How Acupuncture Shines

By Justine Myers, Lic. Ac.

The use of acupuncture for health conditions beyond muscle and joint pain (i.e. knee pain, neck pain, lower back pain, etc.) isn’t widely known by many people, yet acupuncture is exceptionally effective for so much more.  I do not at all wish to discount the fact that pain is miserable and that acupuncture is typically an excellent treatment for most types of the aforementioned conditions, but for the purposes of this article I would like to discuss broader applications of acupuncture.  As I have progressed in my career as a community acupuncturist, I’m happy to say that I’ve witnessed many examples of the power of acupuncture in people’s lives.  I want to share this information with you, because you ought to know that acupuncture is a viable treatment option for many health conditions.

For this article I am relying on my own clinical observations.  I have been in practice since 2007 and I estimate that I’ve given roughly 43,000 treatments in this time.  The vast majority (I would estimate 80% or more) of patients I have treated with the following conditions have reported substantial improvement with acupuncture (substantial improvement meaning greatly reduced severity and/or greatly reduced frequency of episodes for chronic conditions, and complete recovery for acute conditions).  These conditions are ones I feel very confident about treating with good success following a suggested course of treatments, which I will get into later:

  • Allergic Rhinitis & Sinusitis
  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Bell’s Palsy
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Headaches
  • Hives (Urticaria)
  • Hot flashes and night sweats
  • Insomnia
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Migraines
  • Neuropathy
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
  • Restless Legs Syndrome
  • Sciatica
  • Stress
  • TMJ Dysfunction

There are many other conditions which I would estimate have closer to a 50% success rate with acupuncture treatments (meaning about 50% of people experience significant results from acupuncture, and 50% experience a little improvement or no change), so in my opinion it’s definitely worth giving acupuncture a try.  Many of these conditions have fairly complex underlying causes, which contributes to the fact that there’s less consistency in achieving good results.  Some of these conditions have higher success rates with Chinese herbal medicine in addition to acupuncture rather than acupuncture alone (i.e. gastrointestinal problems and menstrual irregularities).  These conditions with approximately 50% success rates include, but are not limited to:

  • Breech Baby (turn a baby in breech position to be head down)
  • Constipation
  • COPD
  • Depression
  • Elevated liver enzymes
  • Gastritis
  • GERD/Acid Reflux/Heartburn
  • Herpes
  • Hypertension (particularly borderline hypertension)
  • Infertility
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease (Ulcerative Colitis & Crohn’s Disease)
  • Interstitial Cystitis
  • Irregular and/or painful menstruation
  • Nausea
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
  • Smoking cessation
  • Vertigo

Finally, there are many neurological conditions, chronic illnesses and subclinical diseases in which acupuncture can be used as an effective support for reduction of severity and management, such as, but not limited to:

  • Autoimmune/Rheumatic diseases
  • Cancer support
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Heart Arrhythmias
  • Immune Support (i.e. for prevention of common colds, urinary tract infections, etc.)
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Parkinson’s Disease

Before I go on to discuss treatment frequency, I want to point out that acupuncture can be used for all of the above health conditions and more, but it is imperative that there also be physician involvement particularly for more serious or potentially life threatening health conditions (i.e. heart disease, COPD, cancer, etc.).  For example, if you want to use acupuncture as a way to manage borderline hypertension, it is important to be regularly checking your blood pressure and checking in with your primary care physician (many doctors encourage their patients to try acupuncture and other diet/lifestyle changes for the management of borderline hypertension before going on medications).

As mentioned previously, an important part of achieving good results with acupuncture for any health condition relies on the adherence to an appropriate course of treatments.  Typically when a patient first comes to our office to address a health condition we assess the severity of the condition and how long it has been present, and then recommend a course of treatments. Acupuncture isn’t a quick fix, but more of a process; however, for most people the acupuncture experience is very relaxing and enjoyable, and people often notice additional benefits as a result of acupuncture such as improved sleep, improved mood and an overall sense of well-being, even when that wasn’t an original goal of treatment.

