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5 Benefits of Acupuncture

Acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and is practiced in many different forms which include herbal remedies, cupping, and massage, which have all been used for thousands of years. The basis of TCM is the idea of qi, the body’s vital energy.

TCM treatments promote the movement of qi throughout the body in order to help bring balance back to the body. The goal of acupuncture is to correct this imbalance which can cause a variety of ailments and conditions that you may currently have.
Acupuncture uses very thin needles (which have been compared to being as small as cat whiskers) that stimulate pressure points and other areas of your body. It stimulates qi by placing needles in specific spots, often along meridians. Meridians are the channels that qi travels in the body.

Acupuncture can help with many health conditions, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Chronic pain, including joint pain
  • Depression
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Trouble sleeping and insomnia
  • Nausea and digestive trouble
  • Back pain and sciatica
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Tinnitus (ringing ears)
  • Weight loss

Below are the top five ways that acupuncture can help

  1. Relieves Pain
    Acupuncture can help alleviate many types of pain that may range from headaches and migraines to neck and back pain. These studies have shown its effectiveness in treating lower back pain, migraines, tension headaches, and knee pain. Acupuncture works differently for everybody. For some, a single treatment can alleviate symptoms for several months while others need a more routine treatment schedule.
  2. Improved Sleep

    Another thing that Acupuncture can help improve is sleep and insomnia. Scientists believe that acupuncture increases the production of brain chemicals that promote relaxation, thus allowing for better sleep.
  3. Uplift Mood

    Acupuncture can help with improving mood, including helping with depression, stress, and anxiety. The needles from acupuncture treatment release endorphins in the body. Endorphins are hormones that provide a boost in mood, encouraging happiness and relaxation.
  4. Help the Heart

    Acupuncture is also good for your heart due to the relaxation and stress reduction that one achieves from the treatments, which are also known to reduce blood pressure. Stress and high blood pressure are commonly related to heart attacks and heart disease.
  5. Support the Immune System

    Research has shown that acupuncture can boost immune system function. The placement of acupuncture needles can release immune-boosting cytokines. Cytokines are messenger cells that regulate the body’s immune response. By triggering the immune system, acupuncture can help fight infections or illnesses like colds and the flu.

If you deal with any of the above symptoms or think that acupuncture may be right for you- schedule an appointment with Heidi in Duluth! We’d be happy to support you in achieving your health care goals!

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Research Review: Acupuncture for Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most expensive and exhausting ailments of our time. It’s the 6th most costly condition in the United States, costing Americans at least 50 billion in health care costs each year (let alone the cost of missed work due to disability). It is the third most common reason for a visit to the doctors office (behind skin disorders and osteo-arthritis joint issues). For Acupuncturists, it is the #1 reason people show up at their door.

So does it really work? For those that turn to acupuncture, they can rest assured they are increasing their odds of finding relief. Acupuncture has been found to be effective for chronic pain, including low back pain. Not only is acupuncture more clinically effective than no treatment at short-term follow-ups that looked at measures of pain relief and functional improvement acupuncture was actually found to be substantially better than standard care in a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials that included around 20,000 patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain.
Acupuncture is also safe. In a cumulative review of more than 1 million acupuncture treatments, the risk of a serious adverse event with acupuncture was estimated to be 0.05 per 10,000 treatments and 0.55 per 10,000 individual patients. Most common side effects were minor, and included bleeding at the needle site and localized needling pain.

So how does sticking needles in the various points in the body actually help to alleviate back pain? The explanation according to Acupuncture theory involves the movement of stuck energy (qi) and blood in the body. Points along various energy channels are used to open pathways and redirect ‘traffic’ to promote a healthy flow of qi and blood. Western biomedical research looks at acupuncture effects on the nervous, immune and endocrine systems. It has been shown that the stimulation with acupuncture needles produces an analgesic effect through the release of endorphins, dopamine, endogenous cannabinoids (some of the body’s natural pain-killers) and anti-inflammatory substances as well as the inhibition of pro-inflammatory factors.

And does it last? The beneficial effects of acupuncture do, in fact. persist beyond the course of treatment. In a meta-analysis of around 18,000 patients with chronic pain, 90% of the pain-relieving effects were maintained at 1 year out.

As far as cost-effectiveness, acupuncture scores again. In one study in Canada, low back pain patients divided into 2 groups (201 patients receiving acupuncture and 804 patients not receiving acupuncture) were evaluated for the number of medical doctor visits required for treatment of their low back pain. The acupuncture patients saw their doctors 49% less after having acupuncture compared with the year prior to having acupuncture. Non-acupuncture patients had a decrease of only 2%. The WHO officially classifies acupuncture as a cost-effective treatment strategy in patients with chronic low back pain, according to their cost-effectiveness threshold values.

Back pain, as many of us have experienced, can be an expensive threat to our quality of life. Depending on the cause and severity of the back pain, acupuncture can be a safe and cost-effective alternative or complementary approach to treatment, providing much needed relief!

