“STAGNATIONS are like potential energy. They are just “stuck.” Stagnations can lead to disharmony. Acupuncture can break up stagnations, getting the Qi and Blood moving and promote homeostasis [a state of equilibrium or balance]. Acupuncture can turn that ‘potential energy’ into ‘kinetic energy’. If you are tired of feeling stuck, let acupuncture give you that push over the hill to start feeling great.” – R. Antonio Whiteley, L.Ac., 2017.
Acupuncture is the practice of inserting sterile needles to specific points on the body through the skin. When applied properly by licensed acupuncturists — like R. Antonio Whiteley, L.Ac. — it provides relief for pain maladies.
Do you recall the purple circle marks on Michael Phelps’ back while he swam in the 2016 Olympics in Brazil? He got cupping treatments aka ventosa to give him relief from his aches and pains. Mark Perido, an educator with the International Cupping Therapy Association, said in Men’s Health magazine,“when an acupuncturist soaks a cotton ball in alcohol and lights it on fire inside a glass cup, he or she removes the flame, and quickly places the cup on a patient’s skin, creating a vacuum that draws up the skin tissue.”
“Blood flow is the body’s way of naturally healing,” says Houman Danesh, M.D., an assistant professor of anesthesiology and rehabilitation medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital, who frequently combines cupping with mainstream pain therapy techniques. “Increased blood flow can be beneficial to jumpstart or restart a blunted healing response.”
It is not surprising to see acupuncture grow in popularity in the United States. In 1992, the Congress created the Office of Alternative Medicine. In 1997, the National Institute of Health (NIH) declared support for acupuncture for some conditions. It then became “the most popular alternative medicine in the US,” NIH reported in 2009.
In California, acupuncture practitioners are required to take 3,000 hours of study in pertinent curriculum of acupuncture from an accredited school, including 50 hours of continuing education every two years, as well as additional hours in herbal medicine. All of these are part of a master’s program and passing an examination as a requirement for licensure.
What acupuncture has been used for
American Specialty Health is a group of 30,000 musculoskeletal practitioners nationwide, in chiropractic and acupuncture specialties. They provide services to subscribers of health maintenance organizations (HMO). Formed in 1987, it has provided specialty health services to 27 million Americans.
Whiteley, a member of the American Specialty Health, has patients who seek acupuncture treatment from him, categorized into: “70 percent for back pain; 20 percent are to remove stagnations, stress, anxieties, and to get the blood moving, and the rest for other conditions.” Some of them include Filipino Americans.
In 2016, NIH reported that acupuncture is used for headaches, low-back pain and neck pain and osteoarthritis/knee pain. Older and younger friends seek acupuncture to fortify their immune system, once a month. They claim the monthly visits sustain their health and wellness.
But to others, acupuncture is the norm for minor ailments and maladies of pain. After a hike, a relative got ankle pain after running down the trails. He was limping. After acupuncture, he got relief. Another hurt his back, dislocated by incorrect posture. I watched him move slowly with painful endurance. But, even with painkillers, nothing gave relief. After two acupuncture treatments, his pain was gone.
“Complementary medicine, which includes acupuncture, is a multibillion-dollar industry with 38 million adults receiving treatments annually,” according to a 2009 NIH report, and “it has grown to become the norm for helping millions of Americans with untold number of ailments and maladies.”
Coming from a legacy of healers and givers
Whiteley is one of the 42 grandchildren of Pablo P. Prietto, a dentist who went to the University of Southern California. Prietto, his grandfather, came from Peru in the “steerage hold of a cattle boat,” and “who worked his way through college as an auto mechanic and maintained a deep and abiding affection for his alma mater throughout his lifetime,” the USC Trojan Family Magazine wrote. Prietto has one of the oldest Latino legacies of giving at USC and he also supported the Mexican American Alumni Association, now on its 36th year of philanthropy.
Whiteley nurtured a dream, “I wanted to be a doctor. My grandpa is a dentist and my uncle, Pablo P. Prietto, MD is an orthopedic surgeon,” he said.
But instead of a biomedical specialty, Whiteley gained expertise in musculoskeletal therapies and various healing arts: massage, personal training, a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, a master’s degree in acupuncture, cupping, and ultimately, a license to practice in acupuncture. He credits his parents, Roger and Rosa Whiteley, for their unconditional love and support for his career’s pursuits and his current life’s direction.
He visualized how his practice will be: the way a doctor talks to and makes his patients feel, or taking the time to find out what ails her. He worked for various practitioners, learned customer service and scheduling, including how to run a practice. He became part of a large health center on Wilshire Boulevard, where 6,000 patients were seen for sports rehabilitation and personal training.
He worked for various practitioners in both the East and West Coasts, learned customer service, scheduling, and how to run a practice.
Then, he went through his own personal challenge when he threw his lower back out that it became impossible for him to work. He conducted research on the structure of the spine. He gained knowledge on proper posture and how a flat back, lacking a curve in the lumbar spine, makes it unable to absorb the shock and pain. From what he went through, he learned the importance of quality treatment and services.
I inquired into his own code of ethics in caring for his patients:
a. I give recommendation, I do not push for treatment or service.
b. If there is a strained muscle, there will be more frequent treatments.
c. If a patient feels good, hopefully they come back once a month for “tune-up.”
d. All of my treatment come from good intentions – if they come seeking treatment, I consciously meditate before I start.
e. I want my last patient at 6 p.m. to get the same treatment as my first patient.
f. I consciously want to give my best to anyone and for each one to get the best treatment each time I see a patient.
g. Here, at Body and Soul, we tap into different spheres of ourselves, we tap into the physical but also the spiritual, e.g. in treating carpal tunnel, it is both tapping into the physical, but also the yin/yang, the root/branch of the pain.
For Fil-Am friends, acupuncture has been used for the temporary relief of pain maladies, sciatica, stress, anxieties, and detoxification, “which is a process that clears and filters toxins and waste to allow our bodies to work on enhancing its basic functions,” Christine E.V. Gonzalez, Ph.D wrote. “On a spiritual level, many people experience new clarity and enhancement of their purpose of life during cleansing processes.” An octogenarian clued me into her regular acupuncture treatments as her secret to staying healthy, as well as good nutrition, sleep and exercise.
There is a Chinese symbol that stands for both crisis and opportunity. Acupuncture allows an individual to stay ahead of a health crisis, by proactively taking the opportunity to have regular treatments to keep the blood flowing and ultimately, to turn stagnations into kinetic energies, as Whiteley wisely observed in his practice and as NIH has reported.
Footnote: This is Part I of III series on health and wellness. Part II will be on common strategies towards good health. Part III will be on a Dumaguete medical mission by California health professionals.
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Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. writes a weekly column for Asian Journal, called “Rhizomes.” She has been writing for AJ Press for 9 years now. She contributes to Balikbayan Magazine. Her training and experiences are in science, food technology, law and community volunteerism for 4 decades. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of the Philippines, a law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and a certificate on 21st Century Leadership from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has been a participant in NVM Writing Workshops taught by Prof. Peter Bacho for 4 years and Prof. Russell Leong. She has travelled to France, Holland, Belgium, Japan, Mexico and 22 national parks in the US, in pursuit of her love for arts.