Today is National Acupuncture Day as well as my birthday. It makes me smile to think that my birthday is the same day as National Acupuncture Day, as if somehow it was my destiny to become a practitioner of Chinese Medicine. So exactly how did a girl from Chattanooga, Tennessee end up in New York City working as an acupuncturist/herbalist in an completely Chinese office?

I joke and say that I am the “token” in the office that I have shared for the last eight years with the famous Dr. Jin, her husband Dr. Kin (both acupuncturist from Shanghai), and their Chinese only staff. They treat me like family and tell me that I am part Chinese because I work long hours like they do. But no one works as hard and as long as my Chinese colleagues–inspirations to us all.

Most people are unaware of Acupuncture Day and the benefits of acupuncture, but we acupuncturist are asked to spread the word.

I want to take this opportunity to share my story about how I came to rely on Chinese Medicine as my primary health care system, and why I chose this career path in my second spring of life.

In the early 80’s I was living and working as a professional modern and jazz dancer in NYC. Dancers work long and hard physically, and my body was constantly plagued with aches, pains, strains and tears. When I needed medical attention, the western doctors would tell me to stop dancing for six to eight weeks! For a dancer, that was like telling me to stop breathing for that amount of time. Clearly that was not an option, as “the show must go on” and the rent needed to be paid.

When the unbearable pain on the left side of my shoulder was unresponsive to massage, chiropractic, Rolfing or even rest, I was at my wits end and unsure on which way to turn. That’s when a fellow dancer told me about her success using acupuncture. She had gone to regulate her nonexistent menstrual cycle and it had worked like magic. This all seemed very strange and foreign, but I had no where else to turn. So off I went to see Dr. Sally Dan, a Chinese acupuncturist.

Her office was dismal; with shower curtains separating the four treatment tables, she offered none of the privacy we westerners are accustomed to — but I really didn’t care at that point, I just wanted help!

She was tough and brutal with her treatment but after my first session I was at least fifty percent better–she liked to talk in percentages. After two more treatments I was at one hundred percent. What a miracle this little Chinese lady had performed! I went back for treatment throughout my dancing career, during my pregnancy, and any time that I needed care over the years. Chinese Medicine became my care of choice.

My husband, a former dancer on Broadway, sustained a serious neck injury jumping from the trapeze during a performance in Cat’s, and was told that he required surgery on his cervical vertebrae immediately. I insisted that he try acupuncture before surgery. Dr. Sally Dan restored his function after several visits; to the amazement of the medical community. My husband became a believer as well.

So when it came time to change careers from my successful personal training business, I was drawn to the idea of becoming an acupuncturist! I wanted a career that I could pursue well into old age, that challenged my mind, and that helped people return to better health.

Chinese Medicine was the culmination of the knowledge I gained as a dancer studying movement, the human body, and kinesiology, combined with the years I had spent as an exercise physiologist and nutritional advisor. This was a career where I could continue to make a difference in people’s lives and their health. This was a daunting decision, but a perfect choice for me.

My husband and daughter were so supportive and forgiving as I spent four years of rigorous study at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine to earn my Master’s of Oriental Medicine degree. This career path is my tour du force.

I’m often asked, what does acupuncture treat? And how can this form of medicine help one regain better health?

This form of medicine can address all health issues through its very simple belief that Qi (life force) flows through meridians (Qi paths), and it is when the flow is disrupted that dysfunction and disease occur. By balancing and regulating the flow of Qi, the body can be restored to balance and better health.

Chinese Medicine sees the person as a whole and seeks to balance the mind, body, and spirit rather than merely treating symptoms. Acupuncture has a regulatory effect on the all the systems of the body: the circulatory system, nervous system, endocrine system, and muscular system.

It is the job of us acupuncturists to explore where the imbalances of our patients lie, and then formulate a treatment plan that can help the body self-correct. The ancient saying is “When there is free flow–no pain; No free flow–pain or dysfunction”.

In my ten years of practice, I have seen patients for many different disorders and diseases. I have helped restore menstrual cycles, balanced menopausal hormones, lowered blood pressure, eased depression, relieved back pain, shoulder pain, and knee pain, improved digestion, and helped in increasing pregnancy rates; but these are just a few disorders that acupuncture helps balance and restore.

It is a simple medicine that can treat the most complex issues as it all comes back to restoring and regulating life force, or Qi. The body and mind has the innate ability to heal, restore, and to return to better health — and Chinese Medicine just reminds the body and mind how to get there again.

Now that you are aware of National Acupuncture day, and know some of the benefits of acupuncture, schedule an appointment and feel the difference!