Patients turn to Japanese traditional medicine for alternative healing
BY DONNA GRAY, FOR NEIGHBOURS - CALGARY HERALD
FEBRUARY 26, 2009
When Mike Boughton began to feel the aches and pains from his job as a coach, as well as the normal aging process, he would usually take some over-the-counter pain medication and forget about it.
But when the aches in his arms, neck and shoulders persisted, he decided to investigate some alternatives. His search resulted in locating Muriel Okubo, an Eastern Asian Medicine practitioner who specializes in acupuncture and other Japanese healing techniques.
"I had never heard of Japanese traditional medicine," he says. "I wanted to go as natural as I could instead of just popping Advil."
Acupuncture and Shiatsu massage were among a few of the treatments that Boughton received. Although it was unconventional at first, he did see the wisdom behind the techniques.
"The Shiatsu was unbelievable," he recalls. "It just loosened up all the pressure points in my back. The Japanese acupuncture also made a difference when those needles hit a certain zone."
Traditional Chinese medicine, known to be at least 5,000 years old, was introduced to Japanese culture in the sixth century. Over time, these ancient techniques were customized by Japanese practitioners and are referred to as "Kanpo". It is part of a broader field of Asian medicine now being used to complement modern treatment.
In fact, hospitals across North America are now offering treatments like Shiatsu and acupuncture for postoperative, cancer, accident, heart attack and stroke survivors.
Okubo, who offers her practice at the Centre for Preventive Medicine, says traditional Asian medicine isn't just for pain. It can help to treat a variety of conditions: sexual and urinary dysfunctions, respiratory gastrointestinal, circulatory and immune disorders, stress and emotional issues.
"The body is always giving signals about levels of health," she says. "Traditional medicine can help to draw out the details. I've found most illnesses are predominantly connected to emotional and psychological influences."
The benefit of this traditional practice is that effects are often immediate for patients. Okubo says it only takes one or two sessions for someone to realize the treatments actually address the health issue.
"This type of medicine takes into account the individual sensitivities of a person before we even begin treatment," she says. "I ask a lot of questions that most people wouldn't expect."
Okubo says the herbs are an important part of the overall picture, helping to heal the body from within, as compared to massage and other methods, which heal from the outside.
"Each plant has a particular energetic quality," she says. "They have the ability to enter certain organs and affect those areas directly, as opposed to standard medicines that go into the blood system."
Stephen Brown, faculty member of the Institute of Oriental Medicine in Seattle, and translator of several books on Traditional Japanese medicine, says the difference between allopathic (modern) medicine and the Asian version boils down to touch.
"Medicine has become more and more technical and the personal touch is lacking," he says. "Japanese acupuncture has come of age in a society that values touch and provides national healthcare."
Brown says the biggest misconception about alternative medicine is that it's just a different procedure--that one can just replace it with conventional medicine, like taking an herb instead of a pill.
"In reality it is a completely different relationship to one's body/mind and its care," he says. "Most acupuncturists and herbalists begin this conversation with clients to begin the shift on an individual basis."
He says complementary medicine in general has earned its due, and is growing in awareness not just with consumers, but with modern medicine.
"There is nothing that works for everyone and what a person chooses to include as alternative care is a highly personal choice," he says. "There is power in the conscious choice to participate in a holistic paradigm, instead of being a passive recipient of medical care."