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The Doctor’s Office

Acupuncture: Interview with
Frances E. Kalfus, O.M.D., L.Ac.

In this series featuring medical professionals in the workers’ compensation system, Marjory Harris interviews Frances E. Kalfus, O.M.D., L.Ac.

> History of WC, Part 2
> Medical Liens
> The Doctor's Office: Acupuncture
> Ogilvie Update
> MSA Delay
> Computer Corner

HARRIS: What are the main differences between Oriental medicine and Western medicine, in a nutshell?

KALFUS: The essential difference is that Oriental medicine recognizes the body has qi (energy) that travels through the body at all times, affecting physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. The electromagnetic field that exists around the body is an expression of this energy. Thousands of years ago, the Chinese began recognizing that the qi (pronounced “chi”) travels through energy pathways known as meridians, each corresponding to an organ of the body, and named as such, e.g., the lung meridian, large intestine meridian, etc. Each meridian has energy “depots” also known as acupuncture points, varying in number from one meridian to another. There are a total of 365 points along the 12 main meridians. Dozens of extra points have been determined as well. According to Oriental medicine, pain occurs when qi (and/or blood) is “congested”. Western medicine treats pain by suppressing it. Chinese medicine treats pain by clearing the congestion, allowing the flow of energy and blood to return to homeostasis.
Acupuncture is an alternative medicine that treats patients by insertion and manipulation of needles in the body. Its proponents variously claim that it relieves pain, treats infertility, treats disease, prevents disease, promotes general health, or can be used for therapeutic purposes.[1] Acupuncture typically incorporates traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as an integral part of its practice and theory.

HARRIS: Why did you become an acupuncturist?

KALFUS: Growing up in a medical office in New York City (my father was a physician) I was influenced by observing his practice, and his minimal use of drugs, despite having an “armory” of drug samples. He spent a lot of time allowing his patients to talk with him. There was something about that memory that became the seed of my belief that the body has an innate ability to heal itself when given the opportunity to do so. In my 20’s I had severe knee pain from riding my bicycle up steep hills when my car was broken. A friend recommended an acupuncturist. I was fascinated and impressed by the rapid positive results. I began reading about the theory of Oriental medicine, and decided to pursue the study of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine at that time because I was attracted to its holistic approach.

HARRIS: What is your philosophy of treatment?

KALFUS: I am interested in getting a full picture regarding physical issues as well as possible related factors of mental and emotional issues. This is how I was trained. My interest is in the whole person, even in work related injuries.
HARRIS: Acupuncture has often been used to treat work-related injuries. The “reforms” of 2004 threatened the scope of such treatment since ACOEM did not include acupuncture as an approved treatment, but the DWC in June 2007 included it in the Medical treatment utilization schedule (MTUS). Have you found it hard to get approval for treatment?

KALFUS: Since the “reforms” of 2004, referrals declined significantly. After June 2007 they began trickling in again. Approval for consistent and ongoing treatment when improvement has been indicated seems to vary according to knowledge and acceptance of acupuncture by claims adjusters assigned to the patient by the workers’ compensation insurance company.
For a summary of the workers’ compensation law relating to acupuncture treatment, click here
HARRIS: The MTUS seems to focus on the use of needles with or without electrical stimulation, but acupuncturists generally use herbal medicine as part of their practice, do they not?

KALFUS: Yes, herbal medicine is an important piece in Traditional Chinese Medicine. When injuries are strictly mechanical, the effectiveness of acupuncture and other related modalities (e.g., cupping, moxibustion, Tui Na massage, infrared heat) can be great. Herbal medicine can often accelerate improvement time and quality.
HARRIS: The MTUS states, inter alia, that acupuncture can be used as an option when pain medication is reduced or not tolerated. How does acupuncture substitute for medication?

KALFUS: Generally, when pain medications are effective it is because they suppress the immune and nervous systems’ responses to the injury. Several studies have indicated that acupuncture produces endorphins creating analgesic effects on pain syndromes. According to acupuncture theory and principles, regular treatments give the body an opportunity to heal itself and its injuries, resulting in ongoing reductions in pain. As pain diminishes, frequency of treatment reduces as well. Acupuncture encourages the body to repair and balance itself.
HARRIS: Personally, I have benefited many times from acupuncture, and I encourage my clients to try it, especially if they have muscle spasms in their back. Many of them are afraid of needles. Do you have techniques you can do that do not involve needles?

KALFUS: I became a licensed massage therapist in 1976. Since then, I have studied Shiatsu, Breema bodywork, and Da Yen Qi Gong (Wild Goose Qi Gong) extensively. For the last several years, I have taught Qi Gong (a self help practice of the movement of qi) at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland. The practice of Oriental Medicine includes acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, massage practices, use of moxibustion, cupping, and other modalities. Yes, indeed, there are other techniques that may be employed along with or instead of needles.
HARRIS: The legislators or government bureaucrats now decide what treatments are appropriate. Have you had any experiences where a patient has really been harmed by the limits on treatment imposed by the 2003-2004 legislation?

KALFUS: Absolutely! Most patients cannot afford out of pocket treatment, particularly when they are out of work because of their injury. Because of these imposed legal restrictions, I am convinced that many chronic pain cases could have been successfully treated with acupuncture and other modalities included in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Frances E. Kalfus, O.M.D., L.Ac.
1911 Vine Street
Berkeley, CA 94709
Phone/Fax: 510.558.1911

For Dr. Kalfus’s CV, click here.
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