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It’s Not All In Your Head - Part 2

Updated: Dec 13, 2022

How I Work With Emotional Problems During Your Session

As an Eastern medicine practitioner, I don’t view emotional problems as entirely separate from physical problems. One of the first things I do during your session is abdominal palpation (and I often palpate the limbs and back as well). I do this to listen to what your body is saying about your current physical and emotional state.

For example, tension right below the ribs indicates Liver disharmony. Tenderness in the center of the sternum relates to Pericardium. Tenderness just below the Xiphoid (the “Heimlich maneuver” spot) pertains to Heart and the esophagus. Tenderness between the 1st/2nd and 3rd ribs relates to Lungs and sometimes Kidney/Adrenal. Tenderness around the perimeter of the navel reflects Adrenal issues as well is sugar addiction. A large temperature discrepancy between the upper and lower abdomen can signify a Heart/Kidney imbalance.

None of these palpatory findings are taken as definitive on their own. I also check your tongue and pulse. The tongue (color, shape, texture, coating) reflects the state of your “Qi” (your digestion/elimination and your overall vitality, including how well your body and internal organs have been coping with stress over time). The overall speed, rhythm and quality of your pulse plus the relative strength of each of your 12 pulse positions (there are 6 in each wrist) reflect your current physical/emotional state. And of course, I ask you all about your physical and emotional symptoms, and take everything you tell me into account.

As the treatment proceeds, many of the tense, “gummy”, hard and cold areas on your body resolve. The areas that warm and soften the quickest indicate less “deep” or “chronic” imbalances than the areas that are slower to respond.

I was solely a shiatsu and acupressure practitioner for seven years before incorporating acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine into my practice in 1997. Over the decades, I’ve developed a lot of sensitivity in my hands. There are other ways that I can “feel” what is blocked or flowing in your body, mind and spirit. For example, when I press two different points on your arms or legs, I can feel if those two points are flowing or “communicating” with each other….or if there is no flow or movement. I keep manipulating the Qi or “energy” until I feel that channel opening. When I insert a needle, I gently manipulate the needle until I feel a sensation like “catching a fish”…or like a gentle reverberation. When the Qi shifts, the emotions will release and flow.

As the treatment proceeds, it is common for patients to experience certain things. The body may twitch a little, like it does when you are falling off to sleep. This is the “letting go” process. You may hear some stomach gurgling or intestinal noises. This indicates that your sympathetic “fight or flight” nervous system is being turned down a notch, while your parasympathetic “rest and recover” nervous system is being stimulated. You may feel transient dull, warm or heavy sensations. You may feel parts of your body tighten and then release. You may fall asleep or just zone out. Occasionally, you may cry uncontrollably, or even feel rage, as you release trapped emotions. Some treatments may feel more “stimulating” while others will feel more sedating. These are all normal responses to acupuncture.

As I get to know where in your energetic system the emotions aren’t flowing, I may suggestion herbal medicine that targets the affected Organs. Ear acupuncture, aka “auriculotherapy” is another very effective tool for physical/emotional problems like depression, anxiety, panic disorder, PTSD and addiction. I will sometimes leave tiny splinter size intradermal needles or magnetic pellet balls taped to points in your ears to balance your brain chemistry in order to keep you in a more harmonious and stabilized emotional state in between treatments.

Together, we can also incorporate lifestyle suggestions, such as self acupressure routines, dietary, exercise and meditation practices into your emotional self-regulation toolkit. And if you are concurrently undergoing mental health counseling or “talk therapy”, the energetic “shift” that occurs during acupuncture sessions can help fast track your psychological insights, growth and healing.

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