What is Chinese Medicine? What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are poorly understood terms. In the Western world, we have developed an unfortunate nomenclature for practitioners of Oriental medicine. We call nearly all practitioners of this fully developed medical system “acupuncturists”, despite the fact that acupuncture is only one of the many tools available for the study and application of this system of medicine. To call someone an acupuncturist is thusly misleading unless they have only studied and only practice acupuncture, and do not also practice, for example, dietary therapy or herbal medicine or movement therapy. Some of the Oriental medicine graduate schools in the U.S. do only work with acupuncture, though not nearly enough of them to have earned all of us the poorly fitting title of “acupuncturist.”
What is acupuncture exactly? And what is Chinese medicine? Chinese medicine includes many therapies, including acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, herbal medicine, dietary therapy, and movement therapy, or “qi gong”. We will go over some of those that we use at Centered: Richmond.
- Acupuncture involves the usage of therapeutic needling in order to bring relief in a broad range of physical, mental, or emotional conditions. Acupuncture is truly a piece of Chinese medicine whole. It is one tool in a box of many.
- Herbal medicine is based on the very particular presentation of each patient and can be used to simultaneously address both the root cause of an illness, addition to its symptoms. Healing often equates with reminding the body how to be healthy, and herbal medicine can frequently provide a more efficient means to that end than physical techniques alone.
- Dietary therapy, while in a sense self-explanatory, is based on the idea of using food as medicine and varies based on whether a person is weak or strong, whether they tend to be cold or hot, the strength of their digestion, etc.
- Qi gong is a branch of Chinese medicine that basically impresses upon the importance of movement as it pertains to health. There are many forms and styles of qi gong.
Now your “acupuncturist” may or may not integrate ALL of these tools. But they exist.
These tools are integral parts of a whole practice of medicine, but perhaps the most important tool in the Chinese medicine tool chest is really a concept – that of nourishing life, or yang sheng in Chinese (養生). This amounts to the desire of the practitioner to help the patient cultivate their health, instead of simply ridding the body of disease. As a natural extension of this topic, longevity and quality of life are important topics to the Chinese medicine practitioner. These are partially achieved through a healthy diet, balancing rest and activity, avoiding and/or properly managing stress, and the effort to live as closely as possible to natural seasonal and daily cycles – all practices that “nourish life” by giving our body the resources it needs to thrive and avoid stressors that rob us of our health over time.
Because of the inherent importance of these concepts in Chinese medicine, a Chinese medicine practitioner tends to take on an additional role as a health educator or health advocate in the interest of helping a patient to cultivate their health. So, if you are interested in not only ridding yourself of illness but also in valuing and cultivating your health, a Chinese medicine practitioner would be an excellent fit.