| Healing Process
| Asian Medicine Modalities - Treatment Types
"How poor are they who have not patience.
What wound did ever heal but by degrees."
- William Shakespeare
Healing Process - Peeling Away the Layers
Justifiably, most patients are curious about the estimated duration of
their treatments. However, seldom is there an elegantly compact answer.
In most cases, it has taken many years of internal imbalance for
symptoms to materialize. During this time of 'incubation' of a
disorder, the body may accumulate layers of different types of
disharmonies which are manifested in different ways, at different
times, in different individuals.
I use the analogy of an onion to describe this process.
An onion is not
'born' with all the layers we see when we purchase it ripe for eating.
Rather, it has gone through a growth process whereby new layers of
flesh are generated from its core and existing layers thicken and
strengthen over time. If any one of its layers is compromised by
external disease or internal disharmony, and if the onion lacks the
innate resources to heal itself, the diseased layer may, in time,
contaminate the surrounding layers either in part or in whole.
The healing process often requires going through a similar layering
experience, but in the reverse direction. This may be thought of as
peeling-away the layers of disharmonies. At each layer, it is possible
to encounter a new or different set of symptoms altogether, or a more
resistant aspect of a symptom-complex, or a less-resistant but slightly
varying form, and so on.
The particular path taken by a disorder, as well as its layering
behavior are unique to each individual.
These occur in a manner similar
to the way that the same disorder can manifest in slightly different
ways in different individuals - according to one's unique attributes,
age, constitution, stage of disease progression, environmental
influences, mental-emotional states, lifestyle, nutritional aspects,
and so on. The possible encounters with different symptom-complexes are
especially applicable when medications and drugs are involved. As a
result, the therapeutic approaches and strategy will vary throughout
the healing process. For example, different combinations of acupuncture
points may be employed at different times; different herbs selected;
moxibustion (moxa) or electrical-stimulation may be employed or
omitted; nutrition requirements modified; and so on. This de-layering
of a condition to work through its many internal layers may take a few
treatment sessions or it may take several months. In some instances, it
can take a year or more.
The following examples may help to visualize some of the different ways
pathology layering, and its de-layering through healing, can occur. The
reader is reminded that these are merely my personal observations based
on my own clinical experience.
Imagine, if you will, cutting open an onion to find one of these scenarios:
"Health and Balance"
This is a healthy onion representing a healthy and balanced mind, body and spirit.
||In this scenario, only the
outermost layer has decayed. As it applies to body-disharmonies, this
may represent an early stage of a disease or a condition which affects
the body in a temporary way, such as the common cold or flu, or a
disorder affecting the superficial muscle layers such as a muscle
strain induced by a one-time overexertion with no other internal
causes. In this scenario, the symptoms are fairly overt and fairly
self-contained. Once the disorder is successfully treated no other
underlying iterations are encountered.
||In this scenario, the core
layer(s) have begun to decay. This represents a disharmony which may be
either congenital (one is born with it) and the body has learned to
overcome any possible deficits, or it can reflect the early incubation
stage of a disorder. At this stage it is a fairly common occurrence
that modern lab tests and other biomedical diagnostics methods fail to
detect any abnormality. Left untreated however, symptoms and signs may
materialize at a later time when the disease has progressed to a more
Even at the incubation stage, a skilled doctor of traditional Asian
medicine may detect the internally hidden disharmony by examination of
the individual and through the tongue and pulse diagnoses. However, it
is difficult to convince most patients at this stage to undertake
preventive therapy when no egregious symptoms are experienced. Those
who do seek preventive treatment often experience an enhanced quality
of life as a result of eradicating the potential threat, even when no
overt symptoms existed to serve as a benchmark for wellness. The
enhancements may be experienced as increased overall energy, better
sleep quality, enhanced concentration, a sense of well being, regularity of the menstrual cycle in women, and so on.
