What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a system of medicine that was developed in China over the past 4000 years. These therapies include Acupuncture, Acupressure, Chinese Herbology, Tui Na Massage, as well as Diet, Exercise, and Lifestyle advice. The foundational theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine are centered on the concepts of balance (yin and yang theory), and nature (five element theory). TCM theory sees our health as a reflection of our surroundings and our environment and that when we are not in a state of balance either physically, mentally, or spiritually, illness and disease will develop.

Chinese medicine has the longest history, and the most practical application, of any system of medicine in the world, outdating Western medicine by about 3800 years. In China, doctors were practicing relatively advanced medicine before the birth of Christ. Chinese medicine is practiced throughout Asia, including China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Thailand. Today, China has completely integrated Chinese and Western Medicine into its medical system. Over the past 50 years, it has made its way into the western world where it is an accepted alternative medicine in both North America and Europe. Acupuncture is the fastest growing complimentary medicine Westerners are turning to for both prevention and treatment of disease.

What is the difference between Western Medicine and Eastern Medicine?
Western medicine refers to the type of medicine practiced in the West: Canada, the United States, Western Europe, and so on. It’s based on the philosophical foundations of Western thinking, which maintains that a body is only a collection of its parts, and that by isolating the parts and studying them separately, you can understand the whole. Conventional medicine refers to the classic medical training offered through mainstream western medical schools. This is a drugs-and-surgery approach to medicine that largely excludes nutrition, wellness, mind-body medicine, patient education and other natural therapies.

This philosophy stands in great contrast to Eastern philosophies where practitioners believe the whole can only be understood through the synergistic functioning of its parts. Eastern medicine looks at the whole patient, the whole body, the whole experience, and never believes that just treating one organ or using one chemical, drug, or herb is the answer to any health condition.

Eastern medicine understands the body as an ‘open system’ connected to the external world. On the contrary, modern Western medicine regards our body as a closed, self-contained system. It does not consider the influence of the environment nor the interconnection of the body and the mind.

Another fundamental difference between Western medicine and Chinese or Oriental medicine involves the analysis and treatment of a group of signs and symptoms. In Chinese medicine there is no standard treatment for back pain or depression or diabetes (whereas there is in western medicine). In Western medicine treatment is based on your diagnosis of disease–a one for all treatment approach.

The TCM approach to treatment is based on your specific group of signs and symptoms, not your diagnosis. This is why Chinese medicine is unique and demonstrates one of its strengths. For the same reason, one does not need a diagnosis in order to treat symptoms–a relief for patients that are suffering but have been unable to receive a western medicine diagnosis and therefore no successful treatment.

What therapies are included in TCM treatments?

Acupuncture is the primary modality Carolyn uses in her TCM treatments, please read about Acupunture here.

Tui Na
Tui Na is a therapeutic massage which was officially recognised by the Chinese government, in 1949, for its medical benefits and results. Tui Na literally translates as “Tui” meaning push and “Na” meaning grasp.  Tui Na is a sophisticated medical massage used to treat injuries, joint and muscle problems and internal disorders. Tui Na techniques and manipulations are rigorous. It involves applying finger pressure, hands, elbows and knees as a tool to directly influence the flow of Qi (body energy) to treat disease and illnesses.

Tui Na is also used to protect health by building immunity, so that disease can be stopped in its beginning acting as a preventative medical care. It involves a deep tissue massage to various acupuncture points without the use of needles. In many cases it is used for children, seniors and for individuals who may be afraid of needles.  It may be used at the end of your  acupuncture treatment to help rub out sore muscles and joints. Body Work techniques such as TuiNa massage, acupressure and reflexology may be incorporated into your treatments to help relieve physical and emotional tension.

Chinese herbal medicine
TCM rarely uses only a single herb as it is important that the herbal prescription be balanced in nature, neither too hot, nor too cold, nor too moving, nor too nourishing. There are over 3000 different herbs to choose from. The formula is determined based on the patient’s TCM diagnosis and it may change frequently as the patient’s constitution changes. They can be taken with or without concurrent acupuncture treatment. Chinese herbal formulas can be quite useful in chronic illness and gynecological concerns. Some examples of Chinese herbs include: ren shen (ginseng), gan cao (licorice root) and dang gui (angelica sinensis).

Diet therapy
(Shí Liáo) is the practice of healing using natural foods instead of medications. Chinese food therapy is a very important modality of TCM. The ideas of yin and yang are used in the sphere of food and cooking. Yang foods are believed to increase the body’s heat (eg. raise the metabolism), while Yin foods are believed to decrease the body’s heat (eg. lower the metabolism). As a generalization, Yang foods tend to be dense in food energy, especially energy from fat, while Yin foods tend to have high water content. The Chinese idea is to eat both types of food to keep the body in balance. A person eating too much Yang food might suffer from acne and bad breath while a person eating too much Yin food might be lethargic or anemic. Chinese Diet Therapy further classifies food by four food groups, five tastes and by their natures and characteristics.

Moxa is often employed in combination with acupuncture. Moxibustion is the burning of an herb called Ai Ye (artemisiae argyi or mugwort) over points or areas of the body. The function is to remove blood stasis, promote blood circulation, disperse cold, and relieve pain. This is a particularly effective treatment to help turn breech babies.

Cupping is another common technique. Glass cups are most commonly used in North America, but bamboo or plastic cups are also available. Suction is obtained with either a flame which is quickly inserted and removed from the cup (generating negative pressure suction), or by use of a small pump on a plastic cup. The cup can then either be left stationary or moved with the assistance of oil. Sometimes cups are placed over needles to increase stimulation. The purpose is to relax muscles, warm and promote the free flow of Qi and blood, dispel Cold and Dampness (TCM terms) and reduce swelling and pain.

Electr0-acupuncture is a form of acupuncture in which pairs of acupuncture needles are attached to a device that generates continuous electric pulses between them. This practice is particularly good for treating pain and stubborn musculoskeletal conditions.

Other acupuncture methods
Other acupuncture methods include the use of intradermal needles, ear acupuncture and gua sha.

Mind-body exercises
Mind-body exercises such as yoga, tai chi, qi gong, astrology and meditation may also be recommended to help encourage a healthy lifestyle and prevent future illness from occurring.

Comments on this entry are closed.