A Multifaceted Integrative Approach to Mitigating the Symptoms of Lupus

A 44-year-old female patient diagnosed with systematic lupus was treated with a combination of acupuncture, healthy diet, tuina massage (Chinese massotherapy), chi kung meditation, tai chi, supplements, and pharmaceutical medications over a 7 year period. The treatment resulted in a significant dissipation of attacks, a reduction of inflammation, improved digestion and elimination, and improved sleep and quality of life. The patient is independent, takes care of herself, and holds down successful employment. The success of the treatment provides hope for individuals suffering from systematic lupus.

This patient, named Tatiana, started with symptoms of lupus at 26 years of age. Symptoms included running a very high temperature for six weeks and losing approximately 35 pounds. She went to see a rheumatologist initially because she had swollen hands and feet and her fingers were turning blue. Doctors initially thought she was suffering from Reynauds disease. Because of her poor condition she was immediately hospitalized for 12 days and a battery of tests were done including a skin biopsy, blood tests which revealed extremely low hemoglobin of 78 ( normal values between 121-131). Her blood sedimentation levels were 10 times higher than normal indicating extreme inflammation. Finally, a diagnosis of lupus was made.

Lupus presents in four distinct types. General lupus is the one that migrates throughout the body. There is also kidney lupus, brain lupus, and skin lupus.

Tatiana was immediately started on a high dosage of Prednisone (60mg/day) to combat her lupus. Within three days after starting treatment, her swelling immediately dissipated.

Post Hospital

Tatiana was followed by a team of doctors including, a cardiologist, hematologist, rheumatologist, pulmonologist, and urologist. She had blood tests twice per week for the first six weeks. Her doctor lowered her Prednisone from 60 to 40 mg/day. Her doctors were careful to monitor all of her internal organs because lupus migrates and it can attack different organs at different times.


Five years into her illness Tatiana decided to try a battery of acupuncture treatments. She did approximately 15 treatments over the course of a year. Her acupuncturist used acupoints on her knuckles, feet, back and ears. She noticed that the inflammation in her hands and feet dissipated. She also noticed that she had more energy, was more relaxed, and had less stress. Studies have shown that acupuncture appears to help in the reduction of inflammation.1


At the same time as she was taking acupuncture treatments, Tatiana embarked on a rigorous physical training regime. She started training six times per week. Her activities included cardio training, Tai Bo, Superworkout. However after two years of this routine, her doctor advised her to exercise more carefully and she decided to try tai chi. Tai chi is an 800 year-old martial art and exercise.

Tai Chi (2004)

Tatiana decided to try tai chi out as an exercise because she had been told that it was a low impact exercise with many benefits. One of the benefits that she was seeking is the preservation of bone density, and studies show that the practice of tai chi may have this effect.2 She was also interested in tai chi’s other benefits such as its ability to help improve blood circulation, breathing, blood pressure and digestion. Also she was looking to improve her energy levels and reduce her stress.3,4

Tuina and Acupressure therapy (2007-to present time)

Tatiana took a basic acupressure course in 2007 and out of this interest she decided to receive tuina massage therapy with acupressure. Tuina was created some 2500 years ago during the time of the Yellow Emperor in China as a medical modality used to treat ailments and is used to this day in hospitals in China. From 2007 to present time (except for 3 months), Tatiana has received tina therapy at least once every three weeks. All in all, she credits tuina and acupressure with improving her circulation, digestion, relaxation, sleep, and immune system.5 Also, she has said that it appears to reduce her swelling, pain, and the frequency of lupus attacks. She credits tuina with clearing out inflammation caused by weather changes and clearing her lungs out after a bout of pneumonia. Studies have shown that both acupressure and acupuncture may help clear lungs of those suffering with asthma.6 The table on the next page lists all of the points used during massage sessions with Tatiana.

