The majority of people who seek treatment with Chinese medicine (or any other form of alternative medicine for that matter) are generally concerned either with an acute pain or with some chronic condition which has not responded favorably to conventional treatments. Most people do not know, at least at first, that Chinese medicine can treat acute conditions such as injuries, colds, fevers, etc. The value of treating acute conditions with Chinese medicine is not just one of convenience or of being able to avoid the short term consequences of pharmaceutical intervention. The proper understanding and treatment of acute conditions is a critical component of long term healing. While in conventional Western medicine acute conditions are generally considered as isolated events, in Chinese medicine they are seen in a much larger context. There is an interpretive level of diagnosis which includes but is not limited to the importance of symptoms in relation to:
• Acute illness which may root at one season or time of life and manifest in another
• A normal healing process through which the body cleanses or sheds imbalances
• The progression of chronic illness and its manifestation in acute symptoms
These factors require considering the question of when is a cold just a cold, when is it the manifestation of an earlier insult or disease process, when is it part of a healing process, and when it is reflective of the progression of a chronic illness chronic illness. In real life, these are not always inseparable issues. Neither are they questions which can always be answered. However, two pieces of information are always true – illness reflects the organism’s best and healthiest response at the time (and in this way reflects healing), and correct treatment regardless of interpretation supports this. Correct treatment does not always mean with acupuncture or herbs, nor does it always mean doing anything at all. But without a framework to consider these issues, acute illness will almost always be treated incorrectly, leading to continued damage and stress to the individual. In my practice, I honestly spend half of my time trying to clean up the mess resulting from improper treatment. This not limited to Western biomedicine by any means – incorrect Chinese treatment can be given just as easily. The point of all of this is that careful attention to acute symptomatology can lead to greater long term health.