Functional Medicine, Energy Medicine and TCM: A Powerful Integration

By Darren Starwynn, OMD, LAc and Deborah Weiss, LAc, RN

If trendsetters are people who introduce large numbers of people to new, cutting-edge experiences then acupuncturists deserve that term. Although the roots of Chinese Medicine are ancient, its growing acceptance as a viable alternative to the limitations of modern medicine constitutes a new trend.
If you study the history of Chinese Medicine you will see that there have been many trendsetters throughout the various dynasty periods of China that introduced new methods of acupuncture. Many of these were eventually assimilated and would now be considered part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

This process of innovation has continued to this day. We would like to introduce you to some of the most exciting and powerful trends in our profession. One of them is the increasing use of functional medicine as an adjunct to acupuncture practice. The other is the integration of functional medicine and acupuncture with vibrational (energy) medicine.

What is Functional Medicine? How is it a derivative of TCM?

The paradigm of functional medicine (FM hereafter) is systems biology. It is a study of functional relationships in the body.

Observation and study of functional relationships is the observation and study of Energy. Like TCM, FM is a paradigm shift from organ-based diseases to functional dynamic systems and relationships.

Grounded in the Zang-Fu, the Shen and the manifestations of qi and Blood TCM is the oldest continually practiced medicine in the world. Therefore, we believe that FM is the 21st century scientific articulation of TCM.


FM core evaluations: TCM core evaluation:
genetics Heavenly Qi
diet/nutrition Post-Heaven Qi
environmental exposure External Pathogenic Influences
stress emotions
exercise movement
psycho-spiritual Shen

Both FM and TCM require individualized diagnostic and therapeutic approaches.

TCM principle: No one symptom in and of itself holds any meaning outside the context of all presenting symptoms. Connecting all the dots is what gives rise to pattern differentiation/pattern diagnosis.

Both TCM and FM demand critical thinking skills to diagnose and determine optimal treatment.

The need for functional medicine in acupuncture practices. The greatest contribution FM gives to TCM is the scientific articulation of Yin & Yang.

The value of this in practice is two-fold: One, as TCM practitioners we gain a deeper biological understanding of the bio-chemical correlations to energetic patterns. Two, this articulation broadens our communication with both patients and our allopathic colleagues. We can intelligently speak in two languages.

States vary widely in their scope of practice for LAc’s. In Minnesota we cannot order or interpret lab tests. Therefore, I cannot fully practice FM, but what I continually hone from FM is a deeper understanding of pathology, physiology and pathophysiology. This strengthens my TCM diagnostic skills as well as my confidence in choosing treatment options for working energetically, especially treating with microcurrent.

What is energy medicine?

Over the last 100 years many scientists have demonstrated that biological systems are governed by electromagnetic fields. Rupert Sheldrake described a “morphic field” that surrounds all living things and guides their development and function. Harold Burr wrote about electrical fields that regulate and control living things as well as acting as a pattern for their forms. Popp proved that plants and other living things communicate with each other by means of bio-photon emissions.

I had an interesting insight when I visited a contract manufacturing business in Tucson, Ariz. One of their customers had a black box that contained an ultra-violet light source and a spectrometer. This device was used to positively identify pharmaceutical drugs so that dangerous errors were not made when they were given in hospitals. It worked by placing a pill in a holder, irradiating it with UV, and then analyzing the spectrum of colors that the pill emanated. Any drug could thereby be identified by its unique electro-magnetic spectrum. To me this suggests that the ultimate action of a drug takes place after it is metabolized and various colors of light are released. Light wavelengths rather than chemicals themselves were doing most of the therapeutic work.

This principle applies equally to foods, herbs and nutritional supplements.

We can therefore say that energy medicine is the medical art of “cutting out the middleman” of matter. Instead of a patient having to ingest a substance and then expend a great deal of energy and time to break it down, absorb it and process it, needed frequencies can be directly applied for therapeutic effect. Very efficient!

Energy medicine is also information medicine. Cells rely on low voltage electromagnetic circuits to transmit information while chemical circuits are used to transmit energy/power.

Information is yin and Energy is yang. All inputs into the body including food, toxins, stress, emotions are bits of electromagnetic information. Our body receives/absorbs these information bits, and assimilates them into chemical/hormonal signals manifested as energy/qi, Blood, fluids and Shen.

The type of information matters hugely. The human body follows the “accurate information in – accurate information out” and “garbage in – garbage out” principles of computers. The colors of antioxidant foods, the wavelengths of sunshine, positive or negative thoughts or pesticide residues are all information bits that our body “reads” and processes.

Through the advances made in genetics, specifically epigenics, we now know that genes can be unaffected or turned on based upon the information presented to them. This is an important understanding. Many diseases considered partially or wholly genetic such as heart disease, cancer or epilepsy could be switched on by having discordant information fed into the body. Genetics load the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger.

FM – EM connections – why they complete each other

Practitioners of functional medicine use blood tests and other intakes to analyze the functions of the body. They look for missing pieces of the puzzle that can be restored using targeted foods and supplementation. This approach can be very effective when performed skillfully.

By adding needed frequencies of microcurrent and/or colors of therapeutic light through well-selected acupuncture points the benefits of functional medicine can be significantly enhanced. There are powerful benefits to both giving needed nutrients and also “cutting out the middleman” by applying direct energy applications. One of the most valuable methods of doing this is the application of microcurrent and color light to Mu and Shu points to directly target the Organs. I have written about this in previous issues of Acupuncture Today.

This synergy is so valuable because we live on many levels simultaneously. It is an accurate statement that we are “spiritual beings having a physical experience.” Our vibrationally dense physical bodies often lack essential nutrients, and supplementing those can improve many functions. Yet our bodies would be dead and inert without our energy bodies informing and enlivening them. Our energy bodies are exquisitely sensitive to colors and frequency fields. Just using physical interventions can eventually feed our energy bodies, but it is relatively inefficient compared to direct energy therapies.

We propose that this combination of functional medicine and energy medicine is a superior approach that can greatly enhance results for acupuncturists and related professionals. We will next present an example of a valuable therapeutic approach that uses both sides.

