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Also referred to as the san jiao, triple warmer, triple energizer and triple heater, the triple burner metabolizes the fluids of our body. All of our body fluids (blood, sweat, tears, saliva, urine, etc.) originate from the food and drink we consume. Food and drink are transformed and separated by the spleen into “clean” and “dirty” parts. Clean fluids are directed to the lungs and skin, while the kidneys and small intestine process dirty fluids to be excreted as urine. According to Chinese Medicine, this process is a simplified version of how our body metabolizes fluids. The triple burner is responsible for the generation, transportation and removal of all body fluids.
Functions of the Three Burners
There are three portions that comprise the triple burner – the upper burner, middle burner and lower burner.
Upper burner – The main physiological process of the upper burner is distributing the body’s fluids via the action of the lungs. Often referred to as a mist, the upper burner is responsible for transforming the body’s energy into a vapor that maintains the lubrication necessary for healthful respiration. This vapor also assures the skin’s moisture, a necessary immunity guard to prohibit pathogens from invading the body. Our physical shield against viruses and bacteria, skin is our first line of defense against airborne illnesses.
Middle burner – The main physiological processes in the middle burner relate to digestion. In the process of digestion, the middle burner’s spleen and stomach break down food and drink by separating what is to be absorbed from what is to be excreted. Referred to as the maceration chamber, the middle burner is where nourishment is garnered and transported throughout the body.
Lower burner – The main physiological process in the lower burner is the separation of fluids for excretion in the form of urine. Referred to as the drainage ditch, the lower burner incorporates the functions of the small intestine, kidney and urinary bladder.
The location of the triple burner is integral in understanding why its manipulation has such a significant impact.
Starting at the tip of the ring finger, the triple burner channel progresses dorsally between the fourth and fifth metacarpal bones and up the lateral aspect of the arm, between the radius and ulna. It then climbs up the posterior portion of the arm to the shoulder joint and the supraclavicular fossa, where an internal branch descends into the chest, through the diaphragm to the abdomen. From the supraclavicular fossa, the triple burner channel ascends along the lateral portion of the neck to just behind the ear (where a branch connects with the gallbladder) before it dips down to the cheek and ends in the infra-orbital region. Due to its course, bodyworkers address the triple burner meridian for issues involving the lateral aspect of the forearm and arm, the shoulder, neck, ear and eye conditions.
Triple Burner Pathology
Because the triple burner is not a distinct organ, its pathology can incorporate many different patterns. Recognizing a typical triple burner disharmony is the best indicator of when to include bodywork on this meridian. Since the applications are so broad, the pathologies will be discussed according to the location, namely, the upper, middle and lower burners.
Upper burner – When the misting function of the upper burner is impaired, it typically leads to a breakdown of our defenses. This can result in a cold, with symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, temperature, sore throat, body aches, etc. Specific to the triple burner meridian are symptoms that correspond with the channel location, such as earache, pain behind the ears, cheek swelling, sore throat and pain in the outer canthus of the eye.
Middle burner – When the macerating function of the middle burner is impaired, there is an imbalance in the digestive process. Most typical of a triple burner imbalance are food retention issues, such as bloating, nausea, heartburn and excessive belching. Clients with these symptoms are likely too sensitive to endure abdominal massage. This scenario presents an ideal time to work with the triple burner meridian.
Lower burner – When the drainage ditch is not functioning properly, there are problems with water retention and urination. Imbalances involving the triple burner can include lower leg edema, burning urination, urinary retention, loss of bladder control and frequent urination. If a client shares any clues indicative of a lower burner imbalance, working on the triple burner meridian could positively benefit them.
With an understanding of the triple burner, massage therapists can take advantage of its easily accessible location to healthfully impact some very complex body imbalances. As our system for creating, processing and eliminating fluids, the triple burner is fascinating, and no longer mysterious.
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