The Eight Perimeters of Traditional Chinese Medicine (part two)

Acupuncture looks at our body as composed of energy. This energy is called quiz (pronounced chee).  Qi energy is responsible for every function of our body — our heart beat, our stomach digestion, our thinking, feeling and moving are all functions of qi.  Every organ has qi and every organ’s qi has functions. All the different qi energies work together — in harmony (or disharmony) to allow our body to operate.  When one aspect or function of qi is off balance, it tends to affect other aspects of our body.  This is why looking at the body through eight perimeters is so valuable.

The first of the eight perimeters differentiates between deficiency and excess symptoms.   Certain symptoms show where we are deficient. These include feeling fatigued, lethargic, having difficulty shedding excess weight, feeling cold.  Other symptoms are symbolic of excess. These can include irritability, headaches, pain and insomnia. Symptoms of fatigue, lethargy and feeling cold, are considered patterns of qi deficiency. On the other spectrum, irritability, headaches pain and insomnia can be considered patterns of excess qi. With one set of symptoms, we work to strengthen. With another, we work to make changes and eliminate.  With both, the goal is to restore our body to a “healthy state of balance”. A second differentiation is hot vs. cold. As we mentioned in earlier, some midlife women feel hot all the time. Hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness are all potential symptoms that come along with menopause. Other heat signs may include high blood pressure, constipation, irritability or being short-fused.

Some midlife women may feel cold, have a lower sex drive or urinate frequently and during the night and have looser stools. Some women vacillate between these two states of being.  Again, looking at the symptoms, we begin to see patterns of deficiency vs. excess and hot vs. cold.

The third differentiation is interior (inside) vs. exterior (outside). I like to use this differentiation within myself to see if how I think about myself on the outside (fat, thin, ugly, attractive) is the same as how I am feeling on the inside. For example, I may have eaten a late meal and feel bloated the next day. In this situation, I may find myself (though less and less) not feeling good about how I look. As women, we are pressured to focus on how we look on the outside without the emphasis on how we may feel on the inside. We also don’t realize the consequences of this imbalance. We don’t pay attention to signals our body may be transmitting when we don’t feel right. We may only focus on how we feel on the outside and ignore important health symptoms that signal our well-being on the inside. All because we’ve lost a sense of balance.

The last differentiation is yin and yang. Yin and yang symbolizes balance — it’s the most general of the differentiations and can be considered a summary of the others. Yin and Yang mean many things — hot/cold, night/day, up/down, interior/excess.  It is a universal term that gives us perspective and a paradigm for viewing both our inner and outer worlds.

As you can see, there are many ways that our body can get out of balance.  There are also many ways that one can create more balance in their body.  The first is to begin to understand and appreciate that every human being has their own natural state of balance.  My balance is different than your balance. The second is to understand that balance is always changing.  Creating balance is a dynamic (vs. static) system.  This is why it is called a “relative state of balance”.  In addition, Traditional Chinese Medicine offers a variety of tools to create balance.  These include

  • Acupuncture — acupuncture works by balancing the qi energy in our body. Through the eight perimeter diagnostic process, an acupuncturist will determine where the body is out of balance and use acupuncture to help restore blanace
  • Chinese herbal medicine is very effective in restoring balance. Chinese herbs are categorized (cold, hot, strengthening, reducing) and custom made formulas are created to help create balance.
  • Diet: Chinese dietary guidelines are very effective in helping to restore balance. Eating right for our body type and learning the guidelines of Chinese Medicine can support our body and our good health.
  • Exercise — active (yang) exercise such as cardio, running, swimming and yin exercise (yoga, tai chi) help create balance in our body.


I am honored and privileged to work in a career in which I am able to work with and educate women about their bodies, mind and spirit.  As a women who is in her midlife and who works to accept my aging body gracefully, I find the tools of the eight perimeters very helpful in supporting my personal and professional journey in life.

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