Diffusing The Confusion Over Acupuncture and Massage Therapy
By Nevy Wilson, Herald Staff Writer (reprinted)
The lights are dimmed, the air is smoky and soft music begins to play. But it’s not a romantic rendezvous, it’s a centuries-old healing technique that’s about to take place. Acupuncturists and massage herapists have long been offering clients an alternative to the conventional treatments offered by doctors and nurses. In massage therapy, relief comes in the form of human touch or the use of machinery to massage the flesh and muscle. In acupuncture, relief is delivered through hair-thin needles that penetrate the skin in one of the body’s more than 360 unique acupuncture points.
Alternative methods also are gaining acceptance from insurance companies and doctors. Sarasota neurologist Dr. Steven Norris says he likes to offer his patients a variety of choices.
“I like to offer my patients a smorgasbord or buffet of options and acupuncture falls in the middle of that spectrum,” Norris said. “It’s not the easiest thing you can do, but it’s not surgery.”
Norris said whether it’s massage or acupuncture or other natural healing methods, relief comes to patients for similar reasons.
“As we understand more about how pain works and how people’s bodies work, we’re starting to realize that many of the things we used to think of as alternative work in the same way,” Norris said. “It relaxes the muscles, increases blood flow and washes away toxins for people feel better.”
People are looking more and more to both professions as a way to feel and look better. Acupuncture and massage methods like neuromuscular and Swedish massage offer people pain and stress relief, but with some forms of massage there is an additional benefit. Endermologle – a method that uses mechanical suction and rollers – also can help men and women smooth the surface of the skin and get rid of unwanted cellulite and dimpling.
Acupuncture physician Barry Greenberg has been practicing in Manatee County for almost 16 years. He says he’s seen a dramatic change in the way people accept acupuncture.Greenberg has gotten several clients—suffering from everything from Headaches to pain from car accident injuries—referred to him through Norris.
“Acupuncture has made a lot of inroads and is becoming more and more accepted, even a lot of the insurance companies are accepting it as a treatment and doctors are referring patients to us,” Greenberg said.
Greenberg was introduced to the benefits of acupuncture when he was a New York paramedic. He suffered a back injury and was looking for a way to relieve his pain.
“I prefer to describe it as complimentary or integrative healing, rather than alternative,” Greenberg said.
Patricia Bissell, 51, a speech therapist at Palmview Elementary, started getting acupuncture treatments about a year ago when she injured her knee. A year later when she hurt her shoulder carrying her husband’s bowling ball through the airport, she cam back to Greenberg for help.
“The pain was excruciating until I came in,” Bissell said. “It’s amazing how quickly you feel the difference.” Bissell says it’s a myth that the needles hurt. “You don’t even feel it,” Bissell said. Greenberg said he still has to explain some of the misconceptions about acupuncture.
“There’s a real misconception that acupuncture hurts when really most people fall asleep,” Greenberg said. “The needles are very thin, hair-thin, and they are stainless steel, sterile and disposable and they are not hollow like a hypodermic needle.”
“If you have pain, it really helps relieve acute focal pain,” Bissell said. “It helps diffuse the pain.”
About 90 percent of the patents who come to Greenberg for treatment are there for pain relief, he said. Other treatments available can help people quit smoking or lose weight.
“We don’t fully undertstand how acupuncture works. It’s like a prod,” Greenberg said. “The idea is it prompts the body to heal itself in a non-invasive way.”
Acupuncture can treat pain caused by ailments like arthritis, whiplash and fibromyalgia.
“Acupuncture does a lot of things, but the main things is that it teaches the body to treat itself,” Greenberg said.
A person’s body typically responds to acupuncture treatments within three to five treatments, Greenberg said. Some clients respond best to acupuncture treatments that are combined with heat or electrical stimulation, Greenberg said. The heat element in Bissell’s treatment is coming from a moxa roll which is a Chinese herb that smells like sage.
“Sometimes we treat with adjunctive therapies like this, sometimes we don’t,” Greenberg said. “It all depends on the individual and what they respond to.”