Wednesday, December 16, 2009

9000 Needles

Documentary filmmaker and Ohio native Doug Dearth will be holding an Ohio premier/Fundraiser at the Canton Palace Theater on Tuesday, January 12th.

Doug recently finished a documentary about his brother's struggle to recover from a devastating stroke. (He is also an Ohio native). His Church community rallied behind him to raise enough money and support to send him to China. There, he participated in a program which used acupuncture and other traditional Chinese medicines to treat stroke victims.

Invite as many folks as possible to the screening. This is a story about family, community and faith as well as the human spirit.

Click here to download a flyer for the event. You can also check out more at:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Treating Addiction with Auricular Therapy

The use of auricular therapy for treating drug withdrawal began in Hong Kong in 1972. Dr. Wen, a neurosurgeon, made a discovery “by accident”. He was doing surgery and administering auricular acupuncture anesthesia to a patient that happened to be a heroin addict in the midst of withdrawal symptoms. The patient had relief of his withdrawal symptoms following the procedure. Further studies were done to confirm that specific points on the ear could reduce cravings for opiates.

Research shows that acupuncture stimulates the production of endorphins, the body’s natural opiates. This would explain why treatments stimulating acupuncture points of the ear would reduce cravings. If the body is producing opiates, patients don’t need to seek them from the outside.

In 1973, Dr. Michael Smith was working out of the Lincoln Hospital in the South Bronx, operating a standard drug detox program. Seeking to improve results, he experimented with different auricular treatments. His research with auricular treatment greatly enhanced patient results. Due to the success of adding auricular treatment to the existing program, he founded the National Acupuncture Detox Association (NADA). NADA teaches a 5 point protocol to specialists in the detox profession.

Other examples of the success of auricular therapy include Hooper Memorial Detox Center in Portland, Oregon. In 1987, they implemented auricular acupuncture in their 5 day alcohol detox program. Clients using the auricular therapy were 6 times less likely to return in 6 months than clients who did not have auricular therapy. Overall completion rate also increased from 60% to 92% with the addition of auricular therapy. (Lane, 1988)

On the other side of the country, a clinical program for substance abuse sponsored by the Jersey City Dept. of Health reported the following results using auricular therapy: 84% improvement in mood, 81% improvement in withdrawal symptoms, 93% reduction in cravings and 70% improvement in overall wellness.

So how can massage therapists and others use this information to help their patients? Remember: acupressure is another way to stimulate acupuncture points. Acupressure can be applied with the fingers by compressing the point between two fingers and kneading, or with a 1 mm tip probe for precise point massage. Massage for 10 to 30 seconds with firm, but tolerable, pressure. Also, acupressure pellets can be placed in the ear for continued stimulation and pressed by the patient for self-treatment. Pellets should be removed by the patient in 3 to 5 days.

By the way, don’t feel that you’re doing second rate treatment by using acupressure pellets instead of needles. Pellets are the most common form of auricular treatment in China.

Is this in a massage therapists scope of practice? Yes. As an acupuncturist and LMT, I see many people who still feel the need for more support than they get from their other treatments. Adding this protocol to your massage sessions could provide another dimension of relief for those dealing with addictions, whether it’s alcohol, cigarettes, food or drugs. Also, as massage therapists, we are not treating the addiction. We’re treating the patient to help relieve the stress and physical discomfort associated with the addiction.

Obviously, massage is one of the best treatments for stress reduction and to help people feel more grounded in their bodies. Adding this reflex treatment of the ear simply takes advantage of information gleaned from other sources and allows a massage therapist to enhance their results.

This auricular stimulation is intended to enhance, not replace, conventional medical treatment for addictions. The NADA protocol was added to existing programs that included, 12-step meetings, individual counseling, appropriate medications, etc.

The points Dr. Smith found most useful for substance abuse were: Shen Men, Kidney, Liver, Lung and Sympathetic Nerve. These points can be easily found on ear models labeled for auricular therapy. They help calm the mind while supporting the detoxification of the body.

While there are other protocols more specific to smoking, food, and other addictions, the NADA protocol is a good general treatment if a therapist has limited training in auricular therapy.

You can easily integrate this into your general massage sessions when massaging the ear. If you choose to do point massage and acupressure pellets, it’s wise to spend some time educating your patient regarding the more specific nature of this technique.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Battlefield Acupuncture

I spend a good deal of my time educating people about therapies that are not well known in America. Even though acupuncture gets plenty of good press, there are many other sub categories related to acupuncture that are obscure, yet very effective. You can see my previous post on Auricular Therapy (January 2009) for a brief look at that specialty.

Even the U.S. military is now using auricular therapy to treat pain. It was developed by Richard C. Niemtzow, MD at Malcolm Grow Medical Center, Andrews AFB, MD.

There are many effective protocols for treating pain and Dr. Niemtzow has created a simple way to address this issue without the need for extensive training.

