Acid reflux and its painful companion heartburn are on the rise as millions Americans say they experience acid reflux at least once a week. When acid reflux occurs more than once a week, your doctor may diagnosis you with GERD (gastroesophael reflux disease). While some causes of GERD are based on one’s lifestyle choices (eating a diet high in fat or acidic foods, overeating and emotional stress), other factors that can cause GERD include genetic abnormalities in the stomach and/or esophagus, or certain medications.
How does acid reflux occur?
After food enters your mouth you chew and then swallow. The food travels down your throat, into your esophagus, through the lower esophageal sphincter and then into your stomach where it mixes with acid and bile. When properly functioning, the lower esophageal sphincter only opens in one direction (into the stomach). Unfortunately, the body does not always function the way it should and sometimes acid and bile from the stomach can go up through the sphincter into the esophagus. This is known as acid reflux. Sometimes acid reflux is painless, other times it is not. The painful feeling of the acid in our esophagus is called heartburn.
How do I know if I have GERD?
Only your doctor can diagnosis you with GERD and if you are experiencing acid reflux and/or heartburn frequently you should go see him or her as soon as you can. Some symptoms of GERD include heartburn, chest pain, nausea after eating, feeling too full after meals, coughing, bitter taste in mouth, asthma, vomiting and regurgitation. Because of the frequency of the acid reflux, the lining of the esophagus can also become eroded and cancer of the esophagus can become a concern.
Treatment options: Western vs. Eastern
The western treatment of heartburn includes acid blockers and antacids such as Prilosec, Prevacid or Tums. These drugs are not cures and only mask the symptoms without addressing the cause. They can also cause unwanted side effects including abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea and headaches. Symptoms can even become worse after discontinued use.
In Traditional Chinese medicine, acid reflux is related to a dysfunction in the stomach meridian. The stomach meridian begins around the eyes and travels downward through the heart and stomach and finishes at the second toe. When the stomach qi starts traveling upward, (as it does during acid reflux) there is a pathology in the stomach meridian. Acupuncture works to help direct stomach qi back downward and correct the pathology. Heartburn can also be related to the heart meridian. If the heart meridian is involved, the acid reflux will more likely be caused by stress or have an emotional component. Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture do not have any negative side effects and can reduce your heartburn in just one treatment.
How else can I prevent/treat heartburn? Lifestyle Changes.
In the music industry, injuries commonly develop as the demands on musicians often exceed their limits. Unhealthy diet, inconsistent or inadequate sleep, and physical and emotional stressors are a constant reality for the touring musician. This hectic lifestyle doesn't allow the body adequate time to rest, recharge, and heal. Because the show must go on, pain killers, muscle relaxers, steroids and anti-anxiety medication are often taken to help dull the pain or ease the mind, but they are only a temporary fix. In the morning, the pain commences and the stress begins to set in.
Mental symptoms such as stress, anxiety and depression occur when there is an imbalance in the body. While taking medication can sometimes cover up these symptoms, the root of the imbalance remains and until treated becomes a never-ending cycle of self-medication, sleep deprivation, and fatigue. Masking these symptoms with medications can also cause unwanted side effects that can interfere with the creative process. Fatigue, changes in appetite/weight, and changes in sleep patterns are common unwanted side effects. Acupuncture works to harmonize the body and mind removing both the physical and mental effects of stress, anxiety and depression naturally. It helps a person change their reaction pattern to a stimulus that earlier brought on symptoms of anxiety or stress. Pain fighting and emotion balancing endorphins are also produced during acupuncture. The neurotransmitter serotonin, that is responsible for influencing a positive mood, is produced in larger quantities when a person is receiving acupuncture. After an acupuncture session people often feel energized, focused, and less stressed.
While stress and other emotional issues can cause physical symptoms, muscle aches, swelling, stiffness, and limited range of motion can also be caused by repetitive strain injuries. Because musicians are often repeating the same motions with their fingers, arms, hands etc, the muscles become over-worked and repetitive strain injuries commonly occur. Trigger points (tight knots in the fibers of the muscles) are often the culprit for the pain musicians experience during repetitive strain injuries. These muscle fibers become tightly wound and cause stress on the nerves and the joints. Acupuncture releases these trigger points and allows the muscles to stretch back to its normal size, relaxing the muscle and relieving the pain. For instance, a drummer is constantly practicing to master different strokes. Too much practice without enough rest or without proper technique and one might experience cramping, numbness, and/or pain in that region. This discomfort is most likely caused by trigger points in one or more of the forearm muscles (see below) due to repetitive strain. Trigger points can cause local pain as well as referral(non-local) pain patterns. Trigger points and the subsequent pain they cause can be eliminated with acupuncture treatment. To ensure the pain does not return, stretching techniques and postural changes (if needed) should also be added. Below are some common trigger points (marked X) and the referral pain patterns (in red).
Common wrist/arm pain trigger points - drummers, pianists, guitarists/bassists
Common elbow pain trigger points - drummers, pianists, guitarists/bassists
Shoulder/Upper back/Neck pain trigger points - guitarists/bassists, violinists, drummers, pianists, flutists
Common low back pain trigger points - drummers, guitarists, bassists
Just as some musicians enjoy a massage to relax before a show, acupuncture can reduce muscle tension while also releasing endorphins to lessen anxiety and focus the mind. Please contact us if you have any questions or concerns about how acupuncture can help you! We offer group and in-home rates.