Thursday, December 31, 2015

Prescription for the Last-Day-of-the-Year-Blues

Speaking strictly for myself, it's easy to feel a little down at the end of the year. Some people LOVE the holiday season and the dark, yin time of year. Others, not so much. What's going on with this phenomenon? I suppose it's well documented and you could find all sorts of prescriptions with a single internet search. Here are my ideas about what is going on, for me at least.

First of all, I think many of us are more affected than we know by the smaller amount of yang qi from the sun that we are receiving unless you live pretty far below the Mason-Dixon Line. It mostly dark outside where I live. Second are the expectations many of us grew up with around what "the holidays" are supposed to look like but don't for most of us. Third, for those with businesses of their own, it's often slower for a few weeks around this time, which may add financial stress to the rest of the stuff in our heads. Finally, another year gone by on our small and struggling planet and how have I made it meaningful; what did I do for others; how have I made it better for myself or any one else? All this is definitely "up" for me.

What to do to perk ourselves back up? Here are a few suggestions of things I use for my own end-of-year emotional symptoms.

1. Add some yang qi. Get outside if there is any sunshine and it's not really inclement. The Brits have a good saying, "there is no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing." That could be a bit of a stretch if its below zero or raining cats and dogs. But if there is no sun outside, a trip to the gym with a good, hard workout and soak in the hot tub or sauna might be in order. That's yang qi as well. And/or how about doing a trade with someone for a nice deep, hot rock massage?  When there are fewer patients around, it's a really good time to take care of yourself.

2. Create, recreate, or update your business or marketing plan. What did you get right and where could you do better? How many more patients would you like to be seeing each week by, say, March 31st? What type of conditions do you feel most comfortable treating? What products, services, machines, skills, processes would you like to add to your clinic? What would it take to make these things happen? Where did you think about volunteering in 2015 but never got around to making it happen? How or with whom could you connect, imbed, or network more meaningfully within your community to expand your interconnectedness factor?

Give this thought process and note-taking some time; a whole day perhaps with a walk after lunch. Read your local paper; check out some of your competition websites, look at local Meet-Up opportunities, check out what's happening at local churches, clubs, and non-profits. If and when something looks interesting, what are the follow up steps you want to take before you forget about it. Follow through; follow through; follow through. Remember that if you keep doing what you did, you'll keep getting what you got. So what do you want to change?

3. Sign up for a local class; pick something that gets you out and meeting other people. That's where the new patients are.

4. Better yet, find a place to sign up to teach a class, free or paid. That's where more new patients are.

5. Eat your fruits and vegees and get adequate sleep. This does not need any explanation. Keep the booze, sugar, or whatever else (I live in Colorado) under some control.

6. Call someone you've not seen in a while and arrange for a walk, a tea, a dinner. An old friend, perhaps, or someone you've met and wanted to get to know better.

7. Send an actual letter or small gift to someone you know who is struggling just now. Or even someone who is not.

8. Throw a party for your friends and patients. Tell them that anyone they bring who books an appointment gets their first one (or second one??) at no cost. Put some juice into this...make it a really, really fun event.

9. Acknowledge what you're experiencing emotionally, but don't allow yourself to believe it's all that important. If you feel sad, okay. So what. It's not the end of the world, it will pass, and you still have to get up and do what needs to be done. I think the idea that we have to be happy all the time is a modern disease of its own. The idea of "being happy" is something we all think we want; but perhaps purpose, usefulness, self-awareness, and doing what needs to be done is a more realistic set of goals. Maybe those things ARE a more real definition of happiness. It's something to consider.

My Grandmother used to tell me that when I felt lousy, that was the time to do something for someone else. Not easy to do when you are sunk in total self-involvement, but I've come to see she was right. Who can I help, and how can I help them? It need not take a mob of people to make a difference in this world, and it's a great way to start, or end, any or every year.

Thanks for being a reader. Here's to a purpose-filled and meaningful 2016 to us all.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

7 Things to Do While You Ignore Your Email

This was advice from a recent article in PC World, and I agree. How often have you been endlessly lost in cyberspace clicking on emails and Facebook posts, only to find that all of a sudden it's 11:45AM and that's all you've done today?

If this sounds familiar consider: a recent study done at UC Irvine suggests that checking email fewer times reduces stress and increases productivity. What should we be doing first thing in the AM instead of being lost in cyberspace? Tons of things could get done and leave us knowing that we accomplished something (which reduces stress) before the day has had a chance to make too much mischief.

• When was the last time you updated your web page with new material, photos, videos? Why not use the early morning to write a 3-4 minute video script (a kidney-boosting qi gong exercise, a warming self-massage routine, a description of a winter soup recipe or home-made liniment, or how to make a hara-maki to wear at home) and then gather whatever show and tell materials you need to complete this project. Call a friend to bring their new Galaxy or iPhone to shoot the video later in the week.

• When was the last time you scheduled a series of talks with local groups or associations? If you are a parent, could you give a talk on stress reduction to your PTA? What about specific disease support groups in your town? What about creating your own "Meet-Ups" for patients to bring their friends? Do any local companies have brown-bag lunch talks for employees? If so can you get on the list of speakers? Are there parenting groups, women's groups, sports groups to whom you could speak? Are you a member at a local gym that might offer a health lecture series? How many calls can you make before 10 AM to any or all of these connections?

• Is there a local radio station in your town? If so, do any of the programs do interviews? Might you start your own radio show once a week on health related topics? (I know one very successful practitioner in CA who keeps his practice full using this strategy while sharing good information in his community at the same time.) Find out who to speak to and follow up.

• When was the last time your website had a facelift? Look at 3-5 of your competitors websites and honestly compare yours to theirs. What could you do better? Who or what resources do you need to make these updates? If you can do them yourself, write down a plan listing needed or wanted changes and additions in order of importance. Follow up.

• Look through your patient files. Who has not been in for 6+ months? What personal message, article, blog post, or snail mail could you send to these folks? Make a personal outreach or some type to 10-or-more of them this morning.

• Alternatively to working on your business, why not go for a good walk or take a trip to the gym? Start your day with a work out to stimulate your qi and blood and take care of yourself first!

• Read the local paper(s). Take notes on any and all possible co-marketing or co-service projects that you could organize with other local businesses or non-profits. Follow up with some phone calls. Another possibility is to create an event with 5-6-7 or more other acupuncturists in your community. Find a service project in your town that needs doing and organize yourselves to do it and get publicity while you're at it.

Remember, email is busy work. It may or may not produce any new patients or any additional opportunities. And, it'll all still be there when you are done doing something more productive.

Good luck and thanks for reading.

Honora Wolfe is the author of Points for Profit: The Essential Guide to Practice Success for Acupuncturists.
She has taught and lectured at almost every acupuncture college in the US as well as spoken at conferences all over the world.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Have you checked out The School for Greatness podcasts?

