The Low Down on Acupuncture

With a successful history dating over 2,000 years, more and more people are turning to the unique medical system of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to help alleviate their illnesses, chronic conditions and pain. Though seeking out TCM is becoming increasingly popular with those dissatisfied or skeptical of conventional medicine, some people are still unfamiliar with all of the aspects of this medical system. For starters, TCM, like allopathic or conventional medicine, is a complete medical system. Where conventional medicine will use surgery, pharmaceutical drugs and physical therapy on patients, TCM will use acupuncture, herbs, tui na (a form of Chinese manipulative therapy) and food therapy. To explain the differentiating aspects even further, allopathic medicine focuses primarily on the diagnosis and treatment of disease, whereas TCM focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of the imbalances of Yin/Yang, which become disease if left untreated.

For those still unsure about the benefits of TCM and whether it could be a helpful in relieving their pain and maladies, let’s take a closer look at some current research that has lead to greater acceptance of this medical system by the Western medical establishment.

For University of California Irvine professor and physicist Zang-Hee Cho, acupuncture was a “voodoo-like medicine,” until he slipped when walking up a mountain, causing his back to be so severely injured that he could barely move. When all else failed, Cho’s family suggested acupuncture. Cho, the inventor of an earlier version of the PET scan and pioneer of the MRI, admits that he was skeptical about his family’s advice. After several 15 minute acupuncture procedures, the pain was gone and his curiosity had now been piqued regarding this system of medicine. Wanting to come up with solid evidence on the effects of acupuncture, Cho did what he knew best – research. Cho used the modern technology of today, an MRI machine, and his experiments were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science – a global premier scientific journal.  Cho’s experiments proved a direct correlation between acupuncture and the brain. Though he still is scratching the surface with his research into acupuncture and its benefits on various body systems, the scientist is now “hooked” and has applied to the National Institute of Health’s Office of Alternative Medicine for a $12 million dollar grant in hopes of continuing his research.

And Cho isn’t the only pioneer in the medical community advocating TCM. Lee A. Nauss, M.D. and emeritus anesthesiologist at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota stated, “We’ve used acupuncture at the Mayo Pain Clinic since 1974. If patients don’t respond to the types of treatment that usually work – medication and nerve blocks – then we consider acupuncture. Often in these circumstances, it is quite beneficial.”

For those in the South Florida area who want to learn more about the science behind TCM, The Good News recently caught up with Jeffrey V. Reininger,( NMD, DOM, AO, Board Certified NCCAOM) who is the co-founder of Traditional Acupuncture, Inc. in Fort Lauderdale with his wife, Jia (Jackie) Hui Fen. Reininger, who has considerable experience in treating brain and central nervous system problems (stroke, coma, Parkinson’s and MS), infertility, pain and many other chronic conditions, shared his knowledge about TCM in the following interview:

The Good News (TGN):
I read that you have been practicing TCM for over 15 years now. Can you share your background and what lead up to you studying and practicing this type of medicine?

Jeff Reininger (JR):
Sure. In the 1970’s I was interested in nutritional approaches to health and after spending half my life in the corporate world, I decided to open a health food store, doing acupuncture on the side. I found that acupuncture was a part of something called TCM and that the soonest I could learn TCM was in a 28 month program at Southwest Acupuncture College in Santa Fe. I then realized that there was much to learn following this 28 months and I entered a four year program at the International Institute of Chinese Medicine in Santa Fe. After going to two of the better schools in the U.S., I further discovered that I only scratched the surface. I then spent over two years in China working in hospitals, interning under TCM acupuncturists, herbalists, etc. With TCM, the more you learn the more you realize there is still so much left to learn.

Learning in the medical field is a never ending pursuit. Working in the corporate world, I realized I really like helping people. In business, you solve a problem, make some money and feel good, but nothing ever makes you feel as full and content as when you help people with personal issues like their health. The greatest reward is when someone comes with years of health problems and you remarkably improve some medical problem. The reward and personal satisfaction cannot be duplicated in any other field of endeavor. It’s never about what I do but what TCM does.

