Stop Pain with Acupuncture

Acupuncture is amazing. In our culture, it is best known for relieving pain. We treat patients every day for all kinds of pain. Though pain relief is just a small part of what acupuncture can do, it is very effective; and not at just reducing pain, but eliminating it altogether. Even patients with chronic pain find relief under our care. But how does it work?

Chinese medicine theorizes that pain, distress, or disease is caused by either a blockage or an imbalance of Qi. Conditions that can cause this include trauma, stress, emotions, diet, and general lifestyle. Acupuncture and Chinese herbs restore the proper flow of Qi, returning the body to its natural state of balance allowing the body to heal itself quickly and completely. Acupuncture points lie on meridians that run throughout the body. These points are what access and effect different physiological functions in the body. Treatment is based on symptoms and the causes of those symptoms.

People often ask how Western medicine would describe how acupuncture treats pain. There are five main theories posed by the Western medical community:

The “Augmentation” Theory: Acupuncture raises levels of triglycerides, specific hormones, prostaglandins, white blood counts, gamma globulins, opsonins, and overall anti-body levels. This is why acupuncture can treat disorders relating to immune deficiencies. Example: Pain that is a result of emotional stress, hormone imbalance or autoimmune diseases is easily treated with acupuncture.

The “Endorphin” Theory: Acupuncture stimulates the secretions of endorphins in the body (specifically enkephalins). Endorphins are our body’s natural pain killers. They are 1000 times stronger than morphine.  This is how acupuncture can provide immediate pain reduction. Example: Tan style acupuncture, using imaging, provide pain relief within seconds of the needle being placed.

The “Neurotransmitter” Theory: Certain neurotransmitter levels (such as serotonin and noradrenaline) are affected by acupuncture. This is why acupuncture is so successful with depression and mood disorders. This is also the reason people feel so amazing after a treatment.  Example: Weight loss treatments consider low serotonin levels that may be causing sugar cravings.

The “Circulatory” Theory: Acupuncture has the effect of constricting or dilating blood vessels. This may be caused by the body’s release of vasodilaters (such as histamine), in response to acupuncture.  Example: using acupuncture to treat edema and chronic injuries by releasing a fresh supply of RBCs and WBCs to areas of scar tissue build up and blockage.

The “Gate Control” Theory: Highly researched among western scientists.  According to this theory, pain signals must pass through a number of high-traffic “gates” as they move from the area of injury upward through the spinal cord into the brain. Like a road or highway, these nerves can handle only a limited number of nerve signals at one time. Acupuncture generates competing stimulus and interrupts the neurotransmission of the pain signals, preventing them from reaching the brain. The result: we never “experience the pain”. Example: the use of acupuncture anesthesia.

Each of these theories examines acupuncture from a different perspective, and help to illustrate why acupuncture is effective at treating many different types of pain, whether acute or chronic.

Fertility and Acupuncture

At Acupuncture Northwest we see a lot of fertility patients.  Is it because research shows that the use of acupuncture and herbal therapy is effective in treating fertility conditions? Is it because more people than ever before are having a hard time conceiving? Or because people are starting their families later in life? Whatever the reason, acupuncture is becoming a well known treatment  modality used for all types of conditions related to fertility.

Acupuncture is amazing. As you have heard us say so many times before, Traditional Chinese Medicine focuses on a person’s unique constitutional pattern, and that specific pattern is what dictates treatment. It is no different for fertility patients. We figure out your individual diagnosis, then apply treatment to help return your body to a balanced state. Some of the most common diagnoses in Chinese medicine for infertiltiy include: Blood stagnation, Kidney deficiency, Blood deficiency, Yin deficiency, Spleen qi deficiency, and Liver overacting on Spleen.  In terms of western medical diagnoses, there are several that are common for fertility patients, including uterine fibroids, poor egg quality, ovarian cysts, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, tubal blockage, endometriosis, annovulation, thin uterine lining and unexplained fertility.

We have patients at many different points in the fertility process, whether it be just starting to try to conceive, to having tried multiple IUIs, or preparing for IVF. No matter where you are in your journey of starting a family, acupuncture can assist in the process. We love working with fertility patients. There is nothing more gratifying than helping someone conceive and make the family they have always wanted.

