Monday, December 27, 2010

Veterans With Traumatic Brain Injury Report Relief With Acupuncture

Veterans are at high risk for traumatic brain injury and blast-related concussions because of the frequent exposure to improvised explosive devices, suicide bombers, land mines, mortar rounds and rocket-propelled grenades. These types of injuries account for more than 65 percent of combat injuries, and of these vets, 60 percent have symptoms of traumatic brain injury.

Symptoms can be mild to severe and many are debilitating. Too often, returning veterans are unemployable and unable to attend school for retraining. This presents a tough challenge for a young veteran who has their whole life ahead of them.

Medical treatment often consists of rehabilitation, mental health counseling, vocational rehabilitation and group therapy. Patients often are on a long list of medications to treat the various symptoms. Common medications are antidepressants, sleep aids, migraine medications, anti-seizure medications and narcotics.

Good news for those in Utah (and Iowa City)! At the George E. Wahlen Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Salt Lake City, acupuncture is utilized to provide some relief to these patients. Acupuncture has become one component of the integrative medicine program being offered under the umbrella of holistic medicine. Patients are seen on an outpatient basis and are being treated for a variety of health issues including chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury.

With the use of even a few basic acupuncture points, patients are reporting a decrease in the intensity of their headaches, better sleep and an ability to cope on a daily basis. We have found that by also teaching veterans how to use acupressure on their own while at home, they report improvements in areas affecting their well-being.

If you or a loved one is a victim of traumatic brain injury, please call us to schedule an appointment or complementary consultation today.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Acupuncture Helps Infants with Colic

Acupuncture comes to the rescue for exhausted new parents! According to a study published by Acupuncture in Medicine (a BMJ journal), a 5 minute treatment using one acupuncture point (locate on the hand) "shortened the duration and reduced the intensity of crying in infants with colic”.

New research shows that acupuncture reduces crying in infants with colic. A randomized, controlled, double-blind study of 90 infants ranging from 2 – 8 weeks of age were given six acupuncture treatments over a three week period.  
Approximately 10 percent of newborn children experience colic. In western science, the etiology is often attributed to gastrointestinal disorders and allergic reactions to milk from cows. In some cases, colic may be behavioral manifestations from emotional imbalances due to parent-infant interaction difficulties. The importance of acupuncture in the treatment of colic cannot be underestimated in that some of the western medicine treatments for colic have potential severe side effects including seizures, asphyxia and death. The acupuncture study also points to two other studies showing the positive outcome for acupuncture in the treatment of infant night crying. In addition, the acupuncture study notes that a reduction in colic also reduces the chances of child abuse.
The infants chosen for the acupuncture study met basic criteria. All infants were born after the 36th week of the pregnancy, did not receive treatment with dicyclomine, and exhibited crying or fussing for no less than three hours per day and no less than three days per week. Additionally, cow’s milk needed to be excluded from the diet prior to inclusion in the acupuncture study to ensure that this was not the sole causative factor of colic.
A registered nurse skilled in the application of acupuncture applied the acupuncture point to the infants. A 0.20 x 13mm uncoated, all stainless steel needle was applied to acupuncture point LI4 for 2 seconds at an approximate depth of 2mm, unilaterally. Next, the same acupuncture procedure was applied to acupuncture point LI4 on the other hand. Total time in the treatment room was approximately 5 minutes. Six acupuncture treatments were applied over a three week period using this procedure.
The study notes that bilateral stimulation of acupuncture point LI4 for a longer duration of 20 seconds has a more immediate effect but that the role of this study was to show that even modest stimulation reduces colic. The study concludes, “Standardized, light stimulation of the acupuncture point LI4 twice a week for 3 weeks reduced the duration and intensity of crying more quickly in the acupuncture group than in the control group. No serious side effects were reported.”
You can view the abstract and links to the full text article here.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Could acupuncture be used to treat "lazy eye?"

