Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a form of alternative medicine with increasing popularity in the U.S. during the past few decades, has been practiced for over 2,000 years. TCM includes acupuncture, moxibustion, herbs, massage, and various other modalities. It is often used holistically as a complementary medicine to conventional Western practice. Through TCM, a myriad of conditions can be treated and symptoms relieved.
In practice, acupuncture is the insertion of tiny, sterile, filiform (solid) needles into very specific points on the body. The points are located along 14 meridians, and the needles stimulate the body's qi or energy.
The TCM philosophy of the biomechanics of the body, the etiologies or root causes of disease, and the treatment of ailments and diseases is very different from that of Western medicine. For example, qi (pronounced 'chee') is an important aspect and crucial element of TCM, as it is the foundation of health. It is the vital energy of the body. Qi regulates emotional, mental, and physical health, and flows through the meridians which encompass the entire body, both interiorly and exteriorly. In order to achieve a healthy state of body and mind, ensuring the smooth circulation of qi throughout the body is essential. When there is stagnation or a deficiency of qi, which manifests as disease, the disharmony must be addressed in order to regain a state of balance and wellbeing. Both pain and illness are imbalances in the body's flow of qi.
According to meridian theory in TCM, “as long as qi flows freely through the meridians and the organs work in harmony, the body can avoid disease.”
Various forms of Asian bodywork and massage can be incorporated into acupuncture treatments. One method is cupping, which is the application of glass or plastic jars to the surface of large muscles using light suction. Cupping serves to relieve stagnation of qi and assist in the alleviation of pain. Another form, Tui Na, literally meaning "pinch and pull,” employs various hands-on techniques such as kneading and rolling. A third example is Gua Sha, which is a traditional Chinese treatment of scraping the skin and fascia with a ceramic soup spoon. This stimulates blood flow and relaxes muscular tension.