Acupuncture is one of the oldest, most commonly used medical procedures in the world. It originated in China more than 4,000 years ago, but it is only in the last 40 years that interest has developed in the West.
It is possible to discuss acupuncture in a way that makes sense to even the most Westernized brains. We interviewed Beth Moose, an Austin Licensed Acupuncturist with almost 25 years in practice to help us understand this medicine.
TBOA: Is there a difference between acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Beth: Yes, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) refers to a specific system that is the official export of China. It includes acupuncture, herbal and dietary medicine, therapeutic massage, and lifestyle practices. Historically and more modernly, there indeed developed different styles of acupuncture and slightly different theoretical structures of the medicine in general.
I use TCM for most reasons people come in, but it is handy to know other styles too. If I perceive the presenting problem would resolve itself easier with a different style, I will certainly call on it. This might happen if the problem is a certain localized pain, for example, or if the complaint is primarily psychological or emotional.
TBOA: What should I expect on my first visit?
Beth: The visit begins with the typical intake forms. There is then a conversation about the primary complaint, but also about almost everything else that can go on with an individual. The practitioner then makes a differential diagnosis and administers acupuncture treatment. An herbal formula is also often prescribed.
TBOA: Explain how the needles work. Is there pain that people should be worried about?
Beth: An acupuncture needle is very thin and different from a hypodermic needle so there is not the same discomfort on insertion. Endorphins are released during a treatment, which often create profound relaxation. The needles stimulate the functions of the acupuncture points which give instruction to the body to do this or that. We can target organs, functions, and areas of the body.
TBOA: What are some common issues that acupuncture works best to solve and, in most cases, cure?
Beth: In TCM we treat an individual with an idiosyncratic set of signs, symptoms and constitutional factors, and we don't treat disease per se. So, we can treat almost anything, and if we can't heal it completely we can often at least improve function. It is not a panacea for everything and some conditions and individuals respond better than others. It is famous for treating pain of course. I see a ton of allergies and get pretty good results. It is being used these days for many cases of infertility. It works great with PMS and many hormonal issues. We can treat headaches, digestive issues, respiratory concerns, circulation issues, addictions, etc. It can be applied to emotional and psychological concerns, and is great for prevention and overall health enhancement in general.
TBOA: Are there any side effects or complications?
Beth: There are rare cases of inserting a needle too deeply into the thoracic cavity that are mentioned in the training journals; however, I have never seen it, and most acupuncturists are very cautious. Even if it is done a bit sloppily, acupuncture is very forgiving and little if any harm can be done. Side effects tend to be positive, really. Many times a patient will come in with a specific complaint and we end up improving or erasing other issues that weren't the primary concern.
TBOA: Are there any contraindications for acupuncture?
Beth: TCM is not emergency medicine, but can be applied later to facilitate quicker healing of trauma. If someone is extremely weak we might think twice about inserting too many needles.
TBOA: What is the one thing that you would say to someone who is reluctant that acupuncture can work for them? How would you convince them to give it a try?
Beth: The result is what is important and to receive treatment it is not necessary to probe the mystery of how it works. Consider it a medical treatment that's safe, gentle, and natural. How could anyone object to that? It would have faded away long ago if it could not perform.
TBOA: What drove you to spend so many years to get your license in acupuncture?
Beth: I was in college and getting a degree in Psychology. For my senior field study I got involved with Project PRES or Physical Response Education System. This was a project in the early 80's in the Santa Cruz, California school system where they were using acupressure with developmentally disabled children. The data collected correlated the acupressure with positive outcomes in the physical, intellectual, social, and emotional health of many of the children we worked with. I was so impressed with the program and loved what I saw in the acupressure that it lead me to the larger study.
TBOA: What do you like most about living in Austin?
Beth: I've been here since 1991, and really appreciate the sense of community here. It feels like a small town even though it's not, and there is always something to do!
Beth: I have a fair amount of experience at this point and am comfortable treating almost anything. I have a special interest in treating psychological and emotional issues, and I also do facial rejuvenation treatments which work pretty well and are fun to do.