Category Archives: Hypertension

Wood Work

Spring is here again. I know this not just from the calendar, the change in temperature, the blossoms on trees, lambs frolicking and all that. I know it from my bodymind.

To start with, I feel an irresistible urge to tend to my compost pile which has been languishing, cold and stagnant over winter. Yesterday I dug out tools from the shed and turned it all over into the sunshine to dry out and aerate. Getting into the mood, I weeded and fertilised the peas and garlic. Before long I’d lost track of time as I cheerfully tended to tasks I’d been shirking all winter. What was happening? Spring’s Wood energy was rising up my body, fuelling action.

Another way I know it’s spring is that my liver and gall bladder are talking to me again. I feel a slight pressure in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, my liver reminding me that I ate too much gluten and dairy when I travelled interstate last week. Chiming in is gall bladder, giving the occasional squeak as it squirts bile into the duodenum. These are the organs of Wood which can manifest symptoms when this Element isn’t balanced. For someone of a Wood constitution like me, these organs are particularly susceptible. They are a source of information for monitoring my health.

At a recent course I taught, one of the students was having a challenging time around these organs. During several treatments, he experienced a strong vibrating sensation in the upper right quadrant which we tracked to the acupoint Liver 13. This is the alarm point for Spleen but it also reflects the Liver itself. The student revealed that he was going through a significant stage, one requiring a pivotal decision about the fundamental direction of his work life. He also noticed that working on Liver points on another person triggered these same sensations in his own body. And when it came time to make a firm decision in the days after the course, the sensations became extreme.

The capacities of planning and decision making are the province of the Liver and Gall Bladder Officials respectively. This person’s physical symptoms were reflecting what was happening at the psycho-emotional level. And all of this was arising in the springtime when Wood energy is at its highest. There is a long tide which moves around the Five Element Cycle over the course of a year, the high tide passing through the corresponding Element of the season and pushing up against anything that isn’t harmonised. Like a high tide that strains boats whose anchors are too tightly set.

There are a number of other signals that can indicate that Wood is out of balance. These derive from the resonances of the Element. The following table shows some of these resonances of the Wood Element.

Season Spring
Climate Wind
Colour Green
Sound Shouting
Odour Rancid
Emotion Anger
Taste Sour
Sense Vision
Sense Organ Eyes
Yin Organ Liver
Yang Organ Gall Bladder
Tissue Tendons/Ligaments

These resonances are vibrations. For example, spring is the Wood Element vibrating as a season while anger is Wood vibrating as an emotion. When our Wood is out of balance, we may find that our bodymind shows the imbalance through these resonances. Here are some ways this might be revealed:

• Getting sick at the start of spring
• A strong dislike of wind
• Feelings of irritability or outbursts of anger
• Feelings of hopelessness
• Difficulty making plans
• Difficulty making decisions
• Aversion to or craving for sour foods
• Visual disturbances or other eye problems
• Easily nauseated by fatty food
• Congestion in the upper right of the abdomen
• Headaches, especially at the back of the head
• Neck and shoulder stiffness or pain
• Hip and outer leg pain
• Tight tendons
• Stiff joints
• Restlessness, can’t keep still

If you find that you have several of these conditions, your bodymind may be showing you that Wood is calling for attention. These symptoms can appear at any time, but they are more likely to show up in spring when the high tide of the Wood phase pushes up against things that are out of balance. The good news is that by addressing them in the spring, you will have the support of the ambient energy of nature. Here are some ways to work with your Wood.

Add more green foods to your diet: kale and other leafy greens, broccoli, peas and so on. The darker green the better. Eat more foods that are sour in taste: lemon, lime, grapefruit, sauerkraut and other fermented food.

Detoxify. The liver is responsible for cleansing the body of toxins. Doing a liver cleanse by eating simple foods and taking cleansing herbs will be well supported in the springtime. If you’ve been thinking of doing a gall bladder flush, then spring is the best time to do it.

Move. Wood likes to move so get plenty of movement. Walk, hike, run, jump, skip, ride, row, garden, build… whatever makes you feel good in your body. Make sure to stretch before leaping into action.

Shout! Sometimes when Wood is stuck, movement is not enough to dislodge the congestion. Shouting can discharge the energy that has been suppressed. Shout into the wind or in your car on the freeway. Don’t shout at others.

Explore your anger. Most of us learn from an early age that anger is a bad thing because it hurts others. But suppressed anger becomes stored in the body, specifically in the liver, and then starts to hurt us. Anger is seen as bad because it is equated with violence. But anger is not violence. It is the frustration that can arise from operating in a world of limits and boundaries. Try to understand why you are angry. Feel that anger without suppressing it and without venting it. The energy that you get in touch with can be powerful fuel for action.

