AOMA Blog

9 Things to know about Musculoskeletal Health

Posted by Jing Fan, LAc on Thu, Oct 20, 2016 @ 02:21 PM

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Back pain and general muscle soreness are common problems for many people. Understanding correct force postures and maintaining your musculoskeletal system will help to both treat and prevent pain and disease. 

What causes musculoskeletal pain? 

The most common causes of musculoskeletal pain are soft tissue injuries (such as car accidents and sports injuries) and aging. Qi stagnation, Blood stasis, poor posture, and some life factors such as lack of exercise and excessive muscle use, can also contribute. In addition, dietary factors, mental factors, and other diseases such as cancer, gastrointestinal discomfort, dysmenorrhea, etc. can cause musculoskeletal pain.

The above factors cause muscle contraction, vasospasm, lactic acid accumulation, accumulation of inflammatory substances, and nerve excitement. They also lead to spasms of muscle and blood vessels which are not easily relieved, causing more metabolites to be developed. Such an abundance of inflammatory substances is too much to be taken away by normal blood flow, leading to a vicious cycle of dysfunction of muscle contraction and metabolism. Then the body will feel soreness, pain, pressure and tingling. So any methods which can increase blood circulation would be excellent ways to treat musculoskeletal pain!

What are the correct postures to prevent musculoskeletal pain?

The most common musculoskeletal pains are due to poor posture; for example, back pain. Being aware of correct posture during all activities can prevent back pain, but most especially when:

1. Picking up items

Bend your knees instead of bending your back. Avoid lifting heavy items with a bent back and straight legs, and do not twist the body when lifting. Try lifting items close to the body using your legs to provide the force, and you should not lift items higher than your chest. Sometimes using a pad will help, and of course it would be better to find someone to help you when lifting a very heavy item.

2. Standing and Walking

A good walking position is with raised head and lowered chin, with the toes facing forward and wearing a pair of comfortable shoes. When you are standing, do not stand too long in one posture. Avoid bending back with straight legs. Do not wear high heels or flat shoes to walk or stand for a long period of time. 

3. Sitting Position

Chair height should be moderate in order to keep the knees and buttocks at the same height. It is appropriate that the feet can step on the ground. Your back should be close to the back of chair. Pay attention to the height of the chair armrest and make sure to keep your arms naturally drooping with both elbows resting on the armrest. Do not sit in a chair which is too high or too far away from your work in order to prevent your upper body from leaning forward and your back from arching. Do not slouch in the chair, which has the potential to cause cervical spondylosis and numbness of hands. Such problems most often occur in people who use the computer for long periods of time.

4. Driving a Car

Your seat should move forward in order to keep the knees as high as the waist. Sit straight and hold the steering wheel with both hands when driving. Protect your lower back with cushions or rolls of towels. Do not sit too far away from the pedal, which may cause excessive stretching of the foot and leg or straightening of the arm, which can reduce the curvature of the spine.

5. Sleeping

Sleep on a solid mattress. A good sleep will do great help to your back. When side sleeping, slightly bend your knees. A pillow can be caught between the legs. When sleeping on your back, it is better to put a pad below the knees.

Traditional Chinese medicine for musculoskeletal pain 

6. Acupuncture

Acupuncture, with the theory of "Pain to Shu" to find the appropriate point of pain to do the needling, often has a magical effect on pain. Modern studies have shown that acupuncture can improve blood circulation, increase endorphin levels, and inhibit nerve conduction in order to relieve pain.

7. Tuina

Tuina, which is a type of traditional Asian bodywork therapy, can soothe fascia, activate meridians, promote muscle rigidity, improve fibrosis, relieve pain and fatigue, and restore the original muscle function. Asian bodywork combined with acupressure can often achieve a better effect than either modality used alone. 

8. Herbal fumigation and hot compress therapy

Herbal fumigation and hot compress therapy integrate hyperthermia and traditional Chinese herbal medicine to increase muscle blood circulation, reduce pain, and restore the original muscle function.

9. Chinese herbal medicine

Traditional Chinese medicine teaches that pain comes from the stasis or malnutrition of Qi and Blood. Chinese herbal medicine can adjust the patient’s constitution to improve blood circulation and PH and strengthen bones and tendons. Commonly used herbal formulas for the treatment of pain can regulate Qi, stimulate blood circulation, dispel wind, drain cold and dampness, and tonify the Liver and Kidney.

