Introduction To The Eight Extraordinary Vessels

In this business, you will often hear practitioners define themselves as either Chinese-style or Japanese-style acupuncturists. Although the styles are different, it doesn't mean that one is better than the other-they are both based on the same theories. To the layperson, Chinese-style usually translates into longer needles, more intense treatments, and a stronger qi sensation. On the other hand, someone experiencing a Japanese treatment might describe it as gentler, less intense, and slower to work, but longer-lasting. These are only generalizations, however. When I went to Japan, I saw a practitioner taking glass after glass of blood out of a patient during an intense round of bloodletting-not exactly living up to that "gentle" label of treatment style. I have also had Chinese-style treatments that were incredibly gentle, which were very effective. And I mix the two styles so much when I treat, I truly cannot place myself into either category. Some purists prefer not to mix styles, but all I care about is results. If I feel that my patient will get a better treatment with a hybrid of styles, then that's what they're going to get.

In both Chinese and Japanese-style treatments, the acupuncturist will feel your pulses. During a Chinese treatment, the practitioner will look at your tongue. In a Japanese treatment, the tongue examination is replaced by abdominal palpation.

Abdominal palpation is something that I still find fascinating, even though I do it often. The abdomen is like an energetic atlas. Not only does it give a clear picture of the body's energetic patterns, it also acts as a gauge to point out whether the treatment is on the right track or not. The first time I experienced abdominal palpation, I thought it was literal magic, and I still have that feeling today. It was amazing to me that a rock-hard area on the abdomen would soften instantaneously with the insertion of a single needle in the wrist or ankle.

So what exactly am I looking for when I am touching your abdomen during a treatment? Well, there are specific areas that correspond to patterns called "Extraordinary Vessels", commonly referred to as "EV"s. The EVs are the deepest energetics of the body, and are extremely powerful. Each EV has a pathway that can be traced on the abdomen, so if there is pain or tightness on the pathway of that particular pattern, we know there is an imbalance there.

These EVs are so energetically potent, that it possible to create great changes in patients by needling only the two points that correspond to the EV that is affected. In a pure Japanese treatment, the treatment would be complete with only eight needles-four in the front, four in the back. During the insertion of the frontal needles, the abdomen would be re-palpated. If the abdomen changes after the needles are put in, the practitioner knows that he has chosen the correct treatment, and that it is working.

So what types of issues do we treat using these EVs? Each EV affects certain parts of the body, and each has both physical and psychological components. I will go over all of them, but today we will start with the Ren.

The Ren runs up the center of the body, and is connected to the Kidney and Lung. If you feel pain or tension when I touch the area running from your sternum down to your navel, you may have an imbalance of the Ren. The Ren has a lot to do with gynecological issues, so we often treat it when there are menstrual or fertility issues. Due to the Lung and Kidney connection, we also use it for urinary or breathing problems. It is also used for digestive disorders, constipation and diarrhea, hernias, insomnia, and menopausal symptoms. During pregnancy, we like to focus on the Ren to nourish and support the fetus.

From an emotional standpoint, treating the Ren can assist with severe anxiety and emotional upsets. It can also be used to treat obsessions, worries, and fears. Remember how we discussed Yin and Yang in a previous blog post? The Ren nourishes the Yin of the body, so this treatment would balance out any type of "Yang" condition, such as stress or anger.