In the last several years I began a research project that involves rethinking some fundamental concepts of the evaluation and application of Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. My focus has not been trying to ‘downgrade’ or judge the way people do acupuncture in the United States. My goal is not to limit acupuncture to a form of “physical medicine.” Rather, my focus has been to develop a set of practical, clinically tested acupuncture protocols in the treatment of pain.
The inspiration came from a scientific meeting I attended on the East Coast. When I was first invited as a speaker on a ‘basic science panel’ portion of the meeting, I thought to myself that this was the coolest thing. Here I am, a Traditional Curandero as a clinical acupuncturista, talking about the underlying mechanisms and neurobiology of acupuncture among my peers and colleagues in the scientific and the professional Acupuncture research community.
The meeting had its moments of lively ‘action’ concerning matters of how to really test acupuncture and what kind of studies needed to be funded to examine such underpinnings. At one point, I was kind of hoping one of the plenary speakers, a well-respected neuroscientist in the field of acupuncture research, would stand up and say, “You can’t handle the truth!”
He needs acupuncture.
It was clear when it came to acupuncture itself, the best minds on the subject had very little to yield in the breakthrough area of research called translational research. In plain ‘English,’ this means that doing research that actually matters. Work on projects that have a significant impact on a large population afflicted by disease-state or form of malady of some kind. Why do research on something for the sake of research? This problem is not unique to acupuncture research. Every field of study in science and medicine has this problem. Some of these fields have it more than others. My colleagues who set out to do research face the reality that they may not yield results in their lifetime. This is kind of depressing, but this is par for the course in the monastic way of research. Before I go any further, I want to let you know, the men and women who tirelessly work in this small field are underpaid and overworked. Their work is seldom recognized in the scientific/academic setting and that in the end, it may be all for nothing. Their work has a high risk of never empowering the patient, addressing scope practice issues and never having the ability to instill the necessary vitality needed for our country’s ailing healthcare system.
I want to change that.
If acupuncture is to survive as its own unique form of healthcare delivery system, rather than be marginalized and diminished to a ‘technique’ in the field of both CAM and conventional western medicine, we must rethink several ideas on the ‘anatomy and physiology’ of acupuncture.
Forest for the Trees
From a clinical standpoint, acupuncture needs to be separate from the other forms of East Asian medicine, when you are considering its conceptual foundations in both East Asian & Traditional Chinese Medicine. To all of my colleagues out there in “Healer Land,” this means, forget what you learned in school.
Acupuncture Theory does not Equal Herbal theory
Just like in any form of research, basic science, clinical and hospital level application, you do not compare apples to oranges. Surgery and buying a prescription are two different areas of conventional western medicine. We should look at this notion in a similar way with Acupuncture and the totality of East Asian Medicine. Acupuncture theory, regardless of the style, (click here to see what I mean), involves a different form of interaction at the level of the practitioner and patient relationship. It involves a point of service (no pun intended) that is immediate and easily verifiable. The acupuncturist is inserting or applying acupuncture to the person they are treating. The ‘problem’ with acupuncture, (beyond scope of practice concerns, legislative issues, insurance parity and the general idea of ‘trying to herd cats’ mentality), is that something funny happened on the way to the forum as this transmission of East Asian acupuncture education filtered into the West, (e.g. the United States.)
Even in China
In China, the Acupuncture departments are considered a separate department in all hospitals that offer health services in the form of Traditional Chinese Medicine and conventional Western medicine. 85% of all Chinese medicine (read: not conventional Western medicine in China) is the herbal application of Chinese medicine. Let me repeat that: IN CHINA, 85% of Chinese medicine consists of Chinese herbal medicine. Acupuncture is usually placed as a smaller unit within a department of surgery or it has its own stand alone unit considered separate from the rest of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Kids do the darndest things.
Enter the BaZi
So how do we go above the fray of acupuncture confusion? How do we transcend the arguments of politics, educational standards, cultural history and arguments that involve the talking points on the approach to the best delivery system of Chinese Medicine? We are such a small field. We are truly in our infancy here in the United States when it comes to acupuncture education. So what should we as professionals and friends of professionals do? We should go back to basics.
#1. Listen to the Patient
I think that is pretty straight forward. Doing this goes a long way.
#2. Understand what you do NOT know
This one is harder. I think the approach is to engage your mentor to ask him or her about questions you have. If your mentor does not know, find one that does.
#3. Understand what you DO know
This one is even harder. This is where I suggest my colleagues take a class or two with notable experts like Richard Tan or Jeffery Yuen about the function of acupuncture and East Asian Medicine. These healers really know their foundations in East Asian medicine.
#4. Utilize the BaZi with your patients
This is NOT the “Stems and Branches” or “Chrono-Acupuncture” approach of Acupuncture. I do not know who invented this confusion, but this is another case of apples and oranges.
We are friends, but we are not the same.
#5. No, I really mean the BaZi
I am talking about traditional Xu Zi Ping, standardized BaZi development that involves the health cycle of the person in their Pillars of Destiny. Understand it. Know it. If you do not know how to identify the “Structure” of the BaZi and it’s “Basic Disposition” with Qi Phases and Ming Gong and its intrinsic Sha Shen, I will be offering classes in the fall of 2013.
The BaZi Acupuncture Project
Instead of complaining, I have decided to continue to put my bunsen burner where my mouth is. (Ok, I don’t have a burner, but it sounded cool to say that.) I have commenced the BaZi Acupuncture Project. To find out more about this, click here.
Your next step- remember it only takes one thing to change everything.
One element can change your destiny.
The outcome of our life will be determined by the hour and that is our final destination. When the noble element appears in the hour, it would be auspicious. (It will be good if the noble element come in a strong pillar) Knowing how to use and apply the noble element will greatly enhance our life, (quoted from the Green Sachet Classic, 青 囊 经).
This is the BaZi of Jack Nicholson
Let’s journey together through the Great Life Pulse. I look forward in hearing your stories.