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15Oct/09Off

Make alternative healing become mainstream, discussion part 1

My mom has been struggling getting an affordable health insurance lately after she got laid off from where she works at the age of 62. That reminds me the movie "Sicko" which talks about how the greedy medicine companies and doctors trying to keep their profits and ignore the health needs of Americans. This year President Obama has been fighting against some republicans and the powerful medical businesses for an affordable insurance proposal for everyone. It's a big challenge for Obama because the stubborn rich medical business profit takers are very powerful in Congress, let alone the noise from medical professionals. In fact, not all doctors or medical professionals are that greedy, over 65% of them support Obama's proposal. It's just those medical companies don't want to give up certain profits because many of them are public companies that have to make money for the investors, as well as saving some profits for research and development of even better medicines and equipments. However, these companies a sacrificing the health of public because of these financial issues. When one company does that, others have to follow, and then the medical cost goes up ridiculously every year.

While President Obama's proposal is getting stuck right now, certain people are trying to save the health of everyone by studying about "alternative healing" and "Integrative medicine". I'm going to paste an article written by these wise doctors last year. It's really, really worth to read if you're also thinking our health insurance system is ridiculous.

'Alternative' Medicine Is Mainstream
The evidence is mounting that diet and lifestyle are the best cures for our worst afflictions.

By DEEPAK CHOPRA , DEAN ORNISH , RUSTUM ROY and ANDREW WEIL

In mid-February, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and the Bravewell Collaborative are convening a "Summit on Integrative Medicine and the Health of the Public." This is a watershed in the evolution of integrative medicine, a holistic approach to health care that uses the best of conventional and alternative therapies such as meditation, yoga, acupuncture and herbal remedies. Many of these therapies are now scientifically documented to be not only medically effective but also cost effective.

President-elect Barack Obama and former Sen. Tom Daschle (the nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services) understand that if we want to make affordable health care available to the 45 million Americans who do not have health insurance, then we need to address the fundamental causes of health and illness, and provide incentives for healthy ways of living rather than reimbursing only drugs and surgery.

Heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, breast cancer and obesity account for 75% of health-care costs, and yet these are largely preventable and even reversible by changing diet and lifestyle. As Mr. Obama states in his health plan, unveiled during his campaign: "This nation is facing a true epidemic of chronic disease. An increasing number of Americans are suffering and dying needlessly from diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, asthma and HIV/AIDS, all of which can be delayed in onset if not prevented entirely."

The latest scientific studies show that our bodies have a remarkable capacity to begin healing, and much more quickly than we had once realized, if we address the lifestyle factors that often cause these chronic diseases. These studies show that integrative medicine can make a powerful difference in our health and well-being, how quickly these changes may occur, and how dynamic these mechanisms can be.

Many people tend to think of breakthroughs in medicine as a new drug, laser or high-tech surgical procedure. They often have a hard time believing that the simple choices that we make in our lifestyle -- what we eat, how we respond to stress, whether or not we smoke cigarettes, how much exercise we get, and the quality of our relationships and social support -- can be as powerful as drugs and surgery. But they often are. And in many instances, they're even more powerful.

These studies often used high-tech, state-of-the-art measures to prove the power of simple, low-tech, and low-cost interventions. Integrative medicine approaches such as plant-based diets, yoga, meditation and psychosocial support may stop or even reverse the progression of coronary heart disease, diabetes, hypertension, prostate cancer, obesity, hypercholesterolemia and other chronic conditions.

A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that these approaches may even change gene expression in hundreds of genes in only a few months. Genes associated with cancer, heart disease and inflammation were downregulated or "turned off" whereas protective genes were upregulated or "turned on." A study published in The Lancet Oncology reported that these changes increase telomerase, the enzyme that lengthens telomeres, the ends of our chromosomes that control how long we live. Even drugs have not been shown to do this.

Our "health-care system" is primarily a disease-care system. Last year, $2.1 trillion was spent in the U.S. on medical care, or 16.5% of the gross national product. Of these trillions, 95 cents of every dollar was spent to treat disease after it had already occurred. At least 75% of these costs were spent on treating chronic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, that are preventable or even reversible.

