Acupuncture Could Ease Joint Pain From Breast Cancer Treatment
Jamie Starkey, the lead acupuncturist at Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute, says athletes who get acupuncture typically feel a two-fold effect. “So, what the science is showing is that it has an anti-inflammatory effect, so if you sprain your ankle, for example, the acupuncture will work to decrease the inflammation and then it also has a pain-relieving effect,” she explained. Starkey says the acupuncture needles release endorphins which offer a natural pain relief. She says acupuncture not only helps with general muscle soreness from working out or playing sports on the weekend, but says acupuncture can also help to decrease muscle spasms and cramping. “If there is a strain or a pull we’re able to go in and needle the trigger points to release the muscles that may be in spasm,” explained Starkey. She says a trained acupuncturist can even pinpoint specific areas of the body. “Typically the athletes I see I am treating them for low back pain, neck pain, shoulder injuries, elbow injuries, knees, ankles, even larger muscle groups,” Starkey explained. Starkey says acupuncture works well as part of a multidisciplinary approach to treating sports injuries or muscle soreness. She adds acupuncture, in combination with things like heat, ice, and pain medications, may help to yield the best results. Copyright 2013 by News4Jax.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Acupuncture helps cancer patients cope
Everything that exists at the level of humanity, including humans themselves, becomes conduits for this energetic flow between Heaven and Earth. Indeed, the Chinese believe that it is this flow that gives rise to all that is present at this level. In one of the earliest known texts on Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, it is stated that Happiness is when the Qi flows freely through the body. This may be interpreted as meaning that as long as this flow between Heaven and Earth is smooth, we have a nearly unlimited capacity to heal, to be healthy and happy, and to live fulfilled lives full of awareness. How is this so? We all have meridians, or channels, that run through our body and act as conduits for this constant flow of qi. The yang meridians start at the fingertips, carrying yang qi from Heaven above to the head and body and eventually down to the toes and the Earth. The yin meridians start at the toes, carrying yin qi from Earth up to the body and eventually out the fingertips and up to Heaven. If this flow of qi is unobstructed, it can carry out any excesses and fill any deficiencies, thus allowing the bodys natural capacity to heal to be at its fullest. When the qi flows freely through the body, there are no blockages and one feels relaxed and present. Through diagnosing which meridians and organs may have potential blockages, we can then use acupuncture to stimulate those meridians and organs to return to the natural state. For this reason, many people find acupuncture to be extremely relaxing; some will even fall asleep while the needles are in. This is often an excellent sign, for when a person reaches the state between sleeping and waking, there is a systemic relaxation that occurs, thus allowing the needles to be even more effective.
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Acupuncture for anxiety and depression
If the qi becomes unbalanced, health can be affected. By inserting fine needles into specific points on a meridian, the stagnant qi is redirected to flow properly and restore health. I assess their baseline health, and by the pattern of their symptoms, I know I will treat the organ system thats affected the most. When the energy of the organ is helped to function better, it helps to alleviate the symptoms, said Ryans acupuncturist, Linda DAgostino, who has offices at The Hetrick Center in Silver Spring Township and other locations. Acupuncture helps the body restore its natural back pain clinic resources of healing. Some of the nations leading cancer centers, including Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, are incorporating acupuncture into their cancer care. At Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, licensed acupuncturist Lihua Xu said the number of cancer patients she treats is increasing. Acupuncture balances the whole body and improves the immune system so that a patients energy to fight the cancer is improved, she said. Dr. Michael Malone, a doctor in family medicine at Hershey Medical Center who is also a licensed acupuncturist, said he is sometimes paged by the hematology/oncology department to give a treatment to a cancer patient for whom anti-nausea medications have not worked. In the oncology realm, acupuncture is more accepted than in some other medical areas because the doctors are more exposed to its use and see it works, he said. We dont really know why it works for nausea, but for neuropathy, it may help stimulate the nerves and help them function properly. Mainstream doctors, however, want something they can measure, and its impossible to measure energy through meridians, he said.
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How does acupuncture work?
