Research Update: Moxibustion and Dysmenorrhea

A study conducted by Chengdu University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has determined that the use of moxibustion at specific days during a woman’s menstrual cycle can decrease pain associated with menstruation. Dysmenorrhea or painful menstruation is a big problem for many women. This study used moxibustion, an accessory modality of TCM, to treat the pain associated with menstruation. The study and its systematic review showed moxibustion treatments were more effective at relieving pain only when the moxibustion began prior to the onset of actual menstruation. This is also the theory behind Traditional Chinese Medicine, that it should be used as preventive care. The efficacy of using moxibustion during the premenstrual time period holds great promise for those who are debilitated by dysmenorrhea.

What is dysmenorrhea?

Dysmenorrhea, or painful menstruation, is experienced by more than half the menstruating women in the world. It is one of the most commonly encountered gynecologic disorders and for those suffering from severe dysmenorrhea, it can mean they are incapacitated for up to three days or more every month. The main cause of dysmenorrhea is increased or abnormal uterine prostanoid production and release, which then gives rise to abnormal uterine contractions and pain. The treatment of dysmenorrhea usually involves some sort of pain medication and rest, but there are alternatives.

TCM Treatment

TCM is a medical system that incorporates numerous methods for treating disease and illness. One of the tools found in the toolbox of the Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner is known as moxibustion.

Moxibustion is a technique that involves the burning of mugwort, known as moxa, which is an herb that facilitates healing. The purpose of moxibustion is to stimulate the flow of blood throughout the body. Moxibustion creates a pleasant heating sensation that penetrates deeply into the skin, but does not create any discomfort or pain. To perform moxibustion, a practitioner lights one end of a stick of moxa and holds it close to the acupuncture point for several minutes until the area warms.

Moxibustion can be used to treat dysmenorrhea because it stimulates the flow and release of the hormones that cause uterine contractions. By stimulating the release of these hormones, the body can then expel them which leads to decreased pain. Moxibustion is also great for women who suffer from fibroids, which is a stagnation and buildup of blood in the uterus. The warmth from the burning mugwort actually increases blood flow and this can help decrease the size of the fibroids over time.

 

As with acupuncture, only a licensed practitioner should be called upon for treatments such as moxibustion. If you believe moxibustion may be helpful with your dysmenorrhea, be sure to discuss it with your acupuncturist.

 

SOURCE: https://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2016/6706901/

Acupuncture for Tension Headaches

What Are Tension Headaches?
Tension headaches are the most common types of reported headaches that usually consist of a dull ache in the head coupled with tenderness in ones scalp, neck and shoulder muscles. It’s often also described as having a sensation of pressure or tightness reaching the sides and the back of the head as well as the forehead. 

Types of Tension Headaches
Although the root cause isn’t yet fully understood, doctors have placed tension headaches into two separate categories. The first being Episodic Tension Headache which can last between 30 minutes and one week. This type of tension headache often occurs less than 15 days in a given month during a 3-month span but these types of headaches can become chronic. The second categorized headache is a Chronic Tension Headache; this type lasts hours and may continue into several days. Victims of chronic tension headaches occur for more than 15 days in a given month and may last up to 3 months at any given time. 

It’s important to note that Tension headaches differ from migraines but can often be difficult to differentiate between the two. Migraines are known to disturb vision, can include nausea and vomiting and are usually made worse with physical activity. 

These headaches can be caused by a number of items including stress, food, head injuries and so on. 

Acupoints for Headaches
LI 4: Known as “Union Valley” or “He Gu,” the acupuncture point in the “fleshy” area between your index finger and thumb. It can be used to address many conditions, including stress, neck pain, headaches, allergies, stuffy nose, eye problems, toothaches and it can even improve your immunity. This point is also used to promote labor, so it should not be used when pregnant. 

UB 2: Located in the indentations on either side of the spot near the bridge of the nose where it meets the eye brows. Apply pressure to both points in this area with your index fingers for 10 seconds at a time. 

GB 20: Place your index fingers at the base of the skull in the parallel hollow areas between the neck muscles that run vertically. Press firmly upwards on both sides of the neck for 10 seconds at a time to relieve headache pain. 

acupuncture, self care

5 Self Care Tips for Winter

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) teaches that humans should live in harmony with the seasons. According to TCM, there are five seasons: winter, spring, summer, late summer, and fall. Each season has many associations that help us change our habits, allowing for a more balanced mind and body. When these systems were being developed, people were living in harmony with nature. People rose with the sun, ate what was available during the different seasons, and were much more aware of their natural environment. What to wear, when to wake up, when to go to sleep, and what activities to engage in were all dependent on the weather and the environment. Because of this, people were capable of staying healthy throughout the year and their immune and organ systems were strong enough to ward off disease. Here are 5 tips to help you live in harmony with the season!