Here's a blog/podcast website by a man named Lewis Howes, who picked himself up by the bootstraps and created success. He has tons of podcasts and blogs. Yes, he flogs various products as well on his website, but he does cover some good stuff at the same time.

Although I've said/written/suggested/lectured about many of these same tips in Points for Profit: The Essential Guide to Business Success for Acupuncturists and other places, it can be helpful to hear ideas and suggestions from more than one point of view, more than one person, more than one time. Who knows, maybe a different voice and way of expressing it lights your fire!!

Here's the written list of stuff he covers in this podcast. I especially love his description of #10 below. Take a listen if you have any part of 30 minutes.

The Top 10 Ways to Get Off the Couch
  1. Get up to the mirror, look yourself in the eyes and say, “Enough is enough … I’m going to make something of myself, and I’m sick and tired of feeling sick and tired.”  Write down in a journal who you are and what you stand for and why it’s important for you to get off the couch.
  2. Make a list of 10 things you love doing that make you the happiest when you do them.
  3. Commit to 60 mins a day of working out in the morning.
  4. Write a list of the 5 things that scare you the most.
  5. Tackle the top 3 things that scare you so you master them.
  6. Write down a vision for yourself for 3 months, 6 months and 12 months.
  7. Find a mentor who has already achieved those visions and ask them to give you a challenge with coaching.
  8. Do something in the first 30 days to give back, give gratitude, and give to yourself.
  9. Feed your mind with books, podcasts, and inspiring videos.
  10. Chart your results nightly for what you created and check in every week to see what’s been working and what has been holding you back.  Repeat.

Monday, November 23, 2015

What is Money??

This blog is based on a lecture I gave a few years back...but still is relevant to us every day. Thanks for reading.
What is Money?

Basically, money is a form of energy exchange. We have decided what is of value in our culture and we exchange our time and our energy in lesser or higher amounts to get what we need and want.

If we think about money as a form of qi, this may help us to revise our thinking and our relationship to this vital part of our life.

What do we know about diseases of the qi?  There are two basic things that can go wrong in the body (or in the universe) with qi.

   1. Not enough
   2. Not flowing freely (right amounts in the right direction at the right time)

So, with money too, if we remove all our value judgments about it, we need it in adequate amounts and we need to keep it flowing freely, as long as it is the basic form of human energy exchange that is currently in use.

However, if you have unnecessary internal “judgments” about money in your bodymind, it may be difficult to maintain #1 and 2 above. For example, if your money style is hoarding, it will be difficult to maintain the free flow of it in your life.  If your money style is an avoider or a monk, it may be difficult to ever have enough money because the money makes the avoider nervous and it makes the monk feel guilty. (More about these later)

Not enough
1. Undercapitalized start-up
2. Not charging enough for services
3. Not selling other products and services in your clinic

Why should your services be of less value than the practitioner down the street who does have enough?

Do you believe enough in yourself and your services to charge what you need to charge to be adequately prosperous and have enough patients who agree with you?

Are you grateful for prosperity and do you truly believe that you deserve it? Do you share your prosperity with others as you can?

Do you offer for sale good quality products to your patients in your clinic?

Not Flowing

1. Money is like the water/fire phase dynamic in Chinese medicine:
-there has to be enough fire and enthusiasm generated by you as the practitioner to draw patients
-there has to be openness of heart and willingness to spend/share/prosper for the qi of money to move freely through your life.
- money is represented in Chinese feng shui by the water phase.  It must flow freely for more of it to be generated. If you are not open to having as well as spending/using money, you will not be able to attract it to yourself

Complexity or Chaos Theory & $$$

Because money is an important (possibly too important) player in our overall culture, there are certain things about the larger picture that we obviously cannot control. Recessions come and go.  The value of the dollar against other currencies goes up and down. These are
things we cannot control. 

But we can have control over our conscious attitudes and behaviors concerning marketing ourselves, selling our services, and how we use money.

Looking at your relationship with $$$$ honestly

If you don’t have enough, can you analyze why?
Do you really feel open and willing to have and use money?
Are you willing to share prosperity with your staff, family, children, community?
Do you need to charge more for your services?  Or do you need to connect better within your community? Do you need to move to a location where there are not a gazillion other practitioners? Or where you can offer slightly different or better services?

If you are unwilling to offer products for sale in your clinic, have you analyzed why that is repugnant to you? Are there any products that you could offer with a soft sell approach that you would feel comfortable about?
Family Money Traditions

Every person receives a whole variety of messages about money as children. This often unconscious “information” can cloud our vision where our finances are concerned and keep us from having a healthy relationship with the green stuff that we need to be emotionally healthy individuals.

We all received a variety of verbal messages about money. What did you hear as a child?

“money doesn’t grow on trees”
“money is the root of all evil”
“money makes the world go around”
“do you think I am made of money?”
“you have to work hard to have money”
“you need to marry a rich spouse to survive”
“a penny saved.....”
“our family doesn’t know how to deal with money”
“it’s impolite to talk about money”
“don’t spend money on foolish things”
“never buy things that aren’t on sale”

Because money is such a survival issue, these messages get imprinted deeply within us and can control us unconsciously all our lives, often to our detriment.

Each of your parents probably had a different money “style”. Each of these styles has good and bad points in how they handle money. How has this impacted your professional life and relationship with $$?

Were your parents:

Were there arguments about $$?
Was there enough to be comfortable?
Did anyone ever talk about money to you?
Did you receive any specific instructions about budgets, investing, money management, etc.?
Was the subject taboo?

My Relationship to Money

1. What messages about $$ did you receive as a child?
2. Did your family have traditions about $$, work, spending, saving, and/or investing that you are adhering to or departing from in your life and how well is that working for you?
3. How have those messages affected your relationship with $$ as a professional for better or worse?
4. What one thing would you like to change about your relationship with $$?
5. How would that one thing improve your professional life?

Take some time to think about the questions listed above. Write down your answers.  Written messages to yourself have great power.


(Over) spenders believe $= happiness, love
            1. Buy things for themselves all the time
            2. Hard time saving anything
            3. Not into delayed gratification
            4. Lots of credit cards and debt
            5. Can’t cope with budgeting
            6. Shopaholic
            7. Rarely have long term financial plans
Worriers             $ = security, excessive responsibility
1. Spend lots of time thinking about $ and all the “what ifs” that go along with that
            2. Balance and rebalance their checkbooks
            3. Usually a pinch penny
            4. Easily overwhelmed by $ responsibilities

Monks                        $= corruption, evil, dirty
            1. Most comfortable when struggling w/ $
            2. Lots of pro-bono or volunteer work
3. Few or only socially responsible investments
            4. Shops only at garage sales/thrift shops

Gamblers             $= Freedom, excitement, possibilities, entertainment

                        1. Believe great risk leads to greatest rewards
2. Easily seduced by the idea of getting something for nothing

Amassers            $= power, self-worth
            1. Tend to be workaholics
            2. Believe lack of $=failure
            3. Like to touch, count, “play” with their $
            4. May also be spenders or hoarders

