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What To Expect At A TCM Appointment

The Practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine

Whilst just like modern orthodox doctors have their own styles of running clinics, in the West, practitioners often follow the working style outlined here.

The First Visit: TCM practitioners usually conduct a full health consultation, involving basic questions, looking at the patient’s tongue and feeling their pulse.  They then use one or more methods to address the diagnosis by trying to beneficially influence the condition of the body’s vital energy, the Qi. This can include acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, electro-acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary therapy, tui na massage and Qi gong exercise. Generally, practitioners use couches like massage tables to make their patients comfy, although some may use chairs if treating patients in a group setting or if the patient finds it too painful to climb onto a couch, as in a pain condition.

Typical couch type used in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Typical couch type used in Traditional Chinese Medicine

Acupuncture uses insertion of extremely thin sterile needles into areas of the body. It is common for the lower limbs and arms to be needled. The needles stay in place for a short time, during which the practitioner may fractionally move them, to ‘stimulate’ the Qi response. They are then removed for disposal (most needles are single-use only).  In comparison to a regular hospital needle, they may be up to 32 x smaller diameter. Electro-acupuncture uses special machines with connectors which attach to needles to provide low level electrical stimulation, instead of manual stimulation. Ear acupuncture uses points on the exterior par of the ear and may be combined with body acupuncture poitns or sometimes used alone.

Acupuncture treatment

Acupuncture treatment

Cupping uses spherical glass ‘cups’, with a hole at one end, heated quickly to create a vacuum and placed onto the skin. Be aware cupping can leave some round shaped pink, red or purply cupping marks on the skin which fade in a few days – but they can look quite alarming if you haven’t been warned before hand. If you were plannign to wear a backless dress for example, as Gwyneth Paltrow famously did for a red-carpet occassion, it is strongly reccomneded you inform the practitioner if they propose cupping as you will end up with the temporary marks that Gywneth was famously photographed with all over her back.

Moxibustion uses mugwort herb, often in a tightly packed roll like a ‘cigar’, which is burnt to gently release moxa vapours over affected areas. A traditional method is placing loose moxa, which has a texture a little like cotton wool, onto the end of acupuncture needles and burning it there. Some practitioners also use moxa ‘boxes’ which hold the burning moxa but allow for the vapours to be released towards the affected area.

Chinese herbs can be made into a tea

Chinese herbs can be made into a tea

Herbal Medicine uses herbs from the TCM ‘Materia Medica’, comprehensive documented herbs which have been observed over centuries to have therapeutic effects. Herbs are often combined and taken as pills, powders to which a little hot water is added for drinking, or most traditionally as decoctions, meaning boiled with water to make a ‘soup’ to drink.

TCM also uses dietary therapy

TCM also uses dietary therapy

Dietary therapy advises which foods are beneficial for each individual patient according to their condition and utilises the same theoretical approach as herbal prescription.

Qi Gong uses gentle exercises to rebalance the body’s Qi. Many people practise Qi gong to maintain good health, and to enhance artistic abilities.

Tui Na is translated as a massage therapy but involves diagnosis using TCM theory and specific massage movements with the condition.

Chinese tea photo credit Vegetables

DISCLAIMER: NO information here is intended to be taken as medical advice – or used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Any person with any health concerns is advised instead to consult their doctor. In the case of persons seeking therapy using Traditional Chinese Medicine, this information cannot be taken as medical advice and persons are advised instead to consult a suitably qualified professional practitioner.

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