My Back Story

It's been just over 20 years since I herniated my first disc. The pain was so intense that no drug could come close to alleviating it, let alone take the edge off. I could not get out of bed for over a week. Once I was upright, I suffered the classic symptoms of pain and stiffness in my hamstring, and numbness from my right calf into my little toe. I couldn't feel that toe for 3 months and was beginning to think the situation was permanent. Every M.D. and D.O. I consulted suggested more drugs and eventually surgery, with a long course of physical therapy.

As I am a Chiropractor/Acupuncturist, I decided to give my colleagues a shot and went that route along with manual therapy. (Thank you, Charles Hastings, for beating me up!) I continued to endure intense pain throughout treatment. I had to learn how to walk without a limp. It was a long, slow process and I eventually plateaued. Determined to regain some normalcy, I sought other professions for advice.

I had been studying the works of Stuart McGill, Ph.D. for a few years and attended his lectures and "Learn by Doing" seminars any time he presented on the East Coast. While at a seminar at Palmer College of Chiropractic, I asked him to evaluate me. This led to a visit to his lab at the University of Waterloo, Canada.

Dr. McGill started evaluating me the moment I walked through his door. Afterward, he said I was not the worst case he had ever seen, which put me at ease. He gave me his famous "Big Three" core exercises and told me I would most likely not need surgery if I did these exercises faithfully.

As of today, I have avoided surgery and I can perform most duties without pain (with the exception of dunking a basketball!). Don’t get me wrong, if I overdo it with the kids or play too rough with the dogs, I may feel a bit of stiffness and soreness for a day or two – but no pain! Dr. McGill taught me the importance of keeping up with my core exercises, and that by doing so I could live a “normal” life.

I teach Dr. McGill’s “Big Three” core exercises and more at bwellhealth. Please contact me for a one-on-one session if you suffer from low back pain or have been diagnosed with a disc bulge or herniation.


Dr. Kevin Bardwell


Electroacupuncture Treatment

What is electroacupuncture?

Electroacupuncture was developed in China around 1934. Similar to traditional acupuncture, electroacupuncture involves inserting needles into specific points on the body. Using two needles at a time, a pulsating electrical current passes from one needle to the other, stimulating the acupoints. Several pairs of needles may be used, and the treatment usually lasts less than thirty minutes.

How does electroacupuncture work?

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are adult stem cells found mainly in the bone marrow. Widely studied for their healing potential, MSCs have demonstrated the ability to regenerate tissue as well as help regulate a stable internal environment for cells. Electroacupuncture triggers the release of MSCs into the bloodstream.

What advantages does electroacupuncture have over traditional acupuncture?

Electroacupuncture is a convenient substitution for hand maneuvering in some cases because the needle’s electrical current stimulates a larger area than the needle alone. It also provides a stronger stimulation without the tissue damage that may occur from needle movement. The practitioner is able to control the amount and the frequency of the stimulus easier than when using hand manipulation of the needles.

What does electroacupuncture treat?

Electroacupuncture is effective in treating Bell’s Palsy, tennis elbow, severe nerve pain, paralysis, acne, renal colic, and even the nausea cancer patients on medication may experience.

What should patients expect during electroacupuncture?

Standard treatment usually takes 10-20 minutes, rarely exceeding 30 minutes unless treating certain neurological disorders. The patient may experience rhythmic spasms or muscle twitching. After the first few minutes, the patient may have a decline in response to the stimulus once the body has adapted to it. The practitioner will adjust the frequency and/or intensity in order to circumvent this adaption. A sensation of numbness, swelling and/or heaviness may occur during electroacupuncture. Although electrical currents are not transmitted throughout the body, patients with particular health histories should abstain from this treatment.

Which patients should not use electroacupuncture?

Patients who have a pacemaker or a history of seizures, heart disease, epilepsy, or strokes should not receive electroacupuncture. It’s also recommended that patients avoid having electrodes placed over the heart or throat.

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Baguanfa, or Suction Cup Therapy: An Alternative Therapy Using Traditional Chinese Medicine



What is Suction Cup Therapy?

