Brendan Carney ’02

Brendan Carney ’02, an acupuncturist in Newton, MA, recently traveled to Italy to study the Stecco Fascial Manipulation style of manual therapy.

What was your major at Colby-Sawyer?

Exercise and sport science with a concentration in sports management.

What is your chosen profession?

I am an acupuncturist working in Newton, MA. Previously, I worked at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and taught at the Structural Acupuncture for Physicians program at Harvard Medical School. I am opening a new business by the NH seacoast in 2018 with a focus on fascial manipulation.

What drew you to a career in acupuncture?

I had taken a few classes in meditation and was studying eastern philosophy, yoga and martial arts. I wanted a career where I could actively help people in the health and wellness realm. Acupuncture seemed like a unique blend of old and new, combining energy with systematic medicine. There were rules and a system, compared to some energy-based medicine where it’s much fuzzier. My interests have been to fill holes in western medicine where it seems people need help. This led me on a path to learn trigger point dry needling in 2012, which led to learning more about fascia, a different method of acupuncture, in 2016.

You took a trip to Italy to study new acupuncture methods. Can you explain in more detail about that?

I traveled to Italy to study the Stecco Fascial Manipulation (FM) style of manual therapy. Modern-day acupuncture has experienced two major changes. First, in 1950s China, Communist Party leader Mao Zedong mandated a unified form of acupuncture, standardizing many treatment protocols. This is the form of acupuncture largely practiced in the west today. Unsurprisingly, standardized treatments aren’t as effective as treatments customized for each patient. The second change had to do with the needles used. Traditionally, acupuncturists used larger needles which were applied more sparingly. Modern technology manufactured smaller needles leading to less pain and coincidently less fascial stimulation. This is contrary to the classical practice of acupuncture, where acupuncturists would use their hands, elbows or even feet to manipulate and change acupuncture points, restore tissue movement, blood flow, and organ mobility and therefore the flow of qi to the body. The restoration of classic acupuncture point manipulation enables the convergence of classic acupuncture techniques with the western science of myofascial function. In short, for the first time western science now offers an explanation of why and how acupuncture works!

What are some common misconceptions about acupuncture?

The biggest one is that it is all based on ‘qi’ or energy. Acupuncture uses needles or hands-on manual therapy to change the physical structure of the body for improved function. It is ultimately a structural therapy. Because we do not have an integrated concept of qi in western society as they do in Asia, our society sometimes misunderstands and views acupuncture as an alternative energy-based therapy. This is changing.

What are some of your favorite memories from your time at Colby-Sawyer?

I have great memories of winning LOTS of basketball games. We won the conference championships in 2001 and 2002. The game in 2002 happened to fall on my 21st birthday. After the game someone started singing “Happy Birthday.” Even though most of the crowd didn’t know who they were singing for, the fans all joined in. There was great community and comradery. And of course, it snowed at our graduation in May 2002. Someone built a snowman outside the graduation tent.

Any favorite professors?

I had some great professors who challenged me a lot. David Blaire, Jean Eckrich and Beth Crockford stick out in my head but there were others.

How did college life impact you?

When I entered Colby-Sawyer I was very serious! I transferred from Union College and was really intense about school and basketball. The school has a sweetness to it that softened my approach and allowed me to become more well-rounded and enjoy the experience. I also met my wife at Colby-Sawyer. I still drive through campus frequently and fondly remember many happy times of a small rural school that teased out and nourished my strengths and did a pretty good job at preparing me for the real world.