Karen Vaughan, Lic. Acupuncturist Blog

Medical Acupuncture vs, Real Acupuncture

Many people ask why they shouldn't go to an MD for acupuncture if they can find it. Isn't that the best of both worlds?

Simple answer: most MDs aren't appropriately trained. They may do some simple neuromodulation with needles (which real acupuncturists are also trained to do,) but they never learn the diagnosis that is the genius of Chinese medicine.

Chinese medicine has featured an almost obsessive attention to cataloging the clinical treatment of patients for thousands of years. We can go back to doctors Zhang Zhong Jing or Sun Si Miao and read their prescriptions and exactly what patterns of diagnosis they apply to. Having been cured myself of a nasty case of cellulitis with a 1500 year old formula (after my MD missed the problem) I have great respect for the classical formulas. These things are never studied in a 100-300 hour video course that a medical doctor (and in some states a Chiropractor or Podiatrist) will take to call himself a "Medical Acupuncturist."

A real, Licensed Acupuncturist, will have 3000-4000 hours of training in Oriental Medicine, including a few years of clinical internships, national board certification from the NCCAOM, a certificate of Clean Needle Technique, and continuing education requirements. Compared to a 200 hour videocourse, with no clinical trials or continuing education, you can see that a typical MD acupuncturist really doesn't compare in training.

Why is this important? Well pneumothorax, where the lungs are punctured by a needle almost never happens with Licensed Acupuncturists. We spend years studying the depth and needling angle of some 400 points on the body (in addition to tendinomuscular channels which cover most of the rest of the area.) The cases that have occurred over the last 10 years have disproportionately come from MDs or other professionals poorly trained in medical acupuncture.

In New York State, only Licensed Acupuncturists and MDs can qualify to practice acupuncture. You may hear a Chiropractor say that they are doing acupuncture with a piezoelectric or pressure device. It is quite different, and they don't usually have the background (or the legal right to say they practice acupuncture.) NADA detox specialists can use five specific ear points only in a certified detoxification program, but may not practice elsewhere or needle any other places. Their training is 2 weeks long, with another two weeks or so of supervised practice. The ear has branches to all the major nerves, but there is little chance of doing damage with the five point protocol. The same points, as well as hundreds of others can be used by real acupuncturists.

Podiatrists have tried to get permission to do acupuncture from the knees down, but New York State decided to protect citizens from this expansion of the law. The problem is that local needling around a sprained ankle, say, can stimulate areas all over the body. Kidney-adrenal points are found around the inner ankle and gallbladder points around the outer ankle. In between are channels going to the stomach, liver, urinary bladder and spleen-pancreas. One leg point below the knee is used for frozen shoulder. Do you want those points stimulated inadvertently? Besides a real acupuncturist would use a combination of local and distal points, possibly including wrist and ear points to deal with a leg problem, and those would not be available to a podiatrist.

Acupuncture is a specialty that takes many years to study appropriately. I have met medical doctors, chiropractors and even a podiatrist who went for the full four year training and are excellent acupuncturists. (Incidentally they say that very little is duplicated from their prior training.)

Look for the title, "Licensed Acupuncturist," ask how many years training in acupuncture the practitioner has, how much continuing education they have taken in the subject and what boards they have passed. This is not rude and most acupuncturists will be happy to answer. Your health is too important to be left to hobbyist acupuncturists.

Posted on: 2008-11-26 00:22:04. Comments

Relief trip to New Orleans

On December 13, 2 2006 I went to New Orleans to do acupuncture under the sponsorship of CRREW. CRREW has been in New Orleans since last year doing volunteer acupuncture under the Louisiana temporary acupuncture license (which allows only NADA points.)

Wednesday, Dec 13:

I arrived in New Orleans at twilight, with little view of the destruction from Katrina. Huynh Quang, a Vietnamese acupuncturist picked me up at the airport. Occasionally he pointed out water marks, on the railroad tracks over the highway, by the water pumping plant that I had seen in Spike Lee's film When the Levees Broke, and in formerly occupied shopping centers that were completely inundated.

