Archives for posts with tag: pain
Common sites for endometriosis (en.wikipedia.org)

Common sites for endometriosis (en.wikipedia.org)

In any medical system pain is considered a warning sign that there is a problem in the body. Pain can be sufficiently extreme and chronic to result in suicidal thoughts. I am thinking of female patients who have endometriosis their whole lives that rivals the pain of natural labour. Chronic psoriasis from childhood into adulthood can itch enough to cause agony. Pain can be significant. Western medicine sees a person as a collection of individual parts rather than the seamlessly functioning whole envisioned by Eastern philosophers. Today there is a specialist for every part of the body, including our mental health. Eastern medicine regards the mind and body as the same. The ancient medical texts identify physical symptoms rather than mental because it is not Confucian to intimate someone is ‘crazy’. According to this ancient tradition, someone who has physical symptoms has mental ones as well, whether they manifest them or not.

Psoriasis (www.dermnet.com)

Psoriasis (www.dermnet.com)

It is an individual’s free choice to face the psychological issues related to their pain or set them aside. Stagnation and pain increase as we repress our feelings. Pain is telling us to change something about ourselves and its emotions provide clues. Sometimes it is very difficult to acknowledge the sweeping adjustments that need to be made in one’s life. Unexpressed emotion sits like a compost pile in our interior, growing hotter and hotter the way organic material ferments. As old age approaches, the heat and inflammation can reach a crescendo. A healthy day-to-day life involves constant processing of outer stimulation and the exploration of our inner being’s reaction to it.

Suppressing pain (thebrainbank.scienceblog.com)

Suppressing pain (thebrainbank.scienceblog.com)

Some people somatize their symptoms, feeling them as physical pain. Some experience emotional upheaval rather than body aches and some allow a combination of the two. Generally sufferers of severe pain have a history of extensive trauma in their lives, whether it is physical or mental. If you choose to work with a therapist, find one who understands that the more you experience the emotion behind pain, the more it decreases. Pain is the result of anything unresolved. It could develop from eating large amounts of ice cream because it tends to obstruct areas from its dampness. It can begin with the chronic use of OTC medications for colds and flus because you choose not to take time off for trivial illness. In the Eastern tradition, these minor maladies provide an opportunity for cleansing. Drugs that suppress symptoms also prevent the toxins from expression and discharge. An acupuncturist familiar with the Shāng Hán Lùn School (Injury Caused By Cold) will know how to help you express rather than suppress illness. The course of a cold will shorten and you will recover more easily while understanding its importance to your general health.

Zhāng Zhòng-Jĭng, author of Shāng Hán Lùn or Treatise on Damage By Cold (bamboogroveacademy.com)

Zhāng Zhòng-Jĭng, author of Shāng Hán Lùn or Treatise on Damage By Cold (bamboogroveacademy.com)

Shāng Hán Lùn or Treatise on Damage By Cold (www.china.org.cn)

Shāng Hán Lùn or Treatise on Damage By Cold (www.china.org.cn)

Many of us have obstructions created by trauma, which bruises the blood and can create stagnation that is deep and persistent. Swollen purple veins under the tongue reveal this situation. I am reminded of a massage therapist who complained that she could not help a client who had been trampled in a bar. I suggested she scrape the area with a clean coin and some oil. Acupuncturists call it Guā Shā because it brings old blood and heat to the surface in the form of red spots resembling hickies (they resolve in a few days). What emerged from this woman’s back was the perfect print of a man’s shoe. This is an excellent illustration of how our bodies tend to retain trauma unless it is treated. Needless to say the massage client felt much better.

(www.rvdv-advocaten.nl)

(www.rvdv-advocaten.nl)

By the time pain has reached the low back or shoulders, we are reaching the limit of places to store suppressed material, emotional or pathogenic. We see the body like a house with cupboards, an attic and a basement. These are the places where we store experiences we feel we have no time to process. This is the idea of making something latent or putting it into dormancy. The repositories get full in older people because they have experienced more. Ask anyone who has emptied an ancestral home, even if it has housed only one generation: there is a lot of unwanted stuff!

