Kidney 6 (Zhao Hai) Shining Sea - Why I don't like this point
Kidney 6 the confluent point of the Yin Qiao (motility) vessel is known to be a very influential acupuncture point. Like many leg yin meridian points some of its primary functions revolve around treating disorders of the lower jiao including kidney, urinary, reproductive, and pelvic disorders. While other frequently used points like KI 7, SP 6, SP 9, and even LV 3 share similar functions, one thing that stands out about KI 6 is that it is said to have far-reaching effects via its ability to open the Yin Qiao.
Now, let me tell you why I don’t like this point and prefer to use other points nearby instead. As this point is located in a bony area just below the medial malleolus and between two small tendons, it can be challenging to get good de qi sensation and propagation.
Additionally, when needling KI 6 there is a higher chance of producing an adverse needle reaction. Although this is relatively uncommon, it does happen that some people report sustained discomfort from this point. This can happen when the small connective tissues in the area are damaged by the needle, and while it is usually easy enough to get between the tendons, there are other minute tissues and joint spaces that can become irritated or inflamed from needling at this point. Kidney 6 is not the easiest point to needle to get a substantial result.
From a myofascial perspective, this point and other leg yin meridian points influence the Deep Front Line (DFL). Anatomically, the DFL begins in the foot with the tendon attachments of the tibialis posterior, flexor hallicus longus, and flexor digitorum longus.
The tendons for these muscles pass directly under the medial malleolus and in the location of KI 6, making the tendons vulnerable to needle piercing. While it is advantageous to needle into some tendons like the Achilles tendons or the fibular tendons, needling into small tendons can cause significant damage due to their small size.
In the Master Tung system of acupuncture, KI 6 is similar to 66.13 (Shui Jing) Water Crystal. However, the Tung system locates the point 2 cun below the medial malleolus rather than directly below (or 1 cun below) the malleolus. Needling 2 cun below the malleolus allows us to avoid hitting the tendons.
It should also be mentioned that this point is not commonly referred to in the Tung system, but a point combination using KI 2, SP 3, and SP 4 is often used for hypertension, empty heat, and yin deficiency disorders. Notice how KI 2, SP 3, and SP 4 are also in more muscularly dense areas and tend to give stronger needle responses. Let's also remember that points like KI 7, SP 6, and LV 3 also have similar functions to KI 6 in treating urinary and reproductive conditions.
Since many other leg yin meridian points work like KI 6 but give a more consistent, stronger needle response, and therapeutic reaction, I most often needle other points rather than KI 6.
The DFL, Psoas, and Pelvis
The image on the left shows the fascial line known as the Deep Front Line (DFL) and the psoas muscle which is also part of the DFL.
In addition to the psoas, the DFL also includes many other deep muscles and fascia in the pelvis such as the pelvic floor fascia, anterior sacral fascia, iliacus, and pectineus.
Essentially, all of the pelvis's deep muscles, ligaments, and fascia are part of the DFL. This means that the deep pelvic region is subject to influence when needling points anywhere on the leg yin meridians or DFL. This influence is occurring mechanically through the myofascial lines and electrically through the nerves.
As all of the muscles and fascia on a myofascial line are able to affect the other muscles and fascia on the same line, it helps us to understand why needling points like KI 2, KI 3, KI 6, KI 7, SP 6, LV 3, and other leg yin points are so well known for pelvic, urinary, and reproductive disorders. Similarly, we could describe how the nerves and meridians pass through anatomical regions such as the groin, sacrum, and lumbar regions to produce effects on the lower jiao. What makes a myofascial explanation unique though is that it allows us to understand what specific muscles are involved in myofascial lines, and how many of the benefits of acupuncture can be explained based on anatomy.
If we compare kidney 6 to spleen 6, we find that anatomically, KI 6 is in a bony region with small tendons, while SP 6 is located in an area with lots of muscle and connective tissues. Spleen 6 also tends to give a strong needle response, while KI 6 tends to produce less de qi and qi propagation.
