Alternative Medicine

Acupuncture and Irritable Bowel Syndrome

by Mary Vincent, L.Ac.

Many people have been turning to acupuncture for chronic digestive issues, with especially good outcomes for those with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS is a common, chronic condition that affects the large intestine, causing uncomfortable symptoms which include:

Constipation and/or diarrhea (can alternate between both)
Bloating and gas
Abdominal pain and cramping

 

A diagnosis of IBS is given based on the presence of the above symptoms, but without bloody stools, weight loss, or inflammation so severe that it causes discernible changes in the tissue of the large intestine. If you present with the above symptoms, your doctor may run tests to rule out other diseases (e.g., stool sampling tests, blood tests, and x-rays). If something more serious is suspected, you may also undergo a sigmoidoscopy or colonoscopy. Contrary to more serious gastrointestinal disorders, there is no increased risk of colon cancer with IBS. While the symptoms that do exist can be ongoing, they are rarely severe, though they can cause enough physical discomfort or embarrassment to interrupt one’s regular daily activities. Currently, there is no known cause of IBS, though there has been some speculation that it may be caused by incorrect signals to the bowel from the brain. It is recognized that it is common to have an IBS flare up after stressful life events or a gastrointestinal illness, and it is more common among those who suffer from anxiety or depression.

IBS typically affects people younger than 45, and is about twice as common in women as in men.

How does acupuncture help?

A great number of acupuncture points exist on areas of the body that correspond with many large nerve branches of the peripheral nervous system (the part of the nervous system that [...]

Hypertension

by Mary Vincent, L.Ac.
Hypertension (high blood pressure) is one of the most common disorders seen today. The harder the heart has to work to pump blood through the arteries, especially if those arteries are clogged or narrowed, the higher your blood pressure will be. This can ultimately damage the heart.
The blood pressure is read by two specific measurements, the systolic pressure (greatest force of blood during contractions when the heart beats) and diastolic pressure (the least force occurring when the heart relaxes between beats). A normal, healthy blood pressure reading at rest would be between 100-140 mmHg for systolic pressure and 60-90 mmHg for diastolic pressure. In other words, healthy blood pressure is anywhere from 100/60 mmHg to 140/90 mmHg.
There are two types of hypertension:
Primary hypertension (also called essential hypertension):
This is the most common type of hypertension, accounting for 90-95% of cases. There is often no known cause found in the individual, and it tends to develop slowly over many years. Primary hypertension goes easily undetected, as individuals typically display no symptoms, even while damage is occurring to their heart and vessels (including vessels of the eyes, brain, and kidneys). Often referred to as the “silent killer,” it is important to check your blood pressure regularly (every year or two for those with past healthy readings, and more often if you tend to border on the high end of a normal reading). Risk factors that make a person more likely to develop hypertension include:
▪ Age: The arteries tend to harden as we age
▪ Genetics: Men, African Americans, and those with a family history of hypertension are at greater risk.
▪ High stress levels
▪ Obesity: Excess weight means excess blood volume to [...]

ME and Chronic Fatigue

by Nicole Murray, L.Ac.

You know that feeling when you’re getting sick with the flu? Remember feeling exhausted, achy, chilled and feverish, and being unable to concentrate? And how you just sleep and sleep but still feel severely tired when you wake up?
For people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (more accurately called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or ME), this is a fair description of their daily life for months, years, or even decades. People with ME suffer debilitating, severe tiredness that is not relieved by rest, for a minimum of six months.
The 2012 ICC Physician’s Primer calls ME a “severe, complex neurological disease that affects all body systems. ME is more debilitating than most diseases.” Researchers are looking at a variety of causes. One theory is that viral infection is responsible-symptoms often occur after a flu-type infection. Another is that there is inflammation in the nervous system, due to a faulty immune system response.

Signs and symptoms include:
* Severe fatigue that comes on suddenly, especially after the flu
* Low grade fever and chills
* Sore throat and swollen lymph glands in the neck or armpits
* Muscle and joint aches, without any swelling
* Muscle Weakness
* Irritability
* Headaches
* Sleep that doesn’t feel refreshing
* Not being able to concentrate or remember
* Mood changes
Diagnosis is made by:
* Absence of other causes of chronic fatigue (such as drug dependence, infections, endocrine diseases, problems in a major organ, or psychiatric illnesses)
* At least four ME-specific symptoms
* Extreme, long-term fatigue
Several factors can increase risk of ME. Stress plays a role, as is the case with most chronic diseases. Age is relevant, as ME most commonly affects people in their 40s [...]

We Made the Paper!

 

We are happy to have been featured in last week’s Peninsula Beacon as the only neighborhood clinic offering community acupuncture.

