Diagnosis in Traditional Acupuncture is based on patterns of signs and symptoms. These are obtained at your initial session where a full health history is taken. The acupuncturist asks about everything from sleep patterns to bowel movements and the more detail the better. The symptoms we are interested might not issue when taken in isolation (e.g. needing to get up in the night to pass urine or catching colds easily) but taken together with other signs such as a pale tongue or a very tense feeling on the pulse they form patterns of imbalance which lead the acupuncturist to a diagnosis.
So, it doesn’t matter if the issues causing concern, pain, discomfort or any other sort of distress can’t be identified as an ‘illness’ or ‘disease’ the imbalance can still be identified. Treatment is aimed at the individual and not the disease.
On the other hand, even if you have been given a very specific diagnosis from your GP or specialist consultant, the acupuncturist will still want to assess that in the context of the whole of your state of health and general well being. There is a saying in Chinese medicine which states ‘Same disease, different treatments, Different diseases, one treatment’.
That said, research into the effectiveness of Acupuncture is often categorised by ‘disease’. The research section of the British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) is a useful resource for finding out the latest research available on the effectiveness of acupuncture against specific conditions.
How well your symptoms respond to treatment depends on factors such as how accurate the diagnosis is, how appropriate the choice of points, how well the points are stimulated by the needling and your your own bodies innate ability to heal itself given the right stimuli.