Premier Acupuncture

Rethink What's Possible

1901 N Hemmer Rd Suite 208
Palmer AK 99645

Phone: 745-7928
Fax: 745-7939

premieracupuncture@mtaonline.net


Our friendly staff caters to the needs of those we serve.  We will help you every step of the way to achieve your health related goals.  

745-7928

Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (AOM)

Actually the title of this section is incorrect as it is not really Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (AOM), but rather Acupuncture is part of Oriental Medicine.  Oriental Medicine, also known as Asian Medicine, is an umbrella term which includes acupuncture, herbal medicine, diet, nutrition and exercise such as qi gong and tai qi.  Not all acupuncturists are trained in all areas of Oriental Medicine.

Oriental Medicine is a complete form of medicine just as Allopathic medicine is.  Allopathic medicine, although the term is used a little bit incorrectly here, is the type of medicine commonly practiced in the West.  Being a complete form of medicine, AOM has the ability to treat a wide range of health issues.  AOM is truly a holistic form of medicine that has developed over thousands of years into an effective form of health care but  of course treats some problems such as pain extremely effectively, and other problems such as tinnitus, not well at all. 
For those that would like a little deeper understanding, please read the following.  This is probably more information than most desire, but if you are interested, I hope you find the information helpful and interesting.

What can acupuncture treat?

How fast does acupuncture work?

What is acupuncture?

How Does acupuncture work?

What can be treated by Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine?  (AOM)

The World Health Organization has a list they produced many years ago and you can find this online.  I believe this list falls short of the true potential of AOM.  AOM is by no means a magic bullet for what ails us.  AOM offers superior results for some health issues and is less effective for others.  This is true with any form of medicine.  AOM can treat acute problems as well as chronic problems and is well suited for treating chronic health issues.  AOM can be used independent of conventional medicine or in conjunction with conventional medicine.  At Premier Acupuncture, we emphasize the treatment of pain, menstrual and breast problems.  The following list is what we see most commonly in our clinic.  The list is not in order of frequency and is not an exhaustive list.


Neck Pain          Plantar Fasciitis          Numbness / Tingling          IT Band Syndrome          Premenstrual Syndrome

Headaches        Migraines                    Shoulder Pain                      Carpal Tunnel                  Menstrual Cramps
           
Back Pain           Muscle Spasm           Low Back Pain                      Frozen Shoulder              Hormone Imbalance
    
Fibromyalgia     Arthritis                       Hip Pain                                Knee Pain                          Breast Pain

Sciatica               Pinched Nerve           Neuropathy                          Sore Muscles



How fast does acupuncture work and what's the best style?

There are many styles of acupuncture, all of them effective.  But the word effective is a relative concept.  I have been trained in two styles of acupuncture and I can tell you that I strongly believe, based on decades of experience, that for pain, the distal style of acupuncture is the most rapid, most reliable and reproducible style of acupuncture.  There are various styles of distal acupuncture and they go by different names.  I believe that when dealing with pain, you should ask if the acupunturist you will be seeing utilizes this approach.  Currently, only a relative minority of acupunturists use the distal approach, but due to its effectivness, these numbers are growing rapidly.

The phrase Li Gan Jian Ying, which translates roughly to stand pole, see shadow, is an important concept.  This means the effects of acupuncture should be seen as quickly as the time it takes a shadow to be cast once a pole is stood upright in the sun.  Only distal acupuncture can achieve this rate of response.  Of course not everyone responds to acupuncture and of those that do, not everyone responds this quickly.  My experience is out of those that respond to acupuncture (which is the vast majority), 85-90 percent will achieve the beginning of pain relief within less than 30 seconds after the acupuncture needles have been inserted.  It may take 10- 15 minutes to reach maximum improvement with any one acupuncture treatment, but the results are extremely rapid most of the time.  In most cases it will take multiple treatments

We utilize a distal style of acupuncture we call Rapid Relief Acupuncture.  This is a blend of 2 styles of distal acupuncture which typically produces rapid pain relief.  As always, there is never a guarantee.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an extremely effective method for treating health problems, and in particular, pain related problems.  In fact, in the majority of pain related complaints, acupuncture will dramatically reduce or eliminate pain rapidly, often times within seconds.  Although acupuncture can treat non pain related problems, I will use pain in the following explanation.

Although the number of people utilizing acupuncture has grown rapidly over the years, the majority of people with chronic pain continue to seek medication, surgery, or other approaches to pain that are arguably mostly ineffective.  Why is this?  

