Tetsuhiro Ueno begins each session by taking the pulse of his patient. He asks Victoria Donovan if there have been any changes since her last appointment a month ago.
Photo by Shirley Ruhe.
Tetsuhiro Ueno carefully slips the regular size acupuncture needle close to the big toe of Victoria Donovan. "She is thin. I don't need to go in very far."
Donovan says, "I felt a little pinprick. It doesn't bother. Sometimes I don’t feel anything at all.“
Ueno says Donovan came to him a year ago in May with neck pain. "She tried different doctors. It didn't work so well."
Donovan explains, "I couldn't move my neck and shoulder and my back hurt. The pain was so severe. Donovan tried physical therapy, a chiropractor, and went to a doctor who injected things into her spine. Her only option left seemed to be surgery and "that sounded terrible." She started with a weekly visit, then biweekly and now is on a monthly schedule. “This has been a miracle.”
Today Ueno will check how tight she is. "Then I think where to put the needle. " Ueno moves around the table slowly inserting tiny needles in Donovan’s hands, her legs and her feet. When Ueno has finished he will have inserted about 20 needles, which he leaves in for 30 minutes. He uses many different length and gauge needles and customizes treatment for each person.
Ueno explains energy circulates throughout the body 55 times a day so if you calculate the math, about 28 minutes would be correct for the acupuncture pressure points. Donovan rests quietly on the treatment table. In about 15 minutes Ueno will return to check on Donovan and to touch the needles to reenergize the energy circulation. When he has finished, he places a heat lamp over Donovan’s feet. “As the energy moves upward, the feet get cold.”
“Yes,” Donovan agrees, “my feet are cold.”
Ueno explains Donovan's neck pain was due to stress related to an upcoming move to Algeria; it's not just muscular. The need is to calm her down." He says when stress happens, energy and blood is stagnant. Acupuncture at the energy points has a therapeutic function. You stimulate that point and open up channels so the energy can flow.
Ueno illustrates with a diagram on his computer of the body's 12 meridians that run through each body part. Each pressure point is related to an organ in the body. He inserts a needle near the pressure point in the big toe that connects to the liver. Ueno says the most important aspect of Chinese medicine is to diagnose each person individually. He asks many questions about bowel movements, urine, and appetite. Each question gives him another answer.
When he first diagnoses a patient, he says he checks the pulse in each finger, which is specifically connected to an organ. He checks the tongue — the color, coating and shape. If it is too red, the body has more heat so you need to do something to cool it down. "Even with the same diagnosis, each patient is totally different. American doctors ask a lot of questions but seem to give the same treatment.”
Ueno says people think of acupuncture as related to pain but people come for many different reasons including depression, insomnia, and for female issues, struggling to get pregnant.
Ueno was born in Japan and worked there in international relations for 10 years. "But I want to help people, and I worked in a big bureaucratic organization in Tokyo. I said this was not the life to continue. And as a result, my health was not so good.” It was then he tried acupuncture.
That's how he decided to switch to a totally different job "which is really rewarding." He attended a special school in Austin, Texas. "Some people call me Doctor but it is a license in acupuncture and Oriental medicine. After working for 10 years in Arlington, he started his own place, Caring Acupuncture, on Eisenhower Avenue 2 years ago. "This job makes me happy."
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