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By Daniel Ritz

It has taken decades for acupuncture, formally known as traditional Chinese medicine, to be integrated into Western culture since international relations with China have opened up in the 1970s.

“We let the body heal itself,” explains Mike Hsu, acupuncturist and co-founder of Pacific Acupuncture Center in Dana Point.

Hsu and Mia Chou, fellow acupuncture practitioner and co-founder, opened Pacific Acupuncture Center in 2013 with the goal of integrating traditional Chinese medicine into Western culture.

Hsu’s grandfather was a Chinese medicine doctor in Taiwan, where he was born. Chou, who finished her undergraduate degree from Denison University in Ohio, has a background in biochemistry.

“(I started doing acupuncture) after I had taken time off after studying biochemistry,” Chou said, reflecting on her post-graduate studies where she met Hsu. “I was uneasy about the long-term effects of all of these drugs, all of the pills; we just didn’t know the permanent impacts. We still don’t. These powerful, and addictive drugs have not been around long enough to know the long-term impacts on our health.”

For decades, traditional Chinese medicine has been largely recognized by needle acupuncture, where needle points of varying thicknesses, plugged into the skin, trigger nerves below the skin to open up damaged or blocked neurochemical and hormone passages.

Traditionally, Chinese acupuncturists believe that disease and pain is caused by a disruption of energy throughout the body, called qi. Recent fMRI studies, such as those conducted by the Neuroscience Research Institute, have validated this belief by tracing brain activity to stimulation of specific acupuncture points.

However, more than needles, traditional Chinese medicine also includes the use of herbs, the recently popularized cupping technique, auricular therapy, scraping and more.

Chou and Hsu said the variety of traditional Chinese medicines reflect the variety of symptoms they can be utilized for, often assisting in preventing problems before they reach the necessity for Western invasive or synthetic medicines.

Chou said that although the numbers are decreasing in frequency, a majority of her new patients still primarily come to her for pain relief.

“Most of the time,” Hsu interjected. “We can help prevent symptoms like physical pain from reaching the levels where our patients need to come in (for treatment).”

According to Hsu and Chou, traditional Chinese medicine is a resource for those seeking relief from not only physical pain, but emotional and mental health barriers as well such as infertility, anxiety, stress, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression.

Hsu said the integration of traditional Chinese medicine into Western medicine is exactly that— an integration and not a switch.

“It isn’t a ‘this or that’ situation,” Hsu said. “Sometimes, Western medicine is appropriate, when something is structurally wrong within your body, you will need to go to the emergency room. We are looking to possibly lessen the frequencies of large-scale events, as best we can, before they get to traumatic levels.”

“We practice healthcare, not just ‘illness prevention,’” Chou said.

Insurance companies are beginning to recognize the physical benefits of traditional Chinese medicine. Specifically, Chou and Hsu said some patients insured by Kaiser Permanente have seen increased insurance coverage, making acupuncture and other services provided by Pacific Acupuncture Center and other traditional Chinese medicine practitioners more accessible and affordable. Chou and Hsu recommend each interested patient contact their insurance provider first regarding coverage before scheduling an appointment.

For more information on acupuncture and Pacific Acupuncture Center, visit or call 949.489.1911. Pacific Acupuncture Center is located at 34700 Pacific Coast Hwy., Suite 308, Capistrano Beach.

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