Last February, The American College of Physicians published new guidelines for the treatment of most people with lower back pain. The recommendations call for doctors to prescribe alternative therapies like exercise, acupuncture, massage therapy or yoga before medication.
This change in policy by Western medicine professionals is a direct reaction to our country’s epidemic of opioid addiction, which often begins with a simple prescription for ailments such as back pain. In the process, it seems physicians have given their stamp of approval on these healing forms of ancient science.
Enter Natalie Kilheeney, L.Ac., Dipl. OM. Natalie is a licensed Acupuncturist and Herbalist who is a Diplomat of Oriental Medicine and is registered with the Medical Licensing Board of Indiana. Her South Bend Acupuncture practice is housed at Beyond Zen Studio, in Granger, where clients can combine the alternative practices of acupuncture, yoga and massage as prescribed by the new ACP recommendations.
“I treat athletes who use it on all different levels,” Natalie said, from broken bones, sprains and even repetitive injuries that otherwise would require surgery, to simple injury prevention and performance enhancement. “Where blood flow is stagnant, acupuncture increases the flow to joints, ligaments and tendons which in turn reduces inflammation and encourages quicker healing.” Even without injury, fitness enthusiasts recognize how stimulating blood flow to targeted areas helps prevent injury and keeps the body more agile.
Athletic clients who see Natalie regularly for treatment also achieve improved running times and increased performance levels, “Because the body is more flexible and able to cooperate in a much healthier way with the demands of the training.”
Give it to me straight…
Acupuncture is the relatively painless insertion of very tiny pins placed at anatomically specific points around the body. Each of the more than 400 points has a specific function to reinforce change in the body. Traditional acupuncture points run throughout the body, connecting to one of 12 organ systems or meridians.
An initial tongue diagnosis will reveal the internal environment of the body and indicate the points where systems are depleted. Once the areas of blockage or stagnated blood flow are determined, the pins will be placed to unblock and open flow throughout that system.
“We know that by stimulating those points and thus increasing the blood flow to the areas of imbalance, we will push the body to heal or restore itself naturally.” Healing time is unique to the individual and the injury. “Hip or back pain that has been chronic for 20 years will likely take longer than a sprained ankle that happened last week,” Natalie said. Keeping blood flow to an area is important to keep inflammation out, thus acupuncture is effective for many of the body’s aches and injuries, such as:
- upper and lower joint pains,
- back pain
- sleep issues
- digestive and nutritional
“Acupuncture works really nicely with the burning, tingling and numbness of sciatic back pain.” With broken bones, Natalie said recovery can be reduced by several months compared to traditional casting and physical therapy, “Because we stimulate all that blood flow in the area so the body is constantly healing itself.”
Of course stress can also be relieved through acupuncture. Many of Natalie’s athletic clients use the treatment to relieve anxiety prior to a race or big game. “It helps keep you in your center along with getting the proper amount of sleep so you can maintain your overall balance.”
Want to try it?
Your first appointment with a Licensed Acupuncturist will begin with a look at the tongue, to determine your specific points of treatment. Natalie continually emphasizes that each body is
different. It’s easy for us to understand that chronic issues may have different root causes, yet interesting that even something as discernable as an ankle sprain will indicate different points of insertion for different patients.
For Natalie, this initial 90-minute exam and treatment session is $120. Additional 60-minute treatments are $90. Up until now, treatment has generally been an out-of-pocket expense. However, with the new ACP recommendations, it is expected more and more health insurance policies will cover alternative treatments.
Clearly, Western medicine has helped bring the thousands-year-old preventive and healing therapies of acupuncture, yoga, and massage into the mainstream. By housing her practice at a studio like Beyond Zen, Natalie also has the resources to prescribe a holistic plan for healing and prevention.
Cupping for Agility
Natalie Kilheeney, South Bend Acupuncture, has athletes at all levels who come in for traditional Chinese cupping treatments “It’s another way to train yourself as a whole,” Natalie said. “Athletes often come in a few weeks prior to their events, to get their bodies balanced.”
A quick flame devoids a glass cup of any oxygen. “We put the cup on the skin to open up the pores, get the lymphatic system going and release any myofacial tension and stress in the muscle,” Natalie said. At a deeper level, the strategically placed cups move out stagnant blood and thus reduce inflammation around the muscles the athlete uses most.
“The marks indicate what’s happening under the skin,” Natalie said. The quick draw of skin makes the brain thinks it is injured, so it sends a continuous flow of fresh blood.
“It is like a reverse massage, and actually feels very good.” Natalie said her clients report they feel more agile and flexible after a treatment, and more ready for training and competition.