Most people have become familiar with the use of acupuncture for pain relief, especially back pain. It is very good for chronic pain like arthritis because it increases endorphins in the blood stream and decreases inflammation without side effects.
Other common issues people seek acupuncture for are intractable headaches, infertility, allergies, depression and anxiety, IBD, and, management of chemotherapy side effects.
Unfortunately, it is usually a “last ditch effort”. It is still very rare that people choose acupuncture as the first treatment option. I have to be honest. There have been many cases where I have chosen to exhaust all the western medicine in my tool box before I recommend acupuncture. It’s just easier and faster if it works. But, at what cost to the patient’s body? Most medications have some degree of risk. Antibiotics saves lives every day but, they also cause a whole lot of problems sometimes too. And they don’t always work. Nothing always works. Not even acupuncture. At least acupuncture is incredibly unlikely to cause harm and has a beneficial effect on the entire body. Therefore, treating the patient and not just the symptoms.
One such case recently even shocked me. There was a male dog who was incontinent. We ran many tests, and everything was normal. I was leaving the practice for maternity leave and the case was picked by another doctor. For a couple years the incontinence was managed with medication but, required a higher than normal (and potentially unsafe) dose to keep him symptom free.
When I came back to the clinic to help out I ended up seeing him again. His owner knew I practiced acupuncture and had a strong interest in herbs and homeopathy. She asked me if there was any way to get him off this medication or at least reduce it with more natural methods. We tried an herb that did not help at all. And then I decided to just take a swing at the problem with acupuncture. Three months later he was completely off the medication and has been ever since!!
That case reinforced what I already knew intuitively. Anything, besides surgical cases, could benefit from acupuncture. I vow to talk about it more, offer it more, educate people about it more and use it more!
The use that most excites me is preventative medicine.
Acupuncturists are able to use subtler physical exam clues than western doctors can. Changes in tongue color and texture, pulse quality, and subtle behaviors can indicate early signs of imbalance within the body that may be much easier to correct then when the issue becomes a full blow disease.
It is my mission in life to shift the primary focus of medicine from diagnosis and treatment to understanding the root causes of problems and preventing them in the first place. In other words; instead of asking what, asking why!
The practice of acupuncture is one way that I plan to achieve this mission.