On Pins And Needles – The Benefits Of Acupuncture

Erica Shepard of Radient Sun Acupuncture in Redding enjoys her work and says, “Acupuncture is relaxing and can help boost the immune system”.

For a woman who admits being extremely afraid of needles, Patti Furnari is a huge fan of acupuncture. Having dealt with the debilitating pain of migraines for over 25 years, Furnari was open to just about anything that would ease the suffering.

Triggered by stress and hormones, Furnari’s migraines made ordinary life, not to mention her job as principal of a K-12 charter school in Redding, beyond difficult. While prescription medicine helped, Furnari wanted to deal with the causes of her pain, not just the symptoms.

On the recommendation of a co-worker, Furnari met Erica Shepard, a licensed acupuncturist and the owner of Radiant Sun Acupuncture, Inc. in Redding. Her gentle and professional manner convinced Furnari to give it a try. “It didn’t hurt and it immediately helped relieve my stress, leaving me more able to cope.” Furnari continued with the treatments and began to see results in pain relief as well. “It’s reduced my migraines by at least 50% or more, and has substantially reduced the medications I’ve needed.”

Shepard knows firsthand how difficult the pain of migraines can be as well. She herself suffered from intense headaches as a teen. Shepard’s mother, who had been successfully using acupuncture to deal with the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, suggested Erica try the alternative treatment. They both saw dramatic results, and felt the treatments were extremely beneficial to their health. “My mom’s health issues sparked my interest in natural medicine, which eventually led me on my path to becoming an acupuncturist.”

Shepard says, “Acupuncture is a wonderful alternative treatment for families who are looking to supplement their regular health care. It’s very relaxing, and helps to boost the immune system and keep anxiety and stress under control, which for most parents is a daily issue!”

Shepard says she treats all prenatal and postnatal disorders, and that acupuncture is extremely helpful for morning sickness and postpartum depression, as well as the everyday aches and pains associated with being pregnant. Shepard has also seen results using the treatments to deal with colic and fussiness in her infant son.

Siskiyou County acupuncturist Kim Teo Merlino explains that the procedure can benefit all members of a family. “Often a safe place to receive nurturing care is the most important aspect to enhance the health of a busy family.” He adds, “I’ve learned that any time a member of the family is brought into balance, the dynamics of the entire family shift for the better.”

Merlino notes, “Acupuncture is only one part of Chinese medicine. In order to practice acupuncture in the state of California, practitioners are also trained in the art of Chinese herbalism. Both acupuncture and herbalism are thousands of years old and have been practiced successfully in Asia. Chinese medicine is also very common-sense oriented. Sometimes the simplest detective work can bring people back to a state of wellness.” He adds, “Working in harmony with Western doctors and other health practitioners is often important.”

Merlino’s patients have ranged in age from infancy to 95 years old. “Sometimes, the younger the child, the more quickly that child can come to balance, and, very simple treatments are behind their rapid healing.” Merlino feels that his background in early childhood education and elementary education has helped him understand how to really communicate with kids. “I’ve enjoyed working with young people as they make choices about moving out into their own unique future.”

Dillon Olsen is a Cottonwood teen who turned to acupuncture last year when he became very ill with whooping cough. Olsen admits, “I didn’t think it would work. I was really surprised how well it works. I could breathe and stop coughing and had energy for days after each session.”

Olsen’s mother, Cyndi wasn’t surprised. She first tried acupuncture years ago when dealing with an illness which her conventional doctors were unable to diagnose. After her initial success, she has returned to the treatment for a number of various symptoms and ailments including a torn achilles and sciatica. “The pain was over the top, and pain meds did little to help,” she says. “But with two sessions of acupuncture, the pain was gone forever.”

When her son Dillon had trouble breathing last summer, she was willing to work with any combination of professionals who could help her son recover. “He was sick for months. We tried everything. Acupuncture helped the most. After each session, he would be okay for several days.” Olsen continues to utilize the treatment for her own ongoing healthcare needs, adding “Recently, my breathing issues have become severe. I had acupuncture last week and took the deepest breath I had taken in months, half-way through the session.” She says she has been breathing easier ever since.

Dr. Arlan Cage places needles gently in exacting points.

While acupuncture worked well for Furnari and the Olsens, Dr. Arlan Cage of Mount Shasta Natural Healing (in Siskiyou and Shasta counties) acknowledges that the majority of Americans have never tried it. Reasons vary. “It’s a multi-pronged problem,” says Cage. Some people are concerned about costs, which in some cases may not be covered by insurance. Others are unaware or skeptical of the treatment.

Before coming to holistic medicine, Cage’s background was in physics and engineering. He is currently using that understanding while working on a book to help explain the principles of acupuncture using a scientific approach. He is also the author of Keep Your Gallbladder!

Noting that Western medicine excels at many things such as urgent care and reconstructive surgery, Cage feels that treatment of the person as a whole is one element that is missing from day-to-day care. Unfortunately, patients are often unaware that there are risks or alternatives to some conventional treatments.

Cage notes that in many cases, the cost of acupuncture is significantly less than the cost of pharmaceutical options, yet is much safer. “The side effects of acupuncture certainly aren’t going to kill anybody.” He adds that while we may not fully understand the way that acupuncture works, the same is true of many Western medications. Cage credits an early mentor of his with saying, “At the end of the day, what matters is, did the patient get well?”

“Pediatrics is very rewarding, because kids respond so quickly to acupuncture” says Michelle Faucher, L.Ac. of The Pinwheel Community Acupuncture Project in Chico.

Community acupuncture clinics are a treatment alternative that may be available in your area. Michelle Faucher, L.Ac, of The Pinwheel Community Acupuncture Project in Chico, says, “Acupuncture clinics like The Pinwheel are a low-cost option. With a session sliding scale ($15-$35) and a group treatment room, I often treat whole families together. I love to work with siblings, and with kids who get treated right alongside their parents. Pediatrics is very rewarding, because kids respond so quickly to acupuncture.”

“Community-style clinics are the most common format of acupuncture treatment in China,” says Lynn Lloyd, L.Ac, who runs a community clinic in Mt. Shasta. “The clinics allow for lower-cost treatment in a supportive environment.”

Proponents of acupuncture have certainly found the treatment to be a viable option for dealing with a variety of issues, and many feel that it has indeed helped them get well. For families who are interested in finding out more about how acupuncture may benefit them, there are a number of acupuncturists throughout the North State.

Pamela Llano
About Pamela Llano

Pamela Jorrick is a northern California writer and homeschooling parent.


  1. Acupuncture places fine needles at the meridian (or acupuncture point) to help balance the Qi and cure the illness.Acupuncturists can use as many as nine types of Acupuncture needles, with varying length, width of shaft, and shape of head. Today, most needles are disposable. They are used once and discarded in accordance with medical biohazard regulations and guidelines.
    thanks for sharing.

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