The Ideal Weight Program – Example of integration of FM and EM

Back to Epigenics – Genetics load the gun, lifestyle pulls the trigger. Post-heaven qi, the information food gives, is the most powerful influence on the body. It is also a factor we have significant control of.

In 1350, a doctor of TCM wrote, “Doctors first, have the find the cause for an illness and determine which disharmony prevails. To balance this disharmony, the first and foremost measure is appropriate diet. It is not until this measure bears no result that one should use medicines.”

Dr. Mark Hyman, in his newly published book, The Blood Sugar Solution wrote; “Lifestyle diseases – heart disease, diabetes and cancer are all fueled by the same preventable risk factors: high blood pressure/triglycerides/sugar/insulin/cholesterol, obesity, physical inactivity and smoking. Medications do not address the cause of our afflictions. Poor diet, physical inactivity, stress and pollutants directly correlate to our level of health.”

These two physicians are declaring the same message 662 years apart! Even our current First Lady of the U.S. Michelle Obama has taken on lifestyle and childhood obesity by engaging school children in planting a White House organic garden.

Not only is the health of our nation at crisis, the financial burden of current allopathic medical treatment of diseases of lifestyle will bankrupt this country, and the root problem still won’t be fixed, just poorly medicated and managed.

Embracing lifestyle changes is the treatment and the prevention. This is the mission of the Ideal Weight Program (IWP).

The IWP is a lifestyle change program. As with any endeavor, its comprehensiveness stands on the shoulders of the marriage of TCM and FM.

I strongly believe that understanding physiology, and therefore, pathophysiology is crucial to ethically and effectively treating metabolic dysfunction. My patients rely on me to understand their imbalance, treat and educate them on how to regain their health.

The IWP addresses diseases of lifestyle and obesity through gentle detoxification, nutrition/metabolic pH balanced diet, exercise, stress management and restoring sleep. Key to the program is the application of a series of microcurrent frequencies to fatty areas of the body. This has the effect of moving stagnated Fluids (structure), and tonifying deficient qi (function). It also can have profound psycho-emotional effects.

This microcurrent treatment strategy, along with lifestyle changes of diet and exercise very assertively and effectively aids in the repair of the Middle Burner, strengthens Liver/Kidney/Spleen Qi and calms the Shen.

Through FM we know the physiology of the digestive system and the pathology of leaky gut and triggered immune responses. Did you know that more serotonin is produced in the gut than in the brain?

As we concentrate my study of Middle Burner physiology through the dual lens of FM and TCM, we continue to develop and refine microcurrent treatment strategies to address the myriad of pathology expression. Microcurrent is such a powerful treatment tool. I lovingly refer to microcurrent as “acupuncture on steroids.”

The Ideal Weight Program has produced more than weight loss in clients. Clients have reported improvements in the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut syndrome, diabetes, depression, fatigue and much more.


The combination of acupuncture with microcurrent has totally transformed our clinical practices. They are synergistic in as much as acupuncture opens the portals of the body’s meridians inviting microcurrent to supplement cellular energy. Energy medicine can greatly enhance the effectiveness of nutrition, detoxification, medicinal herbs and other internal medical treatments.

Debi Weiss is director of Transition to Health in Oakdale, Minnesota. She has been a nurse for over 37 years and a licensed acupuncturist for 12 years. She is the developer of the Ideal Weight Program, an integration of functional and energy medicine.

source:acupuncture today

Medical College Of Wisconsin To Study New Incontinence Device

BROOKFIELD, Wis., Aug. 2, 2012 — /PRNewswire/ — The Medical College of Wisconsin (MCW) has begun a clinical study of InTone®, a new, FDA-approved medical device that treats female urinary incontinence. The 12-week study will evaluate the effectiveness of InTone in women with stress incontinence, urge incontinence, or mixed (stress AND urge) incontinence.

Stress incontinence is unwanted bladder leakage that can occur after coughing, sneezing, laughing, or exercise. Urge incontinence is a strong, sudden need to urinate due to bladder spasms or contractions. Altogether, urinary incontinence affects up to 25 million, or one in four, adult American women, according to the National Association for Continence (NAFC).

Women who qualify for the study will receive an InTone device and instructions on how to properly use it at home. Study subjects will be evaluated at intervals during the 12-week study period for progress, physical changes and safety factors. Subjects will complete incontinence questionnaires at regular intervals and complete a “bladder diary.”

In most cases the root cause of urinary incontinence is poor muscle tone in the pelvic floor muscles – caused by childbirth, lack of exercise, too much high-impact exercise, obesity, trauma, age, or other factors. Most women who “leak” endure their problem in silence. Absorbent pads and diapers, if used, do nothing to treat the condition. Medications, if prescribed, can cause side effects and are not always effective. Surgery, if performed, can be traumatic and painful, and is not always effective. Research has shown that even when properly taught how to perform pelvic floor, or Kegel, exercises, about half of all women do them incorrectly.

InTone is an inserted device that combines mild micro-current stimulation (similar to a TENS unit), exercises and guided biofeedback to strengthen the muscles in the pelvic floor. After prescribing InTone, the physician customizes the settings for InTone and the patient is shown how to properly insert and position the device. A sensor in the unit measures pressure to determine if the patient is doing the exercises properly. The biofeedback unit uses voice-guided instruction to take her through the routine and reports her muscle isolation and strength. Each daily session takes about ten minutes and is done in the privacy of the patient’s own home. Data from each session is recorded, and after two weeks or so, the physician analyzes the recorded data and adjusts InTone based on the patient’s progress. At-home treatment sessions continue, with additional checkups to evaluate progress. It is anticipated that patients will experience progress in a few weeks, and may experience effective relief in about 90 days.

According to Michael Guralnick, MD, principal investigator for the MCW study, data from daily InTone sessions will be collected and analyzed by the study investigators. “This is just as a physician who prescribes InTone would do,” said Dr. Guralnick. “In an efficacy study, we aim to determine whether the treatment delivers its intended result – and to what degree it does so. In other words, does it effectively treat urinary incontinence.” Secondarily, the study will measure improvement in pelvic floor muscle tone, improvement in sexual function based on a questionnaire, and finally, the usability and tolerability of the InTone device.

