Western vs. Eastern Medicine
Why Our Expectations Are Different?

Recent conversations with patients asking questions whether or not one treatment will be enough opened my eyes and I was stunned to realize, that wait a minute, we are not on the same page.

In other words, are we comparing West to East equally, or our expectations toward Eastern Medicine and acupuncture are totally different and unrealistic, and if so why?

These very same patients wouldn’t go to their western family doctor with their diabetes, hypertension, GERD, obesity, et cetera, asking for the magic pill, expecting that they will be cured for good, and never see the doc ever again. No, they accept matter-of-factly that they became the patient of the practice for life and they need to take their medications, - antihypertensive, heart, hypothyroid, lipid, diabetic, psychotropic, diuretic, sleeping, anti-acid, blood-thinning, prostate, bone strengthening, pain, - this list is endless especially if we consider the number of pills prescribed for the side effects of the aforementioned drugs.

China is famous about practicing western medicine and traditional Chinese medicine parallel. It is not unusual that one comes every day for treatments for a while, or if inpatient, s/he receives acupuncture daily before discharge.

So why were it so surprising here in U.S. if we told patients that acupuncture can treat them but they need to come every day for the rest of their lives? How about twice a week for the rest of your life? Okay, how about weekly for the rest of your life? How about monthly? Maybe quarterly?


Well, I am sorry to be the one to break the news but acupuncture is not magic. It is very effective to work on different system levels moving through energy, open blockages, and induce natural healing, but it is a very subtle therapeutic input, so to expect after one treatment that long decades of underlying patho-physiological processes (diseases) will heal miraculously overnight, - well it would be a miracle.

We do not give acupuncture the same chance as we handle western medicine. If the first treatment does not fulfill the “expectations”, we give upon it, on the other hand taking only one pill of western medication, nobody expects that all their diseases will be cured or at least controlled overnight.

Well, the fact that the majority of the patients immediately feel much better only shows that it is really a powerful tool, but again, not a wonder weapon. Acupuncture requires frequent treatments to solve the underlying problems before we can move to less frequent interactions, ultimately toward monthly, quarterly maintenance.

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Dr. Li, Shang Hai Clinic

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  • quick, and effective

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