expert type icon EXPERT

Jeff Rippey

Acupuncturist

I run a general practice acupuncture clinic in Kansas City, KS. My main focus is distal acupuncture, which means I'm not very likely to treat exactly where the patient is indicating there's an issue. I also integrate time cycles in to my point selection. I see a lot of people for pain management and a good portion of my patient population are looking for help with depression, anxiety or stress.

I love talking about Chinese medicine and acupuncture, even with folks who don't necessarily believe in its effectiveness.
3 years Experience
Jeff Rippey
  • Kansas City, KS
  • Colorado School of Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Accepting new patients

Can acupuncture help with the cold?

Yes, there are several studies out recently showing acupuncture alone or acupuncture in combination with other medications can effectively relieve the symptoms of both cold and READ MORE
Yes, there are several studies out recently showing acupuncture alone or acupuncture in combination with other medications can effectively relieve the symptoms of both cold and flu - particularly fever.

I've personally achieved excellent results for people who were just in the beginning stages of cold/flu - either heading things off entirely or reducing the total time of the disease. The trick is: you want to receive treatment as early as possible - either right at onset or just after.

For best results, make sure your provider is nationally board certified through the NCCAOM. I'd suggest starting with the "Find a Practitioner" page at NCCAOM.org to find someone local to you,

How often should I get acupuncture?

If every three months is working for you, I wouldn't change anything. Generally, acupuncture is a front-loaded treatment. We see a patient fairly often initially (often weekly READ MORE
If every three months is working for you, I wouldn't change anything. Generally, acupuncture is a front-loaded treatment. We see a patient fairly often initially (often weekly or more) and then start spreading the appointments out until we hit some maintenance schedule that works well for whatever health issue we're addressing.

How can acupuncture reduce my mental stress?

Acupuncture can work very well in stress management, it's a big part of my practice. Acupuncture studies have pretty consistently shown that it activates the parasympathetic side READ MORE
Acupuncture can work very well in stress management, it's a big part of my practice.

Acupuncture studies have pretty consistently shown that it activates the parasympathetic side of the autonomic nervous system. This is the so-called "rest and digest" part of the equation. This activation goes a long way to helping people relax and better manage the more stressful parts of their lives.

Can acupuncture help in treating my enlarged uterus?

Maybe, a lot depends on why this is occurring. If you haven't already, I'd suggest starting with your ob/gyn and get some testing done to make sure there aren't any serious hormonal READ MORE
Maybe, a lot depends on why this is occurring. If you haven't already, I'd suggest starting with your ob/gyn and get some testing done to make sure there aren't any serious hormonal or cancer-related concerns. If the ob/gyn can't find any problems, then Chinese medicine and acupuncture can be an excellent choice. For a case like this, it's fairly critical that you see a practitioner who can make an accurate diagnosis inside the Chinese system and for that you need to see an NCCAOM board certified person. I'd start with the "Find a Practitioner" page on NCCAOM.org and get a list of practitioners who are local to you. Then, start calling around and see if there's anyone who specializes in gynecological issues or has dealt with this particular problem before. Any acupuncturist can probably help, but someone who specializes in this field will probably get results for you more quickly.

How should I prepare for my acupuncture session?

No, not really. Some practitioners will ask you not to eat anything or scrape your tongue for a few hours prior to an appointment, but most of us can work around this aspect of READ MORE
No, not really. Some practitioners will ask you not to eat anything or scrape your tongue for a few hours prior to an appointment, but most of us can work around this aspect of diagnosis. Acupuncturists often use points around the elbows and knees, so it's helpful if you're wearing loose clothing so we can access these areas.

My son has awful shoulder pain. How can I help him?

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can often provide relief in these types of situation - we use a different diagnostic model and can often figure out what's going on when conventional READ MORE
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can often provide relief in these types of situation - we use a different diagnostic model and can often figure out what's going on when conventional medicine cannot find a concrete issue. I have done a bit of work with younger athletes (in your son's age range) and often get excellent results.

I'd suggest starting with the "Find a Practitioner" page at NCCAOM.org. Find some acupuncturists local to you and see if they offer a free initial consult. You're looking for someone both you and your son feel comfortable with.

Depending on your son's feelings about acupuncture, you might also try to find someone who can treat with fewer needles.

How can acupuncture help my lower back pain?

Acupuncture usually works quite well for any kind of pain, including low back pain. What, exactly, is going on when a needle is inserted is still a somewhat open question. Some READ MORE
Acupuncture usually works quite well for any kind of pain, including low back pain. What, exactly, is going on when a needle is inserted is still a somewhat open question.

