This morning I left the office of Dr. Christopher Wolter with a clean bill of health. Dr. Wolter is a urologist at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona. After three years of being passed from physician to physician, and test to test without a diagnosis, I took it upon myself to travel from upstate New York to what I had heard was one of the finest medical facilities in the world. In April, after eight days of sophisticated medical testing and imaging, Dr. Wolter confirmed that I had a rare endocrine paraganglioma embedded in the wall of my bladder. This tumor was causing my blood pressure to spike as high as 260/140 for several minutes after urination. I returned in June to have DaVinci robotic surgery. I am healing quickly and my blood pressure spikes have been resolved with the removal of the tumor. Thank you Dr. Wolter and the technology of western medicine!
But what I was most surprised and pleased to learn was the level of integration of acupuncture and alternative medicine into the practice and philosophy of a facility as prestigious as the Mayo clinic. Their literature promotes acupuncture for the use of body pain, headaches, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, insomnia, anxiety, depression, weight loss, neuropathy and muscle weakness.
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After reading “Battlefield Acupuncture for the Clinical Practitioner” by Dr. John Amaro, I just had to learn more about this technique. A little research led me to this great article by Dr. Richard Niemtzow himself. Dr. Niemtzow developed this new auricular therapy protocol in 2001. His article gives very specific step by step instructions, diagrams and photos for needle placement to achieve almost immediate pain relief.
I decided to try the technique on several of my patients who had been suffering from chronic pain. I have one patient in particular that I have been seeing for several months for severe back pain. Having been in an auto accident ten years previously, and having fractured several vertebrae, he had been making progress with some of my other acupuncture protocols for back pain. When I first met him his pain level was 8 on a scale of 10 most of the time. With weekly treatments, we were able to give him several days of complete pain relief after the treatment and when the pain returned, it rarely exceeded a 5 on a scale of 10. He had tried other therapies over the years with little relief and was very happy with this improvement. I, on the other hand, am always looking for new ways to relieve pain.
With Dr. Niemtzow’s instructions in front of me, I inserted an ASP gold needle into the cingulate gyrus point on his left ear and told him to walk up and down the hallway for a few minutes. When he returned, I asked if he noticed a change in his pain level. With disappointment showing on his face, he said “no, not really”. As the instructions stated, I put a needle in the same point on the other ear. He stood to start down the hallway again and turned to me with a big smile on his face. “That’s the ear! This is amazing!” he said. When he returned from his hallway stroll, his pain had decreased 60%. I inserted the other four points in that dominant ear and let him rest on the table for a half hour.
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Recently, I have received several requests for information on battlefield acupuncture, a term first used in 2001 by my friend and colleague Col. Richard Niemtzow, MD, PhD, who serves as a consultant for complementary and alternative medicine to the Surgeon General of the Air Force. I have served with him on the board of Directors of the Auriculotherapy Certification Institute.
It was recently announced that the U.S. Air Force will begin training physicians being deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in a specific type of treatment. The treatment uses small needles in the skin of the ear to block pain in as few as five minutes and can last for several days or longer. The procedure was initially introduced in 2008 at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC), where it was applied to wounded service members and local patients for pain relief, with significant results. The hospital, located near Ramstein Air Base in Germany, is the largest and most modern U.S. military medical facility outside the United States.
One of the pain specialists at LRMC personally experienced a 25 percent increased range of motion and a 50 percent reduction in pain for chronic shoulder and upper back pain he had endured for several years. As a result of his outstanding success, this pain specialist recruited his most challenging patients, for whom traditional pain treatment had offered limited relief. Within minutes of the needles being inserted, many said their pain was reduced by up to 75 percent. A 25 percent reduction would be considered a success with traditional pain medications.
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One of the most common ailments that brings a new patient to my office is sciatic pain. Master Tung acupuncture points for sciatic pain give me amazing results. And I give my thanks to Dr. Richard Tan for first introducing them to me. The primary points used for sciatic regardless of the meridian(s) effected on the leg are Linggu and Dabai. These two points are located on the Large Intestine channel.
The points are needled on the hand opposite to the sciatic pain. Linggu is needled first. It is located proximal to LI4 anterior to the border of the junction between the first and second metacarpal bones. Dabai is located at LI3, but needled closer to the bone.
Being located on the yangming meridian, rich in qi and blood, these points have a very powerful effect to regulate qi and blood. These two points are used in Master Tung’s acupuncture system for many conditions, but they are almost indispensable in my practice to treat opposite lumbar pain and sciatica.
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When I was a first year student in my TCM training, in my enthusiasm and eagerness to apply what I was learning to my future patients, I would approach my professors and say, for example, “can Chinese medicine treat fibromyalgia?” Or, “can Chinese medicine treat multiple sclerosis?” Every time, I would get the same response – “what are the signs and symptoms?”
