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October 19, 2017

Q&A: Acupuncturist treats physical and emotional pain

“We’ve been trained to treat the root causes of the problem, not just the symptoms,” says Sarah Steed, who practices acupuncture in Warrenton.
I’ve been doing veterinary medicine since I was 8. So I’ve been sticking needles in animals and giving horses shots, surgeries, anesthesia. Sticking needles in horses is a lot harder than sticking them in people.
Sarah Steed
• Age: 62

• Home: Rappahannock County

• Work: Licensed acupuncturist, 2002-present; professional horse trainer, farm manager, office worker, 1980-2002; animal husbandry teacher, State University of New York at Delhi, 1977-80.

• Family: Single.

• Education: Professional diploma, acupuncture, Maryland Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 2001; associate’s degree, animal husbandry/horses, State University of New York at Morrisville, 1975; Binghamton Central High School, N.Y., 1973.
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Staff Journalist
For most of her working life, she trained horses and managed farms.

But that got old after a while, Warrenton acupuncturist Sarah Steed says.

“It was fun — in your 20s and 30s — riding horses all day long and being out in all kinds of weather,” says Ms. Steed, who has an office at 9 N. Third St. “Then I got kind of tired and burned out on that. So I was looking to do something different and going back to school.”

Because of her agricultural career, the upstate New York native had witnessed acupuncture’s benefits.

“I worked for two veterinarians in Middleburg” in 1983, Ms. Steed recalls. “They were doing acupuncture on dogs, cats and horses.”

The alternative medicine also provided near-miraculous relief to a friend who suffered from “acute” allergies, the acupuncturist says.

Her friend’s brother — a chiropractic student — had “this little box of needles, and he whipped a few in her face and in five minutes she stopped crying and sneezing,” she says. “In 20 minutes, you would never have known anything had happened. So I had always known it had worked.”

Ms. Steed in 2001 earned a professional diploma in acupuncture from the Maryland Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine. In 2002, she received her acupuncture license from the Virginia Board of Medicine.

Ms. Steed treats a range of conditions, including back and post-surgical pain, smoking addiction, headaches, fertility problems, digestive issues, depression and anxiety.

She also performs “face rejuvenations,” or acupuncture facelifts.

“It takes three to five years off your face,” Ms. Steed says. “It makes your body produce collagen; it fills in all the wrinkles.”

Monday through Friday, Ms. Steed schedules patient visits by appointment only. The first appointment — a 90-minute visit — costs $150. Regular appointments cost $100 per hour.

• Why did you become an acupuncturist?
I got burned out on horses. I didn’t want to be doing that anymore. I was like done. So I decided I wanted to have a different career. And I just thought I’d be really good at it. I’m from a medical family, so I’ve had a lot of training my whole life. And, I just like the way acupuncture works. Heck, if I can get one person out of a wheelchair, it would be really worth it.

• How does acupuncture work?
There’s this energy that flows in your body called “qi” (pronounced “chee”). And there’s an optimal way that it flows. And so when that doesn’t happen you have a pain issue — improper digestion, insomnia. The person is out of balance. (Acupuncture) corrects that. The little needles drain out the pain, or excess energy. Post-surgical, it can help people heal up faster, do their physical therapy.

• What kinds of conditions do you treat?
Anything to do with some sort of pain problem. I’ve had a lot of patients that have digestive track issues, psychological issues — depression, anxiety. I have one man who’s been coming to me like every other week for five years just for stress and anxiety. There’s more stressed-out people because of electronic devices and just the world we are in today.

I treat people for grief issues. They’ve lost a loved one, a favorite pet, favorite horse — whatever.

I have treated professional athletes and high school athletes.

Because of past history with horses, I treat a lot of polo players and horse trainers. Around here in the summer, there’s tons of them. And they’re always getting trashed. They always have problems with their upper backs and their shoulders.

• What’s the most common condition you treat?
Probably back pain. Americans aren’t fit. And, they hurt themselves.

• Can acupuncture cure every condition?
No. I wouldn’t say that. I would say it can improve the quality of life for most things. I’ve been trained to treat everything there is known to human medicine.

We’ve been trained to treat the root causes of the problem, not just the symptoms, like they do in Western medicine. I have had people who had migraine headaches for 50 years. And they’re 100-percent cured, and they don’t relapse.

• By putting needles in a particular place?
Yes, usually. And part of Chinese medicine is we are trained in nutrition, lifestyle, exercise.

• Not just sticking people with needles?
Correct. I’m kind of like a personal coach, in some ways, because, obviously, if a person is abusing themselves with cigarettes, alcohol and maybe some other things, acupuncture is not going to work well. There are some things that are detrimental to what I do.

• If I walked into your office with a crippling migraine, what would you do?
Say if it’s really just one side, behind your left eye and you can’t see. I’ll lay you down in a dark room, get you comfortable with the right needles. One needle in your left palm and one needle in each foot, in the web of your big toe and that’s it. Three needles. Boom. It’s gone.

• You leave them in for a period of time?
Twenty minutes. And there’s several different ways I touch them.

• Do you use different-sized needles?
Yes. In different sized people, because I’ve worked on everything from a 4-1/2 month old to close to a 400-pound person.

• Does sticking people with needles make you squeamish?
I’ve been doing veterinary medicine since I was 8. So I’ve been sticking needles in animals and giving horses shots, surgeries, anesthesia. Sticking needles in horses is a lot harder than sticking them in people.

• Have you ever been stumped?
Nope.

• There’s a needle for every ailment?
Yeah. But there are some people I can’t help — people that have bad back surgeries that were really not appropriate for them. They had good insurance. They whipped them on the table. I’ve had people lay on my table and just cry because they were completely disabled after a surgery they had.

• What do you like most about your job?
I help people. And I meet the best people on the whole planet. They’re so appreciative. It keeps my brain going. It’s like I’m a super sleuth of Chinese medicine.

• Do you treat yourself?
Yes. When I go to the dentist I have a reaction to the local block they use to numb you. I put five needles in one ear and they work on me. They prevent the symptoms — nausea, my face doesn’t swell up. Everything’s good.
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BJ · October 19, 2017 at 8:34 pm
That's AWESOME! We will have to call for an appointment ASAP.

Blaine Johnson
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