Straddling cultures

Traditional Chinese medicine practitioner Lisa Johnson. Photo by Steve Grant

BEING a qualified practitioner of Chinese medicine in a Western society means Lisa Johnson is used to straddling cultures, but nowadays she also has to get her head around the country/city divide as well.

In something that sounds like the plot of a folksy BBC comedy, Dr Johnson gave up her clinic in Fremantle a few years ago and moved to Mt Barker to support her parents, putting out her shingle to see whether dyed-in-the-wool farmers were ready for some acupuncture, cupping therapy or gua sha.

Seems they were more than willing to step outside the mainstream and the clinic went gangbusters; so much so that while she’s recently moved back to the big smoke, Dr Johnson still heads down south every fortnight to see clients.

“The farmers love it and I have kept Barker for a lot of reasons; like seeing my parents and because my passion is to help people,” Dr Johnson said.

She says the farming community have quite different needs to what she usually sees in the city.

“One farmer had broken his foot and could not rotate it for 15 years, and I gave him five treatments and now he can – you get that a lot with farmers.

“There’s a lot of muscular-skeletal complaints and pain, while in Perth it’s more about pregnancy and dealing with trauma.”

Pregnancy has been a passion for Dr Johnson since her own birth story was marred by a bout of preeclampsia, a serious blood pressure condition that can affect the organs.

She says the aim of treating pregnant women with Chinese medicine was to help their labour progress efficiently.

“It gets your body to its proper balance so that things that are supposed to work this way or that do it naturally.”

Acupuncture has been used for centuries to bring on labour and soften and dilate the cervix ready for birthing, and having supported midwives previously, Dr Johnson recently contacted Fiona Stanley Hospital to re-establish that connection.

Dr Johnson said there are more similarities between Chinese and Western medicine than many people would imagine, saying often it comes down to terminology.

“If you get a cold, in Western medicine it’s called airborne; in China it’s described as an invasion of wind.”

There are differences, though – Chinese medicine views the body as one interconnected biosystem and will look at its overall response to treatment.

“The way an illness manifests in the body is different for everyone, so you treat them accordingly; each is a unique treatment,” Dr Johnson said.

“I still send clients to Western doctors to get their blood levels and their hormone levels, though.

“I’m not one-sided and I am a big referrer to specialists like physios and chiros.”

Dr Johnson said a lot of what she’s aiming for is preventative medicine: “It’s about maintaining health and balance.”

She’ll usually see clients for four to six weeks before assessing where things and says everyone gets a little “homework”.

“It’s only one thing and when that becomes habit and is part of your lifestyle, then you get another one.”

Dr Johnson offers cosmetic acupuncture, cupping therapy, dietary therapy and Chinese herbs alongside standard acupuncture, and the very soothing (we only got a one-minute demo but that was enough to generate a few oohs and aahs) gua sha. 

Predominantly used for chronic pain, gua sha involves a smooth-edge tool stroking the skin while the practitioner presses on it. It’s also known as spooning or scraping, while the Koreans refer to it as coining.

Fremantle Acupuncture
Unit 33
27-36 William St, Fremantle
0400 061 761

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