In the next few months, we will be interviewing the acupuncturists at M & R Acupuncture to learn more about them and what brought them to where they are now.
For our second interview, Danielle will interview Rory Crouse, one of the founders of M & R Acupuncture.
What was your journey to acupuncture like?
So, it’s kind of a long story. It started when I was doing my undergrad upstate. I hadn’t decided what career I wanted to pursue yet, but after a year of college I knew that it wasn’t for me. So I left to go on a solo backpacking trip across the country. I walked from New York to Colorado. It was during this time that I met a Sioux Native American in Boulder, Colorado who taught me about herbal medicine - this experience really drew me towards the healing and medical field. I learned how much herbs can help people, especially underprivileged people who don’t have access to conventional medical care. I’ve always been drawn towards natural medicine, so I decided to make my way back to the east coast and continue to study herbal medicine while also taking western medical courses such as anatomy, physiology, and biology at Suffolk. I wanted to find a way to combine both conventional and natural medicine, with an emphasis on herbalism. I eventually found that Traditional Chinese Medicine had developed an organized and systematic approach to herbal medicine that can be traced back as far as 2,500 years ago. For example, one of the text books I use daily at our clinic was written approximately 2,000 years ago. I loved how concrete and evidence based it was. So, while still taking western medical courses, I enrolled in school for Chinese medicine and immediately discovered that I loved it. I felt this was a great path and decided to dedicate myself to Chinese Medicine and Chinese herbs.
What was your first experience with natural medicine?
I was introduced to the world of natural medicine when I was a child - my father was always interested in acupuncture, chiropractic, etc. He was also very spiritual and would bring my brother and I to meditation retreats at Kripalu when we were kids. Natural remedies and teas like echinacea were a part of my life, and the natural approach to healthy living was something that I always appreciated.
How does acupuncture work?
I believe that there are different ways that acupuncture works depending on what you are treating. In regards to pain, acupuncture reduces inflammation, releases tight muscles, calms pain receptors, and relaxes the body. Earlier today I had a patient come in with lower back pain - when they arrived their pain was an 8 out of 10 on the pain scale and when they left their pain had decreased to a 2 out of 10. This patient had pain because their hips were misaligned, creating tension in surrounding muscles and tendons; they also had inflammation affecting a local nerve, causing shooting pain down the leg. My approach with this patient was to insert needles directly into the muscles that were in spasm so that the muscles would release and relax. This type of local needling also brings fresh blood flow to the affected area to ease inflammation and stop nerve pain. This type of orthopedic approach can cause a dramatic decrease in pain very quickly.
When treating internal disorders, like digestive issues, acupuncture works in a different way that, in my opinion, is pretty far out. According to acupuncture theory, there are a number of energetic pathways (“meridians”) that flow throughout the body. These pathways easily become imbalanced and it is my job as an acupuncturist to locate this imbalance and correct it. Let’s say somebody has ulcerative colitis, a disorder that affects the large intestine. I would choose points on the large intestine meridian (located on the arm) to treat the issue. Although it may seem surprising that I treat the arm in order to heal the gut, these points have a direct affect on the large intestine because of the direction of energy flow. To get even more detailed — the large intestine meridian has a connection with the stomach meridian. So, I will also choose points on the stomach channel (like “Stomach 36” which is just below the knee to strengthen the colon and “Stomach 44” which is between the second and third toe to clear toxic energy). It’s hard to imagine how a point below your knee, or on your foot or elbow is going to help you with your digestive issues. I personally wouldn’t believe it if I didn’t see it work all the time! But this medicine has been practiced for thousands of years and it wouldn’t be so popular today if it wasn’t helping people.
Lastly, I treat a lot of depression and anxiety. Our clinic provides a safe, calm environment where patients have no other responsibilities to attend to - we have calming music playing, essential oils going, dim lighting and comfortable treatment tables. If a patient needs to talk, I’ll listen and encourage them to share any feeling they want to voice. This builds a trusting relationship between me and my patients. I really do love all of my patients. Then, receiving acupuncture brings the patients blood pressure down and calms their nervous system so it forces them, in a way, to chill out in this environment. I use calming points like an ear protocol called NADA that is approved by the FDA to treat depression, and a point in the middle of the forehead called “Yin Tang” which opens the third eye. I’ll also use a point between the toes that grounds the Liver meridian which is responsible for processing big and small stressors. I find that grounding the energy in this meridian, rather than allowing it to spin out of control higher up in the body, helps to treat depression and anxiety. I think of an acupuncture session as an opportunity to put on training wheels for meditation; meditation comes easier in this peaceful environment with the acupuncture needles doing their work.
What do you appreciate most about Chinese medicine theory?
One of the most important concepts in Chinese medicine is that of balance and avoiding excess. Excess is such a normal part of the American way, so avoiding it can be difficult for people, myself included. Each day we wake up and hit the ground running, doing as much as we can and powering through fatigue. I try my best to find balance in my life by spending a few hours every day in complete silence, doing no activity what so ever. A lot of people would call this meditation, and I find that if you do have excess stress and activity in your life, it helps to counter it with lots of sleep and quiet time with as little mental and physical activity as possible at certain times of the day. But you have to find what works for you. For a lot of people, coming into our office for their regular treatment is a part of finding that balance.
What do you enjoy most about your job as an acupuncturist?
It’s really nice helping people; lots of times someone will come in with something simple like neck pain and after I help them with that issue I show them that there are other ways in their life that I can help improve, like sleep and mental wellbeing. And I think opening their eyes to these subtle aspects of their life is a great part of my job. Or, if they’re already on the path to healing, I can be a part of it with them and help guide them through some decisions. I also love learning from my patients - there’s no better teacher than experience. I’ve grown a lot as a person just by interacting with my patients.
What are some of the experiences you have had as you grew into your acupuncture career?
I have seen a lot of health care professionals get carried away with selling products and losing sight of what is best for patients. There are practitioners out there that try to sell products that aren’t in the patients best interest and/or aren’t entirely necessary to the patients treatment. So, I try to remain focused on what patients really need and keep it simple and honest. As a lot of our patients know, we sell Chinese herbs and a small number of high quality supplements - something we’ve done to avoid financial incentive is to sell all of our herbs and products at cost rather than for profit. If I think it is important for someone to take herbs as a part of their treatment, my only incentive is to get my patients better.
What makes your treatments effective?
I provide a holistic approach, so that I am treating all parts of the person - their diet and their exercise routine, their posture, their sleep cycle, their emotions. I try to touch on all of these things with all of my patients. I always keep an open mind about all the possible approaches to treating a patient and getting them to feel better. The answer is not always clear, so I try very hard to think outside the box and consider any alternative ways to treatment.