Differences in Diagnosis: Chinese Medicine vs Western Medicine

Posted by & filed under Alternative Medicine, Conventional Medicine, Herbs & Medicine.

chinese-medicine-vs-western-medicineSo many differences distinguish Chinese and Western medicine, from underlying philosophy to methods of treatment. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is an ancient system of health care that dates back thousands of years, while Western medicine is a comparatively recent phenomenon. Find out how practitioners make a patient diagnosis in Chinese medicine vs Western medicine.

What is traditional Chinese medicine?

Before understanding how diagnostic procedures work in TCM, it helps to understand a little bit about the system of health care. Based on Taoist principles, TCM has evolved over the past 4,000 years and become more popular in the Western world. It’s a holistic approach to understanding the health and wellbeing of patients.

To promote wellness and treat illnesses, TCM encompasses a variety of practices, including massage, acupuncture, Tai Chi and movement therapies, and herbal medicine.

Important concepts in TCM

One of the most important concepts in the practice is “qi,” which is the body’s life force energy. Qi energy flows through channels of the body called meridians, and blockages of this flow can result imbalances and disharmonies that manifest as health problems in the patient. The University of New Hampshire describes it this way:

Qi can be described in many ways, according to the source, the location and the role it plays in the body. Regulating and stimulating the flow of Qi is a basic tenet of understanding the role of disease and health in the body.

Practitioners of Chinese medicine use needles or pressure to manipulate points on the body along these channels and restore a balanced flow or qi energy.

TCM also embraces the concepts of yin and yang, which are opposite — yet dependent — conditions within the human body.

Yin: Often symbolized by water or earth, the yin is associated with femininity, darkness, passivity, receptiveness and the night.

Yang: Often symbolized by fire or air, the yang is associated with masculinity, light, activeness and the day.

Organs have unique combinations of yin and yang within the philosophy of TCM.

Qi is also made up of five aspects in the philosophy of TCM — wood, fire, earth, metal and water. These essential substances have specific attributes that inform TCM’s understanding of the human body. Each person has a unique combination of the five elements, and imbalances result in physical and mental health problems that the practitioner will have to diagnose.

How does diagnosis work in TCM? 

When making a diagnosis in Chinese medicine vs Western medicine, the practitioner will observe and ask questions of the patient. This process involves the four pillars of diagnosis, which are:

  • Looking: Observing the patient’s movements and mannerisms, speech patterns and appearance of the tongue, eyes and ears.
  • Listening: Hearing the sound and tenor of the patient’s voice, and whether it falls into the categories of shout, laugh, sing, weep or groan.
  • Touching: Also, called palpation, feeling the characteristics of the patient’s pulse at different points on the body.
  • Asking: Finding out about the patient’s history, symptoms, concerns and more.

Whereas a doctor of traditional Western medicine might be interested in body weight, height and symptoms during an exam, the Chinese medicine doctor looks at a patient holistically. The four pillars of diagnosis provide an important window into the patient’s interior organs and systems. Treatment will work to correct imbalances and disharmonies in the flow of qi.

Learn more about what a career in acupuncture and Oriental medicine looks like by downloading our free ebook.


What Are Yin and Yang Correspondences?

Posted by & filed under Alternative Medicine, Education & Research.

what-are-yin-and-yang-correspondencesTo understand traditional Chinese medicine, it helps to learn more about some important underlying concepts, including Yin and Yang. These two elements define Yin-Yang Theory and have various properties that inform the philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine and healing. Nothing in the universe can exist without these elements, which are opposite but also dependent on one another. But what are Yin and Yang exactly? 

According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of Yin is:

“[T]he feminine passive principle in nature that in Chinese cosmology is exhibited in darkness, cold, or wetness and that combines with [Y]ang to produce all that comes to be”

The definition of Yang is:

“[T]he masculine active principle in nature that in Chinese cosmology is exhibited in light, heat, or dryness and that combines with [Y]in to produce all that comes to be”

Learning more about the properties of Yin and Yang and how they relate to and interact with each other will help you understand what they represent and how they influence the philosophy of traditional Chinese medicine.

