Complementary Medicine

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 [...]

Acupuncture for Anxiety

By Nicole Murray, L.Ac.

We treat anxiety every day at BCA.

The American Psychological Association (APA) defines anxiety as:  “An emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”
People with anxiety disorders usually have “recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns.” (APA) They may avoid certain situations due to worry (e.g., someone who won’t get on a plane because they worry about plane crashes).
Physical symptoms may include insomnia, sweating, trembling, dizziness, excessive muscle tension, or a rapid heartbeat.
Risk factors for this cluster of disorders include:
* genetics,
* brain chemistry,
* personality, and
* life events.
The National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) recognizes the following as anxiety disorders:
* panic disorder;
* obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD);
* post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD);
* social phobia (or social anxiety disorder);
* specific phobias; and
* generalized anxiety disorder (GAD).

In the US, anxiety disorders are the most common psychiatric illnesses, affecting an estimated 40 million American adults. These disorders are highly treatable, but only about one-third of those suffering from an anxiety disorder receive treatment.
People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.
People with an anxiety disorder are often diagnosed with at least one other disorder or disease. These include:
* Depression (50% of people with a depressive disorder also have an anxiety disorder);
* Longstanding chronic diseases, such as IBS, chronic pain, cardiovascular disease, ADHD, etc; and
* Other psychiatric illnesses.
Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one-third of the country’s $148 billion total mental [...]

Acupuncture for Inflammation

by Nicole Murray, L.Ac.
While talking to my friend June here in the clinic last week, she mentioned that she’d like to get more information about inflammation. Here’s a primer for her and for the rest of you that are dealing with acute or chronic inflammation.
Classic signs of acute inflammation are heat, redness, pain and swelling. There is also reduction in function.
Web MD defines inflammation as “a process by which the body’s white blood cells and chemicals protect us from infection with foreign substances, such as bacteria and viruses.”
Medline Plus explains: The inflammatory response (inflammation) occurs when tissues are injured by bacteria, trauma, toxins, heat, or any other cause. The damaged cells release chemicals including histamine, bradykinin, and prostaglandins. These chemicals cause blood vessels to leak fluid into the tissues, causing swelling. This helps isolate the foreign substance from further contact with body tissues. The chemicals also attract white blood cells called phagocytes that “eat” germs and dead or damaged cells. This process is called phagocytosis.

In other words, inflammation is a protective response to an infection or foreign body-a way to fight off an attack. So it’s a good thing.
Until… the process becomes uncontrolled, causing destruction of healthy tissue.
There are dozens of inflammatory disorders, occurring when the normal process goes haywire.  Some occur when the immune system mistakenly triggers inflammation where there is no infection-these are known as autoimmune disorders. Then there are disorders where the body overreacts to an injury or trauma (think of an anaphylactic response to a bee sting).
We will publish lots in the future about inflammatory disorders; we just wanted to explain it in general terms.
Until we write more on the subject though, [...]

Acupuncture for Depression

by Nicole Murray, L.Ac.
All of us experience sadness sometimes, as part of the range of human emotions. We experience ‘the blues’, grief, heartache, and irritability. Depression, however, is a serious medical illness of the brain. This mood disorder “causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest” (Mayo Clinic). The National Institute of Health (NIH) reports that, as of 2005, “about 20.9 million American adults, or 9.5 percent of the population ages 18 and older, have mood disorders,” including depression. Major depressive disorder is “the leading cause of disability among Americans age 15 – 44,” according to the World Health Organization.
The disease is still not fully understood, but experts widely agree that there are multiple factors that may be involved, including: biological (MRIs have shown differences in the brains of people with depression); brain chemistry (malfunctions in neurotransmitter system); family history; and/or a history of trauma.
Symptoms of the disease are both emotional and physical, and significantly affect day-to-day life.
The National Institute of Mental Health lists the following signs and symptoms of the disease:
* Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings;
* Feelings of hopelessness or pessimism;
* Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness;
* Irritability, restlessness;
* Loss of interest in activities once pleasurable, including sex;
* Fatigue and decreased energy;
* Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions;
* Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping;
* Overeating, or appetite loss;
* Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts;
* Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment.

Courtesy of National Institute of Mental Health

Treatment
Conventional treatment involves both antidepressant medication and psychotherapy. These therapies are most effective when the patient uses them together. Interestingly, [...]