East meets West | SteamboatToday.com

East meets West

Hospital introduces acupuncture treatments

Kelley McDaneld represents a small foothold for Eastern medicine in a bastion of Western tradition.

McDaneld is the new staff acupuncturist at Yampa Valley Medical Center.

A growing number of hospitals, particularly on the West Coast, are embracing acupuncture. However, McDaneld said it’s not commonplace in Colorado.

“There aren’t many hospitals in Colorado that have an acupuncturist on staff,” McDaneld said. “So it’s really pretty progressive, especially for the Western Slope.”

Dr. Brian Siegel, who runs the Pain Management Center at Yampa Valley Medical Center, said that when it comes to the complicated question of how to best deliver pain relief to people who are suffering, he’s open to new solutions.

“It’s all about improving the quality of life of my patients,” Siegel said. “It’s not so important how you get there, just so long as you get there.”

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Hospital spokeswoman Christine McKelvie said McDaneld is able to work with patients to provide relief from a variety of symptoms.

“What is really exciting about this new program is its versatility,” McKelvie said. “A woman delivering a baby can choose acupuncture instead of, or in addition to, traditional pain-relief methods. A surgery patient can use acupuncture before surgery to relieve anxiety and after surgery to help with pain and rehab. We’ve been promoting the use of acupuncture for everything from menopausal hot flashes to allergies.”

McDaneld said it’s difficult to explain acupuncture in Western terms. Eastern and Western medicine have separate lexicons.

The mental image of needles penetrating the skin is most commonly associated with acupuncture. The needles have such a small diameter they create little sensation when inserted at one of more than 360 acupuncture points on the human body.

When properly needled, each acupuncture point can affect blood flow and elicit nerve responses, McDaneld said. By needling appropriate acupuncture points, an acupuncturist aims to unblock circulation channels and stimulate the body’s natural healing response.

In Western terms, acupuncture stimulates endocrine glands, alters the release of neurotransmitters and hormones and increases the release of endorphins. But that Westernized version of acupuncture doesn’t account for Qi.

Qi (pronounced “chee”) is best described in English as “life breath,” or perhaps “life force.”

In Eastern terms, humans experience pain when blood circulation and Qi stagnate.

Siegel said the psychological aspects of pain pose endless challenges for physicians.

“There are many things you can’t explain,” he said. “About a quarter of the people out there have a disc herniation and yet they have no back or leg pain. Other people, with the same condition, are in horrible pain.”

McDaneld’s first exposure to Eastern medicine came when she informally apprenticed herself to a Chinese practitioner in Seattle. Ironically, Zhaoxu Xing originally was trained as a Western physician. He adapted to Eastern medicine in the wake of China’s Cultural Revolution. Zhaoxu Xing was banned to an agricultural center where the only tools he had to treat patients were needles and traditional herbs, McDaneld said.

McDaneld already held an undergraduate degree in biology from Duke University. Inspired by Zhaoxu Xing, she studied for three years at Southwest Acupuncture College in Boulder, where she earned a master’s degree in oriental medicine. She spent that time working with patients in a clinical internship.

McDaneld said acupuncture doesn’t work for everyone. And it rarely offers dramatic results on the first visit. However, many patients leave her office in a temporary state of euphoria. Long-lasting results from acupuncture are more likely to take effect after a dozen or so treatments.

Initial visits cost $75. Sub–sequent visits cost $60 ($55 for seniors).

McKelvie said members of the community might choose to have acupuncture at YVMC without a doctor’s prescription. They don’t need to be patients at the hospital. Other people who may choose to have acupuncture treatment include physical therapy patients, residents of the Doak Walker Care Center, women planning to give birth at the hospital and surgical inpatients and outpatients.

Siegel said that as McDaneld sees more patients, he’s eager to learn whether their length of stay in the hospital and post-surgical nausea can be reduced. In the case of patients at the Pain Management Center, he hopes acupuncture will reduce reliance on narcotic painkillers.

To schedule an acupuncture appointment, call 871-2363.