Mainstream medical treatment is beginning to shift towards a more holistic approach. Major hospitals around the country are starting to offer “alternative health” services to their patients in addition to conventional care, including acupuncture, naturopathy, homeopathy, massage and nutritional therapies, to name a few. For many people, it may be confusing to determine which services to use and how one modality affects another. (For example, many of our patients ask if they can get massage the same day as acupuncture.)
The truth of the matter is that each modality is a part of a whole system that leads to better health. As patients, we often require a variety of different healing modalities in order to achieve good health. Confusion may arise from the title of “alternative” where in fact the accurate term is “complementary”. The term “alternative” implies that one treatment is used instead of another and is defined as “mutually exclusive so that if one is chosen the other must be rejected”. “Complementary” more accurately describes nontraditional forms of treatment and implies that one treatment is used to complement another. There is no one form of medicine that works perfectly for everyone. If this were the case, then everyone would feel better after seeing their doctor or taking medication! As an acupuncturist, I always turn to Chinese medicine first for any medical needs. However, I also turn to physicians and other practitioners who are better able to treat my condition when necessary. This is because ALL forms of medicine are in fact complementary to each other.
I began thinking about this when a friend asked when would be a good time to start acupuncture treatment. (She was also planning on seeing her primary care physician but had not yet made an appointment.) She really had no “chief complaint” but she always had a few aches and pains that I put together as a Chinese medical pattern. I told her, as I tell all new patients, is that anytime is a good time to begin acupuncture and the sooner, the better. Chinese medicine began as preventative medicine; when the energy flows freely and the channels are in balance, health is maintained. When minor imbalanced of the energy persist over long periods of time, we begin to see serious disorders. My friend was an especially good candidate because her complaints were minor and I was hoping to get a hold of them before they progress to more serious complaints. I also encouraged her to make an appointment with her physician in order to rule out any major pathology. Depending on her doctor’s findings, our treatment plan will be designed to complement her Western treatment. Of course, the final goal for both Western and Chinese medical perspectives is that each patient feels better!!