We dropped my suitcases at his clinic, then set off for the Musician's Clinic. St. Anna's Episcopal Church, on Esplanade north of the French Quarter, has a special mission to musicians and runs a free dinner, legal clinic and medical clinic with both scheduled music and open mikes on Wednesday nights. As we entered, an older African American man with a patterned top hat and an orange print vest was seated at a computer, next to a table of musicians with long dreadlocks deep in conversation with the legal advisor. Music blared from the front of the dining room where a band was entertaining the diners. Mother Mary, a 50 something blond woman with a disarming smile dished up stew on rice, and we sat down with the gentlemen who had finished their legal discussion. Pat, an older guy with an African Israelite necklace asked me about my Ethiopian cross, then segued into a discussion on ear acupuncture. It seems he is coming up to New York in January to get NADA ear acupuncture detoxification training at Lincoln Hospital.

Quang and I set up a table for the acupuncture and about 15-20 people came by for treatment. The doctor is a young priest, who would pull people out, check their blood pressure, give them medication for their lumbago and generally give counsel. I had a great discussion with a French nurse and a psychotherapist who were interested in acupuncture, wanted to know about pulse and tongue diagnosis. They also checked out my inventory of liniments, essential oils and herbally infused oils and we c
Posted on: 2006-12-25 19:25:51. Comments

The Omnivore's Dilemma reviewed

November 29th 2006 - For anyone who hasn't run across Michael Pollan's Book, The Omnivore's Dilemma, I highly recommend it. He denounces the Corn Industrial Complex which puts corn into virtually every food (one quarter of the 45,000 foods in a typical supermarket contain corn)and seems to be in a symbiotic relationship with petroleum. Oil goes into the fertilizer which goes into corn which goes into us and makes us sick. One gem is his send up of a McNuggets dinner:

"The ingredients listed in the flyer suggest a lot of thought goes into a nugget, that and a lot of corn. Of the 38 ingredients it takes to make a McNugget I counted 13 that can be derived from corn: the corn-fed chicken itself, the cornstarch (to bind the pulverized chicken meat); mono, tri' and diglycerides (emulsifiers which keep the fat and water from separating) ; dextrose; lecithin (another emulsifier); chicken broth (to restore some of the flavor that leaches out in processing); yellow corn flour and modified cornstarch (for the batter); cornstarch (a filler), vegetable shortening; partialy hydrogenated corn oil; and citric acid as a preservative." He then goes on to list the synthetic and petroleum-derived ingredients.
It isn't all doom and gloom. He also tracks an organic farm where cattle are rotated to new grass each day with flexible fencing, a connestoga wagon like chicken coop follows them three days later to eat the fly larvae in the droppings (and enhance the eggs with free protein), and pigs which aerate the winter manure in search of fermenting corn.

Of course with this much degraded corn in our diets it won't be long before we have very widespread corn allergies in addition to the diabetes and gluten allergies from the degraded wheat.

Posted on: 2006-12-09 10:46:53. Comments

Goin' to New Orleans

As many of you know, I have been involved since 9/11 in a variety of activities to use acupuncture and related modalities for victims of disasters and the rescue workers who are often repeatedly traumatized by the realities of digging through ruins during the disaster cleanup. Since 9/11 I have been doing work with CRREW, a local group that offers Auricular Acupuncture (developed as a drug detoxification protocol and proven useful for trauma and stress) in New York City and am part of Acupuncturists Without Borders which does similar work nationally. I also work with REMSCO, a group that offers Critical Incident Stress Management to EMTs and other rescue workers and have resiliency training through Project Liberty.

A year after Hurricane Katrina, most of New Orleans is still utterly devastated. People have been in FEMA trailers for over a year, and many have had to abandon rebuilding after toxic molds destroyed what little had been left standing. To make matters worse, many doctors and health care professionals have left the area. The State of Louisiana has extended emergency provisions to allow out of state acupuncturists to offer Auricular Acupuncture on a voluntary basis.

I will be going down to New Orleans on December 13th.to put in time in community clinics serving the victims and rescue workers until just before Christmas. While CRREW has picked up my airfare and I will be camping out in a local Buddhist temple, I could use donations to fund materials (needles, magnets, sharps container disposal, alcohol wipes, infection controls), local transportation, and miscellaneous daily expenses. If there is any way you could help out during this season I would appreciate it.

And of course your prayers for safety and successful service are appreciated.

Blessings for the holiday season,

Posted on: 2006-12-09 10:35:19. Comments

Nature Takes Back the City

by Karen Vaughan

I live in New York City, one of the densest cities in the world. And yet nature is ever waiting to take things back should urbanization ever decline.

