Although it is a relatively new concept in Western medicine to tie the treatment plan with the life rhythm of a patient, such techniques have been in use since the start of Chinese medicine, as documented in the Yellow Emperor’s Canon of Internal Medicine, which dates back to roughly 3,000 B.C.
In theory, it has to do with the sequential dominance of a particular organ/system relative to its peers in the body. It is directly related to the theory of the Five Elements, which I will detail in a later posting.
In practice, such strategy can be used in the diagnosis and prognosis of a patient’s condition, as well as in implementing treatment plans. Some people may know of Chinese fortune-tellers, but most probably dismiss those as superstition. In fact, the trend of a person’s life can be predicted, according to the Five Elements theory, such that an individual with a certain bodily composition is most vulnerable at a certain time of his life, which can be broken down to the year, season, day, up to the hour of a day, when he most likely would have problems. The opposite is true also, anyone has his most fortunate hour, day, season and year of his life. However in real life, the vast majority of people have no idea about this system to look into the future, even among the Chinese.
Specifically for the practice of acupuncture, there are techniques to treat a patient according to the specific season or time of the day, which work wonders for time-related symptoms, such as allergies or certain sleep disorders. There are also time related techniques that is used to treat non-time sensitive symptoms, which in most cases work very well also.
In the past decade, Chinese medicine has gained substantial popularity and acceptance in Canada, as a form of alternative medicine. However although it has a history of over 5,000 years in China, it is still considered new by the general Canadian public. In fact, the average Canadian knows little about Chinese medicine, and thinks that the practice is probably similar to other professions in the Western world, meaning anyone in the profession is more or less the same compared to the rest of the group. In fact, that is not true, for reasons discussed below.
In fact, at the present time all over the world including in mainland China, the practice of Chinese medicine has been diluted in a sense that it has incorporated substantial Western concepts, such that from diagnosis to treatment, the spirit of Chinese medicine has essentially been replaced by its Western counterpart, to the extent that for most practitioners, it is impossible to provide service without the guidance of Western medicine. In other words, the service under the mask of Chinese medicine provided to a patient is in most cases a hybrid, in a sense that it is performed with Chinese instruments, but guided by thoughts in Western medicine. An analogy to illustrate the situation is for someone to drive a car on train tracks, and hope that it is going to work well. Obviously it is not going to work well, and if it does work it is going to be a bumpy ride. It is no wonder then that the service provided as Chinese medicine is often not very effective, in some cases it does not work at all. This makes people think that Chinese medicine does not work.
The truth is the contrary, not only Chinese medicine does work, it often works like a miracle, but you have to find the genuine practice. This may be puzzling to some, as in people’s mind, if two people have the same credential, they are more or less equivalent to each other. This is true with Western medicine, as everyone gets trained in a similar way prior to starting their practice. It is however not true with Chinese medicine, as practitioners can have very different background in the field, although everyone has the same qualification to practice. This is because during its long history, Chinese medicine developed many branches, and each branch has its own strength and weakness. The matter is further complicated due to the assimilation of Western culture into Chinese medicine, which produced a type of hybrid Chinese medicine that implements Western thoughts with tools in Chinese medicine. In fact most modern practice is a mix, very few practitioners still practice Chinese medicine that is true to its roots.
To be more specific, genuine Chinese medicine originated from the principles discussed by the Yellow Emperor, and it focuses on the Five Elements, the Ying and the Yang, the theory detailed in the Book of Changes, etc.; whereas the hybrid type of Chinese medicine is more concerned about the anatomy of the human body, the molecular mechanisms of diseases, the vitamins, cholesterol, etc., which really reflects Western thoughts and has no connection with genuine Chinese medicine whatsoever. The actions or remedies that stem from these thoughts are obviously going to be vastly different, despite the fact that both kinds use similar tools.
It is important to distinguish between these different streams of Chinese medicine, as the therapeutic effects are dramatically different. For example, a condition known as Frozen Shoulder takes about 14 sessions of treatment to be corrected, even by leading practitioners in China; however such a case can sometimes be corrected in a single session with genuine Chinese medicine. Facial paralysis known as Bell’s palsy can take more than 60 sessions for recovery with hybrid Chinese medicine, yet the same case can take as few as 7 sessions to achieve the same effect with the genuine practice. For simple problems it is a matter of sessions needed for recovery, for complex problems it is about whether the treatment works or not in the end.
It is worth noting that although in most cases such hybrid type practice label themselves as combining both Chinese and Western medicine in their offering, seemly representing a more advanced system, it actually only leads to a service that is inferior in terms of its effectiveness. Unfortunately most people get misled by its dual approach, thinking that it is more effective to combine the two. In fact it is just the contrary.
In a way, the discussion above is somewhat academic to the general public, but it is important to understand the difference in order to find the more effective treatment. The question then becomes, how does one find a practitioner that practices genuine Chinese medicine?
