Thank you Nicole Rasor at Active Life Acupuncture for interviewing for the upcoming “Beyond the Pain” Podcast. Nicole shares with us the benefits of acupuncture pain relief and beyond.
Dr. Tompkins I want to take a moment and just welcome everyone here to our Beyond the Pain podcast, where we’re committed to helping our community and helping people to become one, pain free, but then to move beyond being pain free and to work on becoming as healthy as we possibly can be. To do that, we have to go beyond the pain. Today, I have a very special guess that I’m excited to introduce. We have Nicole Rasor. She is a traditional Chinese medicine acupuncturist and Chinese herbalogist over the past 10 years. Nicole specializes in acute and chronic pain management, as well as emotional and hormonal issues for people of all ages. Nicole is committed to providing attentive, compassionate treatments for individuals who value an energetic and active lifestyle.
From her own experience as an Olympic diver and as a nationally ranked archer over the 2011 and 2012 seasons, she knows the importance of a quick recovery and the effectiveness of acupuncture and Chinese herbs in healing physical and emotional issues. Whether her patients are high-performance athletes, recreational athletes or people who enjoy an active lifestyle, Nicole is eager to utilize her acupuncture and herbal training to improve her patients’ health and return them to the activities they enjoy. She was introduced to this medicine after suffering from migraine headaches for over a decade. None of what Western medicine had to offer helped, and then when she and her husband moved to Tucson in 2002, Nicole went to the Asian Institute of Medical Studies Student Clinic for Acupuncture. After about six months of treatments with acupuncture and Chinese herbs, she was getting relief. It was then that she decided to study this medicine.
Nicole was born and raised in Vienna, Austria. She received her BA in journalism from Indiana University while on a diving scholarship. Her first career was in public relations in New York City where she received her green card. She moved to Los Angeles in 1993, where she worked her way up to television post production producer. In 1999, Nicole became a naturalized US citizen. After moving to Arizona, she received her masters in acupuncture in 2007, and Chinese herbalogy in 2012 from the Asian Institute of Medical Studies in Tucson, Arizona, now known as the HAN University of Traditional Medicine. She’s licensed in Arizona and nationally certified in both acupuncture and Chinese herbalogy by the National Certification Commission of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Nicole, I want to welcome you to the Beyond the Pain podcast.
Nicole Rasor: Thank you for having me.
Dr. Tompkins: Do you think that you can maybe expand on your bio. You’ve done some really amazing things over your life so far and I don’t know. Would you be willing to expand on your bio a little bit?
Nicole Rasor: Which part?
Dr. Tompkins: Well, let’s talk about you have a lot of various incredible athletic experiences from your diving to the archery. Tell us about that.
Nicole Rasor: Well, I wish I had the knowledge of acupuncture when I was a diver. There were a lot of injuries that I could only treat with allopathic medicine. I wish I had that back then. During my archery career, I was learning acupuncture, so I definitely utilized acupuncture and Chinese herbalogy to keep my performance up during that athletic career.
Dr. Tompkins: I bet. That’s great. Then you were in the Olympics?
Nicole Rasor: I was, in 1984, for Austria. I competed in springboard and tower diving. After that, I went to Indiana University to study journalism on a diving scholarship.
Dr. Tompkins: That’s wonderful. Then from your time in Indian and maybe I’m missing this when I was going through your bio. From there, did you stay here from that point after school?
Nicole Rasor: I did. I moved probably two days after graduation, I moved to New York City with $50 in my pocket, and stayed with a friend and sent out a bunch of resumes. It’s pretty difficult to get a work visa right out of college, but in order to get a work visa, you have to get a job offer within one month of graduation within your major. I think about three and a half weeks into it, I got a job offer at the public relations firm in New York, and then my work visa and then eventually my green card.
Dr. Tompkins: Wow. You were just under the wire there.
Nicole Rasor: Just under the wire, yup.
Dr. Tompkins: Well, it’s amazing how that all worked out. It really makes it seem that it must have really been meant to be.
Nicole Rasor: I think so.
Dr. Tompkins: That’s wonderful. Now, what would you say, just in general, what would you say is maybe one of your most impactful experiences in life?
Nicole Rasor: Probably the birth of my son.
Dr. Tompkins: Yeah?
Nicole Rasor: Yup, meeting my husband and then the birth of my son, which I think is the only reason why I’m alive, so all these accomplishments are [for 00:05:54] this little child to be born.
