Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Essential Tremors

Essential Tremors

Essential Tremors are the most common movement disorder.  While the cause of Essential Tremor (ET) is still unknown, Western Medicine calls it a nerve disorder.  It is thought to be abnormal electrical brain activity that is being processed through the thalamus.  The thalamus is deep in the brain and controls and coordinates muscle activity.  While ET is not a natural part of the aging process, it does tend to show up between the ages of 40 and 50, though it also can be present in childhood.  About 10 million people in the US are affected.  Genetics are responsible for about half the cases. 

Symptoms include:  shaking in upper limbs and/or head, a shaking voice, tremors that get worse during emotional stress, tremors that get worse with purposeful movement, problems with balance and fine motor skills.  Other diseases and factors that manifest these symptoms include Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, fatigue after exercise, extreme emotional distress, brain tumors, some prescription drugs, metabolic abnormalities, and alcohol or drug withdrawal.  It can also be attributed to thyroid disease, excessive caffeine intake or side effects from medication.

Western Treatments include medications, focused ultra sound and, when severe enough, surgery.  Medications of oral drugs include Inderal, Neurontin, Mysoline, and Topamax.  Other options include tranquilizers and also Botox injections (helpful for head and vocal tremors).  The surgery involves implanting electrical leads into the thalamus.

When researching how massage therapy can help ET, I came across a case of a 63-year old female who was affected in her hands and head.  During a 5 week study, the aim was to reduce the firing of the sympathetic nervous system and so the techniques they used were relaxation-based, including Swedish massage, hydrotherapy, myofascial release, and diaphragmatic breathing. 

The woman showed improvement in the fine motor skills affected by tremors after each session.   She also had an increase in her cervical range that was observed between her first to last visit.  The article went on to say that more studies need to be done, but it is believed massage therapy eases tremor intensity through encouragement of the parasympathetic response.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Tremors, whether ET or as a symptom of a larger disease like Parkinson’s, are thought to be a Yin deficiency of the Kidney and Liver.  This deficiency generates “Internal Wind” which arises from the Liver.  The Liver is looked at as a whole body system the controls movement by ensuring nourishment for the tendons and regulating the smooth flow of Qi through out the body.  To preform this function, the Liver needs adequate of Yin and blood that help supply the nourishment needed for the body.  This is generated in the Kidneys and is considered Kidney-essence.  When Kidney-essence is deficient it leads to malnourishment of the tendons, which puts the tendons into a spasmodic state and creates the movement of shaking that is similar to wind.  Other symptoms related to Internal Wind are that of dizziness and stiffness.

Another image of deficient Kidney Yin is lack of body fluids and dehydration.  Kidneys relate to the water element.  Imagine the land that has been through a long drought and the dryness that occurs. This causes agitation, which stirs up a dry wind that blows through the barren landscape. This is Internal Wind.

Internal Wind can also result from diseases that damage the Liver such as excessive use of alcohol and drugs, or a history of emotional irritability and anger.  Finally, External Wind can enter the body and create Internal Wind.  Symptoms of External Wind often include aches and pains.  Internal Wind then moves that into shaking and trembling.

It is believed that after 40 years of age, Yin starts to decline and can be decreased by half.  This gives rise to Liver Yang agitation that then creates Internal Wind.  This is why it is not uncommon to see tremors appearing in middle to older ages.

Treatments for Internal Wind and ET is a mixture of acupuncture, herbal formulas, and diet.  The approach to any treatment would include a survey to determine the patient’s constitution, including diagram of characteristics that show a persons constitution, past history, family history and associated symptoms.  From there, the focus would be on nourishing Kidney and Liver Yin while sedating and calming the Internal Wind.  Each individual would have a complex formula specific to his or her constitution, which makes it very difficult to have just one formula that would work for everyone. 

One case I found online, is of a 38 year old white female with tremors in both her head and upper extremities.  Since the age of 2 or 3 she had shaking of the upper limbs but now her head was shaking so badly she couldn’t take it anymore.  Several medical centers told her she had to live with the tremors and hopefully find some relief from the medication prescribed: propranolol and diazepam.  She turned to Chinese medicine.

Her constitution was determined and she did a series of 3 acupuncture sessions.  Two months after the last session she returned showing no symptoms.  She had stopped taking propranolol and was only taking diazepam at 5 mg twice a day.  They advised her to slowly come off diazepam and come in for more treatments if symptoms reappeared.  She returned after 3 months off medication and completely symptom free.

Traditional Chinese Medicine can be extremely successful with chronic ailments, like Essential Tremors.  I believe that is because every case is treated uniquely, as each individual is unique.  Never believe that something can not be healed.  Our bodies are more powerful than we know, we just have to learn to listen. 


