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Combining Eastern and Western Medicine in Acupuncture

As a daughter of Eastern Medicine, surrounded by Western methodology, the tension between the two practices is becoming increasingly audible.

While Western Medicine is based on chemical-based medications and invasive procedures, Eastern Medicine vouches for non-invasive means through herbal medicines and mindfulness. Acupuncture is a prime example of this difference; central to the East but non-existent in the West.

The Eastern take on acupuncture delves into our chi (energy) flowing through our meridians (energy channels). In this ideology, all health issues are rooted in an imbalanced chi, and acupoints aid in rerouting and correcting one’s off-chi. Because this perspective can seem abstract and hard to grasp, I wonder if there is a Western explanation for this Eastern phenomenon, bringing patients back to acupuncture.

Recently, I spoke with Dr. Oliver Grover, Director of Acupuncture at the Hudson Medical Group, who has come the closest to solving this puzzle. He describes the process in three steps:

  • Acupuncture needles re-injure the body so that it can recognize its own pathology.
  • This recognition causes an increased cellular energy input in order to catalyze a micro-inflammatory response at particular points of the body.
  • Acupoints map out these sites of re injury, and the needles act as the medium of “re-injury”.

Dr. Grover’s goal as an acupuncturist is to increase the quantity of needles per patient in order to create a significant micro-inflammatory response. This response then promotes cellular healing and increases circulation where it is lacking, biological conditions optimal for treating ailments such as chronic pain, digestive tract disorders, and depression.

According to Dr. Grover, after a few sessions of acupuncture the body becomes aware of it’s own original imbalance and craves a lifestyle that prevents this imbalance from reoccurring. In other words, the body readjusts on a cellular level which encourages the mind to make healthier life choices. After a few months of weekly sessions, only one good acupuncture session per month is sufficient in maintaining a lasting mental and biological effect.

As an advocate for natural medicine, and as a patient of both my holistic upbringing and New York’s insurance-based healthcare system, I encourage all doubters and those in limbo between the two worlds to view the Eastern practice of acupuncture through these Western lenses.

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