Whether You’re A Weekend Athlete Or A Major Competitor, Acupuncture Has A Lot To Offer

Sports Injury Treatment In Overland Park, KS - Eastern Healing Solutions

If you’ve watched The Big Game on TV, occasionally, a sports commentator will take you back into the athletes’ training room. There you’ll see large tubs for ice baths, massage tables, whirlpools, and all manner of equipment and personnel to help get those high profile athletes back into the game.

Whether you’re a professional athlete, weekend competitor, or a casual participant, sports injuries happen. They occur as a result of inadequate training, improper or ill-fitting equipment, incorrect footwear, overtraining, and trauma. There are generally two types of injuries; acute and chronic. Acute injuries tend to be the result of trauma, such as being hit with a baseball, a rough tackle in football, or falling off a bike. Chronic injuries occur over a period of weeks or even months, and often come from overuse, repetitive movements, or poor form.

While you may not see them on TV, more and more sports teams are employing the services of acupuncturists to help keep their athletes in shape and injury-free. In addition, many athletes use acupuncture on their own. Whether you’re a paid athlete or engage in your sport just for fun or conditioning, acupuncture has a lot to offer.

Acupuncture for Sports Injuries

If you’re an injured athlete, acupuncture can help you in a number of ways. Some of the most common sports injuries include ligament sprains and muscles or tendon strains.  These injuries can be painful, but also may be inflamed, swollen, and associated with reduced mobility. For both acute and chronic injuries, many injured athletes have found that acupuncture treatments can be helpful beyond the conventional wisdom of R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation). With many injuries, pain relief is a priority, and acupuncture can be an effective treatment in many instances, because it increases the circulation of chemicals in your brain, called endorphins, which act like your body’s own opioid system.

Acupuncture can also decrease inflammation associated with your injury. Researchers have found that the concentration of inflammation-fighting white blood cells are increased by about 40 percent in the areas where acupuncture needles are placed. Acupuncture treatments boost your circulation overall, and coupled with the decreased inflammation, it can speed up the time it takes to recover and get back to your sport.

Acupuncture can also help your musculoskeletal system in the form of better range of motion and decreased swelling and bruising after an injury. In addition, when directed at knots, trigger points, or muscle spasms, acupuncture helps relax tight muscles and increase your mobility.

Athletic Performance and Your Overall Health

Many athletes that use acupuncture do so because it helps their performance and keeps them healthy. Acupuncture is all about your body’s energy, and regular treatments naturally enhance your energy to help recover faster after workouts or competition. In addition, acupuncture is relaxing and used as a treatment for insomnia. Better sleep translates into better energy, and hopefully better athletic performance. Furthermore, scientists have found that acupuncture can strengthen your immune system.

When it comes to keeping your head in the game, acupuncture may also help. Researchers have found that acupuncture alters your brain chemicals to relieve stress. It can be used as a method to relieve pre-game anxiety. In addition, your mental performance can get a boost from a few sessions on the acupuncture table. Athletes report better focus, self-confidence, and feeling more relaxed before their competition as a result of their treatments.

The Acupuncturist’s Toolbox

While all acupuncturists perform acupuncture, most also offer a number of healing methods from the tradition of Chinese medicine. You may have seen Michael Phelps and many other athletes during the Olympics in Rio with marks on their bodies from cupping. Used to speed up recovery, heal sore muscles, and athletic injuries, cupping involves the use of glass or plastic cups in which a vacuum has been created. A little like a reverse massage, the cups pull your skin, fascia, and muscles and breaks the tiny capillaries at the surface. This promotes healing, enhances circulation, opens your pores, and removes toxins.

A sports acupuncturist may also apply a mild electrical current to the needles to make the treatment more effective. They may also perform ear acupuncture, which is especially useful in pain relief and dealing with stress. Most acupuncturists are also trained in Chinese herbal medicine, and can prescribe an herbal formula to support your energy, speed healing, or treat other health conditions that you may have. They are also trained in dietary counseling to treat specific health issues.

The bottom line is that whether you’re a weekend athlete or a major competitor, acupuncture has a lot to offer. It can help support and speed up healing and relieve pain if you’re injured. It can boost your energy so you can sustain heavy workouts, and help with your mental game in the form of stress relief and better focus. If you’re looking for a way to up your game, acupuncture may give you the edge you need.

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6 Things You Can Do To Prevent Back Problems As You Age

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If you suffer from back pain, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that about 80 percent of people will experience back pain at some point in their life, and aging increases your chances dramatically. As you get older, there are a number of spinal conditions that can occur as a product of wear and tear on your body.

One of the most common causes of back pain is caused by degeneration of your discs. Spinal discs are rings of tough collagen fiber with a gel-like center. They’re found in between your vertebral (spinal) bones, and act as shock absorbers as your body bends and twists. As you age, the discs become worn down and dry out, causing your vertebral bones to rub against one another. Discs may also protrude sideways or rupture, resulting in impinged nerves and inflammation. In all cases, disc problems have the potential to be extremely painful.

Spinal stenosis is another back condition associated with aging. Stenosis is a narrowing of the bony canals that house your spinal cord and spinal nerves. As the narrowing progresses, the spinal cord or accessory nerves can become compressed. Depending on where the compression occurs, it can cause pain, numbness, and loss of function, in some cases limiting your ability to walk more than short distances.

