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Published on June 02, 2015

Acupuncture: Ancient art of healing treats a variety of health issues

SIOUX FALLS (June 1, 2015) – If you’ve been looking for a different, more holistic approach to deal with a health concern — whether it’s a chronic health condition or annoying menstrual cramps — acupuncture might be a tool that works for you.

Acupuncture is a more natural approach to alleviate pain or improve your quality of life, says Sally Williams, DO, of Avera Medical Group Integrative Medicine.

There’s a laundry list of women’s health issues that have been successfully addressed by acupuncture. Acupuncture has been proven to address conditions including infertility, menstrual cycle concerns, hot flashes, low energy, stress and anxiety, and about any type of pain. It can also help with many other conditions that aren’t specific to women, such as allergies, gastrointestinal issues, fatigue and irritable bowel syndrome.  

Acupuncture is completely safe for anyone, causes minimal side effects, and can be combined with other therapies or medications. “It’s going to complement most anything else you’re doing for your health, wellness or condition,” Dr. Williams said.

During acupuncture treatment, the nervous system is activated by “needling” an acupuncture point, which sends a message back to the brain. Acupuncture impacts how your body secretes its own hormones and pain-relieving chemicals. “It’s a neurochemical response that promotes balance and healing within your body,” Dr. Williams said.

Acupuncture, which originates from Chinese medicine, is based on energy pathways, or meridians, that flow through the body. When a meridian is blocked, then the energy flow is disrupted, which can lead to pain or illness. To restore balance, the acupuncture practitioner inserts needles at points along the meridians.

The needles are about the size of a human hair, and are not hollowed out in the middle like syringe needles. “Most people do really well with it and are often surprised at how much it didn’t bother them or hurt,” Dr. Williams said.

Lynn Thomason of Sioux Falls was “point-blank desperate” when she sought out acupuncture treatment from Dawn Flickema, MD, who also practices with Avera Medical Group Integrative Medicine.

Lynn had been experiencing severe nerve pain as a result of postherpetic neuralgia, a complication of shingles. “I would wake up in pain several times a night, every night.”

She tried compounded ointment, over-the-counter remedies, and several prescription medications. Nothing helped; her pain continued to affect her quality of life.

Lynn was initially incredulous about trying acupuncture, but she was willing to try it. She noticed an improvement in her pain relief after the fourth or fifth week of acupuncture treatments, so she kept going.

“You don’t have anything to lose, that’s for sure,” Lynn said. “Just because it’s not the most typical thing doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. It is science. It is medicine. It is healing. It’s just a little different.”

About 75 percent of people are good responders to acupuncture. For about 25 percent of the population, it may not be the best tool. “But the only way you’ll know is to try it,” Dr. Williams said.

More and more insurance companies are covering medical acupuncture, so it’s worth it to check before paying out of pocket.

Avera Medical Group Integrative Medicine offers acupuncture in a relaxed setting, with the additional benefit of being connected to a health care system. “As physicians performing acupuncture, we are going to understand and be more familiar with a patient’s medical history and symptoms,” Dr. Williams said. “We’re also able to collaborate with their physicians or providers, if needed.”

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