Dr. Niemtzow was kind enough to share the details of this protocol with me. I’ll summarize it here. Those of you trained in auricular therapy can experiment to see how it works for you. Even though his technique uses semi-permanent needles, similar results can be achieved with electro stim, point massage and acupressure pellets.

Here is a chart locating the 5 points used in this protocol.

Start with the Cingulate Gyrus. I would suggest starting on the side where the pain is located or the dominate ear if it the pain is in the midline or bilateral. You can use electro stim or point massage and then place an acupressure pellet on it. Have the patient walk around for 2 minutes and evaluate the level of relief.

If there is still some pain, stimulate the Cingulate Gyrus on the other ear and again let the patient move around a few minutes and reevaluate.

Determine which ear seemed to give the most relief, then treat the other points on that ear in this order: Thalamus, Omega 2, Point Zero, Shen Men. If there is still some pain, you can treat the other ear in the same fashion.

I consider auricular treatment to only be a part of my approach. It often reduces pain considerably making more direct reatment with massage or other modailties more comfortable and more effective.

Dr. Niemtzow says that relief may last from minutes to months, depending on various factors. If people expect 100% permanent relief from any treatment they will be disappointed. As a component of a multifaceted treatment however, auricular therapy is a powerful tool.

The advantage of this protocl is the short learning curve and general effectiveness, the disadvantage is it may not be specific enough for some situations. As such, it may not replace an approach based on corresponding points or 5 element points. Just consider it another option for your patients. And, of course, do other appropriate treatment within your scope of practice.

My thanks to Dr. Niemtzow for his service to our country and for bringing a powerful pain relief modality to our soldiers.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What is Auricular Therapy?

The ear is one of many reflex systems in the body. A reflex system is where the whole body is represented in a part of the body. Sometimes referred to as “micro-systems,” they are 2 way communication systems of the body. They reflect the condition of a part of the body and can also treat it. The most familiar reflex systems are seen in hand and foot reflexology.

Auricular Therapy is the evaluation and stimulation of the external ear for the diagnosis and treatment of health conditions in other parts of the body.

Auricular Therapy has been used for thousands of years. Early Chinese doctors used the ear in diagnosis and treatment. Hippocrates bled points behind the ears for impotence and sciatic pain. In the European Middle Ages medical texts report treatment the of ear for sciatic pain. In 1956, Dr. Paul Nogier of France, developed a complete map of the ear as a reflex system. He created a model using an inverted fetus as basic image. His work has been validated by doctors around the world. In 1973, in New York, Dr. Michael Smith developed a protocol for withdrawal from substance abuse by treating 5 points on the ear. He formed National Acupuncture Detoxification Association( NADA).

Used by acupuncturists, physicians, chiropractors, massage therapists, psychologists and other health care providers, auricular therapy is one of the lesser known, though extremely effective alternative healing modalities. Points on the ear can be stimulated by manual pressure, needles, lasers, magnets, and ear acupressure pellets.

In 1990, the Director of the World Health Organization said;
"Auricular acupuncture is probably the most developed and best documented, scientifically, of all the microsystems of acupuncture and is the most practical and widely used."

One of the most surprising aspects of auricular therapy is that almost any condition can benefit from auricular treatment. Treatment of pain, stress, insomnia, addictions, anxiety, arthritis, headaches, menopause and many other conditions can be enhanced with the addition of auricular therapy. It is intended to be an adjunct to other forms of therapy. It is not intended to be a replacement for other appropriate medical care.

Research in China has established that Auricular Therapy is effective in 85% of cases and can treat over 200 diseases and disorders. In 1980, the UCLA Pain Management Center conducted a double blind study to verify the scientific accuracy of auricular diagnosis. It found a 75% accuracy rate in diagnosing Musculoskeletal pain problems through observation and palpation of the ear. A study at the Adelaide University, South Australia tested auricular therapy in weight loss. It found that auricular therapy can suppress appetite. The number of people who lost weight and the amount of weight lost was significantly higher in the auricular therapy group.

All of this points to one amazing health and wellness healing modality - and the ears have it!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Mind, Body and Spirit

Mind, Body and Spirit may be cliche' in the world of natural healing, but it summarizes a deep philosophy. It implies that the whole person, not just a symptom, will be addressed. We can, and should, address all aspects of our being on a daily basis. With regard to "mind", what does this mean?

I'll let Earl Nightingale, one of my favorite educators, tell you. Enjoy the video!

Thursday, January 8, 2009


Welcome to the Vahila Acupuncture and Massage Therapy blog. In the upcoming entries we will be posting wellness tips, articles, lecture and seminar schedules and much more. If there are topics you'd like me to address, please email me through our website and I'll consider it.

Be well.


Sunday, January 4, 2009

Quit Smoking with Acupuncture

A frequent question I hear is, "Can acupuncture really help a person quit smoking?" The answer is a qualified "yes". If a person is expecting a miracle with one treatment to make all craving and discomfort go away, I'd say that's not a realistic expectation.

