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June 23, 2022

Acupuncture & Herbal Medicine for Scar Healing from Gender Affirming Surgery

In honor of Pride Month, we at AIMC have been reflecting on ways that acupuncture and East Asian Medicine (EAM) can support our LGBTQ+ community, particularly with medical challenges that are specific to their identities and experiences.

A person holds a rainbow pride flag above their head with white clouds in the background

Today we’re highlighting some ways that acupuncture, EAM, and herbal medicine can support gender-affirming surgeries and post-operative healing. There is increasing demand for gender-affirming surgeries each year, and surgeries have become more accessible thanks to professional associations, healthcare providers, and advocacy groups. These gender-affirming surgeries support transgender and gender expansive folks’ ability to feel that their bodies represent their true identities, and significantly reduces mental health challenges and psychological distress. According to a recent study published in JAMA Surgery, there was “42% reduction in the odds of experiencing past-month psychological distress, a 35% reduction in the odds of past-year tobacco smoking, and a 44% reduction in the odds of past-year suicidal ideation” in survey respondents who had undergone gender affirming surgery.

As we see an increase in the number of these surgeries occurring, we want to ensure that patients have access to the best possible care and resources for their recovery. We want to highlight a few modalities an Acupuncturist might use to help support a post-operative patient, and share a bit of the exciting, early-stage research verifying the efficacy of these ancient (and some more modern!) techniques. Acupuncturists, you can use these articles to inform your treatment choices when working with a post-operative patient.

It is important to note that this blog post is not medical advice. Folks interested in learning more about these modalities, as well as gender-affirming surgeries, should find a local, licensed practitioner.

Trans pride flag blows in the wind with white clouds in the back

Scar Healing Techniques in East Asian Medicine

A rainbow flag and a trans flag hang side by side against a blue sky

We are incredibly excited to see a greater emphasis on identifying ways EAM can support LGBTQ+ people in their gender identity exploration, and we are looking forward to further research that will only help our community of practitioners to deepen their practice and understanding of these specific health issues.

If you have undergone Gender Affirming Surgery and are still working to recover sensation or reduce pain after surgery, an Acupuncturist could make a great ally on that journey. As with every helping profession, not every acupuncturist practices from a sex-positive, trauma-informed, or radical liberation perspective; we encourage Queer folks looking for East Asian medicine to seek care that will affirm and celebrate their identities.

To do so, you could search this growing database from the Queer Circle Podcast, seek care at a POCA-affiliated community clinic*, or look for a local Acupuncturist who includes language around non-discrimination on their website or marketing materials. At AIMC, we strive to make our classrooms and our clinic safer spaces for all who seek care, including those with LGBTQ+ identities.

About the Author

Molly wears a checkered dress in front of a wood panelled backdropMolly Pilloton Lam is a first-year Master’s student at AIMC with a background in working with BIPOC communities in education, educational leadership, public health, and trauma-informed youth mental health program settings. She is interested in expanding education and equitable access to acupuncture and EAM in BIPOC and communities, particularly to support people with the impacts of trauma. She is excited to be a student at AIMC for her pathway to acupuncture, and looks forward to uplifting its traditional practices and other BIPOC practitioners’ voices.

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