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P6 and Fear



To set the stage: I am trained as a massage therapist and recently have been learning about acupressure. I took a class on Jin Shin Do acupressure in school (kind of awhile ago) and it was interesting, but didn't really stick. Recently, I'm finding a renewed interest in studying and trying to apply accupressure and ideas about meridians and energy and all that.

I have a friend who has alot of generalized health problems as well as very tense, rigid muscles, especially in the hips and the shoulders. I feel like a whole lot of her issues are traceable to trauma in her life. We've done bodywork and it is helpful for her. And recently, we've been doing general muscular releases using acupressure as well as breathwork.

Anyway...right now she is living with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (this is not "diagnosed", but she fits all the criteria for it). So a big part of her experience is described as "being scared all the time". I've read in a few places that the point Pericardium 6 can be good to relieve fear so I asked if she wanted to try work on it. I applied pressure on the point while holding GV20 at the same time. I was checking in and she said she felt ok, but then after a few minutes she opened her eyes and pulled my hand away seeming very distressed. She described that she felt she was being choked; her throat felt closed off and her chest felt very heavy. She said that she also felt very, very intense fear. She said she felt more scared in that moment than she did when she almost drowned last year. The feeling of constriction in the throat and a heavy chest lasted for hours and was difficult for her because it felt hard for her to breath and she felt very anxious because of the fear.

Questions: I'm wondering if anyone has any input as to why this may have happened? Like how exactly is it figured out that points are good for particular things, and in this case, why would the opposite of the desired effect occur? I see alot of generalized books and resources that discuss certain points being helpful with various things, but this experience makes me wonder if it's important to learn way more than I know at this time before just going for some points I read about.

Further, does anyone have any experience or ideas about working with people with intense psychological trauma? Ideas? Resources? Links?

Any opinions or help with this matter would be greatly appreciated.



Working with psychological issues can be difficult with any modality. Certainly within Chinese Medicine there are very effective treatments for the whole range of psychological and emotional conditions. There are a couple issues worth discussing in your post.

First, healing is not always a one way street. A point like PC 6, for example, is generally useful for stress and anxiety and it will clear the chest energetically. When people have certain patterns their energy will tend to collect in certain areas and/or not move through others. Using a point like this will "force" the energy through the chest and that may initially be uncomfortable for the patient.

The main difference between acupressure and acupuncture and why (I feel) generally acupuncture is superior is the ability to spread out the energy more using a good range of points at the same time, plus the length of time the points are stimulated is longer so people will feel more waves of movement, etc. and will not find them so interesting after awhile.

There is a tremendous amount of training that goes into being a successful acupuncturist (even just an acupuncturist in general) and it is somewhat unwise to use the points without a full understanding of the theories, diagnostic frameworks, and point interactions. So, yes, I would try to learn quite a bit more before you continue to use points especially in somewhat complicated cases. PC 6 for nausea would be fine, LI 4 for frontal headaches, fine, etc. but generally acupuncture is not a point to condition treatment. In other words, the points you choose after performing an appropriate TCM diagnosis may not all make sense when used individually. They work together and some are often added to mitigate the possible strong and/or somewhat negative effects a point might have for a given condition. As an example, working on moving some of the energy out of the chest with PC 6 but then focusing the rest downward, CV 17, CV 6, LV 3 (just as an example, not a recommendation) would likely alleviate the strong sensations in the upward body.

Another thing that stands out is how much you prepped the patient for the possibility of something "bad" to happen. Just use the points and trust that it will be helpful. There is nothing all that serious that will come from an acupressure treatment, even if done incorrectly. The sensations would most likely have passed smoothly, but your fear of them coupled with her fear of them added a strength that generally does not exist from the points alone. As you know more of the medicine and trust in it more this will pass.

Generally when patients have the needles in they are left alone to work this out in their head and they just say relax, relax, to themselves and it smooths it out. If you ask them too much for feedback it lets their minds get worked up about what they are feeling. The best is to not worry about it, feel what you feel and let it go.

As a starter you should try to read some of the psychological related treatment articles I have on the site. This will give you an idea of some standard TCM diagnoses and treatment points for these conditions. Some of those that will be helpful would be:

Depression Treatment
Anxiety Treatment

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