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Pathophysiology of Energetic Channels 

Pathophysiology of Energetic Channels
Pathophysiology of Energetic Channels

Jingduan Yang

and Daniel A. Monti

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Subscriber: null; date: 23 October 2019


Jing Luo is an energetic channel inside the body through which Qi, Blood, Essence, and Fluid circulate. As we discussed in Chapter 3, Jing Luo connects the entire body together, from the most superficial level to the most interior level, from the extremities to the internal organs, from the foot to the head. Jing Luo is as important to the acupuncturist in making diagnoses and treatment decisions as the cardiovascular system is to the cardiologist and the nervous system is to the neurologist.

Therefore, when making a diagnosis, it is important to know what energy channel is involved and if multiple energy channels are affected. The clinical manifestation that each channel has entirely depends on the organ(s) the channel is associated with, where it travels, and with what it connects. Therefore, memorizing the energetic anatomy and physiology is critical in making a correct diagnosis. This chapter describes the clinical manifestations of the pathophysiology of Jing Luo, the energetic channels. Since the 12 associated channels, 12 peripheral channels, and 15 connecting channels are assisting channels for the principal channels and extra channels, we only need to discuss the pathophysiology of the principal channels and extra channels here.

Twelve Principal Channels

  • The Lung channel: The following clinical symptoms help indicate the involvement of the Lung channel: coughing; wheezing; congested chest; pain at the area of shoulder, supraclavicular fossa, and along the Lung channel in the arms, elbow, and wrist; heat in the palm; frequent and short urination; dreaming of knives and armies; sadness; and shortness of breath.

  • The Large Intestine channel: The Large Intestine is the Yang partner of the Lung and is mostly in charge of fluid reabsorption and stool formation and elimination. The Lungs, Spleen, and Kidneys all contribute to the function of the Large Intestine. The following clinical symptoms and signs indicate that the Large Intestine channel has energetic dysfunction: toothaches in the lower jaw, a swollen neck, dry mouth, yellow sclera, tinnitus, nasal bleeding, throat pain, front shoulder pain, pain in the thumbs and index fingers, diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal pain.

  • The Stomach channel: The Stomach is the Yang partner of the Spleen, and Stomach Qi is critical for the health and well-being of the other organ systems. When the Stomach channel is blocked, patients experience bloating, constipation, joint pain, vomiting, and indigestion. When the blockage is caused by deficient Stomach Qi, one will have diarrhea and gurgling sounds in the bowels. In severe case of deficiency, patients experience swollen extremities, shortness of breath, and indigestion. When the blockage is caused by excessive cold energy stagnated in the Stomach channel, patients have abdominal pain and cannot tolerate cold food. When the blockage is caused by excessive heat in the Stomach channel, the patient has a red face, insomnia, delirium, mania, and constipation. In severe cases, a patient can have manic-depressive–like symptoms and nasal bleeding.

  • The Spleen channel: The Spleen is the Yin partner of the Stomach, and blockage of the Spleen channel can cause stiffness in the tongue, bloating, constipation, anorexia, pain in the upper abdominal area and esophageal region, gastrointestinal reflux, nausea and vomiting after eating, tumors in the stomach, and pain in the first toes and medial side of the knees. When the blockage is caused by deficient Spleen Qi, diarrhea, water retention, swollen and heavy extremities, muscle atrophy, yellow sclera, and difficulty sleeping on the back can occur.

  • The Heart channel: When the channel of the Heart is blocked, it causes pain in the area inside the upper arms and the upper back between the scapula; a congested chest, rib cage, and hypochondriac regions; restlessness; and shortness of breath. The Heart is a fire element by nature, so when the blockage is caused by excessive heat energy, it causes dry throat, nausea, headache, a flushed face, labile mood, anxiety, insomnia, and heat in the palms. When it is caused by deficient Heart Qi or Blood, it causes heart palpitations; insomnia; referred pain in the chest, abdomen, back, and lower back; yellow sclera; chest congestion; shortness of breath; and a labile mood.

