How acupuncture works…

Many times acupuncture is not well understood because it is explained and supported by Chinese Medicine theory.  It makes for an easier explanation to say that we move “Qi & Blood” without getting into the technical side of bio-medicine.  Here is a quick overview of some possible mechanisms-of-action that occur when we needle.

Here are a few prevailing theories.

1. Acupuncture raises levels of triglycerides, specific hormones, prostaglandins, white blood counts, gamma globulins, opsonins, and overall anti-body levels. This is called the “Augmentation of Immunity” Theory.
2. The “Endorphin” Theory states that Acupuncture stimulates the secretions of endorphins in the brain and body (specifically Enkaphalins).
3. The “Neurotransmitter” Theory states that certain neurotransmitter levels (Seratonin and Noradrenaline) are affected by Acupuncture and Acupressure.
4. “Circulatory” Theory: this states that Acupuncture has the effect of constricting or dilating blood vessels in a regulating bi-phasic manner. This may be caused by the body’s release of Vasodilaters (such as Histamine), in response to Acupuncture.

5. One of the more popular theories is the “Gate Control” Theory. The perception of pain is controlled by a part of the nervous system which regulates the impulse, which will later be interpreted as pain. This part of the nervous system is called the “Gate.” If the gate is hit with too many impulses, it becomes overwhelmed, and it closes. This prevents some of the impulses from getting through. The first gates to close would be the ones that are the smallest. The nerve fibers that carry the impulses of pain are rather small nerve fibers called “C” fibers. These are the gates that close during Acupuncture.

In the related “Motor Gate” Theory, some forms of paralysis can be overcome by Acupuncture. This is done by reopening a “stuck” gate, which is connected to an Anterior Horn cell. The gate, when closed by a disease, stops motor impulses from reaching muscles. This theory was first stated by Professor Jayasuriya in 1977. In it he goes on to say:

“…one of the factors contributing to motor recovery is almost certainly the activation of spindle cells. They are stimulated by Gamma motor neurons. If Acupuncture stimulates the Gamma motor neurons, the discharge causes the contraction of Intrafusal Muscle fibers. This activates the Spindle cells, in the same way as muscle stretching. This will bring about muscle contraction.”

Let’s not forget about the nervous system and the sympathetic/para-sympathetic response “fight or flight.”

Or maybe it is the induction of micro-trauma that facilitates a healing response of the body.

There is also hormonal changes that come with acupuncture and the needling.

Or what about the therapeutic relationship of the patient and practitioner?

As you can see there are many explanations, so it is easy for us to put it under the umbrella of the “Qi” effect.

Chronic Inflammation

Acupuncture May Be the Solution

When you have a limb that is swollen, red, and painful, you’ve got an obvious problem with inflammation.  Sometimes, though, inflammation can occur long-term, at a much diminished level in your body.  The traditional medical treatment for this condition is drugs – and lots of them!  However, many homeopathic solutions for acute and chronic inflammation are now showing that they are as effective as medications, and these treatments don’t have the side effects that are so common with anti-inflammatory drugs.

Acupuncture is on the forefront of homeopathic remedies for chronic inflammation.  It has shown in numerous studies to decrease the markers in the body that indicate inflammation, and it is also known to decrease the pain that inflammation is so often known for.  With more research, the future may see acupuncture as the go to treatment for all types of inflammation.  If you are wondering if acupuncture is the right for you, you may be surprised to learn that it is proven effective in decreasing inflammation.

A Quick and Dirty Guide to Inflammation

When people talk about inflammation, some of the facts can get lost in translation.  Since it is such a popular term, you may be confused about what is actually going on in your body.  Inflammation is the body’s chemical response to any injury or insult.  The common signs of classic inflammation are pain, heat, redness, and swelling.  For instance, if you sprain your ankle, your body will react with inflammation by causing pain and swelling at the site.  This is from the various chemicals your body releases when it experiences some form of harm.

These chemicals are important in detecting inflammation.  Some inflammation is not as apparent as a swollen, painful ankle.  You might be experiencing low-level inflammation from your diet or some disease process, and not know about it.  A blood test that measures c-reactive protein can tell your doctor if you have some underlying inflammatory process.  C-reactive protein is a chemical processed by the liver, and it is released in great numbers when you have inflammation, particularly of the heart muscle.

Another test your doctor can use to determine your inflammation level is ESR, or erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and if this is combined with elevated white blood cells and low blood proteins, or albumin, your doctor can diagnose inflammation.  However, there is a vast number of markers that can show inflammation, such as cytokine levels, interleukin levels, and von Willebrand factor that can clue your doctor into a problem.

Dangers of Chronic Inflammation

When your body is constantly pumping out chemicals to deal with an injury and create inflammation, it can actually harm the healthy tissues in your body.  Different chemicals are released when the body is in chronic inflammation, and one of the hallmark signs of this condition is damage to other tissues.  Chronic inflammation causes harm that causes more inflammation.  It is a dangerous cycle that is often difficult to break.

