In Chinese medicine, the aim is to find the underlying cause of disease and to design an acupuncture point prescription with clinical efficacy as the goal.  People are not born in perfect health and as such each person will have different illnesses throughout their lives and that is why some people are more prone to having colds than others.  Therefore, you need to complete a health history in order for the Chinese medicine practitioner to gain a good picture of your health. 

There are a number of causes of disease: emotions, diet & eating habits, lack of sleep, injury & trauma, stress, overwork, insufficient rest, lack of exercise, constitution, excessive sexual activity, poisoning, environmental pollutants, parasites, insect & animal bites, iatrogenesis, climate & weather.   Let us look at four fictious patients to understand why this is important for Chinese medicine. 

Patient 1: 26 year old male

Low back pain (bilateral) for 3 months, started going to the gym 5 months ago and goes 4 times a week, bald at 24, history of colds and childhood asthma. 

From this brief history this patient’s constitution will most likely be a contributing factor to his back pain.

Patient 2: 58 year old male

Low back pain (bilateral but left side worse) for 20 years, started going bald at 50, construction worker for 24 years (stopped at 48), worked long hours in construction industry.

From this brief history the patient’s overwork in construction is most likely to have contributed to his back pain.

Patient 3: 22 year old female

Low back pain (bilateral) for 18 months, describes pain as stabbing and is cold to the touch, plays netball outside and in the evening all year round (started playing 2 years ago), wears tops which don’t cover the abdomen or back.

From this brief history the patient’s inadequate clothing and playing sport outside in the cold seasons are most likely to be the contributing factors to her back pain.

Patient 4: 30 year old female

Low back pain (right side) for one week, injured herself at gym, sometimes has bilateral back pain 3-4 days before menstruation and describes pain as aching.

From this brief history the patient’s the injury from the gym is the most likely factor for the pain.  However, further questions about menstrual cycle pain and diet would need to be asked to see whether these are contributing factors to the pain at menstrual cycle time.

So as you can see, although the four patients have low back pain their health history establishes different causes and each patient will have an individual treatment based on this information.  It is also important to understand even though these four patients have come to clinic with a western diagnosis of low back pain, the Chinese medicine diagnosis is not low back pain, it has its own diagnostic system which aids in designing an appropriate acupuncture treatment.  

In addition, essential factors the Chinese medicine practitioner needs to take into consideration when designing point prescription is gender and whether the pain is bilateral or only one side as this further guides the individual tailored prescription and clinical efficacy. 

Dr Teresa Stevenson (Chinese medicine) is the acupuncture practitioner at Beach Box Physiotherapy.