Acupuncture for Inflammation

            Acupuncture for inflammation can stretch across a wide variety of conditions, and while inflammation in general is the body protecting itself, if it becomes chronic it can cause illness or harmful chronic conditions like arthritis or Crohn’s Disease. The current western medicine treatments for inflammation is over the counter and prescription anti-inflammatory drugs, and acupuncture treatment could allow for the reduction or removal of these potentially harmful drugs to get inflammation under control for a variety of conditions.

What is Inflammation?

         As we said above, inflammation is a part of the body’s immune response to an injury or infection that can cause disease. A great misconception about inflammation is that it at first appears to be the main problem needing help, but it is actually the body’s response to a larger problem that is triggering the immune system to start the healing process.  Concerns arise when the immune system does not shut off, leading to chronic inflammation and creating overreactions, such as an asthma attack, for example.

In western medicine, the typical treatment for inflammation may include an over-the-counter or prescription strength anti-inflammatory medication depending on the severity and type of inflammation.

Western Medications for Inflammation:

  • Aspirin

  • Ibuprofen (Ex: Advil, Motrin, Midol)

  • Naproxen (Ex: Aleve)

  • Celebrex

  • Voltaren

  • Nalfon

These are only a few of the options for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) out there, but they all work by reducing the production of prostaglandins, which are chemicals that promote inflammation as well as pain and fever.

In addition to medication, western medicine doctors may also recommend healthy lifestyle choices to aid in reducing the inflammation, similar to Eastern medicine providers.  Certain lifestyle choices may be only one of the possible contributing causes to inflammation.

Causes of Inflammation:

  • Lack of exercise

  • Stress

  • Mold or allergens

  • Poor diet

  • Underlying infections from bacteria or viruses

  • Allergens from food or environment

  • Toxins

The signs of inflammation are ones that many of us have experienced at least once, and is dependent on the condition causing it as far as how it presents itself. However, whether the inflammation is occurring internally or externally, the main signs and symptoms are similar.

Signs and Symptoms of Inflammation:

  • Redness

  • Swelling

  • Fatigue

  • Joint pain

  • Hot spots

  • High blood pressure

Although over-the-counter or prescription medications may provide some relief (if at all), they only provide it in the short-term. This causes patients to switch medications often, or up the dosage of their existing medication.  Nowadays, people are looking for more natural, long-lasting remedies to their inflammation that won’t cause them to be on medications for the rest of their life.

Acupuncture Treatment for Inflammation
How does it work?

            Acupuncture for inflammation is one that is well-researched as it stimulates hormones and chemicals within the body and brain that reduce swelling. Acupuncture works to reduce inflammation by affecting the proteins secreted in the body by the immune system which influence the way that cells interact. These are known as cytokines, and certain ones produce an inflammatory response which is what acupuncture addresses. Acupuncture and electroacupuncture stimulates the body’s self-healing properties by activating endorphins to further reduce pain. There have been many inflammatory illnesses that have been investigated as to how acupuncture treatment affects them.

Inflammatory diseases that acupuncture may help with:

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis (affects 43 million people in the United States)

  • Asthma

  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBS)

  • Vasculitis

  • Rhinitis (allergies – affects 50 million Americans each year)

  • Epicondylitis (such as tennis or golfer’s elbow)

  • Complex regional pain syndrome type 1

Not only can acupuncture treat these conditions, but also everyday inflammatory issues such as joint pain on top of a plethora of other conditions.

Treating inflammation with acupuncture will be a unique experience, and not like doctor visits you have grown accustomed to in western medicine. The big perk of having acupuncture treatment for inflammation is that it is not a “one-size-fits-all” treatment. Your licensed acupuncturist will do an in-depth consultation with you including a full medical history as well as examining your tongue, pulse, and the way your body moves. This will allow your acupuncture provider to determine any and all variables causing your inflammation, and then come to a TCM diagnosis and treatment plan with acupuncture points and possibly herbs to suit you, and you alone.

Acupuncture Points for Inflammation:

  • ST36 – located below the kneecap, toward the outside of the leg

  • LU7 – located on the forearm close to the wrist

  • GB20 – located on the nape of the neck at the bottom of the skull

  • LV3 – located on the foot in the depression between the big toe and second toe

  • BL40 – located a little bit below the back of the kneecap

  • KD3 – located to the side of the ankle bone

There are an infinite number of possible point combinations for inflammation, but your acupuncturist will determine which will work best for you after learning your history. As we said, eastern medicine doctors will also give healthy lifestyle recommendations as well as possibly some herbal formulas to aid chronic inflammation. These herbal formulas can have anywhere from 10-12 herbs within them, or your licensed acupuncturist may also advise to include certain anti-inflammatory herbs in your diet.

Anti-inflammatory foods:

  • Turmeric – the yellow pigment in turmeric known as curcumin is the anti-inflammatory property. In addition to inflammation, turmeric can also treat wounds and infections, and digestive disorders. It is available in the form of tablets, capsules, pastes, teas, extracts, or in its standard form, a yellow powder, and your licensed acupuncturist will let you know which is best suited for you. If using in its powder form, it is great in soups and curries. Its fresh form is also a great addition to vegetable juices.

  • Ginger – according to research, ginger limits the activation of genes involved in the inflammatory response. It is more commonly known for its powers to prevent or treat nausea and vomiting from pregnancy, motion sickness, or chemotherapy. Ginger can be used fresh or dried, tablets, capsules, or teas.

  • Cinnamon – made from bark, cinnamon has the benefit of not only being anti-inflammatory, but also has antioxidant, antimicrobial, anticancer, and lipid-lowering agents. It has also been shown to help fight neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease. Cinnamon is great in almost anything from soups and stews to desserts and drinks.

There are a great many anti-inflammatory foods and herbs out there, and your licensed acupuncturist will be able to guide you on if they would be helpful for you, and which ones you will need to reduce your inflammation.

Acupuncture & Inflammation Pain

         When combined with certain lifestyle changes, acupuncture may help to provide positive results in reducing inflammation.  Acupuncture and herbal medicine have inflammation treatment down, and Western medicine is finally taking notice with more and more research coming out yearly that show the benefits of acupuncture treatment for inflammation amongst many other conditions.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), chronic inflammatory diseases are the greatest threat to human health being the largest cause of death throughout the world. Not only this, but diseases that cause chronic inflammation are expected to increase for the next 30 years in the United States. This says one thing to us: western medical treatments thus far for chronic inflammation are not working sufficiently enough to slow or stop this increase. The answer? Combining eastern and western medicine for a possible outcome that has not yet been achieved with western medicine alone. Another option would be recommending patients who have not had success in western medicine methods to turn to acupuncture and herbal medicine treatments for an all-natural and effective result at combating their chronic inflammation. 

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