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Acupuncture Benefits Runners

Source: Running Competitor

Trails for All: Opening Up Trail Races to Visually Impaired Runners

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine practice that involves inserting fine needles into the skin at certain points called acupoints, which, when stimulated, are thought to promote the body’s natural healing processes. Used by more than 3 million Americans each year, this ancient healing art has specific benefits for runners.

Sarah Hammer, L.Ac., a marathoner and acupuncturist in Portland, Ore., says that while most of her runner-patients initially seek treatment for pain or an injury, they often notice, as she did, that acupuncture also improves their overall health—which translates to stronger running. That’s because regardless of the specific ailment, acupuncture seeks to balance and restore energy throughout the body, she explains.

Here are six ways this centuries-old therapy can help you perform your best.

Strengthens Your Immune System

Research shows that during periods of heavy training, your risk of acquiring an upper respiratory tract infection increases. According to the National Cancer Institute, acupuncture may help your body fight off infections by enhancing white blood cell activity. Several acupoints are associated with regulating immunity, but the key is to get treatments before you get sick, such as every two weeks during marathon training, Hammer says.

Corrects Muscle Imbalances

When muscles are imbalanced, they can trigger a chain reaction resulting in muscle, joint and tendon pain, says Matt Callison, L.Ac., a San Diego-based acupuncturist who trademarked Sports Medicine Acupuncture. To correct these imbalances, he inserts needles into motor points as well as specific acupuncture points to release tight segments of myofascial tissues—the membranes that surround and connect your muscles. “When you balance the muscles, you decrease the stress on irritated areas,” Callison says.

Accelerates Healing And Recovery

Clinical studies have amply documented that acupuncture improves blood circulation. “Because of the healing and growth factors in the blood, anything you can do to increase the amount of blood flow to an injured area, the better off it is,” Callison says. Acupuncture is especially helpful for healing tendons and ligaments, he says, which have been shown to have 7 percent less blood flow than muscles.

Protects Against Chronic Stress

Chronic stress undermines performance and wreaks havoc on our health. Recently, a team of Georgetown University researchers showed that acupuncture provides some resilience against chronic stress. In a series of animal studies, they found that acupuncture not only suppressed stress-related hormonal changes, but that the treatment’s effects lasted for four days. “Four days is quite long if you think of the effects of drugs, for example,” Dr. Ladan Eshkevari, who led the study, says. “Most drugs only last hours, not days.”

Improves Sleep

Recent clinical studies show that acupuncture promotes quality sleep, which runners know is critical to running strong, recovering well and preventing illness. Unfortunately, the CDC reports that nearly 10 percent of Americans suffer from chronic insomnia. “The reasons for poor sleep are different for every person, which is why acupuncture is so effective in treating it,” Hammer explains. “Unlike taking a pill, it gets to the root causes.”

It’s Mobile

Acupuncture pop-up clinics are part of a growing trend that brings the service to you. “Acupuncture can essentially be done anywhere,” says Hammer, who has treated runners during Hood to Coast, one of the world’s largest and longest relay races. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we don’t see more pop-up acu-clinics, like we see chair massages, at the end of races to enhance recovery.”


Recharge This Winter with Acupuncture

Source: Acufinder

If you feel tired and drained, you are not alone. “Lack of energy” is one of the top five complaints that doctors hear in their offices. According to Oriental medicine, the cold months of winter are the perfect time to recharge your battery and generate vital energy – Qi – in order to live, look, and feel your best.

The ancient Chinese believed that human beings should live in harmony with the natural cycles of their environment. The cold and darkness of winter urges us to slow down. This is the time of year to reflect on health, replenish energy and conserve strength.

Winter is ruled by the Water element, which is associated with the Kidneys, Bladder and Adrenal Glands. The Kidneys are considered the source of all energy or “Qi” within the body. They store all of the reserve Qi in the body so that it can be used in times of stress and change, or to heal, prevent illness, and age gracefully.

During the winter months, it is important to nurture and nourish our Kidney Qi; it is the time where this energy can be most easily depleted. Our bodies are instinctively expressing the fundamental principles of winter – rest, reflection, conservation and storage.

The Nei Ching, an ancient Chinese classic, advises people to go to sleep early and rise late, after the sun’s rays have warmed the atmosphere a bit. This preserves your own Yang Qi for the task of warming in the face of cold.

Eating warm hearty soups, whole grains, and roasted nuts help to warm the body’s core and to keep us nourished. Sleep early, rest well, stay warm, and expend a minimum quantity of energy.

Seasonal acupuncture treatments in winter serve to nurture and nourish kidney Qi which can greatly enhance the body’s ability to thrive in times of stress, aid in healing, prevent illness and increase vitality.

