"A lot of times, when you say massage, they think of this hour-long, feel-good deal," Weekley said. "It could be the most painful thing you've ever experienced."
She said massage therapy is used to release scar tissue and "trigger points," painfully irritable spots on muscles also called "muscle knots." Sessions can be as quick as 10 minutes.
The therapy also is used to lower blood pressure and insulin levels and boost a patient's immune system.
"I believe in trying every means possible that alleviates something before having to have surgery or take pills," Weekley said.
Starting next year, PEIA participants will not have coverage for acupuncture services.
"This is going to affect a lot of the teachers," said Michelle DeStefano, treasurer of the West Virginia Board of Acupuncture.
DeStefano, a Shepherdstown acupuncturist, said the coverage changes probably won't hurt her business but will affect several of her patients. She currently treats a half-dozen teachers and a few other public employees.
Patients pay $120 for their first visit and $75 for each subsequent one. The treatments last from 45 minutes to an hour, and DeStefano recommends beginning patients receive treatments once a week.
"As they get better, it might be six to eight visits, then the treatments might be once a month or once every three months," she said.
She never billed PEIA, but patients would pay a fee and then collect reimbursements from the insurance agency. PEIA paid $70,180 in acupuncture claims in 2011's fiscal year.
"Now they're not going to be able to come as often," she said. "This helps keep their stress levels down. It is widely known that stress is a big factor in exacerbating illnesses, or even creating illness."
She also treats patients with hormonal problems, neck pain, certain kinds of back pain and carpal tunnel.
"We're getting really good results with carpal tunnel," she said.
Linda Lyter, executive director of the West Virginia Massage Therapy Licensure Board, said there are about 1,200 licensed massage therapists in the state. About 200 more are licensed to work in the state but do not live here.
Lyter also is executive director of the West Virginia Board of Acupuncture. She said the state has 42 licensed acupuncturists, with half of those living in the state.
Many therapists and acupuncturists maintain licenses in multiple states, she said.
Contact writer Zack Harold at 304-348-7939 or zack.har...@
dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ZackHarold.