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Improve your sleep with acupuncture

acupuncture sleep

Acupuncture research on sleep disturbances

An article published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine titled Acupuncture for Treatment of Insomnia: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials discussed the prevalence of sleep issues and insomnia in adults. Estimates show that 40% of adults experience insomnia. Of this total percentage, 10-15% is identified as chronic, and 25 – 35% occurs on an occasional basis. Sleep disturbances generally involve difficulty falling asleep, and / or difficulty staying asleep. In Chinese medicine, we also consider excessive dreaming and the types of dreams that occur. Sleep deprivation can be very detrimental, with consequences ranging from delayed reactions and cognitive responses, distractedness, and headaches, to the development of mental illness.

 

Importance of sleep

An article from Harvard Medical School called In Search of Sleep shares that high-quality sleep is vital to good health. A lack of sufficient sleep has been linked to weight gain, cognitive decline, and an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

 

We do some of our best healing while we sleep. In fact, the Harvard Medical School article shared a scientific discovery of an important brain cleaning function that occurs during sleep. Scientists discovered a waste clearance system called the glymphatic system. The cerebrospinal fluid in the glymphatic system washes away harmful proteins that can build up without proper rest.

 

In Chinese medicine, the optimal time to sleep is from 10pm to 6am. This allows enough time for a person to enter a deep sleep by 11pm when the Gall Bladder is at its peak functioning time from 11pm to 1am collecting and processing bile which helps with digestion and breaks down fats. Then, the Liver reaches its peak between 1am and 3am. This is when the Liver processes and detoxifies the blood. The other two organs that reach their peak on the Chinese organ clock during optimal sleep hours are the Lungs and Large Intestine.

 

Sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene is a term used to refer to sleep habits. “Good sleep hygiene” means that there are good habits around sleep. “Poor sleep hygiene” means that the habits are not conducive to sleep. Developing a set of good habits is key to promoting healthful sleep. Here is a list of positive habits to consider:

 

  • Establish consistent sleep and wake times.

    Go to bed at the same time every night. Wake up at the same time every morning. Try to stick with this schedule even on the weekends. The body craves consistency and a predictable sleep schedule. Most people need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.

 

  • Create a quiet and dark environment.

    Close the shades and turn off all lights. This includes any blue light from electronics, including the TV, tablets, and smart phones. The bedroom should be as dark as possible. From an acupuncture perspective, the first point on the Bladder acupuncture channel is called “Bright eyes”, and it is located in the inner corner of the eyes. When the “Bright eyes” point and the eyes experience light, they send a signal to the body to wake up. This is why a dark room is so important to achieve restful sleep. The room should also be quiet, unless soft music or a sleep guided visualization is being played. The temperature should be comfortable and cool.

 

  • Do not eat before bed.

    Large meals should be avoided before bed. The stomach needs time to digest food after a meal. Ideally, food should not be consumed after 7pm. In Chinese medicine, the peak time of the stomach’s ability to function is between 7am – 9am. Conversely, the low point of the stomach’s energy occurs between 7pm – 9pm. This is the time that the stomach is slowing down and is least able to digest food effectively.

 

  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.

    Most people would agree that caffeine should be discontinued several hours before bed. While it may seem like alcohol can help people fall asleep more quickly, it actually results in poorer sleep. When alcohol is consumed before bed, the liver has to deal with processing the alcohol instead of restoring and regenerating itself. This derails the healing that would normally occur during sleep.

 

  • Exercise, though not right before bed. 

    Exercise has many benefits, including improving sleep. An article from Johns Hopkins Medicine called Exercising for Better Sleep details why it may be better to complete exercise several hours before bed. Essentially, exercise causes the body to release endorphins that can increase brain activity and make it hard to fall asleep. Exercise also increases core body temperature which gives the body the message that it is time to be awake.

