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About Traditional Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture, a branch of Chinese medicine established over 2000 years ago, is a technique by which sterile disposable stainless steel needles are inserted at specific points on the body to correct patterns of disharmony. Point selection is based upon subtle Zang-Fu, or organ pattern, diagnosis which is, in turn, based upon patient intake, physical assessment, and tongue and pulse analysis. Acupuncture points are located along meridians, or energy pathways, traversing the tissue network of the body. There are twelve primary meridians – six Yang and six Yin channels – and eight extraordinary vessels. Furthermore, there exist certain points which do not necessarily lie within a specific meridian, including auricular acupuncture. The Qi, Yang, Yin, and blood circulate through the meridians and nourish the organ systems. Needles may be inserted subcutaneously, or at oblique or perpendicular angles depending on the anatomy of the point location.  In general needle depth is determined by the arrival of de Qi.  The patient may experience de Qi as a warm, tingling sensation radiating from the point of insertion, or a sensation of deep, heavy pressure.  The length of needle retention time varies based on patient constitution and types of illness; needles are typically retained for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Chinese Herbal Medicine is thought to predate the practice of acupuncture. Chinese herbal medical history has been traced to the Han Dynasty (25-220 CE), although widely used by the Chinese people prior to this date. Herbal medicine in China evolved over the next several centuries; herbs became categorized based on taste, temperature, action, and channel affiliation. Seven types of herbal combinations were established, delineating synergistic or antagonist effects. While the current Materia Medica in China has nearly 9000 entries, the western texts discuss approximately 500 commonly used herbs of animal, vegetable, and mineral origin. Of the herbal formulas currently prescribed in the United States, most are vegetable – flowers, stems, roots, leaves – or mineral-based. Herbal formulas were traditionally prescribed to be taken as a decoction, or herbal soup. This method of preparation is considered to be highly effective and is widely recommended. However, to adapt to a western market, herbs are now available in granule, draft, or pill form. Herbs and herbal formulas prescribed by this clinic are high quality and are routinely tested for possible contaminants. Chinese herbal medicine also includes the use of herbal plasters and liniments for topical application.

Cupping incorporates the use of a jar attached to the skin by negative pressure secondary to the insertion of ignited material. Cupping is generally used to dispel stagnation and to increase local Qi and blood circulation in the treatment of painful or swollen tissue. While the ancient Chinese used animal horns to perform cupping, bamboo and glass jars are now most commonly used clinically.

Electroacupuncture is administered by attaching a small battery-powered device and electrodes to the tip of an acupuncture needle. The patient may feel a throbbing, pulsating, or tingling sensation in the affected tissue. Electroacupuncture is most commonly used for pain management, and when indicated, is a powerful treatment modality.

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