Achieving Wellness & Pain Relief through Ancient Traditions, Acupuncture & Plant-based Medicine


What is TCM?

What is acupuncture?

What does it treat?

How does a practitioner know where to put the needles?

What is TCM diagnosis?

Does it hurt?

Is it safe?

What can I expect at my first appointment?

How do I recognize a qualified practitioner?

What is TCM Herbology?

How many treatments will I need?

What training do you have in Acupuncture?

Training in Herbs?


Physicians Rate Acupuncture Most Effective Alternative Treatment

Arthritis, Knee Pain


Infertility & Fertilization

Menopause & Hot Flashes

Neck, Shoulders, & Related Headache


What is Oriental Medicine?

Thousands of years ago, in ancient China, an important medical discovery was made: When specific anatomical points on the body were stimulated, such as with pressure, heat, or needles, certain beneficial physiological effects would result. Some points would, for example, relieve headaches, some would make breathing easier, some would alleviate an illness. The ancient doctors found that the points were located along specific channels or pathways which course through the body, and learned that using the points in various combinations could produce more powerful effects.

The Chinese identified an energy, which they call Qi, (pronounced chee) which flows through the pathways, and they learned that when Qi becomes blocked or disrupted, disease may result. Chinese medicine is based on the premise that health returns when the energetic balance is restored, which is accomplished using acupuncture, herbal medicine, and other related therapies.

Modern researchers have determined Qi to be measurable bioelectrical currents, and have begun to explore its fascinating role in human physiology. The Chinese discoveries were developed over the centuries into a complex medical system, as more points, and their connecting pathways and channels, were mapped and catalogued. Historical data show that Chinese medicine is at least 3000 years old, but many experts believe it to be much older.

The ancients made other medical discoveries as well, including the use of thousands of plants, herbs, and foods to treat disease, and they develpoped exercise systems such as Tai Ji Chuan and Qi Gong to balance and harmonize the body and mind, and bodywork and massage methods (called tuina or shiatsu) utilizing the acupoints and their associated pathways to treat medical problems. Over time, these developments became integrated into one of the world’s most powerful and comprehensive natural medical systems, known as Oriental Medicine (O.M.), or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Therapuetic methods used in TCM include:

The broad scope of Oriental medicine: A tree with many branches

There are many branching therapies, some major, some minor, within the practice of Oriental medicine that are traditionally used besides general acupuncture. A well trained practitioner in Oriental Medicine may draw upon these as needed, in addition to or in place of acupuncture. Following are brief explanations of some of these therapies.

Auricular therapy involves the stimulation of acupuncture points on the ear. The outer ear is like a microcosm of the entire body, corresponding to the human body’s anatomy and physiology with the connecting pathways of over 100 acupuncture points which are located on the surface of the ears.

The acupuncturist may use needles to stimulate the ear points, or use other methods, such as ear “seeds,” tiny round pellets which are adhered to the ear with miniature patches of surgical tape. The seeds may be actual vacaria seeds which are traditionally used, or made of other material, such as alloys of gold, silver or stainless steel, which are sometimes magnetic. These seeds serve to apply continuous pressure to the point for long periods. The patient wears these home, and they may be left in the ear for several days. Ear therapy is a part of acupuncture, and well trained acupuncturists receive special training in how to use this system.

Moxibustion, as already explained, involves using heat to warm the acupuncture points and other areas of the body. Heat is an effective alternative manner to stimulate acupuncture points. There are many different methods of using heat, all of which fall under the term moxibustion, but the most common is the use of a rolled bundle of herbs lighted at one end like a cigar. The moxa stick, as it’s called, is held away from the skin without making direct contact. This is an effective, pleasant, and often used therapy in Oriental medicine.

An interesting example of its use which is well known and proven in recent years by research, in numerous double blind, controlled studies (one was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association), is the use of moxibustion to correct the malposition of a fetus (a fetus in breach position). Warming a single point on the little toe during the 34th week of pregnancy turns the fetus to the proper position (this should only be done by a well trained acupuncturist who has learned the proper use of this method).

