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Acupuncture in the Summer

When one thinks of the summer, one often thinks about enticing outdoor activities, long days and the hot, summer sun. Of course, during these summer months, many of us should also consider continuing to get acupuncture. Why? Well, there are a number of ways in which acupuncture could help you make the most of this summer season.

During the summer, many of us are conscious about protecting our skin from overexposure to the sun. This is because, short-term, it can lead to sunburns and heat rash - as well as aggravation of conditions like rosacea and eczema - while long-term, it can lead to dehydration, premature aging and potentially even cancer.

One of the best ways to take care of our skin is to avoid overexposure. Something else we can easily do is to stay hydrated. It’s important to stay hydrated not only by drinking enough water each day, but also by including water-rich foods into our diet, such as with watermelon or mint. Sometimes supplements can be taken to support healthy skin functioning, such as Vitamin E, Vitamin C and selenium.

We can also incorporate acupuncture into our summer routine - especially if one is prone to sunburns, rashes or heatstroke. Why acupuncture? Before going into the sun, acupuncture treatments can help to strengthen the functioning of the skin, which includes increasing cell turnover, keeping the soft tissue hydrated and inflammation out of the area.

For those who unfortunately do spend too much time in the sun, acupuncture can help with a sunburn by reducing the pain, discomfort, fatigue, inflammation and that extra feeling of heat that comes with sunburns. Licensed acupuncturists will often needle just outside the area of the sunburn as well as use distal points to help.

Of course, acupuncture can also be used for keeping skin glowing throughout the summer and into the fall. By triggering local health processes in the face at specific points, acupuncture has been proven to help patients achieve smoother and brighter complexions over a number of treatments. This includes helping with both the signs of aging, including dullness or pigmentation, as well as with conditions such as acne and rosacea.

Acupuncture also helps with keeping the skin hydrated by helping to bring blood and lymph to the face. Hydrated skin is healthy and vibrant-looking skin!

While it’s fun to spend time outdoors in summer, we also need to be conscious of overexposure to the sun. If you do find yourself spending a little too much time outside under the sun, consider making acupuncture a part of your summer routine. It can help keep your skin hydrated, strong and vivacious while also helping to combat redness, dryness, rashes and burns.

Closely related to the skin and rashes that come from contact with the sun and being outdoors includes allergies and bug bites that can crop up in the warmer months. Acupuncture can actually help to alleviate itchiness from bites and rashes (such as those from poison ivy or oak) as well as speed up healing of the area, especially if it is relatively recent.

Acupuncture is able to help bring oxygen, nutrients and natural chemicals to the area of a rash or bite; this allows healing and soothing to occur. By contrast, acupuncture helps the body’s circulatory system (both via blood and lymph) to flush out toxins. In Chinese medicine, one might say that acupuncture helps to heal rashes and bug bites as it helps the body to carry away the ‘blood heat’ from the area.

We live in an area where poison ivy thrives. If you are unfortunate enough to have found that you crossed paths with poison ivy, book yourself an appointment. Acupuncture can help to decrease the itchiness, soothe some of the inflammation and help the body to flush out the toxins.

Another reason to think about receiving acupuncture in the summer is that it can help prepare the body for increased physical activity, especially since Northern Virginia is a great place to be outdoors in the summer. If you are thinking about increasing your physical activity, such as with hiking, golfing, biking or even kayaking, I would recommend a few acupuncture appointments to help make sure that your muscles and tendons are loosened up from time spent being at your desk for work!

If you receive acupuncture before you increase your engagement with physical activities and/or sports, you are less likely to have an injury, such as a pulled muscle.

Of course, if you are unfortunate enough to have already gotten out and about, and find yourself with an injury or sports pain, come on in as well. I have already seen over a dozen patients this summer with pulled lower back muscles from golfing and painful elbows from tennis.

Acupuncture can help with quite a number of injuries, including: medial and lateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow), plantar fasciitis, neuralgia, bursitis, frozen shoulder, sprains and strains, joint dysfunction, tendonitis, shin splints and arthritis. How can acupuncture help with recovery from an injury?

With an injury, the typical inflammatory response may include swelling of the injured area, redness or purple skin discoloration, reduced range of motion of the joint and, of course, pain or discomfort. Acupuncture can quickly suppress inflammation and swelling in an injured area, which decreases the pain. The pressure from the area is lifted; of course, there is also an influx of pain-relieving hormones, like endorphins. Simultaneously, it also helps to bring in blood, oxygen and repair cells to help with repairing the damaged area. Acupuncture and the relief of pain is one of the most studied topics in the acupuncture field, as it has been found so effective in treating pain.

While the summer is often a time to take a break and get out of town, sometimes the preparation for a trip or vacation can be very stressful and/or induce anxiety. I have seen a number of patients who are stressed when planning a trip; I have also seen quite a handful of patients who experience anxiety as a trip gets closer for whatever reason - although most of it seems to center around the traveling part of the vacation. You know, the whole, getting my family cross-country on a crowded plane-induced amidst COVID anxiety.

Even though vacations are meant to help relax our minds and our bodies, planning and starting a vacation can be quite stressful. Yet another reason why I recommend getting acupuncture treatments in the summer. Acupuncture can help ease the stress and anxiety that comes with planning and prepping for a summer trip. Not only can acupuncture help to calm the mind and reduce any negative physical affects from stress (such as poor sleep or upset stomachs), it can make your body that much more resilient against getting upset or anxious to begin with. Here the goal is to switch our nervous system to the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as rest and digest, versus the fight or flight system we’re often accustomed to.

Finally, having acupuncture throughout the summer can help us build up our immune system and make our bodies hardy for the cold and flu season that never ceases to come around each fall. In summer, we are fortunate to be able to get out in the sun and warm weather - something that in itself can help to boost the immune system. However, come fall, the temperature and amount of sunlight starts to slowly decrease again - taking away some of our biggest immune builders. We also then start to spend more time indoors, amongst each other!

Did you know that acupuncture can increase your white blood cell count and the number of killer T-cells in your body for about 72 hours after a treatment? And that's just with one treatment. Think of how much protection a handful of treatments could provide for us, in addition to making sure that all of our organ systems are functioning optimally. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are my go-to's come late summer and early fall for ensuring that I don’t fall ill.

So even though the summer is a time of relaxation and getting outside, it is still ripe with reasons for not ditching those maintenance acupuncture treatments. Whether it’s to help protect your skin, your muscles, or your piece of mind, acupuncture helps you optimize the fun and relaxation you experience this summer and helps you move smoothly into fall.

Remember, prevention is a lot less costly and time-consuming that finding yourself with an acute condition!

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