It breaks my heart to see so much needless suffering in this country. People struggle with assorted health issues and don’t have a clue where to go for help. Many people believe western medicine is their only option. They assume if that fails they’re doomed to suffer. Other people tell themselves their health issues are due to age and therefore nothing can be done about them. But you see people who are young in their 80’s and 90’s and old in their thirties. Most health issues are the result of underlying problems as opposed to age. Genetics can be a factor. But genetic research has shown destructive gene sequences can be turned on or off. If you give the body the tools to heal most health issues have permanent solutions or at very least can be greatly improved.
What amazes me is with all the discussion about reducing health care costs and the importance of preventative medicine, no politician or government agency has ever considered TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), Nutrition and Nutritional Education as a crucial component of the solution. This despite studies showing significant savings and improvement to health are available with TCM and Nutrition.
To become a licensed Acupuncturist (TCM practitioner) an individual must attend a four year master degree program and complete 800 hours of internship prior to sitting for state board exams as a prerequisite for state licensing to practice. Like any other licensed medical professional there’s an FBI background check before receiving a state license. 30 hours of continued educational is required to renew the Acupuncture license every two years.
For me, starting the graduate program in TCM was life changing. Finally I had answers to health issues I’d been dealing with a good part of my life and those I’d observed in others. It explained the reason behind health problems. I could now address the root cause and get relief by addressing what initially triggered the malfunction as opposed to merely addressing symptoms. I had classes in anatomy, physiology, internal medicine, trauma, gynecology, geriatrics, ear/nose/throat, addiction, dermatology, and pediatrics to name a few. Rather than western medicine methods Acupuncturists learn TCM theory and treatments. We also learn what not to prescribe when a patient is on certain prescription medication and when to refer patients to a western medical doctor.
The first year of classes was TCM theory. It’s a different way of looking at the body and it’s interactions. Symptoms form a pattern to identify underlying problems. The more information a patient presents the easier to establish a pattern. People are often surprised to learn how many of their complaints are related to the same root cause.
Chinese dietary therapy, part of TCM, is a powerful tool. It’s a way to heal using food. All food has medicinal properties. As with any medicine, certain foods can harm or heal. So part of my patient’s treatment plans are suggestions about foods to eat, minimize, or avoid, to treat their condition. Whenever possible I prescribe food instead of pills. I’ve found in addition to using TCM, adding current nutritional research into my protocol, and Kinesiology (muscle testing) to fine-tune what I prescribe, gets faster more effective results. I doubled my internship and attended extensive seminars, over the last 21 years, to learn and incorporate these additional modalities to my practice.
There’s evidence that TCM is 5,000 years old. Truly time tested! In that time they’ve come up with treatments for about everything. Again TCM doesn’t treat symptoms; it simply clarifies what’s needed to heal underlying issues. The body can then resolve those symptoms since their origin has been addressed.
TCM was the first preventative medicine. In the past a Chinese patron, family or town would employ a TCM physician. They’d see and pay the physician regularly. If someone got sick they stopped paying. It was the TCM physician’s job is to keep their patients well. They used dietary therapy, Acupuncture, herbal formulas, Tui Na (the Chinese medicinal massage), cupping, Qi Gong, and Gua Sha among other TCM tools. But one of the most important tools was education: explaining the causes of health issues and what can be done to fix them. The term physician in Chinese and Greek also meant teacher. The origins of eastern and western medicine acknowledged education is an essential component of health.
Since I started my internship I began seeing incredible things. It never ceases to amaze me how powerful this combination of medicine is.
When interning with one of my professors a woman came in to the school clinic using a walker and dragging one foot. My professor did Acupuncture and then I did Tui Na. The patient literally leaped off the table, picked up her walker and danced around the room swinging her leg. “Look what you’ve done! Look what you’ve done!” She laughed and cried. We didn’t heal her. We offered tools to her body so it could heal.
