When you go to the doctor because you're having pain, they might ask you a few questions about your symptoms, specifically where your pain is, when it started, and how bad it is. Often, you will have the same OTC prescription that many other people got that day, with the hopes of quelling the pain signal.
When you go to an acupuncturist, things are much more different. This is because we specialize in understanding the type of pain you're experiencing, and why.
In our diagnostics, we have different classifications of pain qualities, based off of what happens in the body. We use these words because Chinese medicine is based on thousands of years of observing the natural world, and seeing those same patterns reflected in the body. Terms like Cold, Wind, Qi, Damp, Hot, might sound odd but help to explain the mechanisms in your body that's causing your pain.
Let's break some of these down and explore what they mean.
Let's think about what exposure to cold temperature does to the body. It makes tissues and fluid contract, reducing circulation. When we are referring to a "cold" pattern, we are talking about the type of pain that is often tight and aching. The area also often feels cold to the touch. This is because the tissues are contracting, and new circulation is not reaching the area to create warmth and circulate stuck fluid. This is often an issue I see when an injury was iced too much, and it is still feeling those effects. Often, a key indicator that someone has a cold pattern is that their pain gets worse when they go outside in the cold weather, (which makes their already present circulation issues worse).
Contrary to cold pain, this is pain that is often sharp and stabbing pain. This is most commonly seen in an acute injury, when there is a lot of blood and fluid rushing into the area. The extra blood is warm, and the area will feel hot or warm to the touch, and be more red.
Again, observing the world around you, what does wind do? It moves around! It comes and goes quickly, and it causes trees and leaves to shake. When we're looking at wind pain in Chinese medicine, we're seeing pain that moves around the body, comes and goes, and generally feels like more of a superficial pain, (like in the skin or muscle tissue, versus deep in a joint, which doesn't move around too much).
These various types of pain will all receive different treatments from us. If you're experiencing a cold-type pain, we need to warm the area and increase circulation. This might make your hot-type pain worse, which is why it's so important for us to diagnose the way that we do.
As acupuncturists, we're interested in treating your pain, not just convincing your body to not feel it anymore.