Question submitted by a reader: How does an external pathogen in Chinese Medicine, for example Cold, manifest in the channel/s (liver) for one person but not for many others. Would constant over-stretching be a factor that would weaken the flow of or even deplete qi, thus enabling the cold to reach into the meridians from the skin? What makes one person more vulnerable, while another is not affected?
Answer: One of the theoretical constructs of Chinese Medicine is that external pathogens are a factor in the etiology of disease. These pathogens are called Cold, Heat, Dampness, Wind, Dryness, Summerheat. Obviously there are seasonal connotations to these pathogens, so we are more vulnerable to them during the time of year we are exposed to them. In the past, these pathogens were a big deal to our agrarian ancestors who were exposed to the elements–they had a keen interest in dealing with the effects of their difficult lives.
Today, in the U.S., we more often see these pathogens result from our own unique conditions–such as too much air conditioning; sleeping with a fan on or the window open; the dry air created by central heating; eating ice cream or iced drinks frequently, etc. Other factors such as stress, eating poor quality or toxic foods, lack of exercise, excess emotions can also make us more vulnerable to external pathogens.
While it’s certainly possible that over-stretching could cause problems, in my clinical practice I don’t see that as a major factor.