Manayunk: Acupuncture Practice Leads Community in Holistic Health

The Manayunk Roxborough Acupuncture Clinic has been providing treatment of holistic medicine since 2008. Practitioner Dave Schiman works to deliver his clients affordable treatment options using a sliding scale system, while maintaining a wholesome, community environment.

You have been practicing in Manayunk since May. What brought you to the neighborhood?

I live on the border of Roxborough and Manayunk. It’s a great area. I first moved here because I’m a cyclist and I found this little section [of the city] from the pro race that comes through here. It was interesting that there was a little cycling hub right in Philly.

I wanted to work, someplace where I wanted to live. When I looked for office space, I originally wound up in Roxborough. After seven years of being there, I needed to find a new office space and found this place. It was kind of a stroke of luck. A friend of mine told me this place was open and I was really happy to be by Main Street.

needle2How does community acupuncture differ from private practice and in what ways does that benefit the community?

We offer a sliding scale system when it comes to price making it affordable for anyone in the community.

The space is shared, so in our model, we allow people to stay as long as they need, which can be 20 minutes or a few hours. Typically, it’s 45 minutes to an hour and a half. It gives the person the experience the treatment was complete. Our clinic has multiple chairs in a setting, so people can make eye contact with me if they’re ready to be done or if they’re cold and need a blanket or need an adjustment.

People feel they are taken care of more than they would at a private clinic. Sometimes in a community room, someone may have an emotional release and even though it doesn’t happen that often, when it does, everyone bears witness to it. It’s kind of a nice reminder that we’re not alone. Everyone has issues going on. Everyone has their problems. It helps people have a sense they’re not alone. There is something shared about wellness or illness. We all go through it.

How does your sliding scale system work?

The sliding scale is based on the people. They determine where they fall. Some may pay at the top end of the range even if they don’t make that much money. Other people may pay at the lower end even if they do make more money, just because they could have a lot of expenses between things like college tuition or taking care of a parent at home.

When I had my private practice, I would typically charge about $90 for a private session and I would often get phone calls from people saying, “Would it help with my back pain?”

I would say, “Yeah, I can help you.”

But then we would get around to the price and they would say, “OK. I’ll call you back.”

I knew they just couldn’t afford it or they weren’t sure it was going to help them and they didn’t want to risk that much money to find out.

In community acupuncture, we spend less time talking about the cost and just get down to the acupuncture. We get to the meat of the problem.

daveHow is the practice designed? What injuries are typically treated?

The bases of a diagnosis in acupuncture is the pulse, the tone and how the symptoms present, how they started. What’s the nature of the symptom? You can get all of that in just a few minutes and start treating, and then adjust as you go.

The way acupuncture works best is if you come in frequently. At first, two or three sessions per week, once a week at a minimum. Then spread it out until the symptoms get minimal. If I work on someone who got an injury today or yesterday, they will be fine in a few days. Most people have chronic issues. It takes some time to help the body let go of a pattern and move into a healthy state of being. So, we will work with that individual to make that possible.

Stress drives up a lot of symptoms that people come in with. It’s one of the reasons acupuncture is so successful because stress is linked to health issues. So many things – back pains, headaches, digestive – all are related to stress. That’s what makes acupuncture so successful. Once you get the stress under control, people’s body functions will normalize. Their sleep will improve, digestion improves, less pain more mobility. Their breathing becomes deeper.

It’s across the board what they’re coming in for. But once one issue begins to improve, other things improve too. In one way, it seems like magic. But if you understand the way the body works, you can understand how acupuncture influences good health.

How big is an acupuncture needle? Does it hurt?

People are usually surprised, especially those who are afraid of needles, with how thin they are. It’s about the thickness of two human hairs. We use anywhere from eight to 30 needles, depending on what’s going on with somebody. It’s very mild. It’s not like getting a shot, where it would be an ache. I have people who are terrified until they look down and see the needle is in. Then, they’re fine laying there. Many fall asleep, get drowsy or fall into a zone.

People have described their sensations during treatment as feeling like they’re floating or they have an energy around their body. They feel whole.

Community room allows patients to stay as long as they would like.
Community room allows patients to stay as long as they would like.

Do you host any events to bring in more business?

Once or twice per year, we do a community day where we offer free treatments. We’re looking to do our next in October or November. We get really busy around the holidays, people stress out. It’s a typical pattern.

The bike race brings in a lot of business. A few years ago during the women’s race, a woman crashed, leaving her neck and shoulders sore. I live on the wall so I treated her right there on my sidewalk while she continued to watch the men’s.

We really haven’t done a lot of advertising and we stay busy because people will leave here and say how affordable it is. We have been busy for seven years. It’s just been busier since moving here.

How has the community responded to your practice?

The community has responded very favorably. We have had more than 3,000 people come in for treatment and many of them are regulars or semi-regulars. We’ve gotten a lot of word-of-mouth referrals. It’s just been a steady flow. It’s been good. Good for me, good for the neighborhood.


– Text and images by Steven Taytelbaum and Colleen Campbell.

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