VIBRANCE Recommends: David Tucker, LAc.

Acupuncture is a fantastic treatment for both physical and emotional maladies. I’ve been working closely with David Tucker for several months on re-balancing my system and have had wonderful results. David works on the whole person and is a skilled listener and practitioner. I want to share his personal, comprehensive approach with others, and decided the best way to recommend him was to have him introduce himself to all of you. Below is his written interview:

1) To those unfamiliar with acupuncture, how would you explain the differences between TCM and 5E? What could one expect from visiting a practitioner of each?

This is a common question and can be answered at great length and in many different ways. I’ll do my best to give you the highlights from my own education and experience. I just want to offer a brief disclaimer – Though these systems are radically different, they both have their roots in traditions dating back thousands of years and neither one is superior to the other. I use both in my practice and prefer not to put either one into any particular “box” of how they should be used. Every patient is different and always presenting with a unique need, its our job as practitioners to simply meet someone where they’re at and listen.

Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM diagnoses and treats mainly via the body’s signs and symptoms. While the core concepts are thousands of years old, the system that is taught and practiced today came into being in the 1950s under Mao Zedong’s rule and was created to fit a western biomedical paradigm. Because of this it is very similar to our current system of medicine in some respects. For example, a person coming in for insomnia, there might be 6 possible TCM diagnoses. Depending on the patient’s specific symptomology, the practitioner will choose a proper diagnosis over the others (ex. Liver Qi Stagnation creating Excess Heat and Spleen Qi Deficiency). In the end, the goal might be to smooth Liver Qi, clear excess Heat, and strengthen Spleen Qi. With this in mind, an entire treatment plan comprised of acupuncture points, herbs, foods, massage (tui na), and exercises (qi gong) could be put together to address this diagnosis and associated symptoms.

What to expect?
Initial appointment may be 1.5-2 hours, the intake is mainly focused on the different body systems (i.e. cardiovascular, respiratory, reproductive, etc). Various western diagnostic tests will be conducted (i.e. temperature, blood pressure, range of motion) along with eastern evaluation of the patient’s tongue and pulses. As for the treatment, the amount of points will vary quite a bit depending on what’s going on and the style of the practitioner. I would estimate a range might be between 8-15 points. Each needle is put in until it connects with the patient’s qi. They are left in while the patient relaxes on the table for approximately 20-30 minutes allowing the treatment to circulate. More often than not, other things like moxibustion, cupping, or massage, will be incorporated into the treatments as well.

Five Element Acupuncture has become a catch-all phrase for those who have studied in varying degrees the teachings passed down to a gentleman by the name of J.R. Worsley (1923-2003) by Dr. Hsui and Dr. Ono in the 1950s. An oral tradition for thousands of years, J.R. as first-generation westerner, was bestowed the title of Master and lineage holder of what today is referred to as Classical Five Element Acupuncture (CFEA).

The ancient Chinese observed that everything in Nature is made of the five elements – Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water. We, as a part of Nature are no exception. Another way of saying this, is that everything is energy or Qi, and this energy moves in a five-phase cycle. The most obvious example of this is in the seasons throughout the year (though a fifth is recognized, the Late Summer). The health of our body, mind, spirit, is a reflection of how well this cycle of energy is flowing through our 12 major meridians (i.e. the Wood element governed by our Liver and Gallbladder meridians). Rather than focusing on the body’s symptoms for a diagnosis, it is taught that they are simply a manifestation of a root-imbalance on the level of Mind or Spirit. This is especially true in the case of chronic illness… doctors can’t find any physiological reason as to why something won’t heal or why one is in pain, but are they looking in the right places? When these levels are nourished and supported and the five-element cycle brought back into balance with Nature, the Body can then do what it is meant to… heal itself.

Here is a simple, yet effective example on the difference between these two systems, and this is regarding the choosing of which points to treat: An acupuncture point can be referred to by their meridian and point number, such as Stomach-40 (TCM), or by their given name, such as Abundant Splendor (5E). These names tell a story which have been passed down for thousands of years old, as to how treating this point can affect change on very deep levels. In TCM, Stomach-40 is used for its physiological actions of transforming phlegm, benefiting the chest, alleviating cough and wheezing. In 5E, Abundant Splendor is used when a person is lacking and needing abundance of spirit, of nourishment, of what is good and nurturing – he cannot see/feel these things in themselves or see the end of suffering. It reminds them that there is plenty around them. It takes their hands and leads them to a place internally where all their needs are met, even in the bleakest of times.

