Acupuncture and Qi

The processes of the organs engender our life force (Qi) which flows through the body through a network of channels. We are conceived to have pre-natal Qi which we are born with and post natal Qi which we get from our environment through eating (via the Spleen and Stomach) and breathing (via the Lungs).

acupuncture model with spine model surrounded by house plants in the clinic

Channels (Jing Luo) arise from their respective organs and flow deeply, but then surface to form superficial pathways over the trunk and limbs. It is these parts of the channel on which we may affect the Qi with acupressure massage or needling.

Along the course of the channels there are places where the Qi is becomes more dynamic or ‘plunges’ more deeply. Using the metaphor of a river, where it arises it is shallow diffuse and easily affected (fingers and toes), when it becomes a stream it has a specific course and is dynamic but is still easily altered (Wrists and ankles) and by the time it reaches the sea it is deep and powerful (Elbows and knees). This concept and the numerous possible eddies, falls and bends is a nice way of understanding acupoints.

The channels and points have various interconnections and groupings which are related to their functions and to how they affect the different organs, and there are many layers of meaning and understanding related to the actions of the points on different aspects of the organs.

Disease is seen to manifest because of a dysfunction in the organs function or blockage of flow in the channels. By needling a carefully considered choice of key acupoints we aim to harmonise the flow of Qi, removing blockages and fostering the conditions whereby deficiency may be replenished and healing may occur.


The Chinese word Qi also means, air and breath, thus intimately associated with life, like the concept of prana in yoga and ayurvedic theory. Qi is best understood as a description of physiological processes or function, as a dynamic. In many ways it makes more sense to think about it like this than simply as a substance.

A popular analogy of the flow of qi in the channels is that of a river. The channel flows through the contours of the body as a river flows through the worldly landscape. At the extremities the channels are more shallow and dynamic and the acupoints are used to clear more, and affect the opposite end of the channel, as they move towards the centre the channels deepen and their affect is more on the organs.