Peter received his clean needle technique certification from the Council of Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (CCAOM). Peter also received traditional Thai massage certification at Wat Pho Thai Traditional Medical School in Bangkok, Thailand. He has received continuing education studying under renowned acupuncturists and doctors, including Richard Tan, O.M.D. and Jeffrey Yuen, O.M.D. Peter specializes in the treatment of acute and chronic pain.
Peter grew up in Massachusetts and has a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He worked as an engineer for about 8 years before making the logical career change into Oriental medicine. Peter also served in the U.S. Peace Corps, teaching math and science in Papua New Guinea in 1998 and 1999. When he’s not working, you may find Peter playing tennis, running in the Boise foothills, caring for bonsais, or skiing.
Since man and woman first walked on the earth, the existence of human beings has been dependent upon our ability to reproduce. This is, of course, true for all animals. Yet today, more and more people are surprised to find that reproducing is not as simple or straightforward as it may seem. Instead, for many couples, the happiness and excitement of planning a family has been replaced with the stress, anxiety, and frustration of infertility.
Infertility is defined as an inability to conceive after twelve months of well-timed, contraceptive-free intercourse. The time frame is reduced to six months if the woman is over the age of 35. This reflects the fact that a woman's egg quality declines after the age of 35 and a couple should consequently seek medical assistance earlier. In addition, women who are unable to carry a pregnancy to term are said to be infertile.
Just how common is infertility? About one in eight couples have problems conceiving, and statistically speaking, the cause of infertility is as likely to originate from the man as it is from the woman. One-third of infertility cases are caused by male issues and one-third are caused by female issues. In the remaining one-third of infertility cases, the cause is either a combination of male and female issues or the cause is simply unknown.
In order for a couple to successfully conceive, many complex processes must take place in the proper sequence. To start, a woman must release an egg from an ovary and that egg must flow through the fallopian tube to the uterus. While this is happening, a sperm must join with and fertilize the egg. This fertilized egg must then attach to the inside of the uterus. There are many factors which can interfere with these processes and result in infertility. Therefore, hormones must be balanced and reproductive systems must be operating at optimum levels in order to conceive. In considering all of the physiological, psychological, and hormonal events that must take place properly, it is no wonder that infertility is so common.
The possible causes of infertility are numerous. In men, a low sperm count or lack of sperm motility can result in the sperm's failure to reach the egg. In women, damaged fallopian tubes, physical problems with the uterus, or uterine fibroids can be a cause of infertility. In certain cases, there is a genetic cause, while in other cases, environmental factors are to blame, especially exposure to toxins. Also, egg production is adversely affected in women who are severely underweight or overweight and egg quality declines as a woman approaches the age of 40. With such a long list of variables, determining the possible cause of infertility can be difficult. This is further complicated by the fact that 15% of infertility cases have no known cause.
Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) has made great gains in recent years and offers a ray of hope for infertile couples. Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) is a general term referring to a variety of techniques that can help infertile couples become pregnant. One such technique is intrauterine insemination (IUI), or artificial insemination, in which sperm are introduced into the female uterus and fertilization takes place inside the woman's body. Another increasingly common approach is in vitro fertilization (IVF), in which ovulation is controlled hormonally, eggs are removed from the woman's ovaries, sperm fertilizes the eggs outside the woman's body, and the fertilized egg is transferred to the woman's uterus. In addition, there are many other ART techniques available depending upon a couple's unique situation.
However, most people are surprised to learn that modern, state-of-the-art reproductive technology is routinely combined with an ancient Chinese healing system that has been in use for thousands of years. The Chinese art of acupuncture has been shown clinically to play an important role in the treatment of infertility, and in ART specifically. In one study, women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF) received acupuncture treatment 25 minutes before and 25 minutes after the fertilized egg was transferred to the uterus. These women had a significantly higher pregnancy rate than a group of women undergoing IVF without acupuncture treatment. This study is documented in the publication entitled Influence of Acupuncture on the Pregnancy Rate in Patients Who Undergo Assisted Reproduction Therapy.
How does acupuncture improve fertility rates? Acupuncture can help in regulating a woman's hormones and menstrual cycle, increasing blood flow to the ovaries and uterus, and improving the production and quality of follicles in the ovaries. For men, acupuncture can be helpful in improving sperm parameters. Acupuncture is becoming increasingly common in the treatment of infertility, given that it has been shown to improve rates of pregnancy and live birth. Whether used in conjunction with ART techniques or not, acupuncture can help increase a couple's chance of getting pregnant and creating the family of their dreams.
Pain comes in many different shapes and sizes. Pain can rear its ugly head as mild discomfort that "comes and goes" or severe, excruciating agony that takes our breath away. Pain may be completely debilitating, interfering with exercise, work, sleep, and countless other activities or it may be a minor nuisance that doesn't slow us down at all. It can be the result of a specific incident or it can seemingly come from nowhere. Pain is even described with a wide range of terms, including soreness, aching, tenderness, burning, tightness, or throbbing.
We have all experienced some type of physical pain at one time or another. Yet, even though we all know what pain is, it can still be difficult to actually define. It is usually described as an unpleasant sensory experience and it is incredibly common in our society. Half of all Americans seek medical care for pain each year and it is the most common reason for visiting a doctor.
