West Meets East: How Two Very Different Types of Medicine Can Benefit You
Jessica Kramer works as an acupuncturist and massage therapist in the Therapy Department at Upland Hills Health. She specializes in women’s health and pediatrics and uses her skills as a registered nurse, acupuncturist, and massage therapist to provide the most complete care for her patients.
As a Registered Nurse, acupuncturist, and massage therapist, I love medicine and get the opportunity to use both western and eastern medicine. These are both effective, powerful treatments to help people feel better, and both have their strengths and weaknesses. Western medicine excels at acute or emergency medicine and is making amazing discoveries and advances every day. If I have a broken leg or chest pain, I will definitely be going to the Emergency Department at Upland Hills Health. However, western medicine generally treats chronic issues such as pain syndromes, certain women’s health concerns, or mental/emotional issues with medications or surgery that may have unwanted side effects. This is where Eastern medicine, also known as Oriental medicine, shines.
Oriental medicine is a medical system that has been thriving on half the globe for over 2500 years and has, quite literally, treated billions of people. However, this is a medical system has only started to become more mainstream in the United States in the last 50 years.
The most well-known aspect of Oriental medicine is acupuncture. From an eastern standpoint, acupuncture helps bring balance to the body by moving the energy within the channels. From a western standpoint, acupuncture affects your neurohormonal pathways in the body. The acupuncturist inserts a needle, which stimulates the nerve and local connective tissue and then sends a message to the brain. Acupuncture has been found to help the brain release numerous opioid and nonopioid neuropeptides and neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA to ease pain and relax the body (Hopper Koppelman, 2018).
Acupuncture can be helpful for numerous different health concerns. The Acupuncture Evidence Project reviewed research studies for the effectiveness of acupuncture and found evidence for effectiveness of acupuncture for 117 conditions. The quality and quantity of research for acupuncture’s effectiveness is increasing and some conditions that have already been found to be helpful for are:
Pain: such as headaches, neck pain, back pain, cancer pain, labor pain, sciatica, shoulder pain, TMJ pain, knee osteoarthritis, pelvic and back pain during pregnancy
Cardiovascular: high blood pressure
Respiratory: asthma, allergic rhinitis
Gastrointestinal: nausea and vomiting, constipation, irritable bowel syndrome
Neurological: depression, anxiety, insomnia, stroke, restless leg syndrome, PTSD
Reproductive: menopausal hot flashes, painful menses, fertility
Wellness: smoking cessation and obesity
(Hopper Koppelman, 2018)
I am still amazed by acupuncture as I’ve seen it help bloody noses and pain associated with kidney stones to feeling chronically overheated and infertility.
Common questions with acupuncture:
Is acupuncture safe?
Absolutely. Acupuncture is safe and effective when performed by a trained professional. Licensed practitioners use sterilized, single-use needles and place them in various points on the body depending on what you are being seen for.
Does acupuncture hurt?
Most of the time, no. There may be a small pinch or a zing when the needle is inserted but generally the sensation does not last more than a few seconds. Acupuncture needles are not like large hypodermic needles used in hospitals and clinics but are solid and much thinner. Most people feel very relaxed and some even fall asleep once the needles are in. (I usually think of my acupuncture sessions as nap time. 🙂 )
What if I’m afraid of needles?
No problem! Oriental medicine is more than just acupuncture. There are many other methods of stimulating acupuncture points beside using needles, such as acupressure, massage, cupping, essential oils, etc.
Does it work?
Yes! Acupuncture has stood the test of time with empirical evidence from billions of patients who have used it and found it to be helpful. Acupuncture is still in the infancy of being researched with standard western, double-blind research studies but has already found to have some promising results.
Western and Eastern medicine complement each other wonderfully and can provide great results when used together. Oriental medicine is NOT a substitute for western medicine. If you are having pain or other health concerns, it is still best to get your problem evaluated by your primary care provider. However, Oriental medicine offers another safe and effective resource one can use to address her or his health concern(s).
If you have any questions or are interested in scheduling an appointment to try acupuncture, contact our therapy department at Upland Hills Health at (608) 930-7147.
Hopper Koppelman, M. (2018). Acupuncture: An Overview of Scientific Evidence. Retrieved October 15, 2018, from https://www.evidencebasedacupuncture.org/present-research/acupuncture-scientific-