Acupuncture provides relief for arthritis

Did you know that acupuncture can help reduce the pain associated with both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis?

Even though these two types of joint pain have different root causes, research shows that acupuncture can be helpful for both.

person holding painful knee

In a 2019 randomized controlled trial, acupuncture was found to reduce pain and improve mobility in osteoarthritis of the knee. They compared acupuncture together with usual care (typically NSAIDs) compared to usual care alone. In other words, adding acupuncture to what you are already doing can help reduce your pain levels even further.

In another systematic review of osteoarthritis of the knee, researchers noted that acupuncture was more effective than western medicine. They also noted that acupuncture had fewer side effects than western medical treatment.

Although a lot of osteoarthritis research has been done specifically on the knee, I also have patients who have found it to be incredibly helpful in managing arthritis pain in other joints as well. For example, arthritis of the hip, vertebrae of the neck or low back, and the hand/fingers.

In another recent study, researchers found that acupuncture had a positive effect on pain relief, physical function and health-related quality of life outcomes in rheumatoid arthritis patients.

How many treatments do you need for arthritis?

A typical course of treatment for arthritis is once a week for 6-8 weeks. Acupuncture is cumulative, meaning its effects increase over time. So the goal is for you to feel a little better for a little longer after each treatment.

After a series of weekly treatments, we would evaluate how you’re feeling and try to space out the treatments. For example, trying to go two weeks between treatments and seeing how you feel. Then, most of my arthritis patients come in for maintenance treatments about once a month.

People often use acupuncture AFTER they have significant pain. But the truth is that it is also very good at PREVENTING pain when you get regular acupuncture treatments. If you know that your pain is worse with cold weather, for example, you may want to come more often before the change of seasons to try to prevent a severe flare-up once the cold weather hits.

Each person responds differently, of course, and this estimate can vary based on your age, how long you’ve been living with arthritis, as well as the severity of your condition. Generally, the longer and more severe, the more treatments are required to manage the pain.

It’s all about reducing your pain as much as possible. I want to help you get back to the activities you really love – like gardening, running around after your grandkids, or whatever you enjoy!

What to do about the Winter blues

Do the holidays and lack of sunlight have you feeling down this time of year? If you answered yes, you’re not alone!

woman feeling down holding holiday lights

I’ve had many patients tell me lately that combined with the chilly weather and gray skies, the recent time change has been really hard to deal with. And for some, the holidays can bring on loneliness, depression and stress.

Maybe you feel mentally and emotionally fatigued, lacking in motivation, just want to sleep and eat, and/or feel down because it’s dark when you commute to/from home and work everyday.

All of this makes sense. Vitamin D, produced in our bodies after exposure to sunlight, plays a role in regulating mood. The reduced sunlight in the Northern hemisphere this time of year really does impact how you feel. It’s not in your head. Seasonal Affect Disorder (SAD) is real.

So what can you do to keep from feeling down?

  1. Get acupuncture! (You knew I was going to say this, right? ) Acupuncture helps regulate mood, balance hormones, and put your body into “rest and digest” mode, so you can really relax and feel a sense of balance & peaceful contentment.
  2. Try a sunlamp. They’re most effective when you set it about 20 inches from your face and use it for 20-30 minutes in the morning. The idea is it mimics natural sunlight (without UV rays, so not the kind of light that gives you a tan). It gives your body the impression you’ve been out in the sun, which helps improve mood when used consistently.
  3. Walk outside even when it’s cloudy. Get outside and get some natural light on your face, even if it’s not bright and sunny out. The combo of exercise and natural light helps improve mood. Even 10 minutes a day makes a difference!
  4. Take a Vitamin D supplement to ensure you’re getting enough. I like vitamins that are made from real food (as opposed to synthetic ingredients), so I typically recommend New Chapter’s Fermented D3. This formula is highly absorbable and contains turmeric and reishi mushrooms (also good for stress). I have these at the clinic or you can order online from several sources. Of course, it’s best to advise your MD when starting any new supplements.
  5. Be gentle with yourself this time of year. In Chinese medicine, the winter is a time to slow down, rest and sleep more, plus eat hearty, warm, nourishing foods. Basically, hibernation! So if you’re sleeping more and eating a bit more, remember that this is a natural part of your body’s rhythm for this time of year. If you don’t feel like doing a huge workout, for example, don’t be too hard on yourself!

Do you use any of these to manage your mood in the winter? I hope you do! Feeling down is no fun.

If you’d like to add acupuncture to help regulate your mood and transition with ease during Daylight Savings Time, you can click here to schedule an appointment.

