My Recent Radio Interview

WDDE me needlingI was recently interviewed by WDDE 91.1 FM, Delaware’s Source for NPR news. The story, which I have as an mp3 file, appeared on air on April 18, 2014 . The article which I have as a PDF file, appeared on the website. Yes, those are my hands in the photo. All three can be accessed below.

Overall, I think it was a positive treatment. I was asked far more than what ended up in the pieces. I understand that the depth that I provided may not have been appropriate for that venue. I am fine with that. However, I do have one complaint. The article attributes the word “energy” to me. I do not use the word “energy” as a substitute for the word qi, and I did not state that “it is more about energy than it is about physicality.”

It has been a few weeks since the broadcast, and so far no one has contacted me as a result of the radio broadcast or website article. Luckily, I had no expectations. I think it is good, however, that these kinds of broadcasts and articles are becoming more frequent and more popular. It does good for the profession as a whole. We need that kind of general marketing.

Click the link to read the Published Article. The article’s links to the audio and video segments no longer work, but I have them both below.

Here is a recording of the Radio Broadcast.  Click the play button to start.

Here is a copy of the video.  Click the play button to start.

Allow Me to Toot My Own Horn

Introduction

I know it is not quite proper to talk oneself up, but I am going to do it anyway. It is not just for my sake, though. I think you should know the truth so that you can be better informed about the state of affairs in these parts. I want you to know why I should be your ONLY choice when picking a Chinese medical practitioner or when seeking Qigong or T’ai Chi instruction. I am going to be polite about this; I am not going to name names. I just want to give you good information so that if for some reason you do look into seeing someone other than me for Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs, Tuina Massage, Qigong, or T’ai Chi, you will be informed and will be able to ask the right kind of questions. Then, you can take those answers and compare them with what I have to say here. I know this is long, but bear with it. There is much valuable information here.

I am going to break this down into categories, making points regarding each of the services I offer here at Oriental Medicine and Health Services.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is the main part of my business, and this will be the largest section, so I am going to cover this first. Keep in mind that there are things I will cover in this section that are applicable to other sections below as well.

  1. I graduated from the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, considered to be the Harvard of Chinese medical schools in this country. To learn more specific information about my time there, see this blog post. The program at PCOM is large, comprehensive, and dwarfs many other programs found elsewhere in the country. The school is located in California which has licensure standards above those of any other state and issues its own licensing exam that is tougher than the National Board Exams. In California, acupuncturists are considered primary care physicians, are part of the insurance programs, have hospital privileges, etc. This is the type of training that I have. There are practitioners in this state who graduated from programs so many years ago that the programs are considered substandard and inadequate by today’s standards.

  2. There are practitioners that have been around here longer, and some say experience counts, but experience MUST be weighed against the foundation on which that experience is built. What good is having 20 years or more in the field if the training is relatively superficial, lacking, or even flawed? I am more than willing to discuss my training, and the foundation I have comes from the best in the country as mentioned above. Besides the strong foundation, I have been running my own Chinese medical practice since April 2005. So, I do have much experience in the field as well.

  3. I did not need to be grandfathered. When acupuncture legislation (which I helped to set up) was enacted in Delaware, all of the existing acupuncturists (about 25) in the state at that time were grandfathered into licensure. Of this group, only 3 actually met the standards that Delaware requires for new applicants. I was one of those 3. The other 2, though meeting Delaware’s standards (which are higher than any state’s other than California’s), only did so on a technicality. One of Delaware’s requirements is for applicants to have NCCAOM certification in Oriental Medicine, a Dipl. OM. (Read about that here). Those 2 got grandfathered into that certification because they already had the Acupuncture and Chinese Herbology certifications when the Oriental Medicine certification was introduced which encompassed those 2 certifications. However, the Oriental Medicine certification also contains a bio-medical module for which proper bio-medical education must be had in order to even sit for the exam, and of course, that bio-medical module must be passed in order to gain the Oriental Medicine certification. I had about 900 hours (more than a Registered Nurse) of western bio-medical training as part of my Chinese medical degree program. When the initial licenses were being given out (and I do mean given), I was the ONLY practitioner in the state to have taken and passed the NCCAOM Oriental Medicine certification examinations as required by Delaware for new applicants. Since that time several years ago, there have been a few new licensees who do meet those requirements, so I salute them and I salute Delaware for having high standards for new applicants. However, shame on you, Delaware, for completely looking the other way with the grandfathering.

