For those new to this series, we are covering the basics of health care providers. With so many healthcare plans and providers it can be overwhelming. And with overwhelm can come a forgetfulness to the many options that we have available to us.
In part 1, I talked about the more well-known options available for healthcare providers: MD’s, DO’s, ND’s, and chiropractors.
Part 2 will be focusing on the Eastern medicine. Now sometimes just saying Eastern med can send a cold shiver down someone’s spine. This article is in no way meant to push you one way or another. I have tried to take my bias out as much as possible.
Health is layered. You cannot just focus all of your attention on one thing and hope that it will be enough to heal all of your body. There are so many things that go into health, including, but in no way limited to, diet, stress (internal and external), check-ups, and self-care. Sometimes we get so used to doing the same thing and going to the same doctor no matter the need that we just think that is normal. This article is meant to help open you to the possibilities of what other healthcare professionals have to offer the world. Solely as information.
Now if reading this article gives you a new outlook and you go looking for one of these healthcare professionals then I have that in mind as well and will be inserting ways to find them within your area.
Before We Begin
In each section I will go over the specifics on what is included in that particular section of TCM. I will also talk about where one can find someone who includes this type of discipline in their practice, for those interested. With all that said, TCM is considered a complimentary medicine in the West. This means that TCM is not seen as a cure to any disease. Due to the lack of research backing its medical claims there is a warning label that gets tacked onto any type of Eastern medicine.
As far as I am concerned, this is a choice of the individual. Because we have different bodies there will be a difference in reaction. Some people will tell you that a Chinese Medicine Doctor is the greatest thing that ever happened to them. Others will say it was the biggest waste of time and that it is all a hoax. Whatever you believe, this article is meant to show you to purpose of the technique and a new way to look at a problem. So without further ado, let’s go over the basics.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) – An Umbrella Term
In the western model of medicine, there is a disease, a diagnosis, and a treatment plan. The origin of the disease is not frequently looked into. Instead the goal is to eradicate the disease in hopes of its non-return. With TCM on the other hand, this could not be further from the truth.
In an article written for verywell health, Cathy Wong sums it up perfectly in her excerpt below:
“Rooted in a philosophy known as Taoism, traditional Chinese medicine is based on the theory that all of the body’s organs mutually support each other. Therefore, in order to be healthy, an individual’s organs (and their functions) must be in balance.”
You can find the full article here.
Now what does this actually mean?
Well, it means that TCM doctors find it to be of the utmost importance that the body as a whole works in unison. It also means that prevention is a big role in the way of Chinese Medicine. Instead of waiting for disease to strike, these doctors will take it into their own hands to balance out your body using a variety of the following ways.
***the following is based on my own experience***
A visit to a Chinese Medicine doctor is something you are likely to never forget. When I went to see a Chinese Medicine Doctor for some overall body aches and depression I was greeted with paperwork. Now this is not like paperwork in an MD’s office where you are explaining symptoms and giving insurance information. Instead it was a 200-something question questionnaire asking, on a scale of severity, about all sorts of things. There was a section on my physical self and how I felt throughout a day. Another section on my emotional wellbeing. Still, there was a section on how many times I had bowel movements and my overall environmental wellbeing. To say it was thorough was an understatement.
Together the doctor and I went through the whole questionnaire together. Then we talked about the results and made sure he had a strong understanding I was looking to get out of the session. He then assessed my tongue, checked my pulse, did some acupuncture, and prescribed a specific herbal mix.
I left feeling refreshed and tired all at the same time. Honestly, I can say that the work that was done created a huge benefit in my life and I was more than grateful for the time I spent with him. We continued these sessions 6 more times and saw all of the issues that I came in for disappear.
One of the first things that a Chinese medicine doctor will ask you to do is to stick out your tongue. What they are really doing is getting a quick road map of 5 major body systems: lung, liver, kidney, spleen and heart. The tongue is divided up into these sections and each section is assessed for its color, shape, and coating. The information gathered from this section of the assessment will help give the doctor valuable information that they can then compare to further assessments.
To learn more about the tongue assessment and what the doctors are finding out you can check out this article, also written by Cathy Wong.
As one of the most commonly used practices in TCM most people know of someone who has received acupuncture. Acupuncture is the practice of inserting various needles into various parts of the body to balance out energy. There are 12 meridian channels throughout the body. These channels help vital energy, called “qi”, run throughout your body and help create balance in your body. These meridians can be accessed through acupuncture points and help to move the qi along. This can help “qi” that is either low or high in a certain places flow more freely, finding its own level and creating harmony once again within the body.
