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Traditional Chinese medicine: Concept of Chi, efficacy etc.

Discussion in 'Alternative Therapies' started by Jenny, Jun 27, 2014.

  1. Jenny

    Jenny Senior Member

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  2. CFS_for_19_years

    CFS_for_19_years First Do No Harm

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    Anyone who wants to understand how Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) views CFS/ME should read this. TCM uses an entirely different way of looking at the body than Western Medicine. Keep in mind TCM has been used successfully for thousands of years for all sorts of conditions. Western Medicine by contrast is in its infancy. If you have a broken bone, Western Medicine is great, but it fails miserably with chronic conditions. Keep both and choose wisely.
     
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  3. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

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    Many of the Chinese ways of looking at the body may not be anything more than mythology, and may have little or no medical value. For example, the concept of chi, that appears in Chinese spiritual and medical literature, especially acupuncture, does not seem to have much medical value. So you have to make a judgement, and figure out what Chinese concepts of acupuncture are worth keeping, and what can be safety discarded. Chi is similar to the Western concept of vitalism. Vitalism, like chi, is interesting as an idea and concept, but probably does not exist, and certainly has never been observed, measured, or shown to have any bearing on medicine and health.

    By contrast, the modern scientific understanding of acupuncture, which focuses on such factors as the ability of acupuncture to induce endorphin release, is I think a more more fruitful and incisive way to understand acupuncture.

    With these Chinese concepts, it's a case of separating the wheat from the chaff.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2014
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  4. CFS_for_19_years

    CFS_for_19_years First Do No Harm

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    It depends on your belief system. Just because our Western Medical system can't explain it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Lack of evidence is not the same thing as proof of non-existence. Isn't that the same thing we as patients have been saying to doctors?:

    Doctor: There's no evidence that CFS/ME exists.
    Patient: You just haven't been convinced of that yet, due to your limited experience, limited belief system, stubbornness, arrogance and/or ignorance. Are you interested in examining counter-examples to your belief system?

    You: There's no evidence that these TCM concepts exist.
    Me: Ummmmmm....you just haven't been convinced yet, etc.

    I told my doctor that serrapeptase was doing amazing things for my Achilles tendonitis. He said "There's no evidence that it's effective for these types of injuries." Umm, OK, then why is it that when I stop taking it, the pain returns, then when I resume taking it, the pain goes away? Should I throw these capsules away because there's "no evidence."

    A hypothesis is only true (serrapeptase isn't good for tendonitis) until there is a counter-example (it helps me and I'm sure there are others) which disproves it. A discussion of the value of counter-examples in the treatment of thyroid disorders is here:

    http://tpauk.com/images/docs/reduce-scope-final.pdf

    People are reluctant to challenge their belief systems because change is uncomfortable and it involves work and diligent inquiry. I think it's arrogant of you to say these TCM concepts are hogwash.

    I'm a Reiki practitioner with experience sending it by distance to people and plants. I have been offered payment but have never accepted payment. Being a Reiki practitioner also increases one's psychic ability with regards to the problems people and plants are experiencing. I could shoot you some comments (spontaneously written, not requested as testimonials) that would show evidence that I'm doing something that can't be explained by scientific observation. If you were to say "Reiki is a myth and doesn't work" I could provide counter-examples from about twenty people whom I've never met. (I did meet some of these individuals later face-to-face and some are now my friends.) You would be at a loss to explain how my results are possible.

    There are many belief systems in the world. You are clinging to the ones to which you are most comfortable.
     
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  5. manna

    manna Senior Member

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    ive been to see this practitioner in london. i think he gives a fairly balanced view of what it can do::

    i think it has great potential diagnostically. western medicine picks up the physical appearance of illness, sometimes, whilst trad chin med claims it can pick up that a process is struggling before its apparent at the level of being physically obvious.

    also its complimentary, meaning its to be used alongside lifestyle, diet choices or other therapies. it can work on its own but less so if you're chronically ill. also acupuncture from two sources can be widely different.
     
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  6. CFS_for_19_years

    CFS_for_19_years First Do No Harm

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    Many of the Chinese ways of looking at the body may not be anything more than mythology, and may have little or no medical value" or "Chi is similar to the Western concept of vitalism. Vitalism, like chi, is interesting as an idea and concept, but probably does not exist, and certainly has never been observed, measured, or shown to have any bearing on medicine and health'[/QUOTE] would not be in agreement with the beliefs and experiences of most Chinese individuals.

    Here's an excellent PBS documentary done in China by Bill Moyers. To see a direct demonstration of chi, go to 41:00:



    The rest of the video is also enlightening, if one would like to learn more about TCM and Chinese culture.
     