 

Acupuncture for healthful sleep

There is no one-size fits all acupuncture treatment for sleep.  This is because there are many potential reasons why a person may have trouble sleeping.  Some of these possibilities include excessive thinking or worry, poor digestion, hormone imbalance, hot flashes, and pain. A Chinese medicine diagnosis and treatment is tailored to the individual, and a variety of questions are covered to identify what is going on from a Chinese medicine perspective. For example, if a person wakes up frequently during the night, knowing what time this occurs is extremely helpful to correlate this to the time on the Chinese organ clock.   The Chinese medicine diagnosis and acupuncture treatment focus on the energetic imbalance that the practitioner identifies in the patient. The overall goal is to balance the patient’s energy, which allows the body to heal itself.

 

Ear seeds

Ear seeds are a great option to include with an acupuncture treatment. They can also be used as a standalone treatment for people who are afraid of needles or are not able to see an acupuncturist. The points chosen on the ear depend on the Chinese medicine diagnosis. The practitioner selects the points that most effectively promote healthful sleep for the patient and their specific needs. Read more about ear seeds in the blog entitled All about ear seeds and auriculotherapy.

 

When to see a doctor

It’s a good idea to see a doctor if you are regularly tired upon waking and have trouble staying awake during the day. Additionally, if you have been told that you snore loudly or it sounds like your breathing stops at times, it is recommended to seek medical attention to rule out conditions like sleep apnea.

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

All about ear seeds and auriculotherapy

ear seeds

What are ear seeds?

Usually when I mention ear seeds to my patients for the first time, I get a surprised, “What did you say?” type of response. They’re not sure if they heard me correctly. Did I really just suggest putting a seed in their ear? I explain that what I am referring to is a small sphere placed on an acupuncture point on the surface of the ear that is held in place with adhesive tape. It works by exerting a gentle pressure on an acupuncture point. Ear seeds come in a variety of styles that I’ll cover a bit later in this blog.

 

Auriculotherapy and the anatomy of the human ear

Auriculotherapy is the process of stimulating acupuncture points on the ear. This involves acupuncture needles, electrical stimulation, or acupressure from the fingers or ear seeds.

 

A French Doctor named Paul Nogier popularized auriculotherapy in the 1950’s. Dr. Nogier was able to show how the external ear contains a microsystem of the human body by mapping the anatomy of an inverted fetus to the ear. Acupuncture points on the ear can actually treat different parts of the body. For example, the baby’s head corresponds to the ear lobe, the baby’s back goes up the outside of the ear, and the baby’s feet are mapped to the top of the ear. There are hundreds of points on the ear that correspond to different points on the body. These points connect to nerve endings in the ear that send a signal to the brain. The brain sends a message to the area of the body in need of  treatment.

 

What do ear seeds treat?

Because the ear contains a microcosm of the body, virtually any issue someone is facing can be supported with ear seeds. This includes conditions like pain, stress, trauma, addiction, and emotional issues. They are safe for anyone over the age of three. I frequently use ear seeds to support acupuncture treatments in my office. For example, if a patient is experiencing back pain or sciatica, I will apply ear seeds that correspond to the lower back and the sciatic nerve. If the patient has a headache, I will apply them to the part of the ear that corresponds to the location of their headache.

 

Kits and styles

Most ear seeds use a vaccaria seed as the “seed”. This is how ear seeds got their name – an actual seed is applied to the ear.  The vaccaria seed is a small black seed from the vaccaria plant. According to Chinese medicine, this plant has healing properties. The vaccaria seed is the perfect size, shape, and texture to stimulate an acupuncture point on the ear. Adhesive tape holds the seed to an acupuncture point on the ear. The adhesive tape that looks like a small square band-aid. This type of ear seed is shown in the picture at the top of this blog.

 

If people are allergic to latex or prefer a different look, stainless steel balls on clear adhesive tape can be used as well as gold-plated balls on clear adhesive tape. The gold-plated balls are also available with different embellishments on the adhesive, like Swarovski crystals. They are a fun option for someone who likes some sparkle in their ear.

 

Ear seeds also come in condition-specific kits. Often, I have patients who want to continue treatment while traveling and they love having everything they need in a simple kit. The kit contains the ear seeds, pictures that show exactly where to place the seeds, instructions, and tweezers for precise placement.

