Have you been trying without success to get pregnant? Have you been unable to carry a pregnancy to term? Would you like to get pregnant naturally? Would you like to optimize your chances of getting pregnant using assisted reproductive technologies (ART)? If you answered 'yes' to any of these questions, you may want to consider acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. The enhancement of fertility has been at the heart of Traditional Chinese Medicine for over 5,000 years.
Q. How does acupuncture improve fertility?
A. Acupuncture causes a reduction of stress hormones and a release of endorphins that produce a profound state of relaxation. Research has shown that women with elevated stress levels have significantly lower pregnancy rates. Regular acupuncture treatments result in the correction of the body's neuro-endocrinological activity resulting in hormonal regulation and balance. The insertion of needles in specific acupoints in the body increases ovarian and uterine blood flow. This increased flow stimulates ovulation and enhances growth of the uterine lining. Acupuncture supports implantation and growth of the embryo during the very crucial initial stages of fetal development.
Q. How does herbal therapy improve fertility?
A. Herbs work to nourish and strengthen the body; assimilation of critical nutrients supports a healthy pregnancy. The quality of ovarian eggs and the thickness of the uterine lining are dependent on adequate nutrition. When present in the reproductive area, inflammation creates yet another obstacle to fertility, so acupuncturists prescribe specific herbs to reduce inflammation. Lastly, other select herbs are effectively used to regulate and balance hormone levels.
Q. Is Traditional Chinese Medicine helpful in combination with ART and IVF?
A. For women who partake in Traditional Chinese Medicine while undergoing assisted reproductive technologies (ART) and in vitro fertilization (IVF), acupuncture and herbs are used to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy. Fertility is supported by stimulating ovulation, regulating hormones and regulating the menstrual cycle. Traditional Chinese Medicine provides invaluable support for women by helping to return the body to a state of optimum balance.
Q. Are there TCM benefits for men?
A. Traditional Chinese Medicine is commonly used to increase and improve the quality, motility and quantity of sperm. Since male infertility accounts for over 40% of infertility issues in couples, male partners are encouraged to partake in regular treatments to address potential sperm issues. Strengthening the male partner increases the odds of pregnancy.
Stick a pin in ... sports injuries
Many injured athletes use acupuncture for relief. When he was playing in the NFL, former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber turned to it frequently for his muscle strains. "It helps your body recover from injury faster," says Marianne Fuenmayor, MSLAc, chairwoman of the acupuncture department at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in New York City. One theory, according to Dr. Cheng, is that your body may respond to the needles by further increasing the flow of oxygenated blood to the injured area, which helps speed the healing process.
Science says: You should see your doctor if you're injured, but if he or she says you don't need any treatment beyond rest, then ask if it's OK to go to an acupuncturist to help manage the pain or discomfort. "I've used it very effectively to treat ankle sprains, muscle soreness, tennis elbow, and tendinitis," says John Cianca, M.D., a rehabilitation specialist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the president of the American Road Race Medical Society.
A Johns Hopkins study in 2009 found that people with chronic tendinitis or arthritis who had 20-minute acupuncture sessions twice a week for six weeks had less pain and disability than people who only thought they were receiving acupuncture (the needles didn't penetrate the skin). Additionally, a 2008 study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that participants who were jabbed for muscle soreness 24 and 48 hours after they exercised to exhaustion reported significantly less pain than people who didn't receive the treatment. Even if you have a few aches or past injuries, you can reinvent your body into a stronger, slimmer version of your younger self—just follow this 4-week transformation plan.
Stick a pin in ... anxiety and depression
A little setback—say, your team falling behind in the playoffs—can trigger mild anxiety. A big bummer—losing your job, for example—can cause serious depression. In either case, acupuncture can help. "In the recent recession, I've been treating a lot of men who are under stress," says Nicholas Zimet, a licensed acupuncturist with Prime Meridian Acupuncture in Minneapolis. "After treatment, they feel more relaxed and able to deal with the pressures of life." Why the mental boost? When needles enter your earlobes, hands, or feet, Dr. Cheng says, your brain releases neurotransmitters and other chemicals that affect stress and mood.
Science says: A recent study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that depressed patients with severe anxiety can benefit from acupuncture. The study, which paired acupuncture with the medication fluoxetine (a generic form of Prozac) also reported benefits for patients who couldn't tolerate the side effects commonly caused by the medication, including decreased sex drive, difficulty maintaining erections, and delayed ejaculation. Not a bad tradeoff. Feel queasy about needles? Then use these 52 tricks to conquer and control stress instead.
Stick a pin in ... back pain
Treating back pain is by far the most common reason people turn to acupuncture. "It simply works much better than any of the pills we prescribe," says Dr. Cheng. Just as with sports injuries, the needles seem to increase blood flow to muscles and tissues. (Sometimes the practitioners will also run electric current through the needles. Physical therapists have been using electrical stimulation for years to promote healing, and Dr. Cheng says the needles help the current travel deeper into the muscles.)
Science says: A University of Michigan study in 2009 backed up Dr. Cheng's assessment. The researchers used brain imaging to see how needling the skin affects the brain's ability to control pain. "Acupuncture seems to help pain receptors in the brain bind more easily to opioids such as endorphins, our body's natural painkiller," says Richard Harris, Ph.D., co-author of the study. It also helps the receptors bind to painkilling drugs such as codeine or morphine. And the better those work, the less you hurt. That applies to more than your back—check out expert advice on how to ease all of life's frustrating pains—from heartburn to hemorrhoids.
