Acupuncture for Varicose Veins
Acupuncture for Varicose Veins
I have been asked several times if acupuncture can be used for varicose veins. So, here I am, my first post for 2015!
Varicose veins are defined as: (courtesy http://www.patient.co.uk/health/varicose-veins-leaflet)
Varicose veins are enlarged (dilated) sections of veins which are located just under the surface of the skin – usually on the leg. They are often easy to see, as they look thick and knobbly. It is thought that the wall of the vein becomes weak in some sections. These sections then widen and become more prominent. If this occurs near a valve then the valve may become leaky and blood may flow backwards. Once this happens at one valve there is extra pressure on the vein. This can cause more widening and more leaky valves. Blood then pools (collects) in the enlarged vein and makes it stand out.
Varicose Veins, photo courtesy WebMD (http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/understanding-varicose-veins-basics)
Varicose veins present more than just an aesthetic problem. They can also be a source of debilitating pain and discomfort. Can acupuncture and Chinese Medicine help?
The Chinese Medicine View Behind Varicose Veins
Traditional Chinese Medicine looks at the root of the problem and not just the manifestation. While the problem with varicose veins may be in the blood vessels, TCM asks the question: what is the underlying imbalance? Why isn’t the blood flowing properly?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, the Spleen is said to assume the functions of the western spleen and pancreas in terms of digestion. In addition, Spleen Qi is said to Control the Blood. This entails “keep the Blood within the vessels”. Also, Spleen Qi spreads the Nutrient Qi to the four limbs. Hence, weak Spleens can poor Blood flow, particularly in the limbs. Interestingly, it is known that there are people born with congenitally weak Spleens. At the same time, it is said that the tendency to varicose veins is genetic.
When Blood flow back to the trunk from the limbs is poor, the Blood has a tendency to coagulate and become what we call Blood Stasis. This is what leads to the dark color and swelling of the veins. Think of Blood Stasis as a chronic welt or bruise with blood trapped in the vessel or in muscle or connective tissue.
Treatment in the TCM sense would involve boosting the Liver Qi, which ensures smooth flow of Qi (and therefore, smooth flow of Blood), and boosting the Spleen function of Controlling Blood. We can do that with herbs, diet changes, or acupuncture.
But what about treating the veins that are already swollen?
Acupuncture Releases Blood Stasis
Unfortunately, clearing Stagnant Blood using physiological processes and herbs can be frustratingly slow. We can speed up the process by using bloodletting.
Acupuncture-wise, there are special needles involved in bloodletting. It is not enough to use the ordinary filiform needle. We use what is called the three edged needle.
These needles are used to make a slight nick into the varicose veins, then we can use cupping to drain the Blood Stasis.
This is an example of using a needle to let a few drops of blood out. The idea is like using a stick to poke a clogged waterway – you just get the flow moving and the natural flow of the canal does the rest.
Perhaps in the future I will post before and after pics. I can then write a case series research paper!