Some of the best studies of acupuncture in pain conditions show that the needles might be doing a couple things:

1. Regulating a set of neurotransmitters in the brain and spinal cord which have a lot to do with transmission of sensory signals, including pain signals. In essence, acupuncture is changing the way pain signals propagate through the central nervous system.

2. Re-mapping areas of the prefrontal cortex of the brain. The prefrontal cortex is an area of the brain which is heavily involved in the processing of pain signals. The changes induced by acupuncture appear to be changing the way the brain interprets pain.

In addition to these two things, certain kinds of acupuncture (especially a technique known as electrical stimulation) have been shown to induce the body to create stem cells which can help repair damaged areas.

As to your question regarding technique - that will depend heavily on the particular acupuncturist you choose to see and what system of acupuncture they practice. In the west, we tend to see acupuncture as a single monolithic approach. The reality is there are multiple systems inside the acupuncture container and different people practice in different ways.

Broadly speaking you're going to see two different approaches:

1. Folks who treat locally. In this case, if you come in complaining of low back pain, the practitioner will go through an intake and diagnosis and needles will likely be placed in or near the painful areas of your low back. This approach would include techniques like trigger or motor point stimulation as well as more classical local points indicated for low back issues.

2. Folks who treat distally. In this case, if you come in with a low back pain complaint, the practitioner will go through an intake and diagnosis and needles will not be placed in or near the low back; they'll be placed elsewhere on the body - usually between the elbows and hands/knees and feet. These systems are a lot more difficult for westerns to wrap their minds around, but for pain conditions they can be extremely effective.

I practice a distal system of acupuncture and I get excellent results treating back pain by placing needles on the back of the hands.

The most important thing is not whether the practitioner is using local or distal techniques. The important thing is whether or not they can accurately assess and diagnose your issue in terms of Chinese medicine. For this, you need to make sure you're seeing someone who is NCCAOM board certified (either Dipl Ac. or Dipl OM). I'd suggest starting with the "Find a Practitioner" page at NCCAOM.org to find board certified and licensed practitioners in your area.

Do you recommend acupuncture for children?

I've worked with kids in that age range. Acupuncture can generally be excellent for allergies; you're going to be looking for a couple things: 1. A practitioner that both you READ MORE
I've worked with kids in that age range. Acupuncture can generally be excellent for allergies; you're going to be looking for a couple things:

1. A practitioner that both you and your son are comfortable with. Go out to the 'Find a Practitioner' page at NCCAOM.org and look up some folks who are close to you. Call around and see who offers a free consult, then take your son for a visit. It may take a little extra time, but not everyone is good with kids and your son needs to be as comfortable as possible.

2. I'd also suggest trying to find someone who knows how to treat using relatively few needles - like 10 or less. Most of the time, when I'm working with kids, I try to keep it under 5.

After that, a lot will depend on your son's ability to tolerate the needles and to sit/lay with them for a short amount of time. Kids typically respond to acupuncture really quickly, so it shouldn't take many visits to see results.

Is there an acupuncture treatment for weight gain?

There are a few reasons why you might be experiencing difficulty gaining weight and acupuncture may be able to help with a few of them. If you have hyperthyroid or Graves syndrome READ MORE
There are a few reasons why you might be experiencing difficulty gaining weight and acupuncture may be able to help with a few of them.

If you have hyperthyroid or Graves syndrome (a condition where the thyroid is producing too much thyroid hormone which turns up the metabolic rate), acupuncture can help to regulate things and move you back towards a more "normal" range.

If you're female and the problem is tied to an issue around the menstrual cycle, again acupuncture can help to regulate the system and return things to a "normal" range.

If you're just one of those people who runs a high metabolism, acupuncture may be able to help slow things down a bit, but you'll still probably have to consume more calories than an average person if you're trying to gain weight.

All this being said, your first stop should probably be your primary care MD. You need some blood tests to look at T3/T4, TSH, blood glucose, A1C, hormones, etc. - just to make sure everything is in a normal range. I'd also suggest looking in to getting some body composition tests done - this way you'll know your lean mass relative to fat.

If you're making weight gain/weight loss decisions based on BMI, I'd suggest looking at another method. BMI isn't very flexible and doesn't account for differences in body type (I've seen some very fit people declared 'obese' based on their BMI numbers). A couple things you can check out on your own are: waist circumference (women should be 35" or less, men 40" or less) and waist hip ratio (women should be 0.8 or less, men should be 0.95 or less).

How does cupping therapy work?

Cupping is used in a variety of ways in Chinese medicine. For athletes, we typically think of it in the context of myofascial release. In this case, we're using the cups to promote READ MORE
Cupping is used in a variety of ways in Chinese medicine. For athletes, we typically think of it in the context of myofascial release. In this case, we're using the cups to promote blood flow, improve recovery times, and keep the muscles loose. Those effects taken together might contribute to mental focus. Honestly, though, if mental focus is what you're looking for, I'd suggest acupuncture or mindfulness meditation.