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  7. zzz

    zzz Senior Member

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    I've spent a number of years in Asia, and I've seen and experienced quite a few demonstrations of chi at least as powerful as this. I remember that at one, my wife of the time had one experience where after being simply touched gently on the head by a master with a ritual stick, she could hardly stand up and could hardly breathe. I can still remember her grasping onto a nearby pole to hold herself up as she tried to catch her breath.

    She wasn't expecting that.

    So yes, there's a lot more going on with these bodies than Western medicine knows about.

    Here's another one, narrated by Dr. Herbert Benson of the Harvard Medical School. You can ignore the material about the mummy, which is from another video.



    Traditionally, to pass the test for this practice, monks go to an ice-covered river in the middle of winter. A hole is dug in the ice, and then sheets are dipped into the hole and the icy water below. To pass the test, each monk must be able to dry out the sheet draped over his bare skin in sub freezing weather.

    I've seen videos of this.

    I'm still working on my main post...
     
    Last edited: Jun 30, 2014
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  8. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

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    It depends more on the basis by which your form your belief system. You can be diligent, and make efforts to ensure what you believe reflects what is known and demonstrated to exist. Or you can be fanciful, and fill your belief system with whatever beliefs just happen to suit you, or whatever beliefs you personally find life affirming, beautiful, etc.

    Many people do like to believe in things which suit them, rather than believe what is known and demonstrated to exist. Nothing wrong with that — after all, it's their belief system, and they can fill it with what ever they want. But it is generally futile to try to have any meaningful scientific discussion with people who believe whatever they fancy, because they have not yet developed their critical facilities, and are thus not good at separating empirical truth from fancy.

    There are those who are easily impressed and easily fooled by the parlour tricks designed to make people believe in paranormal powers, like for example the famous levitation trick used by Indian yogis, cunningly devised to con the crowds into believing that the yogi can fly above the ground. Being easily fooled by such tricks is what happens if you are not good at separating truth from fancy.


    So regarding vitalism — a concept which incidentally has had a long career in the West as well as China and Asia:

    Is there a "vital force" like chi, prana, that permeates all living matter, as vitalism posits? Quite possibility.

    Might that supposed vital force, if it does exist, play a role in the demonstrated health benefits of acupuncture? Probably not: it's more likely that the health benefits of acupuncture are mediated by its demonstrated ability to release endorphins in the cerebrospinal fluid, by acupuncture's ability to modulate the autonomic nervous system activation, by its ability to reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines, by acupuncture's ability to reduce the Th1 immune response and boost the Th2 immune response (which incidentally would be a bad thing for viral ME/CFS), and so forth.

    Biomedical insight provides a much more fruitful approach to understanding acupuncture, that actually tells you something specific and useful. It tells you for example that we need to be a little cautious about acupuncture, if it has the undesirable effect of boosting the Th2 response in ME/CFS patients.

    By contrast, saying something like "acupuncture clears blockages in chi" not only has no measurable empirical basis, but it does not have any practical or medical consequences either. So unless you are one of those people who believe yogis can fly, you need to use your critical facilities in order to separate the wheat from the chaff in acupuncture. Or in anything, for that matter. Biomedical science is not without its chaff either.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2014
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  9. MeSci

    MeSci ME/CFS since 1995; activity level 6

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    I agree. I have noted elsewhere that the models used/believed in modern medicine are different from those in other medicinal traditions, and may not always be the best ways of viewing illnesses. 'We' do perhaps tend to over-categorise many illnesses, and treat them all very differently (all lucrative stuff for drug companies!) when they may have common underlying processes, such as autoimmunity, and patients might be much better served by addressing the causes of these. I think that this may apply especially well to ME.

    Sometimes - but not always - what is most important is whether something works rather than how it works. Anaesthesia is a classic case of this. It is only recently that the mechanisms of how anaesthesia works have started to be revealed, but it has still been extremely useful throughout the years when it wasn't understood at all!
     
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  10. Jenny

    Jenny Senior Member

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    I think this would probably depend on the acupuncture points used, and whether moxibustion was used. These treatments vary hugely depending on the patients alleged 'deficiencies', 'excesses', 'disharmonies' etc. Apparently, ME patients vary a lot in these patterns (although I'm told some are particularly common, for example 'dampness').
     
  11. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

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    Possibly, but without any data from studies on the effects of acupuncture on the Th1 / Th2 balance, we just cannot know whether acupuncture is improving or worsening our immune response.
     
