Episode 26: Acupuncture for Health and Healing

Dr. James Moran

Cindy Kennedy, FNP, is joined by Dr. James D. Moran, who discusses the work that he does using acupuncture and Oriental Medicine to help his patients find healing from chronic pain and illness.

Dr. Moran is a Licensed Acupuncturist (MA), Doctor of Acupuncture (RI), and Certified Addiction Specialist.

Dr. Moran is a 1985 graduate of the New England School of Acupuncture, where he received a Master’s Degree in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.  Dr. Moran is a member of the Baystate Medical Center Pain Management Program and the Baystate MaryLane Hospital Allied Healthcare Team.  He is a past president of the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and has served on the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.  He previously served on the National Institutes of Health Consensus Conference Development Committee on Acupuncture.

Dr. Moran has received several honors from the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, including the Pioneer Leadership Award, and was twice named its Acupuncturist of the Year.  Dr. Moran has lectured and taught nationally on the topic of acupuncture and oriental medicine.  He is currently the President of Holistic Healthcare Services and the Coordinator of Clinical Services at the Belchertown Wellness Center, both of which are located in Belchertown, MA where he maintains a private practice. 

Transcript of Episode 26: Acupuncture for Health and Healing

Cindy Kennedy: Hello, my listeners. This is your host, nurse practitioner Cindy Kennedy, and I have a treat today. We have a guest on the podcast that will answer a lot of different questions from an area that we don’t often thing about using. On the line with me is Dr. James Moran, and he is a doctor of acupuncture and Oriental medicine. He is a licensed acupuncturist and he practices in Belchertown, Mass., and he’s also part of the wellness program, pain management, at Bay State Medical Center. He’s also an addiction specialist, so we’re going to learn a lot here.
Welcome to the show. Hi James, how are you?

James Moran: Good morning, I’m fine, thank you.

Cindy Kennedy: Wonderful. I’m going to call you Jim for the rest of the talk, if that’s okay.

James Moran: That’s okay.

Cindy Kennedy: Perfect, perfect. So a lot of people think about, oh, I don’t feel well, or I have pain, or something else is going on for me, and I’m going to go to the doctor. And oftentimes, doctors don’t recommend more of the holistic side of healthcare. So give me an idea about the scope of acupuncture, and certainly supplements that you use in terms of just keeping someone healthy. We’ll start with keeping someone healthy.

James Moran: Well, keeping someone healthy is usually something that happens once we’ve gotten people to a point of health. And it’s, as you mentioned, oftentimes acupuncture is something that gets recommended when someone’s been down that path of trying to address their health. And so unless it’s in a fairly progressive area, we’re not usually one of the first choices that people will avail themselves of.
So keeping people healthy is usually after we’ve gotten them to a point of being well, and then we will design a strategy. So that might be several steps down the … before we arrive at that path.

Cindy Kennedy: How often do you usually see someone who, say, is having difficulty with pain?

James Moran: So it depends. Most typically, however, you’re seeing someone twice a week. And then as they’re getting better, once a week, and then as they’re getting better, once every two weeks. And you start phasing that out, and then you design a strategy around where that person wants to be with their health.
So first you want to get them out of the woods, so to speak, and then you want to develop a strategy so that they don’t get lost again, so to speak.

Cindy Kennedy: I get it.

James Moran: And it’s really designed around the individual rather than around, this is an L4-L5 reticular pain syndrome. It’s really around, who is the individual who’s arriving with this pain, and how is it that we can address that person as a whole? How are they sleeping, how’s their energy level, how is their mood, what’s their diet like? You’re looking at it from a patient centered point of view, rather than a pathology point of view.

Cindy Kennedy: I see. Just for the listeners, you mentioned L4-L5, and that is the lumbar vertebrae-

James Moran: Yeah, sorry.

