Ancient medical practices integrate with U.S. medicine

Priscilla D. Tasker

Licensed acupuncturist Bob Ligon practices his craft of Chinese medicine on his wife. Ligon explained that there are hundreds of pressure points on the body that can improve mood, pain and stress.

Sam Twarek | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

Pin pricks and the human body.

The combination of words could invoke numerous images: Voodoo dolls, Sleeping Beauty, struggles in seventh grade home economics.

But for Kathy Ligon, a fourth year medical student at NEOUCOM, the use of needles as a healing practice — acupuncture — is a means of integration of Eastern and Western medical practice.

“What’s so incredible is that for thousands of years, two separate medicines were being developed simultaneously in isolation from each other, and the way they were organized was totally different,” Ligon said.

Ligon, a seasoned practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine, plans to integrate Eastern and Western medicinal theories in her practice of healing when she graduates from NEOUCOM this May. She will employ her skills of both medicines through a residency at Akron City Hospital. Patients may benefit from combined treatment, she said.

Ligon and her husband, Bob, each earned a Master of Traditional Oriental Medicine from the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine and have practiced acupuncture for nearly 15 years. Both have worked in hospitals and have treated patients who had no other option but to try an alternative treatment to their condition, Kathy said.

One such alternative, acupuncture, is a procedure by which hair-thin needles are inserted into the skin at specific points on the body to promote the flow of vital energy, referred to as Qi, Kathy said.

In traditional Chinese medicine, Qi (pronounced “chee”) is a life force that is present in all things. It is the source of health and vitality in humans, and a disruption in Qi results in illnesses, Kathy said.

There are more than 2,000 acupuncture points on the body. Through continuous treatment, the activation of these points can provide relief from a variety of ailments. The acupoints lie along channels, called meridians, through which Qi moves, Kathy said. Some of the acupoints may be associated with “pressure points” such as the area of skin and muscle between the forefinger and thumb. Activation of this point is often associated with headache relief, Bob said.

Growing popularity

Medical experts do not fully understand the healing abilities of acupuncture and why it works because conditions in TCM do not directly correlate with those in Western medicine, Kathy said.

“If we let things go by the wayside just because we didn’t understand it, we would be very limited in our medical treatment,” Kathy said. “Sometimes my own medicine amazes me — it’s one of the great mysteries of life.”

The practice was not widely recognized in the United States until the early 1970s, according to A New Day Healing Arts health office’s Web site ( Prior to 1996, acupuncture needles had not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use by licensed practitioners. However, there was a significant rise in the number of patients who were being treated with acupuncture in the 1990s, and the number is still growing, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. An estimated 8.2 million U.S. adults had been treated with acupuncture by 2002, according to a survey conducted by NCCAM.


Although its use is becoming more accepted in the U.S., there are many misconceptions about the procedure and its origins — many believe the procedure is only used for pain management, Kathy said.

It is actually one of the most commonly used medical procedures in the world, according to the NCCAM Web site.

The procedure can be used to treat both physical and psychological ailments, including pain, irregular menses, depression and drug addiction, among others, Bob said.

Furthermore, acupuncture in the United States is often used as a last resort for ailments that respond to no Western treatment, Bob said. However, Traditional Chinese Medicine was designed to allow Qi to flow through the body freely and promote good health.

“One of the hallmarks of Oriental medicine is prevention, whereas Western medicine is reactive,” Bob said.

The idea of Oriental medicine is to treat the whole person, not only through the procedure, but also through diet and lifestyle counseling, Bob said.

During a treatment session, Bob takes the patient’s history, which may take more than one hour. He uses the information provided about the patient’s physical complaints and lifestyle to determine the patient’s condition. He provides the patient with a general meal plan and lifestyle suggestions, depending on the person’s condition.

“The ideal goal is to make you independent of us,” Kathy said, adding that diet and lifestyle are essential to effective treatment and to one’s health.

“Patients who are compliant with diet and lifestyle become about 100 percent better,” Bob said.

Contact health trends reporter Priscilla Tasker at [email protected].