Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is one of the oldest continuous systems of medicine in history, with recorded instances dating as far back as two thousand years BC.
It is a coherent and independent system of medical thought and practice that includes 5 main modalities:
- Chinese Herbs
- Dietary Therapy
- Tuina (Chinese therapeutic massage)
- Qi Gong (Chinese therapeutic movement and exercise)
Any branch of TCM can be used alone or in combination with another.
TCM & Western Medicine
Underlying the practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine is a unique view of the world and the human body that is different from Western medical concepts. One of the key differences is the approach. Two other notable differences are a holistic point of view, and the application of treatment according to the differentiation of symptom-complexes or “patterns of disharmony”.
Preventative as well as curative
The approach with Western medicine tends to be reductive and analytical. TCM however uses a more inductive and synthetic approach – it aims to establish and maintain energetic harmony in the whole person and thereby not only treat illness but also promote active health and vitality and thereby increase resistance to disease.
Chinese medicine looks at the body’s system as a whole, whereas Western medicine tends to concentrate on a particular part or its specific function. In TCM the human body, including both physiological and psychological aspects, is regarded as an organic entity in which the various organs, glands, tissues, and other parts have distinct functions but are all interdependent. In this view, health and disease relate to balance of these functions. Health is perceived as harmonious interaction of these functions and the outside world, and disease is interpreted as a disharmony in interaction.
Treats the underlying cause of disease not just the symptoms
Western medicine tends to diagnose and treat the effect that the disease state has on the body itself. However, the Practitioner of TCM identifies and acts upon the energy that creates the disease state – each symptom is considered in relationship to all other presenting symptoms enabling the practitioner to form an overview of the patients unique constitution and identify what is called the underlying “pattern of disharmony.” Treatment is aimed at restoring harmony and bringing the body into balance. In this way TCM targets the underlying imbalance, the cause of the disease, as well as the symptoms.
Compatible and complimentary
Despite these differences both Chinese and Western medical systems are compatible and highly complimentary – each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Western medicine excels in trauma care, surgery, and therapies for acute problems, while the greatest strength of TCM lies in the areas of chronic problems and preventive medicine.
In China, Western medicine and TCM are deemed equal and TCM is practiced side by side with Western medicine in many of China’s hospitals and clinics. Students from both medical systems are trained in basic knowledge of the other medical system.