 

The kits that are the most popular with my patients include: Acne, Back Pain / Sciatica, Depression, Focus and Memory, Headaches and Migraines, Insomnia, Menopause, Post-Trauma (PTSD), Stop Smoking, Stress and Anxiety, and Weight Loss.

 

Why I love auriculotherapy and ear seeds

I love ear seeds so much that I decided to become a certified ear seeds practitioner. What’s fascinating to me is that I can often tell what is going on with a person just by looking at their ears. Red marks or veins signify acute conditions or inflammation, and white bumps typically reveal more chronic conditions. Recently during a treatment, I noticed that a patient’s ear was quite red near the insomnia point. When I asked about sleep, the patient was very surprised and shared they had forgotten to mention that they were experiencing insomnia. The ear can even show what stage of the menstrual cycle a woman is experiencing.

 

Ear seeds can really enhance an in-office acupuncture treatment. The patient leaves the office with ear seeds in their ears, and this supplements the therapy in between office treatments. Patients can choose to leave the ear seeds alone or give them a gentle squeeze whenever needed to further activate the point. Ear seeds give patients something to do, especially when they are applied to help with stress and anxiety. Patients wear them for up to 5 days to continue the benefits of the treatment.

 

Ear seeds can also be applied by patients at home, and they are perfect for Telemedicine patients. Entire treatments can be accomplished through ear seeds alone. They are a great option for people who are afraid of needles. They are affordable, very easy to use, and extremely effective.

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

Telehealth now available to patients in North Carolina

Telehealth in North Carolina

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is now offering Telehealth in North Carolina

People often ask me, “How can you practice acupuncture and Chinese medicine in North Carolina through Telehealth? What do you do when you can’t use needles?” People are surprised to learn that Chinese medicine covers much more than acupuncture. Telehealth is a great option for someone who is scared of needles or reluctant to try acupuncture. One of the techniques used during a Telehealth session is acupressure. Acupressure is the application of gentle pressure to acupressure points. Many people don’t know that acupressure can be just as effective as using needles on acupuncture points. It is easy to learn and do.

 

Telehealth is a great option for people who cannot or do not want to leave their home. This is beneficial to parents when childcare is not available, and they don’t have an option to leave the house. Sometimes personal protective equipment is not available, and people don’t feel safe leaving their homes. With Telehealth, you do not need to go into an office. Instead, you relax comfortably in your own home during a session. Another benefit of Telehealth is that patients can be located anywhere in North Carolina. You don’t have to travel to Wilmington. You can still get a customized treatment without leaving your home.

 

How it works

All you need is a computer, tablet or phone, and an internet connection. Just like in an office session, we’ll go through a comprehensive health history. This includes the medications and supplements you are taking, and previous and current conditions. We’ll discuss your primary concerns and goals.

 

Patients send me a picture of their tongue and ears before their appointment. This sounds weird, and it is! It’s also really easy to do. The pictures give me a lot of information about what is going on in the body.

 

When I review tongue pictures, I look at the size, shape, color, and qualities of the tongue. The tongue shows the status of  the major organs in the body. Looking at the tongue gives insight into how the organs are processing energy.

 

The ear is a microcosm of the body. This means that the different areas of the ear represent all of the parts of the body. For example, issues with the head can be seen on the earlobe. When I review ear pictures, I look for areas of redness, swelling, and dark or white patches. Recently, when reviewing ear pictures, I noticed markings on a patient’s ear that coincide with lower back pain. The patient had not mentioned lower back pain. During our appointment, I asked them if they had any trouble with their lower back. The answer was a surprised “Yes!” Patients are often amazed at what I am able to see just by looking at the ears.

 

Finally, I can also see what’s going on in your body by examining your face over the camera during a Telehealth session. Chinese face reading and facial diagnosis can be a very powerful tool. Various colorings, markings, and lines can give clues about overall health and what’s going on in the body.