Here are some dietary suggestions that can lead to an increase in vitality and radiant health

Water – The Kidneys are associated with the Water element. Drink ample water, at room temperature, throughout the day.

Kidney Shaped Foods – Black beans and kidney beans are excellent examples of kidney shaped foods that nourish and benefit Kidney Qi.

Blue and Black Foods – The colors blue and black correspond to the Water element of the Kidneys and are thought to strengthen the Water element. Include blueberries, blackberries, mulberry and black beans in your diet.

Seeds – Flax, pumpkin, sunflower and black sesame seeds relate to fertility and growth which is governed by Kidney Qi.

Nuts – Walnuts and chestnuts have been found to be especially effective for increasing Kidney Qi.

Vegetables – Dark, leafy green vegetables are the best choice for Kidney Qi. Other Kidney Qi boosting veggies include asparagus, cucumbers and celery.

UC Irvine Research on Hypertension

Source: Health CMi

A team of University of California (Irvine) researchers conclude that acupuncture is effective for the treatment of high blood pressure. In a controlled laboratory study, the team not only documented the efficacy of acupuncture but also demonstrated the mechanisms of effective action. The University of California team has proven that electroacupuncture (the stimulation of a filiform needle with electricity) at acupuncture point ST36 (Zusanli) promotes enkephalin production that dampens proinflammatory excitatory responses from the sympathetic nervous system that are responsible for hypertension. The researchers note that electroacupuncture regulates chemical changes to the area of the brain responsible for nervous system responses that control cardiovascular function.


the human brain


The researchers document that electroacupuncture achieves this result by directly influencing preproenkephalin (PPE) gene expression. PPE is a precursor substance that encodes proenkephalin, which then stimulates the production of enkephalin (an endogenous opioid with powerful pain killing actions). The research documents that electroacupuncture reduces blood pressure through the regulation of this process.

Previous studies demonstrate the efficacy of acupuncture for the treatment of hypertension. [1] The University of California study confirms the prior research and also documents the mechanisms of effective action. The research team used opioid receptor antagonists to confirm that electroacupuncture’s ability to regulate enkephalin caused the lowering of hypertension. We’ll take a look at how they double-checked their work later in this article.

The laboratory study was conducted on rats with cold-induced hypertension (CIH). The University of California researchers demonstrate that electroacupuncture attenuates cold-induced hypertension. Electroacupuncture lowers both systolic and diastolic blood pressure and the physiological response remains for at least 72 hours after repeated treatments. Thus, this study not only demonstrates but proves that acupuncture can be effectively used for the treatment of hypertension.

Hypertension poses an enormous public health risk worldwide. Hypertension dramatically increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart failure. Additionally, it is second only to diabetes as an antecedent to end stage renal disease. [2] In the year 2000, over 26% of the adult population had hypertension, enumerating approximately 972 million people globally, and those numbers are expected to rise. [3] In 2010 in the United States alone, over 1 million people died from cardiovascular, lung, and blood diseases, accounting for 41% of all deaths. Among these, the leading cause of death is heart disease and cerebrovascular disease (including stroke) ranks fourth. [4] In the United States, the estimated cost of treating these illnesses in 2009 accounted for $424 billion, or 23% of costs associated with illness and death. [5]

The effective treatment of hypertension could save millions of lives by preventing the sequelae associated with high rates of morbidity. It could also dramatically decrease the cost of healthcare worldwide, by millions if not billions of dollars annually. Based on the evidence, electroacupuncture is an important treatment option and must be seriously considered for its potential in both these realms: clinical efficaciousness and cost-effectiveness.

The researchers chose to induce hypertension with cold temperatures because CIH “is as or more clinically relevant than elevation of BP in other hypertensive models.” [6] Most forms of induced hypertension require surgery or high doses of drugs or hormones, which might affect the accuracy of the results. [7] Alternatively, CIH is a “‘naturally-occurring’ form of hypertension, associated with chronic cold-induced stress that is a common cause for essential hypertension.” [8] Within 4 weeks of exposure to temperatures of 6°C (42.8°F), the rats developed sustained CIH. The mechanism of CIH is similar to essential hypertension in humans and thus the outcomes of the study will presumably correspond more closely with, and the treatment will be more applicable to, patients with essential hypertension. More specifically, CIH stimulates the sympathetic nervous system.

The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems are the two branches of the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls the internal organs, and is responsible for most unconscious or automatic actions, including digestion, respiration, and cardiac regulation. The parasympathetic system has more influence over restful activities such as digestion, while the sympathetic nervous system is more excitatory; it is often designated as the ‘fight or flight’ system because of its role in responding to external stresses. Among other roles, this includes the short-term regulation of blood pressure.

