Apparently, Oregon's not afraid of needles.

Last November, Franciska Barr opened Pivotal Point Acupuncture and Wellness Center, a 1,000-square-foot clinic in the former home of Stoughton Hospital's Rehabilitation Center, 106 N. Main St.

At the time, Barr hoped her clinic would eventually treat a client or two per day. A few months later, she often sees six to eight patients a day, or up to 30 a week.

That steady business - amid a down economy - has surprised Barr, a former Latin major in college who last September graduated from a four-year program at the Midwest College of Oriental Medicine in Racine.

"My (former) classmates can't believe how busy I am," she said. "It has been amazing this early in the game."

While Barr's business centers around acupuncture - an ancient treatment method that includes pricking patients with thin, sterilized needles - her services range from prescribing herbs, analyzing digestion and nutrition and diagnosing a patient's pulse "type" from nearly 20 options.

Pivotal Point also offers treatments such as guasha, a skin-scraping method that aims to relieve muscle aches; "tui na" oriental massage, and "moxibustion," which uses the herb mugwort to generate heat and stimulate blood and energy flow on specific areas, Barr said.

Barr said her goal is to help patients by combining the best of Western medicine and traditional Chinese or Eastern remedies.

The latter, she said, relies on thousands of years of healing methods that are still not widely embraced in the United States. But so far, she's found many locals eager to try alternative methods to ease pain or other ailments.

In fact, clients come seeking help for everything from infertility, anxiety, acid reflux or eating disorders to arthritis, sciatica or other pains in the neck, shoulders, back or elsewhere, she said. Many clients are 60 years old or over.

A standard acupuncture treatment can take up to two hours, and patients often have eight to ten treatments over a few months.

Practitioners use needles differently, but Barr said she typically uses 20-30 needles in a treatment.

How deep the needles penetrate depends on the ailment and area that's being treated. On a hand or finger, a needle might go just below the skin, while a needle in the buttocks might go three to four inches deep, she said.

Which brings up the question - does it hurt?

Yes and no, Barr said. She aims for patients to achieve a "deep, dull ache" when she sinks a needle. That sensation tells her the procedure is working.

"It's not like a shot," she said. "The needles are very thin... It's unlike anything most people have ever felt."

An Oregon resident since 2004, Barr earned a bachelor's degree from the UW-Madison in 1990, then spent years editing books, manuals and articles for Dr. Howard Loomis, a well-known chiropractor, educator and nutrition expert based in Madison.

The experience led to her interest in acupuncture. She got her first treatment as a student.

"It was so powerful," Barr said. "I said, 'This is it. This is what I want to do.'"

So far, her vocation is working out. Last week, Barr's lone part-time employee, Cindy Martinelli, moved to full-time hours as both a massage therapist and an assistant who will perform follow-up care on clients, thus freeing Barr to move more efficiently from one patient to the next.

"We're really busy ... that's a great problem to have," Barr said.

And the work is rewarding, as she's often a last option for people who have failed to find relief from pain elsewhere.

"A lot of people are turning to alternative care," she said. "And they're finding relief. It's so rewarding to me for that reason."

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