High blood pressure can be treated with acupuncture and this is a viable treatment for many who do not wish to be taking medication on a permanent basis. It is worth monitoring your own blood pressure and making a record, as there may be times when it is notably high and a pattern may begin to emerge. Of course, if your blood pressure is dangerously high then Western drugs may be essential, at least for the short term. I am not against Western medicine and there are times when this is a necessity.
Traditional Chinese acupuncture has a very different perspective of illness, and often it can give a lot of insight into why your blood pressure may be abnormally high. Accordingly to the well-established theory of Chinese medicine, illnesses presents themselves as ‘patterns of disharmony’ and by identifying these patterns is it possible to find reasons as to why your blood pressure may be too high.
For example, many ‘patterns of disharmony’ leading to high blood pressure, have an imbalance in the Liver organ. The emotions of stress, anger, frustration, bitterness, resentment can all lead to high blood pressure if they continue unmanaged for a long period of time. In addition, the kidneys play an important role in preventing excessive Liver energy rising to the head (which can cause high blood pressure).
Acupuncture treatment for high blood pressure is normally weekly and treatment will be needed for several months. At the initial stages more frequent treatment may be necessary, depending on how high the blood pressure is.
Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a puzzling illness and one that is very uncommon in China. Since the illness is characterised by periods of remission and flare-ups it is more difficult to monitor progress.
MS is a chronic disorder of the nervous system that typically affects young and middle-aged adults. It is the commonest major disorder of the nervous system in the Western world, affecting about 1 in 2000 people in the UK. The cause is still uncertain however it does seem that there is an inherited susceptibility to the disease. Intriguingly, MS is much more common in temperate regions than in the tropics.
The course of the disease is notoriously unpredictable, but it often shows a pattern of relapse and remission, with a variety of nervous system symptoms.
Within Chinese Medicine we define the disease process in terms of four stages, each corresponding to different levels.
At stage one there are no current symptoms. There may have been several episodes of symptoms in the past and these may have left some remnants of imbalance, but not enough to produce symptoms associated with M.S.
At stage two there are some symptoms however these manifest in the acupuncture channels at a more superficial level and so the disease progress has not gone deeper into the body. Often there is a sudden onset of symptoms with acute symptoms, usually with localised areas affected.
Stages three and four show the progression of the illness deeper into the body.
The role of acupuncture
The principle of acupuncture treatment is to maintain the patient in stage one for as long as possible (i.e. the period of remission). If the disease does enter stage two then acupuncture aims to alleviate the symptoms whilst helping prevent the patient from entering stage three.
There is a similar process for stages three and four. At stage three, acupuncture treatment is aimed at strengthening the organs which have been affected and trying to bring the disease process back to stage two and then back into stage one.
Using this staging theory it is possible to manage M.S. and have a clear diagnosis tool to understand exactly how severe the illness is at any particular time. The obvious aim is to maintain the patient in stage one, and the longer this can be achieved then the better the outcome.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
From a Western medical perspective, M.E. is a relatively ‘new’ disease. It is not clear what the causative agent might be; indeed there is no general agreement that it is a separate disease at all. Current research shows that M.E. may be caused by a virus and attention is directly at the Epstein-Barr virus that is responsible for glandular fever.
The symptoms of M.E. appear either gradually and insidiously without an apparent infection, or after an acute infection.
After an acute infection the patient will make an apparent recovery from the initial symptoms however he or she will start to feel unwell again later on and various symptoms persist there after. The main symptoms of M.E. are pronounced muscle fatigue and ache, poor memory and concentration, exhaustion and a persisting, intermittent, generally flu-like feeling.
In Chinese medicine this relates to a ‘latent pathogenic factor’. A pathogen is something that can cause disease or an imbalance in the body. During the initial invasion of a pathogen (a virus or something similar) the body’s immune system will try and overcome the pathogen. If the patient is strong and in good health then the pathogen will be ‘thrown off’ and normal health will be restored. In the case of M.E. sufferers their energy (and immune system) is weakened and they are unable to completely get rid of the pathogen, it then remains in the body resulting in ‘low-level symptoms’ that gradually weaken the body further. Thus, there is a vicious circle. The body is weakened (perhaps due to long periods of overworking/ studying/ excessive physical exercise), and is unable to completely throw off the pathogen, it then remains in the body and further weakens the body’s defences.
