Category Archives: Detoxification

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.

 

Letting go … some more

Shangyang ~ Large Intestine 1

autumn let goIn The Way of the Five Seasons I told the story of an autumnal accident with a knife, slicing through Large Intestine channel, and the subsequent investigation into what letting go was needed. Recently, close to the fifth anniversary of that deep cut, I had another little reminder that perhaps more letting go is called for. This time I was opening a packet on the kitchen counter. The bag opened suddenly and my hand went flying, connecting with a knife. Same knife. Same finger. But this time just a nick, right by the acupoint Shangyang, Large Intestine 1.

In contemplating the process of letting go of that which no longer serves, I realised I had been thinking about a difficult friendship when the little accident happened. Relationships are the crucible in which our deepest issues can be worked out, understood and transformed. But sometimes one has to consider whether the understanding is worth the pain and struggle.

The organ of Large Intestine serves to carry away the waste products of digestion. Daily, we let go of the crap that, if held in, would become toxic. Another of this organ’s functions is to reclaim and recycle water and minerals. It holds on to that which is of value to us. When the Large Intestine is healthy, there is appropriate holding on and appropriate letting go.

Sometimes relationships outlive their value. It is common for humans to stay in relationships longer than is good for them, out of fear, duty or habit. It is no easy thing to decide, should I stay or should I go?

Shangyang is a point that can support Metal’s power to discriminate, to cut to the chase and see what is of value and what is not. This is the editor’s gift of paring away the superfluous, the sculptor’s talent to reveal the artwork in the block of stone. Shangyang is the Metal point on a Metal meridian and can give the Element a good shake out. It purifies the spirit, helps us to let go of the mundane. One of the translations of Shangyang is Little Merchant. A successful merchant knows the value of goods, so does not let things go for a low price. But he also knows when to have a clearance sale to make way for new stock.

Points such as this where the Element of the point also corresponds to the Element of the meridian is known as a horary point. When held in the corresponding season its power is increased. When held at the corresponding time of day, its power is further strengthened. Shangyang will deeply support Metal when used between 5 am and 7 am each day during the autumn. This will support appropriate letting go. It will also help to avoid “accidents” that get your attention.

Location of Large Intestine 1

LI 1

 

 

On the radial side of the bed of the nail of the second (index) finger. Square off the curve of the nail to find the point.

 

 

 

Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Point

Dadun – Big Mound – Liver 1

horary-clockI’ve been holding my big toes this week.

On a recent trip to Sydney, I stayed in accommodation that was a toxic soup of chemicals: outgassing Ikea furniture, polished wooden floors and highly scented linens. This severely challenged my liver which had difficulty detoxifing the heavy load of chemicals. One of the effects of this has been waking up every morning at 1 am in a state of somatic agitation and unable to go back to sleep until 3 am.

This was a clear message that the Liver official was struggling because this time of day, 1 am to 3 am, is the time when the high tide of the wei Qi passes through the Liver. Ongoing disturbance of any kind at this time of day calls for treatment. One of the best points to use in this case is the Element of the Element point. Liver is the yin organ of the Wood Element so the point to hold is the Wood point of this Wood meridian. This point is Dadun, Liver 1 which is on the big toe.

In Five Element Acupuncture and Acupressure, this is known as the horary point, from the Latin word hora meaning hour. Treating the Wood point on a Wood meridian at the Wood time of day is a powerful treatment. When it is done in the Wood season of spring it is even more effective. And for a person of Wood constitution such as myself, it is like getting five bells up on a slot machine.

So when I’ve been waking at 1 am, I’ve been holding these points on my toes for a few minutes. The points have been quite sore which indicates a congestion of Qi and is confirmation that they need treatment. Last night I held the points when I woke at 1 am and was able immediately to go back to sleep for the first time in a week, indicating that the stress on Liver is lessening.

Gall Bladder is the yang partner of Liver. Its high tide is 11 pm to 1 am. Many people have difficulty going to sleep at this time. If this is a problem for you, then holding the Wood point of Gall Bladder at this time will help to calm the Woody agitation and assist in falling asleep. This point is Foot Above Tears Gall Bladder 41 which we looked at previously. You can read about it here.  Make sure you are in bed and horizontal by 11 pm. It won’t help much if you’re still watching TV.

Location of Liver 1

lv-1

 

The point is at the lateral side of the corner of the big toe nail. Draw lines along the lateral border of the nail and the base of the nail. Where these lines intersect is the LIver 1.