Because of the many people who claim to benefit from acupuncture there is much research being conducted. For a list of conditions that have been proven to improve from the use acupuncture click here.
Think of herbal medicines as the medication of Chinese medicine. Mixtures are made based on the session that was just completed. Meaning that they will generally alter due to either improvements or client needs. Different herbs are meant to help stimulate or reduce energy in different centers of the body. Herbs can be made and used in the form of tea, capsules, tinctures, powders and more. Each mix of herbs can be prescribed in different ways, like time to take it, how many times a day, and with or without food. I never got the same mix of herbs twice and my doctor always gave me enough to get me to the next session. He would consistently say that the herbs would help upkeep the work that we had just done.
Consider yourself warned, these herbs usually do not taste the best. I would recommend mixing them with a greens powder, or taking them in the capsule form. Because of their earthiness the flavor can sometimes be akin to that of dirt.
Also, because herbs are not regulated by any particular body it is also of the utmost importance to know where your doctor is sourcing their herbs. It is not unheard of for a doctor to source the herbs from China or other Asian countries. These herbs they usually have higher concentrations of the active herbal ingredient.
If, on the other hand, you have a doctor that is being secretive about his herbal practice, be cautious. I have never met a doctor who wouldn’t share his supplier information with me when I asked. Sometimes I didn’t even need to ask, it would be a part of their delivery. Just a thought.
If you are interested in the most commonly used Chinese herbs and their purposes, click here.
A form of Chinese massage, Tui Na helps to stimulate the qi of the body. Carlos Sama, a licensed massage therapist, explains the principles in the following excerpt:
“Acupuncture involves releasing and connecting energy at 12 specified points throughout the body through the use of tiny needles. Similarly, Tui Na, which means “pushing and grasping,” addresses the same points using manual stimulation.”
In another article written for Zeel.com, Marcy Lerner talks about how Tui Na is used to balance the body. She also speaks on the differences between this form of massage and a more traditional massage. Lerner also includes a study that shows the benefits Tui Na has on neck pain. You can get the full article here.
Another form of Chinese massage that has taken the world by storm is cupping. Michael Phelps helped give cupping a stage during the 2016 Rio Olympics. With all the dark circles on his back it was a question of what they were/where they’d come from.
Cupping is a form of massage that uses glass or plastic cups and suction to move around blood. Blood is seen to store emotions, fluids, and “qi” and by moving around stagnant blood you are balancing out energy.
Now it is important to note that not everyone who practices cupping does so with the same intentions. As a licensed massage therapist I can vouch that cupping took the industry by storm. Many people use cupping to help alleviate muscular tension that is not benefitted from normal massage. If you are looking for someone who knows cupping in the traditional Chinese medicine sense, it is best to ask your LMT directly.
For more information about cupping, Victoria Hoff wrote an article on the most popular FAQ’s which you can find here.
Qigong is a long-standing practice in Chinese Medicine that works to bring the mind and body into harmony. Qigong helps people to balance out their yin and yang energy and move qi through the 12 meridians/energy channels. In their extensive article about the benefits and practices of qigong, Misha Ruth Cohen explains the differences between the yin and yang movements:
“Yin qigong exercises are expressed through relaxed stretching, visualization, and breathing. Yang qigong exercises are expressed in a more aerobic or dynamic way. They are particularly effective for supporting the immune system. In China, Qigong is used extensively for people with cancer.”
Movements are taught by a teacher and steps continue to build on top of one another over multiple lessons. Find Cohen’s in-depth article here. Qigong is a wide spread practice that is gaining more traction from people in the west.
Chinese medicine is a different approach than most people in the west have taken. It takes a more holistic approach, balancing out aspects of the mind, body, soul, and environment. While there is no hard evidence to prove that Chinese medicine is of high benefit, it is definitely an option and has worked for many people.
It is worth noting that some insurances may cover alternative practices, including massage, herbs, and Chinese medicine. To check this you can call the number on the back of your insurance card and ask. Some TCM doctors take insurance and others don’t. Those that don’t will provide paperwork that you can then submit to your insurance and be reimbursed for.
I hope you have enjoyed part 2 of this series. If you haven’t already read part 1 you can do so here. Part 3 will be covering lifestyle as healthcare and will prove to be the most empowering of all medicine.