And during the months of December and January, I offer some special incentives that make it a no brainer to give yourself a little love. Check your email for our December newsletter to get the details. If you haven’t already signed up for our monthly newsletter, sign up at the bottom of this page, or call to learn more about these specials.

Hearty Soups to Boost Your Immune System

Last month we talked about different ways to boost your immune system. This month I focus on the food aspect, particularly how including soups helps boost your immune system.

First, let’s talk a little about the Chinese medicine way of looking at the immune system. “Wei qi” is the immune energy of your body. It is the outer most protective layer that helps to ward off those nasty pathogens. In order for this layer to work as intended, it needs to be warm. Many pathogens come into your body when it’s cold and windy outside, so it makes sense that you should keep yourself warm during the winter months to keep from getting sick. This is also where the “sweat it out” recommendation comes from to get rid of illness at early onset.

a person getting a bowl of hot soup
Photo by furkanfdemir on Pexels.com

Using foods like soups is a great way to warm your body from the inside out. With warm foods and liquids, you are building heat from the inside that will push it’s way out to the wei qi layer. A warmed wei qi layer can push out any pathogens.

Good sources of vitamins and nutrients

Boost your immune system further by giving it certain vitamins and other nutrients. For example, one study showed that chicken soup diminishes inflammation in upper respiratory conditions that often come along with colds and flu.

Bell peppers: Bell peppers are a great source of vitamin C and are a perfect addition for soups and stews. Vitamin C is critical for the immune system.

Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes are a rich source of beta carotene, an antioxidant that is good for vision, eye health, a strong immune system and for healthy skin and mucous membranes. Cooked sweet potatoes are also easy to digest, so they provide a maximum amount of nutrition that your body can easily absorb.

Immune Boosting Chicken Soup

This simple and nourishing Immune Boosting Chicken soup is filled with natural antioxidants. It’s chocked full of carrots, celery, onion, mushrooms, garlic, greens and turmeric. The perfect soup to boost your immune system all winter long! You could also add sweet potatoes if you’d like.

Immune boosting chicken soup with carrots, greens and chicken

Servings: makes 6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 3 large celery stalks chopped
  • 4 large carrots peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup mushrooms sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 8 cups chicken bone broth or chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp. turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • ½ tsp.crushed red pepper if using
  • 3 cups cooked chicken shredded (a rotisserie chicken works great)
  • 2 cups baby spinach or other greens (kale, collards are great options)
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped into bite sized pieces (optional)

Instructions

  • In a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add the olive oil. When it is heated up, add in the onions, celery and carrots. With a wooden spoon, stir to combine. Onions should be translucent at about 3-5 minutes.
  • Add in the turmeric and black pepper. Add in the crushed red pepper, if using.
  • Add in the garlic and mushrooms and stir. You don’t want the garlic to brown. Just combine it with the onion mixture.
  • Add in the chicken broth, sweet potatoes (if using) and bay leaves. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer the broth for about 20 minutes.
  • Stir in the shredded chicken. Add greens during the last 10 – 15 minutes of cooking keeping it on a low and gentle simmer (spinach will wilt quickly, kale may need to cook a bit longer). Keep it on a low simmer. You could simmer for 45 minutes total.
  • Taste soup for flavor. Discard bay leaves. Check seasoning. If needed, season with additional salt and pepper (and add any hot pepper that you like).
  • Ladle into bowls and enjoy!

Boost Your Immune System Now

Did you know that Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine is great for boosting your immune system?

With Covid still hanging around, we need to continue to be vigilant about keeping our immune system in good shape. The after effects of this virus (and others) are no joke! Acupuncture and Chinese herbs before the cold weather hits can make a huge difference toward this goal.

photo of woman in red long sleeve shirt who has a cold or flu
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

A healthy balanced body has a strong and effective immune system. Long term stress, recurring infections, excessive use of medications like antibiotics or chemotherapy, surgical operations or traumatic life events can lower our immune system and compromise how our bodies response to pathogens.

Acupuncture and herbal medicine can strengthen our immune system so it is more resistant to pathogens – this is true preventive medicine. Regular acupuncture treatments, particularly during the late summer and fall, will support and strengthen immunity. Scientific research has determined that acupuncture plays a role in boosting the body’s immune system by enhancing the production of natural killer cells, the primary defense mechanism against organisms that make us sick. It also acts to regulate white blood cells directly linked to the fight against infections, allergic reactions, and even autoimmune disorders.

What to do if you become sick?

If you begin to feel the symptoms of illness, cold or flu coming on, it is important to contact us right away so that we can address it at the very early stages before the illness has taken hold.