TGN: What are the most important aspects people should know about TCM?
JR: The most important issue with any medical system is to understand its strengths and weaknesses. No one system has all the answers. Sometimes TCM plays the dominate role with or without conventional medicine and sometimes TCM plays an adjunctive role. It frustrates me to hear a patient come in with a complaint so effectively treated by TCM, but their doctor told them nothing could be done. Too often what that really means is the system of medicine that particular doctor is practicing has no answers. But the assumption is that conventional medicine is the ultimate determiner of what is and is not treatable. That is a fallacy that the public is beginning to understand better with each News release about acupuncture or Chinese herbs more effectively treating some particular symptom of complaint. While drugs and surgery can be lifesavers, they only go so far, especially in treating chronic conditions. Having said that, I think everyone needs to get blood work analysis because the best possible medical care is really taking the best of all medical systems and making decisions about which one or what combination of the two is more appropriate for their situation.

TGN: What are the most common conditions that you see?
JR: Pain is by far the most common complaint. Acupuncture is especially successful for chronic conditions and often produces superior results. The WHO (World Health Organization) concludes that acupuncture is the preferred treatment approach for many chronic pain conditions. But acupuncture and TCM can also produce remarkable benefits for infertility, coma, paralysis , stroke and even delayed labor/malpositioned fetus. There are over 100 conditions that acupuncture alone can provide meaningful benefits for. Like the early naturopaths and chiropractors, we are healers, so as a profession we don’t have the mindset or financial resources to get the word out.

TGN: Do you find that some people confuse TCM with being a religion instead of a medical practice?
JR: It is important to point out that TCM is not a religion or a set of religious philosophies. Though it doesn’t happen often, sometimes someone comes into our clinic and sees the oriental artwork and thinks that we are practicing a form of religion. I want to stress that TCM taught today in China is a science-based integrative medical system. TCM physicians are trained both as an allopathic MD would be in the U.S. and are also trained in this ancient medical system.

TGN: Can someone be completely healed of their chronic condition through TCM? Will TCM be a part of their life permanently?
JR: In any medical system you are trying to do one of two things – either cure or manage something. This really depends on the degree of structural damage done. I have personally treated people who suffered such severe neurological damage that they were told they could never walk again or come out of a coma and I have seen acupuncture prove that prognosis wrong. I have had countless patients that have been told “this is as good as it gets”, and sometimes in as little as 1-8 treatments, got results that even cause their MD’s to start referring patients because they know TCM can produce results that drugs and surgery cannot. The historical problem with conventional medicine is it has been trying to solve all problems with basically just two tools – drugs and surgery. While that may work sometimes, other times it does so much damage that it might have been wiser to have attempted nothing at all.

TGN: Are there any misconceptions about TCM that you want to clear up for readers?
JR: The greatest misconception about acupuncture is that it is used primarily to treat pain conditions when it has been proven an important therapy for stroke, diabetic neuropathy, infertility and even patients in a coma. Occasionally we have patients that have had long-standing chronic conditions and they will come in thinking acupuncture is something you do once and it either works or it does not. We do get the occasional patient that has been trying physical therapy for months and after just one treatment 90% of their complaint is resolved, but for the majority of patients, a series of treatment is far more typical of what is required.

TGN: Tell the readers of The Good News your mission?
JR: My mission is to reach those patients that conventional medicine has either utterly failed or failed to bring satisfactory results and show them that there are other approaches that actually work. No medical system works 100 percent of the time with 100 percent of the people but I can accurately say the vast majority of patients we treat, at least 90 percent benefit from what we do and conclude their time and money was well spent.

Reininger and his wife, who is Chinese and also teaches TCM, have spent years in China and the U.S. getting a degree  and a license and have completed internships in various hospitals in China through the Red Cross and the Zhe Jiang TCM College. Their office is located at 961 W. Commercial Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale and they can be reached at 954-667-0238.

Marisa can be reached at [email protected]

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