What is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?

When explaining acupuncture and Chinese medicine it can be somewhat difficult. Some people want a biomedical explanation, some of the philosophy of TCM, but most people want an explanation somewhere in-between. There is actually a great amount of overlap between the two medicines- Chinese medicine can frequently offer a philosophical story to a biomedical diagnosis. But it is important to understand that Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is an independent system of thought and practice that has been developed over 2,000 years. It was a practice that underwent extreme investigation and critical thinking and has remained virtually unchanged to this day. Chinese medicine is rooted in art, philosophy, and medicine from a culture very different from western culture. TCM, therefore, has developed its own system of prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

The whole of Chinese medicine is rooted in the concepts of deficiency and excess, cold/heat, dry/damp and ultimately Yin and Yang within the body. These interrelationships were and continue to be used to describe how things function in relation to each other, from understanding the cosmos to patterns within our own bodies. This dynamic relationship is important when assessing overall health in order to restore balance and harmony. Through this lens, the body never remains static, and neither should the treatment approach.

TCM and pain

Principles of Chinese medicine are based on the fundamental concept that the spiritual and emotional body are connected in their function, and that a network of energy called “Qi” flows through all aspects of the body. It is believed in TCM that there are twelve main “meridians” or energetic pathways throughout the body, similar to our nervous or circulatory systems. These pathways are critical in circulating Qi and Blood throughout the body and to our vital “Zang/Fu” organs. This is similar to the biomedical function of metabolism and red blood cells where proper distribution and nourishment are critical in maintaining energy and vitality. Pain is the result of when Qi or blood becomes stagnant due to an injury or to an underlying deficiency within the body. Stagnation can be prevented by stimulating proper Qi and blood flow within the meridians through acupuncture, body movement, diet, lifestyle balance, and maintaining mental health.

What to expect on my first treatment?

The first Treatment will include a series of questions about a patient’s general constitution, body function, range of motion (if applicable) as well as details about their current symptoms. The practitioner will feel the pulse in three spots on each wrist to feel the energy of each of the meridians that is represented there. They will also look closely at the tongue, as its color and quality reflect many things about the balance of energy in the body. After collecting information by questions and observation, the practitioner will choose a treatment that is specific for the patient at that time. If a patient receives an herbal treatment, the practitioner will prescribe a unique formulation of herbs for their current condition and constitution.


Is acupuncture safe?

Acupuncture is generally considered very safe. While it is a medical procedure that punctures the skin and underlying tissues, injuries and side effects are very rare and when they do occur, they are usually minor. All acupuncture needles are, by law, sterile. These needles come prepackaged and sterilized and are disposed of after one use.