Oftentimes we will suggest 1, 2 or 3 treatments per week (depending on the severity of the condition) for a total of 6 to 9 treatments at that rate, then continue with less frequent treatments once there are good results lasting from treatment to treatment.  Some conditions will resolve in that time (perhaps with a total of 10-15 treatments altogether, or less treatments for a condition that hasn’t been problematic for very long before trying acupuncture).  Chronic conditions/illnesses typically require some level of maintenance for sustained relief.  Once our patients have completed an initial suggested course of treatments (i.e. 6-9 treatments) we encourage them to experiment with the frequency of treatments to find a routine that feels right for them.  Many of our patients who have chronic pain or other chronic health conditions will come in once every 1-2 weeks, and/or more often if they have a flare-up and less often when they’re feeling well.  We can always offer a recommendation for frequency of treatments to anyone who asks, but we also like to offer our patients a sense of autonomy so that they can feel free to do what works for them, listen to their bodies and get in for treatments when they feel they’re in need.

In conclusion, it’s helpful to remember that acupuncture is useful for a wide variety of health conditions, is safe and without side-effects, so when (non life-threatening) health conditions crop up, it’s often worth a try.

Acupuncture for Sciatica

By Justine Myers, Lic. Ac.

Sciatica was the first health condition for which I sought treatment with acupuncture.  I suffered sciatica related to piriformis syndrome, which manifested as glute and hamstring pain and stiffness.  It would alternate sides from time to time, and I still experience bouts of it occasionally.  I was in my early 20’s and a competitive runner, and running, particularly in colder weather, would set it off.   Conventional treatments including heating pads, therapeutic ultrasound and stretching provided only a little relief, but acupuncture helped me significantly. 

As an intern in acupuncture school, I treated several patients for sciatica.  In my last semester interning I started utilizing distal point treatments, which involves placing acupuncture needles at points away from the area of pain.  One of my patients had been suffering from sciatic pain in his lower back and along his iliotibial (IT) band and had great results from the treatments I gave him.  I could hardly believe it myself, but the proof was right there in front of me.  He was effusively thankful for the relief he received from those treatments, and eventually “graduated” from being treated before I was finished with my internship because his pain had resolved completely.

Many patients come to our clinic seeking treatment of sciatica.  There are several causes and manifestations of sciatica; here’s a helpful guide by WebMD to learn more (note: slide 21 mentions acupuncture as a treatment option for sciatica). 

Acupuncture is typically an effective way to treat sciatica without drugs or side-effects.  The number of treatments needed for sciatica to resolve depends on how long the sciatica has been occurring and how severe the pain is.  Your acupuncturist can suggest a course of treatments once you’ve discussed your health condition(s) together.  A typical course of treatments for sciatica would be 6 to 12 treatments, 1-3 times per week depending on the severity (1 for mild, 2 for moderate, 3 for severe; as the pain reduces, so does the frequency).  More frequent treatments are recommended for getting relief more quickly, but when it’s hard to find the time for frequent treatments, once a week often suffices for slower but steady progress. 

If you ever find yourself suffering from sciatica, remember that it is definitely worth giving acupuncture a try!

Increasing Access to Another Safe and Effective Treatment for Addiction in Massachusetts

By Justine Myers, Lic. Ac.

Substance Use Disorder (SUD), more commonly referred to as addiction, is a major problem here in Massachusetts.  According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 10% of Massachusetts residents over age 12 suffer from substance use disorder (SUD).  Common treatments for SUD includes detoxification, behavioral therapy and medications, followed by recovery support services to prevent relapse. 

Massachusetts needs to do as much as possible to help treat and save individuals suffering with substance use disorders.  One effective, simple and inexpensive adjunctive therapy that is not yet being widely utilized within our state is the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association’s (NADA) 5 needle point ear acupuncture protocol (5NP). Proven effects of the NADA 5NP include relaxation, decreased withdrawal symptoms, decreased symptoms of emotional distress (i.e. stress, anxiety, depression, and aggression), reduced cravings, relief of insomnia, mindfulness and prevention of relapse.  The NADA 5NP can be used alongside all the other traditional treatments to enhance the success rates of treatment and long-term recovery.

