"Although I have always loved treating a wide variety of patients, there is no greater honour than to partner with my patients to achieve their goals of better health and wellbeing. Chinese medicine provides me with the tools to help me guide them through this journey and beyond."
Acupuncture is a simple and elegant tool which is used as a guide to improve the normal function of the body. Acupuncture also helps us increase our resilience by balancing the parts of the brain and nervous system that manage stress and hormonal balance. There are over 360 acupoints to choose from along the pathway (meridians), where the Qi and blood flow. Each point does something slightly different but how the treatment impacts the body overall will depend on the well thought out combination of points selected by the practitioner.
Acupuncture should not hurt; sometimes you may feel a fish-grabbing-a-hook type of sensation, or a warm, tingling sensation. About three to ten acupuncture points are generally used during a session. Your practitioner will work with you and describe his/her intent in choosing the points.
Moxibustion traditionally involves the burning of herb Artemesia Vulgaris either on the top of a needle or directly on the skin. This is used often in patients who are dealing with cold or stagnant conditions such as certain types of abdominal cramps. Unfortunately, our clinic is in a medical building with a no-scent policy. Instead, we use moxa laser therapy and/or a magnetic heat lamp as a substitute.
Herbal medicine in TCM describes formulae, which are made from the roots, stems, bark, leaves, seeds or flowers of many plants, as well as some mineral and animal parts.
The herbs are usually decocted into a soup. Some come in a ready-prepared pill or powder, called 'patent' herbal remedies.
The herbal medicine is usually taken in the form of a recipe (called a prescription) that the TCM practitioner prescribes and individualizes according to each patient’s TCM diagnosis.
Diet therapy and lifestyle modification involve the recommendation of a specific diet and lifestyle that will assist in optimizing the effect of the treatment.
A traditional medicine for pain, inflammation, and immune support, Gua sha is an important hands-on medical treatment that has been used throughout Asia for centuries. Gua means ‘to rub’ or ‘press-stroke.’ Sha is a term that describes the blood congestion in surface scar tissue in areas where the patient may experience stiffness and pain; sha is also the term for the little red dots that are raised from applying Gua sha (Nielsen 2012). When Gua press-stroking is applied in repeated, even strokes, sha appears as small red dots called ‘petechiae’ and the pain immediately shifts. In minutes, the small red dots fade into blended reddishness. The sha disappears completely in two to three days after treatment (sometimes sha is not present, but there is still the effect). The color of sha and rate of fading can indicate important information about a patient’s condition. Pain relief lasts even after the sha is completely gone.
The benefits of Gua sha are numerous. It resolves spasms and pain, and promotes normal circulation to the muscles, tissues and organs, as seen in Gua sha’s immediate effect on coughing and wheezing. Research has shown that Gua sha causes a four-fold increase in microcirculation of surface tissue (Nielsen et a. 2007) and can reduce inflammation and stimulate the immune system (Braun et al. 2011; Chan et al.2011). Gua sha upregulates heme-oxygenase-1 (HO-1) and acts to reduce internal organ inflammation; for example, in cases of asthma, hepatitis, and liver disease.
The patient experiences immediate changes in stiffness and pain with increased mobility. Because Gua sha mimics sweating, it can help to resolve fever. Gua sha cools the patient who feels too warm, warms the patient who feels too cold, while relaxing tension and reducing anxiety. Acupuncturists and practitioners of traditional East Asian medicine consider Gua sha for any illness or condition where there is pain or discomfort, for upper respiratory and digestive problems, and any condition where touch palpation indicates there is sha. Gua sha is often done in combination with acupuncture for problems that acupuncture alone cannot address.
After treatment, the patient is advised to keep the area protected from wind, cold, and direct sun until the sha fades. They are also encouraged to drink plenty of water and eat moderately.
Braun, M., Schwickert, M., Nielsen, A., et al., 2011. Effectiveness of Traditional Chinese ‘Gua Sha’
Therapy in Patients with Chronic Neck Pain; A Randomized Controlled Trial. Pain Med 12(3), 362-369.
Chan, S., Yuen, J., Gohel, M., et al., 2011. Guasha-induced hepatoprotection in chronic active hepatitis B:
A case study. Clin Chim Acta 412 (17-18), 1686-1688.
