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The meridian
(simplified Chinese:
; traditional Chinese: j;  pinyin: jò)

The meridian
is a path through which the life-energy known as "qi"  flows, in traditional Chinese medicine.

Main concepts
Think of these acupuncture meridians as streams or rivers flowing with energy. Like a river that provides life-giving water to its surrounding areas, the acupuncture meridians distribute revitalizing energy to the surrounding area of the body.

Sometimes, however, the flow of energy is disrupted. An overload of energy in the form of strong emotions and trauma can block the flow of Chi. It is like a surge of electricity going to your TV and causing a circuit to blow. Optimal health depends on energy consistently flowing; balanced, free, and uninterrupted throughout the entire body.

Traditional Meridian Theory
According to traditional Chinese medicine, a form of bodily energy called chi is generated in internal organs and systems. This energy combines with breath and circulates throughout the body, forming paths called meridians. The meridians form a complex, multilevel network which connects the various areas of the body, including the surfaces with the internal.

All of the various meridian systems work together to assure the flow and distribution of chi throughout the body, thus controlling all bodily functions. The interwoven meridian systems and the possibilities for diagnosis and treatment they offer, are called meridian theory. When an organ or system is not balanced, related acupuncture points may become tender or red, allowing for diagnosis. For treatment, a point on the skin is stimulated through pressure, suction, heat, or needle insertion, affecting the circulation of chi, which in turn affects related internal organs and systems.

"Meridian" is the most common translation of the Chinese ching-lo (jingluo), but it is a very imperfect translation. Ching means to pass through, and lo means a net or to connect. "Meridian" was originally used by French researchers to describe all meridians, and is used in this article in that sense. The term "channel" is used increasingly for all meridians, while some prefer to maintain the original distinction between ching and lo and use the terms channels and collaterals respectively. For them, meridian theory would be referred to as the theory of channels and collaterals. There is another sub-classification of meridians called vessels. Although it is a valid distinction, it is not important to the immediate discussion.

Meridians are classified into 6 groups according to their location and function. The best known of the meridians are the 12 regular meridians, also called the major trunks. They connect with the organ they are named for by way of collateral meridians (see bellow) and run along the surface of the body either on the chest or back and along either both of the arms or both of the legs. These are the primary conduits for the passage of chi through the body, which flows through this network in a regular, 24-hour pattern. The 12 regular meridians therefore control or take part in every facet of the daily metabolic and physiological functioning of the body.

There are three meridian groupings directly associated with the regular meridians, each with 12 meridians. 1) Each of the divergent meridians arises from one of the 12 regular meridians, passes through the thorax or abdomen to join with the named organ, and then surface at the neck or head. 2) The muscle network meridians distribute chi from the 12 regular meridians among muscles, tendons, and joints, ensuring normal body motion and flexibility. This circulation of chi is referred to as superficial because there is no direct connection with an internal organ. 3) The cutaneous network meridians run parallel to the regular meridians in the cutaneous skin layer and are therefore considered even more superficial. We believe that they are a part of the function of the sensory nervous system.

The 8 extra meridians (also referred to as vessels) are the paths by which the 12 regular meridians connect, share chi, and support each other. None of the individual extra meridians are associated with a specific organ or regular meridian, though all of them connect with a number of other meridians. Their paths are considered superficial but deep. It is through the extra meridians that imbalances in chi are regulated through storage and drainage. The most important of the extra meridians are the govorner meridian, which runs along the middle of the back, and the conception meridian, which runs along the middle of the chest and stomach.

The system of 15 collateral meridians is responsible for the thorough and complete circulation of chi. One collateral meridian arises from each of the 12 regular meridians, the governor and conception meridians, and from the spleen (which does not have a regular meridian). Each of the collateral meridians branch out, forming minute or "grandson" collateral meridians, creating both horizontal and vertical connections within the complete meridian system.


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