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Acupuncture Sports Medicine with Whitfield Reaves



His experience includes the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic games, as well as numerous track and  fields cycling events nationally for the last four decades, Whitfield is the author of the well-known practitioner’s manual, the acupuncture handbook for sports injuries and pain, which one of the few texts integrating traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, orthopedics, and sports medicine.

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Disclaimer: The following is an actual transcript. We do our best to make sure the transcript is as accurate as possible, however, it may contain spelling or grammatical errors.  Due to the unique language of acupuncture, there will be errors, so we suggest you watch the video while reading the transcript.

Hi, welcome to this week’s American Acupuncture Council’s Live uh, Facebook podcast show. I’m your host Poney Chiang of from Toronto Canada. Joining us today is our special guest Whitfield Reaves who is joining us from the central coast of California and he will be relocating into Santa Fe. I’d like to begin by giving you a biographical description of, uh, uh, Dr. Reaves. Uh, Whitfield Reaves is one of the leading practitioners in the field of acupuncture sports medicine. He began clinical practice in 1981 as specialized in the field of orthopedic and sports acupuncture for 40 years. He is licensed in California and his earned doctorate Oriental medicine degree in 1983, his thesis acupuncture and the treatment of common running injuries demonstrated that TCM could address many clinical issues in sports medicine. His experience includes the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic games, as well as numerous tracking fields cycling, either events nationally of the last four decades, we feel is the author of the well-known practitioners manual, the acupuncture handbook for sports injuries and pain, which one of the few texts integrating traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, orthopedics, and sports medicine. He’s also the director of the acupuncturist sports medicine apprenticeship program. Thank you very much for joining me. We feel it is an absolute honor,

And it’s a pleasure for me, Poney. It’s great to see you.

Um, I have, um, uh, some questions for you today and, um, uh, I want to keep it pretty relaxed and casual. Um, mostly wanted to hear about your experience, um, in sports medicine and you know, your clinical experience, especially, I was wondering if, um, you can tell us how you ended up specializing in the field of sports medicine.

Well, I started practice in 1981 in February of 1982. I had a marathon runner out for run run in my office and he had Achilles tendonitis and he asked me, you know, can you, can you help? And I said, of course, and of course I had never treated Achilles tendonitis. I had never had a teacher that taught me how to treat the Achilles tendonitis, but that was, you know, I was new in practice. It seemed like the logical thing to say. So I treated them. I was back from China. So I treated them China style, little bit Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. And then on Sunday he ran the mission Bay marathon. He won the race. I had no idea. I didn’t even know him. You know, like, well, how fast do you run your splits? And what’s your personal best? And what are you training on this? I didn’t know any of that stuff, you know? And so that was Sunday and this was 1982. This was two years before the Olympics in San Diego. This was in San Diego, California, San Diego was filled with Olympians training, trying not to be in Los Angeles, but to be close Monday morning, he brought in busloads of athletes, you know,

From, and

Literally I became a sports acupuncturist overnight and it was of that moment. I didn’t choose it. I was always athletic. I love sports. And it just happened. And really looking back, I didn’t know anything as, you know, the education for graduation to be an Lac in 1981, included nothing very precise about sports acupuncture. So what happened? And I had to teach myself while we went.

That’s a fantastic story. So I guess it’s all, all word of mouth from a high-performance athlete from there. Yeah, that was it. Yeah. Um, well, unfortunately it’s sad to say even to this day, there is still not very more sports medicine curriculum, your average Chinese medicine school. Uh, so, uh, so unfortunately that it has changed, but thankfully we have, uh, mentors and masters such as yourself, which can help us pre-state yet. Now I wanna, um, um, uh, kind of put you on the spot a little bit. Um, I want you to tell us what do you find you get the most consistent results and when it comes to sports medicine now, what do you find? It’s one of the more complicated, more difficult, uh, conditions for you to treat

Well? Um, I would say consistent results for me come with the shoulder, come with tendonitis, infraspinatus, uh, the acromioclavicular joint, much of the shoulder. I find that I can just do really well with the techniques that I’ve learned and, and put together over the years that, I mean, unless you have greater than a 50%, all the way up to a full thickness tear of a, of a rotator cuff tendon, you can get great results in better than any other tradition. I know better than anything PTs can do or, or, or exercise signs or anything. Cause we can get into those discover chromium space area effectively with the needle. So I’d say that’s my favorite.

