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Center offers untraditional care options

People with chronic pain have a less traditional option to try in New Richmond.

The Acupuncture Wellness Center has been seeing patients since Jan. 1, 2008.

Joseph Gustafson, licensed acupuncturist and facility owner, said he specializes in using acupuncture to heal pain. Some conditions that have been relived with the use of acupuncture are neck and back pain, fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis symptoms and menstrual pain.

According to Gustafson, medical theory says acupuncture stimulates the nervous system to release chemicals in the muscles. The chemicals released either change the experience of pain or trigger the release of other chemicals and hormones, which influence the body's regulation. The improved energy and biochemical balance produced by acupuncture results in stimulation of natural healing.

Although acupuncture has been practiced in China for over 2,000 years, it didn't make its way to America until the Nixon administration, Gustafson said. It was then that an aide was in China and needed an emergency appendectomy. Rather than using Western methods of pain reduction, the aide was treated with acupuncture.

It's still a growing and developing field, Gustafson said. There are more than 60 active, ongoing studies going on now related to acupuncture.

Gustafson himself is still somewhat new to the field. This is his second career. Before he was involved in the financial services industry.

He graduated from Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington in 2005. Laws require practitioners to pass acupuncture board exams and state licensing. Gustafson is licensed in both Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Gustafson said he chose New Richmond to start his practice because he liked the area. He currently lives in River Falls but there are already three acupuncture clinics there. Additionally, he said he likes the proximity to the Cities as he still does some work in clinics there.

Visiting an acupuncturist is not like walking into a Western medical clinic. The lights are dim and the colors are muted. Calming music plays just loudly enough to be heard.

Gustafson said the first appointment with a client usually takes about an hour and a half. During this time, his assistant takes down health history and blood pressure readings.

"When a person comes in, we pay very close attention to things that you wouldn't get in a mainstream healthcare facility," Gustafson said.

Acupuncturists look at pulses, condition of the tongue, texture and condition of the skin, hair and voice as well as lifestyle and feelings.

When receiving actual treatment, the client lies on a table that looks similar to a massage table, except a little bit wider.

Gustafson then hand places needles at various places on the body. Amount, location and depth of needles depends on the conditions for needing acupuncture.

"Treatments are very individualized, very personalized," Gustafson said.

The needles are not like hollow, blood drawing needles or sewing needles. Rather they are very thin, flexible stainless steel with rounded points. They are not much thicker than a piece of hair. When the needles are struck just right, they remain straight and will puncture the skin.

Needle safety is important to the practice of acupuncture. All needles are kept in sterile containers. Once used, the are disposed of in large plastic jugs located in both of Gustafson's two treatment rooms.

Gustafson said some people feel nothing at all when he puts the needle in them. Others feel a mild sensation.

Needles are placed around the body at specific points. There are 365 major points that have been located. Stimulating different combinations of those points produces different effects.

Number of treatments required also varies with the conditions the client is seeking to alleviate, Gustafson said.

Gustafson said the months his center has been open have gone well.

"I'm very pleased with where things are and how things are going," he said.

The acupuncture Wellness Center is located south of New Richmond on Highway 65. Hours are flexible and appointments can be made by calling 246-0762.