Qi and the Philosophy of Asian Medicine
One of the most unique aspects of Asian Medicine is that it is very important for the practitioner and the patient to work as a team. The practitioner will work with the patient in healing their physical ailments, but at the same time coaching the patient on the possibility of making lifestyle changes (Diet, Exercise, Stress Relief etc.). In fact in the Nei Jing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic) it says:
“The fourth failing of a physician occurs in counseling. When a physician lacks compassion and sincerity, when a physician is hasty in counseling and does not make the effort to guide the patient’s mind and moods in a positive way, that physician has robbed the opportunity to achieve a cure.” (Chapter 77)
Thus, considering it to be a “failing” if a practitioner does not counsel the patient on making healthy life decisions. Another famous saying in Chinese Medicine reflects this same idea “The greatest doctor has no patients.” Then at the very foundation of Asian Medicine is the idea of Qi (pronounced Chee).
There are many ways to describe what Qi is, truth be told, there is no true way to translate it to the English language. It has been translated as “Life Force”, “Energy”, “Vital Breath”, as well as many others. While there is no single words or ideas in the English language that properly represents Qi, we can experience Qi. Have you ever experienced the sensation you are “Feeling Sick”? How about you are in a room and you instinctively feel as though “Someone is watching you”? How about if you get up in the morning, or go camping or just take a deep breath and feel refreshed?
All these experiences can be related to Qi, just in different instances. No one can tell you definitely what Qi is, but it is always around us. Qi can be likened to the wind, we cannot see it, we cannot smell it, but we can feel it. Try to grasp the wind and it disappears, it makes noise through leaves of trees and mouths of caves. It is always moving, but unlike wind, Qi supports our life, nourishes us and provides the basis of life.
This is how the Ancient Chinese described the ebbs and flow of life. To be perfectly honest, Modern Science has never found any proof or evidence that such a life force as Qi exists. However, if we are to take Qi as a Asian term for “Energy” then science has already found much of what Qi is. Through, the ideas of Heat, Chemical reactions, Physics, Biology, just to name a few, all contain ideas of energy. Our own bodies use various chemical reactions day to day to survive and these reactions all take energy at the cellular level to be completed. Thus, it is our belief that the Ancient Chinese were describing these reactions in the body in a general term, by describing it simply as Qi.
How does Asian Medicine use Qi?
Asian Medicine uses the philosophy of Qi in all aspects of their medicine. It is through this philosophy that Asian medicine seeks to balance the Qi of the human body through the various methods of Acupuncture, Herbs and Meditation. Think of your body as a large network of Rivers, along these rivers, flows the water (Qi) that nourishes the land. As this water flows through the body everything remains balanced, nourished and healthy.
The various “lands” (areas) of the body receive the proper nutrients, they receive the proper amount of blood flow and energy needed for health. As this “Water” flows through the Rivers the body remains in a good state of health. Now, perhaps something happens along any one of these rivers (physical, emotional trauma, poor diet, stress, lack of exercise, pollution, etc.) and this causes tree branches, dirt and muck to dam up the flow of “water”. The “water” (Qi) becomes backed up or stagnate, pooling in some areas, while possibly flooding (causing excess) in another area, while still another area is drying out (causing deficiency).
What we now need is someone to go in there and not only clear out the dam and move the blockage, but also repair where there was flooding and drought. This work may go quickly and smoothly, or because of the flooding and droughts it may take more time to restore the balance. The longer the flow of the “water” was interrupted the longer it can take to fix the areas that were affected. With the analogy above, it is easy to see how one “little” thing can cause a large variety of problems “down stream”.
The healers in Asian Medicine seek to go in and fix these problems, now if you were to have someone do this on your land would you want them to cut down all the trees and dig giant holes and burn vegetation? Simply put, not if it did not have to be done, so this is why we seek to fix the problem by keeping everything the way it was before the blockage. It was once said: “Why use a butcher knife when sometimes you may need a scalpel?” For such delicate procedures we have a vast array of techniques and tools at our disposal that include:
- Diagnosis Procedures
- Tui Na
- Herbal Therapy
- Diet Therapy
- Qigong (Chinese breathing exercises)
- Exercise therapy (Martial arts training, exercises including Tai Chi Chuan, Bagua, Kung Fu etc.)
