Dizziness and vertigo are common problems, and ones that Western medicine may find difficult to explain and treat. You may have a background feeling of slight unsteadiness, or sudden waves of dizziness when you feel you may fall, or episodes of spinning vertigo when lying still is your only option. In Chinese medicine all of these are explained and treated as ‘Wind’ – a disturbance of our natural balance that can start from inside or outside our body. I use a capital letter for Wind so that we know I am talking about the Chinese concept rather than everyday digestive or weather types! Acupuncture is usually effective at treating Wind, although it depends on the underlying cause and may take some time.
Chinese medicine developed thousands of years ago and often describes the cause of illness in terms of the natural world (see previous blogs about Damp, for example).Dizziness has many of the same characteristics as our everyday wind: it may come and go suddenly, just like sudden gusts of wind; and it may make us tremble, sway or fall, just like plants in a breeze or a storm.
Also of interest is that wind, or air, will be drawn in to any vacuum. Although, in Chinese medicine, Wind and dizziness is not created by a vacuum as such, it is often caused by a deficiency or lack of energy, in terms of Qi or Blood.
So when someone comes to see me because they are dizzy, unsteady or noticing tremors, I will spend plenty of time finding out about all aspects of their health and life’s pressures. Most likely I will find that one or more of their systems are weak in energy and then I can use acupuncture to gradually strengthen them. This gets to the root of the problem and helps to prevent further attacks. If the dizziness is severe, I can aim for a quicker relief by also using acupuncture to calm or expel Wind directly. Once we have discussed the root of the problem, we may be able to find ways that you can play a part in getting stronger – such as particular changes to diet, or ways to get more relaxation and less stress. Any prescribed tablets that are proving helpful can be continued if necessary and then reduced gradually once acupuncture is working well.
In Chinese medicine, Wind can also invade the body from outside. A common cold, for example, is termed an invasion of Wind-Cold, and the Wind then causes sneezing and blockage. A feverish infection would be treated as Wind-Heat. In these instances invasion of Wind signifies an air-borne disease – not so far away from our modern understanding of infections. The focus of treatment with acupuncture is to strengthen the body’s defences, as it is only when they are weakened that Wind will enter the body. You can add to your own body defences by wrapping up warm when you go out in the wind and cold – you will be pleased that you reached for that scarf when you avoid all those colds that your friends are suffering from!