Complementary Medicine

Tension Headaches

By Mary Vincent, L.Ac.
Tension headaches are the most common type of all headaches, and definitely one of the most common issues we see here at BCA. These types of headaches occur for a variety of reasons, and are often described as mild to moderate pain that includes a squeezing, throbbing, or feeling of pressure at the temples or in a band around the head. Occasionally patients will also report pain behind their eyes. These headaches almost always include tight and painful muscles at the back of the head, the base of the skull, and/or in the upper trapezius muscle (the “upper shoulders”). Women are twice as likely as men to experience tension headaches on a regular basis.

Tension headaches are broken down in to two categories: episodic and chronic. Episodic tension headaches occur less than 15 days a month, while chronic tension headaches occur more than 15 days in a month. Typically though, most people who suffer from these types of headaches tend to get them around 1-3 times a week. The most common causes of tension headaches include:
▪ Emotional/Mental Stress–This is the most obvious reason and causes many a tension headache. Difficulties at work or at home, major life changes (new job, loss of a job, a new baby, ect.), and a history of anxiety and/or depression are often the root causes of these nagging headaches.
▪ Poor Posture–this is one of the major things we see in the clinic related to tension headaches. People in professions that spend many hours working on a computer each day are probably the #1 type of person we treat with these types of reoccurring headaches, generally related to their chronic, poor daily posture while working.
▪ Poor Sleep–A [...]

Acupuncture for Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)

By Mary Vincent, L.Ac.
A urinary tract infection, otherwise know as a “bladder infection” is a common complaint that many people will experience at least once in their lives. They can be caused by bacteria entering any part of the urinary tract, which typically affects the bladder but can also affect the kidneys, ureters (tubes that bring urine from the kidneys to the bladder), and urethra (the tube that passes urine out of the bladder during urination). It is a much more common occurrence among women, though we do see the occasional man come through BCA with UTI as their chief complaint. Women are more susceptible to them due to the simple fact that a women’s urethra is shorter than a man’s, thus bacteria is able to find it’s way into the bladder with greater ease. Sexual intercourse is often the culprit in aiding bacteria that get pushed into the urinary tract. You are also more likely to get a UTI if you have diabetes or any physical condition that can impede the flow of urine from the bladder (pregnancy, kidney stone, enlarged prostate, ect.).
It is usually very clear when you have a UTI, as symptoms cause obvious and increasingly worse discomfort rather rapidly.
Symptoms include:
▪ Burning pain with urination
▪ Feeling the need to urinate, but very little comes out when you do
▪ Lower abdominal pressure or pain
▪ Cloudy urine with strong odor (can be pink or red if infection is more severe and blood is in urine)
▪ Lower back pain, particularly in kidney areas (below ribs), typically only on one side
▪ Fever and/or chills
Can Acupuncture Help?
If this is the first (and hopefully only) urinary tract infection you have ever experienced [...]

Acupuncture for TMJ Pain

by Mary Vincent, L.Ac.
What Is TMJ?
TMJ is an abbreviation for the temporomandibular joints, which are the joints on the face that connect the lower jaw to the skull and allow the jaw to move up and down, forward and backwards, and side to side. It is common for people to refer to themselves as having “TMJ” when they have pain or dysfunction related to these joints. Pain can be intermittent or can be chronic and last for years. It can cause mild discomfort or be severely debilitating (particularly when the problem is related to the bone or jaw structure itself). At best it causes some discomfort in the most basic life functions—eating, talking, yawning, etc. It affects women more commonly than men, and typically occurs between the ages of 20 and 40.
 Signs and symptoms indicative of dysfunction in these joints include:
* Pain in the jaw joint and/or pain while chewing
* Neck and upper shoulder pain
* Headaches, particularly at the sides of the head
* Ear pain
* Toothaches
* Clicking and/or popping when opening the mouth (locking of the jaw when severe)
* Upper and lower teeth not lining up properly
* Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
* Sinus Problems—some sinus issues can also trigger pain in the jaw muscles
TMJ Disorders and Acupuncture
The most common reason people come in for TMJ pain here at BCA is due to issues with the jaw muscles rather than the joint itself, and this is almost always simply due to grinding or clenching of the jaw muscles in relation to high amounts of stress or anxiety. The person usually experiences jaw pain (often in the morning, as many people clench [...]