    There is plenty I could say about the training and qualifications of specific practitioners that were grandfathered in, but I will not, as I think my own training and qualifications speak for themselves. If you spend the time to look into those things, you will see for yourselves who the best choice is. However, I do want to vent for a moment and write about one particular practitioner and the travesty involved with his licensure. This guy did not formally study acupuncture. He is married to a woman who received acupuncture training. He claims that he studied with her. Keep in mind that the NCCAOM did have a legitimate certification route for legitimate apprentices and yet he chose not to legitimize himself in that manner. Instead, we are supposed to not only take his word for it that he learned from his wife, but that what he learned from his wife was comprehensive enough to meet current standards of education in the field. This guy was on friendly terms with people on the Board of Medicine and got himself placed on the Acupuncture Advisory Council which is responsible for overseeing licensure of acupuncturists. Talk about conflict of interest! Can you imagine this happening in some other medical field? “Hello, I never went to school for physical therapy (or chiropractic, or whatever), but my wife is a physical therapist, and she taught me. Can I have my license now?”

    This was the worst case, and like I said, there are little bits and pieces about other practitioners that were grandfathered in that I will not mention here. My point in this is that you want to pick the best practitioner you can. Delaware has set the standards high for new applicants. Ask your practitioner if they took and passed the NCCAOM Oriental Medicine board exams or if they were grandfathered in or given a special exception. If they were grandfathered in or granted leniency and have not taken and passed those specific exams, save yourself further investigation into their background and find someone that meets the standards set forth in Delaware’s Acupuncture Legislation.

    There is one last thing related to this that I want to mention. There are other types of health care practitioners that are legally allowed to do acupuncture (what they call acupuncture) in Delaware even with no training, though some do take 100 hour courses. Compare that to the almost 4,000 hours that I have or the approximate 2,500 hours that is more the norm. MDs, DOs, and Chiropractors are allowed to do acupuncture even though they are not acupuncturists and have not been trained in Chinese medicine. That seems crazy! There is more to acupuncture than sticking a needle in someone. What is worse, there is now “dry needling” that is being practiced by physical therapists and others. Never, never, never get acupuncture from anyone that 1) does not have an Acupuncture specific license from their state, and 2) does not have Acupuncture or Oriental Medicine certification from the NCCAOM. No matter how nice they seem or whatever else they tell you, do yourself and your health a favor and find a genuine acupuncturist. They will be so much more qualified.

  4. My first language is English. I know that may seem like a harsh thing to say, but consider that good communication is of utmost importance when dealing with your health. I have been to more than one practitioner whose first language was not English. There were always communication problems, and I was never quite aware if I was being fully understood, nor could I get the practitioners to explain satisfactorily to me in English the answers to my questions. “You just lay there. This is good for you.” “You take these. This helps you.” You may have been there before. You talk and explain in depth what your issues are and you basically get the old smile and nod. You ask questions and get short non-satisfying answers. Sure, the practitioner may know some conversational English: hello, goodbye, do you want to schedule next Tuesday, etc.; but, what happens when it becomes complex and very specific? I want to know that everything I say is well understood, and when I ask questions, I want answers with the depth and articulation that I desire. This is not to say that the person is not a good acupuncturist or that they do not have the answers in their minds in another language, but without really good communication, how would you really know what is going on?I know this as a patient, but I also know this as a practitioner. I do get patients whose first language is not English. Not only do I have trouble getting the information out of them that I need to do my job well, but I see the blank look on their faces when I am explaining my findings or what I am going to be doing or what it is that I expect from them. The point is, clear, effective, and easy communication is extremely important in matters of your health and well-being.

  5. Besides acupuncture, I practice Chinese herbology and tuina massage, and I teach Qigong and T’ai Chi. I am very well versed in and well-rounded in Chinese medical / health practices. I am not limited to just acupuncture or to just acupuncture and herbs. I have more to offer and can combine modalities to give you the best healing opportunities that I can.

Chinese Herbs

Remember what I said about my foundation, experience, qualifications, communication, and other modalities that I offer because those same points apply throughout this blog post, so I will not be repeating those except where more specifics are required.

  1. My NCCAOM Oriental Medicine certification includes the NCCAOM Chinese Herbology certification. In Delaware, practicing Chinese herbology is explicitly written in the scope of practice for licensed acupuncturists. This means that any acupuncturist is legally allowed to prescribe you a Chinese herbal formula. However, most of the acupuncturists in the state (because of grandfathering) either have no herbal training or very superficial herbal training. There are a few, though, that are NCCAOM certified in Chinese herbology. Accept nothing less. Also, remember that Chinese herbology is different than Western herbology, and both are different than Ayurvedic herbology. At the risk of sounding repetitious, accept nothing less than a minimum of NCCAOM certification in Chinese herbology. Why take chances on someone who claims to know what they are doing without the very specific credentials to back it up?

