When should I switch from icing to heating an injury?

When should I switch from icing to heating an injury?


By Melissa Lo L.Ac., M.S.O.M.

Licensed Acupuncturist

Owner of Origin Natural Care


I come across a lot of patients who have injuries that they treat with icing. Patients are surprised when they are told to stop the icing and add in heating. The vast majority of health practitioners will recommend that they ice the traumatized region. It is essential to ice during the first 24 hours of a trauma to stop the flow of blood. In essence we are trying to stop the blood circulation in that region to stop the swelling of the body.

As we all know, MD’s, chiropractors and physical therapists recommend icing throughout the injury to stop swelling. These practitioners recommend RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) for injuries because it decreases inflammation and pain and can speed up the healing process. This is why things such as ice baths are commonly recommended for athletes. One of the newer treatments is cryotherapy where a patient will enter a chamber of extreme cold. This dramatic change of temperature can causes a huge release of adrenaline, boosting the immune system, decreasing pain and inflammation.

Where does the idea of traditional eastern practice come of introducing heat? Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners disagree for the following reason. Ice stops the swelling and continues to stop blood flow. Icing is great for acute traumatic injuries. Once the swelling had reduced, as you continue to ice, you continue to stop the flow of energy “qi” and blood in that region of the body. Long term this can be harmful as it hinders the body’s ability to heal. Therefore for chronic muscular injuries heating is the next recommended step.

Introducing heat after the initial icing therapy allows the body to recirculate the blood and reduce stagnation in that local region. It also helps reduce the discoloration and bruising that tends to occur with constant icing. By increasing blood to the area of injury we are naturally allowing it to heal faster. This is one of the basic ideas as to why acupuncture works so well for injuries. By promoting heating, we are improving blood circulation and flow to the area being treated. The heat also relaxes the muscles and tendons that are tightened, and in essence can increase motion and flexibility.

When it comes to traumatic injuries consider integrating herbal blends to help tissue healing, and recovery. If the area of the body is strained, for example the muscles or tendons are torn or weakened, it is important to make sure additional nutritional support is added. At the same time patients consider immobilizing the body part, without considering rehabilitation. Rehabilitation is just as important as the initial treatment of reducing trauma for long term recovery. I find that adding in dietary recommendations can help patients recover quickly with their acupuncture therapy.

Dry Needling

What is the difference between dry needling and acupuncture?

By Melissa Lo L.Ac., M.S.O.M.

Licensed Acupuncturist

Owner of Origin Natural Care

Dry needling is a technique that is not related to Traditional Chinese acupuncture. Acupuncturists take a stand that dry needling is a form of acupuncture. This is due to the fact that dry needling is still an invasive procedure, the use of needles being inserted into the body. Dry needling is usually used to help with stimulating and breaking away at muscular knots and tension in the body. Another name for dry needling is trigger point needling, intramuscular stimulation (IMU) and bio medical acupuncture. There is usually no treatment methodology for treating with dry needling. Needles are inserted in regions of tender muscles.


Some practitioners do not believe that dry needling has any similarity with acupuncture except for the use of needles. Meaning, that because there is no theory of Eastern medicine, or Traditional Chinese Medicine Meridian basis for treatment. It is still imperative to understand that minimally educated practitioners who have and do not have knowledge of the body anatomy and needle usage can cause extreme harm. There are still medical risks with dry needling as it normally targets muscular structures that may be located close to organs. An example of this could be puncturing an organ, such as the lung. Incorrect angling, or a depth too deep may cause a pneumothorax. In extreme situations this can cause severe medical complications.


It is important to note that Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture practiced by licensed acupuncturists are based off of ancient Chinese concepts of meridian systems. This is why acupuncturists still use traditional diagnostics prior to treating patients. This includes, and is not limited to, tongue and pulse diagnosis. Acupuncture does not share any medical ground with dry needling acupuncture.


Currently the practice of dry needling is falling within the field of physical therapy. It has become more common for physical therapists to add in dry needling as one of their expertise and newest modality of treatment. However, physical therapy is not a field that historically practices the use of needles, and with minimal training can affect the health of a patient.


Below is a comparison of a Dry-Needling practitioner versus a licensed acupuncturist:


Dry Needling Practitioner

Licensed Acupuncturist

Certified physician, chiropractor, physical therapist with as little as 50 hours of training. Licensed acupuncturist (L.Ac.) with an average of 2,700+ hours of master level training.
Training usually comprised of home study and or weekend seminars. Master level, on-site training at a nationally accredited school or college of acupuncture.
Minimal clinical experience in acupuncture, or little actually patient treatment prior to certification. Hundreds of hours of clinic experience and at least 250+ actual patient treatment before licensure.
Not required to complete the national certification examination to prove competency in acupuncture. Required to pass the national certification exam in acupuncture (NCCAOM) or state licensure (CA State Board of Acupuncture) to be able to practice acupuncture.
Not required to regularly complete continuing education courses. Required to do regular continuing education to maintain national certification.