Hold some acupressure points. Any points that relate to the Liver (LV) and Gall Bladder (GB) will be useful and are more powerful at this time of year. Here are links to some good points discussed in previous blogs:

Acupoint Some Uses
LV 1 Calms restlessness, agitation. The Wood point, it deeply supports the Element.
LV 3 Treats allergies, fatigue, nausea, eyes, irritability. Supports immune system.
LV 13 Promotes smooth flow of Liver Qi, relieves abdominal distension.
LV 14 For vomiting, rib pain, depression, hopelessness.
GB 1 Treats eye pain, migraines, lack of clarity.
GB 15 Treats headache, eye pain, confusion, lack of perspective. Eliminates wind.
GB 20 Treats headache, neck pain, irritability. Eliminates wind.
GB 21 Treats anxiety, irritability, hypertension, headaches, shoulder stiffness.
GB 30 For lower back and hip problems, sciatica, stiff joints, irritability, frustration.
GB 34 Master point for tendons and ligaments. Timidity, headache, hypertension.
GB 41 Relieves headache, sciatica, frustration, indecision.
BL 47 Supports psycho-emotional and spiritual aspects of Wood.
GV 16 Eliminates wind, treats headache, stiff neck, colds and flu, fever.

And finally, use the uprising energy of the Wood season to make plans for the future. See where you are going, map out your path, plan the stages of the journey, decide how to get there and take the first step. Your inner Wood will provide you with the gifts of imagination, creativity, vision, wise judgement, and motivation to help you on your path.

Go boldly!

For more suggestions on working with your Wood, see that chapter of my book
The Way of the Five Seasons.

Hypertension

I’ve been watching some World Cup matches lately, following the Australia and England teams through their tense encounters. While I haven’t been measuring my blood pressure, I am sure that it was elevated during the games, especially in England’s penalty shootout with Colombia. Excitement, anxiety, anger, fear, worry, shock – all of these emotions have an effect on blood pressure. It is well known that the anxiety of having your blood pressure taken by a doctor tends to elevate the reading.

Hypertension is the long-term elevation of blood pressure, a condition that poses health risks. One of its features is that it has no symptoms, so we can be in danger without even knowing it. Another complicating factor is that there is no clear agreement about what is a dangerous level of blood pressure. Broadly speaking, normal blood pressure is between 90/60 and 120/80. * Above 140/90 is considered hypertension, while anything over 180/120 is considered severe and requiring immediate attention.

Long-term hypertension causes damage to the arteries, with the risk of rupture (aneurysm). This includes possible rupture of the blood vessels of the brain, leading to stroke. The heart is also affected by hypertension with risks of coronary artery disease and possible heart failure.

It’s no wonder that doctors are quick to prescribe medications that will lower blood pressure, but these also have side effects. Ways to lower blood pressure by lifestyle changes include losing weight, lowering fats and sugars in the diet, eating more fibre, avoiding tobacco and alcohol, and exercising regularly. Reducing the stressors in your life is key, and you can help this by mindfulness practices, meditating, practising Qigong or Tai Chi. And of course, getting Acupressure treatments.

Early in my career I discovered the power of Acupressure treatments in general, and the use of Gall Bladder 21 in particular, to lower blood pressure. A client regularly monitored her BP before treatment, after treatment, and when she got home. The reading was always lower at the end of the session, but even lower still when she got home after driving on the California freeways!

Since then Gall Bladder 21 has been my favourite point for hypertension, but there are many more. A quick look at my primary references, Deadman and Jarmey, show these 26 points as indicated for hypertension:

Meridian Element Points
Lung Metal 7
Large Intestine Metal 4, 11, 15
Stomach Earth 9, 36, 40, 41
Spleen Earth 6
Small Intestine Fire 3
Kidney Water 1, 6
Heart Protector Fire 6, 8, 9
Triple Heater Fire 5
Gall Bladder Wood 20, 21, 34, 43
Liver Wood 2, 3
Governor Vessel 14, 16, 20, 26

I was interested to note that 16 of these 26 points are in the 51 Point Palette in my Level 1 Five Element Acupressure course, meaning that they are quite common points with other uses. You might also observe that two-thirds of the points are on yang meridians, and that many of the points are used for reducing yang or to descend Qi. This of course addresses the nature of the condition which is one of excess yang.

It doesn’t make sense to use all of these points. For a start, it would make for a very long session and probably too much treatment. When treating, I find it most powerful to use point combinations, a focal point with one hand, while the other hand holds several other related points in succession.

Drawing from the points list above, here are some suggestions for some point combinations that I use often in the treatment room. Most of these points link to previous articles. For the others, consult your point location book or internet search.

Note that Large Intestine 4 and Spleen 6 are forbidden during pregnancy. If you are  treating a pregnant client, omit these points.

