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Acupuncture in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Modern Patient Care

Acupuncture serves as an established mode of treatment in modern healthcare worldwide, after having maintained its importance as a form of therapy for thousands of years, during time it has occupied a central position in traditional Chinese medicine. Today, healthcare providers in both primary medicine and specialty areas should be familiar with it and take advantage of it in behalf of their patients. Practices that offer integrative medicine as an aspect to their care can educate about benefits of acupuncture and refer patients to qualified acupuncturists for treatment for conditions ranging from stress to fertility, from pain to high blood pressure.

Accomplished Lourdes Wellness Center acupuncture practitioner Sheri McLellan-Kraus, LAc, MAc, explained these points and the critical roles for this ancient form of care-as well as the ways in which this therapy illustrates the tenants of traditional Chinese medicine-at the fifth annual Explorations in Integrative Medicine symposium, presented by the Lourdes Wellness Center and Lourdes Health System in March 2009. In her presentation, “Managing Stress and Anxiety with Traditional Chinese Medicine”, Ms. McLellan-Kraus, who is a Licensed Acupuncturist and Master of Acupuncture, reviewed the mechanisms through which acupuncture works and the ways in which acupuncture serves as an example of philosophy and school of medicine that seeks always to treat both body and mind.

Combining Old & New Knowledge

“In our system today, acupuncture is usually best used as an addition to conventional medical treatment, so that it serves as a complement to other standard care,” explained McLellan-Kraus, who trained and worked at Harvard University Health Services and previously lived in Japan.

At the Lourdes event, attended by some 150 healthcare professionals and community members and sponsored by Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, Ms. McLellan-Kraus noted that though tens of millions of people across the globe have used acupuncture, the treatment is just now at an important phase of data support from formal research. These current investigations include using advanced forms of imaging to detect blood-flow alterations, shifts in levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin or other physiologic changes resulting from the treatment.

The acupuncturist, who received her Master’s Degree from the New England School of Acupuncture, also referenced variations on simple need insertion in acupuncture, describing:

  • moxibustion, a traditional approach in which the practitioner burns an herb on top of the indwelling needle to warm the needle;
  • and electroacupuncture, in which the provider attaches a TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) unit to the needle to add electrical stimulation to the treatment (often useful for pain treatment).
Added Therapy That Resets & Rebalances

Ms. McLellan-Kraus, who incorporates both Western and Eastern medical research into her practice, offers acupuncture as part of a complete, holistic approach that must include a full health evaluation. Using acupuncture’s ancient Chinese rubric, she classifies problems as either a yin syndrome (weakness or deficiency) or yang syndrome (overactivity) and works to adjust these energies and processes to normalcy and balance to achieve Chi (health). The strategy associates conditions with an organ or body system and alters these target areas by affecting various “meridians” (located near nerve bundles, tissue junctures or arteries) that traditional practitioners have intricately mapped over the ages.

Widely accepted as a relaxing experience (patients often fall asleep during treatment), acupuncture is effective against emotional and neurological conditions well. Practitioners use established acupuncture interventions for these purposes.

“Patients almost universally come away from any kind of acupuncture with an improved sense of well-being. So its usefulness in specifically treating anxiety and related conditions is understandably very strong,” observed McLellan-Kraus, who served as one of a panel of experts addressing this year’s conference theme, “Integrative Approaches to Managing Stress.”

“In our current healthcare system, acupuncture often comes into play if other types of care haven’t worked or if the patient needs additional care or adjunct treatment to supplement other care,” said Ms. McLellan-Kraus, who treated patients in a number of Boston-area hospitals prior to coming to the Lourdes Wellness Center.

She noted, too, that most medical insurance today pays for at least at part of the cost of acupuncture treatment.

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