Courtesy of Louisville Community Acupuncture
Courtesy of Louisville Community Acupuncture

My high-pitched voice was quickly, but politely shushed after entering Louisville Community Acupuncture in the Highlands.

Loud mouths like myself are encouraged to adopt a lower, dulcet tone to keep from disturbing the patrons already seated and reposed.

Fans, light music and a circle of cozy recliners helped create a tranquil atmosphere at Louisville Community Acupuncture, where I and fellow IL employee Christine Vaughan went to try a free acupuncture session.

Christine had been before, whereas I had not, but free is always enticing, and I’d wondered for a while if there was anything to the practice where people poke you with tiny disposable needles.

Louisville Community Acupuncture hosts a free day of acupuncture at its storefront at 919 Barret Ave. each year on May Day, May 1 — or as close as possible. The business held its May Day celebration on April 29 this year.

Mike Sobin and Margaret Travis co-own Louisville Community Acupuncture. Travis said the May Day special marks the anniversary of the business starting two years ago, and historically, May 1 is International Workers’ Day, a day created in the United States in the 1880s amid blue-collar workers’ fight for better conditions and an eight-hour work day.

The business is admittedly socialist. It’s for everyone, working class and up, Travis explained, which is why Louisville Community Acupuncture has a sliding pay scale of $15 to $35 per visit. Unlike massages, you can stay as long as you want, and the sliding scale remains the same.

Louisville Community Acupuncture is a member of the People’s Organization of Community Acupuncture, which is a cooperative of similarly minded acupuncturists in the United States who offer the service at reasonable rates.

Acupuncture is a regulated field of alternative medicine, Travis said. She and Sobin both have four-year degrees and completed 100 clinical hours before opening their business.

I was skeptical but hopeful upon walking in — and a little nervous.

Like a regular doctor’s office, new customers must fill out a form with an emergency contact and family health history, and read through a long list of maladies that may or may not apply to you, checking all that do. The paperwork tells people to turn off their phones, to avoid wearing strong scents, not to come hungry, and to expect to spend 60 to 90 minutes there.

The forms also allow customers to pinpoint problem areas. Mine was my neck, which because of long days sitting at a desk and typing, can hurt; the pain radiates down into my shoulders and all the way down my arms, which can sometimes cause what I refer to as pre-carpal tunnel.

Before starting, Travis talked to me in a calming voice about the particular points I wanted to focus on, checked my pulse and examined my tongue. Yes, my tongue.

Acupuncturists believe you can tell how a person feels based on how their tongue looks. For example, is the person irritable? Do they have insomnia, or perhaps a urinary infection? My tongue said, in not so many words, that I was fatigued and regularly woke up not feeling rested enough.

I feel like that applies to everyone in America, and to be honest, I couldn’t tell if Travis knew that from my tongue or was good at filling gaps. Though to be fair, medical doctors also have noted that you can tell things about a person’s health from their tongue — the diagnoses are just different.

What I do know is how I felt during and after the acupuncture. In total, Travis stuck about 20 needles in me, in places including my feet, my hands, my shoulders, my cheeks and the top of my head. Most didn’t hurt going in, but a few came with a second or two of pain, which immediately disappeared.

Definitely wear loose pants that can be rolled up, so the acupuncturist has a range of places to put the needles as needed. The needles can cause some bruising, numbness or tingling, but it’s temporary. An hour later, you couldn’t tell I’d been stuck.

Once all the needles were in, I took one breath, and my whole body felt relaxed. Several times, I felt as though I was about to drift off to sleep, which Travis said some people do.

Christine and I sat in the recliners for about 30 minutes, both opening and closing our eyes, listening to the sounds around us. It’s hard to explain the rapid and overwhelming sense of relaxation, but you feel similar after getting an hour massage.

By the end, I felt relaxed and energized. My neck pain was better but by no means fixed. Louisville Community Acupuncture’s website even states that acupuncture isn’t a one-time miracle. Otherwise, it’d cost quite a bit more than $15.

Some are skeptical about the effects of acupuncture, a traditional Eastern medicine, but even if acupuncture were a bunch of hooey, the rejuvenated feeling that you get during the session and for hours after is well worth the price — $15 to $35 for a bit of peace in this stressful world.

Louisville native Caitlin Bowling has covered the local restaurant and retail scene since 2014. After graduating from the Ohio University’s E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Caitlin got her start at a newspaper in the mountains of North Carolina where she won multiple state awards for her reporting. Since returning to Louisville, she’s written for Business First and Insider Louisville, winning awards for health and business reporting and becoming a go-to source for business news. In addition to restaurants and retail business, Caitlin covers real estate, economic development and tourism. Email Caitlin at [email protected]


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