Author: Valley Health Clinic

Shu Point Booklet

Shu Point Booklet

Back Shu Point Theory – Fast Facts

  • The Shu points are often used diagnostically.
  • Testing the Shu points allows you to get a sense of a patient’s response as it happens.
  • There’s no specific needling technique—it’s about testing to figure out which technique works best in each situation.
  • Shu Point diagnosis can impact your physical treatment/needling, as well as herbal treatments, but should mostly inform physical treatment.

Back Shu Points in Practice

  • Affected Shu points can change throughout the day.
    • Often, Shu point diagnosis can resemble “chronotherapy” because the time of day matters.
    • The same point may be affected on multiple patients at the same time of day.
  • Back Shu points tend to be (but aren’t always) paired.
    • Occasionally a paired meridian, or you could have bleed-through to other points.
    • Not always on the same channel.
  • Back Shu points are easier to access while the patient is lying supine (face-up).
    • You can get a more neutral reaction from the areas that aren’t involved.
    • You get feedback from a patient’s face that lets you know how the treatment is going.
  • The ANGLE of needling matters.
    • A point will sometimes respond a little, then respond more as you change the direction of your needle angle.
    • A point will sometimes not respond unless it is angled correctly.
  • Testing the Shu points can help balance and relax the patient.
    • Testing Shu points early in the appointment can promote better treatment later on.
  • Think of having a conversation with each Shu point you’re testing. “Ask” the point, “How is this?” by your palpation and listen to its response.

What if you find multiple tight spots when you scan the Shu points?

  • Combine what you feel with what the patient feels, but rely mostly one what YOU feel. Many people don’t live inside their bodies enough to realize they have tight points in multiple places.
  • Often multiple points are related. Look for pairings and anglings that address both.
  • The number of points you treat during a session depends on the individual—whether they’re new or experienced, etc.
  • Take note of which areas were tight, and which points were affective, for reference at the next appointment.

Watching Your Patient
In the supine position, you can check in with your patient more easily. Things to check include verbal cues, as well as their color and expression.

Color

  • Yellow – A slight yellow tinge is a good sign.
  • Pink or red – Time to check in.
  • Green or pale – Time to slow down!

Musculature/expression

  • Facial expression or musculature seems to melt – patient is relaxed and will likely respond better to further treatments.
  • Tightening up – Time to check in or slow down.
Shi Acupuncture Points

Treatment Flow Using the Shu Points

Check in with your patient if they’re new: what’s their experience with acupuncture? How do they feel about needles?

General Flow of Treatment:

  • Assess the patient’s concerns—is it more musculoskeletal or more internal medical? Ask related questions based on their condition to gain information on which points to test.
  • Test the tongue and pulse if it is the patient’s first appointment, or if they are a repeat patient with internal medical concerns.
  • Start with patient in supine position to test the muscles, abdomen, and Shu points. You can then have them flip over when and if necessary.
  • Palpate and test (light to medium pressure).
    • Try changing from puling or pushing to lifting. Sometimes, the direction you push or pull a point makes all the difference.
    • Strum the Shu point with each touch point.
    • Start with the side closest to you. If nothing shows up, move to the other side of the table and test the same points on the other side.
  • If no points apparently work, you may needle locally.
  • You may needle the front mu points before addressing other areas to calm down patients who are Type-A, or in sympathetic mode. (Always make sure your patient is present and relaxed before treating tenser, knottier areas.)
  • Place your needles and let the patient sit.
  • Depending on the patient’s tolerance level and experience with acupuncture, come back and layer more or take out the needles and assess.

Your treatment flow may vary depending on the patient, their experience, and their needs:

Musculoskeletal concern (shoulder problem, etc.)

  • Check tongue and pulse if it is a new patient. (If it’s a repeat patient with the same concern, you don’t need to do this each time.)
  • Scan Shu points (helps to balance and relax the patient)
  • Manual muscle testing takes primacy.

Internal medical concern (menstrual issues, etc.)

  • TCM takes primacy – check tongue and pulse each appointment.
  • Scan the Shu points (Spleen 10 is a good point for gynecology, Liver 13 is the move point for the Spleen.)
  • Tension points will most likely be bilateral.

Treatment Examples

1. You’re at the insertion point at the levator scapula, and you notice it’s very tight. You put one finger on that point. You then put the fingers of your other hand on the motor point of the flexor carpi ulnaris, which is often very affective for this point. The levator scapula melts away immediately. From this, you know that the flexor carpi ulnaris will be the affective point for the levator scapula.

2. You check your patient’s pulse and notice that their liver pulse is a little empty, tight, and wiry. To decide whether to focus on tonifying or on moving, you test Liver 14 and notice it releases Bladder 18 completely, therefore making moving your focus area.

3. You’re scanning the patient, and notice that the medial scapula area is extremely tight. You palpate point 42, and the patient reacts with a strong, “Ow!” However, they never told you they had a should problem when they came in. You palpate some lung and pericardium points and feel the tension melt. (Remember to base treatment off of what YOU feel, as well as what the patient tells you!)

Stephens Shu Point System

Stephens Shu Point System

This is a simple technique that I have developed over the past many years that I have found to be extremely useful to help with the treatment of my patients. For me acupuncture is most exciting when you are able to evaluate techniques and points in real time and make immediate changes. And it’s often more interesting and engaging for patients as well. And this is a way to do that. It is simple to learn and can be used in combination with all of the other techniques you employ with your patients. Some of the features of it:

  • It often forms the basis of the balancing work I do with patients.
  • It helps refine diagnosis.
  • It helps with point choice and fine tuning point location
  • It helps with evaluating if the stimulation used was sufficient
  • It provides another method for distal release of areas of tightness on people’s backs

I first was exposed to touching points to see how they affect other areas when I started to study with Kiiko Matsumoto. I was impressed with how one could find points that would make changes immediately and that you could “audition” points before you used them to assess their likely effectiveness.

Palpating the Shu points have become an important part of my diagnosis and treatment strategy. It has formed a reflex system similar to the Japanese acupuncture reflexes but it jives with the theory of TCM really well and helps to refine diagnoses and treatments. And the points identified with this method forms the foundation of points that I use to start a treatment to relax and balance a patient. And treating the points indicated by the Shu points will often lead to a better treatment outcome and easier time with the other points you want to include for other reasons, such as a local musculoskeletal problem.

In English we talk about these points as Associated points. Usually this is meant in the sense that these points are useful for the treatment of the organ that is associated with each of them. This is true, but another more important aspect of these points as I have discovered is their importance in diagnosis.

Usually the Mu points are spoken of as being the special points for palpatory diagnosis. And whereas they are useful, I find that they don’t react often unless things are really bad. Back Shu points, on the other hand are often very sensitive barometers of what is happening. Also they are dynamic and can change in their palpation quality very quickly and can, due to their dynamism, help you arrive at a diagnosis, choose points, and determine if your treatment is likely to be effective.

This dynamism is reflected by some of the sense of “Shu” in Chinese. When I asked Dr. Hong Jin about this, she told me that the word “Shu” of the back Shu has a meaning of transformation. These are the points where transformation happens. They are like switching stations in my view, nodes in the flow where the information on the associated meridian, energy system, or organ can become available for very easy evaluation. This dynamism of “transformation” is reflected in them having multi-functions in palpatory diagnosis and in the fact that they are extremely sensitive to quick change in how they feel.

And whereas I palpate the pulse, the hara, and the channels, I have found that palpating the Shu points has become the most powerful technique I have for diagnosis, point choice, likely efficacy of treatment, and teaching tool for bringing patients on board with the process. And the further beauty of it is that is nearly instantaneous, it’s feedback in real time.

Palpating a person’s Shu points has become an integral part of my intake. Sometimes I will go over all of them but often I will go to specific ones or general areas to check out something that I may have suspected from their history, symptoms, pulse, or other sign. I usually palpate the Shu points with the person lying on them. I know this sounds counterintuitive but since they are nearly the only points from the main channels on the back side of the body, it leaves the rest of the body available for confirmation and also for watching the reactions of the person on his or her face.

It takes a little practice doing it but it is easy enough to learn with a little practice. Can you do it with them prone? Sure, provided that you give them enough pillows to support them in the right places so that their back is really relaxed. That’s another advantage to happen the person lying supine. With them on their back and the knees lightly supported, the back should be doing absolutely nothing, so that any areas of tightness stand out and are, from my perspective, significant.

How to get under them? First form your hands like a blade, fingers together and stiff. At the upper part of the back and often at the lumbar area one can often get your fingers to the Shu points directly by essentially shoving them under the person, perhaps with compressing down the foam on the table with your knuckles as you are going in. You’ll want to keep your four fingers together for this.

The middle and lower thoracic Shu points can be more challenging. A good technique for getting into position there is to take your blade hands and place them palm down on the table with the thumbs tucked under their body as much as you easily can. Then lift their body up slightly with the posterior thumb while at the same time supinate and ulnar deviate at the wrist, thus flipping your hand over. And if you do it right, your fingers will land just about right on top of the inner Bladder line. And you can also use your non-palpating hand to gently lift up the edge of the person’s body, allowing the other hand to slide underneath.

Once your hand is underneath, feel for the bundle of paravertebral muscles. Or go to the spine and then pull back toward you about two inches. What you are looking for are areas of tightness that stand out from the areas above and below the area of tightness. You can curl your fingers of your palpating hand to strum across the muscles. Or another method that works better for some people is to put the four fingers together with the fingers in a fixed position with the fingers slightly curved, and, rather than actively curling the fingers, rock the fingers across the muscle bundle using the knuckles of the hand at the metacarpal-phalangeal joints as a fulcrum.

So how do you know where you are?

Most people know how to find where C7/T1 while looking at it, but that supine, it is usually at about the level of GB 21 if the arms are down by the sides with the shoulders down as well.

The level of the spine of the scapula is about T3 and is also about the level of Lung 1 on the front.

The tip of the scapula (and often about the top of the bra strap on women) is at the level of T7/T8 and Bl 17.

Bl 18 is about the same level as Liv 14.

The narrow part of the waist at about the bottom of the ribs, about the level of CV 10, is at the level of Bl 23.

And the height of the iliac crest on the mid-axillary line is at L4-L5 on women, just slightly lower than that on men.

Between these landmarks you can easily interpolate. Or if you prefer you can actually count the vertebra. It sounds hard but it is a pretty doable with a little practice.

So when you palpate what should you do exactly and what are you looking for? Generally you are looking for areas of notable tightness, the really tight areas will be very dramatic, both to your palpation and to the patient. Many times the patient will have no ideas that the area in question is so tight or sensitive. When the tension is moderate or more subtle, one can bend at the metacarpal-phalangeal joints with the still straight fingers, and in doing so, lever your fingers up into their muscles over the Shu points using the knuckles as a fulcrum. Then you can take the fingertips and strum the muscles from medial to lateral and back for further clarification.

Think of having a conversation with each Shu point you’re testing. “Ask” the point, “How is this?” by your palpation and listen to its response as you look for points to release it.

Most of the time, you will have no doubt as to what is significant. You will clearly feel it and so will the patient. And that’s part of the beauty of it. Both you and the patient will be clear that something funky is going on there. And if you do your work properly, palpating, watching and listening to them as you proceed with this, both of you will know after your treatment that something changed in a positive direction.

Have them practice trying to locate.

Now once you’ve found the tight areas, what do you do with them? While keeping contact with the tight Shu point with one hand, palpate points with the other hand to evaluate the effectiveness of that point for balancing and releasing that localized area of tightness. For most of the areas that we will find, the points that will best release them will be on the associated meridian of the Shu point.

Palpating the points to determine their effectiveness for Shu point release does not need to be done very firmly. And as you get better with this, you just need to just touch the individual point to properly assess its utility. The release sensation on the Shu point with usually happen within a second or two of contacting the appropriate point on the meridian with the other hand. There are a few people I have seen that it takes their body a few seconds more to react, but this is not common. The release you may feel in the Shu points may often not be complete, but when you find the right one you will feel a significant softening of the Shu point. This is what you are looking for with this method.

You ever learn alternate locations of points on the body? With this technique you can audition the various locations to see which is most effective for the person at the particular time you are seeing them. You can also evaluate what angle to insert the needle to have the best effect by giving a vector to your palpation of the release point.

The most effective point will change, depending on the day. It seems like this method will often key into the point that is “open” on a particular day. And somedays it will seem like many people will have the same point that is effective on a particular morning for a particular Shu point. There are systems that attempt to find the point that is open on a particular day and time of day. Some days it will seem like you are keying into this.

And by the points that are most effective, you can hone a diagnosis. Let’s take an example. You have a patient with a Liver pulse that is somewhat wiry but is also empty when you press into it. The sides of the tongue are pale, but the tongue sides are pulled in giving the tongue a spatulate appearance. They have other signs that point to both Liver Blood deficiency as well as Liver qi constraint. Well, each of those diagnoses can lead to the other condition. How can we determine which is the most important feature to focus on during today’s treatment?

You go to Bl 18 and find a notable tightness there and then with your other hand, you start palpating points on the Liver channel. If points like Liver 8 and Spleen 6 are the points that release Bl 18, it indicates that treating the deficiency is the most important thing to address today. If a point like Liver 4, 5, or 14 releases Bl 18, moving the qi is the most important focus for today’s treatment. And this can help you skew the focus of your herbal formula that you might give them at that treatment.

Shu Points and the distal points most often useful for the Shu point release

The points for release of the Shu points I focus on are most often are the points distal to the elbow and the knee. As you know from your studies, these are very powerful points, in general. They often have special functions as elemental points according to the five phases. They also have functions according to the delineation of jing well, Shu stream, he sea points, etc. These points prove to be the effective point for Shu point release about 70% of the time. About 15% of the time, the effective point will be a point in the upper arm or thigh. And another 15%of the time, the effective point will be on the trunk of the body.

Let’s go over the various Shu points and the most likely points to look at for release. I will try and list the points with the ones most often effective listed first.

Bladder 11 is a point that I don’t find much utility so far.

Bladder 12 is the wind Shu point. This will get tight when someone has an acute wind invasion. But it will also be tight with someone who got sick some time ago and never fully recovered. This person may have “retained pathogen”. This will provide a diagnostic clue as to this phenomenon and also guide you to points that may best release this.
So which points do you suspect would be most effective? L7, LI4, TH5, GB 31, GB20. Test them out to see which one is best.

Bladder 13 is the Shu point for the Lung. The most effective points are often L7, L5, L9, and sometimes L1, 6. Occasionally L3 (often with someone with retained grief) or L 8

Bladder 14 is the Shu point for the Pericardium. The most effective points tend to be P6, P3. Sometimes look to P5, P7, and occasionally P1

Bladder 15 is the Shu point for the Heart. The most effective points tend to be H3, 7. Also look to H9, especially with someone with Heart Blood deficiency (it’s the tonification point). And occasionally it can be H 6 or 5.

A special note about the upper jiao and about the Shu points in general. Sometimes when you feel a tightness at a Shu point and you can’t find a good point to release it, the tightness you feel may, in fact, be bleeding over from an adjacent Shu point that you didn’t yet notice or perhaps you may have mismeasured your location. And one of the things that I have noticed is in the upper jiao area, in particular, is that there seems to be more bleed over among the Lung, Pericardium, and Heart. That is, you may be pretty sure you are on a Lung Shu point and the effective release point is a Pericardium point. Perhaps this is because they are all affected by the zong qi generally.

Another note is that the outer Shu points are also diagnostic and can be found to be released by the points associated with the inner Shu points. Thus Bl 43 can be released by a point such as P6. And this upper jiao bleed over can be seen in the outer Shu points as well.

Bladder 17 is the Diaphragm Shu. Tightness here will often be accompanied by infracostal tightness in the belly. The best point for releasing this tightness and the diaphragm is the Ear Diaphragm point. Also useful is Stomach 20.

Bladder 18 is the Liver Shu point. The most common points for release are Liver 3, Spleen 6 (because it is also on the Liver channel), and Liver 8. Also effective are Liver 4, 5, 13, and 14, and occasionally Liver 2.

Bladder 19 is the Gall Bladder Shu point. The most common points for release are GB 41, 34, 36, and Dang Nan Xue. Also effective are GB 40, 31-32. Sometimes look to GB 42, 39, 38, or 37 for release of Bl 19.

Bladder 20 is the Spleen Shu point. The most common points for release are Sp 6, 4, 10. Also effective are Sp 9, 8, 3. Rarely Sp 2 or even Liver 13 (it’s the front Mu of the Spleen).

Bladder 21 is the Stomach Shu point. The most common points for release are Stomach 36, Lan Wei, 40, and 37. Also useful to try are St 42, 43, 34.

For the Liver and GB, sometimes I’ll find that it’s an area encompassing both Shu points, so one needs to check both meridians for the release point. Similarly one will find this on the Spleen and Stomach. You’ll focus on one them as being the primary area of interest when actually the release is to be found on the paired meridian.

Bladder 22 is the Triple Heater Shu point. The most common points for release are TH 9, TH5, and TH3. Also effective are TH 6 and TH4 and occasionally TH 8.

Bladder 23 is the Kidney Shu point. The most common points for release are K7, K2, K 10. Also useful is K3 and K 6 and sometimes Sp 6.

Bladder 25 is the Large Intestine Shu point. I have not found many times that the LI points are effective. In fact, once we get to the lumbosacral region a special relationship seems to hold forth.

This region, along with the upper shoulder and neck region, is so often an area of discomfort in our patients, from a purely musculoskeletal perspective. And each of these two areas seems to have some special associations that are helpful to keep in mind.

The meridian that seems to rule the sacrum, in my experience, is the Gall Bladder channel. The internal pathway of the Gall Bladder channel courses through the sacrum and the most effective points to relieve the tightness and discomfort there are the points mentioned in the Gall Bladder section above.

I’ll give you some ideas for release of the other special area of the upper shoulders and neck. One of my teachers used to say that L7 is the master point for treating the neck area. This point can be remarkably effective, but many times you may need to use and alternate location or a specific angling. We will talk about this in the next section. Many times the area that is tight and needs release is the SI 15 up into the bai lao area (on the Bladder channel). The most effective points tend to be SI 3, 7, 6. Or the area of discomfort is around TH15, in which case the point to look at could be TH 3, 5, 9, etc. Another point to look at for this area is the motor point for the flexor carpi ulnaris. This point is special for the tightness that so often happens at the attachment of the levator scapula. It is located at one third of the way from H3 to H 7.
And L7 angled toward L8 can be a special point for the anterior scalenes.

Variant Point Locations

One of the uses of this Shu point system is the ability is gives you to find the most effective location of a point for a particular person on a particular day. If can even help you find the best angle to insert the point.

I’d like to share with you some of the locations for some of the above mentioned points that I have found useful in my years of practice. Some of them may seem strange compared to what is currently taught. But in fact, some of them were taught in these alternate locations when I studied many years ago. Others are ones that I have discovered in my poking around the past many years.

Let’s follow our outline from above regarding the Shu points and go from the top down and I’d like to point out some locations I like.

Lung

So for the Lung points, Lung 7 I most often find in line with L 9, just proximal to the radial stylus. I’ll often needle it from radius to the ulna.
But sometimes, especially for the neck region, I’ll find it most effective when it’s needled from this location toward L 8.

So how do you audition various angles? Place your finger on the point and traction it in a particular direction that you may want to needle it. You will sometimes find that a particular direction will give a much better effect.

I will sometimes locate L5 more lateral, in what some people call Japanese L5. And sometimes angling this point toward L6 will give the best release.

And speaking of L 6, I tend to find it just distal to the flexor muscle bundle in the hole on the anterior surface of the radius. This is the xi cleft point and can be a dandy point. And for L 1 I will often palpate around an area a little bigger than a quarter to find the most effective location.

Heart

For the Heart points I think I start with the points on the forearm at a different location than many of you. I start with H 7 on the wrist crease on the radial side of the pisiform. You can feel the hole there and then there are three more holes going up the forearm each a half cun apart. And when you get to H4, that’s the last hole you will feel.

Triple Heater

On the Triple Heater, I will check TH4 on either side of the extensor tendon to see if one is more effective than the other. And for TH 9, the location I am most likely to find effective is a Japanese location about two-thirds of the way from TH4 to LI 11 in a hole there.

Liver

For the Liver points, I will look for Liver 4 on both sides of the tendon. The preferred location is medial to the big tendon, but many times I will find the effective location is just lateral to the tendon and can be sometimes best used with an angle proximally.

Liver 5 I will check on the bone where you are taught, but more often I find it effective in the hole just medial to the bone.

Liver 8 I will often audition several locations, but my most dependable location is in the big hole proximal to the medial knee.

