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Hacking Chinese Medicine

Practice Building Theory

“I feel like a fraud.” “I don’t know what I’m really doing”.

One of the most common challenges for student interns and recently graduated acupuncturists is a sense of working in the dark. This is because of the way that Chinese medicine is currently taught. 

Our schooling is oriented towards passing licensing exams. The exams test us on “traditional” Chinese medicine: the mistranslations, incomplete and incorrect axioms, and self-conflicting, obscuring error accumulations of centuries that dominate education in our field.

This ancient medicine is based on exacting principles of biophysics and channel Qi flow. Without learning diagnosis and applications for the underlying principles of channel Qi, (currently illegal in China), this medicine is often nothing more than guesswork or one-size-fits-all treatments that don’t actually fit most.

In my travels, teachers from around the world have offered insights, anecdotes, and wildly different translations from what I’d been taught in school. Through three decades as an acupuncturist and herbalist, my brain underwent a slow-motion revolution.

In fits and starts, I came to understand how this medicine works. If applied correctly, it works very well. Patients who never got significant or lasting results from their previous acupuncturists have gotten stunning results when I use the principles shared in my introductory book, Hacking Chinese Medicine and in the continuing book, Tracking the Dragonadvanced channel theory, the two books covered in the new Eastern Currents video series “Hacking Chinese Medicine.”

The following case study, excerpted from the first book, is an example of the kind of confidence and results you can get when you learn to feel what the channel Qi is actually doing. 

My athletic patient, age 46, had left-side sciatica. I ran a hand over the Gallbladder and UB channel in her hip and low back.

There was no channel Qi there! NO sensations of channel Qi in the left-side UB channel or the Gallbladder channel. Nada!

I inserted a needle near the beginning of the left UB channel at UB-3, on the head. Immediately, channel Qi started flowing down her back. Immediately, her pain was gone. This told me that the problem area was in the vicinity of UB-3.

She came in the next day. The pain was back. Again, the left-side UB and GB channel Qi wasn’t moving. 

You were hopefully taught in school that an injury to the head will often cause more trouble at the spot directly opposite the injury than at the injury site itself: the force of a blow can travel through the head and might only cause internal bruising and damage when the shock wave travelling through the brain hits the unyielding cranium on the far side of the head, at a location opposite to the original blow.

Directly opposite the left forehead, at the start of GB and UB channels, if you imagine a line through the exact center of the head, is the right-side lateral part of the occipital bone, at the lower back of the head.

Something was preventing normal flow in the entire length of the left UB and GB channels, starting from their beginnings on the left forehead. So, I felt with my hands in the area opposite of the forehead.

I very gently held the area at the right-side back of her head. She suddenly recalled a sharp blow to the head at that exact location. A month earlier, she had left a kitchen cabinet door standing open while she bent down. When she stood up quickly, she caught the open door with the back of her head. In her words, “It was a lulu.” Her sciatic pain had started a few days later. 

As I did several seconds of Yin Tui Na (gentle, supportive holding), one hand at the site of the injury and the other at the opposite location on her left forehead, the muscles just under the entire scalp relaxed. Her left-side UB and GB channels started running perfectly normally. They continued running after I let go of her head. Her sciatica was gone. A month later, it had not returned. 

None of the Pattern diagnoses we learn in school would have helped in this situation. Nor would local or distal needling. Using channel diagnostics, I knew the actual location of the source of her sciatica problem.

Acupuncturists in lecture audiences and students alike have long asked me to write up the treasures that I now pass along in class. They tell me that when they overthrow their stab-in-the-dark practice of Chinese medicine to incorporate insights about the workings of channel Qi, their clinical results are vastly improved. They have satisfaction in knowing what they’re doing, as opposed to that nagging feeling that they’re just guessing and hoping for the best.

This medicine can be practiced in a manner that is highly logical, elegant, and precise. You won’t learn how to practice this way in your schooling.

You can know exactly what you are doing, and why. My books and the new video series are my attempts to share the core principles of this medicine, to correct the misinformation you learned in school, and to thank my many teachers for “paying it forward.”

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Hacking Chinese Medicine


In this 15-part series, Janice Walton-Hadlock will explore topics covered in her book, Hacking Chinese Medicine. These 1-hour courses demystify and provide logic to the conflicts that currently preside in the study of Chinese Medicine.

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