Tai chi has been shown to help patients dealing with arthritis.

Tai Chi Can Help Alleviate Medical Conditions

Tai chi is a great way to tone the body and train the mind, and although the Chinese technique most often captures headlines for its mind-calming abilities, the healing treatment can play a big role in alleviating physical ailments as well.

For people who may not know, tai chi is a low-impact, gradual-motion exercise that involves a series of movements and breathing techniques. In this way, it mirrors meditation and allows practitioners to focus on their bodily sensations. Tai chi has been considered a cousin of qi gong, which is another holistic, mind-body practice that focuses on breathing techniques and easy movements. 

Yet unlike other forms of exercise, tai chi keeps muscles relaxed rather than tensed, with the joints not fully extended or bent and the connective tissue not stretched. The practice can be easily adapted for people of all ages, from professional athletes to individuals recovering from surgery. 

In fact, Harvard Medical School describes the practice as "medication in motion." Combined with standard treatment, tai chi can be helpful for a variety of medical conditions. Check out specific tai chi benefits below: 

Heart Disease
In a study at National Taiwan University, researchers found that a year of tai chi significantly increased exercise capacity and lowered blood pressure. High blood pressure, brought on by an unhealthy diet, limited exercise and stress is a leading trigger of heart attack. With tai chi's incorporation of both stress-relieving movements and physical motions, it can spur any practitioner into action and a healthier lifestyle to help reduce the risk of cardiac complications.

What's more, the study showed that patients who practiced tai chi had improved levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin and C-reactive protein in people at high risk for heart disease. Meanwhile, the research, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, showed no improvement in a control group that did not practice tai chi. 

Arthritis
Arthritis limits the activities of 21 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But despite what many people assume, staying inactive is not the answer. It's quite the contrary: A sedentary lifestyle may only worsen one's arthritis by promoting prolonged joint stiffness. Tai chi, however, has been looked upon as a great outlet to get individuals with arthritis back on their feet again. 

A study from Tufts University indicated that an hour of tai chi twice a week for 12 weeks reduced pain and improved physical functioning as well as mood more than standard stretching exercises in people with severe knee osteoarthritis. When done in gradual amounts, the soft, easy motions of tai chi can help relieve joint inflammation. 

Breast Cancer
Tai chi even has potential to boost the quality of life and the physical ability to carry out normal daily activities in women suffering from breast cancer or the side effects of breast cancer treatment. For instance, a University of Rochester study published in Medicine and Sport Science discovered that women with breast cancer who did 12 weeks of tai chi reported better quality of life, aerobic capacity, muscular strength and flexibility than those who did not practice tai chi. 

Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years, and only recently has science started to explain its benefits.

The Biology Behind Acupuncture’s Stress-Relieving Abilities

By now, most of us realize that acupuncture relieves stress. But do you know how the ancient practice does this? A new study delves into the biological mechanisms behind acupuncture's stress-alleviating abilities. 

The research published in the Journal of Endocrinology examined the hormones secreted in the blood stream of rats. The scientists discovered that stress hormones were lower in rats who received electronic acupuncture. 

"Many practitioners of acupuncture have observed that this ancient practice can reduce stress in their patients, but there is a lack of biological proof of how or why this happens. We're starting to understand what's going on at the molecular level that helps explain acupuncture's benefit," study researcher Dr. Ladan Eshkevari, an associate professor of nursing at Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies, said in a statement.

Electronic Acupuncture
In the study, Eshkevari and colleagues administered a series of electronic acupuncture tests on the animals. The rats were divided into four groups; the first was a control group with no added stress and no acupuncture, the second group was designed to be stressed for an hour each day but didn't receive acupuncture; the third was designed to feel stressed for an hour each day but received sham acupuncture by their tails; the last group was put into a stressful environment and received genuine acupuncture treatment. 

The spot below the knee, called the "zusanli" point, was targeted with a needle. Notably, this area is the same in rats and humans, and it is believed that stimulating the point can reduce anxiety. 

It is known that the body secretes an assortment of hormones into the bloodstream as a reaction to stress, which the researchers measured in the rats. They also monitored the blood hormone levels secreted by the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland and the adrenal gland. Eshkevari evaluated a peptide involved in creatures' fight-or-fight responses, called NPY, which is released by the sympathetic nervous system in rodents and humans. When a creature confronts one of these situations, blood flow consists to all parts of the body except the heart, lungs and brains – the organs most need to react to danger. Chronic stress, however, can lead to elevated blood pressure and cardiac disease. 

