’t get enough sleep, there are a number of other factors that can keep you from getting a full night of peaceful slumber. Among them are shift work, caffeine or alcohol intake, jet lag, stress, pain conditions, medication side effects, and pets.

Chronic lack of sleep can raise your risk for a wide variety of health problems. People who short change their sleep are at greater risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes. In addition about 90 percent of people who don’t sleep enough also have one or more other health problems. Sleeplessness can aggravate depression, decrease your sex drive, and affect the hormones that regulate hunger and appetite, making you more prone to weight gain.

While you sleep, your body is rejuvenating itself, and so is your mind. Your brain consolidates memories while you’re sleeping, so a lack of sleep can affect your memory. This may translate into poor attention span, lack of concentration, and decreased alertness. As a result, people who are sleepy are at an increased risk for accidents. On the job, workers who don’t get enough sleep are 70 percent more likely to be involved in accidents than their well-rested counterparts. And lack of sleep was a factor in some of the world’s largest industrial accidents, including the Exxon Valdez oil spill and nuclear reactor meltdowns at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island.

While there are a number of causes of sleeplessness, insomnia can be the most frustrating. You may put in the hours in bed, but still not get the sleep you need. And not all insomnia is created equal; you may struggle to fall asleep, stay asleep, wake in the early hours long before your alarm goes off, or not get to sleep all night long.

Acupuncture For Insomnia

While many people take prescription medications to help them get a good night’s sleep, some balk at habitually having to take something to sleep every night. For that reason, many sleepy people have turned to acupuncture for help, and for a good reason. In a review of 46 studies on treating insomnia with acupuncture, researchers found that acupuncture was more effective that medications in increasing sleep duration.

There are a number of reasons that acupuncture can help you get a good night’s sleep. It stimulates the hormone melatonin, which is responsible for the surge of sleepiness that you get before bedtime. Acupuncture also increases the circulation of endorphins in your brain, which help to decrease anxiety, relieve stress, and help balance your mood. As a result, acupuncture is relaxing, helps to stimulate the onset of sleep, reduces episodes of sleep disruptions, and can relieve pain conditions that may be waking you at night.

If you struggle with sleep and decide to go the acupuncture route, your practitioner will take into account your sleep issues and health history, and then develop a treatment plan specific to your unique needs. In addition to acupuncture, they may incorporate an herbal prescription, dietary recommendations, or lifestyle modifications for the best results.

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Postpartum Depression Is Very Real, Don’t Wait To Reach Out For Help

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What Is Postpartum Depression?

The arrival of a new baby brings with it a number of changes. During the first few months after the birth, it’s common for new mothers to experience a low-grade feeling of sadness or letdown, called the Baby Blues. However for some women, the feeling of sadness is deeper and more serious, and is known as a mood disorder, called postpartum depression.

About one in seven women experience postpartum depression. The symptoms may begin as feelings of sadness, worry, anxiety, and insomnia, coupled with and aggravated by fatigue. Over time and if unacknowledged and untreated, those symptoms may become worse, and appear as anger, frequent crying, appetite changes, physical achiness, social withdrawal, and even thoughts of self-harm.

The cause of postpartum depression is a combination of factors, but hormonal changes are in the forefront. During pregnancy, higher levels of estrogen and progesterone account for feelings of well-being and what some describe as a pregnancy glow. After childbirth, however, your body is rebalancing its hormonal levels, which may translate into a sudden drop that can flatten your mood. This can be especially disappointing during a time when the expectation is that you’ll be soaking in the happiness of your new baby.

Hormonal changes are compounded by the exhausting reality of caring for your new baby. Lack of sleep, the physical demands of nursing, and non-stop diaper changes and midnight feedings are a further drain on your body that has previously been sapped by pregnancy, labor, and delivery.

How Can Postpartum Depression Be Treated?

In Chinese medicine, the source of postpartum depression is most frequently due to a condition aptly called a depletion. In most cases, energy (or Qi) and blood are deficient. Your energy is low from months of being pregnant and nourishing your baby in utero, labor and delivery, and the exhausting care of a newborn. Blood depletion, while not considered to be anemia, means that the nourishing quality of your blood is low from blood loss during childbirth—whether it’s through labor and delivery or surgery.

Many new mothers struggling with postpartum depression have found that acupuncture is an effective treatment option for them, and research is bearing this out. In a 2018 analysis of studies on treating postpartum depression with acupuncture, researchers found that women treated with acupuncture showed significant decreases in depression than women who had no acupuncture. Scientists have also found that in the brain, acupuncture increases the circulation of feel-good neurotransmitters and helps to regulate hormone levels.