Avoiders            $=too much responsibility, chaos, potential for failure, overwhelm
            1. Never balance checkbook
            2. “I’ll think about that tomorrow” attitude
            3. Never know what they have or owe
            4. Usually don’t invest
5. Difficulty keeping that part of their life together
Hoarders            $= security
            1. Planners; very orderly nature
            2. Like creating budgets
            3. Don’t buy, prefer to save
            4. Classic “$ hidden in the mattress” type
            5. Have difficulty enjoying their $

Hoarders (Money = Security)

1. Buy something for yourself at least once per month.  It must cost, say, over $25. If you cannot buy for yourself, buy something for your practice or office that is not required (not needles, supplies, etc.) This might be a beautiful painting or photo, a carpet, a small fountain, a crystal, a new book etc.—something unnecessary but enhancing to your office.
2. Don’t look at your budget for at least one week...two weeks is better.  And....
3. When the inevitable feelings of money insecurity arise, look at the feelings, write about them in a journal or a letter, or draw a picture about them, but don’t let them force you to rework your budget or live on rice and beans.

Spenders (Money = Pleasure/Freedom from boredom)

1. At least every other time you are ready to pull out your credit card, don’t do it. 
2. Keep a log or journal about every item you did ..... and did not buy each week. At the end of end of each week, look at your purchases for the week and think about why you bought each one. Did you really feel any lasting pleasure from each purchase? Highlight one item on the list that you will not buy the next time.
3. Put the money you save from not buying frivolous things into marketing your practice! Create a plan and a marketing budget for using the money you will not spend on things that don’t help you meet long term goals.

Money Monk (Money = Evil/Corruption)

1. Once per month at least, spend some money on yourself that you have previously considered selfish or decadent.  See if you can actually enjoy the experience.
2. Write a journal about what you would do if you had a full practice at $85 per treatment, 40 people per week and you were taking home $100,000 after taxes. How would you spend your money so that you don’t feel corrupted by it?  In what way could you expand your own life and the lives of others?

Avoider (Money = Complexity/Creates feelings of inadequacy & overwhelm)

1.  Once per week, make sure that you address one aspect of your professional or personal money life that you would usually avoid. (Add up the deposit slip from your clinic and take the money to the bank yourself....or, balance your clinic check book.)
2. Create a money schedule for yourself. (An example might be that every Monday you will look at the previous week’s clinic receipts and analyze how well the clinic is doing in terms of patient visits, office product sales, patient rebookings, etc. in comparison to the week before.)
3.  Get a friend to come over and help you plan a 6-month marketing budget for your clinic or practice with both time and money expenditures listed.  Create a calendar or time line for these expenses and activities.  When the inevitable resistance to doing this arises, make sure your friend is there to help you with that resistance.

Amasser (Money = Self-worth or Power)

1.  At least one day per week, don’t be involved with money at all.  On a weekend or vacation, spend an entire day not thinking about your investments, budgets, or professional plans that involve money.
2. Write a list of goals and dreams that don’t require or involve money to accomplish and that might lead to other kinds of pleasure and emotional fulfillment than what money can bring. Take one action step toward achieving one of these goals.
3. Volunteer to do something in your community that has nothing to do with money. After this participation, write down your feelings about this. What did it feel like; did you like or dislike it? Or, volunteer to work with an organization as the person in charge of amassing money for them.

Worrier (Money = Security/responsibility)

1. Focus your worrying. For example, sit in your clinic at the end of the day and write down all your worries on paper. (I.e., What will happen if I don’t have 40 patients per week?.. what will happen if I spend $1000 on a fancy table that goes up and down?....what will happen if I get sued by a patient?)
2. Assign yourself “days off” from worrying, for example on Friday, Sat. and Sun. I will not worry about money.
3. Write an essay about the benefits of worrying about money. What bad things would happen if you did not worry? What would your professional life be like if you stopped worrying about money? What would you do with all the energy you don’t spend on worrying? Get your essay published in Acupuncture Today or the CJOM!

Assignments for all Money Types

1. Whatever your combination of money types, think about the ways in which our money life is out of balance, and come up with your own assignment combination. Write them down.
2.If your money imbalances are part of your Chinese medical pattern discrimination, why not use acupuncture, herbal medicine, qi gong, and/or feng shui to help you balance your financial life as well as the other parts of your life?
3. If money is another form of qi, create a visualization for having Sufficient Amounts of money in your life Flowing Freely in your life.
4. Qi is attracted by qi; take a $100 bill, put it in a clear plastic wallet-sized pouch and place it in your wallet. Write down some money goals and wrap them around the $100 bill. Don’t spend it unless you are able to replace it immediately.  Notice how much security/power/pleasure/ it gives you to carry this around. (This one came directly from Marilyn Allen, for those of you who know her.)
5. Believe that the universe will support you!

Those are some ideas for working internally and externally with our various, inevitable money conditioning. Hope you found this interesting.
 “We’re in the money,
Come on now honey,
Let’s spend it, lend it, send it rolling along!”

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Got History?

...or How Acupuncture Almost Disappeared in Early 20th Century China and How the Politics of Its Revival Affects Our Practice in the West Today

     "Who knows only his own generation remains forever a child"

It is my experience that many Western practitioners of acupuncture have an interest in the history of Chinese medicine, its development through the centuries, and how the history has an impact on all of us as practitioners. I also know that the history of Chinese medicine is not widely known here in the West. Some schools have a short obligatory course on the subject, but few give it more than a nod because the curriculum is already so lengthy. Clinical knowledge seems, and indeed may be, more important.

In 2008, when Bob wrote the first version of this white paper on the modern history of acupuncture in China, it was destined only as another article on the Blue Poppy website. After reading it, however, I thought it deserved more exposure than that. At the time, we were working on a revised edition of an older book, Sticking to the Point: A Step-by-Step Approach to TCM Acupuncture Therapy. The information in Bob’s article seemed to me to dovetail perfectly with one main thesis of this book: that TCM-style acupuncture is a mature, effective, evidence-based system and not the ugly step-child it is occasionally made out to be. Thus, the book acquired a new opening chapter.

Still, no one book, essay, article, or blog has more than limited exposure to the total marketplace of readers. So I offer this material again in an edited version, but this time as a stand alone essay, with the hope that readers find the history enlightening. For my part, knowing more about the history of our medicine adds richness, depth, and appreciation to my knowledge and to my clinical practice as well.

This is a long blog...way longer than my usual (since it is actually an excerpt from a longer book). Whether you agree with the conclusions that Bob and I make in this piece, thanks for reading, and enjoy!


The historical development of modern Chinese acupuncture is not a subject that most Western acupuncturists are familiar with. However, without at least some understanding of the history of our art in China, it is difficult to truly appraise and appreciate how acupuncture is taught and practiced in China today and, therefore, by extension how it is also taught and practiced at Chinese-dominated schools in the West. Frequently, competing schools and styles of acupuncture in the health care marketplace denigrate modern Chinese acupuncture as being something lesser and debased. Based on our decades of study and practice of this style of acupuncture, we believe this opinion is untrue and obscures the strengths, both pedagogical and clinical, of this style of treatment. Therefore, we would like to say a few things to help set this record straight. Since the early development of acupuncture and moxibustion via the Nei Jing (Inner Classic) and Nan Jing (Classic of Difficulties) is relatively better known, we will begin in the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) when acupuncture was in decline in China and in danger of dying out altogether.

The state of acupuncture in the late Qing dynasty

According to White and Ernst in an article titled “A Brief History of Acupuncture:”

Interest in acupuncture among the Chinese declined from the seventeenth century onwards as it came to be regarded as superstitious and irrational. It was excluded from the Imperial Medical Institute by decree of the Emperor in 1822. The knowledge and skill were retained, however, either as an interest among academics or in everyday use by rural healers.1
From the onset of the Qing dynasty to the Opium Wars (1644-1840), herbal medicine became the main modality of the rising tide of professional scholar physicians and acupuncture was relegated to itinerant folk healers who were largely illiterate.2, 3  During this period in history, China was ruled by a foreign dynasty–the Man-zi or Manchus–and educated ethnic Chinese (the Han-zi) debated among themselves how their great country had come to such a sorry pass. One explanation for this calamity was that the Chinese people had strayed from their sturdy classical roots in Han dynasty Confucianism to the essentially foreign4 and “corrupting” influences of so-called Neo-confucianism. Those who felt this way advocated a national revival via a return to Han learning and especially a rejection of the Song-Jin-Yuan dynasty Neo-confucianism. This Han Xue Pai (School of Han Learning) affected all aspects of Chinese society during the Qing, including medicine, and Xu Da-chun (a.k.a. Xu Ling-tai), the most avid and articulate supporter of this movement within Chinese medicine criticized the acupuncturists of his day “for incorrect channel and point location, over-reliance on formula acupuncture, ignorance of the generic five-phase points, loss of supplementation and draining theory and technique, and ignorance of seasonal correspondences and the methods of internal medicine.”5

Although interested in learning acupuncture and recovering the medical skills of antiquity, Xu complained that he was unable to find anyone learned in acupuncture to teach him the practice.6  Thus, as Xu described, the art of acupuncture was in decline throughout this period. Many acupuncturists seemed to be no more than “pavement physicians” with poor training. Their clinic was often the marketplace; their knowledge of traditional Chinese medicine limited to say the least; their equipment filthy and of poor quality. The majority of “respectable” Chinese doctors practiced herbal medicine and massage rather than acupuncture and moxibustion.7  A contemporary saying asserted that acupuncture needling and moxa cautery were absolutely inappropriate for all gentlemen. Carried out by ignorant itinerants or illiterate elderly women with no knowledge of either anatomy or sanitation, acupuncture and moxibustion frequently resulted in disfiguring burns or festering wounds.8  The final ignominy for acupuncture in China arrived in 1929 when it was outlawed, along with other forms of traditional medicine.9  In fact, by the 1930s, there was only one acupuncturist in all of Canton.10

At the beginning of the 20th century, China’s last imperial government abolished the civil service examination system in 1905 and set up a system of technical schools based on the German-Japanese model, and other educators followed suit with their own technical colleges. Hence, supporters of Chinese medicine also began establishing technical colleges of Chinese medicine during the 1910s and 1920s, but none of these new curricula included acupuncture.11   In 1936, the Nationalist Government first published its regulations governing the licensure of Chinese medicine physicians. These physicians were required to pass examinations in numerous medical subjects, including anatomy and physiology, but the regulations failed to list acupuncture as a necessary or even a desirable skill.12

Cheng Dan-an & the reinvigoration of acupuncture in China

It was Cheng Dan-an who reintroduced and reinvigorated the study and practice of acupuncture in south China during the 1930s. Cheng lived from 1899-1957 and used Western anatomy to rehabilitate acupuncture as a respectable skill. Cheng visited Japan in the early 1930s and studied acupuncture there. This is where he was also exposed to Western ideas about anatomy and physiology as well as Japanese acupuncturists’ responses to these.13  When Cheng returned to China in 1933, he opened the first modern acupuncture college in Wuxi. In Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion Therapeutics (1932), Cheng insisted that acupuncture must be an effective medical therapy because its mechanism of action was the stimulation of the nerves described in European medical theory. Therefore, Cheng repositioned the classical acupoints away from blood vessels (where previously they might have been used for blood-letting) and toward the nerve pathways. He illustrated his revisions by painting the new acupuncture pathways onto the skin of volunteers and then photographing them, a technique that gave his book a greater air of modernity and reflected the increasingly common use of photographic illustrations in European medical books of the time. Cheng's new “scientific” acupuncture was a great success in China. His book went through many editions from 1930 to 1960, and he set up his own college of acupuncture. Graduates of Cheng’s college went on to become important acupuncture practitioners and educators throughout the world. For instance, the late James Tin Yau So, founder of the New England School of Acupuncture, and Ted Kaptchuk, author of The Web That Has No Weaver, were both trained by direct students of Cheng Dan-an.14 Cheng achieved such prominence in the Chinese medical community that after the Communist takeover in 1949, he was asked to serve on several national committees in charge of medical policy and education. Cheng’s work helped acupuncture regain sufficient credibility to be reincorporated into the teaching and practice of the new Chinese medicine.

If we look at Cheng’s Zhong Guo Zhen Jiu Xue (A Study of Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion) published by the People’s Health & Hygiene Press, in 1957,15 what we see is that each chapter is devoted to a traditional Chinese disease category, such as damage due to cold, warm heat diseases, vacuity taxation, coughing and wheezing, etc. Under each disease, Cheng then discusses its disease causes, signs and symptoms, a basic acupuncture-moxibustion treatment protocol, modifications to that protocol, recommended adjunctive treatment (typically very simple herbal formulas, and not recommended in every case), the condition’s prognosis, classical references, and Cheng Dan-an’s personal comments or “notes.” In some cases, there is also a rudimentary discrimination of patterns. In terms of the acupuncture treatment protocols, Cheng gives specific instructions for needling each point. He also recommends moxibustion (usually direct, non-scarring moxibustion) and bleeding.

Communism & acupuncture in China

In 1927, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Kuomintang (KMT, Guo Min Dang) split and the CCP was massacred, with more than four of every five members being killed. The only major section of the party which survived was the section built around Mao Ze-dong which established the Soviet Republic of China in some remote areas within China. After a number of military assaults by the KMT against these enclaves, the CCP had to give up their bases and started their “Long March” (1934-1935) in search of a new base.16  During the Long March, Mao Ze-dong and his followers were largely without modern medical supplies. Thus they were forced to rely on indigenous healers and their methods, including acupuncture-moxibustion. In this way, the new leaders of the Communist Party got a firsthand experience of these modalities and their benefits.

