“I’ve seen acupuncture change people’s lives,” says Lou Cutler, the newly-crowned Mr. Gay Philadelphia. “Acupuncture basically stimulates the body’s own innate ability to heal itself.”
The 33-year-old West Philadelphia resident, who graduated from the Eastern School of Acupuncture and Traditional Medicine, was practicing the art for several years at the Philadelphia Community Acupuncture clinic, and, despite several personal roadblocks, including a battle with Lyme disease, is looking to expand his private practice.
First, fear not: The misconception that acupuncture is some sort of medical voodoo is far from the truth, according to Cutler. To begin with, the "needles" used in the procedure are not hypodermic. "They are filiform needles, meaning they are extremely thin (flexible), stainless steel, and do not inject substances into the body. You can bend them back and forth with your finger," he says.
So how does all of this work to help relieve pain? The answer, to be honest, isn't as easy as one may think.
"Nobody knows precisely how acupuncture actually works, but there are different ways of explaining it depending on if you are talking in Western medical terms or you are talking in traditional Chinese medical terms," says Culter. "From a Western medical standpoint, acupuncture does things like release endorphins (which fight pain), boosts the immune system, increases blood and lymph flow, and has an extremely calming effect on the nervous system. It is extremely effective at relieving musculoskeletal pain, and calming nausea, which is particularly helpful for chemo patients and also people who are pregnant." He adds the practice is "really good for things like anxiety, depression and other mental/emotional disorders."
This, in turn, helps the body create an entire series of physiological responses that aid in healing, including increased blood flow, white blood cells, and nervous system regulation.
Cutler, who enjoys working on patients with chronic pain or mental/emotional illness, discovered just how powerful the practice was during one of his final externships at a VA hospital in Northern New Jersey where he had to treat a number of patients with PTSD.
"Some of [the patients] were in such extreme pain," he recalls. "My teacher would say, 'They walk in like a lion and out like a lamb.'"
His other realization of the power of the practice came when he had to stop performing treatments due to this own chronic health problem--Lyme disease--back in 2011. According to reports from the CDC, over 300,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Lyme disease every year. This diagnosis put Cutler behind in his own practice.
"It has impacted my life in a major way," he says. "People do not realize how devastating this disease can be in its chronic form."
Along with visiting "every kind of doctor under the sun," Cutler also used acupuncture as a way to manage his own chronic pain, which helped improve his quality of life. Although he still suffers to this day, he claims he's "much better" than he was when first diagnosed.
He also credits a major mind shift for his healing: an active "seeking out" of happiness.
"I've been spending the last six months just trying to get back into hobbies that I love," he says. "I'm into music, working out, eating, hanging with friends, and I am obsessed with cats!"
A part of this transition is starting his own private acupuncture practice in his West Philadelphia home, complete with his two cherished kitties in tow. "There's nothing fancy going on here," he confides.
However, that's not the point of acupuncture, or of Cutler's journey. Despite his title of Mr. Gay Philadelphia, Cutler's learned a life lesson that has brought him satisfaction.
"I try to take advantage of everything I think will increase my happiness and quality of life," he says.
So far, that seems to be working out quite well.
If you're interested in Lou Cutler's acupuncture practice, or for more information, you can contact him here.