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LEWISTON – Destin Radder calls acupuncture ancient medicine for a modern world.

Radder, a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, recently celebrated his practice’s first year of business in Lewiston.

Radder is a Western New York native, born and raised in Clarence. He calls himself a “normal, suburban kid” who played lots of sports – and had a lot of injuries. But when a football injury sidelined him, his kung fu instructor offered him an intense therapeutic massage with acupressure and the application of an herbal formula. He said he took an herbal bath and went to bed in pain, but felt a world of difference when he awoke the next day.

“I just realized I got out of bed and I was in no pain,” Radder said.

But as a young man he went on his way, not thinking much more about it, or about a career in acupuncture. Instead he went to college to pursue a career in creative writing and film, which took him to a job in the California film industry.

He said economics of the late 1990s and disenchantment with the constant travel associated with the film industry led him to reconsider his path in life and look for something with “a little more meaning.” Ultimately it led to an open house at a Chinese medicine school in Santa Cruz.

“I walked into that school and that same herbal smell just hit me. The same smell I encountered in that kung fu school. That immediately got my attention and brought up a lot of old memories,” said Radder.

He graduated from the Five Branches University in Santa Cruz, where he completed over 2,800 hours of course work and clinical rounds, in 2007 with a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Radder lives in Lewiston and he and his wife, April, are parents to six year-old twins, a boy and a girl.

Radder said he believes in an integration of modern and ancient medical practices.

“One of Western medical strengths is there’s nothing on earth better for acute conditions than Western medicine – bar none. Heart attacks, strokes, car accidents, you need a stent in your heart, systemic infection, emergency treatment,” he said. “But one of our strengths are chronic diseases, chronic digestive issues, chronic pain that really affect your quality of life.”

How did you end up coming to Lewiston?

In 2010 a local OB/GYN practice in Lewiston, hired me to be in their in-house acupuncturist. I was doing a lot with morning sickness [treatment] and low back, hip pain, headaches, menopause. I was also treating a lot of pain injuries. One of the top five conditions I deal with is back pain – by far. Sciatica, neck pain and headaches are right up there.

How do you like the area?

Moving from California, I was nervous about how this area would accept it, but I have been pleasantly surprised.

Have you been successful in Lewiston?

Yes. There’s a lot of people in this area – and I have patients from all over. This is sometimes people’s only answer. Or it is a vital part of it. I have patients who come here, go to chiropractors, go to physical therapy.

Are people aware of acupuncture in this area?

There’s a lot of [offices] in California, so it’s easier to get treated and a lot of times insurance will partially cover it. Here it is almost unheard of. Even in Rochester, Albany and in New York City there is coverage. But Western New York hasn’t learned the benefits of it.

What is acupuncture good for?

People ask me that, but it’s a hard question. For 3,000 years Chinese medicine has been used to treat everything that has happened in the human body. I think the challenge today is where Chinese medicine can be integrated with a Western medical model.

Does it hurt?

That is a frequent question and is one of the hardest to answer. Some people don’t feel it at all. Other people are sensitive. Most fall in between and there’s sensation of a little pinch, which fades from about five to 20 seconds. Most people are very relaxed after the needles are in. They lay down, I turn the lights off, the music comes up, and they relax for about 30 minutes. All the needles are sterile and disposable, very thin, like a cat’s whisker. We spent a lot of time in school learning needling techniques.

How does it work?

I really like demystifying Chinese medicine, taking the woo woo, the concept of magic or an ancient Chinese secret. It’s really just a medical modality. Acupuncture, through thousands of years, has discovered a way to access your body’s natural healing ability. Some people just need a nudge, for others it is a process. We’re not putting medicine in.

Are you attempting to reach a muscle?

I could go on for hours, but through the body there are channels. These channels, or meridians, carry a type of energy. This energy is called qi, [pronounced chee.] Eastern theory states that qi animates, brings us energy, drives organ functions, is our immune system, keeps us warm, everything we associate with life. In Chinese you don’t say someone is dead you say they are without qi. It flows to every square centimeter, like a river through your body ... Whether or not there is this mysterious energy, I don’t think so. I think what it is is a theory. I think qi is all about circulation.

Do you stick needles where something hurts?

The style I do is the balance method. It has been made popular by Dr. Richard Tan. One of the characteristics is that I do not needle where it hurts. If you have an injured knee I do not needle that knee, based on the theory that all of the channels are connected. We say why poke a stick at an angry tiger, when you can be just as affective needling other places? All of these channels come from the arms and legs so there is no need to get undressed for back pain or lie down on an uncomfortable table.

What if it is your head, like a headache or sinus? You don’t stick needles there?

If it is your head we can use your hand, or your legs or your feet. There is a style called scalp acupuncture that uses your scalp. But the style that I practice you don’t. A lot of people get nervous when you are putting needles near their eyes.

Is acupuncture a cure for all?

Often times our society wants the magic pill, the magic procedure. I try to tell patients – no. It takes more than a carpenter to build a house. Sometimes it’s a combination. We all have strengths. I think chiropractic and acupuncture have a wonderful symbiotic relationship.

It seems like there are more complaints of pain than ever before. Why?

I just think people work hard and pain is often a result of something affecting their flow – their circulation. That can be stress. It can be emotional. It can be physical if you are working really hard and not getting a break. We say diet has a lot to do with that circulation. You need the raw materials to make good blood, to make good hormones. One of the things I really stress is , what are you putting in your mouth? Why would you expect a Ferrari to run at 200 mph if you put junky gas in it?

Do people come here with a lot of trepidation?

I see all sorts, everyone from those who are very accepting of alternative medicine and have done many different things to people that this is the weirdest thing they have ever done, but they are at their wit’s end. A lot of times I am the last stop on the train. I don’t claim Chinese medicine is any better, but we all have our strengths. You really need them all.

Information on Radder’s practice in Lewiston is available www.destinradder.com

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