Meridian  Acupoint # (s)  Location  Effect
Bladder Bladder 11-35 and Bladder 41-44 Points on the side of the Quadriceps These points help to bring about a balance of all the internal organs. Also they active the sympathetic nervous system promoting relaxation and sleep
Gallbladder Gallbladder 30,31,32,33 Shu points located on the side of the spinal column These points help to balance the GB and Liver. These points promote circulation in the legs and help with back pain.
Spleen Spleen 6, 7, 8, 9 On inside of leg Sp 6 is a connecting acupoint with the liver and kidneys and is effective in boosting immunity. The spleen works in tandem with the stomach in Chinese medicine
Kidney Kidney 1, 3 On bottom of foot and inside of achilles tendon Used to reduce dizziness and boost and balance energy and immunity
Stomach Stomach 36, 41 On outside of shin, top of foot in between the ankles Immune system booster, calming digestion and increasing energy
Liver Liver 3 On top of foot between big toe and next toe over Helps to balance and detox liver
Lung Lung 1, 2 On the chest just below the clavicle Helps to unblock lungs and restore breathing. Alarm point (revives fainting spells), boosts immunity
Large Intestine Large Intestine 4, 11 Between thumb and forefinger and on outside of elbow Helps with headaches, balances lungs and digestion and elimination. Also improves and boosts immunity

Acupoints were selected to balance internal organs. It appears that the points were effective and Tatiana reported that she felt stronger and slept better after treatment.

Massage of the Abdomen

During each massage “Tai Chi Circles” were performed around her abdomen. Tai chi circles are clockwise massage circles performed all around the navel in a large clockwise circle. This technique appears to help with digestion and elimination.

Treatment of Inflammation

Sometimes, due to fluctuations in weather (mostly humidity), Tatiana experienced swelling in her hands, legs and feet. In these cases, lymphatic drainage (light massage strokes) were performed to help move the inflammation out. Tatiana reported that her swelling decreased and within 48 hours her hands, legs, and feet were back to normal. It appears that lymphatic drainage was successful. In studies, it appears that manual lymphatic drainage therapy is effective in helping women with fibromyalgia.7

Dietary Changes and Supplements

Tatiana, under the advice of one of her health professionals, decided to alter her diet. She went on a diet of carrot juice, cut her sugar intake, took vitamin B6 to help her balance her protein levels, and she also limited her intake of red meat. She also cut out milk. As a result of these changes, her blood tests revealed a great improvement in her health.

In conclusion

Tatiana found that all of her activities helped her to combat the effects of lupus. She has reported that the different treatments helped her through difficult times and credits them with maintaining her health. She reports that she has become more aware of her body through practicing tai chi, yoga, chi kung, and receiving tuina and acupuncture. Through this awareness she has become more astute at knowing when she might suffer an attack, and she then takes action to mitigate the possibility of it happening. It appears that all of the activities have had an effect but the most important result has been Tatiana’s increased awareness and her ability to keep herself balanced (with the help of professionals if necessary).


1. Kavoussi B, Ross E, The Neuroimmune Basis of Anti-inflammatory Acupuncture. Integrative Cancer Therapies, 2007 September, Volume 6 no. 3. Pages 251-257.
2. Qin L, Au S, Choy W, Leung P, Neff M, Lee K, Lau M, Woo J, Chan K, Regular Tai Chi Chuan exercise may retard bone loss in postmenopausal women: A case-control study. Arch Phys Med Rehabil, 2002;83: Pages 1355-59.
3. Li JX, Hong Y, Chan KM, Tai chi: physiological characteristics and beneficial effects on health. British Journal of Sports Medicine 2001, 35. Pages 148-156.
4. Tsai JC, Wang WH, Chan P, Lin LJ, Wang CH, Tomlinson B, Hsieh MH, Yang HY, Liu JC, The Beneficial Effects of Tai Chi Chuan on Blood Pressure and Lipid Profile and Anxiety Status in a Randomized Controlled Trial. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2004 July, Volume 9 issue 5.
5. Sun JL, Sung MS, Huang MY, Cheng GC, Lin CC, Effectiveness of acupressure for residents of long-term care facilities with insomnia: A randomized controlled trial, 2009, doi 1010.16.
6. Maa SH, Sun MF, Hsu KH, Hung TJ, Chen HC, Yu CT, Wang CH, Lin HC. Effect of Acupuncture or Acupressure on Quality of Life of Patients with Chronic Obstructive Asthma: A Pilot Study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2004 July, Volume 9, Issue 5.
7. Ekici G, Bakar Y, Akbayrak T, Yuksei I, Comparison of Manual Lymph Drainage Therapy and Connective Tissue Massage in Women With Fibromyalgia: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 2009 February, Volume 32, Issue 2, Pages 127-133.

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