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Auricular Acupuncture: What it is and why is everyone talking about it?

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Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a medical system that dates back nearly 3,000 years. Auricular acupuncture was first mentioned around 500 B.C. in the Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, which is the equivalent of the Bible for TCM practitioners. However, the method in which auricular acupuncture is practiced today is actually based upon discoveries that occurred in France in the 1950’s. Modern auricular acupuncture comes from the work done by Dr. Paul Nogier.

Auricular acupuncture is the stimulation of the external ear for the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions. These health conditions may be anywhere in the body. The acupuncture points can be simulated manually, with an acupuncture needle, with a laser, magnets or ear seeds. Regardless of the means of stimulation, auricular acupuncture can be a very powerful addition to regular acupuncture treatments.

The current form of auricular acupuncture came about after Dr. Paul Nogier noticed a scar on the upper ear of some of his patients. When he inquired about the scar, he found out a local practitioner had been treating his patients for sciatica pain and she was cauterizing this specific area on the external ear to relieve their low back pain. Dr. Nogier conducted similar tests on his own patients and found their low back pain was also relieved. He tried using other means of stimulation as well, such as acupuncture needles and found it to be just as effective as cauterizing the area.

Dr. Nogier theorized that if an area of the upper external ear is effective on treating low back pain, then perhaps other areas of the ear could treat other parts of the body. His hypothesis led to the model used today for teaching auricular acupuncture. The ear is thought to represent the whole anatomical body. However, it is upside down in orientation, so the head is represented by the lower ear lobe, the feet are at the top of the ear and the rest of the body is in between. The Chinese actually adopted Dr. Nogier’s model of auricular acupuncture in 1958.

Auricular acupuncture is considered a microsystem, meaning one part of the body, the ear in this case, is a microcosm of the whole body. Microsystems also appear on foot and hand reflexology, facial acupuncture and scalp acupuncture.

This system has been practiced in Asia, albeit in a different form, for over 2,000 years. Auricular acupuncture has been used in Europe for the past 40 to 50 years, and it is finally starting to take root in the United States. Over the past five to 10 years, the U.S. military has started using auricular acupuncture for its personnel in the battlefield.
This form of battlefield acupuncture is used to help soldiers deal with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) brought on by being in combat.

Since auricular acupuncture allows for every part of the external ear to connect through the microsystem to every part of the body, many conditions can be treated using only a few very tiny needles. Not only can PTSD be treated using auricular acupuncture, but also things like chronic pain, drug addiction, high blood pressure and nausea. And for those who are a little needle-shy, auricular acupuncture is a great way to treat them, because it uses smaller-gauge needles, so small in fact, they’re barely visible. Auricular acupuncture can be used alone or in conjunction with other forms of acupuncture.

7 Ways Acupuncture Can Help With Running Injuries

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Running is something that people do to keep their bodies healthy. But as with any physical activity, there can be pitfalls to avoid. When it comes to runners, things like sprains, strains, aches and pains are all too common. And they usually involve the ankles, knees or legs because those are the tools that runners use.

For most minor running injuries, some rest and heat or ice can be helpful. But occasionally there are issues that just don’t seem to go away and can impede a runner’s ability to train and get back on track. Things like plantar fasciitis, pateliofemoral syndrome (aka “runner’s knee”) and sciatica are all issues that may take more than just some rest to correct. This is where modalities like acupuncture can be very beneficial.

Acupuncture is a component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that involves inserting hair-thin needles into the skin at specific points, which when stimulated, promote the body’s natural ability to heal itself. And while most runners seek out acupuncture as a way to treat an ache, pain or injury, many find that regular acupuncture treatments can actually improve their running by restoring balance and energy throughout the body. Here are seven ways that acupuncture can help with running injuries.

Acupuncture reduces inflammation. Inflammation is
common to running injuries. Inflammation is typically
caused by trauma or repetitive motion to the area. Inflammation occurs when cortisol levels are elevated and studies show that acupuncture can decrease cortisol levels very effectively, thus decreasing inflammation.

Acupuncture decreases swelling. Swelling is another common symptom of running injuries. It occurs when increased movement of fluid and white blood cells rush to the area that is inflamed. The swelling can remain for several days. But specific acupuncture points can actually help decrease the swelling, restoring proper fluid circulation to the injured area, also decreasing
the time it takes to heal.

Acupuncture promotes circulation. When the injured area is swollen and inflamed, proper circulation of blood and other bodily fluids will be limited. Specific acupoints have been shown to increase circulation throughout the body. And by placing needles around the affected area, it signals the body to send healing to that targeted area.