What to expect? The initial appointment is 2-2.5 hours and gathers information on the body’s systems but spends more time getting to know the patient on a deeper level – their childhood, family life, relationships, past experiences, aspirations, etc. In 5E, tongue diagnosis is not taught or used, however the pulses are weighed very heavily and checked often throughout treatment. All of the same western diagnostic tests would be done as mentioned in the TCM section, along with some additional energetic evaluations. There are some key differences as far as treatment goes between the two systems. Fewer points are used in 5E though the stimulation of each point is generally stronger. On average, a given treatment may be 4-5 points. Prior to needling, each point is opened and warmed with moxa (herb – latin is artemesia vulgaris, common name is mugwort). Then the needle goes in connects with the person’s qi and comes right back out without the need for retaining the needles. There are some exceptions to this, but I’m talking about your typical treatment. Lifestyle recommendations are often given as to how we can best support our weak link within the five element cycle, how certain foods/substances effect us energetically, or how the time of day we do certain activities can greatly impact our health.

2) You chose to become schooled in both disciplines. Why? How has it affected your practice?
I started my training in TCM because I wasn’t familiar with anything else. After all, it is the most commonly studied and practiced system of Chinese Medicine. I learned a lot about western medicine, energetic physiology, using food and herbs to heal, as well as using various forms of bodywork to affect change. But for me, there was something missing or at least not addressed enough… the mental, emotional, spiritual roots of our imbalances.

If someone came in without having much to report about symptoms in their body, but was just feeling “off” and had a lot to say about the unhealthy relationships they keep finding themselves in and how this pattern seems to be affecting their life, I’m not sure I would have the tools to help that person from a TCM perspective other than typical points we would use for stress. But its struggles such as these that later turn into high blood pressure, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, or just a stubborn shoulder injury that mysteriously can’t find its way to healing itself.

Five Element Acupuncture provided me a whole new way of taking into consideration someone’s entire situation and address those aspects of self that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Being formally trained in both of these systems has allowed me to treat a wide variety of patients ranging from acute pain, cold/flu, and injury rehabilitation to anxiety, depression, digestive disorders, women’s health, addiction and all sorts of chronic illness. Some people are familiar with the different systems out there, and know what resonates with them. Otherwise, I feel it’s a great asset to be able to have more than one lens to view someone’s experiences through and be able to choose what may potentially be a better fit. I am constantly discovering new ways how to integrate these two very different systems. It has been a wonderful adventure and one that I will continue to embrace over the years.
3) What led you to choose acupuncture as a career? What is your practicing philosophy?
Well, I didn’t always know this was to be my career. I started in business, working for the “dot com” industry in the late 90s. And as many of these companies did at the time, they laid off about three quarters of their work force. Then I got a call from one of my best friends who was renting a house from a couple who ran and owned a Buddhist Zen Center in Ithaca, NY. She invited me to come check it out. The five months I ended up living there changed my life forever. It was during this time I discovered my spirituality, sense of compassion, and the new direction my career was going to take. There was a doctor of oriental medicine giving a talk on the foundations of Chinese medicine to anyone interested in listening. It was incredible, not only did it make so much sense to me, but it was also very familiar in ways I can’t explain… as if I had done this work many lifetimes over. I started looking into schools shortly thereafter.

Regarding my practicing philosophy… I believe one of the most important things we can do as healthcare providers is to be able to truly meet someone where they are. This was actually a major part of my Five Element training – how to authentically establish and maintain rapport with the person in front of you. One of my mentors taught me that we should view our “patients as teachers”, and be careful of the self-righteous “I am the doctor, you are the patient” mentality. If we don’t continue to be inspired by and learn from those coming into our office than we will more than likely become bored, burned out, or succumb to our egos and in the end not do what’s in the best interest of this amazing being asking for help. I remind myself of this with every “teacher” that comes into my office.

More important than how many years of study, what system you practice, or how much experience you have… to what degree you can get out of your own way, put your ego down, and just receive what someone is asking of you, I believe is the key to helping someone along their journey of healing. After all, I am not a “healer”, I see this term a lot and it doesn’t resonate with me. We can only be our own healers. My role, as I see it, is to use the tools I have studied in conjunction with an open mind and heart to simply remind and facilitate the body, mind, and spirit of another toward optimal health and wellness.
4) What can someone expect when visiting you?
In truth, I don’t have a specific protocol that I follow with every single patient. Each person is unique and will lead me as to how is best to proceed. In general though, the initial appointment is about two hours, sometimes a little less or more. We chat for about an hour, and then I have he/she get on the treatment table so I can conduct various physical and energetic evaluations. Unless something very acute is going on, the first treatment carries simply the intention of centering, grounding, and relaxing. This can be done with TCM or Five Element.

I am also a massage therapist and Acutonics practitioner, and may do a combination of both on someone’s first treatment instead. Acutonics is a non-invasive treatment modality using precision-calibrated tuning forks representing a natural harmonic series based on the orbital properties of the Earth, Moon, Sun and planets which have a sympathetic resonance with the vibrational frequencies of our cells, organs, and body rhythms. They are placed on acupuncture points, chakras, or over the ears and body to affect change via vibration along the energetic meridian system. It is a very powerful treatment modality that is especially useful for those who are very sensitive to the use of needles. I have also recently added a small meditation area to my treatment room and have started to incorporate seated meditation into people’s sessions if they want it. Basically, I offer simple instruction on posture, breath, and methods of working with the mind. And then we’ll do a brief 10-minute sitting period in between our conservation time and treatment time. It has been a really wonderful way to allow he/she to quiet their minds a bit prior to receiving their treatment.
5) Who is your ideal patient?
This is an interesting question, and I believe it would be best to describe the ideal mindset, because this will be the key to someone’s optimal health and wellness. There are two components: The first is to have an open mind as to how their journey of healing and growth will unfold. I realize this probably sounds esoteric. For example, someone may be coming in for a shoulder injury that isn’t healing. It is certainly understandable that one would want some of the symptomatic pain to be relieved, and that can absolutely be addressed. However, as the law of attraction goes, the more a person’s attention (patient or practitioner) is on the dis-ease, and the labels that then name that dis-ease… the more energy we are feeding into it, giving it staying power rather than transforming it into something beautiful and creative for the Universe.

In terms of treating the root as to why the shoulder hasn’t healed in the first place, this may require other healing to happen first. In our society, it’s all too common to become symptom-focused and if that isn’t getting better than that must mean that treatment isn’t “working”. It happens all the time that someone’s physical healing doesn’t work itself out until they are out of an unhealthy relationship, toxic work environment, free of an annoying roommate, grieved the loss of a loved one, started painting again, who knows?! However, simply having the awareness and willingness of our limitless possibilities to grow and change is the place to start.

The second is possessing the desire to be proactive in their own journey of healing. Along the same vain as not considering myself a “healer”, I am not in the practice of “fixing” people and what’s ailing them. So for example, I may offer simple lifestyle changes, such as taking a walk in the woods, or sitting by a body of water, taking certain herbs/supplements or staying away from certain foods, or adjusting what time they have breakfast or got to bed, how much water they are drinking on a daily basis, etc. These may seem like insignificant things, but I have seen people’s lives transform in amazing ways just by integrating some of these changes. I should mention its not that someone has to adhere to every word I say… though if someone is coming to see me for insomnia and refuses to stop partying until 2am 3-4 nights a week, it’s going to be a bit of an upstream swim!
6) Please feel free to add anything you wish to convey to my readers. Thanks for your time!
I am more than happy to do a 25-30 minute free consultation. While over the phone is ok, I prefer to invite someone into my office, and allow them to get a feel for me and the space. It’s a wonderful opportunity to see what a needle looks like, listen/feel the acutonics, or even do a 5-minute meditation.

I am also excited to mention the launch of my website

There is a temporary page up now, but the official site should be up within the first two weeks of March.

Finally, for those interested in exploring meditation. I facilitate a free class on Fridays from 6pm-7pm at Embrace the Moon, School of Tai-Chi Chuan and Qi Gong in Ballard. If interested, please contact me at, as the venue may be changing as well as for dates there will not be class.

Thank you for the opportunity and privilege to be a part of your newsletter and connect with those whom you have helped!

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