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Student swears by acupuncture as health remedy

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

When junior Caitlin Wicks broke her collarbone in Europe this past summer, she followed the mainstream Western course of medicine to heal. When she returned home to California, however, she decided to use a treatment she had trusted since she was 15: acupuncture.

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese medicine that is based on the concept of chi, or energy. According to Web MD’s Web site a person’s chi, often spelled qi, flows along meridians through the body. When this flow is blocked or its energy imbalanced, a person becomes ill. Acupuncture uses extremely thin needles to restore energy flow and balance in the body.

“I picture it as the needles are creating space in my body where air can go and release the tension within my meridians that have been blocked,” Wicks said.

According to Wicks, who went to acupuncture treatments over the summer, the needles used are about two inches long and about the same diameter as syringe needles. However, with the exception of a few acupuncture points, the treatment does not hurt. In fact, she said that the points where the needles puncture the skin feel as if someone is simply applying pressure to that spot.

“Usually when I go I’m in a daze,” she said, ” it makes you feel really relaxed and sleepy.”

Acupuncture has been used to combat a variety of physical and emotional ailments and illnesses, the most common being back pain. But how does acupuncture affect women’s health?

According to Sara Rankin, a Licensed Acupuncturist who has been treating people in the Bay Area for the past five years, the Western understanding of women’s health does not necessarily translate well into Chinese medicine. Chinese medicine focuses on the movement of energy through the body, while Western medicine focuses on treating specific problems in the body. However, there are medical issues specific to women where acupuncture can be beneficial.

“Acupuncture is very helpful in balancing the hormones,” she said.

According to Rankin, acupuncture is also good for getting stagnant blood moving and building up a person’s “life force energy,” or chi, which can in turn increase a woman’s fertility. An explanation for this, she said, is that a woman having difficulty getting pregnant may have a weak chi. Therefore building a woman’s chi can increase the thickness of the lining of a woman’s uterus and thus have the same effect on her chances of becoming pregnant.

Some acupuncture patrons don’t have a specific illness they want to treat; they simply want to maintain optimal health. Wicks said such is the case for her entire family.

“My family just believes it’s so good,” she said. “Even my horse gets acupuncture.”

According to Wicks, a veterinarian who was trained in equine acupuncture treats all the horses in the stable where her horse resides. She said she loves seeing her horse obviously enjoying the treatment.

“He leans into the needles, he closes his eyes and drops his head,” she said.

Some might be skeptical, but Wicks is a true believer in acupuncture’s healing powers.

“I love acupuncture so much,” she said. “I wish more people knew about it and how it’s not scary and how it’s the most helpful thing ever.”