"We found that electronic acupuncture blocks the chronic, stress-induced elevations of the HPA axis hormones and the sympathetic NPY pathway," Eshkevari said in a press release. 

Unlike the stress and acupuncture group, the rats that received the sham electronic acupuncture had elevated levels of hormones similar to that of the stress-only animals. 

A growing body of evidence highlights acupuncture's protective effect against stress response. In day-to-day life, athletes, CEOs, teachers and many others have been known to use the healing treatment for its calming benefits. 

Though needles and calming anxiety don't usually go hand in hand, acupuncture has shown time and again to reduce stress, and science is starting to explain why.  

Acupuncture in group settings is believed to strengthen bonds between members.

Teachers Take Advantage of Group Acupuncture

As school kicks into gear, teachers are bringing lesson plans to life in the classroom. But between taming students, correcting exams, polishing last-minute materials and nurturing the leaders of tomorrow, teaching can be rather stressful, leaving educators with a need to repair frayed ends after the final bell rings. 

That and other pressures were why teachers in British Columbia took to the acupuncture clinic in early September. A health clinic in Vernon offered free group acupuncture for stress reduction.

"This same simple protocol was originally developed to treat addictions and mental illnesses and has become widely used for trauma recovery and stress relief," registered acupuncturist Ashley Piderman with Vero Health told Venon Morning Star. 

Piderman administered community-style acupuncture to provide compassionate treatment in a group setting. This model of acupuncture allowed everyone treated to experience relief from stress and trauma together. 

The treatment involved five needles in the ears. Patients were seated in a quiet circle. The treatment lasted 20 to 45 minutes and then the needles were removed. Patients were encouraged to wear comfortable clothing and tie or pin long hair back so the ears were exposed. The more cozy one is, the easier it should be for him or her to get in the zone. 

Stress Relief
One of the gleaming acupuncture benefits, stress relief is something that many teachers could use. The ancient practice lowers stress hormones, helping to dial down anxiety response levels and returning them to normal. In fact, studies have shown electronic acupuncture blocks the chronic elevations of certain hormones in the body to alleviate that burdensome, heavy feeling of stress.

Plus, anxiety over the long run can actually cause brain shrinkage, dulling the mind in the classroom. In a setting where teaching professionals have to create a lot of impromptu solutions and handle situations as they surface, a stress-inhibited mind is not something they'd enjoy seeing on the curriculum plan for the day. 

Beyond calming nerves, acupuncture in this group setting is also believed to strengthen bonds between the teachers. When the entire group feels calm, the goal is for hope and resiliency to become solidified as a collective unit. 

"Because it can easily be adapted for field use, this is the model used by Acupuncturists Without Borders for disaster relief field clinics, veterans' clinics and many community acupuncture clinics," Piderman told the source. "The treatment is safe, effective and elegantly simple."

This is an asbtract picture of Reiki energy.

Different Energy Healing Methods

The basic principle behind energy healing treatments is that healers can detect and channel a universal energy and manipulate it within another person. As with all alternative medicine, there is a lot of skepticism about energy healing, but there are also plenty of people who attest to its effectiveness. 

Here are three energy-based alternative healing practices

Reiki
Reiki is a self-healing and meditation technique that fights stress-related conditions. During the treatment, a practitioner places his palms lightly on or over various parts of the body in an effort to redistribute energy.

Gianantonio Corna, a third-generation energy healer and the owner of Reiki Vitae in SoHo, told New York Daily News that Reiki can be compared to a GPS for you body, going around the different energy channels to detect where the qi that is not flowing smoothly, and communicates with that spot to to sort out the qi "traffic jam." He recommends at least three sessions to really feel its effects on both emotional and physical levels. 

Tapping
Tapping involves gentle self-taps on various acupressure points in the body such as the collarbone and under the eye. These taps are meant to send a signal to the brain giving the green light to calm down. It's also known as Emotional Freedom Technique. 

"When we feel stressed, it's not a sensation we just experience in our head – we feel it in our entire body," Jessica Ortner, a tapping expert and author, told the source. 

Ortner said that by stimulating these acupressure points while concentrating on eliminating stessors, tapping communicates to the body that its' safe to relax. 