When the body is under stress, including extended exposure to cold, the sympathetic nervous system increases blood pressure in an attempt to maintain body temperature and proper blood flow, thus causing CIH. Like other parts of the nervous system, the activity of the sympathetic nervous system is controlled by neurotransmitters (endogenous chemical messengers including peptides) that interact with ‘receptors’ to determine whether a neuron will activate (excitatory) or remain at rest (inhibitory). In this study, researchers tested levels of PPE gene expression to determine the presence of enkephalin, an opiate-like neuropeptide that has an inhibitory effect on sympathetic activity. Through PPE gene expression, if the sympathetic system increases blood pressure in response to stress, enkephalins would dampen this effect by interacting with δ-opioid receptors thereby lowering blood pressure. [9]

The researchers used a series of tests to determine the effects that CIH has on the chemicals present in the rostral ventrolateral medulla (the area of the brain associated with the sympathetic reflexes that control cardiovascular function) as well as the effect of electroacupuncture on these chemicals. They studied the rats in 4 groups: normotensive with no acupuncture, CIH alone, CIH with sham-electroacupuncture, and CIH with true electroacupuncture at ST36. By dissecting the brains 72 hours after the course of treatments ended, they were able to precisely test the levels of the chemicals still present in the rostral ventrolateral medulla (rVLM), demonstrating the extended efficacy of the treatments. Their results are thorough, addressing both the mechanism of action and the effect of electroacupuncture on hypertension.

By injecting normotensive rats with either a δ-opioid agonist (DADLE) to excite the receptor or a δ-opioid receptor antagonist (ICI 174,864) to inhibit a response. They demonstrated that interaction with the δ-opioid receptors in normotensive rats had no effect on blood pressure. The lack of change with either the δ-opioid agonist or antagonist shows that sympathoexcitation is limited to conditions of stress. Some rats in the sham-electroacupuncture test group were injected with the δ-opioid agonist; the hypotensive effect seen in these rats mimicked the effect of electroacupuncture. This suggests that the δ-opioid system participates in the hypotensive action witnessed in the electroacupuncture test group.

Among the electroacupuncture test group, the rats showed a dramatic increase in PPE in the rVLM compared to all three other test groups, [10] as well as a decrease in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure not seen in the others. [11] In order to ensure that this was indeed related to the decrease in blood pressure, two members of this group were given naloxone, a non-specific opioid receptor antagonist. Both experienced a subsequent elevation in blood pressure, demonstrating with even more precision that it is indeed enkephalins interacting with δ-opioid receptors that are the mechanism of action for the decrease in blood pressure in rats with sustained blood pressure elevation due to CIH. [12]

This research provides us with concrete evidence that repeated treatments with electroacupuncture reduces sustained hypertension and indicates that these treatments have an extended hemodynamic action. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has asserted in its own studies that the activation of δ-opioid receptors “reduces persistent pain and improves negative emotional states.” [13] The University of California research concludes that electroacupuncture regulates enkephalins interacting with δ-opioid receptors. As a result, the treatment of hypertension and other clinical scenarios involving regulation δ-opioid receptors are indicated.

1. Cevic, C and Iseri, SO. The effect of acupuncture on high blood pressure of patients using antihypertensive drugs. Acupuncture & electro-therapeutics research 2013; 38(1-2): 1-15.
2. Chobanian, AV et al. The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure: the JNC 7 report. JAMA 2003: 289(19): 2560-72. (pg 6)
3. Kearney, Patricia M et al. Global burden of hypertension: analysis of worldwide data. Lancet 2005; 365(9455): 217 — 223
6. Li, Min et al. Repetitive Electroacupuncture Attenuates Cold-Induced Hypertension through Enkephalin in the Rostral Ventral Lateral Medulla. Scientific Reports 2016; 6(35791): 2
7. Li, Min et al. Repetitive Electroacupuncture: 2
8. Li, Min et al. Repetitive Electroacupuncture:1–2
10. Li, Min et al. Repetitive Electroacupuncture:4
11. Li, Min et al. Repetitive Electroacupuncture:3
12. Li, Min et al. Repetitive Electroacupuncture:2
13. Pradhan, Amynah A et al. The delta opioid receptor: an evolving target for the treatment of brain disorders. Trends in Pharmacological Sciences 2012; 32(10): 581–590.

Acupressure for Pain and Stress

Source: UCLA


Acupressure Point LI4: Large Intestine 6 or He Gu

He Gu (LI4) is commonly used for stress, facial pain, headaches, toothaches and neck pain.

Today, He Gu (LI4) is clinically used for stress, facial pain, headaches, toothaches and neck pain. He Gu (LI4) is located on the highest spot of the muscle when the thumb and index fingers are brought close together. To use acupressure on this point, (1) locate the point then (2) use a deep, firm pressure to massage and stimulate the area for 4-5 seconds.