This past week several patients and staff at the Opthamology Dept at UIHC have mentioned this new outstanding research that demonstrates acupuncture is twice as effective at treating lazy eye than the standard care in this country (of patching). My brother was a pirate kid, his kindergarten photos prove it. As hip and stylish as a patch may be, think of how popular kids on the schoolyard will be when they're getting treated with acupuncture! I've done my research on this topic, and am ready to treat the children of Iowa City!
(photo from
Here is an excerpt from a Reuters Health article published on December 13, 2010: Sticking acupuncture needles into points on the body classically associated with vision in Chinese medicine could prove to be an alternative to bothersome patches or drops for older children with a "lazy eye," suggests new research.
Children who received needling from a certified acupuncturist saw similar improvement in their affected eyes as those who underwent the standard treatment of wearing a patch over the strong eye for a couple hours a day in order to strengthen the weak eye: Most participants in both groups advanced two lines or more on an eye chart over the course of the study.
Up to 5 percent of people around the world suffer from amblyopia, a condition characterized by poor vision in one eye and colloquially called lazy eye. It is the most common cause of vision problems in children.
Between 30 and 50 percent of amblyopia cases are caused by differences in the degree of nearsightedness or farsightedness between the two eyes, termed anisometropic amblyopia.
The problem can be corrected with glasses or contact lenses if caught at an early age. But both are less effective for children beyond about the age of 7, who have traditionally been treated with patches.
"Patching can be annoying for kids," Dr. Matthew Gearinger of the University of Rochester, New York, who was not involved in the study, told Reuters Health. "It may be socially tough to wear a patch at school, and wearing a patch at home can interfere with homework."
Specially medicated eye drops, another common treatment, blur sight in the good eye and can also make homework difficult, added Gearinger.
In the new study, Ritch and Chinese colleagues looked at 88 children in China between the ages of 7 and 12 who suffered from lazy eye and had already been wearing glasses for at least 16 weeks. They randomly assigned about half the children to wear a patch over the good eye for two hours every day, and the other half to attend five acupuncture sessions weekly; both groups underwent their respective treatments for up to 25 weeks.
All the children were also given new glasses to wear and asked to perform an hour of daily near-vision activities.
By the end of the 25 weeks, the researchers found that at least 7 out of 10 children in each group saw their lazy eye's sight improve by at least two lines on an eye chart -- from 20/40 to 20/25, for example.
More than twice as many children who received acupuncture overcame the condition compared to those who wore an eye patch: 42 percent versus 17 percent.
The researchers speculate in the Archives of Ophthalmology that acupuncture needles placed at vision-related points on the body might work by increasing the blood flow to both the eye and brain. But they acknowledge that what lies behind acupuncture's apparent success remains unclear.
Ritch and his team are following up with more studies to improve the understanding of how acupuncture may be helpful for lazy eye.
"Don't knock Chinese medicine," said Ritch. "It's been around for more than 3,000 years and there's a lot we don't understand yet."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Doctors Use Acupuncture as Newest Battlefield Tool

(photo by Cheryl Pellerin)
The US Department of Defense published the article below this week (I'm publishing an excerpt). Acupuncturists in the article are utilizing what is known as the NADA protocol. I was training in this method several years ago in New York City, and continue to use it for my patients. If you are new to acupuncture, Health On Point here in downtown Iowa City is a wonderful choice. 