Reflexology
Reflexology stimulates specific pressure points on the hands, feet, face and ears to affect certain organs, glands and other parts of the body. Each reflexology pressure point is said to align with a different body part. While a massage uses big, broad strokes, reflexology utilizes just the fingers and thumbs to press on reflex pressure points. 

Many people think reflexology just pertains to the feet, but it can help with all different body parts. The reason reflexologists work on the feet is that they're the most neglected and the farthest from the heart, and they contain almost 15,000 nerves. 

By working on the feet, reflexologists are"balancing energy flow, calming the nervous system, improving circulation, and assisting the body to eliminate toxins while helping a variety of health conditions," Laura Norman, a certified reflexologist and author who also teaches classes on the subject in South Florida, told the source.

Acupressure may help relieve labor pains for pregnant women.

How Acupressure Complements Ice Therapy in Pregnant Women

Throughout pregnancy, a mother experiences new sensations of touch, from feeling the baby kick to getting a sore back from walking. To combat these problems, pregnant women can opt for a touch-related treatment called acupressure. 

Acupressure, also known as Shiatsu, is a form of therapy with Japanese origins that's based on the same principles as acupuncture, in which pressure is applied to certain points on the body. However, instead of using needles like in acupuncture, acupressure utilizes the hands. This healing treatment has been used for centuries to address everything from everyday aches to labor pains. 

In fact, for a 2012 study, researchers from Behavioral Sciences Research Center, Nursing Faculty Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences compared ice massage and acupressure techniques to reduce labor pain. The study involved 90 pregnant women ages 22 to 33 from different hospitals around the city. The participants assessed their pain intensity using a visual analogue scale before the intervention as well as 30 minutes and one hour after it.

Researchers found that both methods were effective, concluding that repeating these techniques during the first stage of labor could not only prove useful, but cost-effective and non-invasive in reducing the intensity of labor pain.  

Acupressure practitioners use their fingers, elbows, palms or feet to apply pressure to acupoints on the body's meridians. Sometimes, acupressure involves stretching or acupressure massage. Since childbirth is arguably one of the most painful experiences women undergo, researchers have long sought to apply acupressure's benefits to the labor process. 

In another study, which was published by the National Institutes of Health, icing techniques were used on expected mothers. As no coincidence, the target placement for the ice massage was the acupressure energy meridian point of the large intestine 4 (LI4), which is located on the medial midpoint of the first metacarpal within 3 to 4 millimeters of the web of skin between the thumb and forefinger.

There are hundreds of acupressure points on the body. Like rivers, one's qi, or life force, is said to flow through these meridians, and by massaging them, acupressure professionals can manipulate the flow of energy. Often times when one feels pain or discomfort, qi is disrupted somewhere. In the phases of pregnancy, a woman will experience many different discomforts that acupressure might help soothe. 

Veterans receive acupuncture treatments in a program called Community Acupuncture for Veterans.

Acupuncture for Veterans

For acupuncturist David LoPriore, acupuncture is a way of saying thank you. 

In what he calls Community Acupuncture for Veterans (CAV), LoPriore offers community-style acupuncture for U.S. active duty military and veterans at a community center in East Lyme, Connecticut.

For 72-year-old Ken McCarthy, an Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War, it was his third visit to see LoPriore.

"I have a lot of back pain, and a lot of other things, and it does help me," McCarthy told The Day. He added that it helps him cope. He also enjoys the opportunity to talk with other veterans. 

Clients are treated in the group setting, in a seated position. Very thin needles are placed in the outer ears at specific points that have been part of healing treatments effective at providing relief for thousands of years. 

Despite the dozens of attendees, each client receives about 10 minutes of individual attention and then relaxes for about 40 minutes until it's time to remove the needles.

LoPriore said that some of these veterans have seen serious combat, which, after all these years, still creates a huge buildup of stress. Once Vito Fatone, a veteran, told him about his role in the D-Day invasion at Omaha and the Battle of the Bulge. 

"That's why we are doing this for guys like you, Vito," LoPriore replied. "We want to thank you for what you did for us."

Some belong to a group that attends funerals for World War II, Korea and Vietnam veterans. McCarthy has been to around 900 funerals. 

These acupuncture treatments, which are an ancient Chinese treatment, work to alleviate stress and pain, both mental and physical. One could only imagine the mass amounts of anxiety that those in the army witness and take home with them after duty. Vietnam Army veteran Philip Maniscalco, who's on his fifth session, told The Day that the "shadow" of combat never leaves.

