Other article links on this blog about acupuncture and back pain.
Cupping Therapy is a tool I use almost daily in my office along with acupuncture treatments. I primarily use it on certain types of pain, or for post-stroke syndrome (i.e., paralysis), but it can be used to ‘release the exterior’ (as we say in TCM) for an upper respiratory infection, for COPD (especially phlegm in the lungs), and many other health conditions. Research on Cupping Therapy:
Effectiveness of Cupping Therapy on Chronic Neck and Shoulder Pain
Photo Credit: Sheryl Sanchez, L.Ac., in Chengdu, China, 2000.
P.S. Don’t let the photo frighten you, it is a completely painless technique – it just looks a bit odd at first glance! Most patients love the procedure and especially the results – pain reduction!!
This is a very good article about the benefits of Cupping Therapy:
Have a Stubborn Injury? Cupping Therapy May Help
This is another article about Cupping Therapy by a teacher and scholar in the field of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) published in the August 2016 of Mayway Corporation’s Newsletter. (Mayway Corporation is the manufacturer of the Plum Flower brand, a premier traditional Chinese herbal line of formulas, which I use in my office). This article is geared towards the TCM professional, but may be of interest to the public:
Ancient Art of Cupping
Photo Credit: Sheryl Sanchez, L.Ac., in Chengdu, China, 2000.
Brief article written in June 2016 about how acupuncture is beginning to play a role in reducing opioid use for chronic pain and also how acupuncture can help with opiate addiction.
One quote from this article regarding one study the US Department of Veterans Affairs conducted:
“By 2011, after employing acupuncture, chiropractic care, massage therapy, biofeedback and hypnosis among other things, the prescription narcotics consumed by the soldiers fell by 88% to 10.2%.”
Read more: Opioid Crisis Tamed Through Ancient Secret?
The latest issue (July 2015) of Dr. Julian Whitaker’s Health and Healing Newsletter (article not available online) has an article about back pain. It discusses the pros and cons of painkillers, and points out that getting an MRI or CT scan often times becomes a “Gateway to Surgery”. He suggests “waiting until you’ve given conservative treatment a chance to work”. He then has a nice summary of modalities to try for “Safe, Lasting Pain Relief”. This list includes Acupuncture, “one of the best-studied alternative therapies for pain relief”, amongst Stem Cell Therapy, Prolotherapy, High-Intensity Laser, Chiropractic, and Supplements (“such as curcumin, boswellia, omega-3 fatty acids, UC-II (type II collagen), bromelain, astaxanthin and ginger”).
I must note that three of these supplements or herbal remedies are from Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal medicine: curcumin, boswellia and ginger! I also just happen to carry a great arthritis herbal formula (patients love the results they have!) and amongst other ingredients, it has curcumin, boswellia and collagen. (I cannot advertise the product or its price, since the product is sold only by qualified health care professionals).
Dr. Whitaker also has on his website a nice article highlighting the many conditions Acupuncture Benefits, last updated in August 2014.
While most of us in the US may know of tumeric as a spice coming from India, it has been in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Materia Medica for as far back as 657 A.D. Tumeric is in the same plant family as ginger, commonly used in both Chinese herbal medicine and Chinese cooking1 . Tumeric is from the plant known as Curcuma longa, hence Curcumin became the name for the main active ingredient in tumeric.
In TCM, we commonly use at least three species that belong to the Curcuma genus. Each one contains Curcumin but each plant has different unique medicinal qualities. In the last few years, Curcumin has become popular as an anti-inflammatory herbal ingredient and is used in many western herbal and supplement products for musculo-skeletal injuries and arthritis, and for anti-cancer support. However, the various Curcuma species have been used in Chinese Medicine for a long time for pain syndromes, benign or malignant masses, and much more.
Turmeric (Curcuma longa) or Jiang Huang (literal English translation is “ginger yellow”) is used in TCM to treat chest and hypochondriac (anterior rib area) pain, epigastric pain, dymenorrhea, and hepatitis liver pain. It is also used to treat pain syndromes such as tendonitis, bursitis, and arthritis, especially in the upper limbs. Additionally, it is used to treat pain from certain types of infected sores and lesions. Modern research has shown it does have an anti-inflammatory effect and antiplatelet effect. Additionally, it has also shown the ability to lower both cholesterol and triglycerides levels, and has demonstrated an ability to increase production and excretion of bile.
