Classical Acupuncture: Between East and West
Chinese medicine, in all its modalities, including classical acupuncture, herbal medicine, and massage have been around for a long time. It is a complete medical system that truly survived the test of time. But, if Chinese medicine is a complete modality of healing, why does it look and sound so different than Western medicine?
Both systems address the same issues, yet Eastern and Western medicine seem to not be able to agree with these philosophies. Yes, you can definitely find a handful of “open-minded” doctors that work with and accept acupuncture as a modality. However, it seems like even those doctors don’t speak the same language as their eastern counterparts.
If we go back in time, not too long ago Chinese medicine and Western medicine sounded and looked, in practice, quite similar. Just two hundred years ago, western doctors used cups just like acupuncturist still do today. Doctors talked about humors, phlegm, wind and fire. All these terms still exist in Chinese medicine, as they have been used for millennia, but Western science and medicine has abandoned them.
Roughly one hundred and fifty years ago, Western science had a breakthrough, when biologists were able to look at a virus through the lens of a microscope. Biologists and chemists then began developing the science of viruses and bacteria. Modern medicine, as we know it today, was the result of the ability of scientists to observe a “pathogen.” When biologists were able to see a pathogen, watch it grow and spread, they concluded that microbes, bacteria and viruses were the cause of disease. From that moment onward, the focus of western medicine shifted from looking at the human body, to finding and isolating the pathogen, studying it and developing ways to vaccinate and medicate patients who contracted that specific “germ” or “pathogen.” Hence, the new approach in medicine was to destroy these pathogens.
In Chinese medicine, the focal point has always been to observe the human body. In fact, there are no names for diseases, per se, in Chinese medicine. The general term “Pathogenic Factor” (PF) is used to describe an ailment, or possible invasion(s). PFs can be External or Internal – it can come from outside or be produced internally in the body. Practitioners of Chinese Medicine don’t need to know the Western diagnosis in order to treat a patient, because – to put it bluntly – it almost does not matter. What the physician is looking for is your body’s response and reaction to the ailment. The idea is that if your body is to be balanced and working correctly, it wouldn’t have trouble dealing with issues on its own. If an “invasion” is taking place, the body initiates an attack – whether by sneezing or producing a fever – and it defends itself.
Chinese medicine looks at the body’s resources to assess its ability to mount that attack. Qi, Blood, Fluids, and Jing (essence) are all resources that our body needs and uses in order to nourish and protect us from invasion. When these recourses dwindle, for example, from lack of sleep or not eating enough nutritious foods, or from stress and dehydration, the body becomes susceptible to diseases. Furthermore, an imbalanced internal environment will generate an “internal pathogenic factor (IPF).” In other words, there is no invasion or a pathogen to be found that is external at all.
When you receive an acupuncture treatment, the aim of the practitioner is to help your body do its job. The physician’s priority is to correct the imbalances and open blockages. These treatments will restore your body’s innate ability to heal itself. In a way, you are the one that causes healing. The acupuncturist is enabling you to reestablish your own body’s natural healing potential.