Acupunc­ture is a labour of love

Hastings Leader - - News -

As a teenager grow­ing up in Syd­ney’s North­ern Beaches, James McNeill dreamed of chang­ing peo­ple’s lives.

Be­com­ing an acupunc­tur­ist has en­abled him to do just that — in his 35-year ca­reer James has helped thou­sands of clients to meet their health goals.

James was think­ing of be­com­ing a marine bi­ol­o­gist when he dis­cov­ered acupunc­ture.

“I went to an open day at the New South Wales Col­lege of Nat­u­ral Ther­a­pies and never looked back. Acupunc­ture and Tra­di­tional Chi­nese Medicine re­ally spoke to me on a per­sonal level be­cause they take a holis­tic ap­proach to health.”

To­day, James is one of four prac­ti­tion­ers at the Napier Acupunc­ture Clinic, where he sees a wide range of clients.

“Each per­son is dif­fer­ent. Ev­ery in­di­ca­tor such as a line on the face, an emo­tion, colour of the tongue and even whether they are early or late, tells me some­thing about them.”

“The mind, body and spirit fit to­gether like a mo­saic. My job as an acupunc­tur­ist is to work out how all of the pieces fit to­gether. Some­times it just takes a gen­tle push in the right di­rec­tion to bring about great changes over­all.”

James is on mis­sion to ed­u­cate peo­ple about the ben­e­fits of acupunc­ture and the science be­hind it. This pas­sion was sparked dur­ing his train­ing, when he com­pleted a hos­pi­tal in­tern­ship in Hangzhou, China.

“When I saw how acupunc­ture was used at the front end of their med­i­cal sys­tem, I un­der­stood the true value of what I was do­ing, and what it had to of­fer us in New Zealand. I knew it would take work to get it prop­erly into the health sys­tem but I was de­ter­mined.”

James has worked for many years to achieve this, and co-wrote Spirit of Na­ture: the Har­mony of the Five El­e­ments with David Bell, which won the Ashton Wylie Char­i­ta­ble Trust book award in 2005. He was also a pres­i­dent of Acupunc­tureNZ and a mem­ber of the Min­is­te­rial Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee for Com­ple­men­tary and Al­ter­na­tive Health.

“The com­mit­tee was tasked by the Min­is­ter of Health to look at ways in which dis­ci­plines such as acupunc­ture could ben­e­fit the health sys­tem in New Zealand. Fol­low­ing wide con­sul­ta­tion, we came up with sev­eral rec­om­men­da­tions around re­search and the in­tro­duc­tion of statu­tory reg­u­la­tion for acupunc­tur­ists.”

The work was com­pleted in 2004, and al­though the gov­ern­ment is yet to im­ple­ment the rec­om­mended changes, James says there has been some progress.

“Re­search in par­tic­u­lar is evolv­ing. There has al­ways been a huge amount of anec­do­tal ev­i­dence back­ing the ben­e­fits of acupunc­ture, and there is now also a grow­ing body of clin­i­cal re­search. One in par­tic­u­lar is the Acupunc­ture Ev­i­dence Project, pub­lished in Aus­tralia in 2017. Stud­ies like this turn in­for­ma­tion into hard data and that’s what’s needed.”

Acupunc­tureNZ is con­tin­u­ing to lobby the Gov­ern­ment around statu­tory reg­u­la­tion for the pro­fes­sion. In the mean­time, all mem­bers meet and main­tain strin­gent vol­un­tary stan­dards. All are fully qual­i­fied health pro­fes­sion­als who have com­pleted the equiv­a­lent of four years full­time train­ing either in New Zealand or over­seas. They are also re­quired to com­plete 20 hours con­tin­u­ing pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment (CPD) ed­u­ca­tion each year and hold a cur­rent first aid cer­tifi­cate to main­tain their an­nual prac­tis­ing cer­tifi­cate.

With more than 800 acupunc­tur­ists cur­rently prac­tic­ing in New Zealand, find­ing the right one can be some­thing of a mine­field. Acupunc­tureNZ rec­om­mends prospec­tive pa­tients select an acupunc­tur­ist from their mem­ber­ship data­base to en­sure the high­est stan­dards of care.

When he’s not busy with his clients, James is a keen mu­si­cian and thes­pian. In May 2007 his song Stormy on Sun­day was a run­ner up in the Song of the Year pop cat­e­gory and The River Song also re­ceived an honor­able men­tion. He was also in Napier Op­er­atic’s Les Mise´rables.

When it comes to acupunc­ture, James gets huge sat­is­fac­tion from ev­ery case, big or small.

“I’ve wit­nessed some mir­a­cles dur­ing my ca­reer. Eight years ago, my daugh­ter was in an ac­ci­dent and suf­fered cat­a­strophic in­juries. Acupunc­ture and tra­di­tional Chi­nese medicine helped her to sur­vive against the odds and have played a huge part in her on­go­ing re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion. Help­ing my clients to see im­prove­ments is ex­tremely re­ward­ing. Suc­cess looks dif­fer­ent to ev­ery­one — a seem­ingly small im­prove­ment for one client could be huge for an­other. The most im­por­tant thing as an acupunc­tur­ist is to have an open mind. Some­times you come up against brick walls be­fore you get the re­sult you want. It’s all about giv­ing 100 per cent to that 1 per cent chance, and never giv­ing up.”

Acupunc­tur­ists James McNeill, part­ner Jac­qui Kid­dle and their son Daniel McNeill.

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