Another spinal condition related to aging is arthritis in the facet joints. These are the flexible joints in your spine that allow it to bend and twist. When the facet joints and associated ligaments become weakened, it can allow a vertebra to slip forward and out of alignment. This condition is called degenerative spondylolisthesis, and can cause pain that is worse when you’re standing up straight or bending backwards.

Older adults who have lost bone density, a condition called osteoporosis, are at an increased risk for compression fractures. This kind of fracture occurs when a vertebral bone partially collapses, triggering sudden and severe back pain, a loss in height, physical deformity, and a loss of function.

While these age-related changes in your spine may seem like a foregone conclusion as you get older, that’s not necessarily the case. In Chinese medicine, the aging process is related to the health and function of your Kidney organ system. The Chinese believe that your Kidneys are the source of your Essence, which is something akin to body constitution. The strength and health of your Essence determines how you grow, your overall health, fertility, and how you will age. Your Kidney controls the condition of your bones, your ears and hearing, the health of your brain, and even the hair on your head. Healthy Kidneys and abundant Essence translate into healthful aging.

The good news is that while aging is inevitable, there are some things that you can do to stay healthy as you grow older.  A good place to start, especially when it comes to back pain treatment, is with acupuncture. Scientists have documented that acupuncture affects chemicals in your brain to reduce pain and improve your mood. Acupuncture also decreases inflammation locally, boosts circulation, and supports the healing process.

If you work with an acupuncturist for age-related back pain, they may add electric stimulation to their acupuncture treatments, prescribe a Chinese herbal formula, or recommend dietary changes. Their goal would be to strengthen your Kidney system, nourish your Essence, relieve any pain you may be having, and support the healing process. In addition to acupuncture and Chinese medicine, there are some things that you can do to prevent back problems as you age. They include:

  1. Strengthen the core muscles of your back and abdomen with target exercises. A physical therapist or athletic trainer can help in suggesting the right exercises for your specific needs.
  2. Relieve some of the strain on your back by practicing good posture. In general, your ears, shoulders, hips, and feet should line up when you’re standing.
  3. Avoid unnecessary strain on your back, such as lifting heavy objects (no more than 25% of your body weight). When you lift, do so correctly, by bending your knees and hips into a squat, and lift by straightening your legs.
  4. What you eat can actually affect the health of your back. A good place to start is with an anti-inflammatory, Chinese food therapy diet, which includes lots of plant-based foods and limits processed foods and meat. Choose meals that include more fish, whole grains, nuts, and heart healthy fats, such as olive oil.
  5. If you’re depressed or under a lot of stress, make it a point to get some help. Strong negative emotions cause muscle tension and further aggravate any pain you may have.
  6. Stay active. If there were such a thing as the fountain of youth, physical activity would be it. Whether it’s walking, swimming, tennis, Tai Chi, or chair Yoga, movement improves your circulation, keeps your muscles strong, maintains your range of motion, and lifts your mood.

The bottom line is that as you age, your back will show some signs of wear and tear. However, it is possible to stay active and pain-free through good self-care and help in the form of acupuncture and Chinese medicine.

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Do You Often Feel Like Something Is Stuck In Your Throat?

Esophageal Spasm Treatment In Overland Park, KS - Eastern Healing Solutions

Esophageal spasm can be a scary and uncomfortable condition. It can be mistaken for acid reflux, heart problems or the feeling that food is caught in your throat. It’s a condition where the muscles of your esophagus, the tube between your mouth and stomach, involuntarily contract. This can cause a painful sensation that something is stuck in your throat or chest, can be associated with heartburn, or cause food to be regurgitated.

Esophageal spasm can sometimes be difficult to diagnose, because it’s frequently related to or occurs in tandem with other conditions. One common issue is when the cricopharyngeal muscle, also known as the upper esophageal sphincter, spasms and partially closes your esophagus.  This causes the painful sensation of something being caught in your throat that no amount of swallowing will relieve. Another related condition is heartburn, also called GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease), in which inflammation to your esophagus from heartburn can trigger painful spasms.

There are a number of factors that may contribute to the cause of this condition. Among them are drinking alcohol, eating spicy foods, eating very hot or very cold foods, chronic sinus drainage, and stress or emotional upsets.

If you were to go to your doctor for the symptoms of esophageal spasm, in most cases their first order of business would be to rule out dysphagia, which is difficulty swallowing, and a different condition altogether. They would also try to determine the cause of your spasms, but in many cases may not find any underlying source of your symptoms. Often, they will treat your condition by prescribing medications for heartburn, antidepressants to manage the pain, proton pump inhibiting medications to control excess stomach acid, or in extreme and intractable cases, recommend surgery.

Your doctor may also recommend some lifestyle changes that can help with the symptoms. Among them:

  • Avoiding triggers, such as foods that are very spicy or high in acid, alcoholic drinks, and any other foods that may irritate your esophagus or cause acid reflux.

  • Eating smaller meals more frequently.

  • Avoid eating two hours before bedtime, so you’re not digesting while lying down.

  • Losing weight if you need to, which can improve your digestion.