How will acupuncture help my fibromyalgia?

Acupuncture from an NCCAOM board certified acupuncturist usually helps fibromyalgia patients. From the perspective of biochemistry, acupuncture appears to be regulating a handful READ MORE
Acupuncture from an NCCAOM board certified acupuncturist usually helps fibromyalgia patients. From the perspective of biochemistry, acupuncture appears to be regulating a handful of neurotransmitters which have a lot to do with how pain signals are transmitted in the brain and spinal cord.

Acupuncture also has an excellent track record with stress management. The combination of regulating neurotransmitters and reducing stress usually leads to significant pain relief.

I only practice Chinese medicine, so I can't really comment too much on other options. Conventional medicine has a handful of pharmaceuticals they typically use in fibromyalgia. My experience with patients is that sometimes these drugs can work well and sometimes they don't do much at all.

I'd suggest starting with the "Find a Practitioner" page at NCCAOM.org. See if you can find a local acupuncturist who specializes in pain management. Plan on giving acupuncture at least 3 to 5 visits to determine whether or not it's going to work for you.

Would you recommend an acupuncture treatment for treating a hyperactive thyroid?

This is a good question, unfortunately it does not have a straightforward answer. There are a lot of variables in play: how long have you been experiencing this issue? Do you READ MORE
This is a good question, unfortunately it does not have a straightforward answer.

There are a lot of variables in play: how long have you been experiencing this issue? Do you have a conventional diagnosis (in other words: do you know what's causing the issue from a hormonal perspective)? Are you currently using pharmaceuticals to manage the condition?

I'd suggest acupuncture with a few caveats: you want someone who has worked with thyroid issues before. It's probably going to take somewhere in the neighborhood of 7-9 treatments before you're going to know whether and how well acupuncture is working. You may need to be open to either herbal therapy, food therapy or both to really get things moving in a healthy direction. You may also need to use conventional pharmaceuticals as a stop gap until the Chinese medicine starts to bring things under control.

In a case like this, perhaps more than any other time, it's critical that you see an NCCAOM board certified acupuncturist who can accurately diagnose the issue in terms of Chinese medicine. I'd start with the "Find a Practitioner" page at NCCAOM.org. Call a few folks local to you, ask whether they've been successful with this issue before and, if they haven't, if there's someone they'd recommend.

Can acupuncture help me quit smoking?

This is a good question, the answer is complicated. Acupuncture can help you quit smoking if you're ready to quit smoking. Typically, for addictive type issues, we use a set of READ MORE
This is a good question, the answer is complicated. Acupuncture can help you quit smoking if you're ready to quit smoking. Typically, for addictive type issues, we use a set of 5 points in the ear. These points were developed initially to help people get off hard drugs like heroin. Over time, we've found that these same points also assist folks in quitting other addictive behaviors like smoking. As near as we can tell, what's happening is the acupuncture affects a neurotransmitter in the brain called GABA. This neurotransmitter is responsible for chilling out your central nervous system and through this action it makes cravings less severe as you're weaning off addictive substances.

Acupuncture sessions can be somewhat divided between initial intake and follow-up. During an initial intake you're going to spend anywhere from 45 to 60 minutes with a practitioner asking you a lot of questions - many of which will seem like they don't have anything to do with your core issue. After the questioning, they'll probably look at your tongue and check the pulses at both wrists. After that, they should explain their findings and provide your initial treatment (which can be a variety of things depending on the practitioner). In a follow-up they're going to ask a few questions, check your tongue and pulse and then provide a treatment (which, again, can be a variety of things depending on the practitioner). Ear points in addiction are often not stimulated with needles, sometimes we use a seed on a sticky backing. These are put at various points on the ear and can remain in place for several days providing longer treatment.

Does acupuncture require other medicines to be effective?

Good question. The answer is: it depends. Most of the time, acupuncture can be a very effective treatment on its own. In some cases, acupuncture makes a better adjunct or additive READ MORE
Good question. The answer is: it depends. Most of the time, acupuncture can be a very effective treatment on its own. In some cases, acupuncture makes a better adjunct or additive to more conventional pharmaceutical treatments. For things like pain management, some digestive issues and allergies acupuncture is usually sufficient on its own. For issues like cancer, Parkinson's, and MS, acupuncture is best used as an integrative therapy to more conventional pharmaceuticals/chemotherapy. In some cases like hypertension or acid reflux, a patient should start with pharmaceuticals in order to get their situation under control, but acupuncture can, in some folks, restore homeostasis to the body system such that the drug can be slowly withdrawn. The beauty of acupuncture is: the needles are solid. We aren't adding anything to a patient's system nor are we taking anything away. This makes it extremely unlikely that acupuncture is going to conflict with conventional pharmaceuticals.