According to the National Association for Continence:

Two-thirds of men and women age 30-70 have never discussed bladder health with their doctor.
On average, women wait 6.5 years from the first time they experience symptoms until they obtain a diagnosis for their bladder control problems.
Two-thirds of individuals who experience loss of bladder control symptoms do not use any treatment or product to manage their incontinence.

“We want women to know that ‘leaking’ isn’t normal, it could get worse, and it can be effectively treated,” said Herschel “Buzz” Peddicord, president and CEO of InControl Medical, LLC, and inventor of InTone. “We encourage women to talk to their doctors about it – and we encourage doctors to ask their patients.”

In pre-market testing, 85 percent of test subjects who used InTone reported that their incontinence symptoms disappeared. “Obviously we are excited about that,” said Peddicord. “We believe InTone can be the new standard of care for the treatment of female urinary incontinence, or unwanted bladder leakage.”

InTone is now available by prescription to patients in the United States. It was developed by InControl Medical, LLC, an FDA-listed company based in Brookfield, Wisconsin providing specialty medical products for women’s health, and is sourced and manufactured entirely in the United States. More information on InTone can be found at

SOURCE InControl Medical

What is Microcurrent stimulation?

Microcurrent Stimulation is a painless, non-invasive treatment that uses  small barely perceptible impulses of square-wave direct current at low voltages, delivered through electrodes in contact with the skin overlying key nerves around the eye. This current is applied to key points around the eyes, helping to increase blood flow to the macula, the portion of the retina affected by macular degeneration. 

This treatment is adapted from a FDA  approved therapy used to treat other disorders.  In preliminary studies by the Macular Degeneration Foundation this treatment has improved both visual acuity and color perception.

Microcurrent Stimulation for Macular Degeneration

Microcurrent stimulation is a technique to apply electrical stimulation to nerve fibers using cutaneous electrodes. Microcurrent stimulation of the macula has been used to treat patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), utilizing currents on the order of 50 to 500 microamperes. This procedure is also known as transcutaneous electrical stimulation of the macula (TESMAC). A primary purpose of electrical stimulation, using higher millicurrents as in transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) treatment, has been to relieve pain. It has also been reported in use for increasing circulation, promoting closure of bone fractures and improving wound healing.


The Task Force on Complementary Therapies believes that, based on available evidence in the peer-reviewed literature, strong scientific evidence has not been found to demonstrate the effectiveness of microcurrent stimulation for AMD. Long-term studies with larger samples of patients, well-described patient selection criteria, adequate control groups, and standardized follow-up and outcome measures are critical to establishing a base of evidence regarding effectiveness.


There are two uncontrolled studies published in a non-peer reviewed journal comprising 71 patients with AMD, who were treated with both nutritional supplements and electrical stimulation and one uncontrolled study published in a non-peer reviewed journal of 43 patients with macular degeneration treated only with electrical stimulation. The studies reported that some patients had improved visual acuity after treatment.


Overall, the rate of adverse effects from microcurrent stimulation or TENS is reported as low. Adverse incidents are related to electrode placement. There may be a significant financial risk associated with the costs of these treatments over a long period of time.


Physicians can advise their patients contemplating microcurrent stimulation for AMD to ask the following questions of their provider:

  • Is the treatment being provided as part of an FDA-authorized study?
  • What are the results and benefits compared to a control group (a group not receiving microcurrent stimulation)?
  • What other treatment options are available and how do they compare?
  • Is lifelong treatment with microcurrent stimulation necessary to maintain benefits?



Microcurrent stimulation is a technique to apply electrical stimulation to nerve fibers using cutaneous electrodes. Microcurrent stimulation for macular degeneration is described as applying 200 microamperes of electricity from a nine-volt battery to eight points around the eye. This technique utilizes lower currents, on the order of 50 to 500 microamperes. The device controller provides the microcurrent using two different waveforms and four frequencies.

In comparison, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) is a technique to apply millicurrents to nerve fibers using cutaneous electrodes. Short pulses of electrical current last from 9 to 350 microseconds, and are applied at frequencies of 0.3 to 294 MHz. The device controls provide for adjustment in the pulse parameters. The primary application of TENS in health care has been to relieve pain. Other reported uses include increasing circulation, enhancing closure of bone fractures, and improving wound healing.


For age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the postulated mechanism is that microcurrent stimulation improves membrane permeability, nerve conduction velocity, protein synthesis, and adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels. In a very small experimental study (n= 9), microcurrent stimulation was shown to increase microcirculatory blood flow in intact skin and blister wounds, as measured by red blood cell velocity.[1] In an animal study, direct electric currents were shown to increase ATP concentrations in tissues and stimulate amino acid transport into rat skin.[2]


Microcurrent stimulation of the macula has been proposed as treatment for patients with AMD. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of irreversible severe central visual loss in Caucasian Americans 50 years and older. Typically, patients who progress to the neovascular form of the disease or have geographic atrophy involving the foveal center tend to develop severe vision loss. Laser photocoagulation, photodynamic therapy with verteporfin, and specific nutritional supplements are treatments that have demonstrated efficacy in randomized controlled trials for certain stages of AMD.


Although it has been reported by VisionWorks, Inc. (New Paltz, NY) that the Macular Degeneration Foundation plans to propose an industry-sponsored double-masked, randomized and multisite clinical trial for microcurrent stimulation of the macula for submittal to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), this is not confirmed by the Macular Degeneration Foundation website.

Microcurrent stimulation devices currently marketed in the U.S. do not have FDA premarket approval for the indication of macular degeneration. At this time, any research studies in the U.S. using microcurrent stimulation for macular degeneration require FDA authorization and Institutional Review Board approval.[3]


Search Methods and Study Selection

In August 2000, the Academy searched through MEDLINE and EMBASE in the English language from January 1970 to August 2000 for articles relating to TENS, microcurrent stimulation, and ocular conditions. No articles were identified, but a bibliographic search of related articles identified one study for the application of electrical stimulation in patients with AMD.[4] This article was found in a non-peer reviewed journal.

