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General Internal Medicine

department of medicine

Section of general internal medicine

 

Mary van den Berg-Wolf, MD, FACP (left) treats patient Syreeta Hawkins with acupuncture, while Dr. Karen Lin (center) looks on.

Mary van den Berg-Wolf, MD, FACP (left) treats patient Syreeta Hawkins with acupuncture, while Dr. Karen Lin (center) looks on.

Dr. Mary van den Berg-Wolf’s “aha” moment came when she was suffering through a bout of tennis elbow.


A physician in General Internal Medicine since 1994, she tried injections and therapy… with no luck. That’s when she decided to consult with colleague Karen Lin, MD, Director of the Acupuncture Program in General Internal Medicine.


With one treatment, the pain from the tennis elbow was gone and Dr. van den Berg-Wolf was a believer. Today she is a trained acupuncturist herself and has partnered with Dr. Lin in the clinic.


“Acupuncture can be used for a myriad of issues we see in internal medicine,” says Dr. van den Berg-Wolf. “Digestive issues, respiratory problems, allergies, joint pain, menstrual issues and more. We always emphasize that acupuncture is not meant to replace conventional medical treatment but rather be integrated with it.”


Acupuncture is a method of encouraging the body to promote natural healing and to improve function. This is done by inserting needles and applying heat or electrical stimulation at very precise acupuncture points.


The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy – called meridians – run in regular patterns through the body. An obstruction in the movement of these channels acts like a dam. The acupuncture needles serve to unblock the dams and reestablish the regular flow of energy.


The scientific explanation is that needling certain acupuncture points stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord and brain. These chemicals can change the experience of pain by triggering the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body’s own internal regulating system.


“Acupuncture is increasingly being accepted by the medical community,” says Dr. Lin. “While the research is still catching up with the practice of acupuncture, I find that patients can experience significant benefit through acupuncture treatments. It may not necessarily always be the first-line treatment, but can be integrated and done in parallel with conventional Western medicine.”


According to Dr. Lin, the typical acupuncture patient is someone who is seeking an alternative to traditional treatments that haven’t adequately worked or someone who is seeking a therapy with minimal side effects.


“I wouldn’t have imagined myself doing acupuncture when I started my career, but this is an ancient system of healing that has lasted for 3,000 years and I’ve seen the positive impact it can have on patients,” says Dr. van den Berg-Wolf.

 

 

Acupuncture Overview

 

acupunctureAcupuncture encourages the body to promote healing and to improve functioning. This is done by inserting needles and applying heat or electrical stimulation at specific acupuncture points.


Acupuncture is a very old medical art that dates back over 2,000 years. Today, acupuncture is practiced widely worldwide, and is increasingly used by patients and doctors in the United States. Acupuncture treatments can be used alone or together with other therapies, such as conventional Western medicine and osteopathic manipulations.

 

 

 

 

How Acupuncture Works

 

The classical Chinese explanation is that channels of energy called “Qi” (pronounced “chee”) run through the body. The body functions at its best when the energy flow is normal. A blockage in the flow of energy causes symptoms or disease. Acupuncture can relieve these blockages, and reestablish regular energy flow. Acupuncture treatments can therefore help the body to correct imbalances.


The modern scientific explanation is that acupuncture stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals change the experience of pain, or trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones which influence the body's own internal regulating system.


The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulating the body's natural healing abilities, and in promoting physical and emotional well-being.

 

 

What is Medical Acupuncture?

 

Medical acupuncture is performed by a doctor licensed in Western medicine who has also trained in acupuncture as a specialty practice. Such a doctor can use one or the other approach, or a combination of both to treat an illness.

 

 

Conditions Treated with Medical Acupuncture

 

Medical acupuncture is a system which can influence three areas of health care:

  • Promotion of health and well-being
  • Prevention of illness
  • Treatment of various medical conditions


While acupuncture is often associated with pain control, in the hands of a well-trained practitioner it has much broader applications. The World Health Organization recognizes the use of acupuncture in the treatment of a wide range of medical problems, including:

  • Digestive conditions: gastritis, nausea and vomiting, constipation, diarrhea
  • Respiratory conditions: sinusitis, allergic rhinitis, sore throat, bronchitis, asthma
  • Neurological and muscular conditions: headaches, facial pain, neck pain, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, various forms of tendinitis, knee pain, low back pain, sciatica, osteoarthritis
  • Gynecological/obstetric conditions: primary dysmenorrhea, morning sickness
  • Other: adverse reactions to chemotherapy, post-operative pain

Acupuncture is particularly useful in resolving physical problems related to tension and stress.

 

 

 

To learn more about Acupuncture at Temple General Internal Medicine, please click here.

 

 

 

Frequently asked questions (FAQs), please click here.