Acupuncture Blog

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In addition to the terrific writing of MAS' own Elizabeth Ropp, POCA Tech's Lisa Rohleder and our own little Needles book, another colleague is currently offering topical writing we think is worth your time.

Alexa Halsey's Substack posts are short, thoughtful, insightful and honest.  Her care for the people whom she writes for comes shining through.  If you knew Alexa personally, this would come as no suprise.

We've reproduced one of our recent favorites here to share.


Like A Bartender

Dear Patient,

Sometimes I feel more like a bartender than an acupuncturist.

A bartender has their regulars. I do too.

A good bartender knows their customers’ preferences. I know who among my patients hates ear needles, or loves the point between the eyebrows, or always flinches when I needle the top of their foot, or probably will want two blankets.

A bartender never stops moving during a shift. Same.

A bartender has to wake up drunk people who have passed out on the bar. I have to wake up relaxed people who have blissed out in a chair.

When a customer comes in and pours their heart out, the bartender listens, reflects back, and offers the comfort of a cold beer or a shot of whiskey. I offer needles.

Years ago I realized my success as an acupuncturist was in no small part because I act more like a bartender than a doctor. It’s more comfortable for me this way—acting like a doctor felt inauthentic, like wearing an ill-fitting white lab coat. Now I’m just me, Alexa, your acupuncturist. I enjoy my work a lot more and I get better results.

It makes me wonder how many people out there in their working life are trying to play a role they aren’t suited for. Do you need to shed your ill-fitting white lab coat?

Love and gratitude,

Your Acupuncturist

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written by Elizabeth Ropp, LAc

Last week many of you asked about how my vacation went. It was a nice break. My parents came to visit. I haven’t seen them since 2019. They came to Manchester to help MAS move from Canal Street to our new home in the East Side Plaza on Hanover Street. If you like the figure eight arrangement of the chairs at our new location, you can thank my mother, Gayle.

We had an itinerary lined up with places to go and people to visit.  The Urgent Care in Hooksett was not on our list. All plans came to a full stop in the middle of my week off.

Three nights before my parents arrived, my husband Eric and I attended a cookout.  Our first cookout since before the pandemic, actually. The host only invited vaccinated people. Days later, a guest tested positive for COVID after experiencing symptoms. We learned that "Patient zero" contacted COVID from another vaccinated person the day before the cookout.

Neither my husband, I or my parents had symptoms.  But we didn’t want to take any chances. We sat in the parking lot of the Urgent Care filling out patient questionnaires on our Smartphones. It was a technical comedy of errors. The wifi connection was so bad that we had to start from the beginning several times.

“Ropp, Party of four.  Your examination room is ready.”  A technician packed us all into one exam room. Not as scenic as the views we enjoyed of the White Mountains from the gardens at Shaker Village the day before. One by one we each got a cotton swab up the nose, our temperatures taken, our blood pressure checked. I informed everyone about when I had my last menstrual period.  Good times!  My parents reminded me that high blood pressure and colon cancer run on both sides of my family. I am approaching the age where colonoscopies will be a normal part of life.

All tests came back negative. I asked the technician to take a group photo. 

urgent care pic


 I reported our test results, and photo, back to the host and other cookout guests.  No one else from the vaccinated cookout tested positive. 

An hour later we met family friends at an outdoor table at Firefly Bistro. How surreal.  The next day we met my aunt and uncle for lobster rolls in Portland’s Old Port.  We carried our masks and donned them as we ducked into the shops and galleries. Some had mask policies. Others did not.

Every now and then a patient asks us when we will stop requiring masks in the clinic.  I get it. Nothing feels better than dropping my mask into the trash at the end of a shift.  The answer is we don’t know. The CDC is now encouraging vaccinated people to continue wearing masks indoors. And as long as medical facilities must mask, we will too. MAS has always been a casual environment to put your feet up and get some rest. This is the opposite experience in traditional healthcare and medical settings. For the time being, we would rather err on the side of caution.

We are navigating this new stage of breakthrough cases and Delta variants. Thank you for your patience and understanding. We hope everyone stays safe and enjoys the rest of summ-ah.


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Find the original article on Elizabeth's Medium page 

A follow up on my Open Letter to the creators of POSE

Last year the Coronavirus pandemic kept me and other “non-essential” workers at home. I kept myself busy. I watched POSE seasons One and Two on Netflix. I read The Great Believers by Rebeca Makkai, a novel centered in 1980s Chicago at the height of the AIDS epidemic. I talked on the phone with other acupuncturists on unemployment.

