Acupuncture: East vs. West?
Is there any difference between acupuncture done by Traditional Chinese practitioners and the acupuncture practiced by Western doctors today?
Yes, there are differences -- Traditional Chinese (or Eastern) acupuncture is much more prevention and wellness oriented while medical (or Western) acupuncture treats more symptomatically. For instance, if you were seeking relief from joint or lower back pain, I would recommend that you try medical acupuncture. But if you had rheumatoid arthritis (an autoimmune disease), I think traditional Chinese acupuncture would be more suitable, and it would be combined with herbal treatment and dietary adjustment.
Traditional Chinese Medicine, which has been practiced in China for at least 2,500 years, uses acupuncture to restore an imbalance or blockage of energy (Qi or Chi) that flows within and from all beings. By inserting fine needles into specific points on the body, acupuncturists try to correct imbalances and restore health. The placement of the needles is guided by pulse diagnosis, a very sophisticated art that isn't practiced at all in Western medicine. Also, in Chinese Medicine, acupuncture comes as part of a package of herbal medicine and dietary adjustment, tailored to the maintenance of good health and the prevention of disease.
Medical acupuncture is used primarily for pain control and is viewed as an acceptable treatment for chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting, the "morning sickness" of pregnancy, and dental pain. It is also an alternative to conventional treatment for stroke rehabilitation, headache, menstrual cramps, tennis elbow, fibromyalgia, lower back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, stomach problems, and asthma.
According to a National Institutes of Health report on acupuncture in 1997, evidence suggests that acupuncture triggers the release of pain-relieving endorphins and also appears to improve immune function. This explanation of its effects appears to be more palatable to the Western medical mind than the Chinese view that the technique can correct energy imbalances. This difference in treatment philosophy explains why traditional Eastern acupuncturists will not perform acupuncture during electrical storms, as atmospheric discharges of energy interfere with diagnosis and treatment. Western methods do not have such concerns.
There are now more than 10,000 practitioners of acupuncture in the United States, many of them medical doctors. To obtain a referral to a reputable traditional Chinese acupuncturist, contact the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (www.aaom.org). To find a Western medical acupuncturist, contact the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture