Community Chi: Acupuncture Treatments for All

 

By Lisa Moore
Photos by Meredith Jones

For several years, Jennifer Frame endured numbness, muscle weakness and extreme fatigue from Multiple Sclerosis. As a registered nurse, she knew that acupuncture could help relieve her symptoms, but she couldn’t afford the ongoing treatment her condition would require.

Last year Frame found out about the community acupuncture program at Wellbeing Natural Health in Cornelius that offers quality care in a group setting for a reduced rate. Today, she says her weekly sessions have increased her energy and help her mentally and physically deal with MS.

“I had the best six months from January to July that I had had in years with the energy and strength to do daily things and maintain a good quality of life,” says Frame, who has also been able to decrease the dosage for her depression and diabetes medications.

Acupuncture involves the insertion of very fine needles at acupoints that lie along energetic channels of the body. When a person is healthy the energy flows strongly and smoothly through these channels. If the energy is disrupted, illness may occur.

Acupuncture can treat a wide range of health issues including pain, anxiety, depression and neurological, digestive, respiratory and reproductive disorders. Although the benefits of acupuncture have been scientifically proven, this ancient, alternative modality is generally not covered by insurance.

In Asia, acupuncture has traditionally been practiced in group settings which made it affordable to the working class. Community acupuncture clinics are popping up across the United States to offer frequent treatment to all economic backgrounds.

Payment is based on a sliding scale, typically ranging from $15-45 per session. Though suggestions are offered based on income levels, each person decides what to pay. For many health problems it is necessary to have a course of acupuncture treatments to obtain results. The affordability of community acupuncture allows for more effective outcomes.

Cristin Gregory, a licensed acupuncturist, certified Chinese herbalist and owner of Wellbeing Natural Health, says patients get excited when they realize they can receive regular care.

“I have lots of people coming in now who would have never been able to in the past, but who really appreciate this medicine and what it can do for them.”

During a community acupuncture session patients take off their shoes and socks, roll up their sleeves and relax in recliners. The acupuncturist checks their pulses and tongues to gather information and briefly asks about their condition. Needles are then applied in the distal points that lie below the knees and elbows or on the head or neck.

There is soft music playing in the room, and patients have access to blankets, pillows and heat lamps to be as comfortable as possible. Patients usually stay 20-50 minutes and many often fall asleep.

Gregory believes the synergistic healing effects of being in a group enhance the effectiveness of the treatment.

“Qigong masters have always known that there is more healing qi or energy in a big qigong class than if you’re practicing solo. The same holds true for acupuncture sessions. The more people in the room, the more qi to go around, the better everyone will feel.”

Like many people, herbalist/acupuncturist Catherine Browne is concerned about the state of the nation’s health care industry. After having a private acupuncture clinic in Lake Norman for over 5 years, she recently opened  Charlotte Community Acupuncture uptown at the NC Music Factory. She feels her new clinic can provide relief to a range of people struggling with health care issues.

“When I heard about the community acupuncture revolution sweeping across the country, I knew that it would be an opportunity for me to be part of the solution to this crisis. I soon joined the Community Acupuncture Network which is a non-profit group dedicated to making affordable health care options available to all.”

Browne says didn’t know what to expect when she changed over to Community Acupuncture, concerned that all of the bells and whistles of a private setting might outweigh straight acupuncture, but her viewpoint quickly changed as patients thrived because they could receive treatments several times per week if needed.

She believes that everyone should be able to enjoy the many health and relaxation benefits that acupuncture provides.

“The community acupuncture model is very inclusive, and I am pleased to be treating patients from various socioeconomic backgrounds. The sliding scale is a wonderful opportunity for individuals to practice communal compassion by contributing more if they are able, thus making the service available for everyone.”

 

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