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Acupuncture for the treatment of depression? Why this ancient form of Chinese medicine is one of the best, if not the best treatment for depression has been proven by numerous tests to back up the claims of several people who have benefited from acupuncture. Its consistent results can also be an ideal choice for people who are seeking a natural and safe alternative or complementary treatment for Western modes of treatment for depression and anxiety.
What Is Acupuncture?
As mentioned above, acupuncture is an ancient form of Chinese medicine form of treatment that uses hair-thin needles inserted into pre-selected nerve points in the body. Some of the major aims of acupuncture include the promotion of well-being, treatment of diseases, and for the amelioration of pain.
Acupuncture’s usability and efficacy in Western medicine are continuously being tested in scientific studies. Their results have been consistently positive in terms of the effectiveness in the treatment of psychiatric disorders such as anxiety and depression, physical maladies such as headache, nausea, and muscular pains in the back and neck regions.
The Physiological Aspects of Anxiety and Depression
A lot of scientific researches prove the theory stating that rather than being psychological, depression is actually physiological in nature. Depression usually ensues when the body is deficient in essential vitamins, nutrients, and bio-chemicals that allow the body and mind to thrive healthily and work in synchronicity.
When these physiological necessities have been met, the depressive mood of affected individuals significantly and dramatically improves. Because of these, scientists are presently looking for ways to retain to prevent these bio-chemicals from prematurely breaking down. And from the tons of studies they have done, they have seen that acupuncture has been the most effective way to achieve this.
Acupuncture works by stimulating the nerve endings to dispatch the proper signals to the various affected organs. This stimulation leads to the manufacture of important chemicals, in adequate amounts, to offset the symptoms of depression.
A person suffering from depression most likely will never require the intake of drugs when he/she undergoes regular acupuncture treatments. A consultation with a qualified practitioner might be all you need to possess a calm and peaceful mind.
The NIH Endorses Acupuncture as a Treatment for Depression
The NIH or National Institutes of Health has stated that enough evidence have been compiled that proves the value of acupuncture as an effective complementary treatment to conventional medicine and they recommend more future studies of its clinical worth and how it works.
A specific medical and clinical study done dealing with Overland Park acupuncture for the treatment of depression has shown that the ineffectiveness of drugs and even, at times, psychotherapy makes the choice of acupuncture essential because of the latter’s extreme effectiveness when all other forms conventional treatment fail.
In order to be effective, acupuncture treatment needs to be targeted, focused, and performed regularly. A depression and acupuncture study was performed by researchers at the University of Arizona involved 38 adults suffering from mild to moderate depression. A regular acupuncture treatment was given these patients lasting for 30 days given two times a week, with twice-weekly sessions lasting for 30 days, and reduced in frequency on the succeeding months. At the end of the study, more than 50% of the patients state that their symptoms have been significantly reduced, if not totally, cured.
This study shows that acupuncture is indeed a powerful alternative treatment for depression. It was a focused and targeted study that used specific acupoints meant to reduce anxiety and induce relaxation, and tapered down in frequency over the course of time. This is in stark contrast to non-specific acupuncture treatment that may take a while longer to resolve the depression. Acupuncture’s desired benefits may still require further studies when taken in the context of focused and specific acupuncture therapy meant to resolve severe types of depression versus Western medications and treatment.
Diet and Lifestyle Changes
It is important to point out that as acupuncture becomes more and more a popular form of alternative and a complementary treatment for depression, the benefits accrued in acupuncture treatment is also usually associated with dietary discipline and lifestyle change among patients. The reason for this is that in a sense, acupuncture is a discipline in itself, and that discipline expands to the patient’s dietary and lifestyle aspects, in the treatment of depression.
ASD or Autistic Spectrum Disorder or simply Autism is deemed as a permanent brain disorder. It may now be one of the most commonly seen neurological developmental disorders in children with a cause that remains unknown and thus, with no presently viable cure or treatment. Autism is marked by impairment in cognition, social communication, and language. The disorder’s underlying cause seems to be neuropsychological (difficulty processing complex information), neurobiological (genetic) or neurochemical (imbalance in dopamine or serotonin). Autistic children often also show secondary behavioral issues such as obsessive-compulsive behavior, short attention span, temper tantrums, volatile emotions, negative attitude, hyperactivity, stereotypies, irritability and aggression. Evidence both direct and indirect has indicated that neurochemical systems might be a key in understanding the pathological origins of autism.
