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Traditional Chinese Medicine'
or TCM for short is a coherent and independent system of medical thought and practice that utilizes the techniques of acupuncture, moxibustion, nutrition, herbs, exercise and massage in its therapy.
It has evolved over thousands of years and because TCM is rooted in a philosophy and culture entirely foreign to the West it has developed it's own unique perception and language concerning the body and disease.
Ancient Chinese healers studied the external rhyme and season of nature and applied those laws and language in their observations of human bodily functions. Wind, heat, cold, fire, dryness and damp are words that apply not only to nature but to the body. For example in TCM an acute sore throat is not considered a viral infection but rather an attack of wind heat.
This uniqueness does not make Chinese medicine primitive or magical. Nor does it make the mystical and ultimate truth. It simply means that TCM is a complete, though different system than Western medicine.
Chinese physiology is also different from the West'
It is not so much the physical organ that is being described, but rather its functions and those functions in relationship to other organs. For example, the liver according to TCM physiology has the function of nourishing the eyes, muscles and tendons, which are not liver functions recognized in Western medical science. If it is not functioning adequately a person may suffer stiff, aching, twitching, or cramping muscles or dry itchy eyes. The liver also has many other functions.
Some of the TCM physiology is radically different from a Western medical approach. For example, one of the Heart's functions is circulating the blood, however it is also the consciousness 'awareness centre of the body. In Western terms though, this is considered a brain function.
Even though the two physiologies may be different, if each system is viewed in it's entirety, their theoretical framework becomes logical and complete.
The Meridian System'
For each organ in TCM there is a corresponding meridian (energy pathway) that has functions relating to the parent organ. For example, the Liver meridian is related to the liver organ. Each meridian also has it's own meridian functions. There are twelve main meridians, and they run all over the body from the toes, to the fingertips, to the top of the head. Along these meridians are found the acupuncture points. The points can be activated with very fine acupuncture needles or through massage.
What is Qi?
One of the most important concepts in Traditional Chinese Medicine is that of 'Qi' (pronounced chee) which is the Chinese word for energy. Disease occurs when a person's Qi is out of balance and therefore Chinese Medicine is about balancing Qi. This means that if there is too much Qi, the excess is reduced; too little and the deficiency is enhanced; uneven, and the Qi is more evenly distributed.
There are several kinds of Qi to be considered in TCM:
Firstly, there is the energy you were born with which is called 'inherited Qi'. This is the product of the energy of the sperm and ova and the quality of this inherited Qi relates to the health of the parents at conception. This Qi mainly acts like a catalyst in the body. It gets things going, like the ignition in a car. When this Qi is used up, we die.
Secondly, there is our 'acquired Qi'. This is the raw energy that we take in every day in the form of food, water and air. These raw products are transformed into energy that the body can use. Acquired Qi supplements our inherited Qi and protects it from being used up too quickly. It fills up the meridians, nourishes the organs, produces blood and protects the body form external attack. It can be likened to the petrol in a car.
If the acquired Qi is in good quality and quantity, less inherited Qi is needed and we can live a long life. The inherited Qi is like a bank, so that when the acquired Qi is insufficient, the body must take from the inherited Qi account to keep it functioning. Therefore the Chinese pay much attention to diet and consider a strong stomach to be of major importance.
Applications for Acupuncture'
Muscular-skeletal & neurological:
Back/neck/shoulder pain, sciatica, arthritis and rheumatism, muscle strain, joint pain, headache, migraine, dizziness, ringing in the ears, post-stroke, spasms, sports injuries'
Cold hands and feet, felling cold all over, aversion to cold/wind, numbness and tingling of limbs, edema swelling, retention of urine, fluid retention'
Sleep disorders, stiff neck/shoulders, teeth grinding, impotence, mood swings, obsessive thinking, fiery temper, mild depression, anxiety attack, allergies'
Common cold and flu, tonsillitis, sinus, asthma, bronchitis, shortness of breath, congested throat, hoarseness, allergies'
Digestive and intestinal illness:
Ulcers, diarrhoea, constipation, anorexia, lack of appetite, indigestion, over-eating, hemorrhoids, lack of energy, gastric, dysentery, irritable bowel'
PMT, menstrual pain, menopause, irregularities of cycle, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, post-natal problems, lactation'
Disorders of the mouth and eyes:
Toothache, bleeding gums, bad breath, mouth ulcers, sore tongue, cold sores, eye infections, blurred vision'
Diagnosis & treatment by an acupuncturist'
Most people will visit an acupuncturist because of one or two specific symptoms. Since Traditional Chinese Medicine treats the entire body, and not just the single symptom in isolation, the acupuncturist will ask pertinent questions concerning: health history, pain, energy level, sleep, appetite, bowels, urine, menstruation, family history, stress levels and so on. This is because the symptom must first be understood in relationship to the body's other signs and characteristics. Taking the pulse and looking at the tongue also play a major role in helping the practitioner formulate a diagnosis.
Consequently, each patient's treatment is an individual as there personal characteristics.
The number of treatments that are required varies. A general rule of thumb is that the more chronic the disease/symptom, the more treatments are required. This is why it is important to maintain good health at all times. And when ill, seek treatment immediately to prevent illness from moving into deeper more serious levels.
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