Liver 13 I like to find at the anterior inferior corner of the eleventh rib.

Liver 14 I like to find in the 6th costal interspace, but more lateral than many of you find it. The location I like tends to line up with the lateral edge of the areola on men. It is also at the angle where the rib changes direction. There is a hole there and is often tender. The angle I favor there is angling it laterally between the ribs (sort of toward the axilla).

Gallbladder

For the Gall Bladder, I most often find GB 39 on the anterior surface of the fibula. You slide your thumb up the fibula to where it stops as the fibula dives under muscle. One of my earliest teachers said that one the names of this point is “no bone”. And I’ve found that a number of people that were trained many years ago were taught to find it here.

GB 34 can be in a variety of locations, but one of my favorite locations is to take the prominences of the tibia and fibula and make an equilateral triangle with GB 34 being the third point. When I am looking at Gb 31 or 32 as a location to release Bl 19 or the sacral area, I will sometimes palpate with three fingers, and then if I get a release, find out which of the three locations is best.

Spleen

On the Spleen, one non-standard place to check is just a little proximal to Sp 3, in the hole just proximal to Sp 3, in what some of the Japanese acupuncture people such as those studying with Kiiko Matsumoto call Sp3.2.

Kidney

For the Kidney, I will often locate K2 in a hole just inferior and posterior to the navicular. For K 6 I will look between the two tendons just inferior to the malleolus (and often needle it posteriorly), but I will also check a location about one cun inferior to that.
On K 7 I will often check an angle I learned from Dr. Tran. Sometimes the magic angle is one that he says he uses regularly, which is to angle the insertion anteriorly toward K8. And for K 10 the location that I find most often works the best is one that is one to two cun proximal to the popliteal crease, in the hole between the two hamstring tendons. This location seems to be particularly effective.

Checking your work

One of the nice features of this system is to go back and quickly check your work. That is to say, go back and repalpate the Shu points you found to be noteworthy. Sometimes you will find that one of the points has not released well. What this usually means is that you need to back and give the release point some additional stimulation. Or sometimes you need to try a different angle. And for extra effectiveness, leave your one hand on the Shu point and lightly tickle it while stimulating the distal point.

Some patients, who were aware of the tight spots when you started, will be amazed at the changes that have happened immediately.

What to do when all of the Shu points seem tight

Occasionally you will have a patient whose whole paravertebrals are like cables. It’s hard to differentiate any stand-out tight area. What I will often do with these patients is to use the Master and Coupled points for the Du Mai, SI3 and Bl 62. And if you have a set of Japanese ion pumping cords, put the black clip on SI3 and the red on Bl 62 and maybe add the ear Shen Men point. Let these points rest for maybe 10 minutes or so. Almost always when you come back, the generalized tightness will have dissipated and the field will have cleared so that you can find the key areas for treatment.

Flow of treatment session when using the Shu point system

It doesn’t replace what you have normally done. It provides you with another tool to evaluate and come up with effective treatment for your patient. For me, I may not examine the pulse in detail or check the tongue at each and every treatment. But I usually will examine the abdomen and check the Shu points at each treatment. I will palpate the hara to see if there is an extra meridian or other finding that is standing out that may be important in the first set of needles is use. And several points from my Shu point findings will often be a part of my first set of needles. And with the Shu points I will often scan for one noteworthy finding in the upper, middle, and lower jiaos. I won’t always find one, but I do scan in that way.

And then in my second set of needles there may be points that I know to be effective for a condition from my TCM training or other information. Or if it’s a musculoskeletal problem, I will probably have done some manual muscle testing to inform what points might be most effective for treating that condition and I will include them then. But of course, if they have some sort of back pain, the work that was done with the Shu point system, will have already gone a long way toward diffusing the congestion in the area of their back that they are having trouble in.

Of course there is a good deal of variability in how I work, but this gives you an idea of how the flow might likely go when I’m seeing a patient.

I hope this material will prove useful to you in your practice. Try it out. Experiment with it. You will probably make further refinements with it that will suit you and the way you practice. I think you will find it useful and interesting to incorporate. Let me know if you find it useful.

An Interview with Dr. Eric Stephens

An Interview with Dr. Eric Stephens

Q: OK, so tell me how you started developing the Back Shu Point System.

A: I think the first part of it came about with studying with Kiiko Matsumoto, where she would have all these reflex points, especially in the abdomen, and then she would touch a point and go, “Ah, it released. That means that this is the point we need to treat to rectify that,” whether it was the Adrenal Reflex Zone or something like that, or whatever. She has a lot of relationships. Or some of them are musculoskeletal, and using old [?] Lung 7 to 8, and like, “Ah. Yes, on you, that’s really good.”

And I started playing around with that more, realizing that, for me acupuncture was most exciting when I could find things in real-time. When it wasn’t so much of an intellectual exercise, “Oh, you have these symptoms; therefore, you must be liver qi stagnant, and we’ll do Liver 3 and 14 for liver qi stagnation.” Well, OK.

But then I got into going further, of realizing that you could test other things, as well. I think the first place that I noticed was people’s Bladder 23 being tight frequently. And like, god, well, maybe I could find something that would release that, that would open that area up. And I was like, well, it has to do with the kidneys, let’s try some kidney points. Yeah. But what was interesting was that it wasn’t the same on every person, nor was it the same every day.

It was almost like the chronotherapy, according to the hours or something—there were certain days where certain points were open, and I noticed that. Like some days, everybody Kidney 10 works on Bladder 23, or most everybody. Or other days, it’s more Kidney 7. So, I started playing with that, and then I went—people with other areas that were problematic, and it was like, well, where the hell am I? I’m at Bladder 18. Let’s try some liver points. And going like, “Oh, yeah.” And then, further going into taking someone’s pulse, and seeing that their liver pulse was both a little empty and a little tight, wiry, and it was like, well, what’s more important here? Tonifying or moving?

Well, their Bladder 18. I could figure out what was more important. Oh, Liver 8 releases it completely. Well, tonifying’s more important. Or oh, Liver 14 or 3 is the one that works. Oh, moving is more important for them today. It kind of helps refine my diagnosis.

And then, as I got further into it, I also realized that it could tell me the angle of the needling that was most effective. It could also tell me, have I stimulated enough, after putting the needle in, and it’s like, “It didn’t really release.” You stimulate it a little more, and it’s like, “Ah, there it is.” So, it’s kind of this real-time feedback loop. It’s like test, don’t guess.

Q: So, you don’t have to just do the same channel, like for Bladder 37, you could do Kidney channels. Sorry, 23. You’re sitting there, you’re palpating Kidney channels.

A: Yeah.

Q: Can you kind of do any point, or it tends to be channel paired, or channel-related–?

A: No, you can do anything. Like, for instance, let’s take the area of bai lu [?] or something, in the neck, or SI 15 area, that area that’s frequently tight on people. You know, Matt, one of his little nuggets is that for the levator scapula, the motor point for the flexor carpi ulnaris is often really affective. Well, so let’s say I’m on the insertion at the scapula, and boy, that’s tight. I can tell their levator’s nasty. Well, what I’ll do is I’ll put one finger on that, and then I’ll use the other fingers on the other hand on the motor point of the flexor carpi ulnaris, and if it melts right away, it’s like, yeah, that’s the point.

And it’s not on the same channel, per se, but I also know that other points are useful, like sometimes, it’s the small intestine point, because it kind of goes right through that area, the small intestine channel. Or from old Chinese style, Lung 7 is the master point for the whole neck area. So, a lot of times, I’ll just feel that, and I’ll palpate two or three points in close succession and go, “Oh, that’s it.” And it’s like, “Lung 7 feels a little better, but not all the way better,” so then I’ll traction it towards 8, and then it’s like, “Oh, that’s it. I’ve got to angle it that way for the best affect.” Does that make sense?

Q: So, there’s not necessarily specific needling techniques, again, it’s just testing to figure out what technique would work.

A: If you have the time, or you’re not getting a clear answer. And sometimes it’s a paired meridian, occasionally. Or sometimes you’ll have bleed-through. It’s like, oh, 18, OK, I’ll test all the liver points—well, nothing really—well, let me check Gallbladder, and it’s like, oh, it’s a gallbladder point. Because I thought it was 18 but it was really 19—whether I was feeling in the exact right spot, or that the gallbladder was affecting the liver—that sometimes happens, too.

Q: I’m trying to get a treatment flow in my head. Do you palpate and then do the pulse, tongue, and talk to them, and you kind of have an idea, and then test the Shus? Or do you test all the Shus, and go, “Oh, that seems super tight,” and then ask some questions about that? Or how does that—because definitely, you can use it to help direct your diagnostics, but when does that testing flow happen, like in the—naturally, when you’re treating someone, how does that flow work?

A: Well, it’s changed over the years. It used to be pulse, tongue, all that stuff, and then maybe abdominal palpation and then the Shu points, and it’s often that way in new patients—that’s often the flow in new patients. But for repeat customers, where I know kind of their general, underlying situation, I will often omit the tongue and sometimes the pulse and go right to their tummy and there back. As I’ve gotten more competence in it, the back has gotten more like my go-to. Like, especially for balancing.

For instance, I’ve got a big musculoskeletal component that I need to do, but they’re a little—they’re pretty tight, or they’re pretty weak, I may start with a short course of points that I garner from doing my Shu point diagnosis. And then, I’ll go—and that will relax them, it will balance them, you’ll get them kind of organized for—OK, I want to really fasciculate that muscle, and I want to rebalance this, and maybe use some electro. If I went right to it on a lot of people, it’s a little jarring, coming from their daily life. Plus, just balancing them, it makes the musculoskeletal stuff work and stay better.

So, I would say that it’s taken more of a primary role in a lot of my work with people—that and manual muscle testing, for a lot of my more sports-acupuncture-oriented things. If they’re there for digestive concerns, it’s much more about tongue and pulse, or if they’ve got menstrual issues—kind of the more internal medicine, TCM paradigm probably takes more primacy.

But I’ll add in the TCM. It’s like, oh right, you said you have stagnant blood, it seems from your pattern, your tongue and everything. Well, what points are most effective for you? And then you kind of glance, you go through, and oh, Bladder 20’s tight. Well, what point? Is it Spleen 4, which moves? Spleen 8? Spleen 10? So, I’ll test those points. Oh, it’s Spleen 10. That’s really good for gynecology, that makes sense. Or 18’s really tight. Well, it should be 3 or 4 or 5, they both move a lot. We want to move the blood—oh, yeah, it’s 3. That makes sense. Or their digestive concerns. Oh, yeah Liver 13, yeah, it’s the move point for the spleen, that makes sense.

So, it will inform my internal medical treatment with acupuncture, but I’ll probably put that more toward the back seat, whereas with other conditions it’s more in the front seat. But it’s usually there in all my treatments.

Q: Which treatments is more in the front seat versus ones that are in the backseat, I don’t know if I got that?

A: Like, if I know that you’re coming for your shoulder condition, you know, the first time, I’ll check your tongue and pulse, and all of that. But I’m more—for that condition, I’m more interested in your manual muscle testing. And then I’ll then, for balancing you, I’ll do a quick scan of your Shu points. So, that’s more front seat.

Q: You would kind of use the Shu points before you would do the trigger points to kind of get them relaxed—

A: Oftentimes. Yeah, just to get them balanced and get things organized for the next piece, because if they’re already coming in kind of imbalanced, and you go right to an area that’s already a little jacked up, so to speak, neurologically, for a lot of people, that’s intense. But if you ground them, or you tonify them, or let’s say they’re really liver qi stagnant, and you don’t address that first. Every point, they get a similar, it’s like, “Ah! Ooh! Ee!” It makes it less comfortable for them, and it makes it much less smooth for me, in my flow. It’s more like, “OK, how are you doing?” You have to slow way down—so by balancing some of that stuff up first, then you can go into it, and you get much less reactivity that can be difficult for them and sometimes you.

Q: Yeah. So, I’ll palpate the Shus, and sometimes I’ll find multiple tight spots.

A: That’s usual.

Q: Or I’ll find a tight spot—OK, so my question is, what happens if I find multiple tight spots? Or what happens if I find a tight spot that’s not painful to the patient, or I find a tight spot that is painful to the patient? Is it more about what the patient feels, or more about what I feel, or kind of a combination of both?

A: Combination of both, but primary is what I feel, what you feel. A really common example is, I’m scanning the medial scapular area, it’s like, “Oh my god 42 is like crazy,” and they go, “Ow, god!” “Yeah, you didn’t mention anything about your shoulder.” “Oh, that’s always there. It’s been since I can’t remember when, and it’s nasty.” And I go, “OK.” So then, I’ll palpate some Lung points or some pericardium points, in case I was one off, and it will be like—boom, it melts under my fingers. So, I’ll put that in, and it’s like, you can just see them kind of go, “Ahh.”

A common pattern would be maybe one from the upper Jao [?], you know that, like 42, and maybe one from the middle Jao, like liver, and maybe something down low. Like you’ll find three, or two. And then I’ll just pop those in. And sometimes, right after I pop them, I can go right into something else, but I always feel like it’s good to balance them.

And whereas I used to, like, “OK, what’s going to be good to balance them? Maybe four gates—” this is more tailored to them in the moment. And they may have different things. Some people come back with the same ones, repeatedly. Other times, you treat it and it’s gone. Like, “OK, that was easy.”

Q: And it’s really a—because that’s the other thing is I’m like, “Well, did it melt?” But it should be pretty pronounced if you get it—or what if it’s like kind of—you know, because I’m new, it feels slightly better, and I ask them how they feel, and they go, “Oh, it’s slightly better.”

A: They often—a lot of people can’t tell. They don’t live in their bodies enough—I mean, some people are really sensitive to what’s going on, and they really get it. But some people don’t really understand what’s going on or feel it. It’s more what you feel. And if it’s the best point you did, go back and tickle it as you’re stimulating the other point, because that opens up, again, a linkage. Like, “Hey, I’m talking to you at this point.”

Like I might be at Bladder 18 and with Liver 8, and it’s like 50% better, but I’ll go, “Let me angle it a little differently,” and it will be like, “that was it.” Or maybe it just needs a little extra lift and thrust or twirl or something, and then it will go another 20%. It’s not that it melts 100%, but that there’s a change, in real time. Because the point will continue to work after you pull it out, but you want to have a significant shift.

Q: OK, so if there’s multiple ones that you feel—

A: Yeah, I might pop in Lung 9, Liver 8, and Kidney 3, or something. Or Stomach 36 and Pericardium 6 or something, you know.

Q: Would one point—so, say I have like a Neck, Bladder 13, and then the kidneys, Bladder 23, and they’re both tight. Do you find that one point will relax both of them, or do you tend to find that you have to find two different points for both of them?

A: Usually I find two different—sometimes if they’re related…

Q:And then do you feel like you have to treat all of the points, or just what relates to the symptoms, like if they’re going, “Oh, I have…”?

A: No, I understand. One, it depends on the individual. Like a sensitive person who, in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, “If I get 10 needles in them total, that’s going to be a good day,” because, especially someone new, they’re like, “Who the hell is this guy? What is acupuncture? I’m a little weirded out by this whole thing.” I’ll winnow it down, like, “Oh, you have digestive concerns, and Spleen 6 is releasing Bladder 20 and 21?” I’ll do that one, and I’ll let their upper Jao, their Bladder 13, go today. But I’ve noted it. I’ll usually make a note of which Shu points and what points release them, off to the side.

Q: OK, so you do have like a couple Shu points and like common release ones.

A: Sure, yeah. That’ll be in my June class.

Q: Oh, cool. And they tend to be paired, like channel pairs?

A: Tend to be, not always. Like sometimes Spleen 6 is the best point for the liver. But the liver courses through there. Or the sacrum. Bladder 27 isn’t often small intestine points.

Q: When’s your June class?

A: It’s like Saturday the 2nd or something. It’s half a day, it’s the OCOM Alumni free event.

Q: Oh, OK.

A: Yeah, I’m doing like 1:00 to 5:00 or something. And they said, “Well, what should you do?” And I said, “I don’t know, people ask me about this.” And they said, “Oh, yeah, do that.” So, I’m going to try to impart a lot there.

Q: That will be good.

A: Is this helping?

Q: Yeah. Oh. I treat most people laying face-down. And you treat most people laying face-up.

A: I do. Or at least I’ll start there, and then I’ll flip them over.

Q: Yeah. I imagine it would be the same face-down, except it’s harder to kind of get to some points?

A: What are you asking about, about the Shu Point diagnosis?

Q: The Shu Point diagnosis.

A: I find that it’s easier to access all the points that you’re wanting to addition, so to speak, with them supine, with them face-up. The only things you can’t really reach are the back Shu, and you’re using them, anyway, because you’re maybe trying—everything else is pretty accessible when they’re supine, other than the ones you’re actually lying on. Secondly, when they’re lying on them, for some reason, I get more of a neutral feel from the areas that aren’t involved.

Q: When you’re lying on them, you’re getting more of a neutral feel for the areas that aren’t involved.

A: Like the figure ground, like who’s important, sticks out better than if I’m going like this. And it’s probably just because I’m used to it. I’m sure that one could cultivate the sensitivity in another position. It’s just more convenient like, I’ll find something in their abdomen, I want to see what releases that. Or I’ll find something in their neck. You can reach their whole neck this way. Or something in their sacrum. OK, what point releases that? Or all the Shu points, what point releases that? So, I have more availability to get to—sometimes the liver, it’s Liver 14 or 13. I think it’s just convenience, plus, a lot of times, I find, both with doing the treatment, I want to watch their face. I want to watch their color change. I want to watch their eyes go like this. I want that feedback, because I know that, “Oh, they’re feeling that.” Or, “Oh, there’s the stimulation.” Or, “Whoa, I need to slow down, their color just shifted, and it got a little pale or got a little green. OK, we need to take a break. You could get shocky.” Or they get a little yellow. That’s a good sign.

Q: Yellow’s a good sign?

A: It can be, yeah. Real light, just a teeny shift. Or they’re getting red, or you watch the musculature in their face just kind of melts, it’s like, OK, good. They’re going to be much better when I want to dig into their hip with a three-inch needle. They’re chilled-out.

Q: So, then would you then half-way rotate someone over, and do the motor points—like how does that work? Would you flip someone over if you wanted to do like SI 12 or something?

A: Yeah. I find I get anywhere from 60 to 80% of what I want to do—or sometimes 100% with them supine. Because the only things you can’t reach are bladder points, and like SI 15 or 12, or something. Some of that stuff. And then I’ll flip them over. Like for instance, let’s take a shoulder—a real common one we were talking about, like with you—the big piece of work is your sub-scap. That’s what I really want to focus on, because that is going to turn on your supraspinatus. Now, might I flip you over at the end and just hit the supraspinatus motor point for a few minutes? Sure. Or, you know, the levator insertion point if the levator’s involved, yeah. And maybe a distal point to balance Bladder 60, or something.

So, yeah, a lot of my treatments are more weighted toward a supine treatment, just because I can watch their face, I can reach most of the points. But sometimes it’s not. I mean, like—

Q: I feel like that answers my question. Is it always both sides, or can it be just one side?

A: Oh, that has that pattern?

Q: That has the tension, like—

A: Yeah, mostly it’s bilateral, but sometimes it’s not. Especially it’s—oh, let’s say it’s a computer program, who’s constantly—they have mouse-shoulder. They’re going to have it more on their mouse side.

Q: Yeah, so for a beginner, for someone who’s just trying to start out, most of the time it would be a bilateral.

A: Yeah, especially if you’re looking at more internal medical stuff or balancing.

Q: And are you doing—can it be more of an internal bladder point, could it be an external bladder point, or is it just the tight of the erector spinae? Could it be anywhere along there, or is it more specifically—

A: It’s usually—huh, that’s a really good question, actually. It’s usually the inner bladder line. But in the scapular region, it’s often the outer bladder line. But they’ll have the same correspondence. Like Bladder 43, think pericardium point. But the lower—and sometimes it’s true for some of the lower points, like let’s say Bladder 52. That’s another one. Some people call it an adrenal-oriented point, or anyway, it’s related to the kidneys. Well, it’ll be a kidney point, nine times out of ten that will release it.

Q: So, when you find a Shu point that’s active, and you’re testing points to see what relaxes it, and—are you using like a five element, are you using traditional Chinese medicine points, are you using—what system of thoughts would pull up those points?

A: Usually kind of TCM or associated meridian is the first level.

Q: It’s not like [indiscernible] point on the thumb, or—

A: It could be—

Q: In general, you’re not—with TCM, it’s always case-specific, but I’m just saying, in general.

