The Energy Method

Read here to learn the Chinese theory and practice of moving energy called Qi. To experience the energy click the “Feel the Energy” tab.

The Theory of Qi Energy

Pain is blocked energy called injured Qi, whereas the feeling of energy flowing in the body is called “Got Qi” (DEQI sounds like “duh chee”).

DEQI  is defined as the experience of bodily sensations following the application of therapeutic pressure, acupuncture, or heat. The changing moving sensations can feel like tingling, numbness, aching, and soreness. After a while a subtle, glowing, flowing feeling along the length of the body may be noticed.

If at first you do not feel energy sensations (deqi) when your acupoints are pressed, keep trying. It may be that you need more practice at finding the points, or it could be that your Qi system has atrophied due to inactivity. When not used, the energy system will atrophy like other body systems.

Just as playing and exercising keep muscles strong, and reading and learning keep the mind sharp, exercising your energy points allows you to feel stronger energy sensations. When you begin exercising after months of inactivity, muscles will complain and refuse to work. Then as you persist, you become stronger until what was once difficult becomes easy. It takes knowledge and practice to develop skill.

A Chinese proverb implores, “Bugs do not nest in a busy doorway.”

Does it feel tingly, heavy, less sharp or less sore? Do you feel something moving in your body? It may feel subtle. It may radiate a short or long distance. You may experience a tingling, glowing, flowing feeling.

You may feel currents—some warm and some cold. Rubbing and pressing will remove the stagnant energy, which helps to restore proper circulation of blood and lymph. When you rub gently, stagnant energy is dispersed, often resulting in the reduction of pain.

Some people do not experience energy sensations the first time they try; about half the people who try these methods will experience energy within minutes; a quarter will take days of practice. Some may never experience the energy sensations described at this site.

A Chinese sage once said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” The first time something new is tried, thoughts of failure, doubt, and confusion sometimes surface. “What if I can’t do it?” Not all people can feel Qi. It is a sense. Just as some people are color blind, some people can not feel energy sensations, even with the proper herbs and acupuncture.

Do not expect too much at first. Energy sensations are quieter than pain. Keep looking, massaging and exploring your body. You are most likely to feel energy sensations while pressing powerful acupoints known since ancient times. Four of the most famous acupoints are described at this website. Those of you who explore these acupoints may experience energy sensations at all or some of these acupoints.

Energy sensations (deqi) are different than nerve sensations. Modern scientists in Japan and China have studied energy sensations extensively. In Acupuncture: A Comprehensive Text, translated and edited by John O’Conner and Dan Bensky, it states, “It was found that the perception of the conduction of the needle sensation was rather slow …” (page 108).

Nerve Sensations Are Felt Instantaneously.

When you hit your elbow a certain way, your hand feels numb with “pins and needles.” What has happened is a pinched nerve between the bones of the elbow caused the predictable sensation in the hand. The body feels normal elsewhere, except from the point where the nerve was pinched toward the extremity. This is a law that can be applied when locating nerve damage. It is said nerve damage is found between the altered sensation and the central nervous system.

When you provoke an energy sensation (deqi), the tingling feeling can travel toward the center of the body or toward the extremities. In contrast, when you hit a nerve, the instantaneous feeling is felt only in the direction of the extremity; recall hitting your funny bone. In this way you can tell the difference between an energy sensation and a nerve sensation.

Also, the energy sensation felt when pressing on a painful point or an acupressure point varies from one place to the next and from one person to another.

Acupoints Release Healing Energy

Specific points on the body, called acupoints, known since ancient times, will easily release golden healing energy for reducing pain and improving health. An acupoint is usually the most tender spot in an area.

These acupoints become hypersensitive when corresponding parts of the body need help. However, it is interesting to note, even when acupoints are surprisingly hypersensitive with dark disease energy, you might not notice these points if you were not looking for them. This website describes in detail four acupressure points that warn of disease and supply the body with golden healing energy.