This has been great and reassuring to hear because for a lot of practitioners, they are afraid of shoulder. I have an associate in my clinic whenever a shoulder case, just like she gives it to me. So I’m very happy to hear that you, um, at that, that is possible to become really, really good to get great results in the shoulder. Cause I know a lot of people lacking that confidence because sorry to interrupt you, please continue

The worst. The things that I don’t like are places that are hard to needle. I don’t like an inguinal hernia or inguinal strain. I don’t like the groin. I don’t like need doctors and I don’t, and I don’t like the armpits, you know, the awareness, you know, I would prefer to send them out for manual therapy. Uh, and so as I would prefer to send out for manual therapy and those are conditions that I think acupuncture does, you can’t get precise access. Cause my needling is all about precision, you know? And you just can’t be precise, kneeling into an armpit, you know, or what have you. So, uh, that being said, there are people who can needle the subscap pretty effectively. I don’t like I don’t teach it. I don’t like it.

So I see. Yeah. Um, well I, I can relate, um, those places definitely are trickier. And of course you just, sometimes you have a deal with like, uh, you know, body hair and things like that. It’s, uh, it can get a little messy. Um, um, and yeah, I, I have found, uh, you know, growing issues to be, uh, relatively difficult to, you know, I’d rather treat, um, at least tendonitis than deal with the growing street. Um, you shared us with it as a great story.

Okay. I got to tell you that you became my hero.

Well that’s

When, what, when I use this technique of using needling small intestine nine, uh, with three-inch deep, deep, you know, all along the act below the axle and I use it for shoulder joint dysfunction, and I never could understand we’re not really going into the infraspinatus or the Terry’s minor. And I would do a corresponding point on the anterior side and I never really knew why they worked cause we weren’t really going into a muscle. And when I was looking at one of your webinars and you showed that branch of the nerve here that goes into the shoulder capsule, can’t remember if it was the anterior, the posterior or both. I went, that’s why it works. It’s a neural explanation and you became my hero. So,

So that means a lot. It means a lot. Uh, I was not expecting that at all. I mean, you know, I, I, you’re definitely a giant the field and I, you know, I, I studied your work very in depth and uh, so it’s actually a great, tremendous provision for me to, to have you on my show today. And, uh, so I really I’m just floored by your, by your generous words. Thank you very much. Um, no. So you shared it with us a really awesome story about how you got into, uh, the field of sports medicine. Would you mind telling us, um, a recent success story to something that was especially memorable that you can, um, chose, inspire our fellow listeners?

I’ll go back to the shoulder. Uh, I had this boy who had had a pretty severe motor vehicle accident 10 years ago, and she’d had a fracture and humorous, uh, up the proximal end and, and, uh, so they dealt with the fracture and, and, but the opposite shoulder had always heard her and it never got any attention because of the fractured side and the opposite shoulder was, uh, the seatbelt and shoulder. So something had happened in there and I, uh, I evaluated it. She had a positive arc of pain, so it with a D AB duction, she had impingement right into here and she was going and she had weakness on resistant AB duction. She had a weak, uh, turned off, right, inhibited supraspinatus with a positive impingement test. So something was going on inside of here, uh, with the 10 men and what have you.

And it just smoldered for 10 years and nobody had paid attention to it. She was leaving in two weeks to go to the Caribbean, uh, to, to, uh, take, uh, uh, uh, to sail. And she was going to be the captain, you know, ahead of the boat. And she needed to get her arms up like this for the wheel and for the lines and all that. And, and, and I said, well, two weeks, you’ve had this for 10 years. So she said, give me everything you got. So I went in at L I 1645 degrees of bleak, lateral and threaded under into the subacromial space needle and kind of toward [inaudible] superficial to the supraspinatus tendon, deep to the S to the boney, you know, a, a chromium. And I felt it going through these layers of scar tissue. I could just feel the springiness and I pushed through, and we, and we had maybe five mechanical strikes of, of scar tissue and fibrosis underneath here. She aggravated for, for seven, eight, nine days. I couldn’t treat her because it was so aggravated. She came back. Finally, we had three days left ago, she had no positive and, uh, impingement test. And the only thing that was left was that her muscle was still inhibited. We needled small intestine, 12, the motor point of, or the muscle belly of the supraspinatus. And she was seated. I got the needle in, into the muscle and, and within five seconds she turned green and

Yeah, that’s definitely a very memorable story.

Oh my God. Well, so we brought her up and we got her all fixed and then I’ve retested, it turned off five seconds of needle into the supers place. It turned on that muscle and she was 100% fixed for the rest of the time that I knew her, you know, and the second treatment was a five second stimulus to small intestine 12 and it just went, wow. So I didn’t need to put that needle in there for 30 minutes and do all this stuff fixed. So that was good.

