|November 2th 2022|
|It’s marathon season New York and the big race is on Sunday. People flock here from all over the world and spend days training on the Central Park and West Side Highway jogging paths, which are now teeming with determined faces. People derive much satisfaction from this race and a great sense of achievement: their mental faculties are tested to the limit, there is the deep thrill of exceeding their personal best, youthfulness is affirmed, there’s the joy of crossing the finish line, and then there are tales to tell. That’s all marvelous—self-challenging is essential to growth. Frankly, as a person who’s chief exercise is qigong and a good brisk walk, being able to run a marathon looks like a miracle. Celebration aside, as a practitioner it’s a different story. To witness right here in my office the profound dehydration, the systemic exhaustion, the aging, and the mental fatigue in marathon runners, and to refrain from advising against running, is a test in itself. |
And then there are the injuries. This morning a patient training for the big race came in for the early morning emergency spot—a half hour I keep open before the first scheduled patient, expressly for fresh injuries, the common cold, trauma, sudden loss or shock—anything that can’t wait. The patient had had a searing pain at the side of his foot for ten days and was unable to dorsiflex his foot (bend his foot upward). In the past ten days he’d had physical therapy, magnetic therapy, salt baths, then an X-ray and MRI, among myriad other treatments and diagnostics. With a smile, I asked him why acupuncture was the last port of call.
“I thought it was broken. I mean how could acupuncture help with that? Now I know it’s not broken so I’m really hoping you can help because I am running that race no matter what. Everyone I go to says my foot is in perfect condition, all tests negative, no swelling, no fracture, nothing. But I can’t step on it and nobody knows why.”
The last sentence was key. “Is that the most difficult movement? Bearing weight?”
“Yes, absolutely. It’s agony.”
The sinew channels—the most superficial of the complement channels—are where we treat difficulty with movement. When the most difficult movement is bearing one’s own weight, the sinew channel named after the stomach—the one that runs down the center swath of the abdomen and the front of the legs—is the channel that contains, or has assumed the injury. It could be anywhere on that channel. I palpated down the channel beginning at the head, then going all the way down the abdomen, then the thigh, until I got halfway down the shin muscle (tibias anterior) when I felt as though I’d struck a rock.
“Here’s your problem, right here.”
“Look, I believe you because I just believe you, but seriously, it doesn’t hurt there at all, I’m here for my foot!”
He laughed in the kindest way, but he was certain that I was barking up the wrong tree.
“Well, the proof is in the needling. Let’s see!”
I put a tiny needle at the cuticle of the second toe and then needled very superficially into the tight spot half way up the shin, turned the needle and pulled it out immediately.
“Ouch, that was insanely painful. Wait a minute, I’m sweating. How many more of those babies?”
“Well, let’s see? Bend your foot up toward your knee.”
“No kidding, it is truly not there. I don’t feel it at all!”
“Yes, pain refers. The movement that’s difficult tells us where an injury is referring, then all the practitioner has to do is find it by palpating along that channel. You’re lucky it wasn’t in your face.”
“You would do that to my face?”
“The injury could refer there, yes. To free your foot, you would have the choice of a nasty needle in your face for half a second, or a foot you can’t run on. But in your case for the freeing of your foot, the location on the stomach sinew channel that needs to be released is on your shin.”
“This is totally wild. They were talking about cortisone shots, crutches, anti-inflammatory drugs, even anti-anxiety meds…”
“This knowledge is thousands of years old. It’s also the most natural medicine on the planet—purely energetic. Try acupuncture first next time. Right now, we don’t know whether we’ve achieved full healing until you put weight on it.”
He got off the table.
“Look, I can jump on it. Seriously.”
“Then we are done. It’s not always that simple—you got lucky!”
I’m not holding my breath—next week I’ll be treating him for exhaustion.
November 2, 2022