Many people have questions about Eastern medicine. It seems mystical...but it really isn't. Below are the answers to some questions people commonly ask about Eastern medicine.
What is Eastern Medicine? The term "Eastern medicine" refers to a traditional healing system that developed over several thousands years in Southeast Asia. It sees health as a balance within each individual between all the body systems. It is considered a holistic medicine, because it diagnoses the person as a whole to find the root cause of any problem. It uses techniques are generally non-invasive, natural, and supportive of the body's healing mechanisms. (Note: This medicine is often called "Traditional Chinese Medicine" or "Oriental Medicine". I feel that the term "Eastern medicine" more accurately represents its origins in many Southeast Asian countries and is more respectful.)
What does Eastern medicine treat? Eastern medicine has a unique approach to treatment compared with standard Western medical styles. It diagnoses imbalances in a person's system. Thus, Eastern medicine is able to help with a variety of conditions, whether or not there is a clear allopathic diagnosis. This includes anything that has pain or stress as a symptom. Many internal conditions can be helped as well, including insomnia, anxiety, depression, blood pressure elevation, constipation, diarrhea, menstrual problems, infertility, cold and flu, and others. I specialize in Eastern medicine treatment of: --Spinal problems and scoliosis --Joint pain --General pain --Sports injuries --Allergies Can you explain some of the Eastern diagnostic methods? Eastern medicine diagnosis is a method of observation that has been honed and tested over the course of thousands of years. It involves detailed observations of the body, including the face, tongue, pulse, gait, eyes, and ears. The tone of the voice, the location of the pain, the time of day that problems occur--all of these are clues the doctor uses to diagnose. Each of these clues gives an indication of the underlying problem. For example, the tongue is the only muscle in the body that can be seen outside the body. Viewing the tongue shape, flexibility, coating, and other characteristics and give information about blood flow, nutrition status, hormonal changes, digestion, and some neurological problems. Pulse diagnosis can provide information about internal systems. The pulse "qualities", or their feel underneath the doctor's fingers, indicate specific changes in circulation, blood, and the blood vessel. These changes reflect processes in the body--hormonal, chemical, neurological, digestive, emotional, etc--that can be clues to the root of complex problems.
I heard acupuncture is part of Eastern medicine. Isn't that where people stick needles in you? Ouch! Yes, acupuncture is one of several techniques used in Eastern medicine. Other techniques include auriculotherapy (ear seeds), cupping, moxibustion, guasha, tui'na (acupressure massage), Qigong meditation, herbal medicine, etc. For those who have needle phobias, there are many other techniques in Eastern medicine that can help you. Acupuncture needles are very different than the hypodermic needles that an allopathic doctor might use. Acupuncture needles are filiform, which means they are solid (not hollow like a hypodermic). They are also much, much thinner and more flexible. You could fit five standard acupuncture needles inside one hypodermic needle! This makes the insertion of these needles much less painful. Except in rare cases, the pain level is similar to a pinch and lasts only a second. After inserting the needle, the Eastern medicine doctor will usually stimulate it by turning or moving the needle. This often generates an unusual sensation, called "De Qi" (Arrival of Qi) in Eastern medicine. This sensation may be warm, cool, heavy, distending, tingling, or some other sensation. It is strange, sometimes surprising, but rarely painful.
What other treatment methods are used in Eastern medicine? In addition to acupuncture, Eastern medicine utilizes a variety of treatment modalities. These include: Herbal Formulas: These individualized combinations of herbs are designed for the patient as an internal medicine treatment. In the U.S., they are typically given as powdered herbal concentrates. Cupping: Using suction on the skin surface to reduce pain and enhance circulation and immunity Guasha: Using gentle scraping on the skin surface to reduce pain and improve circulation and immunity Moxibustion: Stimulation of acupuncture points using heat instead of needles E-Stim: Stimulation of acupuncture needles with mild electrical pulsing Tui'na: Using acupressure massage and manual techniques to enhance circulation, reduce tension, and stimulate acupuncture points Auriculotherapy: Also called "Ear Seeds", this method attached round seeds to the outside of the ear. These seeds are used to stimulate acupressure points.
Does acupuncture actually work? Yes, if it is done properly. There is accumulating scientific evidence for the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating a wide variety of conditions, especially those including pain or stress as symptoms. My own experience as both a patient and a practitioner has shown me the effectiveness of this method, when it is done by the right person. I add that caveat because there are many acupuncture practitioners and styles. One style might work well for back pain, but not for insomnia. Each practitioner has different diagnosis and treatment methods, training, experience, and skill levels. If you go to an acupuncturist and do not notice a change, it doesn't necessarily mean acupuncture doesn't work. It could mean you need a different acupuncturist. Complicating the issue, it is legal for some medical professions to practice acupuncture with very little training. In most states, many professions claim to practice acupuncture when they have 100 hours of training or less. Compare that with the 3000+ hours of training, including 900+ hours of clinical experience, that were required just for my Master's degree in Eastern medicine. Who is more likely to do acupuncture well? If you really want to give it a chance, find someone with specific training and experience in Eastern medicine and acupuncture. You should also try it more than once.
What does an Eastern medicine doctor mean when they say "Qi" (Chee)? Qi or Chi (pronounced "chee") has a few general meanings and many specific meanings. The general translation of Qi is "air" or "breath". It is also understood to mean "life energy". Eastern medicine refers to many types of Qi. For example, "Qing Qi" is life force derived from air. "Gu Qi" is life force derived from food. "Wei Qi" refers to life force used to defend against external disease. There have also been many studies that suggest Qi may be a physical, measurable bioenergy. It may have biomagnetic, bioelectric, and biochemical meanings. Some believe it relates to the flow of signals through the nerves. Others say that it relates to the lymphatic system. Some view Qi as a synonym for ATP, the energy storage molecule in every cell. Still others view Qi as energy flowing through the fascia layer of muscles (a thin tissue that surrounds muscles and forms an interconnected web through the body). My personal belief, based on years of study, is that the term Qi usually refers to any functional process that is necessary for life. Qigong, or "breath exercise", is a form of meditation designed to improve those functional processes in the body. Arrival of Qi ("De Qi") in Eastern medicine treatment refers to a physical sensation that the practitioner seeks to create in the patient. This sensation represents a signal to the body and mind that some area needs attention. It stimulates the healing process.
What are "channels" or "meridians"? Why are the channels often named after organs? Channels or meridians basically represent interconnected points and systems within the body. The points along each meridian are grouped together for several reasons. First, the points on a meridian often have some similar functions or act on similar systems. Secondly, experience has shown that stimulating one point on a meridian will often more strongly effect other points on that same meridian. If a meridian is named for an organ, it is usually for two reasons. First, the functions associated with the organ are also associated with the points along that meridian. The meridian is named for the organ with the most similar functions, according to Eastern medicine. Secondly, this is a teaching tool used in the West to make meridians easier to learn and understand. The "Liver meridian" in Chinese is called "Zu Jueyin", or "Foot Reverting Yin". This refers to the meridian location (starting on the foot and traveling up the leg) and the overall symptom picture in Eastern medicine theory (Jueyin channel problems involve the functional transition from Yin to Yang within the body). This is difficult to translate and understand in English, so it is simplified for the practitioner and patient by referring to an organ with related functions--the "Liver meridian".