As a western-trained physician, I am often frustrated by how limited our treatment options often can be. Patients are given more and more pills to swallow, each with risks of drug interactions or side-effects. When used appropriately, acupuncture can offer an alternative treatment option.
Acupuncture is an ancient system of healing that was developed in China over 2000 years ago. It is based on the concept that well-defined energy channels flow throughout the body. Disease is thought to be caused by a blockage of this energy flow, also known as “Xi.” By placing tiny thin needles at areas along these energy channels, proper flow can be re-established. Occasionally heat or electricity is used to further the flow of Xi.
In 2007, I was trained at the Helms Medical Institute, an acupuncture school for western-trained physicians. The Helms Medical Institute is affiliated with Stanford School of Medicine as well as UCLA and integrates the philosophies and advantages of each medical philosophy. As I am primarily an internal medicine physician, I feel it to be my first duty to understand what is causing a patient’s symptoms and only then can I decide what Eastern and Western management options are available. Oftentimes a combination of Western medicine and Eastern acupuncture is most effective.
Acupuncture needles do not usually cause significant discomfort when used. Indeed, it is not unusual for a patient to fall asleep or go into a state of deep relaxation during an acupuncture session. Moreover, acupuncture is extremely safe, as the needles used are all sterile and extremely thin. Although patients can often find prompt improvements of their symptoms after one acupuncture session, more often 5 acupuncture sessions are needed to achieve the desired result. Unfortunately, most insurance companies (including Medicare) do not cover acupuncture treatments.
Common Uses for Acupuncture:
- Pain syndromes
- Stress/ anxiety
- Smoking cessation
To learn more about acupuncture, please visit the website of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture.