If you have been to an acupuncturist, you know that we inquire about every aspect of your mental and physical well-being. Many times, new patients will ask me how a particular question of mine is relevant to the condition they are seeking treatment for. I usually preempt that by saying that I am going to ask some questions that seem relevant and others that do not. I explain the rationale behind it: I am looking for clues and insight that your body gives to the root of the ailment, in addition to the symptoms themselves.
In traditional Chinese medicine, we often speak of the ben (root) and the biao (branches). Ben is the root of the illness; biao is the symptoms the patient is experiencing. It is often compared to a tree. The branches and trunk of a tree are the symptoms, while the tree’s roots, which are embedded underground where you cannot see them, are the cause of the illness that needs to be addressed.
Patients who come in to my office in pain are primarily concerned about treating symptoms. Simply put, they want to be rid of the pain. Someone suffering from sciatic pain merely wants to be rid of the pain so he can continue with his daily function. However, once a history is taken, if this same patient suffers from sciatic back pain on a frequent basis, it is important to simultaneously treat the root cause of the illness. The focus would then be to immediately resolve the pain, but also to stop the issue from recurring.
Other times patients come in for prophylactic treatment. They may be feeling well at the moment, but they know from their history that they are bound to have a relapse soon and want to do whatever they can to prevent it. An example of this might be someone who suffers from seasonal allergies and hay fever. They may come in to my office at the end of the winter, knowing that with the change of seasons they will be miserable with continuous allergy attacks. Symptoms may include sneezing, runny nose, watery, itchy eyes and throat, and even hives. They may not be having issues right now, but they want to do whatever they can to prevent the onset. This is an example where the treatment plan would be to focus entirely on the root of the illness, not the symptoms, since the patient is currently asymptomatic.
On the welcome page of my website there is a famous quote from Thomas Edison: “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest her or his patients in the care of the human frame, in a proper diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.” I love this quote, as it is something I encourage all of my patients to incorporate in their lives. Proper health and maintenance can prevent disease. Acupuncture is a great tool in your arsenal of maintaining proper health and wellness. It is similar to a coat of armor when it comes to disease prevention. Acupuncture builds up your stamina, helping to prevent disease. By providing an immune boost, along with complete relaxation, it allows the body to simply let go and maintain optimal health.
In most cases, treatment of both ben and biao, or root and symptoms, is necessary simultaneously. For example, those experiencing migraine headaches would need immediate relief from their headaches, but the treatment would also include working to ensure the headaches are resolved and do not reoccur. Whatever your health concern is, proceeding with treatment of either the root or the symptoms, or treating both the root and symptoms simultaneously, is determined when together we review your medical history.
Each has different approaches and strategies in the treatment phase. Of course, the psychological factor always plays a role as well. Acupuncture stimulates endorphin and encephalin release, which in turn acts as a GABA antagonist. In doing so, dopamine is released in the brain, immediately relieving pain and anxiety. With a series of treatments, this profound reaction builds and is maintained in the body. When the physical and emotional join together, we see optimal results. Acupuncture can help you feel better now and be stronger going forward.
Determining whether to treat the ben or biao, or both simultaneously, is something addressed during your initial intake. The notion of not only treating symptoms but eradicating an illness entirely is something that is welcome by all. Acupuncture can help you get there. It treats the whole you–the branches, the trunk, and the roots. Take the time today to start your own wellness journey. Watch the flowers on the branches bud and blossom, and feel yourself start to enjoy all that optimal health can bring.