In the last ten years, acupuncture has begun to grow beyond the shadow of allopathic medicine into the sunny acceptance of mainstream health care. Indeed, Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture have withstood the test time, flourishing for over 3000 years, and for many of us, has long been the primary method to maintain heath and treat illness.
Choosing acupuncture is obviously a personal choice, but there are some factors that may help clarify whether acupuncture is right for you.
There are endless reasons why doctors often misdiagnosis a condition or illness, which is why getting more than one, (two or three) opinions is a wise choice. Not all doctors are the exceptional made-for-TV diagnostician, House, and it’s not uncommon for patients to have had numerous encounters with allopathic doctors that left patients no better for their efforts, and in some instances, worse.
Case in point, I once had a female doctor tell me I needed to have my left breast removed since she had discovered several lumps in a routine exam. I was 27 years old at the time, and devastated. A friend suggested Rush–Presbyterian–St. Luke’sMedical Center Woman’s Cancer Clinic for a second opinion. I made an appointment, and within 24 hours was fortunate to meet with a doctor who asked the right questions, truly listened and through an examination determined the lumps in my breast were most likely Fibrocystic Breast Disease due to diet and the monthly fluctuation of my menstrual cycle. This doctor made the most insightful determination to gauge whether a lump is dangerous and needs immediate attention or whether a lump is not so dangerous. According to this cancer specialist, a dangerous lump in a breast feels hard, like a marble under the skin. A not-as-likely to be dangerous lump feels softer, like a grape under the skin. As it turned out, my lumps were squishy, I did not need surgery, and in fact had fibrocystic breasts, which I treated through diet and Traditional Chinese Medicine, (TCM).
Another way TCM differs from allopathic medicine is it takes the whole person into account, not just the area that is in question; its diagnosis is predicated on the idea that each person’s symptoms are a unique expression of commonalities such as the heart, kidneys, liver, spleen, etc.
Acupuncture may also be a good fit for you if you have an inclination towards non-invasive, natural routes to heal your body. TCM works with the body’s chi or “energy flow,” to clear toxins from the body. The use of needles in TCM is a way to clear out blocked, stagnant, damp, hot, windy, imbalances and allow the body’s immune system to do its job better.
For those of you imagining being a human pincushion during an acupuncture treatment, I can tell you this. Some needles are thinner than a strand of fine hair, most of the time there is no pain, and if fact, rather than pain, one can feel their chi moving. Moreover, acupuncturists choose needles depending on the area, the patient’s comfort level, and the sensitivity of the point.
Additionally, TCM is typically supplemented by Chinese herbs, which can be delivered as granules or raw herbs, and made into what is known in my house as “stinky Chinese tea.” Despite their aromatic drawback, Chinese herbs work to clear out toxins and fortify the immune system.
Finally, and perhaps the most practical reason to determine if acupuncture is right for you is its affordability factor. Acupuncture is a bargain when compared to the high cost of mainstream medicine, and especially attractive in today’s economic climate.
A typical acupuncture treatment can range from $20 to $65 dollars, not including herbs. Most of the time acupuncture practitioners offer a sliding scale, or you may be fortunate to have an acupuncture clinic or school nearby that offers lower rates.
There’s no argument that allopathic medicine is a significant star in the firmament of modern medicine, but it’s become more and more apparent that when it comes to health and wellness, one size medicine does not fit all. While acupuncture is not without its naysayers, it is a good fit for some of us, and its goal is the same as its Western counterpart: to achieve wellness.
For more information on TCM and acupuncture read Between Heaven and Earth: A Guide to Chinese Medicine by Harriet Beinfield and Efrem Korngold