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Identification of Food Sensitivities for Migraine Sufferers

A nutritional assessment is an integral part of the evaluation for migraine sufferers. Often, identification of food sensitivities and elimination of one or more offending foods from the diet can reduce both the frequency and intensity of the headaches. It is an effective treatment, in which the use of prescription medications can be minimized or even stopped. This is especially important in treating pregnant women, for whom pharmacologic interventions are generally contraindicated.

Keeping a food diary in order to identify potential “trigger foods” is the first step. How do you know if you have identified a potential trigger food? Common symptoms of food sensitivity can include fatigue, muscle and/or joint aches, headaches, excessive flatulence, bloating, heartburn, confusion and irritability. Often these symptoms occur several hours after the consumption of the offending food substance. Food sensitivities trigger an inflammatory reaction, unlike a food allergy which triggers an “allergic reaction.” Common “allergic” symptoms include tongue swelling, watery eyes, wheezing and shortness of breath – which can develop into a medical emergency.

Common causes of food sensitivities include foods that contain lactose, gluten and/or wheat. That being said, be aware that ANY food has the potential to be a food sensitivity, even fruits and vegetables. That is why keeping a food diary is so important. If you find that during a particular meal, you experience the symptoms of a food sensitivity, eliminate what you think may be the trigger foods from your diet. Your diet, at this point, should consist only of foods not commonly implicated in migraines including:

  • Brown rice
  • Plain or carbonated water
  • Cooked green, yellow, and orange vegetables (artichokes, asparagus, broccoli, chard, collards, lettuce, spinach, string beans, squash, sweet potatoes, tapioca, and taro)
  • Cooked or dried fruits (cherries, cranberries, pears, or prunes but no citrus fruits)

When you notice migraines have decreased or subsided (usually within a week or so), having noted the potential trigger foods in your diary, slowly add them back one at a time every few days to observe which foods trigger your migraines to come back.

Foods that are the most common triggers of migraines should be added last. If the food is associated with a migraine, it should be removed from the diet for 1 to 2 weeks and then reintroduced to observe if a similar reaction occurs. If no symptoms arise, that food can remain in the diet.

By: Dr. Sandy Cho, MD

REFERENCES

  • Egger J, Carter CM, Wilson J, Turner MW, Soothill JF. Is migraine food allergy? A double-blind controlled trial of oligoantigenic diet treatment. Lancet 1983;2:865-869.
  • Karli N, Akgoz S et al. Clinical characteristics of tension-type headache and migraine in adolescents: a student-based study. Headache 2006;46(3):399-412.

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How to Use Your Local Farmers Market to Treat Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis, and Migraines

It is no secret that diet plays a large role in treating many different types of conditions. But in the spring and summer months there is plethora of medicinal treatment options set up at little tables in communities all across the county – Farmers Markets. Farmers markets are the off-shoot of nature’s bounty providing a virtual organic pharmacy disguised by sweet, fresh, and delicious produce. Here are some farmer’s market gems for treatment of Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis, and Migraines.

Fibromyalgia

  • Cherries and Raspberries – Having strong anti-inflammatory values, most red fruits can have a stronger pain and inflammation reduction value that is ten times the average aspirin treatment. Recent studies have also shown that tart cherries can also help with sleep problems that are often associated with Fibromyalgia.
  • Cantaloupe, Watermelon, Broccoli, Collard Greens, and Kale – The local farmer’s market favorites are proven alkaline forming foods. Adding these to a Fibromyalgia diet can also reduce inflammation and help to combat the symptoms of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome which is commonly diagnosed as a co-morbidity with Fibromyalgia.

Osteoarthritis

  • Strawberries, Bell Peppers, and Cauliflower – High in vitamin C and absolute staples to get from any farmers market, produce power houses provide a healthy dose of vitamin C which is vital in the formation of both collagen and proteoglycans.
  • Spinach, Pumpkin, Tomatoes, and Carrots – These market gems are high in beta-carotene. Beta-carotene is strong antioxidant that helps reduce the progression of Osteoarthritis.

