Finding Stress Relief through Acupuncture

By Lissette Mendoza-Tapia

Let’s talk about acupuncture.

Acupuncture is “a form of treatment that involves inserting very thin needles through a person's skin at specific points on the body, to various depths,” according to Medical News Today. It also happens to be offered for free at our own Student Health Services.

This stress clinic began in 2016 when the campus became smoke-free. I decided to take a chance and try it for myself. The process was easy; you can call and make an appointment with the Office of Wellness & Health Promotion at (562) 985-4609. Keep in mind that appointments are only available on Thursdays from 2:00pm to 4:00pm.

On the day of your appointment, make sure to bring your student ID card. There are three forms to fill before you can check-in for your appointment. Arrive at least 15 minutes your appointment to fill them out, or you can also fill them out online on a link you will receive in an email from Student Health Services. Lastly, you are given an acupuncture clinic visit survey that is used to compare your symptoms before and after the session. Once completed, you’re instructed to go to the waiting area and are given a small alcohol wipe to clean your ears.

The acupuncture is done in a group setting. You are walked to a separate room with the rest of the participants where the lights are off and relaxing music is playing in the background. You set your belongings down and sit in one of the lounge chairs before licensed acupuncturist Erin Holloway greets everyone and breaks down step-by-step what’s about to happen.

Holloway has been a licensed acupuncturist for 19 years. She studied traditional Chinese medicine at Yo San University of Traditional Chinese Medicine and received degrees in Kinesiology from both CSULB and UCLA. She has also lectured in the Health Science department for 12 years.

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The acupuncture here is done on the ears, a technique used to treat addiction. The points that Holloway uses in the ear have been used in drug rehab centers for decades. According to Holloway, this was a special protocol that received attention after the terrorist attacks on 9/11, as it was offered for free in New York to treat trauma.

If it’s your first time, Holloway begins by inserting two needles on the ear. If you wish to proceed she inserts three more needles while guiding your breathing before moving onto the other ear and applying five more. I had imagined needles being pierced through you, but it honestly felt like slight pinches—nothing too scary. You then get to lounge back and relax for about 20 minutes or until the next group of students come in.

Once the session is over, the needles are removed. You are then asked to go back and fill out the “after” portion of the symptom survey you had filled out prior to the session. I was pleasantly surprised at my own results. I had improvements in my own symptoms after my session, with my anger, anxiety, cravings, depression, and stress decreasing by at least 50% or more.

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But how and why does the acupuncture on the ear work?

Holloway explained, “Essentially the ear is close to the brain and can affect the central nervous system quickly. It is effective to treat many people at one time and is cost effective. Most students are so stressed out that this gives their brains a chance to relax. Many students go to sleep. I use the same protocol on everyone. It’s called the (NADA) acudetox protocol.”

So if the semester’s been catching up to you or you just want to try an alternative method to relieve stress, take a minute—or 20—to give yourself a break and check out the acupuncture that is offered for free on campus!