I am a big, big proponent of patient education when it comes to acupuncture. For most of us, acupuncture is a foreign medicine whose concepts take some getting used to. I can completely empathize with this and usually encourage my patients to ask as many questions as they like as we progress through treatment.
Every time I see a new patient in my clinic, one of the very first things I make sure to explain is the difference between Eastern and Western - or, acupuncture and allopathic - medicine. This manages expectations of treatment, but also helps to get patients more comfortable with the ideas of energy and balance.
Essentially, allopathic medicine is concerned with the immediate resolution of symptoms. This typically involves either surgery or pharmaceuticals, which, while sometimes effective, serve as a band-aid treatment, merely covering up symptoms.
Acupuncture and Eastern medicine, on the other hand, is more focused on the flow and balance of energy in the human body. Any time you experience any kind of symptom - whether it is pain, indigestion, asthma, insomnia, or anything else - it is a result of an imbalance of the body's natural energy (or qi). Acupuncture aims to achieve this balance through the insertion of acupuncture needles at specific points on the body. What's really great about this medicine is that it uses the body's own innate energy resources to heal itself. Ultimately, this means that acupuncture is a more gradual process than going the drug or surgery route. This can potentially be off-putting for some patients because we like our results and we like them quickly. However, this is where I love to stress that because of its slow progression, acupuncture ultimately generates very sustainable results, as many studies have suggested.
If you are interested in learning more about the differences between Eastern and Western medicine, I would encourage you to have a look at this awesome infographic. Enjoy!
Michael A. Sassack is a licensed and board certified acupuncturist serving the northwest suburbs of Chicago.