Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a form of medicine developed in China more than 2000 years ago. Traditional Chinese Medicine, like Western Medicine, is a complete medical system. However, unlike Western Medicine, from its inception, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has appreciated, and worked to alleviate, the negative impacts of stress on well-being. Good health in Traditional Chinese Medicine can be defined as balance. When we are balanced the energy that keeps us alive flows through our bodies correctly. We are vibrant, full of energy and are passionate about life. Stress is the number one factor in TCM that impacts the flow of our energy in negative ways. Stress can be defined as a pressure or strain placed on one thing by another. Stress is a specific body response that disturbs or interferes with our normal physiological equilibrium, our balance. How many things in life disturb our normal physiological equilibrium? How many of life’s activities can be considered a pressure or strain? Some of us will argue life is all stress – stress on our mental abilities, stress on our physical bodies, stress on our digestive system or stress to our emotional well-being. To obtain good health, balance between stress creating activities and stress reducing activities must occur. TCM includes time proven therapies excellent for managing stress.
Acupuncture, Chinese herbal therapy, Chinese massage, cupping and Chinese dietary therapy are all practices used in TCM to manage the negative effects of stress. Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles into specific areas of the skin. This modality is discussed in depth elsewhere on the site.
Chinese massage- also known as tuina- uses the same diagnostic principles as acupuncture, but instead of needling massage is performed. Like massage, tuina can be highly therapeutic and highly relaxing. The techniques of tuina are more rhythmic than those of western massage. Usually tuina is performed over a sheet and not directly on to skin.
Cupping is an adjunct therapy commonly used with acupuncture. It is similar to massage and can be just as pleasurable as massage. Instead of pressing into the body however, cupping uses negative pressure or suction, to lift muscles and connective tissues away from the bone in order to release stagnation and move blood. Popular with athletes, cupping improves muscle function and health. Depending on the severity of stress the client has placed on his or her body, cupping may leave marks on the body, marks that are commonly mistaken for bruising. Cupping marks can range in colour from light pink to dark purple. Lighter marks clear from within hours to a few days. Dark purplish marks can take up to two weeks to completely clear.
Chinese herbal therapy makes up the greater part of TCM. It is not uncommon to visit TCM practitioners in the east, for only Chinese herbs. A well trained Doctor of TCM knows how to administer herbs safely and effectively. The centuries of herbal use in China combined with modern research make the medicines particularly safe. Herbs are hardly ever used alone in TCM, but are normally combined with other herbs in order to increase efficacy and reduce negative side effects. This is the strength of Chinese Herbal Therapy. Please remember, it is still very important to let your practitioner know of any allergies or sensitivities you have to any foods, as some foods are considered ‘herbs’ in Chinese Medicine, and are used in formulas.
In Chinese dietary therapy, foods are used as medicine. What could be more stress reducing than a healthy delicious meal, shared with family or friends? In TCM foods have specific qualities or energies that are conducive or detrimental to good health. Ask your DTCM about which foods, from a Chinese medicine point of view, are beneficial to your condition.