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  12. zzz

    zzz Senior Member

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    Before you can say this, I think that a more in-depth study of the theory and practice of acupuncture is required.
    This is all very interesting, and I found your references fascinating. It should be noted that acupuncture does not always cause a Th1 to Th2 shift, as it is often used to treat asthma, which requires damping down the Th2 immune response.

    What you've done essentially is to map the effects of acupuncture (or at least some of them) onto a Western medical understanding of how the body works. This is fine, as long as you understand the limitations of such an approach; it cannot explain anything that Western medicine does not already understand. For example, how do you explain meridians? They're completely nonphysical, there are no nerves connecting all the points in a meridian, no blood vessels that do - nothing. Yet the meridians seem to have some sort of real existence - all the acupuncture points are lined up on them. And why does proper acupuncture always work better than "sham" acupuncture (i.e., acupuncture where the points are not real acupuncture points)? What's so special about the acupuncture points? Once again, anatomically, there's nothing special there. Western medicine cannot explain this.
    In order to make such a statement, you have to have studied acupuncture enough to know the theory behind it. Good acupuncturists can feel where the chi is blocked, and then take steps to make it flow properly. I've had acupuncturists do this to me many times, explaining what they're doing, and often I can feel things shifting, even before their explanation.

    To state that the study is "utter crap" without further analysis is certainly not a very scientific approach; it assumes you know the outcome of your enquiries before you make them. Collectively, we have heard countless times (especially from our doctors, who should know better), "The illness you are describing is not something that fits our understanding of physical illness. Therefore, what you are telling me is utter crap." We have all seen where that attitude leads.

    Note: to read the discussion of the original article:
    Interferential current therapy via electroacupuncture: significant benefits / recovery from ME/CFS, look here.

    The paper is short, and the first two pages (out of three) can be accessed for free. Here is the second page, which contains almost all the useful information:

    [​IMG]
    Yes; this study, which was done in China and published in a Chinese medical journal, does not seem to have been done with the greatest medical rigor. It's hard to blame them for using the CDC definition, as that's the most widely used one in the world; at least they didn't use the empirical definition, or some definition of their own. The CDC definition is repeated verbatim in paragraph 1.1; although that's clearly not a good definition for ME, people who just have fatigue due to depression (or some other cause) without any other symptoms won't qualify, unlike the Oxford definition. What bothers me more than the cure rate (for reasons I'll explain below) is the following statement on the first page:
    Either "CFS" is being notoriously overdiagnosed, or else China is in really big trouble. Or both.

    It's interesting that white-collar workers are mentioned specifically here. China's cities are notoriously polluted, and that may have an effect on ME/CFS there.

    So we have a study that certainly appears to be flawed here. This does not mean it's completely worthless (or "utter crap"); it simply means that a high degree of skepticism is called for when examining the results. The results cannot simply be taken at face value unless factors such as the huge difference in prevalence rates can be explained, which seems unlikely. Nevertheless, to put things conservatively and not assigning any numbers, it would appear that at least some people with ME/CFS are being significantly helped by electro-acupuncture, and an even higher number are being helped when interferential current therapy is added.
    Droves of people aren't using this method in this country. In fact, do we know anyone who's tried the exact method described in the paper?

    I have actually heard of many people with ME being helped (not cured, but helped) by acupuncture in this country. For this reason, I have tried it a number of times with different acupuncturists, but so far with no results.

    I have a friend who had a moderate case of ME using the ICC definition; she also had FMS and a severely dislocated spine from an accident. She's Canadian, and she was being treated in Canada for these conditions with little success, although a chiropractor was slowly helping her with her spine. However, she then started developing rheumatoid arthritis (RA), which is not unusual for people with ME. As she had lived in Asia most of her life, she got herself to Vietnam while she still could; even with a wheelchair all the way, the trip was barely possible. She went to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), and started getting treatment almost daily at the main city hospital. (The frequency appears to be key; once a week just doesn't cut it with serious illness.) She was helped there somewhat, but the doctors there thought her case needed the best specialists available, so she was referred to a special hospital that's usually available only to Vietnamese government employees. By this time, her RA had gotten so bad that she had the classic "claw" hands; she could hardly use them for anything. For the next year, she was treated solely with acupuncture and traditional Chinese herbs.

    She is now about 60% recovered from a year ago, and is about to start a part-time job in Burma - something that was unthinkable a year ago. She plans to continue her acupuncture treatment, and expects to recover almost completely. The doctors have emphasized that this is not a cure, but that they are essentially putting everything in remission as best they can. They have told her that she will always have to be careful about overdoing things, and may have relapses anyway, but with treatment, those can be overcome.

