Lenox Hill Hospital (LHH)
Department of Spinal Surgery

The Integrative Spine Center (ICS) incorporates traditional therapeutic methods into a conventional Spine Center and is affiliated with Lenox Hill Hospital.

Acupuncture is a safe, painless form of traditional Chinese medicine in which thin sterilized needles are applied to specific locations on the body to stimulate the body's natural healing process. The definition and characterization of these locations has been standardized by the World Health Organization. Acupuncture can stimulate the nervous system to release certain chemicals in the brain and strengthen the immune, endocrine and cardiovascular systems. Endorphins, serotonin and increasing blood flow in injured parts of the body appear to be the active agents of acupuncture. More information about acupuncture.

Numerous studies have demonstrated that these traditional techniques should be part of the services a spine specialist offers. Three main applications are available in our Spine Center:

  • CONSERVATIVE TREATMENT: As part of the non-operative treatment in patients with various vertebral ailments who do not qualify for, or decide to avoid, surgical procedures. Conservative treatment can be used in conjunction with other methods of treatment such as physical therapy, medications or local injections. Examples of common conditions include Common Acute Back Pain (Lumbago), Disc herniation, Cervicalgia, Neuralgias, Chronic Sciatic pain, Muscle spasms.

  • CORRECTION OF ASSOCIATED CO-MORBIDITIES: Some co-morbidities are often associated with spinal condition making surgical treatments more challenging and less likely to succeed. Some of these chronic conditions must be addressed before surgery (if possible):

    • Smoking addiction. One of the side effects of nicotine is to block the healing process of tissues and especially the bone. Ideally patients should be completely nicotine free to undergo spine surgery. We advise patients to stop smoking at least 6 weeks prior to surgery and to refrain from smoking for at least 3 months after the procedure. Nicotine patches are not an alternative to stopping smoking since they deliver nicotine to the body through another route. Acupuncture has been shown to help motivated patients cope with the adverse effects of withdrawal during the initial difficult phase. In terms of one's ability to recover, the benefits of stopping smoking are major.

    • Obesity. Overweight patients are more likely to develop spine ailments, more likely to fail conservative treatments, and, in case of surgery, are more prone to many other difficulties. Operations typically last longer with obese patients; the risk of complications is higher either during or after surgery (infection, blood clot, pneumonia etc…). Fighting obesity is not easy for patients with chronic spine conditions, as these patients cannot exercise. They find themselves in a vicious cycle. Acupuncture helps as an addition to conventional nutritional consultations.

    • Narcotic dependency. Some patients have been for many months or years treated with narcotics for either undiagnosed spine conditions or for a failed spinal surgery. Their bodies become accustomed to the drugs and stop producing natural morphine (endorphins) which is required in the post operative period. Patients on heavy pain medications are very difficult to treat for their post-operative pain. Also the results of surgery are not as good as with other patients. Acupuncture and other forms of traditional medicine along with help from conventional specialists (pain management, psycho-pharmacologists and psychiatrists) have been shown to help in the detoxification process.

    • Depression. Many patients suffering from chronic spine conditions suffer from depression. The following combinations are common:

      • A psychiatric patient with a concurrent spine problem

      • A psychiatric patient with no real spine problem (conversion syndrome)

      • Depression that is secondary to the spine problem and which results from the failure of treatments and the vicious cycle of narcotic dependency. A patient in such a condition might need psychological support before undertaking surgery. Acupuncture and relaxation therapies have been shown to be efficient as pre-surgical treatments.


    A surgical procedure, especially one on the spinal column, can be "routine" for the surgeon but rarely is so for the patient. At the Integrative Spine Center we think of surgery as a "scheduled injury". We make an effort to reassure the patient and help him or her face this challenge with awareness and calmness. The process begins through developing a good relationship with the doctor and his or her team. Anxiety and stress are common but both of these can be dealt with effectively. To do this, we offer formal pre-surgery classes that combine lectures, relaxation techniques, music therapy, acupuncture and herbal therapy. A large number of studies have been published that demonstrate how these techniques work. They help

    • Build up the patient's energy;

    • Reduce preoperative anxiety and stress, leading to insomnia, and tiredness;

    • Prevent post-operative nausea and headache;

    • Reduce post-operative pain and the amount of medication required

How is a "routine" case treated?
We suggest that you undergo the treatment described above two or three times a week for two to three weeks before surgery. However, even a shorter time can be beneficial. Each session last approximately 40 minutes.

Are there any side effects?
A recent study on a large number of procedures have shown no long term side effects

Do most insurance plans cover the cost of the treatment?
Most insurance carriers will cover this treatment. For more information please call our office.

How to get in touch with us?
Fabien Bitan, MD:
Telephone: 212-744-8114

Dawn Fan, Certified Acupuncturist
For appointments, insurance or billing issues: 212-308-2088
More information



Shu Wang, MD
Attitude of patients undergoing surgery toward alternative medical treatment
Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine; 2002; 8; 351-356.

Shu Wang, MD
The use of auricular acupuncture to reduce preoperative Anxiety Anethesia and Analgesia; 2001; 93; 1178-1180.

Andrea Ligeti, MD
Using a twitch Monitor for Jue Yin/Shao Yang Energetic Solution to prevent postoperative nausea
Medical Acupuncture; 2002; 13

Michael Fredericson, MD
Medical Acupuncture For Non-Radicular Low Back Pain: A Preliminary Investigation Of A Treatment Protocol And Outcome Measures
Medical Acupuncture; 2002; 13

Richard A. Feely, DO
Yamamoto New Scalp Acupuncture (YNSA) Acupoint Frequency In The Treatment Of Herniated Lumbar Disk, Lumbar Radiculopathy, And Mechanical Low Back Pain
Medical Acupuncture; 2002; 16

Thomas KJ.
Randomised controlled trial of a short course of traditional acupuncture compared with usual care for persistent non-specific low back pain.[see comment].
BMJ. 333(7569):623, 2006

Witt CM.
Pragmatic randomized trial evaluating the clinical and economic effectiveness of acupuncture for chronic low back pain. American Journal of Epidemiology. 164(5):487-96, 2006.

Liu T.
Acupuncture for treating Osteoarthritis of the Knee and the Hip
Arthritis and Rheumatism. 54 (11); 3485-3493, 2006

Privacy | Legal | Copyright © 2019