  • The Small Intestine channel: The Small Intestine is the Yang partner of the Heart, and its main functions are to receive digested food from the Stomach, absorb nutrients and fluid that go to the Spleen, and transfer the waste to the Large Intestine for further processing. Absorbing fluid is a critical part of urine formation, too. Through the connection of energetic channels, the Small Intestine also connect with the Bladder.

    When the channel of the Small Intestine is blocked, it causes pain in the area of the jaw, cheek, ear, neck, shoulder, arms, and hands. It can also cause hearing loss and yellow sclera.

    When the blockage is caused by excessive heat energy, it causes burning pain in the urinary tract and dark yellow colored urine, sometimes with blood. The patient will have a red tongue with a yellow coating and rapid pulses, thirst, agitation, sores on the tongue and in the mouth, abdominal bloating, and pain around the navel.

    Excessive cold energy due to food or environmental factors can cause black-colored watery diarrhea.

  • The Bladder channel: The energy flow of the Small Intestine continues to the Bladder, which is the Yang partner of the Kidney. The major function of the Bladder is to store and expel urine. Its ability to perform this function depends heavily on Kidney Qi. The Bladder channel is the longest channel among the 12 major channels and has the most acupuncture points on it.

    When the channel of the Bladder is blocked, it causes headache; pain behind eyes; stiff neck; and pain in the area of the spine, lower back, buttocks, behind the thighs, knees, and ankles. When the blockage is caused by excessive heat energy, it causes difficulty urinating, bleeding in the urinary tract with fine stones, and a dark yellow urine. Whereas the pain is around the navel in the case of channel blockage of the Small Intestine, Bladder channel blockage causes pain in the lower back, even though both cause difficulty urinating. Heat blockage also causes hemorrhoids and malaria-like symptoms. In severe cases, patient can have seizures, mania, and psychosis. When the blockage of the Bladder channel is caused by deficient Qi, it causes long, frequent, and clear urination.

  • The Kidney channel: When the Kidney channel is blocked, the patient will have pain in the neck and spine, lower back, toes, ankles, and legs along the length of the channel.

    When the blockage is caused by deficient Kidney Qi, it may affect Spleen Qi, so the patient may be hungry but has no appetite and has weak legs and fatigue. The patient may have a dark complexion and a sallow face. When the blockage is caused by deficient Kidney Yin energy and affects the lungs, the patient may cough with blood and wheezing, feel restless, and find it hard to sit still. The pupils of the eyes depend on the nourishment of Kidney Essence, so when it is deficient, the patient may have blurred vision and not see well.

    When Kidney Yin deficiency affects the Heart, it causes feelings of emptiness and discomfort in the chest as if the patient is hungry. Patients can also feel fearful, with a sense of impending doom, and have weak lower extremities.

    When the blockage is caused by excessive heat in the Kidney, it can cause heat in the mouth, with a dry tongue and swollen throat, dark-colored urine, thirst, yellow sclera, and heat in the body and on the soles of the feet.

  • The Pericardium channel: The function of the Pericardium is similar to that of the Heart, providing additional protection and support to the Heart. When the Pericardium channel is blocked, it causes pain along the channel in the middle finger, arms, and chest. When it is caused by excessive heat energy, it causes flushed face, yellow sclera, hot palms, heart palpitations, delirium, mania, and psychosis.

  • The San Jiao channel: San Jiao is the Yang partner organ for the Pericardium. It serves as a pathway to transform air, food, and nutrients into Qi. Blocked San Jiao channel causes pain in the chest and rib cage, in the posterior part of the ear, at the canthus of the eyes, and in the throat, elbow, shoulder, forearms, and fifth and index fingers. When the blockage is caused by excessive heat energy, it causes deafness and excessive sweating.

  • The Gallbladder channel: Qi and Blood flow into and concentrate in the Gallbladder after San Jiao. The Gallbladder is a Yang partner of the Liver. Although it is a hollow organ, it is one of the special organs that store Essence.

