She was teaching yoga in New York when the severe headaches started. The usual pain treatments weren’t working and her yoga instructor suggested acupuncture.
The practice of using carefully placed fine needles, a primary medicine in China for more than 2,500 years, was beginning to gain popularity in the United States. Though Anna had treatments as a child, her fear of needles had kept her away as an adult.
When other options didn’t work, however, she decided it was time to get past her anxiety. After just a couple of acupuncture treatments, the migraines were gone and Anna was ready for a new career. She was so impressed with what the practice had to offer that she decided to become a practitioner.
“This is something that has incredible potential to make a difference for people,” said Anna, who will be providing acupuncture at Ella Health in San Francisco. “It’s non-invasive, there aren’t side effects, and it can be used to treat a wide range of conditions or improve overall wellbeing.”
A growing number of studies confirm acupuncture’s effectiveness in treating a range of ailments from back pain to osteoarthritis. Increasingly, it’s being integrated into overall patient care. The practice is particularly helpful for issues that are specific to women such as infertility, menstrual pain, endocrine imbalances, digestive issues and fatigue.
“We see the body as different systems, but these systems are interrelated and ailments arise from imbalances in the systems,” Anna said.
It’s been shown to stimulate the pain centers of the brain, improve blood circulation, release endorphins, regulate the nervous system and activate the natural self-healing abilities of the body.
Those who want to try acupuncture can talk directly to an practitioner. In the U.S., acupuncturists must have a license. They are considered primary care practitioners and can order blood work or x-rays and bill insurance.
An initial treatment takes about 90 minutes, which includes time for an accurate diagnosis and determination of the best treatment options. Acupuncture treatment focuses on the individual. Patients may come in with similar symptoms, but the cause, and therefore the best treatment, maybe be completely different.
Anna said during the first appointment, she will take multiple pulses in different locations. She isn’t counting the heart rate but rather getting a feel for the quality of the patient’s energy. During this time, she often discovers issues that the patient may not have even mentioned such as whether they’ve been stressed or haven’t been sleeping well.
Some patients will feel a difference within just a few treatments. For others, it may take a month or two.
There really is no need to fear the needles. They’re aren’t like those used to give shots or take blood. Rather, they are solid and thin and taper to a point that can slide in between tissues. People often don’t even feel them going in at all. Some people feel warmth as the needle goes in. Most get a deep sense of relaxation after just a couple of minutes.
Acupuncture has an effect beyond the treatment, Anna said.
“It’s holistic medicine,” she said. “The body and the mind and the heart are all connected. And it changes you on the spiritual and the emotional level.”