Pain and the comfort of the fetal position (runioredmane.deviantart.com)

Pain and the comfort of the fetal position (runioredmane.deviantart.com)

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The Chinese word Qì basically means relationship. It describes how different parts of ourselves and our world relate to each other. Spring is the time when hibernation ends and living things reach out.

In the morning I was walking to the Pine Mountain Clubhouse for the Qì Gōng class. I was going there to move my Qì. As I approached the driveway I saw several patches of frozen water dropping in white cascades down the grass. There was also black ice on the flattened brown turf that was slippery when I tested it. Evidence of the cold night still lingered here. When I returned after class the hard ground was soft and aromatic. It was the smell of unfrozen spring mud. The ice coming down the hill was mushy and pocked with holes. In fact, I was less stiff and icebound after class too! On the mountain we know, like the Yellow Emperor, that the night is winter and the morning is the spring thaw. Melting fluids evaporate into the atmosphere. The sky gazers here hope the water will form into clouds and recycle as snow before spring gets any older.

One description of moving Qì is the cycle occurring between evaporating bodies of water and clouds. Qì is a familiar word to practitioners or patients of Chinese medicine and Qì Gōng. Sometimes you will see it written as Chì but it is always pronounced ‘chee’ with a falling tone. The Chinese character gives us clues to its meaning:

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The outer part of the character symbolizes swirling clouds of gas:

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The inner part is a picture of rice grains:

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(Rice is easy to digest, hypoallergenic and a boon to gluten-free eaters such as myself.) Look at the character:

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Do you see grains expanding as they cook? Do you see the steam rising from the rice pot? Qì also illustrates the digestive process. In Chinese medicine the stomach is seen as the saucepan. It must first heat foods that are cold or raw before their molecules are broken down. Nutrients are then released into the bloodstream from the small intestine. In other words Qì is the vital energy we derive from food. One of my patients had a very hot stomach pulse one summer. When I asked, she was not eating any of the usual hotheaded suspects: spicy food, chocolate or coffee. So I questioned her about cold foods. She was eating large frozen drinks daily. Her stomach was overheating from cooking them!

To me, the beauty of the Chinese language (and the frustration of translators) is that the characters contain many different meanings embedded since at least 1046 BCE. As a writer, the more information I have about a word’s meaning, the happier I am. The character for Qì also represents the gaseous state. The picture can be seen as a cloud rather than rice expanding in all eight directions:

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Water rises as a gas and returns as liquid rain or frozen snow. Qì refers to the energy necessary for these changes in state to take place. Its activity is superficial because it diffuses like fumes filling a container or the atmosphere. It is associated with spring because everything starts to move and ascend after the hibernation of winter. Even our radial pulses start to float on the surface. These are the pulses of spring. A slow thaw in spring means you have done too much in the winter. It takes you longer to get moving even though all around you things are sprouting. Spring Qì is movement. Winter is inertia.

If a Chinese speaker says that you are full of Qì, you could be full of vigor or angry or just breathing. Qì inflates us no matter its source. Qì also references the weather or the atmosphere of a room. When Qì does not move in our bodies, it causes pain. Acupuncture moves Qì to restore a lack of flow in any tissue of the body: skin, muscles, blood vessels, joints, bones and the glands that produce hormones. Areas are targeted by the practitioner through her choice of channels, which are like waterways or roadways on a map. The pulse is my GPS. It guides me to the place in my patient’s body asking for help.

Acupuncture channels create access to the whole body because they form a continuum from its surface to its depths. The map demarcates points along the roadways that influence specific parts of the body. One of the most well known is the Tiger’s Mouth on the web between the thumb and index finger. It is used for headaches. It is not always useful to needle a painful area directly until a point further away has diminished its intensity. It is common to see merchants massaging this point who come to trade at Chinese markets. It is also called Union Valley to indicate its ability to help us avoid suffering by accepting a given situation. If the seller will not lower their price, you won’t be angry when you negotiate with the next one in line. Qì is all about change. Spring is the opportunity for new beginnings and a clean slate.

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