"Deeply Rooted Disharmony"
||In this scenario, a
particular disease not only has taken root deeply, but has manifested
in various ways through multiple layers in the symptom-complex
spectrum. Most of the symptoms and signs in this scenario are viewed as
related to the chief disharmony and reflects the occurrence of a more
intense and more frequent symptom manifestations. As treatments
progress and the symptom-complex layers are worked through, we may
encounter a steadily declining and less-intense set of symptoms at the
deeper layers. Alternatively, we may encounter fewer symptoms which are
more resistant to therapy. It is important at this time to remain
steadfast and continue with the treatments. Stopping prematurely may
result in the possible reversal of progresses made, and the possible
return to a pre-treatment state.
Assuming that treatments continue, the possible end-results may include
an eventual break-through and complete healing, or the discovery that
the few remaining symptoms are untreatable either through traditional
Asian medicine or any other means. In the latter case, the available
options may be to utilize this medicine for ongoing symptom management,
or undertake other forms of therapy either concurrently or in entirety.
In most cases, the benefit of continuing with traditional Asian
medicine over drug therapy is its relative safety, fewer and less
invasive side-effects, and the less likelihood of causing other
||This scenario represents the
pathology of relapsing-remitting disorders like certain forms of
cancer, multiple sclerosis, Crohn's disease, sciatica, and so on. Such disorders
often undergo periods of symptom-manifestation followed by periods of
symptom-free states. Therefore, different treatment strategies are
employed depending upon whether the patient is experiencing one or the
other stage. For example, absent a cure, the disease is treated
aggressively during a relapse stage to quell the symptoms and target
the underlying root causes. During remission, the patient is put on a
milder maintenance program to sustain a healthy state while reducing
the intensity and frequency of future relapses.
After completing sufficient courses of therapy, it is possible that
some patients may remain symptom-free indefinitely while others may
continue to experience occasional relapses. A multitude of factors,
including factors which are known and those yet to be scientifically
discovered, affect one or the other outcome. In all cases, continued
adherence to a healthy lifestyle with appropriate nutrition, moderate
exercise, reduction of stress and adequate rest are all important
factors affecting prognosis. Here, too, the benefit of continuing with
traditional Asian medicine over drug therapy
is its relative safety, fewer and less invasive side-effects, and the
less likelihood of causing other disharmonies.
"Multiple Discrete Disharmonies"
||This scenario reflects the
layering of multiple different disharmonies at different periods of
one's health-disorder spectrum. It is a common experience that people
acquire a disorder that is treated by some medical modality, such as
drug therapy, and later contract a different disorder. It is also
common that the remnants or root cause of an old disease still exists
even though symptoms and signs may be absent. Sometimes the symptoms
and signs of one disorder may be masked by other disorders whose
symptom-complex may be more aggressive and has a stronger propensity
for manifesting. In all these cases it is possible that during the
process of healing a current disorder, the symptoms of an old disorder
resurface as the layers of disharmonies are worked through.
Alternatively, symptoms of an old disease may not be apparent but
through the skillful diagnosis of the traditional Asian medicine
doctor, the hidden remnants of the old disorder may be detected. In
either case, both the current and resurfacing symptom-complexes should
be addressed either concurrently or secondarily.
"Mixed Simultaneous Disharmonies"
||This final scenario
represents the occurrence of either multiple disorders or multiple
symptom-complexes that are experienced simultaneously. Patients who are
on drug therapy for one or more disorders often experience this
phenomenon where symptoms and side-effects are produced by their
medications. While, at the same time, the drugs often mask the true
picture of the patient's condition.
This case presents challenges to both the patient and practitioner. In
this scenario, more than with any other, the treatment strategy and
priority of focus are highly specific to the individual patient. In
most cases the patient can decide which aspect of his/her overall
condition to treat first, mostly based on egregiousness. Sometimes,
however, factors that are relevant to this medicine or those affecting
short-term and/or long-term outcome may guide the treatment course.
Not surprisingly, the Mixed Simultaneous Disharmonies is a complex case
requiring long-term therapy. What may be surprising is that, in clinic,
this scenario is not uncommon. Patients experiencing this scenario are
encouraged to have patience and persevere through the various
iterations of their healing process. The outcome and reward for their
endurance can be worthwhile, if not tremendous.
| Healing Process
| Asian Medicine Modalities - Treatment Types