Traditional Chinese medicine is gaining popularity in the U.S., as more and more people are learning the benefits of acupuncture, acupressure, deep massage, Qigong, and the herbal medicines. Westerners are the new kids on the block when it comes to receiving these treatments, as over a quarter of the population of the world practices TCM, also known as Oriental medicine.
The National Institute of Health and the World Health Organization believe TCM to be a viable alternative to Western medicine, and now many health insurance companies will cover acupuncture as a treatment for various ailments. Very exciting for those of us who find acupuncture to be a great help in lessening pain and improving circulation.
Acupuncture originated in China around 3,000 years ago and is the most common form of medical procedure in the rest of the world, because the same treatment not only relieves immediate pain, it is a preventative procedure because it realigns the Qi ( pronounced "Chee.")
The Qi is the body's vital energy, all things rise from Qi and it flows and connects a person to the earth and sky. It is also the source of the body's natural healing, all disorders can be traced to a Qi imbalance, and the acupuncture points on the body release the bound Qi and allow it to flow naturally-the body can then begin to heal itself.
Diagnosis in acupuncture involves the practitioner asking a long list of questions, some usually considered by Americans to be of a private nature. The questions consist of everything from listing sleeping patterns to a typical day meals to how many times the patient has a bowel movement in a 24 hour period. These are necessary questions, as the more information the acupuncturist has, the better to tell where the Qi is blocked.
The patient typically will then lie down on a massage table (in the East acupuncture is usually done in the sitting position) and the practitioner will insert very thin needles into some of the 2,000 plus points in the body which connect to 14 pathways, or medians. The insertion of the needles does not hurt, and contrary to what you may have heard, he/she does not twist or bore them into the skin. They are inserted just underneath the surface and the patent is left in a soothing, dimmed room for about an hour. There are different sizes and lengths of needles, each for a specific ailments and point. The needles are made of super thin stainless steel and are pliable; they are discarded after each use.
Another form of TCM is herbal remedies; these are often used in conjunction with acupuncture. Because all things are interconnected, pains and conditions in the body have a lot to do with one's emotions and thinking process. That is why people who experience chronic pain are also frequently depressed. TCM practitioners will often give the patient herbs to help relax or calm them along with the acupuncture sessions. This is called tonic herbalism, and some popular herbs used are probably already in your kitchen. Green tea and ginseng are two of the most well known herbs used in TCM, but here are some others-considered ''warm" foods which will help maintain good health and restore balance to a depleted Qi: Rice and noodles, broccoli, egg whites, fish and chicken. It is no coincidence that these are some of the main ingredients in all Eastern cooking.
In order to get a holistic view of TCM, we have covered acupuncture (prevention and treatment), herbal remedies and diet, it is only right that we should touch on exercise. Enter Qigong (Pronounced Chee Kung.) Qi, of course, still means energy, and gong means work or practice. The art and practice of Qigong involves practicing posture, breathing, meditation, and slow regulated movement of the limbs. Qigong is a great exercise, and because of its popularity, you can usually find classes in your area simply by opening the phone book.