Esophageal spasm is a common and effectively treated condition in Chinese medicine. It’s frequently diagnosed as an imbalance called a disharmony between your Liver and Spleen. While that may sound complicated, it simply describes a pattern in which stress and emotional upsets override your digestion, causing a wide variety of symptoms, including esophageal spasms. While esophageal spasm is commonly diagnosed as a Liver and Spleen disharmony, it’s also frequently described as something called Plum Pit Qi. This apt name describes the sensation of having a lump in your throat the size of a plum pit, which doesn’t move, despite nothing being there.

Practitioners of Chinese medicine aren’t suggesting that this condition is all in your head. However, emotional upsets and chronic stress are a common factor that can cause or aggravate digestive problems, from loss of appetite to IBS. We have all felt a nervous stomach before a presentation or a big event, and scientists confirm that your brain and your gut are indeed connected. Your digestion is very reactive to emotions, from the sensation of butterflies in your stomach when you’re nervous to the loss of appetite that comes with grief and emotional loss. Interestingly, this brain—gut connection moves both ways, in that stress, anxiety, or depression can cause digestive problems, however digestive problems can also cause stress, anxiety, or depression.

If you choose to treat your esophageal spasm with Chinese medicine, your practitioner will develop a treatment strategy specific to your unique history and symptoms. They will most likely work with you to smooth your emotions, support your digestion, and address any additional symptoms you may be having. In most cases, acupuncture would be the first line of treatment, as there are some very specific points and protocols that are effectively used for this condition.

Chinese herbs can also be a useful healing tool when it comes to treating esophageal spasm. One formula, Ban Xia Hou Po Tang, has been used since ancient times to relieve tightness and spasm in the throat, as well as to treat psychological distress. In addition, esophageal spasm is a condition that benefits from Chinese food therapy. The Chinese believe that food is medicine that you eat three times a day, and your practitioner can help you choose the foods that are the most appropriate for this diagnosis, suggest foods that support good digestion, and help you identify those that may aggravate or trigger your symptoms.

Esophageal spasm is not just something that’s all in your head; it’s a very real condition. Anxiety, stress, and emotional upsets are the underlying cause of a number of physiological changes in your body, especially when it comes to the connection between your brain and your gut. Acupuncture can be an effective treatment strategy for this condition for a number of reasons. It causes the release of feel-good and pain relieving neurotransmitters in your brain, it can help balance your stress hormones, regulate insulin, and promote good digestion.

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7 Things You Can Do To Help Or Hinder The Speed At Which You Heal

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The healing process is an amazing thing. When you heal, damaged tissues regenerate, broken bones knit and grow back together, lungs recover after years of smoking, and even your brain forms new pathways after an injury. Despite traumatic injuries, illness, and everyday bumps and bruises, your body is programmed to heal.

Sometimes we forget that we’re hardwired to heal, especially if the process of getting better is taking longer than you think it should. The reality is that as you get older, you heal at a slower rate than when you were a child. In addition, the amount of trauma involved or severity of the illness, your overall health, and even the amount of pain you’re in can affect the rate at which your body heals.

The good news is that acupuncture can play an important role in speeding up your recovery in a number of ways. Researchers have found that it increases the amount of white blood cells locally where the needles have been placed, which acts to reduce inflammation. Acupuncture affects your brain chemistry to control pain through the increased circulation of your body’s own natural opioids. Furthermore, your overall circulation in enhanced by acupuncture, which clears out toxins and brings regenerative nutrients to the area of injury. Acupuncture can also help you keep your head in the healing game. It’s effectiveness in reducing stress and treating depression and anxiety is recognized through extensive research.

It’s also important to know that there are a number of things that you can do to help or hinder the speed at which you heal. Among them:

  1. Rest. Everything your body does, from thinking to digesting to moving your muscles takes energy, or Qi, and healing is no exception. Your body’s cells regenerate and recover while you’re resting or asleep, which is why it’s common to feel exhausted after a surgery or an illness. Give your body the time it needs to heal by conserving your energy through rest and getting enough hours of good sleep.

  2. Eat well. Not only is your body using a lot of energy to heal, but it also needs the building blocks to regenerate itself. That translates into eating as well as your appetite and digestion will allow. Getting adequate protein, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and plant-based fats are crucial. Also, don’t worry too much about gaining a couple of pounds while you’re recovering. Those pounds represent extra energy that you need to heal. There will be plenty of time to think about your weight when you’re up and moving around once again.

  3. Keep your spirits up. It’s easy to become frustrated, bored, fearful, stressed, and even depressed by your current state of health. It may be helpful to know that those feelings are common in people who are recovering from injury or illness. You may feel like you’ll never get better, worry about things that aren’t getting done, or think about how your life has been changed by your current state of health. It can be helpful to talk about your feelings to a family member, friend, or health professional. In addition, acupuncture can be an effective way to boost your mood, relieve stress, and deal with depression.

  4. Allow yourself the time to heal completely. It’s frustrating to feel like you will never heal, and you may feel the urge to test your body before it’s ready. In a word, don’t. Pushing too much too soon is a recipe for reinjuring yourself or reversing some of the progress you’ve already made. Give your body the time it needs to heal completely; you’ll be up and around soon enough.

  5. Don’t be a hero when it comes to pain. It’s incredibly difficult for your body to heal when you’re in a great deal of pain. If you’re hurting, talk to your doctor about pain medication, get some acupuncture, or try over the counter analgesics.

  6. Listen to what your body is telling you. It will tell you when you’re good to go. If you’re still feeling exhausted, in pain, or not feeling quite right, give things a rest. Your body is still healing.