  2. Herbal appointments with me are free.  I do not charge for my time if you are seeing me for herbs.  A new patient visit, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment plan all add up to a lot of time and effort on my part, but I have decided not to charge for this service.  If I have to design / write a custom formula for you, there will be a one time charge for that with no additional fees for modifications.  You will, however, have to pay for your herbs; the herbs are not free.  For more information about my fees, see this page.

  3. I use The Crane Herb Company and its prescription service for almost all of the herbal needs of my patients.  The Crane Herb Company maintains a stocked herbal pharmacy far more comprehensive than what any individual could offer.  The have over 5,000 products from various reputable, high quality brands.  They supply both ready made formulas and expertly compounded custom formulas via my prescription for you.  The service is very convenient for patients whom, after filling the prescription online from an emailed link, receive the herbs in 2-3 days in the mail, eliminating the need to drive to me for pickup.  Pills, tablets, caplets, capsules, tinctures, powders, teas, liniments, oils, pastes, ointments, plasters, and more are all available through this great service.  With Crane’s huge number of products from which to choose, I am able to prescribe the products that are best suited for you and your needs.

  4. Quality and safety are in the forefront of my consideration when choosing herbal products for my patients.  The Chinese herbal products that I offer all come from GMP certified factories. The companies do numerous testing procedures to make sure the products are pure and of excellent quality. There are inferior, counterfeit, and polluted products on the market, ready to be ordered on the internet from those that are not informed. This is never something that you have to worry about if you are getting your Chinese herbal products from me or my prescriptions because I have already done the important groundwork for you. I use and offer only the best quality products in my practice, and these are the same products that I use for myself and for my family.

Tuina Massage

  1. I practice Chinese medicine. Tuina is a very comprehensive system of therapeutic massage and one of the major branches of Chinese medicine. If you do not know what tuina is, you can learn more at this section of my website: http://omhs.biz/tuina/default.html .

    I bring up this point because tuina is the practice of the Chinese medicine. It is not just massage. In other words, someone can get 500 hours of instruction in a massage program and get licensed as a massage therapist. Then they can do a several hour long continuing education course that teaches them some of the manual techniques of tuina, and they will claim that they do tuina. However, they don’t. They do some of the manual techniques, and who knows how well they do them. They also need complete training in Chinese medicine, which includes evaluation and diagnosis, and also the ability to create suitable Chinese medical treatment protocols using those manual techniques. So, do not get tuina from someone who does not also have adequate training in Chinese medicine. It is more than just a massage.

  2. I have extensive training in tuina. I say this because most acupuncture degree programs include a basic tuina class or two so that the practitioner knows what tuina is, knows the basic techniques, and can get used to touching another human body in a clinical setting. My degree program required 2 tuina classes. I took those classes, but I took so many more.

    Besides the Oriental Medicine degree program, my school also had Asian bodywork programs. I took advantage of that and received 5 different bodywork certifications while also pursuing my Chinese medical degree. You can see those certifications here on my website: http://omhs.biz/tuina/training.html . Yes, there is also a link to the News Journal article about my tuina practice on that page. So, do not get tuina from an acupuncturist unless you know that they also had extensive tuina training and not just the required tuina course(s) offered in their degree program.

  3. I am a Chinese herbalist. The external application of Chinese herbs in the forms of liniments, pastes, plasters, etc. is also a part of tuina. I offer ready-made products, and I can make them myself. These external applications can help give a more complete and faster healing experience for you.

  4. I am a long-time martial artist, I practice t’ai chi, and I practice qigong. In China, one of the traditional requirements for practicing tuina is to also be a kung fu or t’ai chi practitioner. This is because tuina can be very physical and requires much strength and stamina. It is thought that a kung fu or t’ai chi practitioner has already learned how to use his body in an efficient way, building strength, stamina, and control when physically handling another person. Being a qigong practitioner is also very useful. There are some aspects of tuina where sensitivity to and subtle manipulations of the patient’s qi is required, and the right kind of qigong practice can aid in those abilities.