When applying acupressure, try to relax and breath deeply as you massage the area. The massage and the acupressure can be done by yourself, or by someone else who is there to assist you.

The ancient traditional Chinese medicine text includes a wide range of indications for He Gu (LI4) from headaches and constipation to general pain and delayed labor. A precaution for this point is that He Gu (LI4) may induce labor, thus must never be used during pregnancy.

He Gu (LI4) is a point that has been extensively studied through randomized controlled trials and clinical research. Recent studies from the Journal of Orofacial Pain showed that the stimulation of He Gu (LI4) significantly reduced myofascial pain of the jaw muscles [2]. A recent Cochrane systematic review on acupuncture in migraine and tension-type headaches suggests stimulation of acupoints as an effective and valuable option for alleviating migraines and tension-type headaches [1].





The Energy of Fall

Source:  Acufinder

Enjoy the Energy of Fall: Autumn and Traditional Chinese Medicine

“In ancient times those people who understood Tao (the way of self cultivation) patterned themselves upon the Yin and the Yang (the two principles in nature) and they lived in harmony” The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine

There is a slight nip in the air. The days are starting to get shorter. And just as the squirrels have gotten down to the business of storing nuts for the winter, we find ourselves a little more serious and less carefree than in summer. Whether you’re preparing for school or preparing for a new business venture, you know that Fall has arrived.

Fall is the beginning of the yin cycle when the daylight lasts less than twelve hours. It’s a time of harvest when we gather the colorful fruits and vegetables for winter storage. Pumpkins and squashes are our symbols of bounty. We also store wood for the fire and get out our warm clothes for the colder, darker days of winter.

According to Oriental medicine, the season of autumn is associated with the element of Metal, which governs organization, order, communication, the mind, setting limits, and protecting boundaries. It’s a good time to finish projects that you began in spring and summer – harvesting the bounty of your hard work. Of course, it’s also the perfect time to begin more introspective, indoor projects.

During the summer, which is ruled by the Fire element, we deal more with the external – traveling and playing outdoors. Fall, on the other hand, is a time of organizing your life for the winter season ahead and coming more inside your body and mind to reflect on your life.

The lung and large intestine are the internal organs related to Fall and the Metal element. Lung is associated with the emotion of “letting go.” This process is difficult for those who love the summer. They find it hard to give up the long days of sunlight, warm temperatures, and open windows. Others feel differently and love autumn, from the crisper air to the vivid red, orange, and yellow leaves on the trees. If letting go of summer is hard for you, extra support from your licensed acupuncturist may be in order to help you make the transition. That’s rightacupuncture works on releasing emotional issues as well as physical ones.

Various systems of self-mastery teach that by controlling your breath, you can achieve and maintain physical vigor, mental clarity and emotional tranquility. The ancient Taoists developed a practical discipline of breathing called Qi Gong to increase vitality, extend lifespan, and prevent disease. This is a wonderful skill to learn as the Summer gives way to Fall.

Sleep is another important aspect of staying healthy in the Fall. The ancients advised that people should retire early at night and rise with the crowing of the rooster during the autumn. “Soul and spirit should be tranquil and to keep their lung pure they should not give vent to their desires.”

Lung is considered by Oriental medicine to be the “tender organ.” This is because the lung is the uppermost organ in the body and especially susceptible to wind and cold. During the change in temperature, be sure to dress for the weather! I see too many people still dressed for summer at the beginning of autumn, which is an open invitation for coughs, sore throats, and the common cold.

The lungs control the circulation of the Wei-Qi, which is the defensive Qi that protects you from the invasion of flu and colds. The Wei-Qi circulates on the surface between the skin and muscles and works to warm the body. If the Wei-Qi is weak, the skin and muscles will not be warmed properly. This is why people tend to feel cold when they’re sick. A weakness in the lungs can lead to a weakness in the Wei-Qi, making a person prone to frequent colds.

The nose is the opening to the lungs, and you can prevent colds by keeping your nose and sinuses clean and clear. Using a netti pot with some sea salt and water helps rid the nose of excess mucus. If you suffer from a runny nose or sinus infections, acupuncture and Chinese herbs are wonderful for alleviating that problem.

What you eat also greatly affects the health of your lungs. Eating excess cold and raw foods creates dampness or phlegm which is produced by the spleen and stored by the lungs. Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, cream, and butter also create phlegm, while moderate amounts of pungent foods like garlic, onions, ginger, horseradish, and mustard are beneficial to the lungs.

The transition from Summer to Fall is a time when the Qi is instable. The Qi from healthy lungs should descend. If the Lung Qi goes upward, it is “rebellious,” and the person experiences a cough. The Lungs inhale the Heavenly Qi (air) and exhale the “dirty “Qi (carbon dioxide). Now is the time to strengthen your Qi to prepare for winter and get a “tune-up” from your licensed acupuncturist to strengthen your immune system.