 

Telehealth can help with many health concerns

The Telehealth sessions I offer can address many of the conditions commonly treated with acupuncture. This includes pain, headaches, digestive, respiratory, dermatological, neurological, reproductive and sleep issues. Sessions are also very effective in supporting emotional well-being, including stress, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction. Sessions can also focus on boosting immunity.

 

A customized treatment plan is developed during a Telehealth session. This may include acupressure, ear seeds, gua sha, moxa, qigong, as well as nutrition and lifestyle advice. Any tools needed are delivered or sent to the patient for home use. Detailed instructions are provided.

 

Available treatment modalities

Here’s a quick overview of the different modalities that are available:

  • Acupressure is the application of pressure to acupuncture points. This is done through gentle massage or tapping on acupuncture points.
  • Ear seeds are small seeds that are held to acupuncture points on the ear with adhesive tape. They can treat conditions throughout the entire body and often have a very calming and relaxing effect.
  • Gua sha is a gentle massage technique that incorporates a smooth-edged tool that stimulates blood flow, removes stagnation, improves circulation, produces an anti-inflammatory effect, and increases immunity to promote healing.
  • Moxa is a Chinese herb that is lit like incense. Moxa burns close to the surface of the skin and stimulates acupuncture points. It is a great tool for building immunity. It helps relieve pain, and also warms and encourages the flow of blood and “qi” (energy) in the body.
  • Qigong refers to gentle exercises that help smooth and strengthen the body’s energy.
    “Qi” means energy and “gong” means work. Qigong is a practice of working with the body’s energy.
  • Nutrition and lifestyle: We’ll discuss your current diet, exercise, stress-reduction and sleep habits. I’ll share advice on what foods may help balance your energy from a Chinese medicine perspective. I’ll give lifestyle recommendations to support you and your goals.

 

Telehealth for facial health and beauty

With so many offices and salons closed, people are excited to learn that facial procedures can easily be practiced at home. This includes lifting, toning and brightening the skin and minimizing wrinkles. I offer a facial gua sha protocol that I teach you during a Facial Gua Sha Telehealth session. I’ll give you instructions and the tools you need to practice at home. Read more about facial gua sha by clicking this link.

 

Are you located in North Carolina and interested in Telehealth? Call 910-622-6960 to learn more.

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. HAVEN now offers Telehealth in North Carolina. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

How Acupuncture and Ear Seeds help PTSD

PTSD treatment acupuncture ear seeds

PTSD treatment with acupuncture and ear seeds

Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a condition that can occur after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event. Triggers can cause the event to be relived. This can create intense emotional and / or physical reactions that can be debilitating. Many people who have PTSD experience anxiety, fear, anger, agitation, difficulty concentrating and / or sleeping. In other words, PTSD can have a profound impact on body, mind and spirit. Acupuncture and ear seeds can be an effective treatment for PTSD.

One of the best treatments I’ve found for PTSD involves auriculotherapy, or ear acupuncture. The external ear contains a microcosm of the body, and all of the parts of the body can be accessed through acupuncture points on the ear. There are six specific points that were researched and tested by a team of doctors that have proven to be beneficial when using auriculotherapy to treat PTSD. The points are as follows: hypothalamus, amygdala, hippocampus, prefrontal cortex, point zero, and shen men. The majority of these points directly affect specific parts of the brain.

 

Acupuncture points can help balance and heal the brain and help PTSD

The hypothalamus point balances the autonomic nervous system and calms the overexcited sympathetic nervous system. The amygdala point is also referred to as the “irritability point” and calms the emotions. The hippocampus point helps with memories, specifically, the ability to distinguish old memories from current events. The prefrontal cortex helps you take “right action” on thoughts. Point zero, which is located at the center of the ear, helps bring the body, mind and spirit to homeostasis or balance. Finally, shen men is a point that calms stress, anxiety, and pain.

While these six points can be stimulated with acupuncture needles during an acupuncture treatment, I prefer to apply ear seeds to these points. I am a huge fan of ear seeds. I love that they give the patient something physical to work with after they leave my office. Ear seeds are literally just that – seeds that applied to the ear. The type of ear seeds that I use most contain small black seeds from the vaccaria plant. These seeds are the perfect shape and size to activate acupuncture points on the ear. The seeds are held to the points with small squares of adhesive tape and look like tiny Band-Aids. They also come in different finishes like Swarovski crystal if you want some sparkle in your ears.

