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Integrative Sports Medicine with Dr Dustin Vaughan

Integrative Sports Medicine

Episode summary:

In this episode, I had the pleasure of engaging in a fun conversation with Dr. Dustin Vaughan, a former firefighter who transitioned to becoming an integrative sports medicine practitioner. He shares his journey from Western medicine to acupuncture, highlighting the incredible potential of this practice for pain relief and overall well-being.

Together, Dr. Vaughan and I delve into the intricate world of pain, with a specific focus on knee pain, shoulder pain, and low back pain. Dr. Vaughan provides insights into the impact of body weight on knee joints and stresses the significance of maintaining proper posture and incorporating regular movement throughout the day to prevent these common issues.

We both emphasize the importance of physical activity, dispelling the misconception that exercise is solely about fitness. We advocate for simple movements and caution against self-prescribed exercises found on the internet, emphasizing the need for personalized guidance.

Dr. Vaughan also delves into his work in sports medicine, underlining its applicability to anyone experiencing pain during movement, not just athletes. He shares insights into finding reputable acupuncture physicians through the NCCAOM website, offering valuable advice to those seeking pain relief.

Moreover, we explore the distinctions between dry needling and acupuncture, showcasing the differences in training and techniques. We highlight the importance of finding trustworthy practitioners and discuss the advantages of complementary modalities in healthcare.

Transcript (unedited):

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Welcome back to the Holistic Health Bites Podcast. Today, we are going to talk a little bit about sports medicine and a really interesting transition with my special guest, Dr Dustin Vaughn. Thank you so much for joining us today. 

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

Hi, thanks for having me.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Absolutely. Can you introduce yourself. Tell us little bit about your story and how you went from firefighter to integrative practitioner working in sports medicine.

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

Sure thing. Okay, so I was obviously a firefighter. spent decades in Western medicine and now Eastern traditional Chinese medicine.

Basically, I tell people that I figuratively and literally get tired of putting bandage on people. I made the transition because a lot of the senior guys that I was working with, you know, unfortunately people don’t realize the risk versus benefit analysis the firefighters have to go through on a day to day basis of whether not the job is worth it, because it does take its toll on your body.

So I was. Looking at other colleagues of mine that were firefighters and paramedics, and they were making a transition into PA.

So, Physicians Assistant, I think now it’s dubbed as Physicians Associate, still PA. But they were all making those transitions and looking forward to going to different schools to do that, where I was considering what I wanted to be when I grew up, and was looking at different opportunities and options of PA schools, one of them, Nurse Practitioner was another.

But I remember that I had great experiences in acupuncture in years past, helping me through my sports-related injuries, and I chose to go that route, because as an acupuncture physician here in Florida, I’m a primary care, so PCP, I can do my scope of practice is pretty broad.

I can do a lot of really cool things, which we’ll probably talk about here in a little bit. But that’s how I chose acupuncture.

had really good experiences. They helped me when other doctors couldn’t. And they were able to get to the end the cause and fixed that, which of course helped my symptoms to go away, which was kind of my my theory and my methodology for treatment.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Oh, that’s so cool. I think so many of us get into our respective fields because of our own health transition.

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

So it’s not surprising that that was also true for you. Oh, yeah, absolutely.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Yeah, and I worked in forensic science for 15 years. So I also understand the stress of other careers and why you might make a transition from a stressful, difficult career into something more positive and helpful and happy and yeah, all the things.

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.


Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

We have similar stories from different career fields, but yeah, absolutely. So what are some of your like favorite things that you really like working with or your favorite techniques or do you have a particular kind of injury that you really like to work with?

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

Well, I see a lot of back pain because that is a pretty much a number one. A lot of people withain and low back pain in general.

However I do see so many people with joint pain like shoulder pain or knee pain and talk about those three things really a lot.

I can do some really cool things with them from acupuncture is obviously one of many modalities that I have to treat.

I do a lot of injection therapies. They’re all in natural there, plant based and those injection therapies help to suppress things like arthritis or throsis.

There’s just a lot of types ofitises and oasis that I can start naming off but most people don’t care.

It’s just inflammation right so when we’re talking about that inflammation inflammation typically causes pain and that causes a hindered movement.