Many disease states are caused by chronic inflammation.  For instance, asthma, Crohn’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis are diseases caused by a chronic state of inflammation.  However, conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cancer, hardening of the arteries, and possibly Alzheimer’s are thought to stem from a state of chronic inflammation.  More research is needed to find out the exact extent of damage from inflammation, but what doctors know already is enough to make you want to avoid this state as much as possible.  The scary part is that you may have chronic inflammation and not even know it.  Only a blood test can tell you for sure.

Understanding Acupuncture

One of the best ways to help heal inflammation naturally is through the use of acupuncture.  This is another type of treatment that you may have heard a great deal about without knowing exactly what it is or what it does.  You may even be frightened of the needles that are used in the procedure.  The traditional view of acupuncture is that the body consists of a number of flowing meridians filled with the life force, or qi.  If these meridians become blocked, it does not allow the life force to flow to all the parts of the body naturally.  Without qi, your body becomes diseased and does not function as it should.

You may be thinking that this talk of life force and blocked meridians is too out there for you.  However, modern medicine has also looked into acupuncture and found that it works for healing certain problems.  No scientific evidence has ever been found for meridians or qi, but studies show that acupuncture still works.  It is thought that the needles stimulate the nervous system and this causes a cascade of chemical reactions that speed healing and decrease the disease process in the body.  Recently, electricity is applied to the needles to further enhance the stimulation of the nervous system and the release of these helpful chemicals.

How Acupuncture Relieves Inflammation

How does sticking needles at certain locations of the body decrease the amount of inflammation you experience?  Well, researchers are still sorting out the particulars, but it is thought that the needles directly impact immune system cells, such as T cells and B cells, that are important in the inflammatory response.  Acupuncture influences these cells by keeping them from releasing the inflammatory response chemicals, such as cytokines and interleukin.

Acupuncture is also thought to reduces all the chemicals that create inflammation in your body, and by interfering with these chemicals, it keeps them from destroying healthy tissue.  It was found that merely accessing an acupuncture point, such as through acupressure or massage, the chemicals are reduced.  However, needling and applying small currents of electricity to those needles produces the most profound effect and decreases inflammation the best.  In addition, acupuncture is thought to increase the amount of naturally occurring opiods and endorphins in the body, and this helps to decrease the pain from inflammation.

Studies on Acupuncture and Inflammation

Many studies exist to show the positive influence of acupuncture on inflammation, and this proves that it is a viable treatment method if you suffer from inflammatory diseases.  For instance, a study published in Evidenced Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2007 shows that mice that are subjected to the mouse form of rheumatoid arthritis show a decrease in inflammation markers when they undergo electro-acupuncture at certain points.  This diminishes the amount of destruction to the joints and decreases pain.

A study published in the Journal of Pain in 2001 shows that rats who had their back paw injected with a substance to induce inflammation had less pain with acupuncture than those who did not.  Success was determined by how often the rat would withdraw its paw, the measurement of inflammation chemical mediators, and the presence of redness and swelling.

This is all well and good for rats and mice, but what about people?  A study published in 2003 in the journal Urology found that acupuncture safely and effectively decreased the amount of inflammation in the condition prostatitis, or inflammation of the prostate.  It was found to reduce both pain and swelling in these men.

Another study published in the journal Rheumatology in 1999 showed that elderly patients with osteoarthritis of the knee experienced greater pain relief when treated with acupuncture than the control group who only used traditional treatments.  Finally, a study published in Neurobiology of Disease in 2010 showed that spinal cord patients who underwent acupuncture experienced less cell death of neurons.  With healthier neurons, the patients kept more of their functional abilities.

If you suffer from inflammation or suspect that you have a condition caused by inflammation, you should have your doctor check your blood levels for the chemical markers of this condition.  Once you know you have an inflammatory disease, you can start a treatment of acupuncture that will help to decrease these harmful chemicals, decrease your pain, and restore your body to health.

Just because acupuncture is complementary medicine with an ancient track record of benefits does not mean it should be completely dismissed out of hand.  Even modern medical science is showing that acupuncture is a benefit to people with inflammation and can help when other treatments fail.