Cindy Kennedy: -which is located in the lower part … No, that’s okay. That’s why I’m here. The lower part of your back before the sacrum, which is the very lowest area before you get to the little bone at the bottom called the coccyx.
You know, we’ve seen a shift in healthcare. People are more aware, people have probably talked to groups and petitioned insurance companies. There are some insurance companies that actually do help out with payment for acupuncture. Is that true?

James Moran: Yes. Probably 40% of our patients now have some form of reimbursement, but anybody who’s minimally conscious these days know that the health insurance industry is in a state of crisis, and there’s lots of variability from year to year, so it’s hard to say definitively, these are insurances that cover and these that aren’t.
But an example of some of the disconnect would be that, for instance, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, a significant provider of healthcare insurance in the commonwealth, all around us in Connecticut and New York and Vermont and in Maine, they cover acupuncture. But not in Massachusetts. So there’s lots of variability. Some Cigna plans will cover it, some won’t. But worker’s comp does, auto accidents or PIP claims, they’re called, will. A number of insurance providers will cover them, but there’s a lot of variability within that. So they may only cover back pain and shoulder pain, but not neck pain, for instance. So lots of variability these days, and it’s changing all the time.

Cindy Kennedy: Yeah, I find that it’s a very frustrating point. But I also mentioned to some of my patients who might be dealing with something outside the GYN realm, because as I always tell my listeners, I am a nurse practitioner and I practice women’s health, gynecology primarily. And I tell patients … They’re like, oh, I can’t do that, that’s too expensive. My insurance doesn’t cover it. And I’m like, what is the cost that you could put on your daily pain? What does it change, the quality of your life, and how much is it worth for you to feel better? And some people have to think about that for a while, and then they come to a conclusion that yeah, you know what, maybe I need to think about that and go down that path.
I know that acupuncture has an Oriental beginning. Tell us a little bit about that.

James Moran: Well, acupuncture goes back, depending upon whose history you’re looking at, whose reference, at least 2,000 years, and more likely, 5,000 years. It predates history. So there’s prehistoric evidence of acupuncture being used. However, one odd caveat to that is, some people might remember … Gosh, it’s probably a decade now or more, that in the Italian Alps, there was, as a glacier receded, they found someone who had been, over 5,000 years ago, caught in the glacier. And when they did an autopsy of this individual, they found that he had a number of tattoos on him. And when they looked more carefully, these tattoos aligned with the acupuncture points.
And even more interesting is that these acupuncture points that were tattooed were in relationship to the health issues that that individual had, which were respiratory and low back problems. So it seems as though these acupuncture points were highlighted or tattooed in order for this individual to do some type of treatment on them, and that it was not just the really basic points, like the earliest ones that we know about, but this was actually a somewhat sophisticated set of acupuncture point prescriptions for the treatment of those conditions.
So where does acupuncture really date back to? We don’t really know. But the earliest comprehensive writings go back about 3,000 years in China.

Cindy Kennedy: Wow, that’s a long time. I guess a lot of things have changed, probably, since then.

James Moran: A few things, yeah.

Cindy Kennedy: Yeah.

