If you’ve a reasonable idea of where the muscles in the neck are, the meridians fall relatively easily into place.
However, if this is the blog post that you have been waiting for I am using points and cun (cun = the width of the client’s thumb at the base of the thumbnail) as well as muscles to assist you.
PLEASE NOTE: My choice of meridian position is at C6 and relates to MUSCLES.
Also, note that higher in the neck, Spleen and Small Intestine meridians cross over
Heart: 0.5 cun from CV, light yet deep and warm. Free flowing and open. Moves to the root of the tongue.
Heart Governor: Feel for the carotid pulse in the neck and angle your pressure towards the centre at approximately 45 degrees.
Kidney from Kid. 27: it runs upwards along the edge of the laryngeal cartilage and finishes here as it goes towards the thyroid gland.
Stomach: For me is 1.5 cun lateral to the larynx crossing the platysma muscle and sitting on the medial superior surface of the Sternocleidomastoid (herein referred to as the SCM) which is covered by the platysma.
Large Intestine, from L.I. 16: On the upper aspect of the shoulder, in the depression medial to the acromial process and the lateral extremity of the clavicle and scapular spine. Take a straight line until you meet the posterior edge of the SCM. This is L.I. 18 at the level of the top of the Adam’s Apple and on the belly of the muscle. It then flows directly to the corner of the Ali Nasi and under the nose, through the filtrum to the opposite side.
Spleen: Remember that the spleen is about quality. So follow the “flesh” across from Sp. 20 in the space between ribs 2 and 3 and 6 cun lateral to the base of the medial aspect of the S.C.M.. Now go slightly posterior to that place and feel the “interior quality” of the membrane as it climbs and meets St. 6.
Small Intestine: Find the lower border of C7 and 2 cun lateral is S.I. 15, located on the posterior edge of the SCM. Go upwards on the posterior edge of the SCM until you are parallel to L.I. 18, then cross the SCM, moving towards the posterior inferior angle of the mandible and the anterior border of the mandible (S.I.17).
Liver: I find that Liver can move a lot at its upper end from just underneath the mandible (perhaps connecting with a Heart meridian extension) to slightly behind the ear on the anterior superior edge of levator scapulae.
Gallbladder: Running up from GB 21 it sits on the anterior edge of the upper trapezius until it rises following the postero-lateral edge of the trapezius, to the hollow at the base of the skull between the origins of the SCM and lateral edge of the trapezius.
Triple Heater: Start from T.H.15 in the shoulder hole anterior to GB 21 and anterior to S.I. 13. This then flows upwards just behind the line of GB. Yet more on the fleshy edge of the trapezius. It exits the neck at T.H. 18 where the point is located in the depression on the mastoid bone in line with the rim of the ear.
Bladder: Rising from Bl. 11 at the lower edge of the spinous process of T1, 1.5cun from the midline. It flows superiorly to Bl.10 moving medially, slightly to a point on the edge of the trapezius muscle as it joins with the occiput. The channel then flows into the head ending at the inner canthus of the eye.
The meridian pathways described here are a mix of Zen meridians and acupuncture points and pathways. the pathways are always flexible in their position and for me they show the major energetic within them; whereas, acupuncture points are less mobile in their location.
You need to practice (Oh no! Not again!) and discover your preferred line of contact.
Metabolic problems such as Ankylosing Spondylitis are NOT part of this blog. What I am writing about is “stuff” that we come across on a daily basis. Remember, if you use bodywork on a problem/symptom and it makes it worse, you need to find another form of treatment to “hands on” therapy.
Neck problems are always connected to some form of emotional disturbance or imbalance. Let’s take whiplash for example. First there is the violent physical movement, creating shock, this depending on the life of the client, will create any of the following.
Working through these via the neck muscles can be a slow process.
Sticking the head into some supportive collar, unless there is serious muscle damage, will only compound the problems that the client has to deal with. At this point as practitioners, we are definitely going against conventional practice and to overcome the doubt of the client in this process requires courage from us and the courage and trust of our client.
For everything from headaches, wry neck, muscle spasms, muscle weakness, trapezius strain and cervical root pressure can all come under 3 clear TCM headings.
1. Excess (heat, swelling etc.)
2. Deficiency (swelling with cold, pain on movement)
3. Stagnation (this often relates to the clients fear movement and unresolved shock, anger, worry etc.)
If you think in these terms, ask yourself and the client the WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY ,WHO and HOW questions.
