My first acupuncture appointment with Stephanie was on May 9th, 2013. I can’t even begin to tell you how acupuncture has changed me (for the BEST), but that’s a story for a later post. To get you primed for that blog, here are some Q&As about acupuncture that might help you better understand the practice, encourage you to try it, and calm some trepidations about letting someone stick needles in your body (it isn’t painful!).
Stephanie Ray is a licensed and board certified Doctor of Oriental Medicine (DOM) practicing in Ocala, FL.
B+B: What is acupuncture?
SR: Acupuncture is a 3,000 year old practice of inserting very fine, sterile needles into specific acupuncture points on the body. There are hundreds of points that cover the body, each having their own indication for use. A trained Acupuncture Physician will diagnose each patient as an individual by using the pulse, tongue, and symptoms. With all the information they find, they will develop a diagnosis and treatment plan. Per this, the acupuncture points are chosen for this person’s treatment. The idea behind acupuncture is that the body should be in complete balance. When it is not in balance, this is when disease occurs. Using the needles, the physician helps guide the body back into balance. Sometimes it’s easy to think of your body as a highway: when there is a traffic jam, nothing is moving. When a needle is inserted into the right point, the energy causes the traffic jam to begin to flow again, and the problem sorts itself out from there. Essentially your body heals itself, just with a little guidance. There are several reasons why the body becomes unbalanced. These include environmental stressors, physical stressors and emotional stressors. Because we cannot avoid all of the stressors in our world, acupuncture is great at keeping you balanced to prevent disease.
B+B: How did you get involved in the practice of acupuncture?
SR: I was always the person to look for alternatives to Western treatment. I never responded well to meds– over the counter or prescription. My cousin began going to an acupuncture college in Orlando when I was in middle school. He would drive up on the weekends and show me everything he had been learning. I was fascinated! He finished school and I never gave it too much more thought. So I enrolled at the University of Florida because that had always been my goal. After 2 years of doing prerequisites I found myself conflicted with my major. I had just been accepted to the master’s program for occupational therapy, but I had already gone to my advisor to discuss other options because I wasn’t totally set on that. I asked her what I could do with a bachelor’s in health science and she informed me I could work in a bank. The look on my face must have been priceless. I then said “I mean as a health profession”. She looked at me and said, “not much.” I felt defeated because I had always wanted a career, not just a job. I walked out of her office and assumed that I would continue on with occupational therapy. A few weeks later I ran into someone in a music literature class who told me about an acupuncture college here in Gainesville. I literally left the classroom and called my mom to inform her I would be leaving UF to pursue acupuncture. Over the next few weeks I toured the college, sat in on several classes, and got a treatment in the clinic. My mind was made up! I left UF after finishing my AA and enrolled at Dragon Rises College of Oriental Medicine.
B+B: What do you love most about being an acupuncturist?
SR: I have the best career in the whole world. I get to see amazing people everyday. Acupuncture is a constant challenge to my brain because each case is so different. It is never repetitive or boring. My patients nurture my soul, and I can’t imagine another job as fulfilling. My husband often asks me if we won the lottery if I would continue to practice, and I absolutely would! I think of my patients as family and I look forward to everyday with them.
B+B: What are some common conditions you treat? Uncommon?
SR: Acupuncture can treat a wide range of illnesses. Most people come in initially for pain or stress because that’s what we are most familiar with acupuncture treating here in the West. Along with those, I commonly see anxiety, depression, menstrual issues, and digestive complaints, to name a few. More uncommonly I work with stroke victims, infertility, MS, and diabetes. Most people don’t think about using acupuncture for the more challenging illnesses, but it has proven to be very effective.
SR: Acupuncture (and Oriental Medicine) is a great preventative medicine. Everyone should get it on a regular basis to help prevent disease. Using the pulse diagnosis system, a trained Acupuncture Physician can detect disease that might be developing even before symptoms occur and begin reversing it.B+B: How should someone prepare for a session with you?
SR: Come prepared to talk about your health. We will discuss your health history from head to toe. The more detail oriented you can be, the better the diagnosis. Wear anything you would like, but comfortable clothes are welcome. Generally we only need to get up to the knee and up to the elbow with clothing. I can work around most clothing except skinny jeans– those are posing a problem! We will sit and chat for a while, and then we will begin treatment. You lay on a massage table, and extremely fine needles are inserted into specific points. The needles will sit for 10-20 minutes. It is very relaxing, and most patients leave feeling very calm and describe their experience as relatively painless.
B+B: Is there anything else you think people should know about getting acupuncture?
SR: Don’t let your fear of needles keep you from experiencing something so great. The benefits outweigh any hesitation you might have. The needles are nothing like we are accustomed to here in the West with vaccinations and blood draws. The needles are much finer and typically do not cause any bleeding or bruising. Most patients feel acupuncture is less painful than a mosquito bite. Don’t let fear win.