Can acupunture decrease my body weight?

There are a few studies showing acupuncture can exert a regulatory effect on things like insulin and the hormones controlling feelings of hunger and satiety. Acupuncture, particularly READ MORE
There are a few studies showing acupuncture can exert a regulatory effect on things like insulin and the hormones controlling feelings of hunger and satiety. Acupuncture, particularly ear acupuncture, has also been shown to be effective in managing cravings.

That being said, in my experience, if a patient is watching their diet and exercising then acupuncture can help. If the diet isn't right or the patient isn't exercising (or both), then acupuncture isn't going to get you where you want to be.

Does having acupuncture hurt?

The honest answer is: sometimes. Acupuncture needles are extremely fine; they're about the thickness of a cat's whisker. Most of the time, for most people, the needle insertion READ MORE
The honest answer is: sometimes. Acupuncture needles are extremely fine; they're about the thickness of a cat's whisker. Most of the time, for most people, the needle insertion and retention goes completely unnoticed. Sometimes, in some people, the initial insertion will feel somewhat sharp or pinch-y, but this sensation should fade rather quickly. Common needle sensations are: a dull ache at the site, a short lived 'electrical' type pins and needles feeling or a distending feeling - like someone is blowing up a balloon under the skin around the needle. For the most part, these are desired sensations - though those not familiar with acupuncture can find them disconcerting at first.

There is a lot that affects what any given patient may or may not feel: the skill of the practitioner, the sensitivity of the patient, the particular point being used and so on. That being said, acupuncture should not be uncomfortable. Any needle that is giving you a sharp, stabbing sensation after sitting for a moment should either be removed or re-positioned. Don't be afraid to provide feedback to your practitioner in this regard.

How does acupuncture help in treating chronic fatigue syndrome?

I've done some work with chronic fatigue patients and I'm usually able to get excellent results for them. Chronic fatigue is one of those odd corner cases for conventional READ MORE
I've done some work with chronic fatigue patients and I'm usually able to get excellent results for them.

Chronic fatigue is one of those odd corner cases for conventional medicine. Normally, the diagnosis is one of exclusion - in other words, they rule other things out and then finally conclude the issue must be chronic fatigue. At that point, the approach is usually one of symptom management. Chinese medicine and acupuncture have a very different diagnostic system and we can usually get to the root cause of this issue which generally gives the patient better results. You'll get the best possible result with an NCCAOM board certified acupuncturist. I'd suggest starting with NCCAOM.org and using their "Find a Practitioner" lookup to locate some local providers.

Will acupuncture treat my menstrual cramps?

Most likely, yes. Acupuncture is really good for the treatment of pain and I generally get excellent results with menstrual issues for my patients. The thing about menstrual problems READ MORE
Most likely, yes. Acupuncture is really good for the treatment of pain and I generally get excellent results with menstrual issues for my patients. The thing about menstrual problems or other conditions that are tied to the female hormone cycle is: you generally have to receive treatment through a cycle or two before you're going to know how well things are working. Just about any board certified acupuncturist should be able to help you, but it might be worth your while to see if you can locate someone who specializes in gynecological conditions. I'd start with NCCAOM.org's "Find a Practitioner" page. You can look up some local providers, check out their web-pages and start calling around to see if there is a specialist in your area.

Can acupuncture help with TMJ?

Generally, yes, we can help with the pain/discomfort related to TMJ. If you haven't already, I'd also suggest seeing a dentist/orthodontist to make sure there's nothing structurally READ MORE
Generally, yes, we can help with the pain/discomfort related to TMJ. If you haven't already, I'd also suggest seeing a dentist/orthodontist to make sure there's nothing structurally wrong with your teeth and jaw. For the best results, make sure you're seeing an NCCAOM board certified acupuncturist.

Can acupuncture treat my digestive disorders?

Generally, yes, acupuncture can be an excellent choice for digestive issues. One of the many things acupuncture has been shown to do is stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. READ MORE
Generally, yes, acupuncture can be an excellent choice for digestive issues. One of the many things acupuncture has been shown to do is stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system. This is the so-called "rest and digest" part of the autonomic system (as opposed to the "fight-or-flight" part of that system).
I generally get excellent results for a spectrum of digestive complaints ranging from acid reflux to chronic diarrhea to chronic constipation. For the best results, make sure you're seeing an NCCAOM board certified acupuncturist.