 

How ear seeds work and help PTSD

Ear seeds stimulate acupuncture points by exerting a gentle pressure from the adhesive tape. They can also be pressed with the fingers to provide stronger stimulation as needed. For example, if you are wearing ear seeds and you start to experience anxiety, you can press on the ear seeds with your fingers to get some quick relief. Ear seeds can be worn in the shower and left in place for up to five days in a row.

It’s important to work with your doctor to make sure that you have the proper diagnosis and treatment options for PTSD, and acupuncture and ear seeds can be a great addition to your toolkit.

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she treats patients with PTSD with acupuncture and ear seeds in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

What to Expect During an Acupuncture Treatment

acupuncture treatment wilmington nc

Acupuncture treatment at HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

Many people are curious about what an acupuncture treatment is like and feel more comfortable when they know what to expect beforehand. This blog shares what it’s like to receive an acupuncture treatment at HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC.

Medical history and goal setting

The majority of the initial visit is actually spent talking. We’ll go through your health history. This includes what medications and supplements you are taking, and previous and current conditions. We’ll discuss your goals for the treatment. I often ask people to imagine that I have a magic wand. With this wand, I can grant them wishes that would improve the quality of their life. I ask them to share their top three wishes. I ask this because people are not usually aware of the wide range of areas that acupuncture can positively affect. Often people will bring up something that they think would be impossible to help. They might mention things like PMS or hot flashes, difficulty concentrating, or constipation. They are thrilled to learn that we can work on those areas.

Pulse reading

After our discussion is complete, I will check your pulses. The pulses are felt on the wrist just as a western medical practitioner would take pulses. In Chinese Medicine, we feel the pulses on both wrists, and we actually feel or “listen” to the pulses in twelve different positions. The twelve different positions correspond to the twelve different organ systems in the body. The way the pulse feels gives insight into how that particular organ system is functioning.

Tongue diagnosis

After the pulse taking, I’ll examine your tongue. I’ll ask you to stick out your tongue at me (yes, you read that correctly!). I’ll look at the size, shape, color, and qualities of the coating on the tongue. The major organs are also represented on the tongue. Looking at the tongue gives additional insight into how the organs are processing energy.

How big are those acupuncture needles?!

Next, I’ll show what the acupuncture needles look like. They come in sterile, single use sealed packages. They are safely disposed of after use. People are often surprised to see how tiny the needles are. They are generally about the width of a human hair. Depending upon the size of the acupuncture needle, anywhere from 20 – 40 acupuncture needles can actually fit inside a standard hypodermic needle used to draw blood or administer medicine. We’ll also discuss if other modalities are to be used. For example you are afraid of needles or you think needles might be too intense for you or your child, we might use ear seeds, moxa, or tuning forks instead of acupuncture needles. You can check out the Services page for a description of all modalities offered in addition to acupuncture needles.

Getting comfortable and preparing for treatment

At this point, I will leave the treatment room and let you get comfortable on the treatment table. You can snuggle up in blankets and enjoy the table warmer if you like. I then analyze the information we discussed and design a treatment plan to help restore the proper balance of energy in your body and address your concerns. Every person is unique and receives a treatment customized specifically to their needs.

After I finish my treatment plan, I’ll wash my hands, knock on the treatment room door, and then enter the treatment room to start the treatment. I’ll explain the various types of sensations you might feel during the treatment. I will ask for feedback on how you are doing. When you’re ready, I’ll leave the treatment room and let you relax comfortably for a specified period of time. This is about 20 minutes on average. Don’t be surprised if you are so relaxed that you fall asleep! After the treatment, I’ll recommend a follow-up plan and answer any questions. I love questions, and I love it when people get involved and invested in their treatment and health.

If you have questions, please reach out and email me through our website or call or text 910-622-6960. I’d love to hear from you!

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.