Q: What Is Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine?

Health | | May 21, 2010 at 8:00 am
Photo by Mai Le.

Photo by Mai Le.

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  • Q: What is Chinese medicine? Traditional Chinese medicine is based on the idea that pathways of energy, or qi, run in regular patterns through the body and over its surface. These channels are called meridians and they flow like rivers through the body to irrigate and nourish the tissues. An obstruction in the movement of these energy rivers is like a dam that backs up, creating imbalance and pain. Acupuncture works with the body’s innate ability to heal itself. Once pathways have been unblocked, the body’s natural healing response can take place. Chinese medicine is a standardized medical system that has been effectively used for centuries to prevent, diagnose, and treat illness. While many think of acupuncture as a treatment for pain, its use is far more vast. Acupuncture, a modality of Chinese medicine dates back over 2500 years and has been used since, throughout the centuries. Now popularized internationally, The World Health Organization recognizes acupuncture and Chinese medical modalities as safe and effective methods of medical treatment.
  • Q: What sort of education and clinical experience do they receive? Chinese medical educational institutions develop curriculum which will enable students to function as primary independent health care providers. The most comprehensive programs include an intensive study of Chinese medical theory, the study and research of western biomedical sciences and the psycho-social aspects of medical theory and practice. This curriculum along with core course work is developed to reflect the ever-changing health care needs of modern society. Clinical internships reflect the evolution of integrative medicine and offer interface with both eastern and western medical modalities. Chinese medical students participate in a minimum of 2000 hours of course work and see over 500 patients before completing their program of study.
  • Q: How does licensing and certification work? A unified licensing system is still being sought in the United States. Currently each state outlines the rules and regulations Chinese medical practitioners must observe before rendering medical treatment to the public. Most states require practitioners receive formal licensing, yet do not require board certification at this time. Licensing is generally dependent upon length of education and clinical experience. The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine was established to assess and promote recognized standards of competence and safety in acupuncture and Oriental medicine for the protection and benefit of the public. Their mission is to improve the quality of its examinations and advance the development of certification research and fulfill its responsibility of protecting the public from unsafe practice. While not all states require certification, almost all require the passing of the national exam to obtain state licensing to practice.
  • Q: How do I choose a Chinese medical practitioner? When choosing a qualified practitioner it is important to distinguish between medical doctors that are practicing needling or a traditional or classically trained practitioner of Chinese medicine. Preferably, the clinician that has studied the theories and modalities of Chinese medicine extensively in one of the aforementioned fully accredited programs should be chosen.
  • Q: What is an acupuncture treatment like? Does it hurt? No! During an acupuncture treatment hair-thin sterilized needles are gently inserted into the skin to promote the circulation of qi and blood. The flow of qi and blood is best understood as the release of neurochemicals which transfer messages to the nervous system. While a dull ache-y or heavy sensation is generally experienced, most people find acupuncture treatment painless and quite relaxing.
  • Q: How does acupuncture work?  Acupuncture works by restoring and bringing about balance throughout the body. Once inserted, the acupuncture needles transfer neurochemical messages to enhance communication between the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems. Researchers use  functional magnetic resonance imaging and positron emission tomography to reveal how the brain lights up when acupuncture needles are inserted into the skin. These areas reflect an observable change within the physiology.
  • Q: What does acupuncture treat? Acupuncture safely treats, but is not limited to anxiety, pain, insomnia, hormonal and endocrine issues, immune system disorders, headache, pediatric illness, allergies, gastro-intestinal-related illness and discomfort, female and male infertility and reproductive concerns, high blood pressure, stroke, respiratory issues, pregnancy related concerns, uro-genital health, musculo-skeletal concerns and orthopedic-neurological conditions. These concerns respond to acupuncture by regulating and balancing the nervous system.
  • Q: Is acupuncture safe? The needles are all sterile, pre-packaged and used one time only. The needles are hair-fine, with a solid center unlike the hollow hypodermic needles used to take blood. There is usually no marking on the skin after the needle is removed.
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