What is Medical Acupuncture?
Medical acupuncture is practiced by a Medical Doctor who is licensed and trained in Western medicine. As practiced in the modern Western world, medical acupuncture is usually a combination of European and North American techniques, based on 200 years of Western medical investigation into acupuncture.

How are medical acupuncture treatments performed?
The treatments are performed using either solid stainless steel needles or by needle-free laser applications. Acupuncture needles are unlike needles used for hypodermic injections or drawing blood, which are hollow and have cutting edges. Acupuncture needles have smooth points, not cutting edges, and are hair thin. As a result, most patients have virtually pain-free experiences during the treatments. Often a light electrical current is used to increase the stimulation at some points and may produce a mild tingling or tapping sensation.

How does medical acupuncture work?
Medical acupuncture treatments stimulate the body’s internal regulating systems to produce biochemicals that alter the body’s chemical balance. Hormone secretion, endorphins in the brain, neurotransmitters and cells of the immune system can be stimulated or suppressed by medical acupuncture applications.

What conditions are treated by medical acupuncture?
Generally, medical acupuncture is an effective way to treat a very large number of medical conditions. Currently, Dr. Lundgren restricts his practice to:

  • Intractable pain—usually the neck or low back from failed surgery or spinal stenosis.
  • Reversing vision loss from Age-Related Macular Degeneration
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Reversing diabetic foot neuropathy and similar neuropathies
  • Autoimmune conditions such as Lupus or Rheumatoid arthritis that do not respond to conventional medicine.

Are there any side effects?
Some people feel energized after treatments; others feel relaxed. Some patients feel somewhat disoriented afterwards, which generally passes after a brief rest. Because the body’s chemistry balance is affected, some people may see changes in appetite, sleep, bowel or urination patterns or emotional states. These are normal reactions, are usually short—term, and are an indication that the treatments are having the desired effect. They are not a cause for concern.

How many treatments are necessary?
If the proper medical acupuncture treatment is applied, there will be relief of pain conditions the first day. The same is true for other conditions, as long as the proper treatment has been identified. However, with AMD, progress is so slow that it takes several treatments before a patient will notice the improvement.

I’m not sure I believe in acupuncture. Can it still help me?
Medical acupuncture works by changing levels of neurotransmitters and hormones. The effect is there whether or not the people are “believers.” In one British study on low back pain, patients were asked before treatment whether they believe in acupuncture or not. The group that said they did not believe had the greatest amount of relief.

Is medical acupuncture covered by my insurance?
Medical acupuncturists are Medical Doctors (MDs), so many of the treatments they recommend will be covered in the same ways as other medical conditions; consultations, injections and office visits are normally covered by insurance. Some insurance plans may require a referral by your Primary Care Physician (PCP) beforehand. Some insurance plans cover medical acupuncture treatments; others cover them under certain conditions; some do not cover them at all. Please consult your insurance carrier for specific details.

Terms & Definitions

Angiogenic means pertaining to blood vessels. Macugen, Lucentis, and Avastin are chemicals injected into the eyeball to block the growth of abnormal blood vessels.

Avastin is an anti-vascular-epithelial growth factor (anti-VEGF) drug, approved for use in colon cancer. Some ophthalmologists are using it “off label” for wet AMD to stop and prevent leaking. A derivative of Avastin is Lucentis which does have FDA approval for use in wet AMD as well.  A recent study by the National Eye Institute has concluded that Avastin is equally effective to the much more expensive Lucentis.

Drusen are deposits which lie beneath the retina in a layer called Bruch’s membrane that can be thought of as backed up waste products from various layers of the retina. Drusen can be a marker for Macular Degeneration (especially in the over 50 age group) but is not a cause. There appears to be an increased risk for macular degeneration as the number of drusen increases. Fat also accumulates in Bruch’s membrane with age. This may also contribute to drusen formation.

A condition of the macula in which retinal cells lose pigment and a waste product, called Drusen, is deposited in the layers behind the retina. 90% of patients with Age-Related Macular Degeneration have the Dry Variety. Vision loss usually progresses more slowly than in the Wet Variety. A small percentage of patients with dry macular degeneration will convert to the wet variety every year. That is one reason for regular ophthalmologist exams.

Lucentis is the most recent treatment approved by the FDA for wet AMD. It is a derivative of Avastin, and also an anti-vascular epithelial growth factor drug.

Macugen is a treatment for patients with the Wet Variety of Macular Degeneration. Released in the beginning of 2005, Macugen is an injection of a medicine directly into the globe of the eye designed to discourage blood vessel growth without the use of a laser.

The macula is located roughly in the center of the retina, temporal to the optic nerve. It is a small and highly sensitive part of the retina responsible for detailed central vision and color.

Optic Nerve
The optic nerve transmits electrical impulses from the retina to the brain. It connects to the back of the eye near the macula.

The retina is a multi-layered sensory tissue that lines the back of the eye. It contains millions of photoreceptors that capture light rays and convert them into electrical impulses. These impulses travel along the optic nerve to the brain where they are turned into images. There are two types of photoreceptors in the retina: rods and cones—rods are in the periphery while the cones are in the macula.

An isolated area of diminished vision within the visual field, usually appearing as a blank or black spot. It can be one of the first signs of Age Related Macular Degeneration.

Verteporfin is a medicine that is activated by light and is used in the photodynamic treatment of AMD. Verteporfin has no effect on its own, but in the presence of light and oxygen, it reacts to produce a cell-killing effect, thus preventing abnormal blood vessel growth. The treatment involves activating the medicine in a localized area of the eye, by using a laser.

A condition of the macula in which abnormal blood vessels can potentially leak fluid and blood, threatening sometimes sudden central vision loss.

Updated: 1 August 2011