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Chew on Acupuncture

By Sara Calabro

Acupuncture Is Like Noodles, the followup to Lisa Rohleder’s The Remedy, is another inspiring dive into the world of community acupuncture.

Rohleder is back with her tell-it-like-it-is style, never shying away from expressing distaste for the attitudes that she says are classist and at fault for acupuncture being primarily an upper-middle-class luxury.

Acupuncture education and treatments—offered according to the private-practice model, at $65 and up per session—are overpriced and irresponsible, says Rohleder, who effectively softens the blow of her many bold statements with a noodle metaphor.

The book’s title refers to the potential simplicity and widespread usefulness of acupuncture, if only it were available to larger and more diverse populations through models like the one Rohleder founded and fiercely champions.

She says, “Noodles and acupuncture are both flexible, nourishing, and potentially very, very inexpensive.” And later, of acupuncture’s likeness to our most basic human need:

Acupuncture is like food. Providing acupuncture is like cooking and receiving acupuncture is like eating. The ingredients are all contained within the body itself; the acupuncture treatment is a way of arranging them so that the body can use them better. Once the acupuncturist arranges the needles in the right combinations, the patient’s job is to sit quietly long enough to “digest” the treatment.

Rohleder holds up community acupuncture as a cure for all that ails the acupuncture profession—hefty school loans, very few job options, and limited opportunity to help the people who need it most. 

There’s a fair amount of overlap between The Remedy and Acupuncture Is Like Noodles, but Rohleder is forgiven—her message is one that bears repeating. And Noodles digs deeper into solutions, with several pages dedicated to actual point prescriptions used by the community acupuncturists at Rohleder’s clinic in Portland, OR.

In addition to being a rousing call for improvements in healthcare access, Noodles is a great how-to handbook for beginning practitioners.

The book wanes a bit in part four, which is basically just a reprint of blog posts from other Working Class Acupuncture employees, but it finishes on a strong note when Rohleder takes back the reins.

She concludes with a compelling case for how community acupuncture can contribute to U.S. healthcare reform. She imagines a future in which providing simple yet effective acupuncture treatments would not require masters-level education, infinitely widening the scope of people who both give and receive acupuncture.

Rohleder is a thought leader who gets her hands dirty, doing the daily work that she so passionately promotes. This gives her writing a realist quality that makes Noodles inspirational without seeming naive, blunt but not dismissive.

For those drawn to the community acupuncture movement, in Lisa Rohleder we have our leading light.

Photo by Sara Calabro

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