Acupuncture for Migraines Provides Significant Benefits

As I’ve written before, I really enjoy treating migraines and headaches because I used to suffer from headaches for many years. When patients respond so well and so quickly to acupuncture to reduce or eliminate headaches, it’s a wonderful feeling for me. It’s a daily reminder that I really love what I do.

Since many health care practitioners and patients alike are curious about research in the area of Chinese medicine, I thought I would reprint this article from Acupuncture Today.  In reality, there’s a lot of research being done on the efficacy of acupuncture and one only needs to search under complementary medicine under the NIH (National Institutes of Health) to see all the articles.

Acupuncture Provides Significant Benefits for Migraine Patients

by Michael Devitt

A new report published in the online version of the British Medical Journal has found that acupuncture is a useful, cost-effective treatment for chronic headaches, particularly migraines. The report found that over a 12-month period, headache patients who received regular acupuncture sessions reported fewer headaches, had a higher quality of life, missed fewer days from work, used less medication, and made fewer visits to a general practitioner than patients given standard treatment for headaches.

The research was conducted at a series of single acupuncture practices and general practices in Wales and Great Britain. In the study, the authors recruited 401 patients who suffered from chronic headaches, predominantly migraine headaches. The patients were randomized to receive either acupuncture or “usual care” from a general practitioner. In the acupuncture group, subjects standard care for headaches, and were also treated with acupuncture up to 12 times over a three-month period. Treatment patterns were individualized to each patient, and different points were used based on the discretion of the acupuncturist providing care. In the usual care group, patients received standard headache care from their general practitioner, but were not referred out for acupuncture.

At various times throughout the study, patients used a daily diary to track the frequency and severity of headache pain, and any related medication use. Headache severity was measured four times a day on a six-point scale, with the total summed to give a headache score. In addition, the patients completed the SF 36 Health Status Questionnaire at the start of the study, and at three months and 12 months after treatment. Patients also completed a series of questionnaires every three months that monitored use of different headache treatments, days missed from work due to illness, and other usual activities.

Initially, there was not much difference between patients in either group. By the 12-month interval, however, striking differences were noted in terms of frequency of headache, doctor visits and medication use:

  • Patients given acupuncture had an average of 1.8 less days with headaches over the first four weeks of the study compared to the control group. When projected over 52 weeks, the authors estimated that acupuncture would result in an average 22 fewer days of headaches per year.
  • The effects of acupuncture appeared to be long-lasting. At the start of treatment, the average weekly headache score among acupuncture patients was 24.6. Three months after the start of the study, the average score had dropped to 18.0; at 12 months, it had dropped by more than 34 percent, to 16.2. In the standard care patients, weekly headaches scores dropped only 16 percent over the course of the year.
  • Results from the SF-36 questionnaire showed significant benefits for acupuncture patients in terms of physical role functioning, energy levels and changes in health. Over the course of a year, physical role functioning, energy and health change scores increased an average of 9.6, 7.4 and 10.3 points, respectively, for those in the acupuncture group. These scores also increased in usual care patients, but at much lower levels.
  • Acupuncture patients used an average of 15 percent less medication to treat headaches than patients receiving only usual care. They also made 26 percent fewer visits to a general practitioner, and missed fewer days from work due to sickness.

“Acupuncture in addition to standard care results in persisting, clinically relevant benefits for primary care patients with chronic headache, particularly migraine, compared with controls,” the researchers commented. “We also found improvements in quality of life, decreases in use of medication and visits to general practitioners, and reductions in days off sick.”

In their conclusion, the researchers admitted they could not rule out the occurrence of a placebo effect, as the study did not include a sham acupuncture group. In addition, since the patients knew which treatment group they were assigned to, there remained the possibility that patients could give somewhat biased assessments of their treatments. However, the authors noted that the results of their study were similar to results seen in blinded, placebo-controlled trials, which “provides further evidence that bias does not completely explain the apparent effects of acupuncture.”

The authors recommended that their findings should be taken into account by policymakers when assessing the most cost-effective ways of treating patients. They also called for an expansion of acupuncture services for the treatment of chronic headaches in the National Health Service, which provides health care to millions of Britons each year.

In an interview with the BBC, Dr. Mike Cummings, the medical director for the British Medical Acupuncture Society, called the study “innovative” and agreed with the authors’ assertions.2

“It is very positive for us,” he said of the research. “This should help to lift acupuncture out of what is seen to be alternative to mainstream medicine É It should be made available in primary care to treat pain and to prevent costly referrals to hospitals.”


