In our culture, most people know little about acupuncture and even less about its benefits. When confronted with any mention of needles, most care not to venture any further into the unknown. According to Echo Hobbs, a Salem practitioner of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AOM), the lack of normalizing the process of acupuncture in our society is what keeps many from the benefits of this type of medicine.

“The image of Bugs Bunny with a huge hypodermic needle is what most people think of when it comes to needles,” Hobbs said. “Acupuncture needles are only the thickness of a few hairs, and are round-tipped so as to slip past the skin.”

Hobbs owns Jade Earth Acupuncture, which offers a multitude of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine treatments. Her office is located at edge of the Fairmont Neighborhood on Commercial Street in a converted home built in 1918. Rhododendrons of red and white frame the front door and cars steadily roll by as they leave Salem’s downtown. Visitors seeking relief through acupuncture are welcomed inside by the pleasant aroma of herbal tea and the calming presence of Echo Hobbs.

“People often come to me as a last hope after trying many other alternatives,” Hobbs said. “AOM is a complete medical system that has been effective for over 2,000 years in healing people of disease, illness, and pain.”

She uses her training of AOM to treat pain in a holistic manner. During her acupuncture treatment, instant pain relief should be felt, however, the overall treatment is more like physical therapy in that it requires an ongoing process of restoring the natural balance of the body.

“In China, people often come in for daily acupuncture until their conditions resolve,” Hobbs said. “Here, we encourage beginning with three visits per week so that treatment will build on the one before it incrementally until your body is healthy enough to take over.

A first time patient, such as myself, experiences how easily the needles are inserted into the skin. This is not to say there is no pain, but the pain is different than what one may expect. Once the tiny needles slip past the skin and into the meridians below, there is a lightning quick reaction beneath the surface. There’s a quick twitch and a sudden, dull ache. According to Hobbs, this sensation means the “acupoint” has been reached which she which she explained to be a sign of the Qi activity.

This “Qi” pronounced “Ch-ee” is the foundation of acupuncture and essentially the map which Hobbs follows as she searched for imbalances within the body. If the acupoint is reached properly, there will be an instant relief of about 50% of the pain. If the instant relief does not occur, it will most likely take a tiny adjustment of a few millimeters in order to get it right. Most people need somewhere between eight and twelve sessions, with more frequent visits occurring at first in order to stimulate the healing process.

“As you get better, we start to wean you off the treatment until you no longer need me,” Hobbs said.

In order to educate residents of Salem, Jade Earth Acupuncture offers a free clinic where patients can familiarize themselves with the process. This clinic is an easy way to give Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine a try for those who are curious about this ancient medicine.