Acupuncture is one treatment modality within Chinese medicine. As a system, Chinese medicine is predicated upon and defined by comprehensive and individualized treatment. This means that symptoms are not treated in a predetermined manner, and the treatment is not limited to the symptoms themselves.
This topic in Chinese medicine is known as Root-Branch. Branch refers to the symptom manifestation. Using low back pain as an example, the pain itself would be considered the branch. Root refers to the underlying factors that give rise to the symptoms.
There is also a more complex discussion of causality in Chinese medicine. As relates to the current article, even a herniated disc would be considered branch/symptomatic in Chinese medicine, while in Western medicine it would be considered causal. This is because Chinese medicine is concerned with the fundamental factors of physiology that give rise to pathology and disease. A herniated disc in Chinese medicine is considered to be a symptom or result of some underlying imbalance, and not the primary cause itself.
Chinese medicine always and without exception considers the whole body. You cannot have a herniated disc that is separate from the person in which the disc is found. There is inherent logic and simplicity to this perspective, yet it is not considered in conventional Western medicine. The premise is that the part does not exist separate from whole, and that all of the organs and tissues in our body work in conjunction with each other; they are not separate, isolated systems. I will write more on this subject at a later date.
There are a variety of categories of underlying causes in Chinese medicine. Continuing with the example of low back pain, an underlying cause as relates to Zang-Fu (organs and bowels) is some sort of Kidney deficiency. This might include vacuity of Kidney Yin, Kidney Yang, Kidney Qi or Kidney Jing (for more about the the meaning of “vacuity” in Chinese medicine, read my article Vacuity).As relates to Qi, Blood and Fluids (these are categories of disease causation, explained in the above linked article) there might be Blood stasis. There might be cold in the channels, trauma, or a variety of other factors which are not necessary to discuss here.
The point is that these underlying imbalances lead to the formation of disease, and without resolution the symptoms and disease will either not be fully cured or they will return in some similar or other manner.
Local acupuncture treatment and dry needling can successfully treat local blockages in the muscles, bones, connective tissue, channels, etc. But systemic treatment is necessary to treat the underlying and predisposing factors.
Chinese medicine is a comprehensive system of medicine that observes, considers and treats both branch-symptoms and root-causes, using the therapies of acupuncture, herbs, diet and exercise. All treatment is specific to the patient and the condition. This holistic approach of Chinese medicine offers the best potential for successful treatment. For this same reason, Chinese medicine