In Traditional Chinese Medicine, edema is believed to originate from these organs: lung, spleen and kidney. The basic principle is that when these organs fail to transport and transform body fluids, water is stored up all over the body and edema results.
An acupuncturist is able to identify and treat the underlying deficiencies and imbalances that cause edema, by utilizing both herbs and acupuncture.
Western medicine looks at edema from a different perspective. It simply considers it as an abnormal buildup of fluid beneath the skin, or in one or more cavities of the body.
Generally, the amount of fluid is determined by homeostasis; and the enhanced secretion of fluid into interstitial spaces or impaired removal of this fluid causes edema. Acupuncture treats the underlying metabolic imbalances that result in edema.
In Chinese Medicine, edema has two varieties: Qi Edema and Water Edema. Your acupuncturist will be able to assess which type of edema you have and the organ systems that are affected. He will accordingly choose the right acupuncture points and herbal formula for you.
Types of Edema and Acupuncture:
Acupuncture can effectively treat different types of edema conditions such as lymph edema, ankle edema, leg edema, arm edema, macular edema, and facial edema.
In the practice of acupuncture, edemas are classified under either yin or yang disorders. Yang edemas are acute with quick onsets. They first start at the head and on the face before moving downwards.
Yin edemas have slow onsets. They start at the ankles and legs and are restricted to the lower part of the body.
These classes of edemas are further subdivided in acupuncture practice. There are 3 subdivisions for each class of edema.
Yang edema can be further divided into:
Edema caused by exogenous wind: This begins on the face and spreads to the limbs but is concentrated in the head. It presents as pitted edema and is believed to be caused by wind-heat or wind-cold. The affected area is seen as thin, taut and shiny skin. This edema is accompanied by fever, soreness, coughing and racy pulse.
Edema caused by retention of dampness: This presents with pitted edema on the legs and can involve low urine production, fatigue and distended abdomen.
Edema caused by damp heat: This presents as taut and shiny skin, with fever, thirst, low urine production and tightness of the chest.
Yin edema is classified into:
Edema caused by deficiency of spleen yang: This is a pitted edema found in the lower part of the body. It involves diarrhea, low appetite, distension of the abdomen, low urine volume and coldness in the limbs.
Edema caused by declining kidney qi: This is experienced as a pitted edema which is more prominent in the lower half of the body. It presents with cold limbs, lumbar pain, shortness of breath and mental fatigue.
Edema caused by deficiency of the stomach and spleen: This type of edema causes a sallow skin. It is found in the head in the morning and moves to the limbs later in the day or after physical exertion.
Considering that this Chinese method poses few threats, it is worth trying. While immediate reduction of edema often occurs with acupuncture, this treatment along with other herbal therapies is effective in addressing most types of edema.
Studies have found that acupuncture significantly reduces edema. Other scientific studies have suggested that it can encourage the production of cortisol, a hormone that alleviates pain and inflammation.