Acupuncture Attitudes

As I see more patients I notice an interesting set of attitudes around acupuncture. Even after reading basic information on acupuncture, for most people there still isn’t a clear understanding of what acupuncture is, what it isn’t, and how it works.  So, many come to acupuncture with some erroneous ideas.

Unfortunately, these ideas often hinder their ability to take full advantage of what acupuncture and Oriental medicine has to offer. My intention in this article, is to help people adopt an attitude toward this medicine that serves them best.

The “Fix Me” Attitude:
The first common attitude is the “fix me” attitude, where a patient presents with an ailment they would like fixed. As though they were a 1982 Honda Accord, and I was their mechanic.  This attitude assumes that once the problem is “fixed,” acupuncture is no longer beneficial. This attitude is to be expected; after all, in this culture, this is how we were taught that bodies and medicine work.

In some instances, such as acute injury, this approach is appropriate. You sprained your ankle and want me to help alleviate the pain and speed the healing time…sure, no problem.

You are not a machine:
The problem with the “fix me” attitude is in regard to long-term illness or pain. First of all, the paradigm under which Oriental medicine operates fundamentally says that you are not a 1982 Honda Accord; you are not a machine at all. You are a living complex of dynamic interrelated systems, energies, nutrients, functions, thoughts, ideas, attitudes, feelings, fears, experiences, desires and behaviors that ALL have an impact on EVERY part of you. Your body, mind and spirit are inseparable; you cannot affect one without affecting the others.

So, what you do in your life, how you feed and care for yourself, who you surround yourself with, and the beliefs that you hold about yourself, your body, your illness and the world around you all have as much of an impact on your long-term health as I can have with my acupuncture needles, massage and herbs.

No, I cannot “fix” you; but you can heal, if given the right circumstances.  This is where I come in…I can facilitate a shift into a state that is more balanced and conducive to health and healing. The body wants to heal, but it is blocked from doing so, for any number of myriad reasons. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine helps remove those blockages to your own natural ability to heal.

You are responsible for your health, too!
The second problem with the “fix me” attitude is that it takes away your responsibility to take good care of yourself. For example, I cannot help heal your irritable bowel syndrome or Crohn’s disease if you continue to eat foods that are inappropriate for your condition. The quality of your nutrition is just as much a part of your healing as my acupuncture and herbs. I can guide you to the healthiest foods and practices for your specific condition, but the responsibility for your daily nutrition rests solely on your shoulders.

Symptom vs. Cause:
The last problem with the “fix me” approach is that the ailments that people come to me with are usually symptoms of a larger pattern of disharmony. Often, symptoms will clear up quicker than their underlying cause will. Just because your chronic headaches are gone doesn’t mean that the reason you had the headaches to begin with is completely healed. In the words of Dr. Richard Tan, “It can be easy to chop down the tree, but digging up the roots and clearing the debris requires much more time and work.”

If you stop acupuncture care before the underlying causes of the issues are addressed, the headaches could return, or some other symptom take its place. This is why I always recommend tapering down your treatment frequency until you get to a maintenance level. Maintenance level, for most people, is once every 4 to 6 weeks.

The “Magic Needle” (aka “magic bullet”) Attitude:
The second attitude I observe is the “magic needle” attitude. Again, because there isn’t a clear understanding of acupuncture, all that is known is some story heard about a distant acquaintance who was cured from years of debilitating back pain after one acupuncture treatment.

People also hear the media, several popular celebrities and high profile MD’s touting the benefits of acupuncture. When you add in its foreign nature and seemingly mystical ideas about body energies, people have a tendency to place a subconscious aire of “magic” around acupuncture. And, in the human mind, once acupuncture is associated with “magic” it becomes associated with “miracles” and having to “believe in” acupuncture, and from there, for some people, it is only a short leap to “acupuncture is a religious practice.”

There are people who refuse to even consider getting acupuncture because of these “magical” associations that were never meant to be there.  And, many of those who do come for treatment have minds full of these notions. They are skeptical, but desperate. They are willing to try it, but have extremely unrealistic expectations, flip-flopping back and forth between “this will never work” and “I’m so excited for my miracle.”

But what about those who do get instant results?
On occasion, acupuncture does seem like magic: sometimes one acupuncture treatment will relieve 5 years of back pain permanently. On occasion a single visit to my office will result in a complete reversal of a year of knee pain. But, this is not the norm, and almost always these types of results are only achieved with patients who are extremely healthy otherwise, and have a very healthy lifestyle, where they have already eliminated any causative or aggravating factors, and just need one or two acupuncture treatments to “seal the deal.” Or on occasion, I will pinpoint a specific behavior, food, supplement or medication that is directly causing the symptom; the patient eliminates that cause, and “poof” like magic, the symptom disappears.

Acupuncture is not Magic:
But, let’s put this to rest right now: Acupuncture & Oriental medicine are not magic, miracles or religious practices. Energy is scientific. Quantum physics tell us that everything is actually pure energy, even solid matter. Everything has an energy field; and all energy fields are influenced by other energies.

Studies show that plants grow better when their owners talk to them. And micro-photography shows that patterns of water molecules rearrange themselves, depending on the energy that is around them: the energy of a baby laughing creates a different pattern than that of heavy metal music. Of course it does…you can feel that difference in your own body, can’t you? You are energy. (By the way, you are also 70% water.)

In the same way, acupuncture points are actually shown, with scientific equipment, to have more electromagnetic conductivity (energy) than other points on the skin. It isn’t magic. It is science. It is just not a science that we are familiar with and taught as a culture.

The fact that the ancient Chinese understood all of this illustrates how extraordinarily perceptive they really were.

Acupuncture takes time to work:
But, in general, people don’t know any of this, so they think acupuncture should work like magic. Many people get disappointed when they find out that acupuncture takes time to help correct the body’s energy imbalances and enhance the body’s own healing abilities. They get frustrated when the herbal medicine doesn’t mask and suppress their symptoms like pharmaceuticals do. And they don’t want to hear that they are likely going to have to change some things about their lifestyle. So, at that point, a number of people assume that since it doesn’t work like magic, acupuncture doesn’t work at all, and they stop treatment before they realize any benefits. They’ve missed out on what acupuncture and Oriental medicine can offer them.

The “Lifestyle” Attitude:
The approach that allows people the most benefit from this medicine is what I call the “lifestyle” attitude.

Lifestyle is the whole kit-and-kaboodle. What people feed themselves, what they drink, what they breathe, how they care for themselves, when they rest, how they handle stress, how they think about themselves and their bodies, how they move their bodies, what kind of people they surround themselves with; all of these factors play a role in the state of health and wellbeing.

The ancient Chinese knew this: Oriental medicine actually has 8 branches, of which acupuncture and herbal medicine are only two. The other 6 are:

1. nutrition (your diet is the foundation of good health!)
2. massage & bodywork (traditionally this also included adjustments similar to chiropractic.)
3. exercise (something that you enjoy; healthy bodies crave movement.)
4. feng shui (this is how you arrange your environment; is your home and workplace a joyful and comfortable place for you? Is it uncluttered, non-toxic and contain things that make you smile?)
5. spirituality (finding your place in the universe; do you have a positive spirituality and/or purpose in your life that brings you peace?)
6. location (does the geographic location that you live in suit you well? Are you hot all the time, but live in Florida anyway? Does wind give you headaches, but you live in Chicago?)

