Eyton Shalom, M.S., L.Ac., has been a Licensed Acupuncturist in Practice in San Diego, Ca since 1992.
Eyton has been a Subject Matter Expert and Assistant Chief Examiner for the State of California Acupuncture Licensing Exam, and was an Acupuncture Clinical Supervisor and Professor of Chinese Herbs and Nutrition at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in Mission Valley, San Diego, for 6 years.
Eyton has owned clinics in San Diego’s Hillcrest and Mission Hills neighborhoods, and has been in North Park now since 2006. Eyton loves practicing Acupuncture in San Diego because our city attracts both world class athletes and people who love physical fitness. Its a pleasure to help athletes get back their sport, just as it is to help people with chronic pain return to pain-free lives.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Acupuncture and the Flow of Qi
From the Chinese perspective, Acupuncture works by unblocking Qi flow.
During an acupuncture treatment we place very fine needles into the skin at specific places. These acupuncture points are where the Qi energy of the acupuncture channels rises to the surface of the body, like underground water in a spring. By doing this we are able to communicate with the acupuncture channels that were mapped out by the ancient Chinese. There is an elaborate system of points and channels used to treat every every aspect of human physiology, and most diseases known to humankind.
“Where There is Qi Stagnation there is Pain and Disease, and Where there is Pain and Disease there is Qi Stagnation”
Classical Chinese Medicine Acupuncture theory explains that when Qi flow is blocked, or stagnates, then pain and disease have to follow. Conversely, if there is pain or disease, there has to be Qi blockage or stagnation in the acupuncture channels and their associated tissues. We can move, or eliminate that stagnation with acupuncture, herbs, Tai Qi, meditation, and any healthy thing that relaxes us, from petting the dog to exercise.
What is Qi?
Qi is Our Life Force
Qi is life force. Its the difference between a living body and a dead one. Its what makes everything in a living being move, from the smallest intracellular process, like the production of mitochondrial DNA, to the movement of saliva from the salivary glands into the mouth at the smell of food.
In fact, the Chinese character for Qi represents steam rising off a pot of freshly cooked rice. Rice was the staff of life in China; no rice, no life. And, by representing steam, and not the rice itself, that hints at the characteristics of Qi–its warm, mobile, and etheric.
Qi is a Biological Force
But Qi is very much a biological force. Out heart beating is the movement of Qi that circulates the blood, which in turn nourishes the tissues. Every anatomical structure in the human body is fed by the Qi of the channels the way a field is irrigated by water. When Qi stagnates, so does blood, because Qi is “the commander of blood.” Without the Qi to move it, the blood does not circulate, just like water in nature.
Without the force of gravity, or wind, or the shock wave of a tsunami, water just settles peacefully. But in a closed area, like a bond, it stagnates, and algae grow. In the body, tissues and organs are not nourished, and illness and pain develops. When we place Acupuncture needles into the channels in the correct locations, Qi flow is restored, and the body’s healing force unleashed.
Scientific Explanations for How Acupuncture Works
The Sensory Nervous System
The first thing to understand is that if your wool sweater is itchy, or your dog licks your hand, or the sun is too bright, or the ice cream tastes good, your brain perceives this information because of your sensory nervous system. This is how acupuncture works, big picture.
When we place needles into your skin your sensory nervous system picks up that data and thru the hardware of your body, bring it to your brain, where the software of your brain processes it.
Release of Endorphins
Researchers have been able to observe that when you place Acupuncture needles into the body specific biochemical responses occur in the brain, thanks to that hardware/software interface
One of the biochemicals that is secreted in the brain in response to needling are Endorphins, the same chemical that elevates when you go mad, and fall in love.
Endorphins are opiate-like hormones “released from the pituitary gland in response to pain and can act in both the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system and has a direct effect on specific brain activity. “This effect on endorphins can explain why people feel so good after acupuncture treatments, why they sometimes say they feel “loopy”, and why acupuncture is so good for stress.
Endorphins are also associated with “runner’s high” and with the euphoric states associated with sex, listening to music, and eating chocolate. Meditation also triggers endorphin release, as can laughter.
Acupuncture also increases the secretion of anti-inflammatory steroid hormones related to cortisol. This may contribute further to its ability to promote healing and treat pain.
Functional MRI Studies Show the Effect on the Brain
But this is the best part, functionalMRI studies have shown that classical Chinese acupuncture points such as Zu San Li “modulate the limbic network, an important intrinsic regulatory system of the human brain.” In fact, studies have also shown that “specific acupuncture points relate to specific medical disorders and suggest an “acupuncture point, brain organ pathway”.
