In western medicine, organs in the human body are explained in terms of their anatomical structure and physiology. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the organs play a larger role in the harmonious relationship between yin and yang energies.
The bladder is one of the six yang organs, paired with one of the six yin organs. The yin organs store vital substances such as Qi (energy), blood, yin, and yang. Comparatively, the yang organs have a more active role of filling and emptying.
The bladder is a perfect example of a yang organ.
As part of the filtration system, the bladder has one function: storing and excreting urine from the kidneys. However, this is very different than how TCM views the bladder. As an energy system, the bladder is closely related to the functions of the autonomic nervous system, responsible for controlling unconscious bodily functions, such as breathing and digestion.
As part of the nearly 3,000-year-old medical system of TCM, acupuncture has been shown in numerous studies to be effective at treating urinary issues. Acupuncture elicits an autonomic response that can stimulate nerves that control bladder functions.
Acupuncturists understand the body as a complex system of energy systems, meridians, and organs. However, when acupuncturists talk about organs (like the spleen, heart, or kidneys) they are not referring to the physical organ. Instead, they are referring to the energetic side of these organs. The energetic system is much bigger than just the physical organ. It governs certain functions in the body on many levels.
In acupuncture, one of the most essential aspects of the bladder channel is treating the back.
The bladder channel runs from the inner canthus of the eye, over the top of the head, down the neck and the back on either side of the spine, through the sacrum, and down the back of the leg to the knee. Then the channel travels back up to the top of the back and begins its downward trajectory again, tracing another trail down the length of the spine, more lateral than the first. It then continues down the back of the leg to the outside of the pinky toe. The bladder trajectory is a powerful channel for treating most kinds of neck, back, sacral, hamstring, calf, and Achilles pain. It is particularly helpful when there is a pain condition affecting more than one of these sites.
In TCM, the kidneys and bladder are a paired system.
The kidneys are one of the most important energy systems in storing some of our deepest levels of energy. The kidneys often exert an effect on the bladder system when there is a weakness. Resolving problems with kidney energy can be faster by treating the bladder or the bladder channel. An example is chronic low back pain. The kidneys govern the low back and the knees. The bladder meridian runs down the length of the back, in not one but two trajectories on either side of the spine. Most forms of low back pain can be treated with bladder points on the back and back of the legs.
Every energy system in TCM exerts an effect on both the physical body and the mental/emotional self. The kidneys are in association with fear. Excessive fear will weaken the kidneys, but irrational fear can also be a symptom of a kidney imbalance. The bladder supports and can be paired with the kidneys in treating fear. When the bladder itself is out of balance, there may be negative emotions such as jealousy, suspicion, and the inability to let go of grudges.
To help optimize the bladder’s water transforming function, make sure you drink plenty of non-caffeinated and non-sugary beverages throughout the day and eat a kidney-nourishing diet. A daily stretching routine might seem like a big task, but your body will thank you later. Include stretches for the whole posterior portion of the body in addition to foam rolling, massage, myofascial release, cupping, gua sha, or tuina.
Kidney and bladder health are very important for overall wellness. Contact us to learn more about how acupuncture and TCM can get your body back on track and improve your quality of life. Give us a call today or schedule an appointment online to see how we can help!