Heather Wheeler, L.Ac, is a licensed acupuncturist and certified functional medicine practitioner in the state of Missouri where she practices acupuncture, cosmetic acupuncture, nutrition services, and more in her practice Wheeler Acupuncture & Functional Wellness. She attended Phoenix Institute for Herbal Medicine and Acupuncture in Phoenix, AZ, completed her Masters of Science degree, and has also studied nutrition at Arizona State University. Heather and her family live in St. Peters, MO, and is hoping to raise her boys to cook, read food labels, and help them understand that they are not destined for illness. She is committed to giving her patients the best experience possible, and arming them with healing and knowledge they can bring with them long after their session ends.
Welcome, Heather Wheeler, L.Ac! Thank you for joining us for Acupuncturist of the Month!
So, how long have you been practicing acupuncture for, and what are your specialties?
I’ve been practicing for over 13 years and treat a lot of pain as well and high stress and inflammatory conditions.
What inspired you to become an acupuncturist?
My own experience with successful acupuncture treatment for acute pain management as well as endometriosis.
We see that you have a background in nutrition education, how has that helped you in your implementation of TCM nutrition in your practice?
My nutrition background and love of cooking has helped me to counsel patients in steps they can take at home to help manage their issues. When they see that the food they’re eating is contributing to their illness, then they are able to be an active participant in their own treatment.
On your journey to become an acupuncturist, what obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
Creating and operating a successful practice is a huge obstacle! No matter what, if you can’t run a business, then you can’t be there to help anyone. Also, continued learning and growth in treatment practices. We always have more to learn.
Share a recent success story you had with a patient. What acupuncture points, herbs, or other interventions (meditation, yoga, nutrition, etc) did you use to help them achieve results?
Chronic low back pain. UB62, SI3, UB23, UB25, yao yan, GB31 estim. Cut gluten and dairy. First time in 2 years off daily pain meds.
What makes you feel inspired about acupuncture?
My greatest happiness is hearing a patient was able to stop taking pain medications.
Looking back, what advice would you have given to the younger version of yourself, who was just getting started in this profession?
Take marketing classes!
What keeps an acupuncture practice going?
It is all about the patient! When your patients are happy because you treat them well, overdeliver on services, promptness and attitude they are happy. You also have to have systems in place, and be ready to scale.
What are specific roadblocks to watch out for as a new acupuncturist?
Don’t keep running to the next new seminar or class. Use what you have learned in school and figure out how to run a business. Find a group of peers you relate to and grow together!
We have all occasionally had a patient come into our practice who is upset, frustrated, and a little angry. Maybe it’s from work, being stuck in traffic, or life in general – we have all been there! What advice would you give to fellow acupuncture students and/or colleagues on how to deal with situations like these?
Acknowledge their frustration, remind them this is their place to relax. Give an awesome treatment!
What are your favorite acupuncture points, and why?
Ht 7, Ear shen men, Yin Tang, Du24 – ANYTHING and EVERYTHING to bring down cortisol! Everyone is stressed out – and I want to break that high stress / high pain cycle. My rooms include aromatherapy, darkness, and a treatment table that positions the legs above the level of the heart in order to trigger the relaxation or parasympathetic response.
Can you tell us a little about the private and group nutrition consultations you offer? What are the benefits of both?
For efficiency, I often refer my patients to our in house functional nutrition specialist. She is able to give specific care to patients alongside their acupuncture treatments. They are offered individual sessions or group, both have been successful and offer different levels of support. Some patients require privacy and others thrive learning in a group.
Sometimes, the best resource for improving our skills is by learning from the other acupuncturists we meet along our professional journey. What is one thing you learned from a fellow acupuncturist or holistic practitioner, that has helped you in your professional growth, or in your care for patients?
So many things! I’m lucky enough to have many colleagues around the country who all run amazing successful practices. While we discuss everything from patient care to lease negotiation – the best thing they offer is encouragement and support!
Tell us a little about red light therapy and microcurrent stimulation, and how they benefit the patient seeking cosmetic acupuncture.
I include red light therapy as part of our cosmetic acupuncture protocol to increase blood flow, reduce acne and even skin tone. A microcurrent procedure is applied after acupuncture and red light to further stimulate muscle contracture in the face to create the uplifting effect of the process.
The COVID-19 pandemic has without a doubt had a significant impact on the acupuncture practice community and small businesses alike. How have you been handling the COVID-19 situation as an acupuncture practice owner and individual? What advice or wisdom would you like to share with other acupuncturists who are also navigating through these sensitive times?
Luckily, my practice remained open and my area was not hard hit and the public was generally rational about the whole situation. My best advice here is to have emergency money so you don’t panic! Beyond that, do your best – if you need a break then take a break! If you can keep marketing and helping patients then do that because they need you.
Do you have any daily habits or rituals that keep you at your “best-self”, both as an acupuncture practitioner and person?
COFFEE. Also, I’m at my best with sleep, eating right, exercising and getting a session in the sauna. I also love a good 20 min. sound bowl session .
The kindest thing a patient said to you recently:
I just love it here!
As an acupuncturist, what are you most proud of thus far in your professional journey?
I have failures and successes, but I just keep going.
How do you define functional medicine, and how is it used in your practice?
My functional medicine studies have given me more knowledge to assess a patient. I can look at medication and supplements and how the body works in a different way. Oftentimes I am able to help a patient understand what is going on with them in a different way they have never heard before.
If you could have a billboard with anything on it, what would it be and why?
I’ve done a billboard 😉 My face, my name, and “Acupuncture is the solution you’ve been looking for!”
What is your definition of success?
That I am happy, healthy, supporting my family and helping my patients.
If you could have one superpower what would it be and why?
Endless energy to do all the things!
*Rapid fire questions!*:
Morning or night? Night
Tea or coffee? Coffee
Sun or moon? Sun
Cupping or Tui na? Tui na
Yin or Yang? Yang
Meditation or exercise? Meditation
Instagram or Facebook? Facebook
Where can other licensed acupuncturists, students, and patients go to learn more about your work?
Have more knowledge or an acupuncture/TCM specialty you want to call attention to and share?
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