The suggestion is that the sensory nervous system, which is the aspect involved with your feeling the needle in the location, sends messages to specific parts of the brain that in turn send “positive” messages to specific parts of the body. What’s great is that those parts of the body correlate to what Chinese acupuncture theory says the point is used for.
Acupuncture Vs. Dry Needling: What’s the Difference?
Qi Flow in the Channels
Acupuncture is based on the Classical Chinese system that maps the flow of Qi thru discrete Acupuncture channels. To practice acupuncture you need to have memorized and understood the flow of Qi thru these channels, or “meridians” and how to access it thru the acupunctur points. Once you have done that, which takes about 4 years to grasp just the very basics of, then you can treat the underlying “energetic” patterns associated with disease and pain.
Trigger Points in the Muscles
Dry Needling, on the other hand, is based on a knowledge of Western defined Anatomy, specifically the location of Trigger points and how they behave in injury and chronic pain.
With dry needle therapy we can treat the purely physical immediate causes of many types of pain-activated trigger points.
Activated trigger points, or TrPs are dysfunctional muscle spindles within neuromuscular motor points. They are located primarily in muscles and fascia, and when “turned on” they are painful. But in addition to causing pain directly, activated trigger points cause pain indirectly. This is because motor points are associated with shortened muscles and fascia, that in turn become weak and stiff.
What I Have Had Success With
Treat the Person; Not Just the Disease
In my years practicing Acupuncture and Dry Needling here in San Diego since 1992, I have gotten excellent results using both methods. Which method I use depends on the case. I often use both, because since I treat people and not diseases, I will, for example, do Dry Needling on a chronic rotator cuff injury.
But if that same human is very tense and not sleeping well, then I will get a better result if I also use points on the Acupuncture channels, and maybe Chinese or Ayurvedic Herbs to help with the tension and insomnia.
Pain and Injuries
- Tension and Migraine Headaches
- Bell’s Palsy
- Neck Pain, Shoulder Pain, Whiplash, Rotator Cuff Pain, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Nerve Entrapment Injuries
- Tennis Elbow, Golfers Elbow, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Tendinitis, Tendosynovitis
- Snow boarder’s injuries
- Repetitive and Overuse Injuries
- Trigger Finger
- Herniated Discs–Cervical and Lumbar
- Low Back Pain
- Hip Pain, IT band syndrome, runners muscular injuries
- Knee Pain, Calf tightness,
- Achilles Tendonitis, Plantar Fascitis, Heel Spurs, Morton’s Neuroma, Ballet Dancers feet injuries
- Osteoarthritis, Lupus
- Allergies, Hay Fever, Sinusitis, Pediatric and Adult Ear Infections
- Anxiety, Depression
- Insomnia, Fatigue in the Morning, Restless Sleep
- Weak Immune System–Frequent Colds, Flu, Lung Infection
- Mono/Epstein Barr, Chronic Fatigue, Metabolic Disorders
- Colds, Flu, Bronchitis, Asthma
- Dry Eye and Mouth
- Gallstones, Kidney Stones, High Blood Pressure/Hypertension
- Bell’s Palsy
- Acne Vulgaris, Hormonal Acne, Cystic Acne, Acne Rosacea
- Alopecia Areata (Auto-Immune Hair Loss)
- Eczema, Acute and Chronic Hives, Psoraisis
- GERD, Difficulty Swallowing, Gastritis, Stomach Ulcer, Bloating, Chronic Indigestion
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome, IBS
- Diverticulitis, Ulcerative Colitis, Chronic Constipation, Chronic Diarrhea
- Chronic Prostatitis, Vulvitis, Vulvadynia, (Vulva Pain) Coccydynia, (Tail Bone Pain)
- Herpes Simplex and Herpes Zoster–Immune system and Pain related issue
- Erectile Dysfunction, Low Libido
- Hemorrhoids, Anal Fissure
- Bladder Infections (UTI), Interstitial Cystitis (IC) Acute and Chronic Yeast Infections
- PMS–Swollen Painful Breast, Bloating, Constipation, Acne, Irritability, Crying at things you would not normally cry at
- Painful Periods, Irregular Periods, Heavy Bleeding with or without Clots
- Endometriosis, Ovarian Cysts, Uterine Fibroids
- Menopausal Issues–Heavy Bleeding, Night Sweats, Hot Flashes, Feeling Not Yourself.
- Infertility, Nausea During Pregnancy, Post-Partum Depression
Thank You, and Welcome!
For more information on my approach to the use of Acupuncture for treating disease, see the posts that follow this page, below.
Acupuncture and Pain
Acupuncture is physical medicine, like Physical Therapy, Chiropractic and Massage. Acupuncture has been demonstrated to have very specific anti-inflammatory properties. The insertion of the fine, hairlike acupuncture needle into the body draws out inflammation from the local tissues around the needle by “de-polarizing” the inflamed tissue. That is, the needle has the opposite electrical charge as the inflamed tissue.
