Sep 4, 2011

Chinese facial massage and infraorbital foramen

(This is inspired by Rich's recent writing about The Invisible Energy around Us. I always think tea drinkers are relatively more sensitive people who pay a lot of attention to the surrounding environments and how their own body systems respond to the environmental changes. I personally have rather conflicting attitudes toward chi, as well as many other traditional Chinese medicine theories, such as yin and yang, ice and fire, etc.). On the one hand, I am very reluctant to talk about it, and often suspect when different people talk about it, they aren't even talk about the same thing. On the other hand, I believe these concepts worth more exploration, and shouldn't be misjudged or belittled, which actually happens a lot, even in China.) 

Forgive me for presenting a skull in front of you :-p The little holes under the eye pockets, indicated by number "7" in the picture, they are what I am talking about, infraorbital foramen (pl. foramina). 

I was taught this Chinese traditional facial massage when I was little. One important step is massaging the spot that's about 1/3 inch under each of the eyes. According to Chinese medicine, it's a very important acupuncture point (or it can be understood as "energy vortex") of human body. Self-massaging on that spot makes my eyes and face feel totally relaxed. I was told to do so, and I have been doing it whenever I can remember to. I didn't really think of why this should be a good massage spot. Chinese medicine, unlike Western medicine or Modern Medicine, is not based on anatomical evidence, but based on philosophy and thousands of years of medical experience. Besides, I don't even have the knowledge about all the acupuncture points on human body, let alone why each of them is important. I just picked up small things that were taught to me and easy for me to practice.

It wasn't until I saw a real human skull that I realized my favorite facial massage spots are these two little holes under the orbitals named infraorbital foramina! Many such little holes on the bones are important passages of blood vessels (and/or nerves). Massaging them stimulate regional blood circulation. No wonder it feels good to massage infraorbital foramina! It's good to know! But must I know it to benefit from my facial massage? Not really. I had enjoyed my facial massage for many years even before I took my first human anatomy class (which, in fact, didn't cover infraorbital foramen because it is too trivial). Generations of Chinese medicine practitioners never had a chance to observe a human skeleton (anatomy was not a research method in traditional Chinese medicine). But it didn't make them less confident about the acupuncture points. Besides, above anatomical observation on infraorbital formina may not be the only explanation why that spot is an important acupuncture point.

I believe in science. I believe in evidence and scientific inference. Meantime, I think one of the greatest things about science is, it acknowledges the limitlessness of the world and never stops the exploration of unknowns. "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." - it was an enlightening moment when this line hit me in a lecture given by a scientist.

While I am writing this piece, I am having a 2011 Dong Ding Beauty oolong from Taiwan. It's sweeter than usual due to the worse than usual pest attack of the past spring. If I try to give some concrete and specific explanations about my writing behavior, caffeine and adrenaline should definitely be included. But they can't really give a full explanation. If I chose to be abstract and metaphysical, I would say it's all because of the chi of the tea and the penetrating energy from the cold spring days, haha...

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