Relieve Migraine Headaches with Acupuncture

We treat a great number of patients with migraine headaches. These headaches are debilitating and often keep people from being able to perform daily activities or even function at all. While we must be grateful for western allopathic medicine in diagnosing and treating many life-threatening conditions, we are often left with limited options for alleviating more chronic and less diagnosable (from a western perspective) conditions, such as chronic headaches. Whether the cause is stress, diet, hormones or changes in the weather the majority of cases are treated very successfully with acupuncture.

Your headache is specific to you. It can often be difficult to discover the individual causes and triggers that contribute to them, but we want to help you find your way. At each patient’s initial exam we take a long health history to access each individual’s constitutional needs. (Though as with any severe condition we recommend you see your primary care physician to rule out any life threatening conditions). Often, we find an imbalance of the liver meridian combined with gallbladder disharmony, from excess stress and overwork. Migraine pain can also be from muscle tension and strain in the neck and upper shoulders. We will often do trigger point therapy to the muscles of the neckand upper back to get the muscles to release, which takes the pressure off of the occiput. The muscles pulling on the occiput can cause referral pattern pain to the temples, eyes, and side of the head.

These are a few patterns we tend to see in our patients with migraines, as there are many other possible diagnoses. Our job is to figure you out. We recommend that our migraine patients come in a couple weeks in a row for treatment. After consistent treatments things slowly get better. After 1-3 treatments people are usually 20-50% better. After 6-8 times you should be closer to 60-80% better. If we are not seeing any improvement, we will help you figure out what your next steps should be on your quest for health, but the good news is most people do get better here! If you have any questions feel free to give us a call and one of our practitioners will get back to you.

Relieve Seasonal Allergies


Spring is here, and with the blooming of trees and flowers comes the presence of pollen and seasonal allergies. For allergy sufferers, spring can be a miserable time, and many people are turning to acupuncture for relief. Not only can acupuncture immediately relieve allergy symptoms, it can also help build up your immune system to prevent you from reacting as strongly to the allergens themselves. Acupuncture is effective at helping with nasal congestion, sneezing, scratchy throat, itchy and watery eyes, headaches and sinus pressure. We treat patients every day this time of year for the annoying allergy symptoms that keep them from enjoying the outdoors.

Tree pollens are the most prevalent pollens in the spring and many trees are heavy pollinators. Grass and weed pollens follow in late spring and summer. Year-round allergens include airborne mold spores, as well as other common allergens such as dust, dust mites, and animal dander. Exposure to allergens like these causes a release of a number of chemicals in the body, including histamine, which produce the allergy symptoms we collectively know as hay fever, more formally called allergic rhinitis.

Many western medical therapies rely on inhibiting the allergic response, usually with drugs (decongestants, antihistamines or steroids), avoidance of the allergen, and the use of air filters to decrease exposure. While these methods may help relieve your symptoms, we believe that addressing the causes of allergies, treating the whole person, and focusing on balancing the immune system leads to more long-term relief and health benefits in managing allergies.

In Chinese medicine, allergic rhinitis is seen as related to Wind noting that symptoms come and go rapidly, cause congestion, and make the person want to avoid windy situations. This Wind often coexists with a deficiency of the Protective or Wei Qi, similar to how we think of our first immune defenses against colds and respiratory infections. People with Wei Qi deficiency catch colds easily, and allergy symptoms may be particularly bad in the spring or fall, seasons that are generally windy.

There are often other underlying patterns that exist in combination with Wind, and are equally as important to treat for better long-term relief. Often people with chronic allergies show signs of Spleen or Kidney Deficiency as well as Lung signs according to Chinese medicine. We develop a plan using acupuncture and Chinese herbs to treat the person’s acute symptoms and provide relief, while addressing the underlying immune system imbalance which is thought to be at the root of the person’s allergies.

If you are an allergy sufferer, spring can be miserable. We know how exhausting it can be to battle allergy symptoms every day. We can help you feel better and start to actually enjoy the season!