Herbal medicines help resolve the illness quickly so it doesn’t become a deeper disease, such as a sinus infection, bronchitis or pneumonia. Many Chinese herbs have anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties and have been shown to reduce the frequency of colds and bacterial infection in the respiratory tract, and regulate the immune system. Chinese herbs also do not typically have side effects such as drowsiness, elevated blood pressure and pulse rate, anxiety or nervousness, difficulty sleeping, and others that are associated with over-the-counter and prescription medications.

Studies have shown that patients receiving acupuncture have elevated immune-enhancing hormones and blood counts for up to three days after treatment. Acupuncture and herbs can:

  • Help you get over a virus faster if you already have it
  • Reduce chills, fever and body aches
  • Relieve sore throat, cough and congestion

Don’t wait until you are sick to benefit from the immune-boosting benefits of acupuncture and herbal medicines. Go on the offensive and begin regular acupuncture visits now as part of your preventative regimen to ward off those winter bugs.

Improve your game with relief from elbow pain

Did you know that acupuncture can help relieve elbow pain? Pain management is one of the things that acupuncture does best, and the elbow is no exception.

fit woman playing tennis on sports court with elbow pain
Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Pain on the outside of the elbow (lateral epicondylitis) is often referred to as tennis elbow, and pain on the inside of the elbow (medial epicondylitis) is often referred to as golfer’s elbow.

This type of pain is often the result of overuse and repetitive motion. Regardless of whether you play either of these sports, you can still find yourself with elbow pain that interferes with your ability to do daily tasks.

If your elbow pain is impacting your ability to:

  • Grip and twist (like taking a cap off a bottle)
  • Lift heavy objects
  • Work out regularly
  • Get dressed or do other activities of daily living (like cook dinner) with ease
  • Swing a golf club, tennis racket, pickleball racket, or a hammer

Then acupuncture may be able to help!

In a 2016 study of tennis elbow, acupuncture was shown to reduce pain and improve muscle strength/function compared to the control group. You can view the research here.

The typical recommendation for pain conditions, including golfer’s or tennis elbow, is one treatment per week for 6-8 weeks. After that, we check in with your pain levels and range of motion, and try to space your treatments out while maintaining your results.

If you’re experiencing pain of any kind, I recommend giving acupuncture a try. It’s a gentle treatment that can get you back to your favorite activities faster!

Ready to try acupuncture for your elbow, arm, or wrist pain? Click here to schedule.

Fall Allergies… Ah Choo!

With all the rain we’ve had lately, you may have noticed mushrooms popping up everywhere and things are getting that slimy algae growing on them. Mold is very high in the air. And right behind that is the ragweed and goldenrod. Ah choo! Fall allergies are here!

The specialized acupuncture treatment that I do called SAAT is unique in that makes use of a needle in the ear that stays in place for 3 weeks. Just in case you were wondering, it’s a tiny needle that’s covered with a bandaid, so it’s not the same needles that I use on other parts of the body.

Most times this is a single treatment, but sometimes we need to do a couple to address all of the things you are allergic to. This technique helps tremendously with all allergies including these fall environmental allergies. We might also recommend teas, herbal formulas or homeopathic remedies to help calm the histamine and allergic reactions.

I highly recommend addressing these allergies before things get really cranked up so you can head off any sinus issues or infections. Allergies are one of the most common things that keep kids home from school or keep adults from work. Give us a call soon or go online to schedule your appointment.

No question is stupid, but some are pretty funny

Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine seems weird to a lot of people. I know that. I spent 35+ years in the Information Technology world, so I think logically and question everything. It was weird to me even as I sat in Acupuncture School for 4 years. So it probably doesn’t surprise you that I get a lot of interesting questions. I’ll try to answer some of my favorite and most common questions below.

Does Acupuncture work even if I don’t “believe” in it. I am Christian.

Nothing about an acupuncture treatment will change whether you are Christian or any other religion. This is a medicine rooted in thousands of years of history and has been scientifically proven over and over again. It is not based on any religion and it works on animals, so no you don’t have to “believe”. I would never try to push any religion or set of beliefs on anyone, and I typically don’t discuss religion or politics in my clinic, so please feel free to skip them too.

My friend calls her acupuncturist The Voodoo Lady. Does this bother you?

Nope, I’ve been called worse! I know she’s just kidding. We don’t do spells or potions, and while I do stick needles in people and use herbal medicines, it’s far from voodoo (see above – well researched, proven). I know this stuff can seem weird, so I get all the jokes. I’ll just laugh along with you and may even beat you to the punch line!

How do you clean the needles?

