Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a complete medical system that has been used to diagnose, treat, and prevent illnesses for more than 2,000 years. TCM is based on a belief in yin and yang, defined as opposing energies, such as earth and heaven, winter and summer, and happiness and sadness. When yin and yang are in balance, you feel relaxed and energized. Out of balance, however, yin and yang negatively affect your health. No matter what your presenting signs and symptoms are, the goal in TCM is balance, or harmony. Western science calls this state homeostasis – the ability of the body to maintain a stable, constant internal environment. When we are balanced, all systems and parts of our body our working optimally. Daily energy is sufficient. Sleep is restful. Pain is absent. We feel great! So, when we start to get imbalanced, all kinds of symptoms arise. These are clues that tell us our systems are slipping out of balance.
Qi - Energy
What needs to be balanced? All aspects of our life need balance. Work, play, family, etc. When we talk about symptoms inflicting our bodies, we are talking about balance of Qi (pronounced Chee). Qi is your life force. It is what runs the body and heals the body. It makes us walk, talk, sleep, etc…every function is a product of Qi. If Qi if flowing abundantly, unrestrictedly we have good health. If Qi is stuck (or stagnant), going to fast, or slow, imbalances are sure to follow. Qi is one of the Vital Substances that is the basic functioning unit in our bodies.
Jing Luo - Pathways
Qi and the other Vital Substances function through a system of channels, or pathways called Jing Luo (Meridians). These pathways are roads. There are some major pathways, like our highway systems (I-435, I-35, etc.) and there are smaller ones like our city roads (Metcalf, Antioch, etc.) They are all connected to each other and can influence each other. For example, if we get excessively stressed or angry, our Liver system/Pathway get stuck, or stagnant. This is one of the major pathways (like I-435)in our bodies and needs to be clear. So, we can use a side street or smaller pathway (like Antioch) to get by. This eventually leads to congestion or backed up traffic on th alternate route, in this example Gall Bladder or Spleen pathways. There are a total of seventy one pathways in our body. Twelve of them are considered the most important, or primary pathways.
Wu Xing - Five Element Theory
We already established the main goal in TCM is balance….balance is described by Yin/Yang forces. Balance is through Qi and the other Vital Substances. This Qi flows through the body and functions via the pathway systems that cover our body. The Wu Xing (Five Element Theory) lays this all out. It shows how everything is connected. How everything works together. It lays out the specific flow of Qi. It is a great tool used in TCM to holistically treat the entire person, physically, mentally, emotionally, as well as spiritually.
Zang Fu - Internal Organs
All the pathways are connected to each other and all ultimately go to a destination. This destination is considered the command center, headquarters. These are the Wu Zang Liu Fu or the internal organs. According to TCM, this is where all body functions arise. You can think of the organs much like a brain. Each organ controls a sense organ, an emotion, a tissue, and many more correspondences. For example, the Liver opens to the eyes. Any eye conditions, we consider the Liver system/Pathway. The emotion of Liver is anger/resentment. So, a patient that has anger issues or gets frustrated easily, we consider the Liver system/Pathway. The liver controls the sinews or tendons/ligaments. A patient that is unusually tight in every joint and has loss of motion, we consider the Liver system/Pathway. There are twelve organs, six Yin and six Yang organs.
Diagnosis in TCM
Diagnosis in TCM is based on signs and symptoms and grouping them in patterns of disharmony. The Chinese doctor obtains all of the information needed to diagnose disease through inquiry and external observation. The four basic categories of diagnostic observation are looking, listening and smelling, asking, and touching. Simply by employing these four areas of investigation, traditional practitioners can accurately assess physical and emotional imbalances of the internal organs and reestablish harmony. The beauty of TCM diagnostics is that a diagnosis automatically indicates a treatment strategy. For example, women experiencing menopause may have hot flashes, night sweats, thirst, and irritability; this group of symptoms leads to a diagnosis of kidney Yin deficiency with heat. This diagnosis immediately points to the indicated therapy: Tonify Kidney Yin and clear deficiency heat. Since standard formulas are available for this pattern, such as Rehmannia Teapills, an accurate diagnosis enables a practitioner to prescribe a treatment that has been proved safe and effective for thousands of years. It is important to remember that diagnostic indicators are always viewed holistically -- that is, in total and in relation to the whole person. For example, fatigue is a symptom of Qi or blood deficiency, but fatigue is also a symptom in a case of wind cold. If a person with wind cold was mistakenly diagnosed with qi deficiency, he might be given ginseng, a strong tonic that would make the symptoms much worse. A careful practitioner would note that the person's pulse was strong and floating, a sign of wind cold, while a person with qi deficiency would have a deep and weak pulse. While it is necessary to learn the individual diagnostic patterns, it is crucial to remember that any sign or symptom must be viewed in relation to the whole person.
Treatments in TCM
There are many different tools to use in TCM to promote balance. The most accepted and widely taught in Chinese medical schools are – Acupuncture, Chinese Herbs, Cupping, Moxibustion, Tui Na Massage, and Qi Gong/Tai Qi Chuan.