Allopathic or Western (modern) medicine is practiced by qualified physicians. Its model is reductionist in that using the scientific method strives to break down and separate the elements to find the smallest unit that can be modified to treat disease—for example, going to the molecular level and changing the chemical elements that interact in a symptom such as pain, using synthesized (MUCH of the time synthetically manufactured) chemical compounds (drugs), or modifying or removing body parts with surgery. The emphasis is in the body parts and symptoms of disease.
This system is the reason that you have a different specialist for the different organs, body parts or groups of diseases—cardiologist (heart), nephrologist (kidneys), oncologist (cancer), and so forth—thus each physician can narrow down his or her field of expertise to a smaller part of the body or a disease in particular. This process sometimes ends in having different physicians treating the same person for different things, in some cases prescribing conflicting treatment options. The circumstance that certain drugs used to improve one symptom caused harm to another function or organ of the body has occurred, such as a brand of pain medicine that had to be removed from the market because it caused increased rates of heart problems. (Think of all those law suit commercials you see on TV about a drug causing serious damage or death, and/or drug commercials that warn against serious side effects that may occur.)
Traditional Asian medicine (such as Healing Touch Energy Therapy, Medicupping, and Massage) is a system that includes all parts of the body, mind, emotions, and spirit, as well as the harmonious interaction of the individual with his or her surroundings (nature and the cosmos) in one indivisible continuum or unit. Any change in the parts of the system will affect the system as a whole; therefore any intervention is done having the whole system in consideration, not just the part being manipulated.
Doing bodywork from the perspective of the traditional Asian medicine model of health, I have the chance to create changes that will affect you at many levels, maybe changing how you feel emotionally or even modifying patterns of behavior based on belief systems (see testimonials on my website and Massage Benefits), such as how you see yourself in the world. Any type of massage can have this effect, but knowing the theory of Asian bodywork therapy gives YOU a method to evaluate and understand changes that occur beyond the purely physical aspects.
The main difference between Eastern and Western massage resides in the fact that the Eastern approach uses physical touch (energy therapy) to balance the energetic system that includes, but is not solely defined by, the physical body. The American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA) defines Asian bodywork therapy (ABT) as the treatment of the human body/mind/spirit including the electromagnetic or energetic field, which envelopes, surrounds, infuses, and brings that body to life by pressure and/or manipulation.
--Taken from Susan G Salvo’s MASSAGE THERAPY PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES, 3RD ED., p. 755.