From the prehistoric times of the tribal witch doctor to the current days of the latest ointments with secret formulas or the countless electrical devices for home treatment sold on the shopping channel, patient’s expectations on finding effective alleviation for pain and suffering have changed very little over time. And even though the extraordinary development of pharmacotherapy in the 20th Century at one time promised to eliminate from our modern lives this ancient companion of mankind, together with its entourage of anxiety and fear, the reality is that at the beginning of the 21st Century pain continues to be as prevalent in our civilized countries as it has ever been. It is thus no wonder that demand for effective treatment approaches to nociceptive pain, such as manual soft tissue techniques and electro-acupuncture, continues to experience a sustained growth among patients, at the same time as professional training in these disciplines is reaching record highs among health care professionals.
Medical acupuncture is gradually gaining its recognized place in the Canadian Health Care system. Many patients utilize acupuncture and related techniques to improve their quality of life. Patients who are suffering from incurable diseases, as for example chronic pain, terminal cancer and osteoarthritis, are getting actively involved in their therapies and are becoming participants in their chosen treatments (meditation, music, lifestyle changes, dietary and food choices, support groups etc.).
As the scientfic and clinical studies are surfacing, it is becoming clear that the effect of acupuncture must rest on physiological and psychological mechanisms. In order to understand this development, one has to understand that the effect of acupuncture is through artificial activation of systems that have biological effect in functional situations (for example stress, mental, physical and its responses).
In patients who receive radiation or chemotherapy treatment for cancer, undesirable side effects of these treatments may be helped by utilization of acupuncture and related techniques. Acupuncture helps the bodies systems to balance the aggressive and needed therapeutic intervention which is aiming to eradicate the cancer growth. Clinical studies have shown that acupuncture and acupressure on the area of the wrist, over the median nerve (P6), could be added to help ease symptoms of nausea and vomiting due to chemotherapy. Effects of dry mouth syndrome (xerostomia) could be improved by utilization of acupuncture-like stimulation in patients who have post radiation problems.
As the effects of acupuncture and electro acupuncture are better documented on general circulatory and immune system, and as there is a growing demand from consumer groups who suffer with chronic pain and dysfunction due to different ailments and diseases, there is a great demand for professional training in these disciplines.
For seven years now, the McMaster University Contemporary Medical Acupuncture Program has been serving the needs of the Canadian population and the regulated health care professionals by providing a unique training program in contemporary acupuncture based on an original “effective medicine” model paradigm. In a true “problem solving approach” fashion the McMaster Contemporary Medical Acupuncture Program concentrates on teaching the fundamentals of pain management and the technical skills of safe and painless insertion technique. The program includes an in depth review of the peripheral nervous system, the musculoskeletal system, the current concepts of neurophysiology of pain, and the critical appraisal of a selection of articles from the peer reviewed literature about basic mechanisms of acupuncture as well as studies on effectiveness. From the first day of the course, students participate in supervised workshops with a very small instructor student ratio (one to four or five). Workshops progress from basic insertion technique to problem solving treatment design for common pain conditions.
By the end of this four month accelerated training program participants are ready to provide safe and effective treatments to their patients, integrated with whatever other modalities and approaches they are already using.
The secret of the success of the program has been simple: only regulated health care professionals are accepted into the program, and the training is very practical emphasizing the use of the best known strategies for the designing of effective electro-acupuncture treatments for each given condition studied. This “effective medicine” model paradigm is just the application of the philosophy of the current “evidence based medicine” (EBM) approach of “judicious use of the best available evidence of effectiveness of an intervention in similar cases (from the scientific literature), integrated with the clinician’s experience, the patient’s preferences, and taking in account the availability of resources.”
During its seven years of existence the McMaster Contemporary Medical Acupuncture Program has established an international reputation with institutional relationships currently covering well over fifteen countries including Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Korea, Mexico, Portugal, Spain, USA, and many others. Doctors and allied health professionals (MD’s and physicians from different specialties, such as Anesthetists, Pediatricians, Gastroenterologists, Gynecologists, Oncologists, Neurologists & Pain Specialists, Nurse Practitioners, Naturopaths, Chiropractors, Physiotherapists, Osteopaths & Registered Massage Therapists) from more than twelve different countries have already experienced the innovative clear cut approach of the McMaster program, and students from places as distant as Argentina, Brazil, Iran, or Azerbayan continue to enroll into this internationally prestigious program.
As part of a growing international coalition of physicians, physiotherapists, and chiropractors, the McMaster program defends the integration of contemporary acupuncture into current health care by regulated health care professionals exclusively. Since contemporary acupuncture is a peripheral nerve stimulation technique that can be learned solely using biomedical science, there is absolutely no need for a separate profession to administer it. Indeed it would be detrimental to patients to have other than regulated health care professionals deciding what is the best course of action based on a standard differential diagnosis.
A biomedical approach and a strict adherence to practical applications without concessions to metaphoric traditional models has given the McMaster Contemporary Medical Acupuncture Program a leadership in contemporary acupuncture education that is now been followed by many in Canada and abroad. This approach helps current health care delivery to utilize acupuncture rationally and effectively.