When I first researched this book in 1985 acupuncture medicine was just starting to gain widespread attention in clinical western medicine. Since then much has changed and many hospitals and medical schools have departments of what has come to be called
Western medical doctors, or allopaths, as they are called, are really medical scientists for the most part. Since the 1940's technology has driven the practice of western medicine and a great many of the traditional skills of western doctors have been lost. At one time western doctors were taught 25 qualities of the pulse, a wide range of stethoscope, physical examination and interpersonal skills and many other valuable skills that have fallen by the wayside. Western medical science has produced many amazing advances especially in the treatment of trauma and even major surgery is today a relatively safe and routine occurrence. We can all be grateful for the successes of the modern medical model, but we should also be wary of accepting all of its conclusions about healthcare and the treatment of disease.
Recent researchers in medical school and university affiliated projects have tried to make acupuncture into neurologic medicine. The result of this false paradigm has been a rash of poorly designed studies that have little or nothing to do with the effects of acupuncture and whose inevitable outcomes are poor at best. These unconvincing studies are dutifully reported in high impact factor journals where their myths are perpetuated, while studies conducted by acupuncturists and less politically motivated researchers are relegated to low impact factor journals.
The therapeutic actions of acupuncture are not neurologic in nature or action. Clearly there are some effects which have been demonstrated in part by the gate theories relative to pain relief which appear to be at least in part neurologically mediated, but as this paper demonstrates, other factors such as psychology, inflammation, chemotaxis and circulation play equal parts in pain relief. Any practicing acupuncturist with any experience at all knows that pain relief is only one small part of acupuncture medicine, and it’s many successes with metabolic disorders and really any disease of humans makes a strictly neurologic basis improbable.
In all the classic texts the circulation of qi and blood is emphasized as central to health, and any degradations of free and patent flow are a cause or sign of disease.
Even if the ancient writers of the old texts had a more modern understanding of neurology, they would have attributed the functions of the nervous system to the flow of qi, and if they had considered the functions of the nervous system to be the primary conduits of acupuncture treatment they would not have given equal emphasis to both qi and blood.
Medical scientists—which most modern medical doctors actually are—like to emphasize that theirs is an evidence based science mostly because of their reliance on statistical outcomes. Yet while the “evidence” is overwhelming by any standard that diet plays a significant part in the prevalence and severity of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and more, almost every medical school gives shockingly short shrift to the study of diet and nutrition. Coupled with recent dramatic failures, many with disastrous consequences, of powerful drugs which the “evidence” had clearly warned about prior to their release and widespread use, this undermines western allopathic medicine’s claim to be strictly evidence based.
Only 15% of standard medical procedures have ever been properly tested by scientific scrutiny-the supposed gold standard of western medicine-and only 1% of articles in medical journals are based on verifiable scientific research, according to David Eddy, M.D., Ph.D., the doctor who coined the term “evidence based” medicine.
Fully 85% of medical interventions are unproven and well-intentioned medical intervention is now recognized as a primary cause of preventable, premature death in the United States according to Richard Smith in the October 5, 1991 British Medical Journal. Dr. Eddy writes in the May 29, 2006 issue of Business Week, “The problem is that we don’t know what we are doing. The nation’s $2 trillion-a year medical system is operating with little or no evidence to support the notion that widely used medical interventions and procedures work any better than less invasive, less expensive alternatives.”
The Centers for Disease Control admits that 75% of medical care today only treats the symptoms of chronic illness caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices. The medical industry knows this, but the only solution offered is more drugs and more surgery. In spite of their own evidence, garnered through their own scientific methods, medical training continues to give short shrift to diet and exercise as viable therapies.
The runaway costs of medical care have reached the point where they threaten the life of our entire economy. The majority of personal bankruptcies in this country are filed by people unable to pay their medical bills, even though three-fourths of these same people have medical insurance coverage!
The proper remedy is to get more people well and keep them from entering the costly and dangerous medical system to begin with. Doctors of Oriental Medicine, as well as competent doctors in other alternative fields, with their emphasis on prevention and wellness care, are the logical choice to lead patients into the next era of health care.
Chinese Medicine emphasizes the patient’s entire lifestyle as a tool of evaluation and includes mental and emotional aspects of both disease and healing.
Acupuncture is circulation medicine. Such a concept would take exhaustive research and trial and error, the very process the Chinese undertook for thousands of years, carefully recording their findings, albeit in arcane language and philosophical cosmogony.
Traditional Chinese Medicine’s view is that congestion is the cause and circulation the cure for most of what we call disease; certainly of those diseases against which acupuncture has the greatest proven efficacy.
© 1986 Richard Dinsmore
© 1986 Richard Dinsmore