1. Get some rest

In TCM, the season of winter is a time of repair and rejuvenation. Rest is important for revitalizing the body’s fundamental energies. This is why some animals hibernate during the winter months. We should also spend more time resting during the winter months to help prepare our bodies for the months ahead when most people expend more energy.

2. Incorporate self reflection

Winter is a really good time to turn inward and do some reflection. Practices like tai chi, qi gong, and yoga can be very beneficial during the winter season. These practices help us connect to our inner selves. They also help relax the mind and calm our emotions. Things like journaling and meditation are other ways of reflecting during the winter months. Long term, these practices can be very helpful at extending a person’s life.

3. Drink water, lots of water

Water is a fundamental necessity for our bodies. In the winter time, water is especially important to support our immune systems and help the body flush out toxins. It is important to remember to drink lots of water during wintertime, even in the colder months. Drinking warm water or herbal teas can be a great way to incorporate in more fluids. However, caffeinated or sugary beverages should not be substituted for water.    

4. Eat warm, seasonal foods

Choose foods that grow naturally during the winter. Items such as squash, potatoes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, root vegetables like beets, greens, carrots, mushrooms, apples, pears, and cabbage are great. During the winter months, cold foods like salads and raw foods should be avoided as they can be harsh on digestion and the immune system. Focus on eating warmer, easy to digest foods to support a healthy system such as soups, stews, congees, and cooked vegetables.

5. Treat yourself to some TCM

Traditional Chinese Medicine utilizes numerous modalities and tools to help keep the body balanced and prepped for the seasonal changes. Acupuncture and moxibustion are two of the tools that are regularly used in the winter months to support a healthy system. Moxibustion is a practice where dried mugwort is burned near the skin to warm the body. There are certain acupuncture points that applying moxibustion to can boost immunity and digestion as well as help with different aches and pains that may worsen with the colder weather.

When we align ourselves with the natural processes of life and the seasons, our bodies will adjust and perform optimally, just as they are intended to.

acupuncture, autoimmune, RA, pain, Billings acupuncture

Acupuncture for Autoimmune Conditions

Autoimmune diseases are a collective group of disorders that plague nearly 50 million people in the United States today. When a person suffers from an autoimmune disease it means their own immune system is attacking the body and altering or destroying the tissues. Autoimmune diseases include things like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, pernicious anemia, multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel disease and Parkinson’s disease.

Conventional medicine can diagnose 100 different autoimmune conditions. Unfortunately, the treatments available to people with these disorders is not as plentiful through conventional medicine. It typically involves the use of pharmaceuticals that can have side effects that are as bad, if not worse, than the symptoms of the disease itself. And even worse, many people are told they have no options. This is where Traditional Chinese Medicine can be beneficial.

Many factors play into an autoimmune disease. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) looks at the body as a whole, allowing the patient to get a more complete treatment. Research has shown that acupuncture causes responses in nerve cells, as well as in parts of the brain. By utilizing acupuncture, those suffering from an autoimmune disease can, over time, reprogram their brains and cells to perform as intended.

The use of electroacupuncture may prove useful for people suffering from autoimmune diseases too. Electroacupuncture emits mild electrical stimulation to acupuncture needles. This gentle stimulation triggers the body to produce hormones that suppress pain and inflammation. This helps raise endorphins circulating in the bloodstream. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers.

Chinese herbal formulas can also be very effective in the treatment of autoimmune diseases. When acupuncture and Chinese herbs are combined, the effects can be quite favorable. The herbs will actually compliment the acupuncture treatments by extending the effects of the needles. Many times this will shorten the number of treatments required, as the patient will start to see results sooner.

Many people dealing with autoimmune diseases also experience high levels of stress because of their disorder. It can be very stressful trying to lead a “normal” life with severe pain and other symptoms. Studies show acupuncture is very relaxing, and it helps reduce excess cortisol levels in the brain that contribute to chronic stress.

As autoimmune sufferers start to see improvements with acupuncture treatments and herbs, they may also be able to do things they couldn’t before, like exercise. Exercising not only improves blood flow, but it also increases immunity. Exercise also increases the amount of endorphins in the body. So just by receiving regular acupuncture treatments and herbal supplements, those suffering from autoimmune diseases may be able to lead a much more normal life with a lot less pain and suffering.

If you are dealing with some type of autoimmune disease, consider giving Traditional Chinese Medicine a chance. The outcomes may be life changing.