To update the assessment, in March 2004 a search of MEDLINE and EMBASE was conducted for the period January 1968 through February 2004, with the same search strategy. No new citations were identified. Using the author names from the paper identified earlier, an Internet search using the Google search engine, located another paper in a non-peer reviewed journal.[5] The Internet search found a web site ( which contained a discussion of microcurrent stimulation. Through this source an additional paper was identified.[6]

Statistical Issues and Study Design

Two studies found were case series, one with 25 patients[4] and the other with 46 patients.[5] The treatment in both studies was microcurrent stimulation and nutritional supplements. Another case series was of 43 patients treated with microcurrent stimulation. These studies have the following limitations: small study population, no control population, lack of detailed documentation on patient selection and patients who declined treatment, and lack of standardized outcome measures other than visual acuity. The two studies of microcurrent stimulation and nutritional supplements also have the limitation of insufficient methodology to distinguish between the results of antioxidant supplementation and microcurrent stimulation.

Information about the effect of an intervention should be obtained by comparing a treated group with an untreated control group similar in all the important respects. One way to assure similarity between the two groups is to use randomization. Because case series have no control group and do not use randomization, there is no way to estimate how an intervention might have changed an outcome. In addition, case series usually describe a small number of patients. Small sample sizes can lead to patient-selection bias as well as a higher likelihood that the observed effect was a result of chance. Properly documented case series can provide important insights into the potential utility of a new treatment and be valuable for those designing appropriate controlled clinical trials. Necessary documentation includes details about the patient selection criteria, the number of patients who declined surgery, and how the enrolled patients compared to the patients who refused treatment. Use of standardized follow-up intervals and outcomes assessment would further improve the quality of information, as would comparisons to the natural history of the remaining, untreated patient population. There should be appropriate study controls, such as using sham microcurrent stimulation treatment or using the fellow eye as a control.


The proposed benefits are that visual acuity is improved. In order to maintain the effects, microcurrent stimulation therapy is presumed to be ongoing or lifelong, although maintenance intervals are proposed to be less frequent than the initial treatment phase.

One study of 25 patients with AMD, aged 48 to 79 years, reported the results of both nutritional supplementation and electrical stimulation.[4] Patients were treated for varying intervals, from 2 years to 7 years with a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement, and a monthly administration of electrical treatment of 200 microamperes on the closed eyelid for 7 minutes for each eye. There was no control population for comparison purposes.

The study reported the following results: 15 patients improved their visual acuity, and 10 patients had reduced acuity. The overall group lost an average of 0.30 letters of visual acuity over an average treatment period of 4.0 years.[4]

A second paper reported on two series of patients.[5] One series of 12 patients with AMD, aged 60 to 89 years, were followed for up to 6 years and treated with nutritional supplements and microcurrent stimulation once a week for 6 weeks. The second series of 34 patients with AMD, aged 61 to 87 years, were followed for up to 6 years and treated with nutritional supplements and microcurrent stimulation several times a week. There was no control population in either series for comparison purposes. The machines used delivered 200 microamperes at ±9 volts of alternating, square wave current. The series of 12 patients showed an average loss of 3 letters of visual acuity over a 2-year period. The series of 34 patients had an average gain of 8.5 letters of acuity per eye.[5]

A third paper reported on a series of 43 patients (65 eyes) with macular degeneration treated with direct microcurrent of 200 microamperes for 20 minutes for 36 sessions.[6] The treatment was applied for 10 minutes per eye three to four times a week. No details of patients’ ages or length of time of follow up was given. Thirty-five of 65 eyes (54%) had a 1 to 4 line improvement in visual acuity, 35% had no improvement, and 8% had a decline.


The overall rate of adverse effects from electrical stimulation appears to be low. In the studies of AMD and microcurrent stimulation, there were no reported adverse effects from the electrical stimulation. Adverse effects could include: electrical burns if electrodes are not coupled to conductive gel, dermatitis, and skin irritation at the electrode sites with repeated application. Some materials reviewed during the Internet search indicate that patients may self-apply the electrical stimulation, in which case there may be risks of incorrect application. There may also be risks if the current applied is higher than what has been studied. There may be a significant financial risk associated with the costs of these treatments over a long period of time.


  • What is the biological basis for microcurrent stimulation for treating AMD?
  • Does microcurrent stimulation reduce visual loss caused by AMD, using randomized controlled clinical trials in larger, well-designed studies with adequate statistical analyses, standardized outcome measures and sufficient follow-up intervals?
  • How effective is microcurrent stimulation compared to standard therapies for AMD, i.e., laser surgery and photodynamic therapy?


Physicians can advise their patients contemplating microcurrent stimulation for AMD to ask the following questions of their provider:

  • Is the treatment being provided as part of an FDA-authorized study?
  • What are the results and benefits compared to a control group (a group not receiving microcurrent stimulation)?
  • What other treatment options are available and how do they compare?
  • Is lifelong treatment with microcurrent stimulation necessary to maintain benefits?


Based on available evidence in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, the Task Force on Complementary Therapies believes that strong scientific evidence has not been found to demonstrate the effectiveness of microcurrent stimulation treatment of AMD compared to standard therapies. Long-term studies with larger samples of patients, well-described patient selection criteria, adequate control groups, and standardized follow-up and outcome measures are critical to establishing a base of evidence regarding effectiveness.


Complementary, or alternative therapies, are a growing part of health care in America. Americans spend an estimated $14 billion a year on alternative treatments. Mainstream medicine is recognizing a need to learn more about alternative therapies and determine their true value. Most medical schools in the United States offer courses in alternative therapies. The editors of the Journal of the American Medical Association announced that publishing research on alternative therapies will be one of its priorities. The National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has broadly defined complementary and alternative medicine as those treatments and health care practices not taught widely in medical schools, not generally used in hospitals, and not usually reimbursed by medical insurance companies. More scrutiny and scientific objectivity is being applied to determine whether evidence supporting their effectiveness exists.

In the fall of 1998, the Board of Trustees appointed a Task Force on Complementary Therapy to evaluate complementary therapies in eye care and develop an opinion on their safety and effectiveness, based on available scientific evidence, in order to inform ophthalmologists and their patients. A scientifically grounded analysis of the data will help ophthalmologists and patients evaluate the research and thus make more rational decisions on appropriate treatment choices.

