Upper Jiao - Lungs, Heart

Middle Jiao - Liver, Stomach, Pancreas, Small Intestine

Lower Jiao - Kidneys, Bladder,
Large Intestine, Urinary organs,
Sexual Organs
While Dysfunction may have some element of
Pain, we mostly think of pain on the yang side of the body
or the back. Point to the area of pain that affects you for some
ideas or direction.
Body Pain

The Kidney System – In Chinese Medicine we think of the Kidney as we do with all organs as more than just a functional organ that filters your blood and provides for urination. This is just another example of how difficult it is for the western mind to gain a foothold on the mysteries and miracles of a system that always puts the accent on looking at the body-whole. Kidney energy is what we would consider to be the base energy of the body, a pillar if you will, that supports the whole system. There are some telltale signs and symptoms that speak glaringly of a kidney deficiency. The first would be a chronic low backache or just general stiffness first thing in the morning. Actually, this could also include problems with the aching of the knees, the ankles or even a back of the head headache especially first thing in the morning. Of course a person with weak kidney energy will be more prone to urinate frequently. Also, emotionally, a person with kidney deficiency will be more likely fearful all the time and easily frightened. This is also the seat of Yin and Yang. If you are interested in learning more, read my article: Kidneys in Support of Everything. One of the most common complaints is urinary infections or bladder infections which I discuss more in Waiting for the Next Bladder Infection.


The bowels – Physiologically, the bowels have seemingly very simple functions. The small intestines absorb the nutrients from food, for various uses in the body including the making of blood and then pass on the products of digestion to the large intestine. The large intestine squeezes out the excess water and passes on the refuse of digestion as fecal matter. This, of course, is a simple matter except for the fact that so often it doesn't work that way. If you are reading this section because of your own needs you will probably recognize the fact the bowels are probably THE MOST EMOTIONAL ORGANS OF THE BODY! Some stress, some worry and suddenly this once simple function is not the same anymore. You might want to look deeper. I have written an article called: Stress and the Bowel. In that article we will discuss the seeds of Colitis, Chrohn's Disease, and IBS. If your personal problem is more to the constipation side there is a rather lengthy article on Constipation. Still constant loose bowels may point toward dampness as mentioned before in The Swamp Inside Us.


Menstrual Complaints – This is a huge field. What we most often find is that menstrual disorders usually accompany a whole list of physical and emotional disorders. Western medicine sees it strictly as a problem of crisis, and their main aim is to return it to normalcy with some kind of help aid in the form of birth control pills or excise it entirely in the form of a hysterectomy. Intermediate solutions like a D&C or an ablation can be saving graces unless they become more constant solutions and then the gynecologist is going to want to insist on that old end point solution, that hysterectomy.

Profuse uterine bleeding has many shades of diagnostic names in western medicine, but the real thing  we want to know in Chinese Medicine is what physiological imbalance is behind the presentation. The first thing we think of to make the blood run wild is some form of heat in the blood. The second is actually blood stagnation. When the blood stagnates the blood extravisates around the blockage and circumvents the normal flow in the uterus like water escaping from a break in a dam. Both of these could have their roots in the liver or just be the result of excess emotions (see article :Your Right Side, Your Liver). If the blood is light and watery looking it is likely a blood deficiency with a background of Spleen Qi deficiency(see article: The Swamp Inside Us). If the color of the blood is bright red then it is Kidney deficiency (see article:Kidneys in Support of Everything).

A total loss of your period, altogether, called amenorrhea is likely an extension of deficiency in which case the patient will seem listless to some degree, or an advanced case of blood or Qi stagnation when the patient will feel “pent up” if not somewhat manic.

Dysmenorrhea, or painful periods, is most often linked to the liver  which is probably linked to stress or a long term of anger or pent up frustration (anger turned inward or not expressed). In any case the liver blood does not flow freely and so depending on the pathway it takes, or the resultant long term effect it has on the blood, the pain may come before the period, with onset, during the period or after the period ends.

