a special program of the National Emergency Medicine Association (NEMA)

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Week: 573.7

Guest: My-Hanh Weinberg
Topic: Acupuncture
Host/ Producer: Steve Girard

NEMA: It's always intrigued me...and I don't know why. Having little pins stuck into my skin is not the easiest of thoughts...but the benefits of manipulating, and correcting physical and emotional stresses - could it make me feel better? So, instead of actually doing it, I thought I'd talk to an acupuncturist first. My Hanh Weinberg came to America from Vietnam at the age of 10...the product of a family of healers, doctors, nurses. I asked her if the field of acupuncture has different disciplines....

WEINBERG: Yes, well it's not really broken down the way you think of western medical specialties, you know where you go to a gastro intestine man, you go to a neurologist, you go to an internist. But there are practitioners in acupuncture who prefer working with, say, children or prefer doing a lot of work in addiction, or who do sports related acupuncture. But, for the most part, acupuncture is a holistic health medical practice...so we don't break people down by body parts. It's a five-thousand year old system so the practitioner really does the diagnosis of the person in totality, and so the list of conditions that I see people for, run from the typical pain, arthritic pain, back pain, to gastrointestinal problems, to migraine headaches to panic anxiety disorders, to low energy chronic fatigue, to depression. I definitely see all kinds of conditions. To post operative conditions, to stroke patients...all of that. So and yes I have my own kind of preference for certain kinds of patients that I like to work with simply because I have had more experience with it or for that kind of condition or those kinds of patients.

NEMA: How about a little background on acupuncture as it developed here...?

WEINBERG: It came to this country actually in the early 70's when President Nixon reestablished relations with China. And James Reston, I believe, was a reporter for the New York Times. He had to have an emergency appendectomy, and he received for post operative pain...and he was so impressed with it he wrote a long article about it. That started piquing people's interest in this country, and from there it followed. Actually, the first patients of acupuncture in this country were animals...specifically race horses...because there was a lot of money invested in race horses, and they have to be at their best to run - they can't be drugged up. So they used acupuncture on race horses to help keep them in condition to run.

NEMA: I guess because of the costs of medical treatment, and the way the medical system has been redefining itself, evolving...some people have made acupuncture a regular part of their lives...

WEINBERG: People are starting to look at other alternatives to help themselves and acupuncture has turned out to be at the forefront in the field of....I don't even like to call it alternative medicine. I like to call it complimentary medicine because I think that it is complimentary to western medicine. What the medicine is great for is acute, infectious, traumatic cases, but for a lot of chronic conditions, it at best, manages the symptoms but never really addresses what's going on. And so, the kind of patients that come to my practice are very normal people - 99% of them have been through many specialists, many doctors. Often times, many of them are on quite a number of medications, and they feel that it's not helping them anymore... and perhaps even in some cases, that it's actually ended up hurting them.

NEMA: Okay...explain how acupuncture works with our body systems....

WEINBERG: We use a totally different map. Acupuncture is an energetic medicine. It is not biochemical the way western medicine is because its old so we don't have instruments to look at the biochemistry itself. It's an energetic medicine meaning that we believe that there is a vital life force called Chi... which I use the analogy of electricity for want of a better word... but this vital life force is like electricity, and we've been able to map the flow of this electricity thru pathways in the body that we call meridians. And we believe that health comes from a flow, a normal flow of this Chi or vital life energy...and pain and disease comes when, for some reason, this energy gets stuck or short circuited. It's the Chi that drives everything. It's the Chi that feeds and nourishes the organs. It's also, this meridian system of Chi is like the communication network between the inner part of a person, the deepest level...their organs, their self...to the outer part of them...their skin, their body, their hair, the spirit in their eyes, their vitality - everything. So an acupuncturist can diagnose a patient by listening to the way that someone talks, listening to their voice to the resonance and the strength and the emotional tenor of the voice. They diagnose through looking. We can see colors and sometimes auras off a person's face. Through smelling a person. Often times people who are quite ill have a very, very strong smell to them. And thru the emotional tenor of a person's being. You know two people can say the same thing and say it in different ways, depending on how that person is manifesting their life force. We also do pulse diagnosis, which is a science and an art which takes a lifetime of learning. And it's through the pulse reading, and it has nothing to do with the way your doctor or nurse take your pulse to see the rate. There's actually 28 qualities of pulses that we feel...the radial pulse that tells us about the quantity of your organ system. We take 12 pulses, 6 on each wrist and they correspond to 12 major organ meridian systems to determine the quantity and quality of flow of this Chi or this vital life energy or this electricity in the body. So, in brief that's how we do the diagnosis. That's how we look at your medical history, and we determine where the imbalance or this stuckness resides in this vital life force. And by putting these very, very thin, hair-like needles which do not hurt at all. In fact most patients actually fall asleep. They get so relaxed because when the body heals it goes into a very, very deep state of relaxation when it's balanced. So we put these needles in, we leave the room and the patient just winds down and their body is allowed to do what it should naturally do.

NEMA: But you can use acupuncture in more of a maintenance role, too?

WEINBERG: You don't have to be very sick like a lot of my patients. You don't have to wait until you are very ill with a chronic disease where you have multiple diagnosis or where you have very ambivalent diagnosis from doctors. You can just use acupuncture in a way that you would use Tai Chi or chi gong or aikido, as a way of balancing your life force...particularly if you're undergoing a lot of changes and stress in your life. I feel that it's you, your spirit, that has the ability to heal itself, and what the acupuncture needle does is just to kind of tweak that energy so that it can move along. Because very simply put if you want to put it in one simple line..pain and disease comes from stuckness and it's a paradox so we have to stick our patients to get them unstuck...it's very profound work. The kind of patients that I really enjoy working with and who enjoy working with me...what usually brings them is some kind of strange, ambivalent, systemic, chronic kind of pain going on in their body. And as we work together we discover that there's spiritual, a spiritual connection and a spiritual underlying basis for everything that's going on.

NEMA: Our thanks to My-Hanh Weinberg for shedding some light on what is becoming a less mysterious form of medical treatment...acupuncture.

SPOT: 15 years in the prevention of heart disease, stroke and trauma - The National Emergency Medicine Association. This show is just part of what NEMA does. We send out millions of pieces of prevention information to people around the country, give grants to organizations in research, public information and emergency services, and have been instrumental in the creation and expansion of the Chest Pain Emergency Room movement. To play a role, call 800-332-6362.

NEMA: Thanks for joining us for today's program. If you have any comments or suggestions, contact this station. Or visit our home page at: www.nemahealth.com/ ...for a look at transcripts of this or past programs, or to find out more about the National Emergency Medicine Association. I'm Steve Girard at The Heart of the Matter.


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