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Mirror Neurons & The Benefits of Community Acupuncture

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Mirror Neurons & The Benefits of Community Acupuncture

When I first started to consider practicing community acupuncture I did a lot of research on the model and sought out advice from many different community clinic acupuncturists or "punks" as we fondly refer to ourselves.  One thing, that I can't say I was surprised to note, was that most punks claim there is a heightened benefit from acupuncture treatments when their communal rooms are full due to the almost palpable group dynamic of healing. Recently Shasta Community Acupuncture has been filled to capacity three times and I surely did "geek out" about the joy and sense of deep relaxation on the faces of our patients as they walked out of the treatment room.  A few of them even exclaimed that it was the best treatment they ever had.

I am now a believer, but before I continue to rant and rave unspecifically I want to see if there are any scientific explanations for this occurrence of heightened treatment values in a group dynamic.  Albert Einstein once elaborated on his view of the interconnectivity of the universe: "A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

Speculating that the heightened group healing environment was due to a collective healing vibration that resonated throughout the room, I looked to Quantum Mechanics for an explanation.  While I found much proof in QM of interconnectivity through electromagnetic waves across the universe, unfortunately anything mentioned with relation to healing was sourced from a more mystical standpoint and I know that will not please the skeptics, so I moved to Cognitive Neuroscience for an understanding of the Mirror Neuron.  This is a neuron that fires both when someone acts and when that person observes the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron "mirrors" the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting.  These neurons are believed to be important for learning and understanding language and new skills. They are also important in grasping the actions and intentions of others and can be accredited to the human capacity for empathy, or the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  This is the same explanation for why we yawn when others yawn, smile when those around us smile and feel a heightened sense of belonging at a large electric event such as a rock concert.

In essence when someone comes to a community clinic for treatment, they become connected to the social nature of their humanness.  They are not only getting the personal benefits of rest, relaxation, increased blood flow and harmony from the acupuncture treatment, but a deeper confirmation neurologically which will increase the benefits manifold just from the awareness that those around them are doing the same.  When we heal together we are breaking this delusion of "separate" that Albert Einstein was talking about.  The reasons most people seek acupuncture treatment are for pain, depression/emotional issues, and various other forms of suffering. All of these symptoms serve to isolate us in one way or another.  While peacefully resting with strategically placed needles in our bodies alongside others doing the same, we acknowledge that we are all in this together, that we are not separate and ultimately when we are unified we can achieve and accomplish things far beyond what we could ever imagine on our own.

To find a community acupuncture clinic near you: https://www.pocacoop.com/clinics/ 

To find out more about Community Acupuncture from the progressive group that started it all: www.pocacoop.com

For more info on mirror neurons: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirror_neuron

For another article on mirroring and body language: http://psychologia.co/mirroring-body-language/

The people at the Heart Math Institute have been doing research and documenting some really cool data on the earth’s geomagnetic field and its relationship to global human responsiveness: https://www.heartmath.org/research/global-coherence/




 

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Oakland "Acu-Punks" Remove Barriers to Acupuncture Treatment, Patient Numbers Soar!

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Oakland "Acu-Punks" Remove Barriers to Acupuncture Treatment, Patient Numbers Soar!

On average a busy acupuncturist will treat between 1,000-2,000 patients in a year. Last year Oakland Acupuncture Project's two Oakland locations treated nearly 26,000 patients.  They have been around since 2008 and just last October they opened their third location in Sacramento.  The Sacramento Bee's gleaming report of the new clinic has helped to already have them hustling.  Being somewhat neighbors to Sacramento Acupuncture Project, I decided to gain some information on how things are going so well by asking Molly Fread some questions regarding their growth, patient response, and thoughts on how fellow Acu-Punks across the country are potentially spearheading a reform in the way Americans utilize healthcare.

Glossary Note: Punk = Community Acupuncturist (Simplicity and a redundant use of time tested systems are a key to the community acupuncturist's success... and acupuncture is rarely spelled correctly.)