Sadly, nowadays, we are seeing a dramatic surge in the number of autism cases worldwide. A few years ago, for every 10,000 children born, there were 10 to 15 cases of autism. Now, this has been replaced with 40 to 60 cases per 10,000 people. Ethnically speaking, Caucasian and Asian children are the most affected. This has led to a greater interest in developing new treatment approaches to help the affected.
Autism According to TCM or Traditional Chinese Medicine
In Taiwan and Hong Kong, the Chinese term for autism is Self-Shut-Off Syndrome. In Communist China, it is labeled the Lonely Syndrome. There is no such disease as autism in TCM. Practitioners approach disease and health based on Yin-Yang philosophy, which includes the homeostasis and balance of the universe as well as the five elements of soil, fire, water, wood, and gold. They also adhere to the empirical and phenomenological observations of the eight principles, Blood, and Qi. These physicians classify syndrome based on the theory of Zang Fu organs or according to 8 principles; Qi and Blood. The pathological origin of a disease depends on abnormal ascending or descending Qi, strife between Pathogenic Qi and antipathogenic Qi , or Yin and Yang disharmony. Qi (pronounced chee) is the body’s vital or life energy that flows throughout and within the entire body. The 8 principles include yin/yang, excess/deficiency, heat/cold, and Interior/Exterior/Interior. All of these concepts are included in TCM philosophy that has over five millennia of human pathophysiology and physiology experience behind it.
The origin of a disease, based on TCM concepts, depends on six exogenous factors (fire, dryness, dampness, summer heat, cold, and wind) as well as seven emotions (fright, fear, grief, worry, melancholy, anger, and joy), along with stagnated phlegm and blood fluid, lack of exercise, overstrain and unhealthy diet. According to Western medicine, this may impact the immune system of the body.
The four components of a TCM diagnosis include palpation, inquiry, olfaction/auscultation, and inspection. For palpation, the practitioner feels the qualitative aspect of the pulse (not the qualitative as Western medicine practices). The other parts of the body may be also palpated. By inquiring, the TCM physician asks relevant and leading questions that involve cold versus heat, outside versus inside, and weak versus strong. The practitioner smells and listens in olfaction/auscultation respectively. For inspection, the practitioner observes the appearance, color, and vitality of the tongue and the five sensory organs (throat, mouth/lips, gums, ear, nose, and eyes). These four components are integrated with jing-luo (the meridian system) and zang-fu knowledge (the organ system) to help the practitioner make a diagnosis and formulate a plan of treatment based the methodologies of TCM. Acu-massage or acu-Tuina, acupuncture, natural medicine, and herbal medicine are some of the treatment modalities used by TCM.
In TCM, children suffering from delayed language development, global developmental delay, autism, cerebral palsy, or mental retardation are traditionally grouped under the 5-Delays Syndrome, which is based on walking, standing, speech, teeth eruption, and growth. Based on the concept of TCM, the dysfunction of the brain in children directly correlated to disequilibrium of their body functions. TCM always uses a holistic approach to treat a condition. This approach is grounded on the theory of Yin/Yang; within the framework of Energy Balance is a disease viewed.
For more than 2,000 years acupuncture has been practiced by TCM practitioners worldwide. In the United States, the FDA or Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1997 recognized the legitimacy of acupuncture as a form of medical treatment. Acupuncture has been practiced in Europe for centuries. After the US officially recognized acupuncture as a valid treatment, Canada, soon followed suit. Clinical studies have shown that acupuncture has benefits in the treatment of brain disorders and for pain.
Acupuncture involves the use of filiform needles that are stuck into parts of the body known as acupoints. The body has over 2,000 acupoints scattered throughout. Each of these points are connected to a network of meridians or energy channels of which there are 14 in the body. Near each acupoint are nerve endings that when stimulated, lead to activation of both the local and distal points in the body that lie along the same energy channels. The activation/stimulation of these points can lead to neurochemical-hormonal, neuro-immunomodulatory electromagnetic energy enhancement, and neural signaling effects.
The acupoints selected depends on what kind of therapeutic effect is needed as well as the kind of acupuncture method to be used (acupressure, laser acupuncture, electrical acupuncture, and body acupuncture). For the treatment f children suffering from brain dysfunction, traditional acupoints on the body and scalp are used. This leads to an improvement in the overall functional abilities of the child.
For autism, one of the most important parts of the TCM clinical diagnostic examination is the observation of the tongue. This is because the tongue is the only body organ that can be seen externally and can be exposed. The smell, superficial growth, dryness, and color of the tongue can help TCM practitioners determine a type of treatment grounded on the eight principles. Furthermore, based on TCM principles, the tongue can determine the heart’s state of health. The heart is the master organ that controls all the other internal organs. So, in a way, the tongue is connected by energy channels to all the body organs.
