and chinese medicine
By Ban B. Wong, L.Ac Dipl. Ac and Hb,
September 26, 2002--Her name is Mary, a 64-year-old
parent of two sons and three daughters and grandparent
of 12 grandchildren. I found out about her chronic
conditions in her speech at a Toastmaster's meeting.
It was one of those speeches that really brought
forth great sympathy from the audience. First,
Mary says, "Some days, I feel like I weighed
a ton, and I can't even get out of bed. The worst
part is that I have these chronic pains in the
back of my shoulders and forearms. Sometimes,
my muscles just aches and I can not sleep."
Mary considers these chronic pains the worst because
Mary has had her share of ailments. After a back
surgery 5 years ago in which the surgeon put a
titanium plate in her back, the back soreness
still revisits her when the weather gets cold.
Only last year, she had a lump removed from her
left breast because her sister died from breast
cancer two years ago. "At first, one doctor
thought that I have arthritis, but the pains were
in my joints and muscles. Another thought it was
due to my anxiety. Then, an internist suspected
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome because I have many similar
symptoms which were very confusing, " Mary
explains. Mary finally learned that she is one
of the 3.7 million Americans with the condition
called fibromyalgia. Unfortunately, the cause
of fibromyalgia is still unknown. Mary has tried
different treatments like anti-depressants and
painkillers before going through exercise programs.
Yet Mary says, "I am better one day and so
bad another that I can't even get out of bed."
After the speech, I told Mary that Chinese Medicine
could help her conditions. She was skeptical.
Days later, Mary came to my clinic full of curiosity.
"I have been told by my western doctor that
acupuncture can help my symptoms. But massage
or even touching makes me feel painful sometimes."
Mary quickly remarks. I told her in Chinese medical
terminology, her conditions are categorized as
"Bi" syndromes. "Bi" means
obstruction illness. "Can you tell me what
it is in simple words? I have never tried this
before." Mary asserts. I did not want to
confuse her. Then, I briefly told her that according
to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), fibromyalgia,
arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome are diagnosed
as blockages in the smooth flow of Qi (life energy)
and Blood throughout the energetic pathways in
the body. Fibromyalgia results from Qi and Blood
obstruction in the muscles and arthritis results
from Qi and Blood stagnation in the joints. Ancient
Chinese masters believe the cause of Bi syndromes
is both internal and environmental. Stress, genetic
predisposition, poor diet, overwork, or insufficient
exercise can often obstruct and weaken the normal
flow of Qi and Blood in the body which can lead
to conditions as Bi (Obstruction) syndromes. Long-term
Bi syndrome can lead to the formation of Blood
stasis and the deformation of bones and joints.
Still confused Mary says, "Okay, that's a
bit much for me. Can Chinese medicine really help
me?" I have many patients like Mary that
ask me this question. To help them understand
a little about what Chinese healers have used
for over 2500 years and how this effective ancient
approach work will take some time. I assured her
that everyone's body is unique. Chinese medicine
takes into account the complex and individual
nature of the syndrome in each patient. "I
don't like needles, but I will give it a try,"
Mary says. I reassured her that acupuncture is
best for treating the pain syndromes that accompany
fibromyalgia and arthritis by promoting the flow
of Qi and Blood. Fibromyalgia and arthritis patients
often use acupuncture as a means of pain control,
once or twice a week, which can be an effective
Mary first tried acupuncture treatment. "I
thought this would really hurt, but I am surprised
that it doesn't. Maybe I have chronic pain for
so long. This is no biggy." Mary is one of
the most talkative patients I have during treatments.
After a few treatments, Mary found some pain relief.
She regained more mobility. "I am feeling
better after the acupuncture treatments, but pain
seems to come back days after treatemnts."
I reminded her that she has a chronic condition
and snow mountains do not melt away in a day of
sunlight. Herbal treatment and Tai Chi in combination
with acupuncture are better for chronic pains.
"What do the herbs do for me?" Mary
questions. "Do I have to brew the herbs?"
I explained as follows: Individualized herbal
formulas use specific herbs to expel the pathogenic
factors that cause the pain and discomfort of
fibromyalgia and arthritis. Herbal medicine tonifies
the inner Qi and Blood to help the body fight
off pathogenic factors and balance the yin and
yang in the body. Herbs can help stop the pain
that is responsible for Bi syndromes. Herbs can
treat factors such as Phlegm and Blood Stasis
Mary took the herbs for a few weeks. "I
am feeling much better. It doesn't ache as much
as it used to. I can sleep much better at night.
But I am still tired during the day." Mary
gaily shares her successes. "How long do
I have to be on this kind of treatment?"
I told her in order to maintain her wellness and
prevent painful episodes; she needs to take up
Tai Chi. "Some of my friends have told me
about doing Tai Chi. They said it's like yoga
in slow motion. But my muscle aches when I exercise.
What is it all about?" Mary asks. I briefly
described Tai Chi as meditation through movements.
Through slow, circular physical movement and stretching,
Tai Chi helps to relieve pain, to eliminate obstruction
in channels, to correct imbalances in the body,
and to increase the flow of Qi and Blood. The
gentle circular movements can relieve stiffness
by reducing blood stasis in the muscle and joints.
Tai Chi can also strengthen leg muscles that help
support and protect your joints. We began Tai
Chi lessons twice a week around 9 am in the morning.
Now Mary practices Tai Chi every morning. "Tai
Chi really helps my mind focus better. I feel
very peaceful emotionally and physically. I may
be in my 60's, but I feel like I am in my 40's,
" Mary comments after months of training.
Of course, not all of my patients that have chronic
conditions are as proactive and persistent as
Mary. When they don't take good of their health,
recurrence of symptoms is usually the case. However,
Chinese Medicine does help many of my patients
with fibromyalgia and arthritis find relief from
chronic pain and aches. They are able to carry
on with life duties that were hindered by their
fibromyalgia and arthritis before the treatment.