So why the relatively slow adoption of acupuncture in the West?  There are multiple reasons, with the most common reasons being lack of insurance coverage (this has been changing over the years and now most of our patients are covered by insurance), fear of needles, more familiarity with other forms of care such as chiropractic and physical therapy, etc.  I believe the primary reason is lack of understanding of just what acupuncture is and how well it works.  We regularly see people in severe chronic pain that have utilized more traditional approaches to pain management including surgery, injections, implanted spinal cord stimulators, opiates and more.  Many of these people respond well to acupuncture.  If you look over our testimonials page you can see the experience others have had at our clinic.  Another common reason for slow acceptance and utilization of acupuncture in the treatment of pain is most physicians have been trained to refer their patients out to physicial therapy.  Physicial therapy serves a purpose, but personally, I do not believe PT is the best approach for pain treatment.  This is one reason physicial therapists have started offering "Dry Needling" for pain.  Dry Needling is nothing more than a very rudimentary form of acupuncture and involves repeatedly thrusting an acupuncture needle into an area of pain or tenderness.  The hope is traumatizing the tissue will result in changes in the tissue that will help it heal.  Although sometimes effective, dry needeling is generally quite painful.  The American Medical Association (AMA) has a policy position recommending agaist Dry Needelig by physical therapists.

What's all this talk about Qi?

Due to one individual’s mistranslation of a major Chinese medicine text in the 1930’s, Soulie de Morant was responsible for turning Chinese Medicine, of which acupuncture is a part, into an “energy medicine”.  Acupuncture was always based on anatomy and physiology, but due to translational errors, Soulie de Morant was responsible for introducing the translation of the Chinese word “Qi” as energy, or life force, and the idea of the existence of an invisible meridian system in which Qi flows, and published his work.  This is an explanation you will find just about anywhere you look.  Unfortunately, this mistranslation caught on and was incorporated into the AOM (Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine) schools outside of Asia.  This belief in unseen energy and meridians resulted in Western medicine looking at AOM as nothing more than quackery, and only the brave few would initially go see an “energy doctor”.

Because, (or at least in part) of this energy concept, people that would benefit from acupuncture would not seek treatment and their physicians would either simply not refer their patients or would attack acupuncture as quackery.  Although many acupuncturists hold on to this energy medicine idea, the reality is acupuncture is a physical medicine and when explained this way it is gaining greater and greater acceptance.  In fact the American Academy of Pain Management, an organization made up mostly of medical doctors, but also acupuncturists, chiropractors and others, has brought in an acupuncturist more than once to speak at one of their conventions and the explanation of how acupuncture works from a biochemical understanding was enthusiastically accepted, so I am told.  Acupuncture works very well, a fact we know from clinical experience, clinical trials and research.  But without a sound understanding of why it works, acupuncture could not be easily accepted in the West.  When acupuncture is understood for what it actually is, it is readily embraced by the medical community and the public.  What follows is a simplified explanation of how acupuncture appears to work and clarification of a few terms.  There is no doubt more to the mechanism of action for acupuncture, but what we now know provides us with a workable explanation.

Those of you with some familiarity of acupuncture have heard the words Qi, meridian and acupuncture point.  Let’s see what these words really mean if we look at the ancient Chinese medical text, the Huang di Nei jing, where Chinese medicine is explained in detail.

Qi: Qi is correctly translated as “vital air”, or “function of”, not “energy” or “life force”.   For example, the term “Kidney qi deficiency” means the function of the kidneys is weak rather than the less useful energy definition.  Not that the phrase "kidney function is weak" is particularly helpful, but it does allow for further evaluation of kidney function, rather than the ethereal concept of kidney energy being weak.  “Vital air” refers to the component in air that is vital for life, and that is of course oxygen.  Qi has nothing to do with invisible energy in a medical context.  This is not to say our bodies are not energetic in nature, we have known for a long time that all matter is simply energy vibrating at different frequencies.  Maybe this energy is manipulated through acupuncture.  But this is not what the foundation of acupuncture is about.  Acupuncture is a physical medicine, just like any other physical medicine, and can be explained with anatomy and physiology.

Meridian: The term meridian came into use courtesy of Soulie de Morant when he incorrectly translated the words Jing Mai, which correctly translated refers to a vessel, as in blood vessel, and defined it as an energy vessel.  The reason no cadaver dissection has ever identified a meridian is they do not exist.  By the way, later in life Soulie de Morant admitted he mistranslated Jing Mai, but for some reason the original mistranslation has stuck.

Acupuncture point: The words “acupuncture point” does not even exist in the Huang Di Nei Jing.  The proper translation is neural node.  This gives us insight into how acupuncture works.  Acupuncture works through normalization of the nervous system.

Acupuncture: The word acupuncture does not exist in the ancient texts.  The original meaning translates to needle therapy.


So How Does Acupuncture Work?

There are multiple theories, all of them based on how acupuncture effects our nervous and hormonal systems.  The one theory that makes the most sense, to me anyway, can be summarized as follows. 