This article is written by Dr. Jing Fan, a practitioner at AOMA Clinics. AOMA Acupuncture Clinics offers all of the above Chinese Medicine treatment options, as well as the benefit of an herbal medicine store on site. Please make an appointment with us today!

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Topics: acupuncture, tcm health, musculoskeletal health

TCM Tips for Back to School

Posted by Qiao Xu on Wed, Aug 17, 2016 @ 01:25 PM

TCM watermelon health for summer

According to the lunar calendar, the hottest days of 2016 will be from July 17 to August 25 – but Texans don’t need that reminder, with triple-digit heat continuing into August. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) emphasizes holistic practice and our connection to the surrounding universe. Seasonal changes have a large impact on our bodies. For the latter part of this hot summer, here are some general tips to maintain the health of you and your families.

First, despite the temptation, try to avoid extreme cold in the form of either icy-cold beverages or gusts of AC. Drinking cold beverages can cause stomach pain and indigestion. Many people do not realize how important their digestive systems are. Chinese medicine emphasizes the stomach as a critical part of your body’s strength -- “Take care of your stomach for the first half of your life, and your stomach will take care of you for the second half,” as a saying goes. Even if you don’t experience any such symptoms now, a little care now goes a long way.

A common TCM recommendation to all patients is that they drink water and other liquids at room temperature or as close to it as is palatable for them. Also take care not to drink too much water at once to avoid shocking your system – instead of chugging your water after a day out, try to drink smaller amounts more frequently throughout the day.

Another side effect of summer comes from artificially cold environments. Be careful not to blast your AC directly on your neck, shoulders, and back, because this can cause muscle spasms or colds, especially if you were sweating beforehand. Overly air-conditioned buildings can even contribute to arthritis. 

Dietary suggestions are a key component of TCM, as different vegetables and fruits have a wide range of actions essential to our health. Since it’s so hot outside, we should try to eat foods that are cooling in nature to reduce the heat in our bodies. For vegetables, this includes cucumbers, avocados, asparagus, spinach, celery, bok choy, mushroom, seaweed, bittermelon, mung bean and mung bean sprouts, radish, dandelion greens, and tomatoes. Recommended fruits include apples, pears, watermelon, bananas, strawberries, grapefruit, and rhubarb.

Given the soaring temperatures and physical activity characteristic of summer, we sweat more than usual and exert greater energy, making it easier to experience fatigue. Some may also find that their appetite is suppressed. To prevent colds and maintain general health, you can drink a glass of lightly salted water (with 1/8 tsp of salt) to help replenish salts and fluids within the body.

Finally, as the kids get ready to go back to school, they may experience excitement or anxiety over the new academic year. A little bit of stress is normal, but if your child cannot overcome this anxiety, then consider seeking professional help. At AOMA, we can use Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture to help with focus and stress reduction.

In addition, there are certain things that can be used to help boost your child’s immune system, apart from a regular schedule, healthy food, and exercise. Chinese medicine emphasizes improving your bodily constitution to prevent catching disease. We can use pediatric tuina massage and herbal medicine to help combat germ exposure. Such treatments can be implemented both before sickness as a preventative measure, or during illness to reduce symptoms.

If you have any questions about these general wellbeing tips, or specific health issues, please feel free to request an appointment in our clinics! Enjoy the rest of summer, and our eventual transition into fall.

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Topics: tcm nutrition, tcm health, heat

Acupuncture and TCM for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Posted by Yongxin Fan on Fri, Apr 08, 2016 @ 10:40 AM

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Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a disorder characterized by abdominal pain or discomfort, and altered bowel habits; for example, chronic or recurrent diarrhea, constipation, or both – either mixed or in alternation. It has become a major health concern. 

IBS affects 10% to 15% of the population in the United States, and 9% to 23% of the population worldwide. As many as 20% - 50% of patient visits to gastroenterologists are due to IBS symptoms. Most people with IBS are under the age of 45 – 50, and about 2/3 of IBS sufferers are female. (1)

The exact cause of IBS is not known, and Western doctors consider IBS to be a functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder. Functional GI disorders happen when your GI tract behaves in an abnormal way without evidence of damage due to a disease.  

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), IBS is a condition caused by Spleen and Liver disharmony, which manifests as Liver Qi stagnation and Spleen Qi deficiency. 

