Just outside bustling downtown Windsor — okay, Windsor isn't exactly bustling, and it's more of a quaint town center than a "downtown," but the rigors of life take their toll on residents, nonetheless.
Be it the stressful daily commute, that bad knee that seems to assume a tight grip over your day whenever rain clouds move in, chronic migraines or the adverse effects of treatments undergone for a serious illness, Eastern medicinal practices are being put to work here in Windsor to make life a little easier, enjoyable and a lot less painful.
Windsor Patch recently sat down with Carrie Sawtell, owner of Bloomfield Avenue's Many Rivers Community Acupuncture, to talk about her work as a local acupuncturist and the array of benefits offered by the ancient Chinese medical tradition.
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Windsor Patch: Exactly what services do you provide here at Many Rivers?
Carrie Sawtell: This is a community acupuncture clinic. I'm part of a network of about 200 community acupuncture clinics in the United States. And what that means is that we have a sliding scale — so it's $15-$35 per treatment. Everybody pays whatever they an afford on that scale. There's no income verification required. There is a $10 fee in addition for the first treatment, which covers the extra time we spend with you going over your treatment history, your whole health history and coming up with a treatment plan for you.
You're treated in a community room. I have two large community rooms. I do points below the elbows, below the knees, on the head, so all you have to do is roll up your pants up and roll up your shirt sleeves. I can get to the entire body that way, so whether you have back pain, shoulder pain, knee pain, irritable bowels, headaches, migraines, for women any gynecological problem, we can address the whole body… And the best part about it is instead of being in a little room all by yourself, you walk into a room of people who are already relaxing. It helps you relax and acupuncture is fantastic for dealing with stress. Most people find as soon as they walk in the door, they start to relax.
What's the most common reason people come to Many Rivers?
Pain, definitely pain. I joke around that people come for pain and they stay for the relaxation. So after the pain has gone away, they find that they still want to integrate acupuncture into their lives — maybe they have a stressful event coming up, or even ongoing for maintenance just to help de-stress a little bit.
Now how exactly does acupuncture work?
We don't have a grand unifying theory about how acupuncture works, but we do have a number of theories that we've come up with and we believe encompasses the most basic ways that acupuncture is working, but it works in a number of different ways. First and foremost, let's talk about pain… It helps the body perceive pain differently. That's why I can put a needle in and you're subjective sensation of that pain could reduce immediately. I put the needle in and our headache or back is feeling better. In addition, the long-term effects are that it reduces inflammation, promotes blood flow to the area, and so that's how over the next day, week, few weeks, you find that shoulder pain, that back pain, is loosening up and getting better.
Those anti-inflammatory effects, of course, also work on the inside of the body, so when we're dealing with allergies and asthma, IBS, digestive complaints, acid reflux, they help modulate the bodies response to inflammation.
There have also been some studies that show acupuncture helps release endorphins, which are, of course, the feel-good chemicals.
Can you touch on the state of Eastern medicine in Western culture?
Yes. Luckily, more and more western doctors are seeing the benefits of Chinese medicine, and are integrating it into their practices or are referring their patients to us. Acupuncture works fantastically with western medicine. It also works very well with chiropractic, with massage, with any other healing modality that you're doing. A lot of time I'll have patients that go to their western doctor, they tell me what test results they have and then we work with them in conjunction with their western doctor to help promote health and balance the body?
What are some of the misconceptions about acupuncture?
First and foremost, that it hurts. I guess also people don't realize how many different things it can treat. Acupuncture was developed thousands of years ago in China, before western medicine. So just about anything you have, acupuncture can help. It doesn't mean it's going to cure things, it's not a miracle cure… If you have something like cancer and you're being treated by a western medical doctor, then acupuncture can help with the side effects of chemotherapy. If you have asthma and allergies, a lot of people come in seasonally to help reduce the symptoms… and also to prevent it from getting worse the next season.
How long have you been here?
I opened Many Rivers in May of 2011, so it's been about a year and a half.
How has business been here in Windsor?
It's been great. I love Windsor. This is just a fantastic location.
In terms of just having started your business, how are things going here in town?
Fantastic. In fact, I just hired another acupuncturist and I'm hoping to hire again. We are open five days a week. We have evening appointments available Monday through Thursday for people who need to come in after work, and I'm hoping by early next year I should have Saturday hours as well.
How did you get into acupuncture?
I have a history of my own digestive complaints, starting from an early age, and so I turned to acupuncture to help me and it really made a huge difference in my life. And the theory itself is just fascinating. It's a whole different way of treating and diagnosing disease, and I just couldn't get enough. In fact, if you peak back in to my office, you'll see my huge bookshelf. I'm a bit of a bookworm for Chinese medical books.
Is there anything I didn't ask that you want people to know about you or Many Rivers?
Many people don't know that lived in China for three-and-a-half years. After I got my masters in Chinese medicine, I did my post-graduate studies there. I learned Chinese and I interned in one of Shanghai's integrative medicine hospitals where they have Western and Chinese medicine side-by-side, and I also studied at the Shanghai University of Traditional Medicine.