Tuesday, December 16, 2008
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 before the birth of Christ. Chinese medicine is quite complex and can be difficult for some people to comprehend. This is because TCM is based on a different paradigm that is rooted in ancient Chinese beliefs that we live in a universe in which everything is interconnected. What happens to one part of the body affects every other part of the body. The mind and body are not viewed separately, but as part of an energetic system.
Many of the concepts emphasized in TCM have no true counterpart in Western medicine. One of these concepts is qi (pronounced "chi"), which is considered a vital force or energy responsible for controlling the workings of the human mind and body. Qi flows through the body via channels, or pathways, which are called meridians.
There are a total of 20 meridians: 12 primary meridians, which correspond to specific organs, organ systems or functions, and eight secondary meridians. Imbalances in the flow of qi cause illness; correction of this flow restores the body to balance. Other concepts (such as the Yin/Yang and Five Element Theories) are equally important in order to have a true grasp of traditional Chinese medicine.
From a Western perspective, a wealth of research in the last decade using sophisticated neuroimaging technology has increased our understanding of the biomedical effects of acupuncture. Researchers have used MRIs to see what happens inside the brain while an acupuncture treatment is administered. The answers we are finding seem to open up ever more complex questions. Acupuncture clearly has multiple simultaneous effects, including changes in neurotransmitters, such as the internal pain control substances. Acupuncture effects many parts of the brain simultaneously, including brain centers associated with emotions, mood, stimulation intensity, and with the specific body parts we intend to treat. Acupuncture also has a local effect where we insert the needles, such as reducing inflammation.
On a different front, medical researchers have used statistical procedures to demonstrate that acupuncture treatments produce measurable benefits when compared to placebo controls for such disorders as PTSD, anxiety, depression, osteoarthritis, and neck and back pain.