What can Be Treated With Acupuncture?
Before we get into details the crux of this article can be summed up in one statement… Chinese Medicine treats patterns of illness that can contain any number of symptoms/western conditions whereas generally western medicine is symptomatic/condition based. This is an important distinction to have in mind when you are are considering using Chinese Medicine (acupuncture, herbal medicine, tuina massage, etc.) for your ailments.
It is very common when patients are new to acupuncture that they ask for specific conditions to be treated. They generally assume that, as with Western Medicine, we have treatments for individual conditions and that it is unlikely or cumbersome even to treat more than one symptom at a time. Then they get concerned that they will run out of time and money until we get through all of them! Lucky for them, and for practitioners, Chinese Medicine does not treat conditions. That’s right, technically speaking there are no acupuncture treatments for back pain, arthritis, depression, fertility or anything else. Yet all of these conditions and far more are treated with success on a daily basis in Chinese Medicine clinics around the world.
So What -does- Acupuncture Treat?
In Chinese Medicine we treat patterns. These patterns can be thought of simply as treating the root and connections between your conditions/symptoms – even treating causal factors before you experience a stronger condition. Treating the path towards thyroid problems, for example, while you only have mild symptoms and your western blood work is still fine. This opposed to chasing after each individual symptom which often ends up in a barrage of uncoordinated medicinal attempts at bringing all of your symptoms under control.
A very important aspect of the diagnostic and treatment process within Chinese Medicine is to note that you can treat conditions -before- they come to fruition – the ultimate in prevention so to speak. Part truth and, undoubtedly, part folklore stories about historical village doctors in China go like this — doctors were only paid when the villagers were well, once someone was sick they were not paid until they were better again… The development of Chinese Medicine certainly took these precautions to heart and the system of diagnostic patterns allows for both remedial and protective measures to be taken.
We see this clinically, for example, when a patient will come for a specific condition such as knee pain and find that when their knee is better, their digestion is also improved, they are sleeping better, and their blood pressure is down – often without even telling the practitioner about those symptoms! This a direct result from treating their overall pattern.
What is a Pattern?
Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnostic patterns (or, simply, “patterns”) are descriptions of how illness arises, proceeds, comes to fruition and affects other systems. When patients see a practitioner of Chinese Medicine the practitioner will take note of all of their symptoms, conditions (both past and present), lifestyle habits, dietary habits, and other information such as that derived from tongue and/or pulse diagnosis, facial diagnosis, etc.. When all of this information is assimilated they will come to an overall diagnosis (i.e. your “pattern” or “patterns” as you can have multiple ones).
Often these patterns are a web of inter-relationships and inter-woven histories of actions and results than can be difficult to distill down to one causal pattern – particularly as we age. This is where all of the years of training is spent within Chinese Medicine. Chinese Medicine properly applied requires constant study and development on the side of the practitioner to fully appreciate the nuances of all of these patterns and to properly diagnose and treat – there are no shortcuts. The needling techniques used within acupuncture are fairly trivial to learn, but what points to use and why is where the “magic” is and where the results are derived from.