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Acupuncture sticks on the Hi-Line


Eric Seidle

Acupuncturist Tammy Ellison inserts thin needles into the stomach of Brooke Skoyen during Brooke's acupuncture therapy session Tuesday in Havre at Simply Nature and Health Connections.

The more than 2,000-year-old practice of acupuncture is alive on the Hi-Line.

Acupuncture is a medical practice in which thin needles are inserted into key points along the body to relieve symptoms and bring bodies back into balance.

Tammy Ellison is an acupuncturist, which are rare to come by in the Hi-Line region.

"Nothing sticks around that long if it's not that effective," said Ellison, who lives in Chinook.

The technique is older than Western medicine and is "tried and true," she added.

"It treats everything," Ellison said. She said that she often uses acupuncture to treat pain and can also treat internal issues.

Ellison has been an acupuncturist for 14 years but was a registered nurse for 10 before that.

"In being a nurse I noticed that there were basically holes in the Western medical system," Ellison said, adding that at the time she was receiving acupuncture treatment to soothe her migraine headaches.

"I was amazed at how well the medicine works," she said. "I decided it was a more fitting form of health care for me to practice."

To get a license in acupuncture, one has to go to a school to study the procedures for four years and must have gone to school for two years for prerequisites.

Ellison has a busy schedule with the 40 to 50 patients she treats a week on average.

She said the most popular reason people come to her is, by far, neck and back pain.

At the initial meeting between her and a new client, Ellison said she assesses each patient to see what ails them. She assesses their pulse, which tells her how their body is off balance. She said people who come in to have their pain treated start having other symptoms go away as she helps their bodies balance themselves.

"The pulse reflects the body's energy balance," Ellison said. "My training teaches you how to make a diagnosis through pulse. I look for the strength of the pulse, where the volume is too high or low."

She added that there are 28 qualities of the pulse that are possible. Factors like the pulse being slippery, thin or wiry let Ellison know what in her patients' bodies is off-balance.

"There's many different kinds, and they all mean something different," Ellison said.

Ellison also uses "cupping" in her treatments. Cupping consists of placing a cup on a body and then creating a vacuum in it that pulls toxins out of muscles. She said the technique is used to treat flu and cold symptoms and is also used in the same way acupuncture is - to restore balance to the body.

"The most common thing it's used for is for pain and energy that's really stuck," Ellison said.

Ellison said what she would tell someone who is skeptical or nervous about the treatment that the "needles are very thin and sterile."

"They don't feel at all like a hypodermic needle," Ellison said, adding that all the person feels is a tap and a possible tickling feeling. Her most common response from new patients to the treatment is: "Have you put the needle in yet?"

It takes around 15 minutes for her to put the needles into the patient's body and then the patient rests with them in for 30 minutes. Then, she takes them out and the treatment is done.

At Simply Natural and Health Connections, a health store in Havre, Tammy practices acupuncture on Tuesdays.

On Mondays and Wednesday to Fridays, she is at her original office in Chinook, Healing Grace.

Sessions for acupuncture and cupping are $70 for the initial visit, in which Ellison creates a Chinese medical diagnosis for the patient, and then $60 per consecutive visit.


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