Kidney 6, Yin Qiao Crossing Points, and the Throat and Eyes
As the confluent point for the Yin Qiao meridian, KI 6 is said to have the ability to affect distant points and regions such as the throat and eyes. The crossing points of the Yin Qiao include:
KI 6 - Zhao Hai (Shining Sea)
KI 8 - Jiao Xin (Intersection Reach)
ST 9 - Ren Ying (Mans Prognosis)
ST 12 - Que Pen (Empty Basin)
UB 1 - Jing Ming (Bright Eyes)
To begin to understand the ability of KI 6 to reach the throat, let's also consider other distal points that affect the throat, neck, and eyes. Some of these points include KI 3 (throat), LV 3 (eyes), GB 39 (neck, eyes), UB 60 (neck, eyes), LU 7 (throat, neck), and SJ 5 (throat, neck, and eyes). There are also many other points on the hands or feet that affect the eyes and points around the wrists and ankles that benefit the neck and throat.
Imaging the Neck and Throat to the Distal End of Long Bones
In the Balance Method and Master Tung's system, we use a system called imaging to understand how points work. In imaging we *image* resemblances between different body structures, such as how we image the fetus's body on the ear. While this may seem like an odd and even unscientific method at first glance, there is a way to logically and anatomically confirm how this system works for using distal points. For instance, the hands and feet are said to image the head and face, and we find that many traditional points on the hands and feet are used for headaches, facial disorders, and conditions affecting the eyes, nose, mouth, and ears.
Considering the density of sensory nerve endings in the hands and feet, and the amount of area these regions occupy in the sensory and motor cortex of the brain, we can appreciate how points on the hands and feet can produce strong neurological reactions in the head and brain. There is much more I could say about this from a neurological perspective, but I want to keep our attention on the myofascial system and how it mirrors these kinds of neurological patterns.
Examining the myofascial lines we find that most of them begin and/or end in the hands, feet, neck, and head.
The image on the far left is the Superficial Back Line (SBL). It begins in the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon and terminates in the occipital fascia. The Superficial Front Line (SFL) starts in the feet and ends at the SCM and mastoid process. The Lateral Line (LL) mirrors the GB meridian and begins in the feet and terminates at the splenius capitis, SCM, and mastoid process.
Much like the nerves, the myofascial lines converge and increase in density in the hands and feet. This increase in density occurs as the muscles condense into tendons that join the hands, feet, neck, and head. (Tendons are very dense regions of connective tissues along the fascial lines.)
The reason why points on the hands and feet (as well as points around the wrists and ankles) are so powerful, is that they produce strong de qi, neurological, and myofascial responses. This is mediated in part due to this condensing that I refer to as neuromuscular convergence around the hands, wrists, feet, and ankles.
Similar to the ways that points on the hands and feet can benefit the sensory organs of the head and face, points around the wrists and ankles benefit the neck and throat in part because of the myofascial convergence occurring at opposite ends of the lines in the ankles, wrists, neck, and throat.
The image of the DFL shows how deep muscles and fascia of the legs and feet are connected to the deep fascia in the neck and throat. In the feet and legs, DFL structures include the muscles between the metatarsals (dorsal interossei), plantar fascia, the tendons below KI 6, tibialis posterior and its tendon, and flexor digitorum longus and its tendon.
At the opposite end of the line, we find that the deep muscles of the neck and throat are also a part of the DFL.
Could this be one reason why KI 6 is good for the throat?
The concept of neuromuscular convergence reveals how both neurological (electrical) and myofascial (mechanical) responses are related to the traditional concept of imaging the hands and feet to the head and face, and the wrists and ankles to the neck, throat, and shoulders. Studying the myofascial lines and comparing point functions to the anatomy of these lines, greatly assists in comprehending how and why points work the way they do.
In summary, next time before you needle KI 6 consider what other points could replace it and even produce a stronger response. It has been my experience that it is often best to replace it with points like KI 3, KI 7, LV 3, or SP 6.