TCM & Five Element Acupuncture
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Acupuncture
TCM was systematised in the latter half of the twentieth century when Western medicine became dominant in China. During that time, the Chinese government nearly abolished non-scientific medical practices. But luckily, Chinese Medicine was revived because of its historical value and efficacy (and cheaper cost than Western medical treatment at that time). Therefore, the Chinese government medicalised traditional medicine, such as acupuncture and herbal medicine, to legalise and make them equal to Western medicine. By doing so, TCM now comprises mainly medical parts of its classics but excludes all spiritual aspects derived from shamanic practices.
Qi, energy or vital force, constitutes all living things; everything is made of Qi, from physical/material to ethereal/spiritual. TCM focuses on Qi's tangible physical and materialistic aspects rather than the spirit. And its diagnosis and treatment are symptomatic and analytical, classifying the symptoms, aetiology, pathology, points and herb selection in an orderly way. Practitioners draw treatment protocols by objective analytical methods based on such pattern identification with physical diagnoses, including examining pulse and tongue, palpation, questioning, and observing the facial colours, body movement, and emotions.
Five Element Acupuncture
On the contrary, Five Element (FE) acupuncture focuses on spiritual, psycho-emotional aspects of Qi; thus, the priority is to treat the patient`s spirit. This method incorporates all the spiritual elements that TCM excluded. (TCM includes Spirit in their theory but considers Spirit merely a mental faculty or expression of each Organ.) EF acupuncture is an amalgamation of several different systems that existed before the establishment of TCM and are practised in China and other parts of Asia, such as Japan.
EF acupuncture was systematised relatively recently in England by J.R. Worsley, credited with bringing the classical method to the West. Therefore, it is also called European Five-Element or classical acupuncture.
Because FE acupuncture regards all illnesses as having their roots in spirit, it prioritises emotional issues and the patient’s inner life. Therefore, the focus is to diagnose and treat the most imbalanced Element related to the patient's emotions, called the Constitutional Factor (CF). Thus, the practitioner relies on their diagnosis more on observing the patient’s emotions from what they say, react, facial expression, body language, emotion test, etc., rather than physical diagnosis.
Integrated TCM & Five Element Acupuncture
Acupuncture is energy medicine. As Qi contains all, with a diagnosis of acupuncture treatment, practitioners do not separate physical, emotional or mental problems. Treating the patient on an energetic/Qi level treats the patient at all levels. However, the patient's manifesting symptoms can be more psychological or physical, one or the other, or both simultaneously. For example, the practitioner skilled in TCM and FE acupuncture may try to relieve immediate symptoms (TCM) to ease whatever pain or discomfort the patient is experiencing. Or by treating the patient’s Spirit (FE), other physical issues may resolve or the other way around. The practitioner often addresses their urgent problems, and deeper issues may surface in subsequent treatments.
I highly respect both systems and will continue to deepen and refine my knowledge and practices of them. However, both TCM and FE acupuncture have their advantages and limitations. And they have different treatment approaches, thus, can complement each other. Therefore, having skills in both styles equips the practitioner to address much broader issues with varying degrees of depth in treatment.