Dr Amanda Carter


Dr Amanda Carter
Sarasota based Acupuncture Physician

Why Dry Needling is NOT Really Acupuncture

Not Quite The Same. There is much debate concerning the relation of dry needling and acupuncture. While they do share some superficial similarities—the use of thin needles inserted into the body—the two disciplines are actually quite different. In order to understand the distinction, it is important to define each discipline, their respective educational and licensing requirements and the actual medical efficacy of both.  What is Dry Needling? Also referred to as intramuscular stimulation, dry needling targets myofascial trigger points—knots in muscle tissue—in order to alleviate musculoskeletal pain. Needles are either inserted directly into the knot or in the area surrounding the knot to stimulate the nerves or connective tissue around the muscle.  Education and Licensing In most states, dry needling falls under the professional scope of a licensed physical therapist. Educational and training requirements vary by state, but generally include the completion of a specified number of continuing education credits, licensure as a physical therapist for a specified number of years and demonstration of competency using the technique. Currently, there is no standardized certification exam or licensing requirement specific to dry needling. Dry Needling Efficacy As opposed to acupuncture, a discipline in use for thousands of years, dry needling is relatively new. As such, there is little research or evidence substantiating the effectiveness of dry needling in pain management. The results for this therapy can be hit or miss as the needles are only targeting the actual muscles that are hurting, not the underlying cause of the pain. What is Acupuncture? Acupuncture has been around for 1000’s of years and is based on the ancient belief that the body contains a type of flowing life energy, called qi (pronounced chi). Blockages and imbalances in this energy are thought to cause pain and illness. Acupuncture needles target specific points on the body in order to restore the proper flow of qi and promote healing.  Unlike dry needling, which concentrates solely on the musculoskeletal system, acupuncture and Oriental Medicine has a whole-body (holistic) approach, often used in conjunction with other Oriental Medicine approaches, including Chinese herbal medicine, acupressure, cupping and tai qi and qi gong exercises.  Educational and Licensing Requirements In order to practice as a licensed acupuncture physicians, students must complete an accredited Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AOM) degree program at the post-graduate level. Candidates must complete a specified minimum of credit hours in: Oriental medical theory, diagnosis and treatment techniques. Chinese herbology. Biomedical sciences. Clinical training in acupuncture and herbal medicine. Practice management, ethics, communication and counseling. Licensure varies by state but most require the passage of the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) exam.  Acupuncture Efficacy vs. Dry Needling Efficacy Although acupuncture has more spiritual foundations, there is a large amount of research regarding the medical efficacy of its use. The biological mechanisms for why it works are not clearly understood yet it has been healing people since the Stone Age. Some theories suggest that acupuncture stimulates the body’s self-healing mechanisms, while others attribute its efficacy to improved blood flow.   Dry needling, as mentioned before, is rather new and does not treat the underlying cause and only treats the symptoms.  For instance, if someone were to visit an acupuncture physician for back pain the practitioner may insert needles in the hands and feet or other body parts (like the ear) to open up the circulation and qi flow in the spine and also put needles in the back where the pain is.  If one were to visit a practitioner of dry needling for the same back pain, needles would only be placed in the area of pain, thus severely lessening the effectiveness of the treatment as well as the results obtained.   At Lakewood Ranch Acupuncture and Wellness our acupuncture physicians are fully trained and licensed in Chinese Medicine and have gone through the schooling required to not only treat the issue and symptoms but also the underlying cause of the pain putting the body back into balance.  One can expect not only a reduction in pain, but the pleasant side effects of the body achieving homeostatic balance which results in, but is not limited to, better sleep, improved energy, and a reduction of stress.  The body is miraculous at healing itself and when acupuncture is performed by a licensed and trained acupuncture physician you will most certainly get the best chance at this powerful self-healing and the best results over all.  

Besides Pain, What Can Acupuncture Treat?

