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Acupuncture Does Not Equal Traditional Chinese Medicine

by Gretchen Belenchia

Most websites offering acupuncture will place the acupuncture heading under the "services" or "modalities” page, as it is here. It would seem then, that there is the common understanding that acupuncture is just one of the modalities that we, as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners use.

However, in actuality, there is a lot of confusion out there about acupuncture: who is licensed to do acupuncture, are all people who do acupuncture acupuncturists, what is TCM, what can it treat, etc.

There is so much confusion in the West because it is a relatively new field of medicine here. It seems like more established figures in Western medicine, such as MD’s, ND’s, chiropractors, and physical therapists (with ‘dry needling’) have jumped on the acupuncture trend by taking weekend seminars and then offering acupuncture as part of their practice.

It’s a bit frustrating, because although acupuncture seems to be the star (maybe because it’s new, shiny, and trendy here) of TCM, it is actually only one tool that TCM practitioners use, along with moxibustion, tuina, Chinese herbal formulas, gua sha, and cupping.

TCM is an elegant system of medicine that can diagnose and treat the whole range of human conditions. From the physical to the mental and the spiritual, the TCM system of diagnosis is designed to look at disharmonies of the human form in a unique way.

That’s why a TCM practitioner is different. You are diagnosed and treated from a completely different perspective. That is why TCM can treat conditions that either have not responded to traditional Western medicine or have repeatedly returned after Western medical treatment.

It’s not the acupuncture, or just the acupuncture; it’s the system of medicine.

A TCM practitioner is trained to focus and find the root of the disharmony. A Western medical practitioner who is trained in the Western medical model and who takes a weekend acupuncture seminar will still treat, most likely, within the Western medical paradigm.

Placing needles in certain places along the human body will indeed produce changes, and you might even feel better.

But it isn’t TCM. The system of diagnosis and treatment is the star of TCM, not acupuncture.

Acupuncture is a tool that we use to treat disharmonies. If used correctly with moxibustion, tuina, and herbs, TCM is a very effective system of medicine.

However, It seems as though most of the scientific studies here in the West have focused solely on acupuncture’s effectiveness. And while that’s great, perhaps the focus should be on the effectiveness of the TCM system of medicine.

These studies have shown the effectiveness of acupuncture, so it does seem like it can stand on its own, however much it is watered and stripped down. But acupuncture is so much stronger as a part of the medicine that gave it birth.

Backed up by TCM theory and principles, acupuncture becomes the tool again in a TCM practitioner’s toolbox.

We are not just acupuncturists. We are Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners who do acupuncture – and many other effective modalities as a part of our medicine, to treat you along your path to health.