Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) it is understood that all disease is the result of disharmony. The disharmony may be in:
- the qi and blood system
- the yin/yang balance
- an organ (Zang fu)
- a meridian, or
- the interaction between the human body and the environment.
Qi and blood are closely associated. When qi moves blood will flow after it. If you have pain this means there is qi and blood stagnation, i.e. qi and blood are not flowing smoothly through your body. When blood and qi flow harmoniously the body receives good nourishment and will recover more quickly from injury or disease.
Yin (blood) is the material foundation of Yang (mind). If your body has abundant blood you will be naturally content. Your mental well-being is dependent on the quality of blood in your body.
In TCM each organ is associated with a different emotion, and this is another way of looking at the relationship between body and mind. Emotional disturbances interfere with proper organ function — strong negative emotions distract organs from doing their jobs. Therefore, excessive or prolonged emotional disturbance will lead to disease. Conversely, if one of your organs is compromised (in disharmony, or not functioning properly), you will be prone to experiencing the emotion related to that organ. For example, a disharmony of the Liver organ will tend to make you irritable; habitual worrying may be caused by either a disharmony of the spleen or a weakness of the stomach.
Meridians are energy pathways through which qi flows to nourish and energise the human body. There are twelve primary meridians, each corresponding to a different organ. Along with the twelve primary meridians there are eight extraordinary meridians which present a deeper level of energetic structuring. When the qi associated with a particular organ system is in a condition of excess, deficiency or stagnation, this may cause a blockage or imbalance in the flow of qi, resulting in disease. Acupuncture treatment corrects imbalance in the flow of qi and resolves blockage, thereby allowing the body’s correct function to be restored.
Your environment and lifestyle will also affect your health. Stress, overwork, lack of sleep or nutritional deficiencies are just some ways in which your environment will impact on your body. Climatic factors (sudden temperature changes etc.) may also cause diseases: when the body’s protective qi is weak the body can’t adapt to environmental change. Ongoing environmental challenges cause disharmony or imbalance. As well as giving you treatment to correct these imbalances, your TCM practitioner may offer dietary or lifestyle advice.
Different patterns of disharmony require different treatment. In order to determine which pattern is present a TCM practitioner will take your pulses, examine your tongue and ask questions about general body function.
Where Western medicine tends to treat the disease, TCM treats the individual. This means a TCM practitioner won’t necessarily treat two people with the same ailment in the same way; each person will receive an individual treatment which addresses the cause of the condition and takes his or her own constitution into account. TCM is a holistic method of healthcare – it sees the body and mind as being equally important. In fact TCM recognises that emotions are one of the biggest causes of disease, and that by treating the mind; the body is nourished, and vice-versa.