American College of Physicians list Acupuncture as top Treatment for Back Pain

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Here are some excerpts from this week’s Wall Street Journal article explaining the latest recommendations from the American College of Physicians on the treatment of Back Pain.  They list Acupuncture as the top choice for both acute and chronic back pain.

Skip the meds. Lower back pain—one of the most common reasons for a doctor’s visit—is best treated with alternative therapies, say new guidelines from the American College of Physicians. About 80% of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lifetimes and it is the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work days.

The new guidelines could influence how doctors treat patients with complaints of back pain. They are an update from 2007’s and include a review of more than 150 studies. Recommendations were broken down into acute lower back pain, which is pain lasting less than 12 weeks, and chronic pain, which is pain lasting more than 12 weeks.

For acute pain, the guidelines recommend nondrug therapies first, such as applying heat, massage, acupuncture or spinal manipulation, which is often done by a chiropractor.

For chronic back pain, the guidelines recommend patients also first try nondrug therapies, such as acupuncture, exercise, rehabilitation therapy and mindfulness-based stress reduction.

The reviews focused on improving pain and function If such treatments fail to provide relief, the ACP says NSAIDS should be the first medicine that is used. The third line of treatment should be duloxetine—sold under the brand name Cymbalta and commonly used to treat depression and anxiety—or tramadol, an opioid-like narcotic which is less potent than standard opioids such as oxycodone or fentanyl—but can still cause physical dependence.

Opioids—one of the most commonly prescribed medications for pain relief and a source of increasing addiction and death—should only be considered for chronic back pain when other alternatives—natural and prescription—don’t work, say the guidelines published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The new guidelines warn that opioids should only be considered an option if the doctor and patient have a discussion about the known risks of the drugs, and if used at the lowest possible dose for the shortest period. Experts believe that opioid prescriptions for pain is a common gateway to opioid addiction as well as transitioning to heroin, said Steven Atlas, director of practice-based research at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Even acetaminophen, which includes the brand name Tylenol, is no longer recommended for acute lower back pain relief due to a 2014 study in the journal The Lancet that showed it was no more effective than placebo.

Pain can begin abruptly as a result of an accident or by lifting something heavy. More often, though, it develops over time due to age-related changes of the spine and disc degeneration.  Most back pain occurs between ages 30 and 50. Individuals who gain weight and don’t exercise have increased risk, as are those who exercise intensely after long periods of not exercising.

If you are in Orlando and have Back Problems call our clinic for a Free Consultation appointment at our Winter Park office to see if Acupuncture can help you!  If you live outside of Central Florida feel free to call us for a referral in your local area.

Acupuncture Treats Rheumatoid Arthritis

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While preparing a presentation for the annual Juvenile Arthritis conference, I came across a great article by the Arthritis Foundation called, Can Acupuncture help Relieve RA?  The article presents the results of several research studies that show that acupuncture does indeed help to relieve the pain of Rheumatoid Arthritis as well as Osteoarthritis.  The article details acupuncture effects to reduce pain in both the central nervous system (the brain), as well as the peripheral nervous system (the rest of the body, including the joints).

The article not only explains the particulars of how acupuncture relieves arthritis pain, but it also explains how acupuncture has been shown to lower chemical markers of chronic inflammation. One such marker that was reduced in the acupuncture group in the study is called TNF-α. This research suggests that acupuncture has the potential to slow down the progression of the disease.  Dr. Nathan Wei, MD, director of the Arthritis Treatment Center in Frederick, MD. explains. “In particular, TNF-α appears to play a pivotal role in the chronic inflammation and joint destruction that characterizes RA. That’s why so many of the biologic medications such as Enbrel, Humira, and  Remicade target TNF-α.

The article goes on to cite other studies where acupuncture has been shown to reduce other markers of inflammation.  It also mentions a very interesting statistic. In a 2010 Mayo Clinic survey, 54 percent of rheumatologists said they would recommend acupuncture as an adjunct treatment.

