Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) technique that involves inserting very, very thin sterile needles into specific points on your body to promote its natural healing processes. It is used extensively to treat pain, from such conditions as fibromyalgia and tendonitis, because it acts to break down inflammation throughout the body. In fact, the American College of Physicians now recommends acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic care as primary treatment methods for low back pain over drug intervention. Acupuncture offers the possibility of an improved quality of life for many people when used to treat addictions as well as digestive, respiratory, neurological, and gynecological issues, among others.
Acupuncturists are required to receive extensive training from accredited institutions and must be licensed by the state. You may have heard the term “dry needling.” This term is used by practitioners who are not licensed as acupuncturists; instead they are licensed to provide other medical services such as physical therapy, but they have not received the same training and education as certified acupuncturists. Also, unlike acupuncture, dry needling can only be used on the area of injury. Acupuncture focuses on healing the whole body. As a result, sometimes needles will be inserted far from the point of pain or injury, but still create a healing effect.
We are fortunate to have several licensed acupuncturists in Aiken:
- Laurie de Graaf owns the Natural Health Center of Aiken on Silver Bluff Road. She uses many methods of acupuncture, including TCM and Five Element acupuncture, which follows the body’s meridians to balance the flow of energy throughout the body. She routinely offers care for alleviating premenstrual syndrome along with peri-menopause and menopausal symptoms, and she uses acupuncture to help the success rates of other medical interventions, such as infertility treatments and chemotherapy. She is currently studying acupuncture within sports medicine and already treats many athletes to help keep them active and as injury-free as possible. She sees acupuncture as “an anti-aging medicine.”
- Chris Enlund owns Bio-Medical Acupuncture on Millbrook Avenue. Chris first became interested in acupuncture when seeing his ill mother receive treatments with positive results. He decided that “helping people is not a bad way to spend your life” and began studying acupuncture. He studied TCM but felt that he was seeing better results with the intramuscular approach, especially for soft tissue injuries and chronic or acute pain. Because the needles are inserted deeply into the tissue, there are cumulative physiological changes from treatment. Intramuscular acupuncture is often viewed as a more aggressive style of treatment with potentially faster results than TCM, but more pain too.
- Maria Glinski, owner of Aiken Pilates Studio and Core Equus, will be offering traditional acupuncture starting in September at Houndslake Wellness Associates on Houndslake Drive. A veterinarian, she has long been focused on the connections between animals and people, and works extensively with horse riders to help both rider and animal come together in fluid movement and balance. She plans to focus her acupuncture practice on pain management.
- Cathy Benedetto offers acupuncture at Rising Wellness Center on Silver Bluff Road. Trained in the Five Element technique, she offers TCM treatments and cosmetic acupuncture. Cathy cares deeply about helping each person heal and see their own inner and outer beauty.
- Erika Chase teaches and works as an acupuncturist in Florida, but comes to Changes Day and Medical Spa on Whiskey Road monthly to offer acupuncture. She is passionate about the benefits of acupuncture and holistic health care.
In addition to “needling,” acupuncturists offer auricular acupuncture, where the needles are inserted into the patient’s ears, and electro-acupuncture, where electrodes are connected to the needles to send mild electrical stimulation through the body to enhance the effectiveness of the treatment. Be sure to tell your acupuncturist if you have a pacemaker or other heart condition. Additional treatment options include acupressure, pressing the same points but without the needles; moxibustion, which places a heated stick near the skin to increase circulation; gwa sha, which is a scraping technique to release muscle tension; and cupping, the placement of small glass cups over muscle groups to stimulate blood flow.
Many people ask if acupuncture hurts. Well, it depends. A typical treatment does not generally hurt; in fact, you may not even know a needle has been inserted. They really are that thin. Intramuscular stimulation uses more needles and inserts them at a deeper level, into the muscle, and that can hurt briefly when they are placed but goes away quickly. Acupuncture typically does not leave any marks or cause bruising.
Other common questions are (1) whether insurance covers the treatment, (2) if you have to get undressed, and (3) how fast it works.
- Some insurance companies cover acupuncture treatment, but many do not, so check with your insurance carrier.
- You may need to get partially undressed depending on where the needle needs to be inserted. In this case, you will be given a gown or sheet for modesty. “Trust and connection with people are important,” says Chris, so express any concerns openly and always ask questions.
- Like most health treatments, acupuncture often requires several visits to receive the full benefit. If you feel that your condition hasn’t improved within three to four weeks, discuss your concerns with the acupuncturist. In addition, Chris cautions that if the cause of your pain still exists (for example, you have chronic ankle pain but you have to stand on concrete all day), you probably aren’t going to get permanent results though you may get some temporary relief.
I know from personal experience just how effective acupuncture can be when applied consistently. It completely cured the tendonitis in my shoulder in just a few weeks (going several times per week). I have also used it successfully to alleviate sinus problems from hay fever, and who can’t use that in Aiken? I’ve heard from others who found great improvement in their golf game or horse riding, because acupuncture successfully treated muscle conditions that were causing limitations. A massage therapist even told me how Chris was helping the arthritis in her hands so she could keep working.
Acupuncture is also wonderful for stress. Even for people who have trouble calming their minds, acupuncture can be used to calm the body, which has the added benefit of relieving stress and reducing disease patterns and disorders. But Laurie takes her treatment philosophy even further than simply treating the pain. She sees it as preventive care, thanks to its immunity-boosting abilities. “They come to me healthy and I can keep them healthy.”
So if you’ve wondered if acupuncture might help, give it a try. You might just wonder why you waited so long.
[Note: Apologies if I left anyone off the list. Please let me know about them. I always like finding new practitioners.]
Melissa Kitchings is a Reiki Master/Teacher, Eden Energy Medicine practitioner, doTerra Wellness Advocate, and intuitive counselor. She owns Mind-Body-Spirit Connections in Aiken. www.mind-body-spiritconnections.com.
Copyright© 2017 Melissa Kitchings