Traditional oriental medicine is a sophisticated set of many systematic techniques and methods, including acupuncture, herbal medicine, acupressure, qigong, and oriental massage. The most striking characteristic of oriental medicine is its emphasis on diagnosing disturbances of qi, or vital energy, in health and disease. Diagnosis in oriental medicine involves the classical procedures of observation, listening, questioning, and palpation, including feeling pulse quality and sensitivity of body parts.
The professionalization of oriental medicine has taken diverse paths in both East Asia and the United States. Currently, the model in the Peoples Republic of China, which was established after the 1949 revolution, involves the organized training of practitioners in schools of traditional Chinese medicine. The curriculum of these schools includes acupuncture, oriental massage, herbal medicine, and pharmacology, though the clinical style of making a diagnosis and then designing a treatment plan is the one traditionally associated with herbal medicine. The graduates of these colleges are generally certified in one of the four specialty areas at a training level roughly equivalent to that of Western countrys bachelors degree.
In the United States, the professional practitioner base
for oriental medicine is organized around acupuncture and oriental massage. There are
about 6,500 acupuncturist practitioners in the United States. The American Oriental Body
Work Therapy Association has approximately 1,600 members representing practitioners of
tuina, shiatsu, and related techniques. Many American schools of acupuncture are evolving
into "colleges of oriental medicine" by adding courses in oriental massage,
herbal medicine, and dietary interventions. The also are offering diplomas, masters
degrees, and doctors degrees in oriental medicine. The legal sanctioning of oriental
medical practice is most extensive in New Mexico, where the acupuncture community has
established an exclusive profession of oriental medicine. Their legal scope of practice is
currently similar to that of primary care M.D.s and D.O.s (doctors of osteopathy), and
their State statute restricts other licensed New Mexico health professionals ability
to advertise or bill for oriental medicine or acupuncture services.
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