TAC or Tongue Acupuncture is an innovative acupuncture procedure and is based on Wang Di’s Internal Medicine book, which is one of the oldest medical books in China. It is where the concept that the tongue is the intersection site of all 14 meridians in the body originated. It has been discovered that the tongue possesses more than 40 acupoints. TCM practitioners assume that there is a Human Map in our tongue. A network of neural-vascular channels inside the tongue exists. These channels spread to various areas of the brain, particularly in the cerebellum. Using functional MRI and PET, neuroimaging has revealed that a dysfunctional cerebellum as well as other dysfunction of the other parts of the brain may play a part in the development of autism. The cerebellum is directly associated with social behavior, the regulation of emotions, the ability to plan, language, and thought.
Does a Dysfunction of the Cerebellum and the Other Parts of the Brain Really Result in Autism?
In a certain study, a short TAC treatment led to positive outcomes in two normal subjects in the realms of visual processing and language. Some studies are trying to determine whether TAC can affect stereotypic/ritualistic mannerisms (basal ganglia), excessive function and affect (frontal lobe), language (temporal lobe), and cognition (cerebellum). This involved the observation of changes in glucose metabolism using a PET scan.
Other TAC (Tongue Acupuncture) Studies
In March 1999, a controlled pilot study was done that integrated TCM with that of Western medicine in the treatment of children with different forms of brain disorders. The study involved more than 700 children suffering from different types of developmental and/or neurological disorders including 250 children with autism.
For five days each week one to two courses of TAC was given to the patients. For each course, there was a total of 20 to 40 sessions lasting 4 weeks. Researchers looked at individual cases and studied the daily written reports done by the mother of the child depicting her child’s progress after each TAC session. Children showing some kind of improvement after finishing a couple of courses were offered the option of further courses, at the parents’ requests and depending on the degree of clinical improvement.
This study showed that the children with autism showed significant improvements in core features (cognition, social communication, and language) and in secondary features (functional independence, sleep, temper, tantrum, aggression, attention, and hyperactivity).
As TAC had been included in this study as a novel type of acupuncture procedure (level 3 evidence), another study was done. This time it was Double Blind Randomized Placebo Control trials (TAC versus Sham TAC) and Randomized Control Trials to gain Level 1 evidence. These trials studies were done specifically for children with Cerebral Palsy and Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
Most of the subjects manifested improvement of functions in varying degrees, depending on the magnitude of their disabilities and their age. Certain improvements were evident after a few sessions of TAC, particularly for poor balance in walking, ataxia, tiptoeing or scissoring (spasticity), and drooling. After a single to a couple of rounds of TAC, functional improvements were noted. Excluding the minor bleeding and occasional in some patients, most of the children tolerated the treatment well.
The Difference of TAC Autism Treatment to Other Types of Treatments
TAC is a new form of acupuncture treatment that has been demonstrated in clinical trials to successfully improve the dysfunction associated with autism. It does this by stimulating the essential connections in the brain. Researchers believe that stimulating specific acupoints in the tongue repetitively can bring back the connection of the neural circuit through the neural network of the cerebellum. Improvement may be seen via the re-signaling of the neural circuits through neurotransmitters such as cortisol, dopamine, and 5-HT/serotonin. When the temporal- frontal-cerebellar circuits are reconnected, it may lead to the reversal of basic dysfunctional channels in autism, including hyperactivity, emotion, or attention, and open up a possibility for learning cognitive or communicative skills. A reactivation of the latent brain can make it possible for education and intensive therapeutic approaches (such as behavioral, occupational and speech therapy) and education that can assist the child to take in information in a more efficient manner.
The Future of TAC
There still are a lot of questions that need to be answered in TAC treatment of autism. TAC and other alternative therapies should be considered as adjunctive treatments in neurological disorders. The consensus is that an interdisciplinary approach using Chinese and Western medicines is the best approach in treating autism. It’s the job of researchers to show the topography of the brain with the right combination of tongue acupoints. The aforementioned studies will play a vital role in creating a potential paradigm shift as to the pathological origin of neural plasticity and autism.
We can consider TAC to be an adjunctive or start-up treatment for autism. This article was done to introduce TAC as a quick, relatively non-invasive, and simple treatment approach that can be of benefit for families all over the world with autistic children.
