What is Oriental Medicine?
Oriental Medicine includes many varieties of therapies including Chinese Herbal Medicine, Asian Bodywork therapies, movement therapies (Tai Chi, Qi Gong, etc), dietary therapy, and of course, the most well-known: Acupuncture. After a history of more than 2000-4000 years, making Traditional Chinese Medicine the oldest continuous medicinal system on the planet, the Information Age has finally catapulted this exquisitely-elegant medicine into the American spotlight. By 2002, an estimated 8.2 million Americans were using Acupuncture annually.
TCM has its origin in ancient Taoist philosophy which views a person as an energy system in which body and mind are unified, each influencing and balancing the other. Unlike modern allopathic medicine, which attempts to isolate and separate a disease from a person, Chinese Medicine emphasizes a holistic approach that treats the entire person as an integrated whole: mind, body and spirit. Many people have found Traditional Chinese methods to be excellent tools for maintaining optimum physical health, preventing illness and maintaining an overall state of wellness. It is effective for physical, psychological and emotional problems.
The term acupuncture describes a family of procedures involving stimulation of anatomical points on the body by a variety of techniques. American practices of acupuncture incorporate medical traditions from China, Japan, Korea, and other countries. The acupuncture technique that has been most studied scientifically involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles that are manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation.
How does acupuncture work?
Chinese Medicine is based on a very simple principle: that is that the mind and body are not viewed separately, but as part of an energetic, interconnected system and that the human body is an integrated whole, not a bunch of parts and pieces. That holistic philosophy is always present in the mind of a TCM practitioner and is reflected continuously throughout the entire theory and practice of the medicine.
After gathering a thorough health history, observing your symptoms and signs, and taking into account your absolute uniqueness as an individual, Acupuncturists are able to determine the underlying imbalance(s) that you and your body are experiencing. Seemingly unrelated symptoms and conditions, when looked at holistically, point to an underlying “root conditions,” the correction of which will ultimately be the target of your Acupuncture treatments.
Based on your unique pattern of disharmony, your acupuncturist will be able to locate the precise points on your body that will unblock the meridians and allow the free flow of Qi to continue. In this way, acupuncture can regulate and restore the balance of your body.
How safe is acupuncture?
Acupuncture is minimally invasive and extremely safe. It is an all-natural, drug-free therapy, yielding no side effects except for the feelings of relaxation, the elimination of your symptoms, and a sense of well-being. There is little danger of any direct infection from acupuncture needles.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved acupuncture needles for use by licensed practitioners in 1996. Relatively few complications from the use of acupuncture have been reported to the FDA in light of the millions of people treated each year and the number of acupuncture needles used. Still, complications have resulted from inadequate sterilization of needles and from improper delivery of treatments. Practitioners should use a new set of disposable needles taken from a sealed package for each patient and should swab treatment sites with alcohol or another disinfectant before inserting needles. When not delivered properly, acupuncture can cause serious adverse effects, including infections and punctured organs.
Besides being very safe, most patients also report that acupuncture treatments are not only relatively painless, but also extremely relaxing and it is very common for even the high-anxiety patients to fall asleep during treatments. This is because Acupuncture massive amounts of endorphins from your brain, helping to calm your Sympathetic Nervous System, and taking you from that insideous, high-stress “fight-or-flight” mode, to a nice, peaceful, “rest-and-relax” mode. This often occurs within minutes, and yes- even if you are afraid of needles.
What is Qi?
At the core of this ancient medicine is the philosophy of Qi (pronounced “chee”). Qi is said to be the circulating life energy that is inherent in all things and the energy responsible for controlling the workings of the human mind and body. It is essentially “the fuel for the fire.” This energy circulates throughout the body along a specific, interconnected series of pathways called meridians or channels.
The Chinese masters of Acupuncture and Herbal medicine visualize the Channels or Meridians as analoguous to a water system where water arises from the earth via a well or spring and gradually grows to form creeks, streams, rivers and finally emptying into the sea.
The Qi flows in the channels in a predictable manner like currents in a waterway or in an electrical system. Where a river flows, it transports life-giving water and nutrients that nourishes the land (the land here is you). Where electricity flows ther is light and life. The 14 main channels that traverse through out the body are connected to the organs, muscle groups, nerves, and glands. Here is where acupuncture directly interacts with your body. Each channel has acu points, sites where the Qi is influenced.
