Meridians and Acupuncture Points

The meridians

The immaterial chains that cover the surface of the body described by the ancient Chinese were translated as "meridians". Within the Chinese conception of life as the result of animation provided by the breath of life "(Qi)" rhythmically circulating and organized by the meridians, all activities of the individual-from somatic to psychic-are represented energetically in them. This then becomes the true "resonance lines" of the organic physiology.

The meridians are, in this manner, a complex framework responsible for managing the activities of both the subject and their relationship to their environment. To cite a few examples: the development of the body, external absorption of nutrients, eliminating organic waste or the movement of the musculoskeletal frame.

Depending on the nature of the activities they govern, the meridians are classified into several groups: the Extraordinary (Qi Jing Ba Mai), Principle (Jing Zheng), the Tendino-muscular (Jing Jin), Different (Jing Biè) and Relational (Luo Mai).

Along the areas mentioned above, a particular energy level flows, which is analogically related to the body area for which it runs. For example, the meridians that govern the phenomena of Yang's ultimate level belong to Yang (Tai Yang), and consistent with this, the circulation flows through the body's Yang regions: the head and the back.

One of the major difficulties in studying acupuncture is the way in which the classical texts were written. In the past oral tradition, the teacher chose his students, and only passed on knowledge to the extent that the pupil was considered worthy.

Unfortunately for us, the passing on of these written cryptic texts maintained that spirit of learning, suitable only for the beginner. An example of this is found that in the archaic acupuncture texts, only citing a few aphorisms on the functions of the meridians. However, exposing all of its intricacies is essential for the medical acupuncturist, as such information is vital to determine, with confidence and skill, which one should be used in each case to resolve the pathology of each patient.


The acupoint

The ancient Chinese precisely found within the meridians a few clusters or knots of energy they called "points." Thus, any functional impairment always resonates at a meridian (and more specifically, at a particular point), and can manifest itself with various symptoms. Conversely, there is clinical evidence that stimulation of the corresponding point by inserting into it (and subsequent handling) of a thin metal needle, has the effect of correcting the altered mechanism, eliminating the patient's discomfort.

In the acupuncture point (a term that some American authors translate more graphically as "hole", as it is a space shaped like an inverted cone, which occupies the upper limit of 2 mm diameter on the surface of the skin), both the receptive and active mechanisms are part of the resonance.

The stimulation of a single acupuncture point triggers a cascade of energy in the body. It activates, in the first stage, the circulation of the meridian to which it belongs, mobilizing, -as if it were a wave- as much the meridian's preceding nictameral cycle (the predominant hour) as the one that follows. This tide indirectly affects the meridian exactly the opposite of that cycle (a phenomenon called the "noon-midnight law"). In the event that the point in question is another locus intersection with another meridian, the insertion of the needle also mobilizes the latter (with all that that entails).

As if this were not enough, if it is a point belonging to a given category (Shu Antique points, Xi, Luo, etc. ..), additional movement will be seen.

Finally, each of the acupuncture points control activities strictly derived from their intrinsic nature.

Again, to our regret, the only information on the points found in the ancient books of Chinese medicine are their locations, the ideograms that define them (which are far from random), and the enumeration of a myriad of colorful signs that each can be discussed, but without any further explanation from the texts.

Although a symptom is often included among the clinical indications of several points, experience shows that only the stimulation of just one of them is able to resolve the condition of a particular patient. Therefore, the theoretical indications of each point, out of context, are random in practice if any other criterion is not available to narrow your search. One solution is to first identify the channels likely to register the resonance of a given pathology, before venturing into which could be the target point.

Contemporary Chinese texts, trying to overcome the darkness of the preceding times, have adopted the diagnostic modality of another form of treatment in traditional Chinese medicine: phytotherapy.

In this adaptation, called "The syndromes of Zang Fu" the inferred responsibilities of each meridian is stated in terms of its relationship with the dynamics of internal organ to which it is linked, and each of its points, managing certain aspects involved in the activity of that organ. This allows for the justification of the capacity of one point to treat many of the symptoms (listed in the classical texts), that their alteration of flow is susceptible of generating.

This diagnostic system is an advance in clarifying the actions of each point, and has emerged as the most widespread form of acupuncture today.

In 1982, French acupuncturist Jean-Marc Kespi postulated (among other interesting concepts) a suggestive hypothesis: each point expressed, ultimately, as a very specific "movement of energy", within the possible resonances of the meridian (which would go beyond mere connection with an internal organ).  From the analysis of the varied symptoms of each point, he managed to infer, for many of them, their essential dynamic. Seen in this way, the symptoms described by the ancient texts of acupuncture correspond, in fact, to the manifestation (at different levels and in different areas) of the impossibility of moving specific energy from where it resonates. This perspective provides more rich, and at the same time, simpler properties to the acupuncture points.

By the mid-twentieth century, George Soulie de Morant (a person of great intellectual curiosity who lived for 30 years in China, and had the privilege to learn directly from the emperor's medical acupuncturists), transcribed in his magnum opus, a consequence of the concept of individual use of the points, present in the Chinese tradition:"... points that should be stimulated: just one or two. The acupuncturist desiring and eager to have a 100% success, should exercise using this method".

This interpretation of the pivotal points as global energy is reinforced by the fact that, in some patients, almost all symptoms are among the indications of a single acupuncture point. Working in this light, some scholars have identified with clinical observations, certain nuances that accompany the impact of altering a specific point, which helps to elucidate in future patients which point may be involved.

Since, as explained above, the stimulation of a single acupuncture point generates a large tidal movement of energy, it is anticipated that the addition of any other similar incentive may offset some of its effect, undermining the strength using a single acupuncture point. Therefore, if a person suffers the consequences of the altering of a single energetic movement, it seems reasonable to think that - if the target point is successfully selected -using only this puncture point provides the best result.

There are other important relevant points as well. Remember that Chinese medicine comes from an ancient culture going back millennia. The graphics of their language, unlike ours, are not composed of signs, but of images (called ideograms) that evoke elements, actions or characteristics. The meaning of each Chinese character is thus much richer and complex than its translation into words, which inevitably are poorer when having to summarize them into one concept.

The ideograms that define the points are therefore enriched by several possible readings, extending their meaning, allowing for a simultaneous reading of the same element in different areas. In addition, the classic texts of Chinese medicine use several secondary characters, appart from the principal, to define each acupuncture point.

Currently in China, Europe and the U.S. (to name a few), there are sinologists dedicated to the interpretation of these ideograms. This contribution offers contemporary acupuncturists invaluable information about the essential nature of each of these points.

In the process of immersion in the study of the texts of acupuncture, one gradually realizes that nothing in them appears to be attributable to chance. The appropriate clinical application of the concepts they praised corroborates the veracity and subtlety of their evocations. This fact, which translates into the strength of some results, becomes the stimulus that drives the medical acupuncturist to further deepen the enigma exuded by these classical treatments, despite the growing certainty that they will never be fully unveiled.


Dr. Carmen Martorell