To Dr. Mohammad Kagzi, a doctor of internal medicine at MDMC and medical director of the SEMO Health Network in New Madrid, medical acupuncture is just another valid method of treating patients and improving the quality of their lives.
Before completing over 400 hours of medical acupuncture training for physicians at UCLA this April and seeing the effects on patients first hand, Kagzi himself was a bit skeptical.
"Acupuncture is a different style of medicine," Kagzi said. "When I first started looking at this idea it was very foreign to me."
It was those frustrating cases where, using modern medicine, he was unable to help patients with their suffering - a desire to "give them a complete package" - that motivated Kagzi to give a serious look at acupuncture.
While studying for his medical acupuncture certification, Kagzi found he was not alone. Physicians specializing in disciplines ranging from neurology to obstretics/gynecology were there with the same frustrations. "There are diseases where western medicine has its limits," Kagzi said.
Whether or not they believe in the benefits of acupuncture, even the most skeptical of physicians will admit that while drugs often have harmful side effects, acupuncture has no ill effects. The only caution associated with the practice is that because it may induce labor, it is not used with pregnant women.
"Acupuncture in itself does not use any medicine," said Kagzi. Acupuncture is a way of "using your own body's healing power and redirecting it to heal disease by placing needles at specific points on the body," Kagzi explained. "These points are called 'acupuncture points.'"
Being comprised of a tiny brass coil and a stainless steel shaft, the needles themselves generate a tiny amount of electrical current. Sometimes the acupuncture is augmented using additional electrical current or heat.
Acupuncture was developed by the Chinese over 5,000 years ago. French Jesuit priests were the first to translate the Chinese acupuncture literature into French and Latin during the 18th century, according to Kagzi, and France remains a leader among western cultures in the field.
American medical acupuncturists use a "mixture of traditional Chinese medicine and the French research on it," Kagzi said.
Researchers in the United States are now taking a closer look at acupuncture and its effects on such disorders as hypertension and osteoarthritis, according to Kagzi, including the National Institute of Health which increased its grant amount for acupuncture research this year.
Much of any remaining resistance among western medical practitioners is undoubtedly due to mystical references to "Qi," roughly pronounced as "Chee," and other metaphorical language used to describe and explain acupuncture's effects.
Western physicians acknowledge it has at least a temporary effect by stimulating the production of endorphins - the body's natural painkillers.
"Whether you believe in Qi or not, whether you believe in acupuncture or not, it is going to get you better," Kagzi said.
"It's not only good for treatment, it's good for prevention," he added.
On the other hand, Kagzi by no means believes acupuncture to be the "cure all" that some of its traditional non-physician practitioners profess it to be.
"A lot of diseases can be cured very easily using western medicine," said Kagzi.
The 15 patients receiving acupuncture treatments so far range in age from 30-90 years. There is no minimum age, but children typically are frightened by needles. "All of them are very satisfied," Kagzi reported, including one patient who came to him for treatment after pain pills, muscle relaxers, examination by a neurologist and physical therapy all failed to reduce her suffering. "For the first time in four months she hasn't had a headache in two weeks," Kagzi said.
Kagzi opted to offer his acupuncture services through a separate clinic at Missouri Delta Medical Center's ReStart Complex rather than out of his internal medicine office. "It gives me more time to spend with my patients."
He explained the initial interview and first treatment session usually take about an hour, although subsequent treatments can be done in half the time.
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