Traditional Chinese Medicine / Acupuncture

Traditional Chinese MedicineTraditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a whole medical system developed in China thousands of years ago. It is based on the concept that disease and injury are the result of a disruption or imbalance of qi (an essential substance that nourishes and constructs the body). This imbalance may create pain if the body’s qi is not moving properly through a specific area. The imbalance may create a variety of symptoms. Insomnia, digestion upset, palpitations, anxiety, and fatigue are a few examples. TCM theory groups these symptoms together to show an underlying pattern of what has been affected in the body and what aspects to treat to restore the health of the individual.Traditional Chinese Medicine uses a variety of tools to correct these imbalances. The most well known tool is acupuncture; however, TCM also includes the techniques moxibustion, cupping, gua sha, herbal prescription, tai chi, and qi gong. Acupuncture consists of the insertion of fine needles into the body at specific points shown to be effective in the treatment of specific health problems. These points have been mapped by the Chinese over a period of two thousand years and there are more than a thousand known points. In the past three decades research has confirmed the existence and location of these points. Traditional Chinese acupuncture is based on ancient theories of the flow of qi through distinct channels that cover the body. These channels are somewhat like the nerves and blood vessels. According to this theory, acupuncture adjusts the flow of qi in the body. By restoring the free flow of qi in the body, acupuncture harmonizes and balances the body for optimal health and performance.The World Health Organization (WHO) and National Institutes of Health (NIH): Review on Health and Traditional Chinese MedicineIt is important to understand what is meant by the word ‘health’. The World Health Organization defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”NIH Consensus of Acupuncture reported in 1997 that “studies have demonstrated that acupuncture can cause multiple biological responses, mediated mainly by sensory neurons to many structures within the central nervous system. This can lead to activation of pathways affecting various physiological systems in the brain as well as in the periphery. Acupuncture may also activate the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, resulting in a broad spectrum of systemic effects. Alteration in the secretion of neurotransmitters and neurohormones and changes in the regulation of blood flow, both centrally and peripherally have been documented. There is also evidence of alterations in immune functions produced by acupuncture.”Thanks to increased funding by the National Institute of Health and the increased acceptance of acupuncture in the medical community, research into the benefits, safety, and mechanism of acupuncture has grown tremendously in recent years. Though difficult to quantify under the “gold standard” double blind, placebo controlled, randomized trials new innovations are breaking open the doors to acupuncture research and demonstrating what our patients already know- acupuncture works and can be considered a viable option for a wide variety of complaints:

  • Adverse reactions to radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy
  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Biliary colic
  • Depression
  • Dysentery
  • Dysmenorrhoea, primary
  • Epigastralgia, acute (in peptic ulcer, acute and chronic gastritis, and gastrospasm)
  • Facial pain
  • Headache
  • Hypertension, essential
  • Hypotension, primary
  • Induction of labour
  • Knee pain
  • Leukopenia
  • Low back pain
  • Malposition of fetus, correction of
  • Morning sickness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Neck pain
  • Pain in dentistry (including dental pain and temporomandibular dysfunction)
  • Periarthritis of shoulder
  • Postoperative pain
  • Renal colic
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Sciatica
  • Sprain
  • Stroke
  • Tennis elbow


Moxibustion shares much of the same long history as acupuncture; in fact, acupuncture and moxibustion (zhenjiu) have been used together for centuries. Moxibustion is a primary treatment technique and not just as an adjunct to acupuncture. Generally speaking, moxibustion is a form of heat therapy that utilizes the herb mugwort (artemisia vulgaris, ai ye) to treat and prevent illness. Moxa is applied in many different forms, including burning the moxa directly onto the skin, indirectly above the skin, on top of a barrier (ginger, garlic, etc) and on top of needles. Therapeutically, moxibustion is used commonly for internal conditions such as abdominal disturbances, men and women’s health and for many musculoskeletal injuries such as tendinopathies and bursitis.

Tui Na

Tui Na massage therapy (pronounced tway-naw) is a medical physical manipulation therapy that formally became a part of Chinese medical instruction and practice over 1300 years ago. It is literally translated as “push and grasp”. It is considered an integral part of Chinese medicine to be used solely in certain circumstances and often in conjunction with acupuncture, herbal medicine, physical rehabilitation exercises, cupping, moxibustion, qigong, etc. for the treatment of a wide variety of internal and musculoskeletal disorders. The practitioner utilizes various (and unique) hand techniques to roll, grasp, press, rub, percussion, and stretch the areas between the joints in addition to manipulating the joints themselves with traction and assisted ranges of motion. The purpose is to facilitate improved circulation of qi and blood through the acupuncture meridians, muscles and joints, organs, and restore healthy physiological function, promote increased rehabilitation from injury, and alleviate pain. Tui na is one of the most effective and comprehensive forms of massage therapy and is usually performed with the patients clothes on and with minimal to no use of oils or creams. It is simultaneously relaxing and invigorating and has far-reaching therapeutic benefits. In modern China, tui na is used extensively in the treatment of sports injuries, traumatology, orthopedic disorders, and various other internal disorders.