Self-healing Massage

Listen to your body as it “talks” about injured Qi (pain), while you look for points to release golden energy. It is natural to rub, hold, or press where it hurts. Pain will teach you all you need to know about your body’s energy system. This works best in a place where you will not be disturbed, so you can relax as much as necessary, while listening to your body and locating energy points. While learning, prefer the places on your body that you notice easily release golden energy.

If you have a sore or painful place on your arm or leg which is easy to reach, start there. Otherwise, start examining your neck and shoulders. Rub and press painful spots until you find that the pain subsides as you hold them. Rub and press gently at first. Slowly rub all around the most tender spot.

After finding all of the sensitive spots in the area, press on the most tender spot. Press for about one minute. Press hard enough to feel the pain but not hard enough to cause tension in your body. Press into that gray area between pleasure and pain where the most energy can be released. The appropriate pressure will reduce the pain, which will release golden energy. It seems curious, but the best golden energy points are usually not very sore at all.

If at first you do not succeed, try, try again! Keep exercising your energy system. If you are having trouble feeling energy, try using fewer stimulants and relaxants including painkillers, alcohol, and coffee. They are numbing and result in the disruption of Qi.

For more about acupressure massage and other healthy ideas visit my blog: MichaelTurk.com


Natural Healing

I am reviewing my interviews and teaching videos taken over the last thirty years.

Here are two interviews, one old and one new.

The earliest video, an interview by Rosemary Broccoli in 1986.

Michael Turk answers Rosemary Broccoli’s first question, “Michael, how was it you became interested in Oriental medicine?” More of the interview will be posted soon.

Recently, I was interviewed while demonstrating Moxa-Pressure, a technique I developed to quickly relieve many types of pain.


The following videos of classes are being reviewed for short lessons to publish.

  • I taught three workshops on Acupressure for Headaches, Points for Pain, and Using Chinese Herbs in 1989.
  • In 2006, I demonstrated prenatal massage and taught acupressure massage at the Pacific Symposium.
  • My favorite video in 2007 was a class on the Origin of Chinese Symbolism.

As I publish these videos I will give background information.

Post your questions about health and healing using ancient Asian healing arts.

Formula for Failure

Published in the California Journal of Oriental Medicine, Fall 2004
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) relieve pain most effectively the first time they are taken, however, when taken daily they lose their effectiveness. Increasing the dosage or changing to stronger pain pills may bring temporary relief, but soon even these strategies fail to be effective. In such cases even acupuncture fails to give lasting relief for this pain. Few sufferers realize that this formula for failure they are experiencing known as rebound pain, results from their use of NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen and acetaminophen). The cause of rebound pain will be explained in the following article.

In order to discuss rebound pain, a fundamental understanding of tissue repair is helpful. Western medicine identifies three healing stages for injuries great and small (note 1). When these three stages of healing proceed naturally, healing progresses quickly. However, when healing is disrupted, problems abound: specifically, poor circulation of blood and lymph, as well as chronic pain and its associated disability. During tissue repair, fresh blood brings nutrients and oxygen to provide material for healing and the lymph removes the byproducts of tissue repair. As pain becomes chronic, it is often accompanied by stiffness and reduced range of motion. The use of pain pills to relieve chronic pain often backfires. The resulting rebound pain causes or plays a role in several chronic pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia, chronic muscle pain syndrome, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

The Three Stages of Healing

The three stages of healing are:

  1. Inflammation
  2. Cell proliferation
  3. Remodeling

Scar tissue normally forms during the first two stages of healing.

1) During the initial inflammatory stage, which lasts three to five days, prostaglandins initiate multiple tasks: to stimulate the immune system, to buildup platelets around the lesion, and to attract white blood cells that protect against infections and clean up the damaged tissue. Specialized cells called fibroblasts produce disorganized fibrous (scar) tissue.

2) During the second stage, which lasts four to six weeks, cells proliferate to replace the damaged cells and scar tissue becomes organized. Physical activity eliminates unnecessary scar tissue that has inadvertently adhered to neighboring tissue.