  7. Tap into what complementary therapies have to offer. In addition to acupuncture, working with a massage therapist or physical therapist can be an effective way to speed up the healing process.

The bottom line is that how you care for yourself is an important component to getting better as quickly as possible. And when it comes to self-care, acupuncture can be a valuable healing tool. Your acupuncturist may add Chinese herbs, heat therapy, dietary changes, and bodywork to your treatments for the best results. A few acupuncture sessions can work wonders to relieve your pain, help you sleep better, reduce your stress, alleviate inflammation, and speed up your recovery process.

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There Are A Number Of Ways That Heat Can Be Used To Heal

Heat Therapy In Overland Park, KS - Eastern Healing Solutions

A wide variety of healing therapies fall under the description of Chinese medicine. Practitioners of Chinese medicine have the use of acupuncture, herbs, and dietary therapy at their fingertips. They may also use heat therapy to effectively treat their patients for certain cold conditions.

Heat therapy counteracts the effects of cold, which can cause symptoms and illness in a number of ways. The basic understanding of Chinese medicine is that in order to be healthy, you must have adequate energy to fuel your body’s systems, and that the energy must flow. However, like a river that freezes in the winter, cold contracts and impairs the smooth flow of your body’s energy and functions. Think about it; when it’s cold outside, things like bodies and car engines slow down and arthritic joints flare up. In Chinese medicine, cold is considered to be a pathogen—something that can make you sick—and can cause muscle spasms, metabolic issues, digestive problems, cramping, and joint pain.

Heat therapy is a way to offset the effects of cold. While heat can be considered to be a pathogen in Chinese medicine, in the form of a fever or inflammation, it also has a powerful ability to counter the harmful effects of cold conditions. There are a number of ways that heat can be used to heal.

Moxibustion

Moxibustion is an effective form of heat therapy and is an age-old way of applying heat in Chinese medicine. It entails burning the fuzz from the leaves of the artemesia plant, which is also known as mugwort. Moxibustion, or moxa, burns very hot, has a penetrating smell, and helps to increase the circulation and range of motion in your joints and muscles.

Moxa comes in a variety of forms, from loose wool that is burned directly on the head of acupuncture needles, to small prepared cones on a cardboard base that are placed on your skin and lit (the cardboard base prevents burns). One of the most common ways that moxibustion is administered, however, is through a long, cigar-like stick of compact-rolled mugwort. During a treatment, a moxa stick is lit and placed near your skin in a slow pecking motion until the area feels warm.

Moxa has a very strong, penetrating smell, which is a mixed blessing. Part of its therapeutic effect is the smell, which is said to enter and heal the energetic pathways of your body. However, the smell is strong, causing many modern practitioners of Chinese medicine who work in clinics or office buildings to abandon the use of moxa and look for other warming strategies.

Far Infrared Light

Many practitioners have turned to Far Infrared heat in the clinic as a substitute to moxibustion. Far infrared light (FIR) are light rays that exist beyond the red end of the light spectrum, and are invisible to the human eye. These FIR rays transmit heat, which can penetrate beyond the surface of your body, but don’t cause skin changes like UV light from the sun does. FIR light has been found to be therapeutic in a number of instances. Research on the use of FIR light has documented that it can increase circulation, decrease pain, help promote sleep, and decrease inflammation.

In a clinical setting, FIR is most commonly delivered through the use of lamps that look and feel like large heat lamps. However, FIR can also be delivered through heating pads, wraps, heaters, and even saunas.

Warming Herbs and Foods

In Chinese medicine, herbs and food therapy can also be a therapeutic way to counteract the pathogenic effects of cold. Herbs, and to a lesser extent, foods exert a variety of effects on your body. They can boost your energy, strengthen the nourishing quality of your blood, dry up phlegm, or drain excess water. Both herbs and food can affect specific organs, such as nourishing your liver or strengthening your lungs to build immunity. However, one of the most powerful actions of both herbs and the foods you eat regularly, is that they can affect your internal temperature.

To warm your body using Chinese herbs, your practitioner might prescribe a formula that includes hot or warm herbs, such as ginger, cinnamon, clove flower buds, fennel fruit, pepper, and very small amounts of aconite. Warming your body through diet can be far more creative and delicious. Meals that include warming foods, such as lamb, trout, salmon, chicken, walnuts, onions, garlic, scallions, and red peppers would be recommended. Cooking with warm herbs, like ginger or cinnamon, also enhance the warming effects of the meal. In addition, the longer a food is cooked, the warmer it becomes to your body. Therefore slow roasted vegetables are far more warming than a salad of those same vegetables.

If you’re chronically cold, suffer from aches and pains in the cold weather, or have tight and cold muscles, heat therapy can be an effective strategy. Warming your body or areas of injury can increase your circulation, improve your range of motion, and decrease your cold-related pain. Your body will thank you warmly!

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8 Chinese Herbs You May Already Have In Your Kitchen

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To many people Chinese herbs may feel exotic and mystical and very foreign, for a good reason. In treating serious illnesses and complicated conditions with herbs, you need a practitioner who is well-trained in the properties, actions, and nuances of Chinese herbs; someone who knows how to combine them into effective formulas.

