If you have never tried Acupuncture, you seriously do not know what you’re missing! Acupuncture can literally help with almost ANYthing!! From stress, insomnia, anxiety, pain, infertility, wrinkles…you name it, the needles can help. I feel like I owe so much of my life to the ancient Chinese practice, and especially to my practitioner, Christi De Larco. Christi has not only helped tremendously with my back pain but also was a huge factor in my getting pregnant with my second baby.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, I have struggled with lower back pain for most of my adult life. The first time I experienced back pain, it suddenly crept up out of nowhere and left me bent over and barely able to walk. I later learned that there was pressure on my disk and my body responded by forcing me to lean forward to try to alleviate it (our bodies are so smart!). While bending over helped, a hunched position was not going to work long-term!  I was not only in pain but also in a total state of panic. I couldn’t stand up and I could barely walk. OMG! Since then, these times of spasm have come and gone, sometimes worse than others, but have at times made it difficult to exercise, lift my babies and do other everyday activities. I have tried absolutely everything possible (Orthopedic MD, physical therapy, ultrasound therapy, prescription medicine, massage, chiropractor, etc.) and nothing helped until I found acupuncture.

When I first met Christi, I wasn’t actually in back spasm. I had been trying to get pregnant with my second child for over a year and had heard acupuncture could help. By this point, my Western medicine doctor had me on daily shots sending my hormones completely wild and I still was not getting pregnant. As a last resort before IVF (In vitro fertilization), I decided to give Acupuncture for infertility a shot (no pun intended!!) and had heard Christi was the best for this! Finally, I got pregnant via IUI (Intrauterine Insemination), so I will never know for sure whether it was the medication, the insemination or the Acupuncture, but I like to think it was a little of all three!

Because Chinese medicine is a holistic medicine we don’t treat diseases or disorders, we treat the patient. While this might sound like a catch phrase it really does explain how very differently we look at medicine. For us everything is energy…There is no separation between the treatment of physical and mental/emotional/spiritual imbalances; they are not fundamentally different but simply different manifestations of imbalance. -Christi De Larco

I wanted to feature Christi on LivLight, because she is the perfect practitioner. For me, she has been part “therapist,” always putting me at ease and often suggesting I look at things in a different light, and part healer. Whenever I have pain, Christi is able to help and I love how knowledgeable she is about Chinese herbs, bodywork, how food affects us and of course, Acupuncture.

Hope you’ll read on for my interview with Christi De Larco about all things Acupuncture. She currently practices in Greensboro, North Carolina (a NYC transplant) at Stillpoint Acupuncture, but also suggests how to find a good practitioner in your area.

Interview with Christi De Larco-Acupuncturist

For our readers who are unfamiliar with Acupuncture, would you briefly explain what it is and how it works?

Acupuncture is based on the belief that each and every one of us has our own energy pattern; the idea that in good health our energy flows smoothly and without stopping or slowing.  When that flow of energy is disrupted, slowed or stopped we start to develop symptoms that are essentially our body’s “check engine” light.  If we ignore these symptoms long enough without doing anything to restore a healthy flow of energy either the symptoms become more severe or we develop even more symptoms.

Acupuncture itself is the use of extremely thin surgical steel needles placed in acupuncture “points”, which are the most electrically active areas of the body, to reset the flow of energy through our bodies.  The goal of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine is to help us achieve the best possible health that we are individually capable of achieving, it’s about maximizing our health rather than waiting until something is broken to fix it, it’s the original anti-aging medicine!

If our tissues, organs and energetic pathways aren’t receiving a steady flow of energy or life-force they can’t operate at their optimal level, this is sometimes likened to a garden hose that you use to water and nourish all the plants in your garden, if you get a kink in the hose, and just a trickle of water comes through, some or all of the flowers and shrubs in your garden will start to wilt and if the situation isn’t resolved they will get weaker and more wilted and eventually die.

Where did you study Acupuncture and what style/type do you practice and/or specialize in?

I received my MS in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine (known as a MS in Traditional Oriental Medicine, MSTOM) from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in New York City.  Chinese medicine school was definitely one of the best times in my life and was the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.  I’ve been practicing for over 15 years and am still fascinated by the medicine almost every single day and feel really lucky to have found a job that is still so fun and so rewarding.