So I my grandfather is well both of my grandfathers actually kind of steered me into the path that I chose.

Well one of my grandfathers he hurt his back doing something as simple as pulling his western style. All but on, hurt is back.

That back injury unfortunately caused him to live a sedentary life. And that sedentary life unfortunately. That’s what we talk about a lot is that movement is medicine.

So he wasn’t able to move because it hurt. So unfortunately, a lot of health conditions started to pile on.

Of course, he was taking lots of different medications and those medications had side effects and some of those side effects unfortunately caught up with him and he’s no longer with us now.

But if I was in a position that I am now where I could have helped him to. To maintain that movement and continue to move because he was a very active person, him and my grandmother both, then I don’t know but I may have been able to prolong his life or help him to navigate a smoother health to your life.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Yeah, absolutely. Losing physical capabilities is such a major factor in declining age or declining health as we age. It makes such a big difference when people lose their ability to be active and do the things they want to do.

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

Yeah, I guess. I’m sorry, I didn’t answer your question properly, but yeah, I do see a lot and I do enjoy working with knee pain and shoulder pain, as well as low back pain.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Yeah, so what are some of the things that you see people are doing in their daily lives that are maybe causing some of those ailments or issues?

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

That’s a loaded question with a complicated answer. So there’s… I do have a real conversation with a lot of patients because when I did get my doctorate, I went back and I was diving into research and doing a lot of what I needed to do for the program, but I was trying to focus on the things that would be most relative to me in my practice.

And something as simple as we talk about knee pain, there’s so many people in America that have knee pain and knee problems.

One of the things that I’m real with patients about is that 10 pounds of body weight alone, just 10 pounds of weight.

If you were to lose that 10 pounds, that’s 40 pounds of force on your knee. So if you multiply that, you’re looking at maybe maybe you need to lose 20 pounds.

Now that’s 80 pounds of force. So, and this doesn’t have to be a short-term goal. can be a long-term marathon, not a sprint, but that’s something that’s very, I would say, common in a lot of people because, you know, we could all probably fare to lose a few pounds.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Yeah, that’s a big one. And it, you know, pounds. That doesn’t seem like that monumental of a goal. And yet, that’s a huge impact.

40 pounds or 80 pounds of a thrombosa.

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

Like, that’s a lot. For sure. Yeah. 40 pounds. Of course. on your one knee. And that’s, I mean, I have researched a backup on peer reviewed from PubMed and a track found out.

There’s just a lot of really cool things. So, I did a presentation on that in my doctorate program on just that simple fact of, you know, most people to alleviate some of that pain.

It’s 40 pounds of force. I mean, if you already have a bad knee or your knees causing issues, then that’s a significant reduction in pain and probably a healthier, easier movement.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think anyone who’s ever actually lost. 40 pounds would know that just from the weight loss that their whole body feels different, but even 10 pounds makes a huge difference.

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

That’s so amazing. Yeah, for sure.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

So what are some other things like, you know, you mentioned people being sedentary and obviously a lot of us are now computer workers and we sit all day long.

Are there other things that like contribute to, you know, we have poor posture, we cross our legs like some of these things are those also contributing a lot to this?

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

Oh, absolutely. I talk a lot about that. talk a lot about the anatomy and anatomical positioning of how your computer desk is, your mouse is, carpal tunnel syndrome, low back pain because of the way you’re sitting at your computer desk, it’s not the right chair for you. Maybe it’s not the right height for you, whatever. I talk a lot about that.

Another very important position that we’re in hopefully for six or eight hours a day is sleeping and the way you sleep and the way you’re positioned while laying down. There’s several positions, side or stomach sleep.  I can pick apart every single one of the positions.

There are some different techniques and tricks that we can do to help to alleviate some of that stress on our low back when we’re sleeping or on our shoulder when we’re sleeping or even your neck.

So that’s where I talk a lot about with patients. And I ask, I would probably say 99% of them. How do you sleep? 

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Right. Well, it’s such a big deal and so many people, like their biggest pains or their biggest injuries come from sleeping.

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

Mm hmm.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

You wake up sore, you can’t turn your head. Like it’s crazy that you can get so messed up sleeping.

