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Acupuncture can help many conditions


Last updated 9/27/2019 at 7:42pm

Wendy Hammarstrom - Special to Village News

The first time I received an acupuncture session was in 1989 when I was trying valiantly to get pregnant. I made an appointment with a Chinese man in Philadelphia's Chinatown and he showed me the needles, told me they wouldn't hurt and that they only pierced the outer layer of the skin. I was doubtful, but he was correct.

The treatments were pain-free and relaxing. I continued to receive acupuncture treatments for several months, and in the winter of 1991, my daughter was born.

At the same time, we saw an acupuncturist to treat our elderly dogs who were suffering from arthritis and the treatments seemed to help. My father also received acupuncture in Pennsylvania, for his headaches and Marie Charcot-Tooth Syndrome, which inspired him to travel to India to be treated by a doctor friend who treated patients with western and eastern medicine.

When my family moved to California, my plan was to attend one of the four area acupuncture schools. That plan did not happen due to location logistics, although I continue to be influenced and inspired by Oriental medicine.

In Murrieta, acupuncturist Jill Clare worked on my whole family. She introduced my 6-year-old daughter to acupuncture needles and along with her nurturing manner made the treatment a positive experience.

Mercedes Martine in Murrieta took over when Clare moved back to her childhood home in Ontario, Canada. Martine was a graduate of Emperor's College of Traditional Oriental Medicine in Santa Monica.

When I was recovering from gallbladder surgery and I felt somewhat weak with little strength in my legs, I went to her and, after several sessions, resumed hiking with the dogs. I attribute that healing to the recirculation of "chi" or energy based on knowledge of 400 points on 12 major meridians or lines that correspond to the organs.

Acupuncture is a 3,000 year old, noninvasive treatment method that has helped millions of people become and stay well. It is a safe, painless and effective way to treat a wide variety of medical conditions.

Acupuncture promotes natural healing and can enhance recuperative power and immunity, support physical and emotional health and improve overall function and well-being.

The goal of the health care treatment is to activate the natural, self-healing abilities of the body and restore its normal function. The most common method to stimulate the acupoints is the insertion of fine sterile needles into the skin. Other modalities may be used as well such as electrical stimulation, moxibustion, cupping, heat therapy, gua sha and the application of topical herbal medicines.

California schools, including the closest school, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego, have a curriculum which includes Oriental medicine theory, diagnosis and treatment techniques, Oriental herbal studies, integrated acupuncture, herbal clinical training and biomedical clinical sciences.

Students also learn how to manage an acupuncture practice and communicate with clients. Once they complete 3,500 hours of education and internships, students earn a Master of Science in traditional Chinese medicine and are qualified to sit for the California Acupuncture License Exam. Once the exam is passed, they may practice in California.

Often acupuncturists concentrate in a certain area and may specialize in sports injuries and pain, menopause and women's health, including fertility, stress management and anxiety, geriatric health or other specific conditions. Based on the initial diagnosis, treatments meet the unique needs of each patient, blending the different Chinese medicine therapies.

During my recent session with Lori Stephens, a Fallbrook practitioner, I laid face up on her treatment table, and she placed needles at points based on her diagnosis.

She also used acu-aroma therapy by placing essential oils on acupuncture points to strengthen the effects. After the needles remained there for about 20 minutes, she removed the needles and I turned over. Next, she used cupping techniques on my back. I noticed the following day that I had improved energy and focus.

Although my session did not include gua sha, I was intrigued to learn more about this technique. Gua sha is a healing technique sometimes called "coining, spooning or scraping." It is defined as instrument-assisted press-stroking of an area of the body surface to create a therapeutic petechiae or tiny, round spots, which is called sha.

Raising sha removes blood stagnation which is considered pathogenic from a Chinese medicine perspective. Research shows that gua sha produces an anti-inflammatory and immune response that can provide relief from pain and stiffness, as well as fever, chills, cough and wheezing.

When working with athletes as well as "weekend warriors," acupuncture is helpful with healing injuries. Chinese medicine and acupuncture are able to help reduce inflammation, reduce stiffness and tension, improve range of motion, shorten recovery time, strengthen the body and immune system and treat acute sprains and strains.

Other conditions that are helped, according to the Mayo Clinic, are dental pain, headaches, labor pain, low back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis, menstrual cramps, chemotherapy-induced and postoperative nausea and vomiting.

Fallbrook has several acupuncturists who are members of the Fallbrook Wellness Directory.

Wendy Hammarstrom has been practicing, teaching and writing about bodywork since 1976. Her book, "Circles of Healing: The Complete Guide to Healing with Massage and Yoga for Practitioners, Caregivers, Students and Clients," is available on Amazon or her website at


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