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Treatment Goals & Strategies

Root Versus Manifestations

Images from 1918 Gray's Anatomy of the Human Body from

More often then not, the first treatment goal in Fu Xi Wen is to locate the true root of a problem. I say “more often than not” because when one has an acute problem that is severe in nature, forget about the root of the problem, and focus instead on diminishing the severity of the symptom.

Most of the time, the goal is to identify the root of the problem. And, like a broken record, as I have said this again and again, this is not always straight forward. As I have witnessed in my clinical practice, no two people with the same symptoms or diseases have the exact same root.

In my practice at this very moment, I have a man suffering from severe, disabling shoulder pain. I treated him initially as I treat almost everyone with this condition, by balancing the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the area. I filled these tissue containers with energy. I even made sure they had sufficient blood flow by looking at the energy in the big and small arteries. And I looked at the cardiac muscle. The thinking here is: poor circulation is the root of the problem. Less blood flow in the musculoskeletal structures means they are prone to injury. After I focused on blood flow, I then balanced the musculoskeletal structures themselves. This is the manifestation.

This individual's pain went away entirely for several days but then it returned just as strong as before. I know from clinical experience that when you have a problem return just as strong after being completely gone within a week that this is a sign that I missed the actual root and only temporarily dealt with the manifestation. So, the next thing I did was look at the local nerves. His SW and NE nerves were extremely cold in the Heaven and Man levels. The SW nerves relate to nerve sensations for the interior of the body (the SE relates to nerves that tell you about the outside of the body). The NE nerves relate to the sympathetic nervous system. This man has a very stressful job. So, I focused on the nerves and the pain immediately improved. In other words, the nerves were the root of the problem – or perhaps both the nerves and the blood flow shared that honor.

So, the primary goal is to identify the root of the problem. As with the above example, if you miss the root, you miss the problem entirely or you make it better for only a short time. After you treat the root, then treat the manifestation. The manifestation is the actual symptom, the head of the problem. Western medicine focuses entirely on manifestations and almost never on root causes. The problem with treating only manifestations is that like Medusa's head, the root problem can express itself in many different ways and will follow the path of least resistance. So, a new problem can arise. Or, the original problem will simply re-emerge over time.

Treatment Strategy

Once you have identified the root, you need to come up with a treatment strategy. Up until now, the treatment strategy has always been: balance the imbalance. Of course, this is still the goal, but the way to get there is not always the direct act of balancing Heaven, Man, and Earth. Every system in the body is connected to another system. Our bodies are a combination of inter-connecting and inter-related systems. When you change one part of the whole, the rest of the parts all re-balance.

For instance, a lot of pains can be treated by treating the pain. But if the pain is a repetitive strain
Images from 1918 Gray's Anatomy of the Human Body from
injury, the best treatment is to improve the ergonomics that is leading to the strain. This is a deeper level treatment – a system level treatment. As with the example above, if the muscles are weak because of poor circulation, then if all you do is treat the circulation and ignore the muscles, the problem may resolve on its own over time because you dealt with the systemic cause.

Habitual Roots

The deepest level of most modern problems is our life-style choices. We eat foods that are too rich and fat. We get obese. We don't exercise or we exercise too much. We sit with poor postures. We stay in stressful jobs or relationships. For most problems, we are the problem, our hobbies and habits. Anything you repeat frequently will have a strong effect on your energy. Any food you always eat, any way you hold your body, any emotion you feel habitually. Our habits push us in the same direction day after day until one day they cause an imbalance, or worse yet, our demise.

Let me take myself for example. I have recently come to love lattes. I received a free latte machine through the wonderful organization Freecycle ( and make them frequently at home. Since I received my latte machine, in just five months, I've been to the doctor twice with ear infections. The rich, cloying nature of a latte is very likely my habitual root for this problem. Changing my diet will have a better resolution to this issue than healing the ear infections. Of course, an ear infection is an acute emergency, in my book. So I treat that first. But I need to treat the latte. I say this as I take a swig. Mmmmm. Changing a habit is a very difficult thing to do. But it is true healing. (I am now decreasing my coffee consumption).

The treatment strategy you employ needs to take into account your lifestyle. If you have any chronic problem, the first place to look is the activities you repeat frequently – especially emotional activities. Do you have the same thought patterns cycle through your mind? Are you in an emotional situation that has trapped you feeling the same way repeatedly? These are the seeds for disease just as much as driving long distances in your commute every day, using a poorly designed workstation, or picking up your increasingly heavy two year old every time she begs to be held.

When the root is your lifestyle, the strategy is to first take whatever steps are within your power to change your lifestyle. If you live in a frightening dictatorship or live in a time and place of war, then you may not be able to change that lifestyle factor. But you can always treat your spirit. In this case, it would have to be palliative care on a regular basis. But otherwise, it might just cure your issue.

The next strategy is to identify the physical and/or emotional symptoms you are experiencing and bring them to balance. If it is physical, you need to identify the root and manifesting tissue imbalances. If it is emotional, you need to identify the spiritual root of the problem as described later in Advanced theory.

This is how you really weed out a problem. Sure, Fu Xi Wen could be used like you use Western medicine. Every time the symptom appears, you can balance the tissue to make it go away. But you didn't treat the root, so it will return. I, on the other hand, believe in cures. To cure a problem is to make it go away forever or at least for years at a stretch. To that end, you need to find the root.

