tcm

traditional chinese medicine

about acupuncture

acupuncture is one of the oldest forms of healing in the world. it originated in china as many as 5000 years ago, and the first medical text about acupuncture was written over 2200 years ago. that acupuncture continues to be practiced today is strong proof of the power of this medicine.

acupuncture is the best known of the modalities that make up what is known as traditional chinese medicine.

the theory on which acupuncture is based is called meridian (or channel) theory. meridian theory describes the flow of qi (vital energy or life energy) through the body. qi connects all the tissues and organs of the body, circulating from one area of the body to another along certain pathways (called meridians or channels). for the body to function properly, qi must flow freely and in the correct strength and quality through each of the meridians. when the flow of qi is interrupted or unbalanced, illness – of the body, mind and/or spirit will occur. symptoms such as pain, anxiety, insomnia, digestive issues, etc. are signals of an imbalance in the body’s qi.

acupuncture is the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the body to influence the flow of qi through the body.

when you have an acupuncture treatment, your acupuncturist will select certain points on your body in which to insert acupuncture needles. she will choose the points best suited to address the concerns and symptoms you are experiencing and your individual qi imbalances (identified based on your medical history and examination).

the goal of acupuncture treatment is to restore balance to the qi of a person’s body. restoring balance to the body’s qi allows the person’s body, mind, and spirit to heal and can resolve the symptoms and concerns for which the person has sought treatment.

acupuncture treatment can address specific diseases and health concerns. it can also be used preventatively, to maintain health despite the many demands and challenges of a busy urban lifestyle.

about traditional chinese medicine

traditional chinese medicine (tcm) is a holistic, comprehensive system of health care that includes several modalities. some of the most common elements of tcm are acupuncture, tui na, cupping, and moxibustion. a tcm treatment frequently includes a combination of techniques in addition to acupuncture. the modalities used and at what time depend on your individual needs and considerations.

diet, lifestyle, and herbal medicine are also important aspects of tcm. your acupuncturist may recommend changes to your diet and lifestyle to improve your health. she may also recommend and prescribe chinese herbal medicine formulas and supplements appropriate for your condition.

the interdependence of body, mind, and spirit is an important philosophical concept within tcm, with treatment focused on the person as a whole. the goal of tcm treatment is to restore balance to the qi of a person’s body. restoring balance to the body’s qi allows the person’s body, mind, and spirit to heal and can resolve the symptoms and concerns for which the person has sought treatment.

about chinese herbal medicine

chinese herbal medicine works with acupuncture and the other modalities of traditional chinese medicine to restore balance and health to the body. chinese herbal medicine makes use of many different herbal substances (more than 450 substances are commonly used today, most are of plant origin, although some mineral and animal substances are occasionally used). chinese herbs are rarely used on their own, but are instead combined in formulas to address the unique health concerns of each individual person. this approach enables one formula to address multiple health concerns at the same time.

chinese herbal formulas are developed to address not only the symptoms for which a person is seeking treatment, but to address the root, or cause of the symptoms as well. therefore, two people presenting with similar signs and symptoms may receive very different herbal prescriptions. as treatment progresses and a person’s condition improves, the ingredients in their herbal formula are continuously modified to address their changing needs.

chinese herbal formulas are typically made up of 8 to 15 individual herbs (although fewer or more herbs may sometimes be appropriate). formulas can be prescribed in many forms, depending upon the needs, lifestyle, and preferences of the individual patient. formulas may be prescribed in liquid form – either prepared at home by the patient or prepared in advance for the patient and vacuum-sealed in single serving containers. formulas may also be prescribed in powder, capsule, pill, or tincture (alcohol based) form. most often, herbal formulas are prescribed to be taken internally, however, external applications may also sometimes be prescribed (e.g. for skin conditions or musculoskeletal pain relief).

the goal of chinese herbal medicine is to treat as well as prevent disease. it strengthens the body, enhances immunity, and promotes a sense of general well-being.