The article quotes Jamie Starkey, LAc, the lead acupuncturist for the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, and Jeffrey I. Gold, PhD, director of the Pediatric Pain Management Clinic at a Children’s Hospital in Los Angeles who treats patients with juvenile arthritis.  It gives people a real idea about the process of acupuncture treatment.  It is not a onetime thing.  It takes a series of treatments to get good results, but the success rate they report is about 80%, which is very similar to what we see in our clinic, Orlando Acupuncture.

If you know someone, young or old, who is suffering from arthritis please share this blog post with them and encourage them to talk to an acupuncturist to see if acupuncture might help them.

To learn more about our clinic, Orlando Acupuncture , please visit our website. You can also give us a call for a Free Consultation to see if we can help.

The Truth About Inflammation

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Are you dealing with pain, obesity, ADD/ADHD, peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, migraines, thyroid issues, dental issues, or cancer? If so, then you are dealing with inflammation in the body. Inflammation affects every aspect of the body and is the leading cause of many diseases.

Now, inflammation alone isn’t a bad thing. It serves a purpose when you sprain your ankle or get a cut on the skin. It is the bodies natural way of defending itself. So, what are we doing that is causing it to always be in defense mode? Well, the majority of inflammatory diseases start in the gut with an autoimmune reaction which progresses into systemic inflammation. The gut is made up of an incredibly large and intricate semi-permeable lining. Every time we eat something we are bringing the outside world of toxins, viruses, yeast, and bacteria into the body. If our gut lining is damaged (this is known as Leaky Gut Syndrome ) these particles pass through that lining and end up in the blood stream. Because these particles do not belong in the blood stream your body views them as foreign invaders and starts to attack them. Your body then responds with inflammation, allergic reactions, and other symptoms that are related to a variety of diseases.

This will then cause your immune system to become overburdened, and these inflammatory triggers are cycled continuously through your blood where they affect nerves, organs, connective tissues, joints, and muscles. You can probably begin to see how diseases develop.

To truly be effective at managing or hopefully overcome a disease it needs to be addressed on all levels. Taking a look at where this process starts is the key. However, most doctors are utilizing pharmaceuticals in lieu of getting to the root cause.

Since inflammation is commonly mediated by the gut it is a logical starting point in the evaluation process of any patient. There are seven common areas that should be considered when looking at causes of leaky gut which create the environment for chronic inflammation. They are listed below along with key triggers within the category of evaluation:

  • Diet: Alcohol, Gluten, Casein, Processed Foods, Sugar, Fast Food
  • Medications: Corticosteroids, Antibiotics, Antacids, Xenobiotics
  • Infections: Such as Yeast or Bacterial Overgrowth       (Candidiasis) or Viral or Parasite Infections
  • Stress: Increased Cortisol, Increased Catecholamines
  • Hormonal: Thyroid, Progesterone, Estradiol, Testosterone
  • Neurological: Brain Trauma, Stroke, Neuro-degeneration
  • Metabolic: Glycosylated End Products (inflammatory end products of sugar metabolism), Intestinal Inflammation, Autoimmune

The truth of the situation here is that FOOD MATTERS. That’s right, it’s not just a movie (which by the way you should all watch!). Hyper-permeability of the gut, regardless of whether you can feel it or not, is often a significant cause of an extremely long and ever growing list of conditions. The inflammatory cascade that takes place by any inflammatory trigger (diet, medications, infections, stress, hormonal, neurological, or metabolic) can break down the intestinal permeability and allows for the leaky gut mechanism to initiate.

Inflammation is rampant. In fact the research says that 1 in 12 women and 1 in 24 men are dealing with full blown autoimmune mediated inflammation. The number of undiagnosed people is going to be much higher.

If you are dealing with inflammation then you should get a comprehensive evaluation to look at what is perpetuating your personal inflammation. Here are three things to start paying attention to:

  1. Lifestyle: Remove adverse mechanisms (Stress, over-exercising, poor Sleep, blood sugar dysregulation, poor social behaviors.) Lifestyle factors are huge! The stress response triggers immune markers which is the fast track to Autoimmunity.
  2. Lifestyle: Restore beneficial mechanisms: Create conditions of love and appreciation, keep positive attitudes, maintain proper exercise, have adequate sleep, receive acupuncture for stress relief, restore blood sugar balance, and facilitate healthy social interactions.
  3. Dietary Support: Stabilize blood sugar, remove food Autoimmune triggers, and promote intestinal integrity with proper flora and nitric oxide and glutathione pathways. Include fermented foods and supplement appropriately as may be needed.