Roots and Sub-Roots

The body is like a very large forest. You can have a root forest fire that spreads to other parts. When this happens, you get complex diseases with multiple branches that each can have their own sub-roots. A sub-root is every bit as self-perpetuating as the original root. Once a problem becomes self-perpetuating, dealing with the original root no longer effects it. You can't just get rid of the first fire and then hang up your fireman's tools.

For deep, complex, chronic conditions, there will be multiple roots with multiple manifestations. Every day in my clinic I have patients come in with an array of medical diagnoses. When one system of the body gets diseased, the inter-relationships among the systems makes it likely that the disease will spread to other systems. If this is your situation, take a nice deep breath. This is what you have to do. You have to attack one problem at a time and whittle away at each symptom. You can try attacking them all at once, but you may find focusing on one problem
Images from 1918 Gray's Anatomy of the Human Body from
at a time provides you with achievable goals with clear outcomes. The more you attack all at once, the longer every problem will take to heal and the delay in outcomes may be discouraging. Did you forget to take that deep breath? Breathe. Now go get 'em!

Other Treatment Strategies

Treatment strategies can also be very creative. Instead of balancing the manifesting symptom, you can change the systems around it. If you have stomach pains, you can move the stools and see if that resolves the problem.

In Chinese medicine, there are several common treatment strategies:

  • harmonize or balance

  • increase or tonify

  • decrease or disperse

  • transform Qi from one phase to another

  • purge as in bowels or vomit

  • sweat

Balance is our main goal, but it can come in various forms. We can balance everything equally as we have been doing. Or, when we see Yin, Yang, and/or Qi is low, we can increase it. When we see Yin, Yang, and/or Qi is too plentiful, we can decrease it. When there are poisons in the stomach, we need to vomit. When the bowels are stuck, we need to purge them. When there is a cold or flu, sometimes we encourage sweating.

I am not going to go into the details of creative treatment schema. I hope you explore these ones and new ones and I hope you post everything you find in the Forums. I personally will find your creative treatment strategies interesting and useful. But be safe. This is strong medicine and it has the potential to hurt or kill if the wrong action is taken. Harmonizing and balancing is the absolute safest way to heal. Given this, it is what I am advocating for self-treatment. It rarely causes iatrogenic (doctor-caused) symptoms.

I will say this, however: there are two ways to decrease a problem when it is excessive. The first way is to repeatedly balance it with the controlling Element until it finally stops being excessive. Or, we can move the energy from one location to another, from where it is excessive to another location where it is weak – or where it can be purged.

When it comes to treating a problem, I focus on harmonizing and also a little bit of tonifying and dispersing. One way to deal with any tissue is to simply fill it up with the energy that is supposed to be in Heaven, Man, and Earth directions. This is what I have been advocating all along. But the more effective method is to diagnose the energy already in the Heaven/Man/Earth directions of the tissue and correct the imbalances you actually find there as discussed in the chapter “The Big Kahuna”. This requires diagnostic skills.

Oftentimes you will find a movement of energy that should not be in a tissue. For instance, allergy sufferers often have Wood Qi in their noses and sinuses and in many of the Earth lines of force. Using a teishin or your hand angled at the correct T°, you feel that pinching sensation on your individual skin cells and you know you've found Wood. In this case, the best way to deal with the problem is to transform Qi from Wood to Metal. This is surprisingly easy, since Metal controls Wood. So, you take your Metal treatment tools and treat the T°. Immediately afterwards, take your teishin or hand and check it again and you will find Metal energy there. Shortly thereafter the allergy symptoms go away. But don't forget to add Water to return the Earth lines of force to a balanced state.

One treatment strategy is to use just one treatment tool to resolve the problem, such as using Metal to control Wood above. But sometimes, the best thing is to walk the energy along the Generating Cycle. So, if the Wood is extremely excessive and not going away simply by using Metal, then you need to first use a Fire tool (the child of Wood) then an Earth tool then a Metal tool. If that doesn't work, use the multi-dimensional method as described in the chapter “Multi-Dimensional Treatments.” Walking the Qi from where it currently is to where it should be is extremely powerful and extremely effective. You might simply employ this technique every
Images from 1918 Gray's Anatomy of the Human Body from
time. In my clinical practice, I am adept enough to determine when one tool will work alone or when I need to walk the Qi. But if you have the time and the energy, use all three to great effect every time.

A final treatment strategy to consider is: heal the tissue or fill the tissue as a container. For acute problems with no previous pathology that do not involve trauma, consider filling the container of the tissue first. The problem may simply be that the well went dry – the container needs a refill. In the case of a chronic problem or if the container treatment didn't do the trick, then heal the tissue and then fill it.

It Didn't Work: Think Differently

What do you do if your treatment strategy is a complete failure? Breathe. Re-assess. Make a latte (if it is not your habit). Play the harmonica and then try try again. If your strategy failed, you need a new strategy. You will never run out of ideas if you open your mind to a system perspective.

For instance, take the Controlling Cycle. Every organ has a Controlling Cycle relationship. Remember how the Fire relates to the heart, small intestine, and blood vessels. Earth relates to the spleen, stomach and flesh. Metal relates to the lungs, large intestines, and skin. Water relates to the kidneys, bladder, and bones. Wood relates to the liver, gallbladder, tendons and ligaments. If you have disease in any of these, you can focus on each individually or you can work on them as inter-related systems. If the liver has too much energy, you can strengthen the lungs, large intestine, and skin. If the tendons are weak, strengthen the bones. If the heart is weak, strengthen the liver. The Western perspective says these are unique entities, but the wisdom of traditional thought says otherwise – and thousands of years of experience prove it.

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