I expected my long-held fear of needles to rear its vicious head as I entered the building of Gloyeske Acupuncture Pointe, a fear that I had conveniently forgotten about until that moment. Instead, when I opened the door of the repurposed house on Fairfield Road I was met by a waft of calming peppermint-scented air and the quiet strains of an Oriental flute drifting out from the back rooms.
Adam Gloyeske, owner and sole acupuncturist of the business, handed me a clipboard with forms to sign and questions ranging from traditionally medical to more holistic: such as "Have you had any major illnesses/injuries/surgeries?" and "What is important to you in your life?"
With the paperwork finished, Gloyeske took me back to a room where I sat on a couch and he leaned casually in the doorway and asked me a thorough volley of questions about my physical and emotional state, covering everything from my occasional back pain to the mystery stress illness I had in third grade.
Then, the acupuncture began. In a small room where I was separated from another patient by Japanese folding screens, Gloyeske put three needles in each of my hands and even more in my feet and legs, explaining the benefits of each point as he went. The needles were small and very thin; I felt nothing more than a bit of pressure and a tiny prick as they pushed through my skin. I felt no fear, but nonetheless, I could not watch as he put them in.
I reclined in my chair for about half an hour, relaxed and drifting while a white noise machine drowned out the sound of traffic outside, and the music playing gently transitioned from trilling flute to the crashing of waves on the shore. Although I did not feel any drastic change, parts of my body felt occasionally numb or tingly, though not unpleasantly so.
Gloyeske learned his craft at the American Institute of Alternative Medicine in Columbus and opened his acupuncture business a little over a year ago. The day I went, he was offering "community acupuncture" for the first time, with a cheaper price of $45 for a session about half as long as a full-priced service, in a room with other people.
Acupuncture is used mainly to relieve pain of all sorts -- functional, emotional and physiological. Many of Gloyeske's patients are elderly, arthritic, or recovering from injury. There are two approaches to the practice: Eastern and Western.
The Eastern method is rooted in ancient Chinese beliefs and philosophy about the channels of energy in the body, about 16 of them that can be activated either directly or indirectly. Chinese tradition states that the blocking of this energy, or Qi, can cause pain and illness, and that stimulating certain points on the body through acupuncture can unblock those channels.
"In the olden days it used to be related to landscape," Gloyeske said. "Seas, rivers, channels, mountains, sky."
Leah Welsh, doctor of osteopathy at the Ohio State University's Wexler Medical Center, explained it in a similar way.
"Traditional Chinese Medicine sees the human body as an integral piece of the larger natural environment, with rhythms, seasons and dynamics not dissimilar to food chain webs, or the ecosystems we learn about in many science classes," Welsh said. "Just as nature has extremes that find a balance between night and day, spring and winter, famine and feast, so the human body swings through various Yin and Yang states and influences."
Chinese theory is that the farther away a point is from the source of the pain, the stronger it is, which is why most needles go in the hands and feet, even for neck and back pain.
Western approach is a bit more clinical and, according to Gloyeske, more believable to most people he treats. Western medicine explains the benefits of acupuncture through the concept of "mirroring," meaning that certain points on the hands and forearms correspond to the legs and feet and vice versa, as well as to parts of the brain. Thus one can be treated by stimulating the other.
On a physiological level, introducing the foreign object of needles into the system at certain points, while not harmful, stimulates the anti-inflammatory cells of the immune system and causes an uptick of oxygen in the body, which quickens healing and pain relief.
It also activates the "rest and digest" reaction, the lesser known opposite of the "flight or fight" response. "Fight or flight" is how the body's sympathetic nervous system reacts to stressful or dangerous situations; according to Gloyeske, the constant stress that is part and parcel of modern life means that most people are pretty much stuck in "fight or flight" mode. By flipping the switch to "rest and digest" mode of the parasympathetic nervous system, the mind and body feel safe and relaxed instead.
"What we know about the various biologic and chemical physiology of how acupuncture can decrease pain rivals, and in some areas exceeds, what we know about various drug interventions," Welsh said in support of the practice's credibility.
Gloyeske first encountered acupuncture after a car accident injured his toe. He tried many methods to try and relieve his pain, but it was acupuncture -- albeit compounded with his other treatments -- that finally finished the job.
In his own business, Gloyeske does the same for his patients. Although results can vary after a single session, return visits can be even more helpful. His community acupuncture services are most ideal for "one and done" cases. Gloyeske counted his first community acupuncture event a successful debut and will continue to offer it on Saturdays twice a month.
He also plans to do a special promotion on May 12, the day before Mother's Day, where he will offer acupuncture to all mothers for free.
Gloyeske believes that acupuncture can benefit anyone, regardless of age or condition.
"It's all about being open to it, not shutting it down before you try it," he said.
Welsh's experiences as an expert seem to corroborate that.
"A methodology like acupuncture does not survive, in various forms, for millennia, without having done many people at least a little bit of good," Welsh said.