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Chinese Medicine

Chinese Medicine is the system of medicine that Chinese people and those from countries across East Asia have practised for thousands of years. It was developed through systematic observation and meticulous recording of human health and disease and their relationship to natural cycles. In essence, the job of the Chinese Medical Practitioner is to restore balance to the body's systems and maintain it between the extremes of heat, cold, dryness and dampness. In Western Medicine one could refer to this as homeostasis.

For example, the Chinese noticed that in cold weather people tended to get upper back, neck and head pain. They discovered that using certain techniques to warm the area and move circulation, they could successfully treat this pain. They also discovered that people with different constitutions, life stresses, emotional tendencies and lifestyles would respond differently to different weather and seasons. Hence, treatments made according to the principles of Chinese Medicine are always tailored to the individual case of the patient. In consequence, every initial Chinese Medicine consultation begins with an in depth diagnosis to determine the exact underlying pattern that may be the cause of the problem. In Chinese Medicine we do not only treat illnesses, we also treat the individual.

The five main therapies that are used to apply Chinese Medicine to patients are Acupuncture, Herbal Medicine, Acupressure Massage, Chinese Nutrition and Qi Gong therapy. No matter which of these therapies is used, the beginning of the process is always the same, we always start with a traditional consultation and diagnosis. The Chinese divided this into Looking, Listening, Asking and Palpation.

From observation we look to see the body shape of the person, muscle tone, skin quality, skin colour, and facial signs. For example we may interpret a red face as 'heat' within the body. We also examine the tongue because it is an ideal place to discover whether the body has any imbalances of cold/heat or dryness/dampness. A tongue showing cold may be pale or white whereas a tongue showing heat may be red or peeled. Simply, a tongue that shows dryness will be dry and one that shows dampness will be wet.

From listening we can determine whether the patient has a weak or a strong voice and what that says about their vitality.

In the asking section of diagnosis we ask the "Ten Questions" of Chinese Medicine which covers matters ranging from sleep to bowel movements.

Finally we take the pulse of the patient. In Chinese Medicine it is understood that patterns of pathology are reflected on the wave form made by the blood flow in the body. On a simple level, a faster pulse may indicate 'heat' in the body and a slower pulse 'cold'. However, there are many more 'pulse images' which are used to delineate subtler levels of imbalance. This method is considered both the hardest to master but also the pinnacle in Chinese Medical diagnosis. We may also perform abdominal diagnosis or palpation of other areas of the body to enhance our diagnosis.

At West Hampstead Acupuncture we combine modern and traditional approaches to wellbeing. We are all trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis and use it in every consultation. However, when appropriate we supplement the traditional approaches with more modern ones. For example in our Pain Clinic we also approach the body from a mechanical musculo-skeletal standpoint so that we can get the maximum results in a minimum of time. Furthermore, our degree-level training includes basic instruction in modern Western physiology, pathology and biomedicine. This gives us a foundation to enable us to better understand the conventional treatments that you are currently undertaking. Contrary to the public perception, Chinese Medical practitioners do not have any problem with Western biomedicine. Chinese Medicine is practised alongside Western Medicine in the majority of hospitals in China where it is considered to play a valuable and essential role. All Chinese doctors in China are trained to a level of Western medicine where they are qualified to prescribe Western drugs. Chinese medicine there is part of the overall provision of Mainstream Medicine.

Our philosophy at West Hampstead Acupuncture is to provide first class treatment, but to try and help you find the best way to resolve whatever issue you come to see us with. If that means referring you elsewhere to another practitioner or to see your GP, that is what we will do. We make every effort to be realistic about what we can achieve and also about our own limitations. We put the patient first and always try to enable you to be in control of your healing process. Our ultimate aim is for our patients to become as autonomous in their health as possible. When you don't need us anymore, we have done our job!

If you would like any more information about Chinese Medicine, to book a free traditional diagnosis or just for a chat, give us a call on 020 7705 2888 or email us at