American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2010 – J.D. Nichols, a retired Navy flight officer and cryptologist, limped into the Air Force Acupuncture Center at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland early yesterday morning, leaning heavily on a cane.
A couple of hours later, moving easily without the cane and with the ends of tiny gold needles glittering in both ears, he waved goodbye to the military doctors who had reduced his pain using a technique called battlefield acupuncture.
The doctors, from Walter Reed Army Medical Center, were part of a workshop on the technique developed by Dr. Richard Niemtzow, a retired Air Force colonel who practiced medicine as a radiation oncologist before he studied acupuncture in 1994.
Nichols was one of four patients who volunteered for treatment at the 779th Medical Group’s acupuncture clinic, where Niemtzow and Dr. Stephen Burns, a retired Air Force colonel and full-time Air Force acupuncturist, train military doctors and treat patients.
“I walked yesterday and I barely made it home with the cane. That’s how much pain there was,” Nichols told the doctors after his treatment. “Now I’m walking without pain, as though I didn’t have the problem.”
“You said you felt like you could walk a mile,” Niemtzow said. “Would you have said that this morning when you first came here?”
“I didn’t think I was going to make it to the car,” Nichols said.
Niemtzow estimates that he and Burns have trained 60 physicians so far this year at Andrews and at Air Force and Army bases in Germany, Korea, Washington, Florida and Alaska.
“The Air Force Acupuncture Center is the first facility of its kind in DOD ever,” Air Force Col. (Dr.) John Baxter said. “It is a full-time acupuncture facility, and not only is it here to treat patients, it’s here to teach other providers and to do research.”
Baxter is director of the Pentagon Flight Medicine Clinic and a credentialed acupuncturist.
Acupuncture is being used as a treatment everywhere in the Defense Department, “but the Air Force led the way with two formal training programs of 20 physicians each,” Baxter said. “The Navy has one training program with 20 physicians and efforts are underway to have another tri-service training program.”...
And in June, the Army surgeon general released a report that recommended “a holistic, patient-centered approach” to pain management that uses all kinds of therapy, from conventional medicine to “complementary and alternative modes such as acupuncture, meditation, biofeedback, yoga and others.”
In traditional acupuncture, practitioners use all 20 or so meridians. For battlefield acupuncture, Niemtzow uses only five points on each ear. Small, 1-millimeter gold or stainless steel needles are inserted and stay in place until they fall out or the patient removes them several days later.
The positive effects, Burns said, “last two hours, two days, two weeks, two months or two years -- we’ve seen everything.”
Most patients receive three to four treatments over several months and come to walk-in acupuncture clinics, held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, if their pain returns.
“Doctor Niemtzow developed the technique over many years of working with patients,” Baxter said.
“He localized five points and prioritized them into a protocol that any provider can use, without knowing anything else, like on a battlefield when you’ve got someone in serious pain,” he added. “It will take you five minutes or less and chances are you’re going to drastically reduce that patient’s pain.”
Before the workshop began, Niemtzow said, “All the patients we see at the U.S. Air Force Acupuncture Center have not responded well to Western medicine.”
Many patients “have complicated medical problems and traditional medicine hasn’t helped them. They’ve been to the orthopedic surgeon, to traditional pain management clinics, to neurologists and dermatologists and they’ve taken drugs for pain relief,” he said.
“The majority of patients come to our clinic seeking relief from pain. The pain medication they’re taking has not been satisfactory or they’ve not responded well,” Niemtzow said.
“For many patients it is a last resort, but our success rate is very high here, which is very rewarding for the patient and also for myself and Doctor Burns,” he added.
Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Christian Hanley, also a credentialed acupuncturist, said acupuncture hasn’t replaced traditional medicine, but it’s a very good adjunct.
“This is a great gift we’ve been given,” he said, “so we take it and use it.”
During the workshop, the doctors treated three more patients, all of whom left the clinic with less pain than they arrived with.
“Nowhere in my experience of medicine in all these years have we had so many people walking away happy right from our interaction,” Air Force Lt. Col. (Dr.) Dan Balog said.
Balog, who practices psychiatry and family medicine at the 79th Medical Group at Andrews, has used acupuncture on patients he treats for anxiety and depression.
“It’s pretty rewarding from the clinical side to see this,” he said, adding that acupuncture is also an avenue for patients who already take a lot of medications.
With multiple medications, Balog said, “there’s a lot of collateral damage that we don’t always anticipate.”
“There are people who still doubt this and I think they always will,” Niemtzow said, “but for us who are in the clinic every day, we see people suffering from the war and from this or that and there’s nothing left to offer them. And we can put 50-cent needles in an individual’s ear, and they look at you and smile and say, ‘my God, I feel better!”
“The question that comes to my mind is,” Baxter said, “if you can make the majority of patients better during their clinic visit without medicines, then why are you still treating patients the old way?
“We certainly would never go back [to practicing without acupuncture],” he said, “and I think the future for acupuncture will be bright.”

Monday, December 13, 2010

TIME: Study: Acupuncture May Change the Way the Brain Perceives Pain

(photo by S. Ross, TIME magazine)
Pain is one of the most challenging, elusive obstacles that affects individuals of all kinds. Often, regardless of health history, we see members of our Iowa City community (and well beyond) plagued by pain that is not being managed with standard care. Pain is especially challenging for practitioners because it is completely subjective and in many cases, leads to long term drug use which may or may not be effective.
This past week, TIME published an article reviewing research undertaken at the University Hospital in Essen, Germany. The purpose of this study was to document a specific pattern of brain activity during acupuncture that may represent an accessible pathway for addressing pain. At Health On Point, not a week passes when a patient who has been struggling with pain - the sort of pain that may be debilitating or affecting quality of life - finally finds relief with Rachel's acupuncture and lifestyle counseling. If you or someone you love is in pain, please call for a consultation today.

An exerpt from the TIME article:
The idea of pricking your body with needles in order to relieve pain seems nothing if not counterintuitive, but thousands of acupuncture patients swear the treatments are effective in addressing pain of all kinds.

But how does it work? How much of the relief is due to the placebo effect — the mere perception that the needles are actually dulling pain — as opposed to a real biological change in the way nerves signal the brain to pain?...
“This study helps to clarify the brain's function in terms of how or where it processes pain and where that processing can be modified by the application of acupuncture intervention,” says Dr. Michael Brant-Zawadzki, an adjunct professor of radiology at Stanford University, commenting on the study.

What's most exciting, says Brant-Zawadzki, is that the brain regions identified in the fMRI scans may lead researchers to find a more standardized approach to treating pain that may help more sufferers. “If we could find one part of the brain that modulates the pain response in the vast majority of individuals, we could address pain through acupuncture or drugs or even sham acupuncture,” he says, “and we would have a better approach to the pain conundrum than we currently have.”
Interested in the full article? You can read it here.
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