In 1940, the Communist Party set forth a policy of creating a “new democratic culture.” This new culture took as its by-words the new (xin), science (ke xue), and unity (tuan jie). The “new” meant freedom from superstition from the past. Because of the accretionist nature of traditional Chinese society, practical life had become difficult due to so many traditions and beliefs constraining each and every activity. People could not do what needed to be done efficiently and effectively because of the accretion of so many traditional rules and regulations, rituals, and beliefs. By “science,” Mao did not mean the Western scientific method per se but rather the validation of ideas through practical experience. In terms of medicine, these two principles led to the CCP’s support of evidence-based medicine (EBM, although that term was decades away from being coined). “Unity” meant the unification of an empire into a single country, a collection of different peoples into a single people with a single language and culture. Unity also meant that knowledge should be pooled for the benefit of all and that secret, family lore, including medical lore, should become the property of all.17  These principles have had a great impact on the development of Chinese medicine and acupuncture-moxibustion in the People’s Republic of China ever since, and I do not think they are necessarily bad or unnecessary principles.

On October 30, 1944, Mao gave a speech titled “The United Front in Cultural Work” where he called for the up-dating of “old,” i.e., Chinese, medicine with “new” Western medicine in order to create a consolidated form of medicine, a new synthesis which could satisfy the health needs of the Chinese nation. Shortly after this speech, a meeting was called between traditional Chinese and modern Western doctors in the region controlled by the CCP in order to explore “the scientification of Chinese medicine and the popularization of Western medicine.” At this meeting, Ren Zou-tian (1886-1950) offered to teach Western medical practitioners acupuncture and moxibustion so that they could research its healing effects. Zhu Lian, a Western-style MD at that meeting, signed up to take Ren Zou-tian’s class. Zhu was one of the few who continued their study of this art until well after Liberation (1949), eventually publishing her Xin Zhen Jiu Xue (New Acupuncture-Moxibustion). Zhu organized her book according to modern Western medical disease categories and got rid of such traditional concepts of qi, yin, yang, and the five phases. She also eliminated the channel system as a way of organizing the acupoints and introduced the points by body part. Like Cheng Dan-an, she believed that acupuncture worked mainly by way of the nerves. However, at roughly the same time, Lu Shou-yan (1909-1969) published a book titled Zheng Jiu Zheng Zong (A Gathering of Orthodox Acupuncture & Moxibustion). While Lu also organized his book by Western medical diseases, he kept the channel and network vessel system.18  Thus we see that Zhu’s radical elimination of traditional Chinese medical theory from the “New Acumoxa” was short-lived and never wholly supported. In fact, Zhu’s influence waned through the 1950s. Nevertheless, she was instrumental in the preservation and development of acupuncture during the early days of New China.19

The advent of Chinese medical colleges

A number of private Chinese medical colleges, organized similar to Western-style colleges and universities as opposed to the old master-disciple apprenticeship, had been founded in Republican China, especially in Shanghai. However, in 1956, government-supported colleges of Chinese medicine were founded in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, and Beijing.20 These colleges all had departments of acupuncture and moxibustion,21 and these departments needed textbooks and curricula.22 In creating such didactic materials, “the new,” “science,” and “unity” were still basic principles promoted by the CCP. Superstitions were eliminated, the remainder was clinically and sometimes even experimentally verified, and a concerted attempt was made to synthesize the various family, regional, and theoretical schools of acupuncture. In this effort, the classics and other premodern texts on acupuncture-moxibustion were consulted and cited. However, individual experimentation with self-needling was also encouraged in an attempt to find out the “truth” of past practices and prohibitions. Therefore, there was an attempt to blend the best of the past with A) what was clinically verifiable in the present and B) Western biomedical anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, and disease categorization and diagnosis.

In addition, since internal or so-called herbal medicine had risen to preeminence within the practice of Chinese medicine since at least the beginning of the Qing dynasty, most of the famous “old Chinese doctors”23 involved in this reorganization and systematization were themselves primarily practitioners of internal medicine. In attempting to create a single systematized methodology for diagnosis and treatment, these leaders essentially adopted and adapted the methodology of Chinese herbal medicine to acupuncture and moxibustion. By this I mean the step-by-step movement from disease diagnosis (now a modern Western disease followed by corresponding traditional Chinese medical diseases) to pattern discrimination to treatment principles to treatment plan, with the treatment plan consisting of a basic formula which is then modifiable by additions and subtractions as individually necessary. Under the rubric of unity, this basic methodology was applied to Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture-moxibustion, tui na or Chinese medical massage, Chinese dietary therapy, and all the other modalities and specialties that were incorporated into the state-endorsed and promoted version of Chinese medicine. Because of this unification of methodology, Chinese doctors could now speak to one another and share information, peer review one another, refer over the length and breadth of China, and teach efficiently. Students were taught a step-by-step methodology which had standards of right and wrong as well as standards of care (SOC).

This adoption of the methodology of internal medicine resulted in the “herbalization” of Chinese acupuncture and moxibustion. Prior to this, acupoints were not ascribed theoretical functions. Now they were. Therefore, one could now say that Zu San Li (St 36) fortifies the spleen and supplements the qi, harmonizes the middle and disinhibits the qi dynamic. These theoretical functions are simply abstractions based on a Chinese medical understanding of the disease mechanisms responsible for the diseases a point is empirically known to remedy, i.e., its clinical indications. An example of this “herbalization” of acupuncture during this time is Wang Le-ting’s creation of acupuncture formulas based on the theories of Li Dong-yuan in which each acupoint is described as if it were a corresponding medicinal in one of Li’s formulas. Thus Wang had acupuncture analogs to Li’s Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang (Supplement the Center & Boost the Qi Decoction) and Tiao Zhong Yi Qi Tang (Regulate the Center & Boost the Qi Decoction) among others.24   Wang was a very famous acupuncturist and teacher of acupuncture in northern China, and his formulas and methods were very influential during the 1970s and 1980s.

