Like many people, I have had a certain curiosity around acupuncture. What is it, and how does it work? I had the great privilege of meeting acupuncturist Jeff Schoenheit, who also works with Broadway dancers and urban athletes, and was able to get my questions answered. We arranged a “treatment trade” and we were each able to experience each other’s treatment style and strategy. Here’s Part 1 of our conversation.
Q1 – From Hands To Needles
Mark M Lusk, MVMT (ML): How did you come to be an acupuncturist?
Jeff Schoenheit, Performance Acupuncture NYC (JS): I was working as a massage therapist and I got a call from someone who found my website, and he booked an appointment. But at the end of the call, he said he was an acupuncturist and asked if I’d be interested in bartering services. I said yes because I was curious about acupuncture, and he did more for my back pain in two sessions than any other therapy I had tried. So after that I was hooked, and always knew I wanted to move on from massage therapy into acupuncture, though it took me a few years to get up the courage to commit to the schooling and licensure process.
Q2 – Greatest Rewards
JS: What is the most rewarding part of being a physical therapist?
ML: Helping people to get out of pain and feel better is tremendously gratifying. I’d have to say that the most rewarding part however, besides helping people to feel better, is seeing a patient have more ownership of their own body and to do more than they ever thought that they could. I absolutely do a “happy dance” in the clinic when patients take in all of the information that I’ve given them and start to apply it in their daily lives and athletic endeavors.
Q3 – Old vs. New
ML: Can you explain the difference between Traditional Chinese Medicine acupuncture, and the way that you practice?
JS: This is one of my favorite topics! In order to get licensed as an acupuncturist in the US, you have to become proficient in what is called “Traditional Chinese Medicine” which is really a synthesis of a very complex system of looking at how the human body works that evolved over literally thousands of years. This system, as it’s currently practiced in China and taught in the United States, heavily favors Chinese Herbology, which is a genius system. However, acupuncture theory has been kind of enmeshed into the herbal system, with point prescriptions written as though they are herbal formulas, and as though an acupuncture point will act in the body in the same way that ingesting an herb would. The reality, however, is that these are two very different systems. Utilizing needles according to herbal theory doesn’t always make the most sense or get the best clinical results.
I primarily practice what is commonly referred to as “Balance Method” Acupuncture, which came out of the Taoist traditions and the I Ching. It predates the modern synthesis called Traditional Chinese Medicine which was really solidified as recently as the 20th century. But I also utilize what I would refer to as modern biomedical acupuncture, where we utilize needles but the theory behind it is all based in a modern understanding of the muscular and nervous systems.
Q4 – The Best Tool for the Job
JS: What are some of the tools or modalities you have found to be the most effective when working with patients?
ML: I’ve got a lot of tools in my treatment toolbox – from taping, cupping, blood flow restriction and instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM), to more traditional electrical stimulation and ultrasound. And these are all fun and sexy, and each have their time and place. But I’d have to say that the most effective tools have been my hands, my brain, and well-chosen movement. It’s important for clinicians to see our patients as individuals, each with very unique combinations of dysfunctions, capabilities and goals, rather than lumped into a generic bucket, like “back pain”. Also, as manual physical therapists, it’s easy to fall into the trap of treating only mechanical issues with our hands and not exercising enough. Conversely – we can’t necessarily just exercise our way out of every injury. It’s how we, as clinicians, assemble and utilize all of our tools.
Stay tuned for Part 2, where we’ll discuss misconceptions around acupuncture, advice for recovering from injury, and more! To contact Jeff, visit jefflac.com, email at email@example.com, or call (347) 423-4318.
Mark M Lusk, DPT, OCS, CFMT
Jeff Schoenheit, L.Ac., MSTOM, LMT