The aspects of Yin and Yang

Yin and Yang complement and balance each other via four aspects, which define the relationship between them. These are the four aspects of the relationship between Yin and Yang:

  • Opposition of Yin and Yang
  • Interdependence of Yin and Yang
  • Mutual consumption of Yin and Yang
  • Inter-transformation of Yin and Yang

Yin and Yang are opposite, but one cannot exist without the other, which means they are also interdependent. Just as day transforms into night, Yin constantly transforms into Yang. As Yin and Yang change balance, it makes an impact at the individual and big picture levels.

The correspondences of Yin and Yang

According to Chinese theory, two forces exist in the universe. Yin is a passive, negative force, while yang is an active, positive force. According to this theory, these forces exist in the seasons, food and everything else in nature and the world. These concepts also help underscore diagnosis and treatment in traditional Chinese medicine

Yin-Yang Theory teaches that everything is a product of two principles, Yin is considered weak, female and destructive, while yang is considered strong, male and creative. The interaction between these two principles produces the five elements. 

The five essential substances

The five essential substances, or elements, are aspects of qi — or life force energy — and have their own associations. They are:

  • Wood
  • Fire
  • Earth
  • Metal
  • Water

They each have associations with seasons, colors, characteristics, organs and specific health problems, which a practitioner of Chinese medicine can help treat. Someone who is healthy will experience a unique, but harmonious, balance of these five elements.

Examples of Yin and Yang correspondences

Yin-Yang Theory applies to different categories in the natural world, and manifests different meanings. Remember that Yin and Yang are constantly changing and cyclical. You can look at the Yin Yang correspondences chart and see, for example, that under the category of sky, Yin manifests as the moon, while under Yang, sky manifests as the sun.

To understand Yin and Yang further, it may help to learn about more specific correspondences. Here are several examples of Yin-Yang in nature from the correspondences chart. The first word represents the category, while the second word corresponds to Yin, and the third word corresponds to Yang:

Sky: Moon-Sun

Time: Midnight-Midday

Season: Winter-Summer

Temperature: Cold-Heat

Humidity: Wet-Dry

Spectrum: Dark-Luminous

World: Hidden-Evident

Solidity: Dense-Porous

Texture: Hard-Soft

Mass: Heavy-Light

Stage: Forming-Transformer

Shape: Material Substance-Subtle Influence

The fundamentals of Yin and Yang

In summary, these are the most important aspects to remember about the concepts of Yin and Yang:

  • Yin Yang is the most important theory in Traditional Chinese Medicine, underlying all physiology, pathology  and treatment
  • Yin has a component of Yang, and Yang has a component of Yin, represented by the dots in the Yin-Yang symbol
  • Yin and Yang are constantly changing and cyclical

To learn more about the philosophy behind traditional Chinese medicine and the programs at the Acupuncture & Massage College, you can email our admissions department.


What Do You Study at Acupuncture School?

Posted by & filed under Acupuncture, Alternative Medicine, Education & Research.

acupuncture-schoolAre you considering attending or planning to enroll in acupuncture school? If so, congratulations! You’re well on your way to an exciting career helping people live their healthiest and happiest lives. But what exactly does a program at acupuncture school look like? What classes will you take and what will you learn? Each acupuncture school is likely to offer a program that’s a little different from the others, but read on to learn about the basics of what you can expect.

The basics

Of course, you will learn the needling techniques needed to perform acupuncture treatment, but there’s so much more to learn about this ancient practice. You’re likely to cover subjects like: the acupuncture points chart, the fundamentals of traditional Chinese medicine, ethics, anatomy and physiology, and more. Other classes might include:

  • Asian bodywork
  • Biology
  • Introduction to needling
  • Herbal medicine
  • Pathology

Differing philosophies

Like any institution of higher learning, acupuncture schools have many different philosophies that drive their programs. According to Acupuncture.com, there are two main approaches: Traditional Chinese Medicine/Eight Elements School and Five Element School. The Five Element approach is less common.

