All Chinese medicine is a way of keeping people healthy as much as it is a treatment to cure disease. It is often quoted that in Chinese medicine the patient pays the doctor only so long as he or she is well. The doctor would regularly check the patient to spot impending imbalances that, if untreated, could lead to disease. Often only dietary advice or suggestions as to therapeutic forms of exercise would be needed to resolve the problems. If necessary, acupuncture (or herbalism) would be the form of treatment given to adjust energy balance. However, particularly in the West, people often do not seek treatment of any kind until there is something acutely wrong, and often they do not see an acupuncturist until they have been suffering for some time with a chronic problem, which orthodox medicine has been unable to cure. Yet acupuncture is frequently found to alleviate or cure, even in these circumstances. Treatment is thought to improve the functioning of the internal organs and bring the body back into balance.
Pulse diagnosis is one main form of diagnosis used by the acupuncturist. Visual examination and, especially in the West, “taking the case" are also important. In Traditional Chinese Medicine pulse-taking is a highly refined art, but many Western practitioners take the pulse more simply in much the same way as their orthodox colleagues.
Acupuncture is not necessarily thought to be the most suitable form of treatment in any particular case, although in the West practitioners tend to specialize in either acupuncture or herbalism, so that to some extent the patient chooses the therapy in advance by going to an acupuncturist rather than a herbalist. Some people do not respond well to acupuncture, and in general anyone who is apprehensive about having needles inserted into them is less likely to be suitable for this specific form of treatment.
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