SF’s Girl Boss Acupuncturist: Meet Karinn Casey, Founder of AcuPop

Karinn Casey, Founder of AcuPop. Courtesy of Katrina Dickson.

By Emily Merrell 

Acupuncture is so much more than needles. Although it might seem intimidating, Karinn Casey makes acupuncture approachable. Through acupressure, as well as partnerships with cool women’s spaces and organizations, Karinn has demystified what acupuncture looks like. She even provides guidance on navigating pressure points to use day in and day out. If you’re not yet sold on acupuncture, keep reading to learn more! 

SDS: You’re one of the most sought after healers in San Francisco! How did you get into Chinese medicine and start your acupuncture business?

KARINN CASEY: A wonderful thing about Chinese medicine is that many practitioners arrive there in unconventional ways. Learning outside of the classroom has always garnered more confidence for me, and it wasn’t until I detached myself from the traditional education system that I started to believe in myself for real. I patched pain with alcohol throughout college and my early 20s, but knew I wanted to live differently. In short, the emotions I was trying to run from were now deeply ingrained in my physical body and I needed help. Acupuncture offered a hopeful perspective and I found it essential to my healing. That’s how it began. 

I started my business slowly and then quickly. I took a year off to live in Tahoe and dive in Mexico, as well as Central America. Initially I didn’t know which direction to go in so it felt illogical to commit to something brick and mortar until I knew better. Once back in San Francisco, I was given a life-changing opportunity to work with established acupuncturists at a busy Pacific Heights clinic. Time management, patient care, and correspondence with MDs forced me into some really good and also really bad habits (accruing paperwork and long hours were some of the things I disliked the most.)

Reflecting upon what I loved about private practice the most (patient interaction, seeing positive change, giving TCM a platform in San Francisco), is what inspired me to create AcuPop, “Pop-up Acupuncture, Bodywork + Wellness Brought To You”. It’s so fun to set up wellness programs that match the aesthetic and need of each company I collaborate with. Creating space within chaos is something we do inside our own bodies everyday, so why not model care that reflects that? 

Cupping with Karinn Casey. Courtesy of Grace Martineau.

SDS: When I think of acupuncture I think of the needles – what are some other aspects of acupuncture? 

KC: Traditional Chinese medicine is an umbrella for acupuncture, herbalism, nutrition, body movement, and philosophy. In America we streamline all of these subjects all into a rigorous 5-year master/doctorate program. However, in China, these are individual specializations and each subject is studied within its own school. The way we have physical therapists, pharmacists, and surgeons in Western medicine, there’s an interactive network for treatment in Chinese Medicine as well. It’s the original integrative medicine model. 

For those who are averse to needles, have no fear, because honestly, it’s already so brave to book an appointment in the first place. Massage and cupping are ringers in reducing pain and  stress; therapeutic touch is something most everyone doesn’t get enough of and I include it with all of my treatments. Herbal medicine is far more effective than acupuncture in treating digestion and skin conditions. I have my opinions on why I would use one over the other, but the first matter of business is understanding my patients’ comfort level. Ultimately, a patient won’t continue to show up and heal unless it’s on their terms. It’s very common to warm up to the idea, as well as be completely turned off from a bad experience. Lao Tzu says, “Nature does not hurry,  yet everything is accomplished.” Same with the healing process. 

SDS: What is the purpose of acupuncture and how do you know if you need it? 

KC: I feel people should only receive acupuncture when they are personally ready – no sooner. Albeit any fear, my blind recommendation would be for: post surgery, fertility, energy inconsistencies, mental health, and literally a million more things. If I were to attach acupuncture to a “need” it would be for chronic pain management. There are studies that show more immediate pain relief after acupuncture versus meds, and we’re in an absolute opioid crisis. People are losing themselves and their closest family and friends to heroin overdoses that started with an injury. If I sound mad or sad, it’s because I am. There are better ways for people that don’t profit off of your pain and chaos.

SDS: Do you have any success stories of acupuncture you can share? 

KC: I really thought sports medicine (keeping athletes on track and pain free) would be my focus, but it quickly shifted to simply providing a safe environment for first timers. I myself am a huge success story and was very afraid of needles, and I consider each of my patients a miracle for showing up and talking about their feelings. 

Something I’m proud of is my facilitation of pregnancy for women and men in their late 30s and early 40s. Our ability to produce life depends equally on both sex organs, and unfortunately the burden is most heavily on ladies. Acupuncture works with both the female egg and sperm, reducing stress and improving blood flow to the reproductive organs. It’s huge for people looking to conceive. 

SDS: What’s the best way to find an acupuncturist? Any qualifications you look out for? 

KC: If you ask ten people what they love about their acupuncturist, they’ll say ten different things, and that’s awesome. I always recommend that people trust their gut, because true healing won’t occur unless there’s a good connection between both parties. In my opinion, your acupuncturist should be kind, fair, transparent about fees, considerate and compassionate. I just treat people how I would want to be treated and that works pretty well!

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