Traditional Chinese medicine encompasses a broad range of medicine practices sharing common concepts which have been developed in China and are based on a tradition of more than 2,000 years, including various forms of herbal medicine, acupuncture, massage exercise, and dietary therapy.
How is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Practiced in the U.S.?
Traditional Chinese medicine, which encompasses many different practices, is rooted in the ancient philosophy of Taoism and dates back more than 5,000 years. Today, TCM is practiced side by side with Western medicine in many of China’s hospitals and clinics. TCM is also widely used in the United States. The World Health Organization and the National Institute of Health endorse acupuncture as being effective treatments for numerous conditions.
According to the 2007 National Health Interview Survey, which included questions on the use of various CAM therapies, an estimated 3.1 million U.S. adults had used acupuncture in the previous year. In addition, according to this same survey, approximately 17 percent of adults use natural products, including herbs, making it the most commonly used therapy.
What is the Concept of TCM?
TCM is based on the ancient Chinese view of human beings as microcosms of the larger, surrounding universe—interconnected with nature and subject to its forces. The human body is regarded as an organic entity in which the various organs, tissues, and other parts have distinct functions but they are all interdependent. In this view, health and disease relate to balance of the functions.
What are the Key Components of TCM?
The central focus of TCM is the flow of qi, which is a vital energy/ life force that circulates in the body through a system of pathways called meridians. Health is an ongoing process of maintaining balance and harmony in the circulation of qi.
The TCM approach uses eight principles to analyze symptoms and categorize conditions: cold/heat, interior/exterior, excess/deficiency, and yin/yang (the chief principles). The Yin-Yang Theory focuses on the concept of two opposing, yet complementary, forces that shape the world and all life. TCM also uses the theory of five elements—fire, earth, metal, water, and wood—to explain how the body works. These elements correspond to particular organs and tissues in the body.
How Do We Make Diagnoses Based on TCM theory?
TCM emphasizes individualized treatment. Practitioners traditionally use four methods to evaluate a patient’s condition: observing (especially the tongue), hearing/smelling, asking/interviewing, and touching/palpating (especially the pulse).
How Does Acupuncture Work?
Acupuncture points are areas of designated electrical sensitivity. Inserting needles at these points stimulate various sensory receptors that, in turn, stimulate nerves that transmit impulses to the hypothalamic-pituitary system at the base of the brain.
The hypothalamus-pituitary glands are responsible for releasing neurotransmitters and endorphins. These endorphins are natural pain killer hormones. It is estimated that endorphins are 200 times more potent than morphine. Endorphins also play a big role in the functioning of the hormonal system. This is why acupuncture works well for back pain and arthritis, P.M.S., infertility as well as for general well-being.
The substances released as a result of acupuncture not only relax the whole body. The substances also also regulate serotonin in the brain, which plays a role in human and animal disposition. This is why depression is often treated with acupuncture.
How Safe is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture treatment is very safe if a well-trained practitioner performs it properly. Unlike many drugs, it is non-toxic, and adverse reactions are minimal. Because of its non-invasive nature, acupuncture is very popular for the treatment of chronic pain in many countries. As mentioned previously, acupuncture is comparable with morphine preparations in its effectiveness against chronic pain, but without the adverse effects of morphine, such as dependency.
What Can Acupuncture Treat?
Neurological disorders, headaches, migraines, and neuralgia are the common painful conditions treated with acupuncture. Strokes are another major indication for acupuncture. Early treatment of paresis with acupuncture after a stroke has proved highly effective. Below are other disorders that can be treated with acupuncture.