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Reclaim Balance and Stability with Acupuncture
By: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM

Our sense of balance and stability can be thrown off for many reasons. Muscle weakness, joint stiffness, inner ear problems, side effects from certain prescription drugs, the lingering consequences after suffering a stroke, aging and leading a sedentary lifestyle are just a few things that can threaten our equilibrium. As a result, walking, sitting straight, shifting positions and physical activity, in general, may become difficult, awkward and frustrating.  The reasons for balance issues may be complex, but acupuncture and Oriental medicine are capable of treating even the most complicated of cases.

Once reasons for balance problems are determined, a patient can expect an individualized acupuncture treatment plan, that includes lifestyle and dietary suggestions.   Two cases below that illustrate how different the treatments can be, include physical inactivity and dizziness.

The first patient is physically inactive with a weakness for cookies and cakes. They resist any form of exercise and refuse to play sports because they complain of awkward body movements and frequent injuries.   This patient suffers from muscle weakness and treatment may include points that strengthen the spleen and drains dampness.  The spleen is an important digestive organ and also directly influences the quality and strength of our muscles.  When the spleen suffers, and is said to produce dampness, the muscles of the body, especially those of the limbs, can feel weak and heavy. This can interfere with the ability to walk and maneuver the body with ease.   Acupuncture points on the spleen channel can help dampness exit the body, bring relief to the legs and allow for more graceful, coordinated movements.

Eating less foods that promote dampness, such as ice cream and heavily sugared desserts, is always a good idea. Onions, ginger, lettuce, turnips and cardamom are all foods that can help the spleen digest food more efficiently and therefore avoid producing dampness. Enjoying a warm cup of tea and then taking a gentle stroll for 20 minutes after eating may also help a sluggish digestive system. Or, if you're feeling adventurous, try chewing, but not swallowing, a cardamom pod after eating.

There are several easy-to-perform exercises that can help improve balance. One simple exercise is stand comfortably and lift one foot off the ground. Hold your foot in front of you, with the heel facing down and toes pointed up. Try to hold the position for at least 10 seconds before taking a break. Repeat the exercise with the other leg.

The second patient experiences dizziness and unstable body movements upon rising from a seated or lying down position. One acupuncture point at the very top of the head and scalp that can help in this case, is called Hundred Convergences. As the name implies, it connects with many other meridians.  When needled, it activates an intricate network of Qi, which allows more energy and blood to be delivered to the head. This extra nourishment aids the brain in re-establishing equilibrium and bringing stability to body movements, making it easier for this patient to remain mobile and independent.   In addition to regular acupuncture treatments, certain foods are recommended to help increase this patient's overall levels of Qi including lamb, mussels, oats, rice and quinoa.

If you find your balance is thrown off easily, or you are becoming more sedentary because moving about has become too difficult, try acupuncture and Oriental medicine. 

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About the Author: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM, studied at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, and practiced acupuncture and Oriental medicine in New York for several years. Vanessa enjoys traveling the world, and has published articles on acupuncture and Oriental medicine and related health topics for websites and publications in both the U.S. and abroad.