You will then understand:-
The principle emotion
The presenting symptom
Whether and on what level you are dealing with excess, deficiency and stagnation.
Remember also that here will always be a mix of excess, deficiency and stagnation and all of the emotions.
Palpating and finding the exact places of pain, excess or lack of movement tells you the muscles and ,meridians you have to work. It is imperative that you forget initially the background of the symptom. The PAYING client wants relief and quickly. So focus your treatment on releasing and reducing the pain and while you do this assess and talk with your client about continuing visits. Rarely does one session solve the problem.
For an injury such as whiplash, warmth and gentle fascial movement are the first order of the day. Depending on how soon after the injury you see them, you may be dealing with the immediate shock, pain, anger, grief, etc.. If you see them many days or weeks after the incident, has it moved to a deep seated situation where painful obstruction syndrome is what you are dealing with?
Painful Obstruction Syndrome is that state where the body has held an “injury” without it healing for a long time. Perhaps the same injury has been repeated. The damaged tissue does not repair, but goes into a state of suspended animation re emerging when a stress factor wakes it up and the pain returns. This is a deep seated and often mid to long term recovery process.
We are “hands on” body workers, we need to accept our limitations, be honest, sometimes painfully so with our clients and our prognosis for their recovery. Remember also you may only see them for one hour a week or even less, they need to accept responsibility for themselves and their healing for some of the period during the other 167 hours of that week.
Whole books have been written on this subject. I hope this blog post will stimulate you into working out what you are touching when you treat the neck and the connections with other parts of the body.
Many neck muscles are extremely small and impossible to palpate. Basically, these small muscles are there to balance the head on the vertebral column.
Movement here can be classified as:-
Muscles which move the neck
Muscles which move the head and neck
I am chiefly concerned with those muscles that can be touched, released and toned. Energy projection and structural modification may be required for deep structures. Those marked with an asterisk * are the muscles you can actually palpate.
N.B. For the sake of brevity, I haven’t included pictures for each and every muscle listed. A quick image search on Google should furnish you with those.
Muscles that flex the neck: Longus Colli*, Sternomastoid*, Scalenes anterior*
Muscles that flex the head and neck: Sternomastoid*, Longus Capitis*
Muscles that flex the head ON the neck: Rectus Capitis Anterior
Muscles that laterally flex the neck: Scalenes Anterior, Scalenes Medius, Scalenes Posterior*, Splenius Cervicis
Muscles that laterally flex the head and neck: Sternomastoid*, Splenius Capitis*, Trapezius*,Erector Spinae*
Muscles that laterally flex the head ON the neck: Rectus Capitis Lateralis
Muscles that extend the neck: Levator Scapulae* Splenius Cervicis
Muscles that extend the head and neck: Trapezius*, Splenius capitis*, Erector Spinae*
Muscles that extend the head ON the neck: Rectus Capitis Posterior Major, Rectus Capitis Posterior Minor, Superior Oblique
Muscles that rotate the neck: Semispinalis Cervicis*, Multifidus*
Muscles that rotate the head and the neck: Sternomastoid*, Splenius Capitis
Muscles that rotate the head on the neck: Inferior Oblique, Rectus Capitis Posterior major
(I can hear howls of anguish…..)
You do not have to learn all of these to do an excellent job and in truth you can only touch about ten of them. What follows is a list of the muscles that you are most likely to work with during a normal neck and shoulder treatment. What will make a difference is the ability to relate a movement problem to the major muscles involved. It would be an excellent idea to develop a good working knowledge of the muscles listed below.
Longus Colli: A group of deep muscles originating on the anterior and lateral surfaces of T1, T2, T3 and inserting into C3, C4, C5, C6 and C7. Their main action is to FLEX the neck
Sternomastoid: This originates on the medial third of the clavicle and the superior side of the manubrium and inserts into the mastoid and the occiput. On its own, one muscle rotates the head. e.g. Turns the face from one side to the other. Working together the muscles extend, flex and laterally flex the head.
When the scalenes are working on one side of the neck, they rotate the head to the opposite side. Working together they create neck flexion and lateral flexion.
Splenius Capitis: This originates from the lower nuchal ligament and C7 to T4 and inserts into the mastoid process of the temporal bone.
When one side works it creates extension, lateral flexion and rotation of the neck turning the face to the same side. When both muscles work they create extension of the neck.