Most Doctors of Oriental Medicine don’t provide services dealing with the last 3 branches listed, but, you can see how comprehensive Oriental medicine actually is, and how vast the concept of health can be.

Oriental medicine is a Lifestyle medicine:
Oriental medicine is meant to help guide you toward healthier choices for your life, and to help you back into balance and health when things go awry. And, once that condition is resolved, acupuncture is a great preventive therapy to stave off recurrence or other types of illnesses. In this way, Oriental medicine is meant to become part of your new, healthy lifestyle. If you aren’t actively experiencing symptoms, maintenance treatments of once every 4 to 6 weeks are invaluable to help you stay well. (And, they are a great way to relieve stress.)

The people that get the most from this medicine are those that use it for everything, for their whole lives. They get maintenance treatments to stay well, and if they do start to catch a cold or flu, they call for some herbs and a treatment. Are you getting a bladder infection? Some arthritis pain in your ankle? Stressed for a big exam? Insomnia after a divorce? Does your child have a fever or cough? Call for a treatment and some herbs. We treat it all, and acupuncture can work amazingly fast and well when it catches the early stages of an illness or symptoms.

Oriental medicine is an incredible gift that you have available to you that is very safe, very effective, views you wholistically and provides multitudes of benefits. I encourage you to take full advantage of it.

Dawn Balusik

Tips for Sleep Problems

Do you have difficulty falling asleep, or staying asleep at night?  This problem can be an occasional nuisance, or a chronic, debilitating condition that interferes with daily life.  Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to breakdowns in immune system function, fatigue, poor concentration, poor memory, depression, and other problems.

Here are several ideas you can use at home to help you get a great night’s sleep:

1.  Turn off the TV or Computer:  If you have difficulty falling asleep, it could be due to overstimulation.  Surfing the net, chatting on facebook, or watching a high-energy TV show doesn’t allow our minds and bodies to unwind and relax in preparation for sleep.  Also, In Oriental Medicine, it is said that too much “looking”, (as in staring at digital screens), negatively affects the energy of the Liver, and the Liver’s function of “Storing the Blood” helps us to fall asleep at night.  (This is also why it can be helpful to lie on your right side when going to bed; the Liver is on the right side of the body.)

Instead, turn off the computer and TV an hour before bedtime.  You can spend the time taking a relaxing bath, reading a book, listening to soft music or an audiobook, or drinking some chamomile, catnip or other herbal tea.  (Note: avoid chamomile if you are allergic to ragweed.)

2.  Use Aromatherapy:  adding the essential oils of lavender or vanilla to your bath before bedtime can help calm the mind, as can spraying some on your pillow or bed sheets.

3.  Stick to a Consistent Bedtime:  Parents know that babies and children are happier, sleep better and behave better when given a consistent and structured schedule.  The same is true for our adult bodies which have built-in rhythms that work better when we create a consistent schedule for ourselves.

4.  Try a Sleep CD:  Some people find they can’t sleep because of too many thoughts circulating, as if the mind is in a hamster wheel.  In this case, it can be useful to try a sleep music CD.  There are CD’s of music specific for helping you to fall asleep.  Or you can just play any soft, soothing music (without words) that pleases you, at a low volume. Music gives your mind something to focus on, to get it out of the hamster wheel. Some artists that I like for this purpose are Steve Gordon, Deuter, Anugama, Dean Evenson and Tim Wheaton.

5.  Journaling:  If the Sleep music isn’t enough to calm your mind, perhaps you would do better to journal before bed.  Write down all those thoughts that are circulating, so that you can, essentially, “get them out” of your head.  Once they are on the paper, your mind can relax.  At this point, the Sleep music may be more effective.  This can also be a good tool to use if you wake up, and are unable to go back to sleep due to over-thinking.

6.  Avoid Caffeine, Nicotine and Alcohol After 4 pm:  Avoiding coffee and energy drinks in the afternoon and evening should be obvious, but caffeine is also found in chocolate, black tea and green tea.  Also, many over-the-counter pain, cold and allergy medications contain caffeine.  Alcohol and nicotine, though they may initially help you fall asleep, can disrupt the deeper sleep cycles.

7.  Don’t go to Bed Too Full or Too Hungry:  Try to allow 2 to 3 hours between your last meal of the day and bedtime.  Going to bed with a very full stomach can cause restless sleep and poor digestion.

If you are very hungry before bed, try a small snack of  banana, dates, figs, whole grain crackers or 1/2 grapefruit.  These contain tryptophan, which helps induce sleep.  (By the same token avoid bacon, ham, sausage, cheese, chocolate, eggplant, potatoes, sauerkraut, sugar, spinach, tomatoes, and wine before bed, because they contain tyramine, which is a stimulant.  Incidentally, many of these will also cause nighttime heartburn.)

8.  Try this Breath Technique: When you are lying in bed, wishing you were asleep, practice this useful technique:  Get into a comfortable position and turn your attention to your breath.  Breathe in normally, and when you breathe out, instead of controlling it out slowly or forcing it out, just let it go: Let all the muscles go in your chest and throat and body.  The breathe will come out in a short, audible puff.  Then, at the bottom of the out-breath, you can hold for a few seconds (however it feels natural) before taking another normal breath in.

Continue to focus on inhaling normally, and just letting go on the exhale.  Many people find that they can fall asleep within minutes of starting this technique.

9.  Call for an Appointment:  If you try these ideas and are still struggling with your sleep, please call for an appointment.  You likely need to get the underlying cause of the insomnia diagnosed with Oriental Medicine and treated with a series of acupuncture sessions and the appropriate herbal formula.

Sweet Dreams!

Dawn Balusik, AP, DOM

Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine for Asthma

Published in New Times Naturally, Oct 2006
by Dawn Balusik, AP, DOM

Asthma Basics:
Anyone who has had or is close to someone who has had an asthma attack knows the characteristic shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing and feeling of suffocation, as well as the nervousness, sense of helplessness, fear and even panic that ensues.

Asthma varies in severity, from mild wheezing and shortness of breath to life-threatening respiratory failure. In many cases, it requires constant awareness and management. Though the triggers vary from person to person, it has been determined that an inflammation of the airway leads to a contraction of the airway muscles, production of mucous and swelling of the airways. Asthma, like allergies, is an immune system imbalance,  leading to hypersensitivity, inflammation and broncho-constriction.

Though it can arise at any age, half of all cases first occur in children under age 10, affecting twice as many boys as girls. It is the cause of over 10 million school days missed per year, and it is the number one reason that children are hospitalized.

