Many people come in to see us with a Western medical diagnosis; or will often ask, "Can acupuncture treat 'X'?"
Of course if you're familiar with me or my blog you'll know I always say that acupuncture treats the person not the disease. This blog entry will explain what I mean.
When someone is diagnosed with, for example, "Adult Onset Diabetes," that is a name given to a set of conditions especially for the use of medical doctors, who can then say to each other, "Patient P has diabetes mellitus type 2, well-controlled on four shots of insulin daily," and the other doctor will have a pretty good idea of what is going on. But really it does nothing to explain how the person feels, or what their specific symptoms are. Do they feel great, healthy and energetic (after all, their diabetes has been described as "well-controlled"), or are they sleeping 12 hours a night but still exhausted all day, plus they have no feeling in their feet? To a practitioner of Chinese Medicine, it is the details of how a person feels that is important in the treatment, not the diagnosis.
This holds equally true for Eastern-type of diagnoses. When someone comes in and tells me that their fifth chakra is blocked, I still need to know if they have a sore throat, or is it that they are unable to say no when people ask them to do things? Even when people come in and tell me that they have been diagnosed as having "Liver invading the Spleen" (a classic diagnosis used in Traditional Chinese Medicine), I still need to know how they feel and what symptoms they have to give them an effective treatment.
In fact, often times diagnoses set up barriers in the patient's mind, making them fearful (imagine what it feels like to be told you have cancer) or hopeless...which are now additional energetic, emotional, and/or feeling states they may cause further symptoms or conditions. Many diagnoses hold with them the prognosis (either explicit or implied) that there is no hope, no cure (Parkinson's, Autism, countless other named diseases.) In fact, management is the 'name of the game' for these conditions -- often with medications with no promise to heal, which further cause their own set of problems.
Parkinson's, in fact, is a condition carrying a particularly dire prognosis: progressive degenerative neurological condition from which there is no hope for cure. According to Western Medicine, management is the only thing they offer, and management is admittedly (by them) not great. However, acupuncturist Janice Walton-Hadlock in California began working closely with people with Parkinsons (her work can be found here). She has developed a technique of using just hands-on (no needles) called yin tui na, which we do here at the Birch Center. Her clients began to fully recover and heal, but when they went back to their doctors they were consistently told they must have been misdiagnosed originally, since in the world of medicine there is no room for someone to be healed of Parkinson's. The same is true for many conditions to which people have worked with in different ways and found significant results. It is easier for Western medicine to say there must have been a mistake in diagnosis than to look at the possibility that healing is possible, from anything, when the right environment is provided and the body is able to balance it's energy, and thus heal itself.
So whether or not someone has a diagnosis, and no matter what that diagnosis is, we still approach people the same way by asking the questions: how do you feel? what are your symptoms? how is your life effected? We look at the constitution (big or small, loud or quiet, outgoing or introverted, tends to be sick or normally always well), and feel the pulse and examine the tongue carefully. And whether we are working with needles, with our hands, or even in an entirely energetic way, we simply -- with our full presence -- bring to them an environment which allows the person to finally relax, re-balance and ultimately heal.