Years ago, when I first visited an acupuncturist, I experienced the healing powers of acupuncture and not long after that day I started my 3 and a half year long journey to earn my BSc (Hons) degree at the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine as an acupuncturist. As a licensed therapist I now can combine and utilise every bit of knowledge as a psychologist and as an acupuncturist to help more.
Having a great understanding of Western Medicine as well as Chinese Medicine; I advocate a balanced approach is the way forward to treat patients.
There is a little bit of Yin in every Yang and there is a little bit of Yang in every Yin
Chinese Medicine is an ancient, comprehensive and holistic healing system of body, mind and soul. During their millennia long history, the preferred diagnostic methods have evolved and became more refined whilst the governing disciplines have virtually unchanged. Treatments may vary from acupuncture to moxibustion, cupping, gua sha, tui na, along with diet and lifestyle recommendation which are also vital and essential parts of the healing process. It is a tried and tested system, that is safe in the hands of a trained acupuncturist.
On the other hand, Western Medicine takes a more reductionist approach, largely credited to the Occam’s razor principle, preferring the simplest explanation. In the rationalist thinking something is this, therefore it cannot be that, such sharp distinction does not exist in Chinese Medicine – there is a little bit of Yin in every Yang and there is a little bit of Yang in every Yin. Both approaches have their own strengths and weaknesses, thankfully there is more and more collaboration between the two.
Western Medicine perceives illness as a physical issue and treats them as isolated issues, whereas Chinese Medicine links the physical and non-physical aspects, the psyche and the soma, focusing on and enhancing the body’s self-healing ability.
Whilst Western Medicine will provide medication, Chinese medicine can help rebuild the harmony of energies, relaxation, finding and maintaining a long-lasting balance. I feel that in this fast paced, stressful life we all live, acupuncture has an invaluable role to help re-balance the body, mind and soul, doing it all without the use of any foreign substances.
“Different diseases, same treatment; same disease, different treatment.” – Chinese proverb
I remember how I felt during my first ever encounter with acupuncture. I was not sure what to expect so I think it would be useful to share what an acupuncturist (me) does during your first visit.
During our first meeting we will do an assessment. I will ask about your medical history to gather a full understanding of your conditions from Western Medicine point of view. I often see people in my clinic who have no official diagnosis which could be very distressing for them.
I also carry out what we call as the systems check. I will ask how your sleep is, your diet, your energy levels during the day; your digestive, respiratory and circulatory systems; I also inquire about your vision and hearing and if applicable ask about your periods. I also look at your tongue, the colours of your face, the features of your skin, and the sparkle in your eyes. I often palpate certain channels and points on the body and will feel your pulse.
Sometimes these questions may seem not relevant to what you are seeking treatment for, but rest assured your answers give valuable information about what is happening in your body.
The reason why we need to know so many details is not a random one. In Chinese Medicine we always look for complex patterns and the Root (what is causing the symptoms) and assess holistically. This is not to say we do not treat the symptoms. We do. We just approach from a slightly different angle than an MD would.
There are Eight Principles that help me understand what is causing your symptoms. These Principles are: Yin - Yang, Internal - External, Hot - Cold, Full - Empty.
- Yin is everything that is calm, cool and nourishing, Yang is everything that is active and warm. They are complementary yet polar opposites of each other. When Yin and Yang is in balance in our bodies, we are healthy; if this balance is disturbed, however, illness arises.
- If the illness is Internal, it arises within the body as a disharmony.
- An External illness will cause symptoms on the exterior of the body: a good example of this is a cold with chills and aversion to wind.
- Hot, such as a fever or a sore throat would be or Cold, when the only thing we want is a hot drink and a soft blanket we can wrap ourselves in.
- a Full condition may be a sign of having coarse voice or a pain that is worse on pressure.
- Empty condition can manifest as a tiredness for example.
These categories often combine - to be Internal Cold for example and are not rigid; understanding these principles can help tremendously to understand and sort out complicated patterns.
Each case is assessed individually and holistically. By looking at the whole person and their needs, a unique treatment plan is formed. We don’t only treat the symptoms we treat the person as a whole. Two people can have the same diagnosis but with different disease, therefore, they will receive different treatment, we treat no two person the same. As the Chinese proverb goes ‘different diseases, same treatment; same disease, different treatment’.
I would also like to emphasize that you do not have to be ill to get acupuncture as it is great as a preventative medicine due to its ability to restore, strengthen and harmonize the resources of the body.
The results of the ever growing numbers of clinical trials are proving the effectiveness of acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. Bridging the gap between Western medicine and Chinese medicine may hold the key to providing a better care.