Longus Capitis: The origin is between C3 and C6 and it inserts into the interior back part of the occiput. One side working creates rotation to the same side. Both sides working creates flexion of he head.
Trapezius: The upper part only originates on the occiput and cervical vertebrae and forms the shape of the neck out to the shoulder point.
There is an anterior portion which inserts into the lateral edge of the clavicle and elevates it, whilst the posterior section elevates and laterally rotates the scapula.
Erector Spinae, sometimes called Sacrospinalis: It is made up of three bi lateral groups of muscles running from the sacrum to the transverse processes of C2 – C7, with attachments to the vertebrae in the lumbar and thoracic regions.
When one side works they create lateral flexion and rotation to the same side.
When working in unison they control flexion of the trunk and neck.
Multifidus: These lie between the spinous and transverse processes of all the vertebrae from S1/L5 to the axis at C2. They have 3 layers which connect each muscle part to the next vertebra above, at the following points:-
From spinous process to spinous process
To the second vertebra above the muscle origin
To the third and sometimes fourth vertebra above the muscle origin
Their job is mainly to stabilise the vertebra and act almost like ligaments in maintaining body position. They assist in rotation when contracting on one side.
Semi Spinalis Cervicis: This is almost an extension of the bulk of erector spinae, having its origins on T7 and T6 and C6 to C4. The fibres insert into the spinous processes of C2 C3 C4 C5.
They create extension of the neck and rotation towards the opposite side.
Levator Scapulae: This muscle starts on the transverse processes of C1 – C4 and inserts into the medial edge of he upper part of the scapula.
If one side contracts it will create lateral flexion of the neck and with both sides working create neck extension.
Other muscles cross the thoracic and neck regions, but these muscles are mainly concerned with facial expression. Opening and closing the mouth and depressing the hyoid bone after it has been lifted by the action of swallowing. One of these muscles is worth palpatory consideration:-
The Platysma: It is a broad sheet of muscle lying in the superficial fascia of the upper chest, starting just below the clavicle. The muscle runs up on top of the sternocleidomastoid to finish in the lower jaw and fascia of the lower face and lip.
It helps to open the mouth but also creates the facial expression of horror by pulling the lower lip down and tightening into the jaw. It can be seen in times of strenuous exertion such as in weightlifting or in runners who are trying to inhale large quantities of air.
It may also stop a collapse of other muscles around blood vessels when this state of strenuous activity exists.
If you want to see more pictures of these muscles you can easily find them online.
Blood Supply in the Neck
Four major arteries enter the neck from the trunk:-
The left vertebral artery
The right vertebral artery
The left carotid artery
The right carotid artery
These arteries supply blood to the cervical bones and eventually join in the base of the brain forming the basilar artery which supplies blood to the posterior brain. They pass into the skull through the foramen magnum.
The left and the right carotid split in the neck from the carotid artery to form left and right internal and external carotid arteries. The internal ones pass into the skull where they branch beneath the brain and supply blood to the front of it.
The external carotid arteries supply blood to neck muscles, skin and peripheral structures of the head. Three drainage systems return deoxygenated and de-nourished blood to the heart.
Left and right vertebral veins
Left and right jugular veins
Left and right dural venous sinuses
These vertebral veins descend through the vertebra foramina, draining blood from the spinal chord, cervical vertebrae and neck muscles.
The jugular veins drain the superficial structures of the head and sit outside the vertebral veins.
Dural venous sinuses are large cavities in the upper dura mater which drain the brain and pass this blood into the left and right internal jugular veins which descend back into the neck, to the chest and the heart.
Relationship of structure and blood vessels at C6
I thought you should see a cross section at C6. Look for the vertebral arteries supplying blood to the vertebrae, and note how deep are the carotid arteries supplying blood to the brain and the arterial offshoots to muscles and other tissues.
The jugular vein is more available to our touch BUT KNOWING WHERE IT IS allows us to work safely and without interfering with its function.
On a personal note, writing this blog has made me realise how little of the practical “What goes where” anatomy is taught to bodywork students.
To really make a change in the physical, psychological and emotional state it is essential to learn as much of this as you can. Knowing this information has gone a long way to making my practice the success it is. It adds a really powerful dimension to all of my bodywork. The more I know the more I can apply. The pieces of the puzzle come together and I can do marvellous things for my clients all because I KNOW what is under my hands and what the connections are in the rest of the body.