Chinese herbs can be complicated because each herb carries with it specific properties. Herbs have a temperature, which means that some herbs can cool your body down and others can warm you up. They also have one or more actions, which is the effect it has on your body. For example, an herb can drain excess fluid, build up your energy, or help to dry out phlegm. Herbs also affect specific organs; some benefit your Lungs, while others may help your Liver. And herbs, when combined with one another, may have a synergistic effect—they may strengthen, balance, or offset the actions of other herbs. For that reason, and for maximum effectiveness, herbs are almost always combined into formulas.

Despite the complexity of dealing with them, you may be surprised to know that you likely have many Chinese herbs in your kitchen right now. That’s because some of these herbs are also foods and common spices. In fact, Chinese herbs are everywhere. Here are 8 examples and how to use them:

  1. Ginger is a warm and spicy herb that has many uses. It can be effective in treating nausea and vomiting, and can be helpful for people undergoing chemotherapy. Ginger is useful in helping you ward off a cold in the early stages. A little known fact: pickled ginger is almost always served with sushi because it can help protect you from seafood poisoning. To use ginger at home, grate or slice it into soups, stir fried dishes, or boil it in hot water for tea.
  2. Scallions are also warm and spicy. They’re warm enough to help drain congested sinuses and help you sweat out a cold. A simple formula for an early cold is to combine chopped scallions and grated ginger in boiling water or broth. Drink it down and go to bed to sweat out your cold. (This is not the right formula if you’re already sweating or running a high fever; instead use cooling herbs like mint).
  3. Cinnamon is also a warm and spicy herb, but its flavor is sweeter than ginger or scallions. Cinnamon can also be used to drive out a cold, however, its warming effects are better if you feel achy with your cold. Cinnamon can also be used for joint pain that’s worse in the cold weather. It can work as a mild antibiotic for low-grade bacterial infections. Ground cinnamon can be used as a sweet spice in baking or mixed with cooked fruit. It’s also found in whole sticks, which can be used in tea, stews, soups, or curried dishes.
  4. Turmeric has gotten a lot of attention lately, and for good reason. It’s warm and bitter and somewhat moving. Turmeric can be used for inflammation, pain, and to increase the circulation of blood. To use it in cooking, peel and chop fresh turmeric root, or used powdered and dried turmeric in soups, vegetable dishes, and stews.
  5. Mint is a cooling herb that is useful for colds and flu in which you’re running a fever. It can help cool you off and alleviate a sore throat, headaches, and a cough. In Chinese medicine, mint is also used to help drive a rash to the surface of your skin to speed up its healing. Mint is best boiled in hot water, mixed with a little honey, and drunk as a tea. Fresh mint may also be added to curries and stews.
  6. While you may only think of walnuts as an ingredient when you’re baking, it is actually considered to be a useful Chinese herb. Walnuts are warming and help to strengthen your overall metabolism, build up your Kidney system, and help to moisten your intestines to relieve constipation. Try them mixed with raisins for a nutritious snack or baked into your favorite cookies or banana/zucchini/pumpkin bread.
  7. Watermelon doesn’t look anything like what you think a Chinese herb might be. However, as an herb watermelon is very cooling, moist, and sweet. It’s used in treating fevers, loss of appetite, fatigue, and inflammation that arise from the hot weather. No preparation is needed; you can just slice it and eat.
  8. White rice is considered to be slightly cool, sweet, and nourishing. It’s used to treat digestive problems, diarrhea, and is a good choice for a sensitive stomach after you’ve had the flu or food poisoning. You can just steam the rice and eat, or mix it one part rice to seven parts water and slow cook it to make a thick, porridge-like soup. Add miso broth and ginger to settle a queasy stomach or cinnamon and dates for breakfast.

In a Chinese herbal pharmacy, most of these herbs are dried. They’re mixed into various formulas, either whole or powdered.  Combining Chinese herbs into formulas can be complicated and should be left to a licensed practitioner of Chinese medicine.  There’s good news though in that many of these same herbs can be eaten as foods, and are as accessible as your nearest grocery store.

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The Cause Of Your Back Pain May Not Be What You Think It Is

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What Is Piriformis Syndrome?

One of the most commonly underdiagnosed conditions associated with lower back pain is called piriformis syndrome. This condition often mimics many others, including sciatica and disc problems, but it’s actually something very different.

Piriformis syndrome occurs when a flat band of muscle located between the base of your spine and your hip, called the piriformis, acts up and compresses your sciatic nerve. The piriformis works to stabilize your hip, lift and rotate your thigh outward, allow you to walk, and aids in balance. It’s considered to be a core stabilizing muscle that’s in play whenever you move your hips and legs.

Your sciatic nerve is a large nerve that passes under (or sometimes through) the piriformis muscle. The nerve then runs down the back of your leg, with many smaller nerves branching out from it in your lower legs and feet. Piriformis syndrome is caused when the muscle goes into spasm, and compresses the sciatic nerve.

It’s estimated that up to one-third of all cases of lower back pain are the result of piriformis syndrome. In addition, more women than men experience piriformis syndrome. This may be because women tend to have a wider pelvic angle than men, which also contributes to a variety of women’s sports injuries. In most cases, piriformis syndrome occurs on one side of your body, but in some patients it may occur on both.