Asthma is on the Rise:
According to the Asthma and Allergy foundation of America, as of 2001, an estimated 17 million Americans suffer from asthma. 5 million are under age 18 (1 in every 20 children). Everyday, 14 Americans die from asthma. And, the Center for Disease Control expects that the number of Americans with asthma will rise to 30 million by the year 2020. Here in Tampa Bay, over 100,000 people have been diagnosed with this disease.

Not only is asthma on the rise, but in many cases our current medical technology is not able to keep up with it. I have met several very scared parents whose children are on 7 to 10 medications every day, and are making 2 to 4 visits to the E.R. each month.

Triggers of Asthma:
Asthma can be extrinsic: triggered by sensitivity to specific external allergens. Common extrinsic allergens include pollen, mold, animal dander, dust mites; irritants, such as cigarette smoke, household cleaners, room fresheners, candles, incense, paint, varnish, talcum powder, chalk dust and other air pollutants; as well as food additives including sulfites. Extrinsic asthma is often accompanied by other allergic symptoms such as eczema or sinus allergies.

Asthma can also be classified as intrinsic. Here, the specific allergen triggers cannot be identified. Most cases are preceded by a severe respiratory infection, and may be aggravated by lung irritants, emotional stress, fatigue, exposure to noxious fumes, hormonal changes, temperature and humidity changes. Many asthmatics have both intrinsic and extrinsic asthma symptoms. Other triggers include infection, sensitivity to medication, exercise, and gastric reflux.

Causes of Asthma:
Why do some people have asthma, and others do not? This is the subject of many studies, most of which have barely begun to scratch the surface. Here is a small sampling of some findings so far:

A study published in the Journal of Manipulative & Physiological Therapeutics, which involved 13,944 children over an 8-year period, led the Institute of Medicine to conclude that children who receive tetanus or diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis (DTP) vaccines have double the chance to develop asthma, and are 50% more likely to experience severe allergy-related symptoms, and 80% more likely to have sinusitis.

Also, a study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine concludes that children who are exposed to cigarette smoke at an early age experience a decline in lung function, and a 50% greater chance of being diagnosed with asthma by age 6, than children who grow up in non-smoking families.

Yet another study shows that asthma is a potential side effect of artificial Hormone Replacement Therapy.

Common Treatments:
Most asthma is managed by pharmaceutical medications, which do a beautiful job of life-saving care. Given an emergency situation, pharmaceuticals are often the best option. But pharmaceutical medications do nothing to address the underlying cause of why someone has the disease. Nor do they promote overall health and wellbeing, or decrease the need for more pharmaceutical medication. In fact, the long-term use of asthma medications may actually be detrimental:

For example:
Bronchodilators are used to relieve coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath and difficulty breathing; their general side effects include nausea, vomiting, headaches, nervousness,restlessness, and insomnia, especially among children and the elderly.

Corticosteroids are used to decrease inflammation in the airways. They also reduce a person’s ability to cope with and recover from trauma, surgery and infection. Other side effects include hoarseness, dry mouth, suppressed growth in children, coughing, increased appetite, fluid retention, weight gain, mood swings, increased cholesterol, osteoporosis, thinning of the skin, diabetes, cataracts, and muscle weakness.

Antihistamines are used to relieve allergy attacks, which can contribute to asthma. They cause drowsiness, dry mouth, constipation, confusion, nightmares, nervousness, restlessnessand irritability. Other common asthma drugs can have side effects such as hives, abdominal pain, ulcers, seizures, vomiting blood, rapid heart rate, potassium deficiency, increased liver enzymes, reversible hepatitis, severe allergic reactions, and, in rare cases, even death.

Oriental Medicine for Asthma:
According to Oriental medicine, asthma symptoms are actually an indicator of an underlying health imbalance. Acupuncturists attempt to get to the root cause of the problem rather than just treat the symptoms. Oriental medicine works on the premise that the body, given the right conditions, has amazing healing capacities.

Chinese medicine is based on the idea that the human body is a reflection of the natural world. To stay healthy, it must maintain a balance between the passive and the dynamic energies: yin and yang, which can be represented by the opposing forces of cold and hot, night and day, wet and dry. Just as extremes of climate wreak havoc in the natural world, extremes within the body harm it.

As discussed earlier, asthma is an imbalance in the immune system. Oriental Medicine aims to reestablish and maintain internal balance; this builds the overall health of the person so that it is able to heal itself. When the underlying cause is taken care of, the symptoms resolve, and in the case of asthma, the triggers lose their impact.

Most often, in terms of Chinese medicine diagnostics, asthma is seen as a deficiency in the energy (or Qi “chee”) of the Lungs, Spleen or Kidneys, and an accumulation of Phlegm. These can be caused by inappropriate diet, food additives, toxin exposure, repeated upper respiratory infection, genetics, emotional strain, lack of exercise, overwork, and even the asthma medications themselves can contribute to deficiency. Usually it is a combination of these that set the stage for asthma.

Acupuncture for Asthma:
Acupuncture can reduce the frequency and severity of attacks: A study conducted at the Department of Anesthesia and Intensive Care in the University Hospital of Vienna showed that over 70% of patients with long-standing asthma reported a significant improvement of their ailments after ten weeks of acupuncture treatment.

In another study, Scientists at the Second Municipal People’s Hospital, Kaifeng City, China studied 192 patients suffering from bronchial asthma, all of whom were treated by acupuncture. There was a marked improvement in 76.5% of the patients.

Many people are unaware that diet plays a major role in the disease process of asthma. Food intolerance has been well recognized as a contributing factor. Cereal grains high in gluten, such as wheat and barley, are major culprits, as are dairy products, eggs, fish, shellfish, cheese, nuts, and chocolate. It is also best to avoid highly processed foods, and chemical additives, such as food colorings and MSG.

Obesity and a diet rich in saturated fats has been found to increase incidents of asthma, while diets rich in vegetables, fiber, food-based vitamin E and C, calcium, magnesium and potassium have much lower risk. Other helpful vitamins and minerals are natural selenium, zinc, B-vitamins, and glutathione.

Omega-3  fatty acids, found in flax seed oil, hemp seeds, evening primrose oil and borage oil are very valuable in decreasing inflammation naturally. Modifying the diet to phase out phlegm causing foods, such as dairy products, fried foods and refined sugars, while increasing water intake is a another very important step to reduce asthma symptoms.

Herbs for Asthma:
Chinese herbalists have used herbs for thousands of years to treat respiratory complaints. Chinese herbs are usually prescribed in formulas that combine herbs synergistically to be more balanced and effective. When used appropriately, there are few to no side effects. It is strongly advised to only take Chinese herbs that have been prescribed by a trained Chinese herbalist, since not all herbs are appropriate for all people and some may not combine well with certain pharmaceutical medications.

Acupuncturists today are using the same principles and methods that have proven themselves over 3000 years, on billions of people. Acupuncture and Oriental medicine address the underlying root cause of the problem, and build the health of the entire person; reducing, and in some cases, altogether eliminating, the symptoms.

Note: If you are currently under the care of an M.D. or D.O., it is recommended that you do not stop your current medications. Acupuncture treatment will assist the goal of your current therapy. If you are interested in decreasing or eliminating your prescription medications, you would needto work gradually toward that goal with your M.D. and your Acupuncture Physician.

