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The Cause of Disease from a Chinese Medicine Perspective

Before examining a wide range of conditions and how acupuncture can help, I wanted to take a step back and discuss how a disease is viewed from a Chinese medicine perspective. There are three categories concerning the cause of disease: internal, external, and miscellaneous.

The internal causes of disease can are the seven emotions.

• Anger

• Joy

• Sadness

• Worry

• Grief

• Fear

• Shock

The external causes of disease are six climates.

• Wind

• Fire

• Summer-Heat

• Dampness

• Dry

• Cold

The miscellaneous causes of disease are

• Constitution

• Over Exertion

• Excessive sexual activity

• Improper diet

• Traumatic Injury

• Parasites and poisons

• Wrong treatment

The internal causes of disease or the seven emotions affect the body by disrupting the way qi moves. For example, worry can knot the qi. Have you ever felt a knot in your stomach when you're worrying? Or the feeling that you can't breathe when you're sad?

The external causes of disease affect the body fluids and qi. A dry cough in the winter when the heat in the house is turned on is a simple example of how dryness, an external cause of disease, may show up. How we can "catch a cold" due to wind entering the back of the neck is also an example of an external cause of disease.

It should be noted that Chinese medicine practitioners would observe nature to understand how disharmony shows up in the body because the person is a reflection of nature. Because Chinese medicine reflects external nature within a person (for example, qualities of summer show up in a person) sometimes these climatic factors may show up interiorly and are not a result of the exterior climate. For example, many years of greasy, fried foods may leave our bodies feeling heavy and sluggish - internal damp - just as we may feel on a hot, sticky, humid, slow day in late summer. Improper diet creating damp within the body is also an example of a miscellaneous cause of disease.

Lastly, miscellaneous causes of disease affect our bodies in many different ways. For example, a traumatic injury may change our qi, body fluids, and skeletal system. Another example are those who may have weaker constitution that cause them to get sick more often. Or the workaholic who burns the candle at both ends until they crash and have to take time off.

In today's world, individuals tend to be more affected by the internal and miscellaneous causes of disease due to climate controlled homes and better food supply. Viewing disease deriving from one of these three categories helps provide a more holistic approach to treatment. When devising a treatment plan for my patients, the whole person is taken into account, not just signs and symptoms. For example, a chronic cough from a Chinese medicine perspective could be due to a cold or it could be due to someone not grieving the loss of a loved one fully. Knowing the cause of disease also shows us how acupuncture can treat anything from anxiety and digestive issues all the way to supporting cancer patients or pain relief.

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