Is COVID Causing Shen and Heart Disturbances?
As described in a recent article published in JAMA, of nearly 27,000 adults with reported long-haul COVID symptoms due to self-reported SARS-CoV-2 infection, approximately half the subjects who said they had had COVID-19 had had a negative SARS-CoV-2 serology test. In fact, a positive belief that they had had COVID-19 was significantly associated with having long-haul symptoms. In contrast, the only lasting symptom positively correlated with a positive serology test was anosmia.
This study, in my mind, is not to say that long-haul symptoms do not occur in patients who have been infected with SARS-CoV-2, as I have seen these patients in my practice. But it does speak to the traumatic effects that this pandemic has had on our psyche. The wonderful thing about being a physician acupuncturist is that we don’t fall prey to the Cartesian dualism that plagues the medical practices of most of our colleagues. Rather than referring these patients all to behavioral health, we are equipped to provide continued care as we sort in our evaluations whether the Shen or the Heart is disturbed.
How can we not all be traumatized by this last year and a half and given that the microcosm will reflected the macrocosm of the world we live in? Inevitably there is going to be an effect on the balance of our organ function, even without our suffering a SARS-CoV-2 infection. A human being results from the Qi of Heaven and Earth. The union of the Qi of Heaven and Earth is called human being (ch. 25 Huang Di nei jing su wen – Basic Questions). The chaos that we have been exposed to in the Universe is going to stir the pot and if we are not careful, will cause concrete adverse effects on our health.
So what can we do? First and foremost, continue care of our patients. But don’t forget to care for yourself. In assessing our patients, there are some key regions of the body that will reflect a Shen disturbance, and learning to recognize these signs can help to focus your acupuncture treatment. The pericardium (heart protector) mu point CV17 (Ren17) is an extremely reliable and important region to palpate. If this is tender, the Shen is absolutely disturbed. Another key area is the little appreciated point, SP20, on the left side or heart side of the body. Treatment and release of the tenderness on these points should both calm and balance the Shen and also relieve the oppression that so many feel now associated with shortness of breath. Rather than treat these points directly, a reliably effective approach is to treat bilateral SP6 with PC6 (an alternative is the Extraordinary Vessel combination of SP4 with PC6). Other points to calm the spirit can be added including auricular points like Shenmen, yin tang and others.
Back points to reinforce this treatment would be Mingmen and the shu points at T7 (Diaphragm Shu) and T5 (Heart Shu).
How to take care of yourself? Turn off the TV, be with your family and friends, and get outside — and try to enjoy those things in life that are precious to you. A little acupuncture from your friends wouldn’t hurt either.
Joseph Audette, MA, MD
 Matta J et al. Association of Self-reported COVID-19 Infection and SARS-CoV-2 Serology Test Results With Persistent Physical Symptoms Among French Adults During the COVID-19 Pandemic. JAMA Intern Med. 2021 Nov 8.