A lot of patients present with pain due to cancer. For example, patients who present with pain due to bone cancer are tricky to treat. There is no way you can do the old “stick a needle in it” trick to help alleviate their pain. They are also often patients who are in a very weakened state and require using as few needles as possible.
The content that I learned in SMA gave me an approach to treat adjacent and distal points in a way that I understand and in a method that I can explain anatomically. This way I don’t have to always be speaking TCM to people who don’t understand Chinese medical terminology or theories, especially the physicians I work with whose trust I need to gain. This is extremely important in this environment, where I’m the only alternative medicine provider in an organization that employs over 1000 health care workers. This in no way denigrates our medicine. In fact, it makes it my secret weapon.
While I was going through the SMAC program, I developed a specific protocol for neuropathy. As long as the patients can tolerate the needling and electric stimulation, it’s an extremely effective treatment for cancer patients presenting with neuropathy due to platinum based chemotherapeutic agents, and other forms of neuropathy. It uses Chinese medicine points, but with an understanding of nerve pathways that are affected by the needling. The SMA education, overlaid with the Chinese medicine approach, gives a holographic, three-dimensional map of the body that allows one to make better clinical decisions, and understand acupuncture’s effectiveness as a holistic system.
Additionally, the hospital requires me to give presentations to the medical staff. Being able to speak in terms of motor points and trigger points, while laying over the Chinese medicine system of meridians, gives a plausible explanation to skeptics of why and how acupuncture works, and why the merger of the two systems is superior to something like dry needling. My presentations are always well received because I speak first in anatomical terms, and then overlay the meridians to show how a holistic explanation of the body is something that makes sense. To the western trained medical provider, it can be one of those big “aha!” moments.
Another big takeaway from the class is effective, but deep, needle techniques. I often have patients who have had surgical procedures that have left deep scarring. Understanding how to communicate with a patient’s body utilizing the needle as a tool is very important. Matt and his co-teachers spend a great deal of time showing the most effective needling techniques that are precise, yet empathic. Additionally, the cadaver labs give practitioners an understanding of deep tissues that allow one to discern what you’re actually feeling on the end of your needle, despite not being able to see through live skin. This is an important approach that allows practitioners to distinguish themselves from many who haven’t had the benefit of SMA education.
Postscript—I’d love to say that I learned all of what I needed in school to do this, but I didn’t. And, I know I’m not alone.”