As a seventh trimester student at the Finger Lakes School of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, I’ve experienced internships at NYCC’s Seneca Falls Health Center, Campus Health Center, and the Veterans Administration Hospital in Canandaigua. I have treated diverse patient complaints—from low back pain to hot flashes to chronic migraines. I’m pleased to say that I’ve witnessed a patient in pain leave the clinic pain-free. I ask myself—why doesn’t everyone get Acupuncture?
Medical practitioners and patients are unsure where Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AOM) practitioners fit into the healthcare community. The truth is AOM professionals should be utilized as an integral part of a team of healthcare professionals with a common goal in mind – to make the patient better.
So what’s the hold up? Why are AOM practitioners on the periphery? And what can we do about it?
- Patients and medical practitioners don’t know that acupuncture is a preventative medicine. The idea of “constitution”—an individual body’s proclivity to act in a certain way—still doesn’t quite fit into the biomedical community. Yes, it’s true, everyone’s body, although a similar frame, works differently. Therefore, all healthy individuals should visit the AOM clinic for maintenance treatments—especially around season change to prevent colds and flu.
- AOM services are often the last resort—the place many patients turn after all else fails. This is unfortunate because most conditions are more effectively treated in their beginning stages. For example, I was blessed to visit China and work at the Zhejiang University Hospital in Hangzhou. Patients there utilized AOM services even if they had only the slightest notion of sickness. Further, they recognized when their condition was changing and sought treatment immediately—even if the first sign was fatigue.
- Spread the word! Many medical practitioners don’t know exactly what we do! Oriental Medicine includes more than just acupuncture! There are five branches of Oriental Medicine: Acupuncture, moxibustion, dietary therapy, herbal medicine, and bodywork.
- Know when to refer. Just as a primary care physician knows when to refer to an orthopedic surgeon, AOM practitioners should know when to refer to other healthcare professionals and vice versa. Help educate practitioners so they know when AOM is appropriate. After all, isn’t a less invasive option best?
- Researchers study acupuncture in the way they study pharmaceuticals—looking for an “active ingredient.” Honestly, there are many active ingredients because the therapeutic nature of AOM services is more than just the administration of needles. Some researchers conclude that the evidence supporting acupuncture is slim. Funny thing is, many pharmaceuticals have an “unknown” affect yet they are still prescribed without a second thought.
The integration of AOM services into mainstream healthcare requires a shift in thinking and acceptance that biomedicine and AOM were founded on different theoretical understandings. This doesn’t make one paradigm better than the other—they both are valuable and should complement one another. The bottom line: work together, educate, and help the patient be their best.