Simple Tools, Powerful Healing: An Interview with an Acupuncturist

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“I’m really close to my patients,” says Yee Trenh.

They arrive at her North Seattle acupuncture office seeking relief from pain—sore necks, tense shoulders, tight backs—and treatment for conditions ranging from arthritis to anxiety, gout to insomnia.

They get noticeable results, typically in short order.

That’s the best thing about acupuncture, says Yee. She can make a powerful difference in people’s lives with just a few low-tech tools: needles. The results are often speedy and the side effects, minimal. (In the hands of a competent clinician, a bruise is the biggest downside a patient will encounter.) And, unlike her mainstream medical counterparts, Yee has ample time to spend with her patients. She’s eager to get to the heart of their conditions and concerns.

A one-time lab technician, Yee knew that she wanted to help people heal. She studied for three and a half years to earn degrees in both acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine from Bastyr University near Seattle. Needles work on the external body, she explains, but the Chinese herbal preparations act on the inside. For Yee, it’s a potent combination that’s more than the sum of its parts: “I always tell my patients, one plus one never equals two. It could be three or four or even five.”

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Her degree coursework included classes in anatomy, physiology, nutrition and herbal formulas. Within the acupuncture program, she learned therapeutic approaches in the fields of gynecology, pediatrics, geriatrics and more. She has a special interest in supporting bone health, using a technique called die-da [DEE-uh dah] to speed recovery from injuries.

After graduating, Yee traveled to China for more training in a hospital setting. There, it was common for her to treat 100 acupuncture patients a day. “You see all different types of conditions,” says Yee. “It really builds up your confidence.”

Back in the U.S., she spent a year working for another practitioner, learning the ropes of running a business as she gave treatments. She hung out her own shingle in 2012. Steadily growing her practice through word of mouth, Yee now sees patients for 20 to 30 hours each week.

Although some MDs still dismiss Yee and her fellow acupuncturists as “voodoo doctors,” the ancient healing art is gaining acceptance—especially on the West Coast. “My patients really open up to me,” says Yee, who marvels at the ability of simple tools to do so much good.

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