    Her doctors have treated many people with the same condition. Acupuncture is simply seen as a major treatment modality in a way that it's not here.
    This is actually the area in which traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) works best. It's based on a holistic approach involving the entire body. Western medicine is used to dealing with malfunctions of specific parts of the body, which is a big reason why this illness has proven to be beyond its grasp so far.
    Your last sentence is certainly true. As for cancer, HIV, and diabetes, for the most part, these are rather modern diseases, and TCM was developed over many centuries. Proper diet and often a special diet is heavily emphasized in the treatment of many illnesses. When an illness is caused by improper diet, TCM simply recommends the proper diet - not the use of acupuncture.

    As for the cause of the improvement in life expectancy, I certainly wouldn't argue with you. TCM was developed without the knowledge of the germ theory of disease, which handicapped it greatly. But that doesn't mean that TCM is worthless. In Asia today, the two modalities exist side by side. Acupuncture is used extensively, while X-rays and antibiotics are also readily available.
    Very doubtful. Western medicine is conservative, and the IOM is part of Western medicine. They don't want to look silly, and I'm sure that a number of them think that even mentioning the word "acupuncture" would make them look silly.
    We seem to be in agreement that that figure is inflated by some large amount. Now it would have been really nice if they had done a much more rigorous study, but they didn't. So we are free to make of it what we want. No one's asking us to endorse that study. I'm glad it was done because I think it provides the foundation for further research. But that's just me.

    I think if you look around, you'll find that TCM is not taken seriously by traditional Western medicine, and what comes out of Asia that's not Western medicine is just routinely ignored. So I don't see that this affects our credibility one way or the other. Anyone who reads that paper will see the obvious flaws in it, and those flaws reflect upon the people who did the study - not us.

    I think that this is basically what I've been trying to say, so I think we're fundamentally in agreement here.
    Well, they certainly weren't the ones the ICC defines as "very severe". But knowing what my friend had to go through to get to the different hospitals and knowing what her state of health was, I would definitely disagree her - she was nowhere near "fairly healthy". Some of the days she was too sick to go to the hospital, but most of the days she went anyway.
    Personally, I think the National Enquirer would find this much too boring to publish.
    And as I mentioned above, these journals typically aren't taken seriously in this country.
    Then you should write them a letter. :)

    I promised to describe my personal experience with acupuncture, so here it is. I've been using acupuncture since 1975, with hundreds of treatments by professionals, and hundreds of treatments by myself. I've found that it has worked for many things, but not for everything. As I mentioned, I have been to several acupuncturists for treatment of my ME with no results.

    On the other hand, I have gotten excellent results for treatment of a foot injury, both before and after a botched operation on the foot. I am walking normally now; I was on crutches for 11 years after the operation (ME does wonders to slow healing), and I'm sure I'd be in a wheelchair now if it weren't for acupuncture. I've also used acupuncture to cure a case of carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as treat tinnitus successfully on a number of occasions. (For many people, tinnitus is yet another complication of ME. It is usually very difficult to treat in Western medicine.) For the carpal tunnel syndrome, I initially just guessed where the points would be, and my guess worked. I later checked out those points, and they were correct. For the tinnitus, I originally had my acupuncturist treat that. After a few visits, I noticed that he always used the same three points for each ear, and they worked very well. So I figured I could probably do the same thing, and sure enough, it worked just as well when I did it.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 2, 2014
  13. Jenny

    Jenny Senior Member

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    Sure, but I was just trying to say that we can't assume that acupuncture will necessarily boost the Th2 response, just because it did in one study with rats. We don't know the points used in this study and what the dysfunctional patterns in the subjects' bodies were. I should imagine acupuncturists might argue that their treatment might aim to improve different parts of the immune response in different patients.

    Actually, I think the aspect of TCM that has more to offer is treatment with Chinese herbs, but that takes us even further away from how this thread started.
     
  14. MeSci

    MeSci ME/CFS since 1995; activity level 6

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    @zzz said

    Could they be stimulating lymph flow? Lymph flow is said to be sluggish in ME, and some people report that improving the flow (e.g. via the Perrin technique) improves symptoms. I would imagine that you could feel this.

    Re high incidence of ME/CFS in China, I understand that the Chinese are adopting Western diets, and they are also getting into driving cars instead of cycling, neither of which is likely to benefit their health. Maybe white-collar workers figure particularly highly in these changes.

    A dramatic lifestyle change like this could theoretically cause a high incidence of lifestyle-related illness, especially if the population were genetically maladapted to a Western diet.

