Acupuncture helps women find balance
by Kirsten Tellam
Oct 07, 2010
“It’s not like they go in that far,” says Segall, a licensed acupuncturist, as she demonstrates the correct way to insert an acupuncture needle.
Forget the needles of horror films and nightmares: the needles used in modern acupuncture are flexible, solid, disposable and “the width of one or two of your hairs,” Segall explains. And contrary to the popular misconceptions of acupuncture, Segall uses not hundreds but on average only 12 needles per treatment.
Originating in China roughly 5,000 years ago, the most frequently studied form of acupuncture involves “penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles that are manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation,” says the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Jason Bussell, president emeritus of the Illinois Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, says acupuncture helps with more than just pain relief.
“Acupuncture and herbs are the medicine of China,” he says. “Not the pain relief of China, but the medicine of China. A common misconception is acupuncture’s just for pain. But it’s been used to treat everything in China.”
Segall founded the Healing Ground Center for Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine in Northbrook about seven years ago. She explains acupuncture is driven by the body’s inherent search for balance.
“Chinese medicine is based on the philosophy that in all of us we have this life-force called Qi,” Segall says. “And it travels along 12 primary pathways in the body called meridians. And as long as there’s balance between these meridians, then the individual’s healthy. But when imbalances occur—which can happen to any of us because of stress or environment or something inherent from your family members—your body throws out a symptom.”
Acupuncturists diagnose the root of that symptom by taking the client’s regular pulse, where she says she can feel all 12 meridians, six per wrist, depending on the amount of pressure and finger position she uses. Then she can determine where to insert the needles.
“Based on which meridians we put the needles on, which points on the meridians we put the needles in, it helps either calm the meridian down if that path is too strong or nourish it if it is too weak,” Segall says. “And once the body has restored its balance it does its own healing work.”
Juliet Berger-White, an acupuncture client from Chicago, says balance restoration is what makes acupuncture so effective.
“Unlike anything else I’ve tried, acupuncture really seems to be the thing that allows the body to rebalance,” says Berger-White, 37. “The effects can come as you’re getting off the table.”
Segall agrees, noting the importance of balance for women in particular.
“Women in particular, I think, strive for balance,” she says. “So I think that’s one reason why women gravitate more toward this type of work than men.” Segall notes her clientele is 90 percent women.
“I see adolescents. I see girls starting with their first periods,” Segall says. “I see women who are in their 70s and 80s for aches and pains or insomnia or whatever their issues are. I see women through menopause. So through the whole lifespan.”
Jeanne Poorman of Chicago says acupuncture helped her with the discomforts of menopause and aging.
“Acupuncture changed my life,” says Poorman, 57. “As people get older, I think for women especially, you start to have more physical issues, not even menopause issues. You start getting arthritis. You have pain where you never had pain before. And it’s really helped me with hot flashes. During menopause, to help with some of the symptoms.”
Bussell notes the different term for menopause used in Asia.
“In China and Korea they refer to it as a ‘second spring,’” says Bussell, who practices at A Center for Oriental Medicine in Wilmette. “Menopause is a non-event in Asia.” He says this is the result of a lifelong healthy diet coupled with regular acupuncture and herbal treatments that are more characteristic of Asian lifestyles.
Segall says regular acupuncture treatments can help women with “PMS, anxiety, depression, menopause—so hot flashes, migraines.” She also works with couples on improving fertility.
Berger-White notes she delivered all three of her children without using pain medication by receiving acupuncture treatments while in labor.
“I think there are definitely benefits for acupuncture in labor,” she says. “It helps grab on to what our bodies want to do and move it along.”
But as with acupuncture, Segall strives to find a balance in all things, including forms of medicine.
“I think Western medicine and Eastern medicine go beautifully together,” she says.