Acupuncture helps stick it to hip, back pain

Combination of therapies includes cupping and infrared light therapy.

In the mid-1960s, career opportunities for women were limited. Options included teaching, a skill Katherine Hickey had a knack for, so she chose it. Her decision proved wise and rewarding.

For 37 years, Katherine taught reading in the elementary schools of Saratoga Springs, New York. Along the way, she wound up teaching students more than reading and realized she was getting as much out of her lessons as they were.

Katherine Hickey

Katherine Hickey

“As a reading teacher, I was not only teaching kids how to read and use reading, I was also teaching them how to learn,” says Katherine, 76. “In that process, I learned early on that students learn in different ways. So, I used different approaches to teach them.

“Sometimes, I taught kids to read using songs. They would sing a song, and I would write down the words for them. Sometimes, they told a story, and I would write down the words of the story. My goal was to build on their strengths to get them over the hump because almost everybody can learn to read.”

Many people learn about back pain at one point or another, too, and Katherine is among them. Not long after retiring, she began to experience pain in her back that radiated into her right hip and knee.

“Every time I took a step on the right side, I’d feel a shooting pain that was a seven or eight on a scale of one to 10,” she elaborates. “The pain would catch me when I tried to walk.”

Her problem did not respond to traditional medical treatments.

“I visited several doctors, including an orthopedist, and went through physical therapy, but the exercises and physical therapy techniques didn’t give me any relief. It was frustrating. Then a friend said, You should try acupuncture. I know a great acupuncturist. 

“I had never considered acupuncture and didn’t know much about Chinese medicine, so I was a little hesitant. At that point, however, I was ready to try anything, so I agreed to visit my friend’s acupuncturist, Dr. Schuerlein.”

New Kid in Town

Heather Schuerlein, AP, DACM, LAc, Dipl OM, is a board-certified acupuncture physician at Palm Coast Acupuncture & Wellness. 

She recently relocated her practice from Queensbury, New York, just north of Saratoga Springs. 

We moved in June and opened in Palm Coast on December 1,” Dr. Schuerlein elaborates. “We offer acupuncture needle and non-needle treatments. We also offer red light therapy, infrared light therapy, cosmetic acupuncture, frequency-specific microcurrent therapy and cupping.

“We plan to expand soon and provide other holistic services as well. We are also looking to obtain a laser, which is excellent for treating inflammatory conditions such as bursitis and tendinitis.”

Still, the cornerstone of Dr. Schuerlein’s practice is acupuncture, an age-old healing technique in which hair-thin needles are inserted at specific points on the body that correlate with certain disorders and conditions.

“Acupuncture works by stimulating the nervous system,” Dr. Schuerlein educates. “When we insert the needles, a signal is sent to the brain, which then releases chemicals called endorphins, which are pain modulators. This is how acupuncture promotes pain relief.

“Once the pain is gone, inflammation in the target area decreases, resulting in an increase in circulation. The additional blood flow brings more oxygen and nutrients to the area being treated, enabling the body to heal itself.”

The insertion points are determined by the patient’s complaint or disorder, Dr. Schuerlein observes.

“We use certain insertion points to treat low back pain and different points to treat headaches, infertility or stomach pain,” she reveals. “Through about 12 years of advanced education, acupuncture physicians learn the specific points for the various ailments. We learn how to diagnose the patient’s problem and determine the appropriate treatment for that patient.”

Combination Treatment 

Katherine first visited Dr. Schuerlein’s New York practice six years ago. At the time, Dr. Scheurlein determined that Katherine’s varying degrees of chronic low back, hip and knee pain were being caused by “age-related, wear-and-tear arthritis.”

To alleviate the pain, Dr. Schuerlein suggested treatment using a combination of therapies, including acupuncture, cupping and infrared light therapy.

“Cupping is a technique that brings more blood to the surface of the skin,” the doctor informs. “Heated cups placed on the skin create a suction effect that draws the patient’s tissues into the cup. The therapy is similar to a deep tissue massage, except we massage using the cups.

“Infrared light therapy assists in decreasing inflammation, which helps the body rest and heal. The infrared light gets into the cells and causes them to produce more energy. This helps the body heal more quickly.”

According to Dr. Schuerlein, Katherine responded well to her treatment regimen.  

“Once Katherine started feeling better, she began exercising a few days a week at the YMCA,” the doctor reports. “Between exercising and our treatment, Katherine soon regained the ability to do more of the things she likes to do, such as playing with her grandchildren, doing water aerobics and maintaining an active role in the community.”

“Poster Child for Acupuncture” 

Katherine credits her recovery to Dr. Schuerlein’s talents in traditional Chinese medicine.

“Dr. Schuerlein is like a magic woman,” she raves. “It took a couple of months of treatment three times a week, but Dr. Schuerlein took care of my back pain, and I’ve never had a recurrence.

“Since then, I’ve had trouble with arthritis in my shoulder and my left knee, but acupuncture has been very helpful with that as well, especially because I have heart disease and can’t take a lot of the medications prescribed for arthritis.

“I also have a chronic back situation and was experiencing a sensation in my toe. An orthopedic doctor said it was from specific nerves in my back. Dr. Schuerlein gave me a couple of acupuncture treatments in the areas corresponding to those nerves and the relief was amazing. She calls me the ‘poster child for acupuncture’ because it works so well for me.”

Before Dr. Schuerlein left for Florida, she recommended a colleague in acupuncture and Chinese medicine to take over Katherine’s care. The retired teacher has kind words for the acupuncture physician that brought her relief from her chronic pain.

“Dr. Schuerlein is a delightful person,” Katherine extols. “She’s very happy and joyful, and an excellent listener. She really listens to what you tell her, and that’s what she bases her treatment on. She’s very resourceful and extremely caring. She’s very talented and really knows anatomy. I highly recommend her.” 

© FHCN article by Patti DiPanfilo. Photo courtesy of Katherine Hickey. js
Print This Article