What are acupoints and meridians?
How much pressure is in acupressure?
What is qi
(also known as chi)?
What is Sha?
Q. What are acupoints and meridians?
A. Qi circulates throughout the body via the meridians. Meridians are like
channels or pathways. Each main meridian begins where another main meridian
ends, connects with an internal organ, transverses specific musculoskeletal
structures, and ends where another main meridian begins. Thus the main meridians
form a continuous circuit for qi to pass through every tissue and organ in
the body. There are secondary meridians that branch off the main meridians
like tributaries and extend between muscles, tendons and joints. Other meridians,
vessels connect one meridian to another.
There are eight extraordinary meridians: Two go up the center of
the body, one in front and one in back. Another circles the waist, and the
rest are more complicated pathways. The extraordinary meridians serve as reservoirs
of qi for the main meridians. Acupoints on the extraordinary meridians serve
as master regulators of the brain, spinal cord, endocrine and other systems
of the body.
As qi flows through the meridians, it nourishes and regulates each meridian’s
associated tissues and organ. Any misdirection, blockage or other derangement
of the amount, flow, or balance of qi in the meridians may result in pain,
dysfunction and ill health.
The meridians surface at the acupoints. The Chinese liken an acupoint to
a chimney or vent hole that extends from the meridian up to the surface of
the skin. They discovered that the body’s qi could be accessed and manipulated
at the acupoints in order to correct aberrations of flow and positively affect
Discovery of meridians and acupoints may have been conceived during deep
meditation as practiced in Chinese monasteries. Over centuries of trial and
error and meticulous observation, the Chinese accurately mapped the locations
of the meridians and identified hundreds of acupoints. Today, the meridians
and acupoints can be scientifically observed using high-resolution microscopes
that are used to map magnetic fields and electric currents.
Q.How much pressure is
A. The amount and type of pressure varies. The practitioner
determines the needs of the patient and provides an appropriate combination
of pressure and movement along the meridians. Pressure can be applied to both
wide areas and precise points. Sometimes the pressure is experienced as gentle
and calming, other times as deeply stimulating.
I use light pressure on children, and on patients who are frail, elderly,
or have yin (sensitive, delicate) constitutions. I use a vigorous
approach on people with yang (active, robust) constitutions.
Q. What is qi?
A. The idea of qi is fundamental to Chinese
medical thinking, yet no one English word or
phrase can adequately capture its meaning. English
translations of the word qi (pronounced “chee”,
and alternatively spelled “chi”)
means “vital force inherent in all things” or “circulating
However, Chinese thought does not distinguish
between matter and energy. The Chinese perceive
qi functionally—by what it does.
Functions of Qi
- Qi is the source of all movement in the body
( voluntary and involuntary)
- Qi protects the body (like the immune system—it
keeps pathogens and toxins out)
- Qi is the source of harmonious transformation
in the body (metabolic processes & digestion)
- Qi governs retention of the body’s substances
and organs (preventing prolapse & leakage)
- Qi warms the body (it regulates our body
temperature and sweating)
One’s good health depends on a balanced
distribution of qi throughout the meridian network.
This influences the organs as well as the bodily
systems: skeletal, muscular, endocrine (hormonal),
circulatory, lymphatic, immune, digestive, respiratory,
urinary, reproductive and nervous. When qi flows
smoothly and harmoniously throughout the meridians,
each bodily system and organ interacts with and
affects all the other systems and organs, which
in turn are interdependent, interrelated, and
integrated. Everything works together to make
us feel whole and healthy, thanks to qi.
West Meet East
Prior to the twentieth century, Western scientists
considered energy and matter to be separate and
distinct substances. Einstein’s theories
of quantum mechanics launched the field of modern
physics, which considers energy and matter to
be the same. The modern scientific view is that
energy fields constitute the fundamental unit
of the living and the non-living. Energy fields
are infinite, paradimensional (beyond shape or
form) and in continuous motion. They comprise
the interconnected whole of the universe, of
which human consciousness is a part.
In other words, thousands of years after the
concept of qi originated in China, Western physicists
have “discovered” a very similar
concept. Human and animal bodies are now seen
as dynamic electromagnetic fields existing in
an electromagnetic environment. It is now known
that changes in the electromagnetic field precedes
growth and structural change. Acupuncturists
manipulate this electrical field to restore proper
form and function to the body.
Q. What is
A. In order to understand
how cupping and gua
sha work, it is essential to understand the
concept of sha (pronounced “shaw”,
which means “sand”).
When blood, qi and lymph circulation is sluggish
or compromised in an injured or diseased area
of the body, insufficient oxygen gets to the
cells, and there is a local build-up of waste
products. When the skin is pressed, the blanching
that occurs is slow to fade.
The Chinese call this blood poison.
Symptoms include pain and decreased range of
In Chinese Medicine, there are three types
of bad qi. Dead qi is where there is severe oxygen
deprivation. It is the most harmful form of qi.
Cancer cells grow in anaerobic—or dead
qi environments. Stagnant qi is sluggish qi that
is not flowing smoothly--it causes pain. Toxic
qi is caused by exposure to poisons in the food
and environment, or manufactured by the body
from long-term stagnant qi.
Cupping and Gua Sha push bad qi, toxic fluid
and blood poison from deep within the tissues
to the skin’s surface. This toxic fluid
is called sha. Sha typically looks like a red,
purple or green skin rash. Often tiny raised
bumps will appear. Sometimes a clear fluid will
draw to the surface. These are all signs of disease
being removed from deep within the tissues. If
Gua Sha or Cupping is performed where there is
no sha or disease, no discoloration or rash will
The Western term for sha is petechia.
Petechia is a slight subcutaneous discharge of
blood from the vessels, which resembles bruising.
The discharged blood helps flush toxins out of
the area. Although sha looks painful like a bruise,
it is not. Sha fades in about a week. The length
of time it takes for sha to fade indicates the
severity and toxicity of the patient’s
Receiving cupping and gua sha feels mildly
uncomfortable or deeply pleasurable, depending
on the individual. There is a sensation of warmth
as the blood comes to the surface. It is important
to keep warm and avoid drafts for 48 hours after
receiving Cupping or gua sha, because these techniques
temporarily strip the wei qi (the body’s
protective layer) in order to vent toxins.
Most patients who receive these treatments
feel an immediate improvement in their condition.
A small percentage of patients with severe blood
poisoning feel temporarily worse due to the release
of toxins. These patients often experience the
most dramatic improvement in their condition
within a short period of time.
Gua sha and cupping are not used on patients
with bleeding disorders.