TCM relates the symptoms associated with IBS to stress. Stress affects the Liver Qi (energy), which handles the smooth flow of Qi throughout the whole body; excess stress then results in Liver Qi stagnation. The Spleen is in charge of digestion according to TCM, and stress weakens Spleen Qi, leading to disturbances of the GI system. The major IBS symptoms such as abdominal bloating or pain, mixed or alternated constipation or loose stool, mucus in the stool, or incomplete evacuation, are all results of Liver overacting on the Spleen and Stomach.

A study done in 2009 in the USA on managing IBS symptoms with acupuncture showed that after 4 weeks of twice-weekly acupuncture treatment, average daily abdominal pain/discomfort improved, whereas the control group showed minimal reduction. The intestinal gas, bloating, and stool consistency also showed improvement. These findings show that acupuncture treatment shows promise in the area of symptom management for IBS. (2)

In addition, a large amount of clinical research in China has showed that TCM therapies, which include acupuncture, acupuncture with electric stimulation, moxibustion, auricular acupuncture, traditional Chinese herbal medicine and external application, have positive results for patients with IBS.

Clinical studies have also shown Chinese herbs to improve the effectiveness of IBS treatments. For example, Fuling (Poria) and Shanyao (Rhizoma Dioscoreae) can relieve diarrhea. Baizhu (Rhizoma Atractylodis Macrocephalae) is well known for its regulating and dual effect on the gastrointestinal tract: it treats diarrhea at low doses and constipation at high doses. With this dual effect, it is the ideal herb for relieving the major IBS symptom of alternating diarrhea and constipation.

Since stress is a major factor that can worsen or trigger IBS symptoms, another important point for IBS patients to keep an eye on is the diet. Patients should avoid gas-producing foods such as:

  • onions
  • soda
  • beans
  • cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cauliflower
  • broccoli
  • milk

Other foods containing lactose may also induce symptom flare-ups in some people. It is important to remove spicy and acidic foods from the menu that stimulate the lining of the intestine. It is also necessary to stop smoking and reduce the intake of coffee, since both may irritate the bowel.

At the AOMA acupuncture clinics in Austin,TX, practitioners of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine may use a variety of methods to restore a patient’s Liver and Spleen disharmony. Application of acupuncture, traditional Chinese herbs, dietary therapy, and Qigong and other lifestyle changes will promote the healing of IBS. 

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(1) http://www.aboutibs.org/site/what-is-ibs/facts/

(2) Anastasi, Joyce K, McMahon, Donald J Kim, Gee H MA 2009 Gastroenterology Nursing

Topics: acupuncture, tcm health, digestion, IBS, digestive health

Chew on This: The Role of the Spleen

Posted by Charlton Holmes on Wed, Apr 06, 2016 @ 04:09 PM

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Jane hasn’t had much of an appetite lately.  Even when she eats a small meal, she feels full and bloated.  She doesn’t have much time to eat anyway, because she is always on the go.  Jane is on the verge of making partner at her law firm.  Her days are highly stressful and she has a difficult time relaxing, even after work.  Her mind seems like it's always going and she is usually ruminating over the same things.  She often has trouble with foggy thinking.  Jane thinks she is getting a cold because she feels congestion in her head and chest.  She starts taking cough syrup and vitamin C supplements, but it's not working as well as she would like.

She decides to see a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine to get a second opinion of her symptoms. Traditional Chinese Medicine has an approach that may be helpful to Jane and others who suffer from similar conditions.  She thought for sure the problem was in her lungs.  But after performing a thorough evaluation, the physician informed Jane that the problem was actually with her spleen.  A weak spleen can contribute to a loss of mental focus and digestive problems that can affect other systems throughout the body.

Digestion begins with the Spleen. On a physical level, the spleen handles the “Transformation and Transportation” of food.  The stomach “governs the intake” of food, but the spleen extracts nutrients from the food and sends that nutrition to other areas of the body.  There is an old saying in traditional Chinese medicine that states, “The Spleen is the source of generation and transformation”.  This is not only a description of the spleen's bodily activity, but it also relates to the spleen’s ability to aid in the generation of new ideas. On a psychological level, the spleen allows us to process thoughts and analyze information.  The physical and psychological aspects of the spleen are linked.  If someone is having problems with their digestion, it's common for that person to also suffer from muddled thoughts or foggy thinking.