“There was temperance in eating and drinking. Their hours of rising and retiring were regular and not disorderly and wild. By these means the ancients kept their bodies united with their souls, so as to fulfill their allotted span completely, measuring unto a hundred years before they passed away.”Huang Ti Nei Jing Su Wen

When is Acupuncture a Good Choice?

Source: Journal-Advocate

There are so many chronic pain syndromes that it is hard to name them all. Chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, trigeminal neuralgia, peripheral neuralgia, diabetic neuropathy — the list goes on and on. It would appear that some people are “predisposed” to chronic pain and disability. This is an important fact and I want you to remember this and write it down: For every year that you have chronic pain your brain ages by 9 years. How important is it for you to take control of your life? How much suffering do you have to endure before your ready to take responsibility for your own health? I’ve said this before and I mean it: Your employer is not responsible for your health, your government is not responsible for your health…

You are and you alone!

Chronic pain leads to what researchers call a “central pain sensitivity.” They describe this “central pain sensitivity” as a physiological process when the nocioreceptors (pain) signals continue to increase into your brain without a checks and balance. Simply put, your pain receptors continually keep firing to the brain; this continuous firing lowers your threshold to pain. Many studies prove that acupuncture reduces pain by actually decreasing the stimulation of the nerve signals that cause the pain. Acupuncture also reduces the expression of inflammatory chemicals that stimulate nerve endings that result in pain. Research indicates that acupuncture can actually interrupt nerve signals that cause your pain. The parietal lobe of the brain deals with sensory input. Sensory input is how you perceive pain and various stimuli.

Acupuncture releases natural occurring “opiate-type neurochemicals” to control pain.

Acupuncture also works to release serotonin in the central nervous system. Let me give you a little back ground on serotonin. I’m sure you all are familiar with the Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor drugs like Paxil, Zoloft, Prozac, Lexapro, and Effexor. Serotonin in the brain acts to inhibit pain pathways. Drugs of this type are designed to stay in the synapse (space between the neurons) a little longer. Unfortunately, the neurons tire of this and eventually more and more drugs must be used and eventually the drug does not work. A serotonin imbalance results in losing your pleasure in your hobbies and interests. It’s also associated with feeling overwhelmed with ideas to manage, that feeling of inner rage or anger, feeling sad for no reason at all, losing your enthusiasm for your favorite activities, and an increase susceptibility to pain. The neat thing about acupuncture is you won’t have to take all those drugs to help your serotonin pathways. Cool!

Also a wonderful side-effect of acupuncture is it increases the natural killer cells in the brain. That’s good because natural killer cells help protect the brain. You got to love that! From a non-surgical standpoint, acupuncture is naturally a good choice for you.

Cupping Therapy

Source: Dr. Axe


Relatively unknown to most people living in the West until recently, cupping therapy is an alternative therapeutic method that has been popular in China since around 1000 B.C. Some records show that variations of cupping practices might actually be much older — possibly dating as far back as 3000 B.C.

And for good reason. Cupping therapy has a host of health benefits that can often outweigh modern medicine techniques.

One of the biggest advantages to trying alternative practices like cupping therapy, acupuncture or massage therapy is that these methods don’t pose the risk for unwanted side effects like pharmacological drugs or surgery do.

In fact, there’s really no downside to trying alternative practices like cupping, since studies show they can help boost immune function and speed up healing time without the use of any medications or even herbs. And these are just some of the benefits of cupping therapy.

5 Benefits of Cupping Therapy

Most of the validity of cupping as an alternative medical practice comes from its long history of use over the past 3,000 years. Cupping techniques have been used extensively to treat a range of disorders and symptoms, sometimes on their own, or other times in conjunction with other alternative practices. It’s common for cupping therapy to be used along with massage therapy, essential oils, acupuncture or even as an adjunct to “Western medicine” treatments.

What we do know from the limited scientific studies that have been done is that cupping works by expanding the capillaries and increasing the amount of fluid entering and leaving tissues. Besides this, cupping therapy seems to provoke a relaxation response in some people, which means it’s useful for lowering stress and its negative effects.

While there’s a ton of anecdotal evidence that cupping can be effective and safe, to date very few clinical studies using humans have been conducted, making it hard to “prove” many of the time-honored benefits of cupping therapy. That being said, it’s worked for millions of people over many years, so here are five ways that cupping might be able to help you:

1. Helps Reduce Pain

One of the most common reasons people turn to alternative treatment methods is because they’re looking for a safe way to naturally reduce joint pain and muscle pain. After reviewing dozens of randomized clinical trials testing cupping therapy in patients with pain of any origin, a report published in Evidence-Based Complimentary and Alternative Medicine found that cupping significantly reduced pain in people with low back issues compared to usual care treatments, showed positive effects in treating cancer pain compared with anticancer drugs and analgesics, and helped soothe pain associated with respiratory issues.

