Middleway Medicine Blog

Hot Flashes

by Clark and Ann Zimmerman, L.Ac.

Many people are not aware that acupuncture and Oriental medicine have enjoyed a rich and extensive history in treating the gamut of female health concerns, from PMS to dysmenorrhea to postpartum issues. Menopause is another dimension of female health that can be extremely difficult for women, as hot flashes and night sweats can cause unbearable discomfort. Fortunately, acupuncture and herbs are excellent options for menopausal women, as they offer safe, noninvasive, and effective treatment for these often debilitating symptoms. Menopause is a time where many women become yin deficient, meaning that the cooling, moistening, and calming aspects of their physiology are weakening. As a result, they often get hot, irritated, anxious, and can’t sleep as well. The main treatment principle for menopausal women involves nourishing yin with acupuncture and herbs.

Acupuncture is considered to be a cooling therapy. The stainless steel needles that are used during treatment are said to disperse Qi. This means that they are unblocking energy that has become blocked or stuck. When energy gets blocked for too long, it generates heat which will burn yin and lead to yin deficiency. We have heard many women say that they felt cooler right after the needles were put in. The needles are actually deflating certain areas that have become overheated and compressed. Certain points are also used that have a direct effect on nourishing yin, thereby rejuvenating the cooling aspects of one’s physiology.

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Insomnia

by Clark and Ann Zimmerman, L.Ac.

Sleep disorders plague millions of Americans and can be attributed to a variety of causes. Perhaps the main cause of insomnia and restless sleep is the whirlwind pace that most modern people live with day in and day out. Our society emphasizes ‘doing’ much more than ‘being’. From the perspective of acupuncture, the yin aspect of life is quite depleted for the average modern American. In case you have never heard of yin and yang, these are the polar forces that are reflected in everything in the natural world. Yin is related to stillness, tranquility, and contemplation. Yang is related to movement, accomplishment, and function. We need yin and yang to be in balance within ourselves in order to experience true health and wellbeing. When we are yin deficient, we easily become restless, irritable, and excessively busy. Our ability to rest and restore is compromised, as we never seem to get a break from the constant activity in our minds and our lives.

This is one of the main dilemmas that we face in terms of experiencing deep states of continuous sleep. We have forgotten how to turn our minds off due to the frantic speed of everything around us and we have become yin deficient. The common word is stress, but there is a lot more to this picture than is implied. Another way to look at this is that the sympathetic nervous system is on overdrive. We are stuck in fight or flight mode, as we are trying to keep up with our hectic schedules and myriad responsibilities. We have excessive amounts of cortisol and adrenaline in our systems, which keep us feeling amped up and unable to rest. With the pattern of yin deficiency and a hyperactive sympathetic nervous system, we often feel too warm, excessively thirsty, dried out, and anxious. This pattern is extremely common in menopausal women. Due to the fact that we are in fight or flight, we sometimes can’t tell if we are tired. We often feel wired or manic. Yet other times a deep-seated exhaustion is felt that penetrates into our bones.

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Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

by Clark and Ann Zimmerman, L.Ac.

In our private practice, PMS and dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps) are certainly common reasons for seeking treatment with acupuncture and herbs, as these holistic methods tend to be very effective and safe options for most women. Chinese medicine and acupuncture have enjoyed a rich history in treating gynecological issues. Even today, many women turn to this style of treatment for numerous female health concerns. PMS and cramping usually respond very well to treatment. The key is to give it sufficient time before discerning if it is working for you. Our experience has been that women younger than 25 typically respond very quickly to acupuncture and herbs, while women in their 30’s and 40’s may need to be a bit more patient. This is because the time frame of progress is usually based on how long one’s symptoms have been present. The longer they have been there, the longer treatment tends to take. Even in worst case scenarios (long-term and severe symptoms), we still expect that the woman’s overall health should improve greatly within 2 months of weekly treatment.

Both PMS and cramping are generally attributed to an underlying liver imbalance that is based on qi (energy) and blood stagnation. The liver is responsible for balanced circulation throughout the body; cramping pain and PMS are signs that the blood has congealed and qi has become stuck. The primary cause of liver qi and blood stagnation is emotional in nature and is specifically related to the suppression of anger and frustration. When you feel stuck in your life and your creative resources are thwarted, the natural byproducts are anger and frustration. The continued attachment to these emotions makes us feel stuck on all levels. Thus, the body will mirror to us this stagnation by impairing the circulation of qi and blood through the liver meridian. This in turn causes pain, mood swings, and further emotional upset.

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