A: Yeah, but like the example I gave for the levator, how sometimes it’s like, I know from my work with Matt, the flexor carpi ulnaris will release that 15 area—that’s not particularly TCM. Or the sacrum is a meridian perspective. Sometimes it’s a meridian perspective rather than TCM, per se.

Q: And in the supine position—I mean, I guess the Mu [?] points don’t really have a muscle [indiscernible]. Do you test the Mu points?

A: Do I palpate them?

Q: Is that—

A: I sometimes do, but I don’t always necessarily—it’s more the exception than the rule. Like for instance, somebody’s really tight here at CV [?] 14-15, well, that’s kind of fire-related, and some people say the heart. So, I may just go, “Oh, let’s check Heart 7, 6, 5, 4, 3—oh, 3, oh yeah, it releases that. Oh, cool.” But it’s less common. I use the Shu points for my Mu points.

Q: Oh, OK.

A: Because after years of palpating the Mu points, I didn’t find I garnered any really clinically useful information very often. Like for instance, with gallbladder problems, palpating Gallbladder 25, it’s usually like, well, maybe, but there are other points that are way more responsive, like the Gallbladder Reflex point on the ribs, or SI 11 on the right, or there’s other points that are crystal clear, and that I get more clear information that I can test against what point releases it, rather than Gallbladder 25. The number of times I’ve found anything of interest at Gallbladder 25 are pretty small, but the number of times I’ve found something here at the ribs, or at the shoulder, are a lot.

And maybe it’s just that I don’t—when you—I haven’t used them enough to garner that kind of fine discernment. Like some people, it’s like—you know, people who take the pulse and go, “Your aortic valve has a problem,” or, “You have this—this happened when you were a kid.” People can tell all sorts of stuff if you study stuff long enough.

Q: So, the flow of your treatment. The patient comes in—new patient. You would do a traditional test.

A: Intake, you know.

Q: Say they’re coming in for internal issues. Gynecological issues, you would do a typical kind of intake—

A: Yeah and really drill down on what’s their menstrual flow like, and is it painful, and you know, all the questions, much more expanded menstrual intake than I would with just somebody else.

Q: And then you would do tongue and pulse—

A: Correct.

Q: And then in your head, you were thinking, “OK, I have a traditional Chinese medicine diagnosis,”—

A: Mhm.

Q: And then you start testing. Is that kind of—so then you would have them lie down and start testing the Shu?

A: Yeah, and/or the abdomen. For instance, with someone with a gynecological case, the abdomen because really important. Like, “How’s the Chung-Mai [?] feel in the abdomen? Oh, wow, it’s like two chop sticks in there. Well, that tells me something. That kind of goes along with their problem.” And well, with that, let’s just check, oh, Bladder—and this will often happen. “Upper Shu, oh Bladder 43 is really tight. Oh, I bet I know what point’s going to release that. Pericardium 6 because it’s already part of the Chung-Mai treatment,” and most of the time, that’s true. And I’ll go down, and it’s like, “Well, probably, we’re going to find something in the liver, just guessing.” And it’s like, oh, hell yes.

And it’s like, for grins, I might try Spleen 4 or 6, but it will often be like Liver 3 or Liver 14 will be a really important point for that person, to add into the mix. And I won’t necessarily do all those points, but it will sort of be like, “Oh, OK, so that’s important,” and already, you think liver, but it’s sort of like, “OK, well, is 3 the most important point today? It might work, but what point might be—maybe there’s another point I could use with it.” Like if I have 14, I may do 3 and 14. But I wouldn’t leave 14 out, because I know that her body has a big release reaction to that, and things are being held tightly. And I would do the Chung-Mai to open up the Chung-Mai.

Q: So, you get that all balanced out. And then, do you let them sit? Do—

A: You mean with the needles in?

Q: Yeah.

A: Yeah, sure.

Q: OK, and then you come back, and then do you layer anything else on top of that?

A: Depends. You said like their first treatment? Probably not. Especially if they’re not like, “Oh, yeah, I saw an acupuncturist for 20 years in San Francisco,” they’re old hands. And again, I’m watching their face. Are they like puddles? It’s like, “Oh, yeah, you’re done. You’re cooked. Any more and you won’t be able to drive home.” Or, “Yeah, I feel better.” And I’ll just feel around and go—it’s one of those clinical judgement pieces. Or the sensitive person who’s just coming in for their first one. I might just do the Chung-Mai and then let them sit. Take them out, and then do the Spleen Liver piece, and then call that good. And maybe four or five points altogether, whereas someone else, it might be 10 to 20. Kind of judging by both how novice they are at acupuncture, how they look, how strong’s their Qi—yeah.

Q: And is it different if they have like shoulder issues?

A: You mean like that was their chief complaint and their main reason for coming?

Q: Yeah.

A: Yeah. Different filters kind of move to the foreground. Whereas the person with menstrual problems, I’m not going to do a lot of manual muscle testing. Maybe at some point, I might want to find out what’s going on there, but I probably would skip that for the menstrual case. For the shoulder guy, yeah. That’s going to—I mean, I’ll do the tongue and pulse, and whatnot, and just kind of get a sense, “Jesus, his pulse is big and wiry. OK.” We know that moving things is going to be a more important factor than tonifying, whereas somebody who’s very kind of slight and tired, and their pulse is really weak, it’s like, “Oh, I think before I drill into the muscles that I’ve discovered need to be happening—I’ve don’t my manual muscle testing,” but I’ve done my pulse, and it’s like, “We need to give her a little Spleen 6, Stomach 36, or something,” either that I’ve found through Shu point testing or just in general. I need to brace her up a little before I start trying to attempt to move a lot of energy in her shoulder. Because if she’s already kind of this way, it won’t work out well.

Q: Yeah. So, you do your manual muscle testing, you get a sense of the TCM diagnosis, they’re laying down on the table, and the first thing that you do is…

A: Give them a big kiss. No.

Q: Would it be like you said earlier, like you would try to do a couple points to calm them down?

A: Mhm, or even before that, for a lot of cases, the very first thing I do with them is I pot your Shin-Min [?] in. Because I know that they’re kind of hyperreactive, wiry types. And it’s like, that, I know, will take off about 30% of that tendency. Pop those in real quick. Or Shin-Min with Sympathetic, if they’re real type-A and they’re always constantly in sympathetic mode. Pop those two in, and then like, “OK, now what?” Then, maybe I’ll do the Shu points. The Shu-point designated body points.

Q: Is that a good rule, in general, to kind of throw in Shin-Min to kind of calm them down first before you palpate the Shu points?

A: I don’t usually do it before I palpate. I usually do it as sort of the overture to the treatment. I sometimes think of treatments as being sort of a musical piece, like, “OK, here comes the overture, or here comes the first act.” OK, they’ve come off the ceiling; their fingernails are no longer stuck in the ceiling. Great. Now we will need them to arrive on the table. And we’ll do the Spleen 6 and whatever else. Now, they’re kind of fully present. Now, I can kind of take apart the knottier areas.

So, sometimes, it may not be actually three discreet sets of needles, but it may kind of progress in that fashion.

Q: How long are treatments?

A: For me?

Q: Yeah.

A: Usually an hour to an hour and a quarter. Between talking with them, getting them changed and getting them out the door.

Q: OK, so, I’m palpating, and I find the Shus, I test the points, and I don’t have the palpation. I can’t seem to find anything that seems to work.

A: Something that releases it?

Q: Yeah. Do you ever needle locally?

A: Yeah, you can, sure. Or let’s say they have pain at Bladder 43, and I find that Pericardium 6 releases it some. Will I flip them over if I’ve had them supine, and go locally? Of course. You bet. Especially if there’s a local problem. And then I may follow it up with some Gua Sha [?] or something. Yeah, definitely.

Q: Is it a light pressure, is it a strong pressure?

A: To the point that you’re testing?

Q: Yeah.

A: Pretty light. I mean—

Q: Do you ever find that it’s light, and then if you press harder, it releases, or does it tend to be pretty light?

A: I would say light to medium. I mean, basically, what you’re doing is you’re asking a question. And I think it may help a little bit if you’re actively asking the question in your mind, you know, intention. It’s like, “Hey, what do you think of this? How about this? How about that?” It’s almost like you’re asking the body. It’s like what I was doing with you earlier, like with the manual muscle testing. It’s like, “What does your body think of this? What do you think of that?” So, it’s this questioning mode. It’s asking the person, “What do you think of this? Is this important?” And it doesn’t need to be heavy pressure. I mean, you don’t want to just barely touch it. You want to make contact so enough so it’s like, “What do you think of this?”

But if you’re getting equivocal results, try changing the vector. Like pulling or pushing or lifting or—sometimes that’ll, like, Dr. Tran, in our doctorate program, he said that he always uses Kidney 7 towards 8. And I was like, “I’ve never heard of that.” And he said, “Oh, very important.” And it was like, hm. So, what I’ve noticed is sometimes, I’ll be looking for a kidney point, and I’ll kind of go over 7, and it was like, “Oh, there was something in the area,” and, “Did you try 7 toward 8?” and I’ll put it on 7 and pull toward anterior, and it’s like, “Oh, that’s it.” It releases with that vector. That’s the way you have to needle it.

Q: So, I palpate a Shu, find the tight spot. Do I decrease pressure, touch a point, and then push again? Or do you leave it on that tension and touch points? You know what I mean?

A: I strum the Shu point with each point.

Q: Strum it, and then stop strumming, test, and strum again? Like playing a guitar?

A: Yeah. Like, “What do you think of this point? How about this point? How about this point? Oh my god, I didn’t even have to strum. I could just feel my finger sink in.” But usually, there will be a little leveraging off my knuckles here, kind of going, “Ee-ee-ee-ee.” I mean, I could show you, if you want.

Q: No, I that makes sense. And I think you already explained it in that paper that you sent me.

A: There’ll be more.

Q: I’m just getting it down so that we can—so, you graduated school—where did go to school?

A: Well, it was right after the earth cooled. We had to get the dinosaurs out of the way to get to class.

Q: Because three had to have been time before Kiiko started teaching, right?

A: Oh, god yes.

Q: Because Kiiko wasn’t teaching in the beginning.

A: Oh, no, I’ve gone through many iterations of practice style, heavens.

Q: OK, so you were—how old were you when you started studying with Kiiko, or looking into Kiiko? How far [?] after practice?

A: Oh, maybe 12 to 15 years, somewhere in there.

Q: OK, and then you started learning about Kiiko’s method, and really liked testing unresponsive [?], and so, started to explore that.

A: But I never became a full Kiiko acolyte. But I liked her emphasis on, stuff should happen right now. We should be able to find out what’s going to work, and we should be able to find out right now what’s going to be the most effective treatment for you, based on palpation. And I found that I had a facility for palpating, whereas, you know, maybe some five element practitioner, “Oh my god, I can tell by the smell, it’s acrid, so that means you’ve got this constitutional situation.”

Q: Yeah. I tend to be hands-on, so I think that’s why I’ve gravitated towards that style. How do you develop that, or teach it, to people that aren’t hands-on? How do you develop the sensitivity, how do you—yeah, how do you develop the sensitivity?

A: Practice. But what I find is that most people who are magnetized to acupuncture are tactile. They’re kinesthetic, tactile people. They want to do stuff with their hands, they want to do it with people, to people, all of that. Or you get people in Chinese medicine who aren’t that way, they gravitate more towards Chinese herbs, which is much more of an intellectual exercise, it’s more contemplative, it’s less about touching people.

Q: Does the translation—because there’s some thoughts that the theory of acupuncture and the theory of herbs are kind of two separate things, they don’t necessarily—so, does the Shu points—does the diagnostics that come with that, does that roll into your herbal formulas?

A: It can. It’s more for my acupuncture, but it will inform it. You know, like let’s say the case that I was talking about, where the liver pulse is both wiry and deficient. It’s kind of a little of both. It’s like, “Well, what’s most important for me to do with this person?” Or, “Gee, OK, we need to do more moving, perhaps.” The symptoms could be either way. They have some signs of Liver Qi stagnation, but they also have some signs of blood deficiency. Well, let’s do both. With herbs, you could do both, but what do you want to emphasize? But I think that by in large, it informs my acupuncture much more than my herbal medicine.

Q: OK. And you leave your hand at the point?

A: While I’m testing with the other one.

Q: Yeah. And they tend to be both bilateral. Do you ever test both sides, or do you just stick with the one side that’s easiest?

A: I tend to just stay on the one side, and then I’ll swing around to the other side of the table. Could you do it? Yeah, you could, but I try to use good body mechanics, and when I start getting too reachy, my back—

Q: Again, I know this is all theoretical, and—so, my hand’s on Bladder 23, and I’m testing kidney points, and I’m testing bladder points, and I can’t seem to feel like it’s releasing on the left side of the body, the side that’s closest to me. Do you ever find that it releases on the opposite side? Or is it pretty much just if you check one side, you’re probably going—it’s going to release the same?

A: Well, what happens often with that situation is I’ll go, “I’m not getting any clear reading. Let’s go over to the other side.” Sometimes I’ll get a clearer reading on the other side, and once I find the relationship, I’ll go back, and it’s like, “Yeah, that was it,” but it’s almost like going at it with fresh eyes, going around to the other side.

Q: OK. So, that is a thing. If you do not find it, you can go check the other side.

A: The other thing is being open to other point locations. For instance, a lot of times the SI 15 area, like, it’s an SI point, maybe, yeah, but for instance [phone rings]. What was I talking about?

Q: Testing both sides, and then alternate point locations.

A: Oh, yeah. So like, Small Intestine 7. Small Intestine 7 can be anywhere from here to here. What you’re looking for is the spot that works. Or Liver 8 is kind of a big zone for me. And there’s a lot of points I use in different locations than the book, that’s where I was taught, or where a lot of people ein the olden days were taught. Like Lung 7 is here, not up here. So, sometimes it’s a different location that will garner it, or it’s an extra point. Like Bladder 19, I’ll check the gallbladder points, and I’ll go, “Did you check Dang-Mang Shue [ph.]? Ah, that’s it.” It’s a real gallbladder-oriented thing where you need to use Dang-Mang Shue. That’s the point that’s most important today.

Q: OK. Anything else I should know?

A: You start playing with it, and then you develop your own style, too. Like sometimes, for Bladder 13 or 42, it’s Lung 1. It’s not on the arm. It’s often the points out here are more active, generally. The Antique Points, as they used to sometimes be called.

Q: That actually is interesting.

A: The points from like the knee down and the elbow down. Those are influential points. They tend to be more influential than some of the body. But sometimes the body points are the most important one. Like Liver 13 or 14 or Lung 1. And sometimes it’s above the knee, like Gallbladder 31 is often a really good point.

How to feel the Blood to Feel the Qi

How to feel the Blood to Feel the Qi

Breathing

Laydown and Relax. If the Mind that is stressed it can easily override the natural reflexes we are trying to feel. For example Mental stimulation prevents bradycardia during a breath hold (Ross & Steptoe, 1980), which showed Bradycardia was attenuated by mental arithmetic in both air and water.

  • Lay Down (relax the body)
  • Lay Down (Relax the mind)

(Blood going down and out)

1) Exhale all your air and hold.(20-40 sec, exaggerated sign)
Co2 levels will start to rise, which will begin to open blood vessels to your hands and feet. Stay relaxed you will feel diaphragm contraction, it may even go into diaphragm lockdown, this will also push blood away from your core down to your hands and feet. You are feeling QI and Blood going down and out.

Recover minute. The sensation is very powerful and outward. During the breath hold c02 level increased making your blood more acidic which makes it easier for Hemoglobin to release oxygen. While you recover. Your tissue is easily receiving oxygen. You probably also had a spleen contraction which released more red blood cells into your system which will make any other breath-holds easier. Notice what this feels like .

(Blood going in and up)

2) Huff and Puff (30-60sec)
Hyperventilate until you feel tingling and then do a full lung breath-hold. Your C02 levels have now dropped. The Tingling you feel is your blood vessels contracting. The full breath into the chest has closed off your throat. As you hold your breath and relax. Your soft diaphragm will relax and be pushed on by gravity but your hard chest/lung will say full. You will feel more pressure in your head. You are feeling Qi and Blood going in and up. Hold this until you feel a contraction to make sure you c02 levels come back up

Warning If you have a condition called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), you’ll experience significant increases in your blood pressure stop if you get too light-headed.

Hydrotherapy

Cold Water

(Blood going in and UP)

1) Get in a Cold Shower
Cold water immersion induces significant physiological and biochemical changes in the body such as increase in Heart Rate, Blood Pressure and metabolism, Release of the hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine from the adrenal medulla of the adrenal glands is part of the fight-or-flight response.

This has an Antidepressive effect of cold shower (depressed people have qi that goes down and out) attributed to the presence of high density of cold receptors in skin expected to send an overwhelming amount of electrical impulses from peripheral nerve endings to the brain kind of like shock therapy.

(Notice your blood/qi going in and up.)

2) Do a full breath hold and wait until you feel the beginning of contraction, then put your face into Cold water.
This stimulates, the trigeminal nerve which will cause the heart to slow, blood pressure to drop, and cerebrovascular vasodilatation. The magnitude of the bradycardia response to breath holds depends largely on the extent of facial cooling.

Notice the Blood/Qi is now going in and down
Notice your contractions will feel less and you get a Tunnel vision feeling.

Tip: You have to say calm and relax or your stress will override this “dive reflex”:

Warm Water

Release and Harmonize the exterior.

1) Get the water hot and have it hit the back of your neck.
The amazing warmth and relaxation should cause Goosebumps. Goosebumps not only respond to cold but the emotions. The sensation of the warm should cause goosebumps. Goosebumps happen on the hairier parts of your body and is similar to sweating. This is the sensation of releasing the exterior.

Clinical Note
Sauna Therapy increases endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) activity and improves cardiac function in heart failure and improve peripheral blood flow in ischemic limbs.

There is a strong inverse association between regular sauna bathing habits and the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in middle-aged Finnish men.

Sauna bathing, an activity that promotes relaxation and well-being, may be a recommendable intervention to prevent or delay the development of memory diseases in healthy adults. Further study is however needed.

Since hypertension damages blood vessels, it’s easy to see how it contributes to vascular dementia. Although the link to Alzheimer’s disease is less obvious, research suggests that vascular damage and tissue inflammation accelerate injury.

Seated Meditation

Pause on the exhale (You can do this throughout your mediation.)
If you can slow your breathing down below your body’s metabolic demand it will slowly increase C02 levels. You can do this buy just breathing slow and or pausing your breath on the exhale. When you start to have the build-up of C02 and urge to breathe you can need to relax more and decrease the metabolic and it will go away. This is a good Biofeed back method. This is much more gentle then the above methods.

Freedivers do something similar but it is call a Co2 table and looks like this.

The CO2 tables build a tolerance to the high level of carbon dioxide in the blood. Rest time in this table decreases with each round while an apnea time stays the same:

Apnea: 2:00, Rest: 1:45
Apnea: 2:00, Rest: 1:30
Apnea: 2:00, Rest: 1:15
Apnea: 2:00, Rest: 1:00

Pause on Inhale Valsalva Breath-Hold.
(Don’t do this for a very long time.)

Phase one
Breathe in and hold, while bear down causes the pressure in your chest to increase. That’s because the pressure in your aorta inside your chest briefly increases, and blood is forced out of your heart to your limbs and the rest of your body.

This first phase causes a temporary spike in your blood pressure.

Phase two
The second phase causes a steady drop in blood pressure as a limited amount of blood in the veins returns to the heart.

This lower amount of blood returning to the heart results in less blood pumped from the heart and a fall in blood pressure. Your ANS senses this pressure drop and responds by increasing your heart rate and output, and contracting your arteries.

All of this leads to the return of blood pressure to a normal range if your ANS is healthy.

Phase three
At the end of the maneuver, you relax and your blood pressure falls for a few moments. This is the third phase.

Phase four
Soon, blood starts rushing back to the heart. After a few heartbeats, blood flow should be back to normal and your blood pressure will rise because your blood vessels are still constricted.

The blood pressure increase ideally causes the heart rate to come back to normal. That’s phase four.

Restoring heart rhythm
The shifts in blood pressure and heart rate as you move through the four phases of the maneuver can often restore a normal heart rhythm when your heart is experiencing tachycardia.

The pattern of your heart rate and blood pressure changes through the various phases of the Valsalva maneuver works both sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve functions.

If you have a condition called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), you’ll experience significant increases in your blood pressure during phases two and four.

POTS is a condition in which your blood pressure drops dramatically when you stand after you’ve been sitting or lying down. It can be a very serious health problem, leading to fainting, falls, and other complications.

Connective Tissue Stretching: What It Is and How To Do It

Connective Tissue Stretching

What Is Stretching?

