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  • Writer's pictureSarah Fuller, Lic.Ac.

Grief and Acupuncture

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

You’ve probably heard that acupuncture is helpful for healing physical pain like back pain, sciatica, or headaches, but did you know that acupuncture can address emotional pain, too?  

Acupuncture and Holistic Healing

Many people don’t realize that acupuncture is a complete, holistic system of medicine, of which the mind-body-spirit connection is an integral part. The goal of treatment is to bring balance to the entire system for overall health and wellness.

From this point of view, emotions have a significant impact on the physical body, and TEAM (Traditional East Asian Medicine) actually acknowledges them as one of the main causes of disease. Emotions are powerful, and they serve an important purpose. It is when they aren't expressed and released that they can cause problems.

The Lungs and Grief

This post will focus on the Lung organ system and the associated emotion of grief. (Check out this post to learn more about the organ systems in TEAM.)

Physical manifestations of grief can include:

  • Respiratory System: Asthma, breathing issues, tight chest

  • Skin: eczema, rashes; dry, oily, or itchy skin

  • Nose: Frequent congestion, allergies, runny nose

  • Immune System: weak or overactive immune system, allergies, issues with boundaries

The Lungs and other Organ Systems

Different from Western Medicine, where systems of the body are seen as separate from each other (think: seeing a gastroenterologist for digestive difficulty, a cardiac specialist for circulatory issues, or a therapist for anxiety and depression), the organ systems in TEAM are interrelated (all three of the above issues can be addressed in the same acupuncture treatment, often coming from a single root cause). When there is a shift in one part of the body, change occurs somewhere else, too.  

With grief, the Lungs are often most affected and common symptoms will be similar to those described above. But because the Lungs affect and are affected by other systems of the body, there are various issues that might arise with grief, especially over a period of time.

Some of the organ systems and symptoms that are closely related to the Lungs are:

  • Large Intestine: The Large Intestine is the other organ belonging to the Metal element, and is in charge of letting go. Physically, imbalances here can manifest as constipation or diarrhea; mentally or emotionally it can be our inability to let things go--thoughts or belief systems, resentment, holding onto the past.

  • Spleen: The Spleen is the crux of digestion in TEAM, and a variety of digestive issues are likely show up when the Spleen is imbalanced, including bloating, sugar cravings, and food intolerances. The emotional component of the Spleen is overthinking or worry.

  • Liver: The Liver governs the free flow of Qi (energy, vital life force, circulation) in the body. Some common symptoms that show up when the Liver is affected are headaches, OB/GYN issues, circulation issues, and pain or tension in the muscles. The emotion associated with the Liver system is anger.  

  • Kidney: The Lung and Kidney systems work together to regulate breathing (more specifically, the Kidneys are involved when there is trouble inhaling as opposed to exhaling) and hormones. The Kidneys rule the joints, especially the knees and low back. The emotional component of the Kidneys is fear.


The good news is that acknowledging this and addressing our being as a whole, rather than the independent parts, will bring balance and healing in a shorter amount of time. It also offers us an opportunity to become aware of these connections and weave this wisdom into our own personal healing practices.

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