Dr. Tompkins: Yeah. That’s amazing. It really does change everything, having kids.
Nicole Rasor: It sure does.
Dr. Tompkins: Wow, so tell me a little bit more about how you got to where you are today or how you got into acupuncture? You were dealing with migraines and then you started seeing an acupuncturist. Tell me about that experience.
All Started With Migraines
Nicole Rasor: Yes, I had terrible migraines while I … I lived in LA, pretty high stress job, and I developed migraine headaches, pretty much on a weekly basis and then once a month, hormonally induced, even worse. Basically, the treatments I received just made things worse. Yeah, and pretty bad suggestions along the way, and just nothing really helped. It just got worse and worse. Then really acupuncture was the last resort. It’s one thing I haven’t tried. [It took a 00:06:58] while, but six months is a lot shorter than ten years of suffering.
Dr. Tompkins: Definitely.
Nicole Rasor: Yeah.
Dr. Tompkins: Well, that’s wonderful. It’s a wonderful experience. I’m sure just like as you went and saw that acupuncturist and you had seen so many other providers, so many other people about this before, getting all sorts of different advice, I’m sure probably now, and we see in our office too, where someone, by the time they come to our office, they have seen so many different doctors, so many different kinds of providers. Then they come to you, after seeing 17 different doctors, and by that point, you have someone who’s really has been dealing with their problem for a really long time and really needs you to step in and make a difference. It’s really good to see how that worked out for you so that you can be that person for other people. That’s great.
Nicole Rasor: It definitely takes extra confidence to be able to do that. I think being competitive helps me to be determined to help these people, because I don’t want to fail, and I don’t want to fail for them. I think in that respect, my athletic career helped me to never give up, which they have already been given up on, so by the time they come to my office … Or they gave up on themselves, and you usually just show up at the urging of one more person.
Dr. Tompkins: How do you help a person to fight that urge, if they’ve been trying for so long and they want to give up? What do you do to help them to fight that urge to give up?
I Provide the Tools
Nicole Rasor: Well, I tell them that there’s a chance that they will get better, and I actually give them tools to work on it on their own so they can … While they’re not in the office, they can work on their problem, whether it’s as simple as a topical to put on, put heat on, or make a change in lifestyle. When a person comes to me, brand new, they will leave with homework.
Dr. Tompkins: That’s good.
Nicole Rasor: Some of them don’t like it, but when they do start participating in the healing, it changes their attitude after a while.
Dr. Tompkins: That’s right, and you say some of them don’t like it and you’re absolutely right. Many times, we go into a provider, whether it’s a chiropractor or you, as an acupuncturist, we go into a provider and we’re hoping that that provider can just fix all of our problems so that we don’t have to do anything. We can just show up and feel better. There are certain things that, as a provider, that you’re able to do and able to help and able to make some really fantastic changes. Then, in general, it’s a conversation we have with our patients a lot. In general, you have to then do some work on your own to either help the progress along or you can choose not to do the work or do other things that kind of destroy your body and maybe impede some of that progress that you really could be making. Then, how did you get to the point from your experience with acupuncture to now, opening to having your acupuncture clinic, the Active Life Acupuncture Clinic?
Nicole Rasor: Well, having worked in the entertainment industry, there is not a whole lot of that in Tucson, so I was looking to start a third career. When I spent all this time at the [student clinic 00:11:06] getting acupuncture and herbs, I realized this medicine is great. It’s something that people will need to be exposed to, and I want to study it and do it and help people with it.
Dr. Tompkins: That’s wonderful.
Nicole Rasor: Four years later and then another four years later, I’ve got all my degrees.
Dr. Tompkins: That’s awesome. Was there any point of struggle before you really broke through and now have your successful practice?
Nicole Rasor: No. I think I was fortunate enough that I am not the only provider in our family, so I could grow it organically. I didn’t have to force anything, and I just didn’t have to worry whether it was going to be a $10,000 business or a $70,000 business or better. In that respect, that was lucky, and I guess when you don’t have the problem of paying the bills, you can really focus more on what the patient needs, rather than what do I need to do to pay the bills.
Dr. Tompkins: Yeah, and that’s-
Nicole Rasor: In that respect, I was very fortunate to not have that struggle.