  5. I took additional coursework in pediatrics. Tuina is the main traditional treatment method for children in China. In the Chinese medical model, there are differences in physiology between children and adults that make the treatment of children different. You cannot apply the standard treatment methods that you would with an adult and get optimal results in a child because of those differences. Exposure to and training in those differences is very important for someone who is going to be working with children.

Qigong

  1. I have many years of experience in a variety of methods of qigong. I have studied many forms of qigong with many instructors since 1990. I combine my knowledge of qigong, Buddhist meditation, kung fu, t’ai chi, daoyin, and expertise in Chinese medicine to bring you the best of what qigong has to offer for health. My classes mix key components of medical, spiritual, and martial qigong making them unique among those in Delaware. I have met many people over the years that take a seminar or weekend workshop in a particular qigong set and obtain a certificate of completion. These people then go on to teach qigong. Because most of the public is not well informed about qigong, they believe that these people are really teaching qigong, rather than an outer shell.

  2. I am a Chinese medical physician. Qigong is one of the branches of traditional Chinese medicine. Therefore, it stands to reason that being well trained in Chinese medical theory and practices gives part of a solid foundation for a qigong practitioner, especially if the qigong relates to health specifically.

  3. The classes are more than just exercise classes. Qigong is not about moving your body around in a way that mimics your teacher’s movements as you would in a fitness class. I teach you a way to use your body that is quite different than what you are used to doing. I also help you to cultivate the awareness necessary for that to happen. The vehicles through which these lessons are taught are the actual exercises, postures, and movements that we do in class. That being said, in order for you to progress in understanding and in skill, you must dedicate yourself to regular practice. The benefits you receive will be a result of your regular practice, not just because you put your time in during class two times a week.

  4. The qigong that I teach addresses the entire body and the mind, and is safe to practice. There is a saying that where the mind goes the qi goes. However if the mind stays on one area, what about the rest of the body? Also, when the qi stays in one place, it stagnates. Yes, we need enough qi, but good flow is essential. There is another saying that if the mind is on one spot, then there is somewhere the qi will not be, but if the mind is nowhere, then there is nowhere that the qi will not be. The qigong that I teach focuses on emptiness, both of the body and of the mind. It is general, and therefore, it serves to open all the channels in the body, harmonizing and balancing the flow throughout. Cultivating awareness, we use real life feedback to determine our progress, so we do not rely on imagination.

    Practices that focus on certain areas of the body and / or those that rely on visualization or imagination can cause problems. If you imagine an acupuncture channel in your body, but you are off by just one millimeter, then what are you really doing to your body? I would not want to find out. Incorrect practices can affect not only your body, but also your mind. Qigong deviation syndrome is a real issue that can result from certain qigong practices. More about that can be read here and here. If you keep on track with what I teach you, there will be none of these dangers to worry about. By being general, we focus on everything, and by using awareness rather than imagination and visualization, we are not dabbling in delusion.

  5. The qigong that I teach helps to build your foundation for internal power. The material integrates with and is completely compatible with the t’ai chi that I teach, and without internal power, t’ai chi is not t’ai chi. Internal power may sound a bit odd, but you can think of it as using your body in a different, more efficient manner than you are used to. You will have increased usable strength and stamina which can serve to benefit all areas of your life. To get an idea about this, you can check out my YouTube channel here, and please subscribe to the channel while visiting there.

T’ai Chi

  1. Correctly done t’ai chi is also a type of qigong. Therefore, all that I wrote in the section on qigong would also apply here. Again, I have to mention that I am a Chinese medical physician. Generally, most students come to me to learn t’ai chi not as a martial art but as a type of exercise to maintain and / or increase their level of health. I definitely have the necessary foundation to address t’ai chi from this perspective. However, those interested in the martial aspects will find that as well from me.

  2. I have a long t’ai chi background. I have gone through much trial and error, and unfortunately, there was much more error than correctness, especially in the first 2 decades. In fact, the first 7 years I would completely discount were it not for that time period making it very clear that t’ai chi is not just slowed down smooth flowing external kung fu (I also have a long and varied external martial arts background). After that, I found a genuine t’ai chi practitioner willing to teach me. For many years, though, I did not catch on to the right way of doing things. I tried and practiced many different approaches to duplicate what my teacher was doing. None of them were correct. Finally, I started to understand a small part of it, and I realized just how wrong I had been. Since then, there has been no turning back, and I continue to learn more as time goes on. The point of all of this is that I have been down many wrong paths, and I understand the many types of mistakes and errors that one can make while trying to learn t’ai chi. I am sensitive to those issues and do my best to make sure my students do not make the same mistakes. Remember, as I mentioned in the qigong section above, this is a completely new way of using your body. Using your body conventionally to copy the external appearances of what I am doing will not be t’ai chi.

