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New Study On Acupuncture Confirms…It WORKS!

Just a few weeks ago, a person popped his head in my office and asked- “ Does acupuncture really work?” I honestly wanted to respond with a snappy remark such as “obviously it does or I would be out of a job” but I refrained and kindly responded Yes. Well, CNN Health and The Atlantic both picked up a big, new study done at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center that reports on acupuncture’s effectiveness. In a meta-analysis of 18,000 patients from 29 studies, acupuncture was found to be successful in relieving back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, chronic headache and shoulder pain. This new study has been getting lots of press- major newspapers and network television.

This study is big, it reviews randomized controlled studies and the reports are consistently good. The results “provide the most robust evidence to date that acupuncture is a reasonable referral option,” wrote the authors. The authors explained their statistical findings by using a pain scale of 0 to 100: The patients’ average baseline pain measured 60; it dropped to 30 on average in those who got acupuncture. That translates into a 50% reduction in pain!! I’ll take it!

Acupuncture IS Relaxing!

Most people when they think of acupuncture they think of needles and assume it must be painful. On the contrary, an acupuncture treatment is actually relaxing and calming! It may be hard to believe that being stuck with pin thin needles could create euphoria but believe it. Majority of our patients fall asleep on the treatment table and all leave their sessions feeling calm and renewed. Still having doubts acupuncture can help you without causing pain?…Read this article from a reporter about his first experience with acupuncture here.

A few excerpts: “My thoughts were stuck on the experience; I was still wondering if it provoked relaxation or if it was all in my head. I then remembered how I came into Miller’s office feeling uptight, tired and mentally rundown and how I was not feeling that way at the moment. Maybe something had happened, I thought.”

“For those who still think it is all in the mind, Miller pointed to an animal example of a prize racehorse that was experiencing paralysis in half of its vocal chords. The horse’s career was about to end, but its vocal chords improved following acupuncture treatments and the horse carried on racing.”

Why are we so cruel to our bodies?

Recently there was a somewhat shocking article in Glamour magazine that said young women recorded an average of 13 brutal thoughts about their bodies each day. Some women even confessed to having 35 to 100 hateful thoughts about their shapes and bodies each day! What the article found was that we have actually trained ourselves to think negatively about our bodies.

We have neural pathways in our body and these pathways become stronger as the negative thoughts become habitual. For example, if you are a musician, you would have stronger neural pathways that support musicality and dexterity than someone who hasn’t had musical training. Those who are not content in areas of their life tend to take out their negative emotions on their body. The article found that being unhappy in general is a much larger factor in how you feel about your body than what your body actually looks like. 

The good news is we can actually rewire our brains and create neural pathways that favor positive thoughts about our bodies! By putting positive thoughts in the fore front of our mind it can actually start to become instinctive. If we make note of things that make us feel good about our bodies and if we silence our “inner mean girl” we can slowly start to appreciate our bodies.

I wanted to highlight this article because I suffered from poor body image and an eating disorder as a teen. My eating disorder is actually what led me to Acupuncture! When I was 15 years old, I started seeing an acupuncturist to help me take control of my disorder. The process was gradual but as my body began to get centered and balanced, I discovered a wonderful sense of calm. I remember noticing a shift in my thinking after my 4th acupuncture treatment. Instead of feeling guilty for eating, I actually felt guilty for ignoring my body and not eating! Slowly, my mind began to see things more clearly and my obsession with perfection was transformed into a better understanding of the woman I wanted to be. I began to blossom and actually started to love myself. Acupuncture helped lead me off the dark path I was on and taught me to listen to my body and embrace what I thought were “imperfections.”

If you are dealing with poor body image or have an unhealthy relationship with food, acupuncture can help guide you back, by centering your body. Acupuncture can calm the mind enough to allow freer flow of introspection and self-knowledge or acceptance. When the body is harmonized and back in balance, there is a feeling of calm and satisfaction. But, when the body is out of balance there is dissatisfaction and unhappiness. By balancing your Qi, you will have a calm internal attitude that benefits not only the mind but also your outward appearance.

Migraine Sufferer?

Migraine and headache sufferers know all too well how the pain can disrupt their everyday lives. I see many migraine patients each week who have dealt with crippling pain for years (some well over 10 to 20 years) with little relief from medications. I am happy to report that with weekly acupuncture treatments, many of my patients see a reduction in the number of migraines as well as a decrease in the intensity and some are relieved of the headaches altogether!

The current theory from a western perspective about the mechanism behind the pain and other symptoms of migraines, revolves around a disturbance and inflammation of the blood vessels surrounding the brain, particularly the temporal artery. Changes in the amount of the neurotransmitter serotonin have also been investigated as causes of migraines. Migraines are known to involve the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight mode) and this causes symptoms such as nausea, diarrhea, pallor and cold hands and/or feet. A family history of migraines is usually present in a significant number of sufferers and women are more likely to experience migraines than men.

From a Chinese Medicine perspective, migraines can be caused by a variety of imbalances, but very often involving the Liver and Gallbladder (Wood) meridians. Treatment of migraines is based on an individual diagnosis like every other disorder or condition treated by acupuncture. Diagnosis involves examining specific migraine triggers, the characteristics of the headaches, the location of the pain, and medical history. Each treatment plan is tailored to treat both the root (cause) of the headaches as well as the manifestations (symptoms).

I recommend that my patients keep a journal on what they may be feeling or experiencing, as well as track triggers such as rich foods, computer overload, menstrual cycle, changes in temperatures, allergies, emotions, changes in air pressure etc. This makes it much easier for me to create an effective treatment plan and helps my patients gain control and come up with preventive measures. If you are a migraine sufferer and have tried medications and other treatment methods with no relief, acupuncture is a viable option that might be right for you. If you are unable to come in for a treatment, here are some acupuncture points you can access that might help you the next time you are hit with an intense headache:

  • At the first glimmer of a migraine, apply a hot towel (wring a towel in boiling water or place a damp towel in microwave) and apply it to the back of the neck (GB20 & UB10). Some patients prefer an ice pack so see what helps you.
  • If you are hit with a full blown migraine, apply acupressure to the ankles (UB60 & UB 67). It is best to avoid the head and neck area if you are having a current attack.
  • Avoid build up of stagnant Qi in the neck and shoulder by making postural adjustments and movements throughout the day. Make sure to take time during your day to stretch and breathe deeply.