Endometriosis is an overgrowth of the uterus and beyond most often due to blood or Qi  stagnation. I have found profound effectiveness in ridding the body of the effects of using nesshi therapy (see article:Nesshi Therapy) to raise the stomach and making the energy and blood flow in the lower jiao (see article: Keep This Area Clear). It is this very stagnation and the resultant blood stagnation that causes the overgrowth to happen. As mentioned before, often the liver is also involved in the process of blood stagnation (see article: Blood and Qi Stagnation).


That old Prostate- As I said before, the prostate is susceptible to the forces of not only stagnation, but deficiency cold or excess heat as well.

There are actually three types of deficiency prostate syndromes. The first one involves a settling of dampness in the lower jiao with excessive pressure from the liver, usually the result of ongoing stress. This is often the syndrome involving regular use of alcohol in association with stress. It can be quite painful and stabbing. The second would be a type of cloudy urine syndrome, usually from an accumulation of cold damp in the lower jiao. The urine can be cloudy or milky in appearance and it can be difficult to urinate even when the urgency is severe. The third type is called fatigue painful urinary syndrome, usually the result of overwork or extreme loss of kidney energy due to many possible combination of forces, including too much sex.

The other case is simply prostatitis. This indicates heat and swelling and can be quite severe. It is usually the most serious case to consider. Either there was heat there which was incited by the actions of the Liver, or the damp condition remained damp long enough to change to a condition called   damp heat. I cannot stress enough how important it is to reverse the progress of this condition and change as much as possible all underlying conditions and energies that caused this to happen. (See article: Your Prostate).


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Liver – When a person is always irritable or angry, there is a good chance that behind it all there is a problem with the liver or gallbladder or most usually one affects the other, so both are involved. These  people are not good sleepers as they wake in the night and have a hard time to get back to sleep.

Their muscles are tight and feel like they can't be stretched, especially along the right side of the body. The liver is a pretty aggressive organ and can cause complications with the stomach causing pain in the solar plexus, attack the lung to cause cough, possibly in the middle of the night, the heart causing chest pain or heart palpitations or even causing a good deal of irregularity with the menstrual cycle. See the article called Your Right Side, Your Liver.


Stomach – One of the things that is unique to my clinic is that I treat a lot of cases of stomach prolapse (fallen stomach), also called gastroptosis. This is the cause of many complaints as the stomach is the crossroads of most of what happens in the body. There are two articles on it: When Your Stomach is Down, You're Down and A Sinking Feeling in Your Stomach. There is also an accompanying article related to fibromyalgia, called Does Fibromyalgia begin in the Digestive System?  When your stomach is prolapsed you can get a preponderance of pain on the left side. Of course, if the person is suffering from fibromyalgia, they probably have many systems that are dysfunctional which means that the left side pain is only part of a generally painful system. This is covered more fully in the article: Fibromyalgia and the Path of Pain. A common pain in the front is below the ribcage on the left or in the area above the left breast or pectoralis muscle. This is often confused as being problems with the heart. Of course this is the main digestive organ and its lack of function leads to a whole list of digestive complaints. The stomach can also be hot or dry from either an excess heat or a stomach yin deficiency. In either case, the person can have a thirst for cold drinks. When it is the excess case, however, this may result in the person having a lot of belching, regurgitation or even throwing up. Both cases may result in a dry bowel, hard to force out.


Spleen – The spleen is the other main partner to the stomach in the process of food digestion. In reality it probably assumes the actual functions of the pancreas and the small intestine. The biggest problem with the spleen is that it can get too damp. When this happens the patient feels tired and laden, prone to melancholy and overthinking. Instead of the product of digestion steaming and making blood and Qi, the damp energy tends to sag, creating a feeling of heaviness and diarrhea. Much of this is covered in the article: The Swamp Inside Us. Mainly the related organs of the Stomach and the Spleen are subject to the emotions of worry or overthinking discussed in the two articles on the stomach noted above. In the process of diagnosing a patient, we often find that the demise of the system started with some state of stress that involved a lot of apprehension or worry.

