The final look at our movement week is in the Asian styles of getting chronic pain patients back on their feet. I have had the opportunity to partake in both of these disciplines and I may be a little too close to the subject matter. The fact is, I thoroughly enjoyed both of these methods. I would recommend either of these methods gladly, if only insurance would recognize their benefits as well and pay for them! Se la vie. Here’s the information on our Asian methods:
Acupuncture/Traditional Chinese Medicine: I put these two together because, although many people think of acupuncture as a therapy by itself, it is actually just a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. TCM and Acupuncture are over 5,000 years old and they work with the body’s qi (chi) or vital energy/life force. The FDA did not move acupuncture from the experimental to “medical device” until 1997, but it has been used in the US since the first Chinese immigrants arrived. For Westerners, we can only speculate about how acupuncture works. We do know that practitioners use blunted needles that are placed along the meridian lines and this causes the qi to flow more optimally. Acupuncture has been used successfully for pain relief, nausea and vomiting reduction, and other problems including smoking and weight loss help. As we said, acupuncture is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and should be used as such, not by itself. TCM is based on the concepts of yin-yang (direct opposites) and the five elements theory; fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. A practitioner of TCM has a master’s degree with 2,175 hours of TCM specific studies and clinical internship. They are tested by the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine's (NCCAOM). Many students go on to receive further studies in Herbal Medicine. A session with a TCM will start off with the practitioner evaluation. They will observe (especially the tongue), use hearing & smelling, interviewing the patient, and palpating (touching). The treatment can offer heat (via lamps and pads), Chinese massage, cupping, moxibustion, acupuncture, Qigong (meditative movement), and herbal medicine. On a personal note. I have never been more cared for than when I was being treated by my TCM. Now if it was only covered by insurance.
Tai Chi & Qigong: I was a practitioner, or player, of Tai Chi Chuan years before my disability. The name means “Grand Ultimate Fist (or Boxing)”, and is a martial art that has been found to have great health benefits above and beyond the martial aspect. There are three family styles of Tai Chi, but all have the same principle. They go through postures, very slowly and never really stopping at each one, but moving through them fluidly. It focuses on the proper shapes for the transmission of energy, the methods of single weightedness, and techniques of breath control and relaxation. Practiced regularly, one becomes supple, calm, and has increased balance. One of the key problems of Tai Chi today is finding a proper teacher. Too many people today have taken only a year or so of practice and only focus on the meditative qualities, which means they miss the proper movements. A good practitioner should have spent a minimum of five years practice, know the family history of their style, understand the martial application of Tai Chi, and be calm but firm in their training. I was quite blessed, my teacher was already 75 years old, had spent his whole life as a martial arts teacher in China and Taiwan before moving to the US, and had a wonderful way of teaching; even if it was only in his native Mandarin!
Qigong is much the same. The translation is loosely read as “energy cultivation”. It is attributed to the Yellow Emperor, c. 168BC, and his classic work, Book of Internal Medicine. The original meditative practice of breathing and gymnastic movements. Although there can be different types of Qi Gong, the term today normally means the static training; those are standing exercises done individually. Each exercise is done slowly and with specific breathing, based on the same concepts as all TCM. This method is also one that would require the patient to be able to concentrate for long periods of time. The forms can be tiring, although not exactly taxing upon the body. Working with a proper teacher is essential, but like it’s brother Tai Chi, difficult to find. Look at the Qi Gong Institute on the web to hopefully find a teacher in your area.
I have enjoyed my time with these therapies. How about you? Have you tried any of these movement therapies? Do you have concerns about using something you don’t understand? My hope is that I’ve given you some ways to get moving that you may not have thought of before. That will also wrap up our week related to getting moving again. Is there anything I missed? Do you have a favorite? I pray you have a safe and relatively pain free weekend. God bless.