With wide access to all sorts of health and medical information and products these days, many of us are using this information and our access to the proliferation of easy-to-get health care products and internet website advice to be better informed, but also to self-diagnose, self-prescribe and self-treat. Some of this access contributes to informed decision-making and availability of helpful products, and this can often be a truly good thing for many.
Becoming obsolete are the times in which the physician or health care practitioner was given, or acted with, God-like authority, and was the sole keeper of all important medical knowledge. The uninformed patient followed the advice of the practitioner, without question, and often as a consequence, never took any active part in their own health or understood their own role in a healing process, which we now know is an important aspect in maintaining one’s health. The previous model was one in which one deferred that responsibility to the medical “experts.”
Many health seekers in our contemporary culture now want to be informed and more personally involved in their health care. This is an important evolution in assuming personal responsibility for all the elements of ones own well being, yet an approach that can have some limitations and pitfalls.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) often uses the analogy of a tree when explaining the dynamics of health issues; there is the concept of both a root and a branch of a particular symptom or illness. While this can be an oversimplification, the root is the true source pattern of the issue, while the branch can be simply the symptom of how the imbalanced pattern manifests in the body, mind or spirit. For example, a headache would be considered a branch symptom, while the root could be from any number of differing causative factors or imbalances. It is not wholly or always incorrect to think of treating the branch of an issue, and sometimes that is warranted as the first or truest option; but what if the source of one’s “headache” could be attributed to multiple factors that were different for each person? Any one or more of many of these familiar “roots” could be the true origin of the headache: stress and muscular tension in the neck and shoulders; lack of quality sleep for a long period of time; heavy metal toxicity or drug/medication reactions; menstrual cycle imbalances; too much sun exposure; hypertension; photophobia (a hypersensitivity to light); or dehydration, and of course other causes.
Chinese Medicine uses different concepts and language to describe these various root dynamics, and the method of treatment for each root condition would also differ accordingly. But what if one were to seek to self treat all “headaches” in one singular branch manner, regardless of the point of view being TCM, another Alternative/Integrative Medicine or Western Medical approach, or with an internet search recommendation?
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bruce Gustafson, LAc., is a California Board Certified Licensed Acupuncturist and the owner of Balance Point Wellness. Bruce graduated with honors from Emperor’s College of Traditional Oriental Medicine in Santa Monica, CA.