Article Highlights

  • Prevention begins with paying attention
  • Trust your body's signals, your body does not lie
  • Take corrective action at the earliest onset of unwanted symptoms

Alaska Center for Acupuncture
Preventing Illness

Font Size

Prevent Illness by Listening to your Body's Signals

BySamanth Berg M.Ac., L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.
Kevin Meddleton M.Ac., L.Ac., Dipl.Ac.

Article originally published in the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman Newspaper

Practiced for over 3000 years in Asia, the benefits of acupuncture treatment are now clearly recognized by medical professionals, institutions and consumers throughout the United States. The World Health Organization endorses acupuncture as effective treatment for over 40 common health conditions. Additionally, many chronic and painful debilitating disorders – some with no clear explanation or origin - respond well to this powerful, natural therapy.

As acupuncturists, our number one goal is to prevent serious illness before it happens. In our experience, it's much easier (and less expensive) to prevent a disease than it is to treat it once it already manifests in the body.

Because the body often displays signs and symptoms well before serious disease appears, it's important to learn to respect the cues the body gives us.

Unfortunately, many of us ignore our body's signals in favor of doing what we want to do or believe that we have to do. For example, did you ever stay up all night to study for a test or complete a work project? Did you ever drink alcohol until you got sick? Did you ever exercise when you were already injured? Did you ever overeat at Thanksgiving?

In each example, your body likely signaled that you were doing something unwise. Exhaustion, dizziness, pain, indigestion, and lightheadedness, are probably some of the cues you experienced. Regrettably, it's possible to "push past" any one of these early signals to continue with an action that is ultimately harmful. This is the danger zone where the temptation to artificially stretch the body's limits via caffeine, pain killers, or any other drugs sabotages vital health.

Just because you can push past your body's normal limits does not mean you that you should. Nor does it mean that you should count on your body to indulge repeated abuse.

Knowing your personal limits is a key component of prevention. If you need 9 hours of sleep, it doesn't matter that your husband, sister or neighbor can get by on 6. Pushing past your body's limits on regular basis is a recipe for stress, low reserves, impaired immune system, and ultimately illness.

Once you recognize that the body actually gives signals before something goes wrong, the next thing is to learn how to take effective action. For example, imagine Jane Smith is driving her car and the "Check Engine" light comes on. What does she do? If she's prevention-minded, she'll take the car into the shop to find out what's wrong with the engine. Now imagine that Jane's playing tennis and her elbow starts to ache. Jane takes an aspirin and continues her game. She does this for a couple of months, although she notices that she has to take more aspirin each time to dull the pain. Pretty soon her condition deteriorates so that no amount of aspirin alleviates the pain. As a result, she's out of tennis indefinitely with a serious chronic condition.

In the car example, Jane recognized the warning light as a critical sign indicating an underlying problem with the engine and she promptly sought appropriate care. In the tennis scenario, Jane ignored the message from her body and aggravated the problem further- which aspirin allowed her to do.

Taking aspirin to mask her pain without addressing the underlying injury is the same as putting a piece of duct tape over the warning light to fix the engine.

As acupuncturists, we often treat people whose health concerns can be attributed to a failure to recognize or heed the warning signals from their bodies. While quick fixes may work temporarily, it's a more effective long-term strategy to regard the body's symptoms as messengers calling for much needed support.

This week, focus on one symptom in your body. Pay special attention to the subtleties of when it comes, when it goes, what makes it better, and what makes it worse? Does anything happen before the full-blown symptom appears? Doing this, you will learn how to become an expert of your own body and discover new ways to give yourself the best care possible.

Back to top