Integrative & Holistic

Acupuncture, Hypnosis, and Practicing Gratitude

Three complementary and integrative health techniques that complement each other. Implementing each of these can enhance body, mind, and spirit for positive, overall health.

Acupuncture

Questions and Answers About Acupuncture

What is acupuncture? 

Acupuncture applies needles, heat, pressure, and other treatments to places on the skin, called acupuncture points (or acupoints), to control symptoms such as pain or nausea and vomiting. Acupuncture is part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). TCM uses acupuncture, diet, herbal therapy, meditation, exercise, and massage to restore health.

Acupuncture is based on the belief that qi (vital energy) flows through the body along paths, called meridians. Qi is said to affect a person’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical condition. 

How is acupuncture given?

Most acupuncture methods use needles. Disposable, stainless steel needles that are slightly thicker than a human hair are inserted into the skin at acupoints. The acupuncture practitioner chooses the correct acupoints for the problem being treated. The inserted needles may be twirled, moved up and down at different speeds and depths, heated, or charged with a weak electric current.

Acupuncture methods include the following:

Auricular acupuncture: Acupuncture needles are placed at acupoints on the outer ear that match up with certain parts of the body.

  • Electroacupuncture.
  • Trigger point acupuncture.
  • Laser acupuncture.
  • Acupuncture point injection.
  • Microwave acupuncture.
  • Acupressure.
  • Moxibustion.
  • Cupping.
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What do patients feel during acupuncture?

Patients may have a needling feeling during acupuncture, known as de qi sensation, making them feel heaviness, numbness, or tingling.

Studies suggest that acupuncture may improve the some of the following in cancer patients:

  • Nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation therapy
  • Pain
  • Postoperative pain
  • Muscle and joint pain from aromatase inhibitors
  • Peripheral neuropathy
  • Hot flashes
  • Fatigue
  • Lymphedema
  • Sleep problems
  • The immune system
  • Other symptoms of cancer and side effects of cancer treatment

Have any side effects or risks been reported from acupuncture?

There have been few complications reported. Problems are caused by using needles that are not sterile and from placing the needle in the wrong place, movement of the patient, or a defect in the needle. 

Problems include the following:

  • Feeling soreness and pain during treatment.
  • Feeling tired, lightheaded, or sleepy.
  • Getting an infection.

A strict clean needle method must be used when acupuncture treatment is given to cancer patients, because chemotherapy and radiation therapy weaken the body's immune system.

Is acupuncture approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)?

The FDA approved acupuncture needles for use by licensed practitioners in 1996. The FDA requires that sterile needles be used and labeled for single use by qualified practitioners only.

More than 40 states and the District of Columbia have laws about acupuncture practice. The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (www.nccaom.org) certifies practitioners of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Most states require this certification.

Hypnosis for Health

Can Trances Work?

Have you seen someone get hypnotized? They may have been put in a trance and told to do silly things. But hypnosis can be used for more than just show. It’s also being studied to treat certain health conditions.

Medical hypnosis aims to improve health and wellness. It can help relax and focus your mind—and make you more open to new ideas. The technique usually has two parts. First, the health care provider gets your attention by inviting you to focus on something, such as an object or breathing. When you focus like this, your brain becomes more open to suggestion and makes the brain more flexible.

Then the health care provider can offer a helpful suggestion. For example, if your goal is to manage pain, the provider may suggest that you feel greater comfort. Or they may suggest that you focus on being able to handle the pain more easily. Hypnosis takes advantage of the fact that people are able to be open to absorbing new ideas. 

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The health care provider gets someone’s attention and then offers them a new way of looking at a problem that will make the problem easier for them to manage.

In addition to pain, studies suggest that hypnosis may help manage irritable bowel syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder. 

Researchers are also studying hypnosis for mood disorders. There’s emerging evidence that it’s useful for helping people to manage depression and anxiety, including anxiety around medical procedures and surgery.

Some people respond to hypnosis more easily than others. It’s also more effective if they want to be hypnotized. Hypnosis is not mind control by another person.

Everyone is open to new ideas at some level. With people who have more hypnotic talent, it just takes fewer sessions. But everybody can respond at some level to hypnosis.

Imaging studies are shedding light on what happens in the brain during hypnosis. Hypnosis is a particularly powerful technique for changing brain activity. Researchers have found that different hypnotic suggestions can affect different parts of the brain. Pain involves both sensation and emotion.

A hypnotic suggestion for greater comfort changes the brain activity in the areas that process the intensity of the sensations. If a suggestion is made that these sensations don’t bother a person anymore, then the part of the brain that processes how upset they are by pain decreases in activity, the part of the brain that processes intensity of sensation doesn’t necessarily change.

The way a drug treats pain is different. If you take an opioid to relieve pain, your whole brain can be affected, including the parts that process sensation. The pain may go away, but there can be side effects. These may include constipation, breathing problems, and even addiction.

More studies are needed to fully evaluate the potential benefits of hypnosis and how it might work. We do know hypnosis doesn’t work for everyone. There are some people, very few that it only helps a little. There are others whose lives can be completely turned around for the better with hypnotic treatments. Most people are somewhere in between.

Practicing Gratitude

Ways to Improve Positivity

How often do you feel thankful for the good things in your life? Studies suggest that making a habit of noticing what’s going well in your life could have health benefits.

Taking the time to feel gratitude may improve your emotional well-being by helping you cope with stress. Early research suggests that a daily practice of gratitude could affect the body, too. For example, one study found that gratitude was linked to fewer signs of heart disease.

The first step in any gratitude practice is to reflect on the good things that have happened in your life. These can be big or little things. It can be as simple as scoring a good parking space that day or enjoying a hot mug of coffee. Or, perhaps you feel grateful for a close friend’s compassionate support.

Next, allow yourself a moment to enjoy that you had the positive experience, no matter what negatives may exist in your life. Let positive feelings of gratitude bubble up.

“We encourage people to try practicing gratitude daily,” advises Dr. Judith T. Moskowitz, a psychologist at Northwestern University. “You can try first thing in the morning or right before you fall asleep, whatever is best for you.”

Moskowitz has been studying the impact of keeping a daily gratitude journal on stress relief and health. Practicing gratitude is part of a set of skills that her research team encourages people to practice. 

These skills have been shown to help some people increase their positive emotions.

Her team is trying to better understand how a daily boost in positive emotions can help people cope with stress and improve their mental and physical health.

“By practicing these skills, it will help you cope better with whatever you have to cope with,” Moskowitz explains. “You don’t have to be experiencing major life stress. It also works with the daily stress that we all deal with. Ultimately, it can help you be not just happier but also healthier.”

While practicing gratitude seems to work for some people, it doesn’t for everyone. That’s why Moskowitz’s research team teaches other skills, too. These include meditating and doing small acts of kindness.

Her team has been developing and testing these skills with people who have illnesses like advanced cancer, diabetes, HIV infection, and depression. She’s also worked with people who care for others with serious illness.

When you make gratitude a regular habit, it can help you learn to recognize good things in your life despite the bad things that might be happening. Moskowitz says that when you’re under stress, you might not notice all the moments of positive emotion that you experience. With her research program, she’s trying to help people become more aware of those moments of positive feelings.

“Put some effort into experiencing gratitude on a daily basis and see how it goes,” Moskowitz advises. “It might just surprise you that despite how bad things are there are things you feel grateful for alongside it.” And feeling grateful may help improve both your mind and your body.

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