How acupuncture can improve your circulation
We’ve probably all experienced the effects of poor circulation from time to time – that tingling sensation when your leg or foot has gone to sleep that’s rarely pleasant and is often accompanied by cold extremities.
For most of us, this is a very temporary state of affairs, often solved through better movement of the limb, hand, foot, fingers, or toes.
But for others, poor circulation is a chronic condition that means all of those symptoms are experienced almost continuously due to suboptimal blood circulation.
The physiological cause of poor circulation is a narrowing of the blood vessels which then inhibits the flow of blood to the extremities of the body, resulting in numbness, tingling, and skin issues that are typically very uncomfortable.
Chronically poor blood circulation – also known as peripheral vascular disease or peripheral artery disease – can be caused by a variety of factors, ranging from lifestyle choices to underlying medical conditions.
Apart from the symptoms we’ve already mentioned, it can also have other consequences, such as:
Slow healing: The body’s inability to get blood, oxygen, and natural healing agents to wounds and injuries not only slows the natural healing process, but it may also lead to ulcers and infections.
Skin changes: Skin in areas affected by poor circulation may become pale, bluish, or discoloured. It can also become shiny if accompanied by hair loss.
Muscle atrophy: Chronic poor circulation can lead to muscle weakness and atrophy (wasting away of muscle tissue) due to lack of nutrients and oxygen.
Increased Risk of Infections: Reduced blood flow weakens the immune system’s ability to fight off infections, making the person more susceptible to illnesses.
What causes poor circulation?
There are several common reasons for poor circulation.
Lack of physical activity can be one trigger, since regular exercise helps to keep the blood flowing smoothly through the arteries and veins.
A diet high in saturated fats, cholesterol, and sodium can sometimes lead to the buildup of plaques in the arteries, restricting blood flow, while deficiencies in certain nutrients like potassium and vitamin D also have an adverse effect on circulation.
Smoking damages the blood vessels and reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood, leading to poor circulation, whilst being overweight puts extra pressure on the blood vessels, making it harder to pump blood efficiently.
Obesity also increases the risk of high blood pressure, which can damage artery walls over time, affecting their ability to regulate blood flow.
Diabetes simply exacerbates the impact of diet and nutrition on your circulation.
Seek medical advice
If you do suffer from persistent symptoms of poor circulation, it’s important that you consult your GP or other healthcare professional for proper evaluation and management.
How can acupuncture help with poor circulation?
Acupuncture’s ability to reduce blood ‘stagnation’ is one of its key strengths.
Studies using ultrasound have demonstrated that acupuncture points on the feet and legs can trigger an increase in blood flow to the eyes, upper limbs, and abdominal organs, strongly suggesting that acupuncture can improve circulation in the body.
The effect of this is to improve the process of vasodilatation, which is an increase in blood vessel size that lowers resistance to blood flow throughout the body.
This can happen both on a microcirculatory level to the secondary blood pathways (veins and smaller blood vessels), as well as in our large arteries.
Blood vessels are regarded as special ‘yang’ organs in Chinese medicine because they serve as a passageway for blood.
Acupuncture and other forms of pain management function by influencing the circulatory system to manipulate and stimulate tissue and trigger a healing response.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has long taught that ‘no flow causes pain; flow avoids suffering’ – demonstrating the clear connection between pain and circulation that has existed for many hundreds of years.
Acupuncture can also help in overcoming one of our most common problems: poor circulation brought on by stress.
Stress triggers the sympathetic nervous system to over-activate in a ‘fight or flight’ response, which has detrimental effects on the blood flow to our internal organs and reproductive systems.
This blood supply to our key organs can be restored by acupuncture, which can help to resolve a wide range of problems when stress is the common denominator.
If you’d like to know more about how acupuncture can improve your circulation – either as a standalone treatment, or as part of an integrated approach to resolving a chronic condition – please get in touch for an informal and totally confidential chat.