High blood pressure or hypertension is a serious health problem that affects almost a third of the US population. Individuals suffering from it are likely to also experience strokes and heart attacks as well as weakened cognitive capacity, vision loss, and damage to the kidneys. The cost of hypertension seven years ago was believed to be almost $70 billion excluding the cardiovascular complications related to it, which by itself would already amount to a staggering $100 billion. The American Journal of Hypertension featured an article that stated that only less than a quarter of people affected by hypertension are able to keep their blood pressure under control. Moreover, among the people who take medications for hypertension, those who are in control of their blood pressure are less than 44%. Fortunately, a variety of natural high blood pressure treatment are available that are safer, less costly, and equally if not more effective than pharmaceutical drugs.
Stevia to Lessen Sugar Consumption and Lower Blood Pressure
Several human and animal studies have shown that stevia is able to decrease hypertension. One such study done in 2003 whose outcomes were posted in Clinical Therapeutics revealed that the participants received either a placebo or stevioside (derived from stevia) for two years. The results showed substantial waning of systolic and diastolic blood pressure in the group given stevioside.
Lower blood pressure can result when a person replaces stevia instead of sugar in his/her diet. One of the first persons to distinguish the association between hypertension and excess sugar intake is Dr Gerald Reaven, who is credited in coming up with the concept of metabolic syndrome. He said that around 40% to 60% of essential hypertensive patients are insulin resistant as well and that resistance to insulin foretells the onset of hypertension.
Controlling Blood Pressure through Meditation
Throughout the years, the benefits of meditation for lowering blood pressure have been studied several times. The Cardiology Review journal published an article in 2004 that reviewed the effects of meditation on the risk of hypertension and other types of cardiovascular diseases. The researchers concluded that meditating two times a day led in part to a healthy heart. This is because compared to the control group, meditation contributed significantly to the lowering of both systolic and diastolic blood pressure of the members of the meditation group. The outcomes were shown in both male and female subjects as well as in the participants who were at high and low risk for hypertension. Although, not as impressive as the results shown by the meditation group, the group who followed a muscle relaxation technique also had some success in this regard.
The authors of this article concluded that blood pressure can be effectively reduced by practicing mediation because it reduces physical and mental stress thereby lessening its negative impact on the body.
Today, more and more supermarkets and health food stores are stocking up on coconut water. Coconut water is the fluid derived inside a coconut. In many countries in Asia, coconut water has long been used as a source of nutrition especially during famines. It can actually be directly injected into the body. Coconut water should not be confused with coconut milk, which is derived from the meat of the coconut.
The West Indian Medical Journal in 2005 printed an article that reported on coconut water’s effectiveness as well as another popular Caribbean drink known as mauby, which is derived from the buckhorn tree bark, in lowering high blood pressure. The study lasted two weeks and involved twenty eight participants who were divided into four groups. One group drank only coconut water, another drank mauby only, one other group drank a combination of mauby and coconut and the last group only drank water. At the end of two weeks, 71% of the group who only drank coconut water showed marked decrease in their systolic blood pressure followed by 43% and 40% for the mixture and mauby groups respectively. A significant lowering in diastolic pressure was seen in 29% of the coconut group and 57% and 40% respectively for the mixture and mauby groups.
Increasing potassium intake can also help lower blood pressure as it balances out the sodium that contributes to hypertension. There is a high level of potassium in coconut water which can explain its effectiveness in lowering blood pressure. Cutting down on sodium in your diet can help lower blood pressure.
What is Anxiety?
If you have feelings of being worried, overwhelmed, or uneasy, then you are feeling anxiety. Currently, in Western treatments, there are various kinds of terms for anxiety. Interestingly, there are certain parallels between them all.
The Symptoms of Anxiety
Anxiety signs and symptoms may include the following:
• Too much worrying/ too much -thinking
• Feelings of being overwhelmed
• Tightness in the chest
• The sensation of being unable to properly breathe
Western Modes of Anxiety Treatment
Conventional Western treatments for anxiety are usually anti-anxiety medicines to prevent the signals of emotions from reaching the brain.
The issue with this kind of treatment is that only the symptoms are treated but the underlying reason for anxiety is not addressed. So, once the block is lifted and then you halt taking these medications, the symptoms will likely return.
Acupuncture Treatment for Anxiety
Most acupuncturists will agree that there is not one treatment that’s most effective and safer for the treatment of anxiety than acupuncture.
Pain-free acupuncture treatment for anxiety focuses on three major internal organs: the spleen, kidneys, and liver.
A deficient spleen makes it more difficult to break down the foods we consume and when food these foods become hard to break down, the nutrients are poorly absorbed by the body. As a result, the body does not get the adequate production of blood. When our body does not have enough blood, the heart starts to feel a bit tired and weak. We then start to feel weak and worn which make us prone to feelings of anxiety.
