What role does
your doctor play in your daily life?
Do you see them only when “something is
Is it time for a new perspective?
This is an exciting time! With
healthcare as a hot topic in the news today, people
at all levels of society are asking similar questions.
And, thankfully, here in this modern city of Los
Angeles, we are blessed with a wide array of health
care choices. You can build quite a diverse team
of experts who span the full spectrum of disciplines
from the East to the West, from clinical to spiritual,
to support you and your health. At the root of
this freedom of choice comes the primary question
to ask yourself: “What role do I want my
doctors to play in my health care?” And
as an Acupuncturist interested in being part of
the larger discussion, I ask myself “What
role do I wish to play in the care of my patients?”
Let’s explore the answers
to these questions in three progressive stages
of health care:
Here, you have something you need
treated: a cough, headaches, pain, indigestion,
etc. We have all been in this category and will
most likely be here again at some point in our
lives. And because of this very real-world need,
we have been conditioned to regard our doctors
as people we see ONLY when we are sick. And--
chicken or the egg?-- Western medicine is well-suited
in its tools to be a reactive style of medicine.
When a patient’s condition can be clearly
identified with a pathogen to fight or a diagnosable
condition to treat through medication, surgery
or other western therapies, it can be efficient
and effective. How far we have come in such a
short period of time is staggering to consider.
But when there is no definitive diagnosis or no
proven course of treatment, if these big guns
are used, they are done so at a price. As more
and more of you, the patient and healthcare consumer,
express dissatisfaction with the side effects
of medication or the, at times, extreme response
of surgery, you begin to look for other approaches
to address your every day health concerns.
Eastern medicine, and Chinese
medicine in particular, have proven over the more
than 3000 years of medical history that it too
can be effective in treating most every health
condition that can commonly arise in a population.
It is in this place that I see most every patient
that walks in my door. They come for a chief complaint,
something that they need treated or “fixed.”
If the issue is recent and acute in nature, resolution
can be found quickly and effectively. If the issue
has been chronic or has lingered, then I need
to balance treating the condition with treating
the underlying internal imbalance that supports
the continuation of the condition. This can take
a bit longer to address as we begin to explore
the reasons why the body has not yet corrected
itself. Once we can have such clarity, we can
progress to the next stage of treatment.
It is here that a new type of
relationship can be forged with patients. This
is where Chinese medicine excels even more. It
sees connections and relationships between the
various body systems and organs that allow that
patient to understand how their lifestyle and
food choices, their posture and emotional state
of mind, can contribute to the recurrence of their
chief complaint. What changes must they make to
keep their condition from returning? In answering
such a question, the patient learns to fish. The
goal here is to see your condition return with
less and less frequency and severity coupled with
a growing self-awareness around the triggers that
invite the condition to return. Perhaps you know,
after all your experience tuning into your own
body through your acupuncture treatments, when
you are in the early stages of imbalance and wish
to head things off at the pass. I want to empower
you to make better choices in your life, to understand
that you are indeed your own best physician. If
I need to see you weekly forever, then clearly
I am not doing my job. The further away you get
from that initial chief complaint, the closer
we get to the ultimate stage of treatment.
By now, your chief complaint is
long gone. You have made and embraced those necessary
lifestyle changes to ensure that it will not return.
The next question I routinely get is: “So
why do I need to keep coming? I feel well.”
I respond somewhat tongue-in-cheek with “Well,
can’t we always feel even better?”
The means of diagnosis in Chinese medicine are
so subtle that we can pick up even the slightest
degree of imbalance. Perhaps you come in once
a month or even just seasonally for a “tune-up.”
This is about a commitment you make to yourself
to see health not just as the absence of disease,
but health as a dynamic state of being. One in
which you have control. In many ways, this is
the pinnacle of all treatment. To achieve Wellness,
you have welcomed a new type of relationship with
your doctor, they have responded to your desires
for greater vitality, and you have worked together
to not only successfully address your health concerns
but to thrive and live a more optimal and engaged
life, recognizing that if you don’t take
care of your body, mind and spirit, where will
May you be happy.
May you be healthy.
May you live with ease.
And may you help those in need.