Ancient Chinese medical practice that involves placing hair-fine needles at specific anatomical points along the surface of the body
By Christine Green
Sandra Bordeau of Brockport has struggled with depression for many years. In the beginning, she sought help from a variety of medical practitioners yet she experienced little to no improvement.
“I tried everything available and nothing was working,” she said.
But then she discovered acupuncture and the tide turned.
Regular treatments helped her feel better emotionally and her overall health improved as well. That was 20 years ago, and today she still gets regular acupuncture treatments to help with her depression as well as other medical issues.
2,000 Years of Success
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice that involves placing hair-fine needles at specific anatomical points along the surface of the body. Stimulating these points can trigger a physiological response that promotes healing and relieves pain.
Practitioner John Crawford of Natural Health Chiropractic & Acupuncture in Rochester explains how acupuncture works by describing its effects on the body’s qi (pronounced “chee”) or essential life force.
“There are meridians where the qi flows in the body. Needling of the places where the meridians hit the surface of the body bring attention and energy to those areas, in the form of blood, oxygen, hormones, etc. So when you impart a stimulus, such as rubbing [acupressure] or a needle [acupuncture] you’re telling the body we want energy to go to and flow better through here.”
Patrick Boswell of A New Life Acupuncture in Spencerport also points out that acupuncture affectsthe chain of fascial fibers that covers the body’s muscles and organs. The gentle stimulation of the fascia induces a stretch reflex that can help the body release pain and encourage healing.
Western scientists are still trying to figure out the exact medical changes that take place when a patient receives acupuncture, but it is clear that for people worldwide, acupuncture is a trusted form of treatment for a variety of medical issues.
Acupuncturists can treat almost any medical concern brought to them. In 2003 The World Health Organization published a list of over 100 conditions that can be treated with acupuncture, including everything from muscle pain, migraines, and gastrointestinal problems to insomnia, infertility and depression.
How Acupuncture Can Help
Many acupuncturists are general practitioners that treat patients with different medical problems, but some have a particular specialty. Boswell sees patients with diverse complaints, but he specializes in women’s health. He says he is the only acupuncturist in Rochester with inpatient credentials at Strong and Highland hospitals on their labor and delivery floors. Acupuncture can help women in labor with pain, labor induction, difficulty pushing or failure to progress. Boswell can even use acupuncture to help a breech baby move into the proper head down position before birth.
Derek Barclay of Pivot Acupuncture in Bergen and Rochester treats several conditions like Boswell, but combines his background as a physical therapist with his acupuncture training to help people with orthopedic issues. “A combo of PT and acupuncture is much more effective than one alone,” said Barclay.
Crawford is also a chiropractor and will sometimes use a combination of chiropractic treatments along with acupuncture to address a patient’s problem. Ellen Comisar of Rochester suffers with back pain. Crawford recommended that she combine chiropractic adjustments with acupuncture and massage
“I think the combination has helped reduce overall achiness, even as I have added weight-bearing workouts to my schedule,” Comisar said.
What to Expect
Acupuncturists use sterile one-time use needles, but first time acupuncture patients shouldn’t worry about pain.
Lainey Barclay, also of Pivot Acupuncture, notes that acupuncture “is not without sensation,” but it should not be unpleasant, distressing or painful.
“They’ll feel the pin prick but it should not be lingering or be uncomfortable,” said Crawford.
In fact, most people fall asleep during treatment and experience a deep relaxation.
First timers should wear comfortable clothes and be prepared to discuss their medical history with the practitioner as well have a brief physical exam. After the initial intake is over and they fill out necessary paperwork, the needling will begin. Patients then relax in the treatment room for a short period of time with the needles in place. It is best to plan to be at the office for at least an hour.
Acupuncture treatment “is a process” says Lainey Barclay, so be prepared to come back for follow up treatments as it can take several appointments [anywhere from three to six] before a significant change in your condition can be felt.
Embracing Eastern Medicine
Lainey Barclay knows about this process not just as a provider but also as a patient herself. She became interested in acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine after struggling with gastrointestinal problems and health concerns that failed to respond to Western medical treatment. She said a “combination of Chinese herbs and acupuncture cleared up my problem.”
Her return to health was so profound that she decided to become an acupuncturist and herbalist.
Barclay, Comisar, Bordeau and countless others have experienced relief from pain and illness as a result of acupuncture, and, for Bordeau, it’s a treatment option that will have her coming back time and time again especially because of its low risks.
“One of the biggest things I like about Eastern medicine is the lack of side effects,” Bordeau said. “I have ended up in the ER twice in the last few years with adverse effects from Western medicine but the worst I have ever gotten from acupuncture is a little bruising.”