You've probably heard that strengthening your core is an effective solution for back pain. But did you know that there's even more to this story? In Chinese medicine, the abdominal area, or hara, refers to healthy organs and physiology rather than a strong six pack or abs of steel.
As opposed to striving for a 'hard body' an eastern view values being strong on the inside,and softer on the outside.
Hara literally means the vital centre of the body, or center of gravity.
Traditionally Japanese acupuncturists were blind, which led to a creative innovation in the practice of acupuncture. In addition to assessing the pulse and listening to their patients' symptoms, they began gently palpating the hara to diagnose and treat disease. It remains an incredibly effective way to assess a person's overall health and aligns with our current understanding about complex relationships between anatomy, the nervous system, and physiology. Many abdominal reflexes used Japanese acupuncture appear in allopathic medicine as well.
Over the weekend, I attended a training and while I was the "patient demo", our teacher felt considerable tension below my right ribs when she gently palpated my hara. Within minutes of placing needles on my ankle and elbow, the 8/10 right-sided shoulder pain I'd been experiencing melted away. Observing which acupuncture points softened the tension under my ribs helped us see that the underlying reason for my shoulder pain was likely related to high doses of medications affecting my liver after recent knee surgery. Had she attempted to treat "shoulder pain" without a more holistic approach we would have missed the root of my symptoms and the potential for longer lasting benefits.
I have always incorporated Japanese acupuncture into my practice and the results are so satisfying! A patient recently reported that her lower back pain, nausea, and fatigue were significantly better after we had used acupuncture to reduce tension and guarding around an appendectomy scar from decades earlier. And we did not needle the scar area directly, but used arm and leg points to release the tight areas on her belly.
With every day in clinical practice, I become more fascinated by patterns in our bodies. Not all wounds or diseases can be reversed, but we can begin a path of healing by taking the time to look, listen, and feel with a focus on getting immediate feedback from the body about what is creating more ease. And we can experience more ease right away.