The NADA 5NP involves the insertion of 5 acupuncture needles at specific acupuncture points of the earlobes (10 needles per person).  Supplies for this procedure cost less than 30 cents per person. If professionals who are already working in addiction programs are allowed to practice the NADA 5NP as part of their job, then the costs to add this procedure to existing care are very minimal.  Thousands of addiction programs, drug courts, prisons, healthcare and trauma units throughout the United States have been using ear acupuncture for many years. This protocol has been used in cooperation with the American Red Cross for trauma relief after 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters.

Why doesn’t Massachusetts already widely utilize the NADA 5NP?  The widespread use of the NADA 5NP in Massachusetts will require the passage of an acupuncture detox specialist (ADS) law.  Currently, only licensed acupuncturists are able to utilize this protocol, and there aren’t enough licensed acupuncturists available to provide ear acupuncture in every public health facility where access to this treatment is needed.  In addition, it is not logistically possible for most licensed acupuncturists to leave their own acupuncture clinics in order to work at another facility for only a few hours a week.

27 states in our country have auricular acupuncture laws already.  Maine just passed an ADS law in June of 2019, leaving Massachusetts behind as the only New England state without an ADS law. Because an ADS law has such great potential to benefit the people of Massachusetts, I and many other licensed acupuncturists are supporting Massachusetts house bill H1880 and senate bill S1336, each titled “An Act Relative to Acupuncture Detoxification Specialists.” Representative Carole Fiola and Senator Michael Rodrigues are each sponsoring these bills that are assigned to the Joint Committee for Public Health. 

These bills would allow for specific licensed healthcare professionals (i.e. nurses, drug counselors, social workers, psychologists, and certain physicians) who aren’t licensed acupuncturists to practice the NADA 5NP following specific training requirements.  Once trained, these professionals would be allowed to perform the protocol within their current scope of practice, bringing the NADA 5NP to more people in the commonwealth. 

Passing the ADS law would be an effective, efficient, inexpensive and safe way to provide one more tool in the toolbox for those in SUD treatment and recovery.  If you’re personally affected by SUD or have experienced the benefits of acupuncture yourself, please help turn these bills into a law.  Contact your state senator and representative, and ask them to support bills S1336 and H1880, “An Act Relative to Acupuncture Detoxification Specialists.”  Together we can work to make SUD treatment and recovery a success for more people in Massachusetts.

Acupuncture for Plantar Fasciitis, Plantar Fasciosis and Bunions

Patients frequently come to us with diagnoses of plantar fasciitis and, less commonly, plantar fasciosis, while many other patients come in simply complaining of pain in their heels and/or arches of their feet without any medical diagnosis or with pain related to bunions. In all of these cases acupuncture is often helpful at relieving pain and improving function (i.e. the ability to walk and stand more comfortably), but we realize there are often underlying causes that are likely causing these conditions that could be addressed to prevent further pain and foot damage.

We recently came across this informative video about plantar fasciosis, plantar fasciitis and bunions. If you suffer from heel or foot pain and/or have been diagnosed with plantar fasciitis, plantar fasciosis or bunions, we recommend this video for some tips that you may find helpful. If any of the warning signs are similar to symptoms you are suffering, we recommend you look into arranging a visit with a local podiatry clinic, such as heartland podiatry for those in the Kansas City area.

Note: we have no connection with the company, Correct Toes, that produced this video, but we think the approach is worthy of consideration so we have decided to share it with you in hopes that you may find it to be helpful.

How Acupuncture Works

People are often curious to know how acupuncture works. Many scientific studies have been done to understand the mechanisms behind acupuncture. Here we’d like to share with you links to several articles that explain the way acupuncture works in detail:

What Is Acupuncture? (and how acupuncture is said to work) from Live Science

Chinese Medicine Demystified (Part V): A Closer Look at How Acupuncture Relieves Pain by Chris Kresser

Acupuncture: Why It Works from Mercola

Does Acupuncture Work By Re-Mapping the Brain? from AEON

Acupuncture for Migraines and Headaches

June is National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month. In honor of this occasion and in order to help more people who suffer from migraines and headaches, we’d like to share some information with you about how acupuncture can help these conditions.

We treat people with migraines and headaches frequently, often with good success. Many of our patients come to us for the treatment of migraines and headaches at the recommendation of their neurologists or primary care physicians. The American Migraine Foundation recommends that people who suffer from migraines try acupuncture. A meta-analysis of twenty‐two clinical trials including 4985 participants in total showed acupuncture to be effective in reducing the frequency of episodic migraines. Another study showed acupuncture to be helpful for frequent episodic or chronic tension-type headaches.

