Alternative Medicine: More than just fun with needles

There is a definitive movement among American health care providers and patients toward natural, holistic treatment options. Doctor’s offices offering Alternative, Naturopathic, Integrative, and Complementary medicine are opening up in big cities and small towns across the country, and these methods are not only gaining popularity, they’re also gaining tremendous scientific support and credibility. At Human Health Specialists, we have been offering complementary and alternative treatments for years and have successfully utilized them with hundreds of patients and, of course, ourselves. Four of these treatments – acupuncture, I.V. nutrient therapy, Prolotherapy, and Platelet Rich Plasma Therapy – are described below.



Acupuncture is the ancient Chinese practice of sticking needles in people. These aren’t just any needles, and they’re not stuck just anywhere; paper-thin, sterile, single-use needles are inserted at precise points on the body that ease the symptoms of specific conditions. The Eastern explanation of how acupuncture works is that acupuncture points are located on meridians along which the body’s vital energy (qi or chi) flows, and needling these points will aid your condition by correcting the flow of blood and qi. The Western explanation is that the needles stimulate the release of the body’s natural painkillers, induce relaxation, and increase blood flow. Either way, the result is an improvement in symptoms and an enhanced sense of well-being.

There are currently thousands of licensed acupuncturists in the U.S. practicing various forms of acupuncture including traditional acupuncture, acupressure, and electro-acupuncture. These methods have proven to be beneficial – both anecdotally and in research studies – for a number of common conditions including:

  • Depression
  • Hypertension
  • Nausea and vomiting (especially post-operative)
  • Headache
  • Knee pain
  • Low back pain
  • Morning sickness
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sciatica
  • Sprains
  • Tennis elbow

Several other conditions including diabetes, fibromyalgia, and insomnia have shown some benefit, but need more research.

Intravenous (I.V.) Nutrient Therapy

It seems silly that providing nutrients required for basic physiological functions would be labeled as alternative medicine. Regardless, supplying the body with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants is one of the best ways to improve energy, prevent sickness and disease, and enhance overall well-being. In I.V. nutrient therapy, nutrients are delivered directly into the blood stream through a needle inserted into a vein on the arm or hand (similar to an I.V. you would receive in a hospital or doctor’s office). This circumvents the digestive tract which in turn significantly enhances absorption, eliminates gastrointestinal distress, and allows nutrient levels to be increased far beyond what can be accomplished through oral nutrient delivery (i.e., swallowing pills). I.V. nutrient therapy can benefit anyone with any condition by optimizing the nutrients required for proper immune function, energy production, and recovery and regeneration. It is particularly beneficial for a number of conditions including:

  • Vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant deficiencies
  • Cold/Flu
  • Headaches/Migraines
  • Fatigue
  • Overtraining
  • Jet lag

Prolotherapy & Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP)

Prolotherapy is used to aid in the growth of new connective tissue – ligaments and tendons – that may have become weak due to injury or degeneration. In this case, a dextrose solution is injected into the injured tissue generating an inflammatory response that increases the flow of blood and nutrients to the area and initiates the body’s natural healing response.

Platelet-Rich Plasma Therapy (PRP) is similar to Prolotherapy in treatment intent (heal damaged tissues), but uses constituents of your own blood instead of a dextrose/saline solution. In this case, your blood is drawn and then spun in a centrifuge to separate the platelets, plasma, and platelet-rich plasma. The platelet-rich plasma is then drawn into a syringe and injected into the damaged area. This process is more effective than Prolotherapy, but is also more expensive.

Common Injuries that can benefit from Prolotherapy & PRP include:

  • Weak or injured ligaments and tendons
  • Muscle tears
  • Strains, sprains, and spasms
  • Overuse injuries like tennis elbow, tendonitis, and carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Arthritis
  • Weak, loose, and unstable joints due to hyper-mobility or dislocations