Despite our disdain for pain, it actually serves a purpose, and a valuable one at that. Pain is part of our body's defense system and its purpose is to help us avoid harmful behavior. In other words, it's your body's way of telling you that it doesn't like what you are doing and it would prefer that you stop doing it. Sometimes we choose not to listen to that message and other times we have no choice but to hear it and comply.
What are the common approaches for relieving pain? Drugs are very popular for pain relief and they can be very effective. Unfortunately, the adverse effects of numerous drugs have become known in recent years and many of us find the information troubling. Pain relief medications can lead to gastrointestinal complications, liver damage, or kidney reactions. In addition, some pain relief drugs have already been taken off the market because of an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
Increasingly, people are looking for more natural approaches to help relieve painful conditions. Acupuncture is one natural approach that continues to grow in popularity in the United States. Acupuncture can be helpful for all types of pain, regardless of what is causing the pain or where the pain is located. The theory behind acupuncture and Chinese medicine states that there is an energy that flows through the human body. This energy can become obstructed for a variety of different reasons. When this occurs, the obstruction results in pain or discomfort. This is summed up by the well-known Chinese saying: "If there is pain, there is no free flow; if there is free flow, there is no pain." The goal with treatment is to clear the obstructions by inserting extremely thin, sterile needles into certain specific points on the body.
From a more scientific point of view, acupuncture has been shown to trigger the release of endorphins and enkephalins, chemicals with pain relieving properties. Other theories propose that acupuncture needles jam the neuronal pathways and prevent pain signals from reaching the brain. The World Health Organization (WHO), in its 2002 report entitled Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinic Trials, stated that acupuncture "can be regarded as the method of choice for treating many chronically painful conditions." This is not to say that acupuncture is a miracle cure for everyone. It is not. But it would be wise for all of us to become educated about available pain relief options, including non-drug options. Armed with this information, we can make informed decisions which are most suitable for our own unique situations.
Many new cars today are equipped with automotive navigation systems. These systems use satellite technology to locate the car and provide directions to a location of our choice. The directions are often provided by voice prompts, which describe the path to follow in order to reach our destination. Thanks to the wonders of modern science, we receive this information immediately. The voice prompts can also inform us that we have missed a turn or even taken a wrong turn. Again, we obtain this feedback right away. We have, in many ways, become a society of immediacy. We often expect immediate feedback or immediate gratification and anything less is seen as unfulfilling, slow, or outdated.
Now let's consider navigating our way to a different type of destination, a destination that most of us find vague and elusive. That destination is health. Imagine a health navigation system implanted in our bodies that is capable of directing us toward that goal. Perhaps it would notify us if our dietary choices are a deviation from the path we should follow. Perhaps it would inform us that our lack of exercise or our need for relaxation is thwarting our efforts to reach our ultimate goal. It may provide prompts in its monotone, mediocre, matter-of-fact voice such as, "To arrive at your destination, put that cookie down." It may also remind us of activities that we have neglected, such as, "You overlooked exercise again today. Engage in physical exercise at the next possible opportunity."
But alas, there is no health navigation system available at present. So, how can we find and follow our all-important path to health? One such approach makes use of an age-old, antiquated system. That is, we can measure our proximity to destination health by examining how we feel--physically, mentally, and spiritually. Yet, most of us rarely notice the feedback from this system immediately. It may take days, weeks, or even years before we see or feel the effects of our lifestyle choices, positive or negative. We may need to be hit over the head with a hammer before finally hearing the message. Thus, it would be wise to examine if we are listening to what our bodies have to say, while at the same time exploring how we can become better listeners.
One approach to increasing awareness and listening to our bodies is through receiving acupuncture treatment. As an acupuncturist, I am told by many patients that with regular treatment, they become more aware of their bodies and the way in which their bodies communicate with them. Many patients begin to see patterns that were previously not recognizable. These patterns may include vague low back pain due to lack of exercise, constipation during highly stressful situations, abdominal pain related to not expressing emotions constructively, or energy levels that spike and crash as a result of specific dietary habits. Even though patterns such as these may exist for years, many individuals fail to notice the connection. Once they finally choose to slow down and listen to their bodies, they begin to hear the subtle messages.
In many cases, acupuncture can help to treat these imbalances, but in some cases it may not. And when it cannot, most patients find that their problems are far more manageable with the knowledge of specific causative factors. They are pleased to learn that their lifestyle choices can directly affect how they feel, and that by making different lifestyle choices, as difficult as that may be, they can proactively choose to be healthier. I don't mean to imply that acupuncture is the only approach to increasing awareness and becoming a better listener. There are many such approaches. I believe that receiving massage or practicing meditation can be helpful for this purpose, as well as meditative activities, such as reading, conscious walking, gardening, or yoga. All of these modalities can help us learn to listen to the messages that our bodies are sending, until the day when we have our health navigation system implanted.
Peter was a Thaddeus Bukowski Scholarship winner while earning his Master of Science in Oriental Medicine from Southwest Acupuncture College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is also board certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) as a Diplomate in Oriental Medicine, encompassing acupuncture, Chinese Herbology, and traditional Chinese medical theory. In addition, he holds the title of licensed acupuncturist by the state of Idaho.
Peter Games is a licensed acupuncturist in Idaho. He owns and operates a Boise acupuncture clinic with his wife (also a licensed acupuncturist).