My former roommate, a semi-professional rock climber, had torn a tendon in his finger and was desperate to get back on the rock. He swore by acupuncture as the quickest way to heal from injury. As I injure myself all the time, I was curious.
Ever since I was in high school, I’ve read books about Eastern spirituality. I’ve looked into traditional Chinese medicine, practiced yoga and wrapped my head around energy flow. Yet, I still wouldn’t call myself New Age-y. I muck about in an office during the workweek; I eat meat daily and drink lots of coffee and beer.
So, can a non-New Age-y person such as myself benefit from acupuncture? The needle treatments and Chinese herbal supplements recommended by the acupuncturist did indeed speed up recovery time while I was recovering from a sprained ankle (another rock-climbing accident). I’ve used it to help detox and regain mental clarity after four-day music-festival binges or a stressful workweek. There have been times where I didn’t feel the effects as significantly, but the low cost of community acupuncture has made it merely a small monetary and time investment into a great nap.
For those skeptical or curious about alternative medicine—as either a substitute for or a companion to Western medicine—here’s an introduction to acupuncture. Of course, it’s always wise to consult your doctor or medical adviser before jumping in.
You’d want an M.D., not a Ph.D., to perform surgery on you, and acupuncture is no different. Acupuncturists go to accredited schools, train, and acquire licenses from professional licensing authorities before they practice. The abbreviation after an acupuncturist’s name is often L.Ac. (Licensed Acupuncturist). Other common abbreviations that you might spot include: Dipl.Ac. (Diplomate in Acupuncture), M.A.O.M. (Masters of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine), M.T.O.M. (Masters of Traditional Oriental Medicine) and O.M.D. (Oriental Medical Doctor).
Additionally, in Utah, practitioners and clinics acquire licensing from the Utah Division of Occupational & Professional Licensing via training and testing. During treatment, numerous protocols are followed, such as basic hygiene, sterilization and keeping ill patients out of communal rooms.
What to Expect
During an acupuncture treatment, the acupuncturist will insert solid filiform needles into specific points along meridian lines to balance the body’s energy, free blocked energy and help vital organs. The needles generally go in about a half-inch. The 14 main (and numerous smaller) meridian lines are the connecting pathways throughout the body, serving to nourish all tissues with chi (energy) and blood. There are approximately 350 acupuncture points in the body.
In traditional Chinese medicine, illnesses are considered an imbalance or blockage of energy. So, an acupuncturist’s job is to balance out this energy, which might happen in one hour-long session or through a regimented program that lasts months. During a typical session, after the initial consultation, the needles are placed and left to do their work. Clients often doze off or sit calmly for approximately one hour. Many acupuncturists say that when a client wakes up, the treatment has run its course.
A Little History
While some accounts suggest that acupuncture originated in China as far back as the Neolithic or Stone Age periods, the earliest written record of acupuncture is found in The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Canon, circa 200 B.C. Acupuncture started gaining wide attention in the West in the early ’70s and has steadily gained a following. However, few scientific papers have been written about the process, so it remains somewhat controversial among medical researchers and clinicians.
Healing What Ails You
Acupuncturists treat various ailments, including addiction withdrawals, nausea, anxiety, infertility, digestive problems, pain, chronic fatigue and high blood pressure.
Some people might prefer privacy and to have longer conversations with their caregivers during the intake and check-ins upon returns. And one-on-one treatments allow for accessing specific spots that require a patient to take off his/her clothes. There are a number of private practitioners to choose from in Salt Lake City, including:
Absolute Acupuncture SLC, 3098 S. Highland Drive, 385-313-4698
AcuHealth of Utah Integrative Medicine, 3350 S. Highland Drive, 801-521-0531
East West Acupuncture, 34 S. 500 East, 801-582-2011
Harmony Acupuncture, Clinic 1390 S. 1100 East, Suite 110, 801-707-7612
Master Lu’s Health Center, 3220 S. State, 801-463-1101
Thrive Acupuncture of Utah, 1592 S. 1100 East, 801-243-0503
Utah Family Acupuncture & Herbs, 177 W. 700 South, 801-359-4780
Yancheng Acupuncture & Herbal Clinic, 2111 E. 3900 South, 801-647-4777
The community-based approach was brought to the States in 2002 by Working Class Acupuncture, based in Portland, Ore., which founded the Community Acupuncture Network in 2006. The goal is affordability and accessibility. Fees are charged on a sliding scale, from $15 to $40 per treatment.
In community clinics, acupuncture points are accessed from the knees and elbows down, and the client will sit in a chair, fully clothed, in a room with several to a dozen other people all receiving treatment. This process is traditionally how acupuncture is practiced in China.
There are several community clinics in Utah. Mark Montgomery’s St. George Community Healing Arts, which opened in 2008, was the first. In Salt Lake City, check out SLC Qi Community Acupuncture Clinic (177 E. 900 South, 801-521-3337) and Qiworks Community Acupuncture (3098 S. Highland Drive, Suite 369, 801-455-2072).