August Blog: What Is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

By Sarah Joy Roberts, B.S., M.O.M., L.Ac.

TCM is a medical system that has been practiced for over 5,000 years.  The main focus of TCM is restoring balance to the human body.  A Chinese medical practitioner uses the signs and symptoms a human body presents to determine what imbalance is taking place within that body to promote disease.  The practitioner then uses the modalities of TCM to restore the body’s balance.  In this way, TCM treats the root imbalance to stop the symptoms from occurring.  In practice; we focus on acupuncture, moxibustion, tui na, gua sha, cupping, herbal therapy and diet therapy.


How Does Acupuncture Work?


Acupuncture is based on the theory that the body has an energy force running throughout it known as Qi (pronounced Chee).  The Qi consists of all essential life activities including the spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical aspects of life.  Qi is composed of two parts, Yin and Yang.  They are opposing forces that when balanced, work together.  Any upset in the balance will result in disease.  Yin is the more passive, feminine, cold, dark and moist aspect (magnetic); while Yang is the more active, male, warm, light and dry aspect (electric).  nothing is completely one or the other, within Yin there is Yang and within Yang, there is the genesis of Yin.  When your body has a deficiency in either Yin or Yang, the opposing force will appear in excess and symptoms result due to that imbalance.  Likewise, symptoms can also result due to an excess in either Yin or Yang in your body.


Qi travels throughout the body along special pathways called meridians.  When meridians become obstructed, deficient, excessive or misdirected, Yin and Yang are thrown out of balance.  This causes illness.  The channel obstruction may be caused by an exogenous factor (ie.  a common cold) or an endogenous factor (ie. phlegm) caused by the dysfunction of one or more of the body’s organs.  The acupuncture points are specific locations where the meridians come to the surface of the skin, and are easily accessible by needling.  Accessing these points restores the even circulation of Qi and a balance between Yin and Yang.


What Does Acupuncture Feel Like?


Acupuncturists use thin, filiform (solid) needles that vary in length, width of shaft, and shape of head.  There is nothing on the needles.  The therapeutic effect of acupuncture is derived simply by the insertion of the needle.  All needles used in practice are disposable.  They are used once and discarded in accordance with medical biohazard regulations and guidelines.  Points are needled either deep, shallow, perpendicular or anywhere in the range of 15 to 90 degrees relative to the skin surface, depending on the area being needled and the treatment.  In most cases, a sensation felt by the patient is desired.  This sensation is called de qi.  It is often described as a deep, dull pressure, sometimes pulsing, warm or itchy.  Often people feel movement or a buzzing throughout their body which is not painful.  In some cases, especially for analgesia, very small electrical impulses are used through the acupuncture needle.

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