Acupuncturist Lisa Spence treats patient Ann Beacham in a group session at the Women’s Place in Westminster.

By Lisa Breslin

The lights are dimmed in a large room at The Women’s Place in Westminster. Recliners with crisp sheets and comfortable pillows are arranged around the perimeter of the room. On them, a man quietly snores; a woman pulls the blankets up a little more for warmth, and the woman next to her relaxes on her side in a fetal position.

There are five people in the room. All are relaxed. All have tiny needles piercing some part of their bodies – their feet, their heads, the sides of their hands.

To relieve pain. To relieve anxiety. To find rejuvenation.

Under the auspices of acupuncturist Lisa Spence, Carroll Hospital Center now offers community acupuncture, a service in which patients can receive modestly priced acupuncture treatments in a group setting. Patients, fully clothed, receive individualized treatments, but rest knowing they are getting a group rate.

Sessions cost $20 each (compared with the typical $75 an hour private rate) and are approximately one hour long. All new participants complete a one-time mandatory health assessment that costs $40 (compared with a $75 health assessment fee linked to private treatment).

“The big appeal of group, or community, acupuncture is, obviously, the price, “ said Westminster resident Mary Decker. “But also, because it’s a group thing and numerous people can be treated simultaneously, there’s a better chance of getting an appointment, especially at the last minute.”

Decker has received acupuncture from Spence for about two and a half years, in both private and group sessions. Initially she sought relief from hot flashes, but now she goes for what she calls “tune-ups.”

“My hot flashes were so severe that I could not get a decent night’s sleep,” said Decker. “I’ve tried yoga breathing, meditation, and herbs with minimal or temporary improvement. But with acupuncture, I saw improvement after the first session. I continued regular treatments until the hot flashes over the long term were much more tolerable.”

Group acupuncture sessions place Carroll Hospital Center at the forefront of a growing trend. Spence credits Eileen Overfelt, manager of The Women’s Place, for her willingness to listen to her ideas about group acupuncture, and for her ability to know where and when to pitch those ideas in order to make things happen.

Spence’s proposal made sense, said Overfelt: “We have been offering complementary services for 12 years and encouraging clients to use them in conjunction with traditional medicine.”

“Group acupuncture was a natural fit to our mission,” said Overfelt. “It can have a positive, powerful effect and we wanted more people to have the opportunity to enjoy its benefits.”

Spence, who received her first acupuncture treatment approximately 18 years ago, has practiced the art for approximately six years; four and a half years in private practice. In addition to her work at the hospital, she offers private sessions at The Center for Healing Arts in Westminster.

“Acupuncture enables me – and hopefully, my clients – to make changes that I need to make,” said Spence. “The needles’ effect helps me find balance. They help me listen to my body more and detect earlier when I need to make changes: sometimes lifestyle, sometimes in my physical routine.”

Acupuncture has similar effects for Mary Decker, who admits that she did not have to overcome the first hurdle that many people face: a fear of needles.

For the needle-squeamish, Decker notes, “Most of the time, perhaps 90-95 percent of the time, I feel nothing at all. Occasionally, I feel a little prick; once in a while one makes me twinge.”

“Every person is individual; some people feel pain much more than others,” said Decker. “Some people might feel the needles, others don’t. But once the needles are in, you don’t feel any pain or discomfort.”

The sensations that acupuncture clients feel once the needles are in range from “drowsy” and “calm” to “connected” and “energized because I’m aware of my body.” Most, if not all, note that if they seek acupuncture for pain, it offers temporary if not long-term relief.

Acupuncture is a bit like physical therapy, said Spence, “It takes some time to change patterns and let the body heal.”

“Initially, there is temporary relief,”she said. “But long term and permanent pain relief is also possible because treatments are cumulative.”

Private and group sessions have their benefits and drawbacks, said Spence. Private sessions afford more time for counseling before and after the acupuncture session, but they are more expensive. Group sessions offer minimal time to talk about specific needs or concerns, but lower costs might allow clients to have more frequent sessions.

“I would opt for group acupuncture once I have established a good rapport with the acupuncture practitioner,” said Decker. “I prefer the one-on-one of the individual sessions so that the acupuncturist can get to know me better and get a good feel for my daily habits (exercise, eating, sleep, etc.) and my overall health, stresses, temperament, etc. These are things that I feel contribute to the body being ‘out-of-sorts.’”

“Once that client-practitioner relationship has been established,” Decker added, “I feel the group sessions are just as effective as individual sessions.”

For more information or to make an appointment for a community acupuncture treatment, call Health Access at 410-871-7000.

What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese healing method that requires the placement of small needles in specific points along pathways in the body, in order to promote healing. In the hands of an expert practitioner, it is safe and effective. It is a gentle treatment that usually leaves patients feeling relaxed, rejuvenated and relieved of pain.

What can acupuncture treat?
We tend to think in terms of specific clinical conditions like ‘asthma’ or ‘headaches.’ Within the framework of traditional Oriental medicine, acupuncture focuses primarily on the person, and secondarily on the illness.
The acupuncturist usually views your symptoms (the reason you are coming for treatment) as a ‘branch’ expression of an underlying or ‘root’ imbalance. The practitioner uses the diagnostic principles and systems of Chinese medicine to evaluate your root imbalance. A treatment program is then tailored to address the two aspects of your circumstance, the root and the branch.

What about specific conditions?
Because acupuncture treats the whole person, it can treat almost every condition. Some conditions respond well to acupuncture treatment and some are very difficult to treat. In many cases, acupuncture can bring about a complete cure. In others, it is an effective management strategy.

Acupuncture is used to treat the following:
General: Allergies, Asthma, Sinusitis, Headaches, TMJ,
Back Pain, Sciatica, Musculoskeletal Problems, Insomnia, Anxiety, Dizziness, Depression, High Blood Pressure,
Chronic Fatigue, Fibromyalgia, Addictions, Indigestion, Constipation, Sexual Dysfunction, Post-Operative Recovery, Palliative Care.
Women’s Health: Menstrual Irregularities, Menopause, Conception Difficulties, Pregnancy, Childbirth, Lactation Difficulties, Postpartum, Ovarian and Uterine Problems.
Men’s Health: Prostate, Infertility, Impotence.
Pediatrics: Asthma, Cough, Digestive Problems, Behavioral Problems, Ear Infections, Sleep Problems.
Preventative Health: Prevention, Stress Management, Wellness, Seasonal Attunement.

Carroll County Acupuncturists

Lynn Breeding, 410-552-9858

Karen Greenstein, 410-521-6999

Mt. Airy:
Sheila French, 410-598-8687

Alison Hartman, 410-857-1614
Karen McCune, 410-596-5479
Janice Novak, 443-421-1964
Greg Padrick, 410-871-1664
Lisa Spence, 410-871-7000, 443-244-1727
Jim Thomas, 410-857-0995