We Tried It: Modern Acupuncture
If you’re dialed into the acupuncture and TCM industry, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Modern Acupuncture. For those less familiar, it’s the first franchise acupuncture clinic in the U.S. that brings acupuncture to the general public — using strategic marketing and branding to make acupuncture feel more mainstream and approachable to people of all ages.
When I looked up their various locations, I was pleased to see a Modern Acupuncture clinic right near my home. Having never tried acupuncture before, I thought it would be interesting to have my first-go be here — and to share my experience with all of you.
Whether you’ve never tried acupuncture, you’re a seasoned patient, or you’re a practitioner curious about how it all works, look no further than here.
When I walked into Modern Acupuncture, I was greeted right away by a friendly employee behind the desk. Since I was a new patient, she took me over to a computer to fill out basic information and medical history. Afterwards, I watched a four minute video that explained the basics of how acupuncture works, what to expect, and the results I was likely to experience.
The waiting area was small but only one other patient showed up while I was filling out my intake information. From there, the woman behind the desk asked me to pick out which flavor tea I’d want for after my session (peppermint, if you were wondering). Then I silenced my phone as she led me into the Zen Den.
Welcome to The Zen Den
The Zen Den is where the needling happens. It’s a dark room with large lounge chairs set up and curtains between each “station.” Large TV’s display peaceful nature scenes and the air conditioning acts as both a temperature regulator and white noise. After about a minute or so, my licensed acupuncture came over to introduce herself and to ask what brought me in.
I explained two ailments to her: 1) a knot in my upper quad, likely from running and 2) recent, heightened levels of stress and anxiety that I wanted to lower naturally.
As I learned in the introduction video, Modern Acupuncture typically needles from the knees down and elbows down, and on the head. The downside to this is they don’t perform localized acupuncture.
I must’ve gotten lucky; I was wearing shorts and it was easy to access my upper thigh where my pain was, so my practitioner was able to provide spot-treatment for that area. (Side note: Since acupuncture is based on channels throughout the body, you can needle specific areas from the knees or elbows down that in turn will heal other areas of the body that might be covered by clothing. This is called distal acupuncture.)
Most of the needles went in without issue. I did feel a few of them, and one spot in my calf led to an abrupt muscle spasm (which can sometimes occur). The practitioner took the needle out immediately, had me take a couple deep breaths, and re-inserted it. I didn’t feel anything for the second insertion.
In total, I had 14 needles placed: four in my head, one on my arm, and nine throughout my legs and feet. The insertion was done in a “Japanese style” where needles are inserted superficially, versus a Chinese style where needles tend to be a bit thicker and go in deeper.
I had the chance to speak by email with Leah Chischilly, Manager of Clinical Operations at Modern Acupuncture, who explained the needling protocol a bit more in depth to me after my treatment. Every acupuncturist on their team is taught a system of acupuncture called the MA Method, which was developed by Bob Doane, L.Ac., EAMP and two other members of their clinical staff.
“There are certain aspects of the MA Method that are unique and very recognizable that a patient can come to expect at any location,” Chischilly describes. While this system helps maintain uniformity, she adds that “practitioner still uses their discretion to tailor the treatment to the individual.”
Once the needles were all in, I had 20 minutes to lay back in the zero-gravity lounge chair while it gently massaged my lower back and legs. There was also the option to add heat to the chair, which I did.
As this was my first acupuncture experience, it was a bit hard for me to soften and relax during these 20 minutes. I didn’t feel pain, but I did experience a general ache throughout my body. As the video also suggested, I had sweaty palms and could feel my body heating up. Once the 20 minutes was over, my acupuncturist quickly took the needles out; I didn’t feel a thing.
Once she sat me back up, we started talking about a treatment plan. She suggested I come in once a week for two months, compared acupuncture to going to the gym — the more often you go, the more results you see.
Based on the packages offered, it looks like Modern Acupuncture’s business model is designed to benefit people who buy packages and/or monthly memberships. Drop-in rates seemed a bit high ($69) though this cost varies by city.
After she gave me my suggested treatment plan on a Modern Acupuncture postcard, I walked to the waiting area and was greeted with my peppermint tea. The woman behind the desk reiterated some of the payment options, but wasn’t pushy with regards to signing up right away. Since the first visit is free, I didn’t have to take out any credit cards or commit to any future visits. I thanked her and went on my way.
Who It’s Best For
Overall, my experience at Modern Acupuncture as a first-timer went well. It’s hard to say what exactly “worked,” especially since I only went in for a single visit, yet I did go for a run the next day and experience significantly less tension in my quad.
If you’re thinking of checking out Modern Acupuncture as a patient, here are some overall pros and cons:
- Everything is super well organized, from the moment you walk in to the moment you leave. Unlike what I typically experience at my regular primary care doctor, the atmosphere in Modern Acupuncture was peaceful, professional, organized, and had a personality. You can tell they have the patient flow down to a tee, thanks to their franchise model. What you can expect to experience at one clinic will most likely be replicated at other locations.
- The Zen Den was super comfy, especially for a non-private style room. Even though the room wasn’t private, I felt comfortable and at ease in the Zen Den. The nature clips on the TV were quite soothing and not at all distracting. The zero-gravity lounge chair was comfortable, and the room temperature was just right.
- The technique was professional and (sorry) on-point. The actual needling was quick, easy, and (relatively) painless. I’m the first to admit I have a really tight and tweaky body, and the aches I experienced were likely due to my own qi that was getting unblocked. All in all, I felt safe and in good hands when the needling was being performed.
- With me as an exception, Modern Acupuncture doesn’t typically do localized acupuncture. That said, the fortunate thing about this is that acupuncture has a systemic effect, so when dealing with issues such as pain, practitioners can mitigate the body’s perception of pain and stimulate the body’s immune response. However, acupuncturists often need to needle the muscle locally by using a shi (local) points for the muscle to relax and the tissue to repair. Depending on your diagnosis, you might need a specific treatment that Modern Acupuncture doesn’t typically do.
- It’s community-based acupuncture, so you won’t have a private room. Depending on your preference, sharing a room with others isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Yet compared to the rates of other community-style acupuncture clinics, you might be paying a bit more money at Modern Acupuncture.
- Intake was maybe a little too quick. While every private practice does things a bit differently, a lot of practitioners spend more time during intake. In many cases, acupuncturists will want to address the state of your internal organs and will likely take your pulse, feel your abdomen, and inspect the tongue before the needling begins. If you want a super personalized and in-depth exam, it might be worth comparing your experience with a private practitioner to see what’s a better fit for you.
If you’re a practitioner and are interested in the franchise model, Chischilly also has some words of wisdom. She describes certain benefits of opening up a franchise, such as being blueprint from start to finish on how to get a clinic up and running, support from a corporate team and other franchisees, and helpful brand recognition.
Yet, she doesn’t sugar coat it all either. “The challenge some people have with franchising is that there are also many rules,” she says. “The clinic must look a certain way, you are required to follow specific operating procedures, and you have to be open a certain number of hours per week are just a few examples. If you are attached to doing things your way and reluctant to follow these rules, then franchising may not be for you.”
Remember, this was just one person’s experience, so if you’re open to trying Modern Acupuncture out, you should! Chischilly reminds me that as their name suggests, they try to provide a more modernized experience, using tech and innovation to enhance the patient’s session. Plus, a drug-free alternative for pain management is always a win in our book.
“I like to think that more people getting acupuncture can have a profoundly positive impact on our society as a whole,” she says.
If that sounds appealing to you, there’s no risk in scheduling a visit. Your first session is free. See here if there is a location near you.