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Pain Dysfunctions







Headache Pain- When I read literature in western medicine, the categories of pain for headaches and migraines are divided up into the types of pain that happen. While this may be important to analyze when the fear of pain is possibly related to a tumour or sub arachnoid hemorrhage, the average recurrent or chronic headache or migraine is more related to the location. If the headache is stabbing, it means extreme blood or chi stagnation due to other forces. If the headache is mild or dull, it may only relate to a deficiency of energy to reach the head.

As far as location goes, if the headache is in the temples or especially in the right temple or in the eye, it is usually related to some level of liver stagnation or fire. This is also true if it is stuck in the top of the head. This may also include complications with the gallbladder, and is sometimes hard to differentiate.

If the pain is centered in the forehead or over the left eye, it is probably related to the stomach or stomach prolapse. This is often accompanied with nausea and a sensitivity to light.

If the headache is centered in the back of the head it is usually the province of the kidney energy  being insufficient. This is most likely to strike first thing in the morning.

When a headache climbs up from the shoulders, up the neck, it is usually a tension headache and related to mounding tension in the shoulders and neck. Again, if this is fairly chronic and comes up from the right it is probably related to the gallbladder, and if on the left probably related to the stomach. (See article: Headaches and Migraines)


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Lt. Shoulder Neck/Scapula


    A person may have a prolapsed and difficult stomach for a long time which will generally cause some tightness and pain on the left side of the body (see article: You Can't Afford a Prolapsed Stomach or A Sinking Feeling in Your Stomach), especially the left shoulder and scapular area or the left hip, perhaps even leading to sciatica. Because the weight of the stomach pulls hard on the esophagus, it can put a lot of pressure on the seventh cervical vertebrae at the base of the neck on the back, and actually pull the head and neck forward causing bone pain and a dowagers hump. This can also cause structural strain on the mid back from the cantilevering forward of stomach prolapse (see article: A Sinking Feeling in Your Stomach).


Center of

Upper Back


Aside from the aforementioned prolapsed of the stomach that puts direct pressure on the lower cervical, this is an area largely attributed to the lung. There are lots of things that can happen to the lungs, as it is our first line of defense. One thing is for sure lung happy people have a good deal more ability to access their health and happiness  than lung sad people. When the lungs are congested we can have a good deal of pain in the upper thoracic area, around T-3 extending over to the scapulas. In chronic conditions it can feel like a weight on our backs and even affect our posture.

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Rt. Shoulder



Like the stomach on the left, the right side of this equation is largely attributable to dysfunctions of the Gallbladder and perhaps the Liver as well. For a long time the severity of this condition ebbs and flows depending on diet and life stresses. After a while, usually around the mid thirties it becomes more pervasive, spasming the muscles to the point that we are sure that our vertebrae are out. Indeed they may be, as tightened muscles under the scapula pull on the vertebral column so strongly that a subluxation does often appear. But the insidious nature of the organs on this area are so real and muscular that any physical solution is often transient.

    A modern day problem is also mouse shoulder from overuse of the levator scapulae to use the mouse. Often times it is a combination of long hours at the computer, ergo stress and the liver, poor diet on a sedentary person ( the Gallbladder) and this repetitive strain involving the same muscle. For more on this problem see the article: Your Right Side, Your Liver.


Mid Back,

Lower Thoracic



           Dry cough – A dry cough involves heat. There are two types: Excess heat and Deficiency heat.

If you are just basically hot and thirsty for cold drinks all the time, then it is likely an excess heat. As this condition progresses, it can lead to emotional problems as well that relate to irritability etc. If it is deficiency heat you are mostly just hot at night with the accompanying thirst, or could have spontaneous sweating (see article: Kidneys in Support of Everything). If this is related to just a cold or flu it is not chronic and usually accompanies a sore throat, called wind heat.

