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Why Acupuncturists Never Say 'We Don't Treat That'

If you've ever asked an acupuncturist or Dr Google, 'what can acupuncture treat?', or 'can acupuncture treat my xyz health problem?', you've probably noticed the answer is almost always 'yes it could help'.

From acid re-flux or back pain to nausea in pregnancy, you name it, we'll treat it. And its not because we want to keep our booking list full.

Acupuncture is part of the complete medical system that is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

A complete medical system, like Western Medicine, allows for the diagnosis of almost any health condition. For this reason, in TCM any symptom can be taken, and with some questioning and checking the tongue and pulse, we can arrive at a diagnosis and treatment. Be it external problems like a knee injury, or internal such as heart palpitations.

What makes it a complete medical system?

Its hard to imagine that there are whole medical systems out there other than the Western Medical System, its kind of like trying to imagine or invent new colours that don't yet exist. But not only is TCM a complete system, the traditional Ayurveda medicine of India is also a whole system that is thousands of years old.

TCM provides a health framework that allows the human condition or landscape to be laid on top and organized into a diagnosis.

All organs are recognized in TCM, as well as the channels which encompass all muscles and sinews. The bones, hair and nails are seen as extensions of particular organs, and the mind and mental health is linked into the health of the body. Diet and lifestyle are as important as ever to TCM and many health problems can be attributed to poor lifestyle habits negatively affecting the body.

During diagnosis in TCM, signs and symptoms are taken and weaved through 8 core principles that are:





Is a condition internal, inside the body, like digestive disorders? Or is it outside like eczema or injuries of the muscles and limbs?

Is the condition caused by an excess of energy, or deficiency? Is the headache caused by an excess of the Livers energy raising to the head causing a migraine with bloodshot eyes? Or is it caused by blood deficiency, not enough blood reaching the head, causing an uncomfortable ache behind the eyes in the afternoon with dizziness and tiredness?

Does the condition have a thermal aspect to it? Is the knee pain caused by a recent injury making it swollen, red and hot to touch? Or is it an arthritic knee that is worse in winter and just before it rains?

And lastly, is the condition overall more Yin or Yang. A Yin condition would more likely be internal, cold and deplete, while the Yang would be external, hot and replete.

There are many different maps that guide an acupuncturist to a diagnosis and the 8 principles are just one. There is also 5 phase theory where the Qi of each organs flows on and nourishes the next if working correctly. Climatic factors like dampness, wind, dryness, heat and cold are also important and can injure the body from the outside or build up on the inside if the organs are not working properly.

For this reason acupuncturists are for ever saying 'Yes! Lets have a go at treating it.'

So can acupuncturists fix everything?

No. Unfortunately. We might be able to see all the causes of a condition, and know what needs to be done, but acupuncture is a subtle medicine, and not all conditions respond well. Generally, the longer a condition has been going on, the harder its going to be to treat. If acupuncture is not helping your condition then you should be referred to another treatment that might suit you better.

As for the yes it 'could help', or 'may help', legally acupuncturists cannot say acupuncture 'will fix' or even 'can help'. Modern researchers and analysts haven't yet caught up on the mammoth task of doing large scale Randomized Control Trials on the millions of different problems acupuncture is used for, though there is a lot of significant research out there. (Unfortunately thousands of years of trial and error and common sense just doesn't cut it apparently!)

So that's why the answers to your 'can you treat this' questions may be vague, but they always lead back to a yes.

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