Women’s Health

Acupuncture for Women’s Health Needs

by Roberta Greenwood
Traditional Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture is the most commonly practiced aspect of traditional Chinese medicine in the Western world. It works on the theory that the body has an internal energy force circulating through it known as “qi” (pronounced “chee”). Qi flows through channels in the body called meridians, which conduct this energy between the surface of the body and its internal systems. Qi is subject to the opposite yet interdependent forces of yin and yang that, when balanced, allow it to flow freely through the body, creating harmony and health. When the yin and yang of the body are out of balance, the flow of qi is disrupted, and pain and illness result. Acupuncture is the insertion of thin hair-like needles at specific points along the meridians to stimulate and unblock the flow of qi, allowing the body to be restored to balance and health. “It’s so simple,” says Hughes. “As kids we knew to rub ourselves if we fell and got injured – it’s all about getting the flow going again.”

Besides acupuncture, Oriental medicine includes many other therapies, such as the use of herbs, cupping, and exercise. Dr. Howie Sun, a third generation and nationally board-certified acupuncturist, holds dual degrees in biochemistry and molecular cellular development biology from the University of Colorado and a Master of Science degree in Oriental Medicine. At his Bellevue clinic, 1st Choice Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine, he teaches that “Oriental medicine is about healing but more importantly, prevention.” He’s quick to emphasize that lifestyle choices have tremendous impact on the quality of one’s health – and obtaining a daily balance of work, diet, exercise and relaxation is important to a successful treatment plan. This balance can prove to be challenging for most patients, but especially for women.

Common Ailments and Symptoms

“Oriental medicine differs from Western medicine on approach as well as focus,” Sun explains. “Oriental medicine approaches a patient and the illness not only from a pathological perspective, but also includes the underlying constitution of the patient, lifestyle and possible emotional aspects. We focus on the root cause – we look to heal the patient so the symptoms subside.” Like Hughes, he often sees patients who are skeptical and have little understanding of the procedures he grew up with in Taiwan. “The American public is often doubtful and fearful of practices that differ from traditional Western medicine; I hope people will remain open-minded and listen to different schools of thought. For instance, gynecology in Oriental medicine is quite developed; our female patients have found that acupuncture works for menstrual cramps, fatigue, menopausal symptoms and even infertility.”

Corinna Shen, LAc, received her master’s degree from the Dongguk Royal University in Los Angeles and practices at the Ostara Center for Well Being in Redmond. The daughter and sister of conventional “Western” doctors, she chose Oriental medicine because of her interest in healing and her respect for the Asian culture. “One of my areas of focus is infertility, and I’m seeing an increase in patients seeking support,” states Shen. “Many patients come to me as a last resort; they couldn’t find relief through conventional medicine or were unhappy with side effects. They’re very happy at how acupuncture has helped them.” As reported by CBS News, a 2002 German study looked at 160 women undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF), half of whom received acupuncture along with IVF, and the other half who received IVF alone. They found that pregnancy rates among the women undergoing acupuncture were significantly higher.

While many women choose acupuncture to treat muscular pain or specific gynecological conditions, treatments have also proven effective for those who suffer from sleep disorders, anxiety, depression and strokes. Angela Hughes can attest to that fact; she’s seeing remarkable results at the Wellness Clinic. Hughes notes impressive improvements in the areas of mobility, increased sensation in limbs, improvement in speech and an overall decrease in pain. “In China, the first modality in treatment of strokes is acupuncture; it keeps the energy flowing, limiting muscle waste due to the lack of circulation,” reports Hughes. The use of electro acupuncture, which applies a slight electrical charge to the needle, hastens the return of speech and muscle strength to her stroke patients – and more importantly, enhances their quality of life.

Speaking softly and deliberately, 69-year-old Louise Hodo says the stroke she suffered in 2004 left her paralyzed on her left side and struggling with speech and urinary problems. Encouraged by her husband after watching a television report on the Providence Mount St. Vincent Wellness Clinic, she began a series of acupuncture treatments under the care of Hughes. “It’s been wonderful; it really helped my urinary problems and I have better movement in my arm,” whispers Hodo. “My speech is much clearer and people can understand me better.”

Moving Forward
Thinking About Acupuncture?

Here are some suggestions from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative medicine:

  • Inform your health care providers that you’re considering acupuncture or any other alternative/complementary treatment.
  • Find out what scientific studies have been done on the effectiveness of acupuncture for your health condition.
  • As with all medical treatment, choose the practitioner with care. Check with your insurance company to see if coverage is offered under your plan.
  • Check a practitioner’s credentials. Forty states have established training standards for acupuncture certification; requirements for obtaining a license to practice acupuncture vary.
  • Don’t rely on a diagnosis of disease by an acupuncture practitioner who does not have substantial conventional medical training.

©2006 Caliope Publishing Company

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from: seattlewomanmagazine.com

As noted by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a 1997 National Institutes of Health (NIH) panel reported that acupuncture and Chinese medicine clearly work to treat a number of conditions: nausea from chemotherapy, surgery and pregnancy, pain, stroke rehabilitation, a variety of muscle disorders and asthma. They noted that TCM has a substantially lower incidence of adverse side effects than many Western therapies – in fact, the panel concluded that acupuncture should be integrated into standard medical practice and covered by Medicare and Medicaid. Hughes and Sun agree and say that although change is occurring, it’s slow and often at the expense of patients and their quality of life.

“It’s no big mystery,” claims Hughes. “Acupuncture has been used successfully for thousands of years. It’s a question of education: when patients understand the concept of energy flow and how all the bodily systems are interconnected, acupuncture makes perfect sense.”

Roberta Greenwood is a frequent contributor to Seattle Woman. A community activist and writer, she lives in Bellevue with her husband and youngest daughter.

When you think about former President Richard M. Nixon, what comes to mind? Watergate, Vietnam, the Cold War … acupuncture? It’s hard to believe in today’s world of alternative medicine and holistic healing that most Americans had never heard of acupuncture before a 1971 Nixon-sponsored state trip to China and an ensuing article written by New York Times journalist James Reston. Reston, recovering from an emergency appendectomy performed in a Peking (Beijing) hospital, found acupuncture relieved his severe post-operative pain – and his article, “Now, Let Me Tell You About My Appendectomy in Peking…,” introduced acupuncture to an intrigued national audience.

Since then, acupuncture, traditional Chinese (or Oriental) medicine (TCM), and other complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) have been incorporated into many medical programs – both alternative and conventional. Women in increasing numbers are including acupuncture in their overall health strategy for relief of a variety of symptoms, ranging from menstrual problems, infertility and menopausal issues to the pain and nausea caused by chemotherapy treatments. Acupuncture has become so popular that many insurance companies now routinely cover select treatments and acupuncturists are often on the staff of conventional medical departments.

Angela Hughes, LAc, MSAOM, graduated from the London School of Acupuncture and has been practicing in Seattle for almost 20 years. She considers programs at schools such as the University of Washington, which encourage medical students to complete study rotations in complementary medicine, very promising. “These young doctors are exposed to new ideas and treatments at Bastyr; even if they come in skeptical, they leave enthusiastic,” says Hughes. “They love it. They learn to be more patient-centered, focusing on the physical, emotional, mental and social needs of their patients.” Adjunct teaching faculty member at Bastyr University and a practitioner at the Providence Mount St. Vincent Wellness Clinic, Hughes says there is increasing acceptance of acupuncture and CAM, but believes it should be compulsory study for all doctors.

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