Before the therapy, the gods have placed the diagnosis… But any diagnosis
remains idle talk, as long as it does not help therapeutically.
The human body possesses a warning signal system, which responds to functional disturbances or dangerous influences on the organism by sending warning signals, called signs of disease or symptoms. This warning signal system is directed by the nervous system. The warning signals first reach specific switch and control centers, which mobilize the body’s own resistance. Fever, pain, a sensation of pressure at certain locations of the body, dizziness, and so on, for example, are not diseases but signals of an internal defense reaction in the body on the one hand, and signs of disease that alert us that there is something wrong with our body on the other.
Fever and pain are not the only signs that indicate when something is out of order inside us. The skin, eyes, mouth, tongue, hair, and nails also reveal much information about disturbances of the internal organs, if we are able to read certain signs correctly. The ability to recognize disease on the basis of external signs is as old as medicine itself. For the therapist, easily recognizable changes that occur parallel to the symptoms of a disorder are of great help in diagnosis. They notify us that the body’s regulatory mechanisms are overburdened. These external signs may appear, but they don’t have to. The intensity of external body reactions also differs from person to person; it can be strong at certain times and change during the course of the disease.
The development of laboratory and high-tech medicine has caused diagnosis on the basis of external signs to become less and less important, in spite of the fact that external phenomena are very useful in the early identification of disease—they can precede the outbreak of internal disorders by a long time. External disease signs were more or less well known to practitioners in antiquity for diagnostic purposes, but have increasingly fallen into oblivion as technology has been introduced into modern medicine. They have, however, been preserved in naturopathy and thereby been rescued into the present. This is important because, even in the age of computerized medicine, technology is not able to predict everything about our vital processes, and the body continues to express its suffering in the same way as before. We must take note of this!
Diagnosis in the traditional sense refers to the identification of disease on the basis of the sum of all symptoms and the results of a variety of specific technological and chemical tests.
Naturopathy, on the other hand, is continuously accused of administering treatments uncritically and without sufficient clinical clarification. Here, we must stress emphatically that people who resort to naturopathic therapies are mostly chronically ill patients. Such patients have long since endured clinical diagnosis and the resulting therapies without hoped-for results.
Nevertheless, what troubles patients and therapists most are not the clearly diagnosable diseases, but the “functional disturbances” that the majority of patients suffer from. Not even the latest diagnostic methods are able to identify clearly functional disturbances that manifest in numerous varied syndromes, and are all too often dismissed as psychosomatic disorders. As a result of this, out-of-hospital diagnostic options can and should be utilized.
We naturopaths are not satisfied with the results of clinical tests alone. We first make a diagnosis on the basis of a detailed patient history. For this purpose, we trace the succession of all illnesses of a patient beginning with birth, but pay particular attention to those that could be a cause of the present disorder. In addition, our diagnosis is based on careful observation of the patient as well as an extensive physical examination. This also includes special naturopathic diagnostic procedures that allow us to identify the disease cause before we initiate treatment. This is significant because naturopathy believes that finding and eliminating the cause is the essential precondition for curing.
Diagnosis is a very important, but also very difficult aspect of medicine. At least for the layperson, it is not easy to attribute observed complaints or skin changes correctly to specific diseases. In spite of all the accuracy of traditional diagnosis, it is often also no more than a preliminary tool for the therapist. We learn in clinic that a focal disturbance can be present in the body, which sends out distant disturbances and quite frequently points to another disease.
Not many people are aware that suction cups are also a tool that can serve diagnostic purposes. Unfortunately, this is an art that is practiced all too rarely but is easy to learn and meaningful and rewarding.
Symptoms: Hyperemia and Extravasation at the Cupping Sites
Cupping can greatly facilitate the search for the true locus—not of all, but of many disturbances. It is only after we have applied the cups that we can determine with absolute accuracy whether the pathogenic disturbance that requires treatment is truly present at the cupping site or not. The reason for this is as follows:
Sites where extravasates form after cupping must always be regarded as localization of the disease or as remote irritation of the segment belonging to the diseased organ.
Extravasates never form at healthy locations, but only at diseased places or at Head’s zones associated with a diseased organ. The reason for this is an extremely complex inflammatory process that I can explain here only briefly.
The inflammation originates as a defense reaction of the organism and its tissue against a variety of harmful attacks of all kinds (pathogens and their toxins, foreign substances, etc.). The inflammation is generally intended to prevent and eliminate the harmful attacks and their effects on the organism. Four symptoms mark the inflammatory process:
• Hyperemia (redness).