Symptoms of piriformis syndrome include pain in the buttock on the affected side, along with pain along the trajectory of the sciatic nerve, which includes the back or side of the upper leg, the side of the lower leg and into the foot. Patients also describe pain and discomfort when sitting for more than 20 minutes at a time and weakness and difficulty when walking. Piriformis is often caused by overuse, poor athletic form, running or walking on irregular surfaces, extended time sitting, direct compression such as sitting on a wallet, and even from prolonged exposure to cold.

Because piriformis syndrome acts like so many other conditions associated with the lower back, it’s frequently misdiagnosed or goes undiagnosed. Health care providers familiar with this condition may diagnose it through the patient’s symptoms, specific muscle tests and movements, and in some instances when palpated, the aggravated muscle feels like a thick cord that runs through the mid-buttock. In some cases, an MRI may be used to rule out other causes of the pain and nerve compression. Piriformis syndrome is most commonly confused with sciatica because of the similarity of the symptoms. However, true sciatica is compression of the sciatic nerve from damaged lumbar discs, trauma, or degeneration of the lower spine.

How Can Piriformis Syndrome Be Treated

Conventional treatments include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), prescription muscle relaxants, pain medications, and steroid injections. In severe cases, Botox has been used to relax the muscle, and surgery may be a last resort when all else fails. Physical therapy is usually recommended to help loosen the muscle and relieve compression on the nerve.

In Chinese medicine, piriformis syndrome is considered to be a pattern of stagnation. This simply means that there’s a blockage in the area of the muscle, and circulation, energy, and function has been hampered. Acupuncture can be a good stand-alone or adjunct treatment for piriformis, because it works to increase the circulation of blood and nutrients to the area, decrease inflammation, loosen the muscle, speed up the healing process and increase chemicals in your brain that help relieve pain.

Beyond acupuncture, a practitioner of Chinese medicine may also use heat, a kind of bodywork called Tui Na, stretching, and at home care. Electro-acupuncture can be especially effective in treating piriformis syndrome. During electro acupuncture, standard acupuncture needles are inserted into the area near the muscle, and the needles are then hooked up to a small machine that painlessly delivers an electrical impulse. Electro acupuncture works by helping tight or spastic muscles relax and increases circulation to the area.

Care at home for this condition involves rest and heat. Many health care providers may suggest ice; however when treating a muscle in spasm, heat may be more effective in helping it to relax. While rest is important, avoid sitting for very long periods of time. Stretching the muscle may also be helpful. An easy stretch for your piriformis is to sit in a chair with both feet on the floor and gently lean forward until you feel a stretch in your lower back and butt. To get more of a stretch, place the ankle on the same side as the pain on top of the opposite knee. (E.g. if the pain is on the right, place your right ankle over your left knee, keeping your left foot flat on the floor.) Then very slowly and gently, lean forward until you feel a stretch in your lower back and buttock. Repeat on the other side. If there’s any pain associated with this stretch, stop.

Treating this condition early is important, because over time chronic nerve problems or muscle weakness may persist. The good news is that in most cases piriformis syndrome responds well and fairly quickly to acupuncture treatment.

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7 Simple Tips To Ease Back Pain

Back Pain Relief In Overland Park, KS - Eastern Healing Solutions

Back pain is one of the most common health complaints reported by adults of all ages worldwide. Experts estimate that 80 percent of people will suffer back pain at some point in their lives, making it one of the most common reasons that employees miss work. Beyond the physical toll, back pain costs Americans between 50 and 100 billion dollars in health care costs and lost wages.

There are a number of causes for back pain, including sprains and strains, disc problems, nerve root compression, traumatic injury, osteoporosis, and stenosis, which is a narrowing of the bony openings that can compress spinal nerves. Your risk for having back pain increases with age and weight gain. In addition, people who have very physical occupations are at a higher risk of experiencing back pain, as are those workers who are bent over a screen, people who regularly hunch forward from back pack use, and those people with poor posture. Being physically out of shape also raises your risk for back problems.

Standard Western medical treatments for back pain include over the counter and prescription pain medications, anti-inflammatory medications, nerve block therapy, physical therapy, and in extreme cases, surgery. Many people suffering from back pain turn to complementary therapies, including acupuncture, either because they don’t want to take medications or undergo surgery, or because Western treatments haven’t worked for them.

There’s good news in that acupuncture can be beneficial for many people who suffer from back pain, and research is backing this up. The National Institutes of Health reports on several research studies that have found acupuncture to be effective in reducing back pain, and in some instances, better than standard Western treatments. While the actual mechanism of how acupuncture works for pain is not completely clear, there are some important physiological clues. Researchers have found that acupuncture ramps up the circulation of your body’s own pain-relieving opioids that are produced in the brain. In addition, acupuncture works to block the transmission of pain signals reaching your brain. Acupuncture also increases the concentration of inflammation-fighting white blood cells in the areas where acupuncture needles have been placed, which helps decrease pain and support healing.