The choices are especially clear in cardiology. In 2006, for example, according to data provided by the American Heart Association, 1.3 million coronary angioplasty procedures were performed at an average cost of $48,399 each, or more than $60 billion; and 448,000 coronary bypass operations were performed at a cost of $99,743 each, or more than $44 billion. In other words, Americans spent more than $100 billion in 2006 for these two procedures alone.

Despite these costs, a randomized controlled trial published in April 2007 in The New England Journal of Medicine found that angioplasties and stents do not prolong life or even prevent heart attacks in stable patients (i.e., 95% of those who receive them). Coronary bypass surgery prolongs life in less than 3% of patients who receive it. So, Medicare and other insurers and individuals pay billions for surgical procedures like angioplasty and bypass surgery that are usually dangerous, invasive, expensive and largely ineffective. Yet they pay very little -- if any money at all -- for integrative medicine approaches that have been proven to reverse and prevent most chronic diseases that account for at least 75% of health-care costs. The INTERHEART study, published in September 2004 in The Lancet, followed 30,000 men and women on six continents and found that changing lifestyle could prevent at least 90% of all heart disease.

In Today's Opinion Journal

That bears repeating: The disease that accounts for more premature deaths and costs Americans more than any other illness is almost completely preventable simply by changing diet and lifestyle. And the same lifestyle changes that can prevent or even reverse heart disease also help prevent or reverse many other chronic diseases as well. Chronic pain is one of the major sources of worker's compensation claims costs, yet studies show that it is often susceptible to acupuncture and Qi Gong. Herbs usually have far fewer side effects than pharmaceuticals.

Joy, pleasure and freedom are sustainable, deprivation and austerity are not. When you eat a healthier diet, quit smoking, exercise, meditate and have more love in your life, then your brain receives more blood and oxygen, so you think more clearly, have more energy, need less sleep. Your brain may grow so many new neurons that it could get measurably bigger in only a few months. Your face gets more blood flow, so your skin glows more and wrinkles less. Your heart gets more blood flow, so you have more stamina and can even begin to reverse heart disease. Your sexual organs receive more blood flow, so you may become more potent -- similar to the way that circulation-increasing drugs like Viagra work. For many people, these are choices worth making -- not just to live longer, but also to live better.

It's time to move past the debate of alternative medicine versus traditional medicine, and to focus on what works, what doesn't, for whom, and under which circumstances. It will take serious government funding to find out, but these findings may help reduce costs and increase health.

Integrative medicine approaches bring together those in red states and blue states, liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, because these are human issues. They are both medically effective and, important in our current economic climate, cost effective. These approaches emphasize both personal responsibility and the opportunity to make affordable, quality health care available to those who most need it. Mr. Obama should make them an integral part of his health plan as soon as possible.

Dr. Chopra, the author of more than 50 books on the mind, body and spirit, is guest faculty at Beth Israel Hospital/Harvard Medical School. Dr. Ornish is clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. Mr. Roy is professor emeritus of materials science at Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Weil is director of the University of Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine.

(Source: Wall Street Journal)

26Sep/09Off

Hand Acupressure for lower back pain and sciatica, part 1

I believe a lot of people have hurt their back before, whether is the neck, upper back or lower back. At least I've been suffering with all these three myself. When we move something heavy with an inappropriate pose, it's easy to hurt the back, especially the lower back. If we don't treat that in time with a doctor, a chiropractor or an acupressure practitioner, the result can turn out really bad, something chronic like lumber spondylosis and sciatica.

Spondylosis is degenerative arthritis of the soft joints in between the pieces of the spinal vertebrae. The misplaced joints pressure the nerves around and cause different level of pain and numbness, or paresthesia in the limbs.  Sciatica is the nerves staring from lower back vertebrae to the feet got pressured or stimulated, and cause the pain of lower back and the feet. I experienced that before and was cured by moxabustion and cupping few years ago before it became severe.

I'm an example myself who didn't go see the doctors after I got several car accidents. I got cervical spondylosis (around the neck) myself, and recently got better after some Qi Gong treatment I talked about in my very first post. I also hurt my lower back before, especially I have an extra vertebra in my lower back, which makes it easier to get hurt when getting older. Now not just cervical spondylosis, I also got slight lumber spondylosis (lower back) as well. This blog was actually inspired by all these back problems so I can remind myself the importance of health.