They quoted us as saying, “Since we opened in 2009, we’ve been offering $20 acupuncture treatments for everyone, every day, for five years — a total of 45,000 treatments.” Pretty great! Thank you, Beacon, for reporting on low cost alternative health care!

Read on…

Acupuncture for Chemotherapy Side Effects

By Mary Vincent, L.Ac.
One of the most studied aspects of acupuncture is its ability to decrease the severity of many of the side effects of chemotherapy. There are many different types of chemotherapy medications, and a wide range of short and long term effects, some which can become severe enough to be debilitating and dramatically decrease the patient’s quality of life. It’s become quite common these days for oncologists to recommend acupuncture as an adjunct therapy in helping patients control the side effects of their cancer treatments. Many hospitals now have Integrative Medicine centers that make acupuncture easily available to their patients (many service both inpatients and outpatients), and we see a number of people here at BCA who have been directly referred by their oncologists. The most common side effects we help treat include:

Nausea and vomiting

Diarrhea or constipation

Joint pain or and/or general body achiness

Anxiety

Extreme fatigue–can often last long past chemotherapy treatments ends

Peripheral neuropathy–numbness, weakness, and/or pain, typically in the hands and feet, can also last long after chemotherapy ends

Low Blood Counts-while we do provide treatments to help support immune function and keep blood counts up, we do not advise coming for treatment if your ANC is less than 500. If your ANC is over 500, but still your counts are still very low, we would recommend a mask (and have them available at the clinic should you need one).

Of all the side effects listed above the most common is nausea and vomiting, and therefore is the one most often studied in relation to acupuncture by western medicine. There have been multiple studies over the past 20 years, and the results consistently show a positive effect from acupuncture and it’s ability to decrease [...]

Migraines

By Nicole Murray, L.Ac.
Migraines are intense pounding headaches that can last from hours to several days. About 12% of the US population suffers from these debilitating attacks. The pain is often on one side of the head, and there may be extreme sensitivity to light, movement and sound. In some cases, people may also suffer nausea and vomiting. This is a neurological disease, and ranked among the world’s top 20 disabling diseases.
Researchers don’t fully understand the cause of migraines, but are studying the theory that drops in serotonin levels during attacks may affect the pain response in the brain. The Mayo Clinic reports that up to 90% of people with migraines have a family history of these headaches. Women are three times more likely than men to suffer migraines.
There are numerous triggers for migraines, including:

Food and drink, e.g., caffeinated beverages, alcohol, chocolate, and MSG.

Dehydration or skipping meals.

Hormone fluctuations.

Stress.

Anxiety

Lack of Sleep

Loud sounds, bright lights, and strong odors.

Medications

Illness/infections.

‘Classic’ migraines come with a warning sign or “aura,” such as flashing lights, colors,  partial vision loss, or muscle weakness. “Common’ migraines are not preceded by auras.
Migraine symptoms include:

Intense throbbing or dull aching pain on one side of your head or both sides

Pain that worsens with physical activity

Nausea or vomiting

Changes in how you see, including blurred vision or blind spots

Being bothered by light, noise or odors

Feeling tired and/or confused

Stopped-up nose

Feeling cold or sweaty

Stiff or tender neck

Lightheadedness

Tender scalp

Conventional Treatment
Doctors typically prescribe medication to prevent the attacks and/or to relieve symptoms. Acupuncture and other stress management strategies such as exercise, relaxation techniques, and biofeedback may reduce the number and severity of migraine attacks. For overweight patients, weight loss may be helpful.
Acupuncture
We treat migraines frequently [...]

Infertility and Acupuncture

By Mary Vincent, L.Ac.
    Infertility is the inability to conceive a child or to carry a pregnancy to full term. The time frame when a couple is considered infertile varies based on where you live in the world. In general, and according to the World Health Organization, a couple is assumed to be infertile if, after two years of regular, contraceptive-free intercourse, the woman has not become pregnant. Primary infertility refers to a couple who has never been able to have a child, while secondary infertility refers to a couple who has not been able to conceive following a prior pregnancy. Subfertility is a term that often overlaps with secondary infertility, meaning the couple does have a chance at conceiving, but the odds are much lower than average (often due to things such as low sperm count, ovarian or uterine issues, hormonal imbalances, etc.).
    Here in the US, the guidelines in defining when a couple is considered infertile takes into account the option for specialized fertility treatments that may increase their odds at conceiving. In the US a couple is considered infertile if:

The woman is under 35 and the couple has not conceived after 12 months of regular intercourse without contraceptives

The woman is over 35 and the couple has not conceived after 6 months of regular intercourse without contraceptives

    We see many people at BCA for infertility. A great number of these people come on the referral of their OB/GYN or fertility specialist. Some are using acupuncture as their only source of treatment, and some are combining with western fertility treatments. We are happy to support you in whatever methods you are choosing. Acupuncture has been shown to be successful at complementing [...]

