TCM, What’s That?

About two weeks ago I had to go to a clinic. This clinic visit isn’t what you might think it was though. I haven’t gotten sick or had to go to the hospital since I have been here (knock on wood). I also haven’t gotten injured. You might be thinking, why were you at a clinic then? Well, we went to a clinic to learn about this thing that’s very popular in China and quietly popular all around the world: Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Traditional Chinese Medicine, commonly referred to as TCM, is over 2,500 years old.  Despite its wide popularity, most people don’t realize how frequently TCM is practiced in Western society. TCM encompasses techniques such as acupuncture, chiropractic practices, scraping of dead skin, and cupping. The last practice mentioned, cupping, was made famous by the media at the 2016 Summer Olympics by swimmers.

It was an interesting experience to say the least. The person who explained TCM to us taught us about many interesting concepts that encompass this practice. One of the most interesting portions was about the 6 excesses. The six excesses are: wind, coldness, dampness, fire, dryness, and heat. He explained to us that these excesses can form internally or are due to external forces acting upon us.

One example had to do with neck pain. It is believed that if someone lives in a windy area, the wind constantly blowing against the back of their head might cause the ache and pains that one might feel in their neck. In order to alleviate these pains, you might need to massage, use acupuncture, or utilize a method that potentially involves another excess that might counteract the one that is troubling you.

Amelia, one of the girls in my program, had a throat issue that was really bugging her. The man performing the TCM was convinced that acupuncture would help. We were all skeptical that he was about to put a needle in her throat to alleviate the “coldness” or something that he believed was bothering her and causing the issue that she was grappling with—we definitely weren’t sold on his methods.

To our surprise, he inserted a needle on the top of her hand. He placed it in-between her thumb and pointer finger, along a “median” that allegedly alleviates issues in the throat. He told us that there are medians that run all along the body and when you receive acupuncture, the needles are placed along these medians depending on what ailment you are dealing with. She had the needle in her hand for around 20-ish minutes and when it was taken out, she noticed immediately that her throat felt immensely better. Now I don’t know if I am a full believer who has totally bought into TCM yet, but after watching many of these different experiences with people in our group, like Amelia, many of us started to get interested in the practice.

I think that these positive experiences are why so many athletes use TCM methods for their recovery and prevention methods in training. High level athletes all around the world are doing the same thing that villagers in rural China have been doing for thousands of years in order to stay at the height of their game. It’s an interesting phenomenon in a time where medicine had become so advanced and progressions in medicine are happening at a blistering rate. I encourage those who haven’t tried acupuncture, cupping, and scraping to give it a try. Who knows, you could fall in love with the movement that so many around the world have already bought into in order to keep their body feeling good and ready to go.