The primary goal of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is to help people find a healthy, balanced state of being. Although consisting of many complex and intertwining systems, most of TCM’s theories approach health issues with basic, logical strategies. Always geared towards attaining balance, one of these basic strategies involves cooling down people who harbor excessive amounts of heat. Upon recognizing the signs of excessive heat, bodyworkers can apply TCM-based techniques (such as shiatsu) to lower their client’s inner thermostat. For equalizing an elevated internal temperature, practitioners can profit from TCM’s wisdom by stimulating several shiatsu points reputed for their cooling properties.

Within the boundaries of TCM, there are a variety of patterns that could cause excessive amounts of heat. Listed below are four common patterns causing this rise in temperature, the symptoms that often accompany it and the ideal shiatsu points for achieving balance.

External Pathogenic Heat

Referred to as a febrile disease, a pathogen that successively defeats the initial immune response and penetrates into the body can cause internal heat. Although the symptoms depend upon the type of pathogen and where in the body it lodges, common symptoms of this type of heat include fever, thirst, perspiration, cough, breathlessness, constipation or diarrhea, anxiety and irritability.

Shiatsu points to vent pathogenic heat include Governing Vessel 14, Triple Burner 5, Large Intestine 4 and Large Intestine 11. However, external pathogenic heat is usually an infection, so bodywork is likely to be temporarily contraindicated.

Yang Rising

Human body temperature consistency is the result of a dynamic balance between the two opposing forces: yin and yang. Since yang’s primary characteristic is heat, it rises when it overpowers yin. The symptoms of yang rising may consist of a red face, sharp headache, dizziness, tinnitus, deafness, dry mouth and throat, insomnia, constipation, irritability and anger.

In western medicine, yang rising is typically associated with high blood pressure or mania. Shiatsu points to help anchor the yang include Large Intestine 11, Liver 3, Triple Burner 5 and Gallbladder 20.

Insufficient Yin

The other component of an imbalanced yin and yang causing heat is insufficient yin. As our innate lubricating and cooling force, a deficiency of yin causes dryness, which inevitably creates heat. Also known as deficient heat, this is a more subtle presentation of heat. Symptoms can include low-grade fever, heat in the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, a dry throat at night, night sweating, anxiety, hot flashes and facial flushing.

According to TCM, yin insufficiency responds best to a combination of herbal therapy, lifestyle modifications, acupuncture and acupressure. The primary shiatsu points that fortify the yin include Spleen 6, Kidney 6, Liver 8, Urinary Bladder 23 and Conception Vessel 4.

Heat in the Blood

Heat in the blood is a description of a condition where heat (from an internal imbalance or a tenacious pathogen) has penetrated to the deepest level of the body. This pathology causes reckless activity of the blood. At this level, heat accelerates blood circulation and easily causes injury to the blood vessels. Symptoms typical of this imbalance include mental restlessness, dry mouth, itching, excessive menstrual flow in women, nosebleeds, bloody stool and purpura (red or purple discolorations on the skin).

While heat in the blood is often responsible for bleeding or skin disorders, there are many times when western medicine offers no explanation for these heat-related phenomena. The main shiatsu points that cool heat in the blood are Spleen 10, Liver 8, Large Intestine 11 and Urinary Bladder 17.


Upon using TCM theory to help determine the best treatment plan for your clients, the following tips are helpful:

  • Aside from those exhibiting an insufficient yin pattern, using shiatsu to help cool down hot patients traditionally employs sedation techniques.
  • When fortifying yin is the preferred treatment strategy, use tonification techniques.
  • While assessing the type of imbalance your client might have, it is important to consider the overall pattern, since most people will not experience every listed symptom.

Once bodyworkers are aware of the symptoms indicative of excessive heat, they can further evaluate their overheated clients. Massage therapists are capable of figuring out which imbalance is occurring and use the shiatsu points appropriate for that condition. When carefully thought out shiatsu treatments return clients to their normal temperature, the mystery of TCM will dissipate and leave you a stronger, wiser practitioner.

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