This is the second in my series of posts looking at the anatomy of the neck. In the last post I covered the cervical vertebrae, in this post we will look at the ligaments, nerves and blood supply.
Bones are joined by ligaments. Tendons are something else.
Ligaments can be be in bands or sheets, which are flexible but, with one major exception, are not extensible. They all contain nerve endings. that are important in relation to the movement and position of the body and its reflex mechanisms. Some remain taut throughout a range of motion, whilst those like the cruciates in the knee joint vary in their tension and slackness.
Ligaments in the neck stabilise the extreme ranges of motion which are inherent in the structure of the cervical vertebrae. The thoracic and lumbar are so constructed as to allow only rotational movement in the thorax or flexion and extension in the lumbar.
Figure A. shows the general arrangement of special vertebral ligaments
Figure B. Shows the sagittal section of C1 and C2
Figure C. Shows the same structure from the rear with C1 and C2 cut from the occiput down.
On the front and back of the whole spine run two long ligamental bands, the anterior and posterior longitudinal ligaments.
The anterior longitudinal ligament has a narrow attachment to the anterior tubercle of the atlas. As it descends to the sacrum it attaches to and crosses the vertebrae and supports the intervertebral discs. It widens as it descends and finally spreads itself over the pelvic (front) surface of the sacrum. Above the atlas it joins into the anterior atlanto-occipital membrane which attaches to the Foramen Magnum. (The Foramen Magnum is the hole in the base skull through which passes the spinal chord)
The posterior longitudinal ligament rises from the 1st sacral ligament, widening as it rises and attaching only to the intervertebral discs. The ligament proper ends at C2, but then it becomes part of the tectorial membrane which itself has connections to C2 at the Dens and other ligaments fixing to the Foramen Magnum.
These two ligaments form a continuous elliptical band, energetically creating deep pathways for us to work with.
The following is a condensation of important membranes and ligaments:-
a) Ligamentum Flavum: On adjacent vertebral bodies from C1 to between L4-L5. The only truly elastic ligament in the body. It assists the post vertebral muscles to maintain an erect posture, and due to its elasticity does not “fold” when returning the torso to upright after flexion.
b) Transverse Ligament of the Axis: From the Dens to the sides of the occiput and then longitudinal fibres go up to the Foramen Magnum.
c) Tectorial Membrane: Arises from the posterior longitudinal ligament and covers the back of the Dens and other ligaments. This rises to the Foramen Magnum where it blends with the Dura Mater (Dura Mater- the hard flexible outer layer of the tube containing cerebro spinal fluid surrounding the spinal column).
d) Apical and Alar ligaments: These create cruciform and medial support from the Dens to the Foramen Magnum.
e) The Ligamentum Nuchae: The nuchal ligament. This attaches to all of the cervical vertebrae from the spine of C7 upwards to the occipital protuberance and crest. It is a rudimentary ligament which in four legged animals is very strong and maintains their head position.
So, if you have got this far you can see that it is essential that these ligaments, from the atlanto-axial joint remain in good condition.
Ligaments thrive on a high fat diet with correct vitamin levels. They degenerate and stiffen with high carbohydrate, sugary diets. Remember fruit has fructose (sugar) in it. Over 25 grams of fructose a day creates a toxic effect in the body (Emmerich, M. (2013)”Keto-Adapted” pub. M and C. Emmerich). So for every 100g of blueberries you may eat, 9 grams are fructose. Add an apple, a potato or some rice and bingo, you are over the limit.
The Blood Supply
I am talking here about the blood supply to the bones and discs of the neck. Blood supply to the muscles will be addressed in the next post focussing on neck muscles.
Imagine the stacked vertebrae, the arterial vessels (vertebral and ascending cervical arteries) run vertically on the bone.
They have branching lateral smaller arteries, passing towards the intervertebral foramen. These create a lattice of vessels over both bone and intervertebral discs.
With age the vessels supplying the discs disappear and it is thought that the mature disc has a blood support from diffusion through the bone. Movement creates pressure changes which speed up diffusion, hence giving truth to the statement that “the slower you move the faster you die”!.
Disc degeneration is a major problem with older, sedentary people, and this lifestyle is being reflected more and more in the population at large. Ageing also “furs up” arteries so that the centre of discs can be much less fluid than the exterior portion, where there is good, if small, arterial contact.