In addition to those two main philosophies, schools may have other unique approaches. Acupuncture.com cites the following as an example:

“Yo San University in Marina Del Rey, Calif. … teaches Taoist Classical Medicine, using both the Five Elements and TCM/Eight Elements approaches plus Energetic Systems of Chinese medicine, which are based on the ‘Yellow Emperor’s Classic’ and the I-Ching.”

Find out more about the philosophy of a particular school you’re considering in order to decide if a program is right for you.

Oriental medicine

Some acupuncture training programs might be part of a more comprehensive degree in Oriental medicine. If so, it will probably take you longer to earn your degree, but you’ll also gain additional knowledge. According to Natural Healers, some areas of study this type of program may include are:

  • Zang Fu theory
  • Dietary theory in traditional Chinese medicine
  • A type of massage called Tui Na
  • Herbal medicine

Some programs offer masters degrees and bachelors degrees as part of the same program. Decide what level of education you want to pursue, and how long you wan to be in school when evaluating your options.

Clinical education

Hands-on experience is practical knowledge you can take into the job market. Many acupuncture school degree programs run a clinics where students can gain experience in a real-world environment, and that will be part of your program of study. If your acupuncture school does not run a clinic, you may be working in other environments with professional practitioners to gain clinical experience.

Before you enroll

One of the best ways to get a feel for what it would be like to attend an acupuncture school is to observe a class or classes. Contact any prospective program’s admissions department and ask to sit in on a class in session. Talk to students or graduates about what they think of the program, and what their favorite courses are. If that school has a clinic that provides acupuncture services, book a session.

For more information on the Acupuncture & Massage College’s degree in Oriental Medicine, contact the admissions department at (305) 595-9500.

Career in alternative medicine - Spotlight

Massage Types: What Is Shiatsu Massage?

Posted by & filed under Alternative Medicine, Careers, Massage.

what-is-shiatsu-massageWhether you’re planning to get a massage or intend to pursue a career as a practitioner, it helps to understand the differences between some of the major massage therapy techniques used by professionals. One popular modality — an industry word for technique — is Shiatsu, a style of massage therapy developed in Japan. It was introduced to the country in the 6th century by a Buddhist monk, according to the Shiatsu Society. What is Shiatsu massage? The word literally translates to “finger pressure,” which gives some insight into how practitioners use the technique.

How does Shiatsu work?

The practice of Shiatsu is based on the philosophies of traditional Chinese medicine, which views health problems and illness as the imbalance of the body’s qi life force energy. During a Shiatsu session, the practitioner will use fingers, thumbs and palms to put pressure on specific points on the body, depending on a patient’s needs.

According to the Shiatsu Society:

Today, Shiatsu has a number of different styles, philosophical approaches and theoretical bases and practitioners around the world are still evolving new approaches to treatment. Some concentrate on acupressure (acupuncture) points, while others [emphasize] more general work on the body or along the pathways of energy to influence the [qi] that flows in them.

Some of the different styles of Shiatsu include:

  • Zen
  • Macrobiotic
  • Healing
  • Namikoshi
  • Movement
  • Hara

What are the benefits of the practice?

In addition to being a deeply relaxing experience, Shiatsu massage therapy helps treat a variety of health problems using a holistic approach. Some of the conditions the technique helps treat include:

  • Poor posture
  • Hoint problems
  • Sprains
  • Arthritis
  • Sciatica
  • Acute
  • Chronic neck and back pain
  • Sinusitis
  • Bronchitis
  • Stress
  • Sleep Issues
  • Blood pressure irregularities

The practice also helps boost the immune system, improving the body’s ability to heal itself. It also stimulates the systems of the body — including the circulatory, lymphatic and hormonal systems. Many patients opt for Shiatsu because it’s a natural approach to dealing with health problems, treating the patient’s spiritual, mental and physical well-being simultaneously.

