Since this article came out, Dr. Tsay has moved, his address is now:
Tsay CMP Whole Health
385 Harvard Street
Brookline, MA 02446
By Nicolene Hengen
Sharon suffers from multiple sclerosis. She has trouble walking long distances, and often has painful cramps in her lower legs. She was hospitalized several years ago and given daily steroid shots that altered her metabolism and left her feeling acutely depressed., Her doctors assured her that the drug treatments were her only option. "I was so depressed that I was having trouble dealing with daily life, so I decided to find out what else was available," she says
She chose to visit an acupuncturist, and ended up at the Association for Bioenergetic Medicine (ABM) at 385 Harvard St. the clinic is run by Jay Amen, his wife Mouna, and Dr. Kuen-Shii Tsay.
Dr. Tsay is Sharon's doctor. She has received regular acupuncture treatments since mid-summer and feels better for the first time since her condition was diagnosed six years ago. Just after her first treatment, Sharon went with friends to watch the July 4 fireworks display on the waterfront. She was able to walk the almost two miles from the car to the water without much difficulty. For Sharon, that was an impressive feat. "If I have no more relief from my acupuncture treatments than I got that day, I'll be happy," she says
Dr. Tsay's patients come to him for a variety of problems. He as many female patients who undergo cosmetic acupuncture, and often treats older patients for loneliness and depression. "We not only have to heal their bodies, but strengthen their minds," says Tsay.
One woman who came to the center suffered from severe arthritis that left her with a shoulder joint so swollen that she was unable to do simple household chores. After four visits to Dr. Tsay she was able to lift her arm above her head for the first time in years. Tsay also does cosmetic acupuncture.
The World Health Organization has recognized, since 1981, 47 illnesses that can be effectively treated by acupuncture. The list includes hysteria, migraines, rheumatoid arthritis, and obesity.
A science that is still relatively obscure in the United States, acupuncture is a Chinese medical art that has been practiced for 4,000 years. According to its time-honored premises, the body and mind are connected, a balance symbolized by yin and yang. When an illness creates an imbalance, acupuncture needles are used to direct the body's vital energy to combat the evil energy of the sickness.
The yin and yang philosophy is "used extensively in Chinese medicine to understand the physiology and pathology of the human body," says Tsay. "It serves as a guide to diagnosis and treatment in clinical work," he says.
A typical treatment for Sharon involves her lying on a table in one of the examining rooms. Dr. Tsay briefly massages the area of her lower leg where the needle is to be inserted. There are 365 acupuncture points on the body, all of which serve a different function. Tsay asks her to take a deep breath and then inserts a needle, made of hold, silver, or stainless steel, quickly and smoothly. "When they're actually in, you can't feel them," says Sharon.
Each patient has a separate set of needles that are tailored to their problem and body type. The needless are sterilized for an hour at 300 degrees prior to each return visit.
The needles are sometimes connected to a small metal box, or stimulator, by a lightweight wire. The stimulator sends a small electrical charge through each of the needles. The charge varies according to the patient's problem and stage in treatment. According to Dr. Tsay, the stimulator is only 40 years old. Before it's advent, the needles were manipulated manually.
Part of the practice of Chinese medicine involves herbal work. The Brookline Health center boasts an herbal pharmacy stocked entirely of Chinese imports. Large glass jars line the walls of two rooms from floor to ceiling. They contain some things that are recognizable and many that are not. Containers of horehound, cinnamon twigs and dried magnolia flowers are interspersed with jars of whole dried centipedes (used to combat snake-bite poisoning) and asparagus roots.
Chinese acupuncturists are doctors in their own right, whereas their American counterparts are not.
In the United States, a student must have a four-year college degree in order to enroll in an acupuncture school. He or she needs to have fulfilled required courses in psychology, anatomy and physiology at the undergraduate lever. After a two year program, the student becomes an acupuncturist, but must always work under a doctor's supervision (the states of New York and California being the only exceptions).
In Taiwan, Where Tsay was awarded his degree, acupuncture is a specialization that can be taken up only after a student has received a medical degree. Once a student has qualified as a doctor, he or she can specialize in acupuncture by studying for another three years.
Tsay, who graduated in 1971 from China Medical College, practiced at Taipei General Hospital in Taiwan until he left in 1982 to study clinical pathology at Johns Hopkins Medical School. A diminutive and soft-spoken man, Tsay has build a flatting ABM practice into a 20-patient-a-day operation.
"He's a very concerned person," Sharon says of Tsay. "He often calls me during the week to ask how the treatment made me feel," she adds. Tsay also teaches at the New England School of Acupuncture.