1. Vickers AJ, Rees RW, Zollman CE, et al. Acupuncture for chronic headache in primary care: large, pragmatic, randomized trial. British Medical Journal Online First; doi:10.1136/bmj.38029.421863.EB. Published March 15, 2004. Available at

2. Acupuncture beats headache pain. BBC News, March 15, 2004.

Reposted with permission from Acupuncture Today

If you suffer from headaches or migraines, or know of anyone who does, encourage them to give acupuncture a try. It’s really a great way to manage or eliminate headaches and migraines without the side effects of drugs.


Digestion Issues and Acupuncture in Houston

Good digestion is key to good health. If you think about what takes place during digestion, it is important for food (aka fuel, aka nutrition) to be broken down and absorbed properly in order for our body to get what it needs from our food intake. When our digestive processes are disturbed we miss out on the health benefits from the food we eat. Digestion issues like constipation, diarrhea, gastritis, nausea, crohns and colitis affect our overall health because our bodies are not working well enough to ulitlize the nutrition from the food we eat. The good news is that quite frequently acupuncture can help manage or resolve many digestion problems.

My recent trip to China was an eye opener. Digestive problems like gastritis was very common place. General complaints of stomach discomfort seemed almost universal, whether it was in the internal medicine, gynecology or pain clinics I attended. The doctors used mainly herbal formulas to treat digestive issues, although it was also addressed along with other complaints in the acupuncture clinics.

During my three week stay in China, there were people everywhere, everyplace. It was very crowded. Millions of people in the cities (23 million in Beijing, 20 million people in Shanghai and 8 million in the city of Hangzhou where I studied). Try to imagine Houston growing to accomodate 20 million people within the city itself. Think of how we would incorporate all the people, the cars, the pollution, the apartments and office buildings. Imagine driving with cars, buses, bicycles and motor bikes coming in all directions paying little attention to traffic lights, order or lanes in the street. Your hands would be gripping the steering wheel while focusing on avoiding someone on a bike or another car. In short, it is a very stressful way of life.

In my practice, I have seen how stress affects digestion. Stress can create a blockage in liver energy which disrupts the actions of the liver, spleen and stomach energy. When these channels are disturbed, it can cause the stomach energy to rebel making it flow or move upwards toward the esophagus (ie-gastritis, reflux), rather than the normal path of downward to the intestines (normal BM’s). Stress can also deplete our spleen energy causing us to feel tired, sluggish, bloated and swollen. The liver energy that becomes stuck can cause gas, bloating, abdominal pain, irregular bowel movements and depression. In addition, it is quite common to see concurrent issues of sleep problems, anxiety, low energy and high blood pressure along with digestive problems.

If any of this sounds or feels familiar, you are not alone. If you have struggled with digestive issues, acupuncture might just be what you need to resolve or reduce your problems. When all that Western medicine can do is give you drugs to work on the symptoms, remember that acupuncture may very well have an explanation that does not equate with Western terminology. That results in addressing the problem, even if it has been a life long issue. The bottom line is, if nothing else has worked, you have nothing to lose. Try acupuncture. The worst case scenario is that you feel less stressed. Not too bad…


How to Treat Panic Attacks with Anxiety Disorder

The following is a guest post from Ryan Rivera,

Panic attacks are remarkably stressful events – arguably one of the most difficult types of anxiety disorders to live with. With panic attacks, you can have sudden, unexpected, and generally unprompted periods of intense anxiety that leads to powerful physical symptoms that can actually mimic heart attacks. Those that suffer from panic attacks can often feel as though they are genuinely about to die, because the severity of the panic attacks themselves can be overwhelming.

Yet of all of the issues with panic attacks, the most problematic for those suffering from them is that thinking about them can actually increase the frequency of your panic attacks. When you think about your panic attacks you start to pay too much attention to your body. You get a little anxious (presumably from worrying about getting a panic attack) and suddenly you experience an increase in heart rate. Because of the amount of attention you were giving your body, the little increase in heart rate feels like something is terribly wrong, and this cascades into the panic attack.

Treating Panic Attack Symptoms

Pharmaceutical panic attack treatments are severely lacking, and that is because the two options available – antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication – cannot cure thought. Meaning, while they can mask the disorder for a while, as soon as you are off the medication it is likely to come back. This is, of course, in addition to all of the side effects of these medications, which includes changes in personality, potential for organ damage, addiction, and fatigue.

