What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

31 Oct

Whenever I meet someone I’m often asked what do I do. Sometimes I get into the nitty-gritty and other times I tell them I practice Chinese medicine – acupuncture and herbs. A flow of questions follow – sometimes it’s hugged by the dreaded statement, “I believe in acupuncture”, which often implies that it’s a complementary energetic medicine that has some magical qualities. Yes, it’s awesome to believe that something works, but not in the way of being mind over matter with a little ju-ju on the side.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)  is an awesome medicine and although it can’t fix you if you have a severed limb, it possesses great modalities to facilitate the healing process.  It’s a root-down kinda medicine and I’ll explain what that means a bit later.

Test of Time

TCM is thousands of years old.  It’s based on the observation of the nature and man’s place in it.  Practitioners would dissect and observe the human body’s physiological processes and record their findings. It’s the observation of all of the physiological functions and vital substances the body thrives on in very basic pre-medical term era.  The first acupuncture needle was a bian stone that was cut and used to stimulate acupuncture points on the body. It wasn’t until the 1950’s when communist leader of China, Mao Dezong,  integrated TCM practices with Western medicine. Clinical methods were reviewed to bring forth a better understanding of chinese medicine.  With this integration, TCM was incorporated into hospital settings and is used today in China.

If you’re interested in learning more about the medicine:  Licensed Acupuncturist Chris Kresser has a great website and gives a wonderful explanation of TCM through a scientifically based lens. Great stuff here.

What does Acupuncture Do?

Acupuncture stimulates specific pathways in the body to elicit specific responses to stimulate the healing process in the body. It treats pain, increases blood flow, reduces inflammation, and reduces stress.

The World Health Organization (WHO) lists many benefits of using acupuncture in this report.

Does it hurt?

Acupuncture is different for everyone. Patients may feel a small prick at the insertion site. Other sensations may be a dull feeling, pulsating and heat.  An acupuncture needle is a disposable sterilized filiform needle. I believe 18 acupuncture needles can fit into a hypodermic. They are incredibly thin (width of a human hair).

What does an acupuncturist do?

A licensed acupuncturist has attended an accredited school within the US and is often certified by the NCCAOM.  Masters programs can be between three to four years long and contain many courses including western sciences, TCM theory, practice management and clinical experience.

Speaking of “root down” – The initial appointment will be a series of questions to find out what the root cause of the patient’s health concern, not just a treatment of the symptoms. The initial meeting can take an hour and a half to two hours to complete. The job of the practitioner is to treat the underlying cause to your experienced symptoms and assess lifestyle habits, review medicines and supplements the patient may take, etc. Based on the intake, a treatment plan will be reviewed.

What I love about the medicine is that several people could be diagnosed with a western disease, but have completely different underlying issues that got them to the state they’re currently in. The patient is treated as an individual and not as a disease diagnosis.

If you’ve had any experiences with acupuncture or chinese herbs, please let me know your stories or questions.

Take Care!




One Response to “What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?”

  1. JOANN SELLATI November 1, 2012 at 1:21 am #


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