What’s a “Healing Crisis?”

Sometimes it’s necessary for a condition to get worse before it can get better; we call this a “healing crisis.”

Read on to learn more about these healing crises and how you can use them to your advantage. (You can also download Taking Time to Heal as a PDF.)

Taking Time to Heal

We are constantly exposed to hazardous conditions in life, including toxic pollutants, infectious microbes, UV radiation, adverse weather, traumatic injury, improper diet, emotional disharmony, and unhealthy lifestyle.

These can all be collectively referred to as pathogenic factors (PFs). Yet, despite all these PFs, we are not always sick.  This is because each of us has an amazing network of healing systems that helps either resolve or manage PFs.

When we are exposed to PFs, the ideal response is for the body to resolve and eliminate them immediately.  This is achieved primarily through, shivering, sweating, rashes, vomiting, bowel movements, or urination. But to release effectively, the body needs proper nutrition and hydration, sufficient sleep, a calm mind, and time. Often in our hectic lives, all of these resources are strained, and we cannot spare the time or the energy to be sick and deal with the PF properly. Instead, the body does the next best thing. It seals the PF away so we can carry on our lives. A PF can be hidden in many ways: e.g. in varicose veins, lymph nodes, joints, fatty tissue, bone spurs, and many kinds of knots and nodules. A hidden PF is considered latent. It is present but asymptomatic.

Latency is not free. Much like taking out debt, it cannot be sustained indefinitely. The body must actively hold something latent; this holding drains the body and may be painful. If severe, this can cause other problems. For example, from the perspective of latency theory, cancer results when the body can no longer contain its load of pathology without forming tumors. Ultimately, latent PFs are a significant factor in the decline associated with aging.

For all these reasons, the body is always eager to release latent pathology when it can. Because this release often takes place as a distinct healing event, we call it a healing crisis. Acupuncture is very effective in helping the body to do this, both by building up the necessary strength and resources and then by peeling back the layers of pathology. Read on to discover the key characteristics of a healing crisis and how to optimize your release if you have one.

Main features

  • Apparent worsening or the appearance of new symptoms, often flu-like.
  • Copious elimination: often in the form of mucous, sweat, rash, or excretions.
  • Recurrence of an old injury that had been quiet for many years. This happens when an injury does not heal properly and leads to other pathology. During a release, resources become available to heal it.
  • Sometimes no signs of release: many people release their PFs so efficiently that they are eliminated without any remarkable disturbance.
  • In contrast to a worsening disease, a healing crisis is
    • Short in duration: usually less than 6 days
    • Peaceful: despite erupting symptoms, most people feel relieved of a burden.

Steps to help ensure a successful release

  • Acupuncture: Treatment is the best way to work out any blocks and to make sure the body has its needed resources. If you begin a healing crisis, you may wish to schedule an appointment.
  • Self-care with gua sha.
  • Stay well hydrated. Drink plenty of room temperature, plain, non-carbonated water (Distilled is best for this.)
  • Eat well (avoiding cold and raw foods.)
  • Rest when you are tired.
  • Epsom salt bath: A warm bath with Epsom salts opens your pores for release and helps reduce symptom intensity. Follow the instructions that come with the Epsom salts.

In general, Chinese medicine does not recommend antibiotics, steroids, and symptom-suppressing pharmaceuticals during a healing crisis. Although it’s appropriate to use these medicines as life-saving drugs, they typically stop a benign release and push the pathology back into latency.

As always, if you think you are having a medical emergency, call 911.