Written by Bob Quinn, DAOM, LAc
Onkodo Clinic is described as “Portland’s Home for Gentle Medicine.” Why gentle medicine you might ask?
There are many styles of acupuncture, just as there are many ways to make music, cook food, build housing, and so on. Diversity is the name of the game in cultural matters, and medicine is certainly an expression of culture.
Acupuncture was introduced into Japan in the year 562 AD. Over the centuries what developed there included some exceedingly gentle styles of needle therapy. One reason for this was the unique feature in Japanese culture of training blind people to be the acupuncturists and massage therapists. No other country did this. The blind are gifted with palpation skills far beyond what would be considered normal for the sighted. This means that they can perceive exactly which acupuncture points need to be treated. Once the precise points are located, it is not necessary to use strong needle stimulation or deep insertions.
When David fought Goliath he had only a sling and a rock. He had to hit an important point with precision. If he had hit the giant mid-thigh, it likely would not have been enough to bring him down and win the battle. If he had used a hand grenade, there would have been no need to hit the giant precisely. Anywhere close would have done the job. It is like this with point location in acupuncture as well. If we find the precise “presently alive” point, then a subtle stimulation often suffices. If our point location skills are off, then we need to use stronger levels of stimulation. Of course some styles simply routinely use strong stimulation; it is the way their thinking is organized, and I am not saying anything negative about that. I merely make the point that it is possible to work gently and effectively.
For certain patients this gentle style of needle therapy is life-changing, because they simply cannot tolerate strong stimulation of any sort. “Normal” acupuncture is out of the question for their nervous systems. Which conditions might benefit from what we practice at Onkodo Clinic? Just to name a few conditions: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, chronic Lyme disease, multiple chemical sensitivity, PTSD, IBS, Crohn’s, insomnia, and anxiety.
How gentle is gentle? Actually it is quite possible in these therapies to give an effective treatment without inserting a single needle. Instead tools are used on the surface of the body to stroke acupuncture meridians, to tap on points, and so on. At least five styles in Japan NEVER insert a needle. This is extraordinary when one thinks about it. So, for needle-averse patients, this is a good option, and we are happy to offer it.
One Japanese teacher our practitioners have studied with is Iwashina Anryu, also called Dr. Bear. He lost his eyesight as a young man in a car accident. For over 20 years now he has pioneered a style that does not insert needles. When I first met him, I asked him how long it took him to produce good clinical results once he had abandoned inserting needles. Without hesitation he said that in less than a month his results were better than ever. Amazing, and it does challenge our assumptions. Having studied with him many times now, I can verify that his treatments are uniquely effective.
We invite those interested to try a few of these gentle treatments. At Onkodo we often combine gentle bodywork strategies and moxibustion (the burning of Asian mugwort on acupuncture points) with these subtle needle techniques. As a combination these are especially effective.