Other than spondylosis and sciatica, lower back pain can also be caused by soreness, or simply hurt the tendons. A lot of times people hurt their backs when moving heavy stuff, standing or sitting for too long , or using mattress that is too soft, or getting old.

There are some hand acupressure points that can help relieve lower back pain. For most lower back sore and pain, the acupoint is located at the little convex bone on the back of the hand at the merging point of index finger bone and middle finger bone. For sudden injury that hurts the lower back, the acupoint is located at the merging point of ringer finger bone and little finger bone. To relieve the pain, we can slowly apply pressure to these acupoints, then leave it for a while like a few seconds, press again, just repeat the same process until the pain gets relieve.

Acupoint for sciatica located at the back of the hand in between the knuckle bones of ring finger and little finger, and closer to the ring finger bone. Using pointy device like a pen or toothpicks to strongly stimulate this acupoint until the pain gets relieved.

acupoints_backpain

16Aug/09Off

Brief introduction of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) treatment methods

About a week ago I had a post talking about Traditional Chinese Medical Diagnosis. At the end I mentioned a treatment plan being developed after the diagnosis. A treatment plan is designed with different appropriate therapies, usually includes one or a combination of acupuncture, herbal medicine, moxabustion, cupping, five star plum blossom, acupressure (also called "Tui Na" in Chinese), bathing and washing methods.

Acupuncture is a therapy that uses needles pinched into specific acupuncture points (or acupoints in short) to affect the flow of vital energy (Qi or Chi). There are a big web of acupuncture points and the collection is called Meridians system, which has 12 principal meridians (or called channels) that correspond to the yin and yang organs and the pericardium. (Yin organs mostly are those without an empty cavity, and include the heart, liver, lungs, spleen, and kidneys. As the opposite, Yang organs usually have an empty cavity such as the gall bladder, stomach, small intestine, large intestine and bladder. Pericardium is not an independent organ, it refers to the tissues surrounding the heart, or say it is a membrane that protects the heart.) Meridians work as a channel system that carries Qi and blood, but they are not blood vessels and there is no anatomical channel structure. There are 365 acupuncture points in our body,  and each points belongs to a specific meridian channel that connects to particular  organs.

Moxabustion is a form of heat therapy that uses the herb mugwort applied to specific points or areas of the body for healing purpose. Usually it's learned with acupuncture and combined as one expertise. Cupping is a skill that uses suction cups made of bamboo or glasses. There was I time I had a serious flu, the doctor used acupuncture and cupping at the same time, and then I got a lot better just the next day.

Herbal medicine involves the use of botanical, mineral, and zoological substances for the cure if disease. This blog will talk more about herbal medicines in the future, and what diseases they can cure. Of course, these are just like an introduction and let the readers know what's possible with TCM. The complex prescription will need a doctor or practitioner to design, or some patent remedies that have been tested for hundreds of years.

Acupressure, or called Tui Na in some translations (actually that's how it's pronounced in Chinese), is a Chinese therapeutic massage. There are a lot of different acupressure techniques, from pressing acupuncture points to fix the injuries of limps, from head to toe, acupressure can be applied.

"Five star plum blossom", or called dermal needles, uses five needles bound together to stimulate yang energy by tapping areas of the body.

Bathing and Washing, on the other hand, is quite common. There are water cures, cold baths, sauna and steam, and the one worth most noticing is herbal baths or herbal foot baths. Certain skin problems will use herbal baths as well. Other than herbal foot bath, Herbal pillow can also be used for better sleep.

While these are traditional Chinese therapies that are useful and complementary to one another, the most popular ones are acupuncture and herbal medicine. Most licensed acupuncturist will have to learn both, or even more including some acupressure.

Qi Gong, on the other hand, still can't be fully explained by science after all these years. The way it works is under the understanding of Qi, or vital energy control. Although the real Qi Gong master can heal many people, it's still not an official therapy for traditional Chinese doctor to learn.

(sources: Chinese Herbal Medicine made easy by Thomas Richard Joiner, www.shen-nong.com)