Acupuncture is considered “complementary medicine,” “alternative medicine” and “integrative medicine.” Complementary medicine means that it is a good adjunct to traditional, or “conventional” medicine (medicine that uses drugs, surgery and other modalities that we are most familiar with). It complements the effectiveness of these treatments, speeds healing and can lessen the amount of medications needed.
Acupuncture is also considered alternative. Some people choose not to use drugs or surgery to remedy their health challenges. These seek “alternative” treatments, such as acupuncture, as the sole means of treatment. Most are happy with this choice.
Acupuncture is considered “integrative.” According to www.Integrativemedicine.arizona.edu, “Integrative Medicine (IM) is healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person, including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship between practitioner and patient, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapies.” That describes acupuncture to the tee. Acupuncture, or rather “Oriental Medicine” or “Traditional Chinese Medicine,” are umbrella terms that include acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition, and many other modalities that are used together to heal the person — not just the symptom, but the person as a whole.
Looking at the individual as a whole person, and their symptoms as a whole, the individual pieces of a puzzle are put together to form a picture of the underlying mechanism of their health challenges. This healing art then takes the information and, through multi-disciplinary lifestyle changes, helps the person to have their health restored. The relationship between patient and practitioner — the trust, the commitment to care, and the recommendations of lifestyle changes that are doable — is an important component in success.
There are many theories of how acupuncture works.
From a traditional Chinese perspective, the body’s energy system, or “Qi” (pronounced “chee”), flows through the body in specific pathways in the body. When this qi is disrupted, the organs influenced are negatively impacted and disease results.
From a conventional medicine perspective: The insertion of acupuncture needles (which are more like a filament than a needle) into specific points (called “acu-points”) sends signals to the brain, causing the brain to release certain hormones such as endorphins, dynorphins and enkephalins — the person feels happy, maybe even euphoric, and has reduced sensation of pain. Acupuncture seems to excite certain biochemical actions from different centers in the brain such as the hypothalamus and pituitary.
Acupuncture also seems to work on the inflammatory systems in the body, helping the body to heal and also keeping runaway inflammation under control. It can significantly reduce the pro-inflammatory markers such as TNF and IL-1ß to decrease both inflammation and pain. Other points help to increase energy and regulate immune function. It helps to regulate hormones and is used frequently for infertility, menopausal symptoms and PMS.
Acupuncture works to relieve many health challenges and by many different mechanisms. In Part II, we’ll address world-wide acceptance of acupuncture.
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Holly Carling is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, Doctor of Naturopathy, Clinical Nutritionist and Master Herbologist with nearly four decades of experience. Carling is a “Health Detective,” she looks beyond your symptom picture and investigates WHY you are experiencing your symptoms in the first place. Carling is currently accepting new patients and offers natural health care services and whole food nutritional supplements in her Coeur d’Alene clinic. Visit Carling’s website at www.vitalhealthcda.com to learn more about Carling, view a list of upcoming health classes and read other informative articles. Carling can be reached at 208-765-1994 and would be happy to answer any questions regarding this topic.