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Success Story: Bringing Acupuncture to Homebound Individuals with Disabilities

by Barbara Parton RN, Lic Ac

I’ve been an acupuncturist for eight years. Prior to becoming an acupuncturist, I worked as a nurse, primarily in home and hospice care. I firmly believe that we are all healthier and happier when we are able to receive health care, ideally provided by an interdisciplinary team (as in hospice), that enables us to remain in our home whenever possible.
For the past four years, I have been fortunate to work as an acupuncturist for people with disabilities. The opportunity arose when Pathways To Wellness (PTW) received a referral from Boston Community Medical Group (BCMG). BCMG is a not-for-profit group practice committed to providing community based, comprehensive care to individuals with disabilities. Care is designed to offer a multi-disciplinary team approach emphasizing a personalized care plan that includes preventive health and the management of chronic conditions. Pathways to Wellness is a nonprofit organization committed to providing equal access to high quality holistic care including acupuncture, shiatsu, and Chinese herbal medicine. 

The missions of these two nonprofits complemented each other and matched my vision of where and how health care should be delivered. Pathways to Wellness hired me to provide home visits for people wanting acupuncture but unable to get into the PTW clinic. The numbers grew. Using Traditional Chinese Medical (TCM) theory, I was soon providing acupuncture treatments to quadriplegics, paraplegics, people with Cerebral Palsy and Muscular Dystrophy. The problems are varied but commonly include pain, tight or traumatized muscular-skeletal systems, and stress. In the theory of TCM, I most frequently deal with deficient or stagnant energy. These are common problems that I often treat in my private practice but somehow they seem profoundly more important in this population. When someone engages in the world by using controls accessed by their mouth or their breath, when the use of a computer permits a meaningful career without revealing the disability, when an artist continues to paint because the pain in her arm can be diminished without the sedating effects of medications, the impact of this work is intense.  I have seen pain decrease, spasticity (a common and uncomfortable complaint for quadriplegics) become less disruptive, stress eased, and quality of life improved.

One of the most rewarding aspects of this work has been the opportunity to spend time with clients. During home care I typically sit with the patient throughout the treatment. This extra time provides an opportunity for getting to know clients in a broader sense and I think ultimately it provides for a more healing session. In a time when the opportunity to have sustained contact with a healthcare provider is severely limited and when many of our interactions with health care systems generate frustration, I feel privileged to be working with Pathways to Wellness and Boston Community Medical Group. My dream is to see CAM therapies widely available to homebound citizens, paid for by insurance, and integrated into medical care plans for improved quality of life for all.


Barbara Parton RN, Lic Ac
Central Sq. Acupuncture
Cambridge MA 02139


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