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The Original Medicine

Lifestyle & Opinion

By April Trevino

Walking in to the nicely decorated home that she shares with her girlfriend, Jennifer, I spot Lauren in the kitchen. A free spirited beautiful young woman, with blonde locks loosely twisted into a messy bun, sporting a cute diamond stud nose ring, stylishly dressed in a vibrantly colored top, with light blue jeans. There is wall of shoes by the front door, and I notice Lauren and Jennifer are barefoot. I whisper to Jose, “we need to take off our shoes.” Then I turn my attention to a barrage of books about their interests, comforting features like salt lamps and pictures displaying love and family ties. Even Jasper, their dog, is a happy soul, full of life.

My husband and I have been invited over because Lauren is studying traditional Chinese medicine, and has agreed to perform acupuncture on him for pain that he has been experiencing in his shoulders and neck. Sitting on the floor next to her coffee table, Lauren starts a conversation with my husband, Jose. “So, how can I help you?” Lauren asks, followed by a series of health questions about his concerns for the pain. She is meticulous, even taking Jose’s pulse and surprisingly, asks to look at his tongue. It seems that, in Traditional Chinese medicine, the tongue can tell a lot about the state of the body, almost like the window to the soul except it’s more of a window to possible ailments.

Lauren wraps up her consultation, asking Jose if he is interested in being treated. “If you have time,” Jose agrees. Lauren is equipped with her trendy tackle box of remedies used to treat her patients, offering cupping therapy, ear seeds and of course her specialty, needles. The guest bedroom instantly transforms into the treatment room. The space is a modestly decorated room, lit only by the light from the ceiling fan—equipped with a queen size bed, a dresser and side tables. Lauren and Jen team up to turn off the fan, which proves to be a challenge as we all laugh at their struggle. Since Lauren is treating Jose from her home, rather than the clinic, she explains what a typical treatment room would look like, a special type of table the patient is treated on–much like those seen in a massage clinic, with a blanket and heating pad. To lull the patient into a calmed state, the lighting is dimmed, with instrumental music playing softly. Salt lamps glow for positive energy and the aura of essential oils fill the room.

As Jose lays on his back, shirtless, Lauren begins explaining the process, applying an ear seed in the middle of his forehead. She then shows him a thin needle, having him touch it so that he can get a feel of what it will feel like as it goes into his skin. The treatment begins and I excuse myself from the room.

Soon after Lauren finishes inserting a series of needles (approximately eight to twenty needles are used typically) into Jose’s shoulders, neck and feet, Lauren leaves the room so that Jose can relax. A process that normally lasts about twenty to forty minutes. During this time, she invites me to her office to show me detailed charts of the meridian points that run through the body, and explains Yin/Yang. I ask Lauren how she knows where to put the needles. Lauren explains that the initial consultation is what helps determine the root cause of the patient’s ailment. The needles are placed in different points throughout the body, centered on the diagnosis, and will vary in size based on the areas they are being used. I ask about the typical salary of an acupuncturist and Lauren giggles, saying that was hard to answer because it all depends on how successful the practice is. Unfortunately, because most insurance companies do not accept claims from Chinese medicine clinics, it is hard for Eastern medicine practitioners to succeed. Lauren explains that Traditional Chinese medicine is considered “alternative” medicine here in the United States. Despite this, the typical going rate for a session is $60 to $95.

Lauren expresses the pressure that she feels while treating patients that have some really deep issues. She tells a story about a college student that had taken drugs, and was having thoughts of suicide—the patient didn’t even know what drug(s) she had taken. Lauren believes the reason why patients seem more comfortable to share details of their struggles is because of the in depth consultation that is performed.

Lauren is excited to share a success story with me. She is so enthusiastic about this particular story because she currently practices under a physician, which means she often sees patients for follow up appointments. She tells me that she was recently tasked to treat a patient on her own, from the start. The woman was suffering from infertility. The patient already had one child, but was having difficulties getting pregnant a second time. She was also suffering from incontinence, which kept her up most of the night headed for the bathroom. After two months of seeing Lauren once a week, the patient was not only pregnant, but her incontinence was under control! Lauren excuses herself to go and remove the needles from Jose’s body.

Before our visit wraps up, Lauren shares her vision board with me—inspirations and aspirations for her very own clinic. Every detail of her vision is filled with passion. Her dreams for her career as an acupuncturist is evident, she is knowledgeable beyond her years and there is no doubt that she will have a flourishing practice of her own someday.

Header photo by Tomas Fano (flickr creative commons)

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