How is Acupuncture different from Western medicine?
We can best answer this question by explaining the basic framework of both forms of medicine. The main form of medicine in Australia is known as Western medicine. Western medicine relies on the belief that disease is a defect within the human body or a destructive process caused by a specific outside pathogen. Medical doctors use reductionism to employ diagnostic tools, find the disease-causing invader, control symptoms and cure the disease. There are three main components of treatment available within Western medicine: pharmaceuticals, surgery and therapy (physical therapy, psychiatric therapy, orthotics, speech therapy, etc.).
Acupuncture is the main part of another form of medicine called Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM looks at multiple symptoms and their pattern of illness specific to the individual and delineates their cause from a combination of negative imbalances within the lifestyle, psyche, and effects of environmental stress, trauma or invasion by external pathogens. TCM utilizes a holistic approach to medicine and does not try to find one exact reason for illness; rather, it acknowledges that there are several factors that contribute to problems arising in the physical body. There are five main components of treatment available within TCM: acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, tui na (similar to massage), Tai Ji/Qi Gong (movement and stretching exercises) and nutrition.
Western medicine evolved in Europe and relies on clinical research to show an exact link between cause of disease and its clinical manifestations. This leads to specific diagnostic tests and then treatments to understand and affect the human body, with vocabulary focusing on genetics and biochemistry. Traditional Chinese medicine evolved in China and relies on human trials that have taken place over thousands of years to validate effectiveness. Because results were based on human experience and not laboratory data, a different vocabulary developed to explain how energy (qi) and blood travel through the body in certain pathways (meridians) and can get obstructed by trauma, emotions, environmental factors and lifestyle choices.
One type of medicine is not superior to the other. They comprise the two main forms of medicine practiced in the world today. Because Western medicine is the primary form of medicine in this country, TCM is considered an alternative form of medicine and is used as a complementary approach to that of Western medicine.