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

I have a patient of mine that tore his shoulder sleeping.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Oh, geez.

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

So, yeah, there’s lots of things can happen.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Oh, that’s nuts. So what are some things that people can do throughout the day? you have a computer job or, you know, a pretty sedentary day job, you know, what can you do to kind of minimize some of those things?

Obviously having your computer set up and those kinds of things that you mentioned. But, are there stretch? What can people do?

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

Well, I mean, just simply put just movement. I mean, try to make a break, try to get up every hour, try to get up and move around a little bit.

Maybe it might mean, you know, do some push-ups, maybe do some sit-ups, maybe just walk around the house. Just something as simple as that.

people aren’t inclined to do those. A couple of things are light exercises, but at least get up and move around.

Because sitting, what was the, there’s something new, a new phrase that people were now saying that, you know, sitting, sitting is the new, I’m sorry, forgive me because I can’t remember the saying, but it was bad.

Basically, meaning that, you know, it’s the new terrible thing to do is sit. And people are realizing that because the sedentary life and the sedentary, you know, work life, unfortunately, we all have to have to do that.

But if you can get up and just move around little bit, get that blood flow in a little bit, because that’s going to help you.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Yeah. Yeah, I think it’s something like sitting is the new smoking. Yeah, that’s what it was. Something like that where it’s like, yeah.

It’s so… Such an innocuous thing and yet it has a tremendous impact in your overall health. And so many people think exercise is just about like being fit and ripped and strong and all the things.

And yeah, of course that plays into it. But if you can’t get up and move because you’ve lost your physical capabilities, your knee hurts too bad, your back hurts too bad.

that’s changing your entire life.

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

It’s not just about being ripped. Absolutely.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

But also having the muscle is also protecting your bones. It’s managing your blood sugar. Like there’s so many other factors that play in.

This isn’t just about being physically capable of like place boards. This is literally your life.

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

And the misconception is you don’t have to go to the gym and pound a bunch of heavy weights.  You don’t have to be that big strong guy.

People want that and that’s okay. But as far as just being – maintaining some overall like. Skeletal muscles and some overall muscular health, I guess, because as we age things atrophy, and if you don’t use it, you lose it.

So something simple, but like rubber band work. There’s lots of different things on the Internet. say YouTube is a great source, but it can also be detrimental if you pick the wrong person and follow them and do something you shouldn’t, then you’re going to come see me because you hurt yourself.

So I tell people that, you know, there are little, little things that we can do. I’m not a physical therapist.

I was a personal trainer. I had worked in fitness and fitness realm. was a coach, a running coach, an Olympic lifting.

So I’ve just done so much. And I was an athlete myself, and I have lot of things that I can help people to just navigate that shoulder health, because a lot of times, unfortunately, as we age and we don’t use some of these shoulder muscles, we don’t work out.

We don’t do something, you know, simple little exercises that can help to maintain our shoulder girdle stability, and that’ll keep things where they’re supposed to be.

Because. Your shoulder joint is literally held in place with muscles. And if those muscles at your feet, then your shoulder joint could be compromised.

And then you’re sleeping in an awkward position. That’s another compromise and so on and so forth. So there’s just a lot of things that can help us just by maintaining just a little bit of movement, a little bit of activity.

Doesn’t have to be an hour long session at the gym. could be something as simple as, you know, or 10 minutes at home here and there.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Yeah, I think that’s a really simple tip that people can really take away is, you know, set an alarm and get up and And just move for a couple of minutes.

Stretch, walk, go up and down the stairs, do something but just, it doesn’t have to be this big formal thing.

You don’t have to join a gym and drive across town and hire a trainer and do all the things. Just move, just be active.

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

Absolutely. I remember, you know, years ago when I was a child, I remember my grandmother, were soup cans doing some, you know, exercises in the kitchen.

So, I mean, that’s, that’s all you have to do.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Yeah. Absolutely. And it, you don’t even have have to lift anything; you’ve got your body.

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

There’s so much you can do with just your body.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Just move. Yeah, I think that’s a great tip. Are there other mistakes that you see people making, either in trying to repair an injury or get stronger or just things that people are doing in their everyday lives that are contributing to the decline of their physical body?

