As a Licensed Acupuncturist , I put a lot of effort into re-educating my patients and my community about the benefits of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. I’ve found that as a whole, our society is pretty darn clueless about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), despite the fact that it’s literally been around longer than almost any other form of medicine on the planet. With all that history, it surprises me that some people still consider TCM to be “new-agey.”
Traditional Chinese Medicine is one of the oldest continuous systems of medicine in history, with records dating as far back as 2,000 years before the birth of Christ (and some say a history as far back of 4,000 years). Compare that to any of the Western forms of health care, which have been in existence for a meer 3oo or so years. The American Medical Association wasn’t even formed until 1847, some 3,800 years after the first historical mention of TCM.
So, I ask you, which is the “new-agey” medicine?
The fundamental philosophy, theory and practice of TCM is pretty complex and, being based on a foreign, Eastern philosophy, can be difficult for most Westerners to comprehend. This is because TCM is based, at least in part, on the fundamental belief that we cruise around in bodies, and live in a Universe, in which everything is interconnected and functions as an integrated whole. This is is stark contrast to the Western view of medicine, for example, in which the body is viewed and treated as separate parts and pieces.
From a TCM perspective, what happens to one part of the body affects every other part of the body and vice verse. The mind and body are not viewed separately, but as part of an energetic system and that whole philosophy is reflected in the medicine. We don’t treat bodies, we treat people.
Many of the concepts emphasized in traditional Chinese medicine have no true counterpart in Western medicine.
One of the most important concepts is that of Qi (pronounced “chee”), which is the circulating life energy that is inherent in all things and the energy responsible for controlling the workings of the human mind and body. It is essentially “the fuel for the fire.”
Qi circulates throughout the body along a specific, interconnected series of pathways called meridians. Meridian pathways are like rivers. Where a river flows, it transports life-giving water and nutrients to all of the living things along the way. It is in this same manner that the meridians in your body transport life-giving Qi to nourish, support and energize all of the cells, tissues and organs of your body. When Qi flows freely in your body and is properly balanced, in the proper amounts, you experience good physical, mental and emotional well-being. An obstruction of Qi anywhere in the body acts like a dam in a river, backing up the flow. This blockage can hinder the distribution of nourishment that your body requires to function properly. Acupuncture works to restore normal functions by stimulating certain points on the meridians in order to release blockages and re-balance the flow of Qi.
There is also the principle of Yin and Yang, which are the two interrelated forces that, together with the concept of Qi, form the foundation of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Yin and Yang are mutually exclusive and together form a whole, which in balance constitutes a state of harmony and health, and when out of balance indicates illness. Although Yin and Yang are opposite qualities, they never exist in isolation and they are interdependent. Everything contains both Yin and Yang aspects. One cannot exist without the other; they are continuously transforming into one another- distinguishable but never separated.
After gathering a thorough health history, observing your symptoms and signs, and taking into account your absolute uniqueness as an individual, Acupuncturists are able to determine the underlying imbalances in Qi flow or Yin-Yang disharmony in your body.
Seemingly unrelated symptoms and conditions, when looked at holistically, point to an underlying “root conditions,” the correction of which will ultimately be the target of your Acupuncture treatments. Based on your unique pattern of disharmony, your acupuncturist will be able to locate the precise points on your body that will unblock the meridians and allow the free flow of Qi to continue. In this way, acupuncture can regulate and restore the balance of your body.
Many people consider the practice of Acupuncture to be the sum total of Traditional Chinese Medicine. The truth is that while Acupuncture is the most often practiced and recognized component of TCM in the United States, it’s really just an important part of a much larger therapeutic system.
TCM encompasses a number of therapeutic methods designed to be used together to help patients achieve and maintain the greatest degree of health and wellness possible. These methods include the use of Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Cupping and Gua Sha, Electro-stimulation, Moxibustion, Asian Massage techniques such as Tuina and Shiatsu, dietary and lifestyle therapies; Meditation and exercise (often in the form of Qigong or Tai Chi).
Although the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine may be difficult for some to wrap their brains around, there is little doubt of the efficacy of the medicine.
By 1997, the National Institute of Health finally jumped on board, declaring that, “There is sufficient evidence now of Acupuncture’s value to expand it’s use into conventional medicine.”
They followed by stating that, “One of the advantages of Acupuncture is that the incidence of adverse effects is substantially lower than that of many drugs or other accepted medical procedures used for the same conditions…such as anti-inflammatory medications and steriod injections [for pain], and the evidence supporting these conventional therapies is no better than that for Acupuncture.”
The NIH and the World Health Organization (WHO) have recognized Acupuncture and TCM to be effective in treating over 56 different conditions with a far greater therapeutic reach than just treating for pain relief.
Acupuncture and the other Traditional Chinese Medicine techniques provide an extremely safe, highly effective and a completely natural approach to regaining and maintaining health and well-being, both mentally, physically and emotionally.
This information brought to you by your friendly neighborhood Austin Acupuncturist, Melanie Irvine, L.Ac., MAOM, owner Turning Point Wellness. For more info about how Acupuncture, Oriental Medicine, and natural nutrition can help you achieve vibrant health and well-being. Feel free to visit my website, www.TurningPointAcupuncture.net for more details and direct contact information.