James Moran: So in this country, it really goes back to the ’70s and one of the few things we can thank Richard Nixon for is his opening up relations with China, and then there were these exchanges of scientific information and medical information. And there were early documentaries, in fact, I remember as a child watching a woman receiving, on PBS, a documentary. A woman receiving open heart surgery, and they’re using acupuncture anesthesia for her. And she’s wide awake. You can see her chest is cut open. You could literally see her heart on her chest, but she’s [inaudible 00:08:48] off from it, and the Western physicians are standing at the head of the surgical table, speaking with this woman who’s wide awake and smiling.
And now you have to remember that in the early ’70s, we hardly understood the endorphin system, the endorphins being natural painkillers that the body produces endogenously. And so we barely understood those, and so we thought, this couldn’t possibly really work, but yet, here this woman is wide awake. So we began to question, how could acupuncture really work, how could the Chinese know something about what’s going on physiologically that we don’t? And that was the beginning of what is an ongoing set of questions about how does acupuncture really work.
And as we have more clarity in terms of how the physiology of the body operates, when we have new devices like functional MRIs and CT scans that allow us to look at what activities are happening in the brain, for instance, when we stimulate an acupuncture point, we’ve had deeper understandings about what’s happening when we do acupuncture.
So for instance, we know that with chronic pain, that 50% of chronic pain is neurogenic, meaning that if a person has low back pain, 50% of that pain is not actually arriving out of the back or initiated out of the back. It’s really happening within the midbrain or a thalamic pathway of the brain. And that one of the things that acupuncture does is that it turns down that messaging from that midbrain to help regulate how the body is addressing pain.
So we didn’t even … Until we had that understanding about the use of how pain functions in the body, vis a vis these new tools, we had no idea, of course, that acupuncture regulated those. So the further we get down the road in terms of our insights from a Western point of view about how the body regulates itself, we then often find in the wake of that, oh, acupuncture’s actually stimulated an upregulation or downregulation of that metabolic pathway.

Cindy Kennedy: Wow. That’s, I guess maybe just like everything else, it’s kind of like you try something, you see how it works, you improve it. So it’s gotta be over a course of time that you guys have become more able to understand this. Now, am I correct, the goal of acupuncture is to promote and to restore balance of energy. You’ve got … We’re an energetic being, and we’re full of frequency, and there’s healthy frequencies, bad frequencies. Tell me how acupuncture works.

