All posts by john@acupressure.com.au

Pulling the Plugs

The other day a friend of mine was experiencing a pressure headache on the top and back of the head. I suspected a backup of Qi in the Gall Bladder meridian so I held the exit point of that meridian (GB 41) but it had no effect. So I moved to the exit point of Bladder meridian (BL 67) and within two minutes the pressure and ache had gone from the head.

This gave me the idea of writing a blog about the exit points of the three yang meridians of the leg, what I call the bath plug points. When any of these points is blocked, Qi can back up along the channel all the way to the head and face, producing symptoms of pressure, fullness, congestion or pain. It is good to keep these points in mind as they can effect major improvements in health with little work.

The three yang meridians of the leg are Gall Bladder, Bladder and Stomach. They all begin on the face and wend their ways down the body to the feet, Gall Bladder down the sides of the body, Bladder down the back of the body, and Stomach down the front. These three are the longest of all the primary organ meridians and contain the most points. (Gall Bladder has 44 points, Bladder 67 and Stomach 45.) That means that over half of the acupoints of the primary meridians lie on these three yang meridians of the leg. Lots of places for blocks to occur.

Let’s look at each of these meridians in turn to see what kinds of conditions can arise when their bath plugs become stuck.

Gall Bladder 41 ~ Zulinqi ~ Foot Above Tears

This point is one of my favourites, and one that I use frequently, because our busy, demanding, stressful world can put a lot of pressure on the Gall Bladder official who is responsible for making decisions and taking action.

You can find a fuller exploration of this point in a previous blog. Here I will focus on its role as an exit point. Entry and exit points are not a part of the TCM teaching but are a significant part of the Five Element tradition. Blocks at points where Qi enters or leaves the meridian can become impediments to treatment progressing.

When GB 41 is blocked, Qi can back up along the length of the meridian, producing symptoms in the sides of the legs, hips, the sides of the ribcage, shoulders, neck, head and eyes. One of the more common conditions associated with this block is occipital and frontal headache, sometimes with pain behind the eyes and/or visual distortions.

I once treated a 50 year old client, a busy businessman, who experienced ongoing headaches, almost every day since he was a teenager. I held Foot Above Tears on both feet and could feel a tremendous congestion there. He felt nothing at all for a couple of minutes, then suddenly he practically jumped off the table as the pressure broke through the crust and he felt the pain of the points. I then continued with steady pressure for several more minutes until he no longer felt the sensation. His headache had cleared.

I didn’t see him again for a couple of months. I assumed the treatment had not worked. But when he returned, he assured me that it had and that he had been headache free for those months, and was returning because the headaches were just starting to come back. This was a significant outcome from one treatment and shows the power of this point when used at the right time

This point can also be useful when frustrations or the burdens of responsibility cause a build up of pressure in the neck and shoulders. If you press into the top of someone’s shoulders (GB 21) and there is a lot of tension, you may find that holding GB 41 will help that tension to soften and descend down the body.

Location of Gall Bladder 41

At the junction of the fourth and fifth metatarsals. Draw up between the fourth and fifth toes, cross over the tendon, and drop into the hollow between these bones where they meet.

 

 

Bladder 67 ~ Zhiyin ~ Reaching Yin

The Bladder pathway reaches the end of its long and circuitous journey down the body at BL 67 at the corner of the little toenail. As with the other exit points of the yang meridians of the leg, if this point becomes blocked, Qi can back up along the pathway which in this case includes the calves, hamstrings, hips, sacrum, back, neck, top of the head and eyes.

BL 67’s capacity to cause Qi to descend is seen in its role in promoting labour, and its particular effect of turning a baby which is in breech position. While the point is great for a woman about to give birth, it should be avoided during the earlier stages of pregnancy. We don’t want to take that plug out too soon. After the birth, this point can also help persuade the placenta to release.

As shown in the recent case of my friend, described above, when there is headache on the top (vertex) or the back (occipital) of the head, or in the neck at the upper cervical vertebrae, this point can be useful in descending that congested Qi.

The Bladder channel begins at the inner corner of the eye, just above the tear duct. When Qi is blocked here it can result in pain in the eyes, dry eyes, redness or blurred vision, an inability to make tears, or alternatively, too much tearing. The exit point at the opposite end of the meridian, Reaching Yin, can be treated to pull the Qi down the meridian.

Location of Bladder 67

On the outside corner of the nailbed of the little toe. Draw a line from the lateral border of the nail, and another from the base of the nail. The point is where these lines meet.

 

 

Stomach 42 ~ Chongyang ~ Rushing Yang

The Stomach meridian starts just under the eye in the soft tissue below the lower eyelid. It travels down through the cheeks and jaw, takes a brief side trip into the temple, continues on through the throat, and down through the breasts, the abdomen and along the front of the legs and shins, reaching the exit point at Stomach 42.

When this point becomes blocked, it can cause symptoms of pain or discomfort in any of these areas. When a person has pain in the cheeks or jaw, or there is congestion in the throat, I will check if there is a block in Stomach 42.