• Reduced functionality.
The redness results from a localized dilation of blood vessels, a process in which the increased influx of blood to the diseased location simultaneously makes the location appear warmer. The swelling is caused by a secretion of white blood corpuscles from the blood vessels by an accumulation of tissue fluid. The pressure of this accumulation on the fine nerve endings causes pain. The swelling and pain together bring about the reduced functionality. At the site of the inflammation, biochemical and physiochemical changes occur that result in permanent circulatory disturbances with increased tissue permeability for blood plasma and blood cells. It is precisely this increased permeability of the tissue that is utilized in cupping therapy. As a result of the vacuum created in the suction cup, the blood only issues from diseased locations or Head’s zones of diseased organs, never from healthy ones.
Complex of Symptoms: Increase in Local Blood Circulation and Paleness of the Skin
In addition to the occurring hyperemia and extravasates at the cupping site, a conspicuous localized paleness of the skin is also of significance for diagnosis.
Under normal circumstances, the skin turns red in the vicinity of the applied suction cup. Paleness of skin there, by contrast, indicates a lack of circulation in a certain area of tissue. Acute or chronic lack of circulation can have different causes and effects on organs or parts of the organism. As a rule, blood circulation supplies every organ with the appropriate amount of blood for its requirements. Reduced circulation (ischemia), however, can only appear if the blood supply via the arteries or the backflow of blood via the veins is impeded. Several causes should be considered: inflammatory or degenerative tissue change, thrombosis, embolism, vascular spasms, and constricted lumen due to pathological processes in the vicinity.
The most common cause of ischemia is localized chronic muscle tension, which can also trigger arterial spasms. Ischemia due to muscular hypertonicity in the neck, for example, can in turn trigger many other conditions like: headache, nightly paresis (a type of numbness) in the upper extremities as well as pain in the shoulders, in the elbow, and in the back.
Therapeutic Success as Diagnostic Evidence
A diagnosis can also be deduced from the success of cupping. For example, placing a suction cup in the area of the sciatic nerve in cases with suspected sciatic pain can often bring relief from complaints or absence of sciatic symptoms. The treatment will, however, be ineffective if the pain has other causes.
Reluctant Improvement of Existing Complaints
These effects of cupping suggest that the cups were placed on the correct, that is, the diseased, location. It is important for diagnosis that the resulting improvement persists. If this is the case, you should continue treatment at the same place until you have obtained the desired result. Unfortunately, many patients have been denied freedom from complaints or even a cure because the rules of repetition are not known or were disregarded.
Reluctant improvement of existing complaints (mostly in long-lasting disease, e.g., joint pain) also confirms a correct diagnosis.
A reluctant improvement occurs in long-lasting diseases or in patients who were pretreated with many chemical drugs. As a consequence, the body’s ability to self-regulate has been impaired, often even blocked, and a condition called blocked regulation results. Medications with a regulation-blocking effect are psychotropic drugs, corticoids, antibiotics, and antiallergic drugs. When taking the patient’s history, we must therefore include questions about long-term consumption of medications that can inhibit the efficacy of other therapeutic methods or make them inaccessible for the body. Repeated cupping tends to remove the blockage.
Please Note: If the body’s regulatory capacity is disturbed, it can happen that no treatment is possible because even the therapeutic stimuli of homeopathic remedies or Bach flower remedies are so strong that the pathological symptoms are intensified to their extreme after any therapy (e.g., extremely high fever, unbearable pain, inflammations becoming more acute). Such patients are desperate and have exhausted the last resort. They call off any therapy after a short time, change therapist, and turn to another treatment method. These patients tolerate the first cupping session surprisingly well and hope for even greater therapeutic success with expected treatment sessions. The therapist also often believes in his or her success until the symptoms recur with increasing intensity after cupping treatments have been repeated in intervals that were too short.
Due to the chronicity and the unforeseeable reactions of the organism, the next cupping session should only be performed after 4–6 weeks in such cases. Even if therapists are often asked to relieve a patient’s complaints quickly, they have to remember not to schedule the next cupping session too early, to prevent an overly strong reaction by the diseased organism.
Fortunately, cupping is a method that produces therapeutic stimuli for the disturbed regulatory system and relieves the patient’s suffering even after the first application.
Persistence, Intensity, and Localization of Complaints After Cupping
The persistence of pre-existing complaints after cupping or even the appearance of additional complaints at other locations are diagnostic indications, just like the remission of complaints at the treatment site or the appearance of new complaints at a different place.