Treating Back Pain with Acupuncture

By Nicole Murray, L.Ac.
About Back Pain
Back pain is one of the most common reasons people seek medical treatment. Eight out of 10 people have experienced some form of back pain in their lives according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. In a given three month period, 25% of adults in the US will experience back pain. We definitely see this here at Beach Community Acupuncture, where we treat back pain in some form at least 5-10 times every day.
Symptoms vary, depending upon the underlying cause. Pain may be dull or achy, sharp, burning or stabbing. There may be associated pain, weakness, tingling or numbness in the hips, legs or feet. Likewise, the pain may be mild- more an annoying sensation than anything- or it may be so severe that the person is unable to stand up, sit down, or make any movement without excruciating pain.
Back pain may be acute or chronic, and is treated differently depending upon the cause.
Acute back pain comes on suddenly, and is more quick to respond to treatment. On its own, acute back pain usually resolves in several days to a few weeks. This pain may be the result of trauma (e.g., a car accident, or a fall during sports). We commonly see sprains (overstretched ligaments in the back) and strains (torn muscles caused by a sudden force).
Chronic back pain persists longer than 3 months and may be due to arthritis or long-term wear and tear on the spine. Other possible causes include:

A herniated disc, which can push against the spinal nerves, often causing radiating pain (aka radiculopathy-sciatica is a good example of this);

Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the space [...]

Acupuncture for PMS

By Mary Vincent, L.Ac.
    Most women experience at least some form of PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) at some point in their lives. It is estimated that 3 out of 4 women experience symptoms of PMS with each menstrual cycle. This means that the majority of women are all too familiar with a variety of uncomfortable physical and emotional symptoms occurring before every single menstrual cycle we have. The symptoms of PMS typically take place in a predictable fashion, presenting at about the same time (7-10 days) before each menstrual cycle, and then disappearing with the onset of or shortly thereafter the onset of menstruation. Signs and symptoms can vary from month to month in intensity, and typically include a handful of the following emotional or physical presentations:

Mood swings (especially irritability and/or anger)
Depression and/or increased bouts of crying
Anxiety
Insomnia
Increased appetite and/or food cravings
Acne
Breast tenderness/pain
Fatigue
Headaches
Weight gain/bloating (usually due to water retention)
Diarrhea or constipation (sometime alternating)

    There is no clear understanding of what causes PMS to occur. Some of symptoms are thought to be caused by:

Cyclical hormonal changes–Changes in the balance of estrogen and progesterone lead to mood changes,     anxiety, and irritability. PMS symptoms disappear during pregnancy and with menopause.

Stress–Signs and symptoms are intensified during times of stress.

Poor nutrition–Inadequate levels of vitamins and minerals are thought to lead to some PMS symptoms. In addition, poor diets that include high intakes of sat contribute to water retention.

Cyclical changes in brain chemistry–a cyclical decrease in the neurotransmitter serotonin is thought to contribute to premenstrual depression, fatigue, and insomnia.

    If you are one that experiences PMS symptoms every single month (particularly if they are severe enough to negatively impact your [...]

Bell’s Palsy

by Mary Vincent, L.Ac.
Bell’s palsy is one of numerous disorders causing weakness and/or paralysis of the facial muscles, and is estimated to be responsible for at least 80% of cases. It is diagnosed when all other more serious conditions (e.g., stroke) have been ruled out. The exact cause of Bell’s palsy is unknown, but most scientists believe the inflammation of the facial nerve (7th cranial nerve) is caused by a viral infection.
Bell’s palsy is named for Sir Charles Bell, a 19th century Scottish surgeon who was the first to describe the condition.
When Bell’s palsy occurs, “the function of the facial nerve is disrupted, causing an interruption in the messages the brain sends to the facial muscles” (NIH). This results in facial weakness or paralysis, almost always affecting only one side of the face.
Functions of the nerve include: closing and blinking the eyes; tear production; frowning; raising eyebrows; smiling; salivating; and flaring of the nostrils. The facial nerve also carries sensations to the middle ear and the anterior 2/3 of the tongue.

Symptoms of Bell’s palsy typically come on rapidly. Often a person awakens in the morning with drooping on one side of the face, having gone to bed with no issues the night before. Due to the many functions of the facial nerve, in addition to drooping on one side of the face, signs and symptoms may include:
▪ Inability to raise eyebrow, to wrinkle forehead, or to smile on affected side

▪ Inability to close the eye on affected side
▪ Inability to produce tears in affected eye or continuous tearing
▪ Loss in ability to taste
▪ Pain in and/or behind the ear
With no treatment, most people will begin [...]