Migraines

  • Spinach – Especially when eaten raw, spinach contains high levels of vitamin B-12 which is often prescribed as a supplement to help combat migraine pain.
  • Green Beans, Kale, and other leafy greens – These green veggies are high in magnesium, a powerful element that can help reduce tension in muscles as well as help the reaction of nerve and muscles cells.

Whether it’s just to help local economy or a conscious effort to bring more fruits and vegetables into your diet, visiting your local farmer’s market can provide relief for many conditions including Fibromyalgia, Osteoarthritis, and Migraines. Just by its nature of getting a person outside and moving, a farmer’s market can provide exercise, fresh air, and the added bonus of a growing ‘pharmacy’ to treat chronic pain conditions.

Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/29233640@N07/9223899743

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Fibromyalgia and ADD/ADHD – Diagnosing the Link between Them

ADHD and its cousin condition ADD have well known symptoms such as lack of focus, confusion, lack of clarity, and an inability to follow directions. Remarkably, the symptoms commonly associated with Fibromyalgia are almost identical to those in ADD/ADHD. What’s the connection? When diagnosing chronic disorders in children, oftentimes, these two symptoms are misdiagnosed with one another.

The biggest issue when trying to diagnose between Fibromyalgia and ADD/ADHD is the presence or absence of pain. However, most children translate pain in ways that adults don’t. With both disorders exhibiting similar neurological symptoms without the specific complaint of pain throughout portions of the body, Fibromyalgia can be mistaken for ADD/ADHD.

Another pain issue between the two is diagnosing between headaches – another symptom commonly associated with both disorders. For children diagnosed with ADD/ADHD, headaches are usually attributed to stress and “overworking” of the brain to try to focus and compute information. Fibromyalgia patients experience headaches as well, but are usually attributed to nervous system translation and over-stimulated nerves. Unfortunately, for children, it’s hard to determine what kind of headache they are experiencing and the intensity of that headache. In fact, both conditions are often associated with migraines – a condition that affects thousands of children every year.

When diagnosing either ADD/ADHD or Fibromyalgia, pain is used as an indicator to differentiate the two. However, with most children pain is translated loosely. For example, many children that are struggling to maintain focus during school as with ADD/ADHD will feel stress in the form of a stomach ache or even joint pain. Whereas, a child that feels fatigued or in overall pain from Fibromyalgia may show signs of irritability, lack of concentration, and an inability to complete tasks. For obvious reasons, these two conditions are very similar in neurological symptoms.

Avoiding a misdiagnosis is difficult, but not impossible. The best approach is to utilize the services of a medical pediatric psychiatrist. This is the best qualified person to determine true pain symptoms through a child’s expressions. Working together with a pediatrician and a psychiatrist can offer the best hope for an accurate diagnosis of either ADD/ADHD or Fibromyalgia. It is also important to continue follow up care and subsequent therapies to monitor if there is any improvement. This ensures that the appropriate care plan is being employed.

At home to treat either condition, techniques like home organization, nutritional guidance, and systematic routine can often provide emotional and physical relief to both ADD/ADHD and Fibromyalgia patients. Hormones, preservatives, and food dyes have been shown to have profound effects both behaviorally and physical for both disorders. Incorporating a whole diet rich in Omege-3 fatty acids and high in magnesium helps with symptoms such as focus, irritability, pain, migraines, and fatigue. Organization and structure provide a consistent environment that reduces stress and irritability – both triggers for ADD/ADHD and Fibromyalgia.

Dealing with childhood ADD/ADHD or Fibromyalgia can be difficult. However, the most important part of the process is getting an accurate diagnosis and treating the right condition. Both have similar symptoms that are easily mistaken for the other. With some professional guidance and some minor changes at home, a child suffering from either can be successfully treated for either ADD/ADHD or Fibromyalgia and have a full and happy childhood.