Acupuncture can correct muscle imbalances. When muscles become imbalanced, they can cause a chain reaction that results in muscle, tendon and joint pain. By utilizing motor points in the affected muscles, a release is elicited and the muscle can return to its correct position, which decreases stress on the injured area.

Acupuncture improves sleep. For runners, with or without injuries, sleep is vital. In order to be strong as a runner, the body needs time to heal in between each run. The CDC reports that nearly 10 percent of all Americans suffer from chronic insomnia and this includes runners. The benefit of acupuncture versus a sleeping pill is that acupuncture is customized to the person, treating the root cause and allowing the runner to get the quality sleep they need.

Acupuncture relieves pain. Runners tend to be very health conscious and taking pain relievers can come with some not so healthy side effects that can impede the runner’s ability to perform. Acupuncture relieves pain very effectively with no negative side effects. Acupuncture helps the nervous system produce painkilling chemicals and studies have confirmed this, which is why the World Health Organization endorses acupuncture for pain relief.

Acupuncture can relieve chronic stress. Stress of any kind, emotional or physical, can undermine the performance of a runner and cause all kinds of health issues. A recent study at Georgetown University showed that acupuncture suppressed stress-related hormone production and the effects lasted for up to four days. Think about that when you’re training.

If you’re one of the many weekend warriors and backyard athletes that use running as your release, then having a licensed acupuncturist on speed dial, might be a great way for you to stay healthy. Give it a try. You might be pleasantly surprised how amazing you feel in as little as one to
two treatments.

Lose It: Weight Loss And Traditional Chinese Medicine

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Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can help with weight loss by evaluating the root of the problem. Acupuncture and herbs, along with changes in diet and an exercise plan, can help curb appetite, assist the digestive system, transform and transport food throughout the body and encourage regular elimination.

Here are three main contributors to weight gain and how TCM addresses them.

Hormones: Testosterone and estrogen imbalance can be likened to yin and yang. Yin is more feminine, still, dark, quiet, inward and moistening (our fluids are yin) and is likened to estrogen. Yang is more masculine, loud, outward, moving, hot and bright. It is likened to testosterone. The body continually achieves balance between these two elements. As we age, the hormone levels of testosterone and estrogen adjust and can create changes in the body such as weight gain. For example, women with higher estrogen develop increased fat storage, and women prescribed estrogen may be prone to weight gain. Treatment would include an herbal formula designed to adjust the hormones and a diet recommendation that would include foods that nourish yin, such as yams.

Dampness: In TCM the term dampness refers to water retention combined with fat stores due to overstimulation of insulin from poor diet and overeating. If this happens chronically, it weakens the spleen system (which is in charge of transformation and transportation of food in TCM, a different definition than that of the Western-medicine spleen).

Long-term depletion causes blockage of organs and channels leading to serious health risks for the kidney, spleen, heart and lungs. This happens in stages as acute damp retention becomes chronic and leads to deficiencies in the spleen and kidney, which leads to more chronic phlegm retention. An obese person would experience health issues such as diabetes and heart disease in this case. Treatment is best in the early, acute stages where dampness is still primarily middle-heavy. Herbs and acupuncture would drain the damp and a new diet would be implemented to prevent future issues. Foods such as barley, and soups to warm the spleen are benecial.

Eating habits and lifestyle: Overeating, eating quickly, indulging in processed foods and foods too cold, such as iced drinks and raw vegetables, impair the smooth function of the digestive system. Stress and irregular eating habits also can cause weight gain, as well as eating sugar to boost sagging energy or to calm emotions. In addition, eating heavily at night is not advisable because the body burns at a slower rate at night as it replenishes the yin cycle. Treatment in this case would include an adjustment in lifestyle and acupuncture for stress relief and appetite control.

TCM does not just see food biochemically. Food has qualities including temperature, taste, shape and color, which benefit specific organs and encourage their smooth function. For example, sour and green foods benefit the liver, bitter and red foods benefit the heart, and pungent, white foods benefit the lungs. If one has too much yang energy, there is too much heat and therefore cooling foods such as watermelon and cucumber would help achieve balance. In the case of a decline in yang, one would feel cold, so warmer foods like lamb and ginger would benefit. If one has too little yin, heat signs are present because the yang has become more exuberant. You would nourish the yin in this case with foods like yams or goji berries. Not only will the weight gain be addressed but the root of the issue as well. Ask me if you’re interested in learning more about TCM for your weight loss goals.