While every practitioner will use a large variety of diagnosis tools in Asian Medicine it generally falls into 3 broad categories:
This is one of the most basic but important and often used techniques for any medical professional. After all, we cannot very well feel what the patient feels, so questioning is thereby necessary. We need to know what is going on in the body, how are you feeling? When did the dis-ease occur?
At the Water by the River Asian Medicine clinic we will ask these questions and more, ranging from “How do you feel?” to “What do you do to relieve stress?” or “How are the bowels and urination?” to questions seemingly having nothing to do with why you are seeing us: “What emotion do you feel the most?” Asian Medicine asks many questions to get an idea of where the patient is in the disease. Including questions your Western Medical Doctor may ask as well. The big difference though is in Asian Medicine we question to see if specific symptoms are linked and feeding off one another or not.
Again, another broad term that is used by everyone within the Medical Community. Observing is just as the word implies, you are observing the patient and what is happening to them through various senses. Asian Medicine takes it a bit further than simply looking at the patient, Asian Medicine practitioners will try to incorporate every sense available to us. Practitioners of Asian Medicine maybe looking at the specific colors of a patient’s face or skin. Incorporate their sense of hearing and observe how does the patient’s voice sound?
The practitioner’s sense of smell by seeing if a patient has a distinct smell. By questioning, a practitioner may ask a patient if they observe any single tastes. In Asian Medicine all the sights, sounds, tastes and touches can be very indicative of a specific dis-ease. Thus giving us a better overall view of the patient, as well as being able to be very specific in narrowing down specific conditions in what may seem like a “Sea of symptoms”. One thing many practitioners observe or look at is the Tongue in Tongue Diagnosis:
This diagnosis procedure takes much less practice to master than the pulse described below, but the results are no less astounding. This is a technique often employed by Asian Medicine practitioners because it can be fairly objective, meaning if we see the color red on a tongue most others will agree that it is a shade of red. The tongue is also nice because it can show marked changes throughout the course of treatments, allowing patients to not only feel differences in their body, but see them as well. The tongue in general reflects the general state of the body’s organs. When we look at the tongue we are looking at size, shape, color and coating to name a few. As you can see this can be easier to do, and at Water by the River Asian Medicine clinic we will openly explain what we are seeing (and even take pictures) so patients can be involved in their treatments.
Building on observation above, comes palpation, or touch. To many Asian Medicine practitioners this is one of the most used diagnostic methods. Touch can range from feeling a painful area (looking to see if it feels hot/cold to the practitioner), to taking the pulse or feeling the abdomen (abdominal diagnosis). We may trace along specific Meridians (or acupuncture channels, or “Rivers” as described above), feel certain muscles groups etc. Some practitioners may develop their sense of touch to such a high level, that this maybe the only diagnostic tool they use. A good example of this is within the realm of Asian Pulse Diagnosis:
One of the most difficult, but truly amazing diagnosis procedures at our disposal are the pulses. There are a total of Nine pulse positions on each wrist, with 3 levels in depth on each wrist and a possibility of 27 different qualities in each of those 3 levels, thus leaving 1000’s of possibilities on each wrist! Pulse diagnosis is a technique that is highly respected, even within the Asian Medicine field and will take years to understand with no one truly mastering the technique.
Acupuncture is one tool, of many, in the tool box of a Licensed Acupuncturist to treat many diseases. Asian Medicine has been the only form of treatment used by Asian countries in the last 2000 years, so it is a stand alone Medical System. The Chinese, Japanese, Koreans (to name a few) have been using Acupuncture for centuries to treat:
- Prevention of disease
- Digestive disorders
- Gynecological Disorders
- Emotional stress
- Common Colds, Flu etc.
- Post stroke
- Nervous system disorders
- Sleep issues
- Bowel and urination disorders
- And many others
At Water by the River Asian Medicine Clinic, Joe went through a 2,850 hour Master of Sciences program, that included Western Sciences and Eastern Medicine to learn how to treat the above disorders.
Japanese Style Acupuncture is a term used to define a branch of Acupuncture that was developed by the Japanese. It uses Asian Philosophy and medical principals, with a stronger emphasis on palpation, or feeling the body. A Japanese style practitioner uses touch as a diagnostic tool during a treatment, this could be, touching the area of the problem, feeling the stomach (or Hara), rubbing and massaging the channels of Acupuncture etc Another unique aspect of Japanese Acupuncture, is their subtle treatments. The Japanese strongly emphasize very shallow, soft, small needle insertion, so much so that very few people feel the needle at all, I have even had people fall asleep during treatments while I am still inserting the needles.