At the same time acupuncture stimulate the body’s secretion of cortisol from the adrenal glands into the blood stream. Cortisol is the body’s most powerful antiinflammatory, its own natural Cortisone. This reduces inflammation throughout the body. Acupuncture also causes the secretion of Endorphins, the body’s own opiate-like neurotransmitters. These help break the pain cycle, allowing muscles which have tightened up in response to pain to now relax.
A major component of many pain conditions are tight “hypertonic” muscles. This is the body’s natural, though counterproductive response to pain and inflammation. Placing needles in hypertonic muscles causes them to relax, allowing for increased blood circulation and pain relief.
Another component in pain conditions are the “trigger points,” specialized neuromuscular cells
that, when activated due to stress or mechanical factors like repetitive use or lifting a weight with a sudden jerky movement, refer pain through the body. Trigger points are the cause of about half of headache and body pains. Trigger points are effectively “deactivated” by the insertion of acupuncture needles.
Acupuncture treats far more than pain, however. In Chinese medicine, the energetic blueprint for disease is stagnation of Qi (a kind of bioelectricalmagnetic energy) that under ideal conditions flows unhindered through the 16 major channels or meridians in the body.
The beginning point for the creation of a diseased state is when the flow of Qi through its specific pathways (the channels) is obstructed. In the case of a uterine fibroid, for example, before there was a fibroid there was an obstruction of the qi-energy that should normally flow freely through the three channels that flow through the uterus. Due to unmitigated stress, chronic menstrual blood stagnation, attack of cold into the uterus, creation of excess heat in the uterus due to emotional factors, or due to a congenital abnormality, the free-flow of qi through the uterus was obstructed. This led to an obstruction of the blood (a denser form of qi) and then of fluids and other tissue until finally a fibroid was formed.
The treatment of disease with Acupuncture then, is based upon opening the flow of qi through the channels. This is like allowing more water to flow into an irrigation channel in order to remove a blockage created by mud, grass and debris.
This is what the placement of acupuncture needles into the proper locations on the channels does. It stimulates and unblocks the flow of qi, so that over time the pathological, disease and pain causing stagnation of substance, whether blood, fluid, heat or cold, will follow.
This is the basic mechanism by which we use acupuncture to treat so many diseases. If the qi obstruction is allowed to fester over the long term, then the whole body becomes fundamentally imbalanced. The hands and feet, which should be warm, become cold, the head which should be cool becomes hot, the digestive tract becomes inflamed, the mind can’t stop working at night, etc, etc. Where things should be relatively dry, they become damp (yeast infections, respiratory infections, digestive disorders), where they should be moist, they become dry (insomnia, psoriasis, tendonitis, menopause).
Here is a brief list of some of the non-pain conditions I have personally had success treating with acupuncture:
Gastrointestinal: Abdominal pain, irritable bowel syndrome, nausea, indigestion, ulcers, esophageal reflux, and weight reduction, constipation, diarrhea
Internal: diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesteral, liver/gall bladder dysfunction, hepatitis, hemorrhoids,
Respiratory: Asthma, sinusitis, bronchitis, allergies, common cold and flu, smoking cessation.
Gynecological: Premenstrual syndrome, menopausal syndrome, menstraul pain and dysfunction, fibroids, cysts, endometriosis, menstrual migraine.
Genito-urinary and Reproductive: impotence, low libido, excess libido, prostatis, bladder infections, yeast infections.
Dermatological: Acne, psoriasis, eczema, herpes, shingles, dry skin
Immune System: Lupus, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, herpes, hiv related syndromes,
Stress Management: Hypertension, insomnia, inability to relax, memory loss, headaches.tension and migraine, addictions
Psychological: Anxiety, panic attack, depression, mania, eating disorders;
Preparing for your Acupuncture Appointment - Important Please Read
Acupuncture is best done when a person is not hungry, and has also not just eaten. If you are coming after work, and very hungry, please have a light snack. Please do NOT wear perfume, as part of diagnosis is noting the patients natural fragrance. Also, I have many patients that are allergic to the phthalate and other toxins in perfumes. Preparing for your acupuncture appointment will help you get the most from your treatment. Thanks!
Perfume, cologne, and scented hair products and lotions:
Please try not to use anything with fragrances on your treatment day. Definitely do not put on any perfume immediately before your appointment. There are two reasons for this.
First, part of Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine diagnosis is to notice a particular body odor. Don’t worry, its OK. I am a doctor and used to people’s smell.
