Friday, September 7, 2007

These Middling Masses – Eric Saitta, L.Ac MSTCM

Eric began with ten questions.

“How’s your appetite?” he asked.

“Fierce,” I said.

“Any bloating or discomfort?”


“Do you ever experience loose bowel movements, diarrhea or constipation?”

His line of questioning was less surprising than the experience of entering his office. At the penthouse level of an eleven-story building in the center of Clayton, a St. Louis County suburb not far from Downtown, Eric’s clients are treated to what must be a health-enhancing view of maple-lined neighborhoods and the city’s infant light rail system. Past the gurgling fountain, a Buddha and the black leather chairs at reception, three treatment rooms outfitted with new massage tables and rolls of sanitary parchment invite sufferers from every camp.

I know Eric from high school. He’s no longer eighteen or uncertain about his life’s trajectory. He’s a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbologist. Having earned a master’s degree from the American Academy of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in St. Paul, Minnesota last January, he opened Upper Star, a Traditional Chinese Medicine clinic, less than two months ago.

“You’re tongue is kind of pale and your pulse is a little weak, but, generally, you seem to be pretty healthy.”

I was wasting his time.

When I first contacted Eric, I thought I’d play the guinea pig (or “sea pig” as they called them in Russia) and also ask him how it felt to leap from the ledge of dreams. I didn’t realize that without an ache or disorderly organ, acupuncture wasn’t for me.

“Traditional Chinese Medicine does work very well as a preventive medicine,” Eric said. “In ancient times, the doctors were only paid if their patients remained healthy.”

He didn’t charge me for non-services, but did offer to help my sister, Katie, a fiber artist of the finest stitch. She’s been suffering from chronic back and shoulder pain for the past eight years. It started when she was running cross-country in high school and has been compounded by two or three car accidents and a very poor massage recently administered in Savannah, Georgia.

Eric indicated that a series of acupuncture treatments would be most effective in addressing her pain, but, as she was scheduled to leave St. Louis in less than a week, a Chinese-style massage would provide temporary relief.

He asked her to rate the pain on a scale of one to ten, so Katie, with her middled heart, said five. Eric led her into one of the treatment rooms and asked her to lie down. She didn’t have to remove any clothing and massage oils were not involved.

I hovered for a few minutes, taking photos until I felt weird, then returned to the reception area to chat with Eric’s girlfriend and head receptionist, Sunisa, about life in the St. Louis suburbs. She’s originally from Nakhonsawan, Thailand and is currently working towards a master’s in Advertising and Market Communications at Webster University. The suburbs are, “okay.”

After the treatment, Katie looked like she’d plunged eight stories into a large down pillow. Eric had worked with an acupressure point just below her ankle and Katie said that some kind of energetic response had traveled all the way to her head. Her shoulder felt righteous.

Eric and I left Katie melting in reception and went into a corner office where he conducts consultations at a glass table. I asked him how he discovered acupuncture and the steps that led him to his own practice.

At age nineteen, Eric met a chiropractor who introduced him to natural medicine. Though Eric took an interest in the profession, he eventually wanted to pursue a “more holistic” approach to medicine and health. While living in Columbia, Missouri, he checked out a book documenting a series of clinical studies in acupuncture that he described as “boring.”

“I just fell in love with it, right then.”

Having completed his four-year study, Eric has treated patients with conditions as serious as cancer and advanced mental disorders stemming from brain damage. Though he is currently working with a patient who suffered a stroke five weeks ago in an effort to overcome the resulting motor impairment, the majority of cases, like Katie’s, are related to chronic pain.

With, according to Eric’s estimation, only ten to fifteen practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine currently serving the St. Louis Metropolitan area, he believes that bringing his skills home was the right decision.

“It’s a really good time to get started here. As the trend towards natural medicine continues in St. Louis, as it has in other cities, I’ll have more opportunity to expand and help as many people as I can.”

Eric is scheduled to speak at a forum in October hosted by the Arthritis Foundation of Eastern Missouri, which could attract more clients, though Eric puts most of his faith in the word of mouth.

“It just takes the right patient to come in and have success and then they’ll tell everyone they know.”

Though Traditional Chinese Medicine continues to be practiced in an alternative market, Eric believes it’s just a matter of time before its potential is acknowledged as an important component of the healthcare industry.

“Right now, Western science and medicine are having a hard time recognizing why acupuncture works. They see that it does work because of controlled clinical trials, but they can’t explain why.”

“So,” you might ask, “what have you really learned from your visit to Eric Saitta’s ultra sleek and professional office?”

I’ll let Eric field that one.

“In Chinese Medicine, the kidney is the most important organ in the whole body. That’s very strange from a Western perspective, but the kidneys regulate growth and development. They also regulate sexual function and the body’s yin and yang. By treating the kidney, you can treat every other organ.”


If you’d like to visit Eric for consultation and treatment, he’s located at 200 South Hanley Road, Suite 1103. He’s also got a website and a phone (314 727-2463).


Karla T. said...

Great article, precisely accurate. I myself visited Eric at his beautiful Clayton office. His professionalism and knowledge of the human body was top notch. He treated me for a chronic shoulder pain that amazingly, gave me immediate relief. Something that I have not experienced for more than three years. Although the need to return for a few more treatments, it certainly beats the monotonous physical therapy sessions that I previously endured. Thank you Eric and Good Luck with your business. It is nice to have you in the neighborhood offering us alternative treatment for chronic pain.
OKT, a very satisfied client.

Anonymous said...

I'm happy to learn about Eric, although no specific needs (pains) at the moment, I would definitely give it a try over drugs. Thanks for the enlightenment. CJB