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

Well, I’d say that a lot of people, you know, the internet, like I said, is a great source of information.

However, it’s also a bad source because some people will find something, you know, you’ll Google search back pain or you Google search.

And you’ll find exercises that might help you if you had a specific type of back pain or a specific issue that was causing your back pain.

However, if you’re starting to do things and self-prescribe exercises and self-prescribe, you can actually do more harm. And I don’t want to see people get hurt.

You know, and I tell people if our hurts don’t do it. It’s not that kind of pain you want to push through.

Our minds are sometimes stronger than our body, and that’s where we have to be careful.  

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

So definitely use caution when finding stuff on the internet.

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

Absolutely. If it’s on Google, it doesn’t mean it is true.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Absolutely. Yeah, you can find a million opinions on Google and there’s probably a lot that are more harmful than good.

So in your work, do you have a clinic to do people exclusively see you in person?

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

Do you also work online? How does your business work? So I am in person. It’s hard to do movement screenings and neurological assessments and ortho assessments online.

It can be done. But it’s difficult to I do everything in person. There was a time that I was doing telehealth visits and those are just for sick patients.

I still do those every now and then because I do specialize in sports medicine, I am trained, classically trained, I say, but I’m trained to treat everything.

However, my specialty is in movement and mobility sports medicine to help the misconception with sports medicine. First off is that it’s only for athletes and it’s not.

It’s for anybody that has pain upon movement. You know, if it hurts, when you move it. That’s That’s where I help.

I do see a lot of athletes. I do see professional athletes and Olympic athletes, but I do see also the oxygenarians and the geriatric patients that just have knee pain that’s limiting what they can do.

But yeah, I only see in person because it’s really hard for me to, you know, give an acupuncture session or injection therapy online.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Yeah, absolutely. You do kind of have to be present for those needles. Yeah. And where are you located?

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

I am in Claremont, Florida.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)


Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

Just about 25, 30 minutes west of downtown Orlando. Okay. lot of people know where Orlando is, that’s why I use that as a landmark.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Yeah. So for everyone who doesn’t maybe live near you, can you give any advice or recommendations to maybe find someone that does work like you do or that can help them with whatever their physical ailment is in their local area?

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

What, you know, their questions they should ask or certifications they should look for? Or. Yeah. Well, basically, so if you’re looking for an acupuncture physician, then you can go on NCOMS website NCCAOM.

You can click on Find a Provider and hopefully find someone nearby. Then you want to probably look at their credentials, see what they do, and it’s all based on what you’re looking for, really.

But if you’re looking for somebody that’s going to help you with the things that I do, then try to find somebody that has a sports background.

Try to find somebody that has an athletic degree or something. Something that’s going to help you them to help you better.

But NCCAOM is going to at least give you a diplomatic-oriented medicine or a diplomatic acupuncture that is credentialed in that way, that you can find them that way.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Okay. Yeah, that’s great. I think that’s much better than just googling. So having at least a reputable source to go to is a big help for a lot of people.

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

A lot of people nowadays are using things like Facebook, Facebook, the finder provider because they ask questions and hear from their peers.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

That can be great if you’re getting a personal referral, but you do have to be careful that you’re finding a reputable provider.  Even highly credentialed doctors can have a bias or not be the right source for you.  

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

That’s right. Yeah.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

That is a big difference. And I definitely think there’s a lot of misconceptions around dry needling and acupuncture and what the differences are and what the benefits are for one over the other or all the things.

I think a lot of people do think that they’re the same, but clearly they’re not.

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

For sure.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

So is it just a difference in training level or is it actually are the needles different or the placements different?

Like the two techniques?

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

Yes and yes. So the training is different. Obviously I had 2500 plus hours in acupuncture learning the points, learning what they do.

Each point actually has an indication. So there’s there’s a traditional number of points. It’s about 350 points 400 points on the body.

Each one of those points have an indication, just like a pharmaceutical medication would have an indication. They also sometimes have country indications.

So they’re well set to look at anatomy. What’s the anatomy? The behind the point wears. There’s. You know, what’s, is it our vessel back there, is there a lung back there?

