One of the topics I’m always stressing is the importance of educating clients. Coming up with new and interesting ways of explaining the things that are happening with a client’s body reinforces their perception that you’re an absolute bodyworking authority and the go-to guy (or gal) to keep their bodies in tip-top shape. It’s all part of your clever marketing strategy designed to build a strong practice by creating a clientele that books you regularly and well in advance.

In the blog entitled What’s The Deal With Pain? I wrote a simplified explanation for the causes of pain – visceral, structural, and myofascial – that is completely Western in scope. But sometimes coming from a different perspective can get the point across better, so here’s an explanation inspired by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to show you what I mean.

In Western anatomy, blood is the red stuff that travels in the veins and arteries – not necessarily so in TCM. The concept of Blood in Chinese thought centers more around function that form. Sure, it circulates and nourishes like blood, but that’s about all the two have in common.

The Blood, along with Qi (chi) and Vital Substances, flow through channels called meridians. There are twelve main meridians, each associated with a specific organ (stomach, spleen, liver, etc.), as well as eight extra meridians and thousands of little connecting collateral channels.

Sometimes an obstruction develops in a meridian that can be caused by a whole host of issues – trauma or injury, overuse (or underuse), sleeping on a bad mattress, or even just time.

You can think of these obstructions like an accident on a freeway; two cars collide and the cars behind them start slamming into each other until, at some point, the drivers behind them see what’s going on and slow down putting an end to the pile-up.

However, by now there’s not only a mass of wrecked cars, but also the ensuing traffic jam of cars bringing up the rear. Fortunately, there’s an exit ramp not far behind the wreck so cars start flowing off the freeway and onto the side streets. Unfortunately, the side streets aren’t really equipped to handle all that overflow traffic, so they now become clogged, too.

When the Qi, Blood, and Vital Substances hit an obstruction (a trigger point) in your client’s shoulder – caused, for example, by sitting at a computer holding her arms in a sustained isometric contraction for hours every day, 5 days a week, for years and years – it has nowhere to go except to be diverted into the smaller, ill-equipped collateral channels.

Not only is the pain a result of the obstruction (the wreck-site), but now there are all sorts of additional issues caused by the inability of the collateral channels to handle the over-flow.

But the good news is that once the tow-trucks come (in the form of your expert bodyworking technique) and slowly clear up the carnage (deactivate the trigger point), the flow of traffic on the freeway is returned to normal and the pain goes away.

This explanation is not only very visual but something any driver can relate to. Feel free to modify it so it’s comfortable for you and see if it doesn’t make pain a little easier to understand.