Acupuncture? TCM?

Acupuncture – Understanding an ancient model of health in modern language

Language has always been used as a way to interpret our experiences. Even though the objective experience of situations may be the same, it can be interpreted in different ways. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has its own way of interpreting the model of healthcare, and even though it is interpreted in a language unfamiliar to our modern culture, there is some very valuable information that can be used to help increase the health of our population. As practitioners of TCM, it is our duty to study both the TCM model along with the standard model of medicine, in order to better understand and treat the current illnesses which we are facing today. TCM practitioners, therefore, act as interpreters of the ancient and current understanding of health.

What is the TCM approach?

TCM emphasizes prevention and health preservation. A superior doctor, according to TCM, is one who can treat a disease before it’s onset. This approach to health requires more active involvement from patients, as preventative health is addressed with nutrition and lifestyle. Therefore, education plays a big role in how we treat patients.

What is acupuncture?


Acupuncture is one of the most common ways in which TCM treats illness. This treatment is based on the understanding that an organism has a vital force, known to the Chinese as ‘Qi’,  which keeps the organism in health. illness comes when there is a sort of blockage disrupting the natural flow of energy (Qi) within the organism. There are different reasons which may cause blockages, but ultimately acupuncture aims at trying to remove these blocks in order to allow Qi to flow naturally.

What can I expect from an acupuncture treatment?


Acupuncture treatment is an uplifting and revitalizing experience where we simply aim to bring harmony back to your body.

Acupuncture needles are very thin (as thin as two scalp hairs) and can barely be felt when inserted. Because many acupuncture points coincide with nerve clusters the general sensation that is reported among patients with getting acupuncture is that of a dull feeling. This is generally a good indication that the point has been activated or that the Qi has arrived at that point.

What are the educational standards of practice for TCM practitioners and Acupuncturists

TCM is regulated by the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of British Columbia (CTCMA). This allows for the public to feel comfortable with considering TCM as an alternative option for treatment and health maintenance. There are three degrees which can be obtained under the scope of TCM: Acupuncture, TCM practitioner, and Doctor of TCM. All of these titles require a minimum of 2 years post graduate education for enrolment. The Acupuncture diploma is 3 years (6 semesters) and requires 1900 hours of education including  450 hours of clinical practice. The TCM Practitioner diploma is 4 years in total (8 semesters) and requires 1600 of education including 650 hours of clinical practice and observation. The Doctor of TCM diploma is 5 years (10 full-time semesters) and requires 3300 hours of education including 1050 hours of clinical practice and observation.

Here are a few external links that may be helpful in further informing you about TCM:

Feeling Tired?

Qi Deficiency

So everybody complains of being tired. Life is busy, and we have pulled in so many directions these days. But where do we draw the line between feeling tired and actual fatigue?

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we speak of Qi Deficiency. Qi is the vital life force, or energy of the body and mind, and of course deficiency means that there is not enough.

The general symptoms of Qi Deficiency are Tiredness, Fatigue, Weakness, etc. In particular, it is the fact that these symptoms are worse with exertion, and there may even be Shortness of Breath (which I lovingly abbreviate as SOB). The person looks pale and may have a pale tongue and a weak pulse.

Qi Deficiency is so common, in fact, that it is likely the most common syndrome that TCM practitioners (Acupuncturists and Herbalists) diagnose. But when we look more closely at a person’s type of fatigue, and other symptoms that may be occurring, we begin to differentiate into the basic types of Qi deficiency.

Internal Organ Energy Systems
Each internal organ exists within an energetic system that includes the physical tissues, the chemical and endocrine components that drive the organ, and also a mental or emotional aspect that we usually experience as arising from the mind (or the heart) but that is associated with the function (or dysfunction) of the main Internal organs.

Lung Qi Deficiency
For the Lung organ, the tissues may have been damaged due to genetics or lifestyle factors, and/or there may be an endocrine disruption in the body, which negatively affects the breathing.

Shortness of breath is the main symptom for Lung Qi deficiency, but it can also manifest as the propensity to catch a cold or a person who easily breaks into a sweat. Of course, a patient with chronic cough or asthma is said to have Lung Qi deficiency.

Heart Qi Deficiency
In the Heart organ system, palpitations occur as a natural result of a lack of Qi, or vital energy circulating within the Heart system.