I specialize in pain relief and neurological conditions and feel truly honored to work with so many people who come to acupuncture as their last, best hope for medical conditions that they simply can’t get relief from.  These cases hold a special place for me because I came to acupuncture for relief from debilitating back pain when I was in my mid-20s.  I was living in NYC and at one point the pain was so bad that I dreaded coming to the end of every block on my walk home from work because it hurt so much to step down off the curb.  I’d had the pain for the better part of a year and saw a series of healthcare providers who really didn’t have a clear idea of why I was in pain.  I was so tired of taking drugs that made me feel crummy and running tests that had inconclusive results.  At the end of that particular personal saga, I had an orthopedist tell me that I would have back pain for the rest of my life, that it would never go away.

I was young, fit and other than my back pain, I was healthy and I thought that his was an absolutely terrible answer so I started looking for a new one.  I decided that acupuncture was going to be my way out and I kept showing up and I kept doing everything my acupuncturist told me to do and lo and behold, gradually my back pain got better.  As my back pain got better I started to work with my acupuncturist to alleviate my painful periods and regulate my digestion.  All things that I’d been told were either normal or that I should just take some Tylenol when I’d tried to bring them up at my annual physical.

What other types of bodywork are you trained in and/or offer to your clients?

In my schooling we were all trained to practice acupuncture, eastern nutritional counseling and tui na and acupressure body therapies.

Tui na is a form of Chinese medical massage, it is a therapeutic massage rather than a relaxation massage – I tell my patients that “my massages aren’t feel good massages, they’re feel better massages” because I’m more concerned with how the massage makes you feel over the next week rather than during the massage itself.

Acupressure is also a form of body-work using the energetic channel pathways to adjust the soft tissues in the body and rebalance energy flows.

Eastern nutritional counseling is about using food as medicine based on your current medical condition.  This helps back up the therapies we use in office and help support the effects we’re achieving.  Because it’s based on your constitution, your dietary suggestions change at different points in your life, there is no one size fits all with eastern nutrition.

What are some of the more common reasons people come to you for Acupuncture and what are some of the surprising things Acupuncture can help with?

Because acupuncture is an ancient medicine it is a form of primary care medicine and can treat most medical conditions.  The most common reasons people in the US seek acupuncture is for pain relief, menstrual/fertility/menopausal issues, digestive issues, emotional issues, sleep problems, allergies/cold & flu relief, and neurological issues including migraine, traumatic brain injury, MS, dementia, Parkinson’s and stroke.

Can Acupuncture help with mental, physical and emotional issues?

Because Chinese medicine is a holistic medicine we don’t treat diseases or disorders, we treat the patient.  While this might sound like a catch phrase it really does explain how very differently we look at medicine.  For us everything is energy.  That is so foundational that I’ll say it again: for us everything is medicine so this means that the energy of a physical imbalance will eventually affect your emotions and that the energy of an emotional imbalance will eventually affect your physical body.  There is no separation between the treatment of physical and mental/emotional/spiritual imbalances; they are not fundamentally different but simply different manifestations of imbalance.

How often do you recommend people be treated in order to see results?

Most people can receive acupuncture once a week to achieve results, however, more severe and more complicated cases may require treatment two or three times a week.  Because acupuncture is a cumulative medicine, as your body comes closer to it’s balance point the effects of the treatments begin to last longer and longer, we use this as a guide to determine when to begin to space treatments farther apart.

And once the condition for which you’re seeking treatment has been resolved, most people can come in for maintenance for anywhere from every two weeks to once each change of season but the majority of people are able to maintain balance by coming in once a month.

For readers from around the country, how do you recommend finding a good/reputable practitioner in their area?

First and foremost, talk with friends and family and see if they have an acupuncturist that they like, or even better, one that they love!  Then call the acupuncturist and have a chat, feel free to ask them about their education or their specialization and just generally get a feel for how comfortable you feel with them as a person.  Just like finding a good therapist or a good hairdresser or a good anything else, sometimes the first person you try just isn’t a good fit for you personally.  You should feel comfortable opening up to your acupuncturist because you’ll be discussing details about your health that you probably don’t discuss with anyone else, so if it doesn’t feel right try to start looking around for someone new until you find someone you trust and feel comfortable with.

A great resource if you don’t know someone who loves their acupuncturist is the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine this is our national board that certifies acupuncturists.  Finding a practitioner here will guarantee that they have a full acupuncture education that includes Chinese medicine diagnosis.  Many states have loopholes that allow other healthcare practitioners to practice acupuncture with a bare minimum of training; for instance in New York State M.D.s and dentists can use acupuncture after a 300 hour training which generally only includes a few basic points and 200 hours of which can be done via video, whereas an MSTOM requires almost 3,000 hours of training in all aspects of Chinese medicine.  You can search their database of practitioners at https://mx.nccaom.org/FindAPractitioner.aspx