Updated: Jan 12, 2020
During the the summer of 2018 I had the opportunity to study at the Heilongjiang University of Chinese medicine in Harbin, China. Here I got to witness acupuncture and Chinese medicine being practiced in the country that it originated in. There are many more techniques and modalities used in China than there are in the United States. Not only that, but the techniques are a lot more aggressive. For example, we witnessed fire needling. This includes the practitioner holding a needle in a flame until it turns bright red. The doctor then inserts the hot needle into the patient (yes, this results in scarring). Another notable technique includes insertion of up to 3inch needles at a transverse angle and then fanning the needles back and forth to get maximum stimulation.
During our hospital observations we witnessed renowned doctors treating patients with a variety of conditions including; brain hemorrhages, infarctions, spinal cord injuries, gynecological conditions, and Bell's Palsy just to list a few. The hospital has over 12 floors. Each floor has different doctors with different reputations and varying specialties. Patients line up down the hallway waiting for their turn. The doctor insert needles in seconds and the patient walks away to let the needles sit until an assistant comes remove them. Each floor operates slightly differently, the "big" doctors seem to perform at this amazing speed.
At the University hospital, cost of treatment is roughly $10 a day for inpatient care. Insurance typically covers up to two weeks of care. The best part was witnessing Western and Chinese medicine working together. Adjacent to the hospital of Chinese medicine, was a Western medicine wing where patients could receive "modern" care with doctors having access to imaging machines, pharmaceuticals, etc.
Most memorably we witnessed a stroke patient who was administered into the hospital unable to walk, eat or drink. Through the use of acupuncture and herbs, weeks later the patient was able to walk unassisted down the hallway and swallow sips of water on his own.
Witnessing this left me with one lingering question. How do we integrate this ancient wisdom and medicine into our healthcare system in the United States to give patients options and opportunity to achieve optimal health?