Many patients who come to see me for physical complaints, like back and shoulder pain, painful urination, migraines, or asthma, also find improvement in their mental state as well. A few of Chinese medicine’s good “side effects” include better sleep, less anxiety and depression, and help in stress management. After their first treatment, most of my patients notice that they feel more relaxed and often ask me why.
For example, a patient who was coming in for a skin condition also found that his long time anxiety was improved by acupuncture. Another patient who was coming in for treatment of lower back pain also struggled with insomnia. After a few treatments, he began to sleep much better. As one patient who was coming for help with shoulder and back pain, put it, “I find that my body and spirit are in stronger alignment and that I have more energy and fewer general complaints.”
Chinese medicine’s ability to improve overall health and improve quality of life for people is one of the most powerful and mysterious aspects of the treatment. So, how does it address the whole person, both the body and mind at the same time? To answer that question we must first understand Chinese medicine’s holistic view of the body.
Chinese Medicine’s Holistic Understanding of Health
Chinese medicine physiology discusses the strong effect emotions have on the physical aspects of the body. In diagnosis and treatment, Chinese medicine links specific emotions with specific functions in the body. Stress and worrying can affect the digestive system. Stress can also cause pain, because it stops the free flow of qi. Fear can impact urination. Anger causes heat and can lead to headaches or dizziness. Connecting the physical body to the emotions makes sense. We all know when we are nervous because we physically feel it. Your heart rate increases, you may get sweaty palms, or even blush.
It is also widely known that stress and anxiety can have a negative impact on health. Emotions affect our physical health, but it can also work the other way. Our physical health can affect the emotions as well. That’s why regular physical activity, stretching, yoga, and tai chi, makes us feel better emotionally.
Chinese medicine therapies, like acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and acupressure, are all physical treatments, but they also impact mental health. Sometimes emotional distress can cause the disease. Other times, the overall imbalance in your body is the cause of your main problem. By correcting these imbalances the treatment addresses both the mind and body.