What is Chinese Medicine?
Chinese Medicine is the umbrella term for traditional therapies developed in china over 5000+ years ago. Typically, this includes Acupuncture, Herbal Therapy, Nutritional Therapy, and other adjunctive therapies (such as cupping, gui sha, tui na, etc).
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a Traditional Chinese Medicine over 5000 years old. By utilizing specific locations, or points, on the body, we can effectively change the overall function to reduce symptoms. Typically, this is done with needles.
Does Acupuncture Hurt?
While the answer to this question is specific to the individual and his or her sensitivity, acupuncture is not usually painful.
More sensitive areas on the body, such as the hands and feet, may feel a slight pinch on insertion, that goes away almost immediately. And some people may be more sensitive in general, but this pinch does not typically last more than a split second.
That said, acupuncture is not sensation-free! Most patients will feel a heaviness or pressure with some points (usually the most important ones for their particular treatment). A skilled acupuncturist will usually explain what sensation they are looking for, and tell you what to expect and not to expect.
How does Acupuncture Work?
That depends on who you ask, but that is because there are several different ways that it works based on what you are treating.
Sometimes, it is by stimulating the body’s healing response through the sensation felt at the point. Other times it is by stimulating the nervous system and how the brain receives the signals to stimulate healing. And still others by directly stimulating the affected muscles or organs.
It really does depend on what is being treated, so for specifics, ask your doctor during your treatment what mechanisms are at work.
What about “Dry Needling”?
“Dry Needling” is an alternative name for the insertion of acupuncture needles into painful spots on the body (known as “ah shi” points in TCM speak). It is a rather aggressive technique that is used in specific cases by many acupuncturists.
The term was invented by Physical Therapists so they could perform acupuncture without the requisite 1000 hours of clinical practice required of trained acupuncturists. While some PT’s (or even chiropractors) can be very skilled with acupuncture needles, the vast majority of accidents with acupuncture needles come from this group.
What is Chinese Herbal Therapy?
Chinese medicine often incorporates the use of herbal medicine to help relieve symptoms and reduce the likelihood of recurrence in the future. It can be offered in the form of:
- Patent Pills: These are pre-made pills or tablets, usually sourced from a manufacturer, that are off the shelf. They are excellent for acute symptoms because there is not often a need for significant modification.
- Granular Formulas: These are powdered concentrates of dried herbs that are mixed together and often customized to a specific patient. They are convenient compared to raw herbal formals, and don’t sacrifice the strength or customization.
- Herbal Formulas: Raw herbs are usually the strongest and most effective option, though usually the most difficult for the average patient to utilize because of the cooking process and need to carry the decoction with them. Typically raw are prescribed for very severe or complicated cases until the symptoms can be better managed, though many patients, once used to the process, prefer to stay with raw herbs rather than moving to granular or patent options.
Are Herbs Safe with Medications?
With an educated and experienced practitioner, herbs are perfectly safe with prescribed medications when taken as directed. If you are taking one or several medications, it is very important that you are honest about ALL medications you are taking, whether they are prescribed or a form of self-medication.
It is also important that you take the herbal prescription exactly as your herbalist recommends to avoid any adverse reactions or combinations. While herbs are a more natural alternative to pharmaceuticals, they are still medicine and can have strong effects. In this case, stay safe and avoid making any changes without proper training.
What can Chinese Medicine Help?
Chinese Medicine is a complete system of Medicine, and as such, has been treated pretty much any symptom presentation you can come up with!
Here is a list of some things (though by no means all things) that Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine are used to help relieve symptoms of:
- Pain: Hands down the most common thing people seek out acupuncture for. Of this category, neck & back pain are number one on the list. Acupuncture is also often used for tennis or golfers elbow, sprained wrists or ankles, pulled muscles, etc. Chinese Medicine is an excellent way to speed the recovery and help prevent recurrence of many injuries.
- Neuropathies: This includes peripheral neuropathy, idiopathic neuropathy, type 2 diabetic neuropathy, post-surgical neuropathy, etc. Pretty much all forms of nerve damage can benefit from acupuncture therapy.