The intervertebral venous system comprises a complex system of plexuses i.e. collecting points, which are drained by intervertebral veins. These eventually connect with the occipital sinuses and movement of the occipto-atlantal ligaments and muscles surrounding them creates a pump-like action sending de-oxygenated and nutrient depleted blood down to the venous systems in the chest and abdomen.
It is almost without doubt that this venous vertebral network plays an important role in the spread of metatastic cancer cells throughout the body. Invariably the secondary metastases of breast and prostate cancer involve this vertebral venous system.
Many, many fine nerve filaments and receptors can be found along the ligaments and intervertebral discs, which can explain the pain clients experience when discs have been compressed or over flexed.
The sinu-vertebral nerve connects with the longitudinal posterior ligament (runs from head to perineum) which in turn connects to the venous canals and the spinal chord.
Therefore it is easy to see why pain in the neck and occipital region are so closely associated with ligamental tension. Pain in this area can also be related to nerve tension or “stress” in other areas of the vertebrae anywhere between C7 and L5/S1.
OK, so muscles come next. These are the bits we can touch and via them affect the deeper structures.
I am aware some of this may be complicated but by knowing it you will use this knowledge in your treatments for the benefit of your clients and your growing practice.
Keep at it.
In the reading I do about physical therapy, it is assumed that I will know anatomy quite well . When I put my hands on a body, it is not just what is immediately beneath my hands, but also the connections via nerves, muscles and skeleton that I touch.
Most of our clients have some idea of the difference between head, torso, and feet, but after that, they are lost. So if you as a therapist can give them information about the body which is relevant to their condition, you will feel more confident about addressing their problems and help them to trust your knowledge and judgement.
My next statement will no doubt bring howls of anger from some of you, but my overall experience across Europe has been that too many physical therapists have only a marginally better knowledge of the body than their clients!
You do not have to be a specialised anatomist, but no matter what treatment protocol you use, you must know what is under your hands and how it connects to the rest of the body.
A good example of this is the area of the neck. For therapists, necks are often an area of extreme caution and trepidation. This can create tension when working on them and this can transfer to the client. Another good reason to be familiar with the anatomy that is under your hands.
In this, the first in a series of posts focussing on the neck, I hope to familiarise you with this part of the body. Neck problems are some of the most common problems that new clients will present with and you want to feel as confident as possible in dealing with this delicate and problematic area.
This first post focusses on the cervical vertebrae. Unique in structure and articulation in the spine, these are fascinating bones, beautifully designed to give strength and flexibility.
If you cut off the feet at the ankle and the head at C1 and place them on a set of scales they will weigh approximately the same. This is the weight that the neck is responsible for supporting. The structure of the neck is strong and extremely flexible. This has advantages, it also means it can be easily damaged and slow to repair. Pain here affects the whole posture and creates wide ranging emotional states.
So how does it work?
There are seven cervical vertebra, they are very different from the other vertebra in the axial skeleton.
What do cervical vertebra, have that others do not?
- Their superior services project upwards at the sides.
- Their inferior side surfaces are slightly chamfered
- They have a hole medial to the transverse process, called a foramen transversarium through which pass the vertebral blood vessels and nerves.
- The inter-vertebral discs do not completely cover the disc body, but have a synovial joint at the lateral vertebral edge. This allows a greater range of movement and is called an uncolateral joint.
Like every other vertebrae, they each have a slightly different job to do, hence their structure is relative to their function.
Holding the whole spine together, attached to the front and rear of the vertebral bodies are strong ligaments which, depending on where you start from, run front and rear of the sacral area and finish in the head, where they basically join at the Foramen Magnum. See any deep meridian coincidences here?
Specialist Cervical Vertebrae:-
Atlas C1: This is basically a ring of bone with the transverse processes modified and shrunk. The occiput of the skull has two projections at its posterior base, which sit in indentations in C1 allowing a nodding movement.
Axis C2: Similarly, a ring of bone, which has a modification at the anterior superior surface. This is a bit like a smooth tooth projecting upwards. This “Dens” as it is called, sits inside the Atlas and articulates at its front edge allowing rotational movement.
The top of the Dens has strong ligaments which hold it stable. These ligaments spread out to the mastoid processes and to the Foramen Magnum. The Foramen Magnum is the hole in the base of the skull through which passes the spinal-cord.