James Moran: So you might find it surprising that I don’t really talk about acupuncture as an energetic system. Although you’re right, absolutely, everything is energy. Ultimately, we know that from physics. Everything is energetic, so everything has to have an energetic component to it.
But there’s actually a fair amount of misunderstanding about this, in part because there were mistranslations by some of the earliest authors who were translating the earliest Chinese texts that talked about energy systems. But in fact, I think for Westerners, it’s much more discernible to be able to look at acupuncture in terms of the lexicon of Western medicine. So acupuncture stimulates the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system, for your listeners, is how the body regulates everything.
And there’s basically two operating modes. There’s sympathetic and parasympathetic. And sympathetic is that fight or flight mode. So the tiger jumps in your path and the body has an exquisitely elaborate set of instantaneous responses so that we can survive. So you start stimulating adrenaline and that gets your heart beating faster, and you dump magnesium so your muscles can contract, and you stimulate the immune system so that you’re producing more inflammatory compounds, and you downregulate your digestive system because you don’t need to use all of that energy for digesting food. You’re trying to avoid being digested from that tiger who’s chasing you down.
So that’s an exquisite system that’s allowed us to survive to this time. However, we tend to spend much too much time in that sympathetic [tone 00:13:39], and certainly people who have illnesses, especially pain that they’re dealing with, will tend to be in too much of that sympathetic dominance. And one of the things that acupuncture does immediately, and we certainly found this out in some of the research we did at Bay State in the neonatal intensive care unit working with preemies, is that we were getting instantaneous shifts from the sympathetic to this parasympathetic, which is more that healing and the more normal, but should be the day to day, operating system.
And this is not sort of an on/off switch. We tend to spend too much time dialed up in these high stress modes, and even if life is … I tell my patients, even if life is really good, you don’t have aches or pains, you have all your creature comforts, you have people around you who are loving and supporting you … Just listen to the news, and you’re starting to secrete stress related hormones. It’s really hard, our drive to work and counter rush hour, and we live in this constant hyperarousal mode which has a whole set of physiological events that are not conducive to healing.
And so my shifting people from that sympathetic fight or flight mode to that parasympathetic healing mode, we create the environment in which the body can heal. So what happens when you’re in that parasympathetic healing mode is that the whole, what’s called the adrenal hypothalamic axis, which is all these hormones, the glands, the organs … All of these regulatory mechanisms tend to get imbalanced. And what I often use as an analogy is, it’s like a car that’s tuned up. If you’re not firing on all cylinders, you’re not really getting down the road very effectively. And the more out of regulation we are, the more difficult it is to have health.
And so it’s very difficult to stimulate healing with someone who has low back pain, who also has a history of trauma and isn’t sleeping well, and isn’t getting stage three of sleep, and they’re not getting even growth hormone, and their digestive system is dysregulated, and that’s created problems with absorption of nutrients and leaky gut syndrome.
And so, when someone arrives, and usually we’re seeing the worst case scenarios in Asian medicine, because people have been through the system and have seen all of the … Not only the GP, but a series of specialists and been on numerous different medications and have numerous different therapeutic interventions. It’s more than reasonable to ask the question, why isn’t this individual healing? After all, we’re spending tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars, and we have a whole team of medical individuals with all kinds of specialists healing, trying to get this person better, and ironically, the further they get down that road, the more specialists, the more medications, the worse they tend to be.
And so the task for someone in Asian medicine is to facilitate that body’s ability to come into regulation on the level of the autonomic nervous system and that adrenal axis, but also on that very local level in terms of the functioning of a muscle. So a muscle that’s in chronic contraction or chronically spasmodic will have a dysregulation of the messaging within that muscle. There’s what’s called the muscle spindle, which is kind of the software in the muscle. So someone who has chronic back pain, let’s say, or neck pain, those muscles are chronically programmed to be dysfunctional. And by stimulating what are called gamma motor fibers, that stimulates a rebooting of that muscle spindle.
So to backtrack for a second, you’re looking at that individual as a whole. Can we get them better sleep, can we get them better regulation of all these various systems that are essential for promoting healing? Can we work on that midbrain or thalamic pathway to change that messaging? And can we work on that local level of that muscle spindle to get that muscle to elongate and have normal regulation of that joint, so that joint isn’t compressed, so that nerve isn’t compressed and chronically inflamed, and then that person can’t get out of their chronic pain loop, their chronic pain cycle.
And so acupuncture, when we look at the … If we step back and say, well, what’s the clinical evidence of that? About seven years ago, eight years ago now, there were two meta-analyses, or studies of studies, on back pain, which is second only to the common cold. And one was done in this country by Cochrane, a well known research group, and one was done by the British healthcare system, looking at all things that treat back pain. Acupuncture came out on top in both of those studies, and the other side of that, the things that we typically do … And I’m part of the department of anesthesiology at Bay State, so I’ve worked for 21 years now there with the group. And typically the things that we avail people of early on with chronic pain conditions have no evidence of clinical efficacy.
So the rest of the world, in the wake of these watershed studies that were reported out in the New England Journal of Medicine and the Journal of the Spine and the Archives of Internal Medicine and the Lancet, all these mainstream medical journals, said acupuncture is unassailably the most rigorously studied medical intervention you can have for pain. The rest of the world has said, okay, from an evidence based perspective, we should be doing acupuncture.
So if you go to Europe, obviously, Asia, you’re going to get acupuncture at a much earlier point in that process, because it works and it’s safe and it’s cost effective. And in this country, we tend to be at the end of the line, the feeding chain, so to speak, and so ironically, we avail people of things that have little to no evidence of clinical efficacy, have high side effect profiles, and are very expensive. And so it’s not a surprise when we look at why we spend twice as much on healthcare in this country as any other country in the world, and we rate 26th in terms of overall quality of life. The acupuncture’s kind of a microcosm of what we do with people’s health.

Cindy Kennedy: Now, we know that acupuncture requires very, very, very fine needles. And let’s talk about something that’s not localized. So you’re following points that are called meridians? Is that true?

James Moran: Well, points are on meridians. Well, there are acupuncture points that are on what are called the meridians.

Cindy Kennedy: And those are predetermined. Those are the ones that have developed over time, that you know this pattern, yes?

