Monday, March 26, 2012

Alternative Medicine May Help Ease Chronic Sinusitis

When used in tandem with standard Western treatments, alternative therapies such as acupuncture, acupressure and dietary changes may spell significant relief for patients battling chronic sinusitis, a new pilot study suggests.

The authors say that their study is the first to explore the potential of combining Western medicine with Eastern therapies among these patients, who experience swollen and inflamed sinuses, facial pain, headaches and impaired breathing.

"Our study was small, looking at a handful of patients who were not benefiting that well from standard treatment," acknowledged study author Dr. Jeffrey Suh, an assistant professor of rhinology and skull base surgery in the department of head and neck surgery at the University of California, Los Angeles.

"And my take on alternative treatments is that Western medicine is effective for the majority of patients," he added. "But for those who don't get complete relief, adding in a more holistic Eastern approach that includes exercise, improved sleep, a better diet, and acupuncture and self-administered acupressure seems to provide an alternative that can have great benefit."

Suh and his colleagues report their findings in the March issue of the Archives of Otolaryngology.

The authors point out that chronic rhinosinusitis is a very prevalent condition in the United States, with nearly 30 million American adults diagnosed with the disease in 2010 alone, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The acute version of the disease is typically due to infection, experts say. However, the chronic form (namely, cases enduring past 12 weeks) is thought to stem from a variety of environmental and anatomical causes (such as the presence of polyps or a deviated nasal septum), thereby complicating treatment efforts.

Such efforts usually include the use of nasal corticosteroid sprays and nasal irrigation, while in some instances surgical intervention is required. Despite such efforts, some patients remain debilitated.

Suh and his team focused on 11 such individuals (eight men and three women), between the ages of 32 and 70. Many had struggled with the condition for years. None had had any kind of surgery in the three months before the study started. Similarly, no one had undergone acupuncture or acupressure intervention in the two months beforehand.

During the study, all previous treatments were continued. However, patients were offered eight weekly 20-minute sessions of therapeutic acupuncture and acupressure massage, performed by licensed therapists. Counseling was also offered to teach patients how to self-administer acupressure at home.

A dietary analysis was also conducted, and patients were given nutritional guidance that tracked traditional Chinese approaches towards food consumption. Stress management was also discussed, as were the benefits of regular exercise.

The result: The team found that when applied alongside modern medicine, the use of such so-called "staples of Eastern medicine" appeared to be both safe and effective.

After two months, all the patients showed a statistically significant gain in terms of quality of life, with a drop in feelings of frustration and restlessness and a boost in their ability to concentrate.

What's more, patients were found to have less of a problem with runny noses, reduced sneezing and a subsequent reduced need to blow their noses. Facial pain and pressure also appeared to drop off somewhat.

"These were the worst of the worst patients," Suh stressed. "And during treatment they got better. Now were they completely better? No. Only some of their symptoms improved. And those who did not keep up the lifestyle modifications like self-administered acupressure returned to their previous state after the study. But those who kept it up continued to see a benefit. So this offers some hope, and leads us to consider the next question, which is what might be possible with Eastern therapy alone?"

That said, Dr. Jordan Josephson, a sinus and allergy specialist with Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, cautioned that chronic sinusitis is a "very complex problem" for which there is no simple solution.

"Augmenting traditional medicine with Eastern therapies is a very wise thing to do for sinus sufferers," he said. "In my practice, I certainly do this. Because it's not a question of antihistamines or acupuncture."

"And the reason for that is that we're not taking about a cure," Josephson said. "This is not a cold or a sniffle. If you have chronic sinusitis, it's chronic, like diabetes. So, the best thing to do is to treat patients with a combination of diet, antibiotics, antifungals, nasal sprays, allergy treatment, acupuncture, lifestyle changes, irrigation with saline and irrigation with medicines. You need a comprehensive plan for each individual patient that will give them the best chance at control."

Monday, March 19, 2012

Acupuncture Treats Seasonal Allergies

Springtime is arriving early here in Iowa City. While most of us are thrilled, the change of seasons is bittersweet for others. Running nose, sneezing, and itchy watery eyes causes much suffering. Millions of dollars are spent on medications and the allergy shots to treatment seasonal allergies in the US alone.

Western medicine views seasonal allergies as a form of immediate hypersensitivity reaction which occurs when anti-bodies interact with airborne particles such as pollen. The Chinese medical interpretation also recognizes a close relationship between diet and nutrition, as well as season.

I find it satisfying to treat seasonal allergies with acupuncture. There is often a quick response - patients even get relief during the first visit while lying on the exam table with needles in place! After an initial series of treatments (3-4 sessions), patients return for further treatments on an as needed basis. Some come back in once or twice a year for a booster while others may come more often.

When combined with nutritional support, allergy relief is longer lasting. For example, patients do better if they avoid sugar and milk in their diets. We also carry some herbs and immune boosting teas in our growing pharmacy to help with your spring allergies.

For those new to acupuncture but with a lifetime of allergies, it's important to note that many patients who fail medication and allergy shots do respond to acupuncture. Patients may continue with their current allergy regimen/treatments while getting acupuncture treatments. Most patients are thrilled to find they end up significantly reducing or eliminating their dependence on allergy medications.

Call Health On Point to schedule your treatment for allergy support, or stop by for a complimentary consult  and to learn about herbal remedies.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Scalp Acupuncture Fights Dementia

Researchers conclude that acupuncture is beneficial for the treatment of vascular dementia. Vascular dementia is caused by brain damage due to impaired blood flow to the brain. This is common after a stroke or a series of mini-strokes. Any condition that damages blood vessels that feed oxygen and nutrients to the brain may cause vascular dementia.
                                                                            (photo from NIH)

The study compared scalp acupuncture with standard body acupuncture. In this multi-center randomized controlled clinical trial, 184 subjects with vascular dementia received either scalp acupuncture or body acupuncture. The scalp acupuncture group showed significantly greater improvements in cognition than the body style acupuncture group. Social behavior scores improved significantly in both the body style and scalp acupuncture groups. TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) differential diagnostic conditions improved significantly in both acupuncture groups as did the ADL (Activities of Daily Living) score. Overall, scalp acupuncture received higher improvement scores due to its ability to improve cognition. The researchers concluded that scalp acupuncture substantially improves the overall condition of patients with vascular dementia including cognition, activities of daily living, TCM signs and symptoms, mental state and social behavior.

At Health On Point, our practitioners have extensive training in both body and scalp acupuncture techniques to support patients. If you or someone you love has had a stroke, encourage them to turn to acupuncture to improve their mental state and overall well being. 
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