Soon after I graduated from medical school in 1986, I had my first experience with a form of healing that was outside of the conventional medicine curriculum. My four-year-old son had been experiencing stomach problems, and had been through many painful tests and unpleasant medication regimens prescribed by his pediatrician and gastroenterology specialists. An attending physician in my residency program tested my son using kinesiology, introducing me to the concept that some substances and exposures can make the body weak and others can make it strong. This experience allowed us to adjust some aspects of my son's diet.
A year later, I was caring for an intensely driven executive at Polaroid Corporation, where I worked as a consultant in the medical department. He was a runner who managed his stress by putting many miles on his shoes daily. He developed a heel spur and eventually pain in his opposite hip from continuing to run. Despite treatments with medications and cortisone injections, his symptoms persisted and he became very frustrated with the care that the specialists and I were providing. One day he walked into my office without the limp that had developed and said, "I ought to sue you for malpractice for not telling me that acupuncture would help my symptoms." As soon as he left my office, I phoned the New England School of Acupuncture and made an appointment with the Dean, and spent an illuminating day with him and his patients in his office.
Soon after I joined the internal medicine staff at Massachusetts General Hospital, I became the Primary Care Physician (PCP) for a 26-year-old woman who had a new health insurance plan, an HMO which required her to see her PCP gatekeeper for approval to see a specialist of her choosing. She had been diagnosed with vulvodynia, a condition of extreme pain in the genital area of a woman's body. Her MGH specialist suggested that she undergo a procedure that would surgically cut the nerves to her vulva and vagina to create numbness, which she thought would be better than living with continued excruciating pain. She entered my office resentful of having to waste her time getting me to rubberstamp the referral, as she had already decided to have the surgery. Because of my prior experience with acupuncture, I suggested she try it. Two treatments later, her symptoms had improved remarkably and she avoided surgery.
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