Observation, through sight, touch and interrogation, is the essence of TCM. It is an observation on how the body feels, reacts, and looks. TCM theory has been built up over thousands of years of simply observing the course of disease in the body. It observes the body as a micro planet with cold and heat; dryness and dampness playing a role in the human body’s health. If the body is a microcosm that needs to be balanced, the TCM practitioner is the weather person observing how the balance has been upset, and how one might be able to reset that balance.
Traditional Chinese medicine, in its simplicity, can be compared to observing Mother Nature’s affect on the planet as it might affect the human body both internally and externally. From an external observation, is the patient greatly affected by wind and do damp surroundings seem to add to the health issue? From an internal observation, are the feet and hands cold, is the low back cold, is the skin hot to the touch or does heat flush the face like a rising fire in the body? As the TCM practitioner observes how the properties of Mother Nature, wind, cold, heat, dampness, and dryness, are affecting the external and internal balance of the body, they apply acupuncture and herbs to counteract what element is causing the undesirable symptoms. If the body’s fluids are coagulating into a form of dampness, certain acupuncture points will be stimulated to strengthen the water metabolism. Certain herbs will be used to resolve the dampness and redistribute the body’s moisture. If the body seems hypersensitive to the cold or heat then the practitioner will adjust the treatment accordingly, using heat techniques to expel the cold from the body or cooling techniques to calm the heat sensations.
Another segment of observation is similar to the concept of referred pain in western medicine. Anatomically, when certain organs have a health issue, pain can be felt in certain areas of the body. A TCM practitioner also examines where pain is, or is traveling to, in the body. Different from anatomical pain, the practitioner of TCM will examine the course of body sensations in reference to the meridians that contain the points needled in an acupuncture session. Once the meridian containing the pain has been determined a treatment will be given opening up the meridian to adjust the flow of energy and blood relieving the obstruction or lack of nourishment to that area of the body.
A TCM practitioner looks for health related issues before they manifest into severe physical symptoms. The goal of a TCM practitioner is to treat the body and give lifestyle options before a problem progresses outside of the patients own control. Whether one is dealing with a current health issue or just trying to achieve a higher level of well being, visiting a local TCM practitioner might shine a new perspective on old issues.
(Written by Paul Marchinko - our resident acupuncturist and TCM practitioner)