Category Archives: Pain Management

Ear Acupuncture for Weight Loss, Insomnia & Addiction Recovery

Ear Acupuncture NADA protocolEar acupuncture has a large body of scientific evidence backing its effectiveness [1][2]. This clinically proven treatment approach is an efficient method for treating a wide number of conditions including weight loss, stress-related disorders, insomnia and addiction withdrawal. Auricular acupuncture can be very effective when stopping smoking and it can be used for withdrawal from any addiction.

Ear Acupuncture Santa Monica Los AngelesAuricular Acupuncture is the term for the specialized practice of acupuncture done on the ear. The ear has a complete map of the body from head to toe, and as such, the can be used to treat a variety of conditions. Some practitioners only use ear points for treatment while others use both body and ear points to get the best results possible. In either case, it should be noted that ear acupuncture is powerful enough to be applied as a stand-alone treatment and there is ample research to support this idea. [1]

Although needles are the primary treatment method in auricular acupuncture, “ear seeds” can also be used to stimulate reaction areas on the ear. Ear seeds are used to stimulate pressure points when they are attached (with tape) to the outer surface of the ears. The advantage of ear seeds is that they continue to produce an effect over the course of 2 or more days. These seeds are tiny pellets (vaccaria seeds) are applied on a small piece of tape to the ear. Using the ear map, seeds are placed in the area of the ear that best treats the patient’s condition.

One of the advantages of auricular acupuncture is how easily it integrates into a wide range of settings from hospitals to emergency clinics. Acupuncturists Without Borders (AWB) is an American group that uses ear acupuncture to provides support when traumatic events occur. AWB provided trauma care for both relief workers and victims after Hurricane Katrina and in St Vincents Hospital in Manhattan in 2001. Ear acupuncture treatments are easily given while people are seated and fully clothed, making it an ideal treatment method when resources are limited.

Patients receiving auricular treatment do not have to wait long to experience the benefits. A relaxation response generally occurs within minutes! Post-treatment surveys show increased mental clarity, reduced stress, improved sleep quality, reductions in pain, and lower anxiety.

Dry Needling in California

Trigger Point Referral Patterns

Various Trigger Point Referral Patterns

Dry Needling is an therapeutic technique that was developed by Dr Janet Travell and recently popularized by Acupuncturists and Physical Therapists in Australia, Canada and the US. In California, only Licensed Acupuncturists and MDs can legally perform this powerful technique so there are very few practitioners trained in this art of trigger point release.

While some states allow Physical Therapists to perform Dry Needling, the medical board in California concluded that Dry Needling is, in fact, acupuncture. Therefore, Dry Needling can only be performed by Licensed Acupuncturists and MDs in California. This legal decision serves to best protect public safety – as many states allow Physical Therapists to practice Dry Needling after attending as little as 16 hours of class (2 days)! In comparison, Licensed Acupuncturists take over 3,000 hours of coursework, and most of this study time is dedicated to mastering the use of the acupuncture needle.

Dry NeedlingIn Dry Needling practice, an acupuncture needle is inserted into a local area of muscle tension called a “Trigger Point”. Unlike traditional acupuncture, the treatment method in Dry Needling is strictly based on the anatomy of muscles and/or nerve pathways effected. As such, there is no discussion of “Qi”, “Meridians”, or other aspects of ancient Chinese philosophy. Because Dry Needling takes a pure Western approach most patients feel more comfortable with the treatment and better understand the reasoning behind this therapy.  Unlike traditional acupuncture, Western-minded patients generally feel like they have a better understanding of why the treatment is being performed and how it is expected to help resolve the problem.

When Dry Needling is performed, a hair-thin acupuncture needle used. Most patients will not feel the needle penetrate the skin, but there may be a feeling of pressure when the trigger point is activated. If the muscle is currently in spasm with an active trigger point, the patient may feel a sensation like a muscle cramp or twitch. If the muscle responds to treatment with a small twitch movement, called a “twitch response”, this is generally a good sign and very helpful in resolving trigger points.


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Cupping Therapy – Questions and Answers

Cupping Therapy is an increasingly popular treatment that can have big benefits for muscle pain and tension. Eric Schmidt, LAc was recently interviewed by a major Los Angeles publication on the topic of cupping. After the interview, the publisher was nice enough to allow us to re-print the answers on our website. Enjoy!

Q: Please describe the process in your own words. cupping-acupuncture-therapy-santa-monica

At its core, cupping is a massage in reverse. Instead adding pressure to muscles and connective tissue (as in massage), cupping creates expansion and space in the tissues and promotes blood flow.
The key to a good cupping session is: a.) large glass cups, b.) a flaming cotton ball and optionally c.) massage oil. For most cupping sessions, the recipient is positioned lying face down to address muscles on the back, neck or shoulders. Once the patient is lying in a comfortable position the cup is quickly warmed with a flame and then the cup is placed on the skin. Although the cup itself will not be hot, the heated air inside the cup cools quickly, the cooling effect creates vacuum in side the cup. The result is skin and the muscles underneath being pulled upward for a bit of a stretch. Each cup placement is left for 2-5 minutes, which is all that is required to get a beneficial effect. In a typical cupping session we do 2-5 placements on different muscles, depending on the size of the effected area. For most people, the experience of cupping is pretty neutral – meaning it doesn’t feel especially good or bad while the cups are on the skin. The sensation is more of a pulling or grabbing that becomes less intense the longer the cup is left in place.
After a cupping session people usually see an immediate change in muscle tension and pain. Patients often get off the treatment table and remark that it “feels like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders”. While the pain-relieving effects of acupuncture can take a bit longer to kick in, the relief from cupping is usually pretty immediate.