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The Real Culprit Behind Childhood Migraines – Food Allergies and Sensitivities

Does your child suffer from migraines on a regular basis? It can be frustrating to take your sick child to the doctor to come home with a prescription in hand, and yet no answers as to the cause of these many times debilitating headaches. There are many different reasons a person can get migraines– but the one that is most often overlooked is food allergies.

Food allergies or sensitivities can be the cause of many ailments, including fatigue, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and muscular pain, like that associated with fibromyalgia. Your doctor can do testing to rule out food allergy, but the best way to pinpoint migraine triggers is to monitor food intake and symptoms at home.

The first thing you can do is start a simple food log. Write down what your child eats each day and any migraine symptoms that occur. You can usually pinpoint triggers very quickly this way.

The second item, and what I recommend to my clients, is to do an Elimination Diet. In an Elimination Diet you simplify the child’s diet to cut out the major allergens: Wheat & gluten (a protein contained in wheat, rye & barley), corn, dairy, eggs, peanuts, soy, sugar and artificial colors & preservatives. (Artificial sweeteners are also known to cause migraines; however, I do not recommend anyone ingest these – especially growing children.)

Once you have pinpointed the cause of the migraines you can let your doctor know. He or she might decide to follow up with some testing, but allergy testing might turn out negative. That’s ok. Once you know that something has a negative effect on your child, it’s up to you to continue to keep them away from the offending item and to educate your child about it too.

Elimination Diet

Take the following foods out of the child’s diet for 3-4 weeks:

  • Wheat
  • Gluten
  • Corn
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Soy
  • Sugar
  • Artificial colors & preservatives

Introduce one food at a time, every 4-5 days

Monitor for symptoms

Consult with your doctor on any findings that occur. (If, for instance, you find that dairy or gluten triggers any sort of symptom from your child, you will want your physician to know this, as there are many medications that contain these items.)

One other side note I would like to say about children is this: They are open and far more in tune with their body than you might realize. If a child says that a particular food bothers their stomach, or just makes them feel “icky”, then listen to them. When it comes to food allergies or sensitivities, take a look at foods that your child might crave. Especially in the forms of gluten (most especially in highly-processed foods), dairy and sugar, which, when eaten consistently, raise blood sugar levels very high, the body then craves them more when blood sugar levels drop.

Looking at your child’s migraine headaches in a more holistic way and understanding how the body systems work together can help you ease their pain, and hopefully, teach them how to prevent future occurrences from happening.

Gina Wieboldt is Certified Holistic Health Coach accredited from Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She’s also a mom and blogger. Read more about her at http://goodlifehealthcoaching.com

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Yoga for Children – A Natural and Fun Way to Reduce Stress

Children are expected to take increasing responsibility for their actions once school starts. They have to begin heeding boundaries in another place with other people, which may be new and unfamiliar to them. This can be a recipe for intense stress, so let’s set them up for a successful academic and social experience. By teaching them how to be familiar with the sensations they feel in their physical bodies and how they react to those sensations, yoga may be just the answer.

Ugh, another article telling you how your child would benefit from yet another activity. At this point, yoga and kids together may sound cliché. But let me ask you parents another question:

Does your child suffer from migraines, fibromyalgia or other chronic pain issues?

It is not unheard of for young children to suffer from the aforementioned chronicity’s. If they do how are they supposed to handle the normal everyday demands of the school environment that children find stressful without making themselves feel worse? Chances are, if your little one is not prepared for this kind of stress it is making her/his symptoms worse. (Note: not a criticism, most children aren’t prepared even with the most well-intentioned and educated parents. Some stress management is learning as you go.) We know that the poor management of responses to stress, in any situation, can lead to a plethora of negative physical experiences. As adults, who are supposedly more familiar with stress, we still suffer from tension induced headaches, inflammation, allergies, insomnia, weight gain…blah blah blah.

So, empower your young ones, especially if they are already dealing with chronic pain issues. Stress can trigger migraines and worsen the symptoms associated with fibromyalgia as well as increase the inflammation response found in osteoarthritis. A surprising amount of young people are being diagnosed with osteoarthritis, which can often be found to accompany a diagnosis of migraines and fibromyalgia. A mindfulness practice, like yoga, can teach them to be in touch with how their bodies manifest tension. Through this awareness, children can begin the process of taking charge of their reactions, physical, emotional and mental. Empowering them to do so can in turn empower them to prevent a migraine attack or other stress induced condition. They learn to control their experiences with pain associated with fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. Being in control of the physical body while encountering stress might even reduce the inflammation that worsens symptoms, which can limit range of motion and cause more unnecessary stress in a child’s body.

Sounds so good you might start doing yoga as a family!

By Melissa Gutierrez


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Recognizing the Symptoms of Migraines in Children and How to Provide Relief

Migraines are more than just terrible headaches; they are extreme pains with nausea along with other symptoms. Aside from the pain in the head, migraines are often connected with many other disorders such as depression, fibromyalgia, and even obesity. Sometimes, however, migraines can show symptoms that don’t present as the typical symptoms – especially in children.

Children’s symptoms from migraines feel similar to those of their adult counterparts, however because children translate pain differently than adults it’s important to recognize the symptoms early to give children the best possible options for relief. For children, especially boys, migraines occur in about 10% of those under the age of 10. Oftentimes, pain in the head is not the most dominating symptom for children. Symptoms to look for are:

  • Unexplained nausea or vomiting
  • Abdominal Pain
  • Dizziness

Other indicators can come in the form of behavior changes during the onset of a migraine. These include:

  • Irritability
  • Food cravings or loss of appetite
  • Sensitivity to touch, smell, or sound

Once diagnosed, treating migraines in children can come from a variety of resources. One of the main triggers for migraines and the associated symptoms is lack of sleep or deprivation of sleep. The best treatment for juvenile migraines begins with structured sleep patterns and routines. Most children need at least 8 to 10 hours of sleep for proper function, however many need even more than that to really reduce migraine symptoms.

Another option for treating migraines in children is to incorporate a balanced diet without skipping meals that includes healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, riboflavin, and magnesium. Proper hydration will also help prevent major migraine onset. 6 to 8 glasses of water a day will greatly reduce both the onset and the severity of a migraine for a child. Avoid processed sugar that is often found in sugary drinks and common kids snacks as this can sometimes bring on some migraine symptoms.

While there are a number of medications that can be used once a child is diagnosed with migraines, there are also a number of natural and herbal supplements that may provide as much relief as medication. Some herbal remedies to include are butterbur, magnesium, riboflavin, CoQ10, and feverfew. Finally, adding some basic relaxation routines for children like kid-based yoga or quiet time breathing can provide substantial relief for children that are willing to slow down long enough to employ them. Avoiding long term eye strain from computer screens, TVs, and mobile devices are also a good starting point to ending migraine symptoms for children.

Children feel pain differently than adults, they translate pain differently, and most importantly they explain pain differently. Diagnosing migraines may be tricky for a parent, but looking for notable symptoms and trusting instincts, parents can be the best medication for their children’s migraine symptoms.

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Fighting Fibromyalgia with Fitness

I was always a bit fatigued, but it became extreme last spring, 2012. I began feeling depressed and felt a heavy pain that I had not experienced before. There was even some anxiety involved. After a few doctors and many tests, the diagnosis was handed down – Fibromyalgia.

As a certified Holistic Health Coach the prescribed medication was not an option for me. My first question to the doctor was about the medication he suggested knowing one of the side effects was weight gain. I asked him how would I move my body –  even go for a walk – if I gained weight, resulting in possibly feeling even worse (which I didn’t think was possible at the point in time). His simple answer was that I probably would gain weight and walking wouldn’t help me. My gut told me otherwise. I had in hand a diagnosis that helped me to have a name for what I was up against.  I searched for the direction in which I would go forth with my healing.

After a long road I would say that I am recovered, although any period of stress will bring on symptoms.  Then it’s time to kick back on the self-care. One of the most important things in my personal recovery was being and staying active with regular exercise.

At first, it was difficult. How do you move and exercise when you can hardly walk without pain and your fatigue feels like a heavy fog weighing you down? But I knew exercise would help. Knowing the bodyand how the systems work together, synergistically, not separately, I knew that movement and exercise would help me – and it did.

First, I began slowly. I would walk up and down the street. I felt frustrated and tired. But I was consistent. Each day I would move and stretch. I added yoga and just did it until I wanted to stop – not until I physically could not. It was important not to overexert, but to warm up my body gently.

It turns out exercise is an amazing antidote for stress and relieving stress is a big YES when it comes to healing fibromyalgia. Being physical also turns on natural endorphins  – the body’s natural opiates. Like a drug, endorphins are released during exercise and can help reduce pain from – you guessed it –the symptoms like those of fibromyalgia. Endorphin release from exercise also helps reduce anxiety, stress and depression. Natural balancers are exactly what they are.

Many of the body’s own chemicals are helpful in the treatment of fibromyalgia. Taking serotonin for instance. This little neurotransmitter aids in regulating sleep cycles, mood, pain perception and immune system function. I found it interesting how 5-HTP is a well-known and useful tool in the treatment of fibromyalgia and was very helpful in my own treatment. 5-HTP works in the brain and central nervous system by increasing the production of serotonin. Do you know what else helps increase production of serotonin? Exercise. Regular physical activity increases levels of tryptophan, which is used by the body to create serotonin.

How do you get started? First always make sure that you speak to your doctor and get the ok to begin an exercise routine. Keep it simple. Begin with walks, and add in some yoga poses for stretching and muscle strength. Be kind and loving with yourself. There will be days you feel like you can conquer the world, while others you will feel like five minutes in you can no longer do it. Each day will be different. Just be consistent and show up to exercise every day. It’s up to you to begin to take those baby steps and incorporate physical activity into your healing plan.

By Gina Wiebolt

Gina Wieboldt is Certified Holistic Health Coach accredited from Institute of Integrative Nutrition. She’s also a mom and blogger. Read more about her at http://goodlifehealthcoaching.com

  • Arch Intern Med. 2007;167(20):2192-2200. doi:10.1001/archinte.167.20.2192.

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Exercising to Provide Relief for Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia can cause widespread pain throughout the body, resulting in muscle soreness and fatigue. Even the most mundane of activities can create posture imbalances, muscle tightness, and pain. Some of the simplest undertakings such as unloading the dishwasher or vacuuming floors can cause major muscle discomfort and bring on Fibromyalgia symptoms. However, adding some simple exercises such as light free weights and aerobics can greatly improve how the body reacts to Fibromyalgia triggers.

Weight training can greatly increase muscle strength for Fibromyalgia patients. These can include simple reps with free weights, light resistance training, and modified machine work. Using light free weights, doing shoulder rolls and bicep curls increases both strength and muscle stamina. This allows the body to better perform chores that require upper body, back, and arm strength. For lower body endurance, adding ankle weights to basic walking or light jogging can help build strength and durability.

Aerobics is another way to decrease Fibromyalgia symptoms. In fact, water aerobics is often utilized to help increase strength, improve range of motion, and provide appropriate resistance for Fibromyalgia patients. Cycling, stair stepping, and elliptical work outs are another great option for Fibromyalgia patients to increase strength and mobility.

Adding a fitness routine to a Fibromyalgia care plan also has the added benefit of helping to offset the fatigue that is often associated with the condition. Many Fibromyalgia patients are jointly diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. One popular approach to treating CFS is adding a fitness routine that includes weight training and aerobics for mild cardio elevation. The added benefit of energy from a fitness routine helps to combat fatigue and reduces Fibromyalgia symptoms.

Overall Fibromyalgia can have devastating effects on a person’s daily routine and quality of life. Adding a fitness routine can help to reduce and eliminate the symptoms that are associated with the illness. Light weight training and simple aerobics can increase strength and muscle stamina, relieve tension and stress in the body, and increase energy and flow throughout the body.

 

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Using Gym Equipment Correctly To Treat Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis has a long list of symptoms that generally have long-term physical impacts. With the onset of pain, sufferers often reach for both over the counter medications and prescription medication. With OA patients, however, it is often suggested to incorporate a strong fitness routine to both increase strength and improve joint mobility. Using gym equipment can have many positive results for OA when used correctly.

The best equipment to incorporate into a fitness routine for Osteoarthritis are those that of a low impact work out on the joints and muscles. Great examples of quality gym equipment to use for treatment include a stationary bike and the elliptical machine. These both provide movement that encourages range of motion and strengthening, especially for the knees and hips which are oftentimes big problem areas for OA patients.

Low weight training can also be extremely beneficial when trying to treat Osteoarthritis. Using resistance training can help to strengthen the muscles and joints that are affected. Just adding free weights and doing light lifts and shoulder rolls can help build muscle stamina and increase range of motion in the shoulders and joints throughout the arms.

One of the easiest pieces of equipment to use, that can be tremendously beneficial for OA patients, is the treadmill. Walking every day not only increases joint motion, but also keeps muscles loose and moving. Using a treadmill in the home or gym eliminates weather influences that can sometimes be a big issue for OA patients. Adding some light ankle weights can further provide strength in the knees and hips.

When used correctly, gym equipment certainly has a place in the treatment of Osteoarthritis. Utilizing fitness equipment can provide relief, strength, and stamina for OA patients without introducing more medications. It is important to note that any fitness plan should be closely monitored by a doctor and/or a trained fitness professional to ensure safety and success. However, adding a fitness routine into the care plan for OA patients can prove to be extremely beneficial and have long term positive results.

Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/gatesheadcouncil/4525645494

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Using Your Senses to Better Sleep and Reduced Pain in Fibromyalgia

One of the biggest complaints that those with Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS) mention is an inability to get a good night’s sleep. Both the quality and quantity of sleep can be affected and they can awaken in the morning feeling just as tired, if not more than when they “tried” to sleep. If pain and depression often accompany sleep problems in FMS, adding aromatherapy and music to your nighttime sleep regimen at night could be considered. It is very likely that the two together may be more beneficial than using either modality separately.

The essential oils, especially lavender oil, have been studied suggests that essential oils have many benefits including reducing pain and helping to achieve a better night’s sleep. Lavender oil also has anti-inflammatory properties. The use of the essential oils in promoting the quality of sleep has demonstrated success in research of  hospitalized patients.

In one study, approximately seventy women aged 45-55 with insomnia were randomized into two groups – one that received lavender therapy and one that did not. The women in this trial who received inhalations of lavender twice per week reported a significant increase in sleep quality. Lavender aromatherapy was also found to have a positive effect on decreasing the heart rate after one month and three months of therapy. Why is this important? Because the hallmark of a good night’s sleep is that the body “slows down,” including a reduction in heart rate and blood pressure.

In another study whose focus was examining the effect of music on pain in those with fibromyalgia, it was found that those who listened to music once a day for four weeks in total reported a significant decrease in pain and depression when compared to those who did not.

While each therapy separately demonstrated a positive benefit, another study showed that  the combination of music therapy and aromatherapy in addition to touch therapy, was beneficial in helping patients get a good night’s sleep

What can we draw from this information? Well, if you have fibromyalgia, understand that you will likely need a multifaceted approach to help you achieve a good night’s sleep. This combination approach is likely to be more successful than an individual therapy alone. It may include listening to soothing music before and while you are sleeping, permeating your room with the relaxing aroma of lavender oil, feeling the endearing touch a loved one. This is saying that the treatment of fibromyalgia involves the use of all of our senses. We need to pay attention to all of them in order to promote successful healing.

