In response to my writing on various alternative
medicine topics, I sometimes receive unusual, but intriguing, questions.
For example, a woman asked me “Will a navel pierce aggravate multiple
sclerosis (MS)?” The more I mulled over and researched this seemingly arcane
question, I realized it was especially apropos under the Traditional
Chinese Medicine (TCM) concepts that form the basis for acupuncture.
risk-assessment calculations, overall risk is determined by multiplying
individual risk by the number of people facing this risk. Hence, even if
the risk associated with wearing a navel pierce is low for any specific
person, it could cumulatively represent a significant overall health
risk given the millions of young women who have had such rings inserted
in their navels for an extended period of time over the past decade. If
such a risk is real, one then speculates how many of these women 20
years hence may be more predisposed to diseases of chronic origin, such
as MS, because they have kept a ring inserted in their navel for many
years of their youth.
Acupuncture: To understand this issue, we
must briefly review the TCM philosophy behind acupuncture.
This ancient healing tradition believes that a life-force energy called
qi (pronounce chee) permeates all living things through channels called
meridians. Good health requires an ample and flowing supply of qi. When
qi is consistently diminished, out of balance, or polluted, sickness
ensues; its absence means death.
Acupuncture points, small skin areas that are
considered energy vortexes, periodically punctuate meridians. For those
skeptical of this 5,000-year old healing tradition, modern scientists
have, indeed, shown that these acupuncture points correspond to skin
areas of greatly reduced electrical resistance. To promote healthy
energy balance, the qi that flows through these meridians can be
regulated through needle insertion or other mechanisms.
Because conventional medicine emphasizes overt
symptoms as opposed to long-term causes of diseases and lacks TCM’s
core belief that chronic energy imbalances are the basis for disease, we
are unlikely to get answers for questions of this nature from
traditional MS healthcare professionals.
Conception Vessel Meridian: A navel ring is
inserted near a key acupuncture point located on the body’s
all-important Conception Vessel (CV) meridian. As shown in the attached
illustration, this acupuncture point, specifically CV8, is centered in
the middle of the umbilicus or belly button. It is forbidden to needle
this point under TCM theory. Depending
upon the specific insertion, a naval ring could be the equivalent of
having an acupuncture needle permanently inserted in this forbidden
point. Such a situation could cause a chronic energy imbalance, and, in
turn, under TCM theory, a predisposition to disease, such as MS.
Although this article establishes no link between
MS and navel piercing, the information gathered suggests that this
cosmetic practice may, indeed, have a downside.
What the Experts Say: First, according to Margaret Naeser, Ph.D., Lic.Ac. (licensed acupuncturist) and
research professor of Neurology, Boston University School of Medicine,
and VA Boston Healthcare System, the CV8 acupuncture point warms and
stabilizes the body's yang energy (O'Connor & Bensky, 1983).
Qi energy is divided into interacting yin and yang aspects, yang
reflecting heat and what is active, and relatively more on the surface.
Although it is forbidden to needle the CV8 acupuncture point, she was
uncertain to what degree a piercing at the belly-button perimeter may
affect the CV8 acupuncture point, located at the belly button center.
However, even if the piercing avoids direct penetration of this point,
it still may affect energy flow through the conception vessel meridian,
especially if the piercing is in the midline of the navel on the
superior or inferior edge of the umbilicus.
acupuncture point in the navel is never treated with an acupuncture
needle in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and is only treated with warming
moxibustion (an acupunctural variation in which points are stimulated by
warmth instead of needles) or massage. According to Naeser, it
would not be recommended to use body piercing of any kind, in or around
the CV8 acupuncture point.
Second, through clinical observations, Dr. Patricia Combier, a
TCM expert from Saint Laurent du var, France, has concluded that a navel
piercing could potentially lead to major health-aggravating energy
disturbances. Although most likely having minimal effects on a healthy
person, she believes that a navel piercing of an already emotionally,
psychologically, or traumatically predisposed person could adversely
influence energy imbalances, resulting in future sickness.
According to Combier, even if the vulnerable CV8
point isn’t exactly needled, the overall surrounding area is
considered a major energetic doorway to the body. If this energetic
pipeline is breached, it is an invitation to major problems or the
emergence of previously silent problems because the body will not be
able to energetically compensate.
Finally, Villti Ulfur (Boulder, Colorado), an
expert on alternative healing traditions, also believes that there can
be a health-aggravating energy diminution associated with a navel
pierce. According to him, a healthy body usually can develop a new
energy meridian around the piercing site, and, as such, for most women,
navel piercing will probably be innocuous. However, if the woman is
already predisposed to MS, it can be the trigger that moves that person
more quickly into a disease state.
Conclusion: For many teenage women basking
in youth’s vitality, it may be hard to factor in today’s
decision-making a vague, undocumented, future health risk, especially
compared to the immediate psychosocial benefits of wearing a navel
pierce. Because navel piercing is a relatively new phenomenon, it is, of
course, impossible at this stage to demonstrate any link to any
disorder, whose expression is of a long-term, chronic nature, such as
MS. Nevertheless, Traditional Chinese Medicine theory suggests that this
cosmetic procedure promotes energetic imbalances, which, in turn, could
conceivably compromise future health long after one has stopped wearing
such jewelry. Although only the individual woman can decide if the
self-image and -esteem benefits of wearing a navel pierce out-weigh the
yet undetermined potential for future adverse health consequences, this
potential should clearly be factored in her decision-making.
O'Connor J & Bensky D: Acupuncture, A Comprehensive Text.
Translated from the Shanghai College of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Chicago IL: Eastland Press. 1981. p. 182.