5 Reasons to Get Acupuncture for Low Back Pain

Statistics show 8 out of 10 people will experience low back pain at some point during their life. Seeking medical treatment for back pain is very common. Typically, back pain is fleeting and can be easily resolved with rest, heat, and an occasional anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen. However, once the damage is done, the recurrence of back pain can be as high as 50%. Part of this is because as we age, things like muscles and tendons become less flexible and pliable. It is also very well known in the United States that people are too sedentary and this leads to excess weight gain, creating added pressure on the body, especially the low back. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a medical system that dates back nearly 3,000 years. However, TCM has a lot of validity to offer in the age of modern medicine. Thousands of studies have proven acupuncture, just one of the modalities used in TCM, can be very beneficial in the treatment of low back pain. Here are five reasons why someone should consider getting acupuncture to treat low back pain.

  1. Acupuncture has no harmful side effects.  In comparison to most Western medical approaches to treating low back pain, acupuncture is the clear winner. There are no real negative side effects associated with acupuncture treatments. There may be slight bruising or a little tenderness after the treatments, but that pales in comparison to the side effects from most pharmaceuticals or surgical procedures. Even regular ingestion of ibuprofen can deteriorate the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, eventually leading to ulceration.
  2. Acupuncture is personalized healthcare.  One thing truly different about TCM is every patient is treated differently. There could be 10 people with the exact same Western medical diagnosis in an acupuncturist’s’ office, but they may all be treated differently. This is because not everybody’s root cause of the ailment is the same. This makes acupuncture treatments very personalized.
  3. Acupuncture reduces inflammation.  Back pain is frequently accompanied by joint inflammation in the spinal column. Acupuncture promotes the release of vascular and immune-mediating factors that actually decrease inflammation. Usually when inflammation is decreased, so is pain.
  4. Acupuncture improves sleep.  Low back pain can frequently disrupt sleep. With regular acupuncture treatments, not only is the pain and inflammation of back pain decreased, but so is the sleep interruptions due to the aforementioned pain. This is just one of the positive side effects of acupuncture.
  5. Get your life back.  Regular acupuncture treatments can improve a person’s overall well-being.  And when it comes to low back pain, life can be changed dramatically. People sometimes have to miss work due to the pain and lack of sleep caused by the pain. But acupuncture can change all of that, allowing people to resume regular everyday activities.

For anybody who has ongoing low back pain, the five reasons listed above should give you hope acupuncture can provide relief. Call the office today at (406) 272-0474 to book an appointment for your low back pain! 

Acupuncture for pain relief

Plantar Fasciitis

Welcome to flip flop season! It’s finally summer!

It may feel good to finally slip on those flip flops or sandals, but these types of foot wear can be tough on our feet. Sandals tend to lack the good support and cushion that our feet need, which can result in plantar fasciitis or other aches and pains in our feet.

What is plantar fasciitis?
Plantar fasciitis is a common condition affecting the feet. Inflammation of the fascia in the bottoms of the feet lead to pain. The pain can been in both feet or in just one. This can happen for a variety of reasons, including overuse, overweight, poor footwear, and tight calf muscles.

How can acupuncture help?
Acupuncture is great to:

  • Reduce inflammation
  • Increase circulation
  • Relax tight fascia or muscles

With less inflammation, increased circulation, and the relaxation of tight muscles, the area has a chance to heal and is given relief from pain.

What else can I do?
In addition to acupuncture, it is important to make some other changes. Some things to try at home include:

  1. Getting new shoes: invest in some new shoes or shoe inserts to provide your feet with good support. Shoes that are worn daily should be replaced about every 6 months.
  2. Stretching: focus on stretching tight calf muscles as well as the bottoms of the feet.
  3. Contrast therapy: alternate heat and ice on the feet. This can be done a number of ways. Try setting up 2 basins of water, one with cooler water and the other with warm water. Place feet in the warmer water for about 3 minutes, then switch to cooler water for about 30 seconds. Repeat the cycle about 3 times. This can be done daily or even multiple times per day.
headaches, migraines, pain relief

Migraine Relief with Acupuncture

Last week, I had the pleasure of being a part of the Advanced Care Hospital health expo and visiting with many of the employees and their families. The most commonly asked about condition was MIGRAINES! And yes, acupuncture can be an excellent treatment option for migraines!

Many struggle with migraines and the symptoms that may accompany them such as nausea, vomiting, light sensitivity, sound sensitivity, and others. The intensity of symptoms can significantly impact a person’s day.

Luckily, there are treatment options, most common being medications. For some, these can be an effective option. But for others it may not be enough.

