This question was posed to me during a radio interview and I had to pause for a moment to answer this insightful query. I knew the answer, but could not go into the complex theories of traditional Chinese medicine to provide an answer and had to come up with a simple explanation. My condensed reply did not do the subject justice as Chinese medicine is a vast subject with complex nuances. I pride myself on being able to synthesize the principles of Chinese medicine for my patients and herb customers for better understand, but always with the disclaimer that there is much more to the subject.
- Unlike western medicine, Chinese medicine does not separate the body and mind
- Energetic organ systems of Chinese medicine are functional systems that include acupuncture channels
- There are specific emotions that are associated with each energetic organ system
Pain indicates a blockage of the flow of Qi and Blood along acupuncture channels, or in an area of the body. Acupuncture, topical herbs, and herb supplements are all employed to clear up the stagnation and resolve pain. Trauma is the first type of pain that typically comes to mind; so how can emotions impact pain due to, for example, a car accident? First, you have to understand how imbalances develop in the body according to Chinese medicine:
- Organ level disease, deficiencies, or imbalance can lead to emotional imbalances
- Emotional imbalances can lead to organ imbalances and thus disease
- Imbalances of energetic organ systems can develop through familial lines (DNA), poor lifestyle habits (diet), environmental factors, and so on
So, it is part of Chinese medical diagnosis and patient evaluations to determine if the emotional imbalance came first leading to organ-level imbalances or if the organ level imbalances resulted in emotional imbalance; sometimes it remains unknown.
Furthermore, certain areas of the body are associated with certain organ systems:
- Kidney energetic system-lower back pain and knee pain
- Liver energetic system-joints and tendon pain, headaches, and sciatica
- Spleen energetic system-muscle aches, pains, and weakness
Let’s imagine that the person in the car accident was struck from behind and developed lower back pain. Arriving at the acupuncturist’s office it is discovered that this patient has prematurely graying hair, knee weakness, anxiety, and panic attacks all predating the accident; these are all indications of Kidney Deficiency in traditional Chinese medicine. The acupuncturist would come to the conclusion that the lower back was already susceptible to an injury due to an imbalance of the Kidney energetic system.
This determination allows for a clear diagnosis and effective treatment by a licensed acupuncturist. The acupuncturist would treat not only the acupuncture channels where the pain is evident but will reinforce the Kidney energetic system and calm the mind. In this way only can longstanding relief and a complete resolution of the pain be achieved.