Noe Valley Voice December-January 2003

Store Trek

Store Trek is a regular Voice feature profiling new shops and businesses in the neighborhood. This month we feature a new acupuncture office on Church Street.

Jennifer Prongos, Licensed Acupuncturist

1791 Church Street near 30th Street


Jennifer Prongos did not choose a new location for her acupuncture practice. Rather, it chose her.

Prongos was visiting her friends, shoemakers Suzanne George and Pietro Fonda, at their Church Street storefront one day when George and Fonda's landlords, Stephen Saribalis and Archie Occhipinti, stopped by the shop. After chatting amicably for a few minutes, Prongos and the landlords discovered one of those "small world" connections: the two men had grown up with Prongos' aunt in San Francisco. Further conversation revealed that the men had a vacant space in their building which seemed ideal for her acupuncture practice.

"I wasn't actively looking for a new place," says Prongos, whose office was located at 18th and Dolores at the time, "but I guess you could say the space provided itself. It was a very organic kind of thing."

An Orchid-Filled Oasis

Prongos opened her new office on Church, two doors from the corner of 30th Street, last December. Her aim was to create a comfortable haven where her patients would feel at home. The orchid-filled reception area has sage-green walls, and the two treatment rooms are painted soothing hues of blue and green. The furniture is covered in natural cotton fibers, and the environment is scent-free, to ensure the safety and well-being of her sometimes allergic or asthmatic patients.

Prongos practices traditional Chinese acupuncture, a 5,000-year-old discipline that treats the whole person as a means of preventing and curing ailments. "While many people in the U.S. focus on needle therapy as a form of natural anesthetic, there is less awareness of acupuncture as a holistic approach to prevention, healing, and overall wellness," she says.

Use of All Her Senses

At the patient's first visit, Prongos takes a thorough medical history. Then she puts all of her senses to work in examining the patient: she feels the pulse, looks at colors coming from the face, listens to the sound of the patient's voice, and checks odors coming from the body.

"A yellow hue coming off the face might mean that something is out of balance with the stomach," she says. "A groaning voice can indicate problems with the kidney or bladder."

Prongos also follows her nose to determine what ails you. Kidney trouble can be detected by a dank, watery smell. A cloying, sweet odor would point to stomach trouble, she says.

Once she has pinpointed the trouble spots, Prongos then proceeds to insert needles at strategic points on the patient's body.

"There are 12 meridians on the body," she says, "and you can think of the points as keyholes through which we can access the meridians and change the flow of energy in the body."

From Patient to Practitioner

Prongos has a long history of practicing bodywork in San Francisco. She started her career several decades ago as a physical therapist, treating lower back pain. While working in a clinic at St. Francis Hospital, she began to realize that Western medicine had its drawbacks. "The focus was always on the symptom, not on the person. I wanted to go deeper than that."

At the same time, Prongos developed a nagging ailment of her own. "I was having severe sinus trouble," she says. "I could not tolerate the medication for it, so I tried acupuncture and it gave me so much relief so quickly. It healed my problem."

Prongos was so convinced of acupuncture's efficacy that she decided to travel to Oxford, England, to attend the College of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture. After earning her acupuncture license and returning to the U.S., she interned and studied all over California. Today, she has been practicing acupuncture for 27 years.

"I see such a variety of patients," she says, "from children 7 years old, on up to seniors in their 80s." Common complaints include back pain, arthritis, fertility problems, stress, and stomach ailments.

An initial consultation and treatment with Jennifer Prongos lasts one hour and costs $170. Weekly follow-up treatments last 30 to 45 minutes and cost $85. Some treatments are covered by insurance, depending on the patient's provider. Seniors enjoy a discount, paying $70 per session.

Prongos also offers weekly classes in Qi Gong, simple exercises designed to promote general good health. The Thursday-evening classes cost $16 each or $125 for a series of eight. Call 415-285-6564 for exact time and location.

Office hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, appointments are recommended.

This month's Store Trek was written by Sharon Gillenwater.