Chinese medicine is a comprehensive ancient system of medicine with many modern uses that people can benefit from today. Therapies include acupuncture, acupressure, cupping, exercises, gua sha, herbal medicine, moxibustion, nutrition and tui na.
A practitioner of Chinese medicine will conduct a thorough health and lifestyle evaluation and may employee one or more of these modalities. These therapies help to restore the natural flow of qi, commonly called energy, and bring balance to your body.
Chinese medicine has been used in Asia for more than 2,000 years. Awareness of acupuncture began to grow in the United States of America during the 1970s. Many people in the USA are now integrating acupuncture into their health care.
Cupping involves the use of cups, most commonly made of glass, plastic and silicone, on the skin to remove stagnation and promote the smooth flow of qi. Practically speaking, many find this helps relieve their pain and stiffness in commonly painful areas like the back and shoulders.
Qigong and Tai Chi are gentle exercises that almost anyone can do. Tai Chi may be a good regular exercise regimen for the frail and elderly looking to prevent falls, maintain balance, coordination and muscle mass without the demands of more rigorous exercises. A 2017 systematic review and meta-analysis found that, “Tai Chi is effective for preventing falls in older adults.”
Several studies have shown positive health benefits with regular qigong and tai chi practice. A comprehensive review of health benefits of qigong and tai chi in 2010 found that “research has demonstrated consistent, significant results for a number of health benefits.” A 2016 literature review of modern research concluded that, “there is abundant evidence on the health and fitness effects of tai chi.”
Gua sha is the use of a tool to rub or scrap the skin, with long strokes, to help move qi and relieve stagnation. This may promote circulation and blood flow and relieve pain and muscle soreness. A study published in 2007 found, “Gua Sha increases microcirculation local to a treated area, and that increase in circulation may play a role in local and distal decrease in myalgia.” A study published in 2018 concluded that, “Gua Sha appears to be an acceptable, safe, and effective treatment for patients with chronic low back pain.”
Herbal medicine and nutrition
Moxabustion (moxa) is an herbal heat therapy that involves burning the dried plant Mugwort over acupuncture points. This warming therapy increases circulation to the local tissues and the warmth may radiate through acupuncture channels. This may provide pain relief and improved energy and well-being.
A meta-analysis for warm needle moxibustion on lumbar disk herniation found it “had a similar rate with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).” For irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) patients, a systematic review and meta-analysis of IBS moxa randomised controlled trials “suggests that moxibustion may provide benefit to IBS patients.”
Moxa has historically been used for breech presentations. One study concluded, “Acupuncture plus moxibustion is more effective than observation in revolving fetuses in breech presentation. Such a method appears to be a valid option for women willing to experience a natural birth.”
Many people find this non-invasive therapy relaxing, especially on a cold winter day. Moxa may be combined with salt and other herbs like garlic and ginger.
Tui na involves the therapeutic use of body work, massage and herbal liniments and ointments to move qi and remove stagnation, thereby restoring harmony to the body. This can be relaxing and help reduce stress.
You will find many articles on Chinese medicine modalities at PubMed.