Why me? (Part 1)

What do I do that's different from other practitioners? What makes my work special? Why see me?


There's a Russian proverb: Доверяй, но проверяй (Doveryai, no proveryai). Trust, but verify. I don't trust. I verify.

I've been collecting, trialling and applying a multitude of clinical strategies since I first started learning about Oriental Medicine as a child. I have never trusted any of them until after they work for my patients. I am constantly learning and constantly trying to get better and better-verified results in fewer treatments, so we can all get back to doing what we want to do.

Admission time: I never got results I was happy with, while using modern "Traditional Chinese Medicine" (TCM) style acupuncture, with its thick needles and strong nerve stimulation (the "De Qi" sensation).

I don't like receiving TCM acupuncture and I hated actually practising it. During my second and third year of studies at the University of Technology, Sydney I thought I'd have to quit my degree course because I disliked doing acupuncture. I wasn't applying my own common sense and I didn't make enough difference in my patients' conditions to satisfy my standards. I felt like a fraud, applying recommended treatments from my TCM-trained teachers or out of my textbooks week after week without seeing much in the way of positive results.

Patients would come in each week and we would slowly work away at their chronic symptoms, following my teachers' advice that a course of treatment should take approximately one month for every year of the patient's disease. Sometimes after more than one month per year of disease we'd start seeing some improvements but often, not quickly.

Instead of quitting, and after receiving a few great treatments from some of the other rebellious senior students who'd learned a bit about Japanese styles of acupuncture, I started experimenting with 'the Dark Side': Japanese acupuncture. My clinical results improved. During my third- and fourth-year practicums I used Japanese Meridian Therapy, Extraordinary Vessels and Polarity Therapy systems and I started feeling more satisfied with my clinical outcomes. I devoured every Japanese Acupuncture book I could find, and tried out their strategies. I achieved or bettered the 'month of treatment for every year of disease' that my teachers talked about. At last!

Of course, I wasn't satisfied. I probably never will be. I wanted something more effective. Something that could treat more conditions more quickly, with longer-lasting results, and most importantly, requiring fewer treatments. An acupuncturist friend of mine lent me a copy of the book that would become my bible of acupuncture practice: "Clinical Strategies in the Spirit of Master Nagano" by Kiiko Matsumoto and David Euler.

The most important feature of Kiiko-style acupuncture: potential treatment points are checked against symptoms, restricted or painful movement pattern, or against a tender reflex area; before, during and after treatment. No more looking up point tables for symptoms, choosing points, treating and waiting until the next day (or the next week) to see if the treatment had worked.

For the first time, I had encountered a system of acupuncture that expected each step of a treatment to actually work, verifying the results in real time. Not something arcane that only the practitioner could discern, like pulse or tongue diagnosis, or some other form of secret knowledge or subtle phenomenon only special people can identify, but something that the patient could feel. If the suggested treatment points didn't get a strong result, then those were not the right points to use. When a patient came in saying: "my wrist hurts when I try to open a jar", then the treatment was whatever stopped it from hurting, or in the most severe or chronic cases, made it hurt a lot less. I was hooked! Finally I could verify my results in real time, and I got to succeed or fail while my patient was still on the table (or at least, still in the room).

For example: If a patient has a thyroid disease and the thyroid hurts when we poke it**, the treatment has to reduce or eliminate the pressure pain. Applying similar treatments over the following weeks has to further reduce the pressure pain until it is gone. Then we can order blood tests and these will often show no evidence of thyroid disease. This is how I've been working for the last fifteen-odd years: Try whatever strategy for treatment, and make damn sure that it works.

*Too Long; Didn't Read **My teacher Kiiko Matsumoto jokingly calls all palpation exams 'poking' and now I do as well. I also make a funny noise when I apply press tack needles and sometimes I don't even know I'm doing it

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