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Understanding and Treating Eczema

Eczema is a skin condition that can range from mildly irritating to completely debilitating. In it's most common presentation, it appears as dry, itchy patches, typically on the folds of the skin, that can bleed, ooze, and weep, causing quite an uncomfortable state of being for the patient.
There are two very distinct views on the causes of this skin irritation. From a Western Medical perspective, this is seen as an irritation cause by external factors (climate, detergents, heat, etc.) and is so treated with various creams and lotions, mostly containing a type of corticosteroid or antihistamine. These topical medications are used in segments of 3-5 days and they supress the outward symptoms of the condition. Yet typically these symptoms return even more severely and another application of topical medication is needed to supress the symptoms again. This is the cycle most people experiencing eczema in our Western culture endure until a younger patient sometimes grows out of it or the level of medication is increase exponentially and the patient lives in a constant state of symptom management.
The second of the two distinct views of this condition is that of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) which looks at the symptoms as an indicator of a deeper imbalance in the body. TCM focuses on creating an environment that supports the body's ability to heal itself through herbs, accupunture, and other modalities, all working with the body's symptoms and rhythms rather than supressing them. There have been various studies conducted showing the effectiveness of TCM practices. In one study, half of the eczema patients recieved treatment using herbs in a salve and also took herbs internally while the other half recieved a placebo. Within 3 weeks of treatment, the patients receiving the TCM treatments were nearly completely symptom-free while the patients receiving the placebo were unchanged.
Other causes of eczema are starting to become more accepted in the west. Diet (particularly dairy and gluten) and stress levels are now being linked to this condition.
Massage is also becoming a more accepted treatment for eczema. Not only does massage and theraputic touch reduce stress levels, but it also promotes circulation to the affected areas when done in the appropriate manner by a licensed therapist. The massage technique should include massaging around the affected area with minimal heat or oils applied directly.
Though eczema can seem to have numerous causes and viewpoints on treatment, it is an disharmony that can absolutely be managed when the body is given the environment to return to balance.


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Understanding COPD

What is COPD exactly? COPD stands for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. It is a progressive respitory disease that makes breathing difficult overtime. It can include 1 or 2 respitory conditions: chronic bronchitis and emphysema. Bronchitis causes a phlegmy couch and wheezing and causes the airway to swell. Emphysema is damaged air sacs in your lungs and it causes shortness of breath and a right feeling in your chest.

COPD has affected more than 11 million people worldwide and some may not even know they have it. It causes long term disability and early death. At this time according to western medicine there is no known cure and the number of people dying from COPD is rising. As COPD disrupts your air flow in and out of your lungs it starts to reduce your lung function. Your air sacs and airway lose elasticity, the walls that separate your air sacs become damaged permantely and the walls of your airway can become thick and inflamed, which produces more mucus than normal and causes them to become clogged.

Even though COPD is a progressive and serious disease, with options like: medication, pulmonary rehabilitation, oxygen therapy, people are able to live with the disease for several years. If someone is in the earlier stages of COPD, myofascial release or Swedish massage may be used. Massaging the rib cage can help strengthen respitory muscles and can decrease shortness of breath. Massage will lessen the flow of stress hormones so the rib cage is able to open up more freely and more air is allowed to be brought to the lungs. Lying flat on the massage table can make breathing more difficult, clients may feel more comfortable in a seated position or semi-reclined by propping up with pillows. In more advance stages massage of the back and chest to move excess lymph from the area will help allow the lungs to open up more and making it easier for the client to breathe. When a client is in the final stages of COPD chair massage is the best position so there is not extra body weight on the chest cavity. The massage therapist will focus on their back to live lymph and loosen up the muscles around the clients rib cage. This will help assist labored breathing.

Chinese medicine considers COPD a lung yin deficiency. As lung yin deficiency worsens heat builds up in the lungs and the lungs begin to compensate by producing phlegm. Phlegm obstructs the free flow of any Qi in the lungs. Medicines and herbs that are extremely drying should be avoided and can cause further complications. If dryness is presenting Chinese medicine food therapy suggests foods that moisten the lungs: spy products, barley, peanuts, rice milk, spinach, and pears. Foods that should be avoided that produce phlegm: fried food, dairy, juices, raw foods, iced drinks and cold foods.

Chinese medicine works very affective it to address COPD issues and has shown signs of reversing the disease if caught early on. In more advanced cases of COPD, the herbs will likely be depended on long term use to maintain an improved quality of life over time.


American lung association

Healthy cells magazine

Heal naturally