That’s very, very cool. Um, and I like the fact that you’re not afraid to share some of these, um, slightly, you know, less than perfect stories. Right. She aggravated her, but sometimes as a healing response, she passed out, but you know, things like that happen. Right. So, um, yeah. So all of them are respect to you for, for, um, sharing these, uh, sort of less than perfect stories. But I think, um, mature practitioners without experience, understand that this part that’s part of the, you know, part of the day-to-day bread and butter, and that is, uh, amazing. Okay. And of course she won the race as well. Right? All your patients in races, right.

And it pricked the boat and they didn’t die. If practitioners will take the point of view that there is no such thing as a wrong needle, you might put a needle in and it might not go to where you want it, but it, but it tells you, okay, I need to direct this over here, or I need to needle it over there. Or I’m not on the band. I didn’t get a [inaudible] or whatever your criteria is. If you, if you, if you, there’s no such thing as a bad needle, there’s just some needles that just guide you to a better placement. Then, then you’re not always feeling like you’re a failure. You use those failures to get you more precise and it’s, it’s a much more positive relationship to the experience. So, yeah.

Yeah. What you’re, you’re, you’re saying is very profound when I have to kind of digest it and reflected about it. I’m sure it’s like, it’s not just going over my head right now. And there’s no such thing as, as a wrong needle. I have to, I have to think about that. Uh, but I appreciate that. Um, now I have the, because I, you know, I’m also interested in neurology, neurology and orthopedic aspects, and I encountered this with, um, you know, uh, new learners quite a bit. And some of them are, uh, hesitant to, to embark on a path to become great, uh, good at treating sports issues. Um, and, and it doesn’t have to be sports. It orthopedic issues right now, but it’s she’s athletes, but everybody, you know, um, everybody is, uh, has some repetitive chronic pain and due to repetitive strain. And so there’s sometimes a lot of overlap between the high-performing athlete and your typical sedentary type of desktop, uh, desk workers. Um, but I encountered some people are afraid to go into the field. I wonder if there’s any advice or words of encouragement. Um, I know you didn’t seek out to go into it, but it has turned out to be very rewarding for you, right? Any, any advice about people that are afraid or hesitant about going into this wonderful field?

Well, I, I think being afraid and hesitant is a really very beneficial emotion to take a look at because, because you’re not going to be very good knowing what you probably know already, uh, Meridian acupuncture is of very little value in treating orthopedics. Zang Fu is of almost no value in treating orthopedic and sports injuries. So you have to learn a new headset, a new way to think, you know, about what you’re doing, but it’s all doable. You can learn this. And there are plenty of teachers and you can, you don’t have to have one teacher. You could do a little bit from a number of places, learn from your neuroanatomy, uh, webinars. Learn from me, learn from that. Talisen, there’s just so many ways to get the information. So the, your fear should only be a guide to tell you you’re going to have to work.

You’re going to have to retrain yourself. You know, I had an occupier, I had a patient that came in and she said, I’ve got Achilles tendonitis. My family general practitioner takes care of all our, our coughs and colds takes care of the kids and all that six times nothing happened. So the patient came in, I said, okay, you have Achilles tendonitis. So when you get up in the morning, your Achilles tendon is stiff. And your first steps are difficult that as we know is a keynote symptom of Achilles tendonitis. It has to act that way to be Achilles tendonitis. And he said, Oh, no, I get up in the morning. And I feel great. It’s at the end of the day, that it’s a problem I want, okay, 99% chance, you don’t have Achilles tendonitis. You got the wrong diagnosis. This guy was a 1500 meter masters runner with the most beautiful body, 1500 meter runners just they’re gorgeous.

Right? They’re just beautiful bodies. You know, they’re not so bolt up as a, as a sprint or they’re not so lean as a marathoner. They’re just like, perfect, beautiful. So, so, uh, I did a pinch test of the Achilles and the pain was all the way down at the attachment at the Achilles bursa. He had Achilles bursitis. So I needled, uh, instead of the tendon, I needle down into the area of the burst. I’ve got some techniques for that. He came back five days later, he was 80, 90% better with one treatment. And the first thing he said to me, he said, there’s a difference between a general practitioner and someone who specializes in sports medicine. He just said that to me. And it made me feel so good because that is what we, that’s what we need to communicate. There is a difference. You know, you don’t go have brain surgery from your, your GP.