Stretching is something that we all do. You’ll see dogs do it when they get out of bed. They’ll stretch, then yawn. You’ll see babies do it. It’s a natural process of being a human and animal.

Many people make the incorrect assumption that when muscles are tight, you need to stretch them, and by doing so, you will gain flexibility and muscles physically become stronger which is incorrect. Our muscles don’t really stretch. What we’re doing is we’re stretching our connective tissue and neurologically retraining our muscles.

If you feel that you are not flexible, it is not because your muscles are tight. It is because your brain is not allowing your muscles to move along to their full length. Your nervous system is inhibiting your muscles from changing their shape as a safety precaution. Flexibility is about gaining control over your muscles; it’s not about stretching them.

One of the aspects that Connective Tissue stretching is doing, is giving your nervous system a signal that you are fully in control, that you’re strong enough to protect yourself in that this position is not harming you.

The Ultimate Stretch

In this video, you will learn a different way to stretch to focus on connective tissue. You will use large multi-complex movement that pulls on connective tissue from many joints located at a distance from each other.

Stretching
Stretching of any kind helps improve recovery and performance. Choosing the right type of stretch depends on two things:

  • The type of activity you are doing
  • Whatever gives you the best results

A good rule of thumb is you should enjoy stretching. You should not hurt while doing it and you should feel better, not worse afterward.

There are two major components. There’s the muscle component and there’s a connective tissue component. Let’s talk about the muscle.

Connective Tissue

The connective tissue is your tendons, ligaments, and fascia. Ligaments are what connect bone to bone and your tendons are what connect your muscles to your bones. We don’t want to stretch ligaments and Tendons. They are meant to hold your things together.

Outside of ligaments and tendons, we have fascia, a connective tissue that surrounds every fiber of your muscle. Not only around the muscle but also inside the muscle. Every single little muscle fiber has a little mini envelope of connective tissue around it. The whole muscle is wrapped in this multidimensional tube of connective tissue. The connective tissue doesn’t stop there, it goes between each muscle. This connection transmits the force from one muscle to the next.

We used to think the force that a muscle exerts, presses on the tendon and then presses on the bone. That’s no the whole picture a large component of the force that a muscle exerts, goes laterally to the connective tissue and around it, and then to the muscles beside it. Connective tissue distributes the force throughout the limb.

Connective tissue doesn’t just stop at the musculus, it surrounds every single organ in the body. This is what we call a matrix of connective tissue. It is the scaffold that gives our body shape. Connective tissue is the common denominator throughout the entire body. Fascia connective tissue literally connects us. It is what holds you together and provides your shape and posture. It is a state of structural and functional continuity between all of the body’s hard and soft tissues, Without fascia, our muscles would be like a jelly substance without much form at all.

This structure it provides is not passive. Fascial tissue contains contractile cells that influence musculoskeletal dynamics. Fascia is one of our most important perceptual tissues The fascia contains sensitive nerves that convey proprioception (joint position sense) fascial tissue is one of our richest sensory organs. A myriad of tiny unmyelinated ‘free’ nerve endings are found almost everywhere in fascial tissues, but particularly in bone and visceral connective tissues.
Connective tissue is composed of a base substance and two kinds of protein-based fiber. The two types of fiber are:

  • Collagenous connective tissue (consists mostly of collagen and provides tensile strength)
  • Elastic connective tissue (consists mostly of elastin and provides elasticity)

The base substance is called mucopolysaccharide and acts as both a lubricant (allowing the fibers to easily slide over one another), and as a glue (holding the fibers of the tissue together into bundles). The more elastic connective tissue there is around a joint, the greater the range of motion in that joint.

Fascia, when healthy, forms a gliding interface with underlying muscle allowing free excursion of the muscle under the relatively immobile skin. When we’re stretching the connective tissue, we’re actually stretching the more elastic quality fibers.

Connective tissue is also responsive to heat. That’s why when you do a warm-up, you increase your body’s temperature, or when you take a hot shower, you feel more flexible as this tissue is more fluid. Just like every other tissue in your body, your fascia is made of water. It works better, moves better, and feels better when it’s wet. So, drink more water! We’re not just stretching muscle but stretching this connective tissue that flows throughout the body that goes into our organs.

Download our Free Instructional Guide

Learn six simple, low-intensity activities for less pain, and more comfort in your body.

Why It’s Important To Stretch Our Connective Tissue

When you stretch connective tissue it stimulates anti-inflammatory agents in the body. So stretching can decrease inflammation, specifically when you’re stretching connective tissue. One of the benefits, when we think about yoga and tai chi as being helpful with arthritis and other inflammation, is that we are stretching this connective tissue.

Stretching Connective Tissue

Study 1
Berrueta, Lisbeth, et al. “Stretching impacts inflammation resolution in connective tissue.” Journal of cellular physiology 231.7 (2016): 1621-1627

Acute inflammation is accompanied from its outset by the release of specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs), including resolvins (Resolvins are specialized pro-resolving mediators derived from omega-3 fatty acids), that orchestrate the resolution of local inflammation.

In rats with subcutaneous inflammation of the back, carrageenan was induced. Stretching for 10 minutes twice daily reduced inflammation and improved pain, two weeks after carrageenan injection.

Furthermore, subcutaneous resolving injection mimicked the effect of stretching. In ex vivo experiments, stretching of connective tissue reduced the migration of neutrophils and increased tissue RvD1 concentration. These results demonstrate a direct mechanical impact of stretching on inflammation-regulation mechanisms within connective tissue.

Study 2
Corey, Sarah M., et al. “Stretching of the back improves gait, mechanical sensitivity and connective tissue inflammation in a rodent model.” PloS one 7.1 (2012): e29831.

In a recent ultrasound study, human subjects with chronic low back pain had altered connective tissue structure compared to human subjects without low back pain, suggesting the presence of inflammation and/or fibrosis in the low back pain subjects. Mechanical input in the form of static tissue stretch has been shown in vitro and in vivo to have anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic effects.

Study 3
Berrueta, L., et al. “Stretching reduces tumor growth in a mouse breast cancer model.” Scientific reports 8.1 (2018): 1-7.

Showed that gentle daily stretching for 10 minutes can reduce local connective tissue inflammation and fibrosis. Because mechanical factors within the stroma can influence the tumor microenvironment, they suggest a link between immune exhaustion, inflammation resolution and tumor growth. Stretching is a gentle, non-pharmacological intervention that could become an important component of cancer treatment and prevention.

What Happens When You Stretch

The stretching of a muscle fiber begins with the sarcomere, the basic unit of contraction in the muscle fiber. As the sarcomere contracts, the area of overlap between the thick and thin myofilaments increases. As it stretches, this area of overlap decreases, allowing the muscle fiber to elongate. Once the muscle fiber is at its maximum resting length (all the sarcomeres are fully stretched), additional stretching places force on the surrounding connective tissue. As the tension increases, the collagen fibers in the connective tissue align themselves along the same line of force as the tension. Hence when you stretch, the muscle fiber is pulled out to its full length sarcomere by sarcomere, and then the connective tissue takes up the remaining slack. When this occurs, it helps to realign any disorganized fibers in the direction of the tension. This realignment is what helps to rehabilitate scarred tissue back to health.

When a muscle is stretched, some of its fibers lengthen, but other fibers may remain at rest. The current length of the entire muscle depends upon the number of stretched fibers (similar to the way that the total strength of a contracting muscle depends on the number of recruited fibers contracting). The more fibers that are stretched, the greater the length developed by the stretched muscle.

Proprioceptors

The nerve endings that relay all the information about the musculoskeletal system to the central nervous system are called proprioceptors. Proprioceptors (also called mechanoreceptors) are the source of all proprioception: the perception of one’s own body position and movement. The proprioceptors detect any changes in physical displacement (movement or position) and any changes in tension, or force, within the body.

The fascia is highly innervated this the proprioceptive nerves. Especially the thoracolumbar fascia. They are responsible for sending information about joint position and movement. In chronic pain patients, proprioception is impaired and studies indicate that connective tissue structures in painful body parts exhibit pathological changes. Fascia should therefore be considered a cause of pain and proprioceptive deficits and treatment should be applied accordingly.”

Fascia is usually seen as having a passive role, transmitting mechanical tension which is generated by muscle activity or external forces. However, there is some evidence to suggest that fascia may be able to actively contract in a smooth muscle-like manner and consequently influence musculoskeletal dynamics. General support for this hypothesis came with the discovery of contractile cells in fascia, from theoretical reflections on the biological advantages of such a capacity, and from the existence of pathological fascial contractures.

How Connective Tissue Affects Flexibility

The resistance to lengthening that is offered by a muscle is dependent upon its connective tissues: When the muscle elongates, the surrounding connective tissues become more taut. Also, inactivity of certain muscles or joints can cause chemical changes in connective tissue which restrict flexibility. According to M. Alter, each type of tissue plays a certain role in joint stiffness: “The joint capsule (i.e., the saclike structure that encloses the ends of bones) and ligaments are the most important factors, accounting for 47 percent of the stiffness, followed by the muscle’s fascia (41 percent), the tendons (10 percent), and skin (2 percent)”.

M. Alter goes on to say that efforts to increase flexibility should be directed at the muscle’s fascia, however. This is because it has the most elastic tissue and because ligaments and tendons (since they have less elastic tissue) are not intended to be stretched very much at all. Overstretching them may weaken the joint’s integrity and cause destabilization (which increases the risk of injury).

When connective tissue is overused, the tissue becomes fatigued and may tear, which also limits flexibility. When connective tissue is unused or underused, it provides significant resistance and limits flexibility. The elastin begins to fray and loses some of its elasticity, and the collagen increases in stiffness and in density. Aging has some of the same effects on the connective tissue that lack of use has.

How Aging Affects Flexibility

With appropriate training, flexibility can, and should, be developed at all ages. This does not imply, however, that flexibility can be developed at the same rate by everyone. In general, the older you are, the longer it will take to develop the desired level of flexibility. Hopefully, you’ll be more patient if you’re older.

According to M. Alter, the main reason we become less flexible as we get older is a result of certain changes that take place in our connective tissues. As we age, our bodies gradually dehydrate to some extent. It is believed that “stretching stimulates the production or retention of lubricants between the connective tissue fibers, thus preventing the formation of adhesions”. Hence, exercise can delay some of the loss of flexibility that occurs due to the aging process.
M. Alter further states that some of the physical changes attributed to aging are the following:

  • An increased amount of calcium deposits, adhesions, and cross-links in the body
  • An increase in the level of fragmentation and dehydration
  • Changes in the chemical structure of the tissues.
  • Loss of suppleness due to the replacement of muscle fibers with fatty, collagenous fibers.

This does not mean that you should give up trying to achieve flexibility if you are old or inflexible. It just means that you need to work harder, and more carefully, for a longer period of time when attempting to increase flexibility. Increases in the ability of muscle tissues and connective tissues to elongate (stretch) can be achieved at any age.

Connective Tissue Stretching

There’s a different way to stretch when we focus on connective tissue versus when we focus on muscles. When you think about stretching a muscle you can very much isolate that muscle. If you want to do a hamstring stretch, you can isolate just a hamstring. When you’re focusing on muscles, it’s actually better to isolate a very specific muscle. When you think about stretching connective tissue, we want a large multi-complex movement that pulls on this connective tissue from many joints located at a distance from each other. We need to realize that although it feels like we are stretching, we are not really doing that.

It takes a lot of force or longer durations to permanently change fascia. Fascia nevertheless is densely innervated by proprioceptors/ mechanoreceptors which are responsive to manual pressure and stretching. Stimulation of these sensory receptors has been shown to lead to a lowering of sympathetic tonus as well as a change in local tissue viscosity. Additionally, smooth muscle cells have been discovered in the fascia, which seems to be involved in active fascial contractility. Fascia and the autonomic nervous system are intimately connected. A change in attitude in myofascial stretching needs to change from a mechanical perspective toward the inclusion of the self-regulatory dynamics of the nervous system.

Every person knows the experience of finding a tight spot in their body, massaging it, and feeling it “release” or “relax”. It seems natural to assume that you physically broke down a knot but this is not actually true.

Fascia collagen fibers are literally as strong as steel. To actually “break them up” would require so much force application that one’s body would sustain serious injury—this is not something that is achieved by a massage therapist’s hands or by simple stretching.

Although you may feel a tight spot in your body and change its texture after it is rolled, massaged, or stretched, this change was not the architecture of the fascia changing. When fascia changes its architecture, it does so slowly and over a long period of time—collagen takes about three years in order to completely change and remodel. Any instantaneous changes in tissue quality that you experience of stretching are not the “breaking down” of adhesions, knots, or scar tissue—they are instead changes in tissue tone that are mediated by the nervous system.

Once we wrap our minds around that connective tissue, stretching primarily works through neurological communication instead of physically breaking down adhesions, knots, and scar tissue. We need to realize the importance of being calm and gentle.

Connective tissue stretching involves stretches that utilize multiple joints and muscles. It is not isolating but encompasses the full body. It uses breath control and mental meditation to regulate the nervous system. The simplest example of this would be the sensation of a giant yawn and stretch in the morning.

When you yawn and stretch in the morning there is a breathing and a full body component. As your breath-in you contract and lean back, stretching your quads and your stomach. As you continue to breath-in and fill your upper chest your arms reach out and your mouth opens up engaging your face.

Connective Tissue Stretching

There is a full-body contraction, stretch, hold, and then the release as you breathe out. It stimulates and relaxes the nervous system. You feel this stretch everywhere and engage every part of your body and feel calm and refreshed afterward.

Head, Fingers, Toes
Connective tissue stretching uses the farthest ends of your connective tissue (head, fingers, and toes) to create different angles of tension throughout the body. There is an active component of pushing out with your hands or your feet to expand the body. Imagine pulling on the corners of a bed sheet to get rid of the wrinkles. You focus on your extremities, hand position, toe position, and head and eye position to pull and stretch.

Breathing with Connective Tissue Stretching
Proper breathing control is important for any successful stretch but particularly if you want to focus on the connective tissue. Proper breathing helps to relax the body, increases blood flow throughout the body, and helps to mechanically move and massage the organs. As you breathe in, the diaphragm pushes down on the internal organs and their associated blood vessels, squeezing the blood out of them. As you exhale, the abdomen, its organs and muscles, and their blood vessels flood with new blood. This rhythmic contraction and expansion of the abdominal blood vessels are partially responsible for the circulation of blood in the body. Also, the rhythmic pumping action helps to remove waste products from the muscles in the torso. This pumping action is referred to as the respiratory pump. The respiratory pump is important during stretching because increased blood flow to the stretched muscles improves their elasticity, and increases the rate at which lactic acid is purged from them.

The belly talks to the brain. Mechanoreceptors have been found abundantly in visceral ligaments as well as in the Dura mater of the spinal cord and cranium. It seems quite plausible that most of the effects of visceral or craniosacral osteopathy could be sufficiently explained by a simulation of mechanoreceptors with resulting profound autonomic changes. Recent discoveries concerning the richness of the enteric nervous system have taught us that our ‘belly brain’ contains more than 100 million neurons and works largely independent of the cortical brain. It is interesting to note that the very small connection between these two brains of a few thousand neurons consists of nine times as many neurons involved in processes in which the lower brain tells the upper one what to do, compared with the number of neurons involved in the top-down direction. Many of the sensory neurons of the enteric brain are mechanoreceptors, which – if activated – trigger among other responses, important neuroendocrine changes. These include a change in the production of serotonin – an important cortical neurotransmitter 90% of which is created in the belly – as well as other neuropeptides, such as histamine (which increases inflammatory processes).

Your breathing and your trunk are the links between your arms to your legs. It can be the difference between an isolation stretch and a full-body stretch.

Breathing in expanding the chest or diaphragm or both to engage the stretch. When you breathe into the chest you increase the stretch in your arms and neck. When you breathe into and expand the lower abdomen you can increase the stretch into your back and legs. Utilizing both techniques to create as much tension in the motion. Using the exhale to release that tension and create space for more movement. Even increasing the intensity of the stretch on the exhaling. Breathing in build tension, Breathing out relaxes the muscles and allows for more movement.

An example of doing a static stretch and incorporating connective tissue techniques would be a traditional standing forward bend. This can stretch your calves and hamstrings. As you incorporate the breath and breathe-in, you will notice your lower abdomen expand and it will stretch your back. Then from your back, as you breathe into your chest you can tuck to your chin and stretch your neck creating a line of tension from your toes to the top of your head.

Use the breath to support movements that are complex or threaten the spine. Breathing in to create abdominal pressure to support the spine as you move until you are safe then exhale.

As you breathe deeply and steadily, you may notice an ebb and flow of you stretching that mirrors the tide of your breath. As you inhale, your muscles tighten slightly, reducing the stretch. As you exhale, slowly and completely, your abdomen moves back toward your spine, the muscles in your lower back seem to grow longer, and you can drop your chest toward your thighs.
It’s obvious that exhalation deflates the lungs and lifts your diaphragm into the chest, thereby creating space in the abdominal cavity and making it easier to bend the lumbar spine forward. (Inhalation does the opposite, filling the abdominal cavity like an inflating balloon, making it difficult to fold your spine forward completely.) But you may not realize that exhalation also actually relaxes the muscles of your back and tilts your pelvis forward.

How to Stretch

Warming Up
Stretching is not warming up! It is, however, a very important part of warming up. Warming up is quite literally the process of “warming up” (i.e., raising your core body temperature). Warm-up combined with stretching increases the range of motion greater than stretching alone. A proper warm-up should raise your body temperature by one or two degrees Celsius (1.4 to 2.8 degrees Fahrenheit) and is divided into three phases:

  • General warm-up
  • Stretching
  • Sport-specific activity

General Warm-Up
The general warm-up is divided into two parts: instead of hitting the treadmill or grabbing the weights, try using shaking and patting to safely and gently raise your body temperature.

The best example of a vibration-type exercise is the shaking and patting you see top athletes do before a race or competition. Shaking out, and patting down, a muscle group or part of your body gets it engaged in much the same way as more strenuous exercise. Vibration and patting create a mechanical force that stimulates endothelial cells to release Nitric Oxide which increases blood circulation.

Start by shaking your hand and feet with small gentle movements. Then incorporate your knees and elbows then move your hips and shoulders and the last twist your spine side to side. Afterward, raise up onto your toes and drop to your heels.
Then you want to pat your skin and connective tissue. Startup your body feet to head and down your back. There should be no pain, just your hands and skin should get slightly pink.

These two activities should be performed in the order specified:

  • Warming up body
  • Joint rotations

Joint Rotations
The general warm-up should begin with joint-rotations, starting either from your toes and working your way up.. This facilitates joint motion by lubricating the entire joint with synovial fluid. Such lubrication permits your joints to function more easily when called upon to participate in your athletic activity. You should perform slow circular movements, both clockwise and counter-clockwise, until the joint seems to move smoothly. You should rotate the following (in the order given, or in the reverse order):

  • Fingers, Toes
  • Wrists, Ankles
  • Elbows, Knees
  • Shoulders, Hips
  • Neck, Trunk/waist

Warm-Up Stretching
The stretching phase of your warm-up should consist of two parts:

  • Connective Tissue stretching
  • Dynamic stretching

It is important that Connective Tissue stretches be performed before any dynamic stretches in your warm-up. Dynamic stretching can often result in overstretching, which damages the muscles. Performing static stretches first will help reduce this risk of injury and mitigate any performance decrease.

The Importance of Stretching: How to Improve Your Stretch

The Importance of Stretching

What Is Stretching?

Stretching is something that we all do. You’ll see dogs do it when they get out of bed. They’ll stretch, then yawn. You’ll see babies do it. It’s a natural process of being a human and animal.

Many people make the incorrect assumption that when muscles are tight, you need to stretch them, and by doing so, you will gain flexibility and muscles physically become stronger which is incorrect. Our muscles don’t really stretch. What we’re doing is we’re stretching our connective tissue and neurologically retraining our muscles.

If you feel that you are not flexible, it is not because your muscles are tight. It is because your brain is not allowing your muscles to move along to their full length. Your nervous system is inhibiting your muscles from changing their shape as a safety precaution. Flexibility is about gaining control over your muscles; it’s not about stretching them.

One of the aspects that proper stretching is doing, is giving your nervous system a signal that you are fully in control, that you’re strong enough to protect yourself in that lengthened position and that this position is not harming you. One of the problems, when you’re in this lengthened position, is that your muscles are in a very weak and vulnerable place. They are mechanically disadvantaged to contract. Building control and moving without pain in these weakened ranges will actually increase your flexibility. When you stretch over the course of 6 to 12 weeks, what you are in fact doing is just increasing the tolerance to a certain position. You are perceiving less threat in that new range.

