We are now in who-knows-what week of the COVID-19 pandemic, and since deciding to move all Samaritan Center services online, every single one of us has had to adapt to the challenges and gifts of telehealth. We in the Integrative Medicine (IM) Department have had a particularly challenging challenge:
How DO We Provide Acupuncture Treatments Through The Computer?
Since 2011, the Samaritan Center has hired Licensed Acupuncturists (L.Ac’s) who provide acupuncture, bodywork, and many other treatments and services as part of our integrative approach to treating the whole person.
Acupressure and Self-Massage
While we cannot administer acupuncture and bodywork via telehealth, we CAN instruct our patients in acupressure and self-massage techniques. In the past month, we have met with our patients via the online platform Doxy.me or Zoom to teach them acupuncture points and massage techniques for reducing their anxiety, improving their digestion, relieving their headaches and jaw pain, and easing symptoms of PMS.
Many Other Treatments and Services
That said, the “many other treatments and services” have come into considerable play for us since our transition online in March. L.Acs at the Samaritan Center have training and, in some cases, additional certifications in Chinese Herbal Medicine and Nutrition, Applied Clinical Nutrition, Qi Gong, Tai chi, and Pilates. One of the gifts of telehealth is the opportunity to spend more face time with our patients, which allows us more time to pull from our diverse training and experience to come up with an even more comprehensive plan for addressing their health concerns than usual.
Take “Linda,” for example. “Linda” came to us reporting an uptick in anxiety, poor sleep, and a flare-up of her chronic knee pain. We discussed her diet, digestion, exercise and activity levels, and exactly how her sleep was disrupted and the location and nature of her knee pain.
Diet, Exercise, Sleep, Breathing
We came up with a plan to decrease inflammation, balance her blood sugar, reduce her pain, and balance her mood with simple changes to her diet and an addition of one supplement. We taught her a breathing technique to regulate her emotions when she felt her anxiety going up, as well as a couple of easy but effective exercises she could do at home to strengthen her legs and relieve her knee pain.
During the telehealth session, the breathing exercise immediately dropped her anxiety from an 8 on a scale of 10 to a 2. It took 10 minutes. The two knee exercises completely alleviated her knee pain; they took all of 5 minutes. She agreed to reduce her two large sodas per day to one per day (before Noon), consume protein at breakfast, and add in a Chinese herbal formula and Omega-3 fish oils to address inflammation and anxiety.
On our follow-up visit one week later, Linda reported practicing the breathing exercises and knee exercises every other day. She had reduced her sodas to one per day, had a protein shake or eggs for breakfast, and had taken the herbs and Omega-3 fish oils as prescribed. She estimated her average anxiety level was about a 3/10 for the past week and said her knee pain was either nonexistent or mild, and that practicing a few reps of the exercises completely relieved it.
Acupuncture treatments are powerful in their ability to relieve symptoms and facilitate healing. They are beneficial and wonderful, and while we look forward to the day when we can be back in the clinic practicing this element of the medicine we love, we are seeing incredible healing occur as we empower patients with tools and strategies for healing themselves via telehealth.
30-minute telehealth appointments are available for $15, and 45-minute telehealth appointments are available for $25, with scholarships available for those who demonstrate need. Call 512-451-7337, option #8 to schedule an appointment!