SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald
A dozen or so acupuncturists who ply their skills in Durango are donating their services to military veterans and their family members.
Volunteers with the Durango Acupuncture Alliance started Thursday clinics four weeks ago to treat military personnel suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome and other ailments.
Patients receive acupuncture, which dates to antiquity, at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4031 hall where they sit in a semicircle in subdued lighting while five disposable, stainless-steel, needles are inserted at strategic points in each ear.
The patients are left to their own thoughts for 30 minutes to an hour.
The volunteer acupuncturists provided the same treatment at the Durango Farmers Market Oct. 6 and Oct. 13, and will be there Saturday.
“We intend to continue indefinitely,” said Vanessa Morgan, an acupuncturist for 20 years, including five in Durango. “There is going to be more need as time goes on.”
Initial response from veterans and the public has been encouraging, she said.
Morgan, Julie Gwyther, Carla Toth and Sydney Cooley treated 15 veterans and/or family members at the Thursday session. Among the patients were:
Bill Jones, 53, an annual visitor from Waldron, Ark., who has worn a brace on his left leg since a truck backed over him during Army field maneuvers.
He has less pain and more mobility after an acupuncture session, Jones said.
“You do the best you can or you lay down,” Jones said. “I’m not willing to lay down.”
Charlie Higby, 63, of Durango, a Vietnam veteran who was at his third acupuncture session.
“There’s no crisis, just the everyday stress of life,” Higby said. “But there are things you think about even 40 years later.
“It’s a little early, but I think I sleep a little better and am more ready to take on the day after acupuncture,” Higby said. “It’s great that they offer this service free.”
Randy Martinez, 60, a special forces veteran with almost 23 years in the Army, including tours in Vietnam and Iraq, received acupuncture in Denver before moving to Durango.
Treatment reduces pain in his ankle that was shattered in a parachute jump, helps him sleep better and cushions anxiety attacks, Martinez said.
Gale Martinez, his wife, a dental hygienist, is treated by a private acupuncturist for rheumatoid arthritis in her hands.
“There were times I couldn’t open my hand, but I no longer have pain – and he’s come a long ways,” she said. “We had to leave Denver because the noise, sirens and airplanes triggered his anxiety – and I got stressed because he was stressed.”
The couple is pleased that the volunteers intend to continue their sessions and perhaps add a new location and another day.
Gil Credeur saw first-hand the work of Acupuncturists Without Borders in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. He was a case manager for Catholic Community Services.
Credeur, 67, an Air Force veteran who found relief from joint pain through acupuncture years ago, attended the clinic Thursday on general principles.
“I was motivated by the hope of just feeling better,” Credeur said. “I think that your experiences and your physical and psychological traumas settle in your body.”
The Durango Acupuncture Alliance contributes to the work of Acupuncturists Without Borders, which was formed in 2005 by Diana Fried back East. Activities are coordinated in Albuquerque where Fried now lives.
“We teach individual acupuncturists the stress-relief method developed by the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association,” said Henrietta Duran from Albuquerque. “We also teach how to set up clinics.” Duran is an administrator with Acupuncturists Without Borders.
Randi Savage, a registered nurse and acupuncturist who lives outside Boulder, said group members treated Haitians after the 2010 earthquake and trained 30 health-care workers there.
They also treated evacuees of wildfires this summer around Fort Collins and Colorado Springs and helped people in Tucson cope after U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot last year, Savage said.
Ongoing pressure of post-traumatic stress disorder causes the autonomic nervous system, which governs visceral functions mostly at the subconscious level, to get stuck in the “on” position, Morgan said.
“Acupuncture resets and calms the whole system,” Morgan said.
The method is known as the NADA protocol, which was developed by the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association as an alternative to electrical stimulation.
In Chinese medicine, it’s believed that points on the ear connect through pathways to organs of the body.