    I do not want to mention names of other t’ai chi teachers in this local area, but I do have a point to make about them. After my initial 7 years of “non” t’ai chi, I searched for a new teacher. Naturally, I checked out all of the local schools within a 30-minute drive. Instead of going to one of those schools, I chose to drive 2 hours away to a different state in order to study with my current teacher. He was that much better and well worth the extra efforts. I am not going to compare myself to my teacher; I have a long way to go to match his skill level. However, if someone in the area wants to study good t’ai chi, and for some reason they do not want to study with me, then I can only recommend that they take the 2 hour drive and study with my teacher, Chung-jen Chang, located in Bowie, MD.

  3. Without internal power, t’ai chi is not t’ai chi, and I will guide you in your development of that foundation. I really cannot emphasize this point enough. So many people practice and teach “t’ai chi,” but it is just the outer shell, and, unfortunately, many of these people are not even aware of the difference. If you want the most health benefits you can get, then you must practice t’ai chi with good inner workings and not just the outer shell. If you want the kind of martial power that t’ai chi is known for, then you must have that foundation of internal power, otherwise you are still doing external martial arts rather than internal martial arts. My classes really focus on this development. The t’ai chi form is used as a vehicle for learning and implementing internal power. Besides the form, there are many jibengong (basic exercises) that I present in class to help build your foundation. Once you have this foundation, you can use it not only in your t’ai chi, but in all areas of your life.

  4. I have a YouTube channel here. Please subscribe to it. Why do I mention this again? Well, there are several reasons. Firstly, I put myself out there for all to see. As far as I know, the other teachers in this area do not do this. I have no secrets about what I teach and what I have to offer. If you like what you see or if you are just plain curious, then come and study with me. I also post videos of t’ai chi and qigong content in order to serve as a reference. Especially as a beginner, it is easy to forget what you are supposed to be doing. I cover a lot of basics on my channel and continue to make and post new videos often. These videos can be very valuable to students in my classes, serving as good reminders of what it is they should be doing.

Conclusion

I know this was long, and if you have read through this whole thing, I thank you. I believe you will now be better armed in making an informed and intelligent decision regarding whom you chose as your Acupuncturist, Chinese Herbalist, Tuina massage therapist, Qigong teacher, and T’ai Chi teacher. I tried to be thorough, but if you have any questions about any of what I commented on in this article, please let me know.

OMHS Youtube Channel

I recently started a YouTube channel for my business.

The purpose of this channel is to give you a look at what I do at Oriental Medicine and Health Services.

(Note:  I have since changed my business name to First Choice Acupuncture, Herbs, and Massage.  I still have the same YouTube channel.)

You can expect videos relating to T’ai Chi and Qigong. These videos can be helpful if you are one of my students, as they may serve as important references. If you are not a student, it will give you chance to see what these practices are like.

I will also be featuring videos from time to time on the main aspects of my business: Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs, and Tuina Massage.

I intend on using my videos in combination with Blog articles here in order to provide a more interesting experience for the reader. I hope you enjoy the videos and the upcoming Blog articles that I will be writing.

Here is a link to the main channel page:  http://www.youtube.com/user/OMHSTaijiQigong


Plyoutubesubscribeease subscribe to my YouTube channel by clicking the button to the left. By doing this, you will be kept updated whenever I publish a new video.

Thanks again.

Does Acupuncture Hurt? What Can I Expect?

insert-needleI get this question from people often, especially from new patients on their first visit. I usually give my typical smiley smirk and say, “I’m going to be putting needles into your body. Of course it is going to hurt.” I realize that this is not funny in the classical sense, especially to the patient, but that small bit of absurdity in the midst of the new patient jitters often provides some levity. I follow up with, “Really, though, it’s not that bad.” I then go on to explain in more detail. It is a common enough question, so I thought I would share this information with you now.

There seems to be a popular misconception, especially in America, and perpetuated by mass media, that acupuncture is painless. Well, it is, but it isn’t. It all has to do with the definition of pain and, more specifically, with the Chinese definition of pain as it relates to acupuncture. Acupuncture is from China, after all, and the original phrase stating that acupuncture should not be painful is from China. In China, painful acupuncture would be having a continuous sharp or a continuous burning sensation that does not go away on its own after about one minute. If this happens, it should be brought to the attention of the acupuncturist so that the needle can be adjusted, and then the pain will go away. This does happen on rare occasion, and is just a normal part of the process. So, if it happens to you, do not be alarmed or discouraged, just let your practitioner know when it occurs.