about acupressure

acupressure is the application of gentle but firm pressure to the acupuncture points on the body. acupressure works with acupuncture and the other modalities of traditional chinese medicine to restore balance and health to the body. it can also be an effective alternative to acupuncture treatment when acupuncture is not possible or appropriate, or for the rare person who cannot tolerate acupuncture needles. acupressure techniques are frequently taught and recommended for self-treatment between acupuncture appointments to reinforce the effects of acupuncture treatment.

about ear acupuncture

ear acupuncture (often called auricular acupuncture or auricular therapy) is a microsystem of acupuncture – meaning that the entire body is reflected in the anatomy of the ear and points located on the ear can thus be effective in treating any condition of the body, mind, and spirit.

ear acupuncture is usually integrated into a regular acupuncture treatment when practiced by a licensed acupuncturist in a private setting. ear acupuncture is also practiced on its own, most commonly as an effective treatment for addiction.

at the end of an acupuncture treatment, your acupuncturist may place small seeds from the vaccaria plant (held in place by a small piece of medical tape) on specific points on your ear so that you can stimulate the points for self-treatment for several days between acupuncture treatments.

ear acupuncture works with acupuncture and the other modalities of traditional chinese medicine to restore balance and health to the body. It can address specific diseases and health concerns, and can be used preventatively, to maintain health despite the many demands and challenges of a busy urban lifestyle.

about tui na

tui na literally translated means to “push pull” and is the name given to chinese medical massage. tui na works with acupuncture and the other modalities of traditional chinese medicine to restore balance and health to the body.

tui na uses a variety of hand techniques combined with passive and active stretching to restore correct anatomical musculoskeletal relationships and neuromuscular patterns, and to increase the circulation of qi and blood in the body to remove biochemical irritants. tui na often includes the stimulation of specific acupuncture points to rebalance and harmonize the flow of qi and blood through the meridians in order to facilitate healing and prevent further injury.

tui na’s advantage over simple massage is its ability to focus on specific problems, especially chronic pain associated with the muscles, joints, and skeletal system. tui na is especially effective for joint pain (such as arthritis), sciatica, muscle spasms, and pain in the back, neck, and shoulders. it also helps relieve chronic conditions such as insomnia, constipation, headaches (including migraines), and the tension associated with stress.

about cupping

cupping works with acupuncture and the other modalities of traditional chinese medicine to restore balance and health to the body.

cupping is a non-invasive method of applying acupressure to specific areas of the body by creating a vacuum next to the patient’s skin. in traditional chinese medicine, cupping involves placing glass, plastic, or bamboo cups on the skin with a vacuum. cupping creates a sort of reverse massage—applying suction instead of pressure to muscles to relieve tension, blockage, and pain. in addition to musculoskeletal pain, cupping is an effective treatment for many respiratory diseases including the common cold, pneumonia, and bronchitis.

cupping treatment itself is generally painless, or even pleasant in sensation. however some red marks or bruising on the body may occur, since treatment causes blood to be drawn to the surface of the skin. red marks and bruising usually dissipate within a few hours or days.

about moxibustion

moxibustion works with acupuncture and the other modalities of traditional chinese medicine to restore balance and health to the body. moxibustion and acupuncture are often of equal importance in treating many conditions, particularly in the most traditional practices.

moxibustion is the use of the herb mugwort (artemsia vulgaris), called moxa in chinese, to apply heat directly or indirectly to the body in order to warm body regions and acupuncture points, stimulate circulation, encourage a smooth flow of blood and qi, and protect against cold and dampness.

moxibustion is particularly effective in the treatment of chronic problems, “deficient conditions” (weakness), and in the treatment of the elderly. moxa has proven to be clinically effective for treatment of common ailments such as acute and chronic pain, digestive disorders, women’s disorders, and sexual dysfunction.

about gua sha

gua sha works with acupuncture and the other modalities of traditional chinese medicine to restore balance and health to the body. gua sha involves palpation and stimulation of the skin, working in a stroking method with a round-edged instrument often made of porcelain, jade or bone. the stroking results in the appearance of small red spots on the skin (called sha) that typically fade in two to three days.