Cupping is thought to release tissues deep inside the body, relax tense muscles and ease stiffness associated with chronic back and neck pains, migraines, rheumatism, and fatigue. Some athletes have been known to use cupping therapy to naturally improve performance and reduce stiffness, muscle cramps, joint pains and scar tissue caused by injuries.

Cupping targets soft tissue by applying local pressure to pain points and areas of swelling. As blood flow increases within vessels and capillaries, tissues receive much-needed nutrients and oxygen. Cupping practitioners use pressure, heat, suctioning and needles above or below the site of injury, allowing for energy to travel along the “channels” (meridians) that pass through the injury.

For help lowering pain, cups are commonly placed over the following areas: over the fleshy part of the shoulder blades, over the groin/loins, by the neck (for soothing tension headaches, toothaches or migraines) or around the lower back.

2. Promotes Relaxation

It might seem counteractive, but cupping often helps alleviate physical complaints and allows people to enter a more relaxed state since it sedates the central nervous system. This is similar to acupuncture, which you might assume hurts and is uncomfortable but actually seems to help lower most patients’ stress responses and therefore offers protection against anxiety and depression.

How can cupping be relaxing? Just the act of laying still and being “taken care of” during cupping therapy sessions might have a positive effect on someone’s psychological well-being, which could be one reason why it’s used to lower mental illnesses. Once the cups are placed down and suctioned, they might need to remain still for up to 20 minutes, which forces stillness and silence on patients who might otherwise lead very hectic lives. According to the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, another reason cupping is soothing is because the cups help lift pressure in tense muscles, which offers a relieving sensation just like receiving a deep tissue massage.

3. Boosts Skin Health

Cupping is used to reduce herpes, cellulite, acne and skin inflammation. While studies haven’t shown it can necessarily help with weight loss, the fact that it tones and firms skin by improving blood flow and expanding capillaries makes it popular among celebrities and people in the spotlight who want to appear to have toned skin. As part of a skin-clearing or cellulite treatment, oil is commonly first applied to the skin before the cups are suctioned and moved around, bringing heat to the area along with various skin-healing ingredients depending on the type of oil used.

Because cupping improves blood flow and might help lower inflammation, some studies have found it to be equally or even more effective at treating acne compared to antibiotics. A meta-analysis of six studies showed that for improving acne, the cure rate of wet cupping was better than the cure rate following use of tanshinone, tetracycline and ketoconazole prescriptions.

4. Helps Treat Respiratory Issues and Colds

Commonly used to help nourish the lungs and clear away phlegm or congestion, cupping therapy can be useful for speeding up healing time from respiratory illnesses like the flu or common colds. Cupping helps improve immune function by moving blood and lymphatic fluid throughout the body, which is why it’s been associated with reductions in lung diseases (especially chronic coughs), allergies, infections and asthma.

Treating respiratory conditions like pulmonary tuberculosis is one of the oldest uses for cupping and was utilized long before prescriptions were available.

5. Improves Digestion

Acupuncture and cupping are both popular ways to improve digestion and reduce symptoms from disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). This might primarily be because they can lower a patient’s stress response, which is highly tied to healthy digestive functioning.

Throughout history, cupping therapy has been found to be beneficial for people with frequent stomach pains, diarrhea, acute gastritis, loss of appetite, gastrointestinal diseases and water retention. For digestive disturbances, cupping is commonly performed in the following areas: around the navel, over the bladder, around the kidneys or over the stomach.

What Is Cupping Therapy?

In China, cupping therapy is considered a special healing skill, and it’s often passed down from one generation to the next. Ancient texts state that cupping was originally used by Taoist medical herbalists and was a popular way to treat ill royals and elitists.

Cupping healers throughout the years have successfully treated a variety of symptoms and diseases that couldn’t be cured by conventional methods, including pulmonary tuberculosis, colds, back pains, muscle spasms and pinched nerves. Traditionally cupping has also been used in patients with blood disorders (like anemia), rheumatic diseases like arthritis, fertility problems and mental illnesses.

While cupping therapies using heat have the longest history in Asian countries like China, Japan and Korea, a similar practice called “wet cupping” has also been used in the Middle East for centuries. Recently, cupping has become more popular in the U.S. and other Western nations too, as some doctors have started implementing cupping and acupuncture into their patients’ treatment plans for naturally alleviating symptoms of pain, congestion and chronic infections without the need for drugs. Today, you can find cupping therapy offered in many Traditional Chinese Medicine centers, some massage therapy locations, as well as certain holistic health centers.

