It's not a big shock that Eastern and Western cultures view health and healing from very different angles. Each has its own unique history and values and each population has its own diet staples, habits, and stresses. When looking at the body, health, and healing from each perspective, we like to borrow from (and slightly modify) the descriptions Ted Kaptchuk uses in his book The Web That Has No Weaver.
In Eastern medicine, we see the body as a garden and healthcare practitioners as gardeners. Putting together a bountiful, beautiful garden takes work and time and requires knowing all of the factors that can cause havoc. Have you ever tried planting something in order to have it wither away or not sprout at all? (We have!) What went wrong? Maybe the soil didn't have enough nutrients, maybe there was too much or too little sunlight, maybe you gave it too much or too little water, maybe it was too cold or too hot... There were a lot of things that could have gone wrong! Each plant needs just the right conditions in order to thrive and having a garden full of thriving plants takes careful planning. In TCM, our bodies tell us what's wrong from our symptoms, and as Licensed Acupuncturists our job is to figure out which conditions need to be changed to bring the body back into harmony. For example, when a patient comes in with hot flashes, we'll use points to clear out heat and make them feel less hot...but we also use points to even out the long-standing imbalance that brought them to the point of experiencing symptoms. In this way, we can "spot treat" while still working towards harmonizing the body over time.
Is your body a "well-oiled machine"? Western medicine often treats the body like a car with doctors being the mechanics. When you get a crack in your car's radiator, do you work on all parts of the car, or do you just fix that crack? In almost every case, you just fix that crack because the rest of the car is functioning perfectly fine. If something else goes wrong, you fix that something, and keep looking at each issue in isolation until maybe a pattern develops. Similarly, if someone has gallstones, often a doctor will recommend surgery to remove the gallbladder, thus eliminating all of the stones. The surgery solves the problem but doesn't look at the cause, and in some cases that can contribute to more problems in the future. This is definitely the way to go in emergency and trauma situations - acupuncture will not fix a burst appendix! - but can miss the big picture in patients with chronic issues.
Which perspective do you identify with? We honestly like them each for their own merits and think they work very well together. People tend to polarize the two perspectives, but they don't have to be exclusive to one another. Also, there are practitioners of Eastern medicine out there who treat patients like cars and medical doctors who treat patients like gardens...so don't make snap judgments about healthcare professionals until you've talked to them first. From our standpoint, we suggest you maintain your garden with TCM but also bring your car to your mechanic for regular checkups as well!
Kathleen Ellerie is a Licensed Acupuncturist and the owner of Beachside Community Acupuncture. She loves providing affordable acupuncture to the residents of Addison, Dallas, and Farmers Branch, Texas, and educating the general public on how acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can treat everything from pain to infertility to stress and beyond. Click "Book Now" at the top of this page to book an appointment or feel free to contact her at (214) 417-2260.