The Cultural Revolution

No account of the development of modern Chinese medicine can fail to include the Cultural Revolution. The “Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution” was a struggle for power within the Communist Party of China that manifested as wide-scale social, political, and economic chaos which grew to include large sections of Chinese society and eventually brought the entire country to the brink of civil war. It was launched by Mao Ze-dong, the Chairman of the CCP, on May 16, 1966 officially as a campaign to rid China of its “liberal bourgeoisie” and to continue revolutionary class struggle.25  Once set in motion, the Cultural Revolution generated waves of power struggles between rival factions both nationally and locally. Although Mao himself officially declared the Cultural Revolution to have ended in 1969, the term is today widely used to also include the period between 1969 and the arrest of the Gang of Four in 1976.26

During the Cultural Revolution, political correctness was prized above all else under the motto, “Better Red than expert.” In fact, all schools were shut down, including medical colleges, both Western and Chinese. In order to provide minimal health care to the masses, so-called barefoot doctors were trained in three and sixth month “paramedic” classes seasoned with heavy doses of political indoctrination. Since acupuncture in its simplest form is easy to teach and learn and since it is a prototypically Chinese art, acupuncture was an important part of this paramedic training. This acupuncture, called New Acumoxa, was a stripped down form that could be taught in a matter of weeks, not years. It used a repertoire of only the most famous points for basically symptomatic indications along with very strong stimulation. In addition, the few books on this “People’s” form of acupuncture that were published (some of which were translated into English) included verbose passages of hortatory party rhetoric. Since the influence of the Cultural Revolution lasted until 1976, and Nixon “opened” China to the West in 1972, it was this New Acumoxa that suddenly was exported to the West.27

This super-simplified version of acupuncture was denigrated by overseas (KMT) Chinese acupuncturists as “Maoist acupuncture” or “Communist acupuncture.” I [Bob] can remember my first acupuncture teacher, the late Eric Tao (Hsi-yu), reading to us from an acupuncture book published in China during the Cultural Revolution and mocking the politically inspired passages. And it is true this New Acumoxa was only a pale reflection of this ancient art. It is also true that during the Cultural Revolution, access to the premodern classics of Chinese medicine was drastically curtailed. Teachers at the state college of Chinese medicine who had advocated such “archaic” things as five phase theory were beaten and even forced to commit suicide because of their “feudal,” “reactionary” beliefs.

However, by the late 1970s, the state colleges of Chinese medicine were open again along with their libraries. Teachers who had been “sent down to the countryside” were brought back and reinstated, and the Chinese became aware of Westerners’ growing interest in acupuncture. In order to export this great indigenous Chinese art to the rest of the world, the four main colleges of Chinese medicine­–Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing, and Guangzhou–developed three month crash courses in acupuncture-moxibustion for foreigners. These three month courses were jointly sponsored and endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and were aimed primarily at Western MDs.28  In order to have a textbook for these courses, the Foreign Languages Press in Beijing compiled and published what was first know as Outline of Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion. Several years later, this became Essentials of Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion which became Introduction to Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion. This book was created specifically to teach acupuncture to Western MDs in a very short period of time. While the theory this book contained was more than that of the New Acumoxa of the Cultural Revolution, it was highly simplified, as suggested by its names “Outline” and “Essentials.” This was due to two different points of view held by the Chinese at that time. First, Chinese believed that there was only so much Westerners could understand of traditional Chinese culture. Therefore, theory was kept to a minimum and technical medical terms were commonly and inexactly translated by Western biomedical terms. Secondly, there was only so much of their nation’s precious secrets these Chinese wanted to share with foreigners. During this time, I [Bob] was told that I was not allowed to purchase more in-depth Chinese books on acupuncture and Chinese medicine because I was a foreigner, that such teachings were nei bu (内部), for internal consumption only. The point I am getting at here is that the Chinese medicine taught to foreigners in the late 1970s and early-to-mid- 1980s was not necessarily representative of the state of the art in China itself. By the early 1980s, doctors were free to read any of the thousands of premodern books contained in their schools’ libraries, and they were free to explore in clinic a wide variety of theories and treatment approaches. Therefore, by the mid-1980s, any perceived paucity of information or lack of depth in the study and practice of Chinese medicine in China , including acupuncture-moxibustion, was only that, a lack of knowledge on the part of Westerners of the state of the art in China because of distance and inability to read the primary language literature in its original language. By this time, the political harangues of the Cultural Revolution had been edited out of books and other teaching materials. What remained were those theories and techniques which had been proven to work in clinic.

By proven here, we do not just mean based on the anecdotal evidence of individual case histories. Chinese students and doctors have been engaged now for decades in doing both clinical and experimental research verifying that acupuncture-moxibustion does work. Scores (if not hundreds) of well-designed studies are published in Chinese medical journals each year. These consist of retrospective cohort studies and prospective, randomized, comparison trials. Not only is there a huge body of evidence that acupuncture works, there is also a huge body of clinical and experimental evidence of how it works in terms of Western biomedicine.

The strong points of modern Chinese acupuncture

Over the last 30 years or more, we have studied most of the main national and many individual styles of acupuncture: Japanese meridian acupuncture, Korean constitutional acupuncture, Taiwanese five phase acupuncture, Leamington (or Worsleyan) five element acupuncture, European biomedical acupuncture, and modern Vietnamese acupuncture to name a few, and, personally, we find nothing second-rate or lesser about modern Chinese acupuncture from the People’s Republic of China. In fact, we find a lot about modern Chinese acupuncture that I think is worthwhile and even superior to other available styles.

First, through a process of broad-based study, clinical and experimental research, and consensus among the eminent Chinese acupuncturists of the mid-20th century, the superstitious, clinically unverifiable accretions of 2,000 years have been rightfully winnowed, separating the wheat from the chaff. As a neophyte, I [Bob] often worried that the Chinese had “thrown the baby out with the bathwater.” However, three decades on, I no longer feel that way. As I myself have become a more knowledgeable and mature practitioner, I see that many of my naive and romantic Orientalist beliefs were just that, naive and romantic and not grounded in clinical reality. I know of nothing in the history of Chinese medicine which is clinically efficacious that is not currently available in modern Chinese medicine, including acupuncture and moxibustion. The study and consensus that resulted in the systematization of Chinese medicine and acupuncture was not carried out by uneducated political hacks but by the greatest Chinese scholar-doctors and clinical practitioners of their day, and I believe these preeminent authorities did an excellent job overall.

Secondly, this system is organized in such a way that it is relatively easy to teach with generally reproducible results. One only has to look at the number of U.S. acupuncture schools (approximately 60 as of this writing) basically teaching the Chinese medical and acupuncture curriculum developed in China in the mid-20th century and the number of graduates they turn out each year able to pass state and national licensing examinations. While some of these graduates may fail to succeed at private practice, in my experience this is not due to their Chinese medical education as much as it has to do with their lack of preparation to be small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Third, this system has a definite, step-by-step methodology that can be critiqued and peer-reviewed at every step of the way. Using this system of practice, there are not only good, better, and best answers, but there are also right and wrong answers to our patients’ clinical conundrum. This is important in our world which is increasingly dominated by third party payees (Workers’ Comp., private insurance, etc.) and their need for quality control. Because this system has definite standards, adherence to these standards can be judged by others.

Fourth, because this system has standards, it is “portable.” By this we mean that one can refer a patient to another practitioner of this system and have some assurance that treatment will be the same or basically similar to that initiated elsewhere. This is important because we live in a mobile society. One can only make good referrals if one can be sure of the quality of care the patient will receive from the practitioner to whom they are referred. Since there are norms within this system, such an assurance is possible (as long as one adheres to those norms).

