Traditional Chinese medicine is a complete medical system which has been used to prevent, diagnose and treat illness for thousands of years. Since the 1970s, it has been gaining in popularity in the United States . In 1998, a Harvard University study estimated that Americans made more than five million visits per year to acupuncturists.
Traditional Chinese medicine encompasses many different treatment modalities. Many people’s understanding of Chinese medicine stems from a familiairty with acupuncture, which is the application and manipulation of very fine needles at specific points on the body to help move energy and promote the body’s natural healing process. However, TCM is not wholly acupuncture. Rather, it has been a complete medical system for thousands of years and includes many modalities of treatment.
TCM is a system of treating the whole body, which includes the body, mind and spirit. Chinese medicine addresses problems by seeking to heal the root cause of the symptoms, which are manifestations of a deeper imbalance of Qi. TCM will address issues as interrelated rather than separate. A patient might be feeling body aches, poor digestion, depression and experiencing bad dreams and moments of fear – TCM can address these issues as an imbalance within the whole.
In addition to acupuncture, TCM includes many important modalities of treating the whole body, which are effective for treating a wide variety of illness with minimal side effects:
- Acupressure – the manipulation of certain points through hand techniques to promote the flow of Qi, or energy.
- Traditional Chinese herbal medicine – the use of all-natural, mostly plant-based products that can be formulated specifically in the form of pills, powders, teas (called decoctions), or tinctures to address the individual needs of a patient.
- Tui na – Chinese medical massage
- Moxibustion – the application of heat from the slow-burning herb mugwort. This treatment applied to very specific points is a proven method for turning a baby in the breech position.
- Nutrition and Food therapy – Chinese medicine views the intake of certain foods and food combinations as a way to nourish aspects of a body’s natural Qi. Eliminating or adding certain foods can help change the systems in the body so that they function more optimally.
- Qi gong – the re-energizing and re-direction of Qi through movement, postures and breathing exercises.
The various modalities of traditional Chinese medicine lead qi, or energy of life, to areas where qi is insufficient and drain qi from areas where qi is stuck. If left untreated, these areas of insufficient qi and blood flow or areas of stagnant qi and blood lead to pain and disease. Through nourishing undernourished areas and clearing out stagnant areas, traditional Chinese medicine promotes the normal balanced flow of qi through the body and restores health. It can be used to treat a variety of chronic, acute, and degenerative diseases and conditions. Traditional Chinese medicine is also commonly used as a method of disease prevention because it can correct small imbalances in qi flow before they become the large imbalances characteristic of a disease state.
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