Friday, February 20, 2015

Chinese Cupping Therapy

Cupping is one of the oldest methods of traditional Chinese medicine. The earliest recorded use of cupping dates to the early fourth century, when the noted herbalist Ge Hong wrote about a form of cupping in A Handbook of Prescriptions. Later books written during the Tang and Qing dynasties described cupping in great detail; one textbook included an entire chapter on “fire jar qi,” a type of cupping that could alleviate headaches, dizziness and abdominal pain.

Originally, practitioners would use hollowed-out animal horns for cups, and place them over particular points or meridians. Today, most acupuncturists use cups made of thick glass or plastic, although bamboo, iron and pottery cups are still used in other countries. Glass cups are the preferred method of delivery, because they do not break as easily as pottery or deteriorate like bamboo, and they allow the acupuncturist to see the skin and evaluate the effects of treatment.

How does cupping work? What does it treat?
In a typical cupping session, glass cups are warmed using a cotton ball or other flammable substance, which is soaked in alcohol, let, then placed inside the cup. Burning a substance inside the cup removes all the oxygen, which creates a vacuum.

As the substance burns, the cup is turned upside-down so that the practitioner can place the cup over a specific area. The vacuum created by the lack of oxygen anchors the cup to the skin and pulls it upward on the inside of the glass as the air inside the jar cools. Drawing up the skin is believed to open up the skin’s pores, which helps to stimulate the flow of blood, balances and realigns the flow of qi, breaks up obstructions, and creates an avenue for toxins to be drawn out of the body.

Depending on the condition being treated, the cups will be left in place from 5 to 10 minutes. Several cups may be placed on a patient’s body at the same time. Some practitioners will also apply small amounts of medicated oils or herbal oils to the skin just before the cupping procedure, which lets them move the cups up and down particular acupoints or meridians after they have been applied.

In China, cupping is used primarily to treat respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, asthma, and congestion; arthritis; gastrointestinal disorders; and certain types of pain. Some practitioners also use cupping to treat depression and reduce swelling. Fleshy sites on the body, such as the back and stomach (and, to a lesser extent, the arms and legs), are the preferred sites for treatment.

How many types of cupping are there?
In addition to the traditional form of cupping described above, which is known as “dry” cupping, some practitioners also use what is called “wet” or “air” cupping.
In “air” cupping, instead of using a flame to heat the cup, the cup is applied to the skin, and a suction pump is attached to the rounded end of the jar. The pump is then used to create the vacuum. In “wet” cupping, the skin is punctured before treatment. 

When the cup is applied and the skin is drawn up, a small amount of blood may flow from the puncture site, which are believed to help remove harmful substances and toxins from the body.

Is cupping safe? Does it hurt?
While cupping is considered relatively safe (especially air cupping, which does not include the risk of fire and heat), it can cause some swelling and bruising on the skin. As the skin under a cup is drawn up, the blood vessels at the surface of the skin expand. This may result in small, circular bruises on the areas where the cups were applied. These bruises are usually painless, however, and disappear within a few days of treatment.

In addition, there are several instances where cupping should not be performed. Patients with inflamed skin; cases of high fever or convulsions; and patients who bleed easily, are not suitable candidates for cupping. Pregnant women should not have cupping on their stomach or lower back. If the cups are being moved, they should not cross bony areas, such as the ridges of the spine or the shoulder blades.

Back Muscles spasm

Back Muscles spasm

Normal voluntary muscle contraction begins when electrical signals are sent from the brain through the spinal cord along nerve cells called motor neurons.

These include both the upper motor neurons within the brain and the lower motor neurons within the spinal cord and leading out to the muscle. At the muscle, chemicals released by the motor neuron stimulate the internal release of calcium ions from stores within the muscle cell. 

These calcium ions then interact with muscle proteins within the cell, causing the proteins (actin and myosin) to slide past one another. This motion pulls their fixed ends closer, thereby shortening the cell and, ultimately, the muscle itself. Recapture of calcium and unlinking of actin and myosin allows the muscle fiber to relax. 

Abnormal contraction may be caused by abnormal activity at any stage in this process. Certain mechanisms within the brain and the rest of the central nervous system help regulate contraction. Interruption of these mechanisms can cause spasm. Motor neurons that are overly sensitive may fire below their normal thresholds. The muscle membrane itself may be over sensitive, causing contraction without stimulation. Calcium ions may not be recaptured quickly enough, causing prolonged contraction. 

Interuption of brain mechanisms and overly sensitive motor neurons may result from damage to the nerve pathways. Possible causes include stroke, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, neurodegenerative diseases, trauma, spinal cord injury, and nervous system poisons such as strychnine, tetanus, and certain insecticides. Nerve damage may lead to a prolonged or permanent muscle shortening called contracture. 

