Under the broad umbrella of Chinese medicine there are a handful of treatment modalities that a practitioner can utilize to treat disease. Among them are the two most prominent which are acupuncture and Chinese herbs. In this two part post, we will first explain each one and then provide some context for how each is used and why.
First an overview of the energetics involved in Chinese medicine...
The human body is seen as a holistic being, meaning that all of it’s various systems are part of a greater whole that must be energetically and physically balanced to achieve maximum health and prevent disease.
Energetic balance can be defined as the relative balance of Qi (pronounced ‘chee’) throughout the body. Qi is the “life force” that flows freely within us. It animates us, protects us from illness, pain and disharmony. Our health is determined by the quality, abundance, availability and balance of our Qi.
Qi moves through the body via pathways called meridians or channels that connect the organs and glands to the rest of the body. Meridians can be compared to rivers or stream-flows that must be abundant and free from blockage to maintain health.
Practitioners can use acupuncture to restore the free-flow of Qi. Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin, sterile needles into specific points along the meridians. Stimulation of these points can restore the balance of energy in the body, allowing it to overcome disease.
Herbs are another means of balancing Qi. Over the past 2-3 millennia, scholars, physicians and farmers in China have harvested, cultivated, energetically categorized and become proficient at formulating herbs to treat disease. The Qi of each plant was recognized as having specific effects on human health and disease by way of it’s taste and temperature. Using the same theories as acupuncture to diagnosis energetic imbalance, an herbalist would prescribe a formula of herbs to address that imbalance and bring the body back into health. Modern science has confirmed that each plant or herb does have specific energetics which can be described by the active constituents found in that herb.
Next time we will compare and contrast these two different modalities.
The de facto standard of education for acupuncturists these days is a Master's degree...And many choose to pursue their doctorate.
There is a rigorous national board examination that has to be passed before an acupuncturist can apply for licensure...
And acupuncturists must complete 60 hours of continuing education every four years to maintain their license.
Acupuncturists in the state of Oregon are licensed by the medical board…This is the same board that licenses physicians.
Most acupuncturists have a general practice and see patients for many of the same things that doctors do….
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be either a complement or an alternative to western medicine.
Ultimately, the measure of a good acupuncturist can be based on the clinical results they achieve for their patients. If one is trying to choose an acupuncturist or has just begun seeing one, then what indicators can one look for to decide if the practitioner they are considering is any good?
•Have they completed any advanced training beyond their schooling and clinical training? Extended and focused study in a particular style under a master acupuncturist is a good indicator that someone has made an effort to become a better practitioner. 150-200 hours of such training is a minimum to achieve any competence in an individual style, where 350-500 hours is even better.
•The ability to provide a traditional diagnosis based on the theories of Chinese medicine and a comprehensive treatment plan after the first or second visit, is a very positive sign that a practitioner has a good understanding of one’s disease pattern and what would be involved in treating it.
•Can they achieve noticeable and meaningful change in one’s symptoms in 4-6 treatments or less? This doesn’t mean a cure should be expected in that time, but improvement in one’s main complaint should be obvious in a short period of time. This should provide confidence that a practitioner has the understanding and competence to successfully treat one’s condition.
•The fewer needles the better. The use of less than 4 or 5 points, (8-10 bilaterally) is a sign that a practitioner has a good understanding of the properties of individual points and that they have confidence in their treatment approach.
The above points are a great starting place to finding a good practitioner or to evaluate the acupuncturist you currently see, but in the end, results are what count!
Many people don’t realize that there are many different styles of acupuncture out there. In fact, there are almost as many different styles as there are practitioners who offer them; similar to the variety of cuisine offered in restaurants where each chef prepares the food just a little bit differently.
Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, French, German and even American styles of acupuncture are common. Under those broad headings, individual styles include: Five Element, Meridian Therapy, Traditional Chinese medicine and Classical Chinese medicine just to name a few. Then there are the myriad of systems based on and named after famous practitioners like: Kiiko Matsumoto style, Tung style, Tan style and Worsley style. When we add in the preferences each individual practitioner has when studying and implementing these styles it is easy to see just how varied the offerings of acupuncture really are.
There are no “right” or “wrong” styles, only good and better practitioners and just like with cuisine, the goal is to give the customer exactly the type of experience they are looking for, namely relief from their symptoms. Clinical results are always the best measure of whether a particular style is being performed appropriately.
Coming next week: How to tell if an acupuncturist is any good
Have a great week! :)
Bend Community Acupuncture
911 NE 4th St, Ste 2
Bend, OR 97701