After binge-watching POSE, I wrote an open letter to the show’s creators. I wanted one scene that includes acupuncture. A big ask, I know. I did get my article to a college classmate who worked as an editor on POSE. She had no idea that acupuncture was widely used in the 80s and 90s to support people living with AIDS and to manage side effects of medications. Since then I have connected more acupuncturists who shared their stories with me.

In 1987 four Chicago acupuncturists and one nurse emptied whatever was in their pockets. With $240 they started the AIDS Alternative Health Project (AAHP). “Everything we were doing was absolutely illegal, says AAHP co-founder, Mary Kay Ryan. As an acupuncture student, she watched her teacher, Jake Fratkin, get arrested. “An acupuncturist couldn’t even rent an office…Once we started these free AIDS clinics, the idea that anyone would raid an AIDS clinic was off the table. It politically would have been fucking suicide to do that.”


photo by Jennifer Griffin

Ryan and her AAHP colleagues came of age in the 60s. Ryan said goal was to challenge a healthcare system that costs money and to raise standards of care. They were influenced by the Black Panther Party, and other Revolutionary groups, who started free medical clinics.

“We made the hospitals look like complete shit.” Ryan recalls working with a patient who had sores all over his body. “It was because he was in the hospital for twelve weeks and no one bathed him because no one wanted to touch him.” Patients got better care from acupuncturists running free clinics. That made them demand better care from their doctors. “The patients kept saying [to their doctors] these people aren’t even making any money. They’re starving and they’re nice [to us]. And you guys make boatloads of money and you treat us like shit.”

AAHP co-founder John Pirog was mentored by Dr. Mike Smith director of The Lincoln Detox in the South Bronx. Lincoln was the first acupuncture based outpatient chemical dependency program in the country. Pirog also volunteered at St. Basil’s, a free clinic on Chicago’s Southside. St. Basil’s was founded by Austrian physician Dr. Eric Kast. Kast was a Marxist born to Jewish parents who converted to Christianity. He collaborated with Black Panther leader Freddie Hampton on establishing free medical clinics.


Photo by Sawyer Bengtson


AAHP moved around to a few different locations. They started in a church basement. They moved into a tiny cold office because it was free. The best arrangement was using the same offices as their private practices. “We were very busy when we first started. We had a six month waiting list.” Unfortunately this meant that people died while on the AAHP waitlist.

In 1990 Ryan split with AAHP over philosophical differences. She and co-founder Arthur Shattuck started a new clinic. They opened the Northside HIV Treatment Center (NHTC) in a fourth floor office of an old bank building. In 1994 they wrote the book Treating AIDS with Chinese Medicine.

Many doctors were skeptical of acupuncture. But some doctors were supportive. They snuck her into the Masonic Hospitals after hours to treat patients on their death beds. A few doctors also snuck her and Shattuck into meetings with other doctors. “There must have been 20 doctors there who were completely cynical. One doctor sneered at Arthur and asked “What do you mean by increasing energy?” Shattuck described a particular patient’s response to acupuncture treatment. “We mean that a patient who had been in bed for 12 weeks was unable to get up and go to the bathroom without help. Then he had acupuncture, and then he could get up and go back to work. That is what we mean by increasing energy.” The rest of the doctors laughed at their dismissive colleague.

AAHP and MHTC worked because of direct patient involvement. Patients painted and renovated treatment rooms. They ran the front desk and did the laundry. Fundraising was always a challenge. They got by on some grants and donations. It was hard to get funding for acupuncture, which was illegal to practice until 1999. The NIH and the City of Chicago encouraged Ryan and her colleagues to apply for funding only to turn them down.

Ryan moved on from NHTC shortly after publishing her book. She was raising small children and treating patients in her private practice. In the late 1990s she moved overseas and taught acupuncture at a college in Ireland. The work that she started in 1987 with her colleagues carried into the early 2000s. AAHP changed it’s name to Alternative Health Partners (AHP). They continued to provide acupuncture and massage therapy until 2001. AHP and NTHC even ended up renting offices in the same building in the late 90s.

Today, Community Acupuncturists offer treatment in group settings like AAHP and NHTC. Some practitioners started out at AAHP and NHTC as volunteers. Tatyana Ryevzina practiced shiatsu in Chicago and volunteered at AHP. Later, she moved to the Bay Area to study acupuncture. She co-founded Sarana Community Acupuncture in Albany, California. Robert Hayden volunteered at NHTC as a student at Midwest College of Acupuncture. Now Hayden runs Presence Community Acupuncture in Hollywood, Florida. Hayden had some poignant experiences at NHTC, “One night I treated one of my regular patients. When he left, he told the front desk receptionist that he felt completely at peace. He passed away later that night. We were the last people who saw him.” He also recalls a patient who was in charge of laundry service. “He was skin and bones and had sores on his face.” When that patient disappeared for awhile Hayden assumed that he had passed away. The patient returned to NHTC looking unrecognizable because he was taking protease inhibitors. “He was healthy and plump. I thought, ‘is this the same guy?’”