  • Mediates change through the nervous and endocrine system
  • Increases circulation (blood, oxygen, nutrients) to all tissues of the body
  • Reduces Inflammation
  • Reduces pain immediately through the release of enkephalins (body's pain killers) and long term through improved circulation and healing of the tissues
  • Stimulates healing of tissues and organs in part through normalizing function of the nervous system and improved blood flow
  • Recent studies have shown electroacupuncture stimulates the production of stem cells

The research of individuals such as Bruce Pomeranz, MD, PhD, from the University of Toronto, has led to an understanding of how our neuroendocrine system is regulated by acupuncture.  Another group has been promoting a neuroanatomical approach to acupuncture called the Integrative Neuromuscular Acupoint System (INMAS).  Research has continued into just how acupuncture works, and we now have a rational, scientific explanation, or more correctly hypothesis, as to how acupuncture works.  I say hypothesis because this explanation is likely only a piece of the puzzle.  It's a major piece, but as with all scientific discoveries, it is subject to being expanded or modified in some way as additional information becomes available.

For the sake of brevity, the following explanation is over simplified, and this may lead to someone finding fault with it.  But for my purpose of providing some insight into the mechanism of action of acupuncture, it will be more than adequate.  This example relates to injuries.  

When you injure yourself, let's say for example, your low back, your body responds by initially increasing blood flow to the area, but if the area does not heal properly, blood flow to the injured area becomes restricted, thereby reducing nutrient rich, oxygenated blood flow to the injured area.  This blood flow is necessary for healing.  Additionally, your motor nerves (the nerves that allow for movement) attempt to inhibit movement of the injured area, thereby preventing further injury.  As a result, you experience chronic pain and stiffness.  The injury and pain may never resolve as your sensory nerves fire continuously.   Until the abnormal firing of the involved nerves is resolved, you will have pain.  This is the underlying cause of the vast majority of chronic pain, pain we refer to as neuropathic pain.  Other causes of pain might include cancers, structural changes such as narrowing of nerve pathways that put pressure directly on nerves, etc.  These problems are usually best resolved with surgery.  Even following surgery, the just discussed mechanism may come into play and even if the surgery successfully resolved the structural problem, the pain may continue, and often times does.  Acupuncture, especially distal acupuncture, typically treats this rapidly and effectively.  There is of course no guarantee of success, and some will obtain partial pain relief and others complete.  

Your nervous system contains sensory (touch, pain, etc.), motor (allows for movement) and proprioceptive (tells your brain where your body is in space and where pain is coming from) nerve fibers.  Essentially proprioceptive nerves tells our brain where neighboring parts of our body are relative to one another and where pain is coming from.

One plausible and certainly clinically applicable explanation of chronic pain is our nervous system stops responding appropriately to pain.  It is felt this is related to abnormal proprioceptive nerve function.  When this occurs, the normal cascade of healing activity does not occur in the area of injury and pain continues unabated.

When an acupuncture needle is inserted, the body responds both locally, at the site of insertion, and systemically, or throughout the body.  Locally there is a release of chemicals that improve white blood cell activity in the area of injury, reduce inflammation, increase blood flow and promote healing of the local tissue.  Systemically, changes are initiated through the nervous system.  Once the proprioceptive neural threshold is jumped (the nerves function as they should) by insertion of an acupuncture needle, it sends signals to the brain via the spinal cord which results in a release of your bodies pain killers known as enkephalins.  These are very strong, naturally occurring opiates, and the pain will immediately decrease.  Once this happens your body will increase blood flow to the injured tissue and stop or reduce the inhibition of motor nerves allowing the stiffness to decrease or resolve.  Subsequently, our bodies begin to heal.  Concurrent with these physiologic changes, our body becomes relaxed which aids the healing process.

Since the majority of chronic pain is related to neuropathic pain (pain caused not by structural problems, but rather irritation or trauma to the nerves), and reduced blood flow to injured tissues, acupuncture is more often than not the most direct, most rapid and most complete way to address these problems.  Clinically this is borne out by the rapid, often times near instantaneous reduction or elimination of pain, numbness, tingling, etc.   It should be pointed out that once your nervous system begins responding properly to the area of injury, and the blood flow increases, unless there is a significant underlying structural problem (major disk herniation, cancer, etc.) the tissue will likely heal, and the problem will improve or resolve.  Acupuncture is not meant to be simply a symptom treatment.  Acupuncture heals the problem at the root cause.  There is no other treatment I am aware of that exerts as direct and as powerful an effect as acupuncture on this type of pain.

If you have any questions give us a call, send an email, or best of all, schedule your free consultation.  We look forward to meeting you and helping in any way we can.