Another woman I met while interning was pregnant at the time. After the birth she called me and told me that her doctors had apologized profusely but that something had gone wrong during the delivery. Her little girl was paralyzed from the neck down. She would have to quit work and plan the rest of her life around taking care of her daughter. “Well,” I told her, “you can accept that as the final word or you can go to see one of my professors who’s an international authority on Pediatric Tui Na.” With my professor’s help, in four months the baby was perfect.
Another patient came to see me for debilitating migraines. Each day he would go to work, go home and straight to bed. He had no time with family or friends and felt he didn’t have a life. With Acupuncture, dietary changes and herbal formulas his migraines subsided. His blood pressure and blood sugar also stabilized. He lost weight and was no longer diabetic.
After moving West, a gentleman came to see me who had been diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome. The pain in his wrist was terrible. He was scheduled to have an operation, the second he’d had on that wrist. With Tui Na, Acupuncture and herbal formulas, he no longer had the pain in his wrist and was able to cancel his operation.
Over the years many of the wrist, elbow, shoulder, hand, foot, hip, or knee pains I’ve treated were fairly easily resolved. If there’s advanced degeneration, or a large tear in connective tissues, western medical intervention is necessary but that’s not the typical cause of pain. In cases where surgery is necessary TCM helps the body recover sooner.
Before Christmas I had two patients who were told they were ready for Hospice. One diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer and respiratory disease, the other was going to be placed on the heart transplant list after undergoing experimental heart surgery no one had yet survived. We worked with nutrition, Acupuncture, and herbal formulas. After the holidays their doctors saw no reason for them to contact Hospice. Each appointment they looked healthier: their color, energy and activity levels improved. The heart patient is now working out regularly and traveling. The lung patient I see about town at restaurants and concerts and has started tap dancing lessons. She came bouncing into my office yesterday, straight from her Oncologist. The results of her latest lung scan showed no signs of cancer or respiratory disease. Western medicine saved their lives, TCM and nutrition helped them recover and heal. They’re both enjoying life now.
One of people’s biggest fears is a diagnosis of cancer. In my articles I’ve discussed cancer prevention but have’t addressed what to do if you have it. A number of oncology clinics employ Acupuncturists to minimize the effects of chemo or radiation and to keep the immune and digestive systems strong throughout the treatments.
A patient was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer that progressed to bone cancer. He was told he didn’t have long to live. Acupuncture, herbs, and diet were able to alleviate the nausea, hiccoughing, leg cramps, fatigue and hair loss he had previously experienced with chemo treatments. He was out golfing almost every day during his rounds of chemo. I lost touch after moving, but last I heard he was doing well after ten years.
Another patient diagnosed with cancer had a huge mass. His doctors told him he was too weak to survive an operation to remove it. They advised him to go home, try to build up his strength and come back in four months. In that time, with diet changes, Acupuncture and herbal formulas he became strong enough to go running and work out every day. He looked and felt great. When he had the operation to remove the mass his surgeons couldn’t believe how much it had receded.
These are just a few examples of what happens with a combination of Holistic medicine. What if this was a standard offering in our nation’s health care? How much pain and suffering could be eliminated? How much money could be saved?
What I’ve described here are extreme cases. But TCM and nutrition work just as well for common health problems.
We need western and Holistic medicine; neither works for everything. Relying on western medicine as the only answer to our nation’s health issues hasn’t worked. When surgery and drugs are needed TCM and nutritional solutions accelerate recovery and minimizes the need for pain medication, including addictive prescription meds that so often lead to illegal drug addiction. In other countries, where health care is paid for the same way as public schools, fire and police departments, in countries where health is really about getting people well, as opposed to insurance and drug companies making obscene profits, they fully embrace Holistic medicine and nutrition as part of their overall plan.
What we’ve been doing isn’t working. We need to rethink our solutions and our concept of Comprehensive Health Care.
Health & Happiness,
Nancy Burton, L.Ac. (Licensed Acupuncturist)
534 Washington St. Ashland, OR 97520 (541) 646-0134