Maggie Cloud, Licensed Acupuncturist at Olo Acupuncture, New York City.

Maggie Cloud, L.Ac. Talks About her Training and Practice

December 1, 2020

Not all acupuncturists are created equal. Despite an environment with school consolidating and uniform standards around licensing and credentialing, there are still many directions – specializations, styles of practice, and teachers – for both students and experienced acupuncturists to choose from.

A case in point is Maggie Cloud, L.Ac., the newest licensed acupuncturist to join the Olo Acupuncture team. With her training being unique within our offering, we thought it would be useful to our patients to explore these differences with her. 

Below is a conversation with Maggie about her introduction to acupuncture, her training, and the types of patients and conditions it is suited for.

How were you introduced to acupuncture?

I didn’t receive acupuncture until I was 27. As a professional dancer, I had many friends who would talk about their experiences with acupuncture, and from what I could tell, it was something they reached for when they wanted to work at a deeper level. 

It all seemed very intriguing to me, but I was a little nervous about the needles. I was the kid who screamed bloody murder getting their kindergarten shots, and the teen that would faint at the doctor’s office when blood was drawn. I was pleasantly surprised to find out, once I finally decided to give it a try, what a gentle experience it was. The needles were so thin and painless! 

I remember while resting that I could feel the energy in my body circulating in a way I hadn’t felt before, and I completely lost track of time. I wondered how those tiny needles could have such a powerful impact on how I felt, so I started reading books on acupuncture and Chinese medicine while I continued to get treatments. I found acupuncture helpful to ease my aches and pains, PMS symptoms, and to optimize my endurance for long days of rehearsals and touring. 

As I followed my interest with it, I realized that acupuncture was something I wanted to study in a more focused way and begin to steer my practice toward.

After deciding to pursue acupuncture, where did you go to school, and what drew you to that program?

I decided to go to Tri-State College of Acupuncture, which was unique in that it taught three styles of acupuncture. That was a huge draw for me. I found in my dancing life that training in various techniques ultimately led me to become a more articulate mover, and the ability to call on a range of different “tones” allowed me to better compose frequencies in space through my performance. I saw a parallel with acupuncture, learning the technical “scales” – or in this case, the channels, points, systems, theories, etc.) – to create a specific resonance in the body. I thought the more I could expose myself to in terms of schools of thought, the more I’d be able to cater to an individual’s unique needs in treatment. 

This does sound like a unique education since most programs are more focused and only introduce additional modalities as electives towards the end of your studies. Tell us a bit more about these three styles of acupuncture.

The three styles taught at Tri-state were Acupuncture Physical Medicine (APM), Kiiko Matsumoto style (KM), and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). 

APM is great for musculoskeletal or myofascial pain and is influenced by Janet Travell’s work on trigger point therapy. KM looks deeply at constitutional or structural imbalances and uses gentle needling and the palpation of reflexes to get instant feedback from the body. TCM maybe more people are familiar with. It’s used for balancing the elements in the body and harmonizing the organ systems. 

It’s great having these options in your toolbox, but how do these modalities work in practice, what types of patients are they best suited for, and how do they work together?

This is a great question! I feel like I am always integrating and experimenting with how they work together, and how different things work for different people. 

APM works really well for pain issues, both acute and chronic. Trigger points are tight, irritable spots in a band of muscle that build up over time, causing local and referred pain. I find that releasing them sometimes works like trimming the branch of an issue rather than addressing the root cause. Still, it can be necessary initially to shift the body out of its current holding pattern and continue work from there. For example, maybe someone’s tight shoulders are the expression of an underlying stress issue that ultimately needs to be addressed. But, the tight shoulders could be causing headaches, which exacerbate the stress. 

It’s a quick way to break the cycle. Getting someone with pain levels of 9/10 down to a 4 or 5/10 in one treatment can create a lot of relief and therefore space in their system to heal and change. 

KM is great for people who want to participate more actively in their treatment. Some people really want to just lie down and close their eyes, and that’s great, often so needed! But KM asks for feedback about sensations from the patient to identify both underlying patterns and to determine what points affect change. This type of engagement is a great way to gain consent from people who might be apprehensive about acupuncture.

It’s pretty amazing to feel a point on the ankle relieve a tender spot on your abdomen. It can make believers out of people. Needling is almost always distal to the area you treat, which won’t aggravate injuries further and can be helpful if you can’t access them directly for whatever reason. 

I find that this gentle style works well with people who are needle sensitive or for settling the sympathetic nervous system in people who are caught in a chronic or prolonged state of “fight or flight.” Kiiko is always studying the classic texts and constantly evolving her style based on what she finds to be effective in practice, which I appreciate. It really is fascinating to study with her. 

TCM feels like the foundation. In my practice, I use the TCM lens to paint an overall picture of what is going on in someone’s presentation. Without a clear understanding of what will help tip the scales for someone to achieve balance, you may not get the results you want. Each organ, channel system, and element have symptomatology that helps to piece together a pattern, and there are hallmark points you can use to address that particular imbalance. 

For example, I’ll make sure to incorporate some blood moving points for someone who presents with painful, clotty periods, or use yin nourishing points for someone who is burned out from the stress of working long hours and has trouble getting to sleep at night. 

Any of these styles could treat any condition, but I find that mixing and matching can help me work with a patient’s preferences for treatment. As a practitioner, it’s important to work with what resonates for me too, so it’s helpful to have many options or ways to go about achieving something. 

I am always studying and expanding my knowledge, and my palette will just continue to grow and evolve. I’m beginning to play with holograms and mirror images in the body as I learn from my colleagues here at Olo and the methods they connect with. You can make a treatment more dynamic by treating correlating images, using the heel as the back of the head and the achilles tendon as the neck, the back of the hand as the sacrum, and the navel as the nose. The list goes on and on!

It sounds like with these styles you really can help a wide range of patients. That said, do you find yourself drawn to certain types, or are there types of patients that you particularly enjoy working with?

It’s exciting for me to encounter a wide range of conditions, but perhaps I’ve worked the most with musculoskeletal pain, gastrointestinal disorders, immune imbalances, depression and anxiety, sleep disorders, menstrual issues, and overall stress management. I love working with creative types, artists, performers, musicians, writers, and fellow dancers. 

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