“A lot of times when we talk about Chinese medicine we’re talking about common sense. Is our neck important? Of course it is!” - Dr. Haosheng Zhang, LAC
In the Essential Questions, an ancient manual covering the theoretical foundation of Chinese medicine, the Yellow Emperor states that wind on the neck is the ‘culprit of one hundred diseases.’ “Wind enters from the exterior giving rise to shivering, sweating, headache, heaviness of the body and aversion to cold,” says Qi Bo, the Emperor’s advisor.
Here and now, as winter begins to loosen its bone-chilly grip and the season transitions to blustery and unpredictable, it seems essential that we keep our necks protected from the wet and windy elements.
First line of defense? The Scarf.
In order to understand the neck’s role in anatomical wellness a bit more, we had a chat with Dr. Haosheng Zhang, a highly respected acupuncturist here in Portland, Oregon. The first thing we learned was that our suspicions were correct: Neck warmth shields us from immune system vulnerability, especially along the midline and nape of the neck.
PB: Why are we humans drawn to keeping our necks warm and how is it related to well-being?
Dr. Zhang: In fundamental theory of course it’s quite complicated, but I always try to explain to students and [my] patients that in Chinese philosophy everything consists of energy. The big picture is the whole universe. The first thing to understand is that energy has to flow without any stagnation. Everything is constantly moving. If you want to have good health, first you want to make sure you have enough energy, and for that we use the word ‘Chi’ or ‘Qi.’ Secondly, everything has to be flowing smoothly and without stagnation. If you maintain these two things – you are in good health.
PB: Could you describe the relationship between good flow and optimum health a little bit more?
Dr. Zhang: Yes, a really good example is to look at water. If water is moving along there is no bad odor. When does the water begin to smell? When it stops running and is sitting still. That’s when imbalance, or virus and bacteria, is detected. The same thing happens inside of our bodies. It is energy in constant flow, just like the river. If you want to keep it flowing you must keep the water clean. You want to have this type of free-flowing movement. That is when you feel good and are well balanced.
Warmth makes things flow. Cold temperatures lead things to contract and congeal. And that’s when your circulation decreases. The result: colds, stiff neck, mental fatigue, fogginess, headaches, generally unwell feelings. The scarf is just like Chinese or herbal medicine - there is definitely an effectiveness there. Really, it’s kind of like common sense. So many vessels go through the back of the neck and connect to the brain. Warmth in that area promotes better circulation so you don’t block that movement. When the energy is not blocked, your body is allowed to continue its good work.