It used to be the norm at social events that as soon as another guest discovered I was involved in Chinese Medicine, and specifically acupuncture, he or she would gasp in surprise and say something like, “What’s a nice girl like you doing in a profession like that?”
Hmmm…clearly not a crowd-pleaser job in those days, for sure.
Not too long ago, Eastern modalities were considered “out there” or “woo woo”—or maybe even downright scary. Or perhaps Chinese Medicine was thought to be performed by people with dubious training or credentials. And wasn’t it a placebo anyway? After all, traditional Western medicine practiced by physicians and hospitals was the only safe, effective way to go. Anything else was regarded as potentially dangerous or ineffective, or just surrounded by skepticism and confusion.
Lately, I’m happy and relieved to say, at every party, someone wants to discuss how Eastern medicine or acupuncture has helped them or someone they know. (And I promise that I’m not the one to bring it up.) I find that about-face quite gratifying and exciting!
In fact, a blending of East and West was introduced to me when I was young. My father, a traditionally trained MD, became enamored of alternative treatments for his patients when they needed something more than standard medicine had to offer. His answer was acupuncture, and he successfully pioneered a combination practice way before it was fashionable. This integration set an example for me to follow—and I do, quite proudly. Thanks, Dad!
These days, that complementary approach has gained acceptance and even popularity. Wellness centers (like the one I owned and practiced in for 10 years) and medical groups combine practitioners from East and West. These practices serve the whole individual with sustainable, effective , and comprehensive treatments, assessments, and approaches that work together.
Wondering how to bridge the gap between Eastern modalities and Western medicine to optimize your personal health and wellbeing? Here’s a rundown of the methods and strengths of East and West. Read on to discover how they can work together to create a holistic approach.
The Eastern Tradition
Chinese Medicine has been treating the whole person—mind, body, and spirit—for over 5,000 years. One-quarter of the world’s population uses it today.
According to this time-tested approach, the hallmark of good health is a state of balance. Each individual patient’s unique intuition, experience, and underlying imbalances are considered, not solely one chief complaint. The understanding is that all organs and systems affect each other and must work harmoniously.
The goal of treatment in Chinese Medicine is to support the body’s ability to heal itself, and practitioner and patient are partners in that healing process.
Eastern medicine customizes treatment to restore balance, support the immune system, and provide preventive care for sustainable wellbeing for both mind and body. Acupuncture, herbal therapy, supplementation, dietary theory, movement, and stress reduction techniques are some of the modalities Eastern practitioners use to address, for instance, sleeping difficulties, low energy, fertility, hot flashes, GI disorders, respiratory issues, and anxiety.
Is this model effective? You bet! Scientific studies show that acupuncture, for example, can soothe back and knee discomfort, quiet migraines, and ease cancer-related pain without any disturbing side effects.
The Western Methodology
Western medicine shines when it comes to diagnostic testing, medication, surgery, and dealing expertly with each component of the body separately from the others.
Based in science and inquiry, conventional Western medicine uses the latest discoveries in medication and clinical research and procedures to understand, from a measurable and objective perspective, how the body works. That leads to treatment of disease and its symptoms, the principal way the individual’s wellness is addressed in the Western model.
Due to the current reality of insurance and fees, however, the physician can only spend a short time with each patient. Often that means addressing only the specific complaint at hand. Other issues usually have to be resolved at another visit or with another specialist.
Enter: The Unified Approach
My father’s example illustrates that these two schools of treatment can and do work well together. Here are some things to keep in mind to forge an East-West balance in your own wellness:
- Everyone, in my opinion, should have a doctor to see for annual physicals and basic blood work. That is a pillar of preventive care. Often a tweak of a vitamin dosage or lifestyle shift may be just the simple, right move to make a correction.
- Western medicine practitioners need to know about any natural, holistic resources you are using, including Eastern modalities. Medications, foods, herbs, and other variables are all part of your health picture.
- Likewise, tell your Eastern practitioner about medical test results and any medications you’re currently using. This helps inform the practitioner’s treatment plan and also assures safety by alerting him or her to contraindications.
In short, communicate openly with both professionals. For example, if you strive to take as little medication as possible and use natural means of treatment, both your physician and your Chinese practitioner should be aware of that goal, your overall health condition, and any specific current concerns.
So relax—Eastern and Western medicine are not mutually exclusive. Including both in your wellness plan gives you different routes and a greater range of options. These two approaches complement each other beautifully. Integrative medicine truly represents a new wave of cooperation and conversations between East and West.
Now it’s your turn. You can have the best of both worlds!