Let’s learn more about the physiologic aspects of stretching. Then we’ll look at how you can pick the right type of stretching to treat your conditions, problems or training.

Stretching

Stretching of any kind helps improve recovery and performance. Choosing the right type of stretch depends on two things:

  • The type of activity you are doing
  • Whatever gives you the best results

A good rule of thumb is you should enjoy stretching. You should not hurt while doing it and you should feel better, not worse afterwards.

Physiology of Stretching

There are two major components. There’s the muscle component and there’s a connective tissue component. Let’s talk about the muscle.

Your muscles are made up of myofibrils which are made up of actin myosin. You have these interlinking fibers and when your muscles contract they go together. When your muscles relax they come apart, and your nervous system controls this contraction and relaxation. Your nervous system also controls what level these fibers are interlinking. At 130% of a stretch from a relaxed position these fibers, you start to experience weakness. At 150% of a stretch, you start to actually tear the muscles. Your body doesn’t want your muscles to tear. When they are over-extended, it has this neurological system called your proprioceptive system. The proprioceptive system perceives where your muscle is in space and how much length each muscle has.

The Musculoskeletal System

Together, muscles and bones comprise what is called the musculoskeletal system of the body. The bones provide posture and structural support for the body and the muscles provide the body with the ability to move (by contracting and thus generating tension). The point where bones connect to one another is called a joint, and this connection is made mostly by ligaments (along with the help of muscles). Muscles are attached to the bone by tendons. Bones, tendons, and ligaments do not possess the ability (as muscles do) to make your body move. Muscles are very unique in this respect.

Muscle Composition

At the highest level, the (whole) muscle is composed of many strands of tissue called fascicles. These are the strands of muscle that we see when we cut red meat or poultry. Each fascicle is composed of fasciculi which are bundles of muscle fibers. The muscle fibers are in turn composed of tens of thousands of thread-like myofybrils, which can contract, relax, and elongate (lengthen). The myofybrils are (in turn) composed of up to millions of bands laid end-to-end called sarcomeres. Each sarcomere is made of overlapping thick and thin filaments called myofilaments. The thick and thin myofilaments are made up of contractile proteins, primarily actin and myosin.

Muscle Composition

Image provided by Oregon State University, Open Educational Resources Unit

How Muscles Contract

Nerves connect the spinal column to the muscle. The place where the nerve and muscle meet is called the neuromuscular junction. When an electrical signal crosses the neuromuscular junction, it is transmitted deep inside the muscle fibers. Inside the muscle fibers, the signal stimulates the flow of calcium which causes the thick and thin myofilaments to slide across one another. When this occurs, it causes the sarcomere to shorten, which generates force. When billions of sarcomeres in the muscle shorten all at once it results in a contraction of the entire muscle fiber.

Interestingly muscles, when they contract, are always 100%. Muscle fibers are unable to vary the intensity of their contraction relative to the load against which they are acting.What happens is when we’re increasing the intensity of muscle contractions, it is actually the nervous system that is recruiting more and different types of muscle fibers to contract.

This is important when we look into stretching, because one of the things that happens is when we stretch the muscles, we’re not actually stretching all the muscle fibers. We are stretching some of the muscle fibers and a way to increase the stretch is actually by contracting the muscles which engages muscle fibers.

Sliding Filaments

Image provided by Oregon State University, Open Educational Resources Unit

Fast and Slow Muscle Fibers

The energy which produces the calcium flow in the muscle fibers comes from mitochondria, the part of the muscle cell that converts glucose (blood sugar) into energy. Different types of muscle fibers have different amounts of mitochondria. The more mitochondria in a muscle fiber, the more energy it is able to produce.

Muscle fibers are categorized into slow-twitch fibers and fast-twitch fibers. Slow-twitch fibers (also called Type 1 muscle fibers) are slow to contract, but they are also very slow to fatigue. Fast-twitch fibers are very quick to contract and come in two varieties: Type 2A muscle fibers which fatigue at an intermediate rate, and Type 2B muscle fibers which fatigue very quickly. Slow-twitch fibers are also smaller in diameter than fast-twitch fibers and have increased capillary blood flow around them. Because they have a smaller diameter and an increased blood flow, the slow-twitch fibers are able to deliver more oxygen and remove more waste products from the muscle fibers (which decreases their “fatigability”).

Dark meat is dark because it has a greater number of slow-twitch muscle fibers and hence a greater number of mitochondria, which are dark. White meat consists mostly of muscle fibers which are at rest much of the time but are frequently called on to engage in brief bouts of intense activity. This muscle tissue can contract quickly but is fast to fatigue and slow to recover. White meat is lighter in color than dark meat because it contains fewer mitochondria.

These three muscle fiber types (Types 1, 2A, and 2B) are contained in all muscles in varying amounts. Muscles that need to be contracted much of the time (like the heart) have a greater number of Type 1 (slow) fibers. When a muscle first starts to contract, it is primarily Type 1 fibers that are initially activated, then Type 2A and Type 2B fibers are activated (if needed) in that order. The fact that muscle fibers are recruited in this sequence is what provides the ability to execute brain commands with such fine-tuned muscle responses. It also makes the Type 2B fibers difficult to train because they are not activated until most of the Type 1 and Type 2A fibers have been recruited.

A side note with endurance athletes, what you’ll find is you don’t want all your muscles to contract all the time. This would fatigue the muscles too quickly and it actually trains the nervous system to fire those muscle fibers in a rotational pattern to increase endurance. So while some muscles are contracting, some are resting.

On the other hand, power lifters and explosive athletes, you will actually want as much muscle contraction as you can, so you’re neurologically training yourself to fire all your muscles at once.

Connective Tissue

The connective tissue is your tendons, ligaments and fascia. Ligaments are what connect bone to bone and your tendons are what connects your muscles to your bones. We don’t want to stretch ligaments. They are meant to hold your bones together. Outside of ligaments and tendons we have fascia, a connective tissue that surrounds every fiber of your muscle. Not only around the muscle, but also inside the muscle. Every single little muscle fiber has a little mini envelope of connective tissue around it. The whole muscle is wrapped in this multidimensional tube of connective tissue. The connective tissue doesn’t stop there, it goes between each muscle. This connection transmits the force from one muscle to the next. We used to think the force that a muscle exerts, presses on the tendon and then presses on the bone. That’s actually not the case; a large component of the force that a muscle exerts, goes laterally to the connective tissue and around it, and then to the muscles beside it. Connective tissue distributes the force throughout the limb. Connective tissue doesn’t just stop at the musculus, it surrounds every single organ in the body. This is what we call a matrix of connective tissue. It is the scaffold that gives our body shape. Connective tissue is the common denominator throughout the entire body. Fascia connective tissue literally connects us. It is what holds you together and provides your shape and posture. It is a state of structural and functional continuity between all of the body’s hard and soft tissues, Without fascia, our muscles would be like a jelly substance without much form at all.

This structure it provides is not passive. Fascial tissue contains contractile cells which influence musculoskeletal dynamics. Fascia is one of our most important perceptual tissues The fascia contains sensitive nerves that convey proprioception (joint position sense) fascial tissue is one of our richest sensory organs. A myriad of tiny unmyelinated ‘free’ nerve endings are found almost everywhere in fascial tissues, but particularly in bone and visceral connective tissues.

Connective tissue is composed of a base substance and two kinds of protein based fiber. The two types of fiber are:

  • Collagenous connective tissue (consists mostly of collagen and provides tensile strength)
  • Elastic connective tissue (consists mostly of elastin and provides elasticity)

The base substance is called mucopolysaccharide and acts as both a lubricant (allowing the fibers to easily slide over one another), and as a glue (holding the fibers of the tissue together into bundles). The more elastic connective tissue there is around a joint, the greater the range of motion in that joint.

Fascia, when healthy, forms a gliding interface with underlying muscle allowing free excursion of the muscle under the relatively immobile skin. When we’re stretching the connective tissue, we’re actually stretching the more elastic quality fibers.

Connective tissue is also responsive to heat. That’s why when you do a warm up, you increase your body’s temperature, or when you take a hot shower, you feel more flexible as this tissue is more fluid. Just like every other tissue in your body, your fascia is made of water. It works better, moves better and feels better when it’s wet. So, drink more water! We’re not just stretching muscle but stretching this connective tissue that flows throughout the body that goes into our organs.

Why It’s Important To Stretch Our Connective Tissue

When you stretch connective tissue it stimulates anti-inflammatory agents in the body. So stretching can decrease inflammation, specifically when you’re stretching connective tissue. One of the benefits when we think about yoga and tai chi as being helpful with arthritis and other inflammation, is that we are stretching this connective tissue.

Stretching Connective Tissue

Study 1
Berrueta, Lisbeth, et al. “Stretching impacts inflammation resolution in connective tissue.” Journal of cellular physiology 231.7 (2016): 1621-1627

Acute inflammation is accompanied from its outset by the release of specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs), including resolvins (Resolvins are specialized pro-resolving mediators derived from omega-3 fatty acids), that orchestrate the resolution of local inflammation.

In rats with subcutaneous inflammation of the back, carrageenan was induced. Stretching for 10 minutes twice daily reduced inflammation and improved pain, two weeks after carrageenan injection.

Furthermore, subcutaneous resolving injection mimicked the effect of stretching. In ex vivo experiments, stretching of connective tissue reduced the migration of neutrophils and increased tissue RvD1 concentration. These results demonstrate a direct mechanical impact of stretching on inflammation-regulation mechanisms within connective tissue.

Study 2
Corey, Sarah M., et al. “Stretching of the back improves gait, mechanical sensitivity and connective tissue inflammation in a rodent model.” PloS one 7.1 (2012): e29831.

In a recent ultrasound study, human subjects with chronic low back pain had altered connective tissue structure compared to human subjects without low back pain, suggesting the presence of inflammation and/or fibrosis in the low back pain subjects. Mechanical input in the form of static tissue stretch has been shown in vitro and in vivo to have anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic effects.

Study 3
Berrueta, L., et al. “Stretching reduces tumor growth in a mouse breast cancer model.” Scientific reports 8.1 (2018): 1-7.

Showed that gentle daily stretching for 10 minutes can reduce local connective tissue inflammation and fibrosis. Because mechanical factors within the stroma can influence the tumor microenvironment, they suggest a link between immune exhaustion, inflammation resolution and tumor growth. Stretching is a gentle, non-pharmacological intervention that could become an important component of cancer treatment and prevention.

What Happens When You Stretch

The stretching of a muscle fiber begins with the sarcomere, the basic unit of contraction in the muscle fiber. As the sarcomere contracts, the area of overlap between the thick and thin myofilaments increases. As it stretches, this area of overlap decreases, allowing the muscle fiber to elongate. Once the muscle fiber is at its maximum resting length (all the sarcomeres are fully stretched), additional stretching places force on the surrounding connective tissue. As the tension increases, the collagen fibers in the connective tissue align themselves along the same line of force as the tension. Hence when you stretch, the muscle fiber is pulled out to its full length sarcomere by sarcomere, and then the connective tissue takes up the remaining slack. When this occurs, it helps to realign any disorganized fibers in the direction of the tension. This realignment is what helps to rehabilitate scarred tissue back to health.

When a muscle is stretched, some of its fibers lengthen, but other fibers may remain at rest. The current length of the entire muscle depends upon the number of stretched fibers (similar to the way that the total strength of a contracting muscle depends on the number of recruited fibers contracting). The more fibers that are stretched, the greater the length developed by the stretched muscle.

Proprioceptors

The nerve endings that relay all the information about the musculoskeletal system to the central nervous system are called proprioceptors. Proprioceptors (also called mechanoreceptors) are the source of all proprioception: the perception of one’s own body position and movement. The proprioceptors detect any changes in physical displacement (movement or position) and any changes in tension, or force, within the body. They are found in all nerve endings of the joints, muscles, and tendons. The proprioceptors related to stretching are located in the tendons and in the muscle fibers.

There’s two components of that proprioceptive system that we will focus on:

  • Muscle spindle fibers (lMonitor Muscle Length)
  • Golgi tendon (Monitor Muscle Tension)

These are basically the nerves that talk to the muscles (muscle spindle fibers) and the nerves that talk to the tendons (golgi tendon).

The stretch receptors which are sensitive to the change in muscle length and the rate of change in muscle length. When muscles contract, it places tension on the tendons where the golgi tendon organ is located. The golgi tendon organ is sensitive to the change in tension and the rate of change of the tension. Tension that is caused by muscular contraction, but not passive stretch.

What happens is when there’s a quick pulling apart the muscle spindle fibers in the muscles, will send a neurological signal and actually cause the muscle to contract.

When there’s injury, obviously the body feels like it can’t stretch very far and so it keeps those muscle spindles close together. So when you’re stretching you don’t want to have pain because that is reinforcing a contraction signal.

You want a stretch that’s safe. What happens is as you hold that stretch for a long period of time, usually 30 – 60 seconds. Generally you’re holding it longer because what you’re doing is you’re decreasing that signal. That stretch signal to the nervous system you’re getting the nervous system used to having those muscle fibers being held at that length, what the body perceives a weakened state or a dangerous state. So you put the muscle fibers in the stretch and then you hold it there so the nervous system can adapt.

Muscle Spindle & GTO

Image provided by neurones.co.uk

The Stretch Reflex (Myotatic Reflex)

When the muscle is stretched, so is the muscle spindle. The muscle spindle records the change in length (and how fast) and sends signals to the spine which convey this information. This triggers the stretch reflex (also called the myotatic reflex) which attempts to resist the change in muscle length by causing the stretched muscle to contract. The more sudden the change in muscle length, the stronger the muscle contractions will be (plyometric, or “jump”, training is based on this fact). This basic function of the muscle spindle helps to maintain muscle tone and to protect the body from injury.

This is the reflex the doctors are checking when they hit your knee with the hammer. The hammer stretches the muscle quickly and causes a contraction.

The stretch reflex has both a dynamic component and a static component. The static component of the stretch reflex persists as long as the muscle is being stretched. The dynamic component of the stretch reflex (which can be very powerful) lasts for only a moment and is in response to the initial sudden increase in muscle length. The reason that the stretch reflex has two components is because there are actually two kinds of intrafusal muscle fibers: nuclear chain fibers, which are responsible for the static component; and nuclear bag fibers, which are responsible for the dynamic component.

Nuclear chain fibers are long and thin, and lengthen steadily when stretched. When these fibers are stretched, the stretch reflex nerves increase their firing rates (signaling) as their length steadily increases. This is the static component of the stretch reflex.

Nuclear bag fibers bulge out at the middle, where they are the most elastic. The stretch-sensing nerve ending for these fibers is wrapped around this middle area, which lengthens rapidly when the fiber is stretched. The outer-middle areas, in contrast, act like they are filled with viscous fluid; they resist fast stretching, then gradually extend under prolonged tension. So, when a fast stretch is demanded of these fibers, the middle takes most of the stretch at first; then, as the outer-middle parts extend, the middle can shorten somewhat. So the nerve that senses stretching in these fibers fires rapidly with the onset of a fast stretch, then slows as the middle section of the fiber is allowed to shorten again. This is the dynamic component of the stretch reflex: a strong signal to contract at the onset of a rapid increase in muscle length, followed by slightly “higher than normal” signaling which gradually decreases as the rate of change of the muscle length decreases.

One of the reasons for holding a stretch for a prolonged period of time is that as you hold the muscle in a stretched position, the muscle spindle habituates (becomes accustomed to the new length) and reduces its signaling. Gradually, you can train your stretch receptors to allow greater lengthening of the muscles.

Some sources suggest that with extensive training, the stretch reflex of certain muscles can be controlled so that there is little or no reflex contraction in response to a sudden stretch. While this type of control provides the opportunity for the greatest gains in flexibility, it also provides the greatest risk of injury if used improperly. Only consummate professional athletes and dancers at the top of their sport (or art) are believed to actually possess this level of muscular control.

The Lengthening Reaction (Inverse Myotatic Reflex)

When muscles contract, they produce tension at the point where the muscle is connected to the tendon, where the golgi tendon organ is located. The golgi tendon organ records the change in tension, and the rate of change of the tension, and sends signals to the spine to convey this information. When this tension exceeds a certain threshold, it triggers the lengthening reaction which inhibits the muscles from contracting and causes them to relax. Other names for this reflex are the inverse myotatic reflex, autogenic inhibition, and the clasped-knife reflex. This basic function of the golgi tendon organ helps to protect the muscles, tendons, and ligaments from injury. The lengthening reaction is possible only because the signaling of the golgi tendon organ to the spinal cord is powerful enough to overcome the signaling of the muscle spindles telling the muscle to contract.

So if you’re lifting something heavy and the tendon feels like it’s going to get damaged, it’ll turn the muscles off. You’ll see that with hamstring strains and other similar injuries.

It was first thought GTOs only had a protective function ,but it is now known that golgi tendon signal muscle tension continuously providing precise information about muscle force, that the reflex pathway has multisensory inputs that may allow precise control of muscle forces for fine activities.

We have the golgi tendons and we have the muscle spindle fibers that inversely talk to the nervous system, where one is more inhibiting and the other is causing contractions but they’re working together as a team. The nervous system is controlling the muscles telling it to contract. The nervous system is listening to the muscles, how far are they expanding and how much tension is on the tendons. It is infoming how much contraction is in the muscles. When we stretch we want to let the nervous system know, that we’re safe and that we’re okay. That there’s no pain and in this stretch position it’s fine. The nervous system will basically reset those muscle fibers. It’s not like your muscles are tight, it’s not like your muscles are loose. It’s more about what your body perceives is safe.

With injury, the body doesn’t perceive that it is safe and it will cause a muscle contraction. Basically it’s causing a cast so that you have less range of motion. It’s a spasm of the muscle and so one of the things that we do is let the body know that this motion is safe. Two key points to take away:

  • You want to hold a muscle for a long time to help reinforce a signal that this is a safe position. Let the nervous system adjust to that.
  • You want to avoid pain when you do a stretch, because that’s reinforcing that this is not safe and then also we have the contraction phase to increase more fibers.

Another reason for holding a stretch for a prolonged period of time is to allow this lengthening reaction to occur, thus helping the stretched muscles to relax. It is easier to stretch, or lengthen, a muscle when it is not trying to contract.

Clinical Note
Upper motoneuron lesions which damage the descending pathways down to the spinal cord may cause increase in muscle tone, partly because motoneurons respond more to muscle spindle afferent inputs. This causes increased resistance to passive movement (that the patient doesn’t initiate), called spasticity, which is associated with another neurological sign, the clasp-knife response, in which the spastic muscle initially resists passive movement strongly, and then suddenly yields.

Reciprocal Inhibition

Another thing that the nervous system does is called reciprocal inhibition. When one muscle contracts the other muscle has to relax. Our muscles work together in pairs.

Agonists
These muscles cause the movement to occur. They create the normal range of movement in a joint by contracting. Agonists are also referred to as prime movers since they are the muscles that are primarily responsible for generating the movement.

Antagonists
These muscles act in opposition to the movement generated by the agonists and are responsible for returning a limb to its initial position.

When an agonist contracts, in order to cause the desired motion, it usually forces the antagonists to relax. This phenomenon is called reciprocal inhibition because the antagonists are inhibited from contracting. This is sometimes called reciprocal innervation but that term is really a misnomer since it is the agonists which inhibit (relax) the antagonists. The antagonists do not actually innervate (cause the contraction of) the agonists.

Such inhibition of the antagonistic muscles is not necessarily required. In fact, co-contraction can occur. When you perform a sit-up, one would normally assume that the stomach muscles inhibit the contraction of the muscles in the lumbar, or lower, region of the back. In this particular instance however, the back muscles (spinal erectors) also contract. This is one reason why sit-ups are good for strengthening the back as well as the stomach.

As an example, when you flex your knee, your hamstring contracts, and, to some extent, so does your gastrocnemius (calf) and lower buttocks. Meanwhile, your quadriceps are inhibited (relaxed and lengthened somewhat) so as not to resist the flexion. In this example, the hamstring serves as the agonist, or prime mover; the quadricep serves as the antagonist; and the calf and lower buttocks serve as the synergists. Agonists and antagonists are usually located on opposite sides of the affected joint (like your hamstrings and quadriceps, or your triceps and biceps), while synergists are usually located on the same side of the joint near the agonists. Larger muscles often call upon their smaller neighbors to function as synergists.

