Written by Bob Quinn, DAOM, LAc
“If we can really understand the problem, the answer will come out of it, because the answer is not separate from the problem.” J. Krishnamurti
Yesterday I taught an all-day shonishin seminar for the Oregon State Association as a fundraiser. I was helped by Daniel Silver (also of Onkodo Clinic). For those unfamiliar with this term--shonishin—it is a Japanese style of pediatric treatment that does not often use inserted needles. Instead techniques of stroking, tapping, scratching, and vibrating acupuncture points and meridians are used. Various interesting tools are employed to do this work.
How can it be that such minute levels of stimulation as we find in shonishin are often enough to bring about the kinds of change infants and children need? It is difficult, if not impossible, to explain these positive outcomes given our current understanding of the human body. The amount of contact pressure is often only 5 grams or so, and yet this is enough to bring surprising shifts to many conditions commonly encountered.
In this seminar we had three patients come to receive treatment, ranging in age from 2 to 8. All three really enjoyed the work—that much was clear. It is possible to talk kids into needles, and it is possible to needle them painlessly and to have this be very helpful (indeed this gentle needling is part of shonishin training as well), but I have never encountered a child who LOVED being needled. Some rare 6-year olds think it is sort of cool to see a needle in their arm, but none of them think that it feels great—not the way the stroking techniques of shonishin do.
I worked for a famous math educator for a year at the University of Oregon as her grader. She was fascinated by questions, and she infected me with the same curiosity. When I first saw shonishin performed, my assumption was that it would not be enough stimulation to provoke positive change. When it became clear that that was not true, that shonishin treatments actually produce impressive clinical outcomes, then certain questions presented themselves, questions that I could not ignore.
In one old article in the North American Journal of Oriental Medicine Dr. Yoshio Manaka, MD wrote that with every patient we have to ask how much stimulation is needed to get the desired outcome. He maintained that this question never gets easier, even after we have practiced for many years. The patient who looks like an NFL linebacker might best be served with a very gentle treatment style, and the thin 70-year old woman might experience the best results from a much heavier-handed approach. It is a tough question.
It was 18 years ago when I first saw shonishin performed. I started to wonder about how this gentle stuff would work on adults. I started to think about Dr. Manaka’s question. Could it be, I wondered, that many of our treatments offer much more stimulation than is really needed to get the job done? I started to think about this, and it still occupies my thought. With children though the question is easily answered: They universally need the gentlest of the gentle treatment. Strong techniques often make already challenging conditions worse.
Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes can enclose the same cubic space as a standard box home with 30% fewer materials used. That is a lot, a big difference. A dome needs no internal supporting walls like our square buildings do. The larger the dome, the more stable it is. This is just one example of how our basic assumptions can be challenged. Of course in our culture a house is supposed to be square. Really? Does it have to be, or is it the case that we are simply used to houses looking like this? How many animals build square nests like our houses? How locked in are we to a certain kind of thinking? In a similar way we believe that of course acupuncture treatments need to include a significant amount of stimulation, whether for adults or children. Really? How would we know the true answer to such a big, big question? All we can say is that we have an opinion about this question based on quite limited experience. No one knows the truth of how much stimulation would be ideal.
My point here, beyond making the point that Onkodo Clinic practitioners love working with children in this shonishin system, is to promote the practice of asking tough questions, ones that get to the heart of our most cherished and basic assumptions. Of course this is no way to make friends, and I feel obligated to let readers know that up front. That University of Oregon professor I worked for was not popular with her students, despite the fact that she was an exceptionally lovely human being. Her questions were difficult, thought-provoking ones, and the students did not welcome such tough work.
In shonishin my initial doubts were long ago banished. Over the years I have seen too much to doubt the power of this gentle pediatric treatment system. I no longer doubt that there is something in the human body that we do not yet understand that would explain how such minute inputs can bring such blessed changes in difficult health conditions. I can’t explain in any modern way how the body does this, but it is possible in shonishin.
In general people do not like their long-held assumptions to be challenged or questioned. This is as true for acupuncturists as it is in any other field. If you become a questioner of this sort in Chinese medicine, you can count on a certain amount of push-back. People defend their ideas and assumptions as if their lives depend on it. But you will benefit in many ways from this sort of questioning, as will your patients. In shonishin it is infants and children who benefit, and this is a great joy for us shonishin practitioners.
Bob Quinn, DAOM, L.Ac. is one of the owner-founders of the Onkodo Clinic. He is also a full-time Assistant Professor in the School of Classical Chinese Medicine at NUNM. He and Lauri Elizabeth and Daniel Silver offer shonishin treatments at the Onkodo Clinic.
p.s. Onkodo will soon offer its own line of one-of-a-kind shonishin tools! Look for more developments on this soon!!
Written by Bob Quinn, DAOM, LAc
Many writers in the popular and professional press refer to chronic Lyme disease as a modern scourge. For years it has been identified primarily as an East Coast phenomenon, but that has never really been true, although it is certainly the case that it is more prevalent in New England than elsewhere. (It was originally identified in Lyme, CT, and, thus, the name Lyme disease.) Cases of acute Lyme disease are diagnosed here in the Portland area every year, primarily it seems from ticks in the Columbia Gorge.
Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness, that is often effectively treated with antibiotics if it is detected early and a long enough course of the drugs is given. The problems emerge when it is not caught early in the process, and the spirochetes (spiral-shaped bacteria) can become established in the body. These invaders are clever and pernicious, able to hide out in many different parts of the body, from joint spaces, to the brain and heart, and other vital organs.
To make matters worse for patients there is a professional war going on between competing medical societies, the Infectious Diseases Society of America at the CDC (IDSA) and the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS). IDSA claims there is no such thing as a chronic stage of Lyme disease, and ILADS claims there indeed is. The real losers in this argument are the patients with a perplexing complex of debilitating symptoms.
Because of this professional turf war insufficient resources have been identified to properly study these patients who are seriously chronically ill. Into this void many medical professionals have entered in the attempt to help these desperate patients. A perplexing array of protocols are promoted in books, articles, youtube videos, and websites. There is the Zhang protocol, the Buhner protocol, the Cowden protocol, the Byron White protocol, various Rife machines, and many other treatment options. Some ILADS doctors have had good luck with long-term antibiotic use for these patients, but it has hardly been a cure-all, and of course there is a downside for the body in long-term antibiotic use.
What does Chinese medicine have to offer these chronic Lyme patients? Long ago similar complexes of symptoms were classified as Gu Syndrome. Gu was seen as a type of spirit possession. (see interview conducted by Onkodo’s Bob Quinn with Heiner Fruehauf, Ph.D, a noted expert on the classical Gu literature.)
Although modern people do not like to think in terms of “spirit possession,” it remains true that the herbal strategies evolved to treat Gu Syndrome are quite helpful in treating chronic Lyme disease. Fascinating! It is also curiously true that many chronic Lyme patients, without ever having read about Gu Syndrome, say that they “feel possessed” or “not themselves.” They also claim to be “hollowed out” by the disease process, which is a classical Gu expression.
Many modern herbal approaches (not all though) lack the sophistication of the Gu formula approach. The modern idea seems to be to try to mimic antibiotics with strong herbs that kill parasites. This, of course, has it place. But a more nuanced approach bears better fruit. The herb formulas have to rebuild the damaged nervous and other systems at least as much as they need to kill spirochetes. How we think and conceive our mission in treatment is important.
The spirochete infection will invade the nervous systems of the patients. Because of that these patients are unusually sensitive. What this means in terms of treatment is that they need to be handled with care. The acupuncture needs to be gentle—even non-insertive techniques need to be employed. Their nervous systems are easily over stimulated by strong acupuncture, and this is not a good idea when those same nervous systems are under attack by the disease itself.
Gentle therapies developed in Japan seem to be a great match for these Lyme patients. In Japan 40% of the practitioners are blind. This has led them to develop exceedingly gentle needle techniques, as blind people often have more palpatory sensitivity. These techniques are a godsend to damaged nervous systems. Little by little with the use of these Japanese treatment styles patients start to rebuild their strength. As they get stronger, they more effectively ward off the disease and can begin to reengage life more fully again.
Direct moxibustion, the practice of burning of dried Asian mugwort on acupuncture points, is a therapy that is especially useful for chronic Lyme patients. Its stimulation is quite a bit different from what is provided by acupuncture needles. The amount of warmth provided is minute but it makes a big difference. And importantly, patients can do moxa on themselves at home every day. The patients who do this recover at a faster rate.
Gentle bodywork is another key component that practitioners at Onkodo Clinic bring to bear in the treatments of chronic Lyme patients. Sotai, a Japanese style of work, and qigong tuina, a gentle Taoist type of work are the styles we most commonly turn to in helping chronic Lyme patients. In these therapies, as with moxa, there is helpful homework that patients can do for themselves every day.
Many chronic Lyme patients have a background that includes trauma of one sort or another. There are various types of therapy that can be brought to bear to deal with this trauma. One interesting piece of this puzzle pursued at Onkodo Clinic is Chinese medical dreamwork, a style of working with dream images pioneered by Bob Quinn. This work is an outgrowth of his long study with Jeremy Taylor, a noted dream interpretation author and expert. In our core medical classic, The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine, two chapters are devoted to the diagnostic significance of dreams! It seems the Chinese were well ahead of Freud and Jung ̶ 2000 years ahead.
Another piece we can offer for this trauma side of chronic Lyme disease is intuitive healing work. Casey Steele is one of our Onkodo providers. With her MSW she is trained in counseling, but what she finds most helpful for her chronic Lyme clients is a less standard counseling approach and a more intuitively-based way of working. Additionally she works as a sort of Lyme-resource person; she is plugged in and informed about the various other options that might be helpful for chronic Lyme patients.
We invite you to explore what we have to offer at Onkodo Clinic. If you suffer from chronic Lyme disease and its co-infections, we would love to be a part of your team of providers. Please contact us to chat about options. Many different types of insurance are accepted by our providers.
Blessings to you on your healing journey.
Onkodo Clinic providers
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.