Holistic health care is becoming a more popular option in the mountains
Special to the Vail Daily
The spine-tingling effects of acupuncture are observable even after a single treatment, with a noticeable buzz steadily humming around the body. The sensations might be new to anyone who undergoes an acupuncture treatment, but the practice of acupuncture is one that has been around for thousands of years as a tenet of medicinal practice in many Asian cultures and as a newer phenomenon in the United States.
The demand for alternative health options has increased in the High Country area over the years, and local practitioners are looking to add their skills and knowledge to the list of treatment options.
The tenets of traditional Chinese medicine are based in long-term preventative health, and although acupuncture plays a big part in this, herbal remedies and cupping — as seen on Michael Phelps and other athletes during the Rio Olympic Games — among other things, all weave their way into the practice, which is then customized to fit each individual’s needs.
The practice of acupuncture, in particular, is a part of this larger umbrella of holistic health, and while acupuncture has long been seen as a medium for treating pain, injury or musculoskeletal problems, the applications are far more wide ranging.
“I think the biggest thing now, especially that I’ve seen in the last three or four years, has to go along with the food allergies and gastrointestinal disorders because of our food allergies,” said DiAnna Kelsey, owner of Healing Hut in Eagle-Vail. “People are finding that acupuncture and herbs are actually helping them more than some of the Western medicine routes.”
Seasonal allergies have been increasingly sending more people to see acupuncturists like Kelsey, although the holistic treatment has also shown promise for psychological disorders ranging from depression and anxiety to post traumatic stress disorder.
An acupuncture treatment is pretty painless — even for those with needle phobia — and often uses needles far thinner than a traditional hypodermic needle. The needles are lightly inserted into different points on the surface of the body along a meridian in order to realign electrical energy and get all of the body’s different systems firing on the same page — a point-by-point way of reaching homeostasis, or equilibrium.
Jan Livergood, another Vail Valley acupuncturist and owner of High Country Acupuncture, said the goal of acupuncture is to align the body’s systems to promote a more general baseline for well-being, and using the treatment to mitigate smaller, nagging ailments or pains can have longer-term benefits for overall health.
“Everything is customized, and every patient is different, so every treatment plan is different,” she said. “Acupuncture is great for migraines, sleep problems, digestive problems; we’re boosting our whole body to be at its best. If you’re dealing with any of those things, you’re not the best person you can be.”
East meets West
Although many practitioners are beginning to see wide-ranging benefits from introducing a traditional Chinese medicine plan into their patients’ overall health strategy, the desire remains to work these older, Eastern philosophies of healing into more mainstream treatment plans. Kellie Krasovec, of Kellie Krasovec Acupuncture in Edwards, uses acupuncture and traditional Eastern medicine to treat a variety of ailments but has found a particular niche in working with couples and individuals dealing with infertility and patients with internal ailments. She said research has shown promise for coupling holistic approaches with Western-based care.
“The applications for fertility, in particular, have become better known because there’s so many assistive reproductive techniques now, like (in vitro fertilization), and there’s so many great studies that we’re seeing the outcomes of getting pregnant and having a healthy child are much more improved when combining it with acupuncture,” she said.
She cited advances in Western medicine as being beneficial for looking in depth at different ailments, but said sometimes the philosophy of Western medicine can miss the bigger picture that is embraced by traditional Eastern treatment.
“The exciting thing about Western medicine is how in depth we can look into the body,” she said. “But sometimes that approach singles in on a single tree and forgets the forest.”
As holistic health care is becoming a more popular option both in the High Country area and around the country, accredited acupuncturists emphasize going to a professional when thinking of exploring traditional Eastern medicine. Livergood explained that acupuncturists go through years of training and complete rigorous ongoing education and coursework in order to keep up with their licensing.
“If you want to try acupuncture, go to an acupuncturist,” she said. “There’s more to the practice than sticking people with needles, and we’re seeing people get hurt by going to unqualified practitioners.”
The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, which can be found at nccaom.org, offers a comprehensive overview of how practitioners become licensed and has a nationwide database of certified practitioners for prospective patients to find an acupuncturist in their area.
Kelsey also stresses that potential patients should be realistic about their goals in seeking an acupuncture treatment and that the purpose of undergoing a traditional Chinese medical treatment plan isn’t based on a quick fix, and might require follow-up appointments to work at the root of chronic problems.
“People can come in once and try it, and if it’s something that resonates with you and you like it, then try it again,” she said. “If people are coming in for something more chronic, it’s important to let people know that it’s not going to be a quick fix — we’re not going to give you this pill that’s going to make things better for right now.
“We want to make sure we get to the root cause of what’s happening and continue to treat that, and part of figuring out if it’s right for you might be asking yourself, what do you want to devote to yourself to make yourself better?”
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