Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), (Aka East-Asian Medicine) is a comprehensive, holistic medical system. While its origins date back thousands of years to China, it has a long history of development, evolution, and practice in many countries around the world. TCM incorporates acupuncture, herbal medicine, tui-na (massage therapy), nutrition, healing exercises, and other therapeutic modalities, which all share common theoretical concepts and principles. It can be used to treat many types of pain syndromes and illness. TCM treatment methods address the root cause of illness, not just symptoms alone, and they can bring about profound and lasting changes to one’s health and wellbeing. Read More
It is important to note that all healing or medical systems have strengths and weakness. In certain cases, it may be necessary to combine the strengths of multiple medical approaches to best serve a patient’s needs. While TCM is able work alongside and in conjunction with Western medical intervention, there are some significant differences in how the two systems view and treat the body.
In Western Medicine, a sign or symptom alone, such as a fever, rash, or migraine is often diagnosed and treated as an individual condition. In TCM, patterns of signs and symptoms are identified and viewed as manifestations of deeper imbalances and dysfunctions within the body. The TCM diagnosis strives to find the root causes of the physical and/or psychological manifestations and treat those along with the symptoms.
In Western medicine, quantities of bodily substances such as liver enzymes, blood cells, hormone levels etc. as well as images of internal parts such as those captured in MRI and CAT scans are the most important diagnostic tools. While these can provide valuable information that can be used by a TCM doctor, qualities and relationships between the different body systems are also very important in diagnosing the root cause of illness. Because all body systems are interconnected and have reciprocal relationships, the part of the body where a problem is manifesting may be caused by another system, or a breakdown in the communication or mutual support of different systems.
Western medicine has amazing diagnostic and treatment tools for acute, crisis situations, however it is often unable to effectively treat and resolve chronic conditions or symptoms that lack a measurable or viewable cause. TCM can also treat many acute conditions, but it is excellent at diagnosing and treating long-term, chronic, multifaceted and complex illness. (An example of this is provided bellow.)
A Western medical doctor may be able to diagnose high blood pressure, heart conditions, or migraine, without being able to find the root cause. Even if it is determined that some of these problems are stress related, they may not be able to determine why the body is not able to cope with external or internal stressors. TCM is excellent at diagnosing which body system is weakest and thus not supporting the function of the rest of the body systems.
Western medicine has a more static, mechanical, and generalized view of the body, while TCM sees the body as dynamic and ever changing.
Western medicine tries to generalize people and group them into categories of diagnosis and treatment where six people presenting with the same symptom may all receive the same or similar treatment. In TCM, each patient is treated as a unique case. Different patients presenting with the same symptoms may all be treated differently when their unique constitution (genetics), medical and social history, and lifestyle are taken into consideration.
Western medicine tends more towards treating a patient as a passive participant in the healing process where the doctor is in charge and administers treatment without patient involvement. Doctors of Traditional Chinese Medicine work with a patient to administer treatment and facilitate healing; however, the patient is empowered to take responsibility for and play a part in their healing process. Doctor and patient work together as a team.
Western medicine often manages symptoms, while TCM works on treating the root cause. Treating the root problem can not only resolve the chief complaint but also go beyond that to establish better overall health and wellbeing in the patient.
Many Western medical interventions can have negative side effects and damage other parts of the body while treating another. TCM is safe and does not have negative side effects. No part of the body is sacrificed while treating another.
Example: An example of how Traditional Chinese Medicine may approach a patient compared to Western medicine is as follows: A patient may present to Western doctor with bleeding gastric ulcers, allergies, digestive discomfort, anxiety, insomnia, headaches and chronic neck and shoulder pain. Examination may reveal that they also have high blood pressure. The patient may be prescribed anti-hypertension medication for the blood pressure, proton-pump inhibiting medication for the ulcers, antihistamines for the allergies, antacids for the digestive system, anti-anxiety medications, sleep medications for the insomnia, and pain medications for the headaches and neck pain. The patient could easily end up taking eight or nine different medications per day. All of these medications can cause side effects that require other medications to treat, and prolonged use can result in damage to other organs such as the stomach, liver, and kidneys.
In contrast, a TCM doctor would treat this patient differently. Gastric ulcers, allergies from a compromised immune system, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, chronic neck and shoulder tension, and high blood pressure can all be manifestations of adrenal hyperactivity. Adrenal hyperactivity is the result of the body trying to adapt to extreme or prolonged stress, or some type of shock or trauma (physical or psychological). By using acupuncture, gentle herbal therapy, exercise, and lifestyle guidance to help balance and strengthen adrenal function and address the stress and/or trauma, the high blood pressure, allergies, digestive problems, anxiety, insomnia, headaches, and neck and shoulder pain can resolve as the body achieves a natural state of balance. By going to the root of the problem, many signs and symptoms can be treated with one simple treatment method. A simple and direct approach can be used to address what appears to be a complex case. This is the true beauty and power of Traditional Chinese Medicine.