The knee bone’s connected to the… what?

by Mary Beth Ladenheim

In a recