Still in its infancy in the U.S., though wise beyond its 1000s of years throughout Asia, the field of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), which includes acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy, has quickly become a popular option among the health-minded, spa-going crowd. Why?
Virtually side-effect-free, acupuncture is truly complementary in that it can be done simply on its own to help address a health concern or in conjunction with other care you may be receiving including other mainstream healthcare, management with medications, or physical therapy. And truth be told, many people first seek TCM for one reason in particular and end up finding they can address several simultaneously, none-of-which is more important at times than simply to reduce stress and rejuvenate the body, while nourishing the overall body system.
Maybe you’ve tried TCM or know someone who has. Or maybe you’re simply intrigued and curious about ‘why’ you might try acupuncture. Do I have to have something wrong? You might wonder. Not necessarily, TCM is used effectively for both treatment and prevention. How many healthcare fields can say that?
Here are 5 of the most common areas today that health-forward clients and patients seek care for with me and my colleagues in the spa and clinical setting.
Pain and pain-related (musculoskeletal) symptoms still remain high atop most women’s acupuncture list. Aches and pains ranging from mild and nagging to severe and persistent comprise probably about half of all first time (and often repeat) visits from clients in the spa or healthcare setting.
Acupuncture stimulates circulation and the nervous system, helping to bring healing to the area and balance the pain signals and response to the brain. Because research has shown repeatedly that acupuncture releases endorphins those ‘feel good’ hormones that bathe the sensitive areas and reduce and quiet the pain some relief is often immediate. Long-term, persistent issues may need multiple treatments or be combined with care from other members of the healthcare team.
Try acupuncture for:
Low back pain from long-hours at a desk, plane travel or injury
Joint pain like osteoarthritis, knee pain, and carpal tunnel
Tension headaches, migraines, sinus pain and TMJ
Fitness-related muscle pains, strains and sprains
Chronic pain and autoimmune conditions like fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis
The sophisticated spa-goer today looks to modern medicine, healthy living practices and fresh ideas to enliven her skin and erase or at least smooth! those unwanted lines that inevitably come with the passing of time. Acupuncture is a perfect tool to add to the beauty toolbox. Extra fine, hair-thin needles used with facial rejuvenation techniques and therapies excite the skin and underlying structures to bring increased circulation, attention and health to the area of focus, for example, crow’s feet at the outer part of the eye corners, and time-lines between the brows. The results with a series of treatments can be dramatic as the skin’s elasticity and tone improve and the area becomes hydrated beneath the skin to smooth and nourish it. And while wrinkles do create a lot of the ‘buzz’ around acupuncture for healthy skin, it can also be used to help encourage healing of other more symptomatic skin conditions like adult acne and rosacea, as well.
Weight-management and Cravings (food, alcohol and nicotine)
Resizing the body to a healthier weight is not simply about portion-control and exercise. Emotions, cravings, appetite, life-stressors, and the outside environment in which we live all come into the equation, making weight management challenging for most. Many people seek TCM acupuncture and often herbal therapy for weight management. Acupuncture can help decrease cravings, relieve tension and anxiety, improve focus and relax the body, supporting the healthy lifestyle behaviors that accompany the weight-loss experience. TCM also utilizes specialized and individualized dietary therapy to assist in balancing the body to help encourage weight loss. In the same way that food can be addictive, inducing cravings, stress, and other challenges, acupuncture is often used as a part of tobacco cessation and alcohol and drug addiction programs.
Try acupuncture and TCM to help: Reduce cravings (for food, drink, nicotine)
Relieve tension and anxiety about food choices
Increase focus and support healthy decision-making around food
Specific diet-related challenges
Smoking cessation support
Alcohol/drug addiction program support
Hormonal Shifts during Stages of Life: Menopause, PMS, and Fertility
If feeling ‘out-of-balance’ is understood by anyone, it’s understood by a woman in the throes of menopausal shifts. Many seek and receive great relief from regular or periodic TCM sessions for helping ease the severity, frequency and overall aggravation of hot flashes, night sweats, sleeping disturbances and mood swings. Restoring balance to the pendulum-swinging highs and lows during the menopausal period is facilitated by a combination of effects that acupuncture can stimulate, tonify, and calm. Research has also shown acupuncture to be valuable in helping smooth the intensity of the hormonal shifts that bring about PMS symptoms. And a number of studies have shown the benefit of acupuncture and TCM in helping with fertility either alone or in conjunction with IVF and other medical techniques.
Try acupuncture and TCM for:
Bloating and water retention
Pain and discomfort
Irritability and anger
Fertility: to support and encourage hormonal balance to promote fertility and ease fertility-related stress alone or in conjunction with IVF-treatment
One of the single best reasons for a person to try acupuncture is prevention. And, in fact, increasingly, the health-minded are not only seeing the importance of healthy practices to actively promote health in their home lives with nutritious diets and regular exercise, but making it a priority to build in preventive practices with care from others. This is actually not too far of a stretch considering massage has been embraced by spa-goers for decades. And, in fact, more than one of my patients over the years has said that acupuncture feels like “an internal massage,” a fitting analogy for the spa-minded. Still, the long-lasting effects of acupuncture and TCM for prevention are just being tapped. Often a client will first seek TCM for a health issue like pain or discomfort only to find that they leave feeling not only are their symptoms lessened, but they are revitalized, relaxed and more resilient to outside stressors from work, family and environmental bugs. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy can help strengthen the body’s immune system. Releasing brain chemicals like endorphins and others, a single session can help counter the daily assault of stress hormones, oxidative stress and inflammation. Acupuncture has been shown to help white blood cells respond better to fight infection and help stimulate the healthy production of immune antibodies. Helping de-stress, boost the immune system, calm inflammation and the chatter of a busy mind are common reasons people are increasingly seeking regular preventive care with TCM.
Try acupuncture to:
Boost the immune system
Maintain health and resilience
Reduce stress and anxiety
While these are the 5 top-tier areas that health-forward folks are currently seeking TCM for in the spa world, there are many other conditions that are commonly treated in the clinical healthcare environment today. From medical conditions including hypertension and autoimmune diseases and gastrointestinal issues, to assisting in the care of diabetes related symptoms and chemotherapy support, TCM is increasingly and actively being pursued right alongside the traditional medical system. The most recent data in the U.S. showed that 3.1 million adults and 150,000 children had used acupuncture in their healthcare in 2006 alone, so it’s certainly growing up fast. Currently a third of the world’s population uses TCM and acupuncture as their primary form of healthcare not because it’s alternative or popular but because they depend on it and it works.