The kidneys, in Chinese Medicine, control everything that relates to the coolness and water in our body. This coolness helps in keeping the heat down and calms the mind. If the Kidneys become weak, heat takes over and coolness becomes deficient. Heat elevated to the top of our body and affects our mind and heart resulting in anxiety.
The kidneys also are associated with fear. So, any time a person has a real fear of something his kidneys weaken resulting in anxiety.
It is the liver that controls the information, flow of energy and nutrients to all the cells of our body. the liver is also the first organ to be affected by stress and the emotions as drug overuse and alcohol. When the liver is attacked by stress the liver tightens up and when the liver tenses up, information, flow of energy and nutrients that was smoothly flowing along the channels now start to stagnate, as well.
This stagnation is a sign that our cells and organs are not receiving the right amount of nutrients and information to effectively function causing our body to fall out of balance. When the body becomes imbalanced and suffers from stagnation, we start to feel anxiety..
Persons suffering from liver imbalances are likely to become emotionally hypersensitive. They become easily frustrated and irritated which they internalize. This results in stagnation and heat in the body leading to anxiety.
Basically, acupuncture for the treatment of anxiety eliminates the heat and stagnation in the patient and he/she then starts to feel better rather quickly due to the rapid rush of hormones, energy, and nutrients in their cells and organs.
Acupressure Points for Anxiety
You can apply acupressure on a few acupoints to help lessen the symptoms of anxiety. One should be aware that that acupressure is certainly not a good option to expert diagnosis and acupuncture treatments required by an individual.
Acupressure is an ideal complementary treatment to acupuncture therapies since it is a healing technique that you can do on yourself in between acupuncture treatments to boost the overall effects of your treatment.
To do acupressure, apply pressure using your fingers to the following acupoints for around two to three minutes whenever you start to become anxious.
1. Sp 6 (Sanyinjiao) – This point is situated in a cavity three fingers above the inside ankle along the bone. It is used to help calm the mind, increase blood and coolness, and strengthen the stomach and spleen.
2. Pc 6 (Neiguan) – Located two fingers above the wrist in between the two major tendons which can be seen by flexing your wrist. It is used to calm the mind, clear heat and stagnation, and alleviate pain.
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Acupuncture is one of Chinese medicine’s ways of treating pain that has been practiced for a very, very long time. This healing tradition makes use of meridian points wherein reed-thin acupuncture needles are inserted into strategic areas of the body in order to stimulate the meridian points which are carriers of energy flowing through channels throughout the body. Stimulating these points also helps increase vitality in the body and clears up the blockages in the channels.
Types of Pain
Acupuncture can treat several varieties of pain. Some of the most common type of pain are:
1. Shoulder pain – Meridian points on the shoulder area are treated with needles to resolve this issue.
2. Leg pain – In this type of pain, the acupuncturist treats 11 acupoints found along the length of the leg and foot. If the patient has also lower back pain along with the leg pain, the acupoints located in the lower back are also used to resolve the issue.
3. Headaches and migraines – Headaches and migraines are related to the dilation of blood vessels in the head. To relieve the pain needles need to be inserted into the neck and heat areas. To slow down the activity of blood vessels in the neck and head, you need to insert needles in the leg and arms.
To lessen the likelihood of unwanted blood vessel dilation, you need to undertake the treatment in a sitting position rather than lying down.
Visiting an Acupuncturist
A lot of things can occur when you visit an acupuncturist. The first thing the practitioner does is to examine and evaluate your condition. You need to mention the parts of your body where pain is felt as well as other important information the practitioner needs to know.
After your acupuncturist takes your medical history he/she will stick acupuncture needles at the proper acupoints determined during the examination phase of the treatment. The needles used are a few centimeters long and are usually fine.
Your acupuncturist will insert the needles deep into the muscle tissue or superficially on your skin, depending on the kind of pain you have. After the needles are inserted, you may have to wait for around half-an-hour for pain to go away.
Some Points to Consider
If you are planning to undergo acupuncture treatment for the relief of pain, you should remember that the acupuncturist may require you to remove your clothes so that he/she can access the areas of your body that need to be treated. As the needle is inserted, you may feel a dull ache or a tingling sensation but no pain.
Galina Semyonova is a licensed acupuncturist and massage therapist in New York City. She has studied extensively in the fields of biofeedback therapy, SCENAR therapy, Chinese herbal treatments and Chinese and Western nutrition.