In a city like Hong Kong where the ancient and the modern co-exist every day, it comes as no surprise that Traditional Chinese Medicine is deeply rooted into the local culture. Stress, anxiety, various aches and pains: where Western medicine fails, Traditional Chinese Medicine can sometimes be the answer. If you are interested in this approach, discover everything that you need to know about TCM.
What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on ancient healing traditions. It takes it roots from the Taoist philosophy and dates back more than 2,500 years. Chinese medicine embraces the philosophy that the body is run by a vital energy (the “qi”) which circulates among pathways called meridians. This energy connects all the organs and vital functions of the body together – if there is a blockage in this perpetual flow, then disease may result. TCM focuses on freeing the “qi” in order to reestablish the body’s balance and drain the illness off. As Western medicine treats a trauma or heals a specific disease, Chinese medicine focuses on treating the underlying causes of the disease instead of the symptoms themselves.
What therapies and treatments does Traditional Chinese Medicine involve?
Traditional Chinese Medicine offers remedies for almost all diseases and conditions, but also to maintain your overall health condition. The most common practices are the following ones:
Acupuncture is a healing system based on the Taoist understanding of anatomy and energy principles. As mentioned earlier, the body is run by a vital energy which circulates in channels and connects all organs and vital functions together. According to TCM, diseases and illnesses are caused by a blockage in this constant flow. The aim of acupuncture is thus to restore the flow of vital energy to heal and revitalize the body. Small, hair-thin needles are pinned on the different acupuncture points to correct imbalances and restore health. Acupuncture can be a great solution for headaches, different kinds of addiction, anxiety disorders or even allergies.
In China, herbs are widely used to cure but also to prevent many diseases. Each herb possesses several complex compounds. Combined with other herbs, they will help to restore health when needed or generally promote well-being. Since they are natural plant extracts, they are more rapidly processed and eliminated by the body and are also less likely to cause side effects.
Massages (Tui Na)
Tui Na massage is a very important part of Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is composed of two words: “Tui”, whichs means pushing, and “Na”, which means grasping. It is a mix between acupressure (Tui Na affects the flow of energy by pressing the body on different acupressure points) and Shiatsu (it uses rhythmic compressions along energy channels).
Beyond simply working on muscles, bones and joints, Tui Na works with the energy of the body at a deeper level. Tui Na practitioners sense their patients’ body with their own hands to assess the distribution of energy in the different parts of the body and affect its flow. This practice can be particularly helpful for joint pain, headaches, sports injuries or insomnia.
Exercise (Qigong and Tai Chi)
Qigong (which literally means “cultivating energy”) focuses on healing the mind and spirit in addition to the body itself. Its practice is based on three elements: posture, breathing and mental focus.
The aim of qigong is to increase vitality; it can also contribute to heal from a specific disease or simply maintain your health. For some people, it is just pure exercise while some others consider it more like a meditative practice. However, qigong has many health benefits: it can help you reduce anxiety, decrease blood pressure, boost your immune system…
Dietary therapy is also an essential aspect of Traditional Chinese Medicine. There is indeed a direct relation between what we eat and our health. In addition to other TCM practices, nutrition is essential to build immunity and help healing some diseases.
The main principle of Chinese dietary therapy is to adapt one’s diet according to their own constitution by identifying and treating the body’s imbalances. To achieve this balance, the dietary therapy should focus on certain types of foods (and certain ways of cooking it) and avoid some others. Most therapies also involve the use of herbal medicine to improve the overall health and prevent diseases.
Other common practices include for instance moxibustion (burning a small herb over the part of the body in need to facilitate healing) or cupping (using glass suction cups to release blockages and improve circulation). Chinese medicine is extremely complex and involves many kinds of practices that are all complementary.
Is Traditional Chinese Medicine safe?
Traditional Chinese Medicine is safe when performed by an experienced practitioner. In Hong Kong, a regulatory system for Chinese medicine practitioners has been set up to ensure the professional standard and conduct of TCM practitioners but also to safeguard public health. However, if Chinese medicine is not used properly, it can also be dangerous for your health. Chinese herbs for instance can have side effects if they are combined with other drugs or be unsafe for people with medical conditions. Always make sure that you consult a registered Chinese medicine practitioner and don’t hesitate to tell your regular healthcare provider about any complimentary medicine you use to ensure a coordinated and safe care.
Where can I find a Chinese Medicine practitioner in Hong Kong?
There are hundreds of registered Chinese Medicine practitioners in Hong Kong and you will be able to find Chinese medicine clinics all across the city. Some practitioners or clinics can have their own specialization: acupuncture, dietary therapy, massages… Others have a rich experience on treating a specific condition, from asthma to anxiety or even infertility. While many doctors only speak Cantonese, you will be able to find English-speaking practitioners in the largest Traditional Chinese Medicine clinics or centers.
You can also find a list of Chinese medicine practitioners on the Chinese medicine Council of Hong Kong’s website.
Can I get reimbursed for Traditional Chinese Medicine?
To cover all your medical expenses in Hong Kong and abroad, APRIL has created MyHEALTH, a comprehensive and fully flexible health insurance package. If you opt for this solution, all your expenses for Traditional Chinese Medicine will be fully covered up to your plan’s limit. Don’t hesitate to contact one of our advisers to learn more about your insurance options.