A block at Chongyang is often associated not only with physical symptoms in the head and throat, but also with the psycho-emotional condition of worry or over-thinking. One of the responsibilities of the Earth Element (in particular the Spleen) is the proper functioning of mental processes. When we think too much, if worry a lot, if the mind goes round and round the same issue, or even if we are doing a lot of study or other concentration, this energy can get stuck in the head. Stomach 42 can come to the rescue.

One of the functions of the Stomach Official is to receive. This is known as Stomach Receiving. The receiving of food is an obvious role, but it also is responsible for receiiving other kinds of things such as love, praise, admiration, compliments and help. People who have difficulty letting such things in or have a tendency to push away or reject these things from others, may develop a block in the Stomach receiving. Stomach 42 should be checked.

Location of Stomach 42

On the top of the foot, in a shallow hollow 1.5 cun (2 fingers width) from the ankle crease. Alternatively, draw up between the second and third toes until you fall into the hollow.

 

 

Method of Treatment

When treating these points, begin by holding both points with steady, moderate pressure for two or three minutes. A block could show itself as a feeling of fullness, like a whirlpool of congested Qi; or it could manifest as a feeling of deadness or complete absence which breaks through after a while, as described in the GB 41 case above. With sustained pressure, either of these extremes will begin to come back to centre, the Qi feeling like a comfortable presence under your fingers. For deeper work, hold the points one at a time, beginning with the left side, until you feel the bath plug pop out.

Healing Trauma

Last month I wrote about the use of Acupressure for cancer patients, linking suggested points to previous articles. It was then that I realised that Bladder 43, the outer shu point of Heart Protector, did not have an article to link to. Therefore I’m reprinting the article from my book ‘The Way of the Five Elements’. This is such an important point for any condition related to the emotional heart. And as you’ll see, its uses range far and wide. You might say it is a point for being human.

Gaohuangshu – Rich for the Vitals – Bladder 43

It is the nature of being human that we are vulnerable. We inhabit fragile bodies and have delicate feelings. We are sensitive to many external stimuli from physical objects, and from what other people do and say to us. We are influenced, even if we don’t know it, by the thoughts and feelings of others. It is this vulnerability that gives us the capacity for deep contact with others and the world. But it also means that we are easily hurt.

Babies are born totally vulnerable. It is one reason they are so adorable. But soon the child develops a protective shell to shield her from the slings and arrows of life in the human realm. When these traumas of life are outrageous, egregious, and they penetrate the shell, it is the Heart Protector which absorbs the shock so as to protect the Heart. When the insults to the Heart are great, the Heart Protector is deeply injured. Therefore healing trauma requires healing the Heart Protector.

One of the best points for working with trauma of all kinds is the outer shu point of the Heart Protector, Gaohuangshu – Rich for the Vitals which lies between the shoulder blades and behind the heart.

This point exerts a strong influence over the official of the Heart Protector, especially at emotional and psychological levels. However, the point name itself refers to the Gaohuang, a region in the chest, whose influence is much wider and deeper than that of the Heart Protector alone.

The Gaohuang or Vital Region, is an area in the chest about four body inches in diameter, lying between the centre and base of the sternum, and extending laterally to the pathways of the Kidney meridian.

When there is illness that is caused by deep heartbreak, betrayal, abuse, shame, or isolation, this vital region is deeply impacted and the effects go deep into our being. Jarrett sees this as a place where deep karmic issues and conflicts reside, and where dark family secrets live. Chronic or incurable disease is said to lodge here.

Classical texts observe that Gaohuangshu deeply nourishes and calms the Heart as well as Kidney and Spleen. The action of this point was considered so great that it was said to strengthen the original Qi and treat every kind of deficiency. Sun Si-miao, the famous 7th century physician, went so far as to say that there is no disorder it cannot treat.

Gaohuangshu is a great tonic point for the physical body, treating exhaustion and general deficiency, increasing stamina and supporting all the organs. It brings warmth and strength and increases blood circulation.

At the emotional level, the point brings warmth when a person is emotionally cold and shut down. It helps to dispel depression and mental negativity. When someone has little capacity for intimacy and humour because they are too depleted or vulnerable, this point lifts the spirit.

Location of Bladder 43

Gaohuangshu, is located between the shoulder blades, 3 cun lateral to the midline, at the level of the junction of T4 and T5 and at the medial border of the scapula. It is approximately half way down the scapula. Use firm, direct pressure. To treat yourself, lie on a tennis ball or other object that presses into the point. Arrange the pressure so you can be as relaxed as possible. Having someone you trust hold this point can be very healing.

Acupressure Work with Cancer Patients

This year it is expected that there will be about 140,000 new cancer diagnoses among Australians, representing about 0.6% of the population. As we age, the chances of being diagnosed go up, and for those of us who reach the age of 85, fully half will have been diagnosed with some form of cancer.

For healthcare practitioners, this means that some of the clients we see will be either living with cancer or in remission from it. The most common forms of cancer are prostate, breast, bowel, melanoma and lung. These five forms account for 60% of all cases.

For all of us, contact with someone living with cancer is common. Who has not had a friend or family member touched by cancer?