    Diabetes is not that modern a disease - there is a history of diabetes here.

    The prevalence is increasing dramatically though, I believe.

    Cancer too has been with us for a long time - e.g. see here.
     
  15. zzz

    zzz Senior Member

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    Yes, I should have been clearer here. Cancer and diabetes are indeed old diseases - it is their prevalence that has been increasing greatly in recent decades, making them much more of a public health problem..
     
  16. manna

    manna Senior Member

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    it will be interesting to see how china, with their health system as it is, copes with the spread of western type illnesses. some of the most toxic smelling consumer products come from there and as said, their polution is a big problem. they've sacrificed alot for the buck and no doubt payback comes in some form. chronically ill people being one. my guess is they'll be quicker to treat it than the west. the earlier its caught, i think, the more chance of success. in this system, potentially, it could have been dealt with before it even went chronic.

    in olden china im sure i heard that the acupuncturist paid you when you were ill and you paid him whilst you were well.
     
  17. Hip

    Hip Senior Member

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    Is there there any evidence that all good acupuncturists, who you say can can feel where the chi is blocked, will always identify the same blocked locations on a client's body? In other words, are you aware of any studies to test the consistency of a group of good acupuncturists who independently diagnose the same patient or patients? In such a study, it these acupuncturists all arrived at the same conclusion, and found blockages in the same location on the patient, then at least it would prove that they are sensing something objective. But I suspect that each acupuncturist would come to a different diagnostic conclusion.

    And even if acupuncturists could consistently feel something in a patient's body at the same location, by no stretch of the imagination does that prove what they are feeling is chi. Chi is a theoretical and philosophical concept, which is defined as a "life force", and like any theoretical concept, may or may not actually exist. Just because you feel something in a patient's body, it does not mean that you found chi. To believe that you have is a logical non sequitur.

    So this is where acupuncturist are fibbing. They tell you they can feel chi, but even if they can feel some sensations in the body of their clients, it could be anything.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2014
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  18. CFS_for_19_years

    CFS_for_19_years First Do No Harm

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    I've received most of my acupuncture at a local acupuncture school http://siom.edu in Seattle. They have various clinics depending on if you want students to work on you or if you just want to go with an instructor w/ students observing. I chose the former because it cost less and the instructor was there to supervise.

    Prior to the initial visit, one fills out an intake sheet similar to one you would fill out for a Western Medicine doctor: medical history, current meds, surgical history, present complaints, name of regular doctor and their phone #. For me this usually took 20 minutes or so.
    The 90-minute visit went like this:

    1. I was called into the room and the students interviewed me face to face and asked about my sleep, energy, emotions and digestion, amongst other things, since the last visit.

    2. Then I would remove my shoes and lie on my back on an exam table, much like a massage table. Both students felt pulses in my wrists and ankles and looked at my tongue. They palpated my abdomen. Both students checked all areas I mentioned.

    3. They left the room to discuss their findings and a course of treatment with an instructor.

    4. The instructor came into the room and did Step 2, checking pulses and whatever else they needed to do. The Chinese instructors were very fast and could take pulses in both hands simultaneously. Taking pulses in TCM is quite different compared to Western Medicine. In addition to counting beats per minutes, they determine other things about the pulse that I don't understand. If the instructor doesn't agree with the students or thinks they've missed something, they will discuss it in front of me. It's all Chinese Medicine language, not Western Medicine language.

    5. The students then insert needles or do other things as needed, sometimes moxa.

    6. They leave the room for about 30 minutes. I had a little buzzer close to my hand I could ring if I needed something. They usually checked on me at least once. It was common for me to fall asleep.

    7. They came back and removed the needles and told me I had herbs waiting for me at the reception desk. They went over the instructions for how to prepare and take the herbs. Written instructions were also with the herbs.

    8. My instructions were to come back in one or two weeks to see how I was doing on the herbs, and to get further treatment. Herbs and treatments are adjusted at each visit. They repeat Steps 1-6 as above.

    The least expensive way for someone to receive treatment is to attend a community clinic (open room with loungers or tables) where several patients are being treated at the same time and the instructor roams.

    Here's a summary of the goals, approaches and outcomes of the school: http://siom.edu/admissions
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2014
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  19. CFS_for_19_years

    CFS_for_19_years First Do No Harm

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    Here's the environment of the Institute where I received my acupuncture:

    http://siom.edu/admissions

     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2014
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  20. Valentijn

    Valentijn Activity Level: 3

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    @CFS_for_19_years - How do the two posts above answer Hip's quoted question about repeatability of "Chi" findings by different practitioners?
     

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