Changes in muscle responsiveness may be due to or associated with:

Prolonged exercise:
Curiously, relaxation of a muscle actually requires energy to be expended. The energy is used to recapture calcium and to unlink actin and myosin. 
Normally, sensations of pain and fatigue signal that it is time to rest. Ignoring or overriding those warning signals can lead to such severe energy depletion that the muscle cannot be relaxed, causing a cramp. The familiar advice about not swimming after a heavy meal, when blood flow is directed away from the muscles, is intended to avoid this type of cramp.
Dehydration and salt depletion:
This may be brought on by protracted vomiting or diarrhea, or by copious sweating during prolonged exercise, especially in high temperatures. Loss of fluids and salts—especially sodium, potassium, magnesium, and calcium—can disrupt ion balances in both muscle and nerves. This can prevent them from responding and recovering normally, and can lead to cramp.
Metabolic disorders that affect the energy supply in muscle. 
These are inherited diseases in which particular muscle enzymes are deficient. They include deficiencies of myophosphorylase (McArdle's disease), phosphorylase b kinase, phosphofructokinase, phosphoglycerate kinase, and lactate dehydrogenase.
This causes stiffness due to delayed relaxation of the muscle, but does not cause the spontaneous contraction usually associated with cramps. However, many patients with myotonia do experience cramping from exercise. Symptoms of myotonia are often worse in the cold. 
Myotonias include myotonic dystrophy, myotonia congenita, paramyotonia congenita, and neuromyotonia.

Risk Factors

Anyone is at risk for muscle spasms. 


The pain of a muscle cramp is intense, localized, and often debilitating Coming on quickly, it may last for minutes and fade gradually. Contractures develop more slowly, over days or weeks, and may be permanent if untreated. Fasciculations may occur at rest or after muscle contraction, and may last several minutes. 

Abnormal contractions are diagnosed through a careful medical history, physical and neurological examination, and electromyography of the affected muscles. Electromyography records electrical activity in the muscle during rest and movement. 


Most cases of simple cramps require no treatment other than patience and stretching. Gently and gradually stretching and massaging the affected muscle may ease the pain and hasten recovery.
More prolonged or regular cramps may be treated with drugs such as carbamazepine, phenytoin, or quinine. Fluid and salt replacement, either orally or intravenously, is used to treat dehydration. Treatment of underlying metabolic or neurologic disease, where possible, may help relieve symptoms.

Alternative Treatment

Cramps may be treated or prevented with Gingko (Ginkgo biloba) or Japanese quince (Chaenomeles speciosa). Supplements of vitamin E, niacin, calcium, and magnesium may also help. Taken at bedtime, they may help to reduce the likelihood of night cramps. 

The likelihood of developing cramps may be reduced by eating a healthy diet with appropriate levels of minerals, and getting regular exercise to build up energy reserves in muscle. Avoiding exercising in extreme heat helps prevent heat cramps. Heat cramps can also be avoided by taking salt tablets and water before prolonged exercise in extreme heat. 

Taking a warm bath before bedtime may increase circulation to the legs and reduce the incidence of nighttime leg cramps. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

What Is Metabolic Syndrome?

  Understanding Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is not a disease in itself. Instead, it's a group of risk factors -- high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and abdominal fat.

Obviously, having any one of these risk factors isn't good. But when they're combined, they set the stage for grave problems. These risk factors double your risk of blood vessel and heart disease, which can lead to heart attacks and strokes. They increase your risk of diabetes by five times.

The good news is that metabolic syndrome can be controlled, largely with changes to your lifestyle.

Risk Factors for Metabolic Syndrome

According to the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, there are five risk factors that make up metabolic syndrome.

According to the American Heart Association and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, there are five risk factors that make up metabolic syndrome.

Large Waist Size
For men: 40 inches or larger
For women: 35 inches or larger

Cholesterol: High Triglycerides
150 mg/dL or higher
Using a cholesterol medicine

Cholesterol: Low Good Cholesterol (HDL)
For men: Less than 40 mg/dL
For women: Less than 50 mg/dL
Using a cholesterol medicine
High Blood Pressure
Having blood pressure of 135/85 mm Hg or greater
Using a high blood pressure medicine

Blood Sugar: High Fasting Glucose Level
100 mg/dL or higher

To be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, you would have at least three of these risk factors.

What Causes Metabolic Syndrome?

Experts aren't sure why metabolic syndrome develops. It's a collection of risk factors, not a single disease. So it probably has many different causes. Some risk factors are:

Insulin resistance: 
Insulin is a hormone that helps your body use glucose -- a simple sugar made from the food you eat -- as energy. In people with insulin resistance, the insulin doesn't work as well so your body keeps making more and more of it to cope with the rising level of glucose. Eventually, this can lead to diabetes. Insulin resistance is closely connected to having excess weight in the belly.

Obesity -- especially abdominal obesity:
Experts say that metabolic syndrome is becoming more common because of rising obesity rates. In addition, having extra fat in the belly -- as opposed to elsewhere in the body -- seems to increase your risk.

Unhealthy lifestyle:
Eating a diet high in fats and not getting enough physical activity can play a role.

Hormonal imbalance:
Hormones may play a role. For instance, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) -- a condition that affects fertility -- is related to hormonal imbalance and metabolic syndrome.

If you've just been diagnosed with metabolic syndrome, you might be anxious. But think of it as a wake-up call. It's time to get serious about improving your health. Making simple changes to your habits now can prevent serious illness in the future.