To ask what can acupuncture treat is a bit like asking what can be improved by green vegetables or water, exercise, sleep, or meditation. Acupuncture is inherently anti-inflammatory, inherently pro-circulatory, plus systemically modulatory, so in theory as well as in its highest level of practice, it can improve nearly any condition. Whether or not a full resolution is available depends on the severity of the condition, skill level of the practitioner, and the lifestyle of the patient.
People use acupuncture for all different reasons, the first and most obvious being treatment towards HEALING. They come weekly for between 2-6 months, take heed to corresponding Eastern diet and lifestyle recommendations until their chief complaint is more or less fully resolved. This is ideal.
Others use acupuncture for SUPPORT, while going through something like chemotherapy treatments, intense physical training, and/or just a difficult time in life. The body somatically discerns only so much difference between these three. Weekly or bi-weekly treatments within such contexts can go lengths to mitigate their side effects, minimize suffering, and long-term ails as a result. The scientific research on acupuncture’s benefits while going through chemo is abundant and well-known at this point. We most often try to support the body’s healthy fluids and cellular energy that the oncology treatments have to exploit, additionally limiting side effects such as neuropathy, diarrhea, or just general fatigue.
RECOVERY is another great option when we miss the window on support. Immediate post-surgical recovery is a realm in which acupuncture thrives and has gotten great recognition in the west in recent years, where I’ve even heard of it being prescribed by surgeons the way physical therapy has always been. Frequent acupuncture can prevent the formation of scar tissue post-surgery, which many years down the line can prevent arthritis. We can never know how many problems we’ve avoided through pro-activity (personally, when I reach the other realm I do hope to get a full report).
That leads me to PREVENTION. Not everyone has symptoms, but everyone has a pattern. We all have genetic weaknesses, organ systems, or body parts where we are more vulnerable and inflammatory. Our patterns, or respective physiological constitutions are generally leading us towards our own unique discomforts or diseases. What holistic medicines have to offer is regular treatments intended at balancing these patterns and subsequently delaying and/or minimizing potential suffering. While this is most commonly used by young athletes to prevent physical injuries, I personally find the greatest reward in using electo-acupuncture at particular scalp regions on elderly patients to prevent cognitive decline and neurological disease.
This is one of the cool things about practicing Chinese Medicine—that on any given day I get to see a group of people, each of whom are coming to me at different stages in their lives and healing journies, thereby requesting a very different thought process and approach. It keeps me on my toes, which hopefully might act as a source of prevention of my own cognitive decline.
So thank you!