Cupping therapy supporters believe that the practice helps remove harmful substances and toxins from the body, which in turn improves immunity.

Wondering if cupping really works? A 2012 report published in the Journal PLoS ONE reviewed 135 studies on cupping therapies published between 1992 and 2010. Researchers concluded that cupping is more than just a placebo effect — it has benefits similar to acupuncture or herbal treatments for treating various digestive, skin, hormonal and inflammatory diseases.

The British Cupping Society, which promotes cupping and helps patients find qualified cupping practitioners, states that cupping therapy can treat a variety of conditions safely, including: (8)

Respiratory infections
Blood disorders, such as anemia and hemophilia
Joint pain caused by arthritis and fibromyalgia
Migraine and tension headaches
Muscle aches and stiffness
Fertility and gynecological disorders
Skin problems such as herpes, eczema and acne
High blood pressure (hypertension)
Mental disorders, anxiety and depression
Food allergies and asthma
Varicose veins and cellulite
Cupping Therapy vs. Acupuncture: How Are They Similar and Different?

Cupping and acupuncture are similar because they both promote optimal “Qi” by drawing energy and blood flow to areas of the body that are experiencing inflammation, prone to low lymphatic circulation or experiencing poor blood flow. Sometimes both practices are done together by placing an acupuncture needle into the patient’s skin and then covering the needle with a cup.

In terms of their history and benefits, according to Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) cupping and acupuncture both help dispel stagnation, which can lead to disease. Cupping and acupuncture follow the body’s lines of “meridians” along the back, promoting relaxation and breaking up tension while boosting energy flow (known as Qi, the “life force”). In other words, they’re useful for blood and lymph flow, which is how they might help reduce swelling and treat various infections or diseases.

Together, these methods resolve disturbed functions of Zang-fu, a collective term in TCM for internal organs, including the heart, liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys, along with the gallbladder, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and bladder.

Both practices are prescribed by TCM healers for treating the common cold or flu, fighting chronic stress, and promoting healing following pneumonia, bronchitis and musculoskeletal injuries. They do this by helping accumulated toxins to be released, blockages to be cleared, and veins and arteries to open up.

The theory behind using acupuncture and cupping simultaneously is that together they target tissue or muscles that have tightened up in response to an injury that has caused fibers to stick together and white blood cells to become stuck. Acupuncture uses tiny needles to increase the flow of blood to the affected area, but in people with injuries, performing cupping along with acupuncture might be more beneficial for easing swelling. That’s because increased blood flow alone won’t solve a painful tissue or muscular problem; the area also needs to be drained for the body’s healing process to begin and for extra fluids, white blood cells and heat to be released.

How Cupping Therapy Works

According to Jennifer Dubowsky, a licensed acupuncturist and cupping practitioner, the purpose of cupping is “to enhance circulation, help relieve pain, remove heat and pull out the toxins that linger in your body’s tissues.”

Cupping involves the use of cups applied to a patient’s back in a series of positions in order to produce suction. The vacuum effect targets areas of skin and deep tissue within the back, which is beneficial for dulling pain, breaking up deep scar tissue, and relaxing tender muscles or connective tissue. In this way, cupping is almost like the opposite of getting a massage since instead of applying pressure to swollen areas, it draws pressure out. For this reason cupping is often done in patients who experience chronic lower back pain, muscle knots, tightness due to anxiety, swelling or stiffness.

The most popular technique for cupping, called “dry cupping” or “fire cupping,” involves a trained practitioner first placing cups on the patients back and then carefully heating the cups using fire. Sometimes a special cupping “torch” is used to light the cups on fire safely, or in other cases the cups are heated in hot water or oil. The hot cups are sealed off and held in place for five to 15 minutes on the patient’s back while they cool down, which produces a vacuum effect. This is considered a type of “fixed cupping” because the cups aren’t moved around but rather sit still.

The cups contract while on the patient’s skin, which causes suctioning, so the skin is then pulled into the cup, stretching out skin tissue and improving blood flow, which facilitates healing. To light the cups on fire, normally a cotton ball is soaked in rubbing alcohol and then lit, placed into the cup very quickly and then removed. The cups are then placed down on the patient’s skin, and as oxygen is removed, suctioning naturally occurs. “Moving cupping” is similar but involves applying massage oil to the skin first, which helps the heated cups glide over tense areas on the patient’s back.

Back when cupping first originated, animal horns, clay pots, brass cups and bamboo were used to create the cups, but today cups are commonly made out of more durable materials, such as glass or heat-resistant plastic and rubber. The exact type of cup used depends on the practitioner’s preference and the patient’s condition. Cups come in different materials, shapes and sizes, which means some are more useful for targeting certain ailments than others. Nowadays, fire suction cups made out of glass and plastic are the most common, followed by rubber cups. Silicone, bio-magnetic, electric and facial cups are other options.