We don’t. Acupuncturists are required to follow “Clean Needle Technique” standards, which means we must use sterile, single-use needles. Before HIV, needles were “cleaned” in an autoclave, but nobody bothers with that any longer. We just put them in the sharps container and dispose of them. No way am I cleaning them! Your safety and health are my priority.

How long did you have to go to school to learn this?

There is a misconception that acupuncturists are trained similar to massage therapists with about a year of training. In reality, we’re trained a lot like doctors. We must have an undergraduate degree and then complete a three-to-four year master’s degree, which includes class and clinical training … something like 3,000 hours. That’s just to get our degrees. Then there is taking board exams to become licensed like most other medical professionals. We also are required to take continued training each year to keep our license current.

As acupuncture gains recognition and acceptance, many use it as primary health care and we are often people’s first stop for any issue. We are trained in western diagnosis as well as the Chinese Medicine side so that we know how to handle the variety of issues we see, and so that we know when to refer out to other health care professionals.

Can you believe that it was my doctor that suggested I try acupuncture?

Yes, I sure can believe that. Please refer to the question above about the medicine being very old, heavily researched, and proven. Western medical doctors are becoming more open to it as they review the research. I get referrals from neurologists, chiropractors, fertility specialists and everything in between. And some are even my patients!

Do I have to take my clothes off when I come for treatments?

Not usually. The most used acupuncture points are on the legs and arms, so I just need to have access to those areas (no skinny jeans please!). If you are having shoulder issues, I’ll need to access your shoulders, so women wear a tank top and men can remove their shirt. If I need to get to your stomach or low back just untuck your shirt… No disrobing required. Now if you come in a jumpsuit with skinny legs and long sleeves…. well I have a gown you can wear.

As they say…

There are no stupid questions, and I’m not offended if you ask. If you’re thinking it, somebody else probably is too. Ask whatever questions you want so you feel comfortable using acupuncture to help what ails you. And when it works for you, be sure to tell your friends that acupuncture is not voodoo, and you don’t have to believe in it. Just let them know it worked for you and it might work for them too.

Relief for Your Headache

Did you know acupuncture helps with headaches, including migraines?

If you struggle with migraines, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that 1.25 billion (!) people experience migraines each year.

Just a quick email today to share some research on this topic.

woman in blue long sleeve shirt
Photo by Mikael Blomkvist on Pexels.com

In a 2020 study, researchers found that acupuncture was more effective than usual care in preventing migraines. In most cases, “usual care” is taking preventative migraine medication daily or with the onset of a migraine.

Another recent study in the Journal of Pain Research and Management concluded that, “based on high quality of evidence,” acupuncture is “an effective and safe therapy for migraine.”

You may be wondering how many treatments are needed.

As with acupuncture for most symptoms and conditions, the results are cumulative. This means multiple treatments are needed over time for the best, longest-lasting effect. I recommend one treatment per week for 6-8 weeks. Depending on how you’re feeling after that, we might begin spacing the treatments out with the goal of maintenance treatments every 4 weeks.

For chronic migraines I find that monthly maintenance treatments are very useful for preventing migraines. It always depends on how long you’ve been experiencing symptoms, and how severe the symptoms are.

If you’re ready to get some relief and try acupuncture for your migraines, give us a call to schedule. Existing patients can schedule online here.

As always, feel free to call or email with your questions. I’m very happy to help.

Say Good-bye to Shoulder Pain

I see lots of folks that are in pain. In fact, acupuncture is probably most well know for it’s ability to treat pain of all kinds. Shoulder pain is one type of pain I treat frequently with good results. This can include pain from injury, frozen shoulder, or arthritis. Sometimes it can be muscle tension – do you hold stress there?

Recently I came across some pretty impressive research about acupuncture and shoulder pain and I wanted to share it with you.

This 2016 study was published in the research journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine. It was a randomized, controlled, and double-blind trial. In other words, one of the highest quality research studies you can carry out.

After four weeks of acupuncture (one treatment per week), the researchers concluded that acupuncture significantly reduced the shoulder pain and improved shoulder mobility of participants.

They added that, “The decrease of pain intensity in the acupuncture group was almost twice the value of the decrease in pain experienced by the control group.” You can take a look at the research here.

How does it help? Acupuncture works by releasing the natural chemical compounds in the body that relieve pain, promote relaxation and reduce inflammation. It also overrides pain signals and allows energy and blood to flow freely through the area.

Pretty exciting, right? If you’re struggling with shoulder pain and/or limited range of motion of the shoulder, I definitely encourage you to give acupuncture a try! Once or twice weekly visits for 4-6 weeks will get you on the road to feeling great again.

As always, feel free to call or email us with questions or to schedule your appointment.