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Chinese acupuncture brings 'sunshine' to River Falls

Dr. Xiao Liu and Jim MacTavish stand in their new River Falls business Sunshine Traditional Chinese Acupuncture in front of Dr. Liu’s various medical degrees. (RiverTown Multimedia photo by Matthew Lambert)

RIVER FALLS -- You don’t have to travel to China to receive an authentic Chinese acupuncture session. Instead married couple Dr. Xiao Yan Liu and James MacTavish have opened up Sunshine Traditional Chinese Acupuncture at 101 N. Main St., River Falls.

The place has been open since Dec. 1, with business being “a little slow” according to Liu, but she feels that maybe people aren’t sure what acupuncture is.

“Some people don’t know what acupuncture means and the help you can get from acupuncture,” Liu said.

Liu was born in China and received training in acupuncture at Shanghai’s Sixth People’s Hospital. She obtained her doctorate in acupuncture from Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

In it’s simplest form, Liu said that acupuncture is using needles, varying in size, that are inserted into places on the body called meridian points. Through the meridian points, the needles help adjust the organs.

Another crucial element of acupuncture is Qi (pronounced chee). Liu said that Qi is a kind of force that flows through the body. If Qi is stagnant in the body, that’s when acupuncture can be used to move it around or activate it.

“We treat people from outside to inside,” Liu said. “Western medicine doctor treat, just give you medication, treat your inside.

“We focus on the body and balance situation. We use the needles to correct the imbalance problem in your body.”

Before the needles can be inserted, Liu meets individually to discuss current pains and family history with illness or injury to decide where the needles need to go and how long they need to be inserted.

Liu claims she can tell which organs are doing something wrong by doing three steps.

“All the organ’s functions reflect from your tongue, your pulse and from your face,” Liu said.

People who experience fits of anger or sadness can have a dry tongue or people will have a bitter taste in their mouth.

Liu and MacTavish understand that a phobia of needles from customers could be real, but Liu swears the needles are painless.

“I don’t think it hurts,” Liu said.

Even Liu’s father was afraid of needles, but Liu has found it’s easier to explain how small the needles are once the patient sees them.

“It’s not like a hypodermic needle, it’s much thinner,” MacTavish said. “Sometimes it’s pressure. Sometimes it’s a little sting. Sometimes it’s almost like a little charge.

“It depends. When I’ve had it done to me it’s kind of those three main feelings.”

Sunshine offers herbal consultations and cupping (a therapy with heated glass cups applied to the skin along body meridians). Liu said after an initial consultation and acupuncture session, prices will be discounted for second-time customers and elderly people will receive even further discounts.

Coming to the United States was a difficult decision for the couple after they met in China where Liu was finishing up her master’s degree and MacTavish was teaching students English through the Peace Corps.

After finishing her degree, the couple moved to Shanghai where MacTavish contract taught for different universities.

The couple moved to St. Paul, and recently bought a house in River Falls. MacTavish grew up in Somerset and still has family in the area.

Liu and MacTavish said that acupuncture can cure many ailments ranging from aches and pains to insomnia and allergies.

Ultimately, Liu’s said people seeking treatmentmay be helped in other areas beyond the one health problem they think they have.

“If the patient comes in with just acute pain, like a sprained ankle, I can treat that problem and other problems at the same time,” Liu said.

For more information on Sunshine Traditional Chinese Acupuncture, visit

Matthew Lambert

Matthew Lambert joined the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal in December 2016 covering government, school board, and writing features about the community. He is a graduate of Winona State University with a Bachelor's degree in Journalism.