At LoPriore's latest session, everyone said it was painless, and most said they saw results. Maniscalco said that his overall well-being has improved.

"This treatment really helps to optimize all their physical, mental and emotional systems," LoPriore, who donates about 15 hours a week to running CAV, explained to the source. "There's no pain, and it's a protocol that really works because I add specific points for individualized systems."

The most common side effects of aromatase inhibitors are joint stiffness or joint pain.

Acupuncture Eases Joint Pain Among Breast Cancer Patients

Ilchi Lee is among the first people who would tell you about acupuncture benefits. And sure enough, relieving joint pain is one of those perks.

In particular, women battling breast cancer may look toward electroacupuncture – a form of acupuncture where a small electric current is passed between pairs of acupuncture needles –  to improve quality of life. According to a new study, the use of electroacupuncture created significant improvements in fatigue, anxiety and depression in as little as eight weeks for early stage breast cancer patients experiencing joint pain compared to the use of aromatase inhibitors.

Aromatase inhibitors work to stop the production of estrogen in post-menopausal women, which means that less estrogen is available to stimulate the growth of hormone-receptor-positive breast cancer cells. However, aromatase inhibitors may trigger joint pain as a side effect, and in fact, they are the most-commonly prescribed medications to prevent disease recurrence among postmenopausal women with early-stage, hormone receptor positive breast cancer.

In the eight-week trial, researchers examined the short-term effects of electroacupuncture for AI-related joint pain, compared with sham acupuncture. Participants were randomly assigned to receive EA, SA or usual care. 

In contrast with usual care, women who received EA had a greater reduction in joint-related fatigue and anxiety at week eight. Even better, the effect was maintained at week 12.

"Since many patients experience pain, fatigue, anxiety and depression simultaneously, our results provide an opportunity to offer patients one treatment that may target multiple symptoms," explained lead author Dr. Jun Mao, associate professor of Family Medicine and Community Health in Penn's Perelman School of Medicine, who directs the integrative oncology program in the Abramson Cancer Center. "We see patients every day who are looking for ways to combat some of the side effects of their treatment. What is particularly significant about these new results is that we can now offer more evidence-based treatment and management solutions for these women."

The results broaden the scope of earlier findings reported in November 2013 that showed that EA can decrease joint pain by as much as 50 percent among breast cancer patients taking AIs. As research continues to delve into this topic, many women might opt for acupuncture as a healing treatment.

About 85 percent of women in the U.S. experience hot flashes when going through menopause.

Acupuncture May Relieve Hot Flashes

Women going through menopause may be experiencing a set of uncomfortable symptoms. Among them, hot flashes are the most frequent, affecting about 85 percent of U.S. women. Hot flashes, a sudden feeling of heat along with occasional sweating, can be a burdensome recurrence, and though scientists aren't certain of their exact cause, there may be a way to help ease them: acupuncture.

A number of studies have shown that traditional Chinese acupuncture might reduce the severity of hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause. 

One of the prominent studies, published in Acupuncture in Medicine, recruited 53 postmenopausal women. Half of them received regular acupuncture healing treatments twice a week for 10 sessions with a licensed acupuncturist. The others were treated with "sham" acupuncture, a placebo version of acupuncture used for control groups such as this one. Sham needles are blunted and do not penetrate the skin. What's more, their levels were measured before and after the study.

Following the 10 weeks, a five-point scale was used to measure the intensity of hot flashes, urinary symptoms and mood swings. The women who had traditional acupuncture showed significantly lower scores on the symptom scale compared with those in the control group.

Importantly, the severity of hot flashes and psychological symptoms dropped substantially in the acupuncture group. More specifically, estrogen amounts were a great deal higher, while luteinizing hormone levels were lower in the acupuncture group compared to the sham acupuncture group. 

Researchers believe acupuncture might have eased hot flash symptoms because it jumpstarts the production of endorphins, which may stabilize the temperature control system of the body. 

Ilchi Lee, The New York Times bestselling author, elaborates that other research has indicated the ancient Chinese practice reduces the frequency and severity of hot flashes. Acupuncture, which has been practiced for more than 2,500 years, consists of placing thin needles into parts of the body known as meridians. These meridians can be likened to rivers, through which energy, or chi, flows. 

Women dealing with intense bursts of hot flashes may want to give acupuncture a try. Menopuase can begin as early as three years before a woman's last menstrual period and continue for up to 15 years after. The severity varies from woman to woman, but they are known to be quite uncomfortable. Although it may seem counterintuitive, sticking needles in the skin could be the ticket to easing the burden. 