gua sha promotes circulation and metabolic processes providing relief from pain, stiffness, fever, chills, coughing, nausea, and other symptoms. much like cupping, gua sha is effective in the treatment of acute infectious illness, upper respiratory, and digestive problems as well as musculoskeletal pain.

about electrical acupuncture needle stimulation

electrical stimulation of acupuncture needles (often called electroacupuncture) is often part of an acupuncture treatment. needles are inserted into acupuncture points in the body as they are in any acupuncture treatment. some needles are then attached with small clips to a device that generates continuous electric pulses. the electric pulses stimulate the acupuncture needles, several pairs of which may be stimulated simultaneously.

the stimulation that can be achieved with an electrical needle stimulation device is more frequent and consistent and of longer duration than an acupuncturist can achieve with manual needle stimulation alone. the acupuncturist can also adjust the frequency and intensity of the impulse delivered to meet the patient’s specific health needs.

electrical needle stimulation is not painful. there is a sensation of vibration at the points that are stimulated, but this sensation does not feel electrical or shock-like in any way and is usually pleasant or at least, not unpleasant for the patient.

electrical needle stimulation typically lasts about 20 minutes and is particularly effective in treating chronic pain conditions.

about qi

qi (pronounced “chee”) is energy. it is sometimes spelled “chi” or even “ki,” all of which mean the same thing. qi is the vital life force present in every living creature. in fact, qi is more than just the vital life force of the human body, it is present in every living and inanimate thing in the universe, including the food we eat, the environments in which we live and work, and the relationships in which we interact.

the theory on which acupuncture is based is called meridian (or channel) theory. meridian theory describes the flow of qi through the body. qi connects all the tissues and organs of the body, circulating from one area of the body to another along certain pathways (called meridians or channels) along which acupuncture points are located.

qi is vibration, it is what carries the effects of acupuncture from the site of an acupuncture point to another part of the body.

for the body to function properly, qi must flow freely and in the correct strength and quality through each of the meridians. when the flow of qi is interrupted or unbalanced, illness – of the body, mind and/or spirit will occur. symptoms such as pain, anxiety, insomnia, digestive issues, etc. are signals of an imbalance in the body’s qi.

about acupuncture meridians

the theory on which acupuncture is based is called meridian (or channel) theory. meridian theory describes the flow of qi through the body. qi connects all the tissues and organs of the body, circulating from one area of the body to another along certain pathways (called meridians or channels).

there are 12 primary meridians and 8 extraordinary meridians in the body. while acupuncture needles can be inserted along any part of any meridian, there are certain points which have been identified over time (during acupuncture’s many thousand year history) to be particularly effective in restoring the body’s qi to a healthy balance. these points are what we call acupuncture points.

about acupuncture points

while acupuncture needles can be inserted along any part of any acupuncture meridian, there are certain points which have been identified over time (during acupuncture’s many thousand year history) to be particularly effective in restoring the body’s qi to a healthy balance. these points are what we call acupuncture points.

when you have an acupuncture treatment, your acupuncturist will select certain points on your body in which to insert acupuncture needles. she will choose the points best suited to address the concerns and symptoms you are experiencing and your individual qi imbalances (identified based on your medical history and examination).

the selection of acupuncture points is complicated and difficult to understand without undertaking a deep study of acupuncture and meridian theory (a major part of every acupuncturist’s education). acupuncture points have many obvious functions – for example, if you are experiencing pain in a particular area (shoulder, ankle, head, etc.) acupuncture points located in the area of the pain will often help to resolve your pain. however, acupuncture points also have many less-obvious functions – for example, if you are experiencing nausea, a very effective point is located on the inside of your arm, about 2 inches above your wrist. any one acupuncture point will also have many different (often seemingly unrelated) functions – some related to the area in which it is located; some related to the areas of the body through which the meridian on which it is located flows; some related to the organs and tissues to which the meridian connects, etc.

