What are the Characteristics of TCM?
TCM, unlike western medicine, is holistic. The body is inseparable from the rest of nature. It automatically regulates its internal function to adopt to the regular changes that recur in the environment. Every part of the body, which includes the mind, is connected together. For example, if a patient has back pain, sore knees, and ringing in his ears, he might be advised to see an orthopedist, a neurologist and an ear doctor by his physician. A traditional Chinese doctor's diagnosis would be a malfunction of the Chinese organ-function known as the Kidney. TCM does not treat a single symptom like western medicine - for example, by giving an aspirin for a headache. TCM treats symptom-complexes to rebalance the body, as described below, so that the body can cure itself. A traditional Chinese doctor would rather prevent disease than cure it. In olden times, superior Chinese physicians were only paid when their clients were well and not paid when they were ill.
What is the basis of TCM?
Thousands of years of clinical experience led to effective treatment. Later, this knowledge was organized through Chinese philosophy using the concepts of energy (Qi) and change (Yin-Yang theory). If Qi is not excessive or deficient in any part of the body, a person is well. Disease is the result of unbalanced Qi.
Qi flows through channels or meridians which form a two-way communication between the organs and the surface of the body reached by these meridians. The energetic state of an organ can be determined by studying certain regions on the surface of the body. A similar concept, known as referred pain, appears in western medicine. For instance, a symptom of a heart problem can be pain radiating down the little finger side of the hand. TCM explains this pain by means of the Heart meridian that runs from the heart to the anterior and medial surface of the arms. The pain is the result of a Qi deficiency. Conversely, unlike western medicine, stimulating specific points on the body, called acupoints, influences the energy flow to the associated organs through their meridians. For example, some heart problems can be treated by stimulating certain acupoints on the Heart meridian.
What is Qi and how can it be balanced?
Scientists hypothesize that Qi can be explained by the equivalence of energy and matter or is a form of electromagnetic energy containing information or a yet to be discovered form of subtle energy. Even though Qi is still being investigated, it can be used, just as electricity was used before its nature was known. Like electricity, Qi is invisible. Although you cannot see an electric current, its presence can be detected through heat, magnetic effects and so on. Analogously, abnormal Qi variations can be detected by symptoms, such as heat, redness, diarrhea (too much Qi), or coldness, whiteness, constipation (too little Qi). Qi is balanced by eliminating these symptoms.
What are the causes of Disease?
Diseases can be caused by sex, exogenous climatic factors; epidemics, pathogenic factors, internal injury by the seven emotions; improper work, rest, exercise or diet; trauma, retention of phlegm, fluid and blood stasis. If a person's vital energy is strong enough, he will not become ill, because of his resistance to the disease factors.
What forms of treatment are used in TCM?
Different ways of stimulating acupoints lead to different types of treatment such as needles (acupuncture), heat (moxibustion), pressure and other forms of Chinese massage (Tuina), vacuum pressure (Cupping) and exercise (Qigong). Using modern technology, acupoints can also be stimulated by electricity, lasers, ultrasound, infrared and other forms of radiation.
Chinese breathing, herbal and dietary therapy are based on altering the body's Qi by using the Qi in the air, herbs and food, respectively.
How is the correct form of treatment determined?
It is determined by diagnosis. TCM has developed an extremely sophisticated system of correspondence between outward signs and internal organ. Accordingly, practically everything such as skin complexion, bones, meridians, smells, sounds, mental states, preferences, emotions, demeanor and body build reflect the state of the internal organs. Many of the so-called symptoms and signs of TCM would not be considered as conveying important information in western medicine. For instance, inability to make decisions, which confirms a weak Spleen, and so on.
From centuries of clinical experience, TCM also obtains information about the whole body by examining a small part of it. A striking example of this principle is Chinese pulse diagnosis. Detailed information about the whole body can be derived by palpating 12 pulses located on a small section of the radial arteries. Other examples of this principle are facial and tongue diagnoses.
The symptoms and signs are woven into a pattern called a "symptom-complex" which is a complete summary of the functional condition of the body at a particular stage of the illness. Symptoms are linked to a basic imbalance in the body's energy. This imbalance is the disease in TCM. The treatment restores the imbalance so that the body can then heal itself.
What is acupuncture?
It is a method of balancing the body's Qi by inserting needles and sometimes applying heat or electrical stimulation at precisely located acupoints. Once the Qi is balanced, the body heals itself naturally.
What is herbal therapy?
Herbal therapy is not directed to a single symptom or part of the body, but depends on a pattern of symptoms, called the symptom-complex. The aim is not to kill bacteria, viruses, cells, and so forth, but to rebalance the body so that it can heal itself. Recall that symptoms indicate an imbalance of Qi. For example, if one of the symptoms is fever (heat) then one of the herbs in the formula would have the property of coldness in order to normalize the patient's temperature. Centuries of clinical experience have led to the elimination of large doses of toxic herbs and dangerous prescriptions. A traditional Chinese formula is custom designed for each patient. After a short trial the formula is redesigned. Unlike drugs, proper herbal treatment is virtually free of dangerous side efects.
What is Tuina?
Tuina (Chinese massage) treats and prevents disease by massaging the body. It works by increasing blood circulation, correcting displacements of bones and soft tissues and stimulating nerves and meridians to influence the body's internal function and energy
What is Qigong?
Qigong is a combination of mental and breathing exercises used to treat and prevent diseases. Gong means hard work or task and Qigong is the task of learning to alter the Qi flow to correct Qi imbalances either in your own body, for self treatment, or in the patient's body. For more details click here.
Which form of treatment is best?
The type of treatment depends on the disease and the patient. For example, sometimes acupuncture is better than herbal therapy; other times the reverse holds. In some situations a combination of treatments is the best. For instance, in treating a frozen shoulder, acupunture migt be used to reduce the swelling, inflammation and pain. Then, Tuina could be used to correct displacements of soft tissue, nerves or bone; to increase the circulation of Blood and Qi and to increase the range of motion. Qigong is always helpful with any other type of treatment.
Does TCM have any advantage over western medicine?
Considering a disease as a symptom-complex has three important consequences. Some Western diseases, whose precise cause is unknown or complicated, cannot be treated effectively by western medicine, but can be alleviated by TCM - for example, arthritis. Other conditions which may require surgery - for example, protruding discs and pinched nerves, can often be treated, with good results, by acupuncture and Tuina.
Over the centuries, TCM has discovered how to eliminate symptoms. Once all of the symptoms of a symptom-complex are eliminated, the body's Qi is balanced and natural healing occurs. These techniques can also be applied to drug-induced symptoms, such as those resulting from cancer chemotherapy.
Another important consequence of the symptom-complex is in prevention. TCM can detect a "disease" (symptom-complex) when there is no corresponding western disease or any pathological changes. The patient may feel a little "out of sorts". By bringing the body back into balance, more serious illnesses are prevented. In China, people who appear well go to the doctor periodically to have their energy balanced, just like a tune-up for a car.
Is TCM archaic?
After the Communist Revolution in 1949, the Chinese wondered if TCM was really effective or just superstitious fokelore. To settle this question, they conducted thousands of experiments and clinical trials during the fifties, which verified the effectiveness of TCM. As a result, in 1958, the Central Committee officially sanctioned TCM and established five-year traditional medical schools. They decreed that traditional doctors had to study western medicine for one year and western doctors had to study traditional medicine for one year. The efficacy of TCM continues to be verified by clinical and scientific studies. TCM is now practiced worldwide. More people have been treated by TCM than by any other system of medicine.
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