I wrapped up my conversation with Mary Kay Ryan talking about Bernie Sanders. We both agree that a for-profit medical system will never truly embrace acupuncture. “Acupuncturists need to join the fight for Single Payer Healthcare,” says Ryan. “If it ever passes and we are not there to help, acupuncture won’t be part of it.”

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Written, recorded and demonstrated by Elizabeth Ropp, LAc.

Thanks to many of you, we put out eleven acupressure videos on our YouTube channel while we were closed last year due to the pandemic. Our acupressure for constipation video has the most views, 9,700 to be exact. That is 30 times more than any other video on our YouTube channel.

I wondered why that video was particularly popular compared to the others. I dug a little deeper and found an article by an MD cardiologist on Stat News.

“Constipation is widespread among Americans. Almost everyone experiences constipation at some point in their lives, with a recent survey showing that 16 percent of Americans and a third of those older than 60 suffer from chronic constipation. It’s the reason for millions of clinic visits each year and more than 700,000 emergency department trips. The number of people admitted to the hospital primarily for constipation has more than doubled since 1997. The cost of that care, along with what we spend on over-the-counter laxatives, runs into the billions of dollars.”

There is clearly a need for resources and tips to deal with chronic constipation. I made a follow-up video: Acupressure for Constipation, Part 2. Please, stay tuned for a third video.

The techniques in the latest videos come from The Self-Shiatsu Handbook by Pamela Ferguson and Chi Self-Massage by Mantack Chia. Both books are very user-friendly guides for using self shiatsu, a form of acupressure, and massage for everyday ailments.

Other recommendations we can offer for ease of constipation and indigestion are:

-Regular exercise, as you are able, especially climbing stairs and walking uphill.

-Put your feet on a step stool while you are sitting on the toilet. This will simulate a squatting position which is more natural for emptying the bowels.

-Herbal teas such as peppermint, camomile, fennel, and ginger. You can also sip on warm water with fresh lemon juice, honey, and a pinch of sea salt.

-Plenty of vegetables and whole grains, especially in the form of easy to digest soups or stews.

- Raw sauerkraut and pickles as a condiment to meals to help improve intestinal flora. You only need a forkful with each meal. You can find them at most health food stores, like A Market, Whole Foods, and the The Concord Food Co-op.

If you are experiencing opioid-induced constipation, be sure to let us know during your next acupuncture treatment. We can address constipation and chronic pain in the same treatment.

If you have more suggestions for acupressure videos that you would like to see, be sure to let us know.
You can email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or let us know during your next visit to the clinic.


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POCA (People's Organization of Community Acupuncture) is a 501(c)6 non-profit that MAS had a hand in starting back in 2009.

It's purpose is to support existing Community Acupuncture clinics - like MAS - and work towards creating more of them.

The organization has done this in the past by offering micro-loans to students and burgeoning clinic-owners, launching a school (POCA Tech), hosting many educational events and webinars and much, much more.

POCA achieves this through many hours of volunteer work and paid memberships of modest amounts.

In order to support this great work, MAS has always aimed to support POCA members in practical ways. 
So for this year's POCA membership drive (through May 31st), we've pledged to offer POCA members a free acupuncture treatment during their birthday week.  Just bring in your membership card when redeeming the freebie.

So please consider joining POCA as a Community Member - and get a free treatment on MAS. 
This is our way of supporting POCA and you too.



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EDIT: We managed to find a great acupuncturist to join the staff. We're really excited to welcome Lauren Smith, LAc to MAS this June!


Yes, we know the clinic schedules are becoming tighter and more difficult finding openings to plug yourself into, with the clinic schedule in Manchester still operating at 50% capacity.

We also know this is not ideal. Take solace knowing we are taking steps to help the crunch:

 - Paused taking on new patients.

 - Working hard to find a terrific licensed community acupuncturist to join us working in the treatment room in Manchester.

Once a new colleague is in place, the schedules will expand.

If by chance you catch wind of an acupuncturist who's looking for a sweet, supportive, salaried job - send them our way to talk!

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Written by MAS acupunk, Elizabeth Ropp

 An ode to blankets....oh, how we miss them.