Second, some of my patients are chemically sensitive, and can have allergic reactions to perfumes and perfumed products, even if they seem “all natural.” Commerical perfumes are actually quite unhealthy, containing petroleum by-products called Pthalates, which disrupt endocrine systems, among other problems.. Perfume companies also include chemical fixatives in their product to make them last longer on your body; the problem is these same fixatives cause the perfumes to remain in a room long after you leave. Thank you so much for understanding.
Time of appointment:
As I see one person at a time, it is not necessary to come early for your appointment. Just being on time is perfect.
Your time has been reserved for you and you alone. Please give at least 24 hours notice if you need to reschedule so as to avoid charges for an office visit. Thank you for understanding.
FAQs About Acupuncture Treatment
Here is a list of our patient’s most common queries. If you have any other questions feel free to contact us directly.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is the placement of hair-thin needles into various locations in the body. These locations are known as acupuncture points. The actual Chinese word suggests a cave; because these acupuncture “caves” are where the deep energies of the body rise to the surface.
How Does Acupuncture Work?
The ancient Chinese understood there is a difference between a living body and a dead one, and that the difference, what you and I might call “life-force”, they called Qi. They were very specific. They understood that life is a warm process of very gross and delicate transformation, of food and air into energy, and of experience into, hopefully, wisdom.
For this reason the ancients described Qi as warm, light, and mobile. Where there is unobstructed flow of Qi there will be health, and where there is pain or disease, there is stasis of Qi flow. Death, is the ultimate lack of Qi flow. Biology agrees with this. Death is the cessation of movements within the body
Acupuncture does fundamentally one thing–it unblocks stuck Qi, it restores healthy flow of Qi. And this what the needles do. That is why you feel so good after an acupuntrue treatment, after a massage, after a good day at the beach, or a pleasant evening with a friend. All of these unblock stuck Qi, but acupuncture needles do this in very specific and clinical ways. Over thousands of years of clinical work acupuncturists have developed
Is there any scientific evidence on how acupuncture works?
Since acupuncture has made its way into the West, there has been no shortage of research to prove what the mechanism is that allows acupuncture to work. Some of the mechanisms that have been discovered are:
- Acupuncture stimulates the release of endorphins and other opiod like neurotransmitters in the brain.
- Acupuncture stimulates the secretion of hormones and other brain chemicals such as serotonin that make us feel comfortable and relaxed.
- White blood cells migrate to the areas where the acupuncture needles are inserted
- Acupuncture changes the pattern of blood flow through the body
- Real Time MRI Brain scans on people having acupuncture have shown certain segments of the brain “light up,” signaling that the brain has been activated to make a positive response
Does Acupuncture Hurt?
Because the needles are hair-thin, generally you will not feel a thing, or have a sensation similar to a mosquito biting. Once the needle is inserted you may feel a dull ache, similar to a tooth ache, but in the area of your body receiving treatment. This is called “De Qi” in Chinese, or the “Qi Sensation.”
After a treatment, especially treatments for certain pain conditions, you may feel a soreness in the muscle, akin to a “post work-out soreness. This goes away in a few hours or 24 at most.
If you are sensitive, please let me know. It is always possible to do a very light Japanese style treatment in which you do not feel the needles at all. This is very valuable and perfectly appropriate in many cases.
How Will I Feel After My Treatment?
People almost always feel quite nice, as if they have had a deep profound rest, very relaxed, in in much less pain or stress. Somewhat like how you feel after a good massage.
You may be sleepy or sore after a treatment, and on occasion, especially with Dry Needling or deeper acu treatments, that soreness, like a “post-workout” soreness can last for a few hourse or even a day or two. But over a day is rare. One out of about 1000 patients can have flu-like symptoms the next day.
How Many Treatments Does It Take?
Acupuncture, and Chinese Medicine in general, is a process. It is trying to stimulate the body’s own natural healing capabilities. Some people respond very quickly, and others take more time. The longer you have had your condition, the longer it might take for it to reverse, though every so often, a person with a seemingly intractable problem responds very quickly.
You should plan on a course of from three to six to ten treatments to either effect a cure, relieve symptoms totally, or partially. 90% of the time we will see some very positive response before three treatments, and if not, I rarely ask you to continue.
Are There Side Effects to Acupuncture?
Acupuncture, when practiced by a licensed professional, is completely safe and free of any side effects.
Does Insurance Cover Acupuncture?
Many insurance companies do – it varies from company to company. Check with your carrier to see. Sadly, because of recurrent issues getting paid by the insurance companies, I no longer bill insurance. All payment is made by the patient, and we do give receipts with billing codes for you to attempt reembursement.
We DO ACCEPT Health Savings Accounts and Flex Plan Account cards. Also Mastercard and Visa. Thanks very much!
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