Most people wonder just how acupuncture and other methods actually work and what happens during a session. For many of my patients the need to know is replaced by trust and I can appreciate that because too often the relationship of doctor patient has been on of a surrender of power. We are attempting to change and shift the way things have been done.
Like many things in nature, your body is a beautiful complicated puzzle. At the core of the simplicity, there are essentially 5 flows of energy in your body. Just like you have 5 fingers or toes. They are easy to understand and you probably already know this intuitively. Recently my son told me he was learning the body systems and named them off for me. Digestive, circulatory, nervous, etc… I asked him if they were teaching him about the CranioSacral system or the meridians and they were not. I’m sure you can imagine my surprise. Nonetheless I started with the following illustration.
Look at your hand. You can see 5 fingers. Your body is made up of the same stuff as nature. You are made of 5 elements. Wood, fire, earth, metal and water. Everything is moving in your body like water circulates in a river. There are 5 rivers and flows of fluid happening. They are
1 & 2. Blood-Flowing from and to the heart
3. Lymph-the immune system
4. Cerebrospinal fluid-the nervous system
5. Meridians-qi or energy
It is easy to see that blood has pump, the heart. It has a specific flow and a direction. When it isn’t flowing you probably have felt pins and needles or a limb falling asleep for example. The lymph is the fluid between blood vessels and tissues that makes up and houses the immune system cells. Like a lace tablecloth over your entire body, larger lymph glands will be found where you bend like under the jaw, armpits, groin and torso. This is because the pump for the lymph is in part the pressure generated from the blood but mostly movement and gravity. The next flow is the cerebrospinal fluid-this flows around the spine and the nerves and has a rhythm and optimal flow. The last system is the meridian system which houses the qi or life force that circulates between blood lymph and nerves.
The main focus of my treatment is to see where the blockage in the flow is happening. I investigate to find out just where the blocks are and on which level they are-who is the prime suspect or the accomplice. I do this with hands on assessment thru bodywork, which actually is both a treatment as well as a diagnostic tool.
What regulates these energy flows? The thing that controls ultimately theses 5 energy flows is essentially the hydration level of the body and the internal diaphragms. The diaphragms are caps that dam up the flow of blood, fluids, nerve communication and energy in primarily 5 segments of the body. Like a kink in a hose or a closed dam-diaphragms influence and control the flows. Because diaphragms are muscles that are on the inside they have tension just like muscles do on the outside. The muscles of the diaphragms are influenced by deeper strains and muscular tension in our body and ultimately the messages from the nervous system. CranioSacral therapy and bodywork can help to clear tension in the diaphragms because it will be working with both the cause and the effect of the tensions. One method I use to sense how much tension is in the diaphragms whether my patient is 2 days old or 90 years old is to evaluate the way they are breathing. Breathing is the key to healing. There are many things that can interrupt or influence breathing and the diaphragms such as a stressed nervous system, physical trauma, bad habits or patterns, charged or suppressed emotions.
When breathing is optimal most likely there will not be as much tension in the diaphragms and the energy can flow. Proper breathing essentially serves as a pump for the flows of energy. It turns off the fight or flight part of the nervous system and the stress response. Like a loop or knotted string-no matter what is going on bringing a patient into the presence of their breath is the beginning of all the work we will do. One of the main things that will help you regulate your energy flows is to fully and deeply breathe. A key part of our session will be focused on breathing and releasing the tight diaphragms and muscles that are preventing full optimal breathing. The main method of creating a more permanent unblocking and re-patterning of these tensions will be thru continued breath work, bodywork and CranioSacral therapy.
After you are breathing optimally-I may utilize acupuncture in a treatment. Acupuncture primarily works with one of the flows of energy, the meridians, that has the ability to influence all of the other flows. The meridians are the rivers this energy flows within. Acupuncture is done by the insertion of needles into points that lie on a river or meridian. The energy essentially behaves like an electrical current and relates to the wiring of an organ or system. I like to explain to my patients that being and acupuncturist is like being an electrician. The study of acupuncture is basically a study of the internal wiring of a house-in this case the house is the body and its interrelated parts. The meridians are a continuous looping of wiring with segments that connect to each other. Within the wiring is a directional current. Several scenarios can happen to this energy. It can be going the wrong direction, it can be blocked from one wire to the next or it can be to low or too high. This causes a back up or a disconnect somewhere else and affects the flow to the next wire, etc. Essentially when the energy has been blocked for a time the body will begin to have some changes in the flow of energy and the internal organs and area can be affected at a deeper level. Needles are the main tools used to tap in and adjust this flow of energy. Why needles? Most likely because they are metal which is a conductor of electricity, needles act like an antenna-to essentially dial in a signal at a location. There are some other tools that can be used. First simply holding a needle or a magnet over a point can be effective to adjust the flow or the use of a cold laser.
Now that you may be beginning to understand how you are wired you can appreciate all of the great healing modalities that are available to you. As you grow in understanding and learn to use you breath to liberate your energy you will be more and more aware of what you need for healing.
Dr. Deanine Picciano AP, LMT