Manchester Massage Therapy Students Experience Acupuncture First-Hand

A recent field trip rounded out their training in Eastern body techniques

On February 9, four Massage Therapy students at the Manchester campus of Seacoast Career Schools had the opportunity to try acupuncture for themselves. Instructor Cheryl Giorlando brought her class to the Manchester Acupuncture Studio, where they were able to experience community acupuncture. This outing had a strong positive impact on the students and reinforced many aspects of what they were learning in class.

A foundation in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Giorlando has brought several classes to this same location in the past, in support of content the students are learning in her “Body Therapies of Asia” course. This class covers a number of different modalities, such as shiatsu, Thai massage, and energy work involving chakras as well as polarity. In the classes leading up to this visit, Giorlando went over information about different aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine, of which acupuncture is a part. These include the body clock, meridians (energy pathways), and pressure points.

“Acupuncture is one of the world’s oldest, most common, and dependable medical therapies,” Giorlando says. “It is simple, safe, and effective.” She says that the purpose of the course is to integrate some of the Eastern philosophy. “In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the mind, body, and spirit are all connected,” she says, “so if there is anything wrong with one of those three, it affects the other two.” She notes how useful this model is for students learning massage therapy, since it is such an intimate profession.

What happens during a treatment

Acupuncture uses thin, sterile, disposable needles—each one used one time only—that are inserted shallowly into specific areas of the body. “The purpose of the needles is to support the body’s ability to heal itself,” Giorlando says.

The studio where she takes the students is a community acupuncture clinic. This means that many people who go there sit together in the same space, and receive treatments in the reclining chairs that line the room. There is no need to get undressed, because the treatments focus on the foot and ankle (up to the knee), the fingers and wrist (up to the elbow), and the shoulders, neckline, and head. “These are the end points of the meridians,” Giorlando explains. The fee is a sliding scale, depending on what people can afford. “It is a quiet and peaceful environment,” she says.

When the students arrived at the studio, one at a time they chose a chair to sit in, and spoke briefly with acupuncturist Andy Wegman. He asked each of them—as he would with any new patient—to describe what conditions they were suffering from. Then he checked their pulse, and inserted needles in places that would target whatever conditions they described.

Students describe their experiences

Students Lily Karninchky, Melissa Brown, Dana Springer, and Julia Hundley had the chance to experience acupuncture on that day. Lily says she had received an acupuncture treatment from a friend years before, but says she didn’t know much about massage or bodywork at that time. “Since I didn’t have any specific physical issues I was dealing with, Andy did a maintenance treatment on me, on my feet and arms,” she says. “You are supposed to relax once he inserted the needles, and I definitely was comfortable to the point that I almost fell asleep. I can see why people use this time to meditate. I felt very refreshed afterwards.”

Melissa had never done acupuncture before, but said, “It was one of the best experiences I ever had.” Having suffered from sinus problems and head congestion over the previous several weeks, she let Andy know about this condition, and he noticed her coughing. “The treatment helped to drain my sinuses right away,” she says, “and I’ve been getting better ever since.”

The needles are nothing to fear

Melissa says she wasn’t sure what the physical experience of acupuncture would be like, but going in she didn’t have a fear of needles. “It was easier than having your blood drawn,” she says. “I didn’t really feel them going in, because the needles are so thin and they don’t go in very deep. All you feel is a little pinch.”

“Andy makes it very clear that he doesn’t want you to have any pain,” Giorlando says. “He asks patients to let him know if a needle is causing a burning sensation that does not go away immediately. If so, he will remove it and insert a different needle in the same area.” He also offers blankets, to ensure that the patient is warm enough. “He was very professional and respectful,” Melissa adds.

Conditions acupuncture helps

Practitioners believe that acupuncture is a safe and reliable way to:

  • decrease pain in almost any location, including headaches and migraines
  • quiet inflammation and shrink swelling,
  • boost immunity
  • shorten the recovery time after surgery—by nearly half
  • reduce anxiety and depression
  • improve digestion
  • restore mobility
  • regulate hormones.

“Acupuncture is particularly helpful for helping people managing chronic diseases,” Giorlando adds. “It can affect quality of life by improving mood, energy levels, and quality of sleep.” She notes that the treatment does not create any side effects, which can be useful to someone who may already be on a range of medications.

Something to do again and recommend

This experience had such an impact on Melissa that she says she would like to continue to receive the treatment several times a week. Julia was so impressed that she signed up for a membership at the studio on that very day. “I would like to get a treatment again in the future,” says Lily, “and I would definitely recommend it as an option for anyone who is suffering from headaches or other kinds of pain.”

“It is a good alternative to traditional medical care,” Giorlando says, “and can be beneficial to many people, including as preventative medicine as well as for overall health and well being.” The students returned to their massage therapy classes with a new appreciation for this Eastern modality, and ready to apply it to all they are learning about ways to treat the body.

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