with chronic pain, allergies and other health problems who have not
found success with traditional Western medicine are turning in greater
numbers to Eastern medical techniques like acupuncture for solutions.
"People often come to us when they are at the end of their rope.
They have tried other treatments and nothing has worked for
them," says Art Rapkin, a trained Doctor of Oriental Medicine and
licensed acupuncturist at the Kindo Health Center in Elm Grove.
"Our average patient is overweight and suffering from a variety
of illnesses. They typically are taking numerous medications and are
not getting better," he says.
Osteopathic doctor Tiffany Mullen
integrates Eastern and Western medical philosophies in her family
practice in Milwaukee’s North Shore. A practitioner of traditional
Western medicine, she is also trained in acupuncture and studied in
California with Dr. Andrew Weil, a pioneer in the field of integrative
medicine, which combines conventional medical treatments and
alternative treatments. She, too, sees patients who are on many
medications and want to improve their health. "People want to
feel better, but they don’t necessarily want a prescription,"
There is a significant difference in
philosophy behind the two kinds of medicine, Rapkin says. One basic
analogy says to think of Western medicine as looking at the trees and
Eastern medicine as looking at the entire forest, or a system. For
example, instead of taking an aspirin for a headache, Eastern medicine
suggests that lifestyle changes might solve the underlying problem
causing the headache. "Western medicine concentrates on fixing,
repairing and replacing, but Eastern medicine has a focus on
nourishing, cultivating and supporting the entire body," Rapkin
Although there once was a stigma
attached to using alternative therapies like acupuncture, biofeedback,
massage, meditation and exercise therapy, it is changing. "Some
doctors still might consider certain things to be voodoo medicine, but
I believe the medical community is becoming more open to it,"
says Mullen, who receives some patient referrals from other
physicians. "The two communities can learn from one another.
Currently, about 10 to 15 percent of my practice is acupuncture, but
patient usage is escalating every year," she says.
The Kindo Health Center has an MD on
staff along with Rapkin, combining the two types of medicine.
"The problem is, we are an overmedicated culture. Prescription
drugs have dangerous side effects and they sometimes cause more
problems than they solve," says Rapkin who prefers to educate
people about their diet and lifestyle.
Poor nutrition is another big reason
why people are ill, Rapkin says. "We don’t know the difference
between a Cheeto and an apple. We’re eating too much processed food
and hormone-infested meat. Our bodies are not machines or an
assemblage of parts and should not be treated that way," he says.
"People ignore their health until they lose it. I am just looking
to shine a little light into the darkness," he says.
Mullen agrees that Eastern medicine or
other nontraditional therapies sometimes can be an alternative to a
prescription. "With a drug, you could be trading one problem for
another. Instead, you might be able to use an herb or a lifestyle
change that will correct rather than cover over a problem," she
While the two medical philosophies are
quite different, integrating them can lead to positive outcomes for
patients, Rapkin says. "While certain treatments like medication
may relieve the symptoms of an illness, Eastern medicine goes one step
further, helping people to realize the connection between the mind,
body and spirit," he says.