On Your Health

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Is Acupuncture Right for You?

Today we have a post from our guest blogger, Seneca Dewbre, who has a Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine degree and is currently completing her doctorate specialization in gynecology. Additionally, she is certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and licensed by the Texas Medical Board. Oklahoma does not have a licensing certification for acupuncturists at this time. She has experience in both private practice as well as outpatient services within a hospital setting and has 3,700 hours of clinical training. Seneca offers acupuncture treatment at the INTEGRIS James L. Hall Jr. Center for Mind, Body and Spirit and the INTEGRIS Troy and Dollie Smith Wellness Center.

Hi everyone. As a licensed acupuncturist with INTEGRIS, today I want to talk about something that may seem a little mysterious and frightening. As you can imagine, acupuncture isn’t yet well-known in Oklahoma. A lot of people have never heard of it, so let’s answer a few questions I get asked frequently.

What is acupuncture?

This is a question people ask me all the time, right after “does it hurt?” First of all, acupuncture is awesome. Why? Because it works by helping your body heal itself. So really, your body is doing all the work, I just help guide it in the right direction.

And just like acupuncture, your body is awesome! It can do so many cool things, and sometimes we forget to give it credit. We usually focus on how our bodies are not working, but really, these symptoms are simply a sign that our bodies are out of balance. Acupuncture helps your body regain that balance and heal itself to feel better.

Acupuncture is a tool we use in Integrative Medicine. As we've discussed before, Integrative Medicine is a holistic approach to health and wellness that treats more than just disease in the physical body. It's a philosophy of care that treats the whole person -- the mind, the body and the spirit. It combines conventional Western medicine with ancient alternative therapies (sometimes known as Traditional Chinese Medicine). Besides acupuncture, these therapies include treatments like therapeutic massage, yoga, herbal medicine, biofeedback, nutrition to reduce inflammation and stress reduction techniques such as tai chi and qi gong.

What got you interested in acupuncture?

I grew up in a small farm town in New Mexico. I played all kinds of sports in school, but when I was a freshman I started noticing a constant, dull ache in my lower back. After an X-ray it was determined I had very mild scoliosis. Now, this wasn’t the end of the world, but it was disheartening to be in constant pain, especially at my age.

My mom started taking me for chiropractic adjustments, physical therapy, cranial sacral massage and anything else that might help, but I could not kick that last bit of pain. An acupuncturist moved to our town and I gave it a try. After several sessions over time my back pain was relieved! My range of motion increased and I felt great.

Mind you, structurally my curvature is the same (acupuncture is not magic) but it did help relax the muscles that were so taut, which gave the other muscles a chance to strengthen. At that point I was hooked (or pinned, if you want to be specific). I continued getting acupuncture for maintenance of my pain, menstrual issues and even pulled hamstrings when I was cheering in college.

Did you go to school for this?

Yes! I have a Bachelor of Science in biology, and a Master of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, which is a four-year program.

Does it hurt?

No! Generally patients can’t even feel the needles enter the body. Those needles are very thin! But it's good to have the “needling sensation,” which most times is a gentle tingle or pressure around the needle, because that means treatment is working. Once in a while, one needle may be more sensitive than others and if it’s uncomfortable we adjust it or take it out.

How often do I need to come?

This depends on how your body reacts to acupuncture and how long you've had the problem. Imagine a spool of thread: if you've been winding this spool for a long time, it takes just as long to unwind it. Each acupuncture treatment will build on top of the others and the results get stronger and last longer with time. Generally, I suggest four to eight treatments to see if it works for you.

How does it work?

To put it simply, mostly we use acupuncture points to help stagnated energy move better. We want to increase blood flow and help your body regain energy and balance. From a Western medicine standpoint, when the needles are inserted we are alerting your immune system of an invader. Your body’s response is to send all the defenders (the white blood cells, the macrophage cells) to the area to check it out. Your brain will release adenosine, which is a natural painkiller, along with feel-good endorphins. Your body also releases serotonin, which will help your sleep!

According to the World Health Organization, acupuncture is effective for treating 28 conditions, such as:   

  • Low back pain  
  • Neck pain   
  • Sciatica   
  • Tennis elbow 
  • Knee pain  
  • Sprains   
  • Facial pain   
  • Headache   
  • Dental pain   
  • Rheumatoid arthritis   
  • Morning sickness
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Adverse reactions to radiation or chemotherapy  
  • Depression

And there's evidence that it may have an effective therapeutic value for many more.

How much does it cost?

At INTEGRIS an initial treatment is $120. Follow-up treatments are $70. Because the law in Oklahoma is still not set, most insurance companies aren’t covering acupuncture at this time. But it's always worth a call to see if your insurance will cover it. Also, according to the IRS, acupuncture is a medical service that is eligible for HCRA expense reimbursement for those of you with an HCRA (health care reimbursement account).

Thanks so much for taking a few minutes to learn about acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. If you would like to learn more, feel free to shoot me an email any time! I can be reached at [email protected].

If you would like to talk to Seneca about TCM or schedule an acupuncture treatment with her, Seneca can be contacted at the Wellness Center at (405) 773-6600.