Complementary, not alternative

MD. ND. Rx. Acupuncture. Chiropractic. PT. Herbs and supplements. Massage. Reiki. Homeopathy. Yoga. Reflexology. Counseling. Juicing. Meditation. Cleansing. Nutritional Healing. Spiritual Healing. There are LOTS of modalities out there that want your attention. There are lots of people who have a financial interest in you spending your money on one in particular. I’m one of those people; I’m not gonna lie. But here are some of my honest thoughts, and hopefully this will lead to more acceptance all around.

I am a licensed acupuncturist. I studied for many years, saw many patients as an intern, and passed many exams so the State of Texas and the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine deemed me worthy of putting sterile pins in people and recommending herbs, supplements, exercises, and other things that may make a patient more relaxed, in less pain, and in better health. In the state of Texas, if not treating for chronic pain, weight loss, or quit smoking, one cannot practice acupuncture without the referral of a chiropractor or the patient having seen an MD within the last year for the condition being treated.  If there is no improvement within the shorter of 30 days or 20 treatments, the acupuncturist must refer to an MD, though whether or not to follow up on that referral is up to the patient.

An acupuncturist is not allowed to diagnose in Texas. We are limited to observations such as “the lower back hurts.” If you have an MRI saying you have disc prolapse or sciatica, that’s nice. We have provided relief to plenty of patients with various diagnoses. In a practical sense, I think it doesn’t make a difference. Patients usually want pain relief and more range of motion and general function. If it matters to you that your practitioner use a lot of big Latin words, you might limit yourself to modern medicine. If you’re not ready for surgery and have a problem with drugs, then reconcile it in your head or try another practitioner. We have studied medical terminology and basic reading of imaging. However, since I’m certified in an ancient technique, I tend to be treating for “this part hurts, especially when I go like that,” no matter what the technical diagnosis.

I work on a lot more than back pain, but I am not the end all be all for your health care. Skeptics and science purists point to alternative practitioners and say, “You killed Steve Jobs.” (Notably, his friend, famous MD and diet guru Dean Ornish told him early on that he needed surgery. This is not saying alternative therapies are worthless; it’s saying you do need to match your tools to your projects.) My malpractice insurance asks if I treat cancer, and I certainly do not. I do not represent myself as treating cancer. I do get referrals from an oncologist, because neither the disease nor the treatment are comfortable.

I am pleased when patients recognize that they need something more. I’m really pleased when practitioners recognize the patient might need something more, and I’m disappointed when they don’t. I once saw a young woman about IBS, and between several medical doctors, nobody had ever thought to ask her if she had a gynecologist! Now, what else lives in the abdominal cavity aside from the digestive tract that can make one feel pain, cramps, and bloating?

It’s not just modern medicine, though. There are lots of alternative practitioners who don’t believe in doctors…or don’t believe in giving up market share. I hate that I’m kind of a weirdo in my field because I think everybody should be insured (even if it usually doesn’t cover what I do), and almost everybody should be vaccinated. Yes, it’s awful that lots of people don’t take care of themselves. You know what? Cancer happens to the best of us. It’s a joke older than I am of joggers dropping dead of heart attacks while Keith Richards shoots heroin into his eyeballs. I might not have died left to my own devices, but when my appendix flared up, I was more than happy to go to the hospital and get it cut out.

So. When do you see what? You might need a doctor or another or several of the laundry list I opened with. Doctors, I don’t want to see people who are against you if they need you, but I think everyone has been not-sick-enough-for-diagnosis at some point. See someone who is great at what they do but realize it’s not everything. I get adjusted, needled, and massaged, do moxibustion, and I take supplements, but I still go to the doctor and get lab work every year. It’s a free benefit now. I always tell my patients if it’s covered, why not go get more information. If they have an obviously asymmetrical gait or posture, I tell them they might look into chiropractic. Of course, I think I can help with a lot of things. The typical patient I see either feels their condition is not serious enough for the next medical (or surgical) therapy or they are unsatisfied with their current progress. I must stress that this article is not me telling you to go see somebody else about what is bothering you! But I do feel like it’s a strength of mine that I know that I am not the only thing that can help you and am willing to share. Your improvement will always be more important to me than my ego or my check.