All treatments are 1 on 1 with the practitioner:
- $90 per 60 min (follow up)
- $110 per hour and a half (New clients)
- $75 per 60 min for private Meditation, Life Coaching and Qigong
Typical treatments are approximately 60 minutes long (for New Clients they are hour and a half), 1 on 1 with the practitioner. Usually I don’t start out asking a lot of questions about what is “going on” or your main complaint, I prefer to start with a thorough hands on examination. This starts with feeling the pulses at the feet, feeling the pulses at the head, feeling the pulses at the wrist and feeling the stomach.
During this time I will begin to ask questions about you and your health, until I get a clear diagnostic picture of what is going on. So, rather than sitting down and focusing only on one thing, through general conversation I get information about your overall health. This, I have found is a more therapeutic and relaxing way for many clients and does not feel as stressful as the usual Q & A. Once I have an idea on diagnosis I begin to treat with any of the numerous Asian Medicine Treatment methods, these could be Acupuncture, Tui Na, Moxa, Gua sha, or even all of them. It all depends on what you need to heal.
Nothing, I have chosen to use the words Asian Medicine rather than TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) because it is more of a general term. There are many branches of Asian Medicine and some of them may not come from China. So it is simply used as a general term.
A Licensed Acupuncturist (L.Ac) has completed at least 2,500 hours of a Master’s program with 700+ hours of supervised clinic time, completed a C.N.T. (Clean Needle Technique) course and completed a National Exam that includes sections specifically on: Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, Diagnosis & Bio (Western) Medicine. They have literally seen nearly 1,000 clients by the time they graduate from school.
While, the above professions are all obviously qualified in their profession, the most training any of the above have received in Acupuncture is Certification (Unless they also have LAc). This is usually a 300 hour course given by the IAMA (International Academy of Medical Acupuncture) that is sometimes taught by Licensed Acupuncturists. During this course they do cover diagnosis and Acupuncture but may or may not incorporate many of the deeper aspects of Asian Medicine, nor do they usually require that much clinic time. No to mention, most of the above practitioners do not only do Acupuncture, they use Acupuncture to supplement their own healing modalities.
It would be wonderful if I could say one, but to be honest the human body does not work that way. It can depend on numerous factors, such as:
- Is your digestion working properly so you are getting the proper nutrition from your food to heal?
- Are you sleeping properly, or getting enough rest to allow your body to heal?
- Have you formed body habits, in the ways of holding the body structure wrong that have to be corrected?
- Do you have a negative mind set about yourself or your health?
Though, in general, if the problem has been going on for years (gynecological issues, headaches, digestive problems etc.), it will take some time to change the pattern that has been learned in the body. This of course can depend on you as well, if you take up exercise, eating right, relieving stress you can possibly see dramatic results rather quickly. For chronic issues, we really have to re-train the body from months to years of it learning a specific pattern.
Look at it this way, your body is not really that much different from a professional athlete, or the world record holder of the mile run, what is different is how we train our bodies to behave. If you train your body, by sitting improperly, holding the shoulders tight when stressed, looking at a computer for 8-10 hours a day, eating poorly, it will develop a pattern. If you do this for a few years, just like an athlete, it will take awhile to get the body “back on track”.
More recent traumas or injuries (Sprains, strains, colds, nausea etc.) will generally take less time and you should notice improvements fairly quickly. The benefit of 1 on 1 treatment is we are able to gauge the level of which you are improving during the treatment. So if you come in with pain, the pain should diminish during the treatment.
Yes, acupuncture does work! However, Acupuncture and Asian Medicines are not “miracle treatments” or “magic bullets” and no medicine works for everyone. If this were true there would be no disease and people would not be plagued by health problems. What we have found works best is when people want to make positive lifestyle changes (quit smoking, eat better, exercise, get enough sleep etc.) and then we simply support their lifestyle. Sometimes despite all the work you put into a healthy lifestyle the body has still learned patterns that can cause discomfort to you. This is where we come in, to be able to break these patterns and essentially re-train the body.
How to Book an Appointment
Call us at 402-488-6100 to schedule an appointment.
What is integrative medicine?
Integrative medicine is healing-oriented medicine that takes account of the whole person (body, mind, and spirit), including all aspects of lifestyle. It emphasizes the therapeutic relationship and makes use of all appropriate therapies, both conventional and alternative.