There are several different cupping techniques used by practitioners today. While cupping using fire is the most common type (usually called “dry cupping”), two less common practices are called “bleeding cupping” and “wet cupping.” Heated and then cooled cups are the traditional way to create suction, but the vacuum effect can also be created with a mechanical suction pump, which is used in most wet cutting techniques.

The terminology used to describe various cupping techniques can get confusing, but “wet cupping” is the name given to the method used most often in parts of the Middle East. Wet cupping, or “bleeding cupping” as it’s sometimes called, is always fireless but involves drawing the patient’s blood using a pump. Wet cupping involves “blood-letting,” usually by making a tiny incision into the patient’s skin before the cup is applied and blood is drawn.

In this technique, the practitioner creates suction with his or her hands and uses needles or a pump to remove a small amount of the patient’s blood, which is thought to improve energy in the body and remove toxins. Tiny pricking needles are inserted into the skin to draw three to four drops of blood before the cup is applied over the site. Or, a pump is used exclusively instead, which might be a “modern” type, such as an electromagnetic pump, or a more traditional pump that uses magnets and gravity.

Benefits of Acupuncture

Source: HealthCMi

The Benefits of Acupuncture

“Acupuncture helps the body to more effectively heal itself by allowing the brain to clearly monitor the body’s condition,” says Matthew Bauer, president of the Acupuncture Now Foundation.

According to Bauer, the most common conditions that draw people to his practice are orthopedic problems, but acupuncture can also help with mental and emotional issues.
Back pain
Knee pain
Neck pain
Hormone imbalances
Reproductive issues

5 Ways Acupuncture is More Effective than Pain Meds

1. Treating the source of the problem

According to Bauer, one of the most significant differences between acupuncture and pain medications is that while pain meds are pain blockers, they don’t help with the source of the problem. They create a numbing sensation but can actually stagnate energy and keep the body from healing itself.

2. Fighting addiction

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number one cause of drug overdoses in the U.S. is opioids, specifically, prescription opioid painkillers which are prescribed for pain relief. But unfortunately, they’re extremely addictive, and according to Bauer, it’s an addiction patients never intended to fall victim to in the first place.

Acupuncture can help treat these addictions, says Bauer, but more important, by starting with the practice instead of surgery or pain meds, patients can avoid ever becoming addicted.

3. Positive side effects

One of the biggest problems with pain meds are the unintended side effects, which, in addition to the risk of addiction, can include lethargy, sluggish digestion, loss of vitality, loss of dexterity, weight gain, and depression, according to Brendan Kelly, a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist at Jade Wellness in Burlington, Vermont. Acupuncture treats the source of the problem. This means it can have positive side effects beyond just treating pain. The most common positive side effects are relaxation and stress relief.

“Acupuncture encourages flow and releases stagnation and when the body is balanced it’s inherently more relaxed,” says Kelly. “In Western terms, putting in needles can release endorphins which makes you feel good.”

4. Personal customization

Kelly says that one of the biggest benefits of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine in general, is that it’s customized. Treating a headache, for example, depends on the underlying imbalances that are unique to the person. When you treat the person instead of the condition, it’s no longer a one-size-fits-all mentality.

5. Pain meds can worsen the problem

Pain meds are, by nature, sedating, which means they stagnate energy in the body. This blocks the movement of pain, creating a numbing sensation in the short term. However, by blocking the movement of energy, pain meds can end up making the problem worse. That’s why pain patients end up requiring bigger doses, leading to addiction, contends Kelly.

What to Expect from an Acupuncture Treatment Session

Since acupuncture and Chinese Medicine are highly specialized healthcare, your visit will vary widely depending on your ailment, but very generally speaking, you can expect a few things from your initial visit.

1. A thorough medical history

Expect a licensed acupuncturist to ask a long list of detailed questions about your medical history. In the first visit, it can be quite a lengthy process.

2. Pulse or tongue diagnosis

This, according to Bauer, is more often used for internal conditions rather than pain management, but it can be used for both.

3. Physical examination

Your practitioner will look for tender spots and imbalances that could be causing physical pain.

4. Needle insertions

Today’s acupuncture needles are so thin that they look more like wires than needles, and as a result, they’re painless and in some cases, patients don’t even notice them being inserted. After the needles are inserted, patients usually rest for 15 to 20 minutes. Many patients end up going into a deep state of relaxation.

5. Acupressure points and herbal treatments

In some cases, patients may also receive an acupressure massage to further stimulate certain points. Practitioners may also use certain pain relieving herbal treatments.

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