In this case acupuncture treatment is aimed at expelling the pathogen and strengthening the body.
Sometimes M.E. develops when there is no apparent initial infection. This can be explained within the theory of Chinese medicine. When we are attacked by a pathogen (virus, bacteria, etc.) the body’s energy (qi) is used to fight off the attack. This battle leads to the symptoms of fever, alternating chills & fever, achy muscles, swollen glands, shivering, etc. However, if the body’s energy is very weak prior to the attack then there will be no initial symptoms and the pathogen will enter deep into the body where it may lie dormant for several months.
Latent pathogens often generate heat in the body and this heat consumes the body fluids. This is similar to the hot sun in a desert drying up the earth and then cracks appearing. The heat must be restrain as it can be very damaging.
Acupuncture aims to restore the body’s energetic. Points are selected according to the prevailing symptoms. If there are symptoms of heat, then points are used which help regulate this heat. If the body’s energy is very depleted then it is important to strengthen. If the latent pathogen is moving from the interior to the exterior then it is important to promote this movement and help the body expel it. Incorrect treatment is to drive the pathogen back into the body. When the pathogen surfaces the symptoms are acute and there will be a worsening before getting better. Antibiotics often cause pathogens to go deeper into the body. This is not a critique of antibiotics, but an objective analysis of the mode of action as compared with Chinese medicine. There are times when antibiotics are essential, however they are often used routinely and unnecessarily.
Traditional Chinese Acupuncture can offer a lot in the management and treatment of this illness.
Acupuncture for Shingles
Shingles is caused by the varicella zoster virus and is a very painful condition that typically affects individuals whose immune system has become weakened. The virus can lie dormant near the spine for many years without causing any symptoms. It is the same virus that causes chickenpox.
The characteristic shingles rash will follow the nerve route which branches out from the affected part of the spine. Different spinal nerves supply different areas of skin, and this is termed a ‘dermatome’.
The aim of acupuncture is to reduce pain, stop the rash spreading, and treat the underlying energetic imbalances. Acupuncture needles are often placed around the sensitive area and at the level of the affected spinal segment. Shingles does require intensive treatment during the acute stage. It is safe to combine acupuncture with anti-viral drugs.
It would be very interesting to read a study comparing anti-viral drug treatment versus anti-viral drug + acupuncture treatment. I believe acupuncture can have a very important role in the management of shingles since it is most desirable for the illness to improve quickly. Firstly, because it is a very painful condition, and secondly, it may reduce the chance of it developing into ‘postherpetic neuralgia’. This is a nerve pain that can persist for a long time after the shingles rash has disappeared. According to Wikipedia, it affects one in five patients.
This is a clinical syndrome characterised by impairment of movement, rigidity and tremor. In Western medicine, it is regarded as an imbalance of dopamine and acetylcholine, which are neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that help carry information along our nervous system. A decrease in dopamine accounts for the impairment of movement, and an increase in acetylcholine accounts for rigidity and tremor.
This illness usually occurs between the ages of 50 and 60 and the first sign is usually a tremor of the hand. Difficulty in movement and rigidity often follow the onset of tremor.
In Chinese medicine, Parkinson’s disease is related to ‘Liver Wind ’ According to the theory of Chinese medicine, the Liver (or ‘Gan’ is said to control the sinews and ensure the smooth circulation of energy (qi). Correct movement depends on our muscles, ligaments, and tendons receiving adequate nourishment. This nourishment comes from the Liver Blood. When Liver Blood is deficient then problems with movement can occur. These concepts of ‘Liver Blood’ & ‘Liver Wind’ are not present in Western medicine; they belong to the theory of Chinese medicine that has developed over thousands of years.
