While you don’t need to understand Chinese medicine for it to work, many patients find that they benefit from a deeper understanding of the philosophy behind the system. The most common concepts of Chinese medicine are yin and yang and qi. We’ll also introduce the eight branches of TCM.
Yin and Yang
Chinese medicine sees the body as one complete, functioning unit. This organization of systems requires balance to be healthy and pain-free. When the systems fall out of balance or blockages arise, internal disharmony manifests as symptoms.
At the core of this balancing act is yin and yang.
Yin is the cool, nourishing, steady, full, dark side of the coin while yang is the bright, active, moving, light, etherial side. Each organ or system or aspect of the body may be labeled as yin or yang depending on its characteristics, but everything contains a particular balance of both. Only when yin and yang are in balance are we truly well.
The concept of yin and yang is similar to the Western concept of homeostasis.
What is Qi?
Where Western and Chinese medicine differ are at the core of how they define health. In Chinese medicine, a person’s health is defined as embodying a regular flow of qi.
Qi (“chee”) is a difficult term to define since there are no words in English that truly embody its meaning. Many translate it as “energy,” but is best thought of as the activating life force of the body. It is the movement of the heartbeat, the metabolism, the division of the cells. It is likened to the prana (meaning “breath”) of Ayurvedic medicine. Acupuncture works directly on our to make sure we have a smooth, healthy flow throughout the body.
Qi is the active, moving life force that activates our body systems, circulation, metabolism, and more. Qi can become irregular (stuck, deficient, overflowing, imbalanced, and reversed, for example), causing health issues and disease over time.
Acupuncture’s targeted stimulation helps to unblock or direct the flow of qi to set the system back into balance. Once qi is flowing normally, healing can happen.
The Eight Branches of Chinese Medicine
Acupuncture is just one part of the whole system of Chinese medicine. There are, in fact, eight branches of Chinese Medicine that prioritize self-care to prevent illness and promote longevity.
The eight classical branches of Chinese medicine, also referred to as the Tao Healing Arts are:
- Meditation/Self Cultivation
- Qi Gong/Internal Kung Fu-Tai Qi
- Five Phase Nutrition
- Bodywork: Tui Na, Acupressure, Bonesetting, Jin Chi Chinese Cranial-Spinal-Sacral Balancing, Chua Ka Deep-Tissue Self Purification Massage, Nei Kung Chi Liao-Internal Energy Diagnosis and Healing/the first healing art of China
- Tao Philosophy, Cosmology, Ba Gua/I Ching Medicine
- Feng Shui: Environmental Qi Design and Natural Arrangement; the Fine Arts
Jeff Nagel, Chinese medicine practitioner since 1969, offers an in-depth explanation of these branches.
Whole Body Treatment
As you can see, Chinese medicine isn’t just acupuncture: it is a complete system of medicine. When you see an acupuncturist, you are seeing a practitioner of Chinese medicine who may prescribe a wide range of therapies, including herbal medicine, cupping, massage, dietary and lifestyle counseling and other healing modalities.
Chinese medicine is not only a holistic and effective way to heal the body, but it is safe and combines well with various other types of therapy. Acupuncture is becoming more and more valued as a method to relieve pain, regulate organ systems, lower stress, and boost the immune system. Treatments are useful for both acute and chronic conditions. It can treat people of all ages – from babies to the elderly.