Myths about Acupuncture

Myths about Acupuncture

By Melissa Lo L.Ac., M.S.O.M.
Licensed Acupuncturist
Owner of Origin Natural Care

Below are some of the most common questions I have been asked while in practice. I have had the opportunity to see hundreds of patients, and the same questions still pop up. It is our job to help dispel some of these myths and give our future patients the information to make an educated decision on their treatments.

Myth: Acupuncture hurts and can be painful.

Truth: Acupuncture is the use of fine needles to stimulate specific areas of the body. The needles are very fine, much like a strand of hair. You will feel an initial break in the skin, however after this most patients feel a mild tender sensation. This sensation is the stimulation of “Qi” or energy at this acupuncture point. When the “Qi” is stimulated, one may feel a slight tingling movement, dull ache, or even a warming of location.

Myth: Massage is just for relaxation.

Truth: There are many various techniques when it comes to massage. However, Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners, like acupuncturists are trained is a special type of massage. This is called Tui-Na. Depending on the practitioner’s skill level and training, they may have a specific style that can be used to treat a wide range of therapies. This is a great alternative modality to treat patients who may be nervous about needle therapy, and is also widely used on your children.

Myth: An acupuncturists is not a real doctor.

Truth: What is a “real doctor”? In the U.S., a “real doctor” is considered a physician who has a M.D. (Medical Degree). However, an acupuncturist is a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) practitioner. We are still considered a primary care practitioner, though our license reads as a L.Ac., or Licensed Acupuncturist. As a L.Ac., we can treat many of the same ailments and injuries as a M.D. without using drugs or surgery. Instead we use holistic therapies, like herbs, nutrition, exercise, and acupuncture. Acupuncturists can also successfully treat cases that M.D. may not have been able to resolve through Western diagnosis.

Myth: Acupuncture doesn’t work.

Truth: Acupuncture is a non-invasive, natural modality of treatment. As such, it requires some time to deal with different types of issues. The body needs time to stimulate its natural healing mechanism, and is not a one time quick fix treatment. People who have “tried acupuncture” and had no results also tend to have had not the best treatment. Sometimes a change in practitioner, or treatment style can also improve results.

Myth: There are only a few things acupuncture can help treat, specifically pain.

Truth: Pain management is one of the most commonly treated conditions. This does not mean it is the only thing that acupuncture can treat. Unfortunately this myth is due to the fact that the public is not educated on how many different disorders acupuncture can actually benefit. This medicine has been around for thousands of years, and has been used to treat a wide range of disorders including, pain, digestive problems, emotional stress, gynecological and fertility conditions, and has been used to even treat patients with auto-immune disorders and those going through the effects of chemotherapy. Getting a consultation would be the best way of finding out if your condition can be treated through acupuncture.

Myth: Herbal therapy is dangerous and can conflict with Western medicine drugs.

Truth: Chinese herbals are a whole other avenue practitioners have to be educated and trained in. Many of our herbs are actually food based items, and used in our staple diet. Chinese herbs can be taken in pill, powder, and decoction form. Much like with any pharmaceutical drugs, herbs can have an interaction with Western medication. Your licensed practitioner has training and knowledge of drug and herbal interactions.

Myth: If you get acupuncture, don’t tell your doctor (M.D.)

Truth: Much like with any condition or situation, you should let your M.D. know that you are adding in acupuncture into your treatments. Telling your M.D., would only help assist with treating you for your condition. Fortunately, more M.D.’s are happy to integrate holistic therapies including acupuncture into your protocal. However, be prepared that some are still very pro-Western and will see acupuncture as a placebo therapy.

Myth: My doctor told me to stop acupuncture, not get acupuncture, or that it doesn’t work.

Truth: It is important to see where the recommendation is coming from. M.D.’s do not specialize in acupuncture, and are not educated in this practice. This does not mean M.D.’s are not qualified practitioners, they are. However, they are qualified in their OWN field. Acupuncture and its theory is a well versed practice that requires many years of education and case study.

Myth: My M.D. can practice acupuncture so they must be more qualified than a L.Ac.

Truth: It is much easier for a M.D. to add in acupuncture to their list of treatments that can provide. The requirements are less than half of a L.Ac. requirements to practice. Would you want to be treated by a practitioner who had limited on hands on practice time, and was not required to have the same amount of course and case work as a practitioner who was trained and educated fully in this modality? It would be prudent to consider getting treatment and information regarding acupuncture from a licensed acupuncturist who has the knowledge and the background to treat your condition.

Myth: Acupuncture is used when you have a problem.

Truth: Traditional Chinese Medicine, herbs, Tui-Na, and acupuncture are great modalities to integrate into your lifestyle. Acupuncture especially is a holistic treatment that is great for preventative care. This means that we can treat patients by boosting their immunity, improving circulation, maintaining one’s health, and support their bodies through acupuncture. It is not a treatment that requires you to “have a problem” to get acupuncture.