Interest in helping, healing leads woman to acupuncture


JASPER— Dubois County native Dana Weidenbenner, 36, has brought a millennia-old health care practice to Jasper: acupuncture.


Acupuncture is a Chinese medical practice dating back 3,000 to 5,000 years that involves a trained acupuncturist inserting hair-thin, sterile needles into the skin at key points on the body to activate qi — pronounced chee — to let the body heal itself. In Chinese medicine, qi refers to energy flow through the body.

Weidenbenner first experienced acupuncture several years ago with Dr. Pamela Buss at All In One Chiropractic and Acupuncture in Huntingburg. The experience eventually led Weidenbenner to a master’s degree in Chinese and oriental medicine from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego and her own acupuncture practice. She set up her practice in 2014 with an office at Holistic Hands on Third Avenue and last year opened her own space, Jasper Acupuncture, at 725 W. Sixth Street. She is the only Jasper-based acupuncturist, though Holistic Hands offers the service through a Louisville-based practitioner. 

At her practice, Weidenbenner serves patients with a variety of ailments including chronic pain, infertility, anxiety and depression, to name a few. It works like this: Patients come in for their first appointment and fill out in-depth questionnaires about their chief complaint and their lifestyle and medical history, similar to what they’d fill out at a Western medical office. From there, Weidenbenner checks 12 pulse positions on the patient’s wrists and looks at their tongue. In Eastern medicine, both the pulse positions and the tongue are used as a map of the internal body to signal where an issue could be. Using all the information she gathers, Weidenbenner puts together a personalized treatment plan for each patient that focuses on acupuncture, but can also include other treatments such as food therapy and gua sha, another Chinese technique that uses scraping to activate qi.

“With acupuncture, what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to always put the body back into balance,” Weidenbenner said. “We use the needles to redirect the energy for the body to heal itself.”

According to Chinese medicine, qi moves through the body along pathways called meridians. There are 12 primary meridians in the body, each representing a different system, but all ultimately flowing together throughout the body. An illness or pain is thought of as a block in the qi, and releasing the block is one means of treatment for the ailment. Acupuncturists place the needles at specific points along the meridians to release those blocks.

“When the energy can flow through, the body can heal itself,” Weidenbenner said.

Her goal is always to get her patients to a point where they only have to see her once a month or once every two months for a tune-up session for chronic pain or even not at all.

Acupuncture and other holistic medical practices have gained popularity in the West, prompting professional research on the treatments. In the last five years alone, several studies on acupuncture have found it’s effective on a variety of ailments, and one study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that 51 percent of medical doctors see value in the practice and refer their patients to acupuncturists. Some insurance companies are even starting to cover the treatment in certain circumstances, Weidenbenner said. She currently does not accept insurance, though she’s looking into it.

Weidenbenner traces her interest in Eastern and holistic medicine back to when she was 16-year-old and working at Midwest Cafe in Jasper (then called Winkler’s). Through that job, she was exposed to herbs and supplements to support health, as well as massage therapy. After graduating high school, she became a massage therapist and took college classes at Vincennes University Jasper Campus to earn her undergraduate degree. She realized, however, that massage therapy is hard on the therapist’s body, and she doubted that she’d be able to continue for the 40 years that make up a career. She started looking for other careers where she could help people and remembered her own acupuncture experience.

Then, she found Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. She and her husband, Ferdinand native Phil Barth, moved from New York, where Barth had completed culinary school, to San Diego where she could study oriental medicine. In 2013, the couple moved back to the area with their daughter, Quinn Weidenbenner, so Barth could take a chef’s position at St. Meinrad Archabbey. The couple now live in Jasper with Quinn and their son, Parker Barth.

Weidenbenner first set up an acupuncture practice in Jasper four years ago, but she opened at her current location in May 2017.

Although she practices Eastern medicine, Weidenbenner believes that a balance between Eastern and Western practices is the best way to treat and support patients. Personally, she likes acupuncture because it has minimal side effects and can be individualized for each patient.

“I like working with people,” she said. “I like seeing people feel better.”

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