Acupuncture for Tennis and Golfer’s Elbow

By Nicole Murray, L.Ac.
Tennis and golfer’s elbow are conditions we frequently see at BCA. Tennis elbow is a condition affecting the lateral elbow (on the thumb side when you turn your palm up). It’s known medically as lateral epicondylitis-or a painful inflammation of the tendons where they attach to the lateral side of the bone. Golfer’s elbow, or medial epicondylitis, is painful inflammation of the tendons where they attach to the medial side of the bone (on the pinkie side when you turn your palm up).
These conditions are most commonly caused by overuse-from sports or any strain on the associated tendons. Trauma, like a fall directly on the elbow, can also cause pain.
Conventional treatment involves resting the arm as much as possible, use of painkillers, and sometimes a splint or a brace. In some cases, doctors may prescribe a steroid shot (cortisone) directly into the inflamed area as a means to reduce inflammation and pain. When tennis or golfer’s elbow becomes a more long-term problem, physical therapy may be prescribed. Western medical practitioners often advise using ice to reduce swelling in the area.
Acupuncture We advise coming in as soon as symptoms start, so that we can help to resolve the issue quickly. When people come in right away, they are often pain-free after just a few treatments. We have good success even when the pain is more chronic. In these cases, we typically will advise daily treatment for 3-5 days, then 2-3 times a week for several weeks. We usually place several needles around the affected tendon, and use other points on the body that help reduce pain and inflammation systemically. We also often prescribe a traditional Chinese liniment called [...]

Acupuncture for Addictions

by Nicole Murray, L.Ac., MSTOM

Patients at BCA and other community acupuncture clinics successfully use acupuncture to aid in detoxification from:

▪ alcohol
▪ cigarettes and other tobacco
▪ street drugs
▪ prescription drugs
▪ sugary and processed foods

What to Expect During Treatment

In most cases, the practitioner will use the proven NADA (National Acupuncture Detoxification Association) protocol to help in detoxification and continued support of the patient. Five needles are inserted in each ear, for a total of 10 needles. Upon insertion, there may be a stinging or warm sensation that quickly subsides. After all the needles are inserted, most patients report that they feel very calm and relaxed. This can be explained by the traditional functions of the points, and also by modern studies showing acupuncture causes endorphins to be released. The needles are retained for 45 minutes. It is most helpful, especially during detoxification, to get treatment as frequently as possible.

About Acupuncture and Addictions

The treatment of addictions with acupuncture is a modern application of an ancient medicine. In 1974 at the Lincoln Recovery Center in the Bronx, clinicians started using acupuncture to help people get relief from symptoms associated with methadone withdrawal. Dr. Michael Smith of Lincoln Hospital developed a basic, still used five-point protocol of ear acupuncture to be used for any chemical dependency, from nicotine to crack cocaine, alcohol to heroin.

According to Lincoln Hospital’s Dr. Smith, the acupuncture protocol functions to:

▪ Relieve withdrawal symptoms;
▪ Aid general relaxation and homeostasis;
▪ Enhance mental and physical functioning through activating the reserve capabilities of the body.

The results at the Lincoln Recovery Center were so promising that, in 1985, the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) was established to educate clinicians about acupuncture and chemical dependency.

In 1985 research at [...]

Autoimmune Diseases

By Mary Vincent, L.Ac

Autoimmune diseases are a leading cause of chronic pain and physical disabilities. They are also one of the top 10 leading causes of death in women. Researchers have identified between 80-100 different autoimmune diseases, and currently more than 23 million people in the US alone are affected by one or more. Some of the more commonly known autoimmune diseases include:

▪ Graves’ disease
▪ Hashimoto’s thyroiditis
▪ Multiple sclerosis
▪ Pernicious anemia
▪ Reactive arthritis
▪ Rheumatoid arthritis
▪ Sjogren’s syndrome
▪ Systemic lupus erythematosus
▪ Type I diabetes
▪ Celiac Disease

Autoimmune diseases occur when the body’s own defense mechanism, the immune system, incorrectly identifies the body’s own cells as intruders and attempts to destroy them over and over again. These diseases can target and affect any area of the body, and can damage tissues and organs over time. There are a wide variety of signs and symptoms based on each individual disease mechanism, but in general, the classic initial signs include chronic fatigue, low-grade fevers, and muscle and/or joint aches (often accompanied by swelling). Symptoms typically come and go during periods of remission (no symptoms) and flares (sudden recurrence of symptoms after a remission). Autoimmune diseases affect people from all places, but more commonly occur in:

▪ Individuals with a family history
▪ Women of childbearing age
▪ Certain Environments—certain locations and environmental exposures have higher rates of autoimmune disease

How Can Acupuncture Help?

Pain Relief: Most autoimmune disorders cause some varying degree of muscle or joint pains. Most major acupuncture points are located in areas of the body that have major nerve innervations. These points help to calm the nervous system, decrease swelling/inflammation, increase blood flow, relax muscles, and thus relieve pain.

Improve Digestive [...]

Acupuncture and Gastrointestinal Problems

By Mary Vincent, L.Ac

Some of our patients at BCA have significant digestive upset that can snowball into several days or weeks of bloating, indigestion, diarrhea, constipation, gas, stomach cramps, or some combination of these unpleasant symptoms. If your one of the people who has these types of issues, acupuncture can help bring you relief.

