My sister tries acupuncture – a popular treatment at sea

ABOARD THE MS EURODAM – With acupuncture needles sticking out of her body, my sister Elaine might be thinking she is nuts.

Why did she choose this spa treatment? She could be pampered with a soothing aromatherapy massage or a relaxing seaweed facial. Why is she letting a woman stick needles in her?

Acupuncturist Joanna Bond arranges very fine needles in a patient’s back

On the luxurious Eurodam in the middle of the blue Caribbean, Elaine and I are looking to expand our horizons.  “It’s a chance to try something new, something you might not have had time to do before,” acupuncturist Joanna Bond said.

To share what is available, the Eurodam offers complimentary tours of the spa and free seminars on some of the services. Spa treatments include traditional hair and beauty services, massage, wraps, aromatherapies and even teeth whitening.

In the state-of-the-art fitness center, a professional staff oversees the latest weight and aerobic conditioning equipment, elliptical machines and more. They also offer individualized training, plus an array of classes ranging from yoga and tai chi to indoor cycling and nutrition classes. With the treadmills and other exercise equipment facing a huge windowed wall overlooking the ocean, it’s really hard to beat the scenery.

For the free acupuncture seminar, Elaine and I listen as Joanna describes the benefits of the ancient Chinese treatment – the technique of inserting and manipulating very fine needles into specific points on the body to relieve pain or for therapeutic purposes.

“Acupuncture has been around for more than 3,000 years and has been used to treat more than 100 conditions,” Joanna said. “Traditional Chinese medicine is the fastest growing movement in health care today.”

Acupuncture treatments at sea have been offered on cruise ships since 2004, Joanna said. The service was added when a cruise director went to an acupuncturist for treatment of sciatica pain.

“The cruise director was so pleased with the results that he asked the acupuncturist to be a guest speaker on his ship,” Joanna said. Passengers eagerly embraced the acupuncture addition and requested that it be offered on every cruise.

Acupuncture is now offered on many ships, large and small

“That really opened the door for acupuncture on cruise ships,” Joanna said. “Today, acupuncture is offered on over 100 cruise ships in just about every cruise ship line in the world.”

When Joanna asked for a volunteer at the complimentary seminar to demonstrate how the needles are used, Elaine was first to respond.

I volunteered to take photos and notes.

After the free seminar, Elaine signed up for acupuncture. Joanna is usually booked and many passengers take more than one acupuncture session. Some of the most common reasons for treatment are chronic and acute pain, particularly in the back and knees, plus seasickness, Joanna said.

For cruise director Brent Roberts, the idea of letting someone stick needles into his body was not a pleasant thought. “I’m afraid of needles,” he admitted.

But this summer, Brent was on a Holland America cruise to Alaska when he was struck with a terrible headache and neck pain. “I was pounding down the Advil and the pain just kept getting worse,” he said.

In desperation, Brent turned to the ship’s acupuncturist. “That tells you how bad I felt that I would try acupuncture. But it worked,” he said. “I’ve used acupuncture several times since then because it really helps.”

Although it initially seemed strange to be lying on a massage table in the beautiful spa while the acupuncturist inserted more than a dozen needles, Elaine said the needles didn’t hurt.

A couple of needle points became a bit warm, especially ones in the shoulder blade area where Elaine has the most pain.

Would she try it again? “Definitely,” Elaine said. “When I get home, I’m going to look for an acupuncturist.”

For those who would like to try acupuncture in their home area, Joanna recommends going to an official registry that lists licensed acupuncturists –

Photo by Jackie Sheckler Finch

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