Clearly these cannot be the only option, because as an option it’s simply not that beneficial. Cognitive behavioral therapy has shown some promise, but therapy still requires you to think about the disorder and can be prohibitively expensive in today’s economy. It’s questionable how much something that causes you to think about the disorder can treat it as well.

Acupuncture is where you can really get a valuable treatment. That’s because acupuncture taps into what Eastern medicine believes is the primary cause of panic attacks – blood stagnation and excess Qi heat. Acupuncture uses various points to bring your body balance, releasing the excess Qi, reducing stagnation, and allowing your body to respond to threats the way you were meant to respond.

Acupuncture allows the body to go back to where it was meant to be, with less frequent panic attacks (if not eliminated altogether). Those that still do get the occasional panic attack will find it is much less severe. There are no side effects to acupuncture, no personality changes, no fatigue, and nothing that will cause you any undue stress. It’s less expensive than other choices and just as effective, based on thousands of years of Eastern medicine.

Where Will Your Acupuncturist Focus?

There are numerous points that relate to your Qi levels and blood status, and acupuncturists generally try to target not only the areas that cause panic attack, but also areas of stress that can create the experience of panic. Acupuncturists will choose the points that are right for you, but you can expect LV 3, UB 15, LI 4, and HT7 to be some of the most common target points. The rest depend a great deal on the other issues surrounding the panic attacks. You can always discuss these with your acupuncturist before you begin.

Treating Panic Attacks with Acupuncture

Panic and anxiety attacks play an unbelievable role in the way that they reduce your quality of life, and most available and common treatments simply fall short of dealing with the primary problems. The good news is that acupuncture represents a solid option – a side effect free way to rid yourself of panic attacks, return to a normal Qi and blood status level, and overall improve your quality of life.

About the Author: Ryan Rivera had immense panic attacks and cured them using natural (ie, non-pharmaceutical) means. He writes about anxiety and panic at


Weight Loss & Acupuncture

During my recent training in China, I was surprised to see many Chinese women going for acupuncture in order to lose weight. The passion for thinness has reached China where most of the women are thin and might even be considered very thin by American standards. Nonetheless, the doctors were quite amenable to helping these women try to acheive weight loss through acupuncture.

The Chinese diet is not what I expected. We often refer to the Chinese diet in the US as a healthy diet. A diet that it is more plant based rather than the focus being on protein. That basically means that the protein portion of the meal is smaller than the amount of rice and vegetables (and certainly less than the average American intake of protein). My observations were in accord with that perception. However, I was also very aware that Chinese food preparation uses significant amounts of oil-either peanut or another plant oil and/or pork oil. Food was either deep fried or very oily stir fried and the most common protein used is pork. One of the doctors commented that pork is a very fatty meat and contributes to excess dampness (heaviness, slows movement) in the body and therefore hinders weight loss. In addition, the diet is extremely high in sodium due to the use of soy sauce, salt and MSG and may also cause fluid retention.

The most common treatment for weight loss includes using points on the abdomen. Needles are placed along the stomach, spleen and kidney channel to strengthen and stimulate the digestive system and along the midline to work on the basic constitution of the patient. Acupoints are also included on the leg and arms to support the overall treatment and keep the patient in balance. I did learn some pearls of wisdom regarding new uses of some points. One of these is a point on the leg which the doctor said helps reduce appetite.

The standard course of treatment in China is three times a week for ten treatments. After the ten treatments the doctor said he changes the points around until sufficient weight has been lost. I did think it was interesting that there was little conversation of dietary changes. Although the diet seems to be high in fat from a cultural perspective, perhaps there is little thought given to modifying cooking techniques to reduce fat and sodium. My guess is that since McDonalds and fast food eateries are not the usual source of meals and that walking or riding a bicycle are common modes of transportation, that patients and doctors alike focus on the acupuncture.

In our country where we have abundant choices of where to eat and how to cook, paying attention to what and how much we eat is a significant aspect of weight loss. In addition, since there are few places in Houston where we can actually walk, exercise becomes an important part of the lifestyle modifications that we need to consider when embarking on weight loss goals. Of interest is a problem we see here in the US but that appearred to be a non-issue in China. That problem is frequency of non-hunger or emotional eating. It was not common place to see people snacking in cars, walking and eating or stopping by fast food to pick up sugary foods or drink. It appeared overall that most of the Chinese population ate three meals a day with green tea after meals.

My approach to weight loss includes focusing on healthy lifestyle as well as exploring whether or not non-hunger eating is an issue. Clearly what, how, where and why we eat plays a role in how food serves a purpose for us and whether it is working toward our benefit or detriment healthwise. One might also suggest that using food for emotional reasons, might at some level work toward our benefit if it is a protective mechanism.