Almost everyone has heard of acupuncture, but most people think that it mainly provides pain relief. Acupuncture physicians actually do much more than relieving the physical discomforts that patients experience. A highly efficient method for managing chronic conditions, acupuncture enhances the body’s ability to achieve natural solutions to vexing problems that Western medicine simply cannot address as effectively. Most times, Chinese medicine can treat any ailment one would go to their Western medicine physician to treat and Chinese medicine far excels in treating chronic conditions. Why is this? It is because Chinese medicine does not utilize drugs or surgery to treat a health issue. Instead, it treats the underlying cause of the imbalance, as well as the symptoms, which triggers the body to heal itself. At Lakewood Ranch Acupuncture and Wellness, patients can benefit from treatment of these chronic conditions plus many more. Insomnia Acupuncture balances the body and the brain, and the ability to get a good night’s rest can result from series of treatments. Patients can regain the capability to fall and stay asleep because through acupuncture the brain increases the production of melatonin and serotonin. Acupuncture also works to relieve the stress, anxiety and frustration that many patients feel that often goes along with chronic insomnia. For another example, if the insomnia is caused by menopause then not only will patients regain the ability to stay asleep but they will also notice a reduction or elimination of hot flashes, night sweats, weight gain and the irritability that can result from going through menopause. This is great and we often refer to our clinic as a “one stop shop!” Allergies The seasonal discomforts of runny noses, sneezing, sniffles and watery eyes responds very well to acupuncture by addressing the root cause. Western medicine often uses harsh antihistamines that mask allergy symptoms but actually do nothing to relieve the cause of the allergies and because of that the symptoms return once the medications wear off season after season. The tiny acupuncture needles that are placed just below the skin can not only help reduce allergy symptoms but also strengthen the bodies immune system which will result in fewer or complete elimination of allergies. Digestive Problems Digestive disorders respond great to acupuncture treatment. Whether it’s GERD, IBS, acid reflux, diarrhea or chronic constipation, acupuncture provides healing and nourishment for the entire GI system. Acupuncture works to reduce inflammation, and acupuncture physicians use specific points to improve gastric functions and reduce acid secretions. Treatment can also increase the rate of metabolism and stimulate muscle contraction to reduce discomfort and increase relaxation. Patients can benefit from the restoration of stomach acidity to healthy levels. Mental and Emotional Health One of our favorite things that acupuncture can treat, which most people are unaware of, is mental and emotional health. Acupuncture almost immediately starts to improve patients’ outlook by creating relaxation and a sense of well- being. When stress, anxiety or depression cause an imbalance in the nervous system, a sense of calmness can emerge and break the negative cycle that puts patients in extreme discomfort. How is this? Acupuncture stimulates the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, nor-epinephrine and GABA from the brain which provide a sense of calm and well-being in turn alleviating negative emotions without side effects that pharmaceutical anti-depressants can cause. Infertility One of the most beneficial effects of acupuncture is the ability to re-balance the hormones in a woman’s body as well as increase in blood flow to the female organs making the body more receptive to becoming pregnant. The ancient Chinese approach requires patience and a lack of haste for several months to prepare the body to become receptive to insemination. Acupuncture can re-balance the body when a woman’s menstrual cycle is irregular or even when a woman has trouble ovulating after being on birth control for a number of years. Autoimmune Disorders When the body seems to turn against itself and attack healthy tissue, Chinese medicine can help reverse the disorder. The combination of Chinese medicine and acupuncture may provide successful therapies for such autoimmune disorders as lupus, pernicious anemia, thyroid and celiac disease, rheumatoid arthritis and many others. Addiction Certain points on the body, as well as in the ear, help reduce cravings and difficult withdrawal symptoms. Acupuncture can treat a wide range of additions from smoking to sugar addiction. Today across the country there are addition clinics that utilize acupuncture in their protocols to help patients get off of certain drugs. As a supportive technique, it can also reduce stress and anxiety while enhancing the ability to sleep. Nausea The extremely unpleasant sensation that often precedes vomiting can lessen with the careful placement of acupuncture needles by natural doctors. Patients who may have morning sickness or motion sickness as well as a reaction to medical treatment may get relief through acupuncture. Acupuncture physicians can precisely treat the condition and bring welcome relief to anyone who suffers from nausea. Headaches Through the use of tiny needles at specific points on the body, acupuncturist physicians can relieve the annoyance of headaches as well as the dire consequences of migraines or the misery of tension headaches and even cluster headaches. Anyone who suffers from headaches knows how debilitating chronic headaches can be and are so thankful and pleased when they find relief through acupuncture treatment that offers a traditional Chinese medicine approach as an alternative to emergency-oriented Western practice. An awareness of the benefits of acupuncture can provide an alternative path to treatment of chronic conditions that traditional Western medicine cannot match. Working gently with your body, acupuncture physicians can provide relief from disorders without drugs or harmful side effects. Contact us at Lakewood Ranch Acupuncture and Wellness to begin a calm and restorative approach to achieving health and vitality. We are here to help you bring your body back into a state of physical, mental and emotional balance so that you can live your best, happiest and most vibrant state of being!