3) During the remodeling stage, lasting about six months or more, the repaired tissue remodels itself. Interestingly forensic anthropologists and archeologists observe changes in bone structure, for example, to determine the types of work a person performed based on the fact that remodeling is an automatic process accompanying use. During the third stage of healing this process can restore damaged tissue so it is stronger than it was before the injury. If remodeling doesn’t occur, it leads to weakened tissue prone to reinjury.

Injuries are an opportunity to become stronger. When the three stages proceed normally, tissue becomes stronger and less prone to injury. This principle is used by performance athletes. Likewise, pain is rare if the damage heals quickly and thoroughly, without abnormal adhesions.

What Is Scar Tissue?

The fibrous connective tissue produced during the initial inflammatory stage serves to temporarily replace damaged tissue during the first stage of healing. Scar tissue lacks oil glands and elasticity. By contrast, healthy tissue is elastic and lubricated, which protects it against irritation. It is the nature of scar tissue to contract over time and become sensitive as pain nerves enter the aging scar tissue. (note 2) This sensitivity prolongs the period of inflammation and results in the formation of excessive scar tissue. Muscles become fibrous as a result of chronic inflammation. Scar tissue reduces and blocks the circulation of fresh blood, carrying nutrients and oxygen, and the flow of lymph, which carries away toxins. This vicious cycle of continued scar formation can thus increase pain, reduce circulation, and restrict movement.

As pain nerves penetrate scar tissue, it becomes hypersensitive to stimulation. This makes it easy to find during massage because the pain response indicates the scar tissue with its hypersensitive nerves. An acupuncturist can also feel the presence of recent and old scar tissue by feeling the resistance to the needle. Healthy tissue offers no resistance and feels like it is soft and lubricated.

Other Causes of Scar Tissue

From my clinical experience, there are many causes of fibrous, sclerotic tissue in the musculo-skeletal system. In-depth discussions with patients about the history of their pain have revealed treatments with trendy therapies such as icing, cortisone injections, and NSAIDs, all of which alter and inhibit healing by blocking prostaglandin production. Prostaglandins are produced during the first stage of healing to protect and repair the damaged tissue. They protect by delivering a pain message and by sensitizing the area or injury to keep from further injury. They initiate a host of repair activities that are required during the healing process.

Intentional scarring therapy (sclerotherapy) is sometimes used to treat chronic pain. This involves local injections, especially of the steroid anti-inflammatory cortisone; the more cortisone administered, the more scarring of subcutaneous tissue. Patients who have received cortisone shots often report more painful acupuncture-needle insertions at the injury site. Relief for them will also require more acupuncture treatments than if cortisone was not used. Cortisone injections have also been shown to dematerialize bone and cause soft tissue to become fragile.  (note 3)

One of the therapeutic actions of cortisone is tissue necrosis. Injections at the site of inflammation kills the inflamed tissue sending out pain signals.  My interviews with surgeons indicate scar tissue present at the site of cortisone injections. Basically, washing inflamed tissue with cortisone kills it, and it is replaced by scar tissue. At first this brings quick relief, but in about three months pain nerves enter the aging scar tissue as it shrinks. This vicious cycle spreads to surrounding tissue, resulting in reduced mobility and the return of more intense and intractable pain.

Unintentional scarring can also result from the application of cold to relieve pain. My interviews with patients having a history of athletic injuries often revealed a pattern of stiff and painful tissue in areas where icing was used to relieve pain after athletic events. The more often icing was used, the more resulting tissue stiffness was discovered and the more subsequent treatments with needle moxa were required to restore the circulation of blood and lymph.

