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How might acupuncture and herbal medicine enhance the care you provide?
If you are a health care professional who is curious about acupuncture and herbal medicine that your patients may use, or if you are considering teaming with an licensed professional, read on.
In any type of health care, there are times when care can be provided by a single provider utilizing a single form of care, and times when a team is required.
Acupuncture is regarded as a very safe form of care with a very low rate of side effects. The most common side effect will be temporary aching or bruising at the site of acupuncture.
This medicine can be used in conjunction with other forms of care to speed healing and rehabilitation after a health crisis or surgery. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can provide resolution of symptoms, sometimes effectively enough to prevent the need for surgical intervention. Finally, it can be used effectively to manage illness or pain syndromes when there is no corrective procedure available or advisable.
TCM is also a great method of health prevention. Through this medicine's method of assessment, we are able to identify and correct early indicators of imbalances in the body before there is evidence of illness or disease.
Our TCM practitioners are happy to accept referrals from other health care providers and refer our clients to other practitioners. We commonly work as part of a team of health care providers.
Using two systems to complement each other can work very well. One system may treat symptoms while the other treats the root cause. The Oriental medicine may relieve the side effects or speed results of other treatments. Two different systems are often good at opposite pieces of the puzzle.
Each year, more research is being conducted utilizing acupuncture and herbal medicine. The development of this medicine was based on empirical evidence. Today, there is much effort put into using scientific method to substantiate this method of care using randomized, controlled studies. The challenge in researching this medicine using a reductionist method is that treatment in herbal medicine is holistic, in that it treats a symptom within the context of treating the patient's entire set of systems.
1. Treatment sessions
A treatment typically begins with an assessment and then may involve insertion of acupuncture needles or consultation on herbal medicine, foods or exercise. Treatment with acupuncture and Oriental medicine can be provided in varied settings: individual treatment rooms, hospital rooms, in the home, or in larger community rooms or groups.
Treatments can vary in length from 15-90 minutes depending on what is being done. If acupuncture is used, the needles are most commonly left in place for 20-30 minutes.
Frequency of treatment can vary. A patient may require more frequent treatments (2-3 times per week) for certain conditions or at the beginning of treatment and may only need to be treated once per week for a time after that. Once a problem has been resolved, a patient may choose to terminate treatment or seek periodic health maintenance treatments once per month or once per season.
The time span of a course of treatment can also vary depending on the condition being treated. A common guide is that the length of treatment will correspond to the length of time the person has had the condition for which they are seeking treatment. Some acute conditions may only require one treatment, where some long-term acute conditions will require treatment for a longer period, although each case varies.
Practitioners of Chinese medicine assess a person's state of health through a set of well-developed diagnostic methods, some unique to this medicine and others used in allopathic medicine.
Diagnosis is made through observation and analysis of external signs, even in the case of internal pathological changes. This medicine holds that the human body is an organic whole, and all parts are connected with each other through meridians or channels. Changes inside the body are reflected externally and can be observed through changes in complexion, emotion, pulse, or appearance of the tongue.
There are four examination methods in Chinese medicine:
-Listening: This includes questioning, history taking, and auscultation. The patient's history is important, as is listening to his or her voice.
-Looking: This involves observation of body tone, gait, facial expression, mannerisms as well as looking carefully at the tongue. The tongue body and tongue coat are inspected for color and appearance, which reveal internal conditions.
-Smelling: A practitioner will inquire about odors and tastes. These can be signs of imbalances in the body.
-Palpation: The practitioner may palpate certain areas of the body to check tone, temperature, sensitivity, accumulations or other signs of abnormalities. In addition the pulse is taken on both wrists. In addition to noting its rate, rhythm and overall strength, the provider will note the type of pulse quality. The texts classify 28 types of pulses. This is the truest way to corroborate a diagnosis in this medicine.
A skilled practitioner will integrate all of these examination methods to determine the source of discomfort or illness.
3. Treatment methods
Acupuncture, Cupping and Moxibustion
Chinese Herbal Medicine
The herbal approach to treatment involves using formulas that are a combination of herbs that are specific to the patient and their diagnosis. This allows patients to augment their acupuncture treatment at home. Because these formulas are prescribed based on the patient's constitution and current condition, rates of side effects are quite low.
Asian bodywork is the use of prescriptive massage techniques such as Tuina, acupressure, or shiatsu. These techniques usually involve stimulating the acupuncture points using specific movements that will achieve the best results. While bodywork may be used for any condition, it is especially effective for musculoskeletal conditions.
Dietary and Lifestyle Therapy
Practitioners of Oriental medicine believe that food is the same as medicine. Therefore, most practitioners will offer advice and guidelines about dietary choices. Dietary therapy may consist of ways to improve digestion and choosing easily digestible and nourishing foods, or they may prescribe foods that nourish a particular organ system or function in the body. In addition, lifestyle is thought of as having a big role in health and illness. Thus, a patient will often be given guidelines on stress reductions, exercise and sleep.
Qigong is an umbrella term that describes breathing, posture and movements that balance energy flow in the body. There are many forms of qi gong practice, which include tai chi, other martial arts and meditation. Some are quite active and others more tranquil. Practitioners may teach qi gong to their patients to facilitate quicker healing or for health maintenance. It can be very relaxing and calming.
The use of acupuncture has been shown to effectively treat many types of conditions. In 2003 the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) released a report called “Acupuncture: Review and Analysis of Reports on Controlled Clinical Trials.” Below you will see a list of the conditions mentioned in that report.
Please note that there are plenty of additional conditions which centuries of empirical data have shown acupuncture treats effectively but for which there is little or no modern western research. If you have questions about a condition not listed below, be sure to contact us so we can address your specific situation.
Respiratory System Conditions
Conditions of the Eye, Ear, Nose & Mouth
The websites listed below offer more information on integrating with acupuncture and Chinese medicine.