Having said that, I'd like you to consider it from another viewpoint. First, Decide to quit smoking. Without a clear, committed goal, no method will work. If you're quitting because you think you should, or because your spouse wants you to, or for any other reason, you will probably fail.

Why? You really don't want to quit!

I see this all the time. Patients come in who have tried everything without success. Perhaps a part of it is that they are ambivalent about quitting.

If you decide to go on a vacation, you're clear about that. Then it's just a matter of details; when, where, how long, etc... You know you're going on vacation and you surmount any obstacles that may come up. If on the road to your destination there is a detour, you take another route. You don't go home. If you have some additional hotel charges, you don't go home. You may not like the inconveniences, but you deal with them. So you have a craving or a cigarette. Fine. Just get back on track.

If you're clear about the value of not smoking, you make a commitment. The next question is, "What will support my choice and reduce the discomfort of the transition?"

Framed that way, many options are available and acupuncture is an excellent one. The purpose of the acupuncture treatment is to minimize cravings, soothe anxiety and reduce withdrawal symptoms. It can be very effective. Click here to find an National Board Certified Acupuncturist in your area.

However, as a practitioner who is not invested in any one method, I say explore what works for you. Also, I don't come from a "holier than thou" position on this. I started smoking when I was 12 years old. What worked for me was the ST COOY method. No, it's not the patron saint of shy people. It stands for "Scare The Crap Out Of You" method. When I was 16 years old, I woke up coughing up blood. That got my attention. I stopped then and there. I highly recommend it, but you can't know when it will happen for you. Grace is fickle. So barring any divine intervention, consider my suggestions.

Also, don't hit the "snooze" button when the ST COOY alarm goes off. Sudden chest pains, a chronic cough, getting winded going up (or down!) steps. Pay attention.

Below is a list of items that can support your choice to be a non-smoker. I tell my patients to do at least 2 of them in conjunction with their acupuncture treatments. This provides added support and security.

You will need to develop new patterns and habits. The definition of insanity is "doing the same thing and expecting different results." You will need to consciously rewire your world. It's like getting a new puppy. Now you have to put up a gate so they don't go upstairs. You put newspaper on the floor so they don't soil the carpet. You get into the rhythm of walks and feedings and playtime. Plan for your new life.

Experiment with these suggestions:

Desire to quit is the most important factor in success. Being smoke free is the single most important thing you can do for health. Find your reason to quit. Be clear about it. Write it down and carry it with you. Read it as reinforcement of your positive new habit when you have cravings. For example, “I choose to be healthy so that I may see my children grow up.”

Identify your triggers. For example, smoking after meals or while driving, etc. Plan alternate activities for these high risk moments. Keep in mind that cravings for tobacco fade within a few minutes. Keeping cigarettes in the glove compartment and thinking you won't reach for them is not a good strategy. Put chewing gum in the glove compartment instead.

Call the Ohio Tobacco Quit Line. 1-800-784-8669. They provide free telephone counseling and support. They recommend nicotine replacement as a first line treatment. You are free to use it or not. Other states may have their own similar programs

Bach Flower Essences. Available at health food stores. These gentle remedies help with stress and underlying emotional states that are at the root of addictions. Rescue Remedy is a good general essence for stress. These 38 remedies require a self assessment to determine which ones are best for you. Info is available at health food stores and online at Get the ones that fit your needs and use them daily. The Rescue Remedy lozenges are especially useful in that they provide oral gratification while soothing nerves.

Stay Hydrated. We are over 70% water. The best way to do this is to drink Kangen Water. To quote to Dr. Hiromi Shinya from page 159 of his book "The Enzyme Factor", Kangen Water is "the best drinking water because of its incomparable powers of hydration, detoxification and anti-oxidation." Detoxification is important to rid your cells of build up nicotine and the 4,000 chemicals that are in cigarettes. Anti-oxidation is what protects cells from damage.

Be invested in the goal, not methods. Give treatments a fair try. With acupuncture, that may be 5 to 10 treatments. With oral remedies, 10 weeks is a fair trial. If you look for all or none results you'll be disappointed. I think in terms of percentages.

Maybe the acupuncture treatment reduces your cravings by 50%, the Bach Flowers might help 20%, Kangen Water may help 20% and then just a little counseling from the Tobacco Quit line may be the final 10% that gets you through to the smoke free life that you deserve.

I once had a patient who was a 2 pack per day smoker. Within a few treatments he was down to 1 or 2 cigarettes per day. Yet, he felt like a failure because he still smoked a little. I told him, if he was one of my pain patients and they were in severe pain when they came in and they were down to mild discomfort, they would think the treatment was miraculous. So he quit the treatments since they were only 90% effective!

Moral of the story: Be realistic. Experiment. Pay attention. Do what works. Give it time. Pray to ST COOY.

Be well.

Disclaimer: The above information is for educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for conventional medical advice or treatment. Consult your doctor.