In traditional Chinese medicine theory, the meridians - or channels carry and distribute qi and blood to all parts of the body, connect the organs, limbs and joints.
When this flow of vital energy is disrupted, disease and poor health follow. Acupuncture evolved as a way of keeping channels open and energy flowing.
Meridians and Acupoints
Just as with emotions, fluids and other parts of the body, each meridian is linked to each of the Zang and Fu organs, as well as the Pericardium and San Jiao.
This gives twelve main or regular channels collectively known as Jing Mai - which may be yin or yang in character, depending on whether they are associated with Zang or Fu organs. In addition, there is a group of eight extra channels with very specific functions. Each of the twelve regular channels has a collateral, with an additional one assigned to the Spleen, and one each for the two most important extraordinary channels - the Ren Mai and Du Mai. This gives fifteen minor channels or collaterals (Luo Mai) that are smaller and spread out from the main channels, connecting each yin/yang pair.
Each channel takes its name from the key organ it affects or, in the case of the extraordinary channels, its function. The number of acupoints (Xue Wei) along the channels can vary significantly. These points are seen as sites where the Qi flowing through the channel is carried to the body's surface. So some sort of treatment at these sites - either with an acupuncture needle, applying pressure, or supplying heat in the form of moxabustion - will directly affect the flow of Qi.
In all, there are 361 regular points (on the main channels), of which around 150 are generally used by therapists. The number on each channel varies. The Heart meridian, for example, has only nine points, while the Urinary Bladder channel has the most with 67.
There are many more points, including the Ah Shi ("ah, yes") points, which are variable, tender and may appear only in particular diseases. There are also the "new points," discovered by therapists during practice. Ear acupuncture is almost a separate science, with about fifty points on the ear which relate to each organ of the body. In all, there are over 2,000 points.
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