Dr. Tompkins: That’s so important to be in a position that you’re always, always only the … The only focus you need to have is taking care, taking great, great care of the patient. You do so much better that way. That’s wonderful. Tell us a little bit about acupuncture, in general, for those of us that don’t know a lot about acupuncture. What is it? How can it help someone to feel better and move beyond that?
Chinese vs Western definitions of Acupuncture.
Nicole Rasor: Okay, well, I will tell you the Chinese explanation first. Basically, there is a energy all around us and in our body and in all living things. Acupuncture calls this energy qi, spelled Q-I. This invisible energy flows through invisible pathways called meridians. Ancient Chinese, 2,200 years or more ago, kind of discovered these invisible pathways. They’re kind of like highways in our bodies, where this energy flows. Each of these meridians connects to a specific cell or tissue or muscle or organ or glands and then these meridians can be access through the acupuncture points and then leave a specific effect on this vital energy that flows through us. There’s about 365 acupuncture points plus some extra points. Basically, if somebody has pain, what happens is the qi flow becomes restricted through various reasons. By inserting these fine, sterile needles at specific points and acupuncturist is able to break up blockages and addressing balances and restore the free flow of these energy called qi. Basically, that’s how it works.
Dr. Tompkins: Wow.
Nicole Rasor: Each point has specific functions and actions, and there’s different techniques, whether you supplement or reduce. But the biggest importance is the diagnosis, so the points and all that, you can look up. The diagnosis is the biggest hurdle and that has to be figured out through discussion and observation and [palpation 00:15:19] and things like that.
Dr. Tompkins: That’s wonderful. Now-
Nicole Rasor: That was the Chinese explanation.
Dr. Tompkins: Yeah, so what is the non-Chinese explanation?
Nicole Rasor: The non-Chinese, there’s different theories. One of them is called the neurotransmitter theory, which acupuncture stimulates the release of specific neurotransmitters and that affect the immune system. Another one is the autonomic nervous system theory, where the acupuncture stimulates the release of norepinephrines or other opiates and it, as a result, cause pain relief. Another one the gate control theory, which is when acupuncture activates specific receptors that inhibit the transmission of painful stimuli. Let’s see. There’s a couple more. Another one is vascular interstitial theory, and let’s see. What does that do? That one affects the electrical stimulas of the body. Then the last one that I can think of is the blood chemistry theory, and the acupuncture can both raise and diminish the peripheral blood composition and then regulate the body that way. Now, I don’t understand any of these. That’s just something Western medicine was trying to figure out why acupuncture works, and those are the theories.
Dr. Tompkins: Well, that was something in going through chiropractic college. Actually, as you describe a couple of those different theories, the Chinese medicine and the neurotransmitter theory, it’s really interesting, because I got to see some similarities. In chiropractic, people think about bones and think about how an adjustment helps with bones, but really it’s all neurological. We’re working on any areas where there’s any kind of interference in the way those nerves are functioning. That interference tends to happen where one of the bones in the spine moves out of position and then puts pressure on those nerves. Our focus is to reduce that pressure, remove that interference so that those nerves can work really well. I can see some of the similarities and some of that theory on how acupuncture works. Well, that’s really wonderful. I’ll just let you know, and for the listeners and viewers of our podcast know, that I’ve been into your office and you’ve helped me with an issue that I’m dealing with, these shin splints and getting ready for the Spartan Race in a couple of weeks. I appreciate what you’ve done in a very short time. In a very short time, I’ve started to see a really nice change, so I thank you very much for that.
Nicole Rasor: You’re welcome.
Dr. Tompkins: Next question, let’s see, is there … I can see how with some of the things that you’re telling me, that acupuncture is going to help someone to feel less pain, definitely, that I can see those mechanisms and how that works. Now, in regards to taking someone maybe to that next step, beyond the pain that they’re experiencing, what would a person with very low pain, what would they benefit from seeing an acupuncture? I’m sorry, from seeing an acupuncturist or receiving acupuncture?
Nicole Rasor: Well, first of all, I want to get rid of that very little pain. Who wants pain at all? But there lots of things. There’s digestive issues. There is stress. There is hormonal issues. I work with a lot of menopausal women. Really, anything, acupuncture can treat anything that doesn’t involve an emergency room visit. The World Health Organization recognizes at least 100 different problems that acupuncture can help with?
Dr. Tompkins: Oh really?
