Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine
With a history of 2000 to 3000 years, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has formed a unique system to diagnose and treat illness. The TCM approach is fundamentally different from that of Western medicine. In TCM, the understanding of the human body is based on the holistic understanding of the universe which came from a variety of philosophical traditions that have influenced Eastern Asia for more than two millennia, and have had a notable influence on the western world since the 19th century. It has also been noted that early traditional Chinese medicine stemmed from Taoist masters who had an extraordinary sense of the body and its workings through their many hours of meditation. The treatment of illness through this understanding is based primarily on the diagnosis and differentiation of syndromes.
The TCM approach treats zang-fu organs as the core of the human body. Zang-fu is the general term for the internal organs of the body. Each organ is categorized within the zang-fu system relative to its function and structure according to Chinese medicine philosophy. The theory of the zang-fu organs considers the physiological functions and pathological changes of the zang-fu organs, as well as their interrelationships. Tissue and organs are connected through a network of channels, known as meridians in which Qi (or Chi) acts as a carrier of information that is expressed externally. Pathologically, a dysfunction of the zang-fu organs may be reflected on the body surface through the network, and meanwhile, diseases of body surface tissues may also affect their related zang or fu organs. Affected zang or fu organs may also influence each other through internal connections. Traditional Chinese medicine treatment starts with the analysis of the entire system, then focuses on the correction of pathological changes through readjusting the functions of the zang-fu organs.
The clinical diagnosis and treatment in Traditional Chinese Medicine are mainly based on the yin-yang and five elements theories. The theory of yin-yang is a conceptual framework which was used for observing and analyzing the material worked in ancient China. They represent two separate phenomena with opposing natures. Thus the ancient Chinese people, in the course of their everyday life and work, came to understand that all aspects of the natural work could be seen as having a dual aspect, for example, day and night, brightness and dimness, movement and stillness, upward and downward directions, heat and cold etc. As eloquently stated in the Chapter 5 of the book Plain Question: “Yin and yang are the laws of heaven and earth, the great framework of everything, the parents of change, the root and beginning of life and death…”
“Food relies on water and fire. Production relies on metal and wood. Earth gives birth to everything. They are used by the people,” well explained in the TCM text — A collection of Ancient Works. The five elements refer to five categories in the natural world, namely wood, fire, earth, metal and water. The theory of the five elements holds that all phenomena in the universe correspond in nature either to wood, fire, earth, metal or water, and that these are in a state of constant motion and change. In traditional Chinese medicine the theory of the five elements is applied to generalize and explain the nature of the zang-fu organs, the inter-relationship between them, and the relation between human beings and the natural word. It thus serves to guide clinical diagnosis and treatment.
How does the philosophy of TCM pertain to acupuncture? Typical TCM therapies include Acupuncture, Moxibustion, Tui Na, Cupping and Chinese Herbal Medicine.
Acupuncture is one of the oldest healing practices in the world. It is based on the concept that disease results from disruption in the flow of qi (energy) and imbalance in the forces of yin and yang. Qi circulates through specific pathways called meridians. There are fourteen main meridian pathways throughout the body. Each is connected to specific organs and glands. When Qi flows freely throughout the body, one enjoys good physical, mental and emotional well-being. An obstruction of Qi in the body is like a dam, backing up the flow in one area and restricting it in others. This blockage can hinder the distribution of the nourishment that the body requires to function properly. Acupuncture involves the stimulation of specific points on the body by a variety of techniques. It is intended to remove blockages in the flow of qi and restore and maintain health.
Acupoints reside along more than a dozen of major meridians. The practitioner first selects appropriate acupoints along different meridians based on identified health problems. Then very fine and thin needles are inserted into these acupoints. The needles are made of sterile, stainless steel and vary in length from half an inch to 3 inches. The needles are usually left in for 15-30 minutes. During this time the needles may be manipulated, lifted or rotated, to achieve the effect of tonifying the qi. Treatment protocols, frequency and duration are a matter of professional judgment of the practitioner, in consultation with the patient.
Acupuncture is often conducted in combination with Moxibustion. Moxibustion is a treatment that involves heating an herb called mugwort. The mugwort is heated or burned in many different methods above the skin. This is used to “warm” acupuncture points to enhance the healing process. Tui Na and cupping are other forms of therapy that may be utilized in an appointment with your acupuncturist. Tui Na, translated as “push grasp,” is a massage technique that moves Qi in various parts of the body. It is used to relieve muscle pain, tension and inflammation. Cupping is a therapy designed to stimulate the flow of blood and Qi within the superficial muscle layers. In this therapy, your acupuncturist will place a small glass over specific areas of your body. A vacuum is created under the cup using heat or suction. They may be moved over an affected area or left in place. It is used for sore muscles, tension, neck pain and even the common cold.
What can acupuncture treat?
When most people consider acupuncture, they think about its benefits for pain control. But acupuncture also has a proven track record of treating and addressing a variety of endocrine, circulatory and systemic conditions. Acupuncture works as an effective alternative and adjunct treatment modality. It is safe, effective and natural approach to help regain and maintain optimal health and well being.
Acupuncture is recognized by the National Institute of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to be effective in the treatment of a vide variety of medical problems. Scalp acupuncture has been studied and found effective in the treatment of Autism. Acupuncture has also been found to be effective in Complementary Cancer Care; often used for pain and side effects of conventional treatments. Here is a list of just a few of the many health concerns that acupuncture has been effective in treating:
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Facial palsy / tics
Irritable bowel syndrome
Low back pain
Seasonal affective disorder
Urinary tract infections
Judy Qin Fang, L.Ac
Acupuncturist and TCM practitioner at Huber Natural Health, LLC
Judy has practiced Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for more than twenty years. She utilizes not only the most common techniques in TCM, such as acupuncture, herbs, cupping, tui-na, but also applies scalp acupuncture and ear acupuncture in her daily clinical treatments.
She graduated in 1986 from Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine, one of the four earliest colleges of traditional Chinese medicine. After completing the required five years of school, she practiced traditional Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture in a senior health center. She focused on treating senior patients with chronic problems such as diabetes and digestion problems at the Shanghai Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital until 1992. She followed well-known Dr. JinDe Tu for nearly 6 years. Together, they did research on longevity by using Chinese herbs. Then, she went to study advanced acupuncture for half a year at Shanghai First People’s hospital. She learned techniques like scalp acupuncture and ear acupuncture for treating neurological disorders and post stroke victims from Dr. Ming Chun in Shanghai Hong Guang hospital.
She moved to Texas in 1995 with her family. She obtained her acupuncture license in 1996 and practiced acupuncture and Chinese herbal therapy in Houston with Doctor FuQin Cheng. She treated back pain and other various pains with great success. In 2000, she moved to the Boston area. She has been practicing in New England ever since.
Xinnong, C. (2003), Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion. Foreign Languages Press.
http://www.acupuncturemediaworks.com, Acupuncture Questions and Answers.
http://www.tcmbasics.com/basics_5elements.htm, Five Basic Elements.
http://www.tcmpage.com, Introduction to Acupuncture.