Spleen Qi Deficiency
The Spleen-Pancreas system is responsible to assist the digestive function to uptake nutrients in order to form blood.

The main symptoms of Spleen Qi deficiency may include one or more of the following: poor appetite, loose stool, abdominal bloating, dizziness, bleeding disorders (such as easy bruising) and perhaps even the prolapse of internal organs.

TCM Diagnosis: Abdominal Bloating with Normal (increased) appetite
The difficulty for TCM diagnosis is that each patient may have not only one of the aforementioned organ deficiencies, but there is likely another pattern (or two!) going on at the same time.

A recent patient complained of Fatigue, Abdominal Bloating after eating, but definitely not poor appetite, and instead of loose stools, she tended towards constipation. She likely has the Spleen Qi Deficiency syndrome (Fatigue and Abdominal Bloating) but then also some internal heat which is causing an increased appetite and also drying out the stools and causing constipation.

In this case, as with many cases of Spleen Qi Deficiency, the Masters say that we need to treat both the Spleen and Stomach organ systems. Herbal formulas to Tonify the Spleen need to be balanced with herbs that gently cool and clear the internal heat and promote digestion and bowel movement.

Kidney Qi Deficiency
For the Kidney system, it is understood that Qi deficiency can manifest in 3 main ways:

The first situation is that the Kidney fails to grasp the lung Qi, and this results in the type of asthma where the inhalation is not quite as deep as it should be, with the typical panting breath of the asthmatic.

The second way in which Kidney Qi deficiency manifests is that the Kidney fails to consolidate. The Kidney system is responsible for controlling the 2 lower orifices. If there is not enough energy in the Kidney system (as naturally happens as we get older) there can be dribbling or leaking of urine, or a need to urinate frequently and throughout the night. The other (posterior) lower orifice needs to have enough energy to hold in the Bowel movements and discharge them at the correct time. If the Kidney energy is not strong enough, this may result in failure to control when the BM happens, or even incontinent diarrhea.

Other difficulties with the lower orifices may be a result of a Kidney Qi deficiency, such as excessive vaginal discharge, premature ejaculation, and even some types of miscarriage.

For children who have difficulty with bedwetting, TCM modalities such as Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine have been helpful to strengthen the Kidney Qi in order to stop the bedwetting.

The third type of Kidney Qi deficiency is more severe, and we sometimes call it Kidney Essence Deficiency. This is when genetic disorders result in slow development or lower than normal intelligence or other types of functioning. These cases are hard to treat.

In summary, everybody feels tired some (most) of the time. It is important to have your symptoms evaluated by a medical professional to get an insight into why you are feeling that way. The strength of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) is that you can gain insight into your condition even if it is not severe enough to show up on any of the standard medical tests. Also, if you have been diagnosed with something, your TCM Professional can help you to understand ways to naturally strengthen your body’s Qi (Vital Energy).

I wish you the best of Health and Happiness.

Lisa Cumberland, R. TCMP

Why do TCM intakes take so long?

Why is this Acupuncturist asking me so many questions?… I am only here because I have read that Acupuncture is effective to treat low back pain. Why does she want to look at my tongue, and can she really tell anything about me by feeling my radial (wrist) pulse?

Yes, we will get to treating your back pain, but first, we must make a full TCM diagnosis and establish a treatment plan. The whole point is to treat you as a whole person, and we may as well include some points to calm your mind and treat your insomnia or digestion or whatever else is bothering you while we sort out that nagging low back pain problem.

TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) evolved through centuries of observing the whole of a person’s symptoms and eventually TCM doctors established Syndromes, called Zheng, which can be thought of as “patterns of dysfunction”, or symptoms that often combine together, that give the TCM doctor clues about what is really going on at the root (ben) of your condition. That way, he/she can treat the whole pattern, and bring improvement to many aspects of your functioning, rather than just sticking a needle in your Quadratus Lumborum (low back muscle) to release the muscular tension there (although he/she may do that, too!)

Perhaps your overactive anxiety is diverting energy up to your head and away from where it should be nourishing your low back (We call this Shen Xu Yin Xu Re Zheng). Or maybe you are getting older, and also have some urinary incontinence, or sexual power is becoming diminished (we call this Shen Qi Bu Gu).

