Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Treatment Tuesday: Roots and Branches

I'll start off this first Treatment Tuesday with the way we approach every treatment. In Chinese Medicine we call it treating the root and branches. The root is the main cause of the imbalance. The branches are the symptoms that are manifesting.

For example, perhaps someone comes in because they have chronic headaches (it could be anything.) Upon further questioning we find that they also have ringing in their ears, occasional vertigo, and insomnia. Their energy is not very good by the afternoon, and they are asleep by 8 pm most nights. The headache, insomnia, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and vertigo are all symptoms (branches) that are caused by an underlying imbalance of the body. (They also all happen to be manifesting in the head, which will become relevant when we do the branch treatment, but that's another subject!)

We do more questioning, look at the tongue and take the pulses: of which there are six on each wrist -- one yin and one yang in three different positions. This is how we assess the overall energy flow in the meridians (energy pathways) of the body and come up with a root cause.

The root (underlying imbalance) may be -- among other things -- Kidney deficiency, Liver Blood deficiency, Wind, etc. These are all terms we use in traditional Chinese medicine, and do not generally correspond to Western medical diagnoses. We take other facts into consideration when treating the root as well, such as the person's constitution: in general are they frail or strong? Cold or hot?

The most important part of the treatment is making that root diagnosis and treating it by placing needles along the meridians, most often on the arms/hands and legs/feet. The root treatment alone, which helps balance the body as a whole, often clears all the symptoms. This is why so many people report that symptoms they never even mentioned to us improve as well: by balancing the root of the disharmony the symptoms disappear.

However, when a person comes in we often treat the branches as well. In the above situation, we may needle the head and some points where the head meets the neck to allow energy that may be blocked in the head to flow. We may also needle or use moxibustion (heat in the form of burning a certain herb, Mugwort or Artemesia vulgaris) on the feet to draw the energy down. These branch treatments allow the patient to experience almost immediate relief.

No matter what symptoms, conditions or disease the person comes to us with -- even when there are no symptoms at all and the person just comes for a "tune-up," we address the treatment the same way. Find and treat the root imbalance, and smooth or clear the energy of the branches (symptoms.)

I hope this helps people understand what we do in the treatment, why we ask so many (seemingly unrelated) questions, and some of our thought process. If you have questions about certain conditions or other questions relating to acupuncture that you'd like to see addressed on Treatment Tuesday, write a comment in the blog or send me an email at birchcenter@yahoo.com

Have a great day!
~Melissa Sokulski, L.Ac.

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