“Opening the Outlets:” Acupuncture as Detox Therapy
Many of us who are committed to taking care of ourselves do a lot to keep our bodies and minds strong. Some of us go to the gym to build muscle tone, go jogging or do cardiovascular-aerobic activity to keep our hearts healthy, see a therapist to keep our minds in order, or meditate and do yoga to find balance and peace. These have become the standards of healthy practices within our culture.
Acupuncture teaches that the exterior of the body must be strong and healthy to protect the inside the body. The muscles, skin, bowels and sense organs are the “outlets” of the internal organs. They are the ways the vitally important viscera are able to detox poison so they can keep the body healthy and alive.
Without the heart, liver, lungs and pancreas, the body is not able to function. This fact is acknowledged by all. Living in the world, we are exposed to a lot of “poisons” that challenge the internal organs. Stress, food additives, mercury, pesticides, virus, bacterial, fungus and inter-personal conflict are all examples of “stressors” on the body.
External stressors such as virus and pollution can eventually find their way into the internal organs if the muscles and skin are not strong enough to buffer.
The emotions and diet, originating from inside the body, have quick effects on the internal organs. If the skin, muscles, bowels or sense organs are “blocked,” the internal organs have no outlet to detox. They must therefore either hold onto the poisons, or translocate them into the joints where they are held until the body can no longer handle them. When there is no more strength to hold onto the poisons, they will begin to leak out, causing auto-intoxication, or systemic poisoning throughout the body, which can be fatal.
Acupuncture teaches the importance of keeping the muscles, skin, bowels and sense organs “open” and unblocked; this is what keeps them strong. I’ve yet to find a more effective therapy for keeping things open and moving than acupuncture. It is a system of medicine that works with “energy,” acknowledging that free flow of the body’s vital energy and fluid-humors is essential for health.
A common treatment practice within acupuncture is the use of “Gua Sha” to free up stagnant blood flow within the muscles. “Gua Sha” uses a massage tool with a blunt edge to scrape the skin. It feels like a deep massage: relaxing and loosening muscle tension. The skin reacts to “Gua Sha” in a dramatic way. The stagnant blood within the muscle will come to the surface as a red, purple or blue “bruise.” The bruise can look bright and dark depending on the amount of blood stasis in the area. The “bruise” does not hurt however. Instead, there is a feeling of looseness that is relieving.
Blood stasis within the muscles is a major taxation on the body’s immune system. There is a common saying in Chinese Medicine: “to expel wind, one must move the blood.”
The climatic metaphor of “wind” is used to describe any factor that is challenging the body. “Wind” can be in the form of a virus, bacterial or fungal agent; it can also be in the form of pollution, or even a change occurring externally or internally that the body is having a hard time adjusting to.
The blood must be moving freely through the muscles in order for “wind” to be discharged. “Wind” that is not able to be discharged can move deeper into the body, eventually finding its way into the internal organs. “Wind” can also be chronically “held” in the muscles as pain, stiffness, numbness or neuropathy; or in the sense organs or bowels as allergies.
The ancient Chinese acknowledged the necessity of keeping the external anatomy of the body “open.” Going to the gym may build the muscles, but it won’t “open” the muscles if they are blocked. Psychotherapy can bring stuck emotions or thoughts up to the surface of consciousness, but if the muscles, skin and sense organs are blocked, they won’t be able to be discharged.
Acupuncture discovers the exact areas of blockage in the body, and opens the “outlets” by freeing the vital energy and blood, so proper detox can occur.
The body is a magnificent machine: it is able to regulate and heal itself. However, the body must be open and “free-flowing” for this to occur. If we are “stuck” physically or mentally, our capacity to let go of toxins, and bring in nourishment will be compromised.
Within Chinese Medicine, which is heavily based on Taoist spiritual philosophy, the body is honored as “the vehicle of the spirit.” The processes of “letting go” and “taking in” are both physical as well as spiritual. There is no separation between the spiritual and physical within Classical Chinese Medicine. Blockage in the body will affect spiritual “openness” and receptivity, manifesting in the mind and emotions. We may feel clogged with toxic thoughts or emotions, overwhelmed with stressors, or devoid of will or motivation. To clear the stagnation affecting the spirit, the “outlets” must be opened. There is little difference between detoxing on the spiritual level and on the physical level. To treat one level is to treat all levels.
Treating the body is treating the spirit, as the spirit manifests through the body. Yoga and meditation are often used to “release the spirit.” Just as psychotherapy brings buried thoughts and emotions to the surface, yoga and mediation can do the same on the spiritual level. However, if the “outlets” are blocked, the body, mind and spirit will have a difficult time “letting go” of whatever has been unearthed.
Acupuncture is a powerful support tool in mental and spiritual, as well as physical cultivation and detoxification. Working with an acupuncturist allows the exact area of blockage to be located, supporting a focused and individualized method of “opening up.”