The Academy believes that complementary therapies should be evaluated similarly to traditional medicine: evidence of safety, efficacy, and effectiveness should be demonstrated.[7,8] Many therapies used in conventional medical practice also have not been as rigorously tested as they should be. Given the large numbers of patients affected and the health care expenditures involved it is important that data and scientific information be used to base all treatment recommendations. In this way, we can encourage high-quality, rigorous research on complementary therapies.[9-11]

Ideally, a study of efficacy compares a treatment to a placebo or another treatment, using a double-masked controlled trial and well-defined protocol. Reports should describe enrollment procedures, eligibility criteria, clinical characteristics of the patients, methods for diagnosis, randomization method, definition of treatment, control conditions, and length of treatment. They should also use standardized outcomes and appropriate statistical analyses.

The goal of these assessments is to provide objective information of complementary therapies and provide a scientific basis for physicians to advise their patients, when asked.

To accomplish these goals, the assessments, in general, are intended to do the following:

  • Describe the scientific rationale or mechanism for action for the complementary therapy.
  • Describe the methods and basis for collecting evidence.
  • Describe the relevant evidence.
  • Summarize the benefits and risks of the complementary therapy.
  • Pose questions for future research inquiry.
  • Summarize the evidence on safety and effectiveness.


  1. Wikstrom SO, Svedman P, Svensson H, Tanweer AS. Effect of transcutaneous nerve stimulation on microcirculation in intact skin and blister wounds in healthy volunteers. Scand J Plast Reconstr Surg Hand Surg 1999; 33:195-201.
  2. Cheng N, Van Hoof H, Bock E et al. The effects of electric currents on ATP generation, protein synthesis and membrane transport in rat skin. Clinical Orthopedics and Related Research 1982: 71:264-71.
  3. Rosenthal AR. FDA Position on Microcurrent Stimulation. Letter to the Editor. EyeNet Magazine 2004;1:8.
  4. Michael LD, Allen MJ. Nutritional supplementation, electrical stimulation and age-related macular degeneration. J of Orthomolecular Medicine 1993; 8:168-71.
  5. Allen MJ, Jarding JB, Zehner R. Macular degeneration treatment with nutrients and micro current electricity. J of Orthomolecular Medicine 1998;13:211-14.
  6. Wallace L. The treatment of macular degeneration and other retinal diseases using bioelectromagnetics therapy. J of Optometric Phototherapy March 1997;4-5.
  7. Fontanarosa PB, Lundberg GD. Alternative medicine meets science (editorial). JAMA 1998; 280: 1618-19.
  8. DeAngelis CD, Fontanarosa PB. Drugs alias dietary supplements. JAMA 2003;290:1519-20.
  9. Marcus DM, Grollman AP. Botanical medicines–the need for new regulations. N Engl J Med 2002;347:2073-6.
  10. Margolin A, Avants SK, Kleber HD. Investigating alternative medicine therapies in randomized controlled trials (editorial). JAMA 1998; 280:1626-8.
  11. Miller FG, Emanuel EJ, Rosenstein, DL, Straus SE. Ethical issues concerning research in complementary and alternative medicine. JAMA 2004;291:599-604.

Prepared by the American Academy of Ophthalmology Complementary Therapy Task Force

  • Ivan R. Schwab, MD, Chair William F. Mieler, MD
  • Roger Husted, MD Sayoko E. Moroi, MD, PhD
  • Jeffrey Todd Liegner, MD Denise Satterfield, MD
  • Harold P. Koller, MD Peter R. Holyk, MD, Consultant

Academy Staff:

  • Flora C. Lum, MD
  • Nancy Collins, RN, MPH

Approved by the Quality of Care Secretariat September 15, 2000

Approved by the Quality of Care and Knowledge Base Development Secretariat March 31, 2004

Copyright © 2000, 2004

American Academy of Ophthalmology

All rights reserved.

Medical Breakthroughs That Could Change Your Life

HOUSTON, TX – Medical Headway, LLC (Medical Headway), an online medical breakthrough library, has a simple yet potentially life-saving goal. And that is to make the latest medical breakthrough news available and easily accessible to all consumers — without cost.

Medical breakthroughs have improved and saved the lives of millions. And leading edge advances in medicine reported on are doing just that today. The fact is, we all benefit from credible, professional medical advances that improve or sustain our health and the health of our loved ones. Medical professionals provide care and guidance. But when things get tough and options appear limited, most of us want to find a way to regain some control. You’re not alone if you choose to do that by supplementing your medical professional’s advice — through reading and learning as much as you can about your condition. You want to understand your situation better, and you want to be alert for anything on the forefront that promises a better outcome. It’s clear to you that medical knowledge is advancing every minute of every day — and Medical Headway is here to help report medical breakthroughs as they happen.

One common but frightening diagnosis women face is breast cancer. Moreover, because breast cancer runs in some families, the threat hangs over some women for decades. And statistics confirm the fear is justified. According to American Cancer Society (ACS) reports, the U.S. breast cancer rate — with respect to newly diagnosed cases — will skyrocket from 78,480 in 2007 to 182,460 in 2008. The ACS expects the breast cancer death rate to remain virtually constant, with a continued upward trend. They predict 20 more women will die from breast cancer in 2008 than the previous year, reaching 40,480 deaths.

If you or someone in your family or circle of friends is living with a genetic predisposition to breast cancer, you’ll want to read and share these exciting medical breakthrough reports available to you now at — from researchers at renowned institutions:


--  Researchers Decoding Saliva's Secrets to Detect Breast Cancer -- from
    researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.
    Studies confirm that specific protein markers in human saliva can provide
    an early, non-invasive diagnosis of breast cancer.

--  DNA Test Improves Breast Cancer Treatment -- from Genelex, an
    accredited DNA Testing Pioneer. Their test identifies patients at risk for
    failure under Tamoxifen, ensuring precious treatment time is not lost using
    an ineffective protocol.

--  Supplemental Breast Ultrasound Boosts Cancer Detection -- from the
    University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. This report
    confirms that for women at high risk of developing breast cancer, breast
    ultrasound combined with mammography may detect more cancers than
    mammography alone. This report confirms that for women at high risk of
    developing breast cancer, breast ultrasound combined with mammography may
    detect more cancers than mammography alone.

