Some see acupuncture as practical

Acupuncture treatments usually start with a consultation and are commonly used for back, head, neck and shoulder pain.

Once considered a nontraditional medical procedure, an increasing number of patients, doctors and University students are recognizing acupuncture as a practical medical treatment.

For some, like first-year University student Sarah Murn, it was the only alternative that proved effective.

“Two years ago, I had a back injury playing soccer. I turned on the ball and fell on my lower back, and I couldn’t walk at all,” Murn said.

“The day I got acupuncture, I walked out.”

Richard Feist, a doctor of sports medicine at Boynton Health Service, said he agreed there are many benefits to acupuncture.

“I think it’s worth a try, especially if the things we try aren’t successful,” he said.

Patricia Culliton, a licensed acupuncturist in the Hennepin County Medical Center’s alternative medicine division and instructor at the University’s Center for Spirituality and Healing, said treatment starts with consultation.

“We have you go into a private room where you are interviewed about all of your symptoms,” Culliton said. “Then, we find a series of points that would affect all of these symptoms.

“The procedure is cooling and calming. We have you lay down on the table with heating pads. Then, we painlessly slide very thin needles that stimulate circulation of ‘chi,’ which, in Western terms, means it promotes blood circulation.”

She said the procedure is said to be so relaxing that patients fall asleep during a 20- to 30-minute process.

The procedure is most commonly used for treatment of back, head, neck and shoulder pain. It can also treat headaches, women’s reproductive health problems, acid reflux and liver disease, Culliton said.

Jan Hennings, spokeswoman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, said that her company covers acupuncture costs in some cases, including chronic pain, when conventional therapies have been tried and proven unsuccessful.

Murn said she would recommend the procedure for anyone.

“It’s a tiny prick, comparable to getting your finger pricked,” she said. “It’s really interesting, because you can feel it spread through your muscles.”

Culliton said that with the increase in acupuncture use, there has been a greater focus on the issue in the academic world.

When she first started studying acupuncture in the 1970s, it was hard to find a place to study, Culliton said. Now, there are 80 schools that teach the practice in the United States.

“It’s a profession that has grown,” she said.

The Center for Spirituality and Healing is one of these schools. Interest in being an acupuncturist is also rising in prominence, Culliton said.

“In 1981, there were only five people that did acupuncture in the metro area; now, there are 250 people licensed in the metro area,” she said.

That said, there are still many who say they are skeptical about the pain of the treatment.

“I’ve never gotten it done,” said Aida Shahghasemi, a

University postsecondary enrollment option student. “It looks very scary, with needles going into your skin. But I guess you never know until you try it.”

It’s those skeptical about the pain and effectiveness Culliton said she enjoys treating the most.

“I absolutely love treating skeptics,” Culliton said. “They’re fun, because 85 percent of those who try acupuncture notice a significant difference after getting it done.”

– Freelance editor Steven Snyder welcomes comments at [email protected]