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What is Traditional Chinese Medicine, and will insurance cover it?

There are a lot of things a person has to get used to when they move to China for the first time. China has unique culture, history, society, government, economy, business world, food and much more. And – odds are – if you are moving to China for the first time, learning the ins and outs of all of these different aspects of life in the country will be a little overwhelming. Depending on where you’re from, there can be vast differences between customs in your home place and in China.

Perhaps one of the most foreign seeming aspects of life in China for westerners, in particular, is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). While China has its own modern western-style healthcare system, there are still countless numbers of people in China, as well as other countries all over the world, that depend on traditional medicine for at least a portion of their healthcare and/or lifestyle needs. Here, Pacific Prime China provides information on what Traditional Chinese Medicine is for people new to the practice, as well as discuss whether or not your health insurance will cover it.

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Traditional Chinese Medicine in China

TCM origins date back some 2,500 years, when ancient herbalists and doctors would advise on and perform techniques for patients to increase acute and chronic health problems, as well as promote overall health through preventive care.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has some central concepts that make up the bedrock of its foundation. Perhaps chief among these is the idea of the body’s vital energy, which is generally referred to as qi or chi. This energy passes through various conduits throughout the body and, according to TCM, its balance or imbalance is largely responsible for whether the body is functioning properly or not. For this reason, much of TCM revolves around the flow, harnessing, release, buildup, imbalance, creation, or lack of qi.

There are five primary functions that qi is said to perform within the body:

  • Actuation of normal bodily function
  • Warming of the body
  • Defense against outside illness
  • Containment of bodily fluids
  • Transformation of food and drink into qi, blood, and other bodily fluids

Beyond qi, TCM is also heavily focused on aspects of the body such as blood and other bodily fluids, organs, body meridians, and pressure points.

As it has evolved, TCM has not only acknowledged the tenets of western medicine, but also incorporated some of them into itself in both theory and practice. While western medicine has not yet found evidence of the existence of qi in the human body, we are still beginning to see more legitimization of some aspects of TCM in western medicine, whereas TCM was previously only seriously considered by the likes of holistic healers in prior decades.

TCM today

How could something so ancient as TCM continue to be present in mainstream culture today, even when modern science has written off large swathes of it? Let’s look at how TCM is being used today to see if we can find out.

Acupuncture – This is likely the most commonly thought of example of TCM. Professional acupuncturists insert needles into specific points on the body in order to keep a patient’s qi flowing freely. While safe when performed by trained professionals, it should be noted that improper acupuncture technique can result in nerve damage, infection, or worse.

Qi gong – A less harsh treatment that many of the others listed in this article, qi gong is a practice that combines breathing, meditation, and movement in order to better control qi. This practice is often utilized by martial artists trying to achieve greater levels of spirituality and physical prowess, but is also said to have healing properties for practitioners and patients alike. It is said to be able to aid in treating hypertension, ulcers, liver diseases, diabetes mellitus, insomnia, cancer, pain, myopia, and more.

Cupping – Another TCM practice that has been gaining popularity overseas is known as cupping. This is where a TCM practitioner will create a vacuum in a glass cup, which then creates a suction on spots on a patient’s body – usually on their back. This process causes bruising resulting in large red circles on the patient. Cupping is said to treat pain, but the Western medicinal world widely states that it possess no actual medical benefits.

Bone setting – If you have bone issues of any kind, bone setting (also known as die-da) is the type of TCM that you’re looking for. Bone setters can also help with general injuries to soft tissue as well.

Gua Sha – This TCM practice is similar to cupping, in that the surface skin of the patient is treated to cause bruising. However, instead of a cup and vacuum being used, a practitioner will simply cause abrasions to the skin with a stone or bone to get the desired result. This practice is said to be a treatment for a wide number of ailments.

Moxibustion – This practice involves burning the herb mugwort on certain points on the body in order to stimulate circulation within it. The practice can produce blisters and scars, but this is oftentimes intended.

Herbal medicine – For just about anything that may be wrong with you, there is an herb out there that will be able to help. At least, that’s what Chinese herbalists would have you believe. This is exemplified in the fact that Chinese herbology constitutes a majority of traditional Chinese medicine treatment. When seeking out herbal medicine, you will want to go to a certified herbalist, as quite a bit of study goes into obtaining such certification in China. Be sure of the reputation of your herbalist, though, as there have been issues with tainted medicines in past years.

Get your TCM covered

There’s a chance that the TCM practices mentioned above will seem peculiar to you. Well, to that we say, can 1 billion Chinese people all be wrong? Regardless of your thoughts as to the effectiveness of TCM, you can understand more about an important part of Chinese culture if you give it a shot sometime. You may even find that the purported health benefits of TCM are true for you and your body. So if you take a shine to TCM, can you have your health insurance cover it?

Well, as it turns out, most health insurance companies in China provide some level of traditional Chinese medicine benefits, which is something that cannot be said for many countries around the world. Despite insurance companies outside of China potentially seeing TCM as an exotic practice with dubious health benefits, China regards it so highly, and it is so widely practiced and sought out, that insurers simply could not exclude it without losing considerable business.

If traditional Chinese medicine seems like something that you are interested in, and could see yourself seeking out regularly, you may want to think about securing a health insurance policy with benefits for it. To be sure, there are plenty of health insurance providers in China that include TCM coverage in their plans. The problem then becomes knowing which one is best for your needs.

This is where working with a knowledgeable, experienced insurance broker like Pacific Prime China can be invaluable. This is because our insurance advisers can gather your details, analyze any existing insurance plans you have currently, prepare a number of fitting plan options from top insurers in China, and present you with a free plan comparison and price quotation, all for absolutely free. There’s no reason not to have a helpful broker on your side, so contact Pacific Prime China today and start getting your traditional Chinese medicine treatments tomorrow!

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