Traditional Chinese Medicine is an ancient medical system rooted in natural healing techniques. It uses herbs, acupuncture, Tui Na massage and Tai Chi.
The core principle of TCM is Qi (pronounced chee). This vital energy flows throughout the body on pathways called meridians. Optimal health is achieved when Qi is in balance.
Acupuncture is a technique for balancing the body’s energy, known as qi. It is one of the most popular TCM techniques in the West and is often used for pain management.
According to TCM, a type of life force called qi flows through energetic pathways in the body called meridians. Each meridian is associated with a certain organ or group of organs that govern particular bodily functions. Qi can become stagnant, or blocked, resulting in disease. Acupuncture is thought to balance qi and restore health by influencing neurotransmitters like oxytocin, GABA, glutamate, serotonin, and norepinephrine that regulate pain response, mood, stress levels, sleep, cognitive function, and emotional well-being.
Studies have shown acupuncture reduces pain, nausea and vomiting after surgery or chemotherapy, and helps treat asthma, allergies, and low back pain. However, more research is needed to understand how acupuncture works. It is important to talk with your doctor before getting acupuncture, especially if you have a pacemaker or are pregnant.
Cupping is best known for the circular bruises it leaves on your skin, but its benefits are even more widespread. It’s been around for thousands of years and was documented in one of the oldest medical texts, Ebers papyrus, from Ancient Egypt.
During cupping, small cups made of bamboo, ceramic, glass or plastic create suction against your skin. This force breaks open tiny blood vessels (capillaries) underneath your skin, prompting your body to replenish the area with healthier blood flow that stimulates healing at a cellular level.
This treatment can also be done “dry” or with a pump that’s manually pumped. The modern method is usually used for athletes because it can help reduce recovery time, stress and pain and loosens connective tissue. Cupping can be used alone or in combination with acupuncture. It’s not a substitute for Western medicine, but it’s a wonderful complement with its emphasis on whole-body wellness. And it’s safe for almost everyone, except people with liver disease, heart problems or a pacemaker.
Tui Na Massage
Tui Na is a hands-on manual manipulation technique guided by Chinese medicine theory. It can be either very vigorous and physically active or incredibly subtle and still, depending on the style your practitioner uses. Techniques include rolling, finger-pushing, bone-setting, rejoining, palpating and kneading.
Like acupuncture, it follows the same principles of balancing qi and stimulating self-healing. Tui na massage works on meridians, acupoints, and groups of muscles and nerves to unblock energy channels, release tension, disperse heat, regulate tendon and ligament movement, ease pain, and improve circulation.
It may be contraindicated for patients with fractures, open wounds, and acute infectious diseases. However, gentle, subtle yin-style tui na can be very helpful for cancer patients. Moxibustion (the burning of mugwort leaves) is also often used to enhance tui na treatments. Moxibustion warms the body and increases qi flow.
Whether you’ve experienced an acupuncture session, taken turmeric for arthritis pain or practiced Tai Chi, you have benefited from traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The ancients believed that health and disease were caused by imbalances of a vital force of life called Qi. This force surges through the body and is supported by opposite and complementary forces known as yin and yang.
Sometimes described as “meditation in motion,” Tai Chi focuses on slow movements, deep breathing and visual awareness of body postures and sensations. It’s also been shown to improve balance and reduce fall risk in older adults.
This gentle form of exercise does not require resistance or weight-bearing exercise, and can be done by people with many types of physical limitations. It can even help those with musculoskeletal injuries. Studies indicate it may increase bone formation, reduce back pain and improve overall quality of life.