The Traditional Chinese Medicine Approach to Heart Palpitations

Heart palpitations are the sensations of pounding, fluttering, or rapid heartbeats. Factors that can cause palpitations include certain medications, hormonal changes in women (menopause, menses, or pregnancy), fever, nicotine, caffeine, exercise, stress, and anxiety. Palpitations can also be indications of a hidden disorder such as arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm) or hyperthyroidism. Usually harmless heart palpitations, in Chinese medicine are signs of an internal imbalance that may worsen and result in other conditions in the future.

According to traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), heart palpitations can have several causes. TCM practitioners deem that palpitations are major signs of an underlying pattern of disharmony. Listed below are some of the patterns identified by TCM responsible for heart palpitations:

A chronic or serious disease may deplete or weaken yang qi leading to the poor nourishment and lack of warmth of the blood vessels and heart. Heart palpitations caused by heart yang qi deficiency can come with symptoms of cold limbs, pale complexion, chest discomfort, shortness of breath, and restlessness. Deficiency of kidney and spleen yang, on the other hand, can produce fluid that tends to block the heart yang causing heart palpitations accompanied by edema, salivation, nausea, fullness sensation in the chest, and dizziness.

Emotional issues such as anger, fright, and timidity that are longstanding can cause the malfunctioning of the kidneys and liver or may disrupt the balance of yin and yang in the body. This may lead in the weakening of the energy of the gallbladder and heart and the disorientation of the mind. In this particular issue, palpitations may come with emotional conditions such as phobias, panic, or anxiety, a slow or rapid irregular pulse, excessive dreaming, insomnia, timidity, and restlessness.

Frequent childbirth, overstrain, overwork and prolonged illness can deplete energy and result in deficiency of kidney yin. A deficient kidney yin can cause the yang energy to blaze upwards and disturb the mind and heart causing palpitations in the process. For this particular condition, palpitations are often accompanied by sweaty feet and palms, tinnitus, lower back pain, dizziness, insomnia, restlessness, and agitation.

Blood loss resulting in blood deficiency, overstrain, prolonged anxiety and illness can all lead to the undernourishment of the heart which in turn causes heart palpitations that are accompanied by dizziness, poor memory, insomnia, pale complexion, and fatigue.

Traditional Chinese medicine practitioners and acupuncturists make it their business of considering all the symptoms their patient manifests in order to come up with a very specific diagnosis. This allows these practitioners/acupuncturists to formulate a customized plan of treatment. Almost always a similar symptom may stem from different causes from patient to patient. And by knowing the specific pattern of disharmony of each patient, the practitioner/acupuncturist not only can treat the patient’s main complaint, but also helps improve the patient’s overall health.

 

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Heart Palpitations and Acupuncture Points Used To Treat These Conditions

Heart palpitations can oftentimes be caused by episodes of anxiety and fright and other emotional disturbances sometimes accompanied by loss of self-control and a rapid heartbeat. Some signs and symptoms that may accompany heart palpitations include tinnitus, vertigo, poor memory, and insomnia.

Neurasthenia, pericarditis, myocarditis, heart failure, pre-excitation syndrome, sick sinus syndrome, sick sinus syndrome, atrial fibrillation and flutter, presystole, bradycardia, tachycardia and other causes of cardiac arrhythmia can be treated by the following methods used by Chinese medicine.

Hand qigong: Kongjin exercise.

With the hand in a prone position and the palm facing downward all 10 fingers should be relaxed and extended. Flex downward the little finger and then resume the original ladder pattern of the hands; relax and extend all fingers with the middle finger flexed downward and again resume the ladder pattern of the hands. Repeat this exercise 11 times. End the exercise with a pole-standing exercise in the riding-horse position for around five minutes.

Acupuncture therapy:

a. At extra and regular acupuncture points:

Location: HT 7 (Shenmen) and PC 6 (Neiguan) acupoints.

Manipulation technique: The needles are inserted in said acupoints about 1.6 deep cm and retained for half an hour.

b. At reflective point:

Location: Heart point.

Manipulation technique: Depth of insertion 1.6 cm; duration of insertion 5 minutes.

c. At reflective area:

Location: Heart area of palmar reflective areas.

Manipulation technique: Superficial insertion of the needles; they are not retained in the acupoints.

d. Acupoint located beside the second metacarpal bone:

Location: heart and lung acupoint.

Manipulation technique: Depth of insertion 1.6 cm; duration of insertion around 10 minutes after stimulation by mild needling

Massage therapy:

Location: HT 9 (Shaochong), PC 7 (Da ling), HT 8 (Shaofu), HT 7 (Shenmen), cardiac palpitation point, kidney area, heart area, both sides of little finger an entire palm.

Manipulation technique: entire palm is to be forcibly rubbed, kneaded. Rub central part of palm and both or one side of little finger to create a hot sensation; central part of the palm should be pressed as well as the kidney and heart area; knead and digit-pressing techniques should be applied on HT 9, PC 7, HT 8 and HT as well as kneading and pinching at cardiac palpitation point. Massage needs to be gently done, the warmth of the body needs to be maintained, as well.

 

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