I first noticed nature's tenacity when I tried to uproot an alianthus tree that had taken root in our coop basement. It was growing through the concrete floor, in a subterranean room nearly devoid of light, surrounded by concrete corridors between our building and the next one. We pulled it out, as nearly as possible. And it returned, only to be cut back. And returned, for years and years.

Later I went to inspect an apartment building on lower Madison Avenue, and visited the basement where a stream, complete with pebbles and sand, ran through base of the highrise. "It's a creek. We pump it out and it flows to the sewers," the superintendant explained. Back at the office I found a 17th century map of Manhattan, with streams running through the area around Madison Park. I found that the skyscraper belonging to a major insurance company off Madison Ave is built on pontoons. A river runs under Times Square. And streams under the streets of Brooklyn, always ready to escape their culverts, have caused rows of brownstones to subside.

A highrise loft building near the Manhattan Bridge had been standing largely empty. When I went to appraise it, the executive floor had been taken over by pigeons, entering through broken windows and nesting in the walnut lined board room. They resented the intrusion.

Then there were the primordial first year catalpa trees that popped up in the industrial areas around the polluted Gowanus canal, with massive leaves growing straight out of the stems, shading any competition for the limited growing space. The leaves became smaller as the tree was older and less threatened. And nearby an otter somehow found its way into the canal after the flushing pump was installed, reducing the foetid odor of the water to something wildlife can stand.

Alianthus trees and Boston ivy, with seeds carried by wind or bird take root on rooftops and cornices, It seems that the Old First Church in Park Slope perpetually has allianthus trees sprouting out of its limestone lintels. The roof of the Empire Stores under the Brooklyn Bridge sprouts a veritable forest.

And wildlife is alive and well. We tend to think that city wildlife is confined to pigeons, rats and the squirrels that sneak into apartments through the security bars of open windows. Not so. Skunks wander the Bronx Zoo at night. The city is at the junction of three migratory skyways bringing in a variety of birds, from osprey to egrets. Falcons roost in the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan. Flocks of feral parrots allegedly escapees from Kennedy Airport roost in Greenwood Cemetary and in Midwood, oblivious to snowy winters. Parakeets are found deep in Prospect Park. Along the stream in the Park's ravine is a slow pool with a school of large goldfish that somehow manage to elude the birds and the nearby waterfall. Exotic turtles, often released for Chinese New Year, stock the great lake. And the fish pulled out by local anglers often exceed a foot in length.

At dusk last week I climbed Butterfly Hill in Prospect Park to watch the sunset, finding a place away from other visitors. As I was turning to watch it I came face to face with a racoon sitting in a tree that had been struck by lightning. Now a racoon may seem only a pest to those who live in less urban areas, but it is some kind of miracle in the depths of New York City. We watched each other cautiously, and I began talking softly to it. He retreated and approached, never taking his eyes off of me. People walked by, oblivious. I finally turned to watch the sunset and when I looked back some minutes later, the racoon was still watching me from his tree. Finally after 20 minutes or so I said goodby and continued down the hill. I followed a jogger on one of the unpaved side paths, finding an assortment of turkey tails and conk mushrooms as I passed. The harvest moon was rising above the Nethermead, and bats were flitting in the twilight. Life was beautiful.
Posted on: 2006-12-09 10:28:43. Comments

You Haven't Been In NY Recently if you think

You Haven't been in New York City recently if you think:

1. The city is a hotbed of crime.
NYC is the safest large city in the United States. I have been known to walk around after midnight, and even walk in the park after dark (plenty of joggers and dog walkers, not to mention streetlights on the roads.) Sure there is some crime and you need to be sensible, but there is no need to live in fear. There are usually people to help if you run into trouble in a place this dense. I had more trouble with crime as a suburban kid.
2. The City is all big buildings.
Every borough has a forest in at least one location and many, including Manhattan, have more than one. We don't have bears (although deer and foxes occasionally wander down into the Bronx) but we do have raccoons, skunks, chipmunks, frogs, egrets, falcons and eagles, in addition to the ubiquitous squirrels, and, as befits a city of immigrants, all manner of turtles and fish released into the wild and a few flocks of feral parrots. There are also wild raspberries, wild mushrooms and plenty of herbs or wild greens. Disclosure: our forests do have fire hydrants, which can be a bit disconcerting when you come upon them in the woods. And from high places you see the buildings.