The following is a list of commonly used agonist/antagonist muscle pairs:

  • pectorals/latissimus dorsi (pecs and lats)
  • anterior deltoids/posterior deltoids (front and back shoulder)
  • trapezius/deltoids (traps and delts)
  • abdominals/spinal erectors (abs and lower-back)
  • left and right external obliques (sides)
  • quadriceps/hamstrings (quads and hams)
  • shins/calves
  • biceps/triceps
  • forearm flexors/extensors

One of the things that you can do with your stretching is engage that process. For example, if you’re stretching your calf and you actively lift your toe, you are contracting your anterior tibialis which will reciprocally inhibit your calf muscles. It will help the nervous system let those muscles go. It is easier to stretch a muscle that is relaxed than to stretch a muscle that is contracting. By taking advantage of the situations when reciprocal inhibition does occur, you can get a more effective stretch by inducing the antagonists to relax during the stretch due to the contraction of the agonists.

When we stretch muscles, what we’re working on is the nervous system. We’re not really stretching, we’re just retraining. We don’t actually stretch the muscles, we’re relaxing the muscles.

Dog Pose Active Stretch

Image provided by bandhayoga.com

Factors Limiting Flexibility

According to Gummerson, flexibility (he uses the term mobility) is affected by the following factors:

Internal influences

  • the type of joint (some joints simply aren’t meant to be flexible)
  • the internal resistance within a joint
  • bony structures which limit movement
  • the elasticity of muscle tissue (muscle tissue that is scarred due to a previous injury is not very elastic)
  • the elasticity of tendons and ligaments (ligaments do not stretch much and tendons should not stretch at all)
  • the elasticity of skin (skin actually has some degree of elasticity, but not much)
  • the ability of a muscle to relax and contract to achieve the greatest range of movement
  • the temperature of the joint and associated tissues (joints and muscles offer better flexibility at body temperatures that are 1 to 2 degrees higher than normal)

External influences

  • the temperature of the place where one is training (a warmer temperature is more conducive to increased flexibility)
  • the time of day (most people are more flexible in the afternoon than in the morning, peaking about 2:30pm-4pm)
  • the stage in the recovery process of a joint (or muscle) after injury (injured joints and muscles will usually offer a lesser degree of flexibility than healthy ones)
  • age (pre-adolescents are generally more flexible than adults)
  • gender (females are generally more flexible than males)
  • one’s ability to perform a particular exercise (practice makes perfect)
  • one’s commitment to achieving flexibility
  • the restrictions of any clothing or equipment

Some sources also suggest that water is an important dietary element with regard to flexibility. Increased water intake is believed to contribute to increased mobility, as well as increased total body relaxation.

How Connective Tissue Affects Flexibility

The resistance to lengthening that is offered by a muscle is dependent upon its connective tissues: When the muscle elongates, the surrounding connective tissues become more taut. Also, inactivity of certain muscles or joints can cause chemical changes in connective tissue which restrict flexibility. According to M. Alter, each type of tissue plays a certain role in joint stiffness: “The joint capsule (i.e., the saclike structure that encloses the ends of bones) and ligaments are the most important factors, accounting for 47 percent of the stiffness, followed by the muscle’s fascia (41 percent), the tendons (10 percent), and skin (2 percent)”.

M. Alter goes on to say that efforts to increase flexibility should be directed at the muscle’s fascia however. This is because it has the most elastic tissue, and because ligaments and tendons (since they have less elastic tissue) are not intended to be stretched very much at all. Overstretching them may weaken the joint’s integrity and cause destabilization (which increases the risk of injury).

When connective tissue is overused, the tissue becomes fatigued and may tear, which also limits flexibility. When connective tissue is unused or under used, it provides significant resistance and limits flexibility. The elastin begins to fray and loses some of its elasticity, and the collagen increases in stiffness and in density. Aging has some of the same effects on connective tissue that lack of use has.

How Aging Affects Flexibility

With appropriate training, flexibility can, and should, be developed at all ages. This does not imply, however, that flexibility can be developed at the same rate by everyone. In general, the older you are, the longer it will take to develop the desired level of flexibility. Hopefully, you’ll be more patient if you’re older.

According to M. Alter, the main reason we become less flexible as we get older is a result of certain changes that take place in our connective tissues. As we age, our bodies gradually dehydrate to some extent. It is believed that “stretching stimulates the production or retention of lubricants between the connective tissue fibers, thus preventing the formation of adhesions”. Hence, exercise can delay some of the loss of flexibility that occurs due to the aging process.

M. Alter further states that some of the physical changes attributed to aging are the following:

  • An increased amount of calcium deposits, adhesions, and cross-links in the body.
  • An increase in the level of fragmentation and dehydration.
  • Changes in the chemical structure of the tissues.
  • Loss of suppleness due to the replacement of muscle fibers with fatty, collagenous fibers.

This does not mean that you should give up trying to achieve flexibility if you are old or inflexible. It just means that you need to work harder, and more carefully, for a longer period of time when attempting to increase flexibility. Increases in the ability of muscle tissues and connective tissues to elongate (stretch) can be achieved at any age.

Strength and Flexibility

Does stretching increase sports performance? The answer is pretty much no, but more specifically it may be depending on the activity. Try doing a static stretch, which is basically just stretching without motion. What you’re doing here is inhibiting muscles and causing the muscles to relax. If you then go from that relaxed muscle state to a dynamic activity, like a vertical jump or a deadlift you actually will see a decrease in muscle recruitment. This makes sense because you’re doing a stretch you’re telling the nervous system to relax to turn off the muscles and then you go immediately into trying to tell the nervous system to contract all the muscles at once. You’ll see a decrease in performance. This neurological decrease in performance is very temporary, So if you did a static stretch and then you ran upstairs for 10 seconds, and then you did a vertical jump, you would mitigate all that decrease in performance, which is important to realize.

The other component to that is you are increasing performance only if you are doing a motion where you’re trying to contract the muscle in a very extremely stretched position. You find that with gymnastics, martial arts and figure skating, where you are doing most of your sports and activity in this large exaggerated range of motion. But if you’re running or jumping you’re not moving in this extreme range of motion and therefore static stretching to improve performance is not effective.

Strength training and flexibility training should go hand in hand. It is a common misconception that there must always be a trade-off between flexibility and strength. Obviously, if you neglect flexibility training altogether in order to train for strength then you are certainly sacrificing flexibility (and vice versa). However, performing exercises for both strength and flexibility need not sacrifice either one. As a matter of fact, flexibility training and strength training can actually enhance one another.

Why Bodybuilders Should Stretch

One of the best times to stretch is right after a strength workout such as weightlifting. Static stretching of fatigued muscles performed immediately following the exercise(s) that caused the fatigue, helps not only to increase flexibility, but also enhances the promotion of muscular development (muscle growth), and will actually help decrease the level of post-exercise soreness.

After you have used weights (or other means) to overload and fatigue your muscles, your muscles retain a “pump” and are shortened somewhat. This “shortening” is due mostly to the repetition of intense muscle activity that often only takes the muscle through part of its full range of motion. This “pump” makes the muscle appear bigger. The “pumped” muscle is also full of lactic acid and other by-products from exhaustive exercise. If the muscle is not stretched afterward, it will retain this decreased range of motion (it sort of “forgets” how to make itself as long as it could) and the buildup of lactic acid will cause post-exercise soreness. Static stretching of the “pumped” muscle helps it to become “looser”, and to “remember” its full range of movement.

Why Contortionists Should Strengthen

The reason for this is that flexibility training on a regular basis causes connective tissues to stretch which in turn causes them to loosen (become less taut) and elongate. When the connective tissue of a muscle is weak, it is more likely to become damaged due to overstretching, or sudden, powerful muscular contractions. The likelihood of such injury can be prevented by strengthening the muscles bound by the connective tissue.

If you also lift weights, dynamic strength training for a muscle should occur before subjecting that muscle to an intense weightlifting workout. This helps to pre-exhaust the muscle first, making it easier (and faster) to achieve the desired overload in an intense strength workout. Attempting to perform dynamic strength training after an intense weightlifting workout would be largely ineffective.

If you are working on increasing (or maintaining) flexibility then it is very important that your strength exercises force your muscles to take the joints through their full range of motion. Repeating movements that do not employ a full range of motion in the joints (like cycling, certain weightlifting techniques, and pushups) can cause shortening of the muscles surrounding the joints. This is because the nervous control of length and tension in the muscles are set at what is repeated most strongly and/or most frequently.

Over Flexibility

Once a muscle has reached its absolute maximum length, attempting to stretch the muscle further only serves to stretch the ligaments and put undue stress upon the tendons (two things that you do not want to stretch). Ligaments will tear when stretched more than 6% of their normal length. Tendons are not even supposed to be able to lengthen. Even when stretched ligaments and tendons do not tear, loose joints and/or a decrease in the joint’s stability can occur (thus vastly increasing your risk of injury).

Once you have achieved the desired level of flexibility for a muscle or set of muscles and have maintained that level for a solid week, you should discontinue any isometric or PNF stretching of that muscle until some of its flexibility is lost.

Types of Stretching

Just as there are different types of flexibility, there are also different types of stretching.
Stretches are either:

  • Dynamic stretches (meaning they involve motion) affect dynamic flexibility
  • Static stretches (meaning they involve no motion) affect static flexibility

Dynamic Stretching
Dynamic stretching, according to Kurz, “involves moving parts of your body and gradually increasing reach, speed of movement, or both.” Do not confuse dynamic stretching with ballistic stretching! Dynamic stretching consists of controlled leg and arm swings that take you (gently!) to the limits of your range of motion. Ballistic stretches involve trying to force a part of the body beyond its range of motion. In dynamic stretches, there are no bounces or “jerky” movements. An example of dynamic stretching would be slow, controlled leg swings, arm swings, or torso twists.

Dynamic stretching improves dynamic flexibility and is quite useful as part of your warm-up for an active or aerobic workout (such as a dance or martial-arts class).

According to Kurz, dynamic stretching exercises should be performed in sets of 8-12 repetitions. Be sure to stop when and if you feel tired. Tired muscles have less elasticity which decreases the range of motion used in your movements. Continuing to exercise when you are tired serves only to reset the nervous control of your muscle length at the reduced range of motion used in the exercise (and will cause a loss of flexibility). Once you attain a maximal range of motion for a joint in any direction you should stop doing that movement during that workout. Tired and overworked muscles won’t attain a full range of motion and the muscle’s kinesthetic memory will remember the repeated shorted range of motion, which you will then have to overcome before you can make further progress.

Active Stretching

Active stretching is also referred to as static-active stretching. An active stretch is one where you assume a position and then hold it there with no assistance other than using the strength of your agonist muscles. For example, bringing your leg up high and then holding it there without anything (other than your leg muscles themselves) to keep the leg in that extended position. The tension of the agonists in an active stretch helps to relax the muscles being stretched (the antagonists) by reciprocal inhibition.

Active stretching increases active flexibility and strengthens the agonistic muscles. Active stretches are usually quite difficult to hold and maintain for more than 10 seconds and rarely need to be held any longer than 15 seconds.
Many of the movements (or stretches) found in various forms of yoga are active stretches.

Passive Stretching

Passive stretching is also referred to as relaxed stretching, and as static-passive stretching. A passive stretch is one where you assume a position and hold it with some other part of your body, or with the assistance of a partner or some other apparatus. For example, bringing your leg up high and then holding it there with your hand. The splits is an example of a passive stretch (in this case the floor is the “apparatus” that you use to maintain your extended position).

Slow, relaxed stretching is useful in relieving spasms in muscles that are healing after an injury. Obviously, you should check with your doctor first to see if it is okay to attempt to stretch the injured muscles.

Relaxed stretching is also very good for “cooling down” after a workout and helps reduce post-workout muscle fatigue, and soreness.

Isometric Stretching
Isometric stretching is a type of static stretching (meaning it does not use motion) which involves the resistance of muscle groups through isometric contractions (tensing) of the stretched muscles. The use of isometric stretching is one of the fastest ways to develop increased static-passive flexibility and is much more effective than either passive stretching or active stretching alone. Isometric stretches also help to develop strength in the “tensed” muscles (which helps to develop static-active flexibility), and seems to decrease the amount of pain usually associated with stretching.

The most common ways to provide the needed resistance for an isometric stretch are to apply resistance manually to one’s own limbs, to have a partner apply the resistance, or to use an apparatus such as a wall (or the floor) to provide resistance.
An example of manual resistance would be holding onto the ball of your foot to keep it from flexing while you are using the muscles of your calf to try and straighten your instep so that the toes are pointed.

An example of using a partner to provide resistance would be having a partner hold your leg up high (and keep it there) while you attempt to force your leg back down to the ground.

An example of using the wall to provide resistance would be the well known “push-the-wall” calf-stretch where you are actively attempting to move the wall (even though you know you can’t).

Isometric stretching is not recommended for children and adolescents whose bones are still growing. These people are usually already flexible enough that the strong stretches produced by the isometric contraction have a much higher risk of damaging tendons and connective tissue. Kurz strongly recommends preceding any isometric stretch of a muscle with dynamic strength training for the muscle to be stretched. A full session of isometric stretching makes a lot of demands on the muscles being stretched and should not be performed more than once per day for a given group of muscles (ideally, no more than once every 36 hours).

The proper way to perform an isometric stretch is as follows:

  • Assume the position of a passive stretch for the desired muscle.
  • Next, tense the stretched muscle for 7-15 seconds (resisting against some force that will not move, like the floor or a partner).
  • Finally, relax the muscle for at least 20 seconds.

Some people seem to recommend holding the isometric contraction for longer than 15 seconds, but according to SynerStretch (the videotape), research has shown that this is not necessary. So you might as well make your stretching routine less time consuming.

How Isometric Stretching Works

Recall from our previous discussion that there is no such thing as a partially contracted muscle fiber: when a muscle is contracted, some of the fibers contract and some remain at rest (more fibers are recruited as the load on the muscle increases). Similarly, when a muscle is stretched, some of the fibers are elongated and some remain at rest. During an isometric contraction, some of the resting fibers are being pulled upon from both ends by the muscles that are contracting. The result is that some of those resting fibers stretch.

Normally, the handful of fibers that stretch during an isometric contraction are not very significant. The true effectiveness of the isometric contraction occurs when a muscle that is already in a stretched position is subjected to an isometric contraction. In this case, some of the muscle fibers are already stretched before the contraction, and, if held long enough, the initial passive stretch overcomes the stretch reflex and triggers the lengthening reaction, inhibiting the stretched fibers from contracting. When you isometrically contracted, some resting fibers would contract and some resting fibers would stretch. Furthermore, many of the fibers already stretching may be prevented from contracting by the inverse myotatic reflex (the lengthening reaction) and would stretch even more. When the isometric contraction is completed, the contracting fibers return to their resting length but the stretched fibers would remember their stretched length and (for a period of time) retain the ability to elongate past their previous limit. This enables the entire muscle to stretch beyonds its initial maximum and results in increased flexibility.

The reason that the stretched fibers develop and retain the ability to stretch beyond their normal limit during an isometric stretch has to do with the muscle spindles: The signal which tells the muscle to contract voluntarily, also tells the muscle spindle’s (intrafusal) muscle fibers to shorten, increasing sensitivity of the stretch reflex. This mechanism normally maintains the sensitivity of the muscle spindle as the muscle shortens during contraction. This allows the muscle spindles to habituate (become accustomed) to an even further-lengthened position.

PNF Stretching

PNF stretching is currently the fastest and most effective way known to increase static-passive flexibility. PNF is an acronym for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. It is not really a type of stretching but is a technique of combining passive stretching and isometric stretching in order to achieve maximum static flexibility. Actually, the term PNF stretching is itself a misnomer. PNF was initially developed as a method of rehabilitating stroke victims. PNF refers to any of several post-isometric relaxation stretching techniques in which a muscle group is passively stretched, then contracts isometrically against resistance while in the stretched position, and then is passively stretched again through the resulting increased range of motion. PNF stretching usually employs the use of a partner to provide resistance against the isometric contraction and then later to passively take the joint through its increased range of motion. It may be performed, however, without a partner, although it is usually more effective with a partner’s assistance.

Most PNF stretching techniques employ isometric agonist contraction/relaxation where the stretched muscles are contracted isometrically and then relaxed. Some PNF techniques also employ isometric antagonist contraction where the antagonists of the stretched muscles are contracted. In all cases, it is important to note that the stretched muscle should be rested (and relaxed) for at least 20 seconds before performing another PNF technique.

The most common PNF stretching techniques are:

Hold-Relax
This technique is also called the contract-relax. After assuming an initial passive stretch, the muscle being stretched is isometrically contracted for 7-15 seconds, after which the muscle is briefly relaxed for 2-3 seconds, and then immediately subjected to a passive stretch which stretches the muscle even further than the initial passive stretch. This final passive stretch is held for 10-15 seconds. The muscle is then relaxed for 20 seconds before performing another PNF technique.

Hold-Relax-Contract
This technique is also called the contract-relax-contract, and the contract-relax-antagonist-contract (or CRAC). It involves performing two isometric contractions: first of the agonists, then, of the antagonists. The first part is similar to the hold-relax where, after assuming an initial passive stretch, the stretched muscle is isometrically contracted for 7-15 seconds. Then the muscle is relaxed while its antagonist immediately performs an isometric contraction that is held for 7-15 seconds. The muscles are then relaxed for 20 seconds before performing another PNF technique.

Notice that in the hold-relax-contract, there is no final passive stretch. It is replaced by the antagonist-contraction which, via reciprocal inhibition), serves to relax and further stretch the muscle that was subjected to the initial passive stretch. Because there is no final passive stretch, this PNF technique is considered one of the safest PNF techniques to perform (it is less likely to result in torn muscle tissue). Some people like to make the technique even more intense by adding the final passive stretch after the second isometric contraction. Although this can result in greater flexibility gains, it also increases the likelihood of injury.

Like isometric stretching, PNF stretching is also not recommended for children and people whose bones are still growing (for the same reasons. Also like isometric stretching, PNF stretching helps strengthen the muscles that are contracted and therefore is good for increasing active flexibility as well as passive flexibility. Furthermore, as with isometric stretching, PNF stretching is very strenuous and should be performed for a given muscle group no more than once per day (ideally, no more than once per 36 hour period).

The initial recommended procedure for PNF stretching is to perform the desired PNF technique 3-5 times for a given muscle group (resting 20 seconds between each repetition). However, HFLTA cites a 1987 study whose results suggest that performing 3-5 repetitions of a PNF technique for a given muscle group is not necessarily any more effective than performing the technique only once. As a result, in order to decrease the amount of time taken up by your stretching routine (without decreasing its effectiveness), HFLTA recommends performing only one PNF technique per muscle group stretched in a given stretching session.

How PNF Stretching Work

Remember that during an isometric stretch, when the muscle performing the isometric contraction is relaxed, it retains its ability to stretch beyond its initial maximum length. Well, PNF tries to take immediate advantage of this increased range of motion by immediately subjecting the contracted muscle to a passive stretch.

The isometric contraction of the stretched muscle accomplishes several things:

  • It helps to train the stretch receptors of the muscle spindle to immediately accommodate a greater muscle length.
  • The intense muscle contraction, and the fact that it is maintained for a period of time, serves to fatigue many of the fast-twitch fibers of the contracting muscles. This makes it harder for the fatigued muscle fibers to contract in resistance to a subsequent stretch.
  • The tension generated by the contraction activates the golgi tendon organ, which inhibits contraction of the muscle via the lengthening reaction. Voluntary contraction during a stretch increases tension on the muscle, activating the golgi tendon organs more than the stretch alone. So, when the voluntary contraction is stopped, the muscle is even more inhibited from contracting against a subsequent stretch.

PNF stretching techniques take advantage of the sudden “vulnerability” of the muscle and its increased range of motion by using the period of time immediately following the isometric contraction to train the stretch receptors to get used to this new, increased, range of muscle length. This is what the final passive (or in some cases, dynamic) stretch accomplishes.

Connective Tissue Stretching

There’s a different way to stretch when we focus on connective tissue versus when we focus on muscles. When you think about stretching a muscle you can very much isolate that muscle. If you want to do a hamstring stretch, you can isolate just a hamstring. When you’re focusing on muscles, it’s actually better to isolate a very specific muscle. When you think about stretching connective tissue, we want a large multi-complex movement that pulls on this connective tissue from many joints located at a distance from each other. We need to realize that although it feels like we are stretching, we are not really doing that.

It takes a lot of force or longer durations to permanently change fascia. Fascia nevertheless is densely innervated by proprioceptors/ mechanoreceptors which are responsive to manual pressure and stretching. Stimulation of these sensory receptors has been shown to lead to a lowering of sympathetic tonus as well as a change in local tissue viscosity. Additionally smooth muscle cells have been discovered in fascia, which seem to be involved in active fascial contractility. Fascia and the autonomic nervous system are intimately connected. A change in attitude in myofascial stretching needs to change from a mechanical perspective toward an inclusion of the self-regulatory dynamics of the nervous system.