_____________________________________________________________________________Sources:Sour(1) Sources:
All About Asthma,
(2) Springhouse Corp. Handbook of Diseases, 2nd Ed., Springhouse PA, 2000. pp 79-84.
(3) Life Extension, Disease Prevention & Treatment, Expanded 4th Ed. Life Extension Media. 2003. pp 139 – 143
(4) Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America,, Dec. 2001.
(5) “15 million American adults have asthma,” Center for Disease Control & Prevention, Aug. 16,2001; Health Biz News,, Aug, 2001.
(6) USA Today, June 13, 2001;
(7) Dynamic Chiropractic, March 20, 2000, Vol 18, No.7, pp. 1, 34.
(8) The American Journal of Respiratory & Critical Care Medicine, July 15, 2002, WebMD Health,, July 30, 2002.

Dawn Balusik

Acupuncture for Sports Injuries

by Dawn Balusik, AP, DOM published in Tampa Bay Wellness, Sept 2008

Playing sports is a wonderful way to stay in shape and have fun with friends. Whether you are a casual sports player, a weekend warrior or someone who trains hard everyday, acupuncture can be extremely valuable for you: it assists both acute and cumulative injury recovery, helps prevent future injuries and enhances athletic performance and endurance.

Many acupuncture techniques were born from the needs of the martial arts traditions in China.  Acupuncture played an important role in keeping ancient fighters in peak condition and it continues to keep modern athletes healthy and active. Some recognizable sports names who use acupuncture regularly are Maria Sharapova, Martina Hingis, Carl Lewis, Charles Barkley and Jim McMahon. Also, many professional sports teams employ acupuncturists to treat injuries and keep players in top condition.

Acute Sports Injuries:

Sports are competitive in nature. When we are competing, we push ourselves beyond our normal limitations, which can result in traumatic injury. No doubt, when this happens, you will want to get back out on the court, field, rink, course or trail as soon as possible and acupuncture can help.

When traumatic injury occurs, first check with an urgent care doctor to be sure that it isn’t serious; fractures, dislocations, ruptured tendons and serious internal injuries should be treated by a medical doctor or hospital. But, after you are released to rest and recuperate, acupuncture is the perfect therapy to augment your recovery, reduce your pain and speed healing time.

Common traumatic injuries that acupuncture can treat are:

- shoulder rotator cuff tears and strains
- wrist sprains and strains
- ankle sprains and strains
- knee ligament and meniscus injuries (these are especially common in sports that require a lot of sudden starting, stopping and direction changing)
- vertebral disc inflammation in the neck or back
- strains (pulls) and tears of any muscle or tendon (i.e. hamstring, groin, Achilles tendon)

Cumulative Over-Use Injuries:

Some sports injuries are not sudden, but slowly build-up over time due to repeated over-use of a particular joint or muscle. Usually, these types of injuries start out as a nagging dull ache.  This is the best time to start getting treatment for these injuries. If you ignore them, they will build-up to become chronic and debilitating problems. Once advanced, these injuries often require more recovery time than acute, traumatic ones.

How do you distinguish between the nagging ache of a cumulative over-use injury and the typical soreness that accompanies working out?  Here are 3 general guidelines to help you determine what your ache may be telling you:

1.Cumulative injuries are often felt more in joints: shoulders, knees, elbows, wrists, hip joints.  Conversely, typical “working-out” soreness is felt more in the muscles.

2. With a cumulative injury, the nagging soreness occurs during or very shortly after playing your sport, whereas, typical muscle soreness from training doesn’t usually begin until 24 to 48 hours later.

3.Cumulative injuries will repeatedly occur in the same area week after week, but soreness from working out usually will not.

Common cumulative, over-use injuries that acupuncture can treat are:

- tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow and elbow bursitis
- shoulder tendinitis, bursitis, arthritis and impingement syndrome
- wrist tendinitis
- Achilles tendinitis
- hip bursitis
- illiotibial band syndrome
- knee arthritis

How Does Acupuncture Help?

From the Chinese medical point of view, the body is an energetic collection of functions, not just a mechanical collection of parts. That is to say, we contain Life Energy, also known as Qi (“chee”). One is said to be in perfect health when this energy is flowing unimpeded, and in an adequate amount throughout the entire body. Qi is the basis for the proper functioning of all body processes: it provides structural integrity and stability, physiological efficiency and the potential for healing.

When you sustain an injury, the flow of energy in and around the area becomes disrupted, causing stagnation and pain. This energy stagnation also inhibits the proper circulation of blood and lymph to the area, extending healing times, prolonging swelling and bruising and increasing the need for pain medications.

Acupuncture works directly to free the flow of Qi through these areas of stagnation.  This serves 3 main functions to assist healing and speed recovery:

  1. Increased circulation of Qi decreases pain, inflammation and swelling (all of which are signs of stagnation).
  2. Enhanced circulation of energy also brings increased circulation of blood and lymph.  This means that fresh vital nutrients are more readily available to tissues that need them in order to mend.
  3. Enhanced circulation also carries dead cells and cellular waste products away from the injured site.

When Chinese herbal medicine is added to the acupuncture treatments, the healing and pain relieving effects are even greater.  Herbs for injuries may be applied topically and/or taken internally, depending on the nature of the injury.  Massage techniques may also be incorporated after the initial stages of recovery.

Enhancing Athletic Performance:

Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine focuses on regulating the flow of energy (Qi) throughout the entire body, to create optimal circulation and function.

What could be possible when your heart, lungs, muscles, tendons and joints are all receiving fresh vital nutrients and being flushed of waste products quickly and efficiently?  Better physical performance, enhanced endurance, quicker recovery times and fewer incidents of injury. When added to a proper physical training program, acupuncture is extremely valuable for improving your game. This is what many professionals already know, and why they use acupuncture for injuries, injury prevention and enhanced performance.


Dawn Balusik, AP, DOM

Acupuncture for Pregnancy, Childbirth and Beyond

by Dawn Balusik, AP, DOM
Published in Select Magazine, Mar-Apr 2009

Though, at first, you may not think to put acupuncture on your “to do” list when you find out you are pregnant, it is actually a valuable and natural way to help ensure a healthy pregnancy, a smooth delivery and a quick post-partum recovery.

Why Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine?

If we look back through Chinese history and the ancestral worship that is part of it, we see a very strong cultural commitment to have healthy children.  As a result, throughout the centuries, Oriental Medicine has developed effective treatments to help couples conceive, and to promote healthy pregnancies and uncomplicated deliveries.

Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine focuses on re-establishing and maintaining a healthful natural balance and flow of vital energy (or Qi “chee”) within the body.  Qi is the basis for the proper functioning of all of our organs and physiological processes, including reproduction: it provides structural integrity and stability, physiological efficiency and the potential for life, health and healing in general.

