Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) originated in China over 2000 years ago. TCM seeks to restore balance in the patient and is often effective for conditions without diagnosis or treatment in Western Medicine, or in addition to Western Medicine treatments.
TCM includes acupuncture, acupressure, and cupping as well as moxibustion, gua sha, tui na, herbal medicine, and lifestyle advice.
Acupuncture / Acupressure
In acupuncture, extremely thin needles are inserted into the body at specific points known as acupoints that fall along channel pathways. For patients who are uncomfortable with needles, acupressure stimulates those same acupoints with the hands or elbows.
When TCM emerged 2000 years ago, the healthy body was envisioned as being like a country whose wellbeing was dependent on the abundance and free flowing movement of the channel pathways, much like ancient Chinese society was dependent on the proper movement of water through the rivers for agriculture, trade and transportation.
Contemporarily, experimental research suggests that these channels are functional channels that lie close to fascial planes through which biochemical and and bioelectrical factors can communicate easily, due to the abundance of interstitial fluid, mast cells and nerve endings.
What is certain, both from anecdotal experience and contemporary medical research is that acupuncture is useful for a wide variety of conditions. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes that acupuncture can be helpful for many conditions including: allergies, arthritis, headache, hypertension, hypotension, morning sickness and pain. Although acupuncture is not a panacea, almost everyone can benefit from the balancing and relaxing effects of acupuncture.
Moxibustion is a form of heat therapy applied to acupoints on the body by burning dried mugwort (artemesia vulgaris). Indirect moxibustion is the most common clinical application; a stick of mugwort is ignited and held close to the body, inducing a localized vasodilation response and creating a pleasant sensation of warmth.
Moxibustion is helpful for treating musculoskeletal pain, menstrual cramps, digestive disorders and low immunity.
Cupping is the application of specialized cups on the skin, using heat to create suction. This action pulls the skin away from the muscle below and encourages movement of blood and lymph. Cupping was made famous in the West after Michael Phelps unveiled his marks during his successful run at the 2016 Olympics, and is commonly used to treat pain, as well as lung congestion and digestive issues.
Gua sha uses the round edges of an object, like a piece of jade, to stimulate the skin encouraging blood and lymph flow. It is commonly used to treat musculoskeletal pain as well as common cold.
Tui na is a form of Chinese massage that applies unique hand movements to meridian based massage. It can be used as an adjunctive for almost any therapy, to increase the therapeutic effects of the treatment.
Herbal medicine can be a powerful adjunctive therapy to other treatments. Trained TCM practitioners have spent years learning how to use Chinese herbal medicine, drawing from the clinical experience of a long lineage of practitioners, from ancient times until now. It is estimated that 25% of Western pharmaceutical drugs contain plant extracts or active principles. In TCM, whole herbs contain constituents, like volatile oils and tannins, that have chemical activities in our bodies. Herbs used are the highest quality available and rigorously tested for quality.
TCM is based in yangsheng or “life-cultivating” practices. Fundamental to this idea is that everything we do: how we sleep, where we live, the foods we eat, our feelings, and the exercise we do has an effect on our wellbeing. Because TCM has a specific approach to the body, practitioners are often able to make customized treatments for patients. Central to this is food therapy; TCM can often offer simple suggestions to dramatically improve overall wellbeing.