C3, C4, C5: The movements of rotation, flexion, extension and sideways rotation within these bones are complicated and as far as physical therapy is concerned they can be seen as one unit.
Upper body and shoulder pain, are very often associated with disharmony is in this area.
C6 when extending the head this bone has the greatest range of movement.
With the client in prone, forehead on the back of the hands, find C7 and gently palpate the area above the spinous process of vertebra. Ask the client to slowly raise their head from their hands and you will feel soft area above C7 increase as C6 slides forward.
C7: this bone articulates with T1 which is fixed by T2 and the first rib. C7, T1 and the first rib are major anchor points for neck muscles and distortions here are often created by postural incorrectness from work or lifestyle positions.
So that’s a brief run-down on the bones, there is so much more that you could learn but that is up to you.
To recap, no matter what system of body realignment or contact or energetic work that you do, the more you know about the anatomy, the better your client will respond to treatment.
Next up are ligaments, nerves and blood vessels in the neck. Let me know if you found this useful.
I saw a video recently of a practitioner demonstrating the use of his knees to release a body. The practitioner was aware, well versed in anatomy and constantly communicated with the receiver.
It was uncomfortable for the receiver and at times painful, but at the end of the session the receiver reported great relief from their presented symptoms.
Many of the comments from viewers of the video related to, and I paraphrase, “You can’t cause discomfort”
I give you this, taken from “Essential Questions” Ch.2
“When the pathogen comes to dwell as a guest, first it resides in the skin and hair. If it remains and does not leave it will enter the minute correcting channels. If it remains and does not leave it will enter the Luo channels, reaching finally the 5 Zang and spreading into the intestines and stomach”
What does this mean? For years I have spoken and taught that practitioners need to understand, not only how long are presented symptoms has been in existence and its possible cause, but how DEEP into the body the energetic has penetrated.
When working on the body remember the quote from Essential Questions, and find where the energetic is stuck.
Here you need, once again, to remember that if the energetic is deep, you need to go deep. When you can find it it may well be painful. So what?!
That’s what they are paying you for. By shying away you are negating the objective of the treatment. Stay with the situation, supporting, and being sensitive to your client, and use every technique you know to open the flow.
The ancients knew that to avoid this process would only lead to further and perhaps worse illness.
WAY too much time and energy is spent on this question. This is my favourite answer.
“a hands on, shoes off mystics magical method of manipulating away such diverse maladies as herpies, burpees, rabies, babies, sloth and the King’s Evil”
That should cover it
In a recent conversation with a psychotherapist, the subject of clients complaining came up. I was surprised to hear that the most common complaints received by the professional body of psychotherapists in 2013 included the following:
1. Too much clutter in the consulting room
2. Too many pictures on the wall (of family, friends and pets etc.)
3. Overbearing smells of flowers, perfume or cooking
4. Too little light
5. The presence of personal knick-knacks belonging to the therapist
6. Distracting titles of books on shelving
These may seem like trivial points but they could highlight a problem that most clients will not tell you about, so it’s worth taking note.
For many years I have suggested to students that they have a clear space for clients, with nothing which may create diversions or be outside the clients’ comfort zone.
So, please, out with incense, tinkling water, pictures and any kind of religious imagery, meridian or acupuncture charts.
Make your space as plain, comfortable, clean and professional as possible. Better sparse than cluttered, your clients’ lives are too full already. That’s probably one of the reasons they have come to see you.
Thanks to the people at ReachingLight.com I have been shown that the UK plans to filter pornography hide a more sinister intent to filter out alternative ideas about spirituality, health and lifestyle. Will this affect your shiatsu website? Maybe. This infographic is designed to give you some of the facts. Make your own mind up and, if you are as outraged as I am, you can act by signing the petition and sharing this information.
Original graphic published at www.reachinglight.com.
“To have a second language is to possess a second soul” Charlemagne
Having had to learn a second language, I have realised that the learning of it is relatively easy. Understanding the culture in order to possess that language will take more than the rest of my life.
This problem is very evident when you look at the first translations of the Chinese medical language. The first translations influenced much of the teaching of western body-workers interested in Chinese medicine. With the passage of time we have realised that many of the inferences and meanings of the ancient texts, in the light of further cultural awareness, have lost the richness of their meanings.
Trying to understand Chinese forms of treatment in terms of western science is a little like reading a foreign language poem in translation. What you get is a pale outline of the thing without the soul or the central illuminating essence.
