GTPulse: Imagine Health Provides Expert Acupuncture for Pain Relief
I’m always interested in natural, holistic ways to improve my well-being. I’ve been interested in acupuncture for a while now, but have shied away from it because of a childhood fear of needles. A messy start to 2020 has left me feeling burnt out, tired and foggy. I wanted to put my fear of needles in the back seat in favor of putting self-care in the front seat and decided I wanted to try the ancient Chinese practice.
Wanting to feel secure and reassured in my decision, I went to the best and brightest in Traverse City for acupuncture and Chinese medicine, Elon Cameron. Elon studied acupuncture for five years, graduating from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in Chicago with a master’s in traditional oriental medicine. Her passion for acupuncture and Chinese medicine began while living in Chicago. She was there to study photography and printmaking, and when she started experiencing health issues she found Western medicine to fall short on answers when doctors insisted that she was just under stress.
“I’m like, ‘I’m actually not that stressed. I’m really happy right now,’ and they’re like ‘Well. Stress.’ So it went in my chart and I felt really weird about that.”
A friend suggested that she try acupuncture and recommended an acupuncturist that specialized in skin disorders.
“I was breaking out in hives two to three times a day, every day. It was very debilitating. I went to see my herbalist on the southside and he took my pulse and looked at my tongue and spoke strictly in Chinese to his daughter who was middle-school aged. She would say things like, ‘You eat the pizza, you get the pimples.’ I was not a pizza and bagels college student.”
Elon’s hives weren’t from pizza. They were related to a love for tear-inducing spicy food. The acupuncturist told her to refrain from the spicy foods and prescribed her some herbs to take.
“Everyone in my dorm hated me because I would boil these stinky Chinese herbs and you could smell them everywhere in the dorm. But, I stopped breaking out in hives within a couple of days. It really had my attention.”
So she was all in. More than just someone who received acupuncture and Chinese medicine, she wanted to study the practice and help people experience what she, and millions of others have. Elon is an expert not only in acupuncture but also in Chinese medicine.
Acupuncture is known to treat a range of health issues. From headaches and chronic pain to mood swings and anxiety, acupuncture patients find physical and emotional relief from their ailments. Hair thin needles are placed at various acupoints throughout the body depending on what health issues are being addressed. Traditional Chinese medicine says that the needles work by restoring the flow of the body’s energy, or qi. Studies have shown that acupuncture works for chronic pain, and Western doctors hypothesize that the practice works by stimulating specific nerves and points in the body which release endorphins and neural hormones.
“The largest funding body of acupuncture research in the world is the United States military, and that’s because it’s so helpful for battlefield medicine. They’ve made a study of it for the last 15 to 20 years. This is a robust medical system. This isn’t something that’s hitting the scene now, even though it may seem that way.”
Elon trained at four different hospitals while she was in school and worked with doctors, physicians, surgeons and medical research scientists. However, as holistic health practices have gotten more popular over the years, weekend workshops have produced minimally educated people who are practicing ear acupuncture, or acupuncture on only specific parts of the body.
“Not everyone who uses acupuncture needles is an acupuncturist. Acupuncturists are by far the expert and most trained people to use acupuncture needles.”
I went in to try acupuncture with a mild apprehension about the idea of getting stuck with a few needles. When I expressed my fear, Elon promptly said that we should get that out of the way and showed me the thin needle before placing it in my forearm to show me what kind of a sensation I could expect. Relief flooded over me when I felt a barely detectable pinprick, less painful than a pinch from human hands. She then asked me questions about my medical background, sleeping and eating patterns, and any past personal history that could contribute to my health concerns. My concerns, stress and numbing pain in my low back, were talked about before she felt my pulse and looked at my tongue. Tongue colors can be indicative of circulation, body temperature and other underlying health problems. I laid down to get several needles placed in my calves, top of feet, head, and hands. Elon moved with grace and efficiency, and before I could talk myself into anxiousness over having needles all over me, she was placing a lavender-filled eye mask over my eyes and leaving the room. I can’t tell you if I was lying there for 20 minutes or an hour. I completely let myself relax and not let outside thoughts infect the experience. It wasn’t hard to do. I felt myself slipping in between being awake and asleep when she came in the room to take the needles out.
For the rest of the day I felt softened in the best way possible. Everything felt light, and my shoulders crept down from my ears for the first time in a while. The tiny holes where the needles were faded away within minutes with no pain and no traces of blood (my real fear for not liking needles). Elon said to record any noticed changes in the days after getting acupuncture. It’s only been a couple of days, but a couple of days with heavier sleep and a little less existential dread.
If you’re interested in trying for yourself, Elon stressed that it’s important to find an acupuncturist who has a degree in the practice, as opposed to just a few hours of training over workshops. As it stands right now, there’s no licensing available for acupuncturists through the state so anyone can claim that they’re a legit acupuncturist.
“We’re at a very exciting time for Chinese medicine in the United States and once we have licensure in the state of Michigan there will be a lot more clarity on who can call themselves an acupuncturist. I believe that this medicine is so beautiful and elegant and powerful, and it is a medicine of this time.”
Elon works out of her self-owned acupuncture and Chinese medicine office Imagine Health in Traverse City with a midwife and team of other passionate, board-certified acupuncturists.