Electroacupuncture, developed by acupuncturists, involves painless stimulation of acupuncture points with low level therapeutic microcurrents or milliamperes of electricity. Positive and negative wires are attached to the metal needles, and the current travels between them. With microcurrent electroacupuncture, the tiny currents are barely felt, or not felt at all. As with all acupuncture techniques, advanced acupuncturists receive special training to use this technique properly.

Cupping is used on soft tissue (over muscles and skin, not skeletal areas), and is used for soft tissue injuries, upper respiratory illness (colds and flu), and other conditions. For example, cupping is often used on the upper back and shoulders (and other areas) to relieve tension, or placed on lung points to clear up a cold. The cups are usually made of glass, and are placed on the skin forming a seal within which a vacuum is created to apply suction to the skin surface. The ancient theory at work is “creating local congestion to relieve local congestion.” The cups also stimulate the acupuncture points over which they are placed, and massage and relax the muscles. Sometimes cups are placed over acupuncture needles to combine the effect.

The vacuum is created by burning an alcohol soaked cotton ball which is held in the cup for a few seconds to use up the oxygen, then quickly placing the cup over the skin to create a seal. Temporary marks from the cups may be visible for a few days, so be sure to inform the acupuncturist if, during the interval after the session, you will be exposing the part of your body that received the cupping treatment!

Guasha (pronounced gwah shaw) involves the idea of counter friction to facilitate the release of inflammation or stagnation. A smooth tool, traditionally a highly polished horn, porcelain spoon, or large smooth coin, is used to stroke a muscle, causing inflammation to surface and be released. This technique is widely used in China by the general population. It is used only when indicated by the type of condition being treated.

Chinese Medicine Bodywork (Tuina)

Tuina (pronounced “tway naw”) is a comprehensive type of Oriental medicine bodywork and manual manipulation involving a number of techniques, including massage, acupressure, traction, and adjustment techniques to facilitate the flow of energy in the body. Well trained tuina therapists are required to learn hundreds of acupuncture points, Oriental diagnosis, methods to treat specific illnesses, spinal manipulation, traction, herbal salves, and other methods of manual manipulation. This is an area of specialty in Oriental medicine, and master practitioners in China even use tuina techniques for setting broken bones. Look for NCCAOM board certification in either Oriental Medicine or Oriental Medicine Bodywork for practitioners of authentic tuina.

Nutritional and Diet Therapy

In Oriental medicine, foods are understood to have medicinal properties, similar to those of herbs. The foods we eat obviously have a profound impact on our health. Foods are classified according to their effects on the energetic balance of the body. Foods which may alleviate a particular health condition may worsen another. It’s important to know which to avoid, and which to include to treat disease. Practitioners of Chinese medicine are trained to make recommendations of food choices to patients tailored to their individual needs. This branch of Oriental medicine is called food therapy. At Aspensprings Acupuncture Clinic, the ancient Chinese dietary principles of balancing energy are brought together with the latest scientific research in nutrition, including ways to reduce inflammation and insulin resistance and the balancing of fatty acid ratios. Diet is one of our principle areas of knowledge which we provide to interested patients.

Tai Ji Chuan and Qigong: Chinese Movement and Breathing

Tai ji chuan (or tai chi) and qigong are traditional forms of movement and exercise, designed and practiced to heal by correcting and increasing the flow of qi (energy) throughout the body.

Tai ji chuan, literally meaning ‘supreme ultimate’ fist, is considered to be a martial art but with emphasis on centeredness and the practitioner achieving a harmonious, fluid, non-resistant response. Dropping the “chuan” from the name to simply “tai ji” meaning “supreme ultimate” is perhaps more descriptive of the graceful, flowing, yet dynamic movements which build a surprising amount of stamina and flexibility. There are several forms of tai ji with many movements in each form.

Qigong means “breathing/energy exercise” and is often described as meditation in motion. The movements are slow, calming and are accompanied by deep, controlled breathing and visualization techniques. Some exercises in qigong target the healing of specific organ systems, and larger medical centers in the U.S. are increasingly offering qigong classes, especially for cancer patients. The exercises are deeply relaxing, and is simple and slow enough that anyone of any age can practice the movements.

The goals of both tai ji chuan and qigong are to facilitate circulation and balance of qi to promote lasting health, vitality and wellbeing.