In our experience we find that acupuncture often reduces the frequency and severity of migraines and headaches. Of course we cannot guarantee it will work for every single patient who comes into our office, just like a specific medication can’t be guaranteed to help every patient who has a particular health condition. Overall, however, we feel confident in acupuncture for these conditions as we’ve had a lot of success helping our patients who suffer from headaches and migraines.

This post was written by Justine Myers, Lic. Ac.

The Cooperative Acupuncture Clinics Popping Up in Middle America

This excellent article highlighting the impact of POCA (People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture) community acupuncture clinics throughout the country was recently published. Community acupuncture patients are “taking part in one of the quietest revolutions growing across the country: cooperative community acupuncture.”

If you want to help support more accessibility to POCA clinics like Acupuncture Together to become available throughout the USA and Canada, please join POCA at https://www.pocacoop.com/membership/join-patientcom/. There are great member benefits for POCA patient members, including a May special for POCA members at Acupuncture Together, and your membership will help make acupuncture more accessible for more people.


Acupuncture for Jaw Pain and TMJ Disorders

By Justine Myers, Lic. Ac.

We frequently treat people for jaw pain/tension and TMJ (temporomandibular joint) disorder related pain, typically with good results. Here’s a study showing the efficacy of acupuncture for TMJ disorders. Although this condition occurs in people all the time, there tends to be an increase in cases we see at this time of year, likely due to the seasonal shift to spring. Chinese medical theory recognizes the way seasons affect our health, and an interesting tendency at this time of year is for muscles and tendons in the head, neck and upper body to tense up. Symptoms of pain and tension in the jaw commonly occur along with headaches, neck and/or trapezius (tops of shoulders) pain and tension. The great news is acupuncture is helpful for all of these symptoms, so if you or someone you know is suffering with these discomforts, we suggest giving it a try.

Acupuncture for Hot Flashes

A recent study published in the BMJ Open found acupuncture to be an effective treatment for menopausal-related hot flashes, day-and-night sweats, general sweating and menopausal-specific sleeping problems.

Numerous studies on acupuncture for menopausal hot flashes and night sweats have shown varying results. What we see at our practice is that acupuncture is absolutely worth trying for these conditions. The majority of our patients do report reduction of frequency and severity of hot flashes and night sweats. For more stubborn cases we may offer a classic herbal formula for hot flashes and night sweats called Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan which often brings relief. Although this product claims to help with night sweats, with anything you are not familar with, it is in your best interest to do some research. At least this way, you know what you will be getting yourself into. With this being said, there may be a simple solution to what you are going through. So, to be on the safe side, it might benefit you to look into a site like Nucific, to find out more information regarding how to stop night sweats naturally. Remember, you don’t always need to take tablets, especially as there are always ways to solve problems in the most natural ways possible.

Acupuncture is also beneficial for hot flashes and night sweats associated with the treatment of breast cancer. Here’s an article discussing research on this condition. For those who are taking medications to prevent the recurrence of breast cancer we provide acupuncture only – no herbal medicine.

Written by Justine Myers, Lic. Ac.


Acupuncture for Heart Health and Cancer Support

February is American Heart Month and February 4th is World Cancer Day. In honor of these occasions we’d like to share with you some information about acupuncture for heart health and cancer support. We regularly treat people for these conditions with acupuncture.

HEART HEALTH:

Acupuncture is a useful treatment for hypertension (high blood pressure), and acupuncture is also effective in some cases of arrhythmia as well as for the prevention of recurrence of atrial fibrillation after electric cardioversion.

CANCER SUPPORT:

Acupuncture is helpful for the reduction of symptoms that many cancer patients experience such as postoperative pain, fatigue, anxiety and depression, insomnia, chemotherapy and/or radiation-induced dry mouth, chemotherapy-induced neuropathy, chemotherapy-induced nausea, and hot flashes and night sweats in breast cancer patients. Acupuncture is increasingly becoming more common in cancer units of various hospitals.  The Value of Acupuncture in Cancer Care is a scientific journal article featuring in-depth discussions on this topic.