Regardless of your relationship to food right now, acupuncture can help work on your digestion, metabolism and especially your stress. When you are calmer in your world, you can then begin to look at the emotional reasons for eating.


Some Observations on Healthcare from Training in China

I just returned last week from three weeks in China. The last two weeks were spent shadowing doctors and observing treatment strategies for various problems. The clinics in the hospitals I went to mainly were in the departments of gynecology, internal medicine, pain and gastroenterology. Some of the many medical problems I observed included: chronic and acute body pain, migraines and headaches, dizziness and vertigo, depression, gynecological issues including fibroids, cysts & painful menstruation, various digestive problems including gastric pain, reflux and gastritis.

It was interesting to watch the various approaches, both herbal and acupuncture. Most of the doctors of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) do either one. I was told there is a pretty clear boundary on these areas. I would imagine it might be different in other parts of China however. In order to practice in Texas, we are required to be Board Certified in both Chinese Herbal Medicine as well as in Acupuncture.

In general, patients tend to respond better when both acupuncture and herbal medicine is prescribed. But it does depend on the condition and the number of Western prescriptions a patient takes.

I found the general population seeking medical care at the TCM clinics of two types. Those who only believe in Chinese medicine (and consequently don’t go to Western style MD’s) and those who tried Western medicine but didn’t like the effects of the drugs on their bodies. It was interesting to note that there seemed to be a larger percentage of younger men who were having strokes in China. My guess is that many of them did not go to Western doctors to monitor blood pressure or cholesterol. ( I maintain my mantra that if you get the best of Western and Chinese, you can have really good healthcare).

There were a few glaring observations that I would like to share. We in the USA are very blessed to have good healthcare and healthcare facilities. As broken as some people think it is, it is wonderful in comparison to healthcare in other parts of the world. We have requirements for cleanliness, proper disposal of trash and needles, disinfecting exam tables and surrounding areas, washing hands and sterilizing equipment, to name a few. We have the right to meet with the acupuncturist, doctor or nurse privately. We would never tolerate having five patients waiting in the same room listening until it is their time to meet with the doctor. We expect that the health care provider will use clean needle technique when giving a treatment or injection. We take these “little things” for granted and would be appalled if it would not be the case when we visit our doctor. The TCM doctors I observed were good doctors. They had different styles and philosophies about treating the different problems but they were all trained doctors of Chinese medicine. The patients were completely willing to submit to the treatment strategies the doctors recommended and there were very few, if any, questions asked…

With all the above said, I have to say that the doctors see a lot of patients every day. There is a waiting line out the door. Which means that patients feel they get better whent they see the doctor. Although it would not seem up to our “sanitary standards,” there is a cultural understanding that this is sufficient. Patients need healthcare and they get it in the manner they know and are accustomed to. Through my interpreter, patients responded that they like coming to the clinics and they like getting their acupuncture and/or herbal prescriptions. They say it helps and they feel better. I guess at the end of the day, that’s what we all want when we go to the doctor.


Depression, Anxiety, Bi-Polar Disorder & Acupuncture, Houston, TX

Questions about acupuncture for mental health issues are one of the most common inquiries I receive after questions about pain.

Acupuncture can help with depression, anxiety, stress and bi-polar disorder. So in terms of various mental health issues, yes, acupuncture can frequently help.

I caution to say that acupuncture is not in lieu of continuing or being in therapy. I do not take patients off of their Western medication if they’re already on it. Medication is a discussion between the patient and their doctor. Acupuncture, and in many cases Chinese herbal formulas, work just fine in conjunction with Western medication as the mechanism of action is quite different. They can complement each other beautifully.

When a patient comes in with a Western diagnosis of depression, anxiety or bi-polar disorder, my job is to determine what the underlying problem(s) are from a Chinese medical perspective. For example, if someone presents with anxiety along with insomnia, excessive worrying, hypervigilance and internalizing feelings, the strategy might be to balance the heart and kidney channels. However, if the main complaints include depression, irritability, sleep disruptions and digestive problems, the approach might focus on smoothing the liver channel.

Usually, a patient will present with a combination of the above plus more. After a thorough evaluation, a point selection is chosen based on the most disruptive concerns working our way in to the deepest and most chronic issues. We as human beings are rarely uni-dimensional, therefore it is more complicated than I have described. However, it gives you an understanding that the treatment strategy is quite individualized.