Acupuncture can be an awesome option if you’ve recently started getting migraines or if you’ve been having them for years. Recently, more studies have supported the effectiveness of acupuncture for treating migraines, showing reductions in frequency and intensity of migraines.

Acupuncture can safely be combined with other therapies you may be doing such as medications, Botox injections, massage, lifestyle modifications, and others. Often, combining acupuncture with other therapies can improve the overall effect and outcome.

Interested in trying acupuncture for migraine relief? Give me a call at (406) 272-0474 or book online!

 

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2603492

Acupuncture vs. Dry Needling – What’s The Difference?

Dry needling is increasing in popularity. In 2016, dry needling by physical therapist in Montana became legal. So, more and more, I come across individuals confused about the difference between acupuncture and dry needling.

Here’s the difference:

Training:
Acupuncture is performed by licensed acupuncturists with a minimum of 3 years of training and at least a Master’s level education. Training includes Eastern philosophy and sciences as well as Western sciences like anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and Western clinical sciences. In addition, acupuncturist typically graduate with 1,000 hours of clinical training treating patients with acupuncture.
Dry needling is performed by physical therapists or other health care practitioners. Typically, these individuals are also highly trained and educated in their field. However, the training in regards to needling usually comes from a weekend course.

Treatment:
Acupuncture aims to treat the whole person, creating balance in the body so it can function optimally, heal, and repair. Acupuncture targets symptoms like pain, digestive issues, or fertility while also improving the overall function of the body. Treatment takes into account the person’s overall constitution from an Eastern perspective while also considering related structure, musculature, Western diagnoses, and neuroanatomy.
Dry needling focuses on pain conditions by releasing tight muscles. Treatments typically revolve around releasing trigger points that may be contributing to pain. Many patients experience soreness for a few days after treatment due to the focus on trigger point release.

Here’s the similarities:

Both use thin, filiform needles to encourage change in the body.
Both are based on science and backed by research.

Acupuncturists can work hand in hand with other healthcare providers such as physical therapists, chiropractors, MDs, PAs, and NPs in order to create an integrated treatment plan. Each practitioner can focus on their specialty, while providing optimal outcomes and results for patients.

sciatica, pain relief, acupuncture in laurel montana

Sciatica

What is sciatica?
Sciatica is pain, numbness, or tingling due to a problem with the sciatic nerve. The pain often starts in the low back and extends down into the glute, thigh, and even all the way into the feet. There are many possible causes of sciatica and often times it may be difficult for your doctor to determine the exact cause. Somewhere along its’ path, the sciatic nerve becomes pinched or irritated and creates pain that radiates down the leg. Usually, symptoms are one sided but can occur on both sides.

How is sciatica treated?
Usually, conservative treatment for sciatica is recommended. This may include heat, ice, pain medication, exercises, massage, or acupuncture. Occasionally, surgery may be needed. Recently, more emphasis has been put on non-drug therapies, such as acupuncture, to address pain due to the growing overuse and abuse of prescription pain killers.

How does acupuncture help?
Acupuncture is really effective at treating pain of any kind; so it’s no surprise that it’s effective for sciatica too! Acupuncture can help relieve sciatica by:

  • encouraging tight muscles to relax that may be contributing to the pain. Often, a muscle called the piriformis in the gluteal area can pinch the sciatic nerve because the nerve runs right under this muscle or sometimes right through the muscle.
  • promoting a reduction in inflammation to decrease irritation around the nerve.
  • initiating a release of endorphins to naturally reduce pain.

Of course, it’s always best to visit with your doctor about your health concerns to rule out any red flags. An acupuncturist cannot diagnose sciatica but may be able to provide pain relief.

For more information on sciatica and acupuncture, check out this information from the British Acupuncture Council: https://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/sciatica.html
gua sha for pain relief, common cold, acupuncture in billings montana

Gua Sha: Not As Bad As It Looks!

The aftermath of gua sha may look a little intimidating at first, but the benefits of this dermal friction technique make the discolorations more than worth it. Gua sha is often used to relieve both chronic and acute pain. A layer of oil is applied before a smooth edged instrument is used across the area. The skin color revealed after applying gua sha can tell more about the nature of the disease. The purple color showing up on my neck here is not ideal. Can you tell I have some neck tension?

Gua sha in an area of tension helps reduce pain by promoting circulation and breaking up adhesions in the tissues. In severely tight or painful areas, gua sha will often bring up dark red or purple markings. In less severe areas, there may be only a slight pinking of the skin. Gua sha has been practiced for generations in China but recently has been gaining popularity under other names, such as instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization and Graston technique. Many times gua sha almost immediately dissipates the pain… don’t worry, any markings will quickly dissipate too!