Category Archives: Pain Relief

Diving back into points

The impending descent into the southern winter marks the start of a new cycle of articles. I’ve taken as my theme for the coming year the category of points known as the xi-cleft or accumulation points. It is an often-neglected set of points, and it seems like a good opportunity to pay attention to them.

These points were first discussed in the ancient text “Systematic Classic of Acupuncture and Moxibustion” by Huang Fu Mi in 282 AD, so they’ve been known for a while. There is xi-cleft point for each of the 12 primary meridians, and one each for the Extraordinary Vessels of Yin Wei, Yang Wei, Yin Qiao and Yang Qiao.

The Chinese word xi in this context refers to a cleft, fissure, crevice or hole. It is at this place where the Qi of the channel, having run relatively superficially up to this point, dives more deeply down into the energy body. The points are located between the wrist and elbow, or ankle and knee, with the exception of Stomach whose xi-cleft point lies above the knee. The points are located between the Five Element command points but are not Element points themselves. They can be used to support treatment of the command points.

The primary use of these points is to treat acute conditions (i.e. those that are of recent or sudden onset) and pain in the related organ. They are also good for clearing stagnation, for it is at these points where Qi and Blood can tend to stagnate. Chronic stagnation leads to accumulations of heat and toxins, which the xi-cleft points help to clear.

Classically, the xi-cleft points of the yin meridians are known for treating disorders of the blood. Lonny Jarrett adds that the points on the yang meridians can be used to treat pathological emotions and disorders of the spirit that are relevant to their related organ-official. Jarrett’s view is a modern revision which makes a connection between psycho-emotional suppression and physiological stagnation.

Over the next year I plan to write separate articles about the 12 xi-cleft points in their related seasons. In this way, we will be immersed in the qualities of the Element that is being expressed around us as we study the corresponding points.

The first of these articles on Bladder 63 will be in your mailbox soon.

My illness is my friend

rock-hole-blue-lakeYesterday I received the news that one of my most influential teachers, Bob Duggan, has passed away. Bob was an acupuncturist but he was also a wellness visionary, seeing ways of bringing health and healing outside the treatment room.

In 1991 I was fortunate to be part of a group of 20 who made up the SOPHIA training in San Francisco. Bob, along with Diane Connelly, Julia Measures and John Sullivan, made seasonal trips from Maryland to teach us about using the wisdom of the Five Elements to support change and healing in all areas of life, not just in the treatment room. My own path owes a great deal to this training. My acupressure courses, my books and my direction in life were profoundly influenced by Bob’s view of the world.

When I received the news about Bob’s change of vibration, I went Googling and found a short interview with him from 2009 which I recommend to you. In it he tells this story:

I’ve practised acupuncture for 35 years now and some 30 years ago a man came back into me and he said, “I never thought asthma would be my friend.” I said, “Charlie what are you talking about, asthma is your friend?” And he said, “Well before I came to you I was in and out of the emergency room, I was constantly on prednisone. Now I pick up the wheezing about three days earlier and if I pay attention I realise I’m overtired, I’ve had too much caffeine, I’m having a fight with my wife. And if I change the life circumstances I don’t ever get an asthmatic attack.” That story has stayed with me. I’ve told it to virtually every patient since then and found that people say to me, “My body’s very smart.”

This reminds me of what I already know but try to forget. My headaches are my friends, my neck stiffness is my friend, my insomnia is my friend. These symptoms are kindly pointing out the ways that my life is out of balance. I just need to investigate and find out what needs to change, whether it is what I’m eating, what I’m thinking, what I’m feeling. Or not feeling.

As a practitioner it reminds me that my role is to support my clients to discover these things for themselves. And that if I simply “fix” their problems and nothing more, then I am doing them a great disservice. If I help them to turn off the fire alarm without finding the fire that triggered the alarm, then the change that the alarm is suggesting will not happen.

Thank you Bob Duggan for your wisdom and guidance. Thea Elijah called you a radical healing provocateur. I hope that you continue to provoke healing in whichever dimension you inhabit.

bob-duggan

Neck Release

Fengchi – Wind Pond – Gall Bladder 20

3.7I spend more time holding this point on my clients than any other and I use it in most sessions. This is partly because in my early training I learned a neck release that concluded with this point. In doing thousands of neck releases over the years, I have come to see how helpful it is for most people to have the upper cervical region released. Most people relax, some even fall asleep with this point. It is a great boon in our modern, stress-filled world.

What makes this such a significant point is that it is not only a Gall Bladder point, but also a meeting point with the Triple Heater meridian, Yang Motility Vessel and Yang Linking Vessel. By affecting two meridians and two vessels at the same time, this point has wide-ranging effects.

Its name Fengchi – Wind Pond tells us two things. Firstly it is like a pond or pool, lying as it does in the little hollow between the trapezius and sternocleidomastoid attachments at the occipital bone. Treating this point releases tension in these two important muscles of the neck, taking pressure off the cervical spine

Secondly, we learn that it is a pond that accumulates wind, the climatic condition of the Wood Element. Wind can penetrate the body from the outside as a pathogenic factor, collecting here before invading the body more deeply. This includes strong winds in nature but also draughts, especially from air conditioning. The most common symptoms of wind invasion are stiff neck and headache, but it can also cause sneezing, runny nose, scratchy throat, fever, aching joints and facial paralysis. Fengchi treats these symptoms by driving out the wind from the place where it entered.

Wind can also develop internally as a result of disharmony in the Liver, producing symptoms such as tremors, tics, convulsions, severe dizziness and numbness. Fengchi also treats these conditions

More generally, it is perhaps the best point for clearing the head because of its effect on the sensory orifices, especially the eyes. It treats vision and eye disorders, dizziness, vertigo, deafness, tinnitus and sinusitis. It relieves pain in the head, neck and shoulders, particularly occipital headache.

The head is said to be the residence of the yang. Because GB 20 is a point of the Yang Linking Vessel which unites all six yang meridians and the Governing Vessel, it has a profound influence on rising yang. It causes any pathological Qi to descend and is therefore the preeminent point for headaches of all kinds and dizziness of any origin.

It has a powerful effect on the brain, bringing clarity to the eye and mind and enabling a clearer view of the world. It clears confusion, strengthens concentration, aids memory and supports the making of good judgements and decisions. If you can’t see the wood for the trees, Wind Pond will help to broaden your perspective.

Location of Gall Bladder 20

3.8Below the occiput (the ridge at the back of the skull) and midway between the midline and the mastoid process. The point lies in the hollow formed by the origins of the trapezius and sternocleidomastoid muscles, approximately 1.5 cun lateral the occipital hollow (GV 16). Apply direct pressure or angle towards the opposite eye. An effective method is to cradle the person’s head in your hands and apply pressure with the middle fingers to both points simultaneously. This has the effect of applying a gentle stretch to the neck and has a relaxing effect upon the whole spine.

 

Cover

 

This is an extract from the forthcoming book ‘The Way of the Five Elements’ by John Kirkwood, Singing Dragon Press. Publication date November 21st, 2015. You can now pre-order this book at Fishpond, Book Depository and other online booksellers. (48  days to go!)