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How Getting Poked Can Change the World.

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A few months ago I was approached by Lisa Weeks, a talented and creative person interested in helping small businesses promote themselves and their services.  She writes a blog describing a variety of innovative and diverse small businesses throughout  Victoria.   Below is the result of a conversation we had at hemma one afternoon in February…

How Getting Poked Can Change the World.

No, not facebook: community acupuncture.

Imagine you don’t have a lot of money (not a stretch for most folks). You pay your rent, buy your groceries, clothe your family, feed the dog – but you’re disposable income is pretty much disposed of before you can list all the things you’d like to spend it on.

You’re active, you eat well (most of the time), you do all the right things, but still, you can’t seem to shake the persistent pain in your lower back. Or maybe it’s chronic headaches, digestion problems, a repetitive strain injury? Whatever the ailment, it’s been bothering you for what feels like forever and nothing works. You give up.

One spring afternoon, chatting over the garden fence with your neighbour Linda, she mentions how delighted she is to finally be back to gardening. You’re aware that Linda has her own struggles with back pain. “What made the difference?” you ask. “Acupuncture. Changed my life!” she says.

Hope rekindles. You, and your limited budget, march off to the recommended acupuncturist – a nice enough fellow who charges $80 per treatment. Reasonable. You’re convinced it’s money well spent, but you don’t have a well of it to spend. You budget, cut a few corners, and invest $250 in three treatments over the course of the next month.

At the end of the month, you don’t notice a big difference. Your daughter needs new shoes, your car needs a tune-up, and you just can’t justify paying your acupuncturist any more money. You conclude: Linda was lucky. Acupuncture’s not that great after all.

This is a common story. One that Michael Lium-Hall, owner of hemma, a community based acupuncture clinic, hopes to interrupt.

9 Things You Should Know about Community Acupuncture:

1. Community acupuncture is not charity. It’s a business model designed to make acupuncture affordable. Michael explains, “It’s about making it possible for people to determine treatment based on need, not pocket books.” You decide what you pay, based on a sliding scale.

2.  Community acupuncture is rooted in traditional practice. It’s about embracing elements of traditional practice to address contemporary concerns. Acupuncture is a profession without roots in our culture. One strategy for mainstreaming acupuncture in North America was to piggyback the practice onto a Western clinical model. The result? A very westernized notion of what acupuncture looks like.

3.  Community acupuncture is normal. The practice of community acupuncture looks different. You’re treated with other people in one big room. You sit in a recliner instead of lying on a table. You keep your clothes on. The focus is on distil points – the places the acupuncturist can reach by rolling up a sleeve or folding a cuff. Strange? Only because we expect it to look like a private practice – individual treatment rooms, scheduled appointments, closed doors. Traced to its roots, community acupuncture is the norm, not the exception.

4.  Community acupuncture is patient-centric. The person, not the practitioner, determines the schedule. In a Western-based clinical model, the need for the room dictates the length of your stay. At the hemma clinic, because people are treated together in one big, cozy room, the practitioner doesn’t need to clear the room in order to treat the next person. This means, you can stay for as long, or as short, as you like.

5.  Community acupuncture helps people feel good. Michael explains, “People are comfortable in this setting. They bring their sisters, their cousins, their aunts, and their uncles. They bring their babies and they bring their neighbours. It’s comforting. Something happens in community. You can feel it.”

6.  Community acupuncture is about creating a sustainable model of practice. The prices of a private clinic model make acupuncture inaccessible to a lot of people. It also makes it difficult for practitioners, just out of school, to start a successful, long-term practice. Offering community acupuncture at affordable prices is not about undermining the expertise of practitioners. It’s about creating a model of practice that makes acupuncture possible for lots of practitioners, and people, over time.

7.  Community acupuncture lets you get good at what you do. Typically, practitioners at the hemma clinic treat between 4 and 6 people per hour. This means, they see as many people in a four-hour shift as a private clinician sees in a week. If practice makes perfect, this model makes it easy for practitioners to get very good at what they do.

8.  Community acupuncture is a movement. The hemma clinic is not an isolated event. It’s connected to a network of some 300 clinics sprinkled across North America. The inspiration for the hemma clinic came from Working Class Acupuncture in Portland, Oregon – the birthplace of community acupuncture. In Canada, you can find clinics in Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver.

9. Community acupuncture is about changing the world. Combining caring for people, economic realities, and the knowledge of how acupuncture works. The goal? To make acupuncture accessible to as many people as possible – to change the world, one poke at a time. The Working Class Acupuncture tag line says it best: Community Acupuncture – The calmest revolution ever staged.

You can learn a lot more about Michael and the hemma clinic by visiting their website. Or, you can click here to access the User Guide – answers to practical questions like: What is community acupuncture? What is a sliding scale? How often should I come?

Monday Magazine also wrote a piece about the hemma clinic that you can find here.

Of course, you could always stop by the clinic at 1274 May Street and have a look for yourself. Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the model, the practice, or maybe you had a treatment?

To read more about Lisa and her work go to Minding Your Own Business.