What We Treat
In the west, natural medicine appears to have a reputation of folk medicine. At the same time, such methods as naturopathy, homeopathy, various traditions of herbal medicine, hydrotherapy, fasting, exercise regimen, manipulations, glandular therapy, and so on have shown that there is more to these methods than mere belief. Many modern drugs were derived from plants, and many techniques that modern physicians use were originally developed in ancient times and honed over the years. So at least in theory, everything we need to keep us healthy is available in nature. In reality, finding the right solution for a specific problem is not that simple or easy.
Many conditions, particularly chronic ones, are not treated effectively in allopathic (mainstream western) medicine. For example, despite treatments, such conditions as fibromyalgia or migraine headaches continue to cause much suffering to those people who have them. Their treatment does not imply cure but a way of coping with the condition throughout a person’s life. And that’s the current outcomes of decades of experimentation and the incredible amounts of money invested in relevant research. Naturally, so much effort has not been wasteful. Scientists discovered a lot of new information, and they continue to do so with every passing day. This means that best practices that medical practitioners adhere to today may become outdated tomorrow.
During the last decade or so, the collected evidence points toward the effectiveness of integrative medicine, which is ironic, considering how much time, money, and effort various medical professions invested over the years for the right to exist. Apparently, the human body adapts to a one given treatment, and its efficacy decreases over time. Alternating various approaches or combining them appear to bring about better treatment results. Of course, what approach would work best depends on the condition but also on an individual patient. Placebo has proven to be so effective all by itself that research studies that do not include a control group (which is essentially deceived into believing that the same treatment was provided to its participants) are called “not well designed.” But can placebo be an effective treatment? Recent discoveries suggest that it very well may be (Colloca et al., 2015). Then what exactly placebo is and how it can be regulated remains to be discovered. For now, each patient would best benefit from the latest information available on his or her individual condition.
Interestingly enough, acupuncture is probably best known as a pain-management modality (for such conditions back pain, neck pain, migraines, headaches, elbow pain, hip pain, knee pain, foot pain), but traditionally acupuncture was developed to treat internal disorders, and pain has always been considered as a symptom, rather than a stand-alone problem. This viewpoint is somewhat different nowadays, because of the integrated approach of modern medicine, and sometimes patients are referred for acupuncture to address one or two specific issues, one of which is often pain. No matter how the circumstances change over time, however, acupuncture essentially remains the same, and its effectiveness in pain management depends a lot on the acupuncturist’s ability to find the cause of pain, rather than on the mere insertion of needles.
On one hand, some women’s issues, such as fibromas, for example, typically take many acupuncture sessions to resolve. But on the other hand, other conditions, such as premenstrual cramps, hot flashes, hormone imbalance, endometriosis (Lund & Lundeberg, 2016), premature ovarian failure, as well as prenatal and postpartum health appear to be susceptible to acupuncture treatment, and the accompanying symptoms can be significantly reduced. Acupuncture is particularly effective in the treatment of infertility in women (Xia et al., 2017). While individual results may vary, acupuncture has helped many women become pregnant for fraction of the cost and hardly any side effects than western medical fertility treatment come with.
In the vast majority of cases, such conditions as erectile dysfunction, premature ejaculation, along with other men’s health issues are greatly influenced or caused by other factors, such as stress, physical and/or mental exhaustion, lack of sleep, or bad eating habits. Also, such complex diseases as diabetes, for example, can affect men’s health. At the same time, due to its holistic approach, acupuncture—and traditional Chinese medicine, in general—can help a lot, even if lab tests show nothing wrong. In fact, acupuncture can help various men’s health issues when nothing else worked, but its effectiveness can vary from one individual to the next.
Traditionally, the main focus of acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine, in general, was ensuring that the balance among the internal organs was maintained, so the patients remain healthy. Even though thousands of years have passed, the optimal strategy for using acupuncture as well as other modalities of traditional Chinese medicine is for wellness (such as maintaining the ideal weight, reducing anxiety or depression, insomnia, and even facial rejuvenation), so the patients’ health would be at its best, rather than for treating various conditions as they arise but may have been prevented (Rhee, 2017; Van Hal & Green, 2018).
From the traditional viewpoint, all health issues arise from an internal organ imbalance, and no matter what issue compels someone to see an acupuncturist, the treatment should revolve around the functions of the internal organs. Whether the issue is acne, hair loss, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, hearing loss, or overactive bladder, some experts warn others that acupuncture diagnosis and treatment should first focus on the obvious, but the examination (pulse, tongue, questions, symptoms & signs) still needs to consider the internal organ functions, thus to rule out, address, or preclude any existing or possible conditions.