Nicole Rasor: Yeah.
Dr. Tompkins: That’s wonderful.
Nicole Rasor: [inaudible 00:19:42] need to read off, but it’s about 100. There’s a link at the World Health Organization where it will list what they recognize, and then we can treat more than that, but it hasn’t been recognized officially.
Dr. Tompkins: What are a couple of the recognized areas of treatment recognized by the World Health Organization that people might be surprised about?
Nicole Rasor: Well, let’s see. Bell’s Palsy is one of them. I’ve treated that several times very successfully.
Dr. Tompkins: Good.
Nicole Rasor: Let’s see. Induction of labor, that would be one that people probably don’t think about. All the pain is obvious. Female infertility is another one. Malposition of fetus.
Chiropractic and Pregnancy
Dr. Tompkins: That’s really interesting that you mention those, because one thing in our office, we focus very heavily on taking care of pregnant moms and kids and there’s some very specific techniques that we use in here the helps baby to turn. It’s called the Webster Technique, but it’s also very good to know that you have some things that you can do as well that can help baby turn. Now, can you describe what that would be like? What you would do for a pregnant mom who has a baby that’s breach?
Nicole Rasor: Yeah, it is a technique where you put a moxa, which is mugwort herb, on the outside of the little toe and traditionally, it is burned and then when that herb goes to the skin, you extinguish it. The way I see how it works is the meridian that’s starting or ending at the little toes goes all the way through the pelvis, so I think that stimulation and that heat and the warmth on the end of the meridian stirs the area where the baby is and gives it a nudge to turn.
Dr. Tompkins: That’s wonderful. Well, it’s good to know about another technique that can help with that. That’s great. Actually, is there one tool that you feel that you can’t live without?
Nicole Rasor: As a practitioner?
Dr. Tompkins: Yes.
Nicole Rasor: In my office?
Dr. Tompkins: Yes.
Nicole Rasor: My needles.
Dr. Tompkins: Yeah, I guess as an acupuncturist, if you didn’t have your needles, you’d be in a lot of trouble, wouldn’t accomplish much.
Nicole Rasor: Although, young babies, I do tuning forks instead of needles.
Dr. Tompkins: Oh, okay.
Nicole Rasor: Yeah, children that are not old enough to understand to lay still, I use tuning forks and I use a tool called a teishin, which is a Japanese needle that actually has a ball at the end, so I stimulate the acupuncture points with that ball and I never puncture the skin.
Dr. Tompkins: I have a-
Nicole Rasor: But yeah, I guess since I have four heat lamps, I wouldn’t live without my heat lamps.
Dr. Tompkins: Good, and what’s the purpose of those?
Nicole Rasor: The heat lamps help stimulate and bring blood flow to areas and I use a topical that is the modern version of the mugwort herb that I described earlier. You do have to activate it with heat, so that’s one particular item that I send home with patients to work on at home, so the progress is quicker towards healing.
Dr. Tompkins: That’s great.
Nicole Rasor: That’s what I use the heat lamp for.
Difference between Acupuncture and Dry Needling
Dr. Tompkins: That’s great. Now, I’ve heard in recent conversations, the words dry needling thrown around in different ways. That seems to be a fairly popular thing done by other types of practitioners. What is the difference between what you do as an acupuncturist and this thing that’s called dry needling?
Nicole Rasor: Okay, dry needling, first of all, the term is dry needling is because the other practitioners are not allowed to use the word acupuncture, and the reason being is because it is … Dry needling is done usually by physical therapists and sometimes chiropractors, and what happens is more like medical acupuncture, where they go into trigger points or motor points of the muscle, and try to release or stimulate it. Now, what I do is I also do that, but I also work on bringing everything in the body into homeostasis by nourishing the blood, by nourishing the tendons, by improving digestion, by de-stressing. But that particular part takes about four years to learn, to understand what a person’s underlying problem is, because if you also treat the underlying problem, then the injury will stay healed and not go back to the original problem.
Dr. Tompkins: I think the ultimate goal really is to get that patient to, again, not only feel better, but to actually be healthier. To do that, we really do have to address the source, and so it seems like just … Let’s see if my understanding is correct. When someone is doing that dry needling, let’s say you have pain in the neck. You might get some needles around the neck to help with those trigger points. However, with acupuncture, you’re going to take more of a whole body approach, where-
Nicole Rasor: Not only that, I can find distal points that will work on the neck too. The other big difference is … I can only speak for physical therapists, not chiropractors. They’re required to have 24 hour patient hours for training only. I have over 1,000, so anybody who does something 1,000 times more is going to have a better technique, so it hurts more when you get dry needled.
