Symptoms and the Underlying Cause of the Symptoms: An Analogy

The aim of Chinese Medicine is to provide symptomatic relief to the patient and to treat the symptoms’ underlying cause. Conditions that produce the symptoms were actually already in the body long before the symptoms began to manifest. The underlying issues usually are due to more than one factor and likely to go unnoticed for years until the symptoms become more intense and frequent.

The underlying cause and symptoms can best be illustrated with the “Leaky Roof” analogy: say, that the roof in a home has a leak, and water starts to drip inside every time it rains, making the carpets and floor wet. After a certain period of time, the ceiling and wood start to rot and carpets and roof begin to mold. If the owner of the home merely took action on the symptoms, which is the leak, he probably will just put a few buckets to catch the water, keeping the floor dry. Over the course of time, however, the ceiling continues to mold and rot and if the rain is strong enough (the external stressors), the buckets may not be big enough to contain all the water and the water flows out on to the floor and carpet. The temporary solution (relief of symptoms) over time no longer works, and had never solved the problem (the rotting and the mold) due to the fact that the underlying cause (the leaky roof) was never addressed.

Now, if the home owner still decides to let things stay the way they are and does not fix the leaky roof, the CAUSE of the problem ,the roof continues to mold and rot. He may buy bigger buckets to contain the rain water but rotting and mold start to cause further problems. He and his children start developing allergies to the mold that gets bigger. After a while, the rotting causes the roof to buckle and begins to cause structural damage to the house. From the same root cause, his house, himself, and his children start to suffer from problems (symptoms) due to the same root cause. No one benefits if things stay the way they are. The amount of money and time required to replace the roof is now substantially larger compared to when the leak was still relatively small.

Relief of Symptoms = the bucket
Rectification = repairing the roof

Our bodies, like the roof, will manifest specific signs that a problem exists within us (i.e., occasional pain and aches turning to chronic pain or high cholesterol that can lead to heart disease). If those signs and symptoms continue to be ignored, or if we aren’t aware of them, they will get worse and larger over time and may result in more disruptive and frequent symptoms. A person who values his/her health and well-being will go to a Chinese medicine practitioner at the first sign of symptoms. The practitioner will be able identify the symptoms and the underlying cause of the symptoms and treat them BEFORE they really become a full-blown disease. Unfortunately, though, for various reasons, most patients will not seek treatment until they actually are experiencing really serious symptoms. Acupuncture and Chinese medicine is aimed at giving symptomatic relief to the patient and to address the underlying root of their problems to provide long-term relief or even a permanent cure and to keep the symptoms from recurring.

One extra step is maintenance to make sure symptoms do not return. If the owner of the house that has the leaky roof maintained the health and integrity of his home, he would inspect his house and treat any minor issues BEFORE they turn into a much larger problem.

Chinese medicine and acupuncture encompass all three phases to ensure durable and highly effective results. A few factors would determine the length of each phase. They include the consistency of treatment, the person’s general health, diet, lifestyle, age, and his/her condition/symptoms.

Christina Prieto is an Orlando acupuncturist, a certified Yoga instructor and the founder of Harmony Wellness center in central Florida.

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