In-Depth Interview Pg. 1/4

This interview was conducted with, an excellent website for information about holistic wellness and treatment.

If you really want to get to know me and my approach to my work, this is the thing to read.

How did you get involved in acupressure / acupuncture?

At age 9 I developed what was later diagnosed as Crohn's Disease, a serious inflammatory digestive disorder.  For many years I underwent consistent medication and periodic hospitalization to manage my health.
At age 19 I met Dr. Michael Smith, an acupuncturist and herbalist.  Within 2 months of starting to see him, I began to experience huge changes in my health and after 8 months I was able to stop using Western medicine.  Around the same time I was working for non-profit environmental organization and was looking for a new direction in my life that still involved making a powerful, positive difference in the world.  Dr. Smith encouraged me to pursue acupuncture as a career and took me under his wing, teaching me his style of medicine as well as martial arts and philosophy.

What would you say makes your business unique?

I was just talking about this yesterday with a recent acupuncture graduate.  There is an old saying in China, "the tree of medicine has 1000 blossoms".  Every practitioner has a unique approach based on their educational background, life experience, and schools of Chinese Medicine they're drawn to.  It is part of what makes acupuncture so endlessly interesting, and also so maddeningly difficult to conduct reliable research on.
Dr. Smith was (and still is) an ordained priest of the Huan Yuan Daoist tradition.  His approach is very spiritual, meaning in this case a lot of discussion about the patient's relationship with themselves and their experience of life.  I have adopted much of this approach, and also use a lot of the counselling techniques from Jin Shin Do Bodymind Acupressure, which was created by a western psychotherapist.
Additionally, I employ a lot of hands-on techniques such as acupressure and Tui Na massage in order to activate points without needles and to iron out knots in muscles.  I have found that this synergistic blend of acupuncture, bodywork, and counselling is very effective.

Most people know that acupuncture involves being stuck with needles.  What does acupuncture involve exactly?  Does it hurt?

Great question.  There are so many different ideas out there about what acupuncture entails, and a lot of things can lead to misconceptions.  TV shows like to exaggerate the number of needles for visual effect; you'll never see a real acupuncturist leaving someone looking like a pincushion.  In fact, one of my teachers said, "if you use more than 8 needles, you don't know what you're doing".  Many people's only experience with needles come from blood work or vaccinations.  Acupuncture needles are 1/8 the diameter of a standard blood donation needle and create much less sensation.  Some may have had a physiotherapist use Intra-Muscular Stimulation (IMS), which can be incredibly painful- like people scream and cry- and it is sometimes labeled as "acupuncture".  I wish this didn't happen, because I've met people who won't try classical Chinese acupuncture due to IMS experience.

Does acupuncture hurt?  I am asked this all the time, and the best answer I have is, "yeah, a little."  I would compare it to a mosquito bite that lasts for about a second and a half.  Some acupuncturists manipulate the needle until the deeper nerves activate.  This sensation is like a sudden dull ache- not painful per se, but sort of odd and occasionally uncomfortable.

For many people, the idea of the needle is what holds them back more than the physical sensation itself.  Even the word, "needle", is kind of unpleasant and harsh.  I wish there were a different word for those pokey metal things I use.

What is the philosophy behind those specific “trigger spots” as you call them on your website?  How old are those ideas?

The term more commonly used in my field is "acupoint".  I use the phrase "trigger spots" for convenience and accessibility- it conveys an idea that most people can grasp in a general sense.  I can see how the term may be confused with the modern "trigger point therapy", which uses specifically innervated spots on muscles to facilitate release. 

The Chinese word for acupoints translates literally (as literally as one can with Chinese) to "hole", and the concept is as old as the first texts on Chinese medicine (c. 200 BC).  They are places where we can access the deep through the superficial.  One of my teachers likened them to the electrical outlets in the wall: accessible places of decreased resistance and increased conductivity that allow us to plug into the wiring network.  And in fact, there are electrical scanning devices that pick up increased energy at the location of classical acupoints.

Moving to practical terms, stimulation of these spots has been found over the millenia to correspond with inducing, enhancing, or suppressing certain physiological processes and/or phenomena in the body (and the mind- more on that later).  Over time, cohesive theories began to develop that grouped these points into categories with similar effects and linked them with specific organ systems.  Thus, by stimulating- with hand, needle, or massage tool- these points, we can create or "trigger" certain desirable effects within the patient.

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