Qi circulates in pathways throughout the body, known as meridians.  In Oriental Medicine, one is said to be in perfect health when this Qi is balanced and flowing unimpeded, in the correct direction and in an adequate amount throughout the body. When this energy becomes imbalanced, blocked or deficient, we experience pain, discomfort and disease.

Acupuncture needles, placed properly, directly access and regulate the flow of the energy in the meridians and correct imbalances, thereby creating healing and harmony within the body.

Acupuncture is a safe, effective and natural way for women to reduce their symptoms of pregnancy.  Moreover, it does this without the risks and side-effects of pharmaceutical medications, most of which are contraindicated during pregnancy anyway.

Acupuncture for a Healthy Mother and Baby:

Acupuncture treatment once or twice a month during pregnancy is valuable for both mom and baby.  It will help ensure optimal health of the mother and the fetus at different stages of development, cell differentiation and growth.  It can also prevent and treat pregnancy-related symptoms.

One popular acu-point used during pregnancy is Zhubin (K-9) known as “the beautiful baby point”, located on the inner part of the lower leg above the ankle bone.  It is said to calm the mind, relieve anxiety, build blood and benefit the fetus.

During the final 4 to 6 weeks of pregnancy, weekly treatments are recommended, to help prepare for labor.  Typically, a session lasts 30 to 45 minutes, and women usually only feel a mild pressure or heaviness sensation at the site of the needle insertion.

Some women have pre-existing medical conditions that may worsen during pregnancy, but can be safely addressed with acupuncture.  This is a great option when pharmaceuticals are contraindicated or the mother just wants treatment as natural as possible.

Acupuncture for Pregnancy-Related Symptoms:

Acupuncture significantly relieves fatigue, anxiety, migraine headaches, bleeding and, of course, the morning sickness that can be common during the first trimester.  An Australian study published in the journal Birth reported that of nearly 600 women suffering with morning sickness, (all of whom were less than 14 weeks pregnant), those who received acupuncture treatment reported having less frequent and shorter periods of nausea than those who did not get acupuncture.

The second trimester can bring stress, sinus congestion, heartburn, constipation and hemorrhoids which acupuncture can help to alleviate.  Other second trimester symptoms that acupuncture can assist are edema, elevated blood pressure, elevated blood glucose or excessive weight gain, but these conditions are potentially dangerous, and should also be monitored by a western-trained physician or midwife.

Sciatica, back pain, pelvic pain, joint pain and carpal tunnel syndrome can be common during the third trimester.  Acupuncture treatment is known to bring relief to these symptoms, and it can bring this relief quickly, without any medications.  In fact, a recent study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that acupuncture in combination with standard treatment was more effective at relieving mixed pelvic/back pain during pregnancy than standard treatment alone.

If symptoms are particularly severe, weekly treatments may be necessary to get you through a particular period of time during the pregnancy.

Beginning around 32 to 34 weeks, special acu-points will be included during treatment to encourage the proper head-down positioning of the baby for birth. Also at this time, acupuncture treatment frequency will increase to weekly to help optimize childbirth.

Acupuncture for Labor Induction & Childbirth:

For pregnancies that have gone beyond their due date, acupuncture is amazingly valuable to help induce a natural labor.  A woman who is past her due date is facing either a Cesarean section or being induced with the drug pitocin.  Neither of these are desirable options, as they present more risks and side-effects.  Pitocin forces the body into labor whether it is ready or not.

Acupuncture is a great alternative. It is safe and encourages the body to go into a natural labor. Acu-points to induce labor are deliberately avoided during the 9 months of pregnancy, and are now used freely to encourage uterine contraction.  Acupuncture for labor induction will also help to tonify the mother’s vital energy as well as calm her anxiety.  This helps her to relax, which also facilitates a healthy delivery.

For labor induction, acu-points are used in the sacrum, hands, feet and shoulders.  Electro-stimulation may be used on the needles to strengthen the treatment effect.  Typically, treatment will aim at producing some contractions immediately.  In my practice, daily acupuncture treatment for 3 to 5 days is usually sufficient to induce labor.  Chinese herbal formulas may also be given to increase circulation in the pelvic area and to nourish the mother’s energy, which is needed for labor.

Acupuncture during labor itself is used to reduce pain and to boost energy, but can also be used to strengthen weak contractions.  In China this is a common practice, because birth is seen as a natural process that is to be interfered with as little as possible; acupuncture facilitates the natural process, it doesn’t force anything to happen.


Acupuncture for Post-Partum Recovery:

After delivery, acupuncture assists the normal recuperative process.  It can help stop bleeding and discharge, relieve backache and ease pain of the perineal area.  It can also help to hasten recovery from a C-Section surgery.  Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine helps to restore the mother’s vital Qi energy and Blood, support milk production, and normalize the Qi and Blood flow through the abdomen.  It is also ideal for preventing and treating post-partum depression.  So, even though the new mom will be busy tending to her newborn, it is important that she still get her acupuncture treatments.

It is clear to see that all women would benefit from receiving acupuncture throughout their pregnancies.  Acupuncture is valuable to ensure a healthy mother and fetus and to address pre-existing and pregnancy-related symptoms during pregnancy.  It is also a wonderful alternative to pitocin or C-section for inducing labor.  In addition, acupuncture can facilitate the labor process and assist in post-partum recovery.



Chao AS, Chao A, Wang TH, et al. Pain relief by applying transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) on acupuncture points during the first stage of labor: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Pain. 2007 Feb;127(3):214-20. View Abstract.


Crocker, Walt. Acupuncture May Be a Safe Alternative for Inducing Labor: Chinese Method Has Been Used Thousands of Years. Accessed on 5/25/08 from

Maciocia, Giovanni.  Obstetrics and Gynecology in Oriental Medicine.  Churchill Livingston, London, 1998.

Rabinowitz, Naomi, MD, Dipl.Ac., Acupuncture and Pregnancy, accessed on 5/25/08 at

Ring, Phyllis Edgerly.  Acupuncture: Relief Right to the Point.  Accessed on 5/25/08 from

Dawn Balusik, AP, DOM

Acupuncture for Fertility

by Dawn Balusik, AP, DOM
Published in Tampa Bay Wellness, Sept 2007

If you have been trying to conceive a child for at least 1 year without success, most doctors would diagnose you with infertility.  You are not alone; infertility currently affects about 6.1 million people in the U.S.

Many couples turn to the latest medical technologies to assist them, such as ovulation-promoting drugs, intra-uterine insemination (IUI), and in vitro fertilization (IVF).  These are collectively known as Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART).  In vitro fertilization is an incredible technology that has led to many successful pregnancies.

However, IVF is not an easy path to choose: it is a very complex procedure, it is quite expensive, and most find it emotionally difficult.  In addition, the success rates are still relatively low (generally 10% to 35%).  If you decide to invest your time and money into these therapies, you want to be sure you are giving yourself every advantage possible.  Adding acupuncture to your ART can significantly increase your chances of success.

If ART is not for you, due to financial, medical or other reasons, or if you wish to try something less invasive/expensive first, acupuncture is, again, very valuable, for both female and male factor infertility.

