Needle me

Maureen McKenney

Photo By David Robert

Just about everybody has an acupuncturist in California, says Maureen McKenney, who attended the Five Branches Institute in Santa Cruz, Calif., where she received her master’s degree in traditional Chinese medicine—meaning she studied oriental medicine for four years encompassing the specific fields of herbology, acupuncture and a small portion of Western medicine. McKenney moved back to Reno to start her own practice. It’s called Path to Wellness and is located in the Advanced Bodywork Center, 90 Walts Lane, 772-5273.

Why did you come back to Reno?

Mostly because I was born and raised here, and I really love this area. I also know this area is in desperate need of people who practice and do what I do. I think in Reno there is probably a maximum of eight people licensed the way I am. There are distinctions. A Western doctor can practice acupuncture, but they have limited training, where I have 3,000 hours; there’s a distinction in the licensing.

For what reasons might a person come to see you?

There’s actually quite a large range of illnesses that acupuncture treats. The National Institute of Health has officially approved acupuncture for certain illnesses [including, and I quote,] “adult post-operative chemotherapy nausea and vomiting, post-operative dental pain, addiction, stroke rehabilitation, headache, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, myofascial pain, osteo-arthritis, low-back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome and asthma.” Keep in mind that’s it really effective for many, many other things, but this is what the NIH has done research on and approved.

How does acupuncture work?

A succinct way for me to tell you this is that basically acupuncture works by balancing and toning the nervous system, specifically the central nervous system. Once you do that, so many other things come into play. The central nervous system is in charge of a lot of biochemistry of the body, and in turn other things fall into balance. It’s going to help with digestion, hormone regulation, it even effects neurotransmitters in the brain.

Does it hurt?

That’s the first thing so may people think: “Oh my God, it’s going to hurt.” An acupuncture needle is about as big as a hair, maybe a little bigger. You may feel a small prick upon insertion, but most people end up falling asleep on the table

Do you find that people are often clueless when they come to see you?

By the time they make a commitment to come and see me, they’re not totally clueless, but they don’t really know what to expect. Most of my business comes from referrals—"Yeah, my sister came to see you, and she really loved it"—so they know a little bit, but not all the details.

How would you respond to a traditional physician who says that all this Eastern medicine is bologna?

I’ve never actually talked to one who, to my face, said it’s bologna. I think northern Nevada is a really great place to start embracing these complementary types of medicine. There are many doctors who know now that the advantages of this practice are huge. Things are changing. I like to call it complementary rather than alternative medicine because I don’t like to put it into people’s minds that it’s one or the other. They both work together. Hospitals in California actually hire acupuncturists to be on staff.

Is acupuncture the type of thing where you might have a treatment just to feel a sense of well-being rather than to treat a specific problem?

People do come in for that because we do live in a very fast-paced and stressful world. People come in just to relax quite often. It’s a great way to maintain good health.