Combining acupuncture with his expertise in another ancient practice, cupping, Colombian-born acupuncturist JoseLo Gutierrez has been providing affordable alternative medicine to Washington, D.C. residents since 2012.
DuPont Circle’s City Acupuncture is part of a growing, national trend known as community acupuncture, a cooperative effort where patients pay what they can for treatment. In DuPont, visitors can expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $50 per appointment, based on a sliding scale.
A graduate from New York City’s Oriental Medicine, where he studied classical acupuncture, Gutierrez backs the philosophy that acupuncture stimulates the body in healing itself, an organic alternative to western medicine. Rooted in ancient Chinese culture, acupuncture is a form of treatment where practitioners strategically prick the patient’s skin and tissue with thin needles, believing it to remedy various emotional, physical and mental ailments. Another form of treatment gaining momentum is “cupping,” which involves the use of glass cups. The rims of the glass are suctioned to specific areas along the meridians of the body, which practitioners believe creates a flow of intrinsic, healing energy. The mobilization of blood flow through cupping is said to impact deep scar tissue and muscle wounds.
While acupuncture is a pillar in eastern culture (China’s national health care system covers treatment), it’s much less widespread in the U.S. Gutierrez said a typical American acupuncturist might see four or five patients a day, which means a high price point. When describing community acupuncture, Gutierrez used the analogy of a locally-owned, organically-grown restaurant that has a good balance between quality and price. If the first few visitors have a good experience, they will more than likely tell their friends, and volume grows from there. Gutierrez said that in just six months, he had to start turning people away because he was too busy.
“The word has spread in such a viral, organic, easygoing way,” said Gutierrez, a Colombian-born specialist whose background includes stints in Thailand, Taiwan and Ecuador.
Gutierrez sees anywhere from 25 to 40 people a day, sometimes working 12-hour shifts. He explained that the long hours don’t bother him. First, he has a family to support, so he must do what he can with his background. Second, though the work can be long and hard, he finds it rewarding; he sees acupuncture as a social service to one of the most important cities in the world. Patients include diplomats, NGO workers, journalists, State Department employees, law students, Congressional aides and military personnel, among others.
“People who are working to sharpen the blade that is cutting the history of humanity,” Gutierrez said. “Washington, D.C. The capitol of the U.S. The mental health of Washington, D.C. How can I not feel good about that?”
Patients might be seeking stress or pain relief. Maybe they have diagnosed diseases, and sometimes acupuncture is a last resort. Gutierrez sees the 5,000-year-old treatment as a natural approach in addressing any and all ailments. As explained on his website, City Acupuncture specialists focus on Chinese principals and beliefs, which includes the understanding of vital energy and meridians. Their efforts also involve work with Yin & Yang and the five elements.
At City Acupuncture, there’s no state of the art technology, no pricey doctor with an expensive medical degree to pay off. It’s simply ancient medicine in a modern city, Gutierrez said.
“I’m not looking to become a millionaire. I’m just looking to work and support myself,” he said. “If you compare it to other things, they might say, ‘This guy is working his ass off,’ and I am. If you compare me to a surgeon, yes I’m just an acupuncturist and I will never make a lot of money, but it’s simply not my mission. It’s not who I am. I’m just someone who knows how to help heal people.”
Acupuncture is used to treat addictions, allergies, cardiovascular problems, digestive issues, headaches, pain, psycho-emotional discomfort, reproductive challenges, respiratory conditions, sleep difficulty, stress, and weight management.