I have treated bipolar disorder and have found that acupuncture can be stabilizing; but with bipolar, it’s really important to stay on your Western drugs and/or be in regular communication with your therapist. What the acupuncture can do is help balance and stabilize some of the mood swings: the degree, frequency and intensity of the ups and the downs. You might be able to reduce the dosage of some of the medications, but again, that’s between you and your psychiatrist.

Stress is a major variable in just about every health issue we have. I think that stress is the one variable in our life that cannot be controlled in a double-blind, placebo control study. So you can have everything, all variables equal, but how do you really control for stress? Stress definitely triggers mental health issues and it triggers health issues overall.

Because stress is a major factor in all of our lives, acupuncture in and of itself helps with mental health issues because it works to balance the mind, body and spirit. When we are in balance, our emotional and physical health is improved.


Acupuncture as a life line

A patient I had previously treated for back pain came to see me a couple of weeks ago. It had been more than three years since her last visit where she had reported feeling great. Since I had not seen her for quite a while, I had assumed no news is good news. Not the case.

At the time of her first visit back, she told me she was having horrible hot flashes and sweating (making her hair curl), constant stomach pain, diarrhea, (six times a day for six years). In addition, she was extremely anxious, not sleeping well, and quite frankly, sick and tired of being sick and tired.

This patient reported she had forgotten how well she felt after her last experience with acupuncture. When her stomach pain became overwhelming she did the right thing by going to her medical doctor to try and figure out what the problem could be. She went through all the possible medical tests at their disposal to find that there was no Western understanding of her stomach pain. After numerous attempts at finding the cause, she remembered the last time she felt better. She couldn’t believe she had actually forgotten.

But that’s really ok. Because you do want to rule out anything serious. Western medicine is the best in the world for diagnostics. Once everything serious had been ruled out (ie cancer, especially since she is a three time cancer survivor) it made smart sense for her to come and try acupuncture again.

It was clear to me that her stomach pain was directly affected and exacerbated by her anxiety. In Chinese medicine there is a direct link between liver channel issues and digestive issues. (There is no real equivalent in Western medicine, so doctors usually prescribe anti-depressants). So I treated her anxiety issues which was in part causing her epigastric pain. That is called treating the root to treat the branch (symptom). In addition, I treated the symptom which alleviated her diarrhea and part of the root problem. She has been diarrhea free for 2 weeks and has had her stomach pain reduced by almost 50%.

I asked her if she would be willing to share her story with you. She sent me the following almost immediately as she has been so pleased with her progress.

I am a very lucky lady! After 6 years of severe, unexplainable stomach pains, 6 doctors, 6 endoscopies and colonoscopies, too many pills to list and no one else to see to find a solution, I sought out the Acupuncture & Nutrition Clinic as a desperate attempt to get help for this severe pain. I had used the Acupuncture & Nutrition Clinic for back pain 3 years earlier and knew that they not only listened, was caring and compassionate, they had completely relieved my back pain. They listened yet again, asked many questions and started to work their magic. We are in our second week of treatment and the pain has already started to subside. For the first time in 6 years, I feel good. Not only is my stomach pain much better, everything feels better. My anxiety has lessoned, my back feels great, my mind is clear and my physical health seems to be much better. Had I not gone to 6 doctors with no relief, I wouldn’t have believed that they could help me this fast. The most amazing part is that everything feels better. There is nothing more important than health and this is exactly Acupuncture & Nutrition Clinic’s philosophy. The better I feel, the happier they feel for me. They truly care and want to help. They are so positive, so reassuring, so compassionate and the best part, it’s painless! I actually like those little needles now. I have learned that they are my friend! I am forever grateful to have found the Acupuncture & Nutrition Clinic and I will continue to go twice a week until I feel that the pain is completely gone. When this happens, I will continue to go back for maintenance forever! Life and my health is so much better because of Acupuncture & Nutrition Clinic! I am a lucky lady! ~Dana~


America the Beautiful

America the Beautiful Documentary–Free Viewing Now Available

This documentary, which evaluates the pursuit of beauty and a perfect body, by film maker, Darryl Roberts, is available for free viewing on Hulu. [I double-checked and confirmed it’s free].

If you are not a member of Hulu, you’ll need to sign-up–but it’s free registration.


Acupuncture For Stress Relief, Acupuncture & KSEV Houston

Check out this great video where I apply a stress-relieving acupuncture treatment to radio host Marc McCoy. Live on the radio! I also explain acupuncture, why it works so well on stress and the purpose of each needle applied. Enjoy!