Every person knows the experience of finding a tight spot in their body, massaging it, and feeling it “release” or “relax”. It seems natural to assume that you physically broke down a knot but this is not actually true.

Fascia collagen fibers are literally as strong as steel. To actually “break them up” would require so much force application that one’s body would sustain serious injury—this is not something that is achieved by a massage therapist’s hands or by simple stretching.

Although you may feel a tight spot in your body and change its texture after it is rolled, massaged, or stretched, this change was not the architecture of the fascia changing. When fascia changes its architecture, it does so slowly and over a long period of time—collagen takes about three years in order to completely change and remodel. Any instantaneous changes in tissue quality that you experience of stretching are not the “breaking down” of adhesions, knots, or scar tissue—they are instead changes in tissue tone that are mediated by the nervous system.

Once we wrap our minds around that connective tissue, stretching primarily works through neurological communication instead of through physically breaking down adhesions, knots, and scar tissue. We need to realize the importance of being calm and gentle.

Connective tissue stretching involves stretches that utilize multiple joints and muscles. It is not isolating but encompasses the full body. It uses breath control and mental meditation to regulate the nervous system. The simplest example of this would be the sensation of a giant yawn and stretch in the morning.

When you yawn and stretch in the morning there is a breathing and a full body component. As your breath-in you contracts and lean back, stretching your quads and your stomach. As you continue to breath-in and fill your upper chest your arms reach out and your mouth opens up engaging your face.

Connective Tissue Stretching

There is a full body contraction, stretch, hold and then the release as you breathe out. It stimulates and relaxes the nervous system. You feel this stretch everywhere and engage every part of your body and feel calm and refreshed afterwards.

Head, Fingers, Toes
Connective tissue stretching uses the farthest ends of your connective tissue (head, fingers and toes) to create different angles of tension throughout the body. There is an active component of pushing out with your hands or your feet to expand the body. Imagine pulling one the corners of a bed sheet to get rid of the wrinkles. You focus on your extremities, hand position, toe position and head and eye position to pull and stretch.

Breathing with Connective Tissue Stretching
Proper breathing control is important for any successful stretch but particularly if you want to focus on the connective tissue. Proper breathing helps to relax the body, increases blood flow throughout the body, and helps to mechanically move and massage the organs. As you breathe in, the diaphragm pushes downward on the internal organs and their associated blood vessels, squeezing the blood out of them. As you exhale, the abdomen, its organs and muscles, and their blood vessels flood with new blood. This rhythmic contraction and expansion of the abdominal blood vessels is partially responsible for the circulation of blood in the body. Also, the rhythmic pumping action helps to remove waste products from the muscles in the torso. This pumping action is referred to as the respiratory pump. The respiratory pump is important during stretching because increased blood flow to the stretched muscles improves their elasticity, and increases the rate at which lactic acid is purged from them.

The belly talks to the brain. Mechanoreceptors have been found abundantly in visceral ligaments as well as in the Dura mater of the spinal cord and cranium. It seems quite plausible that most of the effects of visceral or craniosacral osteopathy could be sufficiently explained by a simulation of mechanoreceptors with resulting profound autonomic changes. Recent discoveries concerning the richness of the enteric nervous system have taught us that our ‘belly brain’ contains more than 100 million neurons and works largely independent of the cortical brain. It is interesting to note that the very small connection between these two brains of a few thousand neurons consists of nine times as many neurons involved in processes in which the lower brain tells the upper one what to do, compared with the number of neurons involved in the top-down direction. Many of the sensory neurons of the enteric brain are mechanoreceptors, which – if activated – trigger among other responses, important neuroendocrine changes. These include a change in the production of serotonin – an important cortical neurotransmitter 90% of which is created in the belly – as well as other neuropeptides, such as histamine (which increases inflammatory processes).

Your breathing and your trunk is the links between your arms to your legs. It can be the difference between an isolation stretch and a full body stretch.

Breathing in expanding the chest or diaphragm or both to engage the stretch. When you breathe into the chest you increase the stretch in your arms and neck. When you breath into and expand the lower abdomen you can increase the stretch into your back and legs. Utilizing both techniques to create as much tension in the motion. Using the exhale to release that tension and create space for more movement. Even increasing the intensity of the stretch on the exhaling. Breathing in build tension, Breathing out relaxes the muscles and allows for more movement.

An example of doing a static stretch and incorporating connective tissue techniques would be a traditional standing forward bend. This can stretch your calves and hamstrings. As you incorporate the breath and breathe-in, you will notice your lower abdomen expand and it will stretch your back. Then from your back as you breathe into your chest you can tuck to your chin and stretch your neck creating a line of tension from your toes to the top of your head.

Use the breath to support movements that are complex or threaten the spine. Breathing in to create abdominal pressure to support the spine as you move until you are safe then exhale.

As you breathe deeply and steadily, you may notice an ebb and flow of you stretching that mirrors the tide of your breath. As you inhale, your muscles tighten slightly, reducing the stretch. As you exhale, slowly and completely, your abdomen moves back toward your spine, the muscles in your lower back seem to grow longer, and you can drop your chest toward your thighs.
It’s obvious that exhalation deflates the lungs and lifts your diaphragm into the chest, thereby creating space in the abdominal cavity and making it easier to bend the lumbar spine forward. (Inhalation does the opposite, filling the abdominal cavity like an inflating balloon, making it difficult to fold your spine forward completely.) But you may not realize that exhalation also actually relaxes the muscles of your back and tilts your pelvis forward.

How to Stretch

Warming Up
Stretching is not warming up! It is, however, a very important part of warming up. Warming up is quite literally the process of “warming up” (i.e., raising your core body temperature). Warm up combined with stretching increases the range of motion greater than stretching alonge. A proper warm-up should raise your body temperature by one or two degrees Celsius (1.4 to 2.8 degrees Fahrenheit) and is divided into three phases:

  • General warm-up
  • Stretching
  • Sport-specific activity

General Warm-Up
The general warm-up is divided into two parts: instead of hitting the treadmill or grabbing the weights, try using shaking and patting to safely and gently raise your body temperature.

The best example of a vibration-type exercise is the shaking and patting you see top athletes do before a race or competition. Shaking out, and patting down, a muscle group or part of your body gets it engaged in much the same way as more strenuous exercise. Vibration and patting creates a mechanical force that stimulates endothelial cells to release Nitric Oxide which increases blood circulation.

Start by shaking your hand and feet with small gentle movements. Then incorporate your knees and elbows then move your hips and shoulders and a last twist your spine side to side. Afterwards raise up onto your toes and drop to your heels.
Then you want to pat your skin and connective tissue. Start up your body and down your back. There should be no pain, just your hands and skin should get slightly pink.

These two activities should be performed in the order specified:

  • Warming up body
  • Joint rotations

Joint Rotations
The general warm-up should begin with joint-rotations, starting either from your toes and working your way up.. This facilitates joint motion by lubricating the entire joint with synovial fluid. Such lubrication permits your joints to function more easily when called upon to participate in your athletic activity. You should perform slow circular movements, both clockwise and counter-clockwise, until the joint seems to move smoothly. You should rotate the following (in the order given, or in the reverse order):

  • Fingers, Toes
  • Wrists, Ankles
  • Elbows, Knees
  • Shoulders, Hips
  • Neck, Trunk/waist

Warm-Up Stretching
The stretching phase of your warm up should consist of two parts:

  • Static stretching
  • Dynamic stretching

It is important that static stretches be performed before any dynamic stretches in your warm-up. Dynamic stretching can often result in overstretching, which damages the muscles. Performing static stretches first will help reduce this risk of injury and mitigate any performance decrease.

Static Warm-Up Stretching
Once the general warm-up has been completed, the muscles are warmer and more elastic. Immediately following your general warm-up, you should engage in some slow, relaxed, static stretching.

Dynamic Warm-Up Stretching
Once you have performed your static stretches, you should engage in some light dynamic stretching: leg-raises, and arm-swings in all directions (see section Dynamic Stretching). According to Kurz, you should do “as many sets as it takes to reach your maximum range of motion in any given direction”, but do not work your muscles to the point of fatigue. Remember — this is just a warm-up, the real workout comes later.

Some people are surprised to find that dynamic stretching has a place in the warm-up. But think about it: you are “warming up” for a workout that is (usually) going to involve a lot of dynamic activity. It makes sense that you should perform some dynamic exercises to increase your dynamic flexibility.

Sport-Specific Activity
The last part of your warm-up should be devoted to performing movements that are a “watered-down” version of the movements that you will be performing during your athletic activity. HFLTA says that the last phase of a warm-up should consist of the same movements that will be used during the athletic event but at a reduced intensity. Such sport-specific activity is beneficial because it improves coordination, balance, strength, and response time, and may reduce the risk of injury.

Duration, Counting and Repetition

One thing many people seem to disagree about is how long to hold a passive stretch in its position. Various sources seem to suggest that they should be held for as little as 10 seconds to as long as a full minute (or even several minutes). The truth is that no one really seems to know for sure. According to HFLTA there exists some controversy over how long a stretch should be held. Many researchers recommend 30-60 seconds. For the hamstrings, research suggests that 15 seconds may be sufficient, but it is not yet known whether 15 seconds is sufficient for any other muscle group.

A good common ground seems to be about 20 seconds. Children, and people whose bones are still growing, do not need to hold a passive stretch this long (and, in fact, Kurz strongly discourages it). Holding the stretch for about 7-10 seconds should be sufficient for this younger group of people.

A number of people like to count (either out loud or to themselves) while they stretch. While counting during a stretch is not, by itself, particularly important @dots{} what is important is the setting of a definite goal for each stretching exercise performed. Counting during a stretch helps many people achieve this goal.

Many sources also suggest that passive stretches should be performed in sets of 2-5 repetitions with a 15-30 second rest in between each stretch.

When to Stretch

The best time to stretch is when your muscles are warmed up. If they are not already warm before you wish to stretch, then you need to warm them up yourself, usually by performing some type of brief aerobic activity. Obviously, stretching is an important part of warming-up before, and cooling-down after a workout. If the weather is very cold, or if you are feeling very stiff, then you need to take extra care to warm-up before you stretch in order to reduce the risk of injuring yourself.

Many of us have our own internal body-clock, or circadian rhythm as it is more formally called: Some of us are “early morning people” while others consider themselves to be “late-nighters”. Being aware of your circadian rhythm should help you decide when it is best for you to stretch (or perform any other type of activity). Gummerson says that most people are more flexible in the afternoon than in the morning, peaking from about 2:30pm-4pm. Also, according to HFLTA, evidence seems to suggest that, during any given day, strength and flexibility are at their peak in the late afternoon or early evening. If this is correct then it would seem to indicate that, all else being equal, you may be better off performing your workout right after work rather than before work.

Early-Morning Stretching
On the other hand, if your activity of choice requires considerable flexibility with [little or] no warm-up, you ought to make early morning stretching a part of your routine.” Making your stretching routine as similar as you can to your activity will provide you with the best results In order to do this properly, you need to first perform a general warm-up. You should then begin your early morning stretching by first performing some static stretches, followed by some light dynamic stretches. Basically, your early morning stretching regimen should be almost identical to a complete warm-up. The only difference is that you may wish to omit any sport-specific activity (see section Sport-Specific Activity), although it may be beneficial to perform it if you have time.

Stretching to Increase Flexibility

When stretching for the purpose of increasing overall flexibility, a stretching routine should accomplish, at the very least, two goals:

  • To train your stretch receptors to become accustomed to greater muscle length.
  • To reduce the resistance of connective tissues to muscle elongation.

If you are attempting to increase active flexibility, you will also want to strengthen the muscles responsible for holding the stretched limbs in their extended positions.

Before composing a particular stretching routine, you must first decide which types of flexibility you wish to increase, and which stretching methods are best for achieving them. The best way to increase dynamic flexibility is by performing dynamic stretches, supplemented with static stretches. The best way to increase active flexibility is by performing active stretches, supplemented with static stretches. The fastest and most effective way currently known to increase passive flexibility is by performing PNF stretches.

Don’t try to increase flexibility too quickly by forcing yourself. Stretch no further than the muscles will go without pain.

Pain and Discomfort

If you are experiencing pain or discomfort before, during, or after stretching or athletic activity, then you need to try to identify the cause. Severe pain (particularly in the joints, ligaments, or tendons) usually indicates a serious injury of some sort, and you may need to discontinue stretching and/or exercising until you have sufficiently recovered.

Common Causes of Muscular Soreness

If you are experiencing soreness, stiffness, or some other form of muscular pain, then it may be due to one or more of the following:

Torn Tissue
Overstretching and engaging in athletic activities without a proper warm-up can cause microscopic tearing of muscle fibers or connective tissues. If the tear is not too severe, the pain will usually not appear until one or two days after the activity that caused the damage. If the pain occurs during or immediately after the activity, then it may indicate a more serious tear (which may require medical attention). If the pain is not too severe, then light, careful static stretching of the injured area is supposedly okay to perform. It is hypothesized that torn fibers heal at a shortened length, thus decreasing flexibility in the injured muscles. Very light stretching of the injured muscles helps reduce loss of flexibility resulting from the injury. Intense stretching of any kind, however, may only make matters worse.

Metabolic Accumulation
Overexertion and/or intense muscular activity will fatigue the muscles and cause them to accumulate lactic acid and other waste products. If this is the cause of your pain, then static stretching, isometric stretching, or a good warm-up or cool-down will help alleviate some of the soreness. Massaging the sore muscles may also help relieve the pain. It has also been claimed that supplements of vitamin C will help alleviate this type of pain, but controlled tests using placebos have been unable to lend credibility to this hypothesis. The ingestion of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) before athletic activity has been shown to help increase the body’s buffering capacity and reduce the output of lactic acid. However, it can also cause urgent diarrhea.

Muscle Spasms
Exercising above a certain threshold can cause a decreased flow of blood to the active muscles. This can cause pain resulting in a protective reflex which contracts the muscle isotonically. The reflex contraction causes further decreases in blood flow, which causes more reflex contractions, and so on, causing the muscle to spasm by repeatedly contracting. One common example of this is a painful muscle cramp. Immediate static stretching of the cramped muscle can be helpful in relieving this type of pain. However, it can sometimes make things worse by activating the stretch reflex, which may cause further muscle contractions. Massaging the cramped muscle (and trying to relax it) may prove more useful than stretching in relieving this type of pain.

Acknowledgements

Many portions of document rely heavily upon the information in the following books:

  • Sport Stretch, by Michael J. Alter(referred to as M. Alter in the rest of this document)
  • Stretching Scientifically, by Tom Kurz (referred to as Kurz in the rest of this document)
  • SynerStretch For Total Body Flexibility, from Health For Life (referred to as SynerStretch in the rest of this document)
  • The Health For Life Training Advisor, also from Health For Life (referred to as HFLTA in the rest of this document)
  • Mobility Training for the Martial Arts, by Tony Gummerson (referred to as Gummerson in the rest of this document)

Evil Bone Water (Zheng Gu Shui) FAQ

picture of evil bone water zheng gui gu shui

Evil Bone Water (EBW) is a product I use in my clinic all the time. It helps a lot of people all around the world, find pain-relief due to its powerful and all-natural healing benefits. Evil Bone Water is a memorable nickname for a powerful topical Chinese herbal liniment called Zheng Gu Shui, which translates into “bone-setting liquid.” It was developed by a Chinese Master Herbalist over 1000 years ago, and is used today to treat pain or trauma from backache, arthritis, strains, bruises, sprains, breaks, and more.

I wanted to answer some of the most frequently asked questions to provide you with some useful tips, and the best way to use EBW so that you too, can experience its robust healing properties.

How Will Evil Bone Water Help Me?

One of the major questions I am asked is, “How Will Evil Bone Water Help Me?” EBW is a topical analgesic that’s really good for reducing inflammation (swelling), muscle soreness and in particular, “itis” inflammation, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoarthritis, Plantar Fasciitis, or Bursitis inflammation. It will also work in treating other types of pain like, sports and accidental injuries, sprains, muscle cramps, insect bites, contact dermatitis (poison oak, sumac and ivy), broken bones, bruises and more.

What Are the Different Types of Pain?

Nerve Pain

Nerve Pain is often described as a burning or prickling feeling or electrical shock. Some people with nerve pain will have hypersensitivity to temperature or touch. Very often it will radiate past two joints. Muscle pain radiation rarely passes two joints. Radiation will be along a path and patients will trace an area with their finger when describing it. Nerve pain is not localized to one spot. If you are experiencing sensations like that, then EBW might not be the best option for you. However, if your pain started as dull and achy, and started to refer past many joints, it is likely muscle pain that is aggravating the nerve and EBW would therefore be able to help.

Muscle Pain

The easiest way to tell if you have muscle pain is when the pain is dull, tight, achy and tender to touch. The pain will be local and effected with pressure on the area, either by aggravating or relieving pain. For tendon, meniscus, and ligaments, this pain is sharp and often sudden. Patients will describe a giving out of the joint or a sudden weakness. For example, when a patient has a dull achy shoulder pain, that is muscle pain. When the patient does the arch of pain test at around 90 degrees, they say “ouch” and drop their shoulder. The sudden sharpness of the pain causes weakness and would be the tendon being pinched. Another example is a torn meniscus or ligament in the knee. The patient will experience a dull achy pain and suddenly step wrong and get a sharp pain. They will describe it being like their knee is giving out. EBW is great for treating muscle pain.

Itis

Any inflammation in the body will have a swelling heat and redness to it. Arthritis is worse in the morning and improves with heat and movement as the swelling moves out of the joint. Muscle pain is also worse in the morning and better with heat and movement, and will not come back as quickly with rest. Muscle pain will be aggravated at the end of the day, when the patient over does an activity. Bursitis will be painful with pressure on bursae. It will typically be painful with exercise or excessive movement but fine with normal movement i.e. when the patient runs. Tendonitis is worse in the morning. As you can see, the most common pain that is worse in the morning is “itis”. The joints fill with inflammation at night and when you first start to move, it can be painful. The best example of this is Plantar Fasciitis. It will feel like stepping on glass when you first get up in the morning and will cease once movement is in place. EBW can help in treating itis.

Acute Pain

Acute Pain is the easiest to understand because there was pain and it was recent. The patient can point to it and can remember what happened to cause it. The body is sending pain and location signals to the brain. Recent acute pain is often the easiest to treat and the body responds quickly because a chronic pattern or pain expectation has not set in. EBW can help with treating acute pain.

Chronic Pain

Chronic Pain has affected the whole system and a correct local treatment will improve the condition but the pain will return because the body cannot adjust to the pain-free movement. You must treat both the local and adjacent points. With chronic pain, the body can lose the location signal and the pain may feel vague or wandering. EBW can help with chronic pain relief.

Depth of Injury

An important feature to recognize is whether your pain is topical or superficial. If it’s very deep then EBW has to work to penetrate through many layers of tissue, your skin layer, your cutaneous facial tissues, and then it absorbs into your muscles. If you have a muscle underneath the muscle, then it has to go deeper. The more superficial something is the better results you’ll get with a topical analgesic. A lot of the tendons and ligaments can be very superficial such as hands, elbows, neck, ankles and feet. All of these are good for treatment with EBW, but areas that are deep like abdominal pain and hip issues would not benefit as much from EBW. This is also why topical EBW can be so soothing for inflamed and itchy skin like bug bites. It is alcohol based and is a disinfectant, so it will burn and sting around open wounds.

How Often to Apply

One mistake is that people don’t apply EBW enough. Either they don’t apply it frequently or they don’t let it soak long enough. Usually that is the problem, not the result of applying it too much. Signs that you might be applying it too much is that the skin starts to become irritated and dry. If you’re not experiencing that, then you can keep applying it. Three times a day is minimum, or you could do four or five times a day.

How Do I Apply It?

Soak

You can put EBW into a tub and soak your hands. Begin with hot water then add EBW to it. You can also do this with soaking your feet.

Cotton Ball

Apply it topically 3x a day with a cotton ball and rub it in. This is what most people do. Place the cotton ball between your fingers and then rub it on the area, which works best as it keeps it nice and solid. Avoid squeezing the cotton ball with your fingertips and quickly rubbing the sore area, as that causes the EBW to drip. Just pinch it between the webbing of your fingers and rub it onto the area, which makes it easier. If you want to apply more, you can add a couple more cotton balls between the webbing of your fingers.

Spray

Apply as a spritz for bug repellant or for milder effect. You can use a spray bottle as an option. It is alcohol-based, so it does tend to dry really quickly. You can also fan it off for a second before you put your clothes on and jump into bed.

