Can Acupuncture be beneficial for your skin?

From a personal stance I have dabbled in the modality of acupuncture for injuries to my foot (plantar fasciitis) and my hand/wrist to reduce RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury). I have had relief but did use acupuncture alongside other modalities - Remedial Massage Therapy, Cupping, Physiotherapy and dietary changes relating to issues with auto-immune triggers.

What is acupuncture, and how does it work?

Traditional Chinese Medicine - Acupuncture is one of the most popular practices of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a complimentary health approach that first originated in ancient China more than 2,500 years ago. 

The foundation of TCM is qi is vital energy and qi flows through the meridians and energy pathways. In TCM, blood and qi are inseparable; blood is the mother of qi carries qi and provides nutrients. Qi is the commander of blood that is force that makes blood flow throughout the body. Where there is qi flow there is blood flow.

The changes and deterioration in the skin, muscle tone, and zang fu organs reflect the state of the zang fu, qi, blood, yin and yang. The body/mind/spirit is inseparable, and communication between these three states of being is facilitated by the vitalizing flow of energy contained in the meridians, which transport precious ancestral information in the form of cellular memory.

The cause of disease is the basic principle of TCM. The treatment of the root (ben) or essence of the disease and the treatment of the branch(biao), secondary and related symptoms. acupuncture

According to the Huang Di Nei Jing, the complexion, hair and skin are related to the state of the internal zang fu organs. The hair is governed by the kidneys and the lungs govern the skin. The Nei Jing also describes the relationship between diet, health, and appearance and has dietary recommendations in food and in Chinese herbs.

During an acupuncture treatment, the practitioner inserts fine, sterile needles into specific pressure points on the skin to create local reactions. In TMC qi, or energy, flows along certain channels (known as meridians) in the body to keep you balanced. Should the qi be disrupted or blocked, acupuncture can stimulate and unblock the qi, activating healing responses in your body.

Acupuncture is an extremely effective treatment for acute and chronic issues. For acute injuries, the needles will be inserted at the local site of injury to help flush it with fresh blood to speed up the healing process. 

Chronic issues the acupuncture needles will be placed accordingly, depending on the region of the issue, herbs will be used if prescribed, and then there is always the option of cupping (guasha) and tui na (massage) if required. These are all tools that an acupuncturist can use to increase blood flow and create more mobility in tissues and joints.

Facial Acupuncture & Facial Rejuvenation

Extra fine acupuncture needles that are placed on the head, face and neck for facial rejuvenation. The needles stimulate the skin cells by improving blood circulation, which in turn increases the production of collagen and elastin and repairing cells. Collagen is a protein and a vital part of the connective tissue that forms the supporting glue that gives the skin structure. The improved local blood supply to the areas of the face helps to strengthen and tighten the facial tissue for a healthy glowing complexion. It reduces the signs of ageing by revitalising the skin and bringing a more youthful appearance.

RESEARCH

A review of medical literature finds acupuncture to be effective in treating some dermatologic conditions when compared to alternative treatments, placebo acupuncture, or no treatment. Specifically, the evidence indicates this form of TCM showed the greatest benefit in cases of dermatitis, pruritus, urticaria, hyperhidrosis, and facial elasticity.

Many researchers (14 studies involving 559 participants) have examined acupuncture as a treatment for:

  • Atopic dermatitis

  • Urticarial (hives)

  • Pruritus

Atopic dermatitis - Studies of Atopic dermatitis a type of eczema that causes dry, itchy skin, had a small number of participants, still their results were both positive and statistically significant for the groups treated with acupuncture compared to groups treated with either placebo acupuncture or no intervention.

Urticaria (hives) - Three studies addressed hives compared with placebo acupuncture, acupuncture reduced the rate and duration of urticarial episodes and compared with oral antihistamines, acupuncture resulted in greater clearance of wheals; results from both studies are considered statistically significant. One observational study without a comparison group showed complete clearance of wheals and prolongation of time between relapses for about a quarter of the patients treated with acupuncture.

Pruritus - Acupuncture relieved pruritus (itchy skin), in three studies and one case report. In particular, one study found acupuncture to be superior to herbal medicine and oral diphenhydramine plus vitamin C for clearance of rash from neuro-dermatitis.

Breast inflammation, polyhidrosis (excessive sweating), HPV wart and facial elasticity - Four studies found acupuncture to be effective in treating these conditions.

Acne, Eczema & Psoriasis

AcneEvidence pooled together in a systematic review has shown that acupuncture plus moxibustion (the burning of moxa on or near a person's skin as a counterirritant) is safe and effective for the treatment of acne, and possibly better than routine western medicine.

  • Reducing inflammation - by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Zijlstra 2003; Kavoussi 2007).
  • Enhancing - natural killer cell activities and modulating the number and ratio of immune cell types (Kawakita 2008).
  • Increasing - local microcirculation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of inflammation.

Eczema & Psoriasis - There are few published randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of the effects of acupuncture in the treatment of chronic inflammatory skin conditions such as atopic eczema and psoriasis. Acupuncture may help to relieve symptoms in people with atopic eczema and psoriasis by:

  • Reducing inflammation - by promoting release of vascular and immunomodulatory factors (Zijlstra 2003; Kavoussi 2007);
  • Regulating - mediators of the allergic reaction to extrinsic allergens, for example Ig-E (Rao 2006), serum cytokines (IL-2, IL-4, IL-10, IFN-, Ig-E) (Okumura 2002), and basophils (Pfab 2011);
  • Enhancing - natural killer cell activities and modulating the number and ratio of immune cell types (Kawakita 2008);
  • Increasing - local microcirculation (Komori 2009), which aids dispersal of inflammation.

Sometimes just knowing that there are treatments available and backed by science, is comforting for those of us who suffer with such skin issues, and or acute / chronic injuries. This ancient natural therapy maybe just what your skin or body needs to facilitate healing. 

Until next time..

be human, be kind, be you

 


 

 

 

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