Liver Wind develops when the channels which nourish our muscles, tendons and ligaments are relatively ‘empty’ i.e. there is not enough Blood to fill the channels. This creates a space in the channels where wind can move and create the symptoms of Parkinson’s.
Acupuncture treatment (sometimes combined with Chinese Herbs) aims to restore the movement of energy and Blood in the acupuncture channels that nourish the muscles & tendons.
Points are selected according to which part of the body have been affected, along with additional points to eliminate ‘Liver Wind’. Thus, treatment is tailored for each individual according to which acupuncture channels are involved, and the underlying disease mechanisms that have lead to the illness. Although in each case there is a deficient of Liver Blood leading to movement problems, there are many reasons why this has occurred.
What results can I expect with acupuncture treatment?
The symptoms of Parkinson’s can be controlled with acupuncture, and at best its progress halted. Chinese herbs may also be needed and generally speaking these can be given along with Western medication. The sooner the treatment is started after its onset, the better the results. Dietary and lifestyle changes may also be necessary.
Acupuncture for Fibromyalgia
Fibromyalgia is a chronic, debilitating condition without any clear cause. It is characterized by chronic, widespread, severe muscular aching, pain, and stiffness accompanied by insomnia, fatigue and depression.
It is often difficult to diagnose because there is no physical damage to the body or its tissues, and there is no one laboratory test or x-ray which can confirm the diagnosis. Due to the chronic, lingering fatigue, it is often confused with chronic fatigue syndrome. However, with fibromyalgia, there is much more significant muscle-joint aching and pain. This discomfort is often worse in the mornings, and often people say their arms and legs feel ‘like tied to concrete blocks’. The muscular pain is often described as deep, burning, throbbing, shooting, or stabbing.
One of the characteristics of fibromyalgia is the presence of pain or tenderness upon pressure in at least 11 out of 18 specific points on the body. People with this condition are also typically hypersensitive to smells, bright lights, and loud noises. Headaches and jaw pain are also common.
Fibromyalgia syndrome implies a varying range of accompanying signs and symptoms besides just muscle & joint aching and pain. Other possible symptoms include: swollen feet, numbness and/ or tingling, difficulty thinking and concentrating, dizziness (often postural), hypersensitivity to stress, period pain, dry mouth, irritable bowel syndrome, blurred vision, night blindness, mood swings, heart palpitations, cold extremities, feverish feelings, restless leg syndrome, muscle twitches, itchy skin, night sweats, breathing problems, skin rashes, cystitis.
Western physicians try to treat this disorder by prescribing various medications and treatments for each of the presenting symptoms. Since Western medicine has not yet identified the underlying cause of fibromyalgia, there is no single treatment. In addition, it is not unusual for long-term usage of medication to create its own side effects which further complicate the picture of fibromyalgia syndrome.
The role of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture
Traditional Chinese acupuncture can offer interesting and refreshing insight into each individual case of fibromyalgia. Diagnosis consists of identifying different ‘patterns of disharmony’. What may appear as a random list of symptoms, may fit into a ‘pattern of imbalance’. For example, irritable bowel syndrome, hypersensitivity to stress, mood swings, period pain, muscle twitches… all relate to an imbalance in the Liver organ. In fact, the very basis of fibromyalgia is often an imbalance between the Liver and Spleen. It is important to remember that when we talk of ‘Liver’ and ‘Spleen’ in Chinese medicine, there is no straightforward translation of their functioning in Western medicine. Chinese medicine does require wearing a different hat! Inevitably with chronic illness, there is a complexity of ‘patterns of imbalance’ that lead to the diverse array of symptoms that you can get with fibromyalgia. Liver imbalances can affect the digestive system, the heart, the lungs, etc. The Liver has very a very important role in Chinese medicine, and when it gets out of balance it often affects the functioning of other organs.
Interesting articles about Fibromyalgia from the NEWS section
Can Acupuncture Help Fibromyalgia?