Sandra Shindoll is a Licensed Acupuncturist (L.Ac.) at Progressive Health Center. She treats health conditions using acupuncture at Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center and in her own private practice. I recently spoke with Sandra and her client, Alex, about Alex’s pain management treatment plan and his success with acupuncture after amputation. The following reflects the conversation, and includes information on acupuncture to better understand it’s origins and modern day use.
Tell us how you first got started in complementary and alternative medicine and what brought you to Progressive Health Center?
- S) I had asthma when I was a teenager. I used an inhaler three times per day, or more, and had frequent asthma attacks. I tried acupuncture — after six months of one treatment per week, I was using the inhaler once per day. And after a year, I didn’t need the inhaler anymore! I was inspired to become an acupuncturist over twelve years ago, after working as a massage therapist and feeling like acupuncture was my calling.
- A) I had an injury and subsequent below the knee leg amputation in December, 2016. I was referred by Dr. So for acupuncture to help manage my pain after trying medications. I felt phantom pain in my limb and had tried a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit, topical, and compound creams without relief. I was skeptical at first because I had never had it done before, but decided to give it a try. I began acupuncture sessions once a week for two months.
How does acupuncture work?
- S) I see our body as a self-healing organism with a network of interrelating and interacting energies. The even distribution and flow of the body’s energy (Qi) maintains health. But any disturbance, depletion, or stagnation unbalances the Qi and leads to disease. Acupuncture is a system of Chinese medicine that facilitates the natural processes, encouraging the Qi to regulate. The imbalances are detected through traditional Chinese diagnostic tools such as the pulse, tongue irregularities, physiognomy, and comprehensive patient consultation. This evaluation shows me where the Qi needs to be redirected. Using minute sterile needles assists the rebalance of the Qi and helps the body heal itself.
- A) My treatments last about an hour. I felt lasting pain relief after three to four treatments and continue with sessions every other week without side effects. The needles are placed in the same spot and I get a good result if I treat every ten days. Sometimes, if I am stressed, the needles feel more intense, but overall, it is not too painful. Initially, I was told that it could take up to two years for my nerves to calm after the amputation.
What is acupuncture?
Abiding by a fundamental doctrine of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture aims to treat the body as a whole, as ‘several systems of function.’ The systems of function, although named after organs in a Western anatomical sense, (Heart, Lung, Kidney etc), refer to areas along the 12 primary channels that relate to, but do not directly comprise, these physical organs. Referred to as “patterns of disharmony” by TCM, disease, as it is known in Western medical terms, is treated by modifying one or more systems of function through the insertion and subsequent activity of sterile needles.
The basis of acupuncture (the insertion of fine needles into specific vital points), targets the aforementioned 12 primary channels, each corresponding to a specific system of function (including – Lung, Large Intestine, Stomach, Spleen, Heart, Small Intestine, Bladder, Kidney, Pericardium, Triple Burner, Gall Bladder and Liver). When acupuncture points are stimulated, it is thought that Qi is rebalanced throughout all 12-channel pathways and health, as it specifically relates to why the treatment is being sought and the initial diagnosis, is restored as a result.
While receiving the acupuncture needle treatment, the patient may experience some numbness, heaviness, and tingling or dull sensations. Sometimes people have a sense of energy spreading and moving around the needle and inside of the body. This is called the “De Qi” Meaning “Qi sensation.” These reactions are positive responses towards the needles and shows that the treatment is effective. Some of the patients may feel more active or some may feel very relaxed and sleepy. Those are good signs that the needles have successfully activated the Qi and blood flow in the body and reinstalled the energy to achieve well-being.
Why did you choose this profession and what is your educational background?
- S) I became interested in the field because it is a safe, drug-free way to help people heal. I completed my Masters in Science in Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine from the Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine, and completed post-grad studies with my teacher, Dr. Dong Ming Fan. I am certified in acupuncture by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) and Licensed in Colorado. I also graduated from the Center for Advanced Therapeutics with a Massage Therapist Certificate. My private practice is located Denver, where I see a variety of patients including, OB/GYN, the elderly and pediatrics.
Do you have a specialty, and what modalities do you use?
- S) I specialize in acute and chronic pain, fertility issues, allergies, gastro-intestinal disorders, menopause, and gynecological disorders, including PMS and uterine fibroids, cancer, and stress.
