Medicine has evolved over the years to two distinct approaches today: Western medicine, and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). As a patient, you may wonder: how are they different? Can I seek treatment concurrently from both western and TCM physicians?
Broadly speaking, TCM takes a holistic approach in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of diseases, with the goal of restoring balance in the body. This includes the consideration of many factors, such as qi energy and blood. The treatment modalities employed in TCM typically include acupuncture, herbal medicine and therapeutic massages (tuina).
Western medicine, on the other hand, takes a systemic approach, using symptoms to isolate affected organs or organ systems to decide on the treatment needed.
Though TCM and Western medicine operate on different principles, there are areas where they can be complementary.
Acupuncture has been shown to be an effective treatment for non-specific lower back pain. In acupuncture, fine needles are inserted at specific points in the body to stimulate the flow of qi energy and to promote healing. Studies have shown that a combination of acupuncture together with Western medical treatment offers greater effectiveness, with musculoskeletal conditions being an area of benefit.
Similarly, tuina, when used together with Western medicine, can help to more effectively manage the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome as compared to conventional Western medical treatment alone.
Tuina is a form of manual therapy that promotes the flow of qi using the same principles as acupuncture to achieve balance in the body. In tuina, practitioners employ the use of their fingers instead of needles to achieve the stimulation of such points.
An integration of Western medicine and TCM can also benefit cancer patients. While TCM is not meant to be a main treatment mode for cancer, it can be an effective complement to cancer treatment by improving the patient’s quality of life, and help in alleviating the side effects of conventional cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and surgery. Research has also noted that certain TCM herbs exhibit anti-cancer properties with fewer side effects than chemotherapy and radiotherapy.
Do bear in mind that while TCM may be beneficial in treating conditions in combination with Western medicine, patients should always consult their primary care physician first before making any changes to their treatment plans or medication. This is because some diseases, such as cancer, require more aggressive treatment and TCM alone might not be enough to treat the disease.
Learn more about the Traditional Chinese Medicine treatments available at Parkway Shenton, or speak to our physicians at a Parkway Shenton TCM clinic near you.
Article contributed by Dr Lim Tze Chao, Traditional Chinese Physician at Parkway Shenton
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