Chinese Medicine – Why We Ask So Many Questions

Chinese medicine treatment tree

To celebrate the opening of the Four Pillars clinic, I would like to share with you some of the principle ideas that inspire me to practice this form of medicine. One of the most important challenges is learning to ask the right questions, then piecing together all the clues to treat the patient and their condition. To do this, Chinese Medicine applies the theory known as Root and Branch. The Branch is a sign or symptom that is typically the reason a patient has come in for treatment and the Root is the underlying cause. When it comes to treatment, sometimes we cannot treat the root cause of a condition until a symptom has been resolved. For example, if a patient has recently fallen sick (Branch) but has a weak immune system (Root) we cannot strengthen the immune system, as this may intensify the pathogen. Therefore, the pathogen may need to be cleared first such as inducing sweat. Or perhaps a patient suffers from bruxism – teeth grinding, we could do a treatment that relaxes the muscles and sore jaw (Branch) but if the condition is caused by stress (Root) the condition is bound to come back unless we treat both the Root and Branch

Unfortunately, I have experienced medical treatment in the past that has been just concerned with the symptom (Branch) at hand. Many years ago I was trying to work out why I was always prone to excess ear wax and would have to get them cleaned out – which can be an unusual and dizzying experience. Once my ear was cleared I asked the practitioner what was causing this to happen and what could I do to help? I was informed that sometimes people needed to have their ears cleaned every month. I was not exactly impressed with this answer at the time. After some research of my own, I discovered that the Root cause of this issue was my diet. I was consuming a lot of rich greasy food, coffee and not enough water. It is in this situation that I personally learned the importance of treating the Root (diet/digestion) to address the branch (ear wax build up).

Chinese Medicine treats a variety of physical conditions, though they are not all caused by injury or trauma. It may seem strange for a patient to come in with, for example, elbow pain and all of a sudden I am asking about how their sleep is, do they often feel hot or cold, how is their energy…? These questions are required as there may be a weakness in the digestion, leading to a lack of nourishment for the bones, ligaments, and muscles. Or possibly the body has been subject to a prolonged cold environment that has affected their circulation. Some people may think the questions are excessive, but to be a good Chinese Medicine practitioner you have to be a good detective to fully understand the constitution of a person. The idea of Root and Branch reminds us that we are treating people, treating patterns and not always just a symptom.

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