“Ki” (pronounced “kee”), known as “Qi” (pronounced “chee”) in Chinese, is the name given by the Japanese to the universal life-force energy that runs through specific pathways, called meridians, in the human body. Ki exisits both within us and is found all around us. The Ki energy meridians were mapped out by the Chinese thousands of years ago and are still widely used today in China in a standardized system of traditional Chinese medicine, alongside Western medicine, to treat a wide variety of medical conditions. While Western medicine tends to view health as a lack of illness, in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), “health” is considered a state of being in which Ki energy flows freely and abundantly through the meridians. TCM is an Eastern medical perspective that views the human body as a mind-body whole and describes dysfunction in terms of a deficiency, stagnation, or excess of Ki energy, resulting in a specific “pattern of disharmony.” Musculoskeletal pain, migraine headaches, and the common cold are just three examples of a particular pattern of disharmony named in Western medical terms. Both internal and external factors can impact the flow of Ki energy through the meridians, and an effective treatment plan not only addresses what is happening with the Ki energy in a particular body at a particular point in time, but also an individual’s inherent constitution, lifestyle, and environmental factors which combine to impact Ki energy flow and overall health and well-being.
What is “Ki”?
What are trigger points, and what is the difference between acupressure points and trigger points?
Trigger points are classified by the following criteria: a taut, palpable band, spot tenderness of a nodule in the taut band, and a client’s recognition of pain/sensation produced by pressure on the tender nodule. When a trigger point is pressed, a local twitch response in the muscle may occur and/or the tenderness of the point may cause the client to “jump” on the table. Trigger points are commonly found in the belly of a muscle or in the attachment sites of a muscle to bone. Trigger points are held until the sensation of discomfort begins to dissipate, which usually results in a release in local muscle tension and pain. Much research has been done on trigger points, including the process of compiling a “map” of locations of common trigger points in the body and their referral patterns. The primary reasons why a trigger point forms in a muscle are: strain or overuse, trauma, prolonged immobilization, weakness or atrophy, adverse environmental/weather conditions, and biochemical/nutritional imbalances in the body. The location of many common trigger points actually correspond to acupressure point locations, although the two types of points are fundamentally different. Acupressure points were mapped out by the Chinese thousands of years ago within the context of traditional Chinese medicine and correspond to a wide range of health conditions. Similar to a trigger point, stimulating an acupressure point will have an effect locally on the muscle containing the point, however unlike a trigger point, an acupressure point may also directly impact a particular TCM organ or meridian, treat an area located far away from the point, or redirect energy flowing through the meridians of the body.
How does deep tissue therapy differ from deep pressure, and does deep tissue hurt?
Deep pressure is a measure of a therapeutic bodyworker’s pressure as it is perceived by the client during any style of therapeutic bodywork. Deep tissue therapy is a type of therapeutic bodywork that focuses on realigning the deeper layers of the muscles and connective tissue. Despite containing the word “deep” in its title, deep tissue therapy can be performed at any pressure level. Deep tissue works by breaking down adhesions that form in muscles due to injury, chronic tension, under or over-use, or nutritional deficiencies, to relieve muscular pain and restore a normal range of motion. A therapeutic bodyworker will apply frictioning strokes across or in the direction of muscle fibers and stripping along the muscle bellies and attachments to release adhesions. This style of bodywork is very specific and thorough and often uncovers adhesions in areas of the body a client was not aware of prior to beginning a session. Because of this, a client may experience some discomfort during the deep tissue work, but a good bodywork therapist always works within the discomfort tolerance of the client, communicating regularly with the client throughout the work and making sure a client is comfortable and willing to work through any discomfort in the short term to obtain larger gains in range of motion and relief from muscle pain in the long term.
Am I a good candidate for traditional Chinese therapeutic bodywork?
You may be a good candidate for receiving traditional Chinese therapeutic bodywork if you experience chronic body tissue dysfunction, pain or other persistent conditions that may not respond well to Western medical treatments and want to understand what is happening within your body from a holistic point of view. You may also be a good candidate if you want to reduce pain-management medication or are interested in body-centered support in making positive lifestyle changes such as weight loss and overcoming substance abuse. You may want to consider setting up a consultation if any of the following are true:
- Currently using medication to manage chronic and/or recurring musculoskeletal pain
- Experience neck, shoulder, or low back pain
- Have a reproductive system dysfunction due to soft tissue trauma, or that is of unknown origin
- Experience chronic digestive issues
- Experience chronic or migraine headaches’
- Experience mild to moderate depression and anxiety
- Suffer from insomnia
- Have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia
- Have arthritis
- Suffer from allergies or sinusitis
- Are an athlete or sports enthusiast looking to perform better and recover faster
- Are trying to lose weight
- Are trying to overcome substance addiction
How does acupressure therapy work?
Acupressure and acupuncture work with specific points on the twelve meridians of the body. Acupressure applies pressure to these points with the tip of a finger, while acupuncture inserts a small needle at the point. Ki energy moves along these meridians in a predictable manner. Each meridian corresponds with an organ, and each organ corresponds with a set of health issues or concerns. For example, the Spleen meridian in TCM rules creation and circulation of Blood in the body, which corresponds closely with women’s health issues surrounding healthy menstruation and functioning of the uterus and ovaries. Therefore, manipulating points along the Spleen meridian will directly impact the functioning of the uterus, ovaries, and Blood circulation and production. Good health, in terms of traditional Chinese medicine, means that Ki energy is following abundantly and in a balanced manner throughout the twelve meridians. Stress, lack of sleep, overwork, emotional imbalances, poor nutrition, severe weather changes and other factors can throw the movement of Ki energy in the body out of balance. Acupressure works to re-balance energy in a strategic manner by selecting points on the twelve meridians to treat. These points are selected based on information collected by a TCM practitioner during a pulse and tongue examination and according to a client’s description of his or her chief complaint.
What is traditional Chinese medicine?
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is a system of medical, lifestyle, and diet practices that originated in China over 5,000 years ago. TCM was practiced quite diversely in China according to family lineage and tradition until about 1950, when the People’s Republic of China standardized the system to put it more in line with modern scientific medicine. The system of TCM that is studied and practiced in the United States today is based on this standardized system. The basic idea that the mind and body cannot be separated when thinking about “health” still remains a core principal of TCM. Interestingly, Western medicine also retained this mind-body connection in its treatment of human illness up until the 17th century when the industrial revolution dawned in Europe. Traditional Chinese medicine, as it is known in China today, is made up of five components: acupuncture, herbal medicine, food therapy (or everyday diet), exercise (traditionally this means a regular movement and breath oriented practice such as tai chi or qigong), and tui na (traditional Chinese therapeutic bodywork techniques). As long as an individual devotes time and attention to self-care including each of the five components, traditional Chinese medicine would predict that the individual will live a long and healthy life.