Chinese Medicine and the Treatment of “Weird Diseases”


IMG_6602Many patients who come through the Watershed clinic are plagued by complexes of symptoms that Conventional Western medicine cannot explain.

After many years in the conventional medical system, they are typically given a diagnosis of fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome or chronic fatigue syndrome.  Unfortunately, this diagnosis rarely gives them viable treatment nor any hope for lasting improvement.  Depression, anxiety, endless Internet searches and similar behaviors are often the result.

At some point, people in this situation learn that alternative medicine, particularly Chinese medicine, may have treatments for the symptoms they are experiencing.  This dicovery is often why they are seeking Chinese medicine or Naturopathic medicine services, particularly around Portland.  Portland is a place where these services are more readily available, so patients know they have options.

When I sit down to work with a person with a diagnosis like this, the first thing I try to do is get them away from thinking too much about the diagnosis.  Instead, I ask them to focus on the symptoms they are currently experiencing and how their daily life is different from the one they would like to live.  This gets them back in touch with their bodies (good even if the body isn’t feeling so good) as well as focused on a better future.

It can sometimes take two or three appointments before my patients begin to feel that real hope that comes from knowing an illness is time limited.  During those first three appointments, we’re getting to know eachother, doing simple, clearing acupuncture treatments, and doing the work necessary to find the perfect Chinese herbal formula.

What’s amazing is that once they get this – once they really start to understand that their bodies are capable of feeling differently – symptoms begin to shift.

They’re not cured, of course, but they get their first “wins” and start to believe that winning is possible!  As a Chinese medicine practitioner, that’s honestly one of the most gratifying moments in treatment – even more gratifying than the eventual cessation of symptoms.

We then start to work on the most vexing, life altering symptoms one by one.  We don’t focus solely on symptoms, however.  As we work on the “branches” (the symptoms) we are striking deep at the “root” (cause) of the symptoms.  Fortunately, with Chinese medicine, this isn’t too difficult to achieve in most cases.

We can readily incorporate the treatment of symptoms into the fundamental shifting of the pattern.  This brings relief without neglecting the long term picture.

There are always ups and downs in treatment of this kind.  Sometimes, a patient will not experience a symptom for a long while and suddenly it comes back.  About half of the time, this is a random, temporary occurrence and we don’t have to work with it very much.  The other half of the time, there is some definable reason that the symptom has popped back up.  We address this reason, and move on.

Never do we get bogged down in the details – and always we stay focused on the hope of that life they want to live.

In my next few articles on the Watershed Community Wellness blog, I’d like to talk about some of these “weird diseases” in detail.  I will offer case studies, treatment ideas and home care tips for readers who may be struggling with one of these symptom complexes, but for whatever reason cannot come in for treatment at Watershed.  I hope this will be helpful!

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