Acupuncture with ART:

Growing numbers of research studies in medical journals are demonstrating impressive results when acupuncture is combined with ART.  A landmark study published in April 2002 in the Fertility & Sterility Journal caught the attention of many reproductive specialists:  women undergoing IVF embryo transfer who received acupuncture had a 42.5% success rate, compared with the 26.3% success rate of those who did not get acupuncture.

A study published in May 2006 (Fertility & Sterility) found that acupuncture more than doubled the pregnancy rates of IVF procedures.  Because of this and other research, many infertility doctors refer their patients for acupuncture.

Acupuncture for fertility, without ART:

Acupuncture has been treating infertility for over 2000 years.  Consider that throughout history in Chinese culture the inability to have a child (especially a son) was considered the worst kind of tragedy.  When infertility afflicted a couple, there was a great deal of motivation for Chinese physicians to develop effective treatments.

Only recently has Western science begun to conduct studies on acupuncture by itself for infertility: one study compared women with endocrine dysfunctional infertility:  one group was put on the drug Clomid and the other was treated with acupuncture.  The result was 45% pregnancy in the Clomid group, and 65% in the acupuncture group.

Other studies show that acupuncture can stimulate ovulation, reduce the impedance of blood flow to the uterus, and normalize the hormone communication cycle in women.  It also reduces stress hormones and increases endorphin levels, both of which positively affect hormone levels.

And there are numerous studies citing the benefits of acupuncture for male factor infertility.  Acupuncture increases the number and ratio of normal-form sperm; significantly decreases the number of anti-sperm antibodies (in male immune infertility), and increases the quick sperm motility.

Why does Acupuncture work?

From an Oriental medicine viewpoint, acupuncture is effective for infertility because it helps to relieve stress, correct imbalances and ensure proper communication in the body.  It increases the circulation of energy, blood and nutrients to the necessary organs and glands, so that they are healthier, work better, and communicate with each other more effectively.

Recommended Protocol:

In general, I recommend acupuncture treatments weekly for at least 4-6 weeks followed by twice monthly, combined with Chinese herbs, until pregnancy. The more treatments initially, the quicker the results. For those patients whose MD’s have requested that they not take herbs during their ART, I recommend once or twice weekly acupuncture treatments.  These protocols are the same for both men and women.

For best chances of success with ART, acupuncture treatment should begin 3 months prior to any major procedure.  If this schedule is not possible for you, aim to get treatments for as many weeks as possible before the procedure begins.

What to expect from Acupuncture for Fertility:

In my clinic, I have found that acupuncture can:

1. Regulate menstrual cycles:  Often infertility is associated with irregular menstrual cycles or endometriosis.  With acupuncture and herbs I have seen women without regular periods start cycling regularly again, women with heavy bleeding normalize, and significant or complete reduction of endometriosis.

2. Increase ovulation rates:  Related to irregular menstruation, some infertility patients simply are not ovulating regularly.  With only acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, one specific patient has been ovulating consistently for 7 months, after more than 12 years of negative ovulation test readings!

3. Increase the number and quality of eggs that are ovulated:  After 2 months of acupuncture, one IVF patient produced 15 healthy eggs that were extracted; that is nearly double her first IVF cycle, without acupuncture, when she produced 8 healthy eggs.

Another patient, with a history of repeated miscarriages, was told by her infertility specialist that she could never use her own eggs to have a baby.  It was his professional opinion that her eggs were too poor quality for her to get pregnant naturally and keep the child; she would have to do IVF with donor eggs.   After 3 months of acupuncture and herbal medicine, she became pregnant naturally, and, at the time of this writing, is due to give birth in 2 weeks.

4. Increase the chances of implantation:  Acupuncture helps to increase circulation to the uterine wall, creating a more optimal lining condition.  It also helps to relax the uterus, so that implantation is more likely.  Often, in IVF, the embryo transfer process stimulates uterine contractions, which can make implantation difficult.  This is why studies find that acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer increases success rates significantly.

5. Increase the chances of a healthy, full-term pregnancy:  Continued acupuncture treatment for at least the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is highly recommended to decrease chances of miscarriage.   It’s also useful for morning sickness, fatigue and mood swings.

The journey to overcome infertility can be a very difficult one.  It makes sense to be sure that you are giving yourself every advantage.  Whether you choose to receive ART or not, you can feel confident that including acupuncture in your plan will increase your chances of having the baby you want.


Berkley, Dr. Mike, Treating Infertility using Acupuncture.  American Pregnancy Association.  Accessed from

Chen, By, Acupuncture normalizes dysfunction of hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis.  Acupunct Electrother Res. 1997;22(2):97-108. PMID: 9330669

Dieterle, S., et al.  Effect of acupuncture on the outcome of in vitro fertilization and intracytoplasmic sperm injection: a randomized, prospective, controlled clinical study. Fertil Steril. 2006 May;85(5):1347-     51. Epub 2006 Apr 17. PMID: 16616748 .

Dong, C, et al. Clinical observation and study of mechanisms of needle-picking therapy for primary infertility of abnormal sperm. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2006 Jun;26(6):389-91. Chinese. PMID: 16813177

Fu, B et al.  Effects of the combined therapy of acupuncture with herbal drugs on male immune     infertility – a clinical report of 50 cases.  J Tradit Chin Med. 2005 Sep;25(3):186-9. PMID: 16334720

Gurfinkel E, et al.  Effects of acupuncture and moxa treatment in patients with semen abnormalities. Asian J Androl. 2003 Dec;5(4):345-8. PMID: 14695986 

Mo X, et al, Clinical studies on the mechanism for acupuncture stimulation of ovulation. J Tradit Chin Med. 1993 Jun;13(2):115-9. PMID: 8412285

Paulus, Wolfgang, MD, et al., Influence of Acupuncture on the pregnancy rate in patients who undergo assisted reproduction therapy. American Society for Reproductive Medicine / Elsevier Science Inc (Fertility & Sterility, April 2002, Vol.77, No.4).

Robinson, Kathleen and Tracy Hickenbottom, Acupuncture has numerous potential fertility boosting benefits according to New York Weill Cornell physician-scientists.  Cornell News. New York, April 2003.  Accessed from

Song, JJ et al.  Progress of integrative Chinese and Western medicine in treating polycystic ovarian syndrome caused infertility. Chin J Integr Med. 2006 Dec;12(4):312-6. Review. PMID: 17361532

Stener-Victorin E, et al. Use of acupuncture in female infertility and a summary of recent acupuncture studies related to embryo transfer.  Acupunct Med. 2006 Dec;24(4):157-63. Review. PMID: 17264833

Westergaard. LG, et al.  Acupuncture on the day of embryo transfer significantly improves the reproductive outcome in infertile women: a prospective, randomized trial. Fertil Steril. 2006 May;85(5):1341-6. Epub 2006 Apr 5. PMID: 16600232

Yang, JR, et al.  Controlled study on acupuncture for treatment of endocrine dysfunctional infertility. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu. 2005 May;25(5):299-300. Chinese. PMID: 16320739

Zhang, M, et al.  Influence of acupuncture on idiopathic male infertility in assisted reproductive technology.  J Huazhong Univ Sci Technolog Med Sci. 2002;22(3):228-30.  PMID: 12658811

Dawn Balusik

Acupuncture for Prolonged Grief

Question: About 6 months ago I lost my sister to a fatal car accident. Since then I’ve been depressed, I have no energy, and I cannot sleep well. I don’t want to take pharmaceutical medications for depression. Is there anything acupuncture can do to help me cope with how I am feeling?