This concept is not exclusive to Traditional Chinese Medicine.  In the United States, it is not uncommon to hear people say a concept is “Hard to Digest” or they need time to “Chew on it” when they need more time to think about an issue.  Americans already have a frame of reference for understanding the connection between digestion and mental clarity.

The physician's diagnosis seems reasonable. Given the TCM perspective on the role of the spleen, Jane’s spleen is weak. It's not able to process the food she is eating.  She feels full but things are not moving well.  Her weakened spleen also makes it difficult to process thoughts and to transform them into action.  What about her congestion?  That is also another important indicator.  Another TCM saying is “The Spleen is averse to dampness.” Congestion in the head and chest could be another indicator that the Spleen is weak.

Jane received acupuncture and felt better by the time she left.  The doctor also prescribed some Chinese herbs.  He recommended that Jane stop taking the cough medicine for a few days and also advised her not to stress as much.  He gave her some dietary recommendations, as well as some Qigong breathing techniques that could help her to relax.  After a few days, her condition improved.Jane is a fictional character used to illustrate a point, but the importance of Spleen health is real.  If you or anyone you know is suffering from similar conditions, they should seek the advice of a licensed professional.  Until then, to help strengthen your spleen, Chicken, Oats and Sweet Potatoes are just three “foods for thought”!

Learn More: Download an Overview of the Master's Program

 

Topics: tcm health, spleen, digestion, digestive health

Heart and the Emotional Wellbeing in Chinese Medicine

Posted by Xiaotian Shen on Thu, Feb 11, 2016 @ 03:50 PM

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In modern society, an illness is no longer considered just the problems of the physical aspect of the body. Very often, the emotional state of the patient can be a contributing factor, if not the primary cause, of their illness.

Today we typically believe that the brain commands the emotions and mental activities, but in the tradition of Western culture, the true source of our emotions is deeply rooted in the heart. We say “I love you from the bottom of my heart”, “heart bursting with joy”, “heart is full”, “my heart is broken”, instead of saying “I love you with my brain” or “brain wrenching”, etc. On the surface, the heart of the issue seems to be that in the West we think with our brains, feel with our hearts, and go with our guts. But if we look deep into Western traditions, some similar philosophies to Eastern culture can be found. When people say “know by heart”, or “take it to heart”, we put the heart in charge of the conscious and subconscious awareness in the same way Chinese medicine believes; when people say “heart to heart”, “heart of steel” or “heart of gold”, it suggests people still intuitively identify their sense of self with the heart. In Chinese medicine, the Heart governs both the mind and the spirit, and therefore represents a more holistic and less isolated approach.

While there’s a recognition of biofeedback based upon heart-brain connection in both cultures, the difference in Western and Eastern medicine is that Eastern medicine takes the heart-brain connection, and furthermore the heart-body connection, more seriously. Traditional Chinese medicine in particular uses it in a more practical way within everyday diagnosis and treatment instead of treating the body with medicine, treating the mind with science, and treating the spirit with religion - as is commonly done in modern Western society.  

Heart is considered the monarchy organ in Chinese medicine, which means Heart not only dominates the blood circulation of the body, but also guides our consciousness and awareness, memory and intellect, emotions and mental activities. When the Heart is strong, we sleep soundly, think clearly and have a good memory, and we have balanced emotions and consciousness. When there are disorders in the Heart, we might experience memory and concentration deficiencies, poor sleep, moodiness and even madness in some extreme cases. In Traditional Chinese medicine we tend to look at a person as a complete system and treat both the emotions and the physical body. Consequently, when we treat, we treat the whole person and we put our hearts into it.

According to the Eastern ancient medicine, the positive energy of the Heart is essential to the good health of the entire body. In order to cultivate the energy of the Heart, one should focus on maintaining a positive outlook and worrying less, seeking peace and tranquility being driven by compassion instead of desires, keeping a regular sleep and eating schedule, and exploring nature often.

The foods that are good for the heart are usually red, because the Heart is the fire organ according to the five element theory and the color red corresponds to the fire element too. These foods include red berries, tomatoes and watermelon; some red meat also helps to nourish heart blood, but remember another important principle of Eastern medicine: everything in moderation.

Learn More: Download an Overview of the Master's Program Introduction to Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine

Topics: tcm nutrition, tcm, tcm health, chinese medicine

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