James Moran: Yeah, there are basically about 360 basic acupuncture points, but there are over 1,000 acupuncture points on the body.

Cindy Kennedy: Okay. So let’s take a person who’s suffering from, let’s say, Lyme disease. And it causes a variety of issues. It’s going to cause anxiety and depression. It may have bowel issues. You may have issues, of course, with pain and headaches. How do you tackle something that has 5-10 complaints from a patient?

James Moran: And this is pretty typical. What we tend to see are the complex cases, and it satisfies the question, why isn’t the person healing? Because they have multiple systems of things going on. And the body isn’t regulating itself well. So that’s where acupuncture starts. How is this person, what’s interfering with this person’s ability to get well?
Well, let’s talk about the anxiety piece. If there’s … So one reason why a person who has Lyme’s may not be doing as well as another person who has Lyme’s … Let’s say they’re the same age, the same kind of demographic, same age, same gender, same socioeconomic status. What’s the difference between the two? Well, if one of them has a history of trauma, let’s say, that person will have been in sympathetic dysregulation for a long period of time. So the body’s endogenous capabilities of regulating itself won’t be as good. This person will tend to have way too much inflammation going on. They tend to have … When you’re in a fight or flight mode, the body naturally turns down the function of the small intestine, which is doing most of the absorption of nutrients. It turns up the colon and it turns up the stomach, so that’s why you see animals, and in extreme cases, humans will defecate and urinate when they’re under extreme stress.
That’s because, just like animals, defecate, urinate, when they’re startled or stressed. We have those similar types of autonomic responses. So if your GI system, if the stomach and colon are turned up and the small intestine’s turned down, very hard to get good nutrients. Very hard for the person to have, on a really basic level, good GI function. So hard to get good nutrients, hard to heal if you’re not getting adequate nutrition. They’re going to have high cortisol levels at night. That’s going to interfere with their ability to get into stage three of sleep, when we produce human growth hormone, and that’s how we heal. If you don’t have human growth hormone, the healing cascade is disrupted.
So you’re not getting good nutrients, you’re not repairing yourself adequately. And I often use really basic homeowner analogies. So let’s say you have a home and it takes 20 hours of maintenance a week and you’re doing 10. Well, after a while, that house is not holding up very well. It’s in disrepair. And it’s not that dissimilar to the body, that if you’re missing … You need eight hours of qualitative sleep, and you’re getting half of that … Well, when you’re young, you can persevere over a while. But as you’re getting into your 30s and 40s, these people are starting to really break down.
So that’s typically what you see. So just two people who have very similar starts in terms of the onset of a pathology like Lyme’s, or a disease like Lyme’s, their history and their genetics and their environment all have substantial impact on their ability to negotiate the healing process, so to speak. And so you want to address all of those components.
So I’ll use nutritional strategies early on that help with sleep. Zizyphus and magnolia, for instance, synergistically help very quickly to reduce cortisol levels.

Cindy Kennedy: What was that? What was that?

James Moran: Those two herbs?

Cindy Kennedy: Yeah, what was it?

James Moran: Zizyphus, zizyphus and magnolia.

Cindy Kennedy: Zizyphus?

James Moran: Zizyphus, zizyphus, like starting with a Z.

Cindy Kennedy: Okay, okay. And magnolia.

James Moran: And magnolia.

Cindy Kennedy: Okay, okay.

