Nikol Angel Clark was brewing herbal teas to support family health when most kids are still clamoring for chocolate milk. That’s how young she was when she was first started thinking about complementary medicine.
The reason behind her attraction is no ancient Chinese secret, MCMC’s new licensed acupuncturist and herbalist says.
“My parents enjoyed exploring Eastern philosophy and thought and passed that on to me,” Clark says. “I’ve always been interested in alternative medicine – I was making teas and giving massages when I was 5 or 6 years old. I was just drawn to it.”
Clark joined the staff at Water’s Edge in February and reports the experience thus far has been nothing short of awesome.
“I’m on the floor with nurses treating things like diabetes and cardiac patients,” she says. “It feels so right to be part of an integrated clinic with such a mindful philosophy in a pioneering position.”
She’s admittedly run up against her share of skeptics during eight years of clinical acupuncture experience, but remains a staunch advocate of her discipline. And she has a preferred way of silencing any naysayers about a traditional therapy in Chinese medicine that has gained increasing acceptance in the West in recent decades.
“I just ask them to keep an open mind and come in and try it,” Clark says. “This isn’t voodoo in the back parlor. It is relatively new in the West, but in Eastern medicine it has a very old and very sustainable reputation.”
Clark notes that respected medical institutions in the U.S. like the Harvard Medical School, the Mayo Clinic and Kaiser Permanente health care facilities have all begun offering acupuncture programs in recent years, while many insurance plans now pay for the treatment. Acupuncture has been offered as part of MCMC’s Integrated Therapies program for more than 20 years.
Being an advocate for complementary therapies is part of her role at Water’s Edge, Clark says.
“Acupuncture needs to be fully accepted and integrated as a treatment,” she says.
While researchers continue to look at how acupuncture therapy works on the body, Clark says there are different ways of assessing the treatment’s effectiveness.
In Eastern thought, practitioners believe there is an energy field coursing through the body. When needles stimulate specific pressure points along the energy field’s route, beneficial results occur.
In Western medicine, researchers believe when an acupuncture “trigger point” is stimulated, a message is sent to the brain, which then sends a message to a specific part of the body.
For example, Clark says there is a point on the wrist that can alleviate nausea when stimulated, while a point on the hand aids in headache relief. The pressure points are different for each person, she says, and it is important to know a patient’s full history.
“On the holistic side of health care, it’s not just ‘You have heart disease’,” she says. “It’s also about where does it come from? What are your relationships like, at home and at work? How are you sleeping? What’s in your diet? How often do you exercise? How can the staff at Water’s Edge and MCMC help bring balance to your life? That’s really what alternative and holistic health programs are all about.”
After assessing a patient using a full complement of lifestyle questions, Clark says she asks likely candidates to come in and try acupuncture over three treatment sessions.
“I ask them to be open-minded and give it a good try,” the acupuncturist says. “If they don’t feel any better we’ll try something else, but we should see results over three sessions.”
And Clark doesn’t restrict her treatment of patients to just acupuncture, calling herself a “unique and well-rounded” health practitioner. Using her background and educational training in complementary and alternative therapies, her treatment options also include massage therapy using soothing oils and liniment, herbal and nutritional aids and yoga instruction to help patients gain relief in a variety of areas.
Pain management is at the top of the list of medical conditions she helps treat.
“Acupuncture is essential for treating pain and inflammation,” Clark says, including support for back, knee and other joint problems and even pain from migraine headaches.
Acupuncture is also used for disturbances of the central nervous system like Bell’s palsy and diabetic neuropathies; women’s health and hormone regulation; sleep disturbances; stress management; and it has been studied for alleviating depression, helping with weight management and even in aiding smoking cessation efforts.
There are no tricks or magical cures involved, Clark says, and acupuncture treatment isn’t a “one-and-done” proposition where patients walk away healed after a single session.
She likens it to physical therapy, where treatment is ongoing and dictated by a patient’s needs.
“It’s a process, and depends on variables like how long a patient’s had an ailment and how severe it is,” she says. “Like physical therapy, you have to give yourself to the program.”
Parameters used to assess progress focus on three areas – the frequency, intensity and duration of a symptom. Once a baseline measurement is made, it is possible to rate a patient’s response.
It’s the success stories that make her job worthwhile, she says, like treating a farmer who had tried everything to ease sciatic nerve pain and finally found relief through acupuncture.
“Patients are able to enjoy life again,” she says. “That’s very important to me; it’s definitely what keeps me going.”
For more information about acupuncture or to make an appointment with Nikol Angel Clark, please call (541) 506-5788.
Can Acupuncture Work For You?
Acupuncture treatment may be effective for a variety of medical conditions, including:
- Pain and inflammation
- Migraine headaches
- Nervous system disorders like Bell’s palsy or neuropathies
- Women’s health and hormone regulation
- Sleep disturbances
- Stress management
- Neuro-emotional disorders like depression
- Weight management
- Relaxation therapy
- Smoking cessation