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Chinese medicine makes inroads to Midland’s health care milieu

The Permian Basin’s dearth of health care options has grown increasingly infamous as certain segments of the community -- like veterans and those affected with mental health issues --struggle to find adequate services. This year, however, patients ailed with most any symptom have an option beyond conventional remedies.
Since February, Dr. Clay Collins has been practicing acupuncture on the west side of town. In a single room within the Family Wellness Center off West Wadley Avenue, Collins treats his patients’ ailments with needles and a convivial bedside manner. It’s a practice thousands of years old, but in Midland, Collins is somewhat of a pioneer.
He moved his practice to Midland after studying and practicing his craft in Albuquerque, New Mexico, for eight years. Then, after overcoming trepidations about how such a practice would be received in Midland, he opened his business to a welcoming reception.
“I love acupuncture and Chinese medicine, but when I came to town, I didn’t know if it would fly in Midland,” he said. “I had faith in the medicine. It’s a wonderful modality and good for so many things.”
Yet in bringing his practice to Midland, he’s faced incredulity -- usually those that stem from associating the practice to eastern religions.
“Generally people are outright skeptical; they’ll say they don’t believe in it. So I’m quick to say it’s not a faith-based medicine, you don’t have to believe in it for it to work -- it just works,” he said.
From cold and flu relief to psycho-emotional and neurological disorders, acupuncture can be effective for more than 40 common disorders recognized by the World Health Organization. For those suffering muscle and joint pain, acupuncture can help provide relief, Collins said. And for those suffering PTSD, depression or anxiety, acupuncture can bring comfort.
And especially so for combat veterans. Collins, who will soon begin accepting Tricare veterans’ life insurance, treats several veterans with physiological or mental pains.
One such patient, veteran John Qualls, discovered acupuncture several years after serving in the Vietnam War.
“When I came back from Vietnam, I had 14 years of migraine headaches,” Qualls said. “I had tried everything else -- every pill that you could think of, so I said ‘let’s just go and take a peek.’ I had three sessions, and three sessions stopped the headaches.”
But more recently, Qualls suffered neck pains due to whiplash that occurred in an auto accident last winter.
So, he said, “I found Clay,” and after five sessions his neck pain ceased.
“He is one of the best acupuncturists I’ve had in my lifetime,” Qualls said.
Collins also treats two patients recovering from chemotherapy treatments at Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center, which staffs its own acupuncturists to help quell patients’ nausea.
By selecting points along the human body (or “meridians”) that have been mapped to internal organs, Collins diagnoses a patient then determines a combination of needling points for treatment. With each insertion, certain anti-inflammatory and natural pain killing molecules are released.
“It’s an art, and that’s something that’s very attractive to me. It’s not just a technique or a technology, it’s an art,” Collins said. “You choose the point that’s really going to address the main complaint. But not just what’s going on physiologically, also what’s going on with their mind and emotions. You’re trying to treat the whole person.”
“We’re not just a physical body, we’re all of our life experiences and our relationships and our environment, and there’s so much going on that no one person can’t figure it out,” he added.
But between conventional Western allopathic medicine practices and the homeopathic approach of Chinese medicine, “together I think we can,” he said.
By Brandon Mulder 

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