Beyond acupuncture, your practitioner of Chinese medicine may also incorporate dietary therapy and in some cases, an herbal formula to help rebuild depleted stores of Qi and Blood. A multi-pronged approach is helpful because while you may begin to feel better quickly, it can take several months to restore your body to complete health. Acupuncture plus Chinese medicine’s other healing tools can offer a gentle, safe, and effective treatment option.

Whether you choose acupuncture or traditional medical treatment, the bottom line is that postpartum depression is very real and has physical underpinnings. It’s not all in your head, nor does it mean that you’re not up to handling motherhood. If you’re struggling with postpartum depression, it’s important to reach out for help. Often, it doesn’t take much to begin to feel better. 

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The Reason Why More People Are Turning To Acupuncture For Shoulder Pain Relief

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Shoulder pain can affect your lifestyle in ways you’ve never thought about. You may not realize how much you use your shoulders in everyday activities such as dressing, eating, and brushing your hair until you have a shoulder issue that makes it almost impossible to do these things without pain. Sadly, shoulder problems are on the rise, with an estimated 40 to 60 percent of adults experiencing conditions at some point in their lives, such as frozen shoulder, rotator cuff problems, impingement, and chronic pain or tightness of this joint.

Why Is Shoulder Pain So Common?

There are a number of reasons that shoulder problems plague so many people. The structure of your shoulder causes it to be vulnerable to issues. It’s a ball and socket joint, like your hip, and the most mobile joint in your body. Unlike your hip, however, the socket of your shoulder is shallow, so it depends on the surrounding muscles, tendons, and ligaments to hold the bones together and stabilize the joint.

Another reason that shoulder conditions are on the rise is that over the past several decades, technology has caused our posture to change. The overwhelming majority of us spend hours each day hunched over computers, looking down at cell phones, or carrying a backpack with shoulders pulled forward. Being stooped over much of the time causes your shoulders to roll forward, shortening the muscles in your chest and putting a strain on the muscles at the back of your shoulders, especially those of your rotator cuff.

Your rotator cuff is one of the most common sources of shoulder pain. It is actually a group of four muscles that are crucial to the stabilization and movement of your shoulder. Through poor posture, injury, or overuse these muscles can become pulled, torn, become inflamed or impinged, that cause pain and loss of function. Additionally, chronically tight shoulder and neck muscles, injuries, and overuse can also cause shoulder disorders.

There Is A Natural Treatment

Western treatments for shoulder problems may include physical therapy, pain medications, anti-inflammatory medications, and surgery. However, more and more people are turning to acupuncture to treat their shoulder pain, and for a good reason. A number of research studies have concluded that acupuncture can be effective in reducing pain and improving range of motion in patients with shoulder complaints.

Acupuncture helps to relieve pain because it increases the release of opioid-like chemicals in your brain as well as blocking the pain signals along your nerve pathways. In addition, acupuncture increases circulation to the area being treated, decreases inflammation significantly, helps to loosen muscles and increase range of motion, and supports the healing process.

If you choose acupuncture to treat your shoulder pain, your practitioner will determine the best course of treatment for you, based on the history of your condition and your overall health. For best results, their plan for you may include adding electric stimulation to your acupuncture treatments, using heat therapy, prescribing an herbal formula, suggesting dietary modifications, or incorporating bodywork into your sessions. The ultimate goal of your treatment plan is to relieve your pain, increase range of motion, support the healing process, and restore function.

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People Who Are Struggling With Anxiety Have Been Turning To Acupuncture For Treatment

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What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is a part of our built-in survival mechanism. It’s appropriate to feel a certain amount of anxiousness when you’re driving in a snowstorm or giving a speech to a large group. However, if you’re anxious for no apparent reason, find anxiety is taking over your life, or experiencing panic attacks, your anxiety has gone from appropriate to being a problem.

If you’re struggling with anxiety, you’re not alone. Up to 30 percent of people worldwide suffer from anxiety. Symptoms may include a racing heart, shortness of breath, chest tightness, feeling lightheaded, numbness and tingling in your extremities, and a general feeling of fear. Extreme anxiety may trigger a panic attack, with the above symptoms, plus an overwhelming fear that you may be having a heart attack or dying right now. Panic attacks often seem to come out of nowhere, and are so frightening that most sufferers worry about having another.

Anxiety can be caused by traumatic events, overwhelming stress, or constant worry. In addition, physical factors, such as a hormonal imbalance, heart problems, or the side effects of certain medications may also trigger anxiety. Some experts speculate that anxiety may be genetic, as it tends to run in families.

Treatments For Anxiety

Standard medical treatment for anxiety includes talk therapy and the use of medications. Some doctors support self-treatment in the form of meditation, relaxation techniques, developing a support network, thought-stopping exercises, and physical activity.