Curcuma aromatica or Curcuma domestica (Yu Jin) is used in TCM to treat pain, cramping and bloating associated with menstruation, especially irregular menstruation. It also treats abdominal masses, especially those in the hypochondriac region and disorders such as liver cirrhosis, or hepatomegaly or splenomegaly (liver or spleen enlargement). It also has the ability to stop certain types of bleeding (based on diagnosis) such as vomiting blood, hematuria (blood in the urine) or nosebleeds. It is also used to treat certain types of disorientation, epilepsy, mania and other psychologically-related disorders. It will also treat jaundice and gallstones.
The root or rhizome of another species, Curcuma Zedoria or E Zhu, is traditionally considered one of the strongest herbs to break up masses, especially in the abdomen. Masses can be tumors, either benign or malignant. This herb is used in formulas for many types of cancer in TCM, however, modern research has shown this herb is most effective against cervical cancer. E Zhu is also a strong pain-relieving herb, especially used for abdominal pain, including certain types of epigastric or hypochondriac fullness, abdominal distention or hardness, and pelvic inflammation. It is also used for dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), amenorrhea (lack of menstruation) and indigestion . Additionally, this herb has shown antiplatelet and anti-thrombotic properties, along with having antibiotic-like effects against Staph, Strep and E. coli.
In TCM, all health conditions, including pain syndromes or diseases, are treated after determining a diagnosis based on analyzing a patient’s signs and symptoms, along with by observing the tongue and pulse, all of which help determine the affected organs and the pattern of disharmony in the body. Once a diagnosis is made, an herbal formula will be prescribed, never an individual herb as often assumed by western patients. This is because an individual’s diagnosis is complex and specific, and in order to treat it, a combination of properties of herbs are needed to be most effective.
So, here are a few examples of modified traditional Chinese herbal formulas that I prescribe in my clinic, when appropriate, that contain Curcumin in them, along a description of their specific clinical applications (all products are from Evergreen Herbs):
1) Jiang Huang
Arm Support –
Shoulder: periarthritis of the shoulder, frozen shoulder, capsulitis, rotator cuff tear, rotator cuff tendonitis, bursitis, inflammation and pain of the shoulder, subluxation or dislocation, AC (acromioclavicular) separation.
Elbow: lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow), medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow), olecranon bursitis, tendonitis.
Wrist: carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, sprain and strain.
General musculoskeletal injuries: tendonitis, bursitis, arthritis of the arm.
Numbness, decreased range of motion and atrophy of the arm.
2) Yu Jin
Shine – Depression with low energy, prolonged sadness or irritability, and lack of interest in daily activities.
Calm Jr – ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), autism, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, difficulty in focusing, inattentiveness, restlessness; childhood convulsions, epilepsy, seizures and twitching of muscles.
Liver DTX – Liver damage with high levels of SGPT and SGOT; liver detoxification: enhances the normal metabolic and detoxification functions of the liver; hepatitis: treats hepatitis with or without jaundice, repairs liver cell damage; liver cirrhosis from excessive alcohol intake; addiction: detoxifies liver during alcohol, drug or smoking cessation; cholecystitis with increased liver enzymes, possibly with liver impairment.
Migratrol – Migraine headache: acute and chronic; tension headache: acute and chronic; cluster headache: acute and chronic.
Cholisma ES – High cholesterol and triglycerides levels; fatty liver; obesity; prevention and treatment for the conditions above.
Back Support (Upper) – Acute injury or trauma to the chest, ribs, or thoracic area with pain, inflammation, swelling, or bruises; upper back stiffness and pain, scapular pain and/or pain between the scapulae; subluxation of the thoracic vertebrae; rib fracture.
3) E Zhu
CA Support – Cancer patients who suffer extreme weakness and deficiency and cannot receive surgery or chemotherapy and radiation treatments; late stage, terminally-ill cancer patients with pain and suffering.
Resolve (Lower) – Fibrocystic disorders in the lower half of the body, such as fibroids and cysts in the uterus and ovaries; endometriosis; palpable masses and benign tumors of the female reproductive organs; female infertility due to obstruction in the lower abdominal region (i.e. tubal obstruction); pelvic pain due to obstruction in the lower abdominal region; scarring or blood stagnation in the pelvic cavity from surgery.
Arm Support – described above
1 The only dish I have seen in Chinese restaurants that has turmeric in it is ‘Singapore Noodles’. I especially like it because it combines turmeric with rice noodles (vs. noodles with wheat), which is great for those who are gluten sensitive.
1. Chen, John K. and Tina T. Chen. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. AOM Press: 2004.
2. Bensky, Dan and Andrew Gamble. Chinese Herbal Medicine Materia Medica. Eastland Press, Revised Edition: 1993.
3. Clinical Manual of Oriental Medicine, 2nd edition, Lotus Institute of Integrative Medicine. (Descriptions of Evergreen Herbs products.)