If you are one of the many people suffering with back pain, don’t hesitate to get in for some pain-relieving acupuncture sessions. The sooner you get in, the sooner you’ll experience the benefits!

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5 Ways to Quickly Alleviate Back Pain

Back pain is often what leads people to their first Acupuncture experience. It’s one of the most frequent complaints heard by medical professionals in general. 80% of Americans will experience back pain at some point during their lives, and worldwide, back pain is the single leading cause of disability.

Standard modern day approaches to back pain include physical therapy, pain medication and even surgery when severe, depending on the diagnosis. Acupuncture (just one of the many tools of Chinese Medicine) is a very cost-effective pain-relief option with a low risk of negative side effects. For mild cases, Chinese Medicine offers some self-care tips to try at home.

Rest & Exercise

The proper balance of yin and yang is the central tenet of Chinese Medicine, and when it comes to back pain, either extreme can be a cause. We can develop painful stagnant energy in our bodies from a sedentary lifestyle (extreme yin). On the flip side, we can deplete our yin with too much activity (extreme yang) leaving us susceptible to injury, withered muscles, and brittle bones. Ask yourself where the balance is needed. Sometimes for mild back pain, all that’s needed is a nap or a walk.

Hot & cold

Another way to address the yin/yang balance needed for a strong, pain-free back is with applications of hot and cold. First we need to figure out if the problem is too yang (hot) or too yin (cold). Usually acute issues involve more hot inflammation (yang), in which case a cold pack (frozen peas, anyone?) can be soothing. Whereas with chronic conditions, heat is often more appropriate to open stagnant channels and encourage qi and blood flow for healing.


Certain points on the body help to open the channels of the low back to relieve pain and stagnation. LI 4 (Joining Valley) is located in the fleshy depression just beyond the meeting point of the thumb and first finger bones and strongly stimulates qi and blood flow throughout the body. UB40 (Supporting Middle) is at the midpoint of the crease behind the knee and opens up the main channel that runs along the back. These are great points to massage gently for both chronic and acute back pain.

Topical herbs:

Tiger balm is a popular chinese salve for topical pain relief, but another bathroom cabinet essential is Zheng Gu Shui (Evil Bone Water), an herbal liniment that can be applied directly to the skin of the low back to penetrate with blood moving, pain relieving qualities.

Qi gong

There are great (free!) instructional videos available online that demonstrate specific qi gong exercises that support the low back, such as ‘Knocking on the Door of Life’ and ‘Spinal Chord Breathing’. For beginners, just a basic qi gong stance with some breathing can start to move the stuck qi. Wu Ji posture is thought to help bring the body into proper alignment. With feet shoulder-width apart and relaxed knees, roll your pelvis in, drop the shoulders but spread them open, tuck the chin and imagine the top of the head being pulled upward. Breathe slow, smooth and deep, and empty your mind. Feel your connection to the earth through the soles of your feet where your kidney channel begins at the indent just under the balls of the feet. It can also help to get barefoot in the grass on a sunny day!. Just this practice alone (if done regularly) can also completely change your response to stress, a major factor in pain perception.

These tips can go a long way in alleviating mild back pain, but be sure to book some acupuncture sessions with Heidi to address root causes and give your body even stronger tools for rebalancing and pain relief.

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6 Reasons You May Be Having Sleepless Nights

One of the first and most important steps to healing is making sure you’re getting enough quality sleep every night for the body to do its internal restorative work. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is understood that the yang qi that keeps our minds and bodies busy during the day goes internal at night to be available to the deeper detox and repair systems of the body while the yin qi takes over externally to rest our conscious minds and shut down muscle activity. This yin/yang trade-off, when working in balance, is the very foundation of good health according to TCM.

The nature of yin is cool and calm. It is associated with quiet, darkness, stillness…all the soothing feels you melt into when really truly resting. A body in a yin state will slow its heart rate and metabolism. Bio-medicine, this relates to the parasympathetic nervous system. Its main purpose aligns with yin qi: to keep us calm and conserve energy. While the sympathetic nervous system is what switches on our fight or flight response and is more correlated with Yang qi. Yang is expansive, stimulating, warming and gets us moving. In general, yang qi is more accessible during the day, while yin qi dominates the nighttime.

Sleep disturbances are one of the main manifestations of too much yang and/ or not enough yin. In order to correct issues like insomnia we need to look at how we are living in accordance with that natural balance.