Linus Pauling Institute; Two Faces of Inflammation; Victoria J. Drake, Ph.D.; 2007

Institute of Traditional Medicine; An Introduction to Acupuncture and How It Works; Subhuti Dharmananda, Ph.D.; November 1996

American Journal of Chinese Medicine; Acupuncture Analgesia: A Review of Its Mechanisms of Actions; Jaung-Geng Lin and Wei-Liang Chen; 2008

Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine; Electro-acupuncture at acupoint ST36 reduces inflammation and regulates immune activity in Collagen-Induced Arthritic Mice; Yun-Kyoung Yim, et. al.; March 2007

The Journal of Pain; Electro-acupuncture attenuates behavioral hyperalgesia and selectively reduces spinal fos protein expression in rats with persistent inflammation; Lixing Lao, et. al.; April 2001

Urology; Acupuncture ameliorates symptoms in men with chronic prostatitis/chronic pelvic pain syndrome; Richard Chen and J. Curtis Nickel; June 2003

Rheumatology; A randomized trial of acupuncture as an adjunctive therapy in osteoarthritis of the knee; B.M. Berman, et. al.; 1999

Neurobiology of Disease; Acupuncture-mediated inhibition of inflammation facilitates significant functional recovery after spinal cord injury; Doo C. Choi, et. al.; September 2010

What does your tongue look like?

Think of the tongue as a barometer for the whole body!

A quick intro…

In Chinese Medicine we want to know 5 basic things about your body.

Is it too??

Hot, Cold, Dry, Damp or Stagnate/Stasis/Toxic…the tongue tells us that.  And that is how we come up with our diagnosis and treatment plan!

Look at how we map the tongue:

Each element represents an Organ System or Pattern of how your body constitution is!


Eggs or whey protein for breakfast

Salad for lunch

Meat and veggies for dinner

Start with this structure, get fancy later…

Salad, nothing fancy!


Being on Pins and Needles is Actually Good for You, Kind of…

by Staff Writer

“On pins and needles” can mean you are experiencing a tense, stressful, or painful situation. It can also mean “waiting” for something important to occur. In this case, “on pins and needles” is a great way to describe the feelings that can occur with an acupuncture treatment. You can experience a tingling sensation because your Qi (energy flow or life force) is no longer blocked and your body is starting to return to a healthy state.

Acupuncture is often categorized as an alternative, or new, medicine and not always readily recognized as a viable treatment source. However, Acupuncture is older than Western medicine and dates back as long as 5,000 plus years. Chinese doctors, who immigrated to our country, introduced acupuncture in the U.S. back in the 1800’s.

The similarity to Western medicine is that the acupuncture specialist takes a detailed health history and spends time talking with the patient about their concerns and desired outcomes from treatment. From an examination of the patient’s tongue and checking the pulse in both wrists, the acupuncture specialist has an excellent idea of the state of the patient’s health and areas that need treatment. This is where the similarities end. Traditional Chinese medicine treats the whole patient, not just the symptoms. The idea is to bring the body back to a state of well-rounded health, not just put a Band-Aid on a sore spot.

Terminology is different than Western medicine. For example, a kidney deficiency does not relate just to that organ. The TCM Kidney is rather a description of a host of different  systems for sustaining life and is involved with reproduction, development, maturation, the lungs, bones, teeth, ears, and hair on your head.  So, having a kidney imbalance means the Qi is ‘blocked’ as it relates to all of those bodily activities, functions and the emotions you display.

It is the job of the acupuncture specialist to determine the “acupoints” in the body for precise needle placement. Once inserted, the needles stimulate and repair the unbalanced, or blocked, flow of Qi in the body. Balancing the body restores the patient to a positive state of health. Acupuncture is not necessarily painful. If you are hesitant about treatments, discuss this with your specialist. Feeling stressful about treatments will not produce the results you or your practitioner want to achieve.

As well as treating many common conditions, such as migraines, allergies, asthma, stress, smoking cessation, fertility issues, and joint pain, weight loss in one area for treatment where acupuncture can be particularly helpful. Acupuncture when combined with a proper diet, such as the Paleo diet program, and exercise can produce excellent results. The Paleo program will help to clear the toxins from the body and acupuncture realigns and balances the flow of Qi. As with any weight loss program, you will also only see results based on what you put into the program. If you are committed, you will lose the weight.

If you are considering acupuncture for a health condition, be sure you see a licensed acupuncture specialist. To achieve licensing requires many hours of education and passing national certifications. Call MN Clinic of Integrated Medicine in Minneapolis, We have two licensed acupuncturists, Sandra and Mason McClellan. Mason McClellan LAc is particularly knowledgeable in the areas of acupuncture, weight loss and the Paleo approach.  He is available to help you’re a healthy weight and live a healthy life.


Contact the Minnesota Clinic of Integrated Medicine at 952-294-9978


Time stops for none of us!

You get one shot at it, no dress rehearsals, its your life.

You need to walk more, laugh more and get some sleep and sunshine.

Herbal Medicine

When we say acupuncture we mean herbs.

When we say herbs we mean acupuncture.

You get it??

They go hand and hand.

In China, Herbal Medicine is more important than acupuncture–it is 90% of the medicine.

I run into a lot of patients that try to separate the two.  Herbs make the treatments better, faster, etc…  Acupuncture can only treat so much, sometimes we use it for compliance so that the herb therapy takes hold.