This is a study showing that the homeopathic topical creme Traumeel is as effective as a very commonly prescribed NSAID creme: Traumeel Creme for Ankle Sprain
At the center of this extremely powerful natural, homeopathic anti-inflammatory creme, which is most often prescribed for musculoskeletal injuries but is also very useful for any type of arthritic joint pain, is the herb Arnica Montana. Arnica can easily be considered the most commonly used remedy in the homeopathic “Materia Medica” in the world. Varieties of Arnica have been used for centuries in the US by Native Americans, who used it topically for bruising (it is considered toxic for internal use unless it is prepared homeopathically).
Note that the allopathic NSAID topical creme used in this comparison study has the serious side effects of increasing the risk of heart attack or stroke, and both stomach and intestinal bleeding.1, 2 This only highlights another reason to use this natural anti-inflammatory creme that actually promotes healing with no side effects vs. an allopathic topical NSAID!
Announcing that I am now carrying the brand line of IncrediWear, which is a local Chico company that makes braces and socks. I have received many testamonials from patients about these braces really helping joint pain in the past few years, so this is why I decided to start carrying these products. The braces are great for arthritis and joint pain and inflammation, carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis, and also help improve circulation (as shown by their thermography analysis). They are made with special technology combining bamboo-charcoal and/or germanium. There is a sock line especially for those with diabetes plus another line to support the feet and other joints during sports or athletic events (hikers and bikers will love these products too). Come and check them out, and support two local companies at the same time too!! If I don’t have in stock what you need, I can always order it quickly – for more info on this product line, see IncrediWear Products.
Heavenly Herbs and Acupuncture handout:
My general recommendations for treating Peripheral Neuropathy (PNP):
Acupuncture helps increase the vascular supply or blood circulation to the nerves. See item below for article about PNP and Acupuncture.
PNP is typically caused by diabetes, although it can have other causes such as lower back injuries and chemotherapy. If due to diabetes, the first and foremost recommendation is to maintain healthy, normal blood glucose levels – this is of utmost importance to prevent neuropathy. This is best done by avoiding carbohydrates in your diet, especially wheat products since wheat, whole or refined, is a high glycemic index food. (see my book review article of Wheat Belly)
3. Nutriceutical support
*Chromium – a mineral supplement known to help regulate blood glucose levels (generally also used to help with sugar cravings)
*Alpha Lipoic Acid – an anti-oxidant, 600 mg/day – see A-Lipoic Acid Monograph (Clinical Indications summary)
*Benfotiamine, a specialized B vitamin for vascular function (and correspondingly, for nerve health) – see article about Benfotiamine
4. Chinese herbal medicinals
There are many possible Chinese herbal formulas to help with PNP. The prescription will depend upon the diagnosis of the practitioner. One common one I will use is Flex (NP), by Evergreen Herbs. It is a very complex, and therefore useful, formula for nerve pain and neuropathy.
Exercise increases blood circulation, so patients with PNP will also benefit from this.
7. Additional information
Reference article about PNP and Acupuncture
An article co-written by Dr. Oz about the benefits of acupuncture such as musculoskeletal and arthritis pain management, insomnia and reducing side effects of radiation and chemotherapy:
As Dr. Oz states in this brief article about pain management, acupuncture is a ‘highly effective complementary therapy’.
This natural, analgesic, anti-inflammatory homeopathic remedy can help ease most musculoskeletal pain due to trauma/injury (including surgery). This includes most arthritis pain and nerve pain such as sciatica and neuropathy (also includes nervines – herbs to calm nerves). Although I have many strong Chinese herbal formulas for pain in my clinic, I often initially recommend this product since it very often (I estimate 90% effectiveness) gives immediate relief with regular use. I have seen this ‘cure’ severe cholicky gallbladder pain, ulcerative colitis pain, etc.
This product comes in a topical creme (with no odor – no menthol or camphor), or internal use drops. (alcohol-based) or tabs (sublingual).
It is a very safe replacement for over-the-counter NSAIDS (non-steriodal anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen, tylenol, naproxen, etc.) and can even replace presription pain medications such as Vicodin, Norco) without the side effects plus it actually helps heal tissues whereas NSAIDS do not!
Note that most of these herbs are in a traditional Chinese herbal formula for PMS symptoms, including dysmenorrhea (painful periods), called Xiao Yao Wan (available at any acupuncturist’s office).
“This is one of the fastest pain attenuators in existence — the pain can be gone in five minutes,” said Col. Richard Niemtzow, a physician, acupuncturist and senior adviser to the Air Force surgeon general. See article at Air Force to Use ‘Battlefield Acupuncture’ for Pain Relief