James Moran: Yeah, are good for reducing cortisol. And they work very quickly. And so you want to get the person to be able to start to sleep. It’s an enormously powerful intervention, to get sleep. And so, let’s get you a little bit better sleep. Let’s get you, because when you’re under stress and you dump magnesium, now you’re getting tight muscles. So it’s hard for either pain to get better if your muscles are overly tight, and it’s hard for your nervous system to really relax. It’s hard for your heart to really relax. And we know that by the time we get to 65, 85% of Americans have severe levels of magnesium deficiency.
So this little trace mineral that costs a few cents a day, it’s not in our soil, so it hasn’t been there since studies just after World War II. So it’s not in the soil, it’s not in our foods, even if you eat a good diet. And even if you’re eating a good diet and you still can’t get enough of that magnesium, and plus being in that stress mode, whether you have a history of trauma or not, you’re going to be dumping magnesium.
And so when we look at things like just anxiety, if your heart can’t really relax well enough, then that will … It sounds odd, but you actually will get more stress, because your chest, your diaphragm, will get tighter and tighter. People get shorter and shorter breath, and they often, when they come in, they have very tight diaphragmatic muscles. And so they’re actually not even able physically to get a nice deep diaphragmatic breath. They can’t really relax, from years of shortened breath and years of too little magnesium, too much stress.
So you have to look at them on multiple levels in order to facilitate a healing response overall, because what we’re trying to do is get the body, the body’s endogenous capability of healing, we’re trying to facilitate that. And so obviously sleep is an essential element, obviously having good absorption of nutrients and elimination of toxins is essential. You have to get the basics. If you’re rehabilitating a house, you want to know, how’s the roof doing, how are their sills doing, how’s the electrical system, how’s the plumbing? It’s really not essentially that much different in looking at an individual. You have to get all of those pieces right.

Cindy Kennedy: Now, I do have a question. As an acupuncturist, is it your perception, is it your history taking, or is it the actual touching and using your techniques that you can figure out that someone’s diaphragm is very tight?

James Moran: It’s all of those things. Of course, a physical exam gives you an essential bit of information, but your history may give some suspicion to … Okay, let’s look at this and let’s look at this. But the physical exam gives you literally a tangible sense of what’s going on here. So the first thing I’ll do in the physical exam is I’ll do some basic neurological exams from a Western point of view. But then I’m also looking at the structure of the body. Are the leg lengths the same? Very often they’re not, because the hips are off. And why are, the hips are off? Because, well, it may be how they’re holding … Well, it really comes down to essentially how they’re holding tension in their body.
And how they’re holding tension in their body, for me, gives illumination to what’s going on in their autonomic nervous system. So, now, from an Eastern point of view, I’m saying, well, it’s these meridians or these pathways that are blocked. And so by creating balance within those pathways, which is really from a Western point of view is what’s happening is those muscles are relaxing, we’re getting better blood flow into those areas and so we’re getting better elongation of that muscle, within a few seconds, literally, we’re seeing changes in terms of leg length and tension and the sternocleidomastoid muscle, or tension in the diaphragm. We should see that release instantaneously.
So for instance, in the study that we did in the neonatal intensive care unit, where we actually used a biomagnetic protocol because these preemies are so tiny, the needles would’ve been inappropriate to use. So I used a biomagnetic protocol based upon what some Japanese practitioners are using. And what we saw were instant changes in things like O2 saturation levels, or blood oxygen levels. So going from low 80s, and these were very sick preemies who had what is called advanced bronchial dysplasia. Their lungs were badly damaged, so very low oxygen levels. Within five minutes, we saw them go from low 80s to high 90s.
They had never seen that before. There was no explanation about how that could possibly happen, but there it was. And we saw a baby that was literally dying go from … and had a zero growth curve, to grow a 13% growth curve, which is normal, within a few weeks, normal for a baby at, a preemie at two years of age. So what we did was we took somebody who was literally dying and upregulated their growth curve to a really high level of function. Even though that child did pass after a few, that was the first component, that we did a larger study with 60 preemies. But what we saw was that we could upregulate certain metabolic parameters like O2 saturation levels, increase their growth over a normal baseline, and decrease muscle tension in the muscles of the neck and the muscles of the abdomen and so on. Those have a connection.
So the muscle tension for an acupuncturist, where that muscle tension is gives illumination to how, what pattern is going on. So we tend not to overemphasize one bit of information, but how do all those bits of information give you a sense of a pattern, what we call a pattern of disharmony? What’s going on within various systems of the body, and how do we regulate those systems so that the body can be more properly functioning?

