It doesn’t all have to be deep and hard …

The word of the day is “shallow” and I find my thoughts focused around the often negative value judgement this word carries. In my acupuncture and massage studies, one of the keys takeaways for me so far has been that deeper is not necessarily better.

Sometimes this is a safety issue – if you’re inserting a needle into someone’s chest and you go to deep, you risk puncturing the pleural sac. Sometimes this is a logistical issue – if you’re inserting a needle into someone’s scalp, there’s only so far down you can go before you hit the skull.

Often, however, this is a purely therapeutic issue and is dependent on what the specific patient’s body is feeling. If the practitioner decides to use a point that is empty, the needle may need to go much deeper than otherwise and will likely require a greater deal of manipulation than “normal” points. On the other hand, if a point is sensitive, the practitioner may back the needle off or remove the needle entirely depending on the severity of the reaction.

Today I got my first treatment with bleeding – a technique used to reduce stagnation and heat – and it was incredible. Sometimes the body has too much pent up energy and can’t eliminate it effectively. As my acupuncturist began inserting the needles into the points she’d decided on, I felt a strong sensation in my lower leg. It felt as though she had just inserted a needle where no needle was. On palpation, she determined that the point (a special point, ie not on one of the 14 primary meridians) was extremely sensitive to the touch and changed her plan slightly to incorporate it. Once the actual needle went in, it felt like that point and my ankle got extremely heavy –> as though all of the ick was being pulled to that spot.

(Side note 1 – how fucking cool is this shit?!?) (Side note 2 – there are Western Medicine organ names used below and they’ve got a different meaning in acupuncture thanks to some mediocre translations back in the day.)

Another point, this one on my ipsilateral foot, started to produce that phantom needle sensation. My acupuncturist followed the sensation down to the tip of the toe where the gallbladder channel ends and she decided to prick that point and bleed it.

Now, we’re not talking about bloodletting a la early Greek medicine – she wasn’t collecting a pool of my blood in a bowl – but the underlying theory is actually pretty similar, in the sense that bleeding the body can help to return it to balance. In acupuncture the pricking is just that. Sometimes a practitioner will also draw a bit of blood out but we’re talking drops here, not pints. Once she’d done that, she left me to cook with my needles.

After a few minutes on the table, I felt the ick draining. No longer was my lower leg / ankle feeling full and heavy. There’s a lot of ick in my system right now, leading to a significant amount of stagnation and it is so fantastic to feel that moving again. This is a process and this one treatment isn’t going to fix everything. There will likely be ick hanging around for quite some time. That said – the release I felt has already helped me a great deal.

It turned down the volume on the noise in my head. It’s no accident that the point needing to be bled was the end of my gallbladder channel. In acupuncture the gallbladder is the seat of decisiveness and is paired with the liver, where all emotions are stored. So relieving my gallbladder channel allowed me to come to some difficult decisions and put the next steps into motion. It calmed my liver down, so that hopefully it will cease being a jerk to my other systems.


And none of this came from depth. Maybe part of bringing myself back into balance required something shallow to counteract all the drowning I’ve been doing. Whatever the reason, I’m so very thankful for the shallows of the day!



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