WVU Medicine Cabinet News Stories

Medical acupuncture at WVU Family Medicine Center offers an alternative to pain medication

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A woman with a migraine headache that lasted for more than a month came to see Kendra Unger, M.D., for medical acupuncture at the WVU Clark K. Sleeth Family Medicine Center after seeing several other doctors and being told there was nothing they could do except write her a prescription. “I found the muscle spasm that was causing her pain, and two hours after a 15-minute acupuncture treatment, her headache broke. She’s now down to maintenance appointments every two months,” Dr. Unger said. As a general practitioner, Unger often saw patients for chronic pain who were on three or four different medications. She was inspired to become a medical acupuncturist through the Helms Medical Institute in Berkeley, Calif., to try to help people feel holistically better without needing more medication. Board certified in medical acupuncture, Unger uses acupuncture in conjunction with her medical training from the WVU School of Medicine. She holds a weekly acupuncture clinic at the Sleeth Family Medicine Center. Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves the insertion of extremely thin needles through the skin at strategic points on the body. The insertion of thin needles at various acupuncture points on the body boosts the activity of the body’s natural painkillers and increases blood flow. It is most commonly used to treat pain, including headaches/migraines, back pain, tooth pain, menstrual cramps, osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia. Acupuncture may also be used to treat depression, anxiety, or addiction (smoking cessation). Before any needles are used, Unger meets with patients for a general health assessment appointment and develops a treatment plan that meets each patient’s needs. To create the right soothing atmosphere for receiving acupuncture, Unger gives exam rooms a slight makeover with low lighting, relaxation music, and a massage table for patients to lie on. Treatments can last anywhere from 15 minutes to one hour with as few as one or two needles or up to 12 or more needles. The number of needles is individualized to each person’s treatment plan. When receiving acupuncture, there is minimal bleeding (maybe a tiny drop or two) and very little pain that’s the equivalent to having the skin slightly pinched for a second only when the needle is inserted. Some of the benefits of seeing a medical acupuncturist include having the overall health expertise of a trained doctor. Unger is also board certified in family medicine, and she can prescribe physical therapy, X-rays or other treatments outside of acupuncture if needed. Acupuncture at the WVU Clark K. Sleeth Family Medicine Center is not billed to insurance. For appointments, call: 304-598-6900. Photo caption: Dr. Kendra Unger places acupuncture needles into a patient's back. [...]

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