Why Chinese Medicine?

No doubt you’ve heard a bit about Chinese Medicine these days. It’s starting to pop up all over the place. Celebrities are showing up at award ceremonies with marks from cupping, ear tacks, etc. Professional athletes are using it for injury prevention, performance optimization, and workout recovery. Perhaps you have a friend or relative who had struggled with a health challenge for months or years before going to an acupuncturist who seemed to resolve it like magic. Perhaps you are one of the many people who have recently begun to realize that health is a comprehensive and dynamic process through exposure to yoga, meditation, or interest in nutrition and herbalism. However you may have come to consider it and how it may be able to help you in your life is not surprising these days; it is one of the most widely practiced healing systems in the world. 15335598_s

As Americans who are raised in an entirely different cultural environment than Asia, most people find that they have a lot of questions about what acupuncture and Chinese Medicine are and what they can do. What sort of things does it treat? How does it work? Does it conflict with other therapies I am currently doing to alleviate my issue?

So what is this whole Chinese Medicine thing anyway? Why is it gaining so much popularity and what can it do to help you?

Simply defined, acupuncture and Chinese Medicine are a means of regulating the body’s functions for the sake of correcting and preventing disease. I find it best to explain this concept using a simple analogy:

Picture your body as an assembly line in a factory with all of the various structures and functions acting as the “workers” and the various vital substances such as blood, nutrients, oxygen, etc. functioning as the “raw materials” used to build a finished product. If everyone along the assembly line has all of the raw materials they need for their respective task and works at a steady, even pace, performing their job at the right time and producing the correct amount of their step in the process, the system works smoothly and efficiently and everyone gets raises (in an ideal world.) However, if someone along the line runs out of the parts that they need to complete their job, or if someone is working very slowly that day because they are sick or tired, the process starts to falter. The lack of necessary materials makes its way all the way up the line and holds everyone else up. Alternately, if someone is working incredibly hard that day because they are hoping to get done early so they can make it home early, in time to catch the latest episode of Breaking Bad, this throws off the process as well… the rest of the line is forced to try to keep up and there may be parts piling up all over the place waiting to be put through the next phase in production. In either case, the assembly line is not functioning ideally and is starting to run the risk of mistakes or other issues. It is also true that there are different types of factories that produce different types of products. Factory A might produce highly industrialized goods, utilizing extremely energy-intensive processes that need to be performed very quickly. Factory B might produce textiles that are made in a much slower and more detailed manner. Each factory is going to have different requirements to suit their ideal production quotas.

The body, according to Chinese Medicine, is very similar to the analogy above. If all of the organs are functioning evenly and properly, if all of the vital substances are pure and in ample supply, and if circulation is clear between all areas of the organism, the body can thrive and is able to adapt fluidly to the dynamic changes of life. When one or more of they body’s systems falls out of pace with the rest of the system, we may start to experience symptoms or become more susceptible to illness. Essentially, Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine are a means through which we can help the body recover harmonious natural rhythms of function, helping to create the conditions within which the body can once again thrive. It functions similarly to a manager in our hypothetical factory; directing the pace and flow of work and materials along the assembly line in order to ensure a successful production schedule. Likewise, just as there are different types of factories that require different conditions and materials to produce their goods, each body is unique and requires a different set of conditions to thrive. Chinese Medicine is therefore a highly fluid and individualized method of assessing the body and creating the ideal conditions for health. A detailed and comprehensive set of assessments are used to identify how the body is malfunctioning, and a course of treatment, typically comprised of acupuncture, herbs, and nutrition is applied to correct the imbalance.

The end result? In the early stages we generally see the alleviation of the visible symptoms of the imbalance. As treatment progresses, typically we see improved function, adaptability, mental clarity, energy levels, and general disease prevention. In my opinion, one of the best applications of Chinese Medicine is to use it periodically to align the most prominent trending imbalances in the body. Used in this way, we can often prevent symptoms down the road and can typically improve one’s overall sense of productivity and well-being.