We are talking about a system of medicine that has been around for thousands of years. There really is no frame of reference in Chinese medicine to the Western disease labels that have evolved in modern times. Chinese medicine will always look at everything going on in the body and determine an imbalance of yin and yang, Qi and Blood. In fact, there is a very famous saying in Chinese medicine – “one disease, many treatments…many diseases, one treatment.”
What I love about “The Treatment of Modern Western Medical Diseases with Chinese Medicine”, co-authored by Bob Flaws and Philippe Sionneau, is the detailed analysis of 72 different Western medicine labels and all the patterns of imbalance that are usually associated with them in Chinese medicine. For each of the diseases there is information on the Western etiology, treatment and prognosis. And then a detailed analysis of the disease mechanisms from a Chinese medicine aspect. Acupuncture and herbal treatments are suggested based on pattern discrimination. Summary remarks address the prognosis from a Chinese medicine point of view.
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I read the following article by Dr. Amaro quite a while ago, but as a practitioner his message has stuck with me. Often, my new patients will start off our initial consultation with the words, “you are my last hope”, because they have been everywhere and tried everything prior to giving acupuncture a chance. The beauty of Chinese medicine is that it looks at everything going on in the body – both physical and emotional – to arrive at a treatment plan. Addressing constipation to treat back pain can be key for many patients when nothing else has worked. Dr. Amaro’s complete acupuncture point prescription for constipation referred to later in the article is: Ren 12, 5 and 4, SP16, ST25, 38, 40, GB34, LI2, 4, and BL25 and 42.
“The frog in the well—knows not of the great ocean”!
November 17, 2003
By: John A. Amaro D.C., FIAMA, Dipl.Ac.(IAMA)(NCCAOM), L.Ac. In the early 70’s when acupuncture was first being introduced to the United States through numerous media reports, the medical profession was less than accepting of this seemingly strange healing art. The first time I had ever heard the statement “The frog in the well knows not of the great ocean” was an angered Chinese response to the American scientific and medical communities allegations of “fraud, quackery and hypnosis regarding acupuncture. Since that time I have used this saying often whenever I respond to someone exhibiting what may be described as “tunnel vision” or the unwillingness to investigate a matter further than what is on the surface.
Since I am personally involved with both acupuncture and chiropractic which unfortunately are two professions which are often very misunderstood by both the public and the medical profession, I have uttered my sentiments about the frog many many times.
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Many of China’s remarkable herbal products have been exported to the United States for years; Gan Mao Ling, Yunnan Pai Yao, Huang Lian Su, Ching Wan Hong and so on. So, it is refreshing to find a premier Chinese herbal product that has never been exported to the United States finally find its way here. It arrived here through the stubborn persistence of an American practitioner awestruck by the usefulness and effectiveness of the product.
The product is imported and packaged as Yin-Care by ArborUSA. In China it is known as Jie Er Yin Xi Ye, literally “Clean Your Yin Wash-Liquid”. It is popular in China on a level rivaling America’s successful over-the-counter products. Millions of bottles are sold yearly, mostly for vaginitis and as a topical anti-fungal.
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Anxiety in Chinese medicine is almost always associated with a disturbance of the Heart energy. Chinese medicine believes that the Heart houses the mind. The Heart energy is susceptible to being agitated by heat in the body and may result in anxiety, insomnia and restlessness.
Giovanni Maciocia, author of “Obstetrics & Gynecology in Chinese Medicine”, devotes a whole chapter to the explanation and treatment of anxiety during pregnancy. In most cases, anxiety can be explained by Heat in the body during pregnancy.
For a proper diagnosis and treatment, Heat in the body must be identified as excess (or Full Heat), deficient (or Empty Heat), or Phlegm Heat. Anxiety and mental restlessness could be present in all patterns of Heat.
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Low back (lumbar) pain has been reported to be one of the most common conditions for which millions of sufferers worldwide seek medical attention. It has numerous causes and can never be lumped into one specific category. The same is true for treatment. There are numerous treatments available, of which chiropractic and acupuncture have reputedly demonstrated their effectiveness for the majority of low back pain syndromes. The most important item in treatment is to achieve a successful level of pain reduction, followed by correction and stabilization of the condition. Most low back pain suffers will wholeheartedly agree that pain relief is paramount, as quickly as possible.
In my almost four decades of acupuncture and chiropractic practice, I have seen thousands of cases of low back pain that have been successfully treated. It was the very rare individual who had to be referred for surgery. However, there are some for which this may be the only viable solution. The vast majority of cases, regardless of the specific cause, have experienced significant pain relief in a very short period of time with the administration of a specialized acupuncture formula. In many cases, pain relief was considerable before chiropractic and/or physiotherapy procedures could be implemented. The procedure is by no means a cure-all for every lumbar pain syndrome, but has proven the test of time in countless cases. It does not do what chiropractic does regarding structure, nor does it do what physical therapy, soft-tissue treatment, physiotherapy, therapeutic massage and other non-invasive procedures can do to strengthen muscles, ligaments or tendons. Its primary application is for early pain relief.
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