Here are 6 ways you might be throwing off your own sleep and wake cycles:

  1. Ingesting Too Much Yang: Before bed, or in general, spicy food, alcohol or stimulants can disturb sleep. Spicy food and alcohol causes heat in the system, which creates excess yang in the body. Too much coffee also keeps yang qi stuck at the surface to be available for activity. Even just having a large meal before bed can block the yang energy from going deep in the body at night.
  2. Too Much Activity/Excitement: The yang qi is needed deep on the inside of the body at night, don’t hold it hostage with outward energy requirements. Stop exercising at least 90 minutes before bedtime. This allows for endorphin levels and body temperature to return to levels that are conducive to sleep. Try not to argue before bed, or even get too excited. Give yourself time to wind down & transition.
  3. You need to Cool Down: Literally. Yin is associated with coolness. To invite your yin qi to come out at night keep the bedroom temperature between 60-67℉.
  4. Too Much External Stimulation: Lights, especially blue light from tvs, phones and computer screens prevent melatonin release in the body, making it harder to fall asleep. If you have to finish work on a computer, wear blue blocker glasses. Also, yin time should be quiet time, so turn off the tv and any sources of noise that can disturb the peace.
  5. Too Much Stress, Not Enough Rest: We live in a yang-obsessed world. This creates stress as many of us are over-worked and over-stimulated, while not always having time for a healthy self-care practice (meditation, walks etc). This leaves us with a restless mind (‘disturbed shen’ in TCM terms), and can keep us lying in bed exhausted, but unable to sleep. The challenge is to resist the modern day pressure to keep up and create more self-care time to support a more balanced lifestyle.
  6. Feng Shui of the bedroom: A Feng Shui specialist can analyze the yin yang balance in your bedroom. For instance, the bed should be opposite the room’s door, but not directly in line with it (this is called the command position in feng shui). The headboard should be against a solid wall with balanced night tables on each side. It is also important to keep the area under the bed clear, not for storage. Many people find simple feng shui adjustments can have a perceptible effect on things like sleep and wake cycles.

In addition to these considerations for improving sleep, don’t forget the value of relaxing into a healing state on the acupuncture table. Acupuncture is a cost-effective self-care tool and can help reset your yin-yang balance for better sleep and overall health, call today at (218) 724-3400!

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Research Update: Acupuncture for Migraine Relief

Migraines are ranked the 3rd most common disease in the world, affecting at least 12 % of the world’s population. If you don’t suffer from them, then you most likely know someone who does. As too many of us know from experience, they are periodic painful attacks on one or both sides of the head with various accompanying symptoms such as nausea, and sensitivity to sensory stimuli. Women are 3 times more likely to suffer from them most likely due to hormonal fluctuations associated with the menstrual cycle and menopause.

Migraines are also the leading cause of days lost due to disability in the world among people under 50 years old. Let alone the economic cost to US employers (estimated at 19.3 billion ), this debilitating condition steals a significant amount of the victim’s time. Migraine attacks can last up to 3 days with a couple more days on either end with the pre-migraine symptoms (thirst, fatigue, neck stiffness, esp on one side) and the post migraine ‘hangover’. For most sufferers these episodes can happen 2 to 4 times a month!

Conventional treatments include pain relievers, triptans (these affect the serotonin receptors thought to be involved in migraine episodes), anti-nausea medications, and preventative measures such as botox injections, other medications and even surgery. Triptans are the most commonly used drug for migraines and, according to a study, offer migraine relief within 2 hours of attack in 42 to 76% of patients. Triptans are contraindicated in cardiovascular disease, breastfeeding moms, and anyone under 18. There is also the risk of drug dependency. When it comes to prevention, between 17 and 29 percent of patients discontinue preventative medication because of adverse side effects such as anxiety, vomiting and weakness.

This is where acupuncture steps in, with no major contraindications or side effects. It also boasts notable effectiveness for a condition desperately in need of more effective treatments. According to a Cochrane review of about 20 studies, it was found that acupuncture is at least as effective as prophylactic drug therapy for migraine and it is safe, long-lasting and cost-effective. Other studies in the review have shown acupuncture to be even more effective than topiramate and flunarizine (common standard medications). With acupuncture, migraine frequency was reduced by 50% or more in up to 59% of the individuals tested. Also, it was noted that 50% of those visiting an acupuncturist reduced their reliance on painkillers.

Acupuncture is based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory which describes energetic pathways throughout the body that can be rebalanced through strategic application of fine needles at various points on the body. Unchecked imbalances can result in organ pathologies and pain. Studies looking to explain acupuncture’s effect on the body from a biomedical perspective have documented effects on parts of the nervous system that control cardiovascular and digestive functions, as well as changes in levels of certain neurotransmitters (such as serotonin and dopamine), hormones (like luteinizing hormone) and the release of endorphins (our natural painkillers). Research was also done using magnetic resonance spectroscopy to specifically investigate acupuncture’s effect on the nervous system in the treatment of migraines. Results suggested the possible involvement of recovery of neuronal mitochondrial function of the pain pathway.

In addition to acupuncture, TCM offers other modalities that can help in the treatment and prevention of migraines, such as cupping, gua sha and tui na (manual therapies), moxibustion (the burning of mugwort along points and channels), herbal medicine, and lifestyle guidance. While many of those who deal with painful and disabling migraine attacks will need some conventional therapies, acupuncture and the system of medicine it belongs to can offer much needed support and improved outcomes.

If you or someone you know suffers from migraines, don’t hesitate to see what acupuncture can do to help! Call today at (218) 724-3400!

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