By: Dr. Rich Snyder, DO

References

  • Chien LW, Cheng SL et al. “The effect of lavender aromatherapy on autonomic nervous system in midlife women with insomnia.” Evidence Based Complementary And Alternative Medicine. 2012;2012:740813.
  • Demirbag B, Erci B. “The effects of sleep and touch therapy on symptoms of fibromyalgia and depression.” Iranian Journal of Public Health. 2012;41(11):44-53.
  • Huang MY, Liao MH et al. “Effect of lavender essential oil on LPS-stimulated inflammation.” 2012;40(4):845-59
  • Onieva-Zafra MD, Castro-Sanchez AM et al. “Effect of music as nursing intervention for people diagnosed with fibromyalgia.” Pain Management Nursing. 2013 Jun;14(2):e39-46.

Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/mydecorative/9041888546

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The Science Behind Acupuncture As Treatment For Osteoarthritis

Acupuncture Explained

Acupuncture is one of the most ancient healing practices in the world and a key component of traditional Chinese medicine. Dating back about 2,000 years Acupuncture refers to a collection of procedures involving the stimulation of points on the body by using very thin, stainless steel needles. These needles penetrate through the skin at 365 meridian points and then are manipulated either manually or via electrical stimulation. Stimulation of these points is thought to correct the body’s imbalance in the flow of qi (pronounced CHEE). It is believed that the blockage in the flow of qi is the root cause of disease and illness.

Trying to understand qi, an invisible life source coursing throughout our bodies, has long baffled scientists and doctors – especially those trained in Western medicine. Skepticism about Acupuncture has long existed, and continues to this day. However, there is a growing body of research that supports the effectiveness of Acupuncture in the treatment of a variety of diseases and conditions – particularly with pain management. The medical and scientific community no longer view Acupuncture as quack medicine or as a treatment without merit.

The Science Behind Acupuncture

The scientific world does not fully understand how acupuncture works. Yet, with greater technological advancements scientists are able to utilize objective measurements such as neuro imaging, thermal imagining and doppler ultrasound to document the very real effects of Acupuncture. Research has demonstrated that Acupuncture impacts a variety of the body’s systems. It activates anti-inflammatory chemicals, releases particular hormones, and inhibits cell receptors – some of which control the pain experience. Early researchers believed that the benefits of Acupuncture resulted from the release of endorphins that caused the “feel good” sensation. However, recent research is demonstrating that there are possibly several mechanisms of action that occur with Acupuncture to include blood flow, the stretching of connective tissue, and nerve signals that reboot the autonomic nervous system. Some theories about how Acupuncture works include:

  • The release of neurotransmitters
  • Effects on the stress response system (or the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis)
  • Gate control theory in which stimulation of certain pain nerves creates a competing pain sensation in the body which results in a decrease of pain.

Neuroimaging studies show how specific networks in the brain respond during Acupuncture when different areas either light up or show a decrease in activity before, during, and following an Acupuncture treatment. In fact, many scientifically rigorous studies have demonstrated that Acupuncture calms areas of the brain that register pain, increase the blood flow in treated areas, and cause a decrease in inflammation.

A meta-analysis conducted in 2012 reviewed all of the relevant scientific research on Acupuncture and concluded that this form of ancient Chinese medicine is indeed effective in the treatment of chronic pain. It is also proving itself to be an effective non-pharmacological treatment for Osteoarthritis, Migraines, and Fibromyalgia.

The World Health Organization published a long list of the diseases, symptoms and conditions for which Acupuncture has been proven to treat as demonstrated through controlled clinical trials. There is an even longer list of all the body’s ailments where Acupuncture has demonstrated effective results, but research needs to be continued. These include a wide variety of circulatory disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, immune disorders, musculoskeletal disorders, ear-nose-and throat disorders, carpel tunnel, addictions and some psychiatric conditions. It also has a long and well-documented history of helping with post-operative nausea, the side effects of chemotherapy and chronic pain, such as the pain that occurs with Osteoarthritis.

Acupuncture and Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis. Pain and stiffness resulting from Osteoarthritis has a significant impact on quality of life, activity level, and mobility. Western medicine’s treatment of choice is typically anti-inflammatory medication which often have unpleasant side effects.