Wrap It

Apply as a compress for killing bacteria and post insect bite – Especially Tick! Compress 1-2 times a day with great care for 30 minutes to 2 hours. Be careful not to cover with plastic wrap for too long, let the compress breath so it’s not too strong. If you’d really like to soak it or take cotton balls and pin it to the area and then wrap it, often that will help it soak in a little bit more.

Instructions

  • Moisten a gauze pad, cotton ball or piece of flannel with EBW. You’ll want it saturated, but not dripping.
  • Apply the affected area and allow it to fully absorb for 30-90 minutes.
  • It’s best to limit movement, so watch TV, browse Facebook, read a book or pay your bills
  • Enjoy quick relief
  • Tip: The solution will stain, so be cautious of where it comes in contact.

Increase Blood Circulation

Another tip that people don’t realize is the way that EBW absorbs, which is through the blood, so the more blood circulation that you can get to the area before you apply it, the quicker it’s going to absorb in ways that increase blood circulation to the area. However, the easiest way is just with heat. Take a hot shower and apply it after your shower or you can even just rub the area until it gets nice and red. Red is a sign of vasodilation. You can put some EBW on you and do foam rolling, which brings blood circulation to the area and then you can put on EBW. I also have a lot of other things that I use in the clinic like compression guns that use vibration which also creates vasodilation. You can massage the area before applying EBW or do cupping or suction cups which are easy and super safe, and can be purchased online.

Natural Herbal Ingredients

  • Zhang Nao (Camphor) – Helps local circulation.
  • Bo He Nao (Menthol) – Aromatic and cooling clears heat.
  • San/Tian Qi (Notoginseng, Pseudoginseng) – Helps with bleeding & blood stasis, bruising & swelling, inflammation and pain.
  • Ji Gu Xiang (Japanese Knot Weed) – Bruising and sprains inflammation.
  • Gui Pi (Cinnamon Bark) – Relaxes muscles, promotes circulation and warms.
  • E Zhu (Zedoary Rhizome, Rhizoma Curcumae) – Promotes the circulation of qi and blood while helping break down accumulations in the body.
  • Bai Zhu (Atractylodis Macrocephalae Rhizoma) – Anti-inflammatory properties, helps relieve pain, muscle spasms and cramps.
  • Hu Zhang (Knotweed Rhizome) – Invigorates the blood, helps dispel stasis, helps open channels.
  • Bai Niu Dan (Inula Cappa DC) – Helps dispel wind, lessening dampness.
  • Qian Jin Ba (Philippine Flemingia Root)
  • Huang Qin (Scutellaria Root, Radix Scutellariae Baicalensis)

Makers note: Most people have no idea that what we get in the USA is an inferior quality and most herbalists might not even think that much about it. The real winner and what makes it magnitudes better, it the herb quality. Making it with B or C quality herbs (which is what is commonly available and sold by US suppliers) and then craft it with imperial grade herbs (2-5 grades above normal) is basically a different product.

Evil Bone Water has no animal products. Furthermore, non-GMO, gluten free, cruelty free, pesticide free, contaminant free.

The camphor and menthol in Evil Bone Water are not synthetic. We also only use grain alcohol not ethanol.

Every herb is microscopically tested not only for proper variety and contaminants, but strength. We make sure they are all sustainable and ethically sourced. Everything that goes into that bottle comes from the finest ingredients on the planet.

When we craft our product, I always ask myself- What do I want on my skin? In my patient’s body? My own family?

Master Herbalist of Saint Apothecary – St. Simons Island, Florida, USA.

Conclusion

When it comes to natural pain relief, nothing beats the powerful healing benefits of Evil Bone Water, which provides an effective way for stopping pain associated with backache, arthritis, strains, bruises, sprains, breaks and more. Since its development by a Chinese Master Herbalist over 1000 years ago, EBW has stood the test of time and is used widely among practitioners today for treating pain.

EBW from our clinic contains no animal products, is non-GMO, gluten free, cruelty free, pesticide free and containment free. Every herb is microscopically tested not only for proper variety and contaminants, but strength. We make sure they are all sustainable and ethically sourced. Everything that goes into the bottles comes from the finest ingredients on the planet.

Don’t let pain stop you from living your life to the fullest. We can’t wait for you to experience the healing process of Evil Bone Water. Click here to buy a bottle now.

Introduction to Herbal Medicine

Introduction to Herbal Medicine with Valley Health Clinic

What is Herbal Medicine

Herbal medicine simply means using specific plants (or parts or extracts of plants) to treat or alleviate health issues. It is one of the most commonly used forms of natural medicine in the U.S., and modern clinical studies have confirmed the effectiveness of many herbal remedies.

Why do we use Herbal Medicine?

We include herbal medicine as part of a comprehensive treatment plan because it complements acupuncture giving you faster results.

It is a simple, natural, and affordable way for you as a patient to continue your care in between appointments.

We Use Only the Best Herbs

All our herbs are derived from nature. They do not contain harsh chemicals, alcohol, or preservatives, and are very gentle to your system. Each batch is checked for safety against bacteria, fungus, and heavy metal.

They are manufactured under pharmaceutical GMP standards. This mandates that all our products have undergone TLC testing to validate authenticity, HPLC testing to ensure potency, and have a COA to guarantee safety and purity. In other words, our products are manufactured with surgical precision in a bio-med laboratory while other herbal products are made with food standards. If you believe Chinese herbs are medicine, you must use Chinese herbs that are made with pharmaceutical precision to attain desired therapeutic results.

How To Brew Chinese herbal tea

Teas come in two main categories:

  • Teas with seeds (Peak, Wind, Neurogene)
  • Teas without seeds. (Xiao Yao Wan, Warm Hearth, Hao Xiang Zheng Qi Wan)

For the teas without seeds, you brew them like you would any normal herbal tea.

  • Pour boiling water onto the teabag,
  • Let it steep for 5-10 minutes,
  • Sit and enjoy

You can rebrew these teas several times until there’s no more flavor left.

For the teas with seeds, we recommend simmering on the stove for 20 to 30 minutes, to get a complete extraction of the active ingredients.

  • Take the teabag out of the package.
  • Shake the contents of the teabag down
    • Cut the teabag open. You don’t have to do this step but I like to brew it this way.
    • Empty it into a pot.
  • For each teabag, you want to use about one to two pints of water.
  • Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes
  • After teas have been simmering for about 20-30 minutes

It’s ready to strain and drink. You can use a thermos or a mason jar whatever you like. Tea strainer pour the tea through the strainer you’ll see it’s got a beautiful color and you can really smell the aroma. It’s great straight out of the jar or use your favorite mug. Enjoy!

Watch this Great Video

Side Effects

Sensitive patients may experience reactions such as minor stomach discomfort. If such reactions occur, reduce the dosage, take with food, or let me know

Can I take Herbs with my Prescription drugs?

Most herbal may be taken by individuals who are also using prescription drugs, without problems. However, it is recommended that herbal be taken on an empty stomach at least two hours apart from the prescription drugs.

The most common interaction is that herbal medicine increases the effectiveness of prescription medication or duplicates the action.

Most common interaction is with, Antiplatelets, Anticoagulants, antihyperlipidemic. So please inform me if you are on any medication so I can best advise you on what to do to avoid possible herb-drug interaction.

Steps to Wellness

There are 3 unique steps to wellness. However, the rate at which you move through these stages depends on your unique situation. A good rule of thumb is one month of care for every year you have had a certain medical condition.

Step 1: Symptomatic Care

During this stage, our is concerned with alleviating the symptoms causing you to seek help. Once your symptoms are relieved, you will move on to Step 2, Corrective Care.

If this is difficult to understand, think of replenishing an overgrown garden. The first step in cultivating the space is to cut back excess growth and weeds. Your symptoms are very much like the weeds.

Step 2: Corrective Care

In order to restore your health, we must also determine the underlying cause of your illness, rather than simply addressing the symptoms. This involves a second Evergreen formula uniquely positioned and carefully prescribed to address the root of your concerns. Often, patients enjoy the second treatment phase for two to six months.

Continuing the garden analogy, we now must take complete care to remove the weeds from the soil and prepare the soil for new seeds to plant. Using appropriate tools, the roots are extracted, leaving healthy plants and rich earth behind. Step 2 heals what is creating and causing your pain and discomfort, setting the stage for healthy living.

Step 3: Maintenance Care

The final phase of your care includes Maintenance Therapy. We will prescribe tonics and keep your immune system strong and healthy, so it will protect the body as it should. The final phase of treatment is ongoing. After all, relapse is simply unacceptable

In our analogy, this means the soil of our reclaimed garden is fertilized and treated to prevent the return of weeds while building a healthy foundation to support the growth of beautiful plants and flowers. What this means for you is that your overall health is protected by Chinese herbs, just as the garden is protected and allowed to thrive.

The Best Exercise

The Best Exercise

One way to see through all the BS that is out there is you remember this nugget of goodness. There is little cross over between activities.

What I mean is that the best way to get good at something, is to do that thing. Another way of putting it is, like improves like.

So for example you will see articles like “5 Exercises To Improve Your Running”. If those exercises don’t look like running, there will be little cross over to running.

Another way to put it is, Do things that look like the thing you want to improve. They will have more benefits than doing something that doesn’t.

Let me give you some examples. (this hold true for healthy individuals, I will talk about sick or injured at the end)

  • Static breath holds on land, doesn’t transfer to improved freediving breath-hold underwater.
  • Speed training with ladders/ hurdles doesn’t have transfer to improved speed In a game.
  • Proprioception trained doesn’t transfer better balance.
  • Dynamic stretching doesn’t transfer to improved static flexibility.
  • Static stretch doesn’t transfer to improved dynamic flexibility.

A good rule of thumb

  • Practice that main activity you want to get better at.
  • Do support activities that look like that main activity.
  • Do micro activities that look like a part or piece of your main activities.

If you want to get better at jumping

  • Step 1) Practice jumping.
  • Step 2) Do Support Activities (Box jumping/squats/dynamic stretching)
    • Box jumps. mimic the neurological coordination of a jump (looks like a jump).
    • Squats use the same muscle and neurological firing (looks like jumping).
    • Dynamic stretching increases ROM in a way that is similar to jumping.
  • Step 3) Micro activities or break it down into parts. (Hand swing, Feet set up. or calf raises)

Now if you are injured you may not be able to perform an activity. That is when step 2 or 3 come into play.

  • Static breath holds on land are helpful if you can’t do diving breath-hold underwater.
  • Speed training with ladders/ hurdles can improve speed In a game, If the movement is similar to the movement in game and you can’t do the game.
  • Proprioception trained does give you better balance, If you have a proprioception injury and can’t balance.
  • Static stretch is helpful if you can’t do dynamic stretching, because of pain.

So the next time you see an article about the next exercise that will fix all your problems, remember there is little crossover between activities. The more something looks like the activity, the more transfer it will have to that activity.

Pros and Cons of Fighting Stances

Pros and Cons of Fighting Stances by Valley Health Clinic

“Stance maketh the fighter.”

Mark my words! If you want to learn just one thing about fighting—learn to perfect your stance.

The Stance

Your stance is just your unique way of being ready to move. It is the starting point of all your martial movement. To combat at your best, it is mandatory to find, understand, and master your starting position.

Attempting one-on-one combat, or martial arts without a proper stance is much like doing a max deadlift without properly securing core.

Always remember, my beautiful reader, that the stance you choose is your foundation. A proper stance allows you to move powerfully—yet effortlessly, while smoothly transferring force from your body to your extremity.

The more professional fighters would tell you that your stance is dependent on your fighter-type. For example, a fighter such as Stephen Thompson has perfected a Karate-style stance, which enables the American MMA artist to deploy certain kicks to their highest effect.

However, you should always avoid copying your favorite boxer. Yes, it is super inspirational to watch Jon Jones and Khabib do their thing with such swiftness—but you must perfect the stance that will cover your weaknesses, while front loading your strengths.

Therefore, whether you’re a boxer, MMA/Muay Thai practitioner, or just someone looking to better their self-defense, it always pays to have a good understanding of different stances.

So let’s dive straight into the pros and cons of different types of fighting stances, and how you can perfect them.

Different Fighting Stances. Their Benefits. Their Disadvantages!

Keep in mind that people will tend to show you their weapons.

What do I mean by that?

When you know the basics of different types of stances, it can help you foreshadow your opponent’s moves in combat. Your opponent will stand in a way that will make their favorite attacks more accessible. If you love front foot side kicks, you will tend to stand with your front foot already turned to the side.

If you love to grapple you will tend to stand with your shoulders square to your opponent, which allows for equal reach with both hands.

Let’s start with your basic stance with feet shoulders width apart, and hands by your side.

In this position you are not showing any weapons, with your ‘natural’ posture, except for the possibility of forward head movement. As you can see, your stance is made up of your:

  • Hands
  • Knees
  • Feet
  • Shoulders

Now, let’s roll out the details:

Knee Depth Determines the Range of Your Distance

The more your knees are bent, the more distance one can cover in combat. Consider it like a box-jump vs a jump rope. Before doing a box jump you will bend your knees and your feet will be flat on the ground. This position loads your hamstrings and glutes to jump.

On the other hand, having a less bent knee would result in a jump rope-style movement. Weight is shifted to your toes and power is generated more for the quads and calves.

Therefore if someone is coming at you with deeply bent knees, he/she is more likely to lunge at you.

Alternatively, if someone is standing tall, then movement would naturally look more like a skip slip or hop in and out of your range.

Visualize a cobra in motion—more the coil, more the spring!

Wider Stance

Wide StanceThe super-wide stance is fantastic for transferring your weight into powerful punches. The body has a more stable base which it can push from. The wide base allows for a lean. It increases the range of motion of your head while decreasing the motion of your hips. The angle of force from your legs also allows for easier side to side motion.

Disadvantage
Kicks will be more difficult to execute because a large weight shift has to occur before you can lift your foot off the ground.

If someone with a wide stance they will tend to be a more hand dominant fighter.

Narrow Stance

Narrow StanceCarrying a narrow stance enables you to generate force upwards, as it is easier to pick up one’s feet. Less weight transfer is involved before you can unload a foot.

A compact stance increases the movement of the hips and decreases lean of the head. The body is in a natural hula hoop position. This makes kicking easier and more powerful.

Disadvantage
Hands do not offer a lot of power, when the feet are narrowly placed.

When you see your someone coming at you with a narrow stance, probably, they like to kick!

The Position of Hands

Higher Hands
As the hands are raised, or come closer to level with the shoulder, they progressively become more powerful. For instance, if hands are located at or above the shoulder they’re in a more natural position for pushing or grabbing. Waste twisting from this position generates more force, think of a baseball throw. This also allows punches to be thrown with more force.

Yet with hands around the head, it is difficult to quickly move the head out of the way. The weight of the hands adds momentum to the upper half of the body. Locking the hands up by the face tends to also lock the shoulders and ribs in place. Blocking is done either by moving the hands or the whole body. Mike Tyson boxes like this and ducks his whole body from the knees.

When the hands are below the chest area, one can move the head quickly because the hands can move independently of the head and do not add significantly to the upper body momentum. Muhammad Ali keeps his hands relatively lower and just slips his head. With the hands lower one can more easily move the neck and shoulders.

For instance, if a boxer is slipping, he/she would fight with lower hands. You can spot wrestlers and Jiu Jitsu practitioners deploying lower hands because lower hands enable them to do a takedown defense.

Sideways Stance

Sideways StanceWhen a sideways stance is utilized the front hand and rear foot (the main offensive weapons) are prominent. The front hand is jab and hook dominant while the rear hand is acting as a counter. This is because from this position the rear hand/shoulder is farthest away. It has less reach than the front, which makes it a defensive weapon. To utilize the rear hand, one must wait until the target is very close or the upper torso must rotate awkwardly to close the distance to the target. Grappling is less likely as only one hand is able to reach the opponent. A sideways stance enables rapid motion perpendicular to the direction the torso is facing but makes circling movement difficult.

Sideways Stance with a Toe Pointing Sideways

Many people use this stance to fake an attack. With the toe inline with the shoulder the leg is in a very strong position for moving forward and back. Often the front foot will need to be rotated forward to kick and that is their “tell”.

With the toe inline with the shoulder or sideways, means a side kick or back spin kick can be launched easily. It is hard to sprawl or go for a takedown with the toe point sideways because the knee can’t bend forward.

Sideways Stance with a Toe Pointing Forward

This is a commonly used fencing position. The front foot forward allows the knee to bend and hips to rotate forward. The rear foot is able to launch more powerful kicks, like front kicks or roundhouse.

The forward-pointing toe enables a greater knee bend of the front leg, which allows one to shoot in for a takedown or sprawl.

Furthermore, as the stance narrows, the user is in a position to defend against kicks with their front leg. This stance is often deployed by Muay Thai practitioners.

However, it is difficult to launch a spin kick from that position. A “tell” if a spin kick or sidekick is coming is if you see the front foot rotate front pointing forward to the side.

Sideways Chest Forward Stance

Sideways Chest Forward StanceMore commonly known as the bladed position in the realm of boxing. This stance provides protection while moving, defending, and attacking due to the limited exposure of the torso. However, as you can see in the picture, it neutralizes the ability to throw impactful kicks or drop down to inflict a takedown.

Therefore, whenever you see your foe assuming this position, brace yourself for a bout with a boxer!

Square Stance

When a square stance is adopted, the feet are pointing forward. This allows for the user to easily lunge into the opponent. It also assists with quick level changes. Moreover, the right arm becomes an offensive weapon instead of merely a defensive one, because it is in equal distance to the opponent.

Boxers adopt the square stance since they attack more with their right hand.

Square StanceGrapplers also use it because it’s easier to grab a person from a square position than from a sideways stance, as the waist does not have to be completely rotated beforehand.

Moreover, boxers generally keep their hands high, which allows him to be offensive. Conversely, the wrestlers and BJJ people keep their hands low when assuming a square position, which helps them with takedown defenses, and allows them to shoot in.

Furthermore, a square position makes the rear leg and rear arm a potent weapon. However, since the chest is in a forward position, it is difficult to execute spin kicks.

I hope now you have the basic understanding of different fighting stances, and which one suits your style of combat.

Fighting Stances Overview

Knee bend determines the distance

  • Deeper Knee bend allows for larger lung step, like a jump on a box, getting close (take down, fencing lunge)
  • Less knee, more rebound, more bounce, jump rope or running. Slipping out of range

Hand Position

  • Hands Higher, Hight Center of Gravity, Elbows and Head defense
  • Hands lower, Lower center of gravity. Allow for greater head movement and takedown defense. Wrestler and Jujitsu, counter fighters
  • Front/square stance backhand, front foot in the game
  • Sideways/ln-line back hand out. Back foot in the game

Wide stance

  • Wide stance movement is more side to side
  • The wide stance is more head/hand radius
  • Wide stance more hand power
  • Faster footwork movement

Disadvantage

  • Slower kick because weight is too wide. A lot of weight shit before can pick up feet

Narrow stance

  • Narrow stance movement is more up and down or kicking
  • Narrow stance more Hip Radius
  • Narrow stance more kicking power
  • Feet closer together can throw kicks faster because less weight shifts off the foot.
  • Slower foot work harder to spring in and out

Disadvantage

  • Less power in hands

Feet Squared

  • Increases reach of rear hand for grabbing boxing wrestling.
  • Squared allows for better circling movement
  • Easier Head movement side to side
  • Squared stands allow for level changes and takedown

Disadvantages

  • Bigger target for straight kicks
  • Harder Head movement forward and back

Feet Inline

  • Better and moving backing up and forward
  • Quick spinning kicks and sidekicks
  • Sideways/ in-line stand. Front hand more distance. Jab and left hooks counter fighter means opponents need to come in
  • Smaller target

Disadvantages

  • Open to takedowns (harder to sprawl)
  • Lead leg open to low kicks hard to check and bend when kicked
  • Hard to move laterally more in and out.

Back Foot Position

Back foot on or close to on centerline

  • Back foot on or close to on centerline spinning/ waist twist backward is quicker. (front foot will be sideways for stability)

Back foot forward form center line

  • Back foot forward form center line, waste twist forward
  • Off-center roundhouse kicking (front foot will be more forward)

Front Foot Position

Front Foot Forward

  • Front foot forward easy to lunge and takedown, back foot roundhouse or front kick.
  • Harder to move back because harder to push off a front foot.
  • Front Forward easier to twist forward for front and roundhouse kicks.
  • Front forward easier to check kicks

Front Foot Sideways

  • Front foot in/sideways easier to twist away, spinning back kicks, side kicks jabs, and front hooks. Because foot doesn’t need to pivot.
  • Front food in/sideway easer to move backward