    The Gallbladder regulates Qi movement with the Liver. When the channel of the Gallbladder is blocked, it causes pain in the head, jaw, and supraclavicular fossa, and swelling in the armpit, chest, ribcage, hip, lateral side of thigh, knee, legs, ankles, and between fourth and fifth toes. It causes a bitter taste in the mouth, frequent long and deep breath to reduce chest congestion, and heat in the lateral side of the feet. Chest pain can be severe enough to limit movement. The lack of this Qi creates dull complexion on the face and skin.

    Because the Gallbladder regulates Qi between the interior and exterior of the body, affecting the body temperature, an affected Gallbladder channel can cause intermittent chills and fever.

  • The Liver channel: Qi and Blood pour into the Liver after the Gallbladder, and the Liver stores Blood and regulates Qi. When the channel of the Liver is blocked, it causes pain in the medial sides of ankles and legs and at the lower back and sacrum region where the Liver channel has branches connecting with the Bladder channel. It also causes groin hernia in men and lower abdominal pain and distention in women, dry throat, nausea, diarrhea, incontinence, urinary retention, and a dull and gloomy facial complexion.

Eight Extra Channels

  • The Du channel: The Du channel is known as “the Sea of the Yang Channel” because it connects with all Yang channels. It also travels from the bottom of the spine to the top of the head, connecting the spinal cord, internal organs, and brain.

    When the Du channel is blocked, it causes a stiff spine, convulsions, seizures, epilepsy, depression, urinary retention, hemorrhoids, incontinence, and infertility.

    When the blockage is caused by deficient Qi, it causes a feeling of heaviness in the head.

  • The Ren channel: The Ren channel connects with all the Yin channels and is known as “the Sea of Yin Channel.” It travels from the bottom of the pelvis to the lower part of the tongue, connecting with the Du channel through the tongue. A blocked Ren channel causes pain under the navel and in the lower abdomen, testicular hernia of various forms in men, and a variety of uterine tumors in women.

  • The Chong channel: Known as the “Sea of Channels,” the Chong channel travels along and connects with the channels of the Gallbladder and San Jiao, regulating Blood and Qi in all other channels. When the Chong channel is blocked, it causes nausea, coughing, and Qi moving against the chest and throat. Because the Chong channel also regulates the function of the uterus and regulates conception with the Ren channel, a blocked Ching channel causes infertility, erectile dysfunction in men, and amenorrhea and infertility in women.

  • The Dai channel: The Dai channel circulates around the lower back and abdomen and connects with all 12 principal channels and the other seven extra channels. A blocked Dai channel can cause pain in the legs and lower back and abdominal distention. When the blockage is caused by deficient Qi, it causes excessive, clear, and thin vaginal discharge; abnormal and irregular menstruation; miscarriage; and a prolapsed uterus or vagina.

  • The Yin Qiao channel: Yin Qiao channel starts from the heel of the foot as one of the branches from the Kidney channel, ascends along the medial ankle to the rest of the body beneath the muscles, and connects with the internal Yin organs. When the blockage is caused by deficient Qi, it causes coldness and pain in the lower extremities and lower abdomen, hernia, insomnia, and depression.

  • The Yang Qiao channel: The Yang Qiao channel connects with the Bladder channel and other Yang internal organs. When it is blocked by excessive Qi, it causes body stiffness, seizures, and mania.

  • The Yin Wei channel: Yin Wei connects with all three Yin channels and the Ren channel. The blockage of the Yin Wei channel due to deficient Qi causes fatigue, chest pain, lower back pain, and groin pain.

  • The Yang Wei channel: Yang Wei connects with all the Yang channels, and when the blockage is caused by excessive Qi, it causes fever. When the blockage is due to deficient Qi, it causes chills, attention deficit, and mental confusion.


All 12 major channels connect with their energetic centers, which are also the organs after which they are named. Therefore, any interruption and imbalance that happens along the distribution of the channels may cause dysfunction of the organ systems, as well as of the areas along the distribution of the channels. The extra channels serve as coordinators, organizers, and reservoirs for the principal channels, enhancing their function. Pathology in these extra channels causes dysfunction and symptoms in the principal channels they are connected with.