Wellness

The Bladder in Chinese Medicine

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the bladder is one of the six yang organs, paired with one of the six yin organs. The yin organs store vital substances (such as Qi, blood, yin, and yang), whereas the yang organs are more active and have a function of constantly filling and emptying. The bladder is a perfect example of a yang organ. Its main physiological function is to remove water from the body in the form of urine. To do this, the bladder uses Qi (energy) and heat from its paired yin organ, the kidneys.

Obviously urination is an essential component to the functioning of our bodies, and as such, the bladder plays a vital role through its filling and emptying of urine.

However, the bladder system in TCM has far more influence in the body than just over fluid transformation and excretion. As mentioned above, each yang organ is paired with a yin organ, and the bladder is paired with the kidneys. The kidneys are one of the most important energy systems in TCM, they store some of our deepest levels of energy, being the root of all yin and yang in the body and hold our essence. The kidneys often exert an effect on the bladder system when there is a weakness, this means that sometimes problems with the kidney energy can be detected and treated sooner by treating the bladder or the bladder channel. An example is low back pain. The kidneys in TCM govern the low back and the knees. The bladder meridian runs down the length of the back in not one but two trajectories on either side of the spine. Most forms of low back pain can be treated with bladder points on the back, as well as bladder points on the backs of the legs.

In acupuncture, one of the most essential aspects of the bladder channel is treating the back. The bladder channel runs from the inner canthus of the eye, over the top of the head, down the neck and the back on either side of the spine, through the sacrum and down the back of the leg to the knee. Then the channel travels back up to the top of the back and begins its downward trajectory again, tracing another trail down the length of the back, more lateral than the first. It then continues down the back of the leg to the outside of the pinky toe. The bladder channels trajectory makes it a powerful channel for treating most kinds of neck, back, sacral, hamstring, calf and achilles pain. It is particularly helpful when there is a pain condition affecting more than one of these sites.

Every energy system in TCM exerts an effect on both the physical body and the mental/emotional self. The kidneys are associated with fear – this means excessive fear will weaken the kidneys, but irrational fear can also be a symptom of a kidney imbalance. As the bladder is linked to the kidneys, it can be used to support the kidneys in treating fear. When the bladder itself is out of balance, there may be negative emotions such as jealousy, suspicion and inability to let go of grudges.

To take care of the bladder, make sure you drink plenty of non-caffeinated, non-sugary beverages throughout the day to optimize its water transforming function. Eating a kidney-nourishing diet will also help the bladder energy. To keep energy flowing optimally through the bladder meridian, make sure to stretch! Create a daily stretching routine that includes stretches for the whole posterior portion of the body. You might think about including foam rolling, massage, myofascial release, cupping, gua sha or tuina.

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Still Sick ? : Intentionality and Healing

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So, you’ve been everywhere, seen everyone, done everything and you are still sick!  This is usually the second most asked question I hear, I’ve done everything, why am I still sick?  Every form of medical care has it’s philosophy of why we get sick and what we need to do to feel better, but what happens when we’ve done everything we can think of, we’ve done everything the doctors, therapists, healers, and experts have told us to do and nothing seems to work.  Or if it does work, it is temporary at best.  This brings us to a place that falls outside of the “scientific realm” and takes us to that place known as placebo effect.  What is the placebo effect?

A placebo is traditionally defined as a harmless pill or treatment that has curative effects because of the belief we place in it.    My personal definition of placebo is much broader and more encompassing, it is:  everything that contributes to healing that practitioners are not really accounting for.  This can include everything from the environment of the treatment room, the time of day, the current weather, and the interpersonal relationship between patient and practitioner.  Along with the tangible things that we can think of and name, placebo also includes things we can’t really “put our finger on” or give a name to.  One of those elusive “things” is something called intentionality.  Intentionality is just what it sounds like, it is our intention or will, our desire, our goal, what we put our focus on, what we want to receive from the actions we are taking.  Part of the concept of intentionality includes the idea of personal power and choice; that each of us has power and we can exercise that power through our choices.  When we make choices, we also receive consequences.  Sometimes the consequences are exactly what we are wanting.  The challenge comes when the consequences we receive don’t seem to match up with what we think and say that we want.

That is correct, “what we THINK and SAY that we want” does not always line up with what we really want on a deep down heart level.  Whenever we are not making progress in healing, it becomes necessary to do some deep down internal work and get painfully honest with ourselves about what it is we really want.  Chances are if we are honest with ourselves, there are things about being sick and infirmed that we like.  There is something about not being well that is benefitting us more than being well.  OR, we have gotten so attached to the illness we are experiencing that the illness has become our identity, and to let go of the illness we would be losing a part of ourselves.  So, how can you find out what you really want on a deep down level, and if deep down your intention is focused on illness instead of wellness?  The first step to every “change” process is awareness.  We can’t make a new choice, until we are aware of the choices we are making right now.

Here are some provocative questions to ask yourself that may help bring awareness of your current choices and intentions behind those choices in regards to your health and well-being:

  • When was the last time I really felt good (I was happy, energetic, and life was flowing)?
  • What is it like for me when I feel really good? What is my definition of feeling good?
  • When did I start feeling “sick”? How old was I? What type of work was I doing?  Where was I?
  • What is the first thing that comes to my mind when I think about this sickness, illness, trauma, etc.…? (a person, place, thing, color, smell, physical sensation, a word or image)
  • How does this thought, experience, image relate to the illness?
  • Does someone else in my life benefit from me being sick? Who else in my life (spouse, child, family member, friend, etc…) benefits from me being sick?  What do they get out of it?
  • What is it that I dislike the most about being “sick”?
  • Is it possible that I’m getting something out of being “sick”? What are the potential benefits that I’m getting from being “sick”?
  • Is there anyone else in my family or in my life that also has chronic illnesses or “sickness”? What do they get out of being “sick”?
  • How does my family group or “tribe” respond when one of us is sick, ill, or injured?
  • Is it possible for me to feel better?
  • Is it possible for me to get completely well?
  • Is this something I “have to” live with for the rest of my life?
  • What would be different in my life if a miracle happened and I was suddenly totally and completely well in every way?
  • Do I want to be well?
  • Why do I want to be well?
  • What am I willing to do to get and stay well?

There are many more questions we can ask ourselves, but the following list is a good place to start.  It takes great courage to be honest with ourselves and see if there is anything internally keeping us from being the healthy vibrant person we want to be.  Awareness is power because when we become aware of the choices we are making we have the ability to access our power to make a new choice.   One of the most powerful things you can do to accelerate your healing and get the most out of every treatment you receive is to consciously choose what you want to get out of that treatment.  The clearer your intention for each treatment, the better the results will be.  For example, if you are in pain, perhaps your intention is to reduce or eliminate the pain.  If you are already holding this clear intention, perhaps you will choose to expand on it by thinking and saying to yourself, “I want to be pain free all week, all year, for the rest of my life”!  If you are not really sure about what you want you can always hold the intention of openness, flexibility, and cooperation.  “I am open to healing, I am willing to shift and change in the direction of wellness, I’m open and willing to cooperate with any and all benefits this treatment is providing for me.  STOP, THINK, AND CHOOSE!  You have the power!

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