An Overview Of Medical Acupuncture
An Overview Of Medical Acupuncture
by Joseph M Helms, M.D.
Modified from Essentials of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (Jonas WB, Levin JS, eds. Baltimore, Md: Williams & Wilkins; in press). Used with permission.

Joseph M Helms is the author of Acupuncture Energetics: A Clinical Approach for Physicians. He is the chairman of physician acupuncture training programs of the Office of Continuing Medical Education, University of California-Los Angeles School of Medicine, and the founding president of the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture. Dr Helms is in private practice in Berkeley, Calif.

This article defines the theoretical matrix and clinical value of the emerging complementary discipline of medical acupuncture. The acupuncture approach most commonly integrated by physicians into conventional medical practice. Medical acupuncture respects our contemporary understanding of neuromuscular anatomy and pain physiology while embracing the classical Chinese perception of a subtle circulation network of a vivifying force called qi. This hybrid acupuncture approach expresses the best of both worlds by describing a context in which to organize patient symptoms that usually escape attention in the standard medical evaluation. Musculoskeletal problems have been shown to be the most frequently and successfully treated disorders; however medical acupuncture is adaptable to most clinical practices and can be used either as the primary or a complementary treatment. The physician acupuncturist can creatively intervene in a spectrum of medical disorders from early pre-morbid manifestations to chronic organic or musculoskeletal lesions by activating the appropriate subunit of qi circulation. (Altern Ther HealthMed. 1998;4(3):35-45)

Medical acupuncture is acupuncture that has been successfully incorporated into medical or allied health practices in Western countries. It is derived from Asian and European sources, and is practiced in both pure and hybrid forms. Therapeutic insertion of solid needles in various combinations and patterns is the foundation of medical acupuncture. The choice of needle patterns can be based on traditional principles such as encouraging the flow of qi (pronounced chee), a subtle vivifying energy, through classically described acupuncture channels, modern concepts such as recruiting neuroanatomical activities in segmental distributions, or a combination of these two principles. The adaptability of classical and hybrid acupuncture approaches in Western medical environments is the key to their clinical success and popular appeal.

History and Development
Principal Classical Concepts
Principal Modern Concepts
Provider-Patient Interactions
Differential Diagnosis
Treatment Design
Therapy and Outcomes
Description of Treatment
Schedules and Results
Treatment Evaluation
Most Useful Treatment
Least Useful Treatment
Adverse Effects
Preventive Value
Scope of Practice
Acupuncture as Complement
Training and Quality Assurance
Reimbursement Status
Prospects for the Future

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In the United States, acupuncture has been increasingly embraced by practitioners and patients since the appearance of James Reston's landmark article describing his experience with successful post appendectomy pain ...

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