Why I Combine Massage With Acupuncture
A Discussion by Aidan Paulk, Licensed Acupuncturist and Licensed Massage therapist
My Background in Massage Therapy
Since beginning my career as an acupuncturist I've been using the combination of massage with acupuncture on almost every client I've seen. In part, this is because I tend to treat a lot of musculoskeletal pain and sports related injuries. More so, it is because the combination of these to therapeutic modalities is entirely synergistic, and as research has shown, is exceedingly more effective in treating pain than either of the two by themselves. What I can feel under my hands will always guide where I intend to place my needles. The more tender points I find through needling will in turn guide my area of focus in massage.
Before moving to Utah I was working in my hometown of Portland, Oregon under the mentorship of Dr. Yan Lu. His clinic mainly took on two kinds of cases: automotive accident recovery and workers compensation claims. The bigger umbrella that both of these kinds of cases fell under was pain, and a lot of it. It was expected at this clinic that each client would receive a full orthopedic evaluation, a full massage, and a full acupuncture session. This model yielded awesome results. I’ve seen people come in barely able to walk, then weeks later leave the clinic as if nothing was bothering them. It was hard work, but it was an incredibly educational experience which helped prepare me for the role I now play at Flow.
The style of massage I practice is called Tui Na, which literally translates to “to push and lift.” In western terms it can be thought of as a more deep tissue style massage or sports medicine massage. I’m particularly grateful to have studied this style, as it is a form of traditional Chinese medicine and works under the same principles as acupuncture. Like an acupuncturist, a practitioner of Tui na understands that the movement of blood is crucial to healing. That healthy flow of blood and oxygen throughout the entire body is imperative for tissue repair. That any blockage or adhesion must be broken and removed. And, that pain is not merely a physical condition, but also one that can weigh heavily on our emotional wellbeing. I’ve always felt like acupuncture does a great job of treating the person holistically, but combined with Tui na it can be even more encompassing.
Acupuncture and massage are like two teammates that compliment each other’s shortcomings. Sometimes a muscle is too deep for a massage to reach, but a needle can. When a needle over a tight muscle can sometimes feel too intense, a flat surface of a hand can be more gentle and welcome. And for those who may be needle sensitive entirely, a bit of massage over the area being worked on can make the insertion of the needle entirely pain free.
The “Sports Medicine” Viewpoint
I like to view most injuries through the lense of a sports medicine practitioner. It is my
belief that if you have a body, you are an athlete. No matter what sport we may play, no matter what career we may have, we are using our bodies. Most of us put them through a lot. Marathon training may be excruciatingly difficult, but people tend to find ways to push their bodies to the extreme even if they aren’t preparing for a race. Friends of mine in the food service industry walk upwards of 10 miles a day. Nurses sometimes don’t get to sit down for over 12 hours. Then there are others who find themselves in pain because they ARE sitting for 12 hours a day in this new age of sheltering in and working from home. As functioning members of society, we are called to ask too much of our bodies time and time again. Regardless of what you do, there’s a good chance a bit of self care will help you perform better.
Another reason I like sports medicine is because it is typically very hands-on, which is good for someone like me who intends to use massage in their treatment. Many people want to really feel the work that is being done. A trained hand in massage can identify problem areas for both the client and the practitioner, creating a mutual understanding of where the focus of work needs to be. Sports medicine can also be educational as we discuss kinesiology and your relationship with your body as it moves through space.
It is my goal to provide a positive experience to all who wish to try my style of care at Flow. I aim to help those who are active stay active. I aim to help those who feel like they won’t ever play again pick the game back up. More than anything, it is my passion to help people feel heard and understood wherever they are in their healing journey and to help them achieve that which they are capable of.