Western medicine has a system of treatments for cancer that usually involve surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. These treatments are saving and extending lives. However these treatments impose great strains upon the body, particularly on the immune system. Complementary therapies are well placed to assist these treatments by supporting the immune system, detoxifying the body, and accelerating the healing processes.

Acupressure is one of form of complementary therapy that can provide powerful support to those living with cancer. It addresses the energy system that underlies all organs, systems and functions in the body as well as the emotional, psychological and spiritual levels of human life.

My senior students and I are currently engaged in a program at the Cancer Care Centre in Adelaide in which we are working with clients who are currently living with or are in remission from cancer. Some of these people are in the final stages of their lives. It is a great privilege to work with people who are facing this most challenging of life experiences.

In preparing for this program, I wrote a short paper suggesting some of the ways we can work with such clients. I include a modified version of these notes here so that others can make use of this powerful energy work to support their clients, friends and loved ones.

Where acupoints are noted, there are links to previous blogs where available. Where there is no link, you can find point locations with an internet search.

Contraindications

Acupressure is a very gentle modality and there are few contraindications. But we need to check first if there are any tumours, sites of recent surgery, radiation burns or other conditions that mean we can’t touch a certain area. Before you put your hands on your client, find out if there are any such areas of the body that need to be avoided, or where work is not wanted.

Gentleness

This style of work lends itself to working lightly. A light touch is the first place to begin. It may become clear that a firmer pressure is appropriate, but begin lightly. In areas where there are tumours or there has been surgery, it may be better to avoid touch at all and work above the body with the open palm over the point. Since the meridians are bilateral, you can always work on the opposite side of the body to affect an area which you can’t touch.

Kindness and empathy

Someone who is or has been living with cancer faces a challenging future. Try to imagine how that might be. All kinds of emotional responses might arise: fear, anger, regret and so on. Work from your heart as much as you can.

Listening

Listen carefully to your client. Follow any requests for something to be done or not to be done. Try to listen from your heart rather than your head. While we might think of a great treatment pattern, a simple touch of a single point may feel like the right thing.

Meridians that may need work

Anyone who has undergone or is undergoing chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy will have a challenged immune system. Triple Heater work can help to strengthen the defensive Qi, especially TH 5, CV 5 and BL 22. Kidney will also need lots of attention, including BL 23, GB 25 and KI 3. Spleen is also involved in immunity, so consider SP 3, SP 4, SP 6, SP 21, BL 20 and LV 13. Liver work will help with detoxification, especially LV 3. For the nausea associated with chemotherapy, HP 6 is the classic point.

Another approach might be to work with the Extraordinary Vessels via their master points. These vessels act as reservoirs of Qi, linking the meridian pathways into a large web-like system. Choose vessels based on their trajectories in relation to the location of cancers.

Master Point Vessel Trajectory
SI 3 Governor On the midline, up the back and over the head
LU 7 Conception On the midline from the chin to the perineum
BL 62 Yang Motility Outer sides of body, shoulders, neck and head
KI 6 Yin Motility Inside of leg, abdomen and chest
TH 5 Yang Linking Outer sides of body, shoulders, neck and head
HP 6 Yin Linking Inside of leg, abdomen and chest
GB 41 Girdling Around the waist
SP 4 Penetrating Abdomen and chest including all internal organs

Specific kinds of cancer

Breast cancer is common. Points that may serve include KI 22 and HP 2 (exit/entry points), Stomach and Kidney points of the chest, CV 17 and LU 1. If there has been removal of lymph nodes, then Spleen points will be helpful.

For other organs, use source, mu and shu points of the related organs. For locations of these points, see my article Addressing Emotions in Clinical Practice. Also consider the paired organ. For example for colon cancer, include Large Intestine and Lung points.

Working above and below site

The presence of cancer in the body is an indication of a block in the flow of Qi in the body. One way of working is to choose acupoints that are above and below the site (or former site) of a tumour. Look for acupuncture point charts and hold the points that are immediately above and below the site. This will encourage the normal flow of Qi through the area. This technique can also be used where there has been surgery.

Emotional connections

Use your knowledge of the Five Element emotions to make point choices that relate to the emotional state of your client. For example, help to settle fear with BL 23, BL 52 and KI 3. For depression, consider working with Liver points especially LV 14 and BL 47.

Also consider the emotion that relates to the affected organ. With someone who is suffering from lung or colon cancer, you might check out whether grief, loss or regret are a significant part of the person’s affect, in which case BL 42 with LU 1 would be helpful. Breast cancer is often associated with absence of love, or experience of betrayal. BL 43, HP 7 and CV 17 are useful in these cases.

Self-work

If you yourself are the client, you can work on yourself. While it is better if someone else works on you, you can still get good benefits from self-acupressure. See my previous blog How Effective is Self-Acupressure?

Start anywhere

As soon as we begin to make an intervention into the energetic field, changes begin to happen as the client’s own inner doctor responds. While an accurate assessment and a targeted treatment will be of greater benefit, holding any point, if done with the overarching intention of healing, will be of great service.