Q: Have you noticed a shift in awareness about alternative eastern medicine practices? Particularly in a younger age bracket?

Yes, definitely! The younger generation seems to be the age group most services-cupping-santa-monicainterested looking for alternatives to the established medical system. In my practice, I hear many people grumbling about their Western doctors, so there is a natural interest in finding better health care solutions.
The older generation often has the mindset where a doctor’s advice is gospel and even small decisions need to be approved by their doctor. In contrast, the younger generation feels empowered to do research make many health-related decisions themselves. This includes being more proactive in utilizing “alternative medicine” approaches, like cupping, acupuncture or herbal medicine.

Q: Have you ever had patients mention they found out about cupping through the media/via celebrity culture?

Many people know the famous event when Gwyneth Paltrow arrived up on the Red Carpet and showed off cupping marks on her shoulders. That day Gwyneth really raised the public awareness of cupping, to such a great extent that I still get asked about it frequently.
The other big media event that comes to mind was when Oprah had an acupuncturist on her TV show. I don’t think there much discussion of cupping at the time, but that episode really brought a huge amount of attention to Traditional Chinese Medicine. (fyi, Oprah’s dog also gets acupuncture)
Lastly, I recently saw a commercial for Under Armour with Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps. In the video there is a 3 second clip where Michael is having cupping done. That made me happy. I also happen to know that the Chinese Olympic swim team incorporates cupping therapy into their training plan.

Q: Why do you think it’s become more visible in the entertainment industry?

Although I live in Los Angeles I know very little about the entertainment industry. However, I do get the sense that there is more media coverage of cupping and acupuncture in general. If I had to guess why, I would say that:
a.) The medicine is becoming more accessible and less intimidating as non-Chinese practitioners, like myself, offer cupping and acupuncture.
b.) Cupping works. As more people try cupping for their muscle tension and have good results, they tend to tell others.

Q: What should people know about cupping?

services-cupping-therapy-santa-monicaCupping has been used traditionally in many different cultures, and not just in China. In addition to China, Japan and Korea, the Russians and Eastern European countries have a long history of cupping. In many of these countries, families will have a set of cups that are used for lung conditions (like colds) and for general aches and pains. I have also had patients from Pakistan and Northern Africa tell me that cupping was a traditional treatment method in their country.

Also, if you go to Chinatown for a cupping session there’s the standard tag-line that cupping “removes toxins” from the body. Although the “toxin theory” may have some truth, I prefer to avoid such phraseology and explain cupping in simpler terms.
My explanation for cupping is that the vacuum of the cups gives the muscles a stretch and expansion. As the local muscles are stretched and given more space, blood is pumped through the muscles and circulated through the local area. This means that cupping is addressing the two main causes of muscle tension & pain: a.) poor blood flow and b.) shortened or contracted muscles.

Q: What type of patients can best benefit from the treatment?

Cupping can work miracles on tight muscles in the upper back, shoulders and neck. The classic presentation would be the sensation of tight “knots” in the shoulders where the tension can be radiating up to the neck. These upper body areas are especially amenable to cupping therapy because the muscles involved are smaller and close to the surface of the body.
Cupping can also be helpful for low back pain, but often the muscles involved in low back pain are deeper spinal muscles where cupping on the surface of the skin cannot have as big of an effect. For deeper muscle structures, acupuncture is generally more effective. For most cases I actually combine cupping with acupuncture, but they can both be effective when used alone.

Trigger Point Dry-Needling for Body Pain

shoulder-pain-acupuncture-santa-monicaIn many cases, body pain is due to shortened muscles. When muscles are overused or overstressed they can develop areas of tension called trigger points. A trigger point may be experienced as a “muscle knot” or sometimes a radiating pain from a muscle into a joint area. These areas of muscular tension are the body’s way of trying protecting itself from further injury, however the end result can be a painful conditions that persists for years after the trigger point forms.

Traditional acupuncture can be very helpful in addressing muscular pain, however sometimes a more direct approach to muscular pain is more effective.  A style of treatment called Trigger Point Dry-Needling is a modern anatomical approach to muscular pain and inflammation.  Like acupuncture, dry needling is also performed using a solid filament needle. However, in the case of dry needling, a needle is inserted into muscle directly at a palpable myofascial trigger point. When a needle is inserted into a trigger point, sometimes the muscle will have a characteristic “twitch response” as the muscle relaxes and lengthens back to its healthy state. Generally the procedure involves repetitive manipulation of the needle in the myofascial trigger point in order to produce this local twitch response.

Why do Dry Needling?

First off, this method is generally more effective at relieving muscular pain than almost any other therapy.  The results of dry needling can be immediate as the muscle is stimulated to lengthen and a muscular knot releases. Deactivation of trigger points can provide immediate relief from pain symptoms.

Another reason dry needling is especially effective where other treatment methods fail, is that dry needling can target muscular pain in deeper muscles of the body.  Some deep muscle fibers are very difficult, if not impossible, to reach using massage and other manual therapies.  Some of the deep muscle groups that are well treated by dry needling include the low back, buttock and deep shoulder muscles.

When Should I Expect to See Results?

Sometimes this method can provide immediate relief from pain symptoms.  In other cases, the condition will take 1-2 days to respond to the treatment before there is a dramatic improvement.  The response time will depend on the body part and muscular structure involved.  After trigger points are relieved, the muscles can be trained to work with corrected range of motion.