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 Traditional Chinese Medicine: The Principles of Therapy 

In the first section we discussed the principles of Chinese medicine which will enable a traditional diagnosis to be made. This knowledge provides a basis for treatment.

I. The Principles of Disease

Diseases fall into two main groups, diseases of the channels and collaterals, and diseases of the zang and fu organs.

Diseases of the Channels and Collaterals
These are the diseases of the superficial channels of the body—arthritis and acute strains are examples of this type of disease. The internal yin and yang balance is normal but the flow of qi and blood through the channels is disrupted. This usually presents with pain and is called a disease of 'bi' or blockage of the channels. If the flow of qi and blood is restored then the pain will go. This is the main therapeutic principle that is applied for this type of disease.

Diseases of the Zang and Fu Organs
These are the diseases of the internal organs of the body where there is an imbalance of the yin and yang within the body. Neurasthenia and asthma are clear examples of this type of disease. To treat these problems it is essential to be able to make a clear traditional diagnosis and to know the rules of point selection.

Diseases that Combine Zang and Fu, and Channel Disorders
A disease of pain, such as migraine, may combine these two ideas. Migraine is usually a disorder of the gan-liver but there is also a blockage of the flow of qi and blood in the channels around the temple, resulting in pain. The channels and collaterals, and the zang fu, will therefore both require treatment in this disease.

II. Principles of Point Selection

Diseases of the Channels and Collaterals

The principle of treatment for these diseases is to select the local points (Ah shi points or acupuncture points), and also a distal point on the channel that crosses the painful area. The local painful points are quite simple to find when the patient is examined, but the distal points are a matter of experience. There are no rules for the selection of these distal points, they have just been handed on to us as a product of empirical experience.

Local points
The local points are outlined in the discussion on each disease. There are common painful points in each type of disease and these are included in the prescriptions. The disease may not be typical, and the local points may vary a little, so do not follow the prescription blindly but examine the painful area and use the points that seem most relevant. The tender point, or the Ah shi point (both mean the same thing) also has a part to play in this type of disease. If you find a very tender area that does not seem to be an acupuncture point then use it as well as the local acupuncture points. The tender point is often an acupuncture point that you have not learnt.

Distal points
These are part of the basic grammar of acupuncture and they just have to be learnt. The easiest way to do this is to give a list of the most important distal points, with their uses.

(Excerpted from Modern Chinese Acupuncture)
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 About The Author
George Lewith MA, MRCGP, MRCPGeorge Lewith attended Trinity College, Cambridge and Westminster Hospital Medical School. He has worked as a Senior House Officer and Registrar within the Westminster and University College Hospital Teaching Groups in......more
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