Chiropractic and Acupuncture
by Kathleen Barnes
Chiropractic manipulation of the spine has long been a remedy for structural malfunctions such as aching backs and recurring headaches. Today, chiropractors are also treating neck pain from stress, plus tight shoulders and numb fingers from long hours of computer use. An increasing number of them are now incorporating acupuncture into their arsenal against disorders once treated by chiropractic alone with great success.
“What if you had a nail in your foot? You can do anything to try to heal it, but until you pull the nail out of your foot, you’ll still have a recurring problem,” explains Dr. James Campbell, of East Brunswick, New Jersey, a certified diplomate and incoming president of the American Board of Chiropractic Acupuncture (ABCA). “Like removing the nail, chiropractic removes the mechanical problem and opens the way for acupuncture to stimulate healing,”
Similarly, a chiropractic adjustment removes obstructions and opens acupuncture meridians to facilitate quick healing, “sometimes even immediately,” says Campbell, owner of Campbell Chiropractic Center. “Instead of having the needles in for 20 to 30 minutes, I can actually use a microcurrent device to access the meridians in the ears or on the hands and get the same results in five to 10 seconds.” He notes that relief can be both fast and permanent because the healing energy currents are able to circulate freely throughout the body.
Combining the two modalities has been practiced for more than 40 years, although awareness of the enhanced effectiveness of doing so has been primarily realized in the eastern half of the U.S. The dual therapy is the brainchild of the late Dr. Richard Yennie, who initially became a Kansas City chiropractor after acupuncture healed a back injury shortly after World War II. An acupuncturist smuggled prohibited needles into Yennie’s Japanese hospital room in the sleeve of his kimono for treatments that ended with Yennie’s hospital discharge marked, “GKO,” meaning in the doctor’s opinion, “God only knows” how the intense back pain was healed.
While Yennie went on to teach judo and establish five judo-karate schools, his greatest achievement was bringing the two sciences together in the U.S. He founded both the Acupuncture Society of America and the American Board of Chiropractic Acupuncture, affiliated with the American Chiropractic Association. Certification as a diplomate requires 2,300 hours of training in the combined modalities.
Doctor of Chiropractic Michael Kleker, of Aspen Wellness Center, in Fort Collins, Colorado, is also a state-licensed acupuncturist. “I can tailor treatments to whatever the individual needs,” he says.
For patients experiencing pain after spinal fusion surgery, with no possibility of any movement in their spine, Kleker finds that acupuncture helps manage the pain. “We can commonly get the person out of the chronic pain loop,” he says. He also finds the combination helpful in treating chronic migraines, tennis elbow and other chronic pain conditions. “When I started my practice in 1981, few chiropractors knew anything about acupuncture, let alone used it. Now there are more and more of us,” observes Kleker.
Both Kleker and Campbell are seeing increasing numbers of patients with problems related to high use of technology, facilitating greater challenges for chiropractors and new ways that adding acupuncture can be valuable.
Notebook computers and iPads have both upsides and downsides, Campbell remarks. Users can find relief from repetitive motion injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome by moving around portable devices. However, he is treating more patients for vertigo due to looking down at screens or neck pain from lying in bed looking up while using the devices.
“Blackberry thumb”, which refers to pain caused by texting, responds especially well to a combination of chiropractic manipulation of the thumb to free up the joint, and microcurrent or acupuncture needles to enhance energy flow in the area,” advises Campbell.
Prevention is the best cure for these problems, advises Kleker. He routinely informs patients about proper ergonomic positions for using traditional computers and mobile devices. He also suggests exercises to minimize or eliminate the structural challenges that accompany actively leveraging today’s technological world.
In addition to chiropractors who are increasingly adding acupuncture to their own credentials, an increasing number of chiropractors have added acupuncturists to their practices.
Therapy combining chiropractic and acupuncture has yet to be widely researched, but one study published in the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine in 2012 reports the results of two acupuncture treatments followed by three acupuncture/chiropractic treatments for a women suffering long-term migraine headaches. The migraines disappeared and had not returned a year later. Other studies show that combination therapy offers significant improvements in neck pain and tennis elbow.
Locate a certified practitioner at AmericanBoardOfChiropracticAcupuncture.org/about-us/find-a-diplomate.