Shortage of Breath – Most of the time this involves a deficiency of the kidney energy. The energy of the kidneys should pull the breath down, assisting and supplementing the energy of the lung.

Of course some patients just have inherently weak lungs, but most often this reflects the dynamics of the whole body strength as in an immunodeficiency or undiagnosed allergy problems (see article: Kidneys in Support of Everything or Why We Consider Allergies). The lung is a fairly passive organ. When we are suffering from grief, the lung suffers and our breath may become halting as in when we are crying. If there are other stressors, this may affect the liver which in turn may attack the lung. Through the liver stress, we may feel a constriction on the rib cages which in turn affects the ability of the lungs to expand fully. Moreover, the liver may attack the lungs in the middle of the night when its energies are most active and cause spontaneous coughing for awhile at that time.

Productive Cough – When someone has a productive cough, there is an excess of water in the system. This can be a problem of Spleen deficiency (see article: The Swamp Inside Us) or Kidney yang deficiency (see article: Kidneys in Support of Everything). Often the underlying problem involves both. The object here is to both warm the patient and dry up the dampness and of course build up their system to make them stronger and more resistant. If it is just a cold, it is usually accompanying symptoms like watery nasal discharge or wet eyes and is called a wind cold.

Asthma- There are basically two classifications of asthma. The first is when it is hard to breathe out during an attack. This is the predominant case, about 85% of the cases, and usually is ultimately allergic (see article: Allergies, the Hidden Problem). Much has been written over the last ten years about the epidemic of cases in teens who routinely use puffers to cope with the problem which is touched on in my article: Asthma, the Struggle for Breath. In about 15% of the cases it is hard to get a deep breath, which points to a basic kidney deficiency (see article: Kidneys in Support of Everything).



  Heart Palpitations – In the end the heart is just a dumb pump, that pumps blood out to the rest of the systems in the body. When there is a need, such as in athletic endeavors the heart increases its pumping according to demand. When we are nervous or in love, it is either subject to adrenal forces or has a mind of its own as the heart responds to extreme joy or sadness. But, when palpitations seem to happen frequently for no reason at all, there are several possibilities. The first is because there is actually a deficiency of blood in the body. Every pump needs a load. If it is a water pump, the load is the water itself. If there is no water, the pump may speed up for lack of a load. If the amount of blood in the body is low at times, the pump will speed up and the problem is low blood volume which speaks to a general deficiency of the patient. The second problem is heat. Heat causes things to speed up. There are two or three types of heat that we should be concerned with. The first is just something called blood heat, usually due to heat pathogens striking deep into the body. For this you may need herbs to straighten you out. The second and similar effect is heat surrounding the pericardium. This is sometimes reflected in outward behaviour like mania. We often find this in people who have been addicted to hard drugs or extremes of stress or even the eventual end of  heat stroke. The third and the most common one for me to deal with is yin deficiency, explained in the article: Kidneys in Support of Everything. Yin deficiencies most often affect us at night and so it can be common for people to wake with palpitations in the night. This can be quite frightening. Sometimes due to extreme emotional distress that prolongs for a time the heart blood can develop something called Heart Yin Deficincy in which people will be awakened with dream disturbed sleep and sometimes with an accompanying sweat (see article: Heart Yin Deficiency).


Heart attacks, Ischemia, Angina Etc. - I don't really get a lot of people coming to me for these immediate problems. This is probably because once it happens these patients run to western medicine for crisis care and tend to stay in this tenuous place waiting for the next emergency. But occasionally, a patient or two will take this as a sign that they have to take charge of their life and they come to us just to break the cycle of what is a message that says that their life is going awry. In this small space to put all of the possible causative factors into a nutshell would be too onerous. There are certain factors such as blood stagnation or cholesterol or emotions. Remember that the physical dysfunction of the heart is not the cause of the problems but the result of other factors and imbalances such as liver stress, stomach prolapse, kidney deficiency, blood factors or just general stress. Here we would focus on managing the causes instead of just using medicines to control the resultant cause.