To answer this question, one should make sure that the spirit of the practice remain true to its tradition, in other words, it should be a practice that reflects genuine thoughts of Chinese medicine. For a layperson to the field, all that one can do is to make sure that the kind of diagnosis or treatment you are getting does not mimic Western medicine. In plain language, if the TCM practitioner you are seeing focuses on your blood glucose or cholesterol level and is going to take steps to lower the level to an acceptable range, or uses a blood pressure monitor or stethoscope for diagnosis, you know you are in the wrong hands. Alternatively, if your acupuncturist hooks up the needles with a machine that generates electrical current, you can tell they are infusing modern electrophysiology into the practice of acupuncture, which is not a part of genuine Chinese medicine.
It is important to stay loyal to the tradition of Chinese medicine, as then the service provided is the product of a 5,000-year clinical trial; on the other hand if the practice deviates from tradition and experiments with new ideas, then it has a maximum 50-year knowledge base. From this contrast alone, one can gain an appreciation as to why genuine Chinese medicine is far superior than the modern hybrid type: the reason is that the wisdom that has accumulated in its 5,000 years of history is an inherent part of genuine Chinese medicine, but it is not a part of the new hybrid Chinese medicine, no matter who the practitioner is.
Usually people think of acupuncture treatment as a form of treatment with needles. But in fact there is another procedure that complements this type of treatment also, which is known as moxibustion. This procedure uses burning moxa (made of a certain kind of grass leaves, into a solid cone) on selected acupuncture points in order to treat diseases. This procedure is different from the needle treatment as it also generates heat, which gets pumped into the body by the burning moxa. The moxa treatment is highly effective for people who experience certain kinds of cold symptoms, because of the heat that is generated. A downside of this procedure if you do not handle it well is that the patient can get burnt, and have scar on the skin after the treatment. Due to fire regulation in many facilities, practitioners tend to avoid this procedure in their practice.
Answer to the question from my last post -- the acupuncture procedure only temporarily block the flow, often in a distal position away from the site with health condition, and most importantly it does not actually block the energy flow, although it does impede flow of blood in a sense, it in fact stimulates energy flow as in essence the treatment interact not with the material body, but with the "energy body". The difference in view in this issue, on how does acupuncture work, is one of the ways to distinguish true, original Chinese medicine from its hybrid counterpart, as the latter talks about blood flow and interaction with different parts of the physical body, instead of speaking in terms of energy flow and how to manipulate the needle in order to restore the healthy flow of energy in the body.
The art and science of acupuncture is to use a needle(s) to manipulate the flow of energy in the body to achieve the objective of improving one’s health. This is different from conventional medicine, in that it does not use any medication, neither internal nor external.
There are many different energy channels in the human body, historically, going by the books there are 14 channels that cover all parts of the body, these are known as the “conventional” channels. The acupuncture points that line these routes (much like bus or subway stops in our transit system) are known as “regular” points. There are in addition 8 “rare” or “extra” routes that connect these regular channels. Further there are the “extra” points that are not located on any known energy routes in the body. Sometimes these “extra” points have fantastic curative effects.
In the view of Chinese medicine, a person is sick because some energy channels are blocked, much like a river is not flowing properly because there are stuff in it that prevents the water from flowing freely. With needle manipulation, an acupuncturist is able to unblock the flow of energy in the body, and when that energy flows freely as it should, the person regains his/her health. That is how it works.
Now there is a question though, some may think, would you not cause additional blockage when you place a needle in the energy flow? Would you not make people sicker by doing that? Share with me your thoughts on this, and I will explain to you why it does not work the other way around, in my next blog post.
The practice of Chinese Medicine has a history of over 5, 000 years. Unfortunately, due to the destruction of traditional culture in mainland China, essentially all of the expertise accumulated in the field got wiped out, along with people that inherited them. The end result of this destruction is that the real, pure, original form of Chinese medicine is now close to distinction. The current day services labelled as Chinese medicine is mostly a hybrid with Western medicine, and most of them take the form of implementing Western thoughts with Chinese devices or tools. It should be noted that the healing or curative effects associated with Chinese medicine is associated with the original form, not this new hybrid type, that is why the effects of treatment is not comparable to what it was in the past. In modern language, the original form of Chinese medicine has a documented clinical trial period spanning several thousand years and has been proven to be highly effective. However there is a huge disconnect between what is being practiced today with what it was in the past, thus past achievements in the medical field in ancient China cannot be reproduced. This is not surprising. In a sense, people are given "north American Chinese food", not the original kind, that is why people do not get to enjoy the many benefits that comes with genuine Chinese culture.
Mark Ma is the principal at Acupuncture One, which is a clinic dedicated to practicing pure, original Chinese medicine. Mark inherited the knowledge and skills directly from Grand Masters in the field. This rare heritage enables Mark to provide exceptional services to clients.