In the eight years that Community Acupuncture of Mt. Airy has existed in Northwest Philadelphia, owner Elise Rivers had heard a lot of people talk about why they don't feel comfortable with acupuncture.
It's exactly the reason one would think, in most cases.
"The number one reason people don't try it is they think it hurts," she said. "It is nothing like what people think."
Rivers says that talking about needles as a method to heal invokes a certain image in people's minds, one that she says is a big detractor to potential clients.
"These aren't hypodermic needles," she said. "They are hair thin and it feels nothing like you would expect. The first thing is getting someone to actually try an acupuncture needle. Nothing I can say will be like experience it, but if you're willing to open yourself to it, the rewards are great."
The idea of open-mindedness is first and foremost at CAMA, which Rivers says is designed to put its customers at ease and provide them with a service they might not even know they need: a chance to relax.
"It's all about uplifting the spirit, because once you uplift the spirit you can start to affect the body," she said. "Really, this is set up to be a place to relax, which sounds really simple, but people won't do it unless they make an appointment to. There's always an email to check or a kid to pick up or something to drop off, and this place can help people find a balance. We can let help you do it."
Beyond relaxation, CAMA offers treatments for chronic muscle pain, migraines and acid reflux. A big part of the appeal for Rivers is that "allows the body to access its own healing abilities."
"Acupuncture, rather than prescription drugs, can step in and help people recover their function without side effects," she said. "No matter where we work on the body, acupuncture releases endorphins, cretonne and activates brain chemistry to help the body release its own pain killers. There are real biochemical changes that happen in the body from acupuncture."
There are more and more studies backing up what Rivers says and proving that acupuncture is a legitimate form of therapy. However, Rivers still encounters the occasional non-believer.
"A needle holding you up is one thing, disbelief is another," she said. "The attitude of 'this won't work,' that's tougher to deal with. I love questioning patients, but you have to have the conversation. When people do say yes, I get really excited because it says 'I'm open to a new experience,' and that opens the door for me to help."