Acute Digestive Problems
Digestive discomfort caused by overindulgence, stress, and/or travel can typically be alleviated quickly with acupuncture, particularly if the symptoms have just recently appeared. In this case, often a single treatment or two will be enough to get things back on track. If the onset if your symptoms were several weeks ago, and things “just haven’t been right since”, then 2-4 weeks of regular acupuncture should help alleviate the discomfort. In both cases, we may consider giving you herbs to take for a short period of time, if we believe they will help resolve your particular digestive symptoms faster. Also at this time of the year, we also see a fair amount of digestive problems related to acute viral and bacterial infections. As we are a community clinic, we ask that you not come see us until the infectious period has passed, but if you do end up with some lingering nausea or irregular bowel movements in the days that follow your illness, do come in for a treatment or two and the symptoms should subside.

Chronic Digestive and Bowel Disorders
Those that experience digestive problems on a regular basis from disorders such as GERD, IBS, IBD, and Crohn’s Disease can also find relief from symptoms with acupuncture. Frequency of treatments needed depends on how long you have had the problem and severity of symptoms. Dietary recommendations are herbs often [...]

SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and Acupuncture

By Mary Vincent, L.Ac

It’s that time of year again, when we see an increase of people walking through the door seeking relief from symptoms related to depression. We certainly see a lot of people all year around for this as depression is, of course, not an uncommon ailment, however something about this particular time of year either brings it on or exacerbates it in many individuals. Whether it’s an ongoing, year-round problem, the change in seasons, or simply the looming inevitability of the upcoming holidays, acupuncture can help relieve many of the related symptoms of depression.

Seasonal Depression

There are many different types of depression that can affect people either temporarily or year-round. For many people, this time of year not only brings with it pumpkins, chillier weather, and holiday feasts, but also the unwelcome guest of depression. Seasonal depression, otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, typically begins with the onset of fall and persists throughout the winter months. It is thought that hormones produced in the brain shift during these seasons, related to the reduced availability of sunlight throughout these months. Many theories include the idea that less sunlight leads to less production of serotonin in the brain, a hormone responsible for producing a calming, soothing effect on human moods. Therefore in some people, this could create symptoms related to depression. In addition, as was mentioned above, those who experience depression year-round may also see a marked increase in the amount or severity of symptoms related to their particular condition during the fall and winter months. The typical symptoms of depression are as follows:

▪ Fatigue/decreased energy
▪ Difficulty sleeping/sleeping too much
▪ Overwhelming sadness
▪ Difficulty concentrating
▪ Increase/decrease in appetite
▪ Weight gain/weight loss

In [...]

Acupuncture for Boosting the Immune System

By Mary Vincent, L.Ac

September has arrived, and for educators and parents alike this means one obvious thing in particular—back to school time is here! And while there are plenty of viruses and bacteria to go around all year long, many people (especially parents and teachers of younger children) also view back to school time as the inevitable kickoff to cold and flu season (because, let’s face it, kids aren’t exactly known for their stellar hand washing). For this reason in particular we get lots of questions this time of year as to whether or not acupuncture can help boost and support the immune system.

Whether you have young kids, work in an office where everyone around you is sick, are undergoing chemotherapy, or simply have been feeling “run-down”, we believe that acupuncture (in addition to a healthy diet, exercise, and adequate sleep) can help strengthen the immune system and possibly stave off some of those looming fall and winter illnesses!

There have been many small scale randomized, controlled studies regarding acupuncture and the immune system. These studies typically look at cancer patients due to the fact that individuals undergoing chemotherapy often have drastic lowering of white blood cells and are highly susceptible to infectious diseases. One study of interest followed 40 postoperative cancer patients for 3 days (20 patients received daily acupuncture and 20 serves as the control group).

At the end of the 3 days, when compared to the control group, those patients who had received acupuncture had a higher instance of leukocyte phagocytosis than those who did not receive treatments. [1] Another study looked at interleukin-2 and natural killer cell activity in a group of patients with malignant tumors. Of this group, 25 patients received [...]

Successfully Treating Neck and Back Pain in Recliners

By Nicole Murray, L.Ac.

A lovely woman recently stopped into BCA. She lives right nearby and decided to come in to ask about how we would handle her neck pain. She asked a lot of questions and seemed willing to try a treatment here, but not without thoroughly checking us out. Her most pointed question was, “Where would you put the needles?” I told her that it would depend, just a little, on where her neck hurts, how deep the pain is, etc. But I said, “I won’t put the needles in your neck.”

And she smiled for the first time.

I briefly said that there are two basic approaches for treating pain. One is to needle where it hurts, and make a change right there in the local pain spot, enough to make it better.
That’s not usually what we do here, I said, in part because we can’t get to every painful spot when people are in recliners. But also because our approach works! We needle into points away from the painful area, often in the arms or legs. There are many ways to apply the system, and different acupuncturists will do different things.

She didn’t care about any of that. She was sold when I told her that acupuncture can effectively treat neck pain without ever putting a needle in her neck.

She had already given that a try. Her insurance covered a course of six acupuncture treatments. Each time, her practitioner put the needles right where it hurt. And then her neck hurt even more. And, she said, “I forced myself to go to every treatment, thinking eventually, it has to get better.” It never did. This is NOT to say that acupuncture treatments for pain are not effective when the [...]