“I don’t know how it works, but it works.” That’s what a patient said today when they called to book an acupuncture appointment. Three thoughts come to mind. First and foremost, acupuncture had relieved the condition this patient had been suffering from and the experience prompted them to seek out treatment again. Second; do we as patients always understand exactly how medicine works? And lastly; if it works, does it really count as "alternative?"
In the United States, more than 67% of office visits to physicians of Western medicine involved drug therapy(1). Do we know—really know—each drug’s chemical makeup, which organ excretes what hormone in response, the chain of reaction that causes our condition—or symptoms of that condition—to improve? Does not knowing impact our belief or investment in them? Western medicine and pharmaceuticals save and improve the quality of people’s lives, but like all forms of medicine, it's a marriage of art and science. Dosages are adjusted and alternatives are explored. There are undesirable side effects. On the whole and as a culture however, we have tremendous faith in the system of Western medicine: at any given time, 48% of the U.S. population is using at least one prescription drug (1).
Slowly, the American experience is changing. In recent months we’ve posted numerous articles to the Healing Foundations Facebook page about the growing presence of acupuncture on the healthcare landscape. The U.S. military is using and expanding acupuncture for the treatment of PTSD and chronic pain (2). Among its many studies involving acupuncture and other integrative medicine (3), Yale Medical School is engaged in a fifteen-year research project to reconcile Eastern and Western medicine theologies by applying modern scientific research standards to Traditional Chinese Medicine in the treatment of liver, pancreatic and colorectal cancers. The results have been extremely promising (4).