That being said, acupuncture is definitely not sensationless. In fact, some of the normal sensations involved with acupuncture would be thought of as pain sensations by those in American culture. However, those sensations are actually referred to as qi reactions (deqi in Chinese) and are not considered pain by the Chinese definition.

What sensations are involved with acupuncture, then? I will explain, but keep in mind that this is all based on the acupuncture that I do which is based largely on the Chinese TCM model. There are other types of acupuncture with different needling methods, some of which involve no insertion at all.

First, let’s talk about the needles. They are single-use, sterile, disposable, stainless steel needles. I tend to use 32 gauge needles for most applications. That means the needles are 0.25 mm thick, which is very thin. Acupuncture needles are different than the hypodermic needles which are used when we get shots or blood tests. Because they are so thin, around 5 to 10 acupuncture needles can fit inside the tip of a hypodermic needle, depending on the gauges used. Hypodermic needles are hollow and sharp; they cut through the skin and puncture structures (veins, arteries, nerves, etc.) beneath the skin. Acupuncture needles are solid and the tips are relatively dull; they push through the skin and, instead of puncturing structures, will nudge structures out of the way with careful needling. So, do not expect insertion of an acupuncture needle to feel like getting a shot or blood test.

Insertion of the needle is a 2 step process. First, the needle is quickly inserted shallowly so that it gets through the skin. This is done either free-hand, which I do, or with a guide tube, which is also common. It is this initial part of insertion that feels like a pinch. Some people do not even feel the pinch, but the pinch-like sensation usually happens. In sensitive and thin skinned areas, the pinch feeling tends to be more prevalent. In less sensitive and meatier areas of the body, the pinch is less noticeable.

After the initial part of the insertion, the needle then gets inserted deeper into the body to the depth and at the angle that is appropriate for its location and for its purpose. While this happens, a variety of sensations are possible. Some people even feel nothing at all, which I always find surprising because I am very sensitive and feel absolutely everything when being needled. Sometimes only the movement of the needle itself can be felt. However, a common sensation is an ache, pressure, or distended feeling around the needle, as if the needle is much thicker.

This ache is one of the more notable qi reactions. It can come on gradually and be mild, or it can come on suddenly and be very strong for an instant, fading gradually after that. In particular, when it is sudden and strong, Americans categorize it as pain. They typically do not like the sensation. In China, however, it would be typical for a patient to be disappointed if they did not feel that sensation. In fact, once elicited, a Chinese doctor might continue stimulating the needle to prolong and propagate that sensation to the point of having the patient yell at times. Again, the patients expect this as part of a good treatment. It is a different story here. Heavy needling like that would make the majority of American patients question whether or not they should come back for another treatment. Therefore, a much lighter type of needling tends to be done here, and even though I follow the Chinese model, my needling is lighter and more suitable for our culture.

In addition to the ache, there are other common sensations that may be felt. Coolness, warmth, itchiness, and tingly sensations are all possible, too. Also, any of the sensations may be: 1) local, just where the needle is; 2) referred, meaning the needle is one place, but it is felt someplace else; or, 3) radiating, meaning the sensation can travel in any direction away from the needle (most commonly in the direction of the acupuncture channel on which it is located).

Not everyone feels these types of sensations with every needle. Also, what a patient feels during one treatment may not be the same thing felt during the next treatment even if the needles are in the same points. Furthermore, even though these sensations are qi reactions and are an indicator that the acupuncture is doing what it is supposed to be doing, it is actually more important for the practitioner to feel the qi through the needle after insertion. It is because of this that the needle may be manipulated by twisting or pushing and pulling in order to call the qi to the needle and to deliver the proper treatment intent for that point. So, even if a patient feels nothing from a particular needle at a point, as long as I feel what I need to feel, I continue on to needle the next point.

After I feel the qi reaction, in many cases (particularly for functional complaints rather than musculoskeletal or structural complaints) there is no need to leave the needles in place in the patient. They can be removed at that point. However, I tend to leave the needles in, generally anywhere from 10 to 30 minutes depending on many factors. I do this because it is part of the Chinese TCM model, is what I learned in school, and is what is expected by patients getting acupuncture. There is a reason for this.

