WHAT IS IT? Oriental Medicine (OM) is a comprehensive system of health care with a continuous clinical tradition of over 3,000 years. It is comprised of a variety of traditions originating in China and spreading through several Asian countries and even into Europe. While there are national standards that every acupuncturist must pass to be licensed as a Doctor of Acupuncture (DA) here in Rhode Island, there are many ways to actually practice this healing art depending on the tradition and training of your practitioner. The predominant treatment style here in the United States is called “Traditional Chinese Medicine” or TCM, but other styles are also popular – Japanese, Five Element, Worsley, and Korean, to name a few. Modalities used include acupuncture and herbal treatment as well as massage, dietary therapy, meditation and exercise. These therapies work with the natural vital energies inherent within all living things to promote the body’s ability to heal itself. Your practitioner might practice herbal medicine, counsel you on dietary therapeutics, recommend special breathing exercises such as qigong, or use a warming herb called moxa as part of your treatment.
HOW DOES IT WORK? Oriental medicine is based on an energetic model rather than the biochemical model of Western Medicine. The ancient Chinese recognized the vital energy in all life forms and life processes. They called this energy Qi (pronounced “chee” or “kee”). In developing an understanding of the prevention and cure of disease, they discovered a system of cyclic energy flowing in the human body along specific pathways. Each pathway is associated with a particular physiological system.
Oriental Medicine embraces the concept that “dis-ease” results when a person’s vital energy (Qi) is out of healthful balance in the energetic pathways and their associated physiological systems. The pathways, or meridians, of energy communicate with the surface of the body at specific locations called acupuncture points. Each point has a predictable effect upon the vital energy passing through it.
Imbalances may result from external factors such as viruses, trauma, environmental conditions, etc., or could result from emotional, psychological or stressful conditions. The treatment methods of Chinese Medicine work to restore balance in the body so the body may heal itself. It is also used as preventative medicine to improve the body’s overall immunity and condition.
IS ACUPUNCTURE SAFE? Acupuncture is well-known for its safety and lack of side effects. It is a frequent treatment of choice for 1/4 of the world’s population because of its effectiveness. Its long history of use in addition to current standards of training and licensing makes acupuncture very safe.
Acupuncture needles have been recognized by the FDA. Only presterilized needles should be used to perform acupuncture and they are disposed of after a single use.
DOES ACUPUNCTURE HURT? Acupuncture bears no resemblance to the feeling of a hypodermic needle, since the main source of pain from such needles is the larger diameter, hollow needle and the pressure created by injection or extraction of fluids. Acupuncture needles are solid, very fine and flexible and about the diameter of a thick hair. In most cases, insertion by a skilled practitioner is performed with a minimum of discomfort. After needles are placed you may feel numbness, heat, dull aching or tingling at the needle site or along the corresponding meridian. Often, patients report that the sensation is unfamiliar, but pleasant and relaxing.
WHAT CAN ACUPUNCTURE TREAT? Some of the many conditions for which acupuncture treatment is considered appropriate are listed by the World Health Organization of the United Nations. Among these are:
Gastrointestinal Disorders Food allergies, peptic ulcer, constipation, chronic diarrhea, indigestion, gastrointestinal weakness, anorexia and gastritis.
Urogenital and Reproductive Disorders Stress incontinence; urinary tract infections; sexual dysfunction; irregular, heavy or painful menstruation; infertility in women and men, and premenstrual syndrome.
Respiratory Disorders Emphysema, sinusitis, asthma, allergies and bronchitis.
Disorders of the Bones, Muscles, Joints and Nervous System Arthritis, neuralgia, Bell’s Palsy; migraine headaches, insomnia, dizziness and low back, neck and shoulder pain; cerebral palsy, polio, trigeminal neuralgia, torticollis; sciatica; bursitis; sprains.
Circulatory Disorders Hypertension, hypotension, angina pectoris, arteriosclerosis and anemia, stroke sequela.
Emotional and Psychological Disorders Stress, insomnia, depression and anxiety.
Addictions Sugar, coffee, alcohol, tobacco and narcotics.
Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat Disorders Earaches, deafness, tinnitis, blurred vision, chronic sinus infections, hay fever, sore throat
Acupuncture can also provide supportive therapy for many other chronic and painful debilitating disorders.
HOW MANY TREATMENTS WILL I NEED? Treatment will be determined by a thorough diagnostic procedure. Practitioners evaluate a person’s condition by feeling the pulsations at each wrist and by observing the color and form of the face, tongue and body. This information is interpreted in the context of a patient’s present and past complaints, work and living habits, physical environment, family and health history, and emotional life.
Since each person is unique, the number of treatments needed will vary. Many conditions may be alleviated very rapidly by acupuncture and/or herbs and the patient will feel progressively better after each treatment; however, some conditions which have arisen over a course of months or years will be relieved only with slow, steady progress. Your acupuncturist will be able to give you an estimate of treatment length after reviewing your medical history and completing a thorough examination.
No medical system, technique or material is 100% effective. The patient’s attitude, diet, determination and lifestyle will affect the outcome of treatment, but even when all factors are optimal, some conditions will resist treatment.
COMBINING WESTERN AND ORIENTAL MEDICINE TREATMENT The two systems of medicine are highly compatible and can enhance each other’s effects. Acupuncture is compatible with virtually all modern medical techniques. Chinese herbs may make it possible to lower the dosage of some modern medicines, to reduce their side effects, and/or obtain a better overall effect. Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine should be seen as complementary to Western medicine.
THE PROFESSION AND THE LAW The regulation of acupuncture differs from state to state. Safe and effective practice standards have been established by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). The state of Rhode Island requires all licensed Doctors of Acupuncture to graduate from an accredited college of acupuncture’s graduate level degree program of 2500+ hours and to pass the NCCAOM exam. Doctors of Acupuncture are also required by the state to complete 20 hours of continuing education each year in order to retain their licenses.
Medical Doctors may practice acupuncture in Rhode Island with 300 hours of training. They are not required to take the NCCAOM exam, nor are they required to do continuing education in Oriental Medicine once they have received the initial 300 hours. They are required to make written disclosure to all patients whom they treat with acupuncture that their training is not equivalent with that of Doctors of Acupuncture.
No other persons are allowed by law to practice acupuncture in the state of Rhode Island. Please report any person not complying with the above regulations to the Department of Health or to the Rhode Island Society of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. Please see our membership roster for a listing of licensed doctors of acupuncture in your area.