Moore brings acupuncture to the community at Farmer's Market

Jessica Stölen-Jacobson
Montevideo American-News

Visitors to the Montevideo Farmer’s Market last year may have noticed a unique vendor offering community acupuncture services during the Thursday afternoon markets. Amber Moore, of Sparrow Acupuncture, has been visiting the Montevideo area to offer services for a couple of years, attending the Farmer’s Market on Thursday afternoons, and operating out of a rented space in the Cornerstone Chiropractic building on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays a couple of times a month. Moore currently resides in the Twin Cities, where she works at a clinic, practices out of her home, and volunteers for clinics and pop-ups. Moore plans to move her practice to Montevideo in a few years when her daughter graduates High School. 

Moore’s journey into the world of acupuncture began when her daughter was just a baby. She found herself interested in Chinese Medicine while living off-grid in the mountains on a commune. “I was working hard at trying to find all the ways to meet our needs and it just seemed really clear at the time that if there was any major health crisis I didn’t have the tools,” she explains. “I’d been researching herbalism and folk remedies on my own for some time and I love to garden, but I felt like I needed an education in some sort of medicine that would support health in every way, and in an accessible way. Herbalism and Chinese medicine were the two that really felt accessible to me because herbs grow all around us.” Upon further research, Moore discovered that Chinese Medicine was an accredited Master’s Degree program with access to Federal Aid, which would prove helpful as living off-grid was not an enterprise that provided an income. “I had family in Minnesota and there are two Chinese Medicine schools in Minneapolis. It just felt kind of serendipitous because there’s not another Chinese Medicine school until you get to Colorado,” she says. “I wanted something really practical - a skill that could in the very least support my family and my community and I have found that. It has very little input as far as tools but a lot of input as far as education and regulation which is why it took me eight years to get to the point of licensure. I wanted something practical and functional to support the health of the community and I didn’t feel like Western Medicine did that. It was this big labyrinth of pressure to never get enough or the right kind of health care with lots of resource waste.”

Moore’s Master’s Degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine included studying herbalism, dietary and lifestyle coaching, as well as Qi Gong and Tai Chi with both use movement in line with mindfulness. “Mostly what I offer is acupuncture to keep things simple, but also for me, community acupuncture is a business model based in and started for people interested in social change around healthcare,” Moore says. “That model simplifies things.” When Moore sets up the community acupuncture tent at the Farmer’s Market, she has a couple of chairs for visitors inside and works to create an environment that’s casual and comfortable. “The idea is to change how we look at healthcare, so it’s in normal settings that already feel casual and try to break down that white coat barrier that happens in health care,” she says. “It affects people of lower-income more. Those people are more likely to get health care if it’s casual and in an environment where they can identify with the people around them. That’s part of why I really like that model versus setting up a super-professional environment that makes a lot of people who are stressed about money feel really uncomfortable or scared to be vulnerable.”

When Moore is working out of her space in the Cornerstone Chiropractic building, she also offers individual treatments on Fridays in which she sits down with the patient to discuss what they’re eating, what options they have for herbs, their sleep patterns, and more. “It’s been interesting to me to see the social dynamics in both treatment environments,” she says. “I love doing both. I do love giving somebody an individual treatment because I’m able to talk with them and get a lot more information and help them feel really safe, but I also love doing community acupuncture because I get to be really busy and in a successful community acupuncture practice you get to give a lot of treatments and see a lot of people get help and support and that gives a different reward at the end.”

Moore recognizes that acupuncture may not be considered mainstream in rural areas such as Montevideo, but has been working to educate about how acupuncture methods benefit patients through outreach such as the Farmer’s Market. “I try to encourage people to try it, even if they’ve had it from their Chiropractor because the training we receive in the Master’s program is so much different,” she says. “I had to go through the Master’s Degree program, three board exams and all of these different exams to get where I’m at and a Chiropractor or Medical Doctor can take a training in a couple of weekends, basically 300 hours for acupuncture training versus the thousands of hours I have with clinical hours included so it just means that what they do is going to be based in Western medicine and limited with what they can try.” Moore notes that community acupuncture is a good place to start when looking to try the experience for the first time. “It’s a sliding scale, and cheaper,” she says. “I charge fifteen to thirty-five dollars for community acupuncture on a sliding scale with a ten dollar patient intake fee. I encourage them to give me feedback and let me know if they’re not comfortable with any particular place on their body being needled or if they’re feeling like they’ve had enough and don’t want to keep going.” 

Moore also explains how acupuncture works within the body for various issues. “I talk about how much I’ve seen it be useful to people because I think another reason people shut it out is because they think it’s not useful for much and it’s the polar opposite. Acupuncture encourages your body to respond to any form of imbalance that ever happens to it. It can be emotional and mental, it can also be physical. I can point out that every single person in our culture has too much stress and a lot of people have hormone imbalance so it would be worth it for any person to try it. They’d probably notice something - that they get better sleep, that they have better digestion. It’s commonly used for immune support for chemo patients - they’d notice that they have a better immune response, that they have less stress, that they feel relaxed, or that they feel more centered.” Moore hopes that in the future, community acupuncture clinics can be normalized as a regular part of self-care. “Real self-care, not just the idea that is commodified a lot right now is about giving yourself space to go into yourself and basically acupuncture coaches your body along and it gets you into that space really quickly. Often what happens with people when needles go in is a lot of people fall asleep quickly or they go into a kind of trance-like state where they don’t think time is passing. So that tells me the needles help you get into a parasympathetic state of healing pretty much instantly and that counts as a very powerful form of self-care because that is something that is very hard to get to on your home without meditating for a long time or yoga to put you into that parasympathetic state where healing happens.”

Moore plans to continue her current schedule of visiting Montevideo to provide services over the next couple of years but is excited at the prospect of moving the practice to Montevideo full-time when her daughter graduates. “A major motivator for me is that I have always lived rurally until I moved to the Cities, so for me it’s also about making health care accessible in rural communities,” she says. “That’s why I make the effort to drive all the way out to Monte every couple of weeks to start a practice out here.” Moore’s first visit to the Montevideo Farmer’s Market will be opening week, June 17th. She will return July 2nd, 16th, and 30th, and in August on the 13th and 27th.