Physical Therapy and TCM

Physical therapy is a vital part of many rehabilitation programs. It promotes mobility, helps to build strength, and increases flexibility. Physical therapy also helps to improve balance, coordination, stability, and endurance. It helps to relieve pain and tension. It is a way of retraining muscles and joints. It is used after an accident or trauma, in some degenerative diseases, and to help with long-standing problems.

There are many situations that use physical therapy. These include injuries sustained in an accident, back pain, arthritis, fractures, asthma, heart disease, inflammation, and many more.

It is common for a therapist to give you exercises to do at home, as well as those in the clinic.

TCM Approach in Physical Therapy

Whereas conventional physical therapy focuses on the immediate problem, TCM takes a holistic approach. Rather than addressing and treating one symptom in isolation, TCM aims to bring the body back to a state a balance in order to promote natural healing. As well as aiming to increase strength, balance, mobility, and everything else already mentioned, it also aims to promote overall wellbeing. This includes making a person feel more relaxed and calmer, reducing stress, and dealing with all problems arising from the root cause. It aids sleep, can speed up recovery, and can provide almost instant pain relief whilst the underlying problem is being worked on. TCM includes the mind, body, and soul in treatment.

TCM Techniques in Physical Therapy

There are various treatments and techniques under TCM that can be used very effectively in physical therapy. A TCM practitioner is likely to use a combination to ensure the very best results and outcomes.  These may include massage, cupping, moxibustion, wax therapy, acupuncture, acupressure, herbal therapy, water therapy, and nutrition therapy.

TCM practitioner will discuss your problem and needs with you, taking into account all aspects of your life. An individualised treatment plan is created – you are not treated in the same way as another patient who presents the same symptoms, as both of you are different and have different overall needs. You will be assessed and evaluated by observation, interview questions, listening to your heart, sounds, and smells.  

Acupuncture is very common in physical therapy. Certain points in the body are stimulated using very fine needles. This aims to eliminate blockages in the body, and aid the flow of qi. Qi is the essential life energy that flows through each and every person, according to Qi-Gong theory. All problems with the body and health are thought to be because of an impeded flow of qi. Acupuncture can bring instant pain relief.

Acupressure has the same goals as acupuncture, but no needles are inserted into the skin. It is purely external pressure. Reflexology, or foot massages, use acupressure. It is thought that each part of the body has a corresponding area of the foot, and that by applying pressure to the relevant part of the part will improve the linked part of the body. This is especially useful for people requiring physical therapy, whereby localised pain may make it unbearable to be touched in the area.

Cupping works on a similar principle. A heated suction cup is placed on the body to create negative pressure in certain points. It improves the flow of blood and qi, and aids improvement and rehabilitation.

Massage is another common technique in physical therapy. It stimulates muscles and joints, helping to improve motor functions. Some discomfort may be felt during the actual massages, but the overall improvements and benefits should greatly outweigh any temporary feelings of discomfort. By stimulating certain parts of the body in this way, qi is drawn to the area and blockages are broken down.

Herbal remedies may be used to help to restore internal balance. This promotes the balance between the opposing but essential factors of yin and yang, and helps to aid the flow of qi. This not only helps the symptom complained about, but also promotes overall wellness. Dietary considerations also work on the same principle.

Many conventional practitioners see the benefits in TCM for patients, and referrals to TCM practitioners are not uncommon. Many patients report increased benefits and an overall sense of wellbeing by using the two systems side by side.