Cindy Kennedy: This is all so fascinating. This is beyond the … The majority of people just don’t understand. They think of a problem and they want a quick fix, and they want … Give me something for it. And it takes time, it takes your energy, and it takes your perseverance to handle complicated issues and believe in your practitioner and stick with it. So I think … Yeah, go ahead.

James Moran: Well, we’re a society in which we tend to be … Western thinking has, especially scientific analysis, and still, to a large extent in the medical field, we tend to be very linear and reductionist in our thinking. And so there’s, for a very long time, hundreds of years, it’s been thought that there’s one disease, one cause. There’s one thing that’s causing that, it’s very linear.
But if you look at the fundamentals of what we teach to medical students, it’s antithetical to that. So look at how the immune system regulates itself, look at how those various hormonal axes regulate themselves. Everything is connected to everything. If you look at neuroimmunoendrocrinology, everything’s connected to everything else. But in the practice of Western medicine, we farm everything out. So earlier, when I was saying the person arrives and they have a whole team of physicians. They have their psychiatrist, their primary, their neurologist, their endocrinologist, their gynecologist. They have this whole team of people that they’re seeing. They’re spending tremendous amounts of money on medical interventions and specialists. Medication, by the way, medications are the fourth leading cause of death in our country.

Cindy Kennedy: Of death. Yeah, yeah.

James Moran: The fourth leading cause of death, and when you look at, watch the world news tonight or any of the broadcast news networks, it’s pharmaceuticals that are predominantly doing the advertising. So we’re fed, as consumers, this idea that a pill can rectify a condition, and pills are just … I have nothing against Western medicine, nothing against medications. Medications save lives. But oftentimes, they’re a stopgap measure. They’re a tourniquet. And there’s no plan B.
So, yeah, the person has very high blood pressure when they come into the doctor’s office. Absolutely. Let’s try to do something in the moment to get that blood pressure down. But everyone knows that exercise and diet and trying to reduce stress will help bring down your blood pressure. But in the five minutes or 10 minutes now that you have with your doctor, they’re just looking at, how do we manage the crisis, rather than, how do we get to more fundamentally, how to treat people?

Cindy Kennedy: Yeah, it’s all about putting out the fire. That’s the hardest part of it.

James Moran: Absolutely.

Cindy Kennedy: This has probably been the best explanation I have ever heard in terms of acupuncture and what you’re trying to help the person with, no matter how complicated, no matter how bodily widespread it is, and I thank you so much.

James Moran: Oh, sure.

Cindy Kennedy: Yeah, and before we end here, I do have a question for you. What ticks you off?

James Moran: Oh my gosh, how long do we have?
Cindy Kennedy: Well, make it short, make it short. You don’t have to feel obligated to … Just give me one thing.
James Moran: Yeah. I don’t know if I would use the term ticks me off, but-
Cindy Kennedy: Listen, this is my show. This is my show. That’s my question.
James Moran: I would say that it’s more in the context of what deeply disturbs me. And I’ve been doing this now for 33 years, and I’ve worked at NIH in terms of the consensus conference on acupuncture in 1997. I helped put that together. That was supposed to be, when we were asked to help create the acupuncture consensus conference development committee, we were told that if we get a thumbs up from NIH, that we should’ve been part of the Medicare system.
Well, we got a big thumbs up from NIH, back even in 1997, the clinical data showed that acupuncture was at least as effective in the treatment of a number of different conditions, and if you look at the World Health Organization, they have well over 120 conditions that acupuncture effectively treats, that acupuncture was at least as effective as Western medicine treating a number of those conditions, that it was safer and more cost effective.
So people, the reason why … And I just last week was testifying at the state house about acupuncture, because we are chronically, so to speak, putting forth legislation that would allow access for patients to acupuncture treatment that … The due diligence has been done on this. Acupuncture is unassailably the most clinically scrutinized medical intervention that you can have. The cost effective analysis is there in spades, that we have plenty of information to show that we’re far more cost effective, and that we see not only as we’ve been talking about, a benefit in the singular area, like it’s better for back pain than all the other interventions out there … But not only are we effectively treating back pain, the person’s sleeping better. They’re using less sleep medications. Their depression or their anxiety is better.
Many people don’t realize that the military has been using acupuncture for PTSD and chronic pain conditions like phantom pain for years. And when I testify to the legislators, I’ll say, not exactly an earthy, crunchy organization. They are, the reason why the military uses it, and what they call battlefield acupuncture, is because it works. And that, if I have a piece, and I guess I do-

