New Orleans Acupuncturist Amy Yeostros

Fundamental Concepts in Chinese Medicine

The way Chinese medicine and Western medicine view health and disease are very different. An introduction to some fundamental concepts in traditional Chinese medicine may help you to better communicate with your practitioner about your acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine treatments.


Qi can be one of the most difficult concepts of traditional Chinese medicine for Westerners to understand. It is often loosely translated into English as "energy" or "life force". Most commonly when the word Qi is used in lay terms, it refers to the Channel Qi or the Qi that flows through the meridians or pathways in the body. However, in traditional Chinese medicine, there are many different types of Qi that support different physiological processes. The circulation and balance of Qi is fundamental to the well being of the individual. If Qi is blocked or out of balance, pain or disease can occur. For an exploration into the definition of Qi, I recommend the book "Understanding Acupuncture" by Stephen Birch and Bob Felt available online at


Chinese Medical Diagnosis:

Traditional Chinese medical diagnosis attempts to determine patterns of imbalance in the functioning of the body. The imbalance may involve the body substances, organs, or flow of Qi through the meridians. Detecting internal conditions through external manifestations is the key to diagnosis in Chinese medicine. As such, your acupuncturist or Chinese medicine practitioner will use careful questioning and observation to diagnose your pattern of imbalance. She or he will need a detailed understanding of your symptoms, past health history, lifestyle, diet, digestion, sleep patterns and emotions. Reaching a diagnosis will also include and examination of the tongue and the radial pulses.

What your practitioner is looking for is not isolated symptoms but rather a pattern into which is woven a total picture of the patient. The treatment will be based on this pattern. Although any Western medical diagnosis you have will be taken into consideration, it will not determine your treatment. In fact, one of the most important concepts in Chinese medicine is "Same disease, different treatment; Different disease, same treatment." This means that two patients with the same Western medical diagnosis will likely have two different Chinese medical diagnoses and will receive different treatments.



Chinese medicine is a comprehensive system that has been used by billions of people as a primary source of healthcare for thousands of years. There are many modalities that are used in Chinese medicine. These include:

Acupuncture - The insertion of fine needles at a point or combination of specific points on the body for the purpose of healing diseases and promoting health.

Herbs - Chinese herbs have been tested and catalogued over thousands of years. They can be taken in many different forms such as liquid decoctions, pills, powders and tinctures. Chinese herbs are used to treat a pattern of imbalance rather than a specific symptom or disease as defined by Western medicine. Chinese herbs are most often given in an individualized formula that combines many different herbs to best treat the specific presentation of the patient. Rarely are single herbs used in Chinese medicine.

Moxabustion - A technique which involves burning the herb mugwort near acupuncture points for a therapeutic purpose.

Tui Na - A form of Chinese massage or body work. Tui Na uses specific techniques that are different than other forms of bodywork such as acupressure, Swedish massage, and Shaitsu.

Dietary Therapy - Chinese dietary therapy is based on the principles of Chinese medicine and is used to treat ailments and promote good health. Chinese foods are considered for their flavors, energies, movement and organic actions. Chinese dietary therapy is not based on Western nutritional information.

Qi Gong - Qigong or "Qi Cultivation" is a Chinese system of physical training, philosophy, and preventive and therapeutic health care.

Tai Ji Quan - Tai Ji Quan or "Supreme Ultimate Fist" is a form of exercise that has its basis in the martial arts. It involves slow connected movements that develop balance, strength, coordination, breathing and relaxation.



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