The channels are like rivers transporting life-giving Qi to nourish and energize every cell, organ, gland, tissue and muscle. Where Qi goes Blood goes, this is how Qi provides life-giving sustenance to the body and mind. Qi is the motive force for the blood to move, ah, but this is just a glimpse into the vast powers of the Qi.
When Qi flows freely in your body and is properly balanced, in the proper amounts, you experience good physical, mental and emotional well-being. An obstruction of Qi anywhere in the body acts like a dam in a river, backing up the flow. This blockage can hinder the distribution of nourishment that your body requires to function properly. Acupuncture works to restore normal functions by stimulating certain points on the meridians in order to release blockages and re-balance the flow of Qi.
When Qi flows freely throughout the body there are no health issues, no pain. You enjoy a good physical, mental and emotional well-being. Any obstruction of Qi in the body is like a dam, backing up the flow of Qi in one area and restricting it in others. Blockages prevent the distribution of the nourishment (the blood) that the body requires to function in optimal balance.
Do the needles hurt?
The sensation caused by an acupuncture needle varies. Needling sensation is one of the key elements to a successful acupuncture treatment and is experienced by each person differently. This sensation may vary with treatment and is described as numbness, tingling, stinging, dull ache, warmth, a cooling off, or other sensations that is not simple pain.
Sometimes people experience a sensation of energy spreading and moving around the needle. Most people feel only minimal discomfort or no discomfort at all. It is understood that some acupuncture points may involve a more painful response than others. All these reactions are good and a sign that the treatment is working. After treatment, you may feel energized or may experience a deep sense of relaxation and well-being.
How many treatments will I need?
Every body is different and therefore, each person will experience different needs. A definitive prognosis is difficult to formulate in advance and even following the initial consultation. Treatment frequency and duration will depend on a variety of factors: your body’s core constitution and the state of Qi and blood flow in your body, your age, your lifestyle, the severity and duration of the condition being treated, and your willingness to participate in your own healing process by making appropriate adjustments to your lifestyle habits, diet and exercise routines if necessary.
Acupuncture is considered a “cumulative medicine,” in other words, the treatments build on each other. Our mutual target, of course, is to stimulate your body’s own natural healing capabilities. While many people will feel some change in their condition immediately or within the first 2-3 treatments, others with more serious will need more of a long-term treatment before a significant, lasting change occurs. On average, most people will require 5-10 visits, once per week.Continued care over the following weeks and months may also be needed to further reduce your symptoms and eliminate any re-occurrence. Be aware that sometimes changes can appear slow and subtle as your entire body begins to re-balance and heal itself. Do not be discouraged if you don’t see immediate changes, it doesn’t mean changes aren’t occurring!
What should I expect during my visit?
During your first office visit, you will be asked about your health condition, pain, bathroom habits, diet, physical activity, sexual activity, lifestyle, and behavior. All your information will be held in confidence and your privacy will be respected. This office follows the federal HIPPA guidlines for protecing your privacy. The practitioner will want to obtain a complete picture of your treatment needs and behaviors that may contribute to your condition. Inform the acupuncturist about all treatments and medications you are taking and all medical conditions you have.
How Do I Choose An Acupuncturist?
Your healthcare practitioner should be someone you feel totally comfortable with, who listens to you and gives you the quality, care and compassion that you deserve. That person should be well trained and experienced. If you’re considering Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine therapy, this means that you should be seeing a qualified, Licensed Acupuncturist (L.Ac.).
Not all Acupuncturists are created equal. There is an important difference between a Licensed Acupuncturist and a physician or other health care practitioner who is a “Certified Acupuncturist.” Certification is much less rigorous in terms of its requirements to insert needles. It is basically an easier way for some health care providers to call themselves acupuncturists. In many cases, they become “certified acupuncturists” with 300 hours of classroom training, much of which consists of watching videos, there are usually no certification exams, and in many cases 0 hours of clinical experience. This level of training is simply not adequate for understanding the vast complexity of the Chinese medical system.
Licensed Acupuncturists, on the other hand, must first attend a state approved school of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine which requires between 3 and 4 years of graduate level education in both Western Medicine and Oriental Medicine. This includes approximately 3000 classroom hours and 1000-1500 hours of supervised clinical internship. They are also required to successfully pass National Board Exams (NCCAOM) and fulfill rigorous requirements for State licensure. Chinese medicine is an extremely complex science that is literally thousands of years old. With over a thousand herbs and hundreds of points, learning how to use them effectively takes years of dedication and experience.
Make sure that the Acupuncturist you choose is state licensed and has graduated from Nationally accredited school of Oriental Medicine.
