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Ann Cotter With Michelle Cottle

I first came into contact with complementary medicine as a dancer. I saw therapies like pilates and yoga help dancers with their movement problems. When I got to physical medicine and rehabilitation training and found that these therapies were not widely used or known about, I found out as much as I could about how they could help people with medical problems. In addition, I’ve been interested in Chinese medicine since was a little girl. I did my seventh-grade science fair project on acupuncture.

I spend about half of my time seeing patients. I also have to educate medical staff about complementary medicine. Doctors are a tough audience they’ve seen fads come and go, so it’s important to show there is evidence these are not quack therapies.

In an acupuncture class, I make them practice the techniques on one another. Many come in skeptics an leave converts I’ve heard so many physicians say that learning acupuncture was the one course that changed their practice more than any other.

A fellow physician on staff with me at the hospital I used to work at had back pain that had not responded to physical therapy, oral medications or injections. After three treatments, his pain bad subsided significantly. “I don’t know if it was you or God,” he said, “but I have to admit I’m a lot better. “Oh I said. “I’m sure it was both. We try to work together whenever possible.”

Treatment also makes believers out of patients. They are often nervous when they come in for acupuncture, so l give them a needle in one of a couple of spots; like the top of the head, and this usually calms them down right, away. By the end of a session because of the endorphin release prompted by the procedure, they can be pretty euphoric. We make sure they sit down a few minutes before leaving and that they have their coat and purse with them. I jokingly tell them no to sign any large checks or make any large purchases right after treatment.

One of my patients is a businessman with sarcoidosis, a connective tissue disease. He decided to get acupuncture, hoping it would relieve his symptoms of nurnbness and tingling in his feet. The day he came in l had a resident following me around. She was a little nervous watching all the needles go in. I said, I’m asking you all these questions, but what you really want to know is if this is going to hurt. Well, I stuck a needle in the top of his head. He immediately felt more relaxed. The med student was sitting there with big eyes. I though, Maybe I’ll put a needle in her head, too. I did, she calmed down, and we all had a good laugh.

We insist that everybody who works at the center have some type of mind-body practice themselves. If there’s a lot of turmoil and stress among the staff, then we’re not going to give patients the feeling of peace and well being that we try to teach.