A practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine may specialize in acupuncture only or herbal medicine only; other practitioners practice both. On its own, each therapy system can effectively treat a wide range of diseases.
However, most practitioners agree that a highly effective treatment consists of a combination of acupuncture and herbal medicine. A typical treatment plan might consist of an acupuncture treatment once a week with herbs taken between treatments.
This combination of acupuncture and herbal therapy is applied often in the West, where most people must pay out of their own pockets for acupuncture treatments. In China's socialized medical system, a person might receive free acupuncture daily for two weeks as a course of treatment, take a break for a few days, and then undergo another course of treatment.
But in the West, unless a patient's insurance policy covers alternative medical practices, this sort of treatment plan is simply too expensive for most people. Using herbal therapy between acupuncture treatments provides continuous treatment at a lower cost to the patient.
Acupuncture and herbal therapy also work in a synergistic fashion, supporting each other. In the case of a knee injury, for example, acupuncture needles are inserted at the site of injury to increase the flow of qi to the injured area. To accentuate the effect, herbs are prescribed that have a general strengthening and anti-inflammatory action.
As the inflammation subsides, moxibustion and massage are added to the treatment plan. As the patient's condition further improves, qi gong and tai qi exercises are added to the treatment plan to bring additional strength and qi flow to the area of healing.
There is no typical duration of treatment in traditional Chinese medicine, since each case is treated individually. A person with an acute, but simple, condition might feel completely free of illness and pain after just one acupuncture treatment, while another person with a chronic disorder might require weekly acupuncture and daily herbal medicine for a few months before the condition is rectified. In all cases, however, the practitioner chooses the treatment modality he or she believes will be most effective in view of the practitioner's experience and the individual receiving treatment.
While all the treatment methods described here are part of an ancient tradition, Chinese medicine continues to evolve. New treatment modalities have been tested and introduced, such as electroacupuncture (in which a mild electrical current is applied to the needles to provide a stronger and more continuous stimulation -- a useful technique when stronger stimulation is desired, as in cases of paralysis), magnetic therapy, laser acupuncture (in which the points are stimulated with a special laser, a technique favored by people afraid of needles), and various types of healing radiation.
With the wealth of knowledge from the past joining the ingenuity of the future, traditional Chinese medicine possesses a powerful set of tools for the treatment of disharmony and disease in all its forms.
In the next section of this article, learn how the properties of different foods help them to play a role in this arsenal of treatment tools.For more about traditional Chinese medicine, treatments, cures, beliefs, and other interesting topics, see:
- How Traditional Chinese Medicine Works
- How to Treat Common Ailments with Traditional Chinese Medicine
- Traditional Chinese Medicine for Coughs, Colds, Flu, and Allergies
- Traditional Chinese Medicine for the Digestive System
- Traditional Chinese Medicine for Pain Relief
- Traditional Chinese Medicine for Overall Health