Practicing Health Care

A few weeks ago, I taught a weekend continuing education seminar for acupuncturists on the channel divergences, which have central importance for both understanding and reversing progressive and degenerative disease. Early in that seminar, I posed the following question, which I believe lay deep in the soul of many health care practitioners:

Do you want to participate in the disease management industry or the art of healing?

Has the idealism to help others, which continues to inspire many young people to enter the health care fields, been overwhelmed by the “scientific” doctrines students must learn and later the practical challenges of making a living? While that idealism appears well beaten-down in most, I believe it continues to smolder in the hearts of many. Can we gently fan those embers with the knowledge that the healing potential of the embodied spirit dwarfs the efforts of scientific medicine to control the expression of pathology?

Modern medicine relies on fear.

Allopathic medicine portrays patients’ bodies as “broken” — in need of permanent physical repair through surgery or ongoing physiological control with pharmaceuticals. Yet, embodied spirits that exhibit various diseases aren’t broken; they’re simply congested with stagnation, which blocks the natural flow of vital function. The symptoms and signs of disease are a cry for help; they are the embodied spirit’s gesture to express the nature and extent of its distress.

While western medicine sets the tone for our health care system, most proponents of “natural” medicine conform to its passive care model. And why not? — it makes SO MUCH SENSE economically. What could be better than selling people on the need to take a certain supplement for the rest of their lives, or come for three treatments per week for the next six months? Excuse me while I price a new BMW.

Practicing Health Care is a Sacred Trust.

People come to health care practitioners with their pains and their fears. I believe our work challenges us to discern the sources of each individual’s suffering, and find ways to stimulate the transformations of healing. Often that takes more time initially than simply controlling the manifestations of distress, but careful work to discriminate an individual’s blocks to healing can pay substantial dividends. The financial value for both individuals and our society of empowering patients to resolve their ailments is enormous. The non-financial value is even greater!



  1. Hi Steve, I'm wanting some clarity around a couple different treatment strategies. Sinew Channel (SC) vs. Channel Divergences and Distinctions (D/D)

    I'm curious about one sided orthopedic conditions because as I understand it one might consider using both treatment strategies. In the case of using the Sinew Channels (SC) one would treat ipsilateral to the pain, and only on the side of the pain!? One might also then treat the yin/yang pair on the opposite side of the pain, and possibly the opposite Luo point might be a good point!?

    For example, let's say LEFT sided low back, upper buttock pain that refers down the left lateral thigh to the outer aspect of the lower leg involving the UB, GB, and St channels in its distribution of pain. Perveived as eminating from the low back and upper buttock (UB), provocated by walking and walking up stairs. The quality of the pain is tight, and stabbing w/ above provocative movements with some swelling across the low back and SI joints bilaterally.

    Jing well pumping at UB67 improves the pulse picture overall in that it balances out pulses that appear 'deficient' and reduces pulses that at first appear 'excess'. It also diminishes the intensity of the pain the patient feels on the table before needling other points.

    The strategy is to expel wind, damp from the UB channel and promote blood circulation in the lumbar region. A SC treatment would look like:
    One could needle along the LEFT UB channel Jing-Well, Shu-Stream, and possibly Yuan-source points plus local points in the lumbo-sacral region, UB points and extra points. Choosing other points along the channel that feel congested could also be used, and identifying true Ah Shi points could also be useful. To support the treatment one could use Ki 4 on the opposite leg.

    A D/D treatment could be 1st Confluence (UB 40 and UB10) bilaterally w/ the right side being the Wei Qi side (the side opposite of the painful side). The Wei Qi side being the side that the sinew channel points are used. Feeling for disarticulation of Qi in corresponding areas on the Wei Qi side to the area(s) of pain on the Jing side. Also feeling for disarticulation of qi on the Wei Qi side down the channel. One would also use channel regulating points on the Wei Qi side (Jing-Well, Shu-Stream, and possibly Yuan-Source).

    The D/D treatment would also include a midline point relating to the channel being targeted, in this case UB. I assume the addition of a midline point could be useful in the SC treatment, but wouldn't be as necessary as it is in a D/D treatment strategy.

    Thanks for your insights.

    • I like your enthusiasm to learn all the new ideas and treatment strategies of classical Chinese medicine (CCM). We will get to the sinews soon. Yet, I can comment briefly:

      Sinew treatments are ipso-lateral. While it’s possible to combine different treatments, I suggest that one stick with single strategies when embarking on work with the channel systems. Treatments are somewhat like giving instructions to a child. Ask one thing clearly, and you have a very good chance of a focused response; ask too many things at the same time, and the being is often overwhelmed and left paralyzed into inaction. Sinew treatments focus specifically on clearing blocks in wei qi. Working with them alone can help one understand how wei qi works, and how to facilitate its flow.

      It appears from your comment that you’ve successfully confirmed the taiyang (UB) relationship with this patient. The choice of treating sinews or channel divergences is somewhat complex. Sinews work best for relatively acute blocks (pain) that are not supported by jing-essence stagnation. The channel divergences address the habituated holding patterns of the sinews that are grounded in fixations of the essence (recall that posture – both physical and metaphorical – is an expression of essence).

      How to discern between sinews and channel distinctions? We talked A LITTLE about pulse confirmation during our weekend seminar on channel divergences. When we study the sinews, we will learn how to physically release them, and gradually you will learn to discriminate when each is best suited. While I think that seminar on the channel distinctions was a good start, it was ONLY a start.

      BTW, the language I used for discussing treatment strategies for channel distinctions was mine (rather than Jeffery’s). His other students might not understand (or like!) my characterization of the two sides of the “looping method” (I’ve heard him use that one). I refer to the “jing side” and the “wei side” to help practitioners, who are embarking on the conceptually challenging study of channel divergences, orient themselves in understanding a treatment strategy. You seem to have the basic idea. While it may seem a little counter-intuitive at first, when treating the channel distinctions we generally drain blockages (which cause pain!) out the contra-lateral side.

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