I treat many difficult chronic pain cases. These patients typically have tried acupuncture as a last resort, and we have had many successful results. I have treated several infertility patients, because Chinese medicine is recognized as increasing the likelihood of conception by creating a relaxed and healthy intrauterine environment for pregnancy. Chinese medicine has lasting results without side effects, and the benefits of acupuncture are enhanced with suggested dietary and lifestyle changes. In addition to acupuncture, I also treat with Chinese herbs (pills, powder and raw).
Can acupuncture be used on animals? What conditions can you treat with acupuncture?
- S) Veterinary acupuncture is widely studied and practiced in the US, and I have treated my own dog with acupuncture. It is indicated for functional problems such as those that involve paralysis, noninfectious inflammation (such as allergies), and pain. If your animals are involved in any athletic endeavor, such as racing, jumping, or showing, acupuncture can help them keep in top physical condition. Just like in humans, acupuncture treats a wide variety of conditions such as:
- Muscular & Nervous System Disorders
- Migraine headaches
- Regular headaches
- Certain facial paralysis or nerve pain
- Inflammation of joints and nerve endings
- Frozen shoulder
- Tennis elbow
- Bed wetting
- Low back pain
- Disorders Of The Ear, Nose & Throat
- Pain after having a tooth pulled
- Sinus inflammation
- Nasal inflammation
- Respiratory Disorders
- Uncomplicated cases of bronchial asthma in children or adults
- Gastrointestinal Disorders
- Digestive tract problems
- Inflammation of the stomach
- Chronic duodenal ulcers
- Inflammation of the colon
- Acid reflux
- Gynecological Disorders
- Pre-menstrual syndrome
- Abdominal cramps
So, what’s the bottom line?
The two most important trends in acupuncture research reflect the real-world use of acupuncture. Research treatment protocols are increasingly matching clinical practice. For example, practitioners are allowed to choose patient-specific acupuncture point combinations rather than being required to treat all patients at the same set of points.
In addition, clinical trials are designed to compare acupuncture to standard biomedical treatments. For example, acupuncture can be compared to ultrasound therapy for treatment of rotator cuff impingement. This type of research informs physicians’ decisions about referral, as well as helps patients to make treatment choices. Further, this comparative effectiveness design allows assessment of relative cost of the treatment options.
While the trend in recent trials is to reflect the real-world practice of acupuncture, earlier studies often tested acupuncture with inadequate treatment protocols. For example, a study on patients with asthma investigated the use of a single acupuncture treatment at one acupuncture point (which is like testing the effectiveness of a drug by giving it once instead of the full recommended course).
PubMed lists more than 1,000 randomized controlled trials that have assessed either the efficacy (is it better than placebo?) or effectiveness (is it at least as good as other treatments?) of acupuncture. Many of these trials have been summarized in systematic, condition-specific reviews.
How do I find studies?
The most complete resource for acupuncture research is PubMed. Begin your search by entering the keyword “acupuncture” along with the name of the condition (e.g. low back pain). Below are examples of recent studies:
Deng, et al. (2007). Randomized, controlled trial of acupuncture for the treatment of hot flashes in breast cancer patients. J Clin Oncol., 25(35), 5584-5590.
Scharf, et al. (2006). Acupuncture and knee osteoarthritis: a three-armed randomized trial. Ann Intern Med., 4, 145(1), 12-20.
Witt, et al. (2008). Acupuncture in patients with dysmenorrhea: a randomized study on clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness in usual care. Am J Obstet.Gynecol., 198(2), 166-168.
Witt, et al. (2006). Pragmatic randomized trial evaluating the clinical and economic effectiveness of acupuncture for chronic low back pain. Am J Epidemiol., 164, 487-496.
Xue, et al. (2007). Acupuncture for persistent allergic rhinitis: a randomized, sham-controlled trial. Med J Aust., 187(6), 337-341.
Zaborowska, et al. (2007). Effects of acupuncture, applied relaxation, estrogens and placebo on hot flushes in postmenopausal women: An analysis of two prospective, parallel, randomized studies. Climacteric, 10(1), 38-45.
Acupuncture is a widely practiced, time-approved, natural, safe, drug-free system that promotes health on many different levels, and has been proven effective for eliminating pain. Unlike some other methods for dealing with pain, there are no side effects. More importantly, Chinese medicine may have much to offer us when it comes to preventing illness and disease, optimizing our health, and enhancing our well-being.
Acupuncture is available at Progressive Health Center. Please call 303-788-9399 to schedule an appointment or for more information, stop by the Employee Wellness Lounge.