Answer: To a degree, grief and sadness following a loss is normal and healthy. We shouldn’t be afraid to feel sadness, even deep mourning and grief. It is natural and part of the process of healing and acceptance.

But, when the grieving process (or any strong emotion) goes on too intensely or for too long, it can cause an imbalance that not only disrupts your life, but also your vital life energy. In Oriental Medicine, the body, mind, and spirit are inseparable, such that one cannot experience an imbalance in one area without affecting the others.

Just as the word itself literally says “e-motion” or “Energy in Motion”, emotions are meant to move freely through the body and mind, be experienced, and then released. But when emotions don’t move freely, for any number of reasons, they can become “stuck” in the mind and body, making it difficult to let go and accept our loss. Eventually this stagnant energy affects the body in negative ways.

The emotion of grief, in Oriental Medicine, is known to most directly affect the energy of the Lungs. Many people have experienced catching a cold or contracting bronchitis simultaneous to a deep sense of grief. The most extreme examples of this are some of the cases of “unexplained” lung cancer that we hear about in the news, including the sudden death of Christopher Reeves’ wife after his passing; her overwhelming grief so disrupted the energy of her lungs that she developed cancer.

This is certainly not to say that all grieving people will eventually develop lung cancer; it is only to point out that our emotions are inextricably linked to the energies of our physical bodies.

It is in this realm that Oriental Medicine is helpful. Acupuncture helps to move energy in the body that has become stagnant, encouraging it to flow freely again. It also helps to nourish energy where it is deficient, which helps to strengthen the Lung and Heart energy.

After an acupuncture treatment for emotional release, you might feel lighter and freer, as though a burden has been lifted. Or you might feel the emotion come to the surface, to be fully experienced before then being released. It is important that this process not be stifled; breathing deeply will assist the energy in flowing freely.

Chinese herbal formulas can also be helpful with releasing stagnant energy, nourishing the Lung and Heart energy, and abating the symptoms common to grief such as insomnia, anxiety, heart palpitations, appetite changes, digestive disturbances, tension, nervousness, and low energy.

Lastly, because of the connection between the flow of energy and breath, and between the emotion of grief and the Lung, engaging in mindful breathing techniques and/or getting some light form of aerobic exercise daily can be of great benefit.

Dawn Balusik

Acupuncture for Cancer Care

Acupuncture as Complementary Care for Cancer, revised
by Dawn Balusik AP, DOM
(Excerpts published in Tampa Bay Wellness, Oct 2007)

While cancer survival rates are increasing due to advancements in cancer treatment, the treatments themselves are still very taxing to the body, causing numerous debilitating side-effects.  Acupuncture is a perfect complementary option to lessen these side effects, alleviate pain and help strengthen the body.  Because of this, many elite cancer care facilities including Moffett Cancer Center, Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and the Naval Medical Center (San Diego) offer acupuncture services.

Oriental Medicine for Cancer:
Oriental Medicine is the oldest, continually practiced form of medicine in the world.  It is just as valuable today as ever, because it emphasizes the re-establishment of natural balance and utilizes the body’s innate healing wisdom to gently address the underlying causes of symptoms.

Though it is a complete medical system, most Doctors of Oriental Medicine do not treat cancer per se.  Instead, we offer supportive treatment, using acupuncture, Chinese herbs and nutritional counseling to reduce the side effects of conventional cancer treatments, relieve pain, and to provide support for the overall health of the body.

Oriental Medicine for Nausea & Vomiting:
Nausea, vomiting and poor appetite are common side effects of chemotherapy.   Even with the best anti-nausea medications, 60% of chemotherapy patients still experience nausea and vomiting (Collins).  Acupuncture has been found by many research studies to greatly reduce chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting; in fact, the National Institute of Health endorses its use.  For example, in England, a study of 130 cancer patients found that when acupuncture was added 97% had reduced or no sickness after chemotherapy (Dundee).  Numerous other studies support the same findings (Aglietti, Deng, Reindl, Molassiotis).

Acupuncture for Pain:
Because Acupuncture and Chinese herbs enhance the circulation of energy and blood through the body, it can decrease the swelling and pain of surgery, and the pain of cancer itself.  To illustrate, in 2005, the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association reported on several studies:  In one, the majority of 250 patients with gynecologic cancer had enhanced pain relief when acupuncture was administered as an adjunct to anesthesia (Menefee).  Another study found substantial pain reduction in patients receiving ear acupuncture (Menefee).   Cancer treatment–related pain, muscle and bladder spasms, and vascular problems all are found to improve with acupuncture (Alimi, Deng, Menefee).

Acupuncture for Increased Immunity and Energy:
Acupuncture helps build the immune system and increase the rate of healing, as well as boost energy levels.  It is ideal to use concurrent to cancer treatment (to reduce side-effects), before treatment (to help prepare the body) and after treatment (to build strength and prevent recurrence).

While it is advisable to not take Chinese herbal medicine during chemotherapy treatment, to avoid possible interactions, it is quite helpful to take individually prescribed Chinese herbal formulas before chemo has begun, and after it is complete. Several studies reviewed in Acupuncture Today (Sept 2005 edition) show that combining Chinese herbal formulas with conventional therapies leads to better treatment results with fewer hemoglobin changes, higher white blood cell counts, and lower recurrence rates than conventional therapy alone (Fratkin).  In another study, at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, acupuncture was shown to reduce post-chemotherapy fatigue by 31% (, Cohen).

Acupuncture for other chemotherapy–related problems:
Acupuncture can help with a host of other chemotherapy related problems:  Because there is evidence that acupuncture can assist a variety of psychoneurological issues, researchers at UCLA recommend that physicians support their patients’ decision to use acupuncture for chemotherapy-associated cognitive dysfunction (Johnston).  Acupuncture is also useful to treat patients with radiation-induced xerostomia (lack of salivation), as well as patients with shortness of breath, depressed mood, leg swelling due to removal of lymph nodes, and menopausal symptoms due to tamoxifen therapy.  Acupuncture also improves arm mobility following lymph node removal from the chest area (Cohen, Filshie, Mehling, Menefee, Rydholm).

In my own clinic, I have also used acupuncture to alleviate dizziness after radiation therapy, and scar tissue pain from cancer surgery.

For those who are needle shy, a treatment alternative is acupressure massage.  Using the same acu-points, acupressure applies gentle sustained pressure, rather than needles.  It is a perfect choice for those who fear needles, or who just want to experience supportive touch.

A welcome added effect of acupuncture/acupressure is the deep sense of relaxation and wellbeing that is often experienced during and after the treatments; it can greatly increase a cancer patient’s quality of life.