How do you learn Shiatsu (or any other type of massage)?

One of the best ways to learn how to practice massage therapy is to pursue a degree from an accredited school of massage therapy. Just like any institution of higher learning, massage schools have different focuses and specializations. Ideally you will receive a background in the many popular styles of massage therapy in the United States — including Shiatsu — but some colleges may have a specific focus. Some types of massage might include:

  • Swedish
  • Deep tissue
  • Sports
  • Chair
  • Prenatal
  • Stone therapy
  • Thai

Some massage therapy schools also offer specializations, so be sure the schools you’re applying to focus on the practice you want to learn. Another way for practicing therapists to learn different types of massage is through continuing education classes. Many professional massage therapists offer different types of massage through their practice, depending on clients’ needs and preferences.

For more information on obtaining a degree in Massage Therapy from the Acupuncture & Massage College in Miami, contact the school’s admissions department at (305) 595-9500.


Training Options for Holistic Health Careers

Posted by & filed under Acupuncture, Alternative Medicine, Careers, Massage, Meditation & Yoga.

holistic-health-careersMore than a third of all Americans use holistic therapies outside of traditional Western medicine to maintain their health and well being, according to research conducted by the National Institutes of Health. They also spend about $30 billion annually on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), according to federal researchers. That breaks down to about $500 per person.

The out-of-pocket spending on treatments that range from acupuncture to yoga to homeopathy — along with the expected growth in demand for services like massage therapy — make it a great time to get into holistic health careers. But how do you get training to practice? The time commitment and educational requirements vary broadly, depending on the career path you choose.

Find out more about some of the many holistic health careers training options below.

Massage Therapist

Training programs in massage therapy range from about 330 to 1,000 hours (or several weeks to two years) of instruction and potentially clinical practice, according to Natural Healers. The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) reports that the average number of training hours is 671. Some 11 percent of massage therapists also practice other types of bodywork, according to the AMTA.


To become a licensed chiropractor typically requires completing a four-year program that has academic and clinical components. You will likely need a bachelors in science to gain admission to a program. A chiropractic education typically includes a rigorous course of studies in various sciences, including chemistry and physiology, in addition to hands-on clinical work.

Yoga Instructor

Training programs to become a yoga instructor vary in terms of time commitment, flexibility of scheduling, cost and even focus on a particular style of practice. Expect a program to to take anywhere between a few months to a year, depending on how much time you have to commit to training. Many training programs offer classes on nights and weekends, for those who want to train while working other jobs. Some styles of yoga you may choose to study include:

  • Ashtanga
  • Bikram
  • Hatha
  • Hot Yoga
  • Restorative
  • Vinyasa

Acupuncturist/Doctor of Oriental Medicine

Expect to spend three to four years completing a degree in acupuncture and Oriental medicine. Degree names may vary, but you’ll likely earn a master’s degree and learn how to stimulate specific points on the body using needles, as well as prescribe therapies using traditional Chinese herbs. In addition to using needles, you may also learn how to manipulate the body’s life force energy (qi) using:

  • Heat
  • Suction
  • Pressure
  • Electromagnetic energy

Tai Chi or Qigong Instructor

It typically takes about 150 hours to become a certified teacher of Tai Chi or Qigong, according to the American Tai Chi and Qigong Association (ATCQA). According to the ATCQA, many students of these ancient practices begin by becoming assistants to their own instructors. They then go on to obtain certification through the association before beginning to offer their own classes.

Some students choose to pursue credentials that allow them to practice multiple holistic health careers. Read about one graduate of the Acupuncture and Massage College who obtained a degree in both massage therapy and Oriental medicine.

Career in alternative medicine - Spotlight