May 24, 2013

Chinese Medicine 101

Today my study abroad program took us on a field trip to learn about Chinese medicine. It was here that I learned about the Chinese philosophy surrounding yin-yang and traditional Chinese medicine practices. Yin and yang symbol

Many Chinese people believe that the yin-yang represents men and women and their inner energy. They think that the yin-yang represents how energies in the body must be balanced relative to one another in order for there to be good health.

It is believed that both internal and external factors affect the balance of the body, therefore both affecting when people get sick. According to the Chinese doctor I met today, external factors like wind, air conditioning, dampness, and the sun can make people sick.  On the contrary, internal factors like too much laughter and thinking too much can also make one sick. Fortunately, Chinese doctors have loads of ideas about where sicknesses originate from and how to stop them.

I’ve never heard much about Chinese medicine before, and to be honest, I just don’t get it. I grew up with Western medicine and with Western ideology, therefore Chinese philosophy regarding medicine is difficult for me to grasp. I tried to understand it when the doctor spoke today, but I still wasn’t convinced. The doctor could tell that my classmates and I all didn’t completely believe his methods, therefore he showed us how some of his practices worked. Image from mid-back and up of a classmate with red marks on her neck from a Chinese doctor's scrapingFirst, he performed scraping on my friend Katia’s neck. Apparently scraping is used to release tension and heat from one’s neck. This act, though not very painful, results in red, violent looking marks that apparently represent the heat that has left the body.

Next the Chinese doctor asked for a volunteer to show us how cupping works. My friend Shelby volunteered, and laid on a table where the doctor put 6 suction cups on his back.  IMG_5499After 10 minutes the cups were removed and big splotches that will last about a week appeared. A patient lays down as a Chinese doctor removes suction cups from his back, leaving red marks. Apparently this too releases bad heat and is good for the body, but to me it just seemed painful and hard on the eyes.

The Chinese doctor also performed acupuncture, but as a lifelong opposer of needles, I politely declined. Instead I volunteered to see how chiropractors can help your body. A Chinese chiropractor cracks Megan Goodman's backThat is the one method I believe was effective as I physically felt and heard my neck crack.

Overall the field trip was a success. I still don’t necessarily understand Chinese medicine, nor would I really like to partake in it in the future, but I think it’s a really unique aspect of the Chinese culture. I really enjoyed learning about these traditional Chinese medicine practices but I think I’m going to stick to Western methods from now on.

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