In the everyday rush of ordinary life in the 21st century we are often driven to neglect our health, and when illness rears its head it is an unwanted inconvenience: we want a cure and we want it now!
But where can we turn when there is no quick fix, when disease takes a hold and conventional medicine is unable to find a solution - or even to alleviate the symptoms?
A Traditional acupuncturist works within a system of medicine that looks at the whole picture: what has been, and is happening within the person's whole life, rather than just those symptoms that are undesirable. A key concept to this 'whole-istic' approach is the idea of balance. When disease arises it is a result of a state of imbalance that comes to exist in one or more areas of our life - hormones, diet, sleep, our work, our relationships and so on. A return towards balance through acupuncture and small lifestyle changes paves the way to a return to health.
Another concept is that of the interplay between Mind, Body and Spirit. Let's use an example to see how this might work. Jane started to notice odd aches, pains and tiredness which gradually became increasingly debilitating. She was given a diagnosis of 'fibromyalgia', but the medications that came with the diagnosis have had little effect. Her diagnosis of 'fibromyalgia' is useful in that Jane now has a name for her condition but it fails to take account of her as a person; what has brought her to this place, and what is preventing her healing.
Jane has struggled with powerful issues of low self-worth since childhood and the toll this has taken on her has now begun to manifest itself physically. Until this issue has been addressed Jane will not be able to return to health. Why is this?
One reason is that both our mind and body are modified chemically by a whole host of hormones. Cortisol for example is released in response to threatening situations. It prepares us for 'fight or flight'. This essential response can literally save our lives. However, in Jane's case it has been activated to excess over the years, as a stress response to her own feelings of self hate.
Our bodies are designed to work in a state of balance, known in biological terms as homeostasis. Every system can operate comfortably within its own parameters. However, if these parameters are regularly exceeded then the body moves towards imbalance. Returning to our example, cortisol fuels stress levels, which further feed this imbalance. Cortisol also suppresses the body's own healing mechanism; the immune system, and other systems - digestion and elimination for example - that are less urgent than to flee from that dangerous tiger, fire etc
In Jane's case we now have an understanding of why her symptoms have arisen and why she has no cure. Of course this is a simplistic example, there are likely to be other factors at play. An acupuncturist will explore all avenues. The factors making Jane unwell will be different from those of someone else - even though they may have been given the same medical diagnosis.