--  Optimal Boost™ Approach to Breast Cancer Treatment -- from IntraOp
    Medical, the world leader in intraoperative electron-beam radiation
    treatment. In this treatment, a device applies a high dosage of radiation
    to the tumor bed at the time of the lumpectomy, followed by traditional
    post-operative radiation therapy. Benefits include increased survival
    rates, better local tumor control, shorter treatment cycles, and fewer side

Did you know that over 21 million American adults suffer from depression, and, of those, 4 million live with deep depression? Medical Headway is proud to spotlight a breakthrough that addresses a condition which affects millions.


--  Deep Brain Stimulation Study Offers Hope for Severe Depression -- from
    St. Jude Medical, Inc. The first multi-center study investigating deep
    brain stimulation (DBS) for major depressive disorder of a specific area of
    the brain reveals positive results. Researchers hope the study results lead
    to therapy that will help those patients who do not respond to medications,
    psychotherapy and, in some cases, electroconvulsive therapy.

Pain — whether chronic and disabling from physical or neurological conditions, stemming from a sports-related injury or resulting from surgery — compromises the quality of life and impedes the healing process for over 90 million sufferers in the U.S. and 1 in 5 people in Europe. Leading edge breakthroughs noted in these reports address the serious problem:


--  ActiPatch™ is the New Way of Medicine -- from Bioelectronics
    Corporation, the maker of ActiPatch™, a drug-free anti-inflammatory
    patch recommended for sports injuries, plastic surgery recovery and a
    variety of chronic pain issues. ActiPatch is a wafer-thin patch with a
    microcurrent that has been shown to reduce pain and swelling and accelerate
    healing with no side effects. Cleared by the FDA for treatment of swelling
    stemming from cosmetic eyelid surgery, physicians are so impressed with the
    ActiPatch that they are recommending it for surgical recovery; sports
    injuries; and a complete assortment of aches, pains and soft tissue

--  Long-Life Neurostimulator Treats Chronic Pain -- from Advanced
    Neuromodulation Systems, Inc., a St. Jude Medical Company. The world's
    smallest, longest-lasting rechargeable neurostimulator treats chronic pain
    of the trunk or limbs and pain from failed back surgery and has earned the
    European CE Mark as well as approval from the U.S. Food and Drug
    Administration (FDA). The device is similar in function and appearance to
    cardiac pacemakers, delivering mild electrical pulses to the spinal cord
    which interrupt or mask pain signals to the brain.

Uncontrolled bleeding is a major issue for physicians treating acute, traumatic wounds. Medical Headway is pleased to share news about a product originally developed for the military that is now available to first responders and private consumers.


--  Z-Medica Corp. Launches Two Rapid Hemostatic Products for Consumers --
    Including First Antimicrobial Formulation -- from Z-Medica, a medical
    products company focused on innovative hemostatic, better known as "blood-
    clotting," nano-technologies. While the concept of the original QuikClot®
    product was to quickly stop traumatic arterial & venous bleeding in combat
    and tactical situations, the new consumer product line -- including
    QuikClot® Sport™ & QuikClot® Sport Silver™ (antimicrobial) --
    uses similar technology to provide acute bleeding first-aid in a variety of
    consumer settings: sport/outdoor adventure; work; home; school; or car.
    These products are all based on innovative, lifesaving hemostatic nano-
    technologies. They consist of "clotting sponges" that are inserted directly
    into a bleeding wound. Small and light enough to fit within any first aid
    kit, the product has 510k clearance from the FDA. The products are easily
    applied by anyone who can tear open a packet and follow simple written

Finally, thanks to one medical research center, there is hope for children born with misshapen skulls, or plagiocephaly. See the report briefly described below:


--  STAR Cranial Centers of Excellence Offer Cutting-Edge Treatment to
    Children -- from STAR Cranial Center of Excellence, with locations in
    Columbia, MD and Dallas, TX. Treatment for children born with deformational
    plagiocephaly -- or misshapen skulls -- is most effective if begun at 4 to
    6 months of age. Some physicians believe that lack of treatment can lead to
    developmental delays, visual impairment and misaligned ears, eyes and jaw.
    The STARscanner is a system that scans a child's head -- before, during and
    after treatment in under 2 seconds -- providing the precise measurements
    needed to fabricate the custom STARband cranial helmet and monitor
    treatment progress. The STARband is the most prescribed cranial remolding
    orthosis in the world, with over 50,000 babies benefiting from STARband
    treatment since 2001. The STARband helmets are modified approximately every
    two weeks to accomodate growth.

Microcurrent Facial Toning – What is it & How Does it Work?

As “baby boomers” age, more advancements are being made in anti-aging products to meet their needs. Electronic facial machines, which are designed to tighten and tone sagging facial muscles, are no exception.

The latest facial toning machines use “microcurrent” technology and are one of the hottest things in the anti-aging industry right now. There’s a good reason that these machines are so popular. Using microcurrent impulses, they give almost instant, visible results to tighten, tone, and firm aging skin. In fact, the results from microcurrent facial toning are so dramatic that they are often referred to as “non surgical face lifts”.

Just how does microcurrent facial toning work? To understand that, we first need to understand what causes our facial skin to wrinkle and sag. As we age, our muscles become accustomed to certain expressions and tend to “stick” in these positions. A great example of this is the furrow between the eyebrows that many people get. At the same time, other muscles in our face are hardly ever used, and they begin to atrophy, which leads to sagging. An example of this can often be seen around our jaw lines, chins and necks where we tend to develop sagging or loss of definition as we get older.

Microcurrent facial toning machines sends safe, painless impulses to the muscles in your face that help overly-tightened muscles to relax and helps under worked muscles to regain strength. In essence, microcurrent facial toning “re-educates” the facial muscles and restores them back almost to their original shape.

When this happens the visible results are quite dramatic and the face is lifted, firmed and toned back to a much more youthful appearance. At the same time, the microcurrents improve circulation to your face which stimulates production of collagen, improves tone and texture, and improves or eliminates fine lines.

Besides the fact that it really works, one of the things that makes microcurrent facial toning so popular is that most people see visible results after just a single treatment. This gives “instant gratification” which is seen so rarely as a result of other anti-aging products or techniques. In fact, the results are so noticeable that if you only treat half your face one time you can see a visible difference between the half you treated and the half you didn’t.

