What Is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) originated in ancient China thousands of years ago. Although many people derive their understanding of TCM from acupuncture, in fact, acupuncture is only one of the major treatment modalities of the whole Chinese medical system. TCM practitioners use many treatment modalities such as acupuncture, herbs, bodywork, moxibustion, cupping and other methods to treat a wide range of conditions. In the United States, TCM is considered part of complementary and alternative medicine, and has been widely used by more and more people.

What Is the Theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine?

The Chinese medical practitioners had a deep understanding of the laws of nature. It is believed in ancient China that man is an integral part of the nature and the human body is a microcosm of the nature. And because it is also believed that only by following the laws of the nature, can a man achieve health, Chinese medical practitioners tried to apply the laws of the nature to the human body to seek harmony between man and the nature. The Yin/Yang and Five-Elements, which are the core theories of TCM, are actually observations and descriptions of the laws of the nature, not concepts created by man. Therefore, according to these simplest and deepest theories, ancient Chinese practitioners discovered the complicated medical functional relationships that exist below the material surface.

What Is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a Chinese medical treatment which treats patients by manipulating thin, solid needles which have been inserted into acupuncture points in the skin.

What Will Happen During Acupuncture Treatment?

You will be invited to a private treatment place and be required to take off your shoes and socks and lie down. Depending on the treatment area, you may be asked to remove other articles of clothing. Clean gowns, blanket, or towels will be offered for you during your treatment for your comfort. During the acupuncture session, each acupuncture site will be cleaned with alcohol, and then very thin, pre-sterilized, individually packaged, disposable needles will be inserted. Usually, complementary to acupuncture, such other treatments as moxibustion, cupping and heat lamp will be provided to get better results. And each session will last from 20 to 40 minutes depending on the nature of disease, its severity and how long it has been present. During your treatment, the acupuncturist will check on you several times and be available for you to contact with for any reason. Although many people find it very relaxing during the acupuncture treatment, if you feel any discomfort, please tell your acupuncturist right away so that adjustments can be made for you.

Is Acupuncture Safe?

There is general agreement that acupuncture is safe when administered by well-trained practitioners using sterile needles. Because acupuncture needles penetrate the skin, it is an invasive procedure with rare injuries. And in America, needles are required by law to be sterile, disposable and used only once. Major adverse events are exceedingly rare and are usually associated with poorly trained unlicensed acupuncturists. Estimates of adverse effects due to acupuncture range from 671 to 1,137 per 10,000 treatments. The majority of adverse effects reported are minor, mainly slight hemorrhage (2.9%), hematoma (2.2%), and dizziness (1%).

The use of acupuncture has been tentatively endorsed by the United States National Institutes of Health, the National Health Service of the United Kingdom, the World Health Organization, and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Does Acupuncture Hurt?

In general, acupuncture is not painful. The needles are extremely thin, solid, sterilized and disposable. Patients normally feel mild soreness, numbness, or tingling which is caused by the movement of Qi (energy) stimulated by the insertion of the needles on acupoints, which is just the desired effect which acupuncture produces.

What Is Chinese Herbal Medicine?

Chinese herbal medicine consists of thousands of plant species, mineral and animal materials. To increase the medicinal effects and to neutralize unwanted side-effects, Chinese herbs are most often taken in formulas (combinations of herbs) rather than singly. Formulas can be ingested as boiled tea called decoctions, milled powders, pills, tablets and granule. Topically, herbs are used in poultices, plasters, soaks, ointments and washes.

What Is Acupressure?

Acupressure is used for healing, preventing illness as well as for relaxation. According to traditional Chinese medicine theory, acupressure should be hard and soft, fast and slow, pleasurable yet slightly painful. Acupoints and mericians/channels are stimulated to promote the movement of Qi (energy), blood and fluids of the body. Limbs are stretched and pulled. You will feel thoroughly relaxed.

What Are Moxibustion and Cupping?

Acupuncture is often accompanied by moxibustion and cupping. Both moxibustion and cupping have important roles in traditional Chinese medical system. Chinese medicine practitioners believe that cupping and moxibustion are powerful techniques which supplement acupuncture to relieve pain and restore health.

Moxibustion is a heat treatment which uses burning moxa (mugwort herb) to warm regions and acupuncture points to facilitate treatment of diseases. Herb suppliers usually age the mugwort and grind it up to a fluff. Practitioners process it further into a cigar-shaped stick or a small cone-shaped amount of moxa.