Kava-Mother Nature’s Root for Treating Depression

Kava kava is a medicinal shrub that has been used since ancient times to stimulate neurotransmitter production in people that suffer from anxiety or depression. The primary active ingredient in kava root is kavalactone. Kavalactones are a class of lactone compounds that are thought to have psychotropic effects in the human brain.  Kava Uses  The use of kava kava as a medicinal herb originated in the South Pacific region. Although the evergreen shrub once grew wild on countless islands, it is now cultivated for a variety of medicinal purposes. The plant features thick rhizomes, heart shaped leaves and small spiked flowers, but it’s the kava kava root that makes the plant special. The Latin name for kava kava is Piper methysticum, or intoxicating pepper. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that kava kava has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for depression. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center indicates that the kavalactones found in kava may possess the ability to elevate the production of serotonin and dopamine, essential neurotransmitters that have been linked to feelings of well-being and happiness. Research related to the medicinal benefits of kava kava is ongoing.  It is widely accepted that kava kava is similar in structure to GABA, a natural neurotransmitter. The herb is frequently recommended by alternative medicine practitioners for the treatment of the following conditions:  • Pain • Depression • Anxiety • Stress • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder • Premenstrual Pain • Urinary Tract Infections • Edema • Epilepsy • Psychosis • Headaches • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome • Common Colds • Respiratory Tract Infections • Tuberculosis • Bladder Cancer • Venereal Disease  Treating Stress and Anxiety  The word kava not only refers to the medicinal shrub, it refers to a ceremonial drink that was historically popular among south sea natives. The drink is still used during special ceremonial events. Kava connoisseurs worldwide still relish the sense of calm and mental clarity that the drink provides.  Unlike alcohol, kavalactones introduce an empathetic effect in the human brain. Researchers have identified anxiolytic, analgesic, amnestic, notropic, anticonvulsant and sedative effects on the central nervous system that may prove useful in the treatment of depression and anxiety related conditions. A total of 18 kavalactones have been identified in kava kava, 15 of which are considered to be active. Among The active kavalactone compounds that have been identified in the kava kava plant are dihydrokavain, yangonin, demethoxy-yangonin, dihydromethysticin, kavain and methysticin. These chemical agents work synergistically to deliver the medicinal effects of kava.  Overcoming Anxiety and Depression  Kava kava is considered to be effective for the treatment of temporary stress, feelings of apprehension and nervousness. Nevertheless, treatment options for persistent stress should be discussed with a qualified medical professional. Constant stress and consistent feelings of anxiety can be harmful to people of all ages. The benefits of kava are also available in the form of a prescription medication. When used as a temporary remedy for stress and anxiety, kava doesn’t seem to present any negative side effects.  Kava root supplements and medications may offer hope for those suffering from temporary anxiety caused by the uncertainty of daily life. Kava seems to have the ability to reduce feelings of stress and depression, but without the negative side-effects associated with alcohol consumption. Kava supplements are available in many forms, including pastes, powders, concentrates, tinctures, gels, capsules and elixirs. If you’re searching for relief of anxiety or depression, we can help. We have extensive experience helping individuals and families deal sensibly with stress related problems. Please call today to schedule an appointment. You don’t have to live with the agonizing effects of stress and depression. Chinese herbal treatment can help.