in general, in any one acupuncture treatment, your acupuncturist will select 8-20 (although fewer or more points may be deemed appropriate) acupuncture points in which to insert needles. these points will usually be spread out – some located on your arms and legs (most often below the elbow and knee), some along your back or abdomen and a few on your face or head.

about acupuncture needles

many people have a hard time believing that anyone would choose to have acupuncture treatment because the treatment involves needles. before experiencing acupuncture, most people’s only experience with needles is getting a shot or vaccination at the doctor’s office – an experience that is usually painful and unpleasant.

however, having an acupuncture treatment is nothing like getting a vaccination. acupuncture is usually a very positive experience that most people look forward to and enjoy.

acupuncture needles are very different from hypodermic needles. acupuncture needles are solid and very thin – almost hair-thin – with a fine, even point that easily passes through the skin. hypodermic needles are hollow and quite thick (to allow a medication to pass through the needle into your body), with a wider, angled point that causes a lot of pain as it breaks the skin. acupuncture needles do not inject anything into your body. much of the lasting pain and discomfort associated with hypodermic needles is due to the medications injected into your body.

acupuncture needles are sterile, single use, stainless steel needles that can be inserted almost painlessly. they may be used on most parts of the body—including the hands, feet, arms, legs, back, abdomen, head, face, and ears. different needles are used for different locations—and insertion is often extremely shallow.

acupuncture needles are flexible. although it is preferable to keep movement to a minimum, it is not necessary to remain uncomfortably still during an acupuncture treatment. acupuncture needles are inserted into the soft tissues of the body—not into veins or nerves. although points do not usually bleed during or after treatment, a very small drop of blood may occasionally be seen after removal of an acupuncture needle.

the differences between acupuncture and hypodermic needles make a huge difference in the sensations they create. an acupuncture treatment does involve needles, but it does not hurt. even if you are particularly wary or afraid of needles, you can enjoy acupuncture treatment. most patients are surprised by how comfortable they are when the needles go in (whether they express a fear or concern about needles or not).

acupuncture treatment can be so effective, and has so few side effects that most patients agree the benefits they receive from treatment far outweigh any concerns they originally had about the use of needles.

about chinese tongue diagnosis

your acupuncturist will generally ask to look at your tongue during your acupuncture appointment. tongue diagnosis is an important part of traditional chinese medicine. the structure, color, and coating of your tongue provides information about your physical health. different areas of your tongue reflect the health of different areas and organ systems of your body. if there is anything unusual about the structure, color or coating in a particular area of your tongue it is a signal to your acupuncturist that there may be an imbalance with your body’s qi in that area and that this may be related to your health concerns.

as with any assessment method, chinese tongue diagnosis is not generally used as the only method of diagnosis, but is one of many tools your acupuncturist uses to gain a complete understanding of your health and how best to address your health concerns.

about chinese pulse palpation

your acupuncturist will generally spend some time feeling your pulse. during your acupuncture appointment. pulse palpation is an important part of traditional chinese medicine. chinese medical pulse palpation is different than western medical pulse-taking (which focuses almost exclusively on the heart rate). chinese pulse palpation provides your acupuncturist with detailed information about the state of your entire body – every organ system, your qi and blood, and even your constitution and past health history.

pulse palpation is a very subtle skill. your pulse will be palpated in six different positions—three on each wrist along the radial artery, and at three depths in each position. each depth and position provides information about different aspects of your health and the causes for your symptoms.

as with any assessment method, chinese pulse palpation and diagnosis is not generally used as the only method of diagnosis, but is one of many tools your acupuncturist uses to gain a complete understanding of your health and how best to address your health concerns.

about traditional acupuncture vs. medical acupuncture

traditional acupuncture, practiced as part of traditional chinese medicine, is a highly effective system of medical care. in contrast to the more recently developed method of medical acupuncture, which uses limited techniques based on western medical diagnoses, traditional acupuncture utilizes a holistic approach to health maintenance and disease management.