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Arrival of Qi: Harmony and Energy

You feel irritable. You have no focus at work. You barely touch your food. You can’t sleep at night. These are the classic signs of stress.

As western medicine puts it, stress can be defined as the resulting condition of an individual’s perceived discrepancies or inconsistencies, whether real or not, about the situation that he is in and the resources of his biological, physical, or social systems.

Eastern medicine practitioners, especially the Chinese, however, see stress in a different way. According to Janet Pimentel-Paredes, an acupuncture detoxification specialist and Family and Addictions counselor at the Integrative Medicine for Alternative Healthcare Systems (INAM) Philippines, Inc., stress can manifest as a “stagnation of Qi or stagnation of energy” in the body.

Causes and Symptoms
“The dynamics of our body in the traditional Chinese medicine definition is that if there is free-flowing of energy, there is harmony in the whole body. Stagnant energy, or stuck Qi, can bring about stress in the patient,” explains Paredes. She cites lack of sleep, being overworked, doing excessive exercise, and not maintaining a balanced lifestyle can lead to stagnant energy and can result to stress. She adds that emotional burdens caused by family, relationship, and marital problems also cause stress.

Paredes further explains that any form of excessive anger will cause stagnant energy in some of the main organs of the body, like the liver and gall bladder. “One of the signs for us to know that it’s a stress-related condition is when there’s stagnant Qi in the liver and gall bladder,” says Paredes. She adds that stagnant Qi in the liver and gall bladder will manifest as discoloration in the patient’s tongue. “When you ask the patient to stick out his or her tongue, there’s a purple color and line in his tongue,” explains Paredes, adding that the purpler the two opposite sides of the tongue are, the more Qi is stagnant in the liver and gallbladder.

Paredes further explains that one should also know how to combine modalities to ensure that stressors are really released and relieved.

“Another combination to know that a patient has a high stress level is when we do pulse taking,” says Paredes. She explains that the pulses have different levels and that Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is not using the western method of pulse taking. Rather, the method uses the ring, middle, and index fingers to check palpation on the left wrist. “Through the middle level (middle finger), you can read the condition of the liver and gallbladder energy levels,” says Paredes.

She adds that when a patient comes in with a migraine, the usual complaint would be stress from work and at home. “The chief complaint is migraine, but when you palpate and look at the tongue, it’s purple and the Guan area (left wrist) is wiry,” describes Paredes. “The acupuncturist’s finger can feel like it’s strumming a guitar. This means that there is stagnant energy in the liver and gallbladder. The wirier it is, the more that you can confirm that it’s a stuck liver energy diagnosis,” she explains.

Paredes furthers that when a patient comes in, and the pulse is very wiry, strong, and full, it may be that the patient had just been into an argument. “That’s what we call ‘Liver Yang rising.’ You can really tell that the patient is undergoing a lot of stress. The pulse diagnosis is actually very revealing once you’ve mastered it,” she says.

Processes and Protocols
Paredes also emphasizes that before anybody can undergo acupuncture treatment, one should first be examined by a medical doctor trained in western medicine. “Our procedure here is that for every new patient, he or she should first fill out a form and be seen by a family medicine doctor. The doctor then makes a diagnosis in the western medicine aspect. Once he says that the patient is cleared for acupuncture, with no signs and symptoms contraindicative of having an acupuncture treatment, the patient is referred to us,” relates Paredes.

However, she points out that aside from the pulse diagnosis and western diagnosis, there is still another set of interview questions that the patient should answer. “We call it the ‘Eight Traditional Methods of Diagnosis.’ This is only for first-timers, so that the acupuncturist can weave a whole pattern of diagnosis on the patient,” says Paredes. These questions are centered on:

  • Body temperature – Does the patient feel hot or cold?
  • Sweating – Is the patient sweating hard even if the room is cold?
  • Pain – Is the patient feeling any pain? In a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, what is the level of pain being felt by the patient? What kind of pain? Is it stabbing, lingering, or dull?
  • Appetite – Does the patient have a good or poor appetite?
  • Urination – The color and volume of urine. Is there difficulty in urinating?
  • Bowel movement – How many times a week does the patient move bowels? Is it soft and formed? Diarrhea, constipation?
  • Sleep patterns – What time does the patient sleep at night and what time does he/she wake up in the morning? Any difficulty sleeping? Tossing and turning in bed? Awake between 11 am to 3am (liver/gallbladder time)?
  • Menstruation (for women only) – Regular or irregular? Flow of blood, color of blood, small or big blood clots? Any pain before, during, and/or after?

“The acupuncturist will analyze the data gathered and identify the TCM pattern or diagnosis of the patient. Acupuncture points appropriate to the patient’s condition are prescribed by the attending acupuncturist. Thus, the number of acupuncture needles can be determined at this point,” Paredes explains. She also says that covering the whole body with needles may not be necessary. “Sometimes, four or two needles would be enough. That also means that the patient has lesser needles to pay for.” She adds that a large number of needles may only be needed for stroke patients since the acupuncturist should really try to stimulate the nerves.

Before an acupuncture treatment, one must:

  • Eat a light meal — it is not necessary for the patient to be really full, but since acupuncture works on the body’s energy, the patient should take in food and liquid.
  • Get enough rest — the patient should have had a good sleep before the session.

Patients and Sessions
Paredes, however, emphasizes that acupuncture should not be administered to pregnant women, people with very high blood pressure, and diabetics who have a poor wound healing condition. Aside from these, Paredes says that acupuncture is relatively safe for everybody, even for infants. She even describes the needle puncture as “just like an ant bite.”

She also mentions that the usual patients coming in for acupuncture treatment are call center agents, senior citizens, stroke patients, people with menstrual/reproductive problem, and even cancer patients. “We have call center agents who come in and out of the center. They are our most common patients when it comes to stress, especially those who are working during the graveyard shift.” She explains that because the time of work coincides with the time the liver and gallbladder should also be ‘resting’ — which is between 11 pm to 3:30 am — the Qi in the liver is not able to flow freely in the body, leading to its stagnation and then stress.

Cancer patients, on the other hand, specifically undergo acupuncture to counter the side effects of chemotherapy and drugs. “When you undergo radiation, your body’s harmony becomes disturbed so there is imbalance. Acupuncture brings back the harmony in your body,” explains Paredes.

For stroke patients, nerve stimulation through acupuncture is really needed since they are trying to restore the locomotor function of the patients. For infants, the needles aren’t turned and twisted for the Qito arrive. After puncturing the baby, the acupuncturist instantly takes off the needles since the infant is a lot more sensitive than older patients. This is also the case for facial acupuncture since the face’s nerve points are very sensitive.

For normal cases, Paredes says that needle stimulation in the specific acupuncture point is really needed until the Qi arrives — or having the feeling of flowing electric current in the body. “Before the acupuncturist stops stimulating, the patient should first really feel the energy flowing into his body,” explains Paredes.

The patient may also feel a little, but not uncomfortable, soreness during the stimulation and while the energy is flowing in the body. This, she says, is to make the treatment effective. After the session, the patient is advised to stay in the acupuncture center or clinic to rest or take a little nap. The patient is also strongly advised to not take a bath so that ‘cold’ will not enter his or her body.

She also says that acupuncture isn’t for patients who are impatient. Unlike western medicine and drugs, which can give instant relief but still leave residues or toxins in the body, acupuncture needs a little more time to really feel its effect. “Acupuncture really works. You just have to be patient,” advises Paredes.

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