Medicine 101 – Dr. Tara Macart
Acupuncture is a widely applicable and therapeutically diverse part of many naturopathic practices. Acupuncture can be used to control pain, moderate hormonal experiences, encourage weight loss, strengthen organs, improve focus, enhance willpower, and myriad other functions all with thoughtfully placed thin hair-like needles.
More and more, people are stepping outside of the box, so to speak, and seeking methods of pain management and recovery that involves non-drug interventions, like acupuncture.
In naturopathic medical school, I was pleased that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) was a mandatory part of my training. At other schools acupuncture is considered an elective. Today, I incorporate TCM in the assessment of every patient. I believe it adds a valuable dimension to my conventional western diagnosis.
Assessing the tongue and the pulse contribute to a TCM diagnosis. I do a quick sketch of what features stand out on the patient’s tongue and then gather qualities of the pulse at six locations on the wrist. This data is added to my general observations, the medical history and results of a western physical exam.
In TCM, health conditions are likened to the weather. You could say if there is a lot of HEAT disrupting the system, there is likely a lot of inflammation and usually pain. To rebalance, points would be selected that dissipate HEAT, or cool by tonifying Yin. When the body is properly balanced in this regard, I would metaphorically describe the health state as being that of a nice spring day……sunny and warm with a cool breeze on a background of birds singing, daisies and butterflies.
When a patient chooses acupuncture as their primary mode of treatment, I can select points that are indicated based on their TCM diagnosis. Moving the Qi energy to different areas in the body through stimulation and sedation can gently rebalance one’s system and make people feel better.
Often, I use acupuncture as a first line treatment for musculoskeletal injuries. As a naturopathic physician, I have the luxury of being able to combine the acupuncture with other therapies. This usually provides a speedier recovery and more significant relief.
For those who are afraid of needles, I would allay those fears with gentle techniques and a relaxing atmosphere. Acupuncture is not supposed to hurt. The patient should feel something is happening but it is more similar to a mosquito bite feeling. I even use the term “acupuncture pins” because the needles are so fine. It is nothing like getting blood drawn at the lab.
Acupuncture is not only useful for treating health imbalances, but it is also good for preventing them. I have a number of patients who have a maintenance program of monthly acupuncture visits to help optimize their energy flow.
So, if you have always been wondering if acupuncture is right for you, just give it a try. You may be pleasantly surprised. It may be just the right adjunct to your other pain management or health strategies. Considering acupuncture has been around for over four thousand years, there might be something to it.