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Acupuncture for Migraine Headaches

My second case report was published in the September 2012 Journal of Chiropractic Medicine. The title is “Combination of acupuncture and spinal manipulative therapy: management of a 32-year-old patient with chronic tension-type headache and migraine.”

It documents the complete resolution of daily headaches with superimposed migraines after five treatments. This is noteworthy because this patient had suffered from episodic migraines since she was a teenager.

The neurological mechanisms of acupuncture and spinal manipulative therapy involved are also described in great detail.

I would like to thank Dr. Yihyun Kwon, DC, MSOM, PhD; my faculty advisor, Dr. Jerrilyn Cambron, DC, MPH, PhD; and Robert Hansen, Graphic Designer, for their contributions to this case report.

JCM September 2012, Volume 11, Number 3, pages 192-201

Diseases and disorders that can be treated with acupuncture

The World Health Organization has reported that acupuncture therapy; tested in controlled clinical trials and reported in recent literature, is considered effective for1:

  • Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
  • Allergic rhinitis (including hay fever)
  • Biliary colic
  • Depression (including depressive neurosis and depression following stroke)
  • Dysentery, acute bacillary
  • Dysmenorrhoea, primary
  • Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)
  • Facial pain (including craniomandibular disorders)
  • Headache
  • Hypertension, essential
  • Hypotension, primary
  • Induction of labour
  • Knee pain
  • Leukopenia
  • Low back pain
  • Malposition of fetus, correction of
  • Morning sickness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Neck pain
  • Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)
  • Periarthritis of shoulder
  • Postoperative pain
  • Renal colic
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sciatica
  • Sprain
  • Stroke
  • Tennis elbow


History of Acupuncture

Acupuncture is a therapeutic modality that has been used for about 2,000 years. It likely started in a more rudimentary form, perhaps stimulating specific points on the body with rocks. Like modern science, the practice of acupuncture has evolved as our understanding of anatomy and physiology has advanced. Acupuncture is a practice that is ahead of the research. We know it works for example to relieve pain, and we’re in the process of understanding the mechanisms.

Acupuncture cannot be a placebo because its effects are observed in anesthetized animals. The natural endorphin effect that Dr. Pomeranz is credited with discovering was demonstrated in anesthetized lab mice.

The late Professor Bruce Pomeranz described himself as a Popperian scientist, meaning he would develop a hypothesis and attempt to disprove it. He spent 20 years attempting to disprove acupuncture analgesia and was unable to do so. In the process, he proved through several lines of hypotheses that acupuncture did indeed work.

Dr. Pomeranz graduated from McGill University, earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1967, and conducted research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology before becoming a professor of physiology at the University of Toronto in 1979.

The story I’ve read is that Dr. Pomeranz had a Chinese student who told him about the analgesic effects of acupuncture. True to his Popperian scientific mind, Dr. Pomeranz set out to disprove acupuncture analgesia. The results of the experiments, however, demonstrated that acupuncture created analgesia that could not be explained by any of the science known at the time. As a result, Dr. Pomeranz didn’t publish his findings; instead, he shelved them.

In 1975, at the University of Aberdeen in the United Kingdom, Dr. Hans Kosterlitz and his colleague John Hughes discovered neuropeptides, which they named enkephalins and endorphins. These pain-relieving chemicals are produced naturally in the brain in response to things like exercise and meditation.

The pain-relieving effect of acupuncture has been known for several millennia, yet the analgesia that Dr. Pomeranz demonstrated repeatedly in his lab experiments could not begin to be explained until 1975 with the discovery of the new neuropeptides. This is the perfect example of what I mean by the practice is ahead of the research. We know acupuncture works, and we are now beginning to understand how.

We now know that the endorphin, enkephalin, and dynorphin release during acupuncture is only one piece of the puzzle. Acupuncture has many other positive and dynamic effects. Locally, where the needle is placed, acupuncture stimulates the release of adenosine, which increases microcirculation. Low blood flow, or ischemia, is associated with myofascial pain and joint pain; therefore, increasing blood flow through acupuncture can provide great relief. Acupuncture also increases acetylcholine esterase levels. This enzyme breaks down acetylcholine at the neuromuscular junction, thereby relieving unrelenting painful muscle contraction and loosening those knots and boulders in the shoulders that remain after we’ve relaxed.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the therapeutic effects of acupuncture. It is just a sampling, just the beginning.

Acupuncture for Atypical Celiac Disease

I am very happy to announce that a case report I wrote as part of the Masters of Science program at the National University of Health Sciences, submitted in November 2010 and accepted in June 2011, has gone into publication in the peer-reviewed Journal of Chiropractic Medicine. The subject was considered very timely and interesting by the peer reviewers.

The case highlights the difficulty surrounding the accurate diagnosis of Celiac Disease (CD). There are several forms of the disease, which present very differently in the clinical setting. Formerly referred to as Celiac Sprue, CD has been typically associated with irritable bowel type symptoms: bloating, weight loss and malabsorption. Patients with atypical or extra-intestinal CD primarily present with symptoms not associated with any digestive disorders, such as severe itching and eczema (also known as Dermatitis Herpetiformis, particularly in association with CD) and severe heartburn. Other associated symptoms that seem unrelated to a gluten-sensitivity are infertility, thyroid disorders, anemia, depression, fatigue, osteoporosis, liver and neurological diseases. It has been recently suggested that physicians need to consider CD behind many different clinical syndromes, not just those that exhibit digestive symptoms.

The tests routinely done to rule out CD are not always accurate. A small bowel biopsy is not always positive, and antibody tests – considered the “gold standard” tests for CD – can be negative. The only test to conclusively rule out CD is a DNA test.

This case also highlights that acupuncture was very effective in alleviating the symptoms which this patient experienced long before CD was accurately diagnosed. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treats the signs the patient exhibits and the symptoms they describe, and a western medicine diagnosis is not necessary to begin treatment. Furthermore, TCM diagnostics accurately identified a digestive system disorder as the root of the eczema.

The title of the article is “Acupuncture and a gluten-free diet relieve urticaria and eczema in a case of undiagnosed dermatitis herpetiformis and atypical or extraintestinal celiac disease: a case report.”

If you are interested in a copy of the article, kindly send me your address, and I will send you a copy.

Reprints are available from the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine December 2011 Volume 10, Issue 4, pages 294-300.

Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine for the management of chronic prostatitis with chronic pelvic pain syndrome

In September 2013 a case report I authored was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Chiropractic Medicine on the successful use of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to manage a case of chronic prostatitis with pelvic pain syndrome. This case report is an important contribution to the medical literature because it documents the use of a conservative treatment modality with no side effects to manage a chronic and incurable condition. The typical treatment to manage this condition is the long term use of pain killers.

The case report can be read in full here: