Thursday, September 16, 2010
Oriental medicine seeks to achieve healing through rebalancing a patient's "qi" or life energy. All treatment in oriental medicine revolves around a very comprehensive history and evaluation to achieve an accurate diagnosis. The diagnosis informs the practitioner what steps he or she should take to rebalance the patient's system and allow the patient's natural healing mechanisms to function properly to restore health and harmony.
of oriental medicine has many healing arts and tools at his/her
disposal. While the major avenues of patient treatment are the use
of acupuncture and traditional herbal medicine, there are other
lesser-known therapies that oriental medicine employs in
conjunction with these to augment and accelerate the healing
Here are some
important yet lesser-known therapies in oriental medicine that can
play a role in patient healing:
Cupping: Cupping is a therapy whereby a hollow fist-sized
cup is heated inside to create a vacuum. (Modern style cups are
made from plastic materials and practitioners often use suction
instead of heat to create a vacuum.) The cup is then placed on the
patient's skin with the open side down, where it adheres to the
patient's body due to the suction of the vacuum inside the cup.
This gentle suction, applied in the correct manner, can encourage
healing and pain relief. The practitioner may place several
cups on a patient in specific patterns, or slide the cup from one
point to another - a technique known as "gliding." Typically,
cupping is used to open a meridian, which is a channel of energy
flow. Practitioners use this method to release toxins, improve
lymphatic drainage, remove blood stasis, and more. It can also be
used as a technique for deep tissue massage.
Moxibustion: Moxibustion is a traditional oriental medicine
technique that originated in the northern part of China.
Moxibustion is named after "moxa," a dried herbal powder
preparation made from the herb mugwort.
There are three
different moxibustion techniques: direct, indirect and needle.
Direct moxibustion places a small cone of ignited moxa directly on
top of a specific acupuncture point on the skin, removing the cone
before it burns the skin. Indirect moxa uses a burning moxa cone
placed on a stick or other media in order to heat the acupuncture
point. This is more popular because it is safer and easier to
control the temperature. Needle moxibustion places the burning moxa
above acupuncture needles inserted into the acupuncture
In all three
versions of the technique, the burning of the herb warms and draws
energy and blood circulation to the specific points for a
stimulating affect on the patient's qi. Moxibustion therapy is used
for many different conditions such as digestive disorders,
musculoskeletal pain, headaches, rheumatoid arthritis,
osteoarthritis, menstrual disorders, etc.
Sha: In Gua Sha, the
practitioner applies repetitive scraping motions with a special
blunt edged instrument in therapeutic places on the patient's body.
This encourages the release of toxins and can draw healing energy
within the body to specific sites or organ systems. Gua Sha can
leave temporary petechiae for a few hours or days after treatment,
but the process itself is usually painless. Depending upon the
severity of the patient's blood stasis, the skin color changes that
occur after Gua Sha will vary. Gua Sha is commonly used to reduce
fever, treat cough, address musculoskeletal conditions, and reduce
is a therapeutic form of bodywork that applies various techniques
such as brushing, kneading, rolling, pressure, rubbing, etc., to
key acupuncture points or along energy meridians of the patient's
body. In Tuina, the goal is to encourage energy flow and dissolve
blockages or barriers to the smooth movement of qi. It has been
used to treat many conditions such as musculoskeletal disorders,
chronic stress related disorders, gastrointestinal conditions,
respiratory disorders, and also reproductive disorders.
Dietary Therapy: Foods
have energetic properties in oriental medicine. Specific foods and
flavors can be been organized into categories based on the heating
or cooling affect they have on the body, the direction in which
they move qi, and how they affect qi, blood flow and specific organ
systems. When a patient is diagnosed with an imbalance or energy
blockage in her liver, for example, she may be advised to include
more foods that stimulate the liver and avoid foods that impede
energy flow to the liver.
medicine, one or more of the above healing tools can be combined
for an amplified and synergistic healing effect. Having other
healing modalities at hand is also helpful when acupuncture is
contraindicated or a patient has a fear of needles. Prescriptive
dietary changes can also provide a patient with means to continue
his or her health treatment at home, supporting the efforts of his
oriental medicine provider between office visits.
Oriental medical schools with a comprehensive and traditional curriculum like NUHS, not only offer comprehensive training in acupuncture and herbal medicine, but also provide students with training in the many other modalities of their profession, like those listed above. This well-rounded training prepares authentic oriental medicine practitioners who have more to offer their patients.