Enough compelling studies have reported that the traditional form of Acupuncture delivered by a trained, qualified individual is more effective in pain relief of Osteoarthritis than a placebo. Pain management research on Acupuncture has been rigorous enough that the Osteoarthritis Research Society International released recommendations in 2008 stating that Acupuncture may be an important component of treatment for Osteoarthritis of the knee. The US National Institutes of Health and the UK’s World Health Organization have both endorsed the use of Acupuncture for Osteoarthritis of the knee.

Acupuncture, like any medical treatment, needs to be administered by a highly and properly trained Acupuncturist. Most states require Acupuncturists to be licensed and the FDA requires all needles to be new and sterile. If using an Acupuncturist, do your research and avoid shams and poorly trained Acupuncturists that put you at risk for harm.

By: Alicia DiFabio, Psy.D

Reference

  • Vickers, AJ; Cronin, AM; Maschino, AC (2012). Acupuncture for Chronic Pain Individual Patient Data Meta-analysis”. Arch Intern Med: 1. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.3654.
  • Zhang, W; Moskowitz, RW; Nuki, G; Abramson, S; Altman, RD; Arden, N; Bierma-Zeinstra, S; Brandt, KD et al. (2008). “OARSI recommendations for the management of hip and knee osteoarthritis, Part II: OARSI evidence-based, expert consensus guidelines” (PDF). Osteoarthritis and Cartilage 16 (2): 137–162. doi:10.1016/j.joca.2007.12.013. PMID 18279766
  • Beck, M. (2010) Decoding an Ancient Therapy: High-Tech Tools Show How Acupuncture Works in Treating Arthrisits, Back Pain, Other Ills. The Wall Street Journal, Health Journal.
  • Berman, B. M., Lao, L., Langenberg, P., Lee, W.L., Giopin, A.M.K., & Hochberg, M.C. (2004). Effectiveness of Acupuncture as Adjunctive Therapy in Ostearrthritis of the Knee: A Randomized, Control Trial. Annals of Internal Medicine, 141 (12): 901-910.

Alicia DiFabio, Psy.D. is a freelance writer with a doctorate in psychology. Her personal essays and parenting articles have appeared in various newspapers and magazines. She lives in New Jersey with her husband and four girls, one of whom has extensive special needs. She can be found writing about her adventures in parenting at her blog, Lost In Holland.


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Using Yoga to Get the Most Out of Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a fantastic healing modality that can address many physical and emotional issues, as well as mental stress. Your acupuncturist works to balance your energy by clearing the meridians, or specific channels, through which your energy runs. You can help your acupuncturist out by doing yoga before your session.

An intelligently designed yoga practice can help to clear out some of those blocked channels allowing your acupuncturist’s work to go deeper without having to pay attention to superficial issues that you could be taking care of yourself.

If you don’t have time to do a full hour or even 30 minutes of yoga try this short yoga routine:

  • Get centered by breathing with a rhythm that helps you to feel a little more relaxed and helps you connect to a deeper (physically, mentally, whatever) sense of yourself. Once you’ve connected to that place use your breath to help you take an internal inventory of where you are able to relax and where you are tense.
  • See if you can release the detected tension by feeling the movement of your breath ripple throughout the body and particularly into that place. Be patient and don’t push. Try moving through that area by stretching or making circles with surrounding joints. If you can’t feel release stop, give yourself a break and try again a little later.
  • After your quickie practice feel if you can detect any differences in your body. Have you been able to make a difference in your own sense of balance? Were you able to get a better idea of what your body might need to relax? Don’t underestimate the benefits of this short practice!

Connecting to your breath in this way can help you to align joints and release tension in muscles that will allow your acupuncturist to focus on addressing the root cause of your issue as opposed to having to spend time on any symptoms that may be a result of an underlying cause. Help her to do her best work! Doing this before you get needled could be the most cost effective technique to help you get the most from your session.

By: Melissa Gutierrez

Photo Credit: flickr.com/photos/83905817

Holistic Health Resources for Acupuncture