Diagnosis and Treatment
When you have acupuncture, your acupuncture practitioner will use the needles to do one of two things. They will either be clearing or tonifying. The difference lies in the way the needles are manipulated once they have been inserted.
Rather than diagnosing diseases in a purely physiological way Chinese Medicine tends to categorise conditions according to the symptoms they present. This is what makes it so effective at treating such a wide range of discomforts and diseases. Here are five of the most significant of these categories all of which would be treated using clearing needles.
Probably the most common health problems that requires clearing, is stagnation – energy or blood can back up, become blocked or stagnant causing, aches, pains, pressure and frustration. Qi Stagnation is extremely common in our society and is exacerbated by stress.
Heat can present as being physically hot, inflamed or red. Hot pain is busting and acute. Thirst is likely to accompany heat along with a bitter taste in the mouth. Examples of hot conditions include acute illness such as influenza or meningitis; sprains and other injuries. Heat is also often seen in skin conditions such as eczema.
Cold conditions present with symptoms of physical coldness or an inability to get warm. The pain associated with cold is also acute, but is more of a constricting, vice like or biting pain. Cold conditions are improved with the application of heat.
Damp is not a term we are used to associating with health in the west, but it is clinically extremely common. Damp by nature is thick, turbid and sticky. It manifests itself as bunged up sinuses, swellings, oedema, bloating and a sticky taste in the mouth, it can also ‘clog up’ our thinking making it difficult to concentrate.
Wind moves around and shakes and sways. These are the characteristics of the symptoms of wind in acupuncture. Wind will result on aches and pains that move from joint to joint or they can present as actual movement in the form of tics or convulsions.
According to Chinese medicine all pathogenic factors can invade the body from the outside but the neck is particularly susceptible to invasions of wind – so wear a scarf!
Tonifiying needles boost deficient energy in the body. The way in which the energies of the body are understood are relative in Chinese medicine and completely interlinked with the concept of balance. The four main energetic propertied that are likely to require tonification are: Yin, Yang Qi and Blood.
Yin and Yang
The concepts of yin and yang are at the very heart of Chinese medicine.
They are often depicted as being polar opposites, with yang being hot, active and dynamic, and yin being cool, calming and subtle. However they are also much more than just opposites.
One of the most important aspects of yin and yang is their relativity to one another and the way that changes in one affect in the other. This is beautifully illustrated in the Chinese symbols that represent them. The yang symbol depicts the sunny side of the hill, where as the yin shows the shady side
In order to retain a healthy balance in our lives we need to balance the amount of activity and rest we get. If we are too active and don’t rest enough, the tendency will be for us to become yin deficient. Conversely, if we are not active enough, we can become yang deficient.
It is in diagnosing these conditions that the interplay between yin and yang becomes significant. When yin becomes deficient what results is an excess of yang in relation to yin. However because the yang is not really in excess, we call this ‘empty yang’ or ‘empty heat'.
Symptoms you are likely to encounter with yin deficiency are:
- feeling of heat, especially in the evening
- wired restlessness
- slight palpitations or anxiety
- insomnia and waking in the night
Likewise with yang deficiency the symptoms are essentially yin in nature, but unstable yin:
- Feeling of cold, finding it hard to get warm
- Tiredness, lethargy
- Lack of motivation
Qi and Blood
As well as the concepts of yin and yang, acupuncture also talks about Qi and Blood. Qi and Blood are the subtler cousins of yin and yang. By nature Qi or energy is more yang – it is more active and ephemeral – think of it as being a gas. Blood on the other hand is more yin. It is denser and flows more smoothly like liquid. Because acupuncture is essentially a preventative medicine, as practitioners we are always striving to achieve a more refined diagnosis of balance – the concepts of Qi and Blood allow us to do this. Therefore, even if there are no obvious yin or yang deficiencies we may be able to detect deficiencies in Qi or Blood, thereby moving to ever greater balance.
Qi deficiency is usually indicated by a temporary dip in energy. For example tiredness after eating, in the morning or in the evening, mighty indicate Qi deficiency.
Blood deficiency is indicated by symptoms that suggest the circulation is sluggish such as, pins and needles, postural dizziness or muscle cramps.