Cindy Kennedy: I guess so!

James Moran: It’s because we have an intervention that really significantly improves the quality of people’s lives, and because of the way that the industry is, the way that medicine is delivered in this country, it has nothing to do with logic. So every week at the hospital, we’re doing somewhere in the ballpark of 100 lumbar epidurals. So we’re injecting steroids into the spine. That’s somewhere in the neighborhood of $3,000 a whack. And yet there’s zero evidence of clinical efficacy, and insurance companies pay for those things.

Cindy Kennedy: Right, right.

James Moran: You can get a lot of that, and you can get three or four of those a year.

Cindy Kennedy: Yeah, yeah.

James Moran: So $12,000. And what does that do? Not only do they not work, but they also reduce your body’s endogenous capabilities of healing. So your adrenal glands, which are usually already impaired, go offline, so to speak, for six weeks. It plays havoc with your blood sugar levels, and if you do get a symptomatic benefit, it will ultimately make you worse, because I’ll tell patients, if you’re driving down the road and your oil light goes on, and the person next to us says, “No problem, let me put this piece of tape over that oil light,” you wouldn’t think that that’s a sound strategy.

Cindy Kennedy: No, not at all.

James Moran: But if you inject that nerve with some steroid and you calm down that nerve, what happens? The person increases their activity. So you haven’t done anything to affect the underlying cause. So what happens is that we’re kicking that can down the road until, now nothing’s working.
So I’ll finish with one little story. I just had a patient, she had a terrible tumor on her pelvis. Surgery at Mass General didn’t go well. She lost half of her pelvis, she’s been in a wheelchair, she’s been in horrific pain. She’s had all the numerous, numerous injections. Five years of 10/10 pain, numerous injections, on opioids, on gabapentin, and a spinal cord stimulator. Still 8 to 9 to 10 pain levels, day in and day out. No one ever mentioned acupuncture to her.
She came in. Three weeks later, she’s a 0 to 1 to 2 without the spinal cord stimulator. We’re taking her down off her medications, and she said … And I hear this every week. “Why didn’t anybody tell me about this?”

Cindy Kennedy: I know, I know. That’s a common thing sometimes I hear too. I can just make the assumption that everything you’re doing and all the improvement that you’re making in people’s lives is basically your lemonade. And so I am going to end, I’m going to end with that. And everybody who’s been listening, this is Dr. Jim Moran, and he is a licensed acupuncturist. He treats a million and one things, it sounds like, and you need to consider acupuncture in your treatment plan, no matter what health condition that you have. And especially all of us dealing with Lyme disease and the copious amount of issues that we have.
And again, I do want to thank you.

James Moran: Sure.

Cindy Kennedy: And he is in Belchertown. You can reach him there, and he’s at the Wellness Center. I am signing off, this has been your host, Cindy Kennedy. And I want to encourage you, if you’re listening from iTunes or Spotify or wherever you’re listening to, go to my website, www.livingwithlyme.us. Yes, US, because Lyme does affect all of us. And please subscribe so that I know how many of you are listening. You will get an alert that there is something new up on the website because we have blogs as well.
Thank you again. Everyone, make it a good day. Make it the best day that you can. Take care now. Bye.