Dr. Tompkins: Oh, does it?
Nicole Rasor: Oh yeah.
Dr. Tompkins: That’s frightening.
Nicole Rasor: Because it takes quite a bit of practice to get the needling technique down.
Dr. Tompkins: Well, I can see you would certainly rather have someone who has 1,000 or more hours of experience than the 20. Great.
Nicole Rasor: 24, don’t cut them short.
Dr. Tompkins: Oh, 24, I’m sorry, 24, that’s a very important number. Do you feel that there’s one tool or resource that you would recommend to your patients or to the community that you feel people shouldn’t live without?
Nicole Rasor: I think it’s the knowledge that there is always hope, that there is not one size fits all, which is what we are brought up as thinking. Everybody gets the same treatment for the same disease. In Chinese medicine, there is a saying, “Same disease, different treatment, different treatment, same disease.” Somebody could have multiple sclerosis, but it presents differently, so we will treat it completely different and we might treat a Parkinson’s patient the same way as a multiple sclerosis patient, yet because their symptoms seem to be similar. We don’t care what it’s called. It’s all based on what the person presents.
Dr. Tompkins: That’s wonderful.
Nicole Rasor: I guess the knowledge is that there is other avenues, that there is whole body approaches, that alternative medicines is sometimes the way to go when [we’re 00:28:16] pretty much the last resort. There’s more than one. There’s chiropractic. There’s acupuncture. There’s plenty of these things out there when allopathic medicine told you that they can’t help you.
The FIRST Resort
Dr. Tompkins: I have something to say about this last resort idea. I’m sure our experiences are similar in some ways where people have gone to lots and lots of other doctors and providers before finally making that decision to see a acupuncturist or to see a chiropractor. One thing that I try to let people know, because it seems like it’s almost that the first option would be to go get medication or surgery or something like that, the most invasive type of procedure you can get tends to be our early options. I think we’re doing things backwards. If we actually took a moment and our first option was the acupuncturist, our first option was the chiropractor, our first option was to exercise or do some of these things that are completely non-invasive, but would help you to really achieve good health, wouldn’t it be great if that became the first option instead of the things that are so invasive.
Nicole Rasor: That would be terrific, but I think our health insurance system would have to be revamped to make that happen.
Dr. Tompkins: Well, it’s-
Nicole Rasor: Because most people don’t want to spend the money.
Dr. Tompkins: Well, and you know what? It seems like that, and I think with more education, with more knowledge, with more people realizing what can be done for them, through avenues like this, like we’re doing here, hopefully that increases awareness enough so that people may decide that moving forward in this way is going to be a more ideal choice than the other way around. I thank you so much for being here and being a part of this podcast with us and do you have any last words that you want to leave with us before we go?
Nicole Rasor: Come find us.
Dr. Tompkins: Actually, very good. How, if someone wants to find you, what would be the way that they would do that? What’s the best way for people to contact you?
Nicole Rasor: Through telephone or text or email is probably the best. I do not accept walk-ins. Everything is by appointment, so I don’t know if you’re posting my address or my phone number.
Dr. Tompkins: Actually, if you want to just tell us right over here, over the podcast, what’s the best contact number for your office?
Nicole Rasor: It’s 520-548-1838
Dr. Tompkins: That’s wonderful.
Nicole Rasor: You can call or text. Either one works.
Dr. Tompkins: That’s wonderful. Great. Well, hopefully, you’ll get lots of people contacting you to start wanting to experience changing their health through acupuncture. I really appreciate you being with us here at the Beyond the Pain podcast where we’re committed to not only helping you to feel better, but to really achieve ultimate health, helping you to achieve all of your health goals by taking safe, healthy, natural steps to do that. Nicole, thank you so much for joining us.
Nicole Rasor: Thanks for having me.
Dr. Tompkins: Well, thank you.
Nicole Rasor: It was a blast.
Dr. Tompkins: Great.
Nicole Rasor: Anytime.
Dr. Tompkins: All right, you have a great day.
Nicole Rasor: Thank you.
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