Edina Clinic Specializes in ‘Working Class’ Acupuncture
By Ashle Briggs Horton
The room is dimly lit. Thirteen recliners line the perimeter, blankets draped over their backs. Soothing music plays softly in the distance. In the corner, a woman is sleeping. On the other side of the room, another woman reclines, gazing at the ceiling.
If the sound of “community acupuncture” conjured images of crowded rooms and needles sticking out at odd angles under fluorescent lights, all that is dispelled here.
And while one might wonder if receiving acupuncture treatments in the presence of strangers would make people anxious or uneasy, Minnesota Community Acupuncture’s Kerri Casey said it’s just the opposite.
“People seem to feel safer,” she said. “They can look around and see that everyone’s comfortable.”
They can also come with a friend or spouse. And with needles placed only below elbows and knees and on the ears, there’s no need to feel self conscious.
Casey opened Minnesota Community Acupuncture in May of 2007, shortly after graduating from Northwestern Health Sciences University in Bloomington. As she was preparing to re-enter the professional world as an acupuncturist—Casey had previously worked in finance—her numbers background told her something didn’t add up. In a struggling economy, acupuncture (commonly $65 to $85 per visit) was too expensive for the average person. Even, ironically, for an acupuncturist.
“I was thinking, acupuncturists couldn’t afford acupuncture,” Casey said. “I said, I can’t afford 80 dollars a week; I can’t afford 65 dollars a week. That’s like a car payment. There’s got to be a better way of doing this.”
It wasn’t long before Casey discovered her way. A teacher told her about Working Class Acupuncture in Portland, which offers community acupuncture on a sliding scale of $15 to $30 per treatment. Casey decided to bring a similar offering to Edina. Minnesota Community Acupuncture charges $25 for an initial visit and a sliding scale of $15 to $40 per visit after that. What end of the scale to be on is entirely up to the patient’s discretion, not his or her income.
“We don’t know, you could make $200,000 a year but you’re taking care of your mother and have four kids in college,” Casey said. “We don’t know what people’s lives are like, so we don’t assume.”
While community acupuncture is more affordable than private acupuncture, Casey said the benefits extend beyond that. As acupuncturists at community acupuncture clinics are able to treat more people, they can’t help but gain experience at a faster rate. Averaging 200 treatments a week, Minnesota Community Acupuncture has given over 25,000 treatments in its four years. Casey has done some 16,000 of those herself.
In contrast to the more common practices of putting needles in the back and neck and placing needles in the same points on both sides of the body, the acupuncturists at Minnesota Community Acupuncture practice the balance method, developed by Dr. Richard Tan, which involves placing needles in complementary points to create a balance and flow of energy in the body.
“[The former] is the way we all learned in school, but I’m telling you, after learning this method, this is way more effective than anything we learned in school, honestly,” Minnesota Community Acupuncture’s CB Bunkholt said.
After experiencing success in Edina, Minnesota Community Acupuncture has expanded to two additional metro area locations, in Maplewood and West St. Paul.
Casey says she would ultimately like six locations in the metro area, covering north, south, east, west and possibly a couple locations downtown as well. Casey even has visions of skyway acupuncture stations where the working public could stop on their lunch breaks. Community acupuncture, as Casey sees it, is the wave of the future.
(published on edina.patch.com May 28th, 2013)