Suffering from back pain isn’t necessarily a foregone conclusion. There are a number of steps that you can take to keep your back healthy and prevent pain. Among them:

  1. If you sit most of the day for your work, make sure your work space is ergonomic. Your chair should support your lower back and your feet should be able to rest flat on the floor, with your knees at a 90 degree angle. If possible, an adjustable desk that allows you to work while standing is a great option.
  2. Check your posture. When you’re standing, your body should line up—ears, shoulders, hips, and feet should stack up one below the other. If you slouch, regularly visualize a string coming out of the top of your head that pulls you straight upwards.
  3. What you wear on your feet matters. Shoes that are comfortable, with a low heel and a good arch are ideal. Avoid high heels, except for very special occasions, as they throw your spine out of alignment. Also, avoid flip flops; they offer no support, shorten your stride, and rotate your legs outward—all of which can strain your back muscles.
  4. Move your body. Lots of sitting and lying down weaken your back muscles. Exercise as simple as walking engage and strengthen the core muscles in your abdomen and back. In addition, physical activity increases circulation throughout your body, which translates into healthy muscles, ligaments, and discs.
  5. When you lift, do it the right way. Don’t lift a heavy object by bending over it and pulling upward; that’s a recipe for back strain. Instead, squat down to the level of the object you’re lifting, hold it close to your body and lift by straightening your legs. On the way up, don’t turn or twist, and keep the object below chin level.
  6. Eat to avoid back pain. A diet that packed with lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, and fish can help reduce inflammation overall. Foods that are high in saturated fat, such as fatty meat and fried foods can clog your arteries—including those in your back and spine—and those foods along with lots of sugar, alcohol and highly processed meals work to fuel inflammation.
  7. Rein in your stress. You may be aware that high stress hampers your digestion, suppresses your immune system, and raises your blood pressure. However, you may not know that lots of stress also tightens up the muscles in your back, neck, and shoulders. Over time, these tightened muscles can become painful knots, can compress nerves, and may make you more prone to back injuries. So do whatever it takes to bring a little calm into your life for the sake of your back.

The bottom line is that even with the best of practices, you may one day suffer from back pain. If that happens, consider acupuncture as a first line of treatment. Your practitioner can combine acupuncture with heat therapy, cupping, electrical stimulation, and a variety of other healing tools to bring you effective back pain relief and speed up the healing process.

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Research Shows That Acupuncture Can Be An Effective Tool To Quit Smoking

Help Quit Smoking In Overland Park, KS - Eastern Healing Solutions

Quitting Smoking? Acupuncture Can Help

Many former smokers will tell you that quitting smoking was one of the hardest things that they’ve ever done. Nicotine is incredibly addicting, and whether you smoke cigarettes, cigars, or chew tobacco, quitting is hard. Furthermore, the cravings for tobacco can last for a long time after you quit. For that reason, it can take one or more attempts at quitting to finally give up tobacco for good.

Health Risks Associated with Smoking

Almost every smoker is aware of the risks associated with smoking. They may have seen ads on TV, warnings on their cigarette boxes, or heard it from their loved ones. Most know of the increased risk for lung conditions that come with smoking, including asthma, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and lung cancer. However, many people don’t know that smoking can raise your risk for a number of health conditions that aren’t related to your lungs. Among them:

  • Heart problems. Smoking impairs your circulation and can damage your heart. It can increase your risk for heart disease, vessel damage, blood clots, and heart attacks.
  • Your brain. Compromised circulation from smoking raises your risk for stroke and damage to the arteries that send blood to your brain.
  • Reproductive health. Smoking increases the risk of impotence, damaged sperm, lower sperm count, and testicular cancer in men. In women, smoking can increase the time it takes to conceive, as well as increase your risk for cervical cancer. During pregnancy, smoking increases the chance of miscarriage, premature birth, and stillbirth.
  • Throat and mouth. Damage to your mouth and throat can result from both smoking and chewing tobacco. The health implications include a greater risk for cancer of the esophagus, throat, voice box, lips, and tongue. In addition, tobacco use is unappealing. It stains your teeth, gives you bad breath, can cause gum disease, and dampens your sense of taste.
  • Other cancers. Smoking is associated with an increased risk cancer to the stomach, head and neck, esophagus, kidney, and pancreas.
  • Your skin. Poor circulation from smoking reduces the amount of oxygen getting to your skin and shows up as accelerated aging and a dull complexion. Increased facial wrinkles from smoking, especially around the eyes and mouth, combined with a sallow complexion, gives smokers the appearance of being older by a decade or more.

Some Good News

Your body is programmed to heal, and that healing begins as soon as you quit smoking. In as little as 12 hours, the carbon monoxide from smoke is out of your body and oxygen levels are back to normal. After about a day, your risk of having a heart attack begins to decrease and your blood pressure starts to drop. Your sense of taste begins to return after two or three days, and after a month of not smoking, your lung function starts to improve with less coughing and shortness of breath. In the months following, your circulation continues to get better and your lungs are significantly healed. After ten years as a non-smoker, your risk of developing certain cancers is significantly reduced, and your lung cancer risk is cut in half. In 15 to 20 years after quitting, your overall health risks are the same as if you never smoked.

The Role of Acupuncture in Quitting

There’s no doubt about it; quitting tobacco is hard, but there’s also help in the form of acupuncture. Researchers have documented that acupuncture can be an effective tool in reducing cigarette use and quitting smoking altogether. They also found that after acupuncture treatments, study participants reported that cigarettes tasted worse and their desire to smoke was reduced. Other studies have concluded that acupuncture can help quitters remain tobacco free for longer, boosting chances of quitting for good.

Your acupuncturist has a number of strategies to help you quit successfully. One technique is through ear acupuncture, which is a protocol specifically targeted at treating addictions. Ear acupuncture uses needles during a treatment, but can be augmented with small beads that are left in your ears to prolong the decreased frequency and intensity of cravings. Your practitioner will also likely include acupuncture on body points to support your lungs, boost overall health, and improve your circulation.

