In Oriental medical theory, there is a general philosophy that we must treat both the root and the branch of a problem. If someone comes in with what appears to be simple back pain, we take a closer diagnostic look to see if the pain is simply the outward manifestation (the branch), of a deeper issue (the root). Sometimes of course, pain is simply due to a physical injury, and I treat the issue on a physical and mechanical level. However, there are also pain syndromes that appear to be strictly musculoskeletal in nature, that actually have a deeper energetic component that should be addressed for a superior treatment result. If someone presents with a tendency to get shoulder, hip or lower back pain, there could be an underlying imbalance related to the structural vulnerability of that area, increasing the likelihood of injury. In such cases it is best to treat both the root and the branch.
In the case of internal problems, we could have 5 patients with the same western diagnosis, for example, heartburn, and all 5 patients could have a different root, or energetic imbalance, giving rise to the symptom. Although we would treat the branch, or the symptom directly, it is also essential to treat the root cause of the disorder in order to get any lasting result. It is for this reason that the success of a practitioner rests on diagnostic skill.
Although there are some patients who come to me for straightforward treatment and relatively simple correction of something that has gone out of balance, there are others whose illness and pain offer a true opportunity for change in their lives. Besides acupuncture and herbs, healing may also involve an alteration in lifestyle, or perhaps present them with an opportunity to become mindful of negative thought patterns, stress, and, unprocessed emotions held in the body and mind.
I believe that the challenges and difficulties we face with our health offer opportunities for transformation and insight. It can be helpful to relax our struggle with illness and let go of making it the enemy, thus allowing it to be our teacher and guide. Such an attitude will encourage healing. We can then utilize acupuncture, herbs, or any other healing modalities to mobilize the healing process by correcting disturbed energy flows of body and mind and create a new homeostasis of greater well being.