Remember, a wide array of health problems, including but not limited to: chronic pain, obesity, ADD/ADHD, peripheral neuropathy, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, migraines, thyroid issues, dental issues, and cancer are all rooted in inflammation, which must be properly addressed if you wish to be healed.

Find Headache and Migraine Relief That Lasts

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The month of June is National Headache and Migraine Awareness month which made me want to write a blog post regarding the reasons we get headaches and migraines and what we can determine by paying attention to the symptoms. According to the Mayo Clinic there are two classifications of headaches. There are Primary headaches and Secondary headaches. A Primary headache is the most common and is typically caused from: stress, a skipped meal, dehydration, lack of or change in sleep, high blood pressure, alcohol, or something you ate. Primary headaches are not due to an underlying disease in the body, they are due to lifestyle factors. These headaches are a sign your body is sending as a way to inform you that something is wrong.

If you are getting headaches regularly but know that it isn’t due to one of the lifestyle factors listed above, it could very well be a sign from your body that there is a larger underlying issue at hand. Secondary headaches are a symptom of a disease that can activate the pain-sensitive nerves of the head. Any number of conditions – varying greatly in severity – may cause Secondary headaches.  These headaches are important to pay attention to. Most people suffering from these types of headaches will grab any over-the-counter medication to help with the pain, while others will go see a neurologist for consultation, advice, and of course prescription pills. What if these headaches and migraines could be effectively treated without the need for pills or costly specialists?

Surprisingly for people in the Western world, acupuncture has been used for treating migraines and headaches for the last 2,500+ years and now it has taken a foothold in the medical community. According to a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, “Acupuncture helps reduce days with migraines and may have lasting effects.”  While there are many undesirable effects associated with medication and traditional treatments, acupuncture has no associated side effects at all, which gives the patient a sense of hope. The better news, however, is that many migraine patients express a sense of relief after receiving a acupuncture treatment, and many more say that continual acupuncture sessions can lessen the intensity and frequency of these intense and painful headaches. This is very exciting news for those suffering!

If you want to learn more about how acupuncture and Chinese medicine can help you get rid of your headaches or migraines for good, visit our website or give us a call for a Free Consultation.

The Skinny on Bone Broth

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Bone broth, or soup as I call it, is one of my favorite diet recommendations to give to patients.  I have been recommending it for years and it is finally hitting the mainstream consciousness.  One reason why I recommend this to so many people is that it is an easy way to add a lot of nutrition to any diet.  It is also loaded with good fats, and is easy to digest, which makes it a perfect food to promote healthy weight loss.

My favorite way to make bone broth is the method I learned during my nutrition class in Chinese Medical School.  You basically take a whole organic chicken and several slices of ginger and simmer these in water for 2-4 hours.  At the end you need to cut up the meat and add any mushrooms or veggies you want and soy sauce for flavor, but that is pretty much it.

I try to make broth every week or two, and keep it in the refrigerator.  Sometimes I use it as soup, but mostly I like to use it to replace water in cooking rice, steaming veggies, etc.  I find that it adds good flavor to pretty much any recipe.

The importance of getting bones from non-toxic (organic or free range) animals is vital for good results from bone broth. This is true both for the taste and the nutritional value or the broth. These days I usually get the organic chicken from Costco, although I noticed that Trader Joe’s has these at a great price as well.  I also like to simmer the organ meat that comes with these chickens when making soup as it adds to the overall nutrition of the soup.

The most complete resource on Bone Broth, that I know of, is the book, Nourishing Broth,  by Sally Morell.  (It’s available online at amazon.)  This book is loaded with information on the health benefits of bone broth.  Dr. Mercola also has a great article about bone broth including a couple of recipes which you can find here.

Visit our website if you want to learn more about Chinese dietary therapy and how it can help you achieve permanent weight loss.