3. People are rude.
Don't confuse style with substance. Look, if you tried to say, "Good morning, beautiful day. How are you feeing this morning?" to every person who walked through Grand Central, you would go crazy in no time, so we don't. But if you are lost, people will take time to figure out how to get you to your destination. If you are hurt, several will stop give comfort and to get help and the rest will sensibly get out of the way. If the lights go out, we will step into the streets and direct traffic or bring candles or groceries to our elderly neighbors. We visit people in hospitals who are not our relations, since most of us are some distance from families. And we wear black because it offers a little psychic protection and doesn't show dirt, not because we are all dominatrixes or in mourning.

4. The City is so big you can't get to know people.
Actually New York City is a bunch of interlocked villages stacked on top of each other. We interact with our greengrocers, our dry cleaners, our bookstore community, other dog walkers, our PTAs, our churches, mosques or synagogues and of course our clients and coworkers. When my kids were rebellious teens, I had a village to help raise them. My cousin from California claims to know more people in my neighborhood than his own suburban neighborhood, probably because we walk everywhere or sit on our stoops and talk to each other. However with density and basic urban courtesy, we can pretend not to notice someone when we are out of sorts or need anonymity.
5. The City is no place to raise kids.
My kids lived two blocks from school and had grocery stores, bookstores, coffee shops, delis, newsstands and all manner of friends within a few blocks. When older they rode the subways and busses all over town, never needing a reluctant parental chauffeur. They never felt the pressure of peer group conformity because there are a variety of styles. Jocks didn't rule at their schools. If they were tempted to try drugs or alcohol, they could readily see what happened to people who abused them. If they wanted to make a difference they had soup kitchens and social service agencies to volunteer with. They were exposed to people from all classes, races and a wide variety of cultures. (One of my children picked up a bit of Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Arabic and Tibetan, mostly from schoolmates.)

6. The air is like smoking four packs of cigarettes a day
That may have been true at one time, but between our pollution laws and our no smoking regulations, the air is clearer. Yes, especially in summer, you can feel the air thicken as you cross the Tappan Zee Bridge, and when pregnant I needed to walk in the park and chew on the wild onions before walking up the steps at Grand Central where the Carey Busses were idling, and 9/11 was rough on the lungs. Still New York City is no Bejing, Mexico City or Los Angeles.
7. The city is overrun with cockroaches.
The roach population was decimated over a decade ago with the development of Combat and boric acid. They may be able to survive nuclear attack, but they have proved less resilient with the new pesticides. Sure you occasionally see them and could incur a batch with poor sanitation, but now they are occasional pests, not a major population group. So why the asthma? Maybe we need to look at the Hygiene Hypothesis.
8. The City is too expensive.
There is some truth to this. Housing is through the roof and car insurance is the highest in the country. But you don't need to have a car and you will settle for a lot less space in a less prime neighborhood here than elsewhere. After that, much of the expense is optional. You can buy clothing in all price ranges, with style throughout. You don't need to eat in famous Midtown bistros to eat well. You can see the Philharmonic in the parks and see great plays far off of Broadway. Close out stores bring good quality goods at discounted prices. Of course it is easier to live here and figure that out than to visit.

9. The Pace of the City is too fast.
There are very fast paces and there are slower paces. Wall Street is fast paced and lasts too many hours. People tend to burn out and do something else. But there are also people on totally different schedules. I have one friend, a retired plumber, who sits on a bench on Seventh Avenue, chats casually and knows what everyone in the neighborhood is doing nearly as soon as it happens. The important thing is to choose a pace that suits you, and find a way of financing your existence with it. And know that things tend to happen faster because there are a lot of effective people in New York who know how to get things done.

10. New York City is no place for an herbalist.
You just have do do it differently. I adopted a garden in a church and designed it as a teaching garden. I get to keep all the weeds I pull, and weeds are our chief herbs. We have dried herbs coming in from Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and most other parts of the world. With cuisines from hundreds of countries come their foods and spices, giving us access to ginger, galangal, turmeric, long pepper and sorrel. I have a Chinese pharmacy that will bile fry my dang gui or honey fry my astragalus and will make up and even cook the herbs I prescribe to my patients. All I need to do is to fax over the prescription and they will UPS the results to my patients. There are two major sources of western herbs and lots of people who want to use them. And that doesn't even scratch all the kinds of ceremonial herbalism that many people in the city resort to.