If you decide to give accupunture a try, look for a licensed or a medical acupuncturist. States issue the licenses (which may require certification), and most use examination results from the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. (Search its database at nccaom. org.) A licensed, NCCAOM-certified acupuncturist has graduated from an accredited school and passed NCCAOM's exam, and has at least 1,800 hours of training. Medical acupuncturists (DABMA or FAAMA) are board-certified physicians who've had training approved by the American Board of Medical Acupuncture. Search for one at medicalacupuncture.org.
Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery is the official scientific journal of the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF). The study's authors are Julia Vent, MD, PhD; Djin-Wue Wang, MD; and Michael Damm, MD.
Alexandria, VA: 1-Apr-2010 – Traditional Chinese acupuncture (TCA), where very thin needles are used to stimulate specific points in the body to elicit beneficial therapeutic responses, may be an effective treatment option for patients who suffer from persistent post- viral olfactory dysfunction (PVOD), according to new research in the April 2010 issue of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery.
Olfactory dysfunction can arise from a variety of causes and can profoundly influence a patient's quality of life. The sense of smell determines the flavor of foods and beverages and also serves as an early warning system for the detection of environmental hazards, such as spoiled food, leaking natural gas, smoke, or airborne pollutants. The loss or distortions of smell sensation can adversely influence food preference, food intake, and appetite.
Approximately 2 million Americans experience some type of olfactory dysfunction. One of the most frequent causes of loss of smell in adults is an upper respiratory tract infection (URI). Patients usually complain of smell loss following a viral URI. The smell loss is most commonly partial, and reversible. However, occasionally patients may also present with parosmia (a distortion of the sense of smell), phantosmia (smelling things that aren't there), or permanent damage of the olfactory system.
To date, there is no validated pharmacotherapy for PVOD, but attempts have been made to establish a standardized treatment. In the literature, systemic and topical steroids as well as vitamin B supplements, caroverine, alpha lipoic acid, and other drugs were used to treat patients. The researchers point out that in addition to these treatments, complementary and alternative medicines are currently being employed by many patients on their own, and that exploration into their usefulness by traditional Western medicine should be validated.
In the current study, 15 patients presenting to an outpatient clinic with PVOD were treated by TCA in 10 weekly 30-minute sessions. Subjective olfactometry was performed using the Sniffin' Sticks test set. Treatment success was defined as an increase of at least six points in the sticks test scores. The effects of TCA were compared to matched pairs of people suffering from PVOD who had been treated with vitamin B complex. Eight patients treated with TCA improved olfactory function, compared with two treated with vitamin B complex.
The authors acknowledge that their study is limited by its size, and that further studies should be conducted in a larger population. However, the authors write "…the observed high response rate of about 50 percent under TCA was superior to that of vitamin B complex or that of spontaneous remission, and offers a possible new therapeutic regimen in postviral dysosmia."
Acupuncture has been recognized by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institute of Health (NIH) as effective within primary, secondary or palliative treatment protocols for the following conditions.
Acupuncture for Pain
Acupuncture for Chronic conditions
Acupuncture for Gastrointestinal and Hepato-Biliary Issues
Acupuncture for Ear, Nose, and Throat
Acupuncture for Endocrine System (Hormones)
Acupuncture for Eyes and Vision
Acupuncture for Head, Mouth and Teeth
Acupuncture for Kidney and Urinary System
Acupuncture for Lungs and Breathing
Acupuncture for Mental Health and Behavior (Psychological Issues)
Acupuncture for Women’s Health (OB/GYN)
Acupuncture for Neurological Conditions
Historically a part of a number of wisdom traditions Acupuncture is a therapy most notably linked to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a system of healing that has roots going back an estimated eight thousand years or more. Most traditional acupuncture applications are based on a concept of energy flow some times referred to as life force, or likely more well known as qi/ki (pronounced "chee/kee").
As this energy flows into, out of and within the body it does so via an energetic pathway system within the body often referred to as meridians. Each of these meridians are sourced or pooled within partnered organs that work in concert to nourish or govern particular bodily functions. The strategic concept of acupuncture is much like those used by a farmer as they water, fertilize and tend the fields. If there is excess acupuncture can be used to reduce, if there is depletion acupuncture can be used to introduce and if there is lack of fluidity within the channels regulation can be pursued.
In a more modern scientific view Qi is understood to be the function or action that leads to a particular outcome. So the Qi of disease would be the path the body took for the disease to manifest in its current form and the Qi of healing would the path needed to unwind, repair and recover the body from the diseased state. The challenge is to determine the most appropriate path from which to address the disease. This may be a challenge but it is also why acupuncture is rarely used solely on its own. So while it may seem mystical by some descriptions in reality acupuncture is rooted in very sound protocols that allow for very precise diagnosis and treatment protocols. It is more like algebra than it is like magic.
The technique used by practitioners will vary depending on the individual being treated, the practitioner’s expertise and the condition being treated. To suggest a one size fits all model for acupuncture would be a disservice to the client, the practitioner and the premise of acupuncture as a healing modality. In general, however, the instruments can vary from tools used to lightly scrape or manipulate the skin to the most common acupuncture tool very thin needles. The needles are inserted into various points along the meridians or in certain case unmapped points (Ashi points) determined to be appropriate for the treatment.