What are Qi and Meridians?

The foundation of acupuncture is the flow of energy through the body. This life energy is known as qi, and runs along pathways throughout our bodies called meridians, along with blood and other bodily fluids. The meridian system might resemble a web of blood vessels or nerves, especially in drawings, but don’t confuse it with any of these anatomically-based systems. There is no anatomical channel structure associated with meridians, and you can’t “find” them they way you can a vein or a bone. These meridians extend throughout all parts of the body, defining the position of acupuncture points.

There are twelve Principle Meridians in the body, which are divided into Yin and Yang groups and correspond to the organs and pericardium. Yang organs are usually those with a cavity, like the bladder or heart, while yin organs are filled, such as the liver or kidneys. There are an additional eight meridians that are known as the Extraordinary Meridians, which don’t line up with an organ but with some other aspect of our bodies, such as aging, balance, or emotions. The identification of these systems was perfected over thousands of years of observation and experimentation by Chinese practitioners. The ways the eight Extraordinary Meridians react with the twelve regular meridians can help acupuncturists target just about any symptoms a patient might have. A thorough understanding of these meridian channels, their effects, and their intersections is crucial for acupuncture, and an experienced acupuncturist spends many years in careful study of this network.

The primary function of these meridians is to move qi throughout the body. Qi is everything—it can mean breath, life force, air, or energy. Its philosophical conceptions are recorded in the earliest Chinese documents of philosophy almost seven thousand years ago. Qi is in the atmosphere and in our bodies, and the flow of our qi determines both our physical and mental health. If qi is blocked or diverted somewhere within us, it can cause physical pain or discomfort. It’s the job of the acupuncturist to find these blockages using the meridian system and release them so the qi can circulate and restore the body to full health.

Here at Washington State Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Center, we have spent many years studying these meridians and the power of qi. We are proud to use these understandings to help hundreds of patients overcome ailments like headaches, asthma, back pain, or infertility. Come see us if you think our techniques might help!

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