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Shiatsu, The Back Shu Points and the ‘Spinal Flush’

Thomas Crooks (Acupuncturist, Chinese Herbalist & Shiatsu Therapist)

There are a number of routines in shiatsu practice that a therapist will draw on and modify to give a unique treatment to his or her client. Some of these are named after the position that the client lies in while receiving their treatment – for example the front routine, or the side routine. But perhaps the most powerful, certainly in my experience in over 10 years of practice, is the back routine. This blog post will talk about why I think treating the back with shiatsu is both deeply relaxing and invigorating, and why it has such a powerful effect on the recipient.

Some background info

Chinese medical theory suggests that energy lines, meridians, run over and through the body. They form an intricate web of connections, essentially linking all parts of the system with all other parts. The Bladder meridian starts at the inner eye and runs over the head, splits into two pathways and runs down either side of the spine, along the erector spinae muscles. From there it runs through the buttocks and down the backs of the legs, ending up at the outside of the little toe.

There is a grouping of acupuncture points called the Back Shu Points that sit on the Bladder meridian as it runs down those spinal muscles. These points are understood as connecting directly to every organ in the body. Applying shiatsu pressure, or acupuncture directly to these points is believed to have the ability to influence the entire bodily system via influencing the organs.

If we look at the anatomy and physiology around the Back Shu Points, we see that the spinal cord runs from the base of the brain down to the lumbar region, surrounded by a long chain of vertebrae. The vertebrae are supported as all bones are, by the muscle system – and in the back, predominantly by those erector spinae muscles. The Central Nervous System (CNS), comprises the brain and the spinal cord – and out of each of those vertebrae emerge nerves that provide nervous supply to the entire body, to the organs and all muscle groups from the base of the skull to the sole of the foot. In most people I encounter in the clinic, those paraspinal muscles are very tight and often sore.

The Spinal Flush

It cannot be underestimated the ill-effects that tightness in these muscles has on impacting the nerves’ ability to supply their related pathways. But how does this relate to shiatsu? Put simply, easing tightness and tension in the paraspinal muscles at each and every vertebrae along the length of the spinal cord can allow the nervous system to work more effectively. Applying shiatsu massage in a slow and focused manner along these muscles, can take the pressure off the emerging nerve pathways to let them – and therefore the entire Central Nervous System – do their jobs more effectively. This is what I call the ‘spinal flush’. The net result of such treatment is that the nervous system becomes far more invigorated and you, as a unified whole, become calmer and clearer. The experience is also very often deeply relaxing. The spinal flush may be delivered as a dedicated shiatsu treatment, or applied in conjunction with acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion or gua sha – as is needed. Where the ancient Chinese medical practitioners understood this in terms of the Back Shu points and influencing the functioning of the organs, biomedicine understands it as nervous system realignment which does the same thing. A modern-day acupuncturist or shiatsu practitioner is therefore able to utilise both approaches in order to benefit their patients.

If this sounds like something you might benefit from, please check out www.chinesemedicinesydney.com, or call the Buddha Bar in Newtown on 95179725.

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