Ask Dr. Michael: Integrating Acupuncture
When I am consulting with my medical doctor, taking a new drug, or having surgery, should I suspend or avoid acupuncture treatment?
In a word, no. It is neither necessary, nor recommended, to discontinue acupuncture treatment when consulting a physician, taking a new drug, or having surgery. In fact, a growing number of medical doctors are practicing Integrative Medicine, and many hospitals have added Integrative Medicine departments. Acupuncture is one of the leading therapies in Integrative Medicine.
Acupuncture integrates very well with conventional medicine and does not interfere with any medications. In many cases, acupuncture can help your prescriptions work better to improve your medical condition because it treats the underlying cause of your health issues. With their physician’s help, some acupuncture patients are even able to reduce or eliminate their medications. Other patients find acupuncture helps manage the side effects of their medicine, allowing them to tolerate the prescriptions more easily. This has been proven time and again in hundreds of studies focused on the relationship between acupuncture and various medication side effects.
Some patients worry that they should only do one therapy at a time – either acupuncture or a new drug – to determine the specific benefits of each treatment. There may be instances where this is important, but they are rare. Additionally, if you are already receiving acupuncture treatment, you will be better able to monitor a new drug’s effects if you don’t discontinue acupuncture (or change anything else in your treatment regimen, for that matter). Always remember to consult both your medical doctor and your acupuncturist if you have any questions relating to your integrated care.
Before surgery, acupuncture can also help prepare your body for a better surgical outcome by balancing the energy to all your vital organs. After surgery, many research studies have shown that acupuncture helps with post-operative pain, which can decrease the need for pain medication.
A Harvard randomized study measured the comparative surgical outcomes of patients who either had no acupuncture before or after their surgery, with another group of patients who had pre- and post-operative acupuncture. The acupuncture treatment group had better surgical outcomes than the group who received no acupuncture.
In sum, it is generally quite beneficial to integrate acupuncture with your conventional medical treatment, whether you are trying a new drug or undergoing surgery. Combining conventional medicine and acupuncture gives you the best of both worlds.