Dawn’s Qualifications:
Cancer care is one of my passions, so I have become certified in “Acupuncture for the Cancer Patient” from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and read many books related to Integrative Oncology and the Oriental medical approach to cancer care.  I provide acupuncture, acupressure and nutritional counseling to patients in all various stages of all various types of cancer to alleviate discomfort, and to enhance energy, appetite and immune function.

I generally do not prescribe Chinese herbal medicine to patients undergoing chemotherapy, but I do like to provide it for patients who are complete with their chemotherapy treatments, or are not candidates for chemotherapy.

For more info on the care I provide for Cancer patients, please see my website page:

Aglietti, L., et al.   “A pilot study of metoclopramide, dexamethasone, diphenhydramine and acupuncture in women treated with cisplatin” Medical Oncology Division, Ospedale Policlinico, Perugia, Italy. – 1990. Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology. 26(3) p. 239-240

Alimi, David, et al.  “Analgesic Effect of Auricular Acupuncture for Cancer Pain: A Randomized, Blinded, Controlled Trial”.  Journal of Clinical Oncology, Vol 21, Issue 22 (November), 2003: 4120-4126

American Cancer Society Website. Website.

Cancer Treatment Centers of America Website.

Cohen, Andrea J, MD, et al. “Acupuncture: Role in Comprehensive Cancer Care—A Primer for the  Oncologist and Review of the Literature.” Integrative Cancer Therapies, Vol. 4, No. 2, 131-143 (2005).

Collins, KB & Thomas, DJ.  “Acupuncture and acupressure for the management of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting.” J Am Acad Nurse Pract. 2004 Feb;16(2):76-80. Review.

Deng, G, et al.  Complementary therapies for cancer-related symptoms. J Support Oncol. 2004 Sep-Oct;2(5):419-26; discussion 427-9. Review. PMID: 15524070

Dundee, J, et al.  Acupuncture prophylaxis of cancer chemotherapy-induced sickness.  Department of Anaesthetics, Queen’s University of Belfast. – 1989.  Journal of Royal Society of Medicine 1. 82(5) p. 268-271.

Filshie, J, et al.  “Acupuncture for the relief of cancer-related breathlessness.” Palliat Med. 1996 Apr;10(2):145-50.  PMID: 8800822

Fratkin, Jake P.  “Improved outcomes when combining TCM with Western interventions for cancer.”

Johnston, MF, et al. “Acupuncture for chemotherapy-associated cognitive dysfunction: a hypothesis-generating literature review to inform clinical advice”.   Integr Cancer Ther. 2007 Mar;6(1):36-41. PMID: 17351025

Johnstone PA, et al. (Naval Medical Center, SD)  “Integration of acupuncture into the oncology clinic.”  Palliat Med. 2002 May;16(3):235-9. PMID: 12047000

Komen, Susan G.  The Breast Cancer Foundation Website.

Mak, Eugene, MD.  “Acupuncture in Cancer treatment.”

Mehling, We, et al.  Symptom management with massage and acupuncture in postoperative cancer patients: a randomized controlled trial. J Pain Symptom Manage. 2007 Mar;33(3):258-66. PMID: 17349495

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center website:

Menefee, Lynette, PhD & Monti, Daniel, MD.  “Nonpharmacologic and Complementary Approaches to Cancer Pain Management.” Journal of the American Osteopathic Association • Vol 105 • No suppl_5 • November 2005 • 15-20. – REF43#REF43

Moffett Cancer Center Website.

Molassiotis A, et al.  “The effects of P6 acupressure in the prophylaxis of chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting in breast cancer patients”. Complement Ther Med. 2007 Mar;15(1):3-12. Epub 2006 Sep 27. PubMed # 17352966

NIH Consensus Statement (Acupuncture) Online 1997 Nov 3-5; month, day]; 15(5):1-34.

Reindl, TK, et al.  “Acupuncture against chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting in pediatric oncology. Interim results of a multicenter crossover study”.  Support Care Cancer. 2006. Feb;14(2):172-6. Epub 2005 Jul 14. PMID: 16021478

Rydholm, M & Strang, P. Acupuncture for patients in hospital-based home care suffering from xerostomia.  J Palliat Care. 1999 Winter;15(4):20-3. PMID: 10693302

Dawn Balusik

Ear Stapling, Mental Shifting and Placebo

Originally Posted on Sept 17, 2007.

I got a phone call this past week, asking if I do ear stapling for weight loss. I informed the caller that I don’t do ear stapling per se; I do ear acupuncture needling, along with body points, nutritional analysis, herbal supplementation and exercise counseling for weight loss. She was not interested in these services. She fully understood that ear stapling is a derivative of acupuncture, but had no interest in the medicine from which this technique came. She hung up in order to continue her search.

Does ear stapling work?
I don’t have any experience with it to know if it actually works. In my training and philosophy, in most cases, it would take more than a single staple in the ear to shift a person’s entire energy balance (homeostasis) from holding onto weight to releasing it. (This is why I combine ear acupuncture with body acupuncture, nutrition, herbs and exercise. ) But, I also don’t doubt that the power of the mind, belief and manifestation is incredible, and if a person is “ripe” for a mental shift, a staple in the ear might be enough support for them to make the changes necessary.

Mental Shift:
An example of this powerful mental shift is a friend of mine who was a “closet” smoker. She wanted to quit, and tried numerous times over many years. It was so difficult for her that she often found herself in tears over it…ashamed that she couldn’t overcome this addiction. Interestingly, however, the minute she found out she was pregnant, she quit smoking with ease, and without looking back. A mental shift occurred when she realized she was supporting a developing life. And it was this mental shift that made all the difference in her experience of her addiction. Any power that it once had over her was gone in an instant.

Now, in the case of the ear stapling, if it is the “mental shift” that has it be successful, this would be called “placebo” medicine. Interestingly, in Oriental Medicine there is no such thing as “placebo”. The mind, body and spirit are inseparable…you cannot affect one without affecting the others, AND there is nothing a person could possibly consume or experience that wouldn’t affect the body, mind or spirit in some way, though often not in a predictable way. So, placebo is a fallacy. In research studies involving “placebo”, it is a valid idea, but only in that there are specific results being sought and measured in comparison to something else. Though a placebo can’t exist in the big picture, when looking for a specific outcome, placebo is possible.

Another word about placebo: many people consider the whole medicine of acupuncture to be placebo. This is not valid. Look at how many animals respond so well to acupuncture. It has been used on racehorses for decades with great effect. Another example is a canine friend of mine, who got acupuncture treatment for a hip injury and allergies.  After a 10-minute treatment, he rose to his feet no longer limping, and didn’t sneeze again for 2 weeks. Animals don’t have the burden of a mind full of judgements, opinions and beliefs to contend with, and oddly enough, they often respond more immediately to acupuncture than most humans do. This points to the idea that people’s minds are actually retarding the healing processes that acupuncture stimulates…the opposite of the placebo effect.

Dawn Balusik