I’ve been told that insomnia is the number two most common reason why people seek medical attention in United States. (Incidentally, back pain is number one.) As such, I certainly see my share of people with insomnia and sleep disorders, and there are many varieties. One of the most common causes of difficulty falling asleep these days has to do with the increased use of electronic devices within a couple hours before sleep. Devices such as iPhones, iPads, and even televisions, emit light in spectrums that tell our brains to stay awake as if the sun is out. Hence, I often recommend that people do not interact with such devices for at least a couple of hours before bedtime.
For those who are interested, I have attached a PDF document that goes into greater detail about the effects of such devices on sleep. Click here to read it now.
People are sometimes disappointed when I don’t share their enthusiasm about the latest health fads. Good advice about health is not so much about shortcuts, but a few simple things. Read the following article about how health can really be that simple. There’s also a fun video that accompanies it.
Can we, as adults, grow new neurons? Neuroscientist Sandrine Thuret says that we can, and she offers research and practical advice on how we can help our brains better perform neurogenesis—improving mood, increasing memory formation and preventing the decline associated with aging along the way. Want to cut to the chase? In her TED talk (which you can access here), she suggests that learning, sex, getting good sleep, calorie restriction and intermittent fasting, as well as eating more food with Omega 3s, and cardiovascular exercise such as running, all increase neurogenesis. What are some things that decrease your ability to create new neurons? Stress, lack of good sleep, alcohol, saturated fats, as well as diets high in fats. Rather than bore you with my own excitement about her findings, I suggest that you watch her video, which is only about 12 minutes long.
People often ask me what the most common condition is that I see, and while I see a wide variety of issues, I would have to say that orthopedic conditions are the number one reason why people come in. Within that, back pain is far and away the most common complaint. In fact, most surveys of primary care physicians find that back pain is the number one or number two most common reason why people come in (insomnia is usually number one or number two as well).
As so often happens in my practice, I get the latest news on a given condition or procedure from my patients. In the age of the Internet, it seems that nearly anybody who is curious about a given subject may find information on it on the web, though there is also a lot of misinformation out there. Just the other day, hey patient with a history of back pain referred me to an article in the Wall Street Journal about the benefits of functional restoration as an alternative to many of the more invasive procedures often given as the standard of care for back pain. Rather than summarize the article, I am pasting it here to share with you (http://www.wsj.com/articles/new-help-for-back-pain-1448311243?mod=e2fb).
From the blog of Subtle Energy Sciences comes this short 3-minute video introducing the work of scientists at Seoul National University in Korea who have apparently confirmed the existence of what is now referred to as the “primo-vascular system,” a crucial part of the cardiovascular system. Formerly proposed to exist by North Korean scientist Kim Bong-han in the early 1960’s, and typically called Bonghan ducts or channels, the existence of this system in various organs has now been corroborated by further research.
These researchers believe the primo-vascular system is in fact the physical component of the Acupuncture meridian system. It has also been suggested that this system is involved in channeling the flow of energy and information relayed by biophotons and DNA.
While most of us in the acupuncture world have long known that the mind and body are one, inseparable, new studies are proving that our mind has a direct effect on how (and if) we perceive pain in the body. A study and related work in the journal “Mosaic” speaks to how the Vagus Nerve, which runs from the brain stem through the core of the body, may be an essential key link in this. To read more, click here.
Many people who experience relief from acupuncture or other modalities wonder if it was the treatment, or the placebo effect. My typical response is that I don’t care, so long as they feel better.
Much has been written about the Placebo Effect, and the article by Todd Hargrove which I’m attaching here has what I feel is a great explanation of it. Some text from the conclusion is below, and the full article may be read here.
The science of placebo is very interesting and informative. It is not unreasonable to suppose that a good degree of the success seen in movement-based therapies is through placebo-like effects, or through getting rid of nocebos. But I think the word placebo can be confusing. It refers to a wide variety of different phenomena that have different effects through different mechanisms.
Some placebo effects work through anxiety reduction, others through activation of the reward system, and others through descending inhibition of nociception. The common thread is they are all created by cognitive inputs – information that changes what the patient expects or believes about their health.
And this relates to another problem with the word placebo – it suggests that treatments which work through changes in client expectation are somehow inert, or ineffective, or not meaningful, or unethical, or even a scam. Of course this may very well be the case when the treatment is a sugar pill, or based on pseudoscience or quackery. In these instances, the clients’ expectations and beliefs are changed because they are deceived, and this is in most cases unethical.
But what if a treatment works primarily through changes in belief and expectation,but in a way that changes those beliefs to be more accurate? Consider the following scenarios, all of which might be described as involving placebo effects, but none of which involve deception:
- a client is given accurate information about the poor correlation between back pain and objective MRI findings. This lowers his anxiety and pain.
- a client is shown through passive and active movement that it is possible for her to bend forward without pain if she does so in a different manner. This reduces her anxiety, makes her expect benefit from therapy, and this reduces her pain.
- a client receives compassionate and empathetic treatment from a caring therapist. This lowers his anxiety, makes him expect benefit, and thereby reduces his pain.
- a client has had many past experiences with massage causing pain relief, and this learned association contributes to further pain relief from massage.
Are these all placebo effects? It is true that they all work in large part by changing the client’s beliefs. But that was the whole point of the treatment in the first place! So there should be no suggestion that the treatments are inert, ineffective or deceptive. Using the word placebo in these cases can be stigmatizing and confusing.
I prefer to look at it this way: pain results from perception of threat, and it can be treated by providing the client as much good news as possible about the threat in question.
Does this present an ethical issue? Only when that good news is built from lies and not the truth. Fortunately, I think there are many optimistic truths that clients can learn from therapists through touch, movement, and conversation.
People are constantly asking, “Do you have a needle for weight loss?” There are many potential answers to that question, and none of them involve simply won needle being inserted in one spot.
Healthy diet and exercise are the gold standard for weight loss. However, cravings and hunger often derail efforts. In extreme cases, individuals turn to pharmaceutical and surgical treatments to reduce appetite, yet these have serious side effects. Low quality supplements and infomercial “cures” can also be dangerous, ineffective and expensive. There may be another answer.
The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine published a study concerning the effect of tragus clips on gastric peristalsis, or the process of food traveling through the intestines. The researchers noted the use of the “hunger point” on the tragus of the ear has been successful in creating an aversion to cigarette smoking and reducing weight. Though needles are typically used, when left in the ear they lose effectiveness.
The study instead relied on ear clips, similar to ear seeds. The clips were adhered to the tragus on the outer ear in order to inhibit a branch of the vagus nerve. The ear clips did in fact slow gastric peristalsis, leaving subjects feeling full longer. The effect was significant when the ear clips were applied and while the subjects wore them.
The study’s authors concluded, “Ear clips were effective in delaying gastric peristalsis, and may have value in reducing appetite in association with weight loss programs.”
Many of 0ur patients, especially those who have never experienced acupuncture, have questions about the efficacy of our methods. As it turns 0ut, many western MDs are now practicing Chinese medicine, and now a group of them have put together a website where they will be aggregating studies that prove acupuncture’s effectiveness for many different disorders. The site is http://www.evidencebasedacupuncture.org/, and we intend to be checking it regularly!