Beyond supporting your health and reducing cravings, acupuncture is also effective in the mental game of quitting. It alters your brain chemistry to decrease stress, which can spike during the process of quitting. Acupuncture boosts the circulation of feel-good endorphins in your brain which helps to elevate your mood, reduce irritability, and enhance sleep.

A good strategy for quitting is to begin by making a commitment to become tobacco-free. Slowly reduce your use over the next few days or weeks, and determine your Quit Day. Book an acupuncture treatment for the day you quit. You’ll likely need follow-up treatments in the early days and weeks after you quit, but as your cravings subside, you’ll be able to taper off to less frequent treatments.

The bottom line is that quitting smoking is hard to do. However, millions of people have done it, and with commitment and some help from your acupuncturist, you can too.

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Control The Symptoms Of Rheumatoid Arthritis With Chinese Medicine

Joint Pain Relief In Overland Park, KS - Eastern Healing Solutions

Not all arthritis is created equal, and this is especially true when it comes to rheumatoid arthritis, also known as RA. Unlike osteoarthritis, which is the result of age-related wear and tear on your joints, RA is an autoimmune illness. While osteoarthritis is the most common kind of arthritis, it usually affects your weight bearing joints only, such as your hips and knees. In contrast, RA can affect your entire body, but frequently begins in the small joints of your hands, wrists, and feet.

As an autoimmune illness, RA is caused by confusion on the part of your immune system. Normally, your immune system is able to identify the good from the harmful when it comes to bacteria, viruses, and toxins in your body. However, an autoimmune illness occurs when your immune system becomes mixed up and sees your healthy cells as invaders, and attacks them. Scientists are unsure why this happens, but the result can cause a number of illnesses, including RA.

About a million and a half people in the US have RA, with about three times as many women as men being diagnosed. RA occurs most frequently in adults, but children can also get it. There isn’t a simple lab test to diagnose RA, so doctors combine signs, symptoms, and blood tests that may identify specific types of inflammation to diagnose this disease.

The symptoms of RA include joint pain, stiffness, swelling, and redness. In addition, as RA progresses, it causes joint destruction and deformity. However, because RA is an autoimmune illness, your whole body may also be affected. As a result, RA may also cause fatigue, achy muscles, poor appetite, and even depression. The systemic inflammation associated with RA can cause damage to your heart, lungs, eyes, nerves, and muscles. In addition, people with RA may have compromised immune function, and with it an increased risk for infections and developing other autoimmune illnesses.

There is currently no cure for RA, so treatment is focused on treating symptoms and controlling the disease progression. In Western medicine, RA is treated with medications to inhibit the immune system, decrease inflammation, and control pain. These may include NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory medications), steroids, DMARDs (Disease-Modifying Anti-Rheumatic drugs), and biologics, which target specific steps of the inflammatory process without wiping out your entire immune system.

In Chinese medicine, the symptoms of RA are considered to be a Bi (pronounced bee) Syndrome. Bi Syndromes are described as an impediment or blockage that occurs in one or more joints, due to inflammation, swelling, bone spurs, and poor circulation in the area. There are a number of different presentations of Bi Syndromes, including:

  • Wind Bi, in which the symptoms move around from one joint to another
  • Cold Bi, which is associated with severe pain and is aggravated by cold weather
  • Damp Bi, in which the symptoms are worse during damp or humid weather
  • Heat Bi, characterized by warmth and redness in the affected joints

It’s also possible to have a combination of these conditions. For example, you can have a combination of a damp and heat Bi Syndrome, in which your joints are hot, red, swollen, and made worse in the warm and humid weather.

Because there’s no cure for RA, many people add acupuncture and Chinese medicine to their Western treatments in order to better manage their RA symptoms, control flare ups, and slow the advance of this disease. A practitioner of Chinese medicine can combine acupuncture, Chinese herbs, diet, heat therapy, lifestyle changes, and other healing tools to help lessen the impact of RA. Acupuncture for arthritis treatment can help by decreasing the inflammation locally and systemically, increasing circulation in the affected areas, and reducing pain associated with this disease.

If you’ve been diagnosed with RA, there are some things that you can do to help control your symptoms, including:

  1. Don’t wait to seek treatment. The sooner you’re diagnosed and the more aggressively you’re treated, the better the outcome. The goal of treatment is to curb the inflammation, slow down the damage to your joints, prevent damage to other organs, and limit the progression of your RA.
  2. Use your diet as a healing tool. Because inflammation plays a large role in RA, choosing an anti-inflammatory diet can help control flare-ups and slow its progression. Simple dietary guidelines to reduce inflammation include reducing sugars and simple carbohydrates, and eating more plant-based foods, whole grains, nuts, fish, and heart healthy fats, such as olive oil.
  3. Get enough rest. Your body heals and regenerates while you’re sleeping.
  4. Stay active. Researchers have found that regular exercise can help keep your joints mobile and retain muscle strength. Activities such as walking, cycling, and swimming can help reduce pain and improve range of motion.

While RA isn’t curable, it doesn’t mean that you’re sentenced to a lifetime of pain, stiffness, and disability. By combining the best of Western medicine, the wisdom of Chinese medicine, and healthy lifestyle habits, you can help to control the symptoms, flares-ups, and inflammation associated with RA.

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