This statement is a vivid example of how mistranslation can permeate and create misunderstanding of certain concepts in Chinese medicine. Translating Chinese into western languages is a continuous challenge because of its context sensitive nature and the understanding of conceptual terms. It is acknowledged that some key terms in TCM have been mistranslated since the 1930’s and 40’s leading to many controversies in TCM.
Donald Kendal, the author of “The Tao of Chinese Medicine: Understanding an Ancient Healing Art” writes:- “These fundamental errors have been responsible for much misdirection in trying to understand the reality of Chinese medicine, and in the setting-design-research protocol to verify its basic theories”
He goes on to talk about TCM being best characterised as physical and physiological medicine and the Chinese vascular system being replaced with meridians. This means that substituting meridians for the neurovascular system has kept Chinese medicine on the fringes of conventional care for many decades. The knowledge of physiology that had previously been explained by TCM was then obscured.
Chinese experts understand their theories involve vascular circulation and the nervous system but tend to use the terms “Qi” and “Meridian” when writing in English. This unintended and unfortunate mistranslation has created much debate between those trained in the energy schools of thought and those who work via the vascular and nervous systems. This is one of the major reasons for the side-lining of eastern methods of healing and bodywork by conventional forms of treatment.
This is because they do not understand the language as it has been mistranslated.
How does this apply to body workers? It appears that Chinese physicians worked with vascular systems both physically and physiologically. But because of the initial translations, many body-workers still consider that working with the energy (Ki, Qi, Chi) should be the paramount focus of the therapist
IF the superimposed meridians follow the former vascular systems and we accept that Qi moves blood and Blood carries Qi, what’s the problem? For me, the problem is the focus. In that there is a powerful psychological difference in the attitude of the therapist toward the presented symptom if one is trying to move the vascular system rather than just an energetic concept.
I have seen many students and graduates struggling to create change by focussing on Qi, often in a meditative, should I say it, self indulgent way, when physical movement of the vascular system directed towards the blocked area would change the situation immediately. I am convinced it is the reason too many potentially good practitioners do not succeed as therapists once they have to deal with the general public. When a body has been made aware of its own energy flows, working with the Qi is very powerful. However, most people are simply not conditioned in this way and it is vital for the therapist to make a difference to the presented symptoms quickly.
Whether your clients are relatively well but, looking for relief from lesser conditions or those who have been through the conventional channels with no success, they all want to see a change, some kind of transformation. Successful body-workers do well to ensure that anything they do with a client makes a difference in their perception of their condition and themselves. Ensuring focus is on the vascular system and psychological aspects of the problem is the easiest way of doing this.
This means that when working for example on tight rhomboids, you have in mind not just the techniques to release them, but also an appreciation of the shu points, Lung, Heart and Pericardium and the related emotional and psychological aspects beneath them. Furthermore, there may well be emotional and psychological repercussions from the release of the muscle.
Put simply, work with the physicality of the problem. You are already touching the Qi.
If you want to know more about the poem featured in the image picture, read this
A few days ago I was asked a question relating to Sciatica and eye problems which seemed a very interesting mix and one I hadn’t considered before. The following is taken from my reply. If you have any interesting questions, I’d love to hear them. Please send an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sciatica is pressure on the Sciatic nerve often, but not always caused by a contracted lateral muscle called the piriformis. This muscle forms an energetic line which relates to the Gallbladder. This meridian starts on the lateral edge of the eye and has a partner organ which is the Liver. These two organs on one level relate to foresight, clarity of vision and direction. The Liver relates to where you are going and the Gallbladder relates how you get there.
How you get there, in life, often means casting about, which means lateral movement. The piriformis is a lateral muscle and, if tight could mean that the sufferer is in a bit of a bind about which way to go on a subject relating to life.
If someone is stuck with this they could have a laterally related condition such as sciatica coupled with an inability to see a reasonable distance forwards (myopia).
On an holistic basis Shiatsu may address both conditions over a reasonable period of time ie 6-18 months but would involve some changes in lifestyle. Although I have no experience, nor know of any practitioner who has had this experience of treating myopia, I do know that some of my clients have experienced improvements in eye conditions subsequent to my treatments.
Posture has a huge effect on the human condition. The question has to be asked, whether the human condition causes the postural imbalance, by this I mean lifestyle and life attitudes, or whether an incident in the life of the client has caused the imbalance and this has not been addressed subsequently.