Chinese Medicine - the Basics
David A. Dawson, Ph.D.,
This page will give the very simplest introduction to Chinese medicine and how it works.
What is Chinese Medicine?
Chinese medicine is a term that refers to traditional ways of thinking about illness and its treatment that developed centuries ago in China. What we call Chinese medicine can include:
|Acupuncture:||the use of tiny needles to balance the body's energy;|
|Herbal medicine:||teas or pills made from traditional Chinese medical products (herbs, minerals, etc.);|
|Moxa:||the application of warmth to the body by burning mugwort (an herb);|
|Cupping:||the use of a warmed cup on parts of the body, which then creates a suction to draw blood into an area, or break up blockages - like a massage from the inside out;|
|'Tui na':||massage using traditional Chinese techniques|
|'Qi Gong':||Chinese exercises, similar to yoga, that help heal the body and relieve stress;|
|Nutrition:||guidance about foods to avoid or to incorporate in one's diet to promote healing;|
as well as several other medical practices. Often a single appointment will include several of these approaches. Read through the other pages in this category (drop-down menu item 'the Medicine' above) for more detailed information about each of these techniques.
Chinese medicine works to reestablish harmony and balance in the various energy systems of the body. We don't often talk about the energy of the Stomach or the Liver with our MDs or Nurse Practitioners, but this is the true heart of Chinese medicine. It is one of the things that makes it exceptional, for, by paying attention to the balance of the body's energy, we can actually recognize when things aren't at their best long before disease or injury show up, and we can treat these imbalances to keep you healthy, rather than having to wait for a diagnosis of some illness or another. This is preventative medicine without guess-work.
When you come to the office the first time, you will be asked to fill out some simple paperwork, then we will talk about your concerns. Chinese medicine creates a diagnosis by understanding the relationships between parts of the body, so we ask a lot of questions. When we have determined the diagnosis, we will talk about the options for treatment. If you have never had acupuncture before, we will also talk about what acupuncture is. Then, we do the treatment.
'Who's in Charge Here??'
Actually, you are... I never do anything that you don't feel okay about - it's your body, after all.
In an acupuncture treatment, the needles will be in for about 15 or 20 minutes (if you like, you can have quiet music playing in the background - music is also part of the Chinese medical system); if we also do massage, or cupping, this usually happens after the needles are removed. During the treatment I will put together the herbal formula, if we have decided to include that.
Then we talk about further appointments, and off you go 'on cloud nine' to enjoy the rest of your day!
The Safety of Chinese Medicine
Patients sometimes want to know more about how safe the traditional techniques of Chinese medicine are. In our three years of basic training (and my additional year and a half for my second degree), safety made up the principle focus of our schooling. We learned acupuncture needle techniques to safeguard the sterility of the acupuncture needles, how to dispose of them after use, and how to perform acupuncture safely and precisely. We studied the contraindications (when certain medical options should not be used) of acupuncture treatments, and of herbs and their combinations. Cleanliness, caution and accuracy are the primary hallmarks of a good Chinese medical practitioner.
In general, Chinese medicine is a gentle healing approach, and entails very little risk of harm or discomfort, especially when performed by a fully trained practitioner. Nevertheless, if you have specific concerns, please do not hesitate to ask.