1.  How many Acupuncturists did you start out with and how many work there now?
Oakland Acupuncture Project was founded in 2008 by two acupuncturists, Whitney Thorniley and Roselle McNeilly (now of El Dorado Community Acupuncture in Shingle Springs, CA). In 2016 there are now nine acupuncturists staffing our three locations (two clinics in Oakland and one in Sacramento). We have seven full time punks and two part time punks, as well as a small crew of subs and one part time administrative assistant based in Oakland. Two of those acupuncturists are the current owners (Whitney Thorniley and Jeff Levin).


2.  Did the founders ever believe that their vision of an acupuncture practice would expand so immensely? 
Our 3 clinic locations gave a total of 26,678 treatments in 2015. It's probably safe to say that Whitney and Roselle never imagined their clinic would grow to serve that many patients and offer that many treatments eight years in. When they were just starting out, there was no such known Community Acupuncture clinic yet reaching those high treatment figures. Whitney and Roselle were intent on creating quality, living wage jobs for themselves as well as establishing a solid affordable community health resource in their community. In 2008 they were new business owners trying an alternative business model to the Western medicine norm of treating one patient at a time in a private room (and charging accordingly). However, every year since opening, starting with just a couple thousand treatments in year 1, our overall numbers have increased. In 2011 Whitney and Roselle were locally awarded the Woman Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and in that year we added a third owner (Jeff Levin) and our second Oakland location on Grand Avenue. In 2015 we launched our first office in Sacramento. 


3.  Can you explain a few of the reasons why your community acupuncture practice has grown to treating such high volume?
There is strength in numbers! Thanks to excellent management and HR, our staff has continually grown, which is how we can be open every day of the week and be accessible to so many patients. The fact that we have a sliding scale of $15-35 makes it possible for a wide range of our community to utilize our services, and over the years we've had great word-of-mouth around town and many referrals of family and friends. Our goal is to continue to hire capable, warm, compassionate, and energetic acupunks so that we can expand our hours and be even more accessible to the community.
 

4.  With such a large patient base, you must be doing a lot of things right.  What are a few of the most common conditions that your acupuncturists treat, and what are some of your secrets to success?  
We treat a lot of low back pain, neck pain, arthritis, stress, anxiety, and depression, among many other things. Our key to success is letting patients know that acupuncture can work best for them when they can receive regular treatments, so sticking to a treatment plan and using the clinic regularly, and even multiple times per week when discomfort and distress is severe is how they will get the most relief. Being affordable and being open 7 days a week makes it easier for patients to get in when they need to truly feel better. Acupuncture is a wonderful pain and stress management tool, and it's empowering to patients to hear that they can come in whenever they need to, and that they can utilize acupuncture as a tool to improve their quality of life.


5.  There are now over 150 community acupuncture clinics across the United States practicing community acupuncture that are recognized to meet the standards set forth by POCA.  This organization and the community acupuncture model has grown despite some serious adversity, most notably from colleagues in the same field that do not practice in the community style, and also acupuncture publications and organizations.  There is now a sense of "power in numbers" as community clinics are in most major cities and even many small towns too.  Are there any thoughts you may have on Community Acupuncture's role as a leader in the reform of health care in our country?
When people can access healthcare, they do. Americans are chronically over-stressed, overworked, and underpaid. We POCA members strive to take down barriers to accessing care, and thrive on helping regular people in our lives and our communities to feel better using the simple, inexpensive, and effective tool of acupuncture. I'm very glad that the Redding area now has a local clinic to access and enjoy! Because as we say... the more people get acupuncture, the more people GET acupuncture. Try it real soon- you'll be glad you did. 

Click on the links below for more information:
Oakland Acupuncture Project
Sacramento Acupuncture Project
Shasta Community Acupuncture
El Dorado Community Acupuncture
People's Organization of Community Acupuncture (POCA)
To find a POCA (Community Acupuncture) clinic near you click here.

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