Yang Arm Meridians and the Superficial Back Arm Line (SBAL)

The large intestine and triple warmer meridians have similar point functions and both channels are located on the myofascial line known as the Superficial Back Arm Line (SBAL). In regards to point functions, we find that both LI and TW points can be used for treating similar disorders such as back pain, digestive problems, headaches, and disorders of the head and face. In the video below, I explain more about the meridians, points, and how they relate to the SBAL.



Large Intestine 4 and Triple Warmer 5


Let’s compare two of the most common points on the LI and TW meridians - LI 4 and TW 5. Both of these points are often indicated for various conditions affecting the head. For instance, both points may be used for headaches, migraines, trigeminal neuralgia, Bell’s Palsy, sinusitis, and external invasions with symptoms affecting the head and face. Similarly, both meridians have points for treating pain in the neck, shoulders, and back. When treating conditions of the head and face, the traditional explanation is that both meridians pass through these regions and that by using points on the hands we can treat the opposite end of the meridian in the head.


By adopting an anatomical and myofascial perspective we can see that both the LI and TW meridians are on the SBAL and will affect the same muscles.


When we consider myofascial anatomy, we can observe that points on the same fascial line have similar point functions. To demonstrate my point, let’s examine some points on the LI and TW meridians that have similar functions.


Both LI 4 and TW 5 are often used for treating symptoms associated with exterior invasions such as headaches, neck, and shoulder pain. They can both also be used for conditions affecting the eyes, sinuses, and ears. Additionally, LI 4 is used for gastrointestinal, abdominal, and menstrual pain; while TW 5 may also be used for similar conditions when paired with GB 41. Triple warmer 6 is used for constipation as is LI 4.


Master Tung's Points on the SBAL


The similarities of point functions on the SBAL become even more apparent when we examine how points on this line are used for treating neck and back pain. It also helps to discuss how Master Tung's points are used in similar ways.


In the Master Tung system, LI 4 is usually substituted for the point Ling Gu (22.05) which has similar indications to LI 4 but tends to be more effective and powerful. Using Ling Gu with LI 3 and a point just distal to SJ 3 (22.07) is very effective for lumbar pain. This is the Ling Gu, Da Bai, Xia Bai (22.04, 22.05, 22.07) point combination made popular by Dr. Tan.



Two Distinct Point Combos for Lumbar Pain


22.04, 22.05, & 22.07


or


YTX & 22.07



The extra point Yao Tong Xue (YTX, Lumbar Pain Point) is anatomically similar to Ling Gu and Xia Bai as all these points are located at the proximal junction of the metacarpal bones. Using Yao Tong Xue with 22.07 produces similar clinical results as using Ling Gu, Da Bai, and Xia Bai. I have explained more about how these points are able to treat lumbar pain based on mechanical principles and the role of the latissimus dorsi muscle in the video above.


Continuing our comparison of LI and TW meridian points we find that LI 3 and TW 3 also have similar functions. They both are used for conditions affecting the head, neck, throat, eyes, and ears. By examining the fascial line (SBAL) that these points are on, we see that the trapezius muscle is a part of the SBAL. This can help explain why these points treat neck and shoulder pain. We should also remember that the point Luo Zhen or 22.03 in the Tung system is used for treating the neck as well. These points also tend to work better for more acute conditions and when there is no deeper-level pathology affecting the vertebrae, spine, or intervertebral discs.


On the LI and TW meridians, we find a total of five points on the hand for treating the neck and low back. These points are LI 3, LI 4, SJ 3, 22.05, and 22.07. Similarly, the points Luo Zhen, Yao Tong Xue, and Master Tung points San Cha (shown in black in the above image) have similar functions. All of these points can be used for pain in the neck, back, and spine.


Arm Points on the Large Intestine and Triple Warmer Meridians


As we progress up the arm we also find a variety of points on the TW and LI meridians for treating neck and back pain. In the Master Tung system, these include the points 33.04, 33.05, 33.06, 33.08, and 33.09 all of which are on or near the triple warmer meridian. The Bone Spur Points located in the region of LI 11 - LI 14 are also used for treating neck and lumbar pain as well.


This gives us a total number of 18 points on or near the LI and TW meridians which can be used for treating neck, back, and spinal pain disorders. Since all of these points work on the same myofascial line, we can conclude that they do have similar mechanical effects occurring through the structural myofascial system. Similarly, they do share some of the same neurological effects.


Summary


With so many points on the large intestine and triple warmer meridians that have similar functions, we need to ask ourselves how to best choose points and how to combine them for optimum results. The Master Tung system has many insights about combining points and this is done through point combinations called Dao Ma's. I have discussed this in another blog post entitled "Point Synergies and Dao Ma's."


It is my wish in writing this post that the acupuncture community comes to a better understanding of how myofascial lines play a role in mediating point functions. Thinking of meridians in terms of fascial lines can help us to consolidate our understanding of acupuncture, and also places it in a biomedical and bio-mechanical perspective. This has wide-ranging applications such as helping acupuncturists in treating structural conditions, choosing better point combinations, and ultimately in getting better clinical results.


In High Spirits,


Jim Spears



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