It is believed that acupuncture brings balance to the human energy field and balances out emotions, improving conditions like depression and anxiety. The Five Element school of TCM assigns to each organ one of the five elements earth, wood, fire, water, metal. According to this system, there are 3 forms of depression. They are caused by excessive worry or Earth type, excessive fear or water type and excessive anger or Wood type. The organs associated with these elements are the spleen/stomach, the kidneys, and the liver, respectively. According to TCM anxiety occurs as a result of a deficiency in heart and kidney energy, an excess of liver Qi, and poor communication between the heart and the kidneys. (Samuels, 2008) While it is difficult to prove through trials just how effective acupuncture is in the treatment of these conditions, scientific research does show that it increases the secretion of hormones which regulate the nervous system. Theses hormones include ACTH, beta-endorphins, serotonin, melatonin, and noradrenaline, all calming hormones which relax the nervous system. It has also been shown by electroencephalography readings that acupuncture increases alpha wave production which results in deep relaxation. (Samuels, 2008) Double-blind, placebo-controlled studies showed electroacupuncture to be as effective as amitriptyline for depressive symptoms. Patients in this study who were treated with acupuncture had better outcomes with respect to somatization and cognitive process disturbances than did those treated with medication. (Samuels, 2008) Also, In a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled trial of 30 patients scheduled to undergo colonoscopy, found that treatment with acupuncture decreased patients’ demand for sedative drugs, reducing both discomfort and anxiety during the procedure. In another randomized, blinded, controlled trial of 91 ambulatory surgery patients, found that patients treated with auricular acupuncture at relaxation points reported significantly lower levels of anxiety than did controls. (Samuels, 2008) One particular study followed the results of acupuncture in patients with neck and low back pain and divided them into three groups.
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The Baby Whisperer
The findings are published in the European Journal of Cancer . “This study is not the final answer, but it does provide strong evidence that acupuncture can play a role in controlling pain for breast cancer patients with AI related arthralgia,” study researcher Dr. Jun Mao, M.D., MSCE, who is an associate professor of Family Medicine and Community Health at the university, said in a statement. “We saw a significant reduction in pain levels in the acupuncture groups with only very mild, short-term adverse effects.” Past research has suggested that 50 percent of people taking aromatase inhibitors experience joint pain, and as many as 20 percent of people taking the drugs will stop treatment due to the pain. Sixty-seven early breast cancer patients, who were all taking an aromatase inhibitor medication, participated in the study. All of them had reported joint pain as a result of the treatment, and the pain was experienced for at least three months at a pain level of at least 4 out of 11. (Researchers chose this specific pain level because past research suggested discontinuation of this medication is more common among people with pain levels of 4 or higher.) The study participants were broken up into three groups. The first group got electro-acupuncture, which involved receiving 10 acupuncture treatments over a 10-week period; the second group got sham acupuncture, where they received the same number of “treatments,” but the needles weren’t real (they retracted back when put into the skin, similar to a stage dagger); the third group was the control group who didn’t get acupuncture (but, for purposes of the study, were told they’d get the acupuncture treatments at a later date). All of the study participants continued their treatment with the aromatase inhibitors during the study. After the eight weeks, people who received the electro-acupuncture had a 43 percent decrease in their pain from before they started the study. And people who received acupuncture, versus those who were in the control group, were more likely to report “much improved” or “very much improved” pain.
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Cherry is whats known as an acupuncture fertility specialist: He and his colleagues at The Acupuncture Clinics of David D. Cherry, O.M.D., L.Ac. and Associates use acupuncture to treat all functional aspects of infertility, such as advanced maternal age, endometriosis, luteal phase defect, polycystic ovarian syndrome, premature ovarian failure and unexplained infertility. Hes been so successful that he has repeat businesswomen who have had two or three children thanks to his methods in conjunction with Western fertility treatments such as IVF (in vitro fertilization) and IUI (intrauterine insemination). Some fertility clinics in town even recommend his services. The general rule of thumb is that if a patient is suffering from a functional disorder, acupuncture can help, Cherry explains. If its a structural or anatomical disordersay, the patient has no fallopian tubesit wont be of much help. For me (as I assume for many people who have encountered acupuncture only in movie scenes and questionable YouTube videos), the practice conjures up corny images of people lying facedown on a massage table in an incense-scented, candlelit room while sitar-laden tunes compete with the voice of a ministering medic or medicine man who has made the patients back resemble a hedgehog, porcupine or particularly fleshy pincushion. While certain elements remain (the table and the music, for example), the reality of what Cherry and his fellow acupuncturists do couldnt be further from that misguided stereotype. Acupuncture and traditional Asian herbal medicine, often used in conjunction, make up the oldest medical system in the world, dating back to at least 300 B.C. Acupuncture involves the insertion of hair-thin needles into points in the skin that, once stimulated, can correct the balance of qi (pronounced either chee or kee), or energy, flowing through meridians, or channels, in the body. Improving the balance and flow of qi can bring about great health benefits, including reduced stress and painand in some patients, fertility. It all comes back to qi, Cherry says. Thats really the crux of the biscuit.
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