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Abby Kessler's Blog

 

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, called luo 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 health.

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 in acupressure?

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 life energy”.

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 Sha?

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 motion.

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 appear.

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 condition.

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.