“Have you ever tried TCM for that?” – A question you may have been asked before by a friend, a family member or one of your varying healthcare providers. Your initial response was likely never as simple as ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but instead “What’s TCM?”
What is TCM?
TCM is an opportunity to explore your health from a holistic lens. It is long withstanding knowledge applied to modern medicine. TCM is the map linking together aspects of your health you never knew were related. TCM is all these things, and more.
More literally however, it is short for “Traditional Chinese Medicine”. Commonly considered, it’s the practise of acupuncture and herbs, though to stop there would be doing the practise a grave injustice.
With a history of 2000 to 3000 years, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has formed a unique stand-alone medical system to diagnose and treat illness of all types. It differs from Western medicine in that it considers the human body from an all encompassing, interconnected approach. The elevator pitch explanation is that it’s designed to restore systemic balance through the use of one or a combination of any of it’s 5 main modalities – Acupuncture, herbal therapy, diet, exercise therapy (Qi-Gong) or Tui Na (medical massage).
What does each main method of treatment entail?
The mainstay, and most commonly known tool from the TCM toolbelt.
It is the gentle insertion of fine needles into specific points in the body along the network of channels which correlate to your individual syndrome.
(Side note: Have you met Chanel no.12 in clinic yet? She’s our go to gal for understanding more about these pathways! Don’t be shy and ask to meet her next time you’re in for even more understanding!)
Acupuncture is hands-down the fan favourite, and for good reason! With it’s nervous system based mechanism of action this is the best method for activating your body’s own self healing process.
Often used in conjunction with acupuncture, herbs help to tackle the more stubborn conditions. Pulling from the largest organized herbal system in existence, Chinese herbs may be prescribed as a tincture, powder, paste, lotion or capsule depending on the herb and it’s required use.
*To ensure highest industry standards and safety of ingredients it is important you only take herbs prescribed to you by a licensed TCM Doctor/herbalist. Herbal medicine can act on the body as powerfully as pharmaceuticals and therefore require the same caution and respect. Never abandon or alter any current medication regimes without the knowledge and approval of your medical doctor.
Tui na (Twee-na)
Directly translating to “Push and Pull”, tui na is exactly this; a form of therapeutic massage utilizing similar techniques to Swedish massage, and some which are specific to Tui Na only.
It differs from other forms of massage in that it is working more than just a local or distal region, but also tapping into and a deeper concept guided by channel theory. It is a great substitute for those with needle phobia and most often used along with acupuncture for sports injury or any pain associated with the muscles, joints, and skeletal system.
Qi Gong (Chee-gong)
The yoga of Chinese medicine. It is an exercise therapy that includes meditation through controlled breathwork linked with movement. Set sequences exist and can be used for many different ailments from pain to internal medicine complaints.
Movement is a key value at Reformotiv, and movement is everything in TCM too.
This is not about weight loss or restriction. And it’s not about “good” and “bad” foods. This is not a place of judgement or food rules. This area of the practise is about finding balance within your own body, and inevitably what we consume daily plays a role in our inner chemistry.
A key player in our Qi (chee) cycle/energy cycle/building blocks cycle, Gu qi or Food qi should not be ignored when looking at the full picture of our health. While I personally emphasize and support intuitive eating, TCM considers the properties of foods (hot, cold, yin, yang, qi tonic, blood tonic, etc) and as such can make suggestions with regards to foods to help support you as needed.
Etcetera Treatment Methods
Used auricularly (in the ear, where the whole body can be treated from), seeds are an alternative option of treatment to needles. They are on surgical tape and place on the ear in it’s correlating point, where it can stay as directed by your practitioner. They are also a great add-on at the end of session as a take home form of treatment. Being an element from the earth, the seeds are a very nourishing form of treatment (versus ear tacks, which are more dispersing/clearing to the system).
Rising in popularity since the exposure of the Olympics and Michael Phelps, cupping is the likely culprit responsible for the red/purple circular (or heart shaped, see Love Cups Cupping google search) marks you see on the backs of fellow gym go-ers or your pool pals. Great for muscle tightness, recovery, lung conditions like the common cold or asthma, cupping is for more than just swimmers and athletes. It is in sense a reverse-massage.
A painless form of fascial decompression, it pulls apart the connective tissue through suction into a glass cup and allows for blood flow to the area to promote circulation and healing as needed. This one looks scary, but we swear once you try cupping, you can’t go back to a life without it.
Gua Sha (Gwah-Sha)
Gua “To Scrape” Sha “Redness”. This is a technique where a soft edge tool (jade, stainless steel, traditionally a porcelain soup spoon) is used to scrape the surface of the skin or muscle tissue. It is used in the early stages of a common cold to help decrease length of illness or prevent it from ever settling into the body to begin with. It is also used as a compression technique to resolve muscular tension. A more gentle version can be used cosmetically on the face and neck to improve blood circulation for a clearer complexion with less fine lines as well as reduce puffiness through lymph drainage.
What does a TCM appointment look like?
Any first time session will be a combination of inquiry and treatment. Beginning first with an analysis of the entire body through exploring your health history, pulse taking and even by saying “ahhh” as your therapist takes a peek at your tongue. This is then followed by the treatment portion, where one or a few of the above described modalities are applied to address your specific syndrome/diagnosis.
A follow-up session usually consists of a check-in conversation and treatment again thereafter.
My peer has the same issue as me, but we compared treatments and they seemed nothing alike? What gives?
General focus will usually surround the correction of pathological imbalances by addressing the network of channels (otherwise known as meridians) and/or the functions of organ systems (otherwise known as the zang-fu). Evaluation of a syndrome includes the cause, mechanism, location, and nature of the disease. Treatment is then not based only on the symptoms, but the differentiation of syndromes.
Therefore, those with an identical disease may be treated in different ways, and on the other hand, different diseases may result in the same syndrome and are treated in similar ways.
I want to learn more about the framework and theories of TCM, do you have any trusted resources?
3 of my favorite books to recommend to people looking to deepen their understanding and looking for even more behind the scenes of TCM are:
- “The Web That Has No Weaver” By Ted Kaptchuk
- “Between Heaven and Earth; A Guide to Chinese Medicine” By Harriet Beinfield and Efrem Korngold
- “The Spark in the Machine: How the Science of Acupuncture Explains the Mysteries of Western Medicine” By Dan Keown
What can TCM treat?
Head over to our past blog post here for a starting idea.
I need to experience this for myself. How can I do that?
Come visit us! Here at Reformotiv we are happy to offer TCM services.
There are two initial options:
- You are welcome to start with a FREE meet and greet session where you can meet your potential therapist along with the opportunity to ask any further questions you may have about Chinese medicine and how it can benefit you, or
- If you don’t have any further questions and are just hoping to book your initial session you can do so by calling us at the clinic (604-684-5826) or booking online here.
Written by: Shanie Rechner, TCMP