Microcurrent facial toning is cumulative as well, which means that the more treatments you have, the more improvement you will see in your face. The treatments are rather expensive, at an average cost of $110/treatment. Most people get at least 7-12 treatments to get their desired results.

Although microcurrent facial toning is the current “buzzword” in anti-aging, the technology is not new. It has over 50 years of historical data and clinical trials that back up its anti-aging benefits. That’s great piece of mind that shows not only will it work, but also that it is safe and does not have long term side effects.

Microcurrent facial toning is a great alternative to getting a face lift since it is non-invasive, does not require any recovery time, gives instant results, and does not have the same potential for harmful complications as surgery does.

by: Beth Larson

Boom & bust, Microcurrent treatment

The economy may be in meltdown, but a girl still has to look her best — whatever the cost. Anna Coogan on 10 of the latest treatments to help enhance your cleavage

By Anna Coogan

Research — it’s all about researching whatever procedure you’re going to have, breast or otherwise,” says Ailish Carthy, managing director of Cosmedico Cosmetic Surgery Clinic in Wicklow, about new boob-boosting treatments.

“We’ve had lots of queries about Macrolane filler for breasts and thought about introducing it, but then two girls came in looking for breast augmentation — one was going to audition for a girlband — and both had already had the filler, and we saw the results,” says Ailish.


Boob jobs are not going away, if anything they’re becoming more popular, with Sex and The City writer Candace Bushnell writing about 18-year-old American girls getting bigger boobs for their birthdays in her new novel One Fifth Avenue, and celebrating with pool parties to show off their new physiques.

So breast surgery is a rite of passage for American teenagers, and we know whatever happens Stateside eventually infiltrates Dublin youth culture.


Just like it’s teenagers and young women who make up most custom in salons looking for Brazilian and French waxes before hitting the beach and nightclubs.

Unfortunately, young women are the worst for researching cosmetic procedures, often getting carried away on the promise of a quick fix.


“I’m not saying Macrolane doesn’t work for some women, but I haven’t been impressed with what I’ve seen. I could see the filler in the breasts, and the girls couldn’t have breast augmentation for 18 months afterwards,” says clinic boss Ailish.


Here’s a round-up of the latest bust-boosting treatments — because cleavage is in this winter and you may feel you need help to do it as best you can.


Just don’t forget to research your surgeon or doctor and procedure before signing on the dotted line. After all, if celebrities can get it wrong — and celebrities who’ve been accused of bad boob jobs include Courtney Love, Tori Spelling, Tara Reid, Pamela Anderson and Christina Aguilera — then anyone on an average budget has to be extra careful. Remember, you want your curves to resemble those of Holly Willoughby or Kelly Brook, and not Victoria Beckham.


This is an injectable filler containing hyaluronic acid and is injected deep into the breasts with a thick needle resembling a knitting needle. It aims to give breasts a round and full look, and involves the use of local anaesthetic. The entire procedure takes about 30 minutes and it is temporary — patients are recommended to go in for treatment once a year or every 18 months.


There was a big fuss about this procedure last spring when American surgeons began introducing it in clinics. Botox is traditionally used to smooth out facial lines, but the Botox boob job involves injections into the pectoral muscles which subsequently raises the back and improves posture, and as a result boobs are lifted. Just like the face, the effects wear off, making top-ups necessary.


Transfer of fat from either your tummy or bottom to fill out your breasts. Doctors have experimented with augmenting breasts with fat before, the Wall Street Journal reports, but previous tests led to “hard lumps or calcifications” because the fat “died” once it was grafted. The new fat put into breast tissue is sent to a lab prior to insertion, so that the stem cells within can be fortified. This process is all the rage in Asia.

The Gold Thread Lift procedure is a form of thread lift surgery designed to lift the sagging underlying tissues of the cheek and jaw line by threading a web of gold into your skin and deeper soft tissues. Now it’s being used to plump out cleavage creases by stimulating collagen production in the skin. Considered best for sun worshippers with a damaged decolletage, and not recommended for women over 45.


Combines micro-current therapy and deeply penetrating skin care. This treatment uses both a faradic (intermittent) and galvanic (constant) micro-currents to stimulate muscle fibres, which achieves a toning effect and improves surface skin texture. Combined with intensive muscle-toning formulations, skin is toned and the texture smoothed. Fans say it restores elasticity to breast skin. Sadie Frost is said to be a fan.

The Caci Bust treatment aims to lift, tone and strengthen muscles around the bust area, and is another alternative to a breast lift implant. The bust is massaged with cotton-tipped probes, which deliver tiny micro-impulses to firm the underlying tissue and fill out the breast. Viewed as a good choice for women who want to eliminate the concave look that may occur after breastfeeding or weight loss.


The Brava Breast Enhancement System is a clunky-looking bra which aims to increase your breast size by a whole cup size, and has found a market among women who want to ditch the chicken fillets without undergoing the knife. The bra uses vacuum pressure to expand breast tissue, and should be worn every night for about 10 weeks to achieve an increase in breast size.


The ingredients in herbal pills which claim to increase breast size are mostly extracts from rye, wheat, malt, barley, hops, oats and maize, which are all rich in plant hormones called phytoestrogens — oestrogen-like (the female hormone) chemicals. These are said to stimulate breast tissue growth in the same way that oestrogen does at puberty and in pregnancy. They are claimed to be over 80pc effective. The tablets must be taken for about three months to increase breast size by one cup.


Claims to eradicate wrinkles/crepey skin from the cleavage to give a younger appearance. Lasers create a pattern of microscopic wounds which trigger the body’s natural healing process and stimulate collagen for a fresher skin tone.


Plant extracts are reportedly pressure-injected deep into skin using a high-tech oxygen wand. Natural plant hormones stimulate growth in delicate breast tissue, firming sagging skin.


Microcurrent helps Eagles’ offense get back in the game

PHILADELPHIA — What if the Eagles held a practice and only half the offense showed up?

Despite the optimism voiced by quarterback Donovan McNabb and running back Brian Westbrook, that’s the predicament head coach Andy Reid is facing all week, leading up to a Sunday night game in Chicago.

Five of the Eagles’ 11 offensive starters did not practice on Wednesday, and another — wide receiver Kevin Curtis — was working with the scout team and is a long shot to play this week.

