Background of Traditional Chinese Medicine & Acupressure

The original texts relating to Chinese medicine are estimated to be over 2,500 years old. Since then, over a thousand more books have been written about Chinese medicine / healing. In the West today, nearly all the forms of Oriental medicine offered has its roots in Chinese medicine. The oldest text related to acupuncture is dated as far back as 282 A.D.

The practise of Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on the practice of preventative care. Hundreds of years ago, ‘bare-footed doctors’, would go from village to village and receive housing, food and payment ONLY when the community was healthy. When the community and livestock was well, they lavished the doctor with riches, food and elegant accommodation. However, when the community or livestock and other animals were not well, it meant the doctor was not doing their job properly and so they did not receive any form of payment.

“The good physician treats the disease; the great physician treats the patient who has the disease.”

William Osler

The ancient Chinese understood that all living beings, human and animal are part of the universe – we share the stars and planets overhead and tread the same earth beneath our feet. We all need to eat, sleep, work, play and engage our minds and spirits. The ancient Chinese understood that both human and animal share the way seasonal changes can affect us. Questions the ancient Chinese always studied were ‘how is the human or animal functioning within its environment?’, ‘Is the animal coping well and healthy in the spring when the winds are blowing?’, or do they suffer from respiratory issues in the autumn when the temperatures start to drop and the leaves are falling?’.

The ancient Chinese studied the animal in its entirety within its environment and recognised that each animal just like humans are unique, so an approach to managing their health and happiness must be specific to them.

Dogs and cats like all mammals, require the same basic requirements for health that their ancestors did in ancient times. Although over the centuries dogs have been ‘re-designed’ by human needs, their need for proper food, exercise, rest, play, social interaction and touch remain the same. In Traditional Chinese medicine, health and emotional wellbeing are highly dependant on lifestyle, which can be further supported by acupuncture or acupressure as well as herbs.

Ancient medicine defines health as an internal and external balance of nutrients and energy to allow proper functioning. The Chinese realised the wisdom in sustaining health rather than waiting until the immune system is weakened and the person or animal suffers from an illness.

Acupuncture and acupressure are different applications of the same Traditional Chinese Medicine principles. Because the thin needles used in acupuncture treatments are invasive, they should only be applied by veterinarians trained in canine acupuncture. In addition, herbal suppliments also need to be prescribed by a trained veterinarian or a qualified herbalist because they are ingested. However, acupressure can safely be offered to a dog or cat by a trained practitioner or by their guardian.

When the ancient Chinese looked out at the universe and life on earth, they realised there was a living quality which makes the difference between what is living and what is not. The Chinese called this quality Chi (Also referred to as Qi or Ki – and pronounced ‘chee’). This notion of Chi differentiates Chinese medicine from all other forms of medicine and philosophies of life. It is a unique idea that has come from thousands of years of keen observation and study.

In its most basic expression, Chi is the life-promoting energy that is constantly flowing along pathways (meridians) throughout the body, nourishing the organs, tissues and bones. This nourishment is necessary for the living body to function. However, when trauma, illness or a weakened immune system occurs through being invaded by pathogens, the harmonious flow of Chi is disrupted. This can lead to Chi becoming blocked, stagnant or imbalanced. This imbalance if not restored can penetrate deeper within the body and lead to more serious or difficult issues to resolve.

“Worms will not eat living wood when the vital sap is flowing; rust will not hinder the opening of a gate when the hinges are used each day. Movement gives health and life. Stagnation brings disease and death.”

Traditional Chinese Medicine proverb

During an acupressure session, the practitioner utilises specific points (acupoints) throughout the body along the meridian system. These points when stimulated have a powerful effect of influencing the flow of Chi and blood throughout to support the body’s ability to heal itself and restore balance.

“The Chinese do not draw any distinction between food and medicine”

Lin Yutang

From book ‘The Well-Connected Dog, A Guide to Canine Acupressure by Amy Snow & Nancy Zidonis’