TCM acupuncture



1. TCM acupuncture is a unique empirical medicine. 

TCM acupuncture is an alternative medicine developed in thousands of years of clinical practice in China. Ancient Chinese doctors applied ancient philosophies to understand the human body’s function, the nature of a disease, and the prognosis of an illness. They also used Eastern philosophies to summarize and organize their clinical experiences.


To pass down their experiences ancient acupuncturists recorded their experiences in books, so nowadays, we can safely and effectively utilize their precious knowledge. TCM acupuncture came from a repeated cycle of “practice to theory to practice.”


2. The BC authority regulates TCM acupuncture

Like any alternative medicine, acupuncture may bring beneficial or harmful effects to a patient. Suppose a diagnosis is correct and a needling technique is good, a practitioner should have a good effect on a patient.  


Twenty years ago in Victoria, anyone could practise acupuncture and call himself an acupuncturist whether he got adequate training. For public safety, the BC government started to regulate this profession in 2000. 


The governing body is the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists. It regulates traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and acupuncture in British Columbia, excluding other forms of acupuncture. 


CTCMA adopted the TCM framework from China, so its educational guideline is very close to China’s. Because of this, BC’s TCM education ranked at the top across Canada. CTCMA still keeps its original requirement for all of its practitioners.


A licensed acupuncturist can treat a patient in a similar way that ancient acupuncturists did. He or she needs an intensive study of ancient literature to understand why and how ancient doctors practised in that way, in other words, his or her practice is based on TCM theory.


3. What makes TCM acupuncture special?

As the second principal component of TCM, acupuncture took its form far before modern medicine developed. It understands a disease from four aspects named by syndrome (zheng, 证). The “syndrome” is a unique TCM term.


These four aspects are a) causes of disease, b) the general manifestation of “hot (heat)” or “cold,” c) which region/area in the body is affected, and d) the state of the body’s overall resistance.


Since it is the TCM way practitioners treat disease, CTCMA requires all BC acupuncturists to be able to diagnose a disease syndrome and treat it accordingly.


4. What is the relation between TCM and acupuncture?

There are three prominent members in the house of TCM — Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, and tuina (Chinese style of massage). Others are qi gong (kinds of meditation), Tai Ji Chuan (types of martial art).


TCM is a term that focuses more on medicine, while acupuncture or herbal medicine focuses more on treatment. TCM deals with physiology, pathology, etiology, treatment principles and preventive strategies.


Ancient Chinese doctors adopted ancient philosophies (qi, yin yang, five elements) to explicit their clinical experiences. In this way, they added fleshes to the philosophy skeleton from time to time in different regions in China, eventually building up a gigantic TCM house.


5. What marked the theoretical and practical establishment of TCM acupuncture?

In 282 AD, Dr. Huangfu Mi wrote a book, Zhen Jiu Jia Yi Jing, which marked the establishment of clinical acupuncture. 


This book covers all aspects of acupuncture, including yin yang, five elements, qi and blood, internal organs, etiology, pathology, diagnosis, diseases and treatment, needle manipulation technique, and disease prognosis. 


It is wrong to say that acupuncture has a history of 5000 years, although archaeologists found acupuncture needles made with stone, dating back to Neolithic Age. 


6. Meridian and collateral theory is a unique part of TCM acupuncture.

TCM acupuncture weighs more than herbal medicine on the Channels and collaterals (Jing Luo, 经络) system, a network connecting all body parts. While this network links the internal organs to four limbs and orifices, Qi and blood flow inside and reach all body regions. Furthermore, it conducts senses or impulses to and from different body parts.


There are fourteen main channels and many other supplementary channels which travel down and up the body. About 365 regular acupoints distribute along these channels, while many other points are outside these main channels. These acupoints are the spots for the insertion of needles.


The channel and colleterial theory overlap Western medicine’s cardiovascular, endocrine, and nervous systems. Stimulating these points will affect these systems to produce therapeutic effects.


7. TCM diagnosis guides acupuncture treatment.

Understanding “syndrome” (zheng, 证) is fundamental to practicing TCM acupuncture. The syndrome is a collective concept of heat/cold, excess /deficiency, causes, and specific body regions. An acupuncturist is ready to choose channels and acupoints and operate needles only when the syndrome is determined.


Just like herbs, acupoints have different functions. Some points have cooling effects, like Rong – spring points or Jing–well points, suitable for treating heat syndrome. Some have warming effects, like Ren 3 and Ren 4, ideal for the deficiency cold syndrome pattern. These are examples of traditional Chinese acupuncture treatments.


8. What are TCM acupuncture therapeutic mechanisms?

Inserting and stimulating acupuncture needles at relevant acupoints crossing the skin conducts sensations through channels to inner organs. The internal organs respond to the stimulation by re-balance yin yang and activating qi and blood. As a result, zheng qi (正气, resistance) rises, and Xue qi (邪气, pathogen) retreats.


TCM acupuncture can reduce inflammatory biomarkers and increase serotonin and endogenous opioid neurotransmitters to stop the pain. It can raise the pain threshold in the brain, improve the patient’s pain tolerance, and make a patient not sensitive to pain.


Here is an easy way to help understand how acupuncture can stop pain. Our body is much brighter than we can imagine. Our body is consistently damaged here and there, and at the same time, it persistently repairs itself. When a metal needle gets into the body, the body smartly detects it and fights against it. Instead of removing the metal, it brings more qi (energy) to work on the affected area.


In TCM theory, blockage by blood stasis (clots), qi stagnation, or phlegm causes pain. TCM acupuncture can open channels and promote the flow of qi and blood to remove the “blockage.”


9. What are the disorders treated by this oriental art?

Literaturally, just like herbs, acupuncture can treat all kinds of diseases, but in fact, no medicine can treat everything. This therapy is especially good at fixing some conditions but not others, the same as Chinese herbal medicines.


Ancient doctors said acupuncture is better for a “shallow” condition than herbs for a “deeper” disorder. Choose acupuncture for muscle or joint pain while considering herbs first for a lung infection. 


Acupuncture is suitable for pain (headache, migrant, body aches), anxiety, depression, insomnia, PMS, amenorrhea, and more. If a condition is relatively severe, combining it with Chinese herbal medicines is better.




Internal links: 


Acupoints selection

Acupuncture for amenorrhea

Acupuncture for dysmenorrhea

Zhen Jiu Jia Yi Jing