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Healing the Hurt: Some patients turn to acupuncture for relief from grief

Grief is something that impacts everyone. It can be crippling and make day-to-day tasks seem impossible. Some patients are turning to acupuncture to heal the hurt from grief. 

Alissa Adamson is a busy mom, career woman, and volunteer, often appearing on KTTC to help rescue dogs. She handles her day-to-day better than most. Four years ago, though, was a really trying time, even for her. 

"She was like one of my kids," Adamson said. 

Adamson experienced a rough real estate market, the loss of her grandmother, a skin cancer diagnosis, and a car accident. Adamson also lost Brandi, her beloved golden retriever.

The loss was a breaking point that led to weeks of tears. 

She had been receiving acupuncture for pain management after her accident and told her acupuncturist about her sadness.

The acupuncturist asked if she would be open to trying a type of acupuncture for grief.

"I was laying there, and I felt like somebody turned on a hose full-blast, and I could feel all the sadness and weight just leaving my body," Adamson described. 

Sara Bublitz is an acupuncturist within Mayo Clinic, including at Mayo Rejuvenate Spa. While she said most patients come in for some kind of pain management, several stumble across this extra use. She said many of those who do experience an emotional release. 

"It’s like a weight has lifted off your shoulders and that sadness can be released. It’s really powerful," Bublitz told KTTC.

Acupuncture is an ancient Chinese medical practice that has been around for thousands of years.

Mayo Acupuncturist Alexander Do said the technique incorporates a holistic view of the body. 

"Now with science, we can see that emotional pain and physical pain share the same neural pathways. So they do, in fact, affect each other," Do said. 

Do explained that acupuncture relies on certain meridians across the body. Using fine needles on different parts of the body can yield different results.

"With Chinese medicine, grief deals with the lung channel, which goes from the thumb up the wrist, up the arm, and up into the chest," Bublitz said.

There are multiple spots that treat sadness or grief. Bublitz demonstrated this technique for KTTC and explained how the needles she used go into the body about an eighth of an inch. She described the touch of the needle as "virtually painless."

The mind, body connection can be difficult for many to grasp. 

Clinical Counselor Debbie Fuehrer works in Mind Body Medicine and encourages grieving patients to seek a variety of treatments.

"If you feel like, ‘I’m overwhelmed. My mind is wandering. I can’t concentrate anymore,’" she said.

"We get a lot of skeptics, and I tell them, actually if you’re a skeptic, stay a skeptic and report back to me after a few visits," Do said.

"Honestly, I didn’t really believe in it at first either, so I kind of went into it being a skeptical person, and once it worked, it was just amazing," Adamson said.

Mayo Clinic has a replica statue of an ancient acupuncture teaching tool near its Integrative Medicine and Health area. It was a gift to Mayo Clinic. You can learn more in the KTTC Web Extra video above, featuring Heritage Hall Director Matthew Dacy and Acupuncturist Alexander Do explaining how that tool worked in ancient times. 


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