So …! Strain and Chinese medicine. How can we explain it?
Whilst the cause of strain and stress may be helpful in deciding how to treat someone, the actual symptoms are more important.
First of all, the emotional state carried by the patient has to be assessed.
Is it – for example – fear, or anger, grief, anxiety, over-excitement, apprehension, frustration, boredom, or disappointment?
How is this affecting how the patient stands, sits, lies or moves?
Where are the symptoms?
What part(s) of the body are affected, and in what way?
Is it pain, or tension or constriction, or
Is it tiredness, lethargy, lack of concentration?
If pain, what sort of pain? (There are many kinds of pain: boring, biting, bursting, burning, bruised, cramping, crushing, cutting, digging, drawing….!)
What, if anything, makes a difference to the condition? For example, does physical activity (eg sports) make it better or worse?
What about the effect of heat and cold, the time of day, general activities…?
When stressed, what else happens? (Some examples: face colour goes red, hand gets cold, foot perspires, need to urinate, eyes feel too big, shoulder twitches, start humming, want to be alone, objects seem far away, get irritable, get thirsty, lose appetite….).
We need to know what circumstances the patient would prefer when stressed. For example, would he prefer a warm or a cool room? What makes a difference?
Then we need to know what the patient normally feels like when not strained or stressed. For example, are you already getting towards a ‘syndrome’ called yin deficiency?
We need to know whether the situation is continuing or has now ceased.
We need to know what the patient does or takes that affects the symptoms: being with friends, alone, the weather, the time of year, being indoors or outside….what foods or herbs or medications make a difference. And so on.
What Action to Take?
This may seem like a strange question! But if the cause of the stress is continuing, it may not be possible to ‘cure’ the underlying condition; one can only palliate it (make it temporarily feel better).
Even so, this may be preferable to taking medication.
If the stress cause has ceased, it may be more important to strengthen the underlying condition, susceptibility in which led to the signs of strain and stress. This might mean suggesting a better way of dealing with the situation the patient finds himself in so as to minimise the strain. It might mean leaving the situation that leads to stress. It might mean a more assertive attitude.
Practically, various therapies can help. Some therapies look at the way the patient’s energy gets trapped into an excess/deficiency imbalance.
Shiatsu – for example – has a powerful way of guiding the patient’s energy along the meridians of acupuncture to achieve balance.
Therapeutic massage moves the lymph and blood around the body to help it heal itself.
Acupuncture treats the imbalances in the system that have led to the problem and powerfully affects the meridians.
Aromatherapy uses herbs which are absorbed through the skin and by inspiration, together with massage, to release toxins and calm, and so on.
Using Chinese Medicine, strain and stress can be many things.
Liver Yang rising gives headaches, often on the temples or side of the head, or in the eyes, with dryness in the mouth, a feeling of dizziness, bad temper, shouting (or speaking loudly or out of turn) and insomnia. This kind of headache usually throbs, and there may be noises in the ears.
Liver Qi stagnation gives a sensation of stuffiness or congestion, or distension, usually in the sides of the abdomen but sometimes elsewhere – for example the chest – often accompanied by sighing or hiccups. There is moodiness, sadness, depression, hopelessness, but the mood can change, sometimes quickly. In addition there is often a poor appetite, with burping, abdominal noises, possibly bowel movements that change from constipation to diarrhoea, or with rabbit-pellet type stools. Often there is a lump in the throat, which makes it hard to swallow.
Women with Liver qi stagnation get pre-menstrual tension, irritability, and their periods may be irregular, and often come with a sensation of breast distension. Some of these symptoms are often similar to those of IBS – ‘Irritable Bowel Syndrome‘.
Heart Blood Deficiency produces palpitations, dizziness, a weak memory, difficulty sleeping or sleep that is full of dreams that prevent real rest, anxiety, a tendency to be startled easily, and pallor. This accompanies a feeling of apprehension about what is happening or might happen.
Spleen deficiency: here the emphasis is on worry, always thinking about the same thing(s), with difficulty concentrating on what needs to be done. There is tiredness, even lassitude, and a feeling of weakness. Appetite is reduced, and when you eat, you quickly feel full. Your stools are loose or tending towards diarrhoea. If the Spleen deficiency produces Dampness you may get nausea and feel ‘heavy’.
The above list is just a small selection of possibilities.
These states mentioned above (Liver Yang rising, Liver Qi stagnation, Heart Blood Deficiency, Spleen deficiency, Dampness, and so on) are seldom seen exactly as described, but often turn up when people are stressed.
Patients often have a combination of these or other syndromes, which may themselves be developments of other, deeper patterns of health that were pre-existing to the stress.
The Seeds of our Stress
Most of us carry around the seeds of our stress.
These ‘seeds’ can germinate into symptoms of different kinds, depending on our circumstances at the time.
For example, a warm-blooded patient under stress in a hot climate might produce symptoms of ‘heat’, as compared with being unaffected by the same stress in a cold climate.
One of our jobs is to explain to the patient what may predispose him towards symptoms of strain and stress. Sometimes he may be able to alleviate if not actually prevent it by eating more or less of certain foods, or taking certain kinds of exercise.
Or by taking more time to sleep!
And if the problem prevents him from sleeping? We can suggest treatment (herbs, acupuncture, massage, exercise, food etc.) that helps him sleep!
What works best for Strain and Stress?
This is one of those questions which no two people would answer the same way!
As a general rule, you help yourself if you keep to a sensible routine that includes regular
food and eating habits
sleep and exercise
time with friends or family
– in other words, make time and space for yourself and your life!
But don’t forget this too: try not to live as though life were a constant emergency!
Some form of physical massage or treatment is often beneficial because it helps you get back inside your body and appreciate where you live!
For some, Bowen technique is very good. (We have quite a few bank managers and people in business who like a regular Bowen session!)
Others swear by Aromatherapy and Reiki.
For serious conditions, you may find that Acupuncture gets you started, and then you can benefit more from a physical therapy or massage.
Quotes from Patients
– missing words that identify the therapy, because of rules about ‘advertising’!
For deep-seated conditions H………. may be able to touch the point of release like no other therapy, but you would not normally take a homeopathic remedy every time you felt a bit stressed. If you did, you might start feeling worse. H……… has a remarkable ability to deal with problems that have ‘never been well’ since a particular event. For example, the patient who couldn’t stop grinding his teeth, in spite of much treatment by his dentist, a psychologist, a hypnotherapist, and a physiotherapist. One dose of a h………. remedy related to the event which had started it over a year before, and the tooth-grinding stopped within a few hours. (Of course, h……… deals with many other conditions and situations too.)Here are some examples of the ways we have treated stress recently.
Inner fear, leading to poor presentation skills at work in a banker: acupuncture.
Tooth grinding (as explained above): h……….
Tension in shoulders, neck, tiredness, constant worry about work: shiatsu.
Strain-induced headaches: acupuncture.
In the above, please ring us (+44 7950 012501) if you see gaps in the words replaced with dots like this …..! For reasons also explained elsewhere on this website we are not allowed to claim that certain therapies we practise can in any way treat or help health conditions, despite at least two hundred years of glowing testimonials, admittedly anecdotal but often from individuals for whom orthodox treatment had failed.