Fifth, because so much research has been done in China using this system, there is a great deal of evidence backing up the clinical efficacy of this system. Unfortunately, too few Western students are currently able to read this literature in its original language, and there is also too much of it to realistically translate it all. Nevertheless, this Chinese research can tell us whether or not an acupuncture protocol works in patients with a specific pattern of a specific Western disease. In medicine, clinical outcomes are the bottom line, and there is no lack of clinical and experimental research using this system. Thus we can say that modern Chinese acupuncture most certainly is evidence-based medicine.


In our opinion, it is not modern Chinese acupuncture that is lacking in terms of either sophistication of theories or clinically effective techniques. Rather, in our experience, it is Western students’ and practitioners’ understanding and application of this system as a system that is responsible for most of its clinical failures outside the country of its origin. The more we non-Chinese practitioners understand and apply this system as it is applied in China, the better results we will see. This means not only picking the right points based on the patient’s pattern discrimination but also scheduling treatments close enough so that one treatment really does build on the positive effects of the previous one. In any case, it is our belief that modern Chinese acupuncture is not some debased form of acupuncture but rather it is as mature and clinically effective a form of this art as any the world has seen.

1  White, A. & Ernst, E., “A Brief History of Acupuncture,” cgi/content/full/43/5/662, last retrieved 3/11/2008
2  “History of Acupuncture in China,”, Suvow, Scott, L.Ac., last retrieved 3/11/2008
3  For an excellent discussion and description of this rising tide in professional scholar-physicians, see Volker Scheid’s Currents of Tradition in Chinese Medicine 1626-2006, Eastland Press, Seattle, 2007.
4    Neo-confucianism was strongly influenced by Buddhism which had won the hearts and minds of the Chinese people during the Tang dynasty (618-907). In order to coopt this interest in Buddhist cosmology and metaphysics, Neo-confucianists attempted to put a Chinese face on this adopted cosmology and metaphysics. However, those who were interested in ethnic pride and, therefore, purity, saw Buddhism as a foreign import from India.
5  Fishman, Jon, “The History of Acupuncture,”, last retrieved 3/11/2008
6  Andrews, Bridie J., “Acupuncture and the Reinvention of Chinese Medicine,”, last retrieved 3/11/2008
7  Lewith, George T., “The History of Acupuncture in China,”, last retrieved 3/11/2008
8  Andrews, op. cit.
9  White, A. & Ernst, E., op. cit., last retrieved 3/11/2008
10 Fishman, Jon, op. cit.
11 Andrews, op. cit.
12 Ibid.
13 Elman, Benjamin A., “On Their Own Terms: Science in China, 1550-1900”, books?id=KPEpPhlzPg0C&pg=PA408&lpg=PA408&dq=cheng+%22dan+an%22&source=web&ots=mqYgUdTSR-&sig=qj-ytPvBw_EOZ_ 8vgNDygFx6WlU&hl=en#PPA408,M1, last retrieved 3/11/2008
14 Dr. So’s Mandarin name was Su Tian-you. He was a student of Zeng Tian-zhi, a brilliant disciple of Cheng Dan-an. Dr. So began practicing medicine in 1939 and established Acupuncture and Moxibustion Medical College of Hong Kong in 1940. Dr. So lived and worked in a number of different countries during his life and founded a number of acupuncture colleges. He is sometimes respectfully referred to as “the father of American acupuncture and moxibustion.”
15 A partial translation of this book is available under the title of Acupuncture and Moxibustion Formulas & Treatments, translated and edited by Wu Ming, Blue Poppy Press, Boulder, CO, 1996.
16 “The Communist Party of China,” Wikipedia, Communist_Party_of_China, last retrieved 3/11/2008
17 Hsu, Elizabeth, “Innovation in Chinese Medicine,” BbYYstLfSyUC&pg=RA1-PA354&lpg=RA1-PA354&dq=cheng+%22dan+an%22&source= web&ots=kE02iVok6A&sig=zfrS1bynu5i3GqPrCO_Qa-ihzkA&hl=en#PRA1-PA345,M1, last retrieved 3/11/2008
18 Ibid.
19 New China is the CCP’s term for China after Liberation in 1949.
20 “2000 Years of Chinese Acupuncture,” _Exhibition.pdf, last retrieved 3/11/2008
21 In the ensuing years, many more provincial and metropolitan colleges of Chinese medicine were founded, so that every province and major city has such a college, all with acupuncture and moxibustion departments.
22 In particular, much of the development of this standardized Chinese medical curriculum took place at the Shanghai College of Chinese Medicine, now the Shanghai University of Chinese Medicine & Pharmacology. This university is the lineal successor of the private Chinese medical colleges founded in Shanghai (primarily by the students of Ding Gan-ren) during the Republican period. Therefore, in a sense, the early teachers at the Shanghai College of Chinese Medicine were simply carrying forward a process of systematizing Chinese medicine and its teaching that had started well before the advent of New China.
23 Lao zhong yi, old Chinese doctor, is a title of respect attesting to both clinical acumen and efficacy. It is not just a recognition of a doctor’s chronological age. This title implies that it takes many years for one’s understanding and practice of Chinese medicine to really mature. This is because of the volume of (oftentimes conflicting) information that must be retained precisely as well as the judgment based on clinical experience that is necessary for this information’s successful application. Lao yi sheng are the senior teachers, authors, and theoreticians of Chinese medicine.
24 For more information on Wang Le-ting’s formulas, see Golden Needle Wang Le-ting: A 20th Century Master’s Approach to Acupuncture by Yu Hui-c

Friday, September 18, 2015

Autumn is here! Is your clinic ready?

After the often slower Summer season, Autumn is, traditionally, a season when acupuncture practitioners see the most patients in our clinics. Fall seasonal allergies, changeable weather with fluctuating temperatures, and exposure to more pathogens from school-aged children are all factors that can bring more people to our door.

How can you encourage and make the most of this trend?

