A doctor’s perspective of traditional chinese medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is oftenviewed as difficult to understand and results areseldom based on actual studies. However this ischanging and the use of TCM for health maintenanceand treatment is increasing, and there is also a plethoraof studies to compare the effects of TCM and westernmedicine.

Two years ago when the opportunity presented forme to take up a diploma course in acupuncture thatwas tailored specially for registered medical doctors,I decided to take the plunge and started on a journeyof discovery. It was initially difficult to understand andaccept the TCM explanation of diseases as it seems completely contrary to western medicine.

As we progressed through the course, I was enlightened when I realised thatthe TCM theories were formulated by the physicians after prolonged period ofobservation. As doctors we can appreciate what is the medical problem equivalentof the TCM condition and therefore can look at how the same condition is treated bythe TCM physicians and by doctors.

TCM treatments of herbal medicine and acupuncture have shown to increase thesuccess rate of pregnancy when used in combination with medical treatment. In myown clinical practice, I find that patients with sub-fertility problem have many causesand many will conceive after we treat the underlying condition. However there will besome who still do not conceive, even after undergoing assisted procedures like intrauterine insemination and in-vitro fertilization. I will then suggest that they consult aTCM physician and see if they require any treatment to improve their body condition.I have had many patients who have benefited from this combination of western andChinese medicines. Previously when patients say that the TCM physician told themthat their womb is cold or that their kidney is weak, I would be as puzzled as theywere. But now I can explain what that means to the patients and they find that quitereassuring as some of them think that they have renal impairment when they aretold their kidney is weak, and they are happy to know that TCM attributes manyfunctions like reproduction, growth, bone formation to the kidney and thereforewhen the kidney is weak these functions may be deficient and therefore treatmentwill involve tonifying the kidney.

Acupuncture can be used to treat many conditions, however it usually requires many sessions and often patients do not have the time or patience to complete thetreatment course. Besides, the majority of my patients have a fear of needles andthat would exclude any acupuncture treatment. Breech presentation at term occursin about three percent of pregnancies and they need to be delivered operativelyby Caesarean section. In TCM practice, moxibustion which involves burning a moxa(Mugwort) stick at an acupoint (Zhiyin) located at the outer corner of the nail on thelittle toe has been found to increase fetal movements thus increasing the rate offetuses turning to cephalic position. However the results from many studies havebeen mixed and the more studies will be needed to determine the effectiveness,safety and acceptability of the procedure.

Many Chinese herbs contain active ingredients which have similar properties as our medicines, therefore it is imperative that you alwaystell your doctor and TCM physician what medicines youare taking otherwise you may end up with problemsresulting from the combined exaggerated effect.

A lot of people think that Chinese medicines aresafe and harmless as they are herbal in nature, butmany herbs can be harmful if taken inappropriately.If they are taken over a long period of time, regularmonitoring of the liver and kidney function is necessaryas all herbs are eliminated from the body via thesetwo organs. They may like any other medicines affectthe functions of these organs or in the event that thefunctions of these organs were already impaired, the medicine may not be eliminated appropriately and endup accumulating in the body resulting in toxic effects.For western medicine, we have more information regarding the potential side effects of the drugs weuse and therefore will ensure that we monitor for them.

TCM treatments tend to be very specific dependingon the body’s condition at that point in time and all ofus have different body constitution depending on ourage, gender, diet and lifestyle habits, therefore just likehow one consults a doctor for diagnosis and treatment,one should consult the TCM physician for treatment and not just take the same herb or tonic that worked for another person.

TCM is often called alternative therapy as there used to be distinct groups of patients who will onlytake TCM and resists western medicine and vice versa.I am glad that is changing, and after learning more about TCM, I find that western medicine and TCM are complimentary in many ways and by combining them,we will have a greater range of treatments to benefit the patients.

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We understand that women’s health and fertility issues are important concerns. Our clinic is dedicated to providing prompt, compassionate and quality care for women of all ages.

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