Please peruse our guidance resources to learn more about Oriental medicine, careers and education in the field, and where to turn for more information.
Oriental medicine refers to medical and healing techniques that have been practiced in Asia for centuries. Much of the focus in Oriental medicine is on balance - practitioners view illness as an imbalance of internal energies which can be righted using techniques such as acupuncture and the use of herbs. Treatments seek to balance what is called Qi - the flow of life-energy through the body.
The field is becoming very popular in the Western world as people seek alternative ways to heal themselves and to feel a greater sense of overall health. Western medicine is slowly catching on that things like the reduction of stress, the importance of proper breathing, and other basic tenets of Oriental medicine are important for everyone. As a result, hospitals, doctors and insurance companies are starting to work with practitioners of Oriental medicine to create a more holistic approach to health.
Acupuncture seeks to treat disease or pain through the insertion of thin sterile needles into acupuncture points on the patient's body. Different points are associated with different symptoms. Stimulating these points is supposed to restore the proper flow of Qi and bring the patient some relief.
Qigong also helps restore the proper flow of energy. It can involve deep breathing and relaxation techniques, and is practiced by perhaps 200 million people in China and many more around the world. Practitioners of Qigong may transmit their healing energy to others through moving their fingers over the patient's body. Qigong can also refer to martial arts which harness the breath to promote the balance of Qi.
Students attend schools of Oriental medicine to learn how to diagnose and treat disease, how to promote wellness in their patients, safety procedures, and more. After completing a program in Oriental medicine or one branch of it, you should take a state board exam so that you can practice. There are accrediting bodies that you can get your certification from if your state doesn't offer it; one is the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.
Depending on what school you choose, you can get a certificate or degrees at the Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral level. Most programs include courses in history and understanding of Oriental medicine; relation to Western medicine and diagnosis; and advanced techniques. A good program may include participation in a clinic or hospital to prepare students for taking on their own patients.