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Chinese Medicine in context

Chinese Herbal Remedies, Tradition Chinese Medicine and Tui Na Massage are some constituents, which have been developing over the Millennia. These days Chinese Medicine are widely available and the choice of therapy is often up to you. Traditional Chinese medicine was primarily a system of preventative rather than curative medicine, used by a society whose understanding of their bodies and minds was intimate. This knowledge and the factors affecting health and disease were passed down from generation to generation as part of their life philosophy known as the Tao or the Way.

Traditional Chinese medicine as a preventative

The role of the Chinese medicine practitioner in China was to prevent disease from occurring in the healthy minds and bodies of his patients by timely advice and intervention. His role was seen as one of prevention, rather than cure, such that the Emperor's personal doctor was employed only as long as the Emperor himself remained healthy. At the point he became unwell, the doctor, being seen to have failed in his task, was believed to have been beheaded!

In the knowledge that the Chinese had of themselves, they clearly appreciated the adage that 'one man's meat is another man's poison'. They accept the concept of personal limitation, which the speed and competitiveness of western society leads us to ignore. They knew and adjusted their lifestyle, diet, behaviour and emotional attitudes to deal with the fact that a given circumstance may lead one person to flourish and thrive where a brother or sister may struggle or become sick.

Understanding the Cause of Disease

Today the application of traditional Chinese medicine recognises that the majority of people are already unwell when they come to see the practitioner and have probably been so for a little while. There is nevertheless work to be done in the field of prevention. Once you have got better, you need to understand the original cause of the illness. Part of the practitioner's responsibility is to explain what you can do in terms of self-help to ensure that a healthier lifestyle is adopted.

The Body Heals Itself

The body is remarkably clever and in some course of events, will heal itself. To maintain health, generally all we need to do is to hear what our bodies are trying to tell us. In sickness, often your only downfall has been one of unawareness.

Is Chinese medicine faith healing?

Often we are asked whether there is an element of faith healing in Chinese medicine, and whether it is necessary to 'believe in it' for it to work. The answer is categorically no. However, it does help to have your co-operation in terms of making the necessary lifestyle adjustments so that the problem does not recur. It also helps if your aware of the breadth of healing involved in acupuncture treatment so that improvements in your general state of health can be attributed to the correct cause!

Often one of the effects of treatment reported to us by you is an increase in your general sense of wellbeing, an improvement in their outlook on life and a lift in their spirits. Maybe not an effect they would have expected, but nevertheless predictable in terms of the way Chinese medicine works. That is by facilitating healing of the body, mind and spirit.

Does it work?

Chinese medicine, despite being a complete and sophisticated system of medicine with its own diagnostic procedures, is, like western medicine, not a cure-all. There are some conditions where it will work better than others; some people are easier to treat than others. However for the vast majority of people who come to see us as patients, Chinese medicine works!

How long will treatment take?

It has probably taken some time for your body to become as unwell as it is, and hence the recovery process will not be an overnight affair. One always hopes for patient patients! Each treatment session lasts from half an hour to one and a half hours, the first session normally being longer to enable the practitioner to make a diagnosis. Depending very much on the condition treatment may begin with three to six once weekly treatments, reassessing at the end of that time. On occasions we see people for two or three sessions only, but more often for upward of half a dozen. Generally, when treatment is finished patients will still come to the clinic once every so often, or if something upsets them, just for a top-up.


Qi (pronounced chee), the life force energy of the body, runs in pathways both across the surface of the body and deep inside touching the organs. In a positive state of health these pathways are balanced one with another. However, our lives are full of stresses. Stress, whether long-term, short-term, physical or emotional can easily throw the pathways of Qi out of balance, causing undesirable symptoms. Maybe stress in a marriage will result in persistent migraines and insomnia: perhaps long-term illness will lead to depression which can further complicate the initial problem. Sometimes discontent with one's job might result in chronic fatigue, or even jogging in sore knees.

The body has a remarkable ability for healing itself. However, if the stress is too great or if the body is already for some reason in a weakened state, it may take a long time to heal. Worse still, the body may fail to heal altogether, leaving one with a persistent distressing symptom. At this point, acupuncture, with the insertion of needles into the surface pathways of Qi can cause the symptoms to disappear. The needles do not of themselves make you better: they simply remind the body how to heal itself.

The needles are as fine as horsehair and very sharp. The insertion is virtually painless: some people are unaware that the needle is in. However the movement of energy prompted by the needle sometimes produces a slight jolt. People describe the sensation variously from a tingle to dull ache or a slight shock.

By Bonny Williams
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