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Old medicine gets new look for aging

Acupuncture- without needles- gives faces a "turbo lift"

Bloomington, MN - Mary L. was stealing peeks in the mirror. Her face looked good. "Around the eyes, the crow's feet, they're diminished," she said with undisguised joy. Three hours earlier she completed her first energy light rejuvenation treatment. On her last birthday- she's now 48, November 17th, the Edina, MN resident noticed a few lines on her still-supple face. Last week, she decided to do something about it. "It's not like I want to go back to looking 21. I want to look mature, but refined. Youthful- not pulled tight," said Mary L., describing a conundrum known to legions of the middle-aged.

Mary L. deemed plastic surgery too invasive, long recovery, and expensive. The partial paralysis produced by Botox was unappealing. Instead she made an appointment at Longevity MedSpa, a Bloomington, MN an anti-aging salon/medspa that was the first in the area to offer energy light rejuvenation as an alternative to surgery, chemical peels and microdermabrasion.

Its based on Acupuncture, "the oldest medical technology in the world," said Gretta Graceland, a master acupuncturist who is the owner of Longevity MedSpa.

The 2,500-year old Chinese practice addresses medical problems with needles inserted into specific points along the body's electrically based nervous system.

"But it doesn't use needles. It uses one-millionth of an amp of electricity (milliamps) and affects the body the same way needles do. It's turbo acupuncture," said Gretta, who has long used the low-current technology to treat pain and for patients who are squeamish about needles, such as children and patients that are medically compromised and too weak to do needles. Gretta said the technique appeals to a new breed of health care consumer. Face lifts can cost four times more than the initial acupuncture face lift protocol. The FDA-approved procedure is essentially risk free but is off-limits to people who have epilepsy, oral herpes or are in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Recharging the skin

The Energy Light technique (ELT) is new in that it combines the minute electrical current with light beams that simultaneously treat the skin. The agent of change is the Acutron Mentor, a Star Trek-looking device with a small screen, two wands and numerous knobs, developed by Phoenix acupuncturist Darren Starwynn.

The idea is that the micro-current, said to match the strength of the body's own electrical charge, stimulates production of collagen and elastin, the stuff that keeps skin pretty and diminishes with age. The light therapy stirs specific reactions in the cells.

Blue-light therapy, for example, has been shown to produce a substance deadly to bacteria that cause acne, according to the National Institutes of Health. Other types of light allow cells to absorb water or aid in the production of collagen and elastin.

Acupuncture has been acknowledged even by Western medicine as a valid treatment for pain, nausea, addiction, stroke rehabilitation, carpel tunnel syndrome, asthma and many other health problems.

The treatment points are located along a system of "meridians" that acupuncturists visualize as a sort of fiber-optic network. Starwynn's Acutron does the same thing as the needles. It is just newer technology, acupuncturists say. Its face-lifting benefits were first noticed by a Florida acupuncturist who used it to treat a patient with Bell's palsy, a condition characterized by facial paralysis. After several treatments, the patient's face became youthful. Starwynn researched the effect, and developed a protocol for Acutron face lifts, adding the light treatment to extend the duration of the face lift, which varies among individuals. Results like Mary L. are immediately visible. A series of 8 to 14 treatments may be required for lasting results. Two one-hour treatments per week are recommended for the first four weeks, followed by weekly appointments. A single appointment is $120 to $150 (double that on the east and west coasts!), but cost-cutting packages are available. Maintaining the look requires a follow-up every two months, also available in discount packages.

Facing new technology

Mary L. said she was excited before the one-hour treatment began with a facial cleansing to remove makeup. When the two wands appeared, Mary relaxed, saying their gelled tips felt like two cool spoons on her face.

Gretta Graceland, who was specially trained in energy/light therapy, initially used the wands to increase circulation and then made adjustments to vary the current and light, depending on the parts of the face being addressed. First blue light, then green and turquoise lights are caressed to Mary's cheeks, forehead, neck and laugh lines.

The wands were in contact with the face for most of the hour - except for the five minutes Gretta spent massaging Mary's feet!

As the treatment drew to a close, the patient's face had picked up color and the skin around her eyes looked firmer. Mary said she felt "very much relaxed and at peace".