Boston acupuncture expert explains healing therapy

Boston acupuncture expert explains healing therapy

Claire McManus received her first acupuncture treatment while pursuing a medical degree about 15 years ago, and it ultimately led her down a new career path. "I quickly changed course and haven't looked back," McManus says. Now board-certified by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine and licensed by the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine, McManus holds a master's degree from the New England School of Acupuncture. 

Why should people consider acupuncture?

"Acupuncture is one component of traditional Chinese and East Asian medicine that includes dietary and herbal prescriptions and exercises. It's based on the idea that there are numerous energy pathways — or chi — throughout the body. When the pathways are blocked, the body experiences imbalance, causing pain, depression or poor sleep. My job is to find out where those blockages are and manipulate the pathways to re-energize the body's natural defenses. Acupuncture isn't a replacement for standard medical care. I prefer to call it complementary, because it works with — not in opposition to — more typical Western medical treatments."  

When is acupuncture a good choice of treatment?

"My patients range in age from 8 to 88, with complaints from pain and digestive issues to insomnia and allergy problems. I tend to see a lot of women. Many conditions related to menstrual cycles — mood, headaches and sleep and energy issues — are well-suited to acupuncture. Three patients may walk into my office with headaches and get three totally different treatments, because I treat the person, not the disease. A good acupuncturist will look at the entire picture." 

How does the process work?

"Typically, the first session involves a health history review and a conversation about the main issue they're seeking help with, how they sleep and their mood. I take their pulse, [examine] the area of pain and formulate a treatment plan. There may be anywhere from five to 35 needles in a given treatment - the needles are hair-thin, sterile and usually painless - though occasionally they can feel like a mosquito bite. A typical patient in my office comes for three to six treatments."

Is there anything new in the field?

"I work with researchers at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital, who use state-of-the-art imaging to assess the effect acupuncture has on the pain centers of the brain and how it actually works. Although acupuncture is an old form of medicine, current medical technology captures what's actually happening in acupuncture treatments, and it's amazing to be part of that process." 

Do you think non-traditional medicine is becoming more common?

"Acupuncture is a fast-growing field in the United States. The World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health both have extensive lists of approved reasons for acupuncture treatment. The NIH gives out millions of dollars each year to further study the East Asian medical modalities."

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