Traditional Chinese medicine could be a great complement to your chiropractic practice.
Because TCM includes many different types of methods, become familiar with the details to see if it’s right for you and your patients.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) encompasses both herbal remedies and mind-body practices. Originating in China over 2,500 of years ago, TCM has its roots in Taoism.1 The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) identifies the most well-known TCM practices as acupuncture, tai chi, and herbal supplements. Each one of these is believed to offer positive benefits ranging from relief of pain and a reduced risk of disease to increased balance and a higher quality of life.
Cautions when considering TCM
The NCCIH cautions against certain aspects of TCM.1 First, there are “reports of Chinese herbal products being contaminated with drugs, toxins, or heavy metals or not containing the listed ingredients.” Checking the quality of supplements you recommend is key to keeping patients safe.
Second, there is a lack of extensive research on acupuncture and some herbal remedies, and even less available on tai chi. Interest in these areas is growing and research is continuing to build. Keeping abreast of current research on TCM will be important if you choose to include aspects in your practice.
Lastly, patients often neglect to inform healthcare providers about complementary health services they receive, and there are many known negative interactions between prescriptions and come herbal supplements. Encouraging honest communication with patients will promote better information to care for your patients.
Current Research on TCM
Despite the NCCIH’s concerns, available research has turned up interesting data about the use of TCM for various conditions. For example, one meta-analysis published by JAMA Internal Medicine examined acupuncture and its effectiveness for back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, chronic headache, and shoulder pain. In this report, researchers looked at almost 18,000 individual patients who engaged in studies investigating actual acupuncture, sham acupuncture, or no acupuncture.
They found patients experienced less pain when acupuncture was used over sham acupuncture. The differences were modest, so they suggest “that factors in addition to the specific effects of needling are important contributors to the therapeutic effects of acupuncture.”2
Another study released last month in Reproductive Biomed Online highlighted the positive effects that TCM has on couples trying to have a baby. In this study, over 1,000 patients were assessed to discover the effectivity of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) when combined with TCM. They found that women who engaged in TCM had a higher rate of live birth when compared to women who did not. Researchers in this study recommend additional research on TCM and pregnancy.3
Deciding if TCM is right for your practice
Since TCM offers potential value to patients with a wide range of issues, you may be considering adding it to your practice. Here are some considerations:
- What is your goal in adding TCM? Are you looking to drive additional patients to your practice? Do you want to provide more variety for your current patients?
- How do your patients feel about TCM? Which methods within TCM are attractive to your patients? If they are skeptical, what education will you need to provide on the new services?
- Do you have the time? Learning TCM methods, hiring a TCM professional, and educating staff all take time away from your typical practice.
While more research is needed on TCM components, there is no denying public interest in these complementary health methods. Choosing to include TCM in your practice requires investment of time in research and education. That said, adding TCM might be worth the increased interest in your practice and the health of your patients.
1 National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. “Traditional Chinese Medicine: An Introduction.” https://nccih.nih.gov/health/whatiscam/chinesemed.htm. Published March 2009. Updated October 2013. Accessed July, 2015.
2 Vickers A, et al. Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: Individual Patient Data Meta-analysis. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2012;172(19):1444-1453.
3 Rubin L, Opsahl M, Wiemer K, Mist S, Caughey A. Impact of whole systems traditional Chinese medicine on in-vitro fertilization outcomes. Reproductive Biomed Online. 2015;30(6):602-612.