Posted on: 2006-12-09 10:25:28. Comments

In praise of physical medicine

We live in a country where the number one cause of death is medicinal drugs, accounting for approximately 784,000 deaths anually. In-hospital adverse reactions to properly prescribed medicines is 2.2 million per year. Dr. Richard Besser of the CDC speaks of tens of millions of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions written every year. So why is our instinct to pop a pill when there are physical methods that may be less dangerous, cheaper and mor effective?

How much Tylenol has been downed for headaches that would go away with opening up a sacroilliac joint? How much Alleve has been taken for back pain due to a too tight bra? How much arthritis medicine has been taken because patients needed to learn to stretch and to warm up their joints?

The body is replete with major and minor channels which circulate qi, blood, lymph and hormones. The acupuncture meridians were discovered 5000 years ago by martial artists who could feel channels of energy travelling through their bodies, but have been confirmed in recent experiments with soundwaves, radiological SQUIB scanning and radioactive isotope trails. In recent studies, radioactive technetium 99m and phosphorus p32 were injected into acupuncture points and gamma-camera imaging and microautoradiography followed the isotopes' uptake. The radioactive substances migrated along classical acupuncture meridian pathways, through a series of fine, duct-like tubules, (approximately 0.5 - 1.5 microns in diameter) for a distance of 30 cm in four to six minutes. Fluid extracted from these tubules revealed high concentrations of DNA, RNA, amino acids, hyaluronic acid, sixteen types of free nucleotides, adrenaline, corticosteroids, estrogen, and other hormonal substances in levels far different from those ordinarily found in the bloodstream.

see more in my articles section
Posted on: 2005-10-28 02:32:24. Comments

Male Sexual Health

I was at a workshop on mens' diseases recently, and we were discussing ways to keep morning erections and to prevent erectile dysfunction later on.

Men have a lot of assaults on their fertility, hence sexual health in this day and age. Plastics and pesticides put xeno-estrogens into their systems and into the water table. Meats, traditionally good for testosterone, are often from hormone fed animals unless organic. Soy, a common meat substitute has high phyto-estrogens too. Zinc and magnesium, necessary to men's health are declining from the soils. Phythlates from plastic attack androgens. Increases in diabetes, coronary artery disease and CVD, along with smoking hurt the arteries filling the penis. Laptops are often used on laps where they heat the scrotum. As a result of these stresses, sperm counts are way down- a recent study showing a 29% decline since the 80s had to be withdrawn because the men were from New York where sperm counts are _higher_ than in most of the rest of the country. So the problem may be worse.

So in addition to avoiding all of the above stressors, studies have shown that pelvic floor exercises can be very useful. You can locate the pelvic floor muscles around your urethra by trying to stop the urine stream while peeing. (Once you find them it is not a good idea to do regularly while urinating.) You can tighten the muscles around your anus by drawing up for 10 seconds. When done properly, the scrotum and base of the phallus should slightly elevate.

To deal with ED, morning erections, or incontinence, do the exercises for 10 seconds each, with 10 seconds in between, 10 times each while sitting, standing and lying down. Do three times a day. (Okay if you skip the lying down one at work, do the other two 15 times.) You can also do shorter ones anytime.

Dr. Grace Dorey of Surrey England, who is a major proponent of pelvic floor exercises undertook a survey of 55 men with an average age of 59 who had experienced erectile dysfunction for six months or more. With the exercises:

40 per cent regained normal erectile function.
35.5 per cent improved
25.5 per cent showed no difference.

The improvement resulting from pelvic floor exercises compared to the use of Viagra had identical results.

All men should do some form of pelvic floor exercises to maintain health and we should teach our sons to do it too. -We teach them all kinds of other exercises and these will be a major factor in their well-being for life. Feel free to forward this onto your sons if you would rather not talk about it with them.

There is a good article at: http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/features/pelvicexercises_003841.htm
And one with illustrations at:

I will post an article for a type of qi gong exercise/massage that increases male sexual health later.

Posted on: 2005-10-24 17:54:38. Comments