Although no statistics are available, a survey of the history of medicine from around the world suggests that traditionally, though pain was an uncomfortable problem, chronic pain was rare. (note 4) Prior to the 20th century, the method of treating pain was dramatically different. In the past, chronic pain was treated with counterirritants (irritation applied to the surface of the body to counteract pain and disease), such as mustard and medicinal plasters. Since the discovery of aspirin and the increased use of anti-inflammatories, there has been an increased incidence of chronic pain. Chronic pain is reported to be most common in countries where anti-inflammatories are used extensively. In Third World countries where time-honored means of treating pain are employed, chronic pain is rare. (note 5)

Many recent studies have associated NSAIDs with chronic pain, especially degeneration of joint cartilage. (note 6) Basically the inhibiting effect of NSAIDs that applies to muscle healing also applies to cartilage repair. The use of anti-inflammatories heightens the incidence of chronic pain. Treating pain while disrupting the healing process results in a build up of painful scar tissue, which can also interfere with the functioning of muscles by scarring proprioceptors.

Proprioception & Tension Receptors

The simple act of walking upright is actually not so simple; it is still a challenge for robot designers. When our body’s ability to sense its position and orientation – known as proprioception – becomes impaired, our ability to move quickly and accurately degrades and our athletic performance suffers. One facet of proprioception is the product of our muscles’ tension receptors, dysfunction of which can also cause chronic pain. Knowing how to locate and heal tension receptors using massage and acupuncture can quickly and permanently reverse years of chronic pain where other attempts to heal brought only temporary relief.

If the muscles become scarred and fibrous, tension receptors in the muscle belly do not readily change shape with the muscle, resulting in delayed or absent responses. When this happens, the brain fails to register the degree of muscle contraction. Consequently, the brain’s signal to contract is increased, causing spasms and/or continuous muscle tension.

When a muscle is either tense or constantly tight it may have fibrous, stiff, and frozen tension receptors. Even when the patient believes they are relaxed, the muscle is tight. It is tight when they go to sleep and tight when they wake up. Deep-tissue massage and acupressure on the origin, insertion, or belly of the muscle can forcefully change the shape of the tension receptor and the muscle will relax temporarily, but constant tightness will return because the tension receptor has not changed. Massage and meditation will fail to relax this type of muscle. Stretching can temporarily reset the tension level, but tension will return. Therefore, the use of massage, acupuncture and moxibustion can correct the chronic tension that often accompanies chronic pain.

Rebound Pain

Rebound pain is paradoxically caused by NSAIDs. NSAIDs stop the first stage of healing by blocking the production of prostaglandins. Bradykinin is one type of prostaglandin that increases pain sensitivity by ten times and speeds healing by five times. (note 7) In other words NSAIDs inhibit healing and the subsequent stages of healing are thus compromised. Rebound pain begins after 4-8 days of continual NSAID usage and slowly increases until it becomes the major component of chronic pain. It is a type of withdrawal pain and may be diagnosed as fibromyalgia (FMS), fibrositis, chronic muscle pain syndrome, psychogenic rheumatism, tension myalgias, and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). It is my belief that FMS is fibrosis of the soft tissue often complicated by rebound pain.

Rebound pain probably develops because NSAIDs mask small pain signals that cause us to squirm and wiggle or adjust how we sit and stand. These adjustments to our posture stop tissue damage from the pressure applied to joints and muscles when we sit or stand still. When people stop using pain pills, they temporarily feel their body trying to heal this damage in their joints and muscles. Some patients tell me they cannot stop using the drugs they take because their pain is so bad, but when they do stop, they often have a remarkable reduction in their pain.

A Formula for Success

Acupuncture can initiate a healing process with puncture wounds where healing had been incomplete or interrupted by NSAIDs, cortizone or icing. It is interesting to note that regeneration, the ability to regrow limbs for example, which happens in lower life forms is absent in higher life forms with one exception, the healing of puncture wounds. Local treatments at sites of sensitivity called ahshi points stimulate or restimulate healing as described in the three stages of healing. Therefore, when a patient suffers from chronic pain which doesn’t respond to acupuncture treatments, ask them to reduce and eventually stop pain pills.

