Categorized | Business, Featured, Health, Letters

Health Beat: Find Your Bliss With Community Acupuncture

Updated Dec. 2. 2012 at 6:15 a.m.

By Ann-Marie Mesquita, Staff Writer

WINDSOR —  The two-inch needles are thin like spider legs sticking out of human skin, seemingly harmless.

But many acupuncturists consider them potent remedy for stress and other ailments that disrupt the body’s balance and well-being. As the holiday approaches, those acupuncture needles may be one way to boost immunity and calm nerves–so you can get on with gift-buying, or party-planning.

To attain mental bliss during the holiday season, you can find low-cost and high-quality havens right here in Greater Hartford.

Many Rivers Community Acupuncture in Windsor is a 20-minute drive from Hartford worth your time. If only to lay comfortable on a reclining leather chair, while listening to the sound of the ocean’s backwash along a sea shore, albeit through a speaker box.

Founded by Carrie Sawtell, Many Rivers offers treatment sessions for a sliding scale fee of $15 to $35.  For anywhere from 30 minutes to three hours, you can sit with needles at various pressure points to de-stress.

You pay what you can afford. Sawtell doesn’t ask for income verification. But there’s a $10 paperwork fee for new clients to go over your health history and a treatment plan. Many Rivers will offer an open house on Nov. 30 from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Acupuncture involves using needles to ease pain by stimulating the body.

It has been practiced in China for over 3,000 years. When this ancient Chinese tradition moved to the Western hemisphere, acupuncturists offered one-on-one sessions in private rooms. One session costs up to $100. That’s because you are paying for the acupuncturist’s time. Within this nation-wide network of community acupuncture centers, it’s high volume for low cost. So you may be in a room with up to four people. And you can stay as long as you want until you feel better,  Sawtell said.

Sawtell, who discovered acupuncture in college when she had digestive problems, said she couldn’t afford private sessions. Then she purchased a book and used the  methods described to apply pressure to certain areas of the body to treat specific ailments. Since then, she has been hooked on the tradition.

She also lived in China for three years and studied the craft. When she returned to the United States, she moved from her home state of Massachusetts to open her practice with her husband in Windsor. Many Rivers is part of the community acupuncture movement with a mission to help make health care affordable and accessible in the United States.

Sawtell was keen on having an affordable practice to attract friends, family, other struggling college students and those with limited discretionary income. So patients who don’t mind the company of up to four strangers can find, if not anything else, a moment away from home or work to relax without the distraction of children, husband, wife or other factors that hamper concentrated moments of peace.  In the winter time, it is an alternative to a walk in the park.

So the cost is relatively low and it reduces stress. But can one session cure other ailments? No. Like any treatment, you need a series, which varies and is based on the ailment. According to Sawtell, acupuncture can treat many ailments: colds, flus, infertility, menstrual cramps, inflammation, headaches, among other things. But it cannot treat cancer. It can, however, help with the side effects of radiation and other cancer treatments. Acupuncture can also be effective for all kinds of pain, including back pain, shoulder pain, hip pain, knee pain, and heel pain.

From a western medical perspective, the practice of acupuncture is changing the way the body perceives pain.  A recent study showed that acupuncture reduces levels of a specific protein that is elevated when a person is stressed, Sawtell said. Acupuncture may also release endorphins that decrease pain. In addition, it helps to reduce inflammation and open up the flow of qi (pronounced chee) to let your body heal itself.

So … heal thyself.

Throughout the months of December and January, The Hartford Guardian will introduce you to low-cost remedies for a better well being and mental health in the Greater Hartford region. This is the first of a series on low-cost treatments for Mental Health and Well Being. 

Also check out this daylong workshop of experts with resources and practices that demonstrate how to be more productive and healthy in our lives. Topics covered include calming your mind, using yoga techniques for stress reduction and mindfulness training. The event will be at Kabbalah House at  1023 Albany Ave.  from noon to 5 p.m. It is free and open at the public. Wear comfortable clothing and bring a blanket for floor work.

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