Remember the scene in Breaking Bad where Walter White is scurrying to hide his money? He takes it from his basement, drives it out into the middle of nowhere, and buries it. Then he checks his GPS for his exact coordinates, and buys a lottery ticket with the numbers so that he knows where to find his stash later on.
In acupuncture, we also have a map to show us roads and special places, but it's on the human body. Meridians are like the roads, they connect different parts of our body together. And those special places, your favorite ice cream shop, or where you hid your money, are the acupuncture points. These are the places on the body that your acupuncturist puts the needles.
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The body has 12 regular meridians, 6 that go from your fingers to your head or chest, and 6 that go from your toes to your head or chest. Then there are 8 extraordinary meridians, 2 of which have their own acupuncture points, and one that actually goes around the middle of your body like a belt. It's said that meridians carry "qi" or energy through the body. I think of them as lines that keep your body connected as a cohesive whole. Your arms, legs and head don't move independently of each other, they are connected. So if you sprain your ankle, the stress travels up to your knee. If you start limping around for a while, your gait is altered, and that effects your hips and low back. If your hips are crooked, this can lead to shoulders being misaligned. Meridians help us to see these lines of connection, and find places that may be causing your pain that you didn't even know were there.
The human body contains more than 300 acupuncture points, or acupoints for short. Some of these are more important than others. Several points are where your "money" is hidden, and others are at the intersection of many different meridians. We have our own Lotto Ticket GPS system for finding these points, which is a description of where on the body each point is located. Once we get to the area, we may have to feel around for a bit to find just the perfect spot for the needle.
Each point has a specific purpose. Some points move qi and blood, while others nourish, or calm the spirit. The points are chosen based on what your body needs in that moment.
Stay tuned - the next installment of Acupuncture Basics comes next month with the 5 Elements!