Here in the West, Acupuncture is known mainly for it’s analgesic (pain relieving) power. It’s often advertised as a low-risk, side effect free alternative to medication. While this is 100% true, there is so much more to Acupuncture and Chinese medicine than just pain relief. Due to it’s holistic nature, Acupuncture can be used to treat, or to assist in the treatment of almost any illness. Note that there is a difference between a TREATMENT, and a CURE. It would be irresponsible of me to use these words interchangeably. Acupuncture is not magic, it is not a miracle modality that can rid you of your ailments overnight. We can do a lot of good, and facilitate a lot of healing, but it has it’s limits. An example I like to use is Cancer treatment. Acupuncture and Herbal medicine cannot cure cancer on their own. Many practitioners will make irresponsible, and dangerous claims otherwise – but it can’t. Acupuncture can however be used to mitigate some of the side effects of Western Cancer treatment. For example, Chinese Medicine has been shown to have marked results in the treatment of chemotherapy related nausea, vomiting, and dry mouth, as well as cancer related pain and fatigue. This shows that Acupuncture can be a powerful tool in the TREATMENT of cancer, but it cannot cure cancer. Now that we understand the difference between a treatment and a cure, let’s move on to some Acupuncture Theory.
In an Acupuncture Treatment needles are inserted into Acupuncture points which fall along meridians. These needles help to facilitate the flow of Qi in the body, by breaking up stagnation (blockages in Qi flow). When Qi is able to flow uninhibited, we are in good health. (You may remember from my previous post that I’m not a big fan of referring to Qi as simply “energy” or lifeforce” and opt for the more modern term: bioelectricity.) Now, these meridians don’t simply run along the surface of the body, they travel inward to connect to our internal organs, sense organs, muscles etc. It’s a vast network that connects the entire human body. Qi is what allows these different areas of the body to communicate, and interact with each other. Needling an Acupuncture point which falls on a meridian that connects with the eyes, can have a positive effect on vision. As can needling a point which falls on a meridian that connects to the liver, low back, or anywhere else in the body. Because of this, Acupuncture can essentially be used to treat any ailment that falls along the trajectory of a meridian.
Chinese Medicine, unlike it’s Western reductionist counterpart, is a holistic system of healing which takes into account a person’s entire being. There is no marked separation between a patient’s body, mind and spirit. Therefore, changes made to one of these aspects can have effects on the others. Treat the body, and you can affect the mind. Treat the mind and you can affect the body. Treatment of disease is also unique, person to person. While Western medicine may take 10 patients with back pain and treat them all the same way, Chinese Medicine takes into account each person’s symptoms in addition to their individual constitution, lifestyle habits, and emotional state. Acupuncturists don’t simply treat symptoms, they get to the root of a person’s disharmony and treat from there. This is a vital component to healing that is missing from Western Medicine.
If Chinese Medical theory doesn’t jive with you, and you need peer reviewed research in order to truly have faith in our medicine – I’ll link you HERE to an article outlining the World Health Organizations official stance on Acupuncture. They list 28 diseases which Acupuncture been proven through controlled trials to be an effective form of treatment. There are many more diseases further down the list which say Acupuncture is likely effective, but more research is needed. There is solid research out there that proves, scientifically, that Acupuncture is a legitimate form of treatment.
Western and Eastern Medicine are very different, but they both have their strengths. In general, Chinese Medicine is beneficial for chronic disorders, whereas Western Medicine has better results with more acute, and emergency medical care. Western Medicine is all about getting you well enough to function outside of a hospital. Some of their treatments may be rougher on the body, but they keep patients ALIVE. Chinese Medicine is about prevention of disease, the fostering of a healthy lifestyle – so you can avoid a trip to the hospital! If you have a tumor, or a gunshot wound – obviously go to a doctor! But there is so much more to health than the treatment of life threatening disorders. Things like pain, anxiety, even chronic heart burn – can all take a toll a person’s quality of life. If you want a gentle modality that really gets to the root of your issues, consider Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine.
If you’re living in Edmonton, Alberta and would like to book an appointment with me (Jon McDonell), click HERE!