Successful Story Tinnitus: Tennis Elbow

Ms. Allen had tinnitus for more than 10 years. She did not have hearing loss, but the ringing (especially in her right ear) had been so annoying that she periodically could not fall asleep, which only made her tinnitus worse. She initially came to acupuncture for her injured left elbow after she banged into the wall while in her office. As she had been playing tennis for over 30 years, she had developed very mild tendinitis on the right side, but her left elbow completely prevented her from playing any intense tennis. She was extremely unhappy without tennis, so she came to me for acupuncture so she could reduce her elbow pain and continue to play tennis. I told her that if she wanted to continue playing tennis during her recovery period, she needed to come two to three times a week for at least six weeks. The last thing she wanted was to give up playing tennis, so she followed my advice and scheduled acupuncture sessions twice a week for three months.

After twelve treatments, the pain and swelling in her left elbow were almost gone. She then asked me for more needles for her tinnitus, despite the fact that she did not like needles. She even hated the sight of the needles being inserted. She was determined to get rid of her ear ringing, so she closed her eyes and let me insert the needles into the sensitive points close to her right ear, after 10 treatments, her tinnitus was 70 percent better. She was amazed by the result, then she showed me her right thumb which already had developed arthritis. She had chronic pain in her right thumb which she could not straighten. I told her that it was possible to reduce her inflammation and swelling in her right thumb, but it would take a long time, maybe a couple of months to see the structure changing. She said that she had gotten thumb arthritis within the last couple of years and did not expect to get better within a short period of time. So a longer treatment was OK.

I took her pulse and found out that it was extremely weak. She told me that her pulse had been like this since she was a child. This indicated that her hand circulation was not very good. That was one of the reasons she had developed arthritis on this particular hand. I choose the local points on the thumb joint and the points on her neck because the nerves in the hand and neck project to the adjacent brain areas and chronic inflammation can influence the neighboring brain cells. That is one of the reasons that Chinese acupuncturists like to use local and remote points. As a Harvard medical school trained neuroscientist and traditional Chinese acupuncturist, I am able to use my neurological knowledge to explain why and how acupuncture works on her arthritis and tinnitus. We did another 12 treatments. As a result, she started to see her thumb straighten and the swelling almost go away. At the same time, her left and right elbow pain abated and she started to play tennis twice a week. If she played more than that, she knew she would need three times a week acupuncture treatments.

Ms. Allen had been coming for acupuncture treatment in my Needham and Boston office for over a year. She had twice a week treatments because she wanted to play tennis 2 to 3 times a week. Therefore, she needed regular treatments to reduce inflammation and repair the tendons due to wear and tear. Recently, her right hip started acting up. In order to continue with her tennis competition, she had to take Tylenol before playing. The yearly physical exam at a Boston hospital showed that her liver function was slightly abnormal. She had to cut down her medication to save her liver function, I told her maybe we should also work on her right hip so that she could delay hip replacement and only have one hip replacement if she lived to be 99 years old. She was thrilled that I could do something for her hip, elbow, thumb, and tinnitus at the same time. The X-Ray showed that her hip joint was bone on bone because of wear and tear. I guess when you play tennis, the quick twisting may not be so friendly to the hip joint. After another 10 acupuncture treatments, she was able to stop her Tylenol and play tennis 2 to 4 hours twice a week with very minimal pain. Her physician told her she may need to get cortisone shots to reduce the hip joint inflammation. I told her that combining acupuncture and steroids may allow her to be pain-free if she just played tennis once a week. She did stop playing for two weeks after the cortisone shots. Amazingly, she was pain-free even when she went up and down the stairs while having stopped playing tennis. Unfortunately, when she resumed her tennis playing 2 to 3 times a week, the hip pain came back but at a much lower level. She continues her acupuncture today once a week in order to avoid daily painkillers.

Initially, she had acupuncture treatments twice a week for two months, then once a week until now, totaling one-year duration of treatment. She has no ear ringing for most of the time if she sleeps well. She has no elbow pain and her hip pain does not prevent her from playing tennis three times a week. And most importantly, she is happier than before with better sleep and does not crave junk food.

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