The use of Suction Cup Therapy, also known as Chinese Cupping, can be traced back to 281 AD as a cure for pulmonary tuberculosis. It’s now considered an alternative therapy treatment for many medical problems, including gastrointestinal disorders and lung diseases.

This therapy consists of heating glass cups and placing it over a particular part of the body so that both the skin and the superficial layer of muscle beneath the skin are suctioned into the cup.


History of Chinese Cupping

Although cupping dates back to the Egyptians around 1500 BCE, China can be credited for improving upon the practice.

Ge Hong, a practicing Taoist and highly regarded healer in the fourth century, recorded the method of Cupping in A Handbook of Formulas for Emergencies* (Zhou Hou Jiu Zu Fang). During the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE), medicine men used animal horns for the procedure, terming it “the horn technique of healing.” But during the Qing Dynasty (1644- 1912 CE), doctors practiced the technique using bamboo cups and ceramic pottery. This created a new name for the therapy: “the fire jar qi.”

Unfortunately, pottery proved too fragile for the technique, and bamboo cups deteriorated from the continual heating. The introduction of glass in the twentieth century led to a more suitable material and had the added benefit of being see-through, allowing the doctor to check on the skin’s response to the treatment.

In both Eastern and Western medicine, shamans believed cupping sucked illnesses and toxins from the body.  In the 1950s, it was established as an official therapeutic practice in Chinese hospitals after research confirmed its effectiveness. Cupping now has a place in modern alternative therapy throughout America and is increasing in popularity among celebrities and athletes.


What is Qi?

Traditional Chinese Medicine defines qi as an energy or life force in constant circulation within the body. Symptoms of qi deficiency include fatigue and a weak pulse.

Did You Know…?

Ge Hong’s wife, Bao Gu, became the first female acupuncturist in China.

Uses and Benefits of Cupping

Cupping is beneficial in stimulating qi and detoxification of the body. It’s also used to treat conditions such as eczema, hives, or acne, and aids in decreasing wrinkles and rejuvenating the face.

By using it along the stomach meridian points, it can improve digestion and treat gastrointestinal disorders.

Cupping is also used to clear congestion from the lungs and control asthma. It relieves pain from arthritis, fibromyalgia, and migraines, and treats gynecological issues such as leucorrhea and irregular menstruation.

It’s also a method that helps break down cellulite, lowers blood pressure, and treat insomnia.


How Does Cupping Work?

Suction can be created in several ways:

  • Rubbing alcohol is swabbed into the bottom of the cup, then lit on fire, extinguished, and the cup is placed immediately onto the skin. This is called dijiufa (alcohol-fire cupping).
  • An inverted cup is placed over an open flame to heat it and then placed atop the skin. This is called shanhuofa (flash-fire cupping).
  • An alcohol-soaked pad over an insulating material is lit on fire, a cup immediately placed over it to extinguish the fire.
  • Some cups have a valve attached to a hand-operated pump, which suctions the air without the use of heat.

While the patient relaxes, the cup is left on the body for three to fifteen minutes. The patient should not feel any discomfort. In fact, it should be quite calming.

Some treatments include “gliding cupping,” where the practitioner moves the suctioned cups gently along the skin. Sometimes medical massage oils are used for ease of movement. In a way, it’s similar to massage except that instead of placing pressure on the muscles, it lifts the muscles upward.

Sometimes an acupuncture needle is inserted into the skin before the cups are placed onto it. This is often used to treat arthralgia (joint pain). Other times a magnet might be placed at the bottom of the cup and as the skin rises, it makes contact with the magnet, stimulating the qi.

In wet cupping, cups are placed over tiny incisions cut into the skin. The incision is usually made using a pricking needle applied to a vein, drawing small drops of blood once the cups have been properly placed on the body. This technique is used to promote blood circulation, detoxify the body, and alleviate pain and swelling.

Possible Side effects

Side effects are usually mild. Bruises may result, but are usually painless and disappear within ten days. Other possible side effects include mild discomfort, skin infection, and burns from the heat. These usually clear up after the skin has been treated with an antibiotic ointment and bandaged.

If you have inflamed skin, high fever or convulsions, or bleed easily, this treatment would be best avoided. Pregnant women should not receive this treatment on their stomach or lower back.

