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Charly Haley, Published September 30 2012

It's My Job: Moorhead acupuncturist treats a variety of ailments

MOORHEAD – Jen DeMaio sticks needles and pins in people at Two Turtles Acupuncture Center, 810 4th Ave. S., No. 100, where the 39-year-old is a licensed acupuncturist and co-owner.

Q: Can you explain to me what an acupuncturist does?

A: People go to an acupuncturist for things they would see their primary health care doctor for. We see people with body pain, digestion upset, menstrual irregularities, infertility concerns. I see kids with attention deficit and sleep issues. So, an acupuncturist helps people get healthy and stay healthy. People come to us with symptoms that are affecting their everyday life, and they come to us to help them feel better.

How does acupuncture help with those different things?

When doing a person’s initial assessment, we can figure out, based on Chinese medicine, which organs need the most support on that person, and then we choose our acupuncture points or our herbs or our nutritional lifestyle suggestions based on what their imbalance is. Multiple people could come in the door with the same symptom, but they might have different systems that are imbalanced, so we treat based on that idea. Every point has a specific function in the body and we’re choosing acupuncture points based on the person.

How does putting needles in someone help with that?

We get a backflow of qi (or energy), where it’s not enough in some areas and too much in others. Acupuncture simply unblocks the blockages, so it gets the kinks out of the flow. It nourishes those areas that haven’t gotten the nourishment and it moves the qi or the energy away from those areas that have gotten too much of it.

How did you get started?

I was finishing college and was a biology and psychology major, and I had a professor suggest that I look at alternative medicine because I was looking at med schools. … I made a last-minute decision to apply to some acupuncture schools and I decided to go that route.

Do you get any odd responses working in alternative medicine?

When we first moved to this area (from the West Coast), which was nine years ago, people hadn’t really heard of acupuncture, and that was odd for us. … There’s some people that are turned off by the needles and some people that are turned off because it’s a woo-woo unexplainable kind of thing, but there’s enough research being done saying acupuncture’s effective at treating these disorders.

Did you ever get nervous sticking needles in people?

I was probably 23 when I first put a needle in someone. You spend your first year (in school) just learning locations of points and the anatomy. In the second year of school you learn how to do the needling. The first time is definitely weird, but once I kind of got past that first time I didn’t have any reservations.

Are people sometimes surprised at how it works?

I think that’s the funny thing. Even though I’ve been doing this for 13 years, someone will come in with debilitating pain, and they can rest on the table for 30 or 40 minutes, and I’ll put needles in different areas that support where the pain is, and they can walk out feeling like maybe there is no pain, or they feel like they’re improved by 50 percent or more. … Sometimes my brain is like, I don’t know how that happened, but that’s really cool. I love that I can help people like that.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Charly Haley at (701)235-7311