Chinese medicine is a holistic approach to health and healing. But what does “holistic” really mean? One of the distinguishing aspects of Chinese medicine is its use of what is called “pattern diagnosis”.

In pattern diagnosis, a Chinese medicine practitioner takes into account every symptom a patient is experiencing, no matter how unrelated and irrelevant those symptoms might seem to the presenting complaint.

Why? Because those various symptoms are in fact very relevant. When those symptoms are added together, a practitioner of Chinese medicine can ascertain why the patient’s problem arose in the first place and devise a plan of action to remedy it.

Let’s say a person came for acupuncture wanting to get rid of their back pain. The acupuncturist may ask questions like, “Do you tend to feel hot or cold? Do you have trouble falling asleep? Do you feel fatigued after eating?”, and so on. When all of these symptoms are taken into account, what at first seems unrelated actually paints a full picture – a pattern – of what is going on in the patient’s body as a whole.

Simply treating the back where it hurts without taking into account the bigger picture may not be sufficient to maintain long lasting relief. Sometimes, the failure to address the bigger pathological pattern is exactly why people don’t heal…or stay healed. As physicians of Chinese medicine, treating the pattern and person as a whole is exactly what we are trained to do. As a result, an acupuncturist can help the patient’s back pain (or other health issues) with precision; he now has an understanding of what pathogenic factors are in play in the patient’s body and how best to correct them, bringing the patient back to optimal health and function.