Doesn’t do brain surgery on you. You go to a brain neurosurgeon, you know, so the specialty is a beautiful, wonderful specialty. And if you’re drawn to it, you got to learn that you got to learn the language and you have to understand there’s orthopedics, but the next step over is their sports acupuncture. When you’re getting into sports medicine, you have to learn about the psyche of the patient, of the athlete. You have to have more, more attention to how they think and feel, and of course how they train, whereas with the PDX, you can get away without knowing a lot of that stuff. But there are similar the basis of orthopedic and sports acupuncture. The basis is similar with that emphasis of really trying to figure out what makes them do this and why are they doing this? And so, but it’s a wonderful field and it’s totally open. There’s no obstructions, there’s no barriers to entering. You can, you can, you can do fantastically in this field. So you’re welcome to come and join.

Thank you very much for that. Um, just to finish off with our interview session today, I was wondering if you can share with us your favorite acupuncture point, if there is possible to identify one of your favorite, one of your favorite points and how would you, uh, how do you recommend that we use it? Well, I think, you know what I’m going to say.

My favorite point, if I had only one point to do would be the extraordinary point. Jen claw, J I a N qua qua, uh, the claw, the is the, is the thigh and the glutes, the lower mid section five of the bodies, not just the thigh, but it’s, you know, probably includes the, the gluteus Maximus and all of that gen means strengthened. So the translation is strengthened the thigh or strengthened the block. Uh, this is in the muscle belly of the gluteus, medius it from the greater trocanter halfway, but from the greater toe canter to the iliac crest, along the shallow young line, take the mid axillary line, go straight on down to the Raider trow candor halfway between there and the iliac crest is Jen qua it’s post Steria to gallbladder 29. And it’s right on the, in the muscle belly of the gluteus medius, gluteus medius is what stabilizes the pelvis to keep that tilt from going and is crucial to establishing order in the lumbar vertebral segments of the body.

So that when I treat low back pain, I don’t treat Thai young. I treat shaliach. I go in from the side and treat the gluteus medius and deeper, of course, it’s the gluteus minimus. So you have two muscles with differing functions to get, bring about stability in the pelvis, so that the rest of the pair of spinal muscles have some consistency in their experience. They don’t have to be compensating because everything is moving because the gluteus medius inhibits from prolonged sitting. And we all sit too long for reflection along city, the gluteus medius, no matter how big and health, how well, you know, function, this is inhibits. And that big muscle just turns off and all you gotta do is needle it, turn it back on everything changes. So that’s my absolute favorite point that would, that would go up and affect everything up to the shoulder, posture, the neck, it wouldn’t go down and affect heel strike. And, and your whole cadence as a Walker or runner could theoretically correct everything from, from plantar fasciitis up to, you know, neck and head pain. I don’t know.

Wonderful. I didn’t know. I knew it was one of your favorite points, but I didn’t know it was such bright applications for it and the entire spine as well. And it makes a lot of sense that it, the smile has to compensate, you know, that you can have bad problems, they problems, right. And that all comes from having a nice stable, um, pelvis, pelvic bone. Cause after all the, where does the vertebrae sit on this, this other sacrum, which is rooted in the pelvis. Right. Wonderful. Um, so unfortunately this is, um, uh, we’re coming to the end to our, about our interview here. I was wondering if, um, people wanted to learn more about your curriculum or learn or study with you, um, are there some resources or some new information, a website or something that they can do to get in touch, get in touch with you?

Probably the easiest thing to do is go to my website, which is my name, Whitfield Reaves, not com. You got to make sure you spell it right. Wood There you can order my book there. You can see the links to my most current webinar program called mastering the treatment of injury and pain. It’s 40 hours. I just completed this right before the lockdown last year of all, it’s just all of my work put in 40 hours of webinars. Uh, and we also have some three hour modules of little special segments or portions of the body that we’re teaching still during this COVID era. Uh, and we’re actually starting to schedule some live stuff in the fall. So you can find all of that on my website, on the calendar page. Um, and, uh, and you can email me if you’ve got questions, email me, there’s a contact button. I’m happy to, to give you advice if you need some advice on how to proceed. So, yeah.

Okay. Thank you so much with, um, unfortunately I wish we have more time. I’m sure we can just talk on for hours and I can just, I mean, for me, I guess I can just listen to your stories for hours. Okay. Um, but, uh, I’ve always, that’s all the time you have today. So I thank you very much for joining, joining us. I think all the listeners for joining with joining us today, and don’t forget to join us next week posted next week is Chen Yen. And I’m sure she’ll have some wonderful information to share with everybody. Thank you and have a lovely rest of the weekend

Seal. Thanks for listening.