Will my insurance cover acupuncture?
Some insurance companies currently cover acupuncture or manipulative therapy if they do not cover acupuncture services. Currently some plans from Aetna, Cigna, and Blue Cross & Blue Shield do cover either Acupuncture or Manual Therapy or both. Insurance coverage varies from state to state. If your insurance carrier covers the treatment, my office can give you the necessary codes for you to file.
Terms of Acupuncture
CAM (Complementary and alternative medicine): A group of diverse medical and health care systems, practices, and products that are not presently considered an integral part of conventional medicine. Complementary medicine is used together with conventional medicine, and alternative medicine is used in place of conventional medicine. Some health care providers practice both CAM and conventional medicine.
Conventional medicine: A whole medical system practiced by holders of M.D. (medical doctor) or D.O. (doctor of osteopathy) degrees and by their allied health professionals, such as physical therapists, psychologists, and registered nurses. Other terms for conventional medicine include allopathy; Western, mainstream, and orthodox medicine; and biomedicine.
Fibromyalgia: A complex chronic condition having multiple symptoms, including muscle pain, fatigue, and tenderness in precise, localized areas, particularly in the neck, spine, shoulders, and hips. People with this syndrome may also experience sleep disturbances, morning stiffness, irritable bowel syndrome, anxiety, and other symptoms.
Meridian: A traditional Chinese medicine term for each of the 20 pathways throughout the body for the flow of qi, or vital energy, accessed through acupuncture points.
Placebo: An inactive pill or procedure given to a participant in a research study as part of a test of the effects of another substance or treatment. Scientists use placebos to get a true picture of how the substance or treatment under investigation affects participants. In recent years, the definition of placebo has been expanded to include such things as aspects of interactions between patients and their health care providers that may affect their expectations and the study’s outcomes.
Qi: A Chinese term for vital energy or life force. In traditional Chinese medicine, qi (pronounced “chee”) is believed to regulate a person’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical balance, and to be influenced by the opposing forces of yin and yang.
TCM (Traditional Chinese medicine): A whole medical system that was documented in China in the 3rd century B.C. TCM is based on a concept of vital energy, or qi, that is believed to flow throughout the body. It is proposed to regulate a person’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical balance and to be influenced by the opposing forces of yin (negative energy) and yang (positive energy). Disease is proposed to result from the flow of qi being disrupted and yin and yang becoming unbalanced. Among the components of TCM are herbal and nutritional therapy, restorative physical exercises, meditation, acupuncture, and remedial massage.
Acupuncture is recognized by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to be effective in the treatment of a wide variety of medical problems. Here is a list of a few health concerns that acupuncture has been effective in treating:
- Addictions to alcohol, drug, smoking, food
- Facial Bells palsy/tics
- PMS Menstrual Issues
- Reproductive Problems
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Shoulder Pain
- Chronic Fatigue
- Sleep disturbances
- Common Cold
- Smoking Cessation
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Sore Throat
- Dental Pain
- Low back pain
- Tennis Elbow
- Menstrual Irregularities
- Digestive Trouble
- Tooth Pain
- Morning Sickness
- Trigeminal Neuralgia
- Urinary Tract Infections
- Emotional Problems
- Eye Problems
- Wrist Pain
- Post Stroke Recovery
- Upper Respiratory Tract
- Acute Sinusitis, Acute Rhinitis, Common Cold, Acute Tonsillitis
- Respiratory System
- Acute Bronchitis Bronchial Asthma (most effective in children and in patients without complicating diseases)
- Disorders of the Mouth
- Toothache (post-extraction pain) Gingivitis Acute and Chronic Pharyngitis
- Gastro-intestinal Disorders
- Spasms of Esophagus and Cardia Hiccough Gastroptosis Acute and chronic gastritis Gastric hyperacidity Chronic duodenal ulcer (pain relief) Acute duodenal ulcer (without complications) Acute and chronic colitis Acute bacillary dysentery Constipation Diarrhea Paralytic ileus
- Neurological and Musculo-skeletal Disorders
- Headache and Migraine Trigeminal Neuralgia Facial Palsy (early stage, i.e., within three to six months) Pareses (following a stroke) Peripheral Neuropathies Sequelae of Poliomyelitis (early stage, i.e., within six months) Meniere’s Disease Neurogenic Bladder Dysfunction Nocturnal Enuresis Intercostal Neuralgia Cervico-brachial Syndrome Frozen Shoulder Tennis Elbow Sciatica Low Back Pain Osteoarthritis