Written by: Michelle Belanger
"Nerve burn" is a term I have coined to describe a condition I have often undergone and which I've heard described by many, many others. The sensation is like having pinched a nerve, but it comes only after working with energy. There is a painful tingling in the fingers and hand, and sometimes this extends all the way up to the elbow. A lack of coordination in the fingers can result, as can slight to severe trembling. Additionally, there can be streaks of pain which run down the wrist and arm, usually following the major energy channels. The muscles of that limb can also feel exhausted and trembling, and this will strongly resemble the kind of muscular exhaustion that results from an electrolyte imbalance after prolonged exercise. One becomes nerve burned after shunting too much energy through a particular part of the body, (generally the hands, as these are the most common focus for any kind of energy manipulation or healing work). Basically, it's like running too much current through a wire. The wire can be damaged, if it doesn't burn out entirely. Fortunately for us, our "wires" can burn out, but they usually naturally repair themselves over time.
Nerve burn seems to be an effect which prolonged and unusually intense exposure to energy has on the nerves and energy pathways. In most systems which acknowledge vital energy and which have devoted some study to its understanding, the nerves are thought to either run parallel to the natural internal channels along which the energy courses, or they are themselves concurrent with those channels. Over-using those channels is just like over-using any other part of the body. Too much energy over too prolonged a time will result in pain and tingling, until the channels are allowed to rest and recover.
We cannot deny that vital energy, which is subtle and almost physically intangible, has a decidedly tangible impact upon the physical body. If this were not the case, we would not be harnessing this energy in order to affect a healing on another person. When healing, or doing other energy work, we channel that energy through our own bodies into the body of another in order to affect a physical change through a subtle act. If we assume that our subtle manipulations can have a physical affect on another person's body, we absolutely have to accept the fact that this inevitably will have a physical impact upon our own bodies as well. And for this reason, we have to take care.
The energy channels have to be seen as equivalent to any other part of the body. Pushing them beyond the limits of what they can safely handle will result in fatigue and pain. Like muscles, it is very possible that they can be pushed to a point where actual damage can occur, and this may take weeks or even months to heal. It is entirely feasible that pushing them well beyond their limits, especially successively over a number of times, will result in permanent and irreparable damage.
As with any exercise that could potentially overtax a muscle, the best approach to handling energy is to know your limits. In order to build strength and endurance in the muscular system, one must engage in regular exercise. This holds true for the energetic system as well. You cannot run out to a gym and expect to bench press 200 pounds the very first time you're there. You also cannot start working with energy and expect to be able to affect a massive healing with no previous preparation. You have to work up to it, and to try to force yourself to such a level immediately is idiocy, plain and simple. You are asking for all the pain and suffering that you get.
There is a delicate balance that must be struck here. Working with energy for prolonged periods of time can cause nerve burn. But if you are going to build up your strength and endurance for it, if you are going to increase your capacity, you must work with energy regularly. This is not a once a month thing, but more like a twice or three-times a week thing. It's just like exercise. Set time aside in your schedule, start in ten minute increments maybe three times a week, and stick to that regimen. Even this might exhaust you, but as you keep at it, you'll build your endurance. And when working with it that long and that frequently is no longer an effort, lengthen your exercise sessions to fifteen minutes at a time. Work up to thirty minutes, at least three times a week. Over time, you'll probably be able to do more, but I don't recommend anything over an hour at a time, and at least space this out for every other day. You don't need to be an energy Hercules, after all.
At all times, pay attention to what it feels like to work with the energy. Try to get a sense of your energy channels, and try to get a sense of how much energy you shunt through your system at a time. Over time, learn how to gauge different levels of intensity, because there are radically different levels of intensity when it comes to energy. Quantity is not exactly the same as quality, and you may find that only a small amount, but a very intense amount, will exhaust you in a few minutes, even when you're used to working with a middling quality of energy for an hour at a time.
Just like with your physical body, pay attention when things start to hurt. Pain means there's something wrong. It's that simple. If you do something with the energy, and marked pain results, particularly if you get symptoms that compare with nerve burn, described above, STOP. Give yourself a rest. Try not to shunt energy through that part of your body at all. Give it a day or two, and then try just a little bit in order to see if the pain persists. If there is still a level of discomfort, or if you find that you have difficulty focusing energy through that part of your body at all, you've probably done more than just superficial damage.
You might want to go to another energy worker in order to see if they can do something about this. The trick here, however, is that an energy worker is going to heal the area in the best way that he knows how: by channeling energy in there. And this might just do as much harm as good, since moving energy through there is what caused the problem in the first place. As observed above, very few people really understand the finer points of our energetic physiology, and we are going to have to learn as we go.
Don't let any of this prevent you from working with energy. Just let it serve as a cautionary tale so that when you do work with energy, you do so carefully and with an attention to your own well-being. The main and best application of energy work is toward healing, but this does little good if we recklessly hurt ourselves in the process of healing another.