Explain to your patients how NSAIDs, cortizone or icing all interfere with healing, which impede the effectiveness of therapeutic approaches such as acupuncture, acupressure, and massage. Acupuncture, however, can be used as a complementary method to quickly end rebound pain when NSAIDs are discontinued. Ear acupuncture is commonly used in detox programs and can restore the body’s natural pain relievers, endorphins. Local treatment with needle moxa therapy on scarred fibrous tissue eliminates the cause of chronic pain. (See “Treating Chronic Pain with Meridian Dredging“ by Michael Turk in CJOM 14.2, Summer 2003)


1a) Wells, D. “Injury: Three Stages of Healing” in CJOM 14.1 winter 2003

1b) www.issaquahfamilychiropractic.com/sti.htm

1c) The Encyclopedia Britannica CDROM refers to four stages of healing. The first stage is divided in two: one lasts for one day and the second part the typical 3-5 days.

2a) Singh, Vijay, MD “Pathophysiology of the Disc” in Interventional Pain Management

2b) Encyclopedia Britannica CDROM

3) Diwan, P., “Influence of Zinc Sulfate on Steroid Depressed Wound Healing,” Kulkarni, D. InsJPharmac., 11(4), 257-264 (1979)

4) The following statistics indicate the trend toward high rates of chronic pain in the USA

1973   “Although accurate statistics are not available, data from a variety of sources suggest that chronic pain states cost the American people between 10 and 25 billions of dollars annually” (The Puzzle of Pain by Ronald Melzack 1973).

1973    The first world conference on pain estimated 10 million Americans suffer from chronic pain. (The Conquest of Pain by Samuel Mines 1973).

1980    40 million Americans suffer; it is the third leading cause of disability (Pain Control, the Bethesda Program by Bruce Smoller, M.D. & Brian Schulman, M.D. 1980).

1983            “Authorities figures prepared for the year 1983 estimated that 90 million Americans suffered from chronic pain, that 60 million Americans were either partially or totally disabled… (The Culture of Pain by David Morris 1991).

5) Dr. Brand lived and worked in India for many years. He reports that chronic pain was rare p185-190. Brand, P. The Gift of Pain 1997 Zondervan

“Frantic attempts to silence pain signals may actually have a paradoxical effect.”

“My esteem for pain runs so counter to the common attitude that I sometimes feel like a subversive, especially in modern Western countries.  On my travels I have observed an ironic law of reversal at work: as a society gains the ability to limit suffering, it loses the ability to cope with what suffering remains.  (It is the philosophers, theologians, and writers of the affluent West, not the Third World, who worry obsessively about ‘the problem of pain,’ and point an accusing finger at God.)”

6a) Werbach, M. Nutritional Influences on Illness. Third Line Press, California, (468, 469, 590), 1987

6b) see bibliography at www.unitedmedicalnetwork.com/umnrationale_joint.asp

6c) Lopes Vaz AL. Double-blind, clinical evaluation of the relative efficacy of ibuprofen and glucosamine sulphate in the management of osteoarthrosis of the knee in out-patients. Curr Med Res Opin 1982;8:145-9.

6d) Dingle JT., Cartilage maintenance in osteoarthritis: interaction of cytokines, NSAID and prostaglandins in articular cartilage damage and repair. J Rheumatol Suppl. 1991 Mar;28:30-7.

7) From a private communication with Dr. Bruce Pomerantz who has been studying the role of Bradykinin in healing.

8) Turk, M. “Treating Chronic Pain with Meridian Dredging” in CJOM 14.2, Summer 2003

Further Reading

1) Chang, Yeung, Chung Through-and-through & Collective Loci Acupuncture 1976, Medical Interflow Publishing House

2) Chen Xingseng “Comparative Study on Acupuncture Needling Methods for Sciatica: Routine Needling Vs. Point-to-point and Deep Puncture” in American Journal of Acupuncture Vol. 26 No.1 1998.

3) Lowenkopf, Anne N. Osteopuncture 1976 Medical Arts Press

4) Brand, Paul, The Gift of Pain 1997 Zondervan

5) Turk, Michael Pain’s Healing Secret 2001 Chico, CA: Acu Press

Pain’s Healing Secret

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