It’s best to receive cupping from a licensed acupuncturist. A trained professional will know what areas of the body would benefit most from this treatment as well as prevent pain and possible infection.


*Some texts decipher the title of Ge Hong’s work as the Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies.


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Using Saunas to Improve Health


What Are Saunas?

Saunas are rooms where people sit and relax in 158° to 212° Fahrenheit (70° to 100° Celsius) heat. Skin temperature can rise as high as 104° Fahrenheit (40° Celsius), creating heavy sweating and a raised heart rate as the body attempts to cool down. Blood vessels widen and the heart rate may rise to 100-150 beats per minute. Traditional Finnish saunas use dry heat with low humidity, while Turkish saunas use moist heat with high humidity. A person’s body can lose up to a pint of water sweating in a sauna.

What Are the Benefits of Saunas?

  • Eases pain in joints and muscles by increasing blood circulation
  • Promotes relaxation and aids in stress relief
  • Reduction in cardiovascular issues, including high blood pressure
  • Helps asthma sufferers by opening airways and loosening phlegm
  • Beneficial effect on mitochondrial functioning
  • Improved physical endurance
  • Increase in red cell production
  • May reduce psoriasis symptoms



Did you know…?

Mitochondria reside in cells and provide energy for the body. A process called biogenesis generates new mitochondria and removes the deteriorated ones. Chronic illness is a possible result of mitochondrial dysfunction.

History of Saunas

Saunas have been used throughout history in many different cultures to detoxify the body, improve circulation, to create a feeling of relaxation, and for religious ceremonies. The oldest Finnish saunas date back to 10,000 years ago. They were originally dug from the earth and covered with animal skins.

Types of Saunas

  • Steam Room – High heat and humidity are the main components in a steam room
  • Infrared Room – Special lamps heat the body with light waves. Temperatures are typically lower (140° Fahrenheit/60° Celsius) but the body’s temperature is comparable other types of saunas.
  • Wood Burning – wood is burned to heat rocks and the sauna room. Humidity can be generated by pouring water over the rocks.
  • Electrically-heated – An electric heater is used to warm the room. This creates high heat and low humidity.

Precautions With Using Saunas

The most common risk with using a sauna is dehydration, which may occur when fluid is lost during sweating.  To avoid becoming dehydrated, it’s important to replace lost fluids after using a sauna. It’s also a good idea to drink water before entering a sauna. People with conditions such as kidney disease or low blood pressure should discuss sauna use with their doctor, as the risk for dehydration in these patients is more severe. Also ask your doctor about sauna use if you’ve had a recent heart attack.

Increased temperatures in saunas may cause dizziness and/or nausea for some people.

If you have consumed alcohol within the last twenty-four hours, avoid sauna use. Drinking alcohol increases the risk of arrhythmia, hypotension, dehydration, and sudden death.

It’s important to gauge your time spent in a sauna, especially if you are new to the practice. It’s a good idea to begin with a four-minute session and build up slowly to the maximum of twenty minutes.

Switching between using a sauna and a cold-water swimming pool can be dangerous because it may raise blood pressure.

Do not use a sauna if you are ill or pregnant.


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Acupuncture: A Tradition and a Science


What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a technique incorporated from China, Japan, and Korea. Slender needles are inserted through the skin along particular points in order to treat pain and dysfunction. Usually 5 to 20 needles are used at a time. A brief stinging or tingling sensation may occur at the puncture site, followed by a dull ache once the needle has reached the correct depth, although some people don’t feel anything at all. The needles are left in the body between 5 and 30 minutes. The practitioner may gently twirl or move the needles during treatment. There is little to no discomfort when the needles are removed.

History of acupuncture

Although acupuncture procedures have been recorded as early as 100 BCE, it didn’t become popularized in the U.S. until 1971. Acupuncture theory began on the principle that our energy flow, called qi, moves throughout the body along twelve meridians. These meridians can be accessed through acupuncture points that represent channels wherein needles can be inserted in order to modify the qi’s flow.

How does acupuncture work?

