By Jennifer Bradley
Cindy Campbell, owner and practitioner at the Acupuncture Wellness Center in Lake Geneva, has a friend who suffered from asthma, which would hospitalize her regularly. She started acupuncture treatments and was able to stop most of her medications, to the point of only using an inhaler as needed. “Then she recognized how it helped her with stress, she was sleeping better, her digestion was better, so she just continued on,” Campbell notes.
Brandon LaGreca, owner of East Troy Acupuncture has numerous patient success stories as well, and points to the long history of this form of holistic healing. LaGreca says that formal Chinese medicine has been in practice for more than 3,000 years and the use of acupuncture may be even older.
Campbell says education is key to helping the community understand that the heart of the acupuncture model is about health prevention. She truly believes people need both Western and Eastern medicinal approaches. “But if you look at the first model, it’s doesn’t work unless you’re sick,” she says. “Eastern medicine focuses on keeping people well. In ancient China, if acupuncturists detected a slight shift in their patients’ energy systems, that person was to be treated immediately. The whole theory of this medicine is based on prevention.”
LaGreca agrees. “Chinese medicine uses a variety of techniques that restore balance to the body, mind, and emotions,” he adds. “The therapies used are individualized, addressing the root cause of disease instead of suppressing symptoms.”
It does this by releasing endorphins, which make patients feel good, says Campbell. Acupuncture also releases the natural opiates of the body that reduce pain, and releases neurotransmitters affecting the central nervous system. This in turn, boosts a person’s immune system.
“Acupuncture works whether or not you think it will,” LaGreca adds. “Acupuncture is used successfully on animals and children. They do not understand or believe in the process, yet they often get better results than adults. A positive attitude helps with any type of therapy.”
“Acupuncture improves the body’s functions and really promotes the natural, self-healing process,” Campbell continues. She says the practice does this by stimulating specific anatomical sites, the acupuncture points, which are located on a grid system of energy. These energy points can become blocked through illness or stress, trauma or disease.
“When the energy is blocked, that’s where the disease process starts,” she adds.
Each energy pathway through the body (meridian), correlates with an organ. There are 14 meridians in the human body, which run along the arms, hands, feet, legs and torso, then connect with the organs. Campbell explains the overall health goal for anyone is achieving a balance within that entire system.
She says that many Americans are multitaskers and live lifestyles not designed for optimal health. “Here in the U.S., the liver meridian will generally be unbalanced, but in other countries, you would not see that pattern,” Campbell notes.
LaGreca explains that the acupuncture pins are small, hair-thin and made from surgical stainless steel. They’re not hollow as other medical needles are, and only used once, eliminating the risk of infection.
When asked, “Does it hurt?” LaGreca offers these thoughts: “People experience acupuncture differently,” he says. “Performed by a well-trained practitioner, acupuncture is rarely described as painful. Once the pins are inserted they may be manipulated to obtain a mild Qi sensation, often described as warm, heavy or achy.”
Campbell agrees, saying that patients may feel a quick pinch, heat or itching or pressure at the site of the needle.
LaGreca explains that the pins remain in place for 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the treatment and the patient’s comfort level. Often, this is a very relaxed time for an acupuncture patient and they fall asleep.
He says patients generally begin to feel the benefits of acupuncture treatments in two to three visits. With acute problems, significant improvement can be seen in just one, and may require only three to five treatments to fully resolve the issue. Chronic health issues will take longer to see lasting results.
Campbell says she wants patients to feel some level of shift on day one, so they will walk out and feel that they have hope through the acupuncture treatments. “I’m always honest with people,” she adds. “This isn’t going to be a one-time shot. Sometimes we’re lucky, but for the most part it will take a series of sessions.”
WHO BENEFITS FROM ACUPUNCTURE?
Women with hormonal, menstrual or fertility issues are now looking to acupuncture for help. “If women are doing IVF [in vitro fertilization], they really love acupuncture because it supports that, as well as increases the chances of a positive IVF outcome,” says Campbell.
She adds that back pain, sciatica issues as well as headaches, hypertension and knee pain are common reasons people will come for an acupuncture treatment. Both she and LaGreca have a list of common ailments they treat with acupuncture, as well as success stories on their websites. Campbell’s is acupuncture4allages.com, while LaGreca’s is easttroyacupuncture.com.
Campbell says that maintenance acupuncture treatments are very common, where someone comes regularly for a tune up. “They love it,” Campbell says. “The comment I get a lot from people is they don’t get sick. They don’t get the flu. They don’t get colds. They love it and it’s worth it to them to just stay with that protocol.”
At East Troy Acupuncture, LaGreca offers what he calls a “community clinic” model of treatment, which is available after a patient’s original treatment. He says this offers affordable, individualized care in a group setting, and is an ideal way to treat pain and stress on a maintenance basis.
“Patients are encouraged to pay what they can afford within a fee range, and budget themselves for a series of treatments,” he explains. “Aside from the catch of having to be treated alongside other people, the benefits of accessibility far outweigh the occasional snoring patient.”
WEIGHING THE OUT-OF-POCKET COSTS
The United States has the highest healthcare spending at 17 percent of its gross domestic product, nearly twice as much as other developed countries, explains LaGreca. “Given the current economic climate, we need to ask some difficult questions to evaluate whether our chosen system to deliver healthcare provides value, equity, and compassionate care to all recipients.”
Campbell agrees wholeheartedly. She says while insurance companies are beginning to recognize acupuncture more, the cost is still mostly out-of-pocket for patients. She believes that once Medicare recognizes acupuncture on its list of covered benefits, a big shift will begin with other companies and plans. Until then, she strives to help people understand the preventative benefits of this natural healing method.
Both of these acupuncture professionals have a common goal: improve the overall health for their communities, and know that it can only begin with a personal choice. “Any time your body takes a big hit, it weakens and begins a horrible pattern. If you can prevent it, to me that would be worth everything,” says Campbell. “I always tell people that you’ll take care of your car and keep it running. We have one body! Acupuncture helps you take care of it.”
“What we can do is make individual choices that bring that vision, and therefore that world, into being,” concludes LaGreca. “The change must begin within our collective consciousness. For my part, I wake up every day knowing that I am taking an active role in making holistic healthcare accessible to as wide a segment of the population as I can.”