A large number of people who are struggling with anxiety have turned to acupuncture for treatment. There is a great deal of research to support their decision. In a 2017 review of thirteen clinical and scientific studies, researchers determined that acupuncture was an effective treatment for anxiety; similar in effectiveness to talk therapy. This review included three studies in which subjects reported more improvement in their symptoms than control subjects who received medications for their anxiety.

From a Chinese perspective, anxiety may be diagnosed as an imbalance of the Heart, Kidney, or Spleen organ systems. Your Chinese Heart houses something called the Shen, which encompasses your consciousness, feelings, memory, and spirit. Disturbances of the Shen can result in anxiety. The emotional make-up of your Kidney system is deep-seated fear, and your Spleen is associated with worry—either of which can be an underlying cause of anxiety.

There are, however, very real and measurable physiological changes that occur as the result of acupuncture; changes that can account for acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating anxiety. Scientists have found that acupuncture increases the circulation of endorphins, which are feel-good neurotransmitters that improve your mood, regulate the stress response, lower blood pressure, enhance digestion, and decrease pain. In addition, acupuncture helps slow down your brain’s release of stress neurochemicals, and helps to balance the interplay of the stress hormones of cortisol, adrenalin, and insulin.

If you choose to treat your anxiety with acupuncture, your practitioner may combine their treatments with Chinese herbs, lifestyle changes, and something called auricular (or ear) acupuncture. Originally developed to treat addictions, auricular acupuncture has been found to be so effective in treating anxiety and mental health conditions that the Veterans Administration is using acupuncture for veterans who are suffering from post-traumatic stress (PTSD).

The bottom line is that when it comes to treating anxiety, acupuncture can be an effective option. Your practitioner has a number of healing tools and strategies, and can individualize your treatment plan for the best results.

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Could Acupuncture be the Answer for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

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Whenever I see a bank teller or cashier wearing a wrist brace, my first thought is that they’re suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome. The nature of their work is repetitious and can be hard on their wrists and hands, and carpal tunnel syndrome is a common result.

What Is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome?

Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a condition in which your median nerve becomes entrapped. This nerve runs throughout your arm, but near your wrist, it runs through what’s called the carpal tunnel, which is a narrow passageway at the base of your hand and wrist. When the tendons, ligaments, or tissue becomes irritated and swollen, the nerve becomes squeezed, causing symptoms not only in your wrist, but also in your hand.

The most common symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome are numbness and tingling in the palm of your affected hand, which may extend to the thumb, index, and middle finger. People with CTS also describe burning, itching, pain, weakness, and in severe cases inability to use the affected hand and fingers. As with most nerve-related conditions, the symptoms tend to be worse during the night. In fact, many people with CTS describe early symptoms as a sensation of pins and needles or numbness that wake them up at night.

While carpal tunnel syndrome can be caused by a trauma, such as a broken bone or sprained wrist, the most common cause of this condition is performing repetitive motions. Twisting and turning your hand, working at a cash register or computer, or the use of hand tools are common culprits. However, being pregnant, having diabetes, an underactive thyroid, an overactive pituitary, or rheumatoid arthritis can also raise your risk for CTS.

How Can It Be Treated?

Traditional treatments for CTS include splinting the wrist (especially at night), avoiding overuse activities, physical therapy, Vitamin B6 supplementation, and over-the-counter or prescription medications for pain and inflammation. In some cases surgery is an option, in which the carpal tunnel is opened up to make more space for the nerve.

Acupuncture can also be an appropriate treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome. In a 2017 study reported by the NIH (National Institutes of Health), researchers found that acupuncture produced measurable improvements in symptoms that the patients were experiencing. The results showed that acupuncture treatments exerted effects both locally, as well as in the pain center of the brain.

In Chinese medicine, carpal tunnel syndrome is diagnosed as something called a Bi (pronounced Bee) syndrome, which means that there’s some kind of obstruction in the affected joint. This simply means that the circulation of blood and the transmission of nerve impulses are blocked. An acupuncturist would further diagnose your CTS by the state of your overall health and the characteristics of your symptoms. For example, you may have more pain than numbness, your symptoms may be aggravated by changes in the weather, or they may come and go. Your CTS may feel better with the application of heat, pressure, ice, or being elevated. All of these are clues as to how to best treat your particular presentation of CTS.

In Chinese medicine, acupuncture is the first line of treatment for carpal tunnel syndrome. Your practitioner may use electro-acupuncture, which provides a painless electrical current to the needles to enhance effectiveness. They may also prescribe an herbal formula, perform massage-like Tui Na, or recommend some at home rest or exercises as a part of your treatment plan. Their strategy for your treatment and the healing tools that they use will depend on the nature of your symptoms and your overall health.

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