TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE MANUAL THERAPIES
“Bu tong zi tong, tong zi bu tong” is a Chinese medicine philosophy that roughly translates to: “No free flow, pain. Free flow, no pain”.
This theory is applied to the “clearing”, repair and balancing of the meridians (or channels) that Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) ascribes to.
These 14 channels run up and down the body and hold the vital energy (Qi) that regulate the body’s functions. When a patient come into our clinic and describes pain, dysfunction or deficiency, we look for imbalances in one or several of these 14 channels.
The following techniques can be applied, in addition to acupuncture, to help clear blockages, restore balance, recirculate the flow of vital energy (Qi) and bring the patient back to good health.
Cupping is a technique used by skilled TCM practitioners to help break up stagnant qi or blood in a patient’s musculoskeletal, neuromuscular or organ systems.
It can help relieve stiff muscles, back and neck pain, fatigue, migraines, and even has application towards weight loss and clearing congestion in the lungs from asthma or the common cold. Internally, high blood pressure can be managed with cupping and athletes like Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps have found it beneficial to relieve muscle spasms after competition.
Cupping is performed by creating suction inside small glass cups or bamboo jars and placing them onto the skin. This creates a negative pressure on the skin, and brings congested blood, energy or body fluids to the surface, dispersing the stagnation and helping to restore the body’s natural flow of energy.
A cupping technique called “moving cups” involves sliding the cups gently along a specific channel to smooth or “open” a portion that appears to be congested.
Massage oil or cream is applied to the skin to aid in this movement along the surface of the body's muscles and acupuncture channels, as the suction and negative pressure relax the patient’s muscles, sedate their nervous system, and re-establishes healthy blood flow.
Cupping’s history dates back to 300 A.D., documented in “A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies” by Taoist herbalist Ge Hong, and was established as an official therapeutic practice in hospitals in China as early as the 1950’s.
Gua Sha is somewhat similar to cupping in that its goal is to “break up” or clear stagnant qi or blood in a patient’s musculoskeletal, neuromuscular or organ systems.
The technique’s approach is unique, in that a Practitioner may use a specific manual Gua Sha tool to facilitate Gua Sha’s press-stroking application. After a lubricant is applied, such as massage oil or cream, over a particular channel or area of the body, a undirectional pressing of the tool is applied by the practitioner.
This intentionally creates transitory therapeutic petechiae (temporary redness), which has an anti-inflammatory effect on the patient’s body. Aside from its more common use on muscle pain and stiffness (see Western Medicine’s Graston technique), Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Practitioners use this manual therapy for a variety of reasons:
To Bolster the immune system
Respiratory Conditions cough, wheezing
Nausea or Vomiting
Fevers & Chills from the Common Cold
Symptoms of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
A skilled therapist can even use Gua Sha to reach disorders residing in the organ systems such as Jaundice, Hepatitis or Pancreatitis. Gynecological conditions like Dysmenorrhea, Amenorrhea and Menorrhagia are commonly treated with Gua Sha to release stagnant blood flow and restore healthy menstrual cycles.
Gua Sha’s history dates back to records found during the Paleolithic Age. It was written into major medical records as early as the Ming dynasty (1368-1644), but it has been widely accepted that its origins are rooted in the development of the healing arts by Chinese communities, mostly to help members of their families that had fallen ill.
The knowledge of the techniques and tools used to perform Gua Sha were shared from town to town, village to village and evolved to present day use in most Asian communities and with TCM practitioners all over the world.
Electro-Acupuncture is the application of a pulsating electrical current to acupuncture needles during treatment. The electrical “pulse” is applied at a very comfortable level that patients find meditative and relaxing. Using a TENS unit (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation unit), acupuncturists can transmit signal from the TENS unit to warms muscles, promotes Qi and blood flow (circulation), while removing blood stasis (blockage). The goal of the stimulation is to stimulate tissue, muscle or nerve pathways to help alleviate pain, numbness or insufficiency in a patient’s system. Electro stimulation has also been utilized to help bone fractures heal more expeditiously. This tool has mostly replaced manual manipulation of the needles, which previously was the method TCM practitioners used. Research has shown that Electro-acupuncture can provide a stronger and more even stimulation than manual manipulation, which results in less tissue damage.
A prime example of use would be with injuries like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CPS), Bell’s Palsy, Rotator Cuff tears, Meniscus injuries or Piriformis syndrome imbalances.
Studies show that an acupuncture and Electro-stimulation treatment was successful in reducing symptoms in these injuries in 85-90% of the patients that received treatment, and most times proved to be a much better option than surgery.
The history and origins of Electro-stimulation have been debated for years, with some suggesting that it started in Italy and France in the early 1800s. Others point to its development having surfaced in China in the 1930s, or by Japanese scientists in the 1940s. Anecdotally, it has been reported that lightening rod inventor and Founding Father Ben Franklin even used electrotherapy to fix a frozen shoulder in the mid-1700s. The most recent estimates though, are that acupuncturists started using it for pain relief in China around 1958."