- Post Stroke Recovery: Chinese Medicine, in the form of Acupuncture & Herbal Therapy, is an amazing tool to help with recovery and increase progression. Results increase dramatically the sooner you get in after the event.
- Bell’s Palsy & Trigeminal Neuralgia: Acupuncture is one of the best available therapies for Bell’s Palsy recovery and Trigeminal Neuralgia pain. For best results, you want to seek treatment immediately after onset.
- Stress/Anxiety: Chinese medicine is an excellent way to reduce PTSD, stress, & anxiety, as well as many of the symptoms that can accompany these conditions, such as digestive upset, difficulty breathing, headaches, fatigue, etc.
- TMJ: Acupuncture is excellent at relieving the pain associated with TMJ. It can help to relax the muscles associated with the jaw, and prevent recurrence of spasms.
- Allergies: Chinese Medicine is amazing when it comes to allergies, whether the symptoms are nasal congestion, skin rash, or digestive upset. Short term treatment will help to relieve the symptoms, while long term can help to strengthen the bodies immune system and reduce future symptoms.
- GI Distress/Dietary Issues: Of course, Chinese Medicine can help! Both acupuncture & herbal therapy work together to solve the underlying issues causing your body to put on weight. There are a lot of possible underlying issues here though, so the doctor will be able to give you a better idea of exactly how.
- Headaches: Yes, Chinese Medicine can help to relieve (chronic) headaches. It can take some time, and that depends on the underlying cause, but a combination of Acupuncture & Herbal therapies does typically have good results reducing frequency and intensity.
- Tinnitus or Ringing in the Ears: Chinese Medicine does help tinnitus, but it is one of those things we don’t know until we try. Usually, this is something that has taken a long time to develop, so it will take several treatments to see results.
- Fertility: Chinese medicine is an excellent way to work with the body to naturally increase the chances of pregnancy. Acupuncture and Herbal Therapies can work together to re-regulate the body and optimize the ability to get pregnant. It is often used together with IVF or other modern fertility treatments to increase the odds.
- Symptoms of Pregnancy: Chinese Medicine is an excellent way to naturally work with the body to can help relieve the symptoms of pregnancy (nausea, heartburn, etc). There are also gentle formulas to help that are safe during pregnancy, and acupuncture treatments to gentle coax the baby out of the womb when the time has come.
- Menopause: Chinese Medicine is very effective at treating symptoms of menopause (hot flashes, moods swings, etc). Typically our patients see results very quickly.
How many Treatments Will I Need?
That depends – how long have you had [the symptoms]?
- Acute (less than 2 weeks): That’s great actually, you should see results very quickly!
- Sub-Acute (2-8 weeks): OK, so you are not in bad shape. Because it’s been a few weeks, you will need some treatments, but you should be good within a short period of time. The doctor will be able to give you a good idea of how long during your first visit.
- Chronic (8+ weeks): Since you’ve had [the symptoms] for some time, it will take a little while to resolve. Unfortunately, the longer you’ve had a condition, the longer it takes to resolve.
The way acupuncture works is by building upon itself, so the doctor’s goal is to get you from one treatment to the next without a recurrence of symptoms. Usually, she or he will start you on 2-3x/week. As soon as possible, your acupuncturist will space out your treatments further, so from 2x/week to 1x/week, then every other week, then 1x/month, and then maintenance whenever you have a flareup.
- Acute: More frequent initially for a shorter period of time. The Acupuncturist will most likely want to see you 2 days in a row. For more severe pain or injuries, this may vary.
Is Chinese Medicine Safe for kids?
This short answer is yes. Each Acupuncturist will have a different level of comfort and different guidelines as to what is appropriate when treating kids. Often it depends on how old they are, and how comfortable they are with needles. Typically the minimum age is 12, though younger patients that are comfortable with the treatments are perfectly fine.
Some parents bring their children in just for herbs and supplements. This is an option as well, and many formulas were originally developed specifically to be used for children.