Although the vocabulary of Chinese medicine is specialized, the concepts of treatment are easily understood. It is always about restoring balance in the body systems. If there is heat in the system (such as getting flu), cooling techniques are applied; if something is too cool, it will be heated up. Moist conditions are dried, and dry conditions are moistened. When one of the fundamental body substances such as qi or blood is stuck, the result is pain. Therefore, the way to treat pain is by moving qi and blood. Sometimes energy is flowing in the wrong direction and will be redirected. Conditions of excess are diminished, and conditions of deficiency are built up.
In order to treat a condition, the practitioner must first diagnose the problem. In Chinese medicine, the diagnostic process involves assessing the patient’s overall appearance, looking at the tongue, palpating the pulse on both wrists, and asking questions. All the patient’s symptoms, taken together, will present the practitioner with a pattern of imbalance. Weaving signs and symptoms into a coherent picture of what is wrong is called “pattern diagnosis” and is the basis of treatment.
Once a practitioner has diagnosed the type of imbalance a patient is suffering from, s/he will employ Chinese medicine techniques to restore the balance. For example, if a patient is diagnosed with the pattern of Spleen Qi Deficiency, acupuncture and Chinese herbs will be used to warm and dry the spleen and to nourish and move spleen qi, and a diet will be recommended which warms and nourishes spleen energy. Moxibustion may also be used as a warming modality. Because the spleen is associated with the emotion of worry or “overthinking,” the patient would also be advised to practice stress-relieving techniques such as tai chi or meditation. As a result of this treatment, the patient should experience better digestion, higher energy levels, and clearer thinking.