It is thought that the qi in the body cycles though the various acupuncture channels as connected from beginning to end in about 15 minutes, give or take depending on many factors. Therefore, if an acupuncture needle is positioned properly, but a qi reaction is not felt by the practitioner, the qi will still naturally arrive at the needle at some point during the treatment if the needle is retained.

Many practitioners, especially new ones, are not skilled at connecting the qi to the needle. It is not something that is easily taught. It is a sort of intangible skill that must be experienced in order to fully understand and to replicate. Therefore, needle retention can allow for a more effective treatment. Because of my long-time martial arts, t’ai chi, and qigong backgrounds before I studied acupuncture, I was already familiar with qi, how it felt, and how to manipulate it. This knowledge and experience easily flowed over into my acupuncture practice.

Usually, there is little or no sensation when removing a needle. The patient will often feel either nothing or just the movement of the needle. Sometimes there is discomfort, but it is more or less instantaneous. Also, I occasionally and intentionally elicit another qi reaction as I am removing a needle.

More often than not, there is no blood. In the few instances where there is blood, it is often not more than a small drop and is blotted clean with a cotton swab. Even rarer, a bruise and / or small swelling can occur. If there is a swelling, it can be immediately rubbed out to the point that it will not return, but the bruise will run the normal course of a bruise for you.

It is possible that with certain types of needling, particularly with deep and / or strong needling for structural complaints, the patient will experience some muscle aching for a day or two at the most, very similar to the type of muscle ache one would get from working out too much. This is normal, will go away, and does not take away from the effects of the treatment.

These are the notions that I like to get across to my patients before needling them so that they know what to expect. I try to be thorough, but I keep it basic. I think I have included everything here, but if you have any questions, please let me know.

My Education and the Road to Oriental Medicine

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I guess it all started when I was in kindergarten.  I already could read some words and I knew the letters of the alphabet.  However, I didn’t really know the alphabet.  I mean, I didn’t realize they had to be in a certain order.   The teacher pointed to the list of letters above the blackboard and asked the children to recite the alphabet.  There they all were reciting the alphabet, and I felt clueless.  They all had a jump on me, and now, at age 4, I was faced with the monumental task of having to quickly memorize a 26 item sequence – not cool.

I begrudgingly accepted the duty of rote memorization.  I shouldn’t be too down on it.  Rote memorization has its purposes, and it is important.  It is, however, the lowest form of learning and speaks nothing of actual understanding or one’s ability to apply knowledge.

I should point out that only one other person was able to read in my kindergarten class, and she was at least 6 months older than me.  I understood letters and knew how to use them; I just had some initial problems with the rote memorization.

Let’s fast forward to 7th grade.  I took the SATs that year and scored better than the average high school student.  That opened a few educational doors for me:  special classes, accelerated programs, etc.

In high school, I was already taking college calculus in the 10th grade.  I was the guinea pig for the development of the college level physics class at my high school as well.  The rest of my classes were college prep and advanced placement classes.  I did very well in school, but I never developed good study skills.  I understood everything and could figure out anything that was placed in front of me, but I still hated memorization.  More importantly, by this point in my life, I hated the structured environment of the education system, and I hated jumping through hoops.  I hated having to show up for class.  I hated having to read what book they told me to read (I am a very slow reader, also), and to add insult to injury, they would make me write a book report which I also hated to do.

OK, so I was an angry youth.  I really was.  Everybody assumed that I would just go to college and do great things, but I just couldn’t do it.  I was sick of it all.

High school graduation came and went.  September came, and I did not go to college.  However, by the time that February came around, I decided I really had to go college and do something with my life.  I was always a science nut, so I signed on the line and declared my major:  a B.S. in Biology (Biotechnology).  I chose this over physics, which I loved, because I was still totally fed up with math.  Math was easy for me, but it was sort of shoved down my throat, and I was still sick of it.  Biology was cool, but my real plans were for graduate school where I would switch my track to Neuroscience.  The human brain fascinated me, and I wanted to do research work.

Well, I only lasted a year and a half.  I was going to school full-time.  I was working 35 hours a week to pay for it all while living on campus.  I got burned out.  Unfortunately, I was still an angry youth, and I still hated memorization and jumping through hoops.  I knew I could handle the courses and the information, but I had to do it when they said and how they said, and I couldn’t handle that.  In retrospect, I realized that I lacked the maturity required for success at college.