Chinese Herbal Medicine

Chinese Herbal MedicineChinese herbal medicine is a vital component to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Chinese herbs are most commonly used in combination in a formula. In contrast to pharmaceutical medications that contain a concentrated element, Chinese herbal formulas can be modified for the individual to reduce the risk of side effects while still having therapeutic effects. These formulas work within the same Traditional Chinese Medicine theory as acupuncture. Additionally, many single herbs have been studied and shown to individually have specific effects on specific conditions. Chinese herbs may be used internally and externally. They can be taken in tea or pill form. For external use, commonly herbs are applied to the skin in a powdered form mixed with a medium to allow them to stay put. Additionally herbs may be soaked in a medium to create a liniment that may be rubbed into the skin. Herbal products can treat a variety of conditions, including colds, digestive disorders, insomnia, headaches, arthritis, skin disorders, asthma, and many other problems usually treated with prescription medications.

Gua Sha

Gua Sha is a technique that has a similar effect to cupping as it also stimulates the flow of blood and moves qi in the body’s channels. This is achieved by rubbing and object, commonly a Chinese soup spoon, over the skin. This can leave marks similar to those that cupping leaves. Gua sha is intended to create temporary marks on the skin, and these reddened-purple marks are a physiological reaction that brings more oxygen and blood to the region. The reddened-purple reaction is the breaking of small capillaries that stimulates the bodies reaction to increase cellular metabolism thereby beneficial in increasing blood and oxygen infiltration. Tissue stiffness and adhesions from chronic injury can alter the normal fluid exchange in the tissues that then accumulates cellular metabolites and by-products that becomes locked in the tissues. Gua sha is a traditional medical technique and frequently used by TCM practitioners that break’s up fascial adhesions and increases blood and oxygen flow to the region. Its therapeutic application is very similar to the modern Graston Technique used by physical therapists, chiropractors, and athletic trainers. See below for a description of the Graston Technique.


Cupping utilizes a vacuum inside of a glass cup to create suction on the skin. This helps to stimulate the flow of blood and moves qi in the body’s channels. Cupping can be used to treat respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, asthma, and congestion; arthritis; gastrointestinal disorders; and certain types of pain. Cupping may leave marks on the skin similar to a bruise; however, the marks are usually painless and disappear in a few days.

Graston Technique

Graston Technique is very similar to the TCM technique of gua sha. The Graston technique does not leave marks on the patients skin therefore the same physiological process of gua sha is not achieved. The efficacy of the Graston Technique is based on various instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilizations that enables clinicians to effectively break down scar tissue and fascial restrictions. The technique utilizes specially designed stainless steel instruments to specifically and effectively treat areas exhibiting soft tissue fibrosis or chronic inflammation.

Sports Medicine Acupuncture ®

Sports Medicine Acupuncture®Sports medicine is a broad and complex branch of health care that involves several disciplines. Essentially, sports medicine applies western medical and scientific knowledge to prevent, recognize, assess, manage and rehabilitate injuries related to sport, exercise or recreational activity. Sports medicine is targeted not only to the professional athlete but the person with an athletic or active lifestyle to enhance health, fitness and performance. Sports medicine is used by a variety of health care professionals and is practiced in a number of venues with overlapping but distinct areas of expertise. This includes athletic trainers, acupuncturists, massage therapists, podiatrists, dietitians, psychologists, exercise physiologists, chiropractors, surgeons, physical therapists and several other specialties. Each health care discipline practicing under the umbrella of sports medicine has the same goal of rehabilitating the injured athlete back to full participation and function. The athlete young or old, professional or recreational are those individuals that use regular exercise to obtain health.Sports Medicine Acupuncture contains both Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Sports Medicine diagnostic techniques used to view the patient’s injury from each of these different perspectives. With both the professional and recreational athlete, the goal is to accurately assess the mechanism and severity of the patient’s musculoskeletal complaint. This is accomplished by using a combination of orthopedic special tests, range of motion, manual muscle testing and palpation to identify the injured tissue. These techniques used to assess local stagnation are joined with TCM differential diagnosis, providing a paradigm of the athlete’s local injury and overall health (Qi, Blood, Yin, Yang, Shen). The objective of this combination, Sports Medicine Acupuncture is to address the athlete’s healing potential thereby strengthening the patient, and as a result, decreases injury rehabilitation time. Getting the athlete back to their desired activity, enhancing performance and preventing re-injury through treatment and education is the goal.

