When we think of inflammation, we often think of localized pain somewhere in the body. An injury, for example, can elicit an acute inflammatory response. In addition, inflammation may be systemic and manifest in various parts of the body. As Jennifer Pillow-White wrote in her blog (Ask the CST) , inflammation is an necessary part of healing. Inflammation can be a good thing!
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture has its own unique way of viewing inflammation.
TCM is a very literal medicine. We look at symptoms (of a health condition) vs. a label (such as inflammation) to diagnosis and differentiate illness and disease. A patient may come to our office with inflammation and the acupuncturist asks – “what are the symptoms associate with the inflammation?”
As an example, a common symptom associated with inflammation is heat. If a person is injured, the area of the injury may be hot to the touch. We may see swelling and redness. There may be joint pain. These are all symptoms of heat that are associated with inflammation.
As acupuncturists, our treatment goal is to “clear the heat” to reduce the symptoms of inflammation. Now, this same person may also have digestive inflammation. They may have a burning sensation in the esophagus (a symptom of acid reflux which is also considered heat) a sharp pain in the abdomen, and a sour taste in their mouth. They may have more of these symptoms of heat when they eat spicy foods.
This tells us that this person has “heat in their body” and that there is heat in more than one location. Our goal is to work with the heat in each location as well as what may be contributing to the heat throughout the whole body.
An analogy I like to use is that TCM views the body much like a tree – we have lots of branches (symptoms) and we also have roots. If we just watered one branch, that branch would not nourish, grow and heal. We have to also tend to the roots. In the examples above – this means to understand what may be causing the heat at the root – as well as treating the various branches where the heat manifests.
Traditional Chinese Medicine treats the whole body. We offer support to treat acute health issues (such as localized heat/inflammation) as well as more chronic issues (such as heat/inflammation throughout the whole body).