So, from that point I went into the workforce.  I spent a few years working as a bookkeeper (computers + math = easy) at a law firm.  Then, I got into computer aided design, CAD, work and then worked as a technical illustrator (computers + math + art = easy).  However, those were just jobs that paid the bills.  My real life was martial arts.

I worked out anywhere from 2 to 6 hours per day, 6 days a week.  I both practiced and taught kung fu and t’ai chi, did light weight training, and did aerobics.  My goal was to one day have my own business, a large martial arts school.  All along, since early childhood, I was fascinated with Chinese culture.  Martial arts had introduced me to and peaked my interest in the healing arts of the Asian countries also.

Then, one day it happened.  All of a sudden, I realized that a career in Oriental Medicine (Acupuncture and Chinese herbs) was possible.  I never realized that there were Chinese medical colleges in our country.  I always thought that one would have to go to and live in China in order to learn such things.  I was wrong.  There were about 40 accredited Acupuncture or Oriental Medicine colleges across the country.

I investigated the colleges and found out that the ones located in California had the most comprehensive programs, almost double the hours of some of the colleges located elsewhere.  California had its own licensing standards which were higher than those of the National standards.  Acupuncture is well integrated into the medical insurance system in California, and Acupuncturists enjoy primary care physician status.  I figured that if I was going to put in the time, effort, and money (too much money) into this, I wanted to get the most out of it.  I chose the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine (PCOM) located in San Diego, California because its graduates consistently achieved the highest percentage of passing scores on both the California certification exam and the National certification exams.

It was a 4-year, 3400 hour Masters of Science in Traditional Oriental Medicine degree program.  However, I learned that I needed at least 2 years of undergraduate college in order to be admitted.  So, I went back to college.

I was more mature this time around.  Also, I changed my major from Biotechnology to Philosophy.  I figured that if I were going to take classes that weren’t going to matter in my career, I may was well take courses that were 1) very interesting to me, and 2) easy.  I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me in San Diego, so I thought I would take it easy in Delaware.

I was working full time, still working out, and teaching kung fu and t’ai chi.  So, I attended college part-time.  My original plan was to finish the whole Philosophy degree before moving on.  I should note that I had several minors as well:  East Asian Studies, Chinese Language, and Religious Studies.  That plan changed.  The part-time pace was too slow, so with just one year left to finish, I gave up again.  Already having more than enough credits to gain admittance at PCOM, I packed up and moved to San Diego.

The full-time course load at PCOM was quite intense. Originally, I planned on a more normal pace, taking 6 years to finish the 4 year course.  However, I decided to take a full load my first trimester there:  7 classes.  Yes, the full-time schedule consisted of 7 to 8 classes per trimester, with 3 trimesters a year, with a 2 week break between trimesters.  There were 75% more courses than a standard 4 year undergraduate degree.  I found that I was able to handle it that first trimester, and full of passion and excitement, I continued onward at the full-time rate.  It did, however, take me 5 years to finish, instead of 4, because I took a lot of extra courses, mostly in bodywork, but also pediatrics and external herbal applications.  In the end, I graduated with 211.5 credits and a 3.9 GPA.  The only reason it was not a 4.0 is because, once again, I got very burnt out, my health suffered, and I decided on occasion that my health and peace of mind was more important than an “A”.

Sadly, during my time at PCOM, I found myself fighting those old demons.  I found myself hating the process.  I did not want to keep jumping through hoops.  I just wanted to be a practitioner.  Really, I am not a good student.  I enjoy learning, but in my own way and in my own time.  Attendance policies were very strict; tests and assignments were frequent and numerous.  The amount of memorization required was insane.  Have I mentioned that I hate memorization?  This was killing my passion for Oriental Medicine and made me question my dream.

I did find a remedy, however.  I just did even more work.  While everyone else was in study groups working on memorization, I was reading.  Rather than just memorizing the ingredients of an herbal formula, I would read all the commentary on that formula that I could find, not just in the required texts, but in any other texts I could find.  I found myself reading translations of old Chinese medical texts as well as newer texts by some of the great minds in the field today.  None of this was required, but I needed it.  I needed to understand the medicine and know how it all worked, rather than just memorize everything about it.  This helped keep my passion alive.

Ultimately, I found the work easy, but the process was very hard on me.  I guess I am just not wired that way.  I really tried to be the good student.  In the end, though, I am glad that I still did it my way.  I came out of PCOM both learning and understanding much more than what the standard program could offer.  It is also worth mention at this point that out of the approximately 40 people that started the program when I did, only about 5 actually made it through to the end.