Some people think of acupuncture and Oriental medicine as alternative healthcare, shying away from Western medicine. While it is true that in the modern world of Traditional Chinese Medicine a holistic approach to care is at the heart of our practice, we like to think of our approach at AOMA as integrative healthcare. When we feel the radial pulse we are differentiating between choppy, slippery and dai mai, to name a few, but we are also looking for red flags like tachycardia and hypertension so we also take blood pressure.
Integrative healthcare as defined by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health, "combines mainstream medical therapies and CAM therapies for which there is some high-quality scientific evidence of safety and effectiveness." So we get the best of both worlds while providing the best possible care for our patients. We take into account the whole person's mind, body and spirit.
Providing care that's within our scope and utilizing the other medical fields as would best serve the patient needs: pretty straightforward. In using an integrative approach, we are not limited by one therapy because we access both alternative approaches as well as conventional ones. A good example is using acupuncture to help with post surgical pain and inflammation. Acupuncture alone wouldn't be sufficient treatment for a structural issue, like a broken bone or severely torn muscle. But after the x-rays have been taken, the bone set back into place, the use of acupuncture can be instrumental not only to reduce physical pain but also the care for the emotional component of the injury.
The Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco describes that "integrative medicine seeks to incorporate treatment options from conventional and alternative approaches, taking into account not only physical symptoms, but also psychological, social and spiritual aspects of health and illness."
As acupuncturists, we might ask why it matters to be integrative. Well, it may mean jobs for one. According to the American Hospital Association, the percentage of U.S. hospitals that offer complementary therapies has increased dramatically in less than a decade, from 8.6% in 1998 to almost 42% in 2011. That's good news for practitioners but it's great news for patients.
Part of being a good integrative healthcare practitioner is understanding the health landscape for that patient and being able to speak intelligently about it with other practitioners that may have a background different than our own. Qi, yin and yang are incredibly important to us but if we're working on a case and the patient primary wants to understand what you are treating and herbs you intend to prescribe, we need to be able to have that conversation. Not to say you can't use terms like zang fu and xue xu, just back it up.
AOMA is hosting our own integrative healthcare symposium with the Southwest Symposium, May 5-9, in Austin, TX. One of the best ways to understand TCM and how to speak about it with patients and other healthcare providers is to get many different points of view. Be sure to check out this year’s line-up! aoma.edu/sws