As many of you know, I’m the last kid of four, and I wasn’t immune to a bit of needling from my three older sisters. And they’ll even tell you today that it was for my own good. Which brings me to the topic of today’s podcast – acupuncture. But this, my dear siblings, is a truly therapeutic form of needling with proven benefits – and actually relieves pain (vs. inflicting). A bit of levity there but I’m sure some of you can relate to having those overly helpful older siblings.

Jessica Brown, LAc, DiplAc, MOm is an acupuncturist at Hennepin Healthcare who many patients find extremely helpful in treating mostly complaints about pain, but also concerns related to digestion, sleep and anxiety. She joined me for Episode 16 of the Healthy Matters Podcast. Her team of eight acupuncturists specialize in treatments for oncology support, orthopedics, and women’s health issues. But what really gets people in the door for acupuncture is relief for pain – and headaches are a common complaint.

“Headaches are multifaceted and can be from many different causes,” Jessica said. “And sometimes they are hormone related. Oftentimes I’ll see women who have increased headaches around their cycle, but sometimes they’re also due to things like trauma. We get a lot of referrals for patients in the Traumatic Brain Injury Center just to help with managing their headaches after  head trauma. Those headaches can be long lasting and difficult to resolve.”

A benefit of treating patients with acupuncture is that no medication is required.

“There are side effects to many of the medications that are used to treat headaches,” Jessica explains. “So acupuncture is a nice tool to use in order to manage them.  A lot of headaches are also related to tension and acupuncture’s extremely good at diffusing neck and upper back tension, which, if that is the cause of the headaches, sometimes takes care of it.”

We’ve all heard that acupuncture has been around for a long time (like 3,000 years), but how does it work, exactly? Jessica describes it like this:

“Essentially with the needle that we use, we’re creating a stimulation in the body that engages multiple systems of the body, including the nervous system, the cardiovascular system, the endocrine system and the immune system. If there is a local pain area, we’re definitely treating that area, but we’re also stimulating increased circulation. We’re stimulating the release of endorphins and enkephalins, which are your body’s natural pain killers.”

She said that after treatment, people find that even though they may come in for one specific issue, they experience an impact on other systems including digestion and sleep – so acupuncture can have a local as well as a systemic response.

Women are also experiencing the benefits of acupuncture for menopause symptoms like hot flashes, energy issues, pelvic pain and headaches. While the actual mechanism of how this has proven beneficial for helping these hormonal issues is not fully understood, it is being studied.

If you’re curious about this safe, effective alternative to treating pain, nausea, sleep and anxiety issues, please take a listen to Episode 16 of the Healthy Matters Podcast with my guest Jessica Brown.

The Hilden family with my parents and lovely (helpful) sisters.