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Everything I do in clinic involves understanding the physiology and function of meridians (or vessels).

In traditional Chinese Medicine, there are twelve primary meridians (jingmai) that transverse the body. They correspond with the internal organs and functions. They flow from the chest to the hands, the hands to the face, the face to the feet and the feet back to the chest. Each channel has points along its pathway that have different functions. There are over 400 points on the body.

The meridians can be stimulated with acupuncture (needles), pressure and massage. And they can impact both the physiological function, as well as the corresponding emotion, relating to an organ. For example, the lung helps with inhalation and exhalation in the body. The emotion associated with the lung is sadness. Treating the meridian can help improve breathing and can also be used to treat depression.

In my practice, I need to know how one physiologically or psychologically disturbed meridian and organ impacts the other. For example, in the joint work I do called, “Radical Immersion Therapy,” a psychologist and I see patients simultaneously. We sit on one couch and the patient sits on the other. The patient begins by explaining what is going on and why he or she wants to see us. I evaluate what the patient says by the meridians involved and make a diagnosis based on the meridians and their emotional component, which better helps the psychologist to steer the conversation.

In one instance, we had a 60-year-old female patient come into clinic, who reported 30 years of depression with little to no help from pharmaceutical drugs and therapy. By knowing the meridians involved, I was able to recognize the pattern wasn't depression (liver and/or lung), but actually a disturbance with the spleen/pancreas. One pattern is a depression of the free-flowing of the energy; the other is a difficulty embodying and anchoring or rooting in life.

The therapist then directs treatment: In this case, he asked: Is there any trauma around death? Yes. There was an impactful death in the family at an early age. Is there an issue around instability or anchoring in a location? Yes, they had moved many times and she couldn't maintain friends or connections. Once we know the pattern, we can add needles to support the stressed or strained meridians and help provide the information for the body and mind to digest the experiences. We are able to jointly do in one session what we would alone be hard-pressed to do in ten.

Supporting the meridians is essential to well-being. Stress to the meridians leads to miscommunication and affects function of the organs in Chinese Medicine. This, in turn, leads to disease. To understand this, we can think of stress in its mechanical definition: A stress fracture occurs when we have exceeded the limit of the bone. A diseased meridian occurs when the limit of the meridian has been exceeded. Supporting and strengthening the meridian is essential for well-being and vitality.

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