Ways to wellness: acupuncture; infrared heat therapy

Many are ‘getting the point’ toward wellness

By Pauline DiGiorgio

Shana Kearney, right, licensed acupuncturist at From the Hearts Holistic in Utica, administers acupuncture to fitness sensation Pauline DiGiorgio.
Shana Kearney, right, licensed acupuncturist at From the Hearts Holistic in Utica, administers acupuncture to fitness sensation Pauline DiGiorgio.

(Editor’s note: The following is the third and final segment in a series on “Ways to Wellness.” The segment on infrared heat therapy is being repeated due to errors in the original presentation.)

When I decided to start writing my “Ways To Wellness” series, acupuncture was one of the first topics on my list.

Like many In Good Health readers, the most common thought that pops into my mind with acupuncture is needles. How are needles going to bring me a sense of wellness?

This is why I needed to dive into some research first to see the ins and outs of this widely questioned practice. Shana Kearney, licensed acupuncturist at From the Hearts Holistic in Utica, was ready to give me the ABCs when it came to acupuncture.

Acupuncture stems from traditional Chinese medicine. It requires the use of sterile, disposable, one-time-use needles that are placed on the pressure points of one’s body. Each point is very specific and is designed to promote self-healing by balancing your body’s disharmony.

There are many uses for acupuncture, but the most common are pain management (which Kearney specializes in), relieving stress and anxiety, and to treat a variety of acute and chronic conditions.

Below is a description of my first acupuncture experience!

As I walked into the spa-like setting of From the Hearts Holistic, 2111 Genesee St., my body switched to relaxation mode. My acupuncturist, Kearney, had me fill out a health form to get to know me better and showed me the different treatment rooms along with introducing me to Toni La Bella, owner of From the Hearts Holistic.

The treatment room was ocean blue with a calming lighting scheme and soft spa music. Kearney instructed me in advance to wear comfortable clothing, so there was no need to remove any for my treatment.

Balancing act

I was placed on the bed on top of a heated mat (which feels amazing on the lower back), with the softest blanket over my lower body. She explained to me that she would choose points to create a “balancing, relaxation and overall wellness” effect on my body. She customizes all treatments to the patients’ needs and wants, but I had stated no specific pain or problem.

The pressure points she chose to insert the needles were in my legs, wrists, forehead and ears. She said these points promote circulation, blood flow and boost my immune system.

Here are my honest thoughts of getting needles poked all over me: I would be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, but Kearney is so calming that she washed away any second thoughts of me running out of there, even after seeing needles close to my face.

DiGiorgio
DiGiorgio

She reassured me the feeling of them being inserted was either a light pinch or a feeling of nothing at all.

Let me tell you, I felt nothing at all. Kearney is very skilled, experienced and quick. As each needle went in, I felt a sensation of warmth and body balance.

Going from right to left, she made sure to equal out the pressure points.

So let’s break down what exactly is happening to the body during this time. There are hundreds of acupuncture points in the body, each carrying their own energy channel. Chinese doctors use the term “Qi” to describe the energy flows that pass through the channels. The belief of the effectiveness of acupuncture therapy is based on the needles correcting the “ Qi” imbalance (for instance, back pain). When the needle stimulates acupuncture points, it sends sensory neurons to the central nervous system. This causes the release of endorphins — a natural painkiller — and other neurotransmitters that modify nerve impulses. Your body’s response is to numb pain, or if used for anxiety, the body will use the release of endorphins for the “feel-good” relaxed effect.

I then was left alone briefly to lay back and relax. This is when I performed a body scan on myself, focused on some breathing and a bit of meditation.

You do feel the needle in your muscles. It was such an interesting feeling. I could definitely understand the pain management aspect of acupuncture. This is ideal for people that have a strong mind-to-body connection or would like to start strengthening that important action.

Mindfulness is so vital to understanding wellness within yourself. After about 20 minutes, the needles were taken out painlessly, and Kearney performed what she called moxa therapy on my stomach. The goal of moxibustion is to warm and promote healing to the area using a dried plant called mugwort.

I had told Kearney that I’m often cold and that my stomach at times suffered from indigestion. This was such a neat therapy and I felt positive effects immediately.


Ways to wellness: infrared heat therapy

By Pauline DiGiorgio

Some days — and I know I’m not alone — I want to shut off the outside world and disappear for an hour or two.

Let me introduce you to a wellness hack that is sure to calm your inner stress-prone self, while helping recover those post-workout muscle aches.

Saunas, hugely popular in Finland, have been commonly used since the 1950s. They are found mostly in gyms, spas and even in homes (those lucky ducks!).

Saunas have amazing benefits with their main perk being detoxification as the steam and high heat make bathers perspire, sweating out toxins.

As you loosen up, your muscles also release tension, allowing you to soothe the sore.

When I ventured out to research the top 2017 wellness trends, infrared saunas sparked my interest. It’s a new way to escape into a little box of solo heaven alone to detox.

Infrared saunas are less common then the traditional “sweat your tush off” sauna, but with a few advantages.

Infrared heat provides and acts like natural sunlight — in Central New York, it’s an unpredictable friend that shows up when it pleases — without any of the dangerous effects of solar radiation.

Infrared heat lamps transmit invisible infrared light waves deep into your body, all the way to your muscles, nerves and bones.

It heats the body normally, not using forced heat like the traditional sauna. You are basically sitting in a warm, happy place with rays of safe heating.

It increases your blood circulation and will strengthen your cardiovascular system as your body increases sweat production to cool itself off. That means your heart is pumping more blood, like the continuous effects of exercise. By enriching your blood with oxygen, you’ll feel more energetic rather than droopy, which I’ve experienced in the “hot box” after a gym session.

Light therapy I believe works wonders. You’ve probably heard of ultraviolet light therapy boxes. Those babies can run you up to $100.

Self-awareness, relaxation and “brain break time” are priceless. Infrared saunas stimulate neurogenesis, which encourages the growth of new brain cells and increases norepinephrine levels to support attention and focus.

Basically after a 20-30 minute session, you’ll be feeling a lot more relief from whatever stressor was taking up your precious energy.

I was excited to try The Rut organic salon in Whitesboro after hearing some great reviews. They have one of the area’s only infrared saunas, so I booked myself a session and here is my experience.

The kind employee presented me with a chart of different light-emitting diode therapy color choices to chose from, like an energizing red, healing green, or mental-inspiring yellow.

I chose a mixture of relaxing blues. I wanted to use the session for a mid-day meditation, and I knew that color would work wonders.

I then was led into the back room, was supplied with a fresh towel, and instructed on how to watch a monitor for a time countdown like a tanning bed.

When I finished, I had a content, clean and satisfying presence that I held onto for the entire day.

• Pauline DiGiorgio is a fitness ambassador and Group X instructor at Retro Fitness gyms. Questions? Email her at ptlifts@gmail.com.

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