Acupuncture has helped with medically unexplained symptoms.

Acupuncture Treatments Useful for Unexplained Symptoms

Medically unexplained symptoms can be distressing for both the patient and the doctor. And the number of problems that medical professionals have not diagnosed may be surprisingly high: About one in five patients have symptoms that remain unexplained by conventional medicine, according to The Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry. What's more, the cost of managing this type of treatment can be twice that of a patient with a diagnosis.

However, acupuncture has been shown to have a significant and sustained benefit for patients without a specific explanation for their problems, according to the Institute of Health Services Research, Peninsula Medical School and University of Exeter. 

Researchers carried out a randomized control trail along with an interview study with 80 patients, 80 percent of whom were females age 50 and older. Almost 60 percent reported musculoskeletal health problems, of which almost two-thirds had been present for a year. 

The patients were split randomly into either an acupuncture or control group. Individuals in the acupuncture group received up to 12 sessions of five-element acupuncture over 26 weeks, whereas the same number of treatments were made available to the control group after 26 weeks.

The acupuncture group reported a significantly improved level of well-being compared with the control group, noting a decrease of long-standing symptoms such as chronic pain, fatigue and emotional problems that they said affected their ability to work, socialize or carry out everyday tasks. 

"Our research indicates that the addition of up to 12 five-element acupuncture consultations to the usual care experienced by the patients in the trial was feasible and acceptable and resulted in improved overall well-being that was sustained for up to a year," Dr. Charlotte Paterson, the leader of the randomized control trial and the longitudinal study of patients' experiences, said in a press release. The research is published in the British Journal of General Practice.

Acupuncture comes from ancient Chinese practitioners that dates back thousands of years. It is largely reflective of Oriental medicine, compared to Western medicine. Though focused on more herbal, mind-body techniques instead of pills and procedures, acupuncture is being incorporated into many U.S. hospitals as an effective healing treatment for a number of health conditions.

One of the participating patients, who preferred to go unnamed, was thrilled about the improvement. 

"The energy is the main thing I have noticed. I had to reduce my medication. That's the big help actually, because medication was giving me more trouble…[and] side effects"; and "It kind of boosts you, somehow or another."

Acupuncture can jumpstart the body's healing responses following surgery.

Acupuncture Healing: Before and After Surgery

No one looks forward to surgery, but in some cases, it is the best alternative. There's little doubt that both sides of the process – before and after surgery – can be a physical as well as an emotional challenge. So, for help along the way, many patients have been exploring acupuncture, which has been shown to decrease postoperative pain and reduce stress. 

Ilchi Lee points out that acupuncture, a component of traditional Chinese medicine, has been used for more than 3,000 years. In the last few decades, the technique has been rising in popularity in the U.S. and Western world, as physicians and patients better understand its healing perks. 

Calming Down
It's very common for people to feel nervous in the days leading up surgery. This is where acupuncture enters the picture. Schedule an appointment about one week before to help calm you down and even improve sleep, something many struggle with prior to a procedure. Research indicates that by stimulating blood flow in the body and establishing an aura of Zen, acupuncture can induce a better night's sleep. As counterintuitive as it may seem, these needles could help get you off of those pins and needles.

Pain Relief After Surgery
One of the biggest and most critical acupuncture benefits is that it can decrease postoperative pain and side effects. In a study led by Duke University Medical Center, using acupuncture before and after surgery significantly reduced the level of pain and discomfort. As a result, patients did not need as many potent painkillers after the surgery was over, according to anesthesiologists who combined data from 15 small randomized acupuncture clinical trials. 

"Acupuncture is slowly becoming more accepted by American physicians, but it is still underutilized," Dr. Tong Joo Gan, a Duke anesthesiologist, said in a press release. "Studies like this, which show that there is a benefit to using it, should help give physicians sitting on the fence the data they need to integrate acupuncture into their routine care of surgery patients."

Scar Therapy
Furthermore, the ancient Chinese technique aids in healing scars. Whenever there is a rupture, tear or purposeful cut of any layers of the epidermis, the skin must undergo a cellular renewal to repair the damaged area. In this way, surgeries may lead to scarring. To counter this effect, professionals have employed acupuncture in the treatment of scars, as the insertion of needles jumpstarts the body's healing response.