Acupuncture follows the theory that there are lines of energy running through the body that can become 'stuck'

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FARMINGTON — The practice of relieving pain and healing illness through the insertion of tiny needles under the skin is becoming increasingly popular as an option for those seeking alternatives to medication and chiropractic techniques.

One local licensed acupuncturist, Rhenna St. Clair of the Four Corners Acupuncture Clinic, has been practicing the technique here for the past 16 years. She described the ancient form of healing as part of a Chinese medical philosophy that believes the body can heal itself if given some help.

The theory is that there are 12 main lines of energy that correspond to certain organs, and they travel throughout the body, St. Clair said. Pain and sickness result when that energy gets stuck, so acupuncturists use thin needles to unblock the energy and move it to different parts of the body that might need more energy. The practice is extremely effective, though most patients need to have several treatments to enjoy full relief, St. Clair said.

"I'm amazed when I see the results," she said. "I've seen people come into my office using walkers, and when they come in for their next appointment, they don't have the walker."

St. Clair said the technique is not used just for pain relief. It also can help reduce stress, as well as address such conditions as insomnia, restless legs syndrome, digestive issues and infertility.

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The sterile needles used in the procedure are stainless steel, though the original needles used thousands of years ago in China were made of bamboo. The needles are inserted only one-eighth to one-half inch under the skin.

"(The treatment) is very soothing, and sometimes I have patients fall asleep on the table," St. Clair said. "The needles are so thin, all patients feel is a little pressure like a mosquito bite, and then they just relax. Afterward, I have a post-treatment consultation with them, and we stay in touch via e-mail."

St. Clair, 72, said she became interested in Eastern medicine in 1993 when she was living in Santa Fe.

"I had to keep going to the emergency room for an electrolyte imbalance," she said. "My doctor sent me to an acupuncturist, and the technique was so successful in helping me that I wanted to help other people."

After attending a three-year, full-time program, St. Claire graduated from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine with a master's degree in oriental medicine.

Another technique St. Clair practices is called cupping. The procedure gained national attention during the 2016 Olympic games, when it was used to treat swimmers with sore muscles.

"Cupping is as old as acupuncture, about 3,000 or 4,000 years old," she said. "I get a lot of calls from people who saw it being used during the Olympics, but I've been doing it for years."

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Using a glass jar, St. Clair takes a cotton ball soaked in alcohol, lights it on fire, then places it into the jar. She then places the jar on the area to be treated. The flame causes the oxygen in the jar to evaporate, creating suction.

"The suction raises the skin and pulls the muscle up, which relaxes it and makes the blood flow better, relieving pain," she said. "It's a great way to get the energy — or Qi — flowing."

St. Clair said patients do not come into her office and immediately start receiving treatment; rather, she conducts a lengthy interview to get to know each individual first.

"Depending on their age, background and other factors, the treatments can be very different for different people," she said.

An initial consultation/treatment session costs $100, with any additional sessions running $75 each. Veterans receive a discount.

"I want to do what I can to give back to those who served," St. Clair said, adding that she does not accept credit cards or insurance.

For patients who may be squeamish about needles, St. Clair also practices acupressure, which is a similar yet less-invasive technique used to realign energy.

"These techniques are still the main health care used in many parts of Asia," she said. "It's all about helping people feel better and helping them to help themselves."

The Four Corners Acupuncture Clinic is located at 3300 N. Butler Ave. To learn more, call 505-564-3242, or e-mail stclairrhenna@gmail.com.

Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621.

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