VICUS.COM (18 July 2000) --
Susan Push is a registered nurse who is licensed in acupuncture and
certified in hypnosis and visualization. True to her area of
specialization, she has a wonderful insight into Traditional Chinese
Medicine and the ability to clearly compare and contrast it to Western
in the New Millennium: High Tech/High Touch," The
Johns Hopkins Nurses' Alumni Association
Where: Baltimore, Md.
When: June 9, 2000
Details: Each year, in June, The Johns Hopkins
Nurses' Alumni Association offers a one-day continuing-education
seminar as part of homecoming weekend. The topic this year was
"Nursing in the New Millennium: High Tech/High Touch."
Through lectures, workshops and posters, a range of
complementary therapies were presented and discussed within the
context of modern nursing practice. Vicus.com covered the
Her lecture at the Johns Hopkins Nurses' Alumni Association symposium
titled, "Nursing in the New Millennium: High Tech/High Touch"
on June 9, 2000, in Baltimore, Md., clarified and crystallized the basic
differences in philosophies that distinguish the approaches of each
discipline to health care.
Push, who maintains the Life Cycles Acupuncture Center in Parkville,
Md., and is an education specialist at Franklin Square Hospital in
Baltimore, Md., reviewed the basic perception of the body as viewed from
TCM. Push, a R.N., M.P.H., L.Ac., then compared yin and yang,
provided insight into the organ systems and gave an overview of the
basic tenets of diagnosis in TCM.
Her presentation is a primer for anyone with a Western background who
is interested in learning about TCM. A summary is provided here.
Is your body a machine or garden?
In Western medicine, according to Push, the body is viewed as a
"machine." It has working parts that are replaced as they
become worn out or break. One 17th century physician
even likened the body to a well-made clock.
In the Western world, reality is "matter." It is solid and
it can be touched. This view is established early in the training of
Western medical health-care professionals and is exemplified in many
common mechanistic analogies to human body parts. For example, the heart
is described as a pump, the lungs are considered bellows and the nervous
system is viewed as an elaborate telephone network.
In TCM, by comparison, everything is described in terms of nature.
For example, the body is viewed as a garden, and health-care
professionals are more closely analogous to gardeners than to craftsmen.
As such, gardeners understand that if their garden receives too much
water, it becomes soggy and the plants die. Too little water causes
plants to wither. Too much shade will stunt growth, etc.
In TCM, the health-care professional works as a "gardener"
to maintain homeostasis of the garden, and their patients are considered
to be an integral part of the Earth. Whatever befalls the Earth befalls
Yin and yang
To understand TCM, it is important to realize that in the body, a
constant balancing of yin and yang exists, which must be in harmonious
balance for wellness to be present.
Yin and yang should not be viewed as dominant and submissive forces.
Rather, yang is the active force that moves qi (chi),
the energy force, through the body. Yin, by comparison, is similar to
blood (although it is much more than that in TCM). Yang is needed to
move yin, but if yang is weak, it will lack the energy needed to move
yin, which then becomes stagnant and leads to blockage and pain, which
can be physical, psychological or a combination of both. Table
1 compares the patterns of yin and yang. It includes
corresponding physiological patterns as well as constitutional and
Organ systems in TCM
It is not possible, if we are limited to a Western perspective, to
fully understand organ systems in TCM. For example, blood in TCM differs
from our Western perception, in that it goes beyond the functions that
we generally attribute to body fluids to include an energetic principle.
There are also organs in Chinese medicine that do not have names in
Western medicine, such as Triple Burner (the division of the torso into
an upper, lower and middle section, each with their corresponding
functions: respiration, digestion and elimination).
In TCM, body organs have a psychological function as well as a
physiological function. For example, a person who is experiencing
frustration leading to anger is considered in TCM to have a liver
disorder. This is beyond the traditional Western view of the liver
functioning to detoxify substances in the body.
Diagnosis in TCM
Finally, as an introduction to TCM, Push provided an overview of the
eight guiding principles in making a diagnosis in TCM (Table
The process starts with an assessment of cold and heat (i.e.,
retarded or accelerated metabolic activity) and continues with an
assessment of a state of deficiency or excess (hypofunction or
hyperfunction) of an organ or other factors. The process moves on to
assess whether the condition is internal (affecting deeper layers of
tissues and function) or external (affecting superficial layers).
Finally, there is assessment of yin and yang.
Russo Jr., Pharm.D, is senior vice president of medical
communications at Vicus.com. He is a pharmacist and medical writer with
more than 20 years of experience in medical education.
Editor's note: Thanks
to the Johns Hopkins Nurses' Alumni Association for making the events
accessible to Vicus.com