“It’s a challenge for the guys who are hurt. It’s a challenge for the guys who may have an opportunity to step in, if we’re not able to go,” said McNabb, who sat out of practice Wednesday with the chest contusion he suffered during the first half of a 15-6 victory over the Steelers last Sunday. “You never expect to have this many guys banged up at this particular time.”

Reid would probably forfeit Curtis, tight end L.J. Smith, fullback Tony Hunt and even Pro Bowl right guard Shawn Andrews if it meant he’d have McNabb and running back Brian Westbrook fully healthy in time to play the Bears.

Both essential cogs expressed hope that their recoveries would be quick enough that they’d take Soldier Field Sunday night.

Asked if he’s given any thought to sitting this one out, McNabb replied, “No. There’s not a chance in my head. I expect to be out there.”

Westbrook was more equivocal. The Pro Bowl back sprained his right ankle on the first play of the second quarter against Pittsburgh and left Lincoln Financial Field on crutches.

“I’m optimistic about getting out there and being able to play (against the Bears),” he said Wednesday. “I’ve been rehabbing pretty hard, pretty aggressively. I’m doing basically everything I can to be able to get out there on the field on Sunday night.”

Westbrook said the lack of physical repetitions in preparation is not a significant obstacle to success in the game.

“I know the system pretty well, and I study in the classroom as well as at home,” he said. “I talk to the coaches and go over the different schemes that they have, the different ideas that they have seen from the defenses, and just go out there and play ball.”

Westbrook said his rehab regimen has him in the trainer’s room for as long as three hours a day, and it includes stretching and a “microcurrent” machine.

He also said he’s been spending three hours a day in his own personal hyperbaric chamber, compared to his usual hour.

If he were doubtful for the Bears game, the Eagles would almost certainly not tell anyone, since Reid doesn’t want to make anything easier for Chicago. Incidentally, Westbrook suffered a minor injury — an MCL sprain — in Week 3 last year, and Philadelphia milked that decision process all the way to the Meadowlands before finally opting to sit him against the Giants.

Reid is playing his hand close to the vest again.

“It will be a race,” he said. “But we will see how he does here in these next couple of days.”

Top Five Hottest Holiday Beauty Quick Fixes

Gioventu Skin & Body Spa Reveals the Most Advanced Anti-Aging Treatments

Last update: 11:05 a.m. EDT Oct. 7, 2008
SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Calif., Oct 07, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) — With the holidays just around the corner, many Americans will begin looking for a quick-fix “fountain of youth” in an injection or operation, in order to look their best for holiday get-togethers. Gioventu Skin and Body Spa recommends a more holistic route, revealing alternative therapies that rely on a unique convergence of advanced technology and potent ingredients designed to reverse the signs of aging, naturally.
Five Best Anti-Aging Treatments of the Season
“New advances in skincare combine highly efficacious ingredients with fast-acting, results-driven technology,” says Vicky Rivera, co-owner of Gioventu Skin and Body Spa. “The hottest treatments allow women to look instantly more youthful, just in time for the holiday season.”
  1. Botox in a Bottle. The new vegetable-based EWR Complex creates immediate anti-aging results in minutes. With a formula of 93 percent active ingredients, rapid and sustained results are hailed as better than Botox or StriVectin-HS.
  2. Liposome Collagen Treatments Defy Fine Lines. Age-defying liposome collagen treatments reduce the appearance of wrinkles by minimizing muscle contractions around the eyes and lips. Utilizing a low level of electricity known as microcurrent, tiny electric impulses trigger chemical reactions at a cellular level to enhance the production of collagen and elastin. This treatment firms and tones, effectively improving puffiness, dark circles, expression lines and wrinkles.
  3. Instant Non Surgical Facelift. This painless, non-surgical, non-invasive facelift conducted with nanotechnology creates instant firming, plumping and uplifting results.
  4. Ultrasonic Exfoliation. New hand-held technology achieves ultrasonic peeling and exfoliation at high speeds of up to 20,000 Hz oscillations per second. A complete facial make-over is achieved in less than 10 minutes.
  5. Look 10 Years Younger in 10 Days. Clinicians can now sculpt and contour the face and body through non-surgical muscle re-education. Utilizing a technology called Polychromatic Infrared Light, this new treatment increases cellular activity, revitalizing and regenerating skin without downtime.
SOURCE: Gioventu Skin & Body Spa

Tested: non-invasive electro-acupuncture facial by Carole Franck

Cutting edge beauty, without the knife

Trick or treatment

Good for? Eliminating fine lines and wrinkles.What is it? A facial that uses “non-invasive acupuncture” – it is the treatment of choice for people who like the idea of hard-hitting facials, but dislike the reality of pain. Instead of using acupuncture needles, gold-plated electrodes are placed on reflex points on the skin (the same meridian points used in acupuncture). A low-wattage micro current is then passed through the electrodes “to recalibrate and regulate the energy of the cells”. According to the manufacturers, this helps to boost skin nutrition and oxygenation, and improves the absorption of products used in the facial. A current is also used to help creams to penetrate deep into the skin.

Ouch factor? The acupuncture is completely painless – in fact it’s strangely relaxing, lying there holding a conductor, with 20 electrodes strapped to your face. It was the fruit peel that preceded it that came as a bit of a shock. The tingling sensation soon became a stinging sensation, but it would be pushing it to say it actually hurt.

Clock-watching A facial takes about an hour and 45 minutes. The manufacturers claim their scientific research shows that four sessions will improve “collagen synthesis” by 50per cent, and will regenerate elastin fibres. Optimal results require ten sessions.

Downtime None. Like a normal facial you can go straight on to the street afterwards, without scaring the locals.

What to ask A practitioner should have an NVQ level 3 or equivalent in beauty therapy plus additional training from Carole Franck.

Cost £60-£170 depending on the location. Call 01823 421521 for details.

Dermatologist’s verdict: “In my opinion, non-invasive electro-acupuncture is a gimmick. Optimally formulated creams shouldn’t need a current to increase penetration into the skin,” says Dr Nick Lowe, a consultant dermatologist (

Trick or treatment This feels very like a treat. In fact it feels like a nice normal facial that has been dressed up in the pseudo-scientific language of non-invasive beauty therapies.