Since Autumn 2019 I have been learning and practicing a method of acupuncture called Sa’am. It has transformed how I think about Chinese medicine and energized my work in ways I never thought possible. Two things drew me to it, the first being accounts from practitioners of its clinical efficacy. This is paramount, since making sure I have the tools and skills to effectively help my patients is always a top priority. Many kinds of acupuncture claim to be effective, yet what impressed me about this was hearing that an incorrect treatment could actually have adverse effects. This made me really pay attention. In Chinese medicine school we’re taught that the worst we could do with acupuncture is to have no clinical results, effectively wasting the patients time. A method of acupuncture that has the power to do harm means it has immense power to do good.
The second thing that drew me to Sa’am is the theoretical foundation that it’s built upon. I’ve been studying Chinese medicine for over nine years, and nothing comes close to feeling as intellectually satisfying as this method. This may not seem important to you as a patient, but it really should be. Working with a practitioner who comes from a firmly grounded place can make a world of difference. Before discovering Sa’am, I was not coming from a place like this. Now that I am, I’m better able to explain my work to my patients and what they can expect following treatment. I’m also able to take a scientific approach to my work. I don’t want to get into the weeds regarding Chinese medical theory, but just to say that because the Sa’am system is a closed system it allows me to form hypotheses, test them, and learn from the results in a way I was never able to before. In addition, this method captures so much of clinical reality, meaning it doesn’t disregard any detail about the patient that might not appear to make sense. It requires the practitioner to obtain a complete and clear picture of the patient. In this way it has challenged me to know my patients as well as possible, in order to help them as best I can.
There’s also a cool origin story that I like to share. Several centuries ago, a monk was meditating in a cave in Korea. As will happen when one is meditating for long periods of time without interruption, this monk received an “attainment”, a sort of cosmic download. In a flash of insight, the Sa’am acupuncture system was revealed. From there it was passed down in a verbal lineage, as much of Chinese medicine is, and it made its way to the present day United States. As far as I know there have been no texts written on it. I’m so grateful to have been given the gift of this method.
A couple of things you should know regarding the Sa’am system: first, adverse reactions are rare and can be reversed very easily. The system works with the 12 primary acupuncture channels, treating usually just one at a time. This being a closed system, the channels are grouped into six opposing pairs. If a patient doesn’t feel well after a treatment it usually means that the diagnosis was incorrect, and to reverse it we just need to treat the counterbalancing channel on the opposite side of the body. Please contact me if you don’t feel right following a treatment, and I will do my best to get you in to the clinic as soon as possible. Second, needle sensation can be strong, though I do my best to minimize the discomfort. If you are needle shy, this may not be the method for you, but it doesn’t mean I’m not the practitioner for you. I am flexible to use other methods of acupuncture or even herbs instead, and to work with a patient to obtain the right comfort level. As always, my work is a dialogue, so let’s see what we can accomplish together.