Although early Chinese physicians believed acupuncture maintained a balance within the qi, modern neuroscience has shown that acupuncture stimulates nerves, muscle, and connective tissue, thus increasing blood flow and triggering the body to activate pain-suppressing receptors. Acupuncture may also activate the body’s natural opioid system, which aids in relaxation. Acupuncture also helps reduce inflammation, thereby managing pain and swelling.

What types of acupuncture are available?

The traditional method of acupuncture uses thin needles, but alternatives are also available. A Japanese style of acupuncture involves tapping or stroking the skin with a needle versus pushing it into the skin. An example is the pediatric style of acupuncture called Shōnishin.

Sometimes a low electrical pulse is sent through the needles, a method called electroacupuncture. Other times the needles might be heated with a heat lamp or a “moxa stick.” Other healing techniques may be used simultaneously, such as Chinese cupping.

Did you know…?

A “moxa stick” is roughly the shape and size of a cigar. Once the acupuncture needle is inserted into the skin, the ignited moxa stick heats it.

What conditions does acupuncture treat?

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) list various conditions where acupuncture has been effective, such as migraine, neck pain, lower back pain, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, morning sickness, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, peptic ulcer, knee pain, urinary tract infections, epidemic hemorrhagic fever, sciatica pain, and dysentery.

Evidence also shows acupuncture may help lower blood pressure, reduce fibromyalgia pain, and relieve dizziness, palpitations, and tinnitus.

The benefits of acupuncture

Acupuncture is a safe method of controlling pain and may be beneficial to those who can’t take pain-relieving medication. It also has few side effects and can be combined with other types of treatments.

Possible side effects

Rare side effects include nerve injury, bleeding, bruising, dizziness, and fainting. Patients should let their practitioners know if they’re pregnant, since pressure to certain acupuncture points may be damaging to the fetus or cause premature delivery.


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Chiropractic Care: Hands-On Therapy


What is Chiropractic Care?

Chiropractic care is a drug-free, non-surgical therapy that treats back, sciatic and neck pain, headaches, joint pain, osteoarthritis, carpel tunnel, sprains, and spinal disc conditions. This is achieved through activities such as spinal manipulation, alignment correction, electrical stimulation, rehabilitation exercises, relaxation techniques, and joint mobilization. Chiropractic doctors are not limited to treating neuromusculoskeletal disorders, however. They can also alleviate symptoms caused by allergies, asthma, and digestive orders, and counsel patients on exercise, nutrition and diet.

What is the History of Chiropractic Care?

Modern chiropractic care can be credited to Canadian-born magnetic healer Daniel David Palmer. In 1895, Harvey Lillard, a janitor in the building where Palmer worked, explained that he’d gone deaf seventeen years prior after bending over and feeling a “pop” in his back. After examining Lillard’s upper back, Palmer found a problem with one of the vertebra. He manipulated the janitor’s back in a procedure now known as a chiropractic adjustment, and restored much of the janitor’s hearing.

In 1897, Palmer established the Palmer School of Cure, now known as the Palmer College of Chiropractic in Davenport, Iowa.

Chiropractic care continues to use spinal manipulation to treat subluxations. It’s gained wide acceptance from the medical community throughout the U.S. and many parts of the world to be a safe and effective treatment for back pain and musculoskeletal disorders.

Did You Know…?
Chiropractic treatment is a safer alternative to opioid-based painkillers for chronic lower back pain.

Who is Qualified To Treat Patients in Need of Chiropractic Treatment?

In order to treat patients under chiropractic care in the U.S., an individual needs to complete a Doctor of Chiropractic degree program from a CCE-accredited college and pass a national board exam. The college curriculum carries a minimum of 4,200 hours of classroom, lab, and clinical experience. Most states require chiropractors to continue receiving education credits in order to maintain their license.

Possible Side Effects of Chiropractic Care

The side effects of chiropractic care include minor discomfort such as soreness, headaches, stiffness, and aching, all which typically fade within 24 hours. Rare reports of stroke, cauda equine syndrome (pinched nerves in the spinal canal), and worsening of herniated discs have been recorded, however it’s unsubstantiated that chiropractic treatment is the cause.

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