Physical or Energetic?

A new client recently asked me the difference between accupressure points and trigger points, and how that difference informed my perspective when I blended thai massage and barefoot deep tissue. Her question points to the fascinating interplay between the energetic and physical, and this is how I have come to understand it (this may evolve, and others may have different understandings!)

Many textbooks on, or related to, Energy Meridians use the following analogy: Meridians are like rivers, the energy flows within channels, and the flow is either blocked (stagnant energy) or excessive. Needles or fingers are used on specific points along the meridians and the aim is to restore harmonious flow, by either removing or adding more energy (encouraging extra energy from one meridian to shift to the one that is lacking, or vice-versa). The work is based on a body of knowledge that understands how energy pathways work in the body and are interrelated. A healthy flow is restored energetically.

In the case of Trigger Point work (or generally deep tissue), the perspective is clearly physical, looking for tension areas or what feels like knots (often a knot feels like a pea to me.) This approach uses knowledge about muscles, movement, and body mechanics and aims to restore optimal muscle function.

If we go back to the river analogy used to describe energy pathways, restoring optimal muscle function is in way like removing a rock or debris in a river, and helps remove stagnation and restore optimal flow in those rivers. So say you have a tight shoulder. I can press on what is commonly known as the Trapezius Trigger Point 2, and also happens to be pretty much the location for Gallbladder 10. I am relieving the physical tension caused by muscle dysfunction, but I am also clearing blockage on Gallbladder 10 which allows more easeful flow of energy.
It happens that most of my training has been in Barefoot Deep Tissue and Trigger Point Therapy. In Thai massage, the perspective is more global and aims at restoring overall wellness, so my understanding of how all the energy pathways work together is limited.

The best approach depends on each individual’s situation and preference. Ultimately, a good acupuncturist can address both physical and energetic problems, while the techniques I offer are most effective in addressing physical issues and will incidentally improve energetic ones.

In the session together with my new client, I started with a Thai massage approach and switched to Barefoot work once she was side-lying. I have found that this type of work is wonderfully effective at addressing tension areas in the glutes and shoulder muscles, which in this and many other cases appear to be physical in nature. The overall effect provides a deeply satisfying experience. Once I switch to Barefoot work, I keep the flow very similar to the one in Thai massage, though I slow down a bit and focus my attention on the physical sensation of the muscles.

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  1. thanks for the good information! a great perspective!

    Hannah Apricot, June 7, 2010

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