Wednesday, February 22, 2017
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Exposing the Hidden Values of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.jpg

Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine may be an ancient form of medicine, but its uses have kept pace with today’s modern medical advances. In some cases, oriental medicine can be a more effective treatment than conventional medicine (and less harmful, too).

The health community widely recognizes that acupuncture and oriental medicine can effectively treat several conditions. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes acupuncture and oriental medicine as effective for over 43 conditions under nine major health categories.

Through this and other research findings, the western world is now discovering (and proving) the types of clinical benefits that people in Asian countries have been experiencing with oriental medicine for years.

What is Oriental Medicine?

Oriental Medicine works to restore health and balance by treating illness and disease through the five major branches of Oriental Medicine: acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, oriental nutrition and dietary therapy, tuina or oriental bodywork, as well as tai chi and qi gong.

Acupuncture is based on the insertion of thin, sterile needles into strategic points on the body that lie along specific energy meridian pathways. Its goal is to promote healing through rebalancing the patient's Qi (or chi) energy. The weakness, excess, or imbalance of Qi affects key organ systems and is the underlying cause of disease and disharmony.

What happens when conventional medicine is ineffective?

Oriental medicine can be used as alternative treatments when other health care methods, particularly antibiotics, prove ineffective. With more cases being reported, resistant bacteria has become an increasingly worrisome issue.

In one case, a dentist faced amputation when antibiotics had no effect on an infected cut on his finger. However, when prescribed an oral 10 herb formula by an oriental medicine physician, the dentist healed completely. Much research shows herbal treatment can help overcome this growing problem of antibiotic resistant bacteria. For some injuries, herbs seem to work on multiple levels by killing the bacteria, healing the wound, and relieving pain.

Oriental medicine is also a healthier alternative. In addition to killing the bad bacteria, antibiotics can kill healthy bacteria that help with digestion and the immune system. Without healthy bacteria, more infections could develop requiring the use of even more antibiotics. Alternative treatments, when possible, could help stop this vicious cycle and reduce the chances of antibiotic resistant bacteria from developing.

Acupuncture can be used for pain relief.

For some conditions, studies show that oriental medicine may be more effective and less invasive than conventional medical care.

A recent study also found that acupuncture could be a more effective method of pain relief than morphine. The study published in 2016 in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine compared the two methods by treating one group with acupuncture for acute pain and another with morphine. Patients treated with acupuncture experienced a 92 percent reduction in pain compared to a 78 percent reduction in pain for those treated with morphine. The acupuncture group even had a faster pain recovery time while the morphine group took an average of 28 minutes to recover from pain.

With many patients on multiple prescription drugs these days, the study goes on to suggest using acupuncture to avoid adverse drug reactions, particularly for pain treatment in hospitals and emergency rooms. As part of a clerkship, interns at National University have already been performing these acupuncture techniques for pain relief at Cook County’s John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital since 2012. Due to patient demand, National University interns currently work four shifts per week at the hospital.

Oriental medicine can treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Because of improvements in traumatic injury care, more veterans are surviving battlefield injuries and tours of duty during conflicts. This has resulted in an increase in PTSD among veterans and thus, the need for effective treatment.

PSTD can occur after any life-threatening, terrifying, or traumatic event and can include symptoms such as: emotional numbness, flashbacks reliving trauma, bad dreams, and feeling tense or “on-edge.” Certain acupuncture protocols have proven to be very effective in reducing these symptoms.

Veterans visiting National University of Health Sciences’ Whole Health Center in Lombard, Ill., receive auricular acupuncture (using points in the ear) as part of the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association (NADA) protocol. This system utilizes small pellets or needles in various points including the kidney point which strengthens the body’s energy and immune system and controls fear and anxiety along with the liver point which controls anger and has a detox effect on alcohol and drug abuse.

Oriental medicine can help with infertility and women’s health.

In addition to being treated with in-vitro fertilization, many women are seeking to increase their chance of conceiving and sustaining pregnancy to term through acupuncture treatment.

Using acupuncture with IVF can double a woman’s chances of conceiving, according to a 2016 study by Homerton University Hospital in London. The study involved 160 women with infertility problems, half of whom were treated with four sessions of acupuncture. One year later, those who received acupuncture treatment had a pregnancy rate of 46.2 percent compared to 21.7 percent of those who did not.

Similarly, another study by University of Pittsburg researchers found that pregnancy rates for women combining acupuncture and IVF treatment was 64 percent compared to 42 percent without acupuncture. The study concluded that acupuncture regimen was associated with less stress before and after embryo transfer.

Due to the high-cost of IVF, this increase in effectiveness can be particularly important for those who might only be able to afford one IVF treatment. Acupuncture on its own can be both affordable and effective for other health concerns women may experience too. Hormone problems, which can cause irregular menstrual periods, uterine bleeding, and other issues typically respond well to acupuncture.

Acupuncture can prevent and treat chronic conditions.

Multiple studies by Duke University researchers show the effectiveness of acupuncture for the treatment or prevention of chronic pain along with migraines, tension-type headaches, or chronic headache disorders.

A study published in Acupuncture and Electro-Therapeutics Research also shows that acupuncture treatment can be superior to conventional physical therapy treatments for chronic back and neck pain. In the study, patients were randomly assigned to acupuncture and conventional physical therapy treatment. A rheumatologist who was unaware of the treatments given, found those who were treated with acupuncture had better results.

While acupuncture can be effective in treating these chronic pain conditions, it goes a step further and can help improve overall health. Acupuncture both relieves stress and works to improve body functions, including the immune system and the digestion system. So it can also stop certain conditions from occurring in the first place. This may be why acupuncture can be so effective for preventing chronic conditions.

Oriental medicine works to treat more than just the symptoms but the underlying causes of an individual’s conditions. Preventing illnesses rather than simply treating them is a relatively new paradigm shift across the modern health care community. As people begin to recognize the benefits of oriental medicine, integrative medical settings like National University’s Whole Health Center clinic in Lombard will continue to thrive.

Learn more about Acupuncture, Oriental Medicine, and other alternative medicine fields by subscribing to The Future of Integrative Health.

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Posted by Zhanxiang Wang

Zhanxiang Wang, MD (China), PhD, LAc, is the assistant dean of acupuncture and oriental medicine at National University of Health Sciences. Originally from China, he earned his medical degree from Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, his doctorate in integrative medicine from the China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences and license in acupuncture in Illinois. In China, he worked mainly with patients who had leukemia and immune disorders. Dr. Wang came to the United States so he could do more in-depth research on conditions such as leukemia and take advantage of more advanced technology here.