Community Acupuncture in China

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Patients often ask me if Chinese acupuncturists really practice community acupuncture. A recent blog post to the Community Acupuncture Network website does a great job explaining how patients are treated in hospitals in Shanghai. Follow the link for the full text. An excerpt is below. As you can see, the Chinese clinics are actually a lot busier and nosier than community acupuncture practices here in the United States (but both get great results)!

“I conducted my acupuncture internship at Yueyang Hospital. Inpatients often receive acupuncture every day, while outpatients normally receive acupuncture 3 times a week. At the outpatient acupuncture department, patients start lining up as early as 6 in the morning for treatment. The department doesn’t open until 8 a.m., but there are no appointments – treatment is given on a first-come, first-served basis.

If you’re a new patient, the doctor will do a brief intake in her office. The office functions as the intake area as well as the place where the doctor and interns wash their hands, rinse out bloody cups, give injections into acupuncture points, insert ear seeds, check patients’ blood pressure, and even treat patients if the rest of the treatment area is full. It is a hive of activity, and by no means private.

The doctor will review the patient’s chart, ask questions, and check the tongue and pulse. Then the patient goes to the treatment area. The doctor with whom I studied, Dr. Zong, supervises an area of 8 tables and 3 chairs. The main area (pictured below) contains 4 tables and 3 chairs. There are curtains which can be used to provide privacy, but these are rarely used.

Each doctor is followed by a troupe of 2 to 4 clinical interns. Dr. Zong is in charge of the study-abroad program for international students, so there is also a group of 4 to 5 foreign students following her as well. As you can imagine, the treatment room is anything but quiet. Patients are chatting with other patients; interns are running around cupping, applying moxa, and removing needles; and Dr. Zong is calmly and methodically moving from patient to patient. As soon as one patient leaves, another takes his place. There is no time to change the sheets or even pause for a breath.

If you’re a returning patient, as soon as it’s your turn, you go right to your chair or table. Dr. Zong will come to you and do the intake right in the treatment room. There is no whispering here, no hushed voices. It would be hard to hear a whisper over the din. One of the first words you learn upon arriving in China is renao, which literally means “hot and noisy.” Renao has a very positive connotation. A place that is not renao feels empty and sad. Chinese clinics are very renao.”

“In the midst of the noise and through the haze of the moxa smoke, healing is taking place here. One of my favorite patients was being treated for schizophrenia, and she said that the treatment had allowed her to feel stable enough to return to work. Another patient with partial paralysis was able to get down from the treatment table by herself. This is truly a people’s medicine clinic, and the medicine works. Patients typically come at the same times each week and get to know each other. Husbands and wives come together, mothers bring their sons. There is a wonderful sense of camaraderie in the treatment room. They share the road to health together.

While those of us in the West may prefer a quieter room with some relaxing music in the background, Chinese acupuncture clinics and Community Acupuncture clinics are essentially the same: no fuss, no bother, a focus on the treatment itself and not on the interaction with the doctor, and high quality acupuncture at a low cost. Chinese acupuncture is Community Acupuncture.”

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