Health & Medicine

Acupuncture: go with flow

The ear, apparently, is "a happy point."

It's a place where, when a thin steel needle is inserted just so, the body's natural energy begins to flow more like it should.

So again and again, as acupuncturist Kathleen Fluhart whispers soothingly and leans in to insert a slight steel needle into the top arc of a patient's ear, one patient after another smiles in ­anticipation.

Susan McKaig's Mona Lisa-like repose ­continues for the entire 45 minutes as she reclines at Lexington's Artemesia Community Acupuncture and Wellness Center.

"It's just very relaxed and very peaceful," says McKaig, who came for treatment on her hip and shoulder.

In addition to private acupuncture services, the clinic is unique in offering a Chinese-style ­community room, Fluhart says. Twice a week, ­patients who have been evaluated and have ­received preliminary treatments, which ­generally are not covered by insurance, can get treated in a group setting by paying a sliding-scale fee.

Soothing music tinkles through the quiet sage-green space, as McKaig and five other patients recline, some showing the slight involuntary ticks that come with sleep, tiny needles giving off the slightest glint in the muted sunlight that peeks through the slotted blinds.

Stepping into the hushed room is like delving into the protective, restful feel of a well-executed nap at a really good day care center.

Part of the philosophy of traditional ­Chinese methods of healing, such as acupuncture, is to keep the whole body in balance, so such a ­soothing atmosphere is important, says Fluhart, who has been an acupuncturist for more than a decade and has been in the current location for about a year. To practice the craft, acupuncturists must attend an accredited school and complete 3,000 to 4,000 service hours. Kentucky has required state certification for acupuncturists only within the last few years.

The treatments have ­provided much-needed relief for Joe Fiala, who had ­circulation problems in his leg that Western medicine couldn't seem to conquer. Acupuncture might not seem like such a leap for Fiala, executive director of ­Lexington's Shambhala Meditation Center. He came primarily for pain relief, but he has found the treatments to be helpful on many levels.

It's something people need to really experience to ­understand, he says. An immediate nap is often one of the side benefits.

"As soon as she puts the needles in, I'm asleep," says Helen Kaibari, who is being treated for tendonitis. "It's a sleep so deep I don't even dream."

That's not uncommon, Fluhart says. Sometimes, ­patients might stir when a train rumbles by literally a few yards away. She says, people are usually so in the zone, she's had only one complaint.