Understanding Traditional Chinese Medicine | Acupuncture

In general, North American medicine views the body as having isolated parts, and treats the symptoms of poor health separately, based on the part of the body that is experiencing a symptom. This leads to treatments that are separate from each other, and which may, and often do, counter another area of the body. Treatments used are generally based on a one-size-fits-all approach.

Traditional Chinese Medicine, on the other hand, regards each individual as being unique, and takes an overview of all symptoms throughout the body. Its aim is to treat the root cause of all the symptoms — to achieve your total body health. That means all therapeutic and preventive treatments in TCM are customized to you and your specific health requirements. Customized medicine, also referred to as precision medicine, is an emerging medical paradigm that points toward a new direction for future medical development.

There are five methods of assessment used in Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis: inspection (observation), auscultation (listening), olfaction (smelling), palpation (touching), and health history. Combined, these methods provide me with an overview of your total health, inside and out,  allowing me insight into addressing almost any issue you may have, anywhere in your body.

Inspection: Inspection focuses on visual analysis of the face, skin features, and particularly, the tongue. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the surface of the tongue (size, shape, tension, color, and coating) can reveal a lot about a particular disease. Therefore, the tongue diagnosis is considered a cornerstone practice in the diagnostic process.

Auscultation: refers to the analysis of particular sounds which I listen for during your appointment. In TCM, there are five major types of sounds: shouting, laughing, singing, weeping, and groaning. These sounds will be evident in your voice, breathing and word formation and will allow me to evaluate any current excesses or deficiencies you may be experiencing, both physically and emotionally.

Olfaction: Even though sound and smell are considered to be separate senses in Western medicine, auscultation (listening) TCM analysis includes olfaction, which analyzes the smell of body odor. Don’t worry — I won’t be jamming my nose up to you. If you have a scent from an underlying condition, it is more than likely that your condition will alert me without having to actually “sniff” you.

Palpation: refers to analysis by feeling the abdomen, meridian points and, particularly, the wrist pulses. In Western medicine, the pulse is only a minor diagnostic tool, but in Traditional Chinese Medicine it is considered a cornerstone of diagnostics. Pulse diagnosis provides information about:

  1. ‣ the state of balance of the body as a whole, i.e. the state of the Qi, Blood, Yin and Yang, and even the constitution.
  2. ‣ the state of individual organs

In pulse diagnosis, the most important things to assess are:

  • ‣ the relationship of Yin (your body’s physical structure) and Yang (your body’s functions and movements)
  • ‣ relative states of deficiencies and excesses in your body
  • ‣ whether an exterior pathogen is present
  • ‣ health of your life force/ vital energy (Qi) levels

Inquiry: refers to analysis by asking questions about a person’s past health and habits. Traditionally, this included 10 questions, ranging from diet to sleep patterns.

In general terms, diagnosis allows me to take the guesswork of what’s happening with your body, and helps identify the underlying cause of your health problems. It then allows me to target these health issues, and  to promote optimal, natural healing with personalized acupuncture treatments based on your health needs, gathered during your TCM diagnosis. If required, treatments may also include non-needle techniques such as cupping, moxibustion or auriculotherapy.