The point is, your TCM doctor can assess your overall pattern and will treat that low back pain accordingly. For older, deficient-type patients, it is probably necessary to take a herbal formula to strengthen the body instead of just releasing the tight low back muscles.

So, be prepared to answer a lot of questions, but one of the great things about seeing an Acupuncturist is the opportunity to learn more about your patterns and things that you can do to improve your overall health and happiness.

I wish you all the best,
Lisa Cumberland R.TCMP

Chinese Medical Massage (Tui Na)

One of the best things about studying Traditional Chinese Medicine is that you learn many techniques that you can immediately put to use on family, friends and even clients.

Students enrolled in Oshio college’s Tui Na practitioner program learn the techniques of Chinese medical massage, as well as Gua Sha and Cupping therapies, in addition to a broad foundation in TCM history, philosophy, and diagnosis.

What is Gua Sha?  It is an ancient form of “friction therapy”.  Gua means to scrape or rub. Sha can be translated as a reddish rash or petechiae. Gua Sha is a friction technique that intentionally raises Sha rash or petechiae, by drawing stagnant intercellular fluid to the surface of the skin, removing toxins, and allowing fresh fluid to enter the space (usually large muscle groups on the back of the body) to regenerate and revitalize the body.  Gua Sha moves stuck Qi and blood, releases the exterior (mimicking sweating) and moves body fluids. In medical terms, Gua sha allows for the movement of metabolic waste, promotes circulation and normalizes metabolic processes.

Cupping therapy has been used for approx. 300 C.E. when the famous Taoist alchemist Ge Hong described the method in his book A Handbook for prescriptions for emergencies. Originally animal horns were used to create a vacuum on the surface of the skin, to move Qi and blood.  Nowadays, glass cups are used predominately, with the options of bamboo or plastic also available.

It is important to warn the patients that there is a risk of bruising with both Gua sha and cupping therapies. The results ( withdrawal of toxins, promotion of circulation and a general feeling of enhanced wellbeing) are worth the temporary bruising, as fans of such therapies will tell you.

At Oshio College in Victoria, students who complete the one year program of Tui Na massage therapy learn all these techniques, as well as the foundational courses towards the 3-year Diploma of Acupuncture. This way, students can practice using Tui Na, cupping, Gua Sha and other techniques on their family, friends, and patients while working towards their designation as a Registered Acupuncturist.

Best place to study Acupuncture and Herbs in Victoria, BC Canada

As I look out at the Garry Oak trees blowing in the wind, and the bright June sunshine illuminating the leaves, I am reminded of why Victoria, BC is one of the best places in Canada to live. Thinking about the family, friends, and patients I have helped through the years with Acupuncture treatments to relieve their pain, Herbal formulas to strengthen their constitution, I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to study Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to help to reset the balance of the Yin and Yang energies in the body. More recently, the World Health Organization has endorsed the use of Acupuncture to help with over 150 conditions. Indeed, the number of people in the West who have experienced and benefited from Acupuncture treatments is growing steadily. It is a practical, interesting and meaningful skill to learn.

In British Columbia, the practice of Acupuncture has been regulated by the CTCMA since 2003. Currently, there are 6 colleges in BC that offer the 3-year Diploma of Acupuncture that is necessary to be able to sit the Board Exams to become a Registered Acupuncturist in BC. Oshio College in Victoria is one of the best. Why? Oshio is a small college with a big heart. Dr. Yin, Dr. Hu and the highly experienced faculty at Oshio have both sound knowledge of TCM, and the kindness and patience required to pass it on.

Traditional Chinese Medicine is a complex and limitless system of diagnosis and treatment, of which Acupuncture is but one limb. In addition to the 365 Acupuncture points, the 400+ single herbs, which combine into over 200 classical Formulae, and all the Traditional Diagnostic methods that are taught, today’s Acupuncture and TCM students have to be well informed about modern allopathic bio-medicine as well. It is a huge courseload, and it is important to have teachers who are concise, experienced, and also patient enough to lead new students through the mountains of information.

Luckily, we have a strong team of such teachers at Oshio College in Victoria. For this reason, I believe that Oshio College is truly the best place to study TCM Acupuncture and Herbs in Victoria.

Lisa Cumberland