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Stressed during the holidays? Try acupuncture

Needles used for acupuncture are relatively small, the size of a cat's whisker. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch 1 / 6
Acupuncturist Jenna Niggeler smiles as she checks the pulse of her client Jill Gibbs before her treatment at Axness Chiropractic in Baxter. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch 2 / 6
Jenna Niggeler, a 2005 Pillager High School graduate, practices acupuncture at Axness Chiropractic in Baxter. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch 3 / 6
Acupuncturist Jenna Niggeler checks Jill Gibbs' pulse before her treatment at Axness Chiropractic in Baxter. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch 4 / 6
Acupuncture is one way to help relieve stress and discomfort through natural healing and balance. Jill Gibbs of Fifty Lakes relaxes during a treatment by Jenna Niggeler at Axness Chiropractic in Baxter. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch 5 / 6
Acupuncturist Jenna Niggeler gets ready to insert a needle into Jill Gibbs' ankle area during a treatment at Axness Chiropractic in Baxter. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch 6 / 6

BAXTER—Holidays can be a stressful time for people with all the hustle and bustle of parties and finding that perfect Christmas gift.

How can one manage the stress to make it to 2018 and beyond? One way is acupuncture.

Acupuncturist Jenna Niggeler, who has been practicing at Axness Chiropractic in Baxter since August, said acupuncture stimulates blood flow from head to toe and encourages the body to promote natural healing and balance. Niggeler said acupuncture stimulates the body allowing for release of natural painkillers, such as endorphins and serotonin—making the treatment relaxing.

Acupuncture is inserting needles described as cat whiskers in size into certain points of the body.

"Just like the old Chinese saying goes, 'Where there is pain there is no free flow and where there is free flow there is no pain,'" Niggeler said. "Acupuncture can help the blood flow freely and allow the body to naturally get to the root cause of the pain or condition."

A typical treatment lasts about 25-30 minutes and about 14-25 tiny, sterile needles are inserted into the body. Niggeler recommends people to come for treatments every week.

For those scared of needles, Niggeler said there's no need to fear.

"I love to prove to people that it doesn't hurt," Niggeler said. "People should have no fear ... The needles are like the size of cat whiskers. Once the needle is inserted in the body it releases the hormones that allows your body to relax."

If a person is experiencing some discomfort during the acupuncture treatment, or getting too cold or hot they should let the acupuncturist know.

Niggeler said people don't take enough time to take care of themselves, especially during the holidays. She said a person can use an acupuncture session to have "me time" to relax and to forget about their "to do" and Christmas lists.

"Hopefully you can turn your mind off of the holiday stress and relax your body," Niggeler said. "This relaxing time will help with breathing techniques."

Niggeler said people should come to their appointment wearing comfortable clothing, having a light snack and be hydrated. When they leave, people will feel refreshed and relaxed for a few hours afterwards.

Niggeler, a 2005 Pillager High School graduate, earned a bachelor's degree in biology at the University of Wisconsin Stout and a master's degree in acupuncture at Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington.

While in college, she wasn't planning to become an acupuncturist. When she started training for her first Twin Cities marathon in 2008, she started having pain in her knees.

"I tried physical therapy, stretching, icing it. I took ibuprofen and it didn't help the pain," Niggeler said. "I wanted to run this marathon and an old friend of mine suggested acupuncture. I did about 12 treatments and it worked. It didn't just help with the pain, it helped me with my digestion and my sleep.

"My goal was to run the marathon in five hours and I did it in four hours and 18 minutes, pain free. I was going to be a phlebotomist ... but I changed gears to pursue a career in acupuncture treatment."

The Pillager graduate also practiced at a women's birth center in St. Paul for three years, before moving back to the Brainerd area. She said acupuncture also helps women who are struggling to get pregnant. She said the treatment helps balance hormones.

Niggeler said a majority of patients seek treatment because they are in enough discomfort and may have run out of other health options. She recommends new patients in discomfort to come in one to two times a week for about two to six weeks depending on their pain. Then, once the symptoms or pain levels are decreased, the period of time between treatments is lengthened.

Jill Gibbs of Fifty Lakes said earlier this month she was on her fifth or sixth treatment with Niggeler.

"I'm feeling great," Gibbs said. "This helps with my sleep, it helps with my mood and she's great and I totally trust her. It's good for people to take care of themselves. This is my part of my mental health, my well-being to get regular chiropractor and acupuncture (treatments)."

Ways to combat stress:

• Get adequate sleep. Try for at least eight hours of restful and restorative sleep.

• Practice meditative exercises. Qigong, tai chi and yoga can help create a healthy body/mind awareness and help free the mind of stressful thoughts.

• Eat a well-balanced diet. Maintain a healthy diet with adequate amounts of complex carbs, vegetables, fruits, protein and healthy fats.

• Have fun. Make time for relaxing activities, enjoyable hobbies and lots of laughter in your life.

• Breathe. Relaxed deep breathing is one of the most simple and easy techniques that can be used to reduce stress.

Source: Acupuncture Media Works.