Home > Acupuncture, Exercise, Exercise & Lifestyle, Research > Exercise Tolerance, Acupuncture & the Heart

Exercise Tolerance, Acupuncture & the Heart

By, kyuen13 @flickr.com

Part of the purpose of this blog is to share with you all the bits of information I come across during my studies in Acupuncture & Oriental Medical School.  Personally, I love the medicine and have seen and learned its value in treating diseases of all kinds.  One of the most popular (in the news) uses of Acupuncture right now is in the treatment of pain; there are many positive studies coming out currently promoting its success in pain management & bringing to light (to you, the public) the benefits we may receive from Acupuncture treatments.  From my point of view, pain management is just touching the surface… YES, Acupuncture is wonderful for this; but it can do SO many other things especially when used as an adjunctive therapy with other modalities like chiropractic, body work, herbs, changes in lifestyle etc…. Acupuncture is used to treat a plethora of common ailments as well as rare diseases; a short list includes; allergies, asthma,  adrenal fatigue, fibromyalgia, auto-immune diseases including various forms of arthritis, the common cold, eczema, pain, it’s even been incredibly useful for post-trauma and drug rehab.  In addition, it can shorten post-surgery healing time, improve your immune function, lessen the amount of time you spend with a cold or flu & assist in balancing hormones…  I think I could go on and on all day, but I will get back to my point.   

I was just perusing this website while I’m finishing up work here at the gym (I work at a Kettlebell gym called Spinach, in downtown Portland as a trainer/coach), and looking up news regarding exercise etc… My initial intention was to find something about Exercise and improving our ability to adapt through movement with the help of Acupuncture as an adjunct and possible performance enhancer, which is a topic I will write about sometime soon I promise…     

So, I found this article Exercise Improves Exercise Tolerance in Heart Patients.   They point out an important idea that we can translate into our lives no matter what our condition.  In this particular study, however, the patients had Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), a disease where the heart as a muscle essentially starts to lose its ability to pump blood properly throughout the body.  This leads to a decrease in cardiac output and a general decline in oxygenation to the rest of the body as well as fluid imbalance in the peripheral body (edema), & a back-up of blood in the heart and pulmonary system (pulmonary edema, or hypertension).  Another aspect that plays a large part in the progression of the disease is the nervous system; ultimately, neurotransmitters released by the nervous system regulate the blood pumping effectiveness of the heart and patients with CHF may have an imbalance or miscommunication going on here.     

Participants in the study were broken up into two groups, one group received 10 sessions of Acupuncture and were treated on a individual basis according to a particular TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) diagnosis.  The other group was given ‘placebo acupuncture’.     

They found that participants who received Acupuncture   

“could cover a greater walk distance in the time allowed than the placebo patients. They recovered more quickly and tended to feel subjectively less exhausted” (ScienceDaily, 2010).   

Well, we know that Acupuncture has the ability to release endorphins, regulate inflammatory markers, neurotransmitters & balance hormones; we aren’t sure how, but really… does it matter?  When we achieve the desired effect (or a positive effect that we didn’t know we needed)  do we need to understand the exact biochemical pathway from needle insertion to neurotransmitter/hormone release?  The desired effect here seems to be working for these patients!    

Furthermore, the scientists in this study theorize that Acupuncture had an effect on the skeletal muscle, and not necessarily on the cardiac output of the patient; either way, it seems the body became more effective at utilizes the blood that was pumped from the heart.  So, what does this tell us?  Well, good news,  Acupuncture could definitely be helpful with CHF patients, it could help shorten the length of time spent recovering post-surgery (particularly heart surgery), enabling patients to get more out of their rehab and be able to do the things they want to do more easily and in less time…   

In addition, if you wanted to think of this in terms of an otherwise healthy individual who is getting regular Acupuncture, they may be improving neurotransmitter function, regulating imbalances within the nervous system and possibly improving their ability to oxygenate the tissues (ever heard of blood doping?)… Which brings me to another good point I should make regarding Acupuncture.  As far as blood goes, it has been shown to increase white blood cell counts and therefore improve immune function, so why couldn’t it improve the function of our red blood cells, those cells that deliver oxygen to the tissues?!  Sounds good to me… I wouldn’t mind capitalizing on a few more red blood cells to help me chase my boyfriend around on a mountain bike at altitude!  It’s almost like cheating, but not!  You’re just optimizing your body in its most natural state.    

So, take what you will from this, but, Acupuncture is a wonderful tool for the sick and the healthy, and when used in addition to other modalities could increase the quality of your life exponentially!    

    

Sources:    

University Hospital Heidelberg (2010, July 1). Acupuncture improves exercise tolerance in heart patients, German study finds. ScienceDaily.   

Grossman, S., M.D, M.S., & Brown, D., M.D. (2010). Congestive heart failure and pulmonary edema.  Retrieved from http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/757999-overview   

 

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  1. August 1, 2010 at 8:28 p

    Very nice article! Indeed I have seen things in my own acupuncture patients that amazed me when it came to helping them recover from illness.

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