Traditional Chinese Medicine and How It Works

Posted on May 8, 2012

Traditional Chinese Medicine and How It Works

Traditional Chinese Medicine and How It Works

Traditional Chinese Medicine, which encompasses many different practices, is rooted in the philosophy of Taoism dating back more than 5,000 years. Today, Tradtional Chinese Medicine is practiced side by side with Western medicine in many of China’s hospitals and clinics. Acupuncture is an important component of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  It involves the insertion of thin needles at specific points in the body (acupoints) and is used in the treatment of or prevention of many illnesses and conditions including colds and flu.  In the United States acupuncture is most often used to relieve pain,  but it is also used for respiratory issues, depression and other psychiatric problems as well as ear, nose and throat diseases.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Improves the Flow of Blocked Energy

In Traditional Chinese Medicine most of the acupoints are grouped according to their clinical effects on lines called meridians.  Theoretically speaking, acupuncture is based on the premise that our blood and energy, known as qi (pronounced chee) circulate in a cyclical fashion through the meridians.  When the flow or qi is impeded or blocked, the result is pain or illness. Good energy flow is required for good health.   Many Traditional Chinese Medicine practices focus on improving the flow and balance of qi.  The insertion of needles at specific points restore the flow of qi.  Human and animal studies show that acupuncture can generate various biological responses—some close to the insertion point and others at a distance.

Evidence suggests that acupuncture points are strategic conductors of electromagnetic signals and acupuncture enables electromagnetic signals to be relayed at a greater rate than under normal conditions.

Studies indicate that acupuncture clearly affects blood flow to centers of the brain and the central nervous system related to sensation and involuntary body functions, such as immune reactions and the regulation of blood pressure, blood flow, oxygenation and body temperature. Specific activation of certain brain regions, including some of the pain perception centers (such as the limbic area and hypothalamus) can be demonstrated during acupuncture treatments.

Research tells us that acupuncture stimulates the body to release hormones, as well as naturally occurring opioid analgesics or endorphins from the central nervous system. Endorphins diminish pain, influence the body’s self-regulating systems and promote physical and emotional well-being.

Acupuncture may be used alone, in conjunction with other Traditional Chinese Medicine therapies such as herbs, or with more conventional therapies.  People usually find the procedure to be relatively painless, although some points in some patients may be quite sensitive. Depending on your practitioner, the needles may be stimulated with manual manipulation, heat or electricity.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Acupuncture Is Proven Safe and Effective

The 1997 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Conference on Acupuncture gave a boost to acupuncture by concluding that acupuncture is safe and, for some conditions, proven effective. These include reducing nausea associated with chemotherapy, anesthesia or pregnancy and lessening the pain from dental surgery. There was also evidence suggesting acupuncture may be effective in treating migraines, depression, tennis elbow, constipation, low-back pain and infertility. Additionally, acupuncture may be useful in treating neck pain, asthma, insomnia and wound healing, among other conditions.  More recent evidence suggests that hypertension and certain cardiovascular diseases can likewise be improved by treatment with acupuncture.

By its nature, acupuncture is more difficult to research than a standard pharmaceutical medication. The NIH continues to fund a variety of research projects relating to the safety and effectiveness of acupuncture in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  There is still much to learn about acupuncture and its relationship to Western medicine as scientists are challenged to explain which mechanisms make acupuncture effective and therefore getting the best results requires individualized treatments.

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