So there’s all these different things that we need to know about the points alone. So that’s why there’s so much time invested.

Whereas to get a certification to do acupuncture by chiropractors and physical therapists are about, I want to say, 80 hours.

I think it’s like a four weekend course. Okay. If I’m not mistaken. So the amount of time is obviously much less.

They don’t get. The time to understand the points, understand what things do. just know that. And I’m sorry, I haven’t taken one of their certification classes.

So I’m not exactly sure what’s all in it. But it’s only 80 hours. And in that time, you have to also learn how to place the needles.

So I would assume that, you know, you’re not going to get into the depth and the, you know, the, of what the points do and how you can help the nervous system.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Yeah. Yeah. That makes sense that it’s. The completely different thing. And yeah, it would make sense that you haven’t gone through their training because you have much higher level training.

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.


Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Very interesting. Yeah, definitely a modality. don’t know a ton about myself, but I know so many people are tremendously benefited by acupuncture.

So I definitely think it’s a modality that everyone should look into, especially for pain. But also for, you know, not necessarily in your world, but anxiety and depression and kind of the mental health side of things.

I know so many people have been. So. So tremendously helped by acupuncture. I think finding a reputable, well-trained, you know, highly skilled practitioner is always recommended, no matter what modality you’re looking for.

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

Absolutely. I’ve worked, I mean, I work synergistically with mental health counselors at times, chiropractors, physical therapists. know, we do work very well together.

We have a great working relationship. It would be great if we were all under the same roof, but we’re not.

So we actually have to go. So building to building. But. But it is very, very complimentary as far as the different treatment, but like the different treatment plans and everything like that.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

So. Yeah. Yeah. is no like one system that’s going to work for all conditions, all people. So I think having that complimentary relationship is a really good thing so that, you know, you can get the benefits from all the different modalities and the likelihood is you won’t get all the different modalities from any one practitioner.

So being able to kind of find that team of practitioners that can cover all the bases is really important.

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.


Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Awesome. Well, any other kind of parting words for everybody before we wrap this up?

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

Well, I mean, I know we were talking a little bit about it about different injection therapies that I do.

That sounds like a daunting tale. Most people hear that and they get scared. They’ve had cortisone shots, or maybe they’ve had other injection therapies that may or may not have worked.

And unfortunately, those tend to be. A little bit painful or a lot painful. I do all of my injection therapies are natural.

Everything I do is either natural, homeopathic, nutraceutical, vitamins, I do have an IV lounge as well. Again, everything there is minerals or vitamins.

Nothing synthetic, nothing pharmaceutical. With the cortisone shots, a lot of people that have had those shots, they know that they, some of them may have gotten some relief.

But it does come with But some people know of those side effects, you know, those things that can degrade different things like soft tissue, tendons, ligaments, joints.

Whereas my injections are not painful in that regard. And they specifically work on inflammation. So like that arthritis or osteoarthritis.

Mainly any kind of inflammation. see a lot of tendonopathies. I see a lot of Achilles tendonitis. You name it.

There’s just different. All of the -itises and -osises are really just inflammatory. 

But I also have a CEU class coming up on September 9th.

I’ve been trying to keep these up and running about once a month. So if you’re not able to come to the September 9th one, but you want to get in on one of my AccuPoint injection therapy for sports medicine classes, then just keep an eye on the website, keep an eye on the postings, and you’ll see as we continue to roll out more and more classes throughout the rest of the year.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Oh, that’s awesome. That’s a great resource for anybody that wants to, you know, stay up on this stuff and get those continuing ed credits.

I think that’s a fantastic thing that you offer.

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.


 Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Awesome. Well, we will definitely link up all of your information in the description and so people can just easily click over to your stuff and find out more about you and all of the things.

So thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us today and just all the information on where people are going wrong and what their options are and that, you know, there’s hope.

There’s hope. You can do simple things, so thank you so much.

Dr. Dustin Vaughan, PMD, Dipl. O.M., A.P.

Absolutely. It was a pleasure being here.

Andrea Nicholson (healthylifewithandrea.com)

Yeah. Alright, everyone, thank you so much and we’ll catch you again on future episodes.

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