I’ve often encouraged people to consider coming in for an acupuncture/Chinese medical consultation as an alternate opinion to their western diagnoses(s). Let me explain why this can be valuable.
As you know, I’ve straddled both Western medicine (also referred to as allopathic medicine) and Eastern medicine worlds during my career as a health practitioner (first as a registered nurse and now as an acupuncturist). I can say that looking at a patient through both lenses simultaneously has afforded me the ability to see a situation completely holistically. I value both approaches and I recognize that there are times when one side trumps the other side.
The idea of a second opinion according to Eastern medicine is about you the patient, being able to understand yourself and your Western diagnosis from both perspectives. Additionally, you become better able to map out a treatment plan for yourself that embraces you as a whole rather than just a part (or just your symptom). A well trained acupuncturist is going to be able to help you to design an approach to your chief complaint (symptom, diagnosis etc.) that will incorporate other alternative modalities in addition to acupuncture.
For example, I received a telephone call last night from a distraught mother of a 17 year old high school senior. Her daughter, who has always been extremely perfectionistic and conscientious student, has become extremely anxious with the start of her senior year. She is often in tears by dinner time because of her workload and the demands she places on herself which exceed what the teacher(s) expect. She is now seeing a therapist and starting on an anti-anxiety medication. Fortunately, both doctors have recommended acupuncture as well.
In chatting with the much stressed mother, I discovered that her daughter is very active in sports and school teams. She does not eat meat, and her menstrual cycle stopped last spring. Her sleep has also been disrupted.
According to Chinese medicine we address issues such as Qi (pronounced Chee; qi is the energy that courses throughout our bodies) and Blood (capitalized here because it pertains to more than the red stuff that runs through your veins). I’ve made a preliminary assessment by phone that her daughter is ‘blood deficient’ (different then what western medicine would consider anemia). While her doctor was not concerned about the periods stopping for now, I had a different assessment. The cessation of her menstrual cycle is a sign that her body needs to retain as much blood as it can, and not lose more blood. With a blood deficiency, especially if it is pronounced, her daughter will not have the capacity (energetically or physically) to will herself into a calmer state. Her anxiety is partially a result of the blood deficiency. I explained to the mother that nutrition counseling and some blood building menu recipes would be incorporated into our discussion when they came in for their full evaluation.
While the blood deficiency is not the only issue here, it will be a key component of her treatment plan.
In listening to the mother speak and to the tone of her voice, I was able to determine that she would also benefit from some coaching in how to effectively support her daughter as we move forward.
While seeing a therapist and psychiatrist for medications are going to be impacting and helpful in this acute phase, the acupuncture approach, with its holistic parameters, will complete the circle of treatment over time. Unlike the short-term use of medications, the acupuncturist approach will offer interventions along with coaching that will last over a lifetime.
This does not mean a patient must continue in acupuncture treatment for a lifetime. What it means is that the Eastern medical approach to diagnosis and treatment addresses and treats the root of the problem as well as the symptom. By treating and healing the root of the symptom, the impact can last over one’s lifetime.
Think of it as a pie. I tell my patients that the acupuncture and the treatment we offer is 25% of the pie, and lifestyle habits cover the other 75%. I find it helpful to consider incorporating other modalities such as western medicine/ nutrition, coaching, bodywork such as massage and lifestyle coaching around exercise (or over-exercise); as well to help design a well-rounded holistic treatment plan.