1. Signage inside your clinic. Make sure you have some signs up on the wall or in plexiglass sign-holders telling your patients (or anyone who visits your clinic for any reason) that acupuncture and Chinese medicine can be helpful care for seasonal allergies, sinusitis, pediatric earache and cough, cold and flu symptoms. Both herbal medicines and acupuncture can be helpful, but you can also advertise preventive, immune-boosting acupuncture treatments during this season.
2. Fall Acupuncture packages. Why not offer a package deal for 3-5 treatments over a 2-3 week period to help strengthen the immune system and relieve stress?
3. Waiting room displays. If you carry products like Cold Quell and CQ Jr, Lung Qi Jr., Moisten Dryness, Aller-Ease, Fragrant Passage, and Golden Qi, that support a return to balance for patients with some of the conditions listed above, why not create a little display with some of these products, including one of those signs to show people that you have formulas on hand that can help them as well as their children through some of the common ailments of Autumn?
4. Blog posts and YouTube videos on your website. Write articles or, better yet, create a very short YouTube video to post front and center on your website and/or on your YouTube channel (create one for free), to demonstrate an "Autumn" Qigong exercise, an "Autumn" Jook or Conjee recipe, an "Autumn" self-massage protocol, or explain an "Autumn" medicinal wine recipe? While sharing something useful at no charge, you get to demonstrate your knowledge and perhaps mention that package deal discussed in #1 above.
5. Articles in local newsletters. If your town has any large(ish) employers, I'll bet they have an in-house, online newsletter. Ask if you can post a health article twice a year or quarterly. The only thing you ask is to put a contact email or website URL at the end of the article. In this forum, you don't advertise yourself. You share something useful about how to stay healthy. Photos are great to use in this format.
6. Does your town have a Fall festival, Octoberfest, or other community event? How could you participate in these events: a booth or a float in the local parade sponsored by 5-10 local acupuncturists, joining a committee that has lots of other folks involved? However you get involved, this shows that you are a participant in and someone who cares about your community. Don't underestimate the power of this kind of volunteering.
7. Schedule a free talk at an upcoming PTA meeting. In our society, Mothers make most of their families' healthcare decisions. What better place to find lots of Moms that at a PTA meeting? Give a talk about managing children's earaches or coughs through Chinese medicine (once any serious infection has been ruled out by the child's PCP). We have to say that even if we wish they'd come to us first. This project is even easier if you know someone in your community who is a member of the PTA and can mention your name to the right person in the association.

So there are a few ideas for pumping up your practice during the Fall. Thanks for reading it. Good luck and stay healthy!

Next...Watch for my video presentation on treating the common cold with tuina, coming to the Blue Poppy YouTube channel next week!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What is tuina and how is it different from other massage forms?

As promised in my last blog, here is the next installment about Tuina. IN this blog I discuss the most important method of the Shanghai family school, guen-fa or rolling method. You can see the entire course (actually 3 courses) that I offer on tuina and how to combine it successfully with acumoxa therapy at Blue Poppy's website on the following page.
There are also some videos of simple techniques at the Blue PoppyTV Youtube page.
This blog is excerpted from the handout notes for the entire series of classes on Tuina Basic Techniques and Specific Treatments for Specific Ailments.
Thanks for reading my blog.

Tui simply means to push and na means to grasp, although there are a dozen different specific movements or techniques to most schools of tuina. Some of these have analogs in various Western massage forms, but the most important ones do not. Also, the basis for using tuina is pattern discrimination (bian zheng lun zhi) exactly the same as any other sort of therapy used in Chinese medicine.
  1. What does Tuina do physiologically? From the point of view of Chinese medical treatment principles, its main function is to move and rectify the qi and quicken the blood to resolve stasis. Some treatments state that they are supplementing or draining specific points and, by extension, specific viscera and bowels so that they will perform their jobs with more efficiency. One example of that might be to supplement the spleen so that it can transform and transport fluids more effectively. More of these discussions may come up as we go through this material.
  2. There are, historically, five schools of tuina therapy. The one that is most important in Shanghai is the Rolling School, which is the style of tuina in which I was trained. This style is flexible, includes many specific techniques, and has a broad range of application in terms of conditions and symptoms for which it is commonly applied.
  3. The six main techniques of this style and that I will cover and demonstrate in this video include: Rolling method, Kneading method, Pressing method, Grasping method, Twisting method, and Rub rolling method. There are a few other, less important techniques that we will cover more briefly as they are similar to massage therapy techniques in the West, while these main techniques have no Western massage analog.
  4. Many of these techniques may be accompanied by passive movements of the limbs or head. I will discuss what each of these techniques is indicated for as I demonstrate them.
  5. What are the essential requirements for effective tuina therapy? The Chinese list four main and one secondary characteristic of the form as general requirements for successful outcomes.
    1. The therapy must be gentle so that it does not damage the tissues  (GENTLE)
    2. The therapy must have enough qi power behind it to penetrate the tissue (POWERFUL)
    3. The movements must be even and smooth throughout contact with the patient (EVEN & SMOOTH)
    4. The therapy must last long enough to engender a change in the tissue (ENDURING)
    5. Finally, in some cases passive movements must be added where appropriate (PASSIVE MOVEMENTS)
    6. The correct movements of the therapist’s hand, wrist and body must be mastered. This is important to keep you from injuring your wrist, hand, elbow, or low back.
    7. In the case of injury management or specific musculoskeletal conditions and diseases, we may also apply liniments or herbal compresses of one type or another.
A word about your practice bag…
In Chinese medical school, tuina students begin their practice on a rice bag, although I suppose any grain would do the job. Instructions for making a rice bag are included with the notes, but basically it is a double layer of a soft fabric such as flannel or very smooth cotton for the sake of the skin over your knuckles, about 6 or 7 inches by 10-12 inches and very, very stuffed. If you don’t stuff it as full as absolutely possible, practice is frustrating as your movements work all the rice out of the way and you are down to the table almost instantly. The Tuina “lore” says that you should have worked your rice into flour before you are allowed to touch a patient. In this video, I will demonstrate each movement first on the rice bag and then on a human being. By the way, animals also love tuina!

With that introduction, let’s begin with the first and most important technique of the rolling school, which is Rolling method.

Rolling Method (Guen Fa)
This movement is the basis or foundation upon which most of this school is built. This movement is used for the neck, back, shoulder, and limbs, but not for the face or abdomen. It utilizes the strength of the entire core and upper body transferred through the shoulder, arm, wrist and hand. The important features start with the practitioner’s body position.

Body position
Again, this is important to master to keep you from injuring your own body, especially your forearm and wrist.
  1. knees slightly bent, core awake or engaged, shoulders and hips straight ahead of you
  2. body at a 45 degree angle to the treatment table
  3. relax shoulder down, keep elbow close to your body
  4. use the arm that is away from the table, not the one closest to the table
  5. Your wrist is relaxed, almost limp, never stiff
  6. The main contact with the patient is made with the triangle of the knuckles and the large end, or styloid process of the ulna
Then, using the distal end or styloid process of the radius to describe an arc, you move that part of your wrist back and forth in a wave like motion  away from and your body. Again, the carpal bones on the back of the hand, extending out to the knuckles, form a sort of triangle that is the surface actually making contact with the patient’s body, which, by the way, is usually clothed or covered with a cloth to protect their skin as well as their modesty.

This movement is extremely efficient. When done well it penetrates deeply without pain and should be maintained for 6-8-10 minutes as the first movement done on most body parts. It is often combined with passive movements and with liniments, which we will return to later on. All the other techniques are subordinant to this main technique.

When beginning your practice, start with little to no pressure in your hand and wrist and work up to stronger pressure as your hand and wrist strengthen. Keep practice sessions to 20-30 minutes maximum. Otherwise you can create tendonitis! I’m serious about this. Increase your pressure slowly over a period of days and weeks until you can feel the tissue moving pretty deeply underneath your hand and wrist….up to a few kilos of pressure per square centimeter.

Lots more in these notes...but cannot give it all away free. Thanks for reading. Check out the video link for a hot compress for pain recipe.