Thanks to the lovely Stevie Dance for mentioning my practice in her recent interview with INTO THE GLOSS.
Osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee is defined as the breakdown of joint cartilage and the underlying bone causing pain and stiffness. Think of cartilage as our bodies’ shock absorbers; as the cartilage wears down, increased contact between bones results in pain and limited range of motion.
Conventional treatment includes anti-inflammatory/analgesic drugs, heat/cold therapy, physical therapy, steroid injections, and surgery. Acupuncture is also very effective in relieving knee pain. Studies have shown that osteoarthritis (OA) of the knee responds well to traditional Chinese acupuncture, with patients reporting decreased pain, improved function and overall better outcomes when compared to other treatment strategies.  Evidence is so strong that many insurance companies have deemed acupuncture “medically necessary” in cases of OA knee pain.
Image source: A Manual of Acupuncture by P.Deadman, K.Baker, and M.Al-Khafaji.
The above illustration shows common local points used to treat OA knee pain: GB-34, ST-36, lateral Xiyan (aka ST-35, Dubi), and medial Xiyan. For patients whose excess weight factors into their joint pain, acupuncture's holistic approach can also regulate digestion and metabolism. I often teach my patients how to locate and massage these points in order to maintain/enhance the effects of an acupuncture treatment.
Gold medal favorite, US vaulter McKayla Maroney, broke her right big toe back in May and re-broke it a month later. Just last week she jammed it again in practice aggravating the injury. With the Olympics now in full-swing, Maroney receives acupuncture and electric stimulation (e-stim) to manage her foot pain and swelling.
Each of our feet has 26 bones, 33 joints, and more than 100 tendons. Considering the intricate anatomy of our feet and how we use and/or abuse them, is it any wonder that so many of us suffer from foot pain and injury? In fact, my own recovery from chronic foot pain is one reason why I decided to study acupuncture and Chinese medicine.
In my late 20's I had a recurring case of plantar fasciitis - heel and arch pain caused by inflammation of the thick fibers at the bottom of the foot. I asked a number of MD's and orthopedists about treatment. I was told to ice, stretch, take ibuprofen, and - if the pain got much worse - consider getting a cortisone shot or even surgery. At that point I had been icing, stretching, and Advil-ing intermittently for over a year, and I wished to avoid surgery and/or cortisone injections. So instead, I decided to give acupuncture a shot.
My acupuncturist told me that she hoped to be able to resolve the pain in 6 treatments, if I were to see her twice a week, over 3 weeks. She gently inserted needles into points on the bottom of the affected foot, heel and ankles, attaching a small electrode to one point on the foot. The mild electrical current created a gentle pulsation, and was left to stimulate my foot for about 15 minutes. Chinese medical theory states that all pain is a result of blocked Qi and/or Blood flow. Acupuncture is supposed to remove blockages by moving Qi and Blood, thereby improving circulation and decreasing pain. Manipulation of the needles, either by hand or by electric stimulation, increases the movement of Qi and Blood even more. After my first treatment I noticed a significant reduction in discomfort. After my fourth treatment, the pain disappeared and has never returned.
Once I experienced this dramatic recovery from chronic foot pain, I understood that Chinese medicine and acupuncture could address troublesome conditions where conventional Western treatments may fall short. Still, I believe that using both Chinese and Western techniques is the most advantageous approach.
So it looks like the US Olympic Team is onto something with the care of McKayla's big toe - she credits her ability to compete to icing "like 30 times a day", acupuncture, and e-stim. It's great seeing acupuncture supporting Olympic competition and gaining acceptance in an integrative sports medicine model.
From the April 22, 2012, issue of New York Magazine, "Dogupuncture" is an infographic about acupuncture and veterinary medicine. The readers' response to this piece seemed positive overall. I've given acupressure to my own dogs with great results. Next time your dog is eating grass, feeling nauseous, or showing other signs of stomach upset, try massaging PC6 (Inner Gate / Nei Guan) located between the tendons just above the carpal pad of the front paw. Placebo or not, Sparky will love the extra attention.
With all the controversy surrounding the safety of Chinese herbs, I was pleased to learn that on March 14, 2012, a traditional herbal medicinal product manufactured in China was granted marketing authorization in the European Union. This is a first for Chinese medicine since last year's passing of the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD). The product is Diao Xin Xue Kang capsules, manufactured in China by Diao Chengdu Pharmaceuticals. The medicine contains dried extract of Dioscorea nipponica (Common English: Japanese Yam / Chinese pinyin: Chuan Shan Long). Dutch regulators approved the herbal medicine for use in treating headaches, muscle pain and cramps. No side-effects or negative drug interactions were listed in the medicine's Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC) issued by the regulators.
Interestingly enough, the actual translation of the medicine's Chinese name is "Diao [brand] Cardiovascular Health". However no cardiovascular indications were listed on the SPC, even though the Chinese name would indicate such usage and clinical studies suggest the medicine's effectiveness in promoting cardiovascular health. I'm guessing that off-label use for Diao Xin Xue Kang's cardiovascular benefits will be quite common.
Here are some links if you'd like to read more about this topic:
"Chinese herbal medicine breaks into EU market" - Nature.com
Nature, published in the UK, is one of the most cited scientific journals in the world.
"First TCM medicine OK'd for EU market" - Chinadaily.com.cn
China Daily is the largest English language newspaper published in China.
"March 22, 2012 - First Authorisation of Traditional Herbal Medicine from outside the European Union" - CBG-MEB.nl
The Dutch Medicines Evaluations Board (MEB) is the regulatory body that approved Diao Xin Xue Kang capsules in the EU.
"SPC - Diao Xin Xue Kang capsules, March 2012" - CBG-MEB.nl
In Dutch, so you might also refer to Google translator.
"Ingredient in herbal medicines linked to urothelial cancer" - LA Times; April 9, 2012
After reading this piece in The LA Times and the reader comments, I felt compelled to post something in the discussion section. Toxicity can occur when certain herbs are taken in excess and/or combined inappropriately with other substances. The herb featured in this article, Asarum (Common English: Chinese wild ginger / Chinese pinyin: Xi Xin), is traditionally used in treating pain, cold phlegm, and oral ulcerations.
Michelle M. Ching, L.Ac., Dipl. O.M.
Michelle M. Ching is a licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.) and a nationally certified practitioner of Oriental Medicine (Dipl.O.M.). She practices in Los Angeles.