The Secret to Permanent Weight Loss

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Before writing this post I did a quick web search for news about weight loss, diet, and exercise.  I was amazed by what I found. Here are the headlines from articles that are based on research that came out in the last three months: “Exercise is good…but it won’t help you lose weight“, “Exercise beats dieting for Weight Loss“, and “Diet and Exercise are not enough”  Wow talk about confusing!  No wonder people struggle with weight loss.

The truth is that all three of these headlines and articles are true, but need to be understood a little deeper.

The first article is making the point that no matter how much you exercise if you eat a diet full of sugar and other refined carbohydrates you will not lose weight. Unfortunately, this is exactly what comprises the standard American Diet (or SAD). As the author of the study says, “You cannot outrun a bad diet.” The authors also correctly conclude that a diet high in fat and low in sugar and carbs is best for weight loss.  Let me repeat that; a high fat diet, low carb diet is best for weight loss.

The next headline, “Exercise beats Dieting for Weight Loss”, is talking about data that shows that as people age they usually become less physically active.  Most Americans do not reduce their food intake so this inactivity seems to lead to weight gain. The conclusion that if you don’t exercise you will tend to put on unhealthy weight (such as increased BMI and waist size) is correct, but by not explaining WHY this happens this article misses something very important.  Guess what else changes as we age, our hormones.  And are hormone levels affected by exercise?  You bet!  So the actual mechanism for this weight gain is that as hormone levels go down unhealthy weight goes up.

Now the third headline makes sense.  The authors of this study conclude that Diet and Exercise are not enough because there seems to be a “biological cause” that limits the effectiveness of diet and exercise in some individuals.  Hormone imbalance is the biological factor that can make weigh loss very stubborn. One of the most common hormones that can be out of balance and lead to difficulty losing weight is Thyroid hormones.  The stress hormone cortisol is another.

So to lose weight you do have to eat well, exercise regularly AND have healthy, balanced hormones.

If you have questions about Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, or if you have struggled with weight loss and want to see if your hormones might be the reason why, visit us at Orlando Acupuncture.com

FDA issues warning about common pain injections. What you need to know.

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One of the most popular treatments for neck, back, and joint pains —steroid injections—can be dangerous, and in rare cases can cause paralysis and death according to a warning issued by the FDA  in April, 2014.  Considering that approximately 4 in 10, or 75 million, Americans live with chronic pain (back pain, arthritis, joint pain, tendonitis, shoulder pain, nerve pain, overuse injuries etc) this warning should be big news, but few people know about the risks of these treatments.

The FDA is late to the game when it comes to concern about the safety of the shots when they’re injected into the spine. In other parts of the world tougher restrictions on the use of corticosteroids in the neck and back are already on labels. Patient advocates and researchers who have identified safety concerns with the injections have been pushing the FDA for years to take action.

As early as 2007, a survey of doctors in the journal Spine uncovered 78 cases of patients who received steroid injections in the neck suffering serious injuries, including 13 deaths. In other cases, the injections have been linked to loss of vision or paralysis in patients. The agency said in late 2011 that it was studying safety issues related to the shots and yesterday indicated it first became concerned in 2009. Yet it took five years to issue the 322-word warning.

Sandy Walsh, an FDA spokeswoman, said that the warning is the result of an ongoing effort to understand the causes of “serious neurologic events” with the injections and identify ways to minimize them.  Dennis Capolongo, a patient advocate who has been pushing for more aggressive restrictions on the steroids, said while the warning from the FDA is appreciated, it is too mild and comes too late. Doctors in the U.S. administer about 9 million epidural injections a year. “Many people have been harmed in the interim,” he said of the years the FDA has been studying the issue. Capolongo said organizations representing patients who have suffered serious side effects from the shots are pushing the FDA to require labels on the steroids indicating they should not be used at all for epidural injections.  The agency is also convening an advisory committee of experts to determine if further action is needed.

The FDA action also highlights a harsh reality. Conventional treatments for back, neck, and joint pains remain an imperfect science. Steroid injections and prescription medications provide mostly temporary benefits, and bring risks.  Surgeries, like spinal fusion, are more invasive, and don’t always work.

Alternative options such as Acupuncture and Biopuncture offer significant results with fewer side effects.

Be sure to leave thoughts, questions, and comments below!