Cupping therapy is an ancient form of traditional Chinese medicine in which a local suction is created on the skin. Suction is created using fire or mechanical devices such as hand or electrical pumps, thus forming a partial vacuum and enabling the cup to suck the skin, pulling in soft tissue, and drawing blood to that area. Cupping is often used on neck, shoulder and back.

What Does Traditional Chinese Medicine Treat?

Following is the list of conditions in which traditional Chinese medicine has been found to be especially effective.

  • Pain: Headache, neck pain, neck stiffness, shoulder pain, arm pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, back pain, hip pain, sciatica, knee pain, leg pain, ankle swelling, joint pain of arthritis and rheumatism, bone spurs, goiter, fibromyalgia, neuralgia and spots injuries.
  • Immune system diseases: Allergies, hay fever, fatigue and immune system deficiency
  • Stroke sequelae
  • Cancer: Symptoms and side effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment for cancer
  • Respiratory diseases: Common cold, flu, cough, asthma, sinus trouble and sore throat
  • Digestive diseases: Chronic colitis, constipation, chronic diarrhea, indigestion and stomach problems
  • Obesity
  • Emotional wellbeing: Depression, insomnia, and nervousness
  • Gynecological concerns: Infertility, PMS, menstural irregularities and menopause
  • Withdrawal symptoms: Addictions and detoxification

If you have a condition that has not been in the list above and are wondering if traditional Chinese medicine can help you, please contact us to communicate with the acupuncturist directly.

What Will Happen During The First Treatment?

Your first appointment will generally last 1.5 hours. As a new patient to check in for your appointment, you should fill out the paperwork which includes legal forms and medical intake forms.

Based upon the information you provided in your medical intake forms, the acupuncturist will conduct an investigation of your chief complaint, and a detailed interview on medical history, such as past medical history, family history, and present physical, emotional, and nutritional conditions. In addition, your tongue will be examined, and your pulse in both wrists will be felt by the acupuncturist’s fingers, so that the acupuncturist can determine the pattern of disease.

On basis of all the information mentioned above, the acupuncturist will create an individualized treatment plan tailored to your age, gender, lifestyle, medical history, health status and pattern of disease. In the treatment plan, the acupuncturist will decide which kind of Chinese medical treatment you need, such as acupuncture, bodywork and Chinese herbal medicine. This special treatment plan will meet your exact needs.

After the consultation, treatment to be provided will not only focus on your main health concern, but also aim to balance your whole body.

After each treatment, you will be invited to schedule your next appointment.

What Will Happen During Follow-Up Treatment?

Return visits usually last 40 minutes.

Acupuncturist will conduct an investigation of your updated chief complaint, as well as your physical, emotional, and nutritional conditions. Like the first treatment, your tongue will be examined, and your pulse in both wrists will be felt by the acupuncturist’s fingers, so that the acupuncturist can determine your current pattern of disease. According to the information thus collected, the acupuncturist will make an updated treatment plan for you and then treatment tailored for your needs will be provided.

How Many Treatments Will I Need?

The number of visits that you need depends on the overall condition of your health. During the first visit, the acupuncturist will develop a treatment plan which outlines how many treatments the patient will need and how often the treatments are conducted. Typically, both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are a series of biweekly or weekly treatments. However, some serious chronic diseases such as stroke sequelae will need long-time treatment to get a good response. Patients often start feeling better after several treatments, and usually have clinical response within 10 treatments. Maintenance treatments are usually necessary.

What Are the Dos and Don’ts Before and After Treatment?

Please do not come to your appointment on an empty or too full stomach.

After receiving an acupuncture treatment, sometimes you may feel a little lightheaded. In that case, please sit for a while in the waiting area. You’ll be relaxed and clear-headed in a few minutes.

Herbal prescriptions are made for an individual person according to the Chinese medical diagnosis which the acupuncturist has conducted. Please do not give your herbal formulas to anyone else.

Traditional Chinese medicine focuses on balancing the function of the whole body, and stimulating the self-healing of your body. As a result, previously dormant conditions may be awakened by the first treatment so that symptoms may become worse, though it happens very rarely. This phenomenon is often a sign that complete healing may occur, and will pass quickly. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact your physician.

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Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine in DC Metro Area- jo.sjcui@gmail.com