Winterize the Kidney Channel Leave a comment

By Janice Walton-Hadlock, DAOM, L.Ac.

Is the Kidney channel running unobstructed and free? As your patients put in their orders for snow tires and cinnamon sticks, you can optimize the flow in their Kidney channels.

Obstructions of the Kidney channel Qi can occur suddenly or can build up over time. Causative culprits can include leg bones broken years earlier, history of hernia, appendectomy scars, C-section scars, old knee or ankle injuries, or injuries or surgeries in the low back area.

Channel-blocking or channel-altering events can also be initiated by almost any of the classic “external evils.” For example, External Evil Wind (infection) in the kidney or bladder can create hidden, long-standing Channel Qi irregularities in the Kidney channel.

To see if the Kidney channel is running smoothly, simply use your hand to detect where the Kidney Channel Qi is going. If it is blocked, diverting into another channel’s path, or running in any manner other than the right one, correct it.

The quickest, most lasting way to help the Channel Qi “go through” (run in its correct path), is using acupuncture needles to recreate the correct path of the channel Qi at the exact site of the diversion. The needles create a “path of least resistance” that runs over or through the area where the Channel Qi is running amok. When needled correctly, the errant Channel Qi will follow the needles and cease using the diversion created by injury or pathogen. Once the Channel Qi has been returned to its correct path, it tends to stay there until a new, dire, disruption event.

The flow of Channel Qi can be felt by hand. Most students need about sixteen hours of practice to start feeling the signals given off by the flow of the Channel Qi. The channels that flow close to the surface, such as the Ren, Du, and Stomach channels, are the easiest to feel, for the beginner. Feeling the flow of the deep-flowing Kidney Channel Qi is a bit trickier.

As noted in the classics, the “Liver channel crosses over the Spleen channel. The Kidney channel is closest to the bones.”  By using your hands to differentiate the frequencies given off by the various channels, you can feel the actual behavior of the channels, in sickness and in health. You can prove to yourself that “Liver crosses over the Spleen actually means “The Liver channel runs closest to the surface. Its width is the entire medial surface of the leg. The Spleen channel runs a bit deeper, at the depth of the most superficial muscle fascia. Its width is the entire medial side of the leg at the muscle level.” Which is to say, “The Liver channel flows over the Spleen channel.” The Kidney channel Qi runs the deepest, the most interior, as it flows beneath the Spleen channel: “closest to the bones.”

Since the Kidney Channel Qi flows at depth, how can one determine if it is blocked or running incorrectly?

Each of the three Yin leg channels gives off a very different signal. The Liver Channel Qi produces a high frequency tingling. The Spleen Channel Qi feels “stodgy.” The Kidney Channel Qi gives off a slow, steady, very “deep” frequency.

Learn to differentiate between the three by feeling the Channel Qi on the feet. These currents do not overlap on the feet. On the feet they are each close to the surface and easy to feel. Once you learn to differentiate between the frequencies of the three Yin Leg channels on the feet, you can examine the patient all along the length of the Yin Leg channels and detect any Channel aberrations (“No go through”).

If you find indications of Channel Qi blockage or one channel’s Qi “attacking” another (flowing into the path of a nearby Channel), you can create the most elegant acupuncture treatment: one that will directly correct irregularities by using needles to reroute the flow of Channel Qi.

Best of all, you will be able to feel, by hand, if your treatment worked.

Winter is coming. Make sure your patients’ Kidney channels are unimpeded!


Dr. Janice (“J.J.”) Walton-Hadlock, DAOM, LAc. is a professor at Five Branches University, in Santa Cruz, California, where she teaches Advanced Channel Theory, Yin Tui Na, Psychology and Counseling, and clinical instruction and supervision. She is the founder of the Parkinson’s Recovery Project, a non-profit devoted to dissemination of information about treating Parkinson’s disease using theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine. (

Her books include Tracking the Dragon, an acupuncture text on advanced channel theory which includes lessons in how to detect, by hand, Channel Qi; Medications of Parkinson’s disease: Once Upon a Pill; and Recovery from Parkinson’s.

She’s had articles about her Parkinson’s disease research published in major English language journals of Chinese medicine including the Journal of Chinese Medicine and The American Journal of Acupuncture, and her “commentary” on Parkinson’s medications research was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

She lectures internationally and maintains a private practice in Santa Cruz, California, but beats a retreat to the Vancouver, BC, area as often as possible.

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