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Gina Chang of Tualatin is a woman of opposites

She held a business degree but still wound up practicing Chinese medicine
by: Kristen Forbes, Practitioner Gina Chang encourages her patients to move gently after she places acupuncture needles on their pressure points. Here, small needles along the hairline help patient Cheri Emahiser ease her chronic back and neck pain.

(Kristen Forbes is a freelance writer living in Tigard. To view her blog, visit www.krissymick.blogspot.com.)

She was born in Taiwan but has lived in the United States for more than 20 years. She holds two master's degrees: one in business and the other in Chinese medicine. She is an expert in Tui-na, or Asian bodywork ('tui' means pushing and 'na' means grasping). She believes in both Chinese and Western medicine.

There are a lot of opposing forces at play in Chang's life. Luckily, as a Chinese medical practitioner, Chang is an expert in the art of balance.

There was a time when Chang was content to use her business degree. She worked for several Fortune 500 companies. Then, after her mother succumbed to lung cancer, Chang found herself thinking more about death and illness, health and healing.

Chinese medicine spoke to her.

'I went to seminars, workshops, started talking to people in that kind of profession . . . my interest continued to grow, to the point I finally decided to change my career,' Chang says. 'I never knew that I was going to practice Chinese medicine, but once I finally had this chance encounter with it, the philosophies and principles made a lot of sense to me. It touched my heart. It made a lot of sense. So I decided to devote myself to this as my profession and my life.'

After her clientele outgrew the space where she was practicing in the Sellwood area of Southeast Portland, Chang relocated to Tualatin two years ago. Ageless Path Wellness Clinic is located at 7052 Nyberg St., inside the 7000 Nyberg Retail Center.

Now, Chang treats patients for conditions ranging from migraines to strokes, sports injuries to common colds, sleeping problems to women's health, back and neck pain to digestive problems and pretty much everything in between. She offers acupuncture, cranio-sacral meridian therapy, Tui-na and therapeutic massage.

As Chang explains it, the theory behind Chinese medicine is recognizing the connection between inner (body) and outer (environment).

'If you live in harmony with yourself and also with the environment, with nature, you will have great health,' Chang says. 'Balance is the key. If you're not living in harmony with those factors, you're going to have symptoms that eventually become diseases or something more serious.'

Whereas traditional Western medicine emphasizes treatment, Chang says the main goals of Chinese medicine are prevention, vitality and longevity.

'It's not waiting until you get sick and getting treatment,' she says.

Instead, it's recognizing that a problem in one area can create bigger problems if not tended to.

'If you think about the highways infrastructure, 1-5 connects to 205 to 217 to 26, right? All are connected. Somewhere in this infrastructure, say there is a car accident. It's going to cause a traffic jam, way back, affecting the other highways. Our bodies are like a network. If the circulation somewhere is blocked, it's going to affect other parts of the body,' Chang explains. 'You never only look at the local side of the problem. You always look at what else is connected to this area - how that relationship can influence and affect each other.'

She uses headaches as an example. Many patients come to Chang after taking migraine medication for years. They've either stopped seeing the effectiveness of their painkillers or they've grown wary of the prospect of staying on medication for such an extended amount of time.

'In the Chinese medical system, when you look at someone with migraines or headaches, you never just look at your head only, because that's a simple diagnosis . . . We look at the whole body system. Where is the place out of balance? What has triggered these headaches to make them so severe and chronic and difficult to be treated? So, we look further to see what caused migraine headaches, and then it becomes other things.'

Stress, blood pressure, heart function, sleep problems - all can lead to headaches, Chang says. Instead of treating the symptoms, Chang tries to go back and address the original cause.

Chang is quick to point out that different patients with different issues are going to need different treatments. She insists that she is not just an acupuncturist, but a practitioner for the entire Chinese medical system. When she does perform acupuncture, though, Chang takes a unique approach. Instead of passive acupuncture, where a patient lies down, Chang does active acupuncture - after pressing the thin, sterilized, disposable needles into pressure points, she has her patients move around gently. The physical movement, she says, enhances treatment.

When Chang is not working, she likes to hike, walk and watch movies. She appreciated New Mexico's natural beauty when she went there for graduate school (she graduated with a 3.98 GPA after studying intensively for four years at the NCCAOM-accredited International Institute of Chinese Medicine in Santa Fe), but she found herself missing Oregon's greenery.

'I missed the green because I used to live in Oregon before,' she says. 'It's beautiful, Oregon.'

The Ageless Path Wellness Clinic's Web site is www.agelesspath.com.