Traditional Chinese Medicine, TCM, is a coherent system of thoughts and practices that has been developed over the course of many millennia and is the culmination of a continuous process of combining critical thinking, philosophy, logic, sensibility, and habits of an entire culture with extensive clinical observation and testing.
Understanding and adopting these thoughts and practices into Integrated Modalities Bodywork, IMT, not only makes the work more effective, but can also offer our clients a different perspective on the way they view their lives, their world, and their place in both.
Here are a few of the most influential aspects that are part of IMT.
The Theory of Yin and Yang
Most of us have heard of Yin and Yang and seen the popular black and white circular symbol. It is a symbol of both balance and change. In a linear, Western model the white and black portions would be divided by a straight line and there would be no opposite colored dots within the areas. In the unique Chinese perspective, however, regardless of where you divide it, there will always be some portion of black and some portion of white. The white dot within the black area and a black dot within the white area, symbolize that within Yin there is always the seed of Yang and within Yang there is always Yin.
Yin/Yang theory explains all the phenomena of life and is based on the idea of polar opposites; of complementary energies. Yin and Yang explain the never-ending process of natural change by pointing out that no entity can ever be truly isolated from its relationship to other entities, that no “thing” can exist in and of itself, that there are no absolutes, that cause and effect are part of the same thing, and that Yin and Yang must contain within themselves the simultaneous possibility of opposition and change.
From a Yin/Yang perspective health, well-being, pain, disease…all of it…comes down to balance. When there is balance, there is harmony and good health. When there is imbalance, there is disharmony and not-so-good to terrible health. Put the imbalance to rights, and the body heals.
Pain is a direct indicator that something is out of balance. Having the insight that comes from a more non-linear perspective enables us to see more clearly how to resolve that imbalance.
The Idea of Qi, Blood, and Vital Susbstances
The idea of Qi is fundamental to TCM. There really is no one English word or phrase that adequately defines or captures its meaning; it is the essence of everything. It is matter on the verge of becoming energy, or energy at the point of materializing. Everything in the universe, including the universe, is made up of and defined by its Qi. Humans have Qi that is fluid, in constant motion and changing all the time, whereas the Qi of a rock is more solid and moves very slowly, sometimes taking millennium to cause even the slightest perception of change.
Qi is sometimes thought of as a vital essence, a type of universal but individualized energy. It is not really defined by what it is, rather it is perceived by what it does, which is to flow, nourish, and be part of all the tissues and energy of the body.
Blood, in TCM, can flow as blood (the red stuff) in blood vessels or it can flow as Blood (a rarefied form of Qi) in the meridians. Blood is inseparable from Qi. Qi infuses life into Blood. Without Qi, Blood would just be…well…blood.
The presence of pain means that there is an imbalance in Qi. If there is too much, direct pressure on the spot may be one of those “hurts so good” feelings. If it is deficient, direct pressure on the spot may just hurt. Restoring balance to the area will be important in getting the area to heal. The taut muscle band, and related areas of tightness, stifle the Qi, Blood, and Vital Substances and “starve” the tissue of the nutrients it needs. Breaking all that up allows the Qi, Blood, and Vital Substances to flow freely.
Integrated Modalities Bodywork not only affects the physical body, but also the energetic, mental, and emotional parts of the body as well, which can be just as important in helping a client heal and manage their myofascial pain.
The Qi, Blood, and Vital Substances all flow throughout the body through a network of vessels call Channels or Meridians.
There are twelve main channels and eight extra channels, all connected together by hundreds of smaller collateral channels. Each of the twelve main channels is associated with the organ through which it passes – Lung, Large Intestine, Stomach, etc. – and connects one to another in a cycle.
The places where the channels come closest to the surface of the body and where the Qi can be most effected are called acupoints. A large number of acupoints are in the same specific location as trigger points. Once you understand the connection between the pathway of the meridians and the referred pain patterns of trigger points, you’ll have a broader perspective of how to interpret a client’s complaint.
When there is trauma to the soft tissue, either through injury, time, overuse, or a myriad of other causes, obstructions develop in the channels. These obstructions are places where the Qi, Blood, and Vital Substances are forced to detour into the collateral channels, which are not equipped to handle the volume. The result of these obstructions is often pain, inflammation, decreased ROM, illness, disease, etc.
In fact, just as with traffic on the freeway, problems — obstructions — in one place can directly affect problems in other places. IMB focuses on eliminating the obstructions, which restores the flow of Qi, Blood, and Vital Substances so the tissue can be nourished and restored to health.
There are many acupoints that are quite effective in helping manage pain, some are separate from trigger points and some are in exactly the same spot. However, the difference between trigger points and acupoints lies in the energetic components. It’s these energetic components that lead to everything from mild physical ailments to serious diseases.
Acupressure utilizes the same points as acupuncture, but instead of using needles to affect the points, you use pressure, strokes, rocking, stretching or any combination thereof.
Acupressure is a natural extension our Bodywork and utilizes some of the same press-and-sustain techniques as we use in trigger point and myofascial release techniques. When we focus on an acupoint, we are affecting the entire channel by either increasing or sedating the activity of the Qi and Blood, regulating its flow by releasing obstructions, or, at a more advanced level, even removing external pathogens like cold or damp.
Like all TCM, acupressure considers symptoms an expression of the condition of the body as a whole. A headache may have its root source in the upper back; “sciatica” may be rooted in the gluteus medius. Acupressure is the perfect companion to other techniques. It will gives us an added dimension of dealing not only with a client’s physical balance, but also the way in which that physical balance affects your emotions, overall health, and well being.