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Acupuncture Is a “Go”


 How different this hour is from the classic seven minutes with a harried physician.

The local newspaper today reports that an international review of more than 29 studies involving some 18,000 patients has found acupuncture effective in relieving pain from chronic headaches, backaches, and arthritis. I’m sure the response of countless residents of Santa Fe is, “Well, duh!”

I’m fortunate to live in a city where alternative therapies abound, because I have become a great believer in their benefit in prevention. I also think that they can often effectively address disorders that might otherwise lead to the awful side effects of pharmaceuticals or complications from conventional treatment.

I expect that I’m more interested in medicine than most people, and I have always taken note in novels about historic healing techniques. It may interest you to know that a person with pneumonia may benefit from a pile of hot onions on the chest. I have a library of books that could be helpful in an emergency.

In fact, it is usually something like an emergency that opens the door to a new therapy, and my introduction to acupuncture resulted from sciatica. After hauling a heavy suitcase through the airport, I suffered chronic pain for more than a year. Yoga helped, and I had massage and chiropractic care, but the problem endured.

I was living in Virginia at the time, and help came from a Chinese Doctor of Oriental Medicine (DOM) in Rockville, Maryland. I was referred to Dr. Chan by a man who had suffered for decades with intermittent and disabling back pain from an early injury. Muscle relaxants and bed rest sometimes helped, but during the last episode and after visiting multiple practitioners including an orthopedic surgeon to no avail, he finally hobbled off to see Dr. Chan.

The morning after treatment, Dr. Chan called to ask how he was doing. Richard responded that his back felt better, but now his hip hurt. Dr. Chan’s response was, “Good. If I can move it, I can fix it.” A number of treatments ensued, and Richard never suffered again.

Dr. Chan had trained in China from about the age of seven, he said, and he was clearly a master. I felt much better 24 hours after the first treatment, and after a total of seven, I too was completely clear and for good.

In Santa Fe, I have for years regularly seen Barbara Higgins, DOM. At the outset of an appointment, we sit for some time talking about what’s going on in my body and what’s going on in my life that could be pertinent. The issue is usually related to pain from an injury—I’m accident prone—fatigue, or stress. Once the interview is over the treatment begins, and then I rest on the table under a silk scarf listening to beautiful music.

The experience is always profoundly pleasant and nurturing. The benefit is often immediate and remarkable, or it may be sustaining over time. How different this hour is from the classic seven minutes with a harried physician.

Acupuncture isn’t appropriate for every problem, of course, but I’ve often been amazed at how resistant people can be to trying it. In exasperation, I sometimes think, “OK, go ahead and suffer.”  I guess I could give it one more shot, though, as follows: “Remember that your mind is like a parachute. It has to open to work.”


2 Responses to “Acupuncture Is a “Go””

  1. Barbara McCarthy

    This is really wonderful! I am forwarding the article to my 3 daughters, my son, and several friends. Thanks!

    • Kathy Horrigan

      Wonderful, Ellen. I’m going to send a copy to Dr. Yo, my acupuncturist, who treated me – successfully – for sciatica. Cheers! Kathy