Among the most famous medical polemics is the conflict between Eastern and Western medicine. On one side we have spiritually, life energy and holistic remedies; on the other we have science, reason and – as and when needed – medication. In this debate the Western tradition might say that Eastern medicine is not backed up by science and brazenly ignores centuries of medical innovations in favor of a more spiritual treatments. Conversely, an Eastern practitioner might suggest that Western medicine does nothing more than treat the physical, bodily condition – without accounting for the non-physical – through drugs that possibly have a host of side-effects. Thankfully, at the Mount Sinai Department or Rehabilitation Medicine our specialists are able to see the virtues in both philosophies and combine them to work wonders for our patients through medical acupuncture either as a stand-alone treatment or as complement to a comprehensive medical treatment plan.
Acupuncture comes from ancient Chinese medicine and is a treatment by which fine needles are inserted into specific parts on the body called acupuncture points for therapeutic or preventative purposes. It is a form of complementary or alternative medicine (CAM) to treat a range of musculoskeletal and pain conditions. Acupuncture involves stimulating sensory nerves under the skin and in muscles to help the body produce natural chemicals including pain-relieving endorphins. It is believe that these chemicals are responsible for the benefits attributed to acupuncture. According to the ancient Chinese tradition a life force known as Qi (pronounced chee) flows through the body in channels called meridians, but that when it cannot travel freely throughout the body the result is illness. To restore Qi – and therefore to restore health and prevent sickness – acupuncture is required.
While a skeptic might find this dubious, there is very good scientific evidence showing that acupuncture can help with a range of pain relief in the body as well as headaches and migraines. There is also evidence that suggest a causal link between acupuncture and relief from nausea and vomiting. However, there are many ailments that acupuncture treats that are simply not based on rigorous scientific evidence, not because there is not any to be found as much as the research has not yet been conducted. While acupuncture on its own can never guarantee the patient’s desired result, a course of acupuncture usually creates better and longer pain relief than a single session. What is more, acupuncture often promotes relaxation and a feeling of improved wellbeing.
A course of acupuncture sessions will begin with an assessment of general health, medical history and a physical examination. Once completed, depending on the treatment required, you will be asked to sit or lie down and may be asked to remove some cloths so your Mound Sinai medical acupuncturist can easily access certain parts of your body. While the idea of needles being inserted into the skin may sound like a frightening prospect, aside from possible momentary discomfort or a tingling, you should not experience significant pain (of course, if you do, let your acupuncturist know immediately). The needles that will be inserted into your skin are very fine and usually about an inch long. They will always be single use and pre-sterilized and will be disposed of immediately after your session. Up to 12 acupuncture points may be used in a normal session, sometimes more, depending on your condition. The needles will be either inserted just under your skin or slightly deeper to reach muscle tissue. Once they are in place, they may be left in their position for anywhere from a few minutes to up to a half hour. In some cases, your acupuncturist may rotate the needles or stimulate them with a mild electrical current, know as electroacupuncture. Many of our patients use medical acupuncture in addition to certain medications, osteopathic manipulation, joint or trigger point injections, physical therapy, psychotherapy and herbal therapies. Indeed, at the Mount Sinai Department of Rehabilitation Medicine it is not a case of having to choose the evidence-based science of Western medicine over the holistic and spiritual nature of Eastern; rather it is a case of harnessing the robust power of both to intertwine and complement one another to heal you, the patient.
If you are interested in acupuncture and believe it may be among the treatments for you, please get in touch with our team of medical acupuncturists at the Mount Sinai Department or Rehabilitation Medicine at (212) 241-6321.