[added info: For someone who is actually looking for more information on holistic approaches to the causes and solutions for physical heart dysfunctions could look at some of the related articles I've written and start changing their life from there. See articles: Stress and the Heart, The Cholesterol Myth, The Ravages of Blood Stagnation, A Sinking Feeling in Your Stomach, Heart Yin Deficiency, Your Right Side Your Liver, and Kidneys in Support of Everything.]



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Lower Back



    When the lower back aches most of the time, we would consider this kidney deficiency. It is not the actual functional kidney of western physiology, but the term used to describe a prolonged deficiency that does not give support to the lower back. This is generally accompanied with a group of symptoms including general stiffness in the morning, aching in the knees or ankles, possibly ringing in the ears and libido problems, either lacking or resulting from excessive sexual activity. If any part of this pertains to you, I strongly recommend that you read my article on the subject: Kidneys In Support of Everything.


Back of the Legs ,

Knees and Ankles


This too is the Kidney energy, the same as the low back. The Bladder meridian runs down the back of the leg, in the centre and both the bladder and kidney meridians are on each side of the ankle along the Achilles tendon. When someone has weak ankles or just weak and aching knees, we think of weakness of the kidney energy first. If it is in the front of the ankles or knees for that matter it can be related to the stomach, especially if on the left and if it is on the outside of the ankle or the foot, it can be related to the gallbladder meridian, which can mean problems with either the gallbladder or the liver. But mostly as in the low back, it is governed by the energy of the kidneys so reference the article: Kidneys in Support of Everything

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Bottoms of

The Feet


Most often, when people claim to suffer from pain in the bottoms of the feet it is the odd pain that includes a numbness, or something called a neuropathy. This is a matter of circulation of blood. Where there is adequate blood circulation, there is also adequate nerve enervation. When the blood circulation becomes less, due to a multitude of potential problems, the nerve sensation begins to die off or at least reduce. I have heard that this can be excruciating. Most often we are talking about diabetic neuropathy here for which I recommend you read my article: The Many Faces of Diabetes Mellitus. This can also be a Spleen problem in the extreme and can be very close to the imbalance of the body that results in diabetes. You can look to two articles: Nurturing the Spleen and The Swamp Inside Us.


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Because this is the actual physical place where the kidneys reside, patients often come in insisting that the kidneys are causing this low grade back pain. While this may be true with a serious case of renal calculi, in which case the pain could be severe, it is more often an anomaly of the large intestine, gas or something resulting from a blockage or constipation. This may be accompanied with a distention of the epigastrium in the front and the person may generally feel digestively stuck.

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Left Back, Hip and Outside Left Leg


     While the stomach can dominate the whole left side, most often its influence on the left hip is abetted by a weakness in the lower lumbar which of course is influenced by the Chinese Medical Kidney. When muscles, spasm as a result of the prolapse of the stomach, contracting the muscles on this side pull the spine together to pinch down  on the nerves, can result in some sense of sciatica. Of course, if it comes on by way of injury, that may prevail, but otherwise check the following articles for another way of looking at the whole problem: You Can’t Afford a Prolapsed Stomach  or A Sinking Feeling In the Stomach and on the kidney side, Kidneys in Support of Everything.


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Right Back, Hip and Outside Right Leg


    I will keep going back to my premise that the right side is dominated by the Liver and Gallbladder. When you have this pain on the right side persistently until it becomes a major problem, it will feel deep and the unending tightness of it will just drive you crazy. You will usually feel a tightness slightly further up, just under the base of the rib cage as well which will sometimes feel sickish, just like a colic. With continued wear, and if the kidney energy is weak as well, it may develop into a sciatica going down the outside or the back of the right leg, into the calf. Read related articles: Your Right Side, Your Liver or Kidneys in Support of Everything

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Lakelands Acupuncture,  221 Martin St. ,  Penticton, British Columbia V2A 5K2,  (250) 492-2224
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Body Dysfunctions