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What makes Chinese medicine different from Western views on health?

According to a new analysis in the journal Pastoral Psychology, it’s the belief that a person’s mind and a person’s body are part of one whole, and diseases aren’t cured so much as people are cured.


“In the theory of TCM [traditional Chinese medicine], the mind and the body of a person are inseparable; to have good health one must have good spirit and pay attention to cultivating one’s spirit,” the researchers, from Beijing Normal University and Southwest Minzu University, wrote in the article.

The researchers looked at six main aspects of traditional Chinese medicine, including the history of the practice, what its fundamental beliefs are, how spirituality is used in healing, the spirituality of the doctors conducting traditional Chinese medicine, how spirituality is used to maintain health, and how spirituality is used in Chinese pharmacy.

Traditional Chinese medicine dates back thousands of years, and includes therapies like acupuncture, herbal medicine and massage, among others, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

Some elements of traditional Chinese medicine have undergone more clinical research than others; acupuncture, for one, has shown positive effects in some studies in soothing chronic pain and relieving stiffness from osteoarthritis, just to name a few.

Never had an acupuncture treatment before? Here’s what to expect at your first treatment:

Know What To Look For

It can be tough knowing where to start when beginning any new kind of treatment. First things first: know what to look for in your practitioner.

If you are turning to acupuncture to treat a specific condition, mention it ahead of time to your practitioner. Ask if he or she has any specific experience in treating that ailment. Usually hearing the answer will give you a good idea of whether or not you can trust him or her.

Since you will be working intimately with your accupuncturist, it is imperative to ensure you’re comfortable together. Even if the accupuncturist is well-regarded, if you don’t feel at ease, you are cutting yourself and your healthcare short.

Come With An Open Mind

In order to entirely reap the benefits of this treatment, try your best to come to the appointment with an open mind. Acupuncture works whether you believe it in or not. However, people will say you have to believe in it to work.

The shifts that occur from acupuncture are “subtle changes,” meaning that those who are more in touch with their bodies can more easily notice them, while those who are less in-tune may take a longer time to feel any differences.

Come Prepared

Prepping for an acupuncture treatment consists of many different variables: it’s best to be conscious of when you arrive, what you eat and even how you smell!

Food-wise, eat something light before your appointment. If you don’t eat anything before, you can feel weak after the treatment because a lot of energy is moving around. It’s also best to stay away from caffeine for the day, if you can. And consider skipping the coffee before your visit, since it acts as a stimulant.

Acupuncture shouldn’t be stressful (just the opposite — it is meant to relieve stress!). Come to your session early so you can relax. You do not want to be rushing though an acupuncture session.

She also reminds us of the golden rule: use the bathroom before you go! Solid advice, as you may be on the table for a half hour or longer.

If possible, do not wear any scented creams or fragrances the day of your appointment. While you may not be affected by certain scents, it’s best to be mindful of other patients who might be particularly sensitive.

Lastly, the omnipresent question — what should I wear? — has an easy solution. While your acupuncturist will likely provide a gown, Dr. Fitzgerald suggests wearing loose-fitting clothing for comfort.

Be On The Record

Bring your medical records, even if you think they are unrelated to your treatment.

The acupuncturist will spend a lot of time asking questions that might not even seem related to your condition. He or she may ask about digestion, sleep paterns, gynecological history, mental health issues and more. Chinese medicine looks at all conditions as “interrelated,” even if there’s no obvious connection in the Western view.

If you have a history of medications, diagnostic tests, MRIs, always bring them; when you have any diagnostic test, blood test or anything, you should keep a copy. Those results can help the acupuncturist.

Speak Up

Even if you’re a rookie to this old practice, make sure you’re understanding everything that’s happening. Remember it is your visit and your health. Make sure you communicate your needs and everything you can about your condition so the acupuncturist can have as much information as possible for your assessment. If something is not clear, don’t be shy to ask for clarification.

Speak up to advocate for yourself. Your practitioner could explain things in Eastern terminology. Be sure to ask for clarification and don’t hesitate to make sure you understand your treatment protocol.

Seriously, Open Your Mouth

It’s normal for the acupuncturist to check your tongue to assess the general health of your organs and meridians.

Your practitioner will also check your pulse, which can reveal a lot. It can tell you what’s going on in the body as far as stagnation and stress. They’re not really checking for your heart rate.

They Call It A “Zing”

If you’re Trypanophobic (have a fear of needles), we’ll give it to you straight: more likely than not, your acupuncturist will be using needles.

If you’re feeling just a little wary, know that acupuncture needles are sterile, one-time use disposable needles. They are also incredibly flexible and not at all like those used to draw blood.

But do they hurt? That’s the one big question.

Most people don’t think so. But while it’s not necessarily a painful experience, you may feel sensitivities on different areas of the body. Sometimes you can feel a little Qi sensation — we call it a ‘zing.’ It’s when the needle hits the nerve, sort of like the feeling you get when you hit your funny bone.

Some spots may bleed once the needles are removed — the ears are a particularly sensitive area. If this happens, the blood is usually less than a drop, and the bleeding will stop before you leave the office.

Before You Leave …

After the session, be sure to rehydrate. Drink water because we’re getting the energy to circulate because you want to be hydrated.

Once you leave, you should be a-OK to continue about your day. In fact, you may not feel a thing. As you start getting regular treatments, you may notice feeling more uplifted.

The Science of Acupuncture

This BBC documentary focuses on the different benefits acupuncture can provide for many different illnesses. Sit back and grab a cup of coffee, the video is about an hour long.



Your First Acupuncture Treatment (Video Included)

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