Postural Assessment and Corrective Exercise

Postural Assessment and Corrective ExerciseTraditional Chinese Medical philosophy has looked at the way nature affects the balance of the body for thousands of years. One natural element that has a constant effect on the human structure is gravity. With postural imbalance, the musculoskeletal system cannot efficiently counter the effects of gravity. Combined with work and sports related activities, postural imbalances eventually lead to overuse and acute injuries. Successful and long-lasting results will require not only addressing the injured tissue but the postural deviations that created or predisposed the person to injury. At Old Town Acupuncture and Wellness we analyze posture from both static and functional positions. Measuring posture in a functional position helps to reveal abnormal movement patterns, muscle imbalance and postural distortions that may not have been evident in the static position. Measuring posture is a valuable tool in not only assessing the cause of injury and pain, but it can also help to prevent it. Anyone from the casual walker, a desk worker, the weekend warrior to the professional athlete can benefit from this type of evaluation.

Functional Medicine

Functional medicine (FM) seeks to identify and address the root causes of disease, and views the body as one integrated system, not a collection of independent organs divided up by medical specialties, much as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) does.

FM believes that “diet, nutrition, and exposure to environmental toxins play a central  role because they may predispose a person to illness, provoke symptoms, and effect the body chemistry and nervous system, causing many problems with hormone levels, blood chemistry, and nerve reactions throughout the body, not to mention food sensitivities/allergies, and intestinal related issues, and more.

FM is a medical approach that focuses on identifying the causes of disease rather than treating the symptoms. It utilizes lab testing, and in conjunction with Chinese Medicine, helps to understand the depth of possible toxicity, deficiencies, and imbalances impacting health. The goal of this partnership is to bring the patient back to health as well as to teach the patient about the core principles of health maintenance and prevention.FM seeks to understand the origins of chronic disease so that meaningful treatment and prevention methods can be developed and implemented. The functional medicine approach is a partnership between the patient and the doctor. With FM, the “healthy” lab ranges are different than the “normal” lab ranges used in western medicine. They are much more specific to what a “healthy” person’s lab values should show. This would mean, when viewing a lab value that is just a little out of the FM range of “healthy”, we’d be able to recognize if a future illness might be developing, therefore enabling treatment to happen before too much damage has been done internally.

The following are typical areas that would be evaluated:

  • Comprehensive medical history
  • Evaluation of the patient’s lifestyle and environmental factors.
  • Functional outcomes based laboratory workup (including: comprehensive blood panel; sensitivity testing for gluten and other allergens; and possibly testing for organ/glandular systems in distress
  • Comprehensive physical evaluation
  • Education based approach so that ultimately the patient is less dependent on the doctor to maintain their health.

Male and Female Fertility

Male and Female FertilityReproduction can be negatively effected by high stress levels, overwork, poor dietary habits, lack of sleep, and lifestyle choices. It’s important to make sure that all areas are addressed for the best outcome, not just for conception, but also throughout the pregnancy and afterwards. Some ways in which Traditional Chinese Medicine helps fertility are:

  • Balances the organs and glands of the endocrine system that secrete and utilize the hormones ruling over conception.
  • Regulates the blood in the vessels to remove any impediments that might prevent conception (such as fibroids, polyps, and cysts.)
  • Calms and relaxes the patient so that blood and nutrients can be directed towards the reproductive organs and enriches the endometrium as well as stimulate egg production and maturation.
  • Increases sperm production and motility, as well as lessen morphological factors.

Women’s Health and Gynecological Issues

Oriental medicine Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been effectively treating women’s health issues for over two thousand years. TCM looks at the body as a whole, not just the symptoms present, which can help the body stay in balance, therefore preventing future health issues. Some of the conditions that can be treated are:

  • Migraines/headaches
  • PMS symptoms
  • Menopausal symptoms e.g. hot flushes, night sweats, irritability, vaginal dryness.
  • Dysmenorrhea (painful menses)
  • Amenorrhea (no menses)
  • Ovarian Cysts/Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
  • Endometriosis
  • Uterine Fibroids
  • Infertility
  • Morning sickness & pregnancy related problems
  • ART (Assisted Reproductive Therapies such as Invitro Fertilization (IVF) and Inuterine Insemination (IUI)
  • Postpartum support
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