Moss covered buddhaIn my practice I frequently hear patients say that they “got” something. Complaints vary from gout, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), migraines, PMS, back pain, shoulder pain, reflux, to any number of common chronic ailments. In reality, these complaints did not “get” us, they arose from within us. They are communication signals from the body that something is out of balance. The body is actually asking for our help. In modern society we frequently reach for some form of medication to ease or mask these communications. In oriental medicine we listen to the body so that it may reveal its story and we may facilitate its journey back to good balance.

As the body’s qi travels through its channels, known as meridians, it passes through all of our tissue and organ systems. Disturbances throughout the body – whether from accidents, poor diet, lack of exercise or too much exercise, overwork, excess use of stimulants or depressants, anger, fear, shock, anxiety (or other emotional issues) – can restrict the movement of this qi. Whether these restrictions are severe (say a torn rotator cuff) or mild (holding ones breath whenever one gets nervous for instance) a message is sent through the tissue to the qi . This message causes a sudden or a gradual restriction in the ability of the qi to move through that meridian, and hence that organ or body part.

If this pattern of restriction continues over months and even years, the meridians will begin to repattern themselves, bowing to the body’s signals. Energy which once flowed smoothly may have to work harder, and we may feel a symptom emerge overtime in that area. Because meridians carry energy from the organs systems throughout the body, we may feel a liver/spleen disharmony or restriction in, say, the big toe. We may have edema in our ankles from weakness or “qi deficiency” in our kidneys. Most chronic illnesses have an accompanying pattern of disharmony which follows a predictable pattern of qi restriction in the body. Once these patterns are identified, the oriental medical practitioner can begin the process of clearing, nurturing, or opening the affected meridians thereby allowing the body’s own healing process to resume.