Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a comprehensive medical system that differs from the medical understanding we have here in the west. TCM has its own unique way of diagnosing, treating and preventing illness and disease. It focuses on the body’s energetic function. Its treatments (acupuncture , herbs and/or bodywork) are designed to bring greater energetic balance to the body, thereby eliminating symptoms and resolving what TCM views as the root of the illness.
Like everything in the human body, the energy (Qi) in your body is very well organized. It flows along specific pathways we call meridians or channels. Acupuncture points are specific locations along these meridians where the Qi of the system can be accessed. Acupuncture needles are inserted into selected points to manipulate the flow of Qi and encourage the body's natural ability to heal itself. Acupuncture needles are extremely fine and flexible. They are solid (unlike hypodermic needles) and cause little discomfort upon insertion. Some people do not feel the needles at all. When the Qi of the body is accessed, the patient usually experiences a tingling sensation or mild ache. Most people find acupuncture treatments to be very relaxing.
Chinese herbal medicine is the most comprehensive and well-organized system of herbal knowledge compiled in human history. It is the oldest aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Chinese herbs may be prescribed for internal or external use. Internal herbs are given in either pill form or granule form (concentrated powder to be mixed with water). Herbal formulas are combinations of herbs from the TCM materia medica (we never use any plant or animal product found on the endangered species list). Topical herbs (in the form of ointments, liniments, plasters or adhesive patches) are often employed to help treat skin conditions and injuries (for pain, brusing and swelling). Some patients prefer only herbs or only acupuncture. Your treatment plan will be based on your needs and preferences to assure the most effective results and patient compliance.
Cupping is a non-needle therapy in which a partial vacuum is created inside thick glass cups by burning out the oxygen within the cup. The cup is then quickly placed on the skin (most often on the back though it can be done elsewhere). The vacuum draws the skin up into the cup and this flushes the tissue with circulation (of Qi, blood, lymph). The cups can be left in place for approximately 10 to 20 minutes and it feels to most people like a wonderful deep tissue massage. Cupping is used to ease muscle spasms and tension, reduce pain, speed healing of injuries, and open the energy of the Lung to improve asthma and coughs (I love cupping for coughs!). Cupping leaves temporary marks that look like hickeys but fade more quickly than a true bruise.
Electrical stimulation (or "e-stim") is an adjunct therapy used in conjunction with acupuncture. Tiny electrodes are clipped to the acupuncture needles and a small current is run between the needles. This feels like a mild tingling sensation. Electrical stimulation is used to enhance the flow of energy in the acupuncture needles. This can reduce pain and swelling, release muscle spasms, and speed the healing process.
Moxibustion is an adjunct therapy used alone or in conjunction with acupuncture. It is a form of heat therapy that can be applied with different techniques either directly to the skin or indirectly. Moxa (the substance that gets burned) is formed from the fluffy herb mugwort (also known as artemesia vulgaris or ai ye in Chinese). Moxa is burned near the surface of the skin, directly on the skin, or on top of needles to add warmth and Qi (energy) to the body. Moxibustion is used to stimulate Qi flow to heal injuries, reduce swelling, promote improved digestion, ease abdominal cramps, and more.
Gua Sha is an adjunct therapy that does not involve needles. Gua Sha is used similarly as cupping: for improved circulation to the superficial tissues, to reduce pain, ease muscle spasms, imrpove the Qi flow of the Lung (for coughs and asthma). Like cupping, it is usually employed in cases of stagnation, i.e. when things are stuck. Gua Sha involves applying ointment to the skin and sliding a smooth-edged tool over the skin while providing pressure (I use a Chinese soup spoon). It may sound painful, but it feels like a very focused deep tissue massage and patients feel wonderful afterwards. Gua Sha leaves a temporary marking that looks like rug burn, but is not at all painful and resolves very quickly.