Kwong KK, Kloetzer L, Wong KK et al. 2009. Bioluminescence imaging of heme oxygenase-1 Upregulation in the Gua Sha procedure. J Vis Exp. 30 (August 28): 1385 Nielsen, A., 2012. Gua Sha. A Traditional Technique for Modern Practice, 2nd ed. Elsevier, Edinburgh.
Nielsen, A., Knoblauch, N.T.M., Dobos, G.J., et al., 2017. The Effect of Gua Sha Treatement on the Microcirculation of Surface Tissue: A Pilot Study in Healthy Subjects. Explore (NY) 3 (5), 456-466.
Traditional Chinese Medicine brings to mind acupuncture and the use of natural herbs as healing remedies. Cupping is a lesser-known treatment that is also part of Asian medicine, one that can provide an especially pleasant experience. One of the earliest documentations of cupping can be found in the work titled A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies, which was written by a Taoist herbalist by the name of Ge Hong and which dates all the way back to 300 AD. Cupping is the term applied to a technique that uses small glass cups or bamboo jars as suction devices placed on the skin. There are several ways that a practitioner can create the suction in the cups. One method involves swabbing rubbing alcohol onto the bottom of the cup, then lighting it and putting the cup immediately against the skin. Suction can also be created by placing an inverted cup over a small flame, or by using an alcohol-soaked cotton pad over an insulating material (like leather) to protect the skin, then lighting the pad and placing an empty cup over the flame to extinguish it.
Flames are never used near the skin and are not lit throughout the process of cupping, but rather are a means to create the heat that causes the suction within the small cups. Once the suction has occurred, the cups can be gently moved across the skin (often referred to as "gliding cupping”). The suction in the cups causes the skin and superficial muscle layer to be lightly drawn into the cup. Cupping is much like the inverse of massage - rather than applying pressure to muscles, it uses gentle pressure to pull them upward. For most patients, this is a particularly relaxing and relieving sensation. Once suctioned, the cups are generally left in place for about ten minutes while the patient relaxes. This is similar to the practice of Tui Na, a traditional Chinese medicine massage technique that targets acupuncture points as well as painful body parts, and is well known to provide relief through pressure.
Generally, cupping is combined with acupuncture in one treatment, but it can also be used alone. The suction and negative pressure provided by cupping can loosen muscles, encourage blood flow, and sedate the nervous system (which makes it an excellent treatment for high blood pressure). Cupping is used to relieve back and neck pains, stiff muscles, anxiety, fatigue, migraines, rheumatism, and even cellulite. For weight loss and cellulite treatments, oil is first applied to the skin, and then the cups are moved up and down the surrounding area. Like acupuncture, cupping follows the lines of the meridians. There are five meridian lines on the back, and these are where the cups are usually placed. Using these points, cupping can help to align and relax qi, as well as target more specific maladies. By targeting the meridian channels, cupping strives to “open” these channels — the paths through which life energy flows freely throughout the body, through all tissues and organs, thus providing a smoother and more free-flowing qi (life force).
Cupping is one of the best deep-tissue therapies available. It is thought to affect tissues up to four inches below the skin. Toxins can be released, blockages can be cleared, and veins and arteries can be refreshed within these four inches of affected materials. Even hands, wrists, legs, and ankles can be “cupped,” thus applying the healing to specific organs that correlate with these points. This treatment is also valuable for the lungs, and can clear congestion from a common cold or help to control a person's asthma. In fact, respiratory conditions are one of the most common maladies that cupping is used to relieve. Three thousand years ago, in the earliest Chinese documentation of cupping, it was recommended for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis.
Dharmananda, Subhuti. History of Chinese Cupping
Joswick, Diane. Cupping: How Gwyneth Paltrow Got Her Spots, Acufinder.com
Rushall, Kathleen. The Many Benefits of Chinese Cupping
Chi, Lee-Mei. The Effectiveness of Cupping Therapy on Relieving Chronic Neck and Shoulder Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial
Boris V. Dons'Koi. Repeated Cupping Manipulation Temporary Decreases Natural Killer Lymphocyte Frequency, Activity and Cytoxicity
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