Auto Body Work vs. Human Body Work – More on Finding Points by Palpation

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18-Dec-2013 06:28 AM

Matthew Bauer

Posts: 211

I wanted to add to my earlier Forum post titled “Point Selection” regarding using palpation to find points. Locating points by palpation takes place in two primary ways – one is using palpation to find the exact location of points you have already chosen by theory and the other is using palpation to actually find the points you will then use. Although what I describe below mostly deals with using palpation rather than theory to select points, these techniques can also be applied to help you zero-in on the points you choose by theory.

My introduction to this subject was in a 20 hour course I took over 30 years ago from a remarkable Shiatsu Master, Wataru Ohashi. At that time Ohashi had just undergone an epiphany that inspired him to forego his Shiatsu training and use a very gentle, probing technique. I took this course several years before I began formal acupuncture schooling and it also happened to be during a time in my life when I was doing a lot of auto-body work, something I did professionally for a short time.  An auto-body mechanic needs to develop a fine sense of touch to feel every little inconsistency in the metal. Every scratch, chip, ding, warp or dent will show once the shinny paint is applied. After practicing the techniques I learned from Ohashi and then combining that with my acupuncture training after I started my practice, I realized that there were some things auto-body work and human-body work had in common.

I like to use the word “inconsistencies” to refer to what I try to find when doing my hands-on healing work. Feel along a patch of human flesh and you will find that it is not perfectly flat or smooth. The skeletal muscles beneath the skin are known as striated muscle. They exhibit a type of stratification somewhat like the fibers of a rope. Within this stratification, however, you will often feel inconsistencies where these fibers are not lying against each other as smoothly as they should but rather have a slight (or not so slight) lumpiness or tighter coiling than normal.  Exactly how these stressed fibers will feel can be somewhat different and that is why I like the word “inconsistencies”. In auto-body work, you don’t just feel for a scratch or a ding – you feel for any inconsistency in the flow of the metal.  In human body work you don’t just feel for tightness or knots – you feel for anything that is not consistent with the normal muscle stratification. You also feel for abnormal temperature or texture in the skin. One of my favorite techniques, for example, is feeling for abnormal spacing between the spinal vertebra and then the inconsistencies that will take place in the paraspinal muscles alongside.

As in auto-body work, in human body work you want to restore the normal consistency to the material you are working on. The big difference between these two is that in auto-body work you have to work-out the inconsistencies in real time by your effort.  In human body work we take advantage of the fact that organisms have the ability to work-out their own inconsistencies and so our job is to help that process along. This being the case, you don’t have to work-out every kink at the time you are working on your patients. Trying to do so can overstress the tissues. You learn how to improve these problem spots to a degree and then let the patient’s self-healing system do the rest. This is especially true with acupuncture – most of the benefit happens via a delayed effect acupuncture helps to spark. It is so beautiful to watch this process unfold and be part of it, to literally “lend a helping hand” to natural self-healing.

Another difference between auto and human body work is that auto-body work only helps to restore normalcy to the body panels being worked on. Straighten-out a fender and that does nothing to help a problem with the engine or upholstery. In human body work we find that by restoring consistency to the flesh, we help to restore normalcy to the entire organism – body, mind and (to some degree) spirit. This is possible because organisms are comprised of parts that are holistically interconnected. Any abnormality in any part will cause some degree of abnormality in every part of that organism including the flesh.  By restoring normalcy to the consistency of the flesh, we help to restore normalcy to the entire organism.  Remarkable but true.

In auto-body work many different tools are used to restore body panels. In human body work with Chinese medicine we have tools such as needles of different lengths and thicknesses, various styles of moxa, cupping, acupressure/massage, qi-gong techniques both touch and non-touch, etc. Learning how different tools tend to work better on certain jobs can be a big help but it is the skill restoring normalcy – whatever tools we use – that really matters. The great thing about refining your skill with the tool of touch is that it comes naturally. Flesh responds to touch. Your patients’ flesh will tell you where the problems spots are if you develop your ability to listen with your hands by finding even slight inconsistencies. This is somewhat like petting a cat where you just hold your hand out and let the cat rub against it. We FACILITATE natural healing. We don’t make it happen, we help it to happen. Most skilled acupuncturists, acupressurists, massage therapists, etc., develop this ability whether they realize it or not.

Finding points by palpation is like finding the dents, dings and scratches and then using acupressure/massage, needles, moxa, cupping, etc, is like employing the different auto body tools to restore normalcy. Some of you may be wondering just how qi fits into what I have been describing. It is the inconsistencies in qi flow that cause the inconsistencies in the flesh and the rest of the organism. The problem is that feeling qi directly – while by no means impossible – tends to prove elusive for many. That is why feeling the impact qi inconsistencies have in the flesh is such a good way to both find qi imbalances and then, by using various tools, help resolve them. In my next post on this subject, I will go into my experience with feeling qi directly.  

I hope you found this post helpful and encourage you to keep practicing your hands-on techniques. Refine your ability to feel inconsistencies and your patients’ flesh will guide you to resolving them.  

Matthew Bauer