Focal Point Related Points
Large Intestine 4 Large Intestine 11,  15;  Lung 7
Stomach 36 Stomach 40,  Spleen 6
Kidney 6 Kidney 1,  Lung 7
Triple Heater 5 Heart Protector 6,  8,  9
Gall Bladder 21 Gall Bladder 20,  34;  Stomach 36;  Large Intestine 4
Liver 3 Spleen 6,  Gall Bladder 34
Governor Vessel Small Intestine 3 + Governor Vessel 14,  16,  20

How do you choose which pattern to use? One way is to consider the person you are treating. Which Element and emotion is presenting? If the person is someone who is predominantly angry, who gets outraged at injustice, or alternatively suppresses anger, then focus on the Wood points of Gall Bladder and Liver. If the person is a caretaker, constantly putting the needs of others before self, or if obesity is a problem, then treat the Earth points of Stomach and Spleen. Or maybe the person is showing their Metal, hanging on, perfectionistic, grieving or suppressing grief, then treat the Metal points of Lung and Large Intestine. If the person’s predominant emotion is fearfulness or conspicuous absence of fear, focus on Water points of Kidney. Or if the person is over-excited and chaotic or heart-broken and joyless, focus on the Fire points of Small Intestine, Triple Heater and Heart Protector. Points of the Governor Vessel will be helpful for everyone.

It is best if you can receive treatment from someone else. That way you can relax into the treatment, focus on your breathing and generally slow down. If you are treating yourself, some of these combinations will be awkward if not impossible, in which case treat the points individually in the order suggested.

I hope this has given you some ideas on how to help reduce blood pressure in a natural way that can support a medical approach.  Good luck to your team in the World Cup and hold points during penalty shootouts!

 

* BP is expressed as a measurement with two numbers, with one number on top and one on the bottom. For example, 120/80 mm Hg. The top number refers to the amount of pressure in the arteries during the contraction of the heart muscle (systolic). The bottom number refers to the pressure between heartbeats (diastolic).

Point of the Shoulder

Last weekend I finished teaching a Level 1 Acupressure class which includes a highly effective neck and shoulder treatment. A point not included in that treatment is a point on the corner of the shoulder which students would do well to include when treating the shoulder.

Jianyu ~ Shoulder Bone ~ Large Intestine 15

6.13The scapula or shoulder blade is a bone that is attached to the rest of the skeleton by one small joint at the point of the shoulder. This is the acromioclavicular (AC) joint. Since this is the only place at which the scapula articulates with the skeleton, a great deal of stress can be placed on this joint.

Otherwise the scapula is held in place by the 17 muscles that attach to it, connecting it to the arm, chest, ribs, spine and neck in various ways. Given that we all have unique ways of holding and moving our upper body, the positioning of the scapula shows incredibly wide variations among people.

The acu-point that is very close to the AC joint is Jianyu – Shoulder Bone on the Large Intestine meridian. John Cross (2006) calls this the shoulder chakra, a minor chakra or energy vortex that influences the whole of the shoulder region. It is a powerful point for congestion in the shoulder, since most shoulder problems affect this place where the shoulder meets the arm.

Peter Deadman (2007) hails it as the preeminent point for treating the shoulder, for it treats paralysis of the arm, shoulder and hand, atrophy of the arm and upper body, arthritis and bursitis of the shoulder, and the chronic condition known as frozen shoulder. It benefits when there is an inability to raise the arm to the head, or to turn the head. Overall it promotes the circulation of Qi and blood throughout the upper arm.

What makes this such a potent point is that, like another important shoulder point SI 10, LI 15 is a meeting point with the Extraordinary Vessel Yang Qiao Mai (Yang Motility Vessel) whose trajectory includes the sides of the body from ankle to shoulder, as well as the neck, face and head. Because of this, Jianyu releases energy to the brain, provides mental clarity, and is good for mental exhaustion and headaches. It works well in conjunction with BL 62 which is the master point of the Yang Motility Vessel.

The point also treats windstroke and clears heat, thereby relieving skin rashes including hives (for which it is best combined with LI 4 and LI 11) and for treating toothache and hypertension. It can control sweating, including underarm perspiration. And it is available as a first aid point for concussion, shock and electric shock.

In short, Jianyu helps the shoulder to let go, which reminds us that letting go is one of the functions of the Large Intestine official. Most shoulder tension arises not simply from usage, but from solidified emotional patterns. We hold ourselves in ways that somatically replicate our inner state. Letting go in the shoulder involves letting go of the emotions, ideas and beliefs that dictate our posture and which are no longer of value in our lives.

Location of Large Intestine 15

6.14

 

If you bend your elbow and raise your arm to shoulder height, two hollows appear at the point of the shoulder. LI 15 lies is the anterior (front) hollow. Once located, lower the arm and apply moderate, direct pressure.

 

This is an extract from my first book ‘The Way of the Five Elements’ which focuses on acupoints as a vehicle for healing. My second book ‘The Way of the Five Seasons’ explores many other ways we can heal through the Five Element model. Both books, published by Singing Dragon Press, are available now.

For signed copies at A$40 + postage, contact me directly.

Book Depository is a good place to buy online.

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