Right now we still have at least a month of winter left. But let’s face it, spring can feel just as cold and damp as December, January, and February. When we first re-opened in July after being closed for four months, it didn’t seem like a big deal that we couldn’t offer the usual stacks of blankets.

Then Fall came...and now Winter.

COVID has changed and upended everyone’s lives globally. When folks ask how we are doing here at MAS, in the grand scheme of things we really can’t complain. We are grateful to be working. Yet, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that we are missing staff members and our schedule has significantly downsized. We miss how easy it used to be for patients to walk in or call at any daytime hour to make an appointment. And until this week, I never thought about just how much I missed our fleece blankets.

One particularly prepared patient reminded me when she lugged in four blankets and a pillow. I am not saying that all of you must now show up with four blankets and a pillow, so please don’t take it that way.

For the first time in almost a year, that one patient allowed me the opportunity to provide our signature MAS blanket burrito-cocoon. It almost brought tears to my eyes. I thanked her for reminding me of what my job used to be before COVID happened.

The burrito cocoon really is a MAS innovation. I learned it 10 years ago from Andy when I joined the team. Since then, Andy has taught other acupuncturists and acupuncture students who practice all around the country. There is a video of him demonstrating the burrito technique on the internet somewhere. I believe it is as therapeutic as the treatment itself. This is the best way, we have found, to keep you warm - if you tend to run cold - while also keeping you comfortable during your treatment.

Under COVID, some of these little personal details had to be set aside. We now launder every sheet that covers our recliners after each patient. If we added blankets into the mix, we would not be able to keep our attention focused on the patients and the treatment room. We would also have to be laundering blankets for several hours after each shift, which is not practical for our staff.

Spring will be here soon, and as the ground thaws and we can put away our heavy coats, I may not miss the blankets quite as much.

But at this moment, I can’t help but feel nostalgic for the ways things used to be.


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To all - this year especially - who have rested in MAS recliners, who've paid for your visits, brought your own blanket, who've put your trust in those little needles, and who continue to find your way to MAS - now with a mask on - in order to do your work ...

To all who reached out to check in on us via email or with a phone call, who brought us delicious treats, who hopped on a zoom call, who pointed us in the right direction, who offered relief, and asked after MAS employees and friends no longer present ...

To all who provided generous donations, who jumped in to work alongside us, who shared information, who nominated MAS for grants and awards, who signed that petition, who generously offered your time, your thoughts, your camaraderie and your video-making talents during the Spring shutdown ...

Please accept sincere appreciation for sticking together.

On behalf of the Staff and the Board of Directors at MAS,

Andy Wegman,
executive director and staff acupuncturist

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Written by MAS staff acupuncturist, Elizabeth Ropp, LAc


Dear MAS Community,

I've been waiting for two years for Mia Donovan's film Dope is Death to be released. It is available for online streaming starting November 11 through November 19. It’s cheap. Sign up today. I did. When I saw it in July I paid twice as much to stream it, a decision that I have zero regrets about, by the way. This documentary is that good.

With blight ravaging New York City in the 1970s, the Young Lords and Black Panthers fought for radical change in their communities. Through the leadership of Dr. Mutulu Shakur—Tupac Shakur’s stepfather—these activists created the first acupuncture detoxification program in the United States. While the legacy of the program has long been maintained by the residents of the Bronx and Upper Manhattan, the individuals responsible for its creation have suffered from decades of state-sanctioned persecution.

Mia Donovan also put out the Dope is Death podcast. I listened to one episode this afternoon and I am hooked.

At MAS, we’ve known about the history of ear acupuncture for some time. If you’ve been with us for a while, you might have picked up a copy of the Radical History of Acupuncture in America. Our friend and colleague, Greg Jones from St. Pete Community Acupuncture, wrote it.

We recently shared some fantastic acupuncture videos created by Harvard researcher, Eana Meng. Her videos are still available on The Harvard Asia Center website.

I met Eana in the fall of 2018. I was running a free weekly ear acupuncture clinic at Hope for New Hampshire Recovery. She was writing her senior thesis about acupuncture and the opioid epidemic. I gave her a copy of The Radical History of Acupuncture in America. Our meeting shifted her research. She narrowed the focus of her work to ear acupuncture and it's global transmission as a kind of "First Aid." First aid is the keyword. Lay practitioners can also practice it.

Meng's and Donovan's work gives me a long-awaited sense of relief. Community Acupuncturists have shared this history in our communities for many years. I am happy that this history is now becoming more well known. “Each one, reach one. Each one, teach one.”

Check out the videos. Listen to the podcast. Join us for a collective (socially distanced) film screening of Dope is Death this November.

All power to all people.

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