Monday, 31 October 2011

western acupuncture v traditional acupuncture.

The other week I was treating a GP and we got chatting about acupuncture - most of this conversation happened before I found out what she did for a living..

But I was explaining the difference between 'Western' and 'Traditional' Acupuncture as they have been coined.  For me the key difference is in the theoretical understanding.  Physios, osteopaths, nurses and doctors as well as many other 'health care professionals' have the opportunity to study acupuncture, but to my understanding they do not spend a lot of time understanding the theory behind it all...

In the Beijing International TCM Hospital, where I gained post graduate training I learned that Acupuncturists in China are at Uni for over 8 years (unlike our unis - only getting a few weeks a year off) where they learn the full theory behind acupuncture - that of the 5 Elements/Yin Yang and Qi, they learn about herbs and also get a full western medical degree while they are at it!   My training is not that comprehensive, however I spent the 1st half of my degree learning all about the TCM theory , the Western anatomy, physiology and pathology, before I got anywhere near a needle, in addition to over 400 hours hands on clinical experience whist at Uni.  I have done a little research - physiotherapists are completing 'approved training' with just 80 hours training. (

I have now been in practice for a full 4 years, and with 7 plus years of working with and getting to grips with Chinese Medicine Theory I can finally say i PRETTY much get it now.. but even still the odd person will pop up and will remind me of how much I still have to learn, so how someone can condense this into 80 hours and fully understand it, amazes me!!

What I am aware of is that the majority of these practitioners work with pain conditions, and for most people this is relatively simple: stagnation of Qi=pain and as such is relatively easy to treat, assuming that is all that is going on.. but what we as traditional acupuncturist do is look for why the Qi is stagnating, and treat the underlying cause.

My belief is that this simplification of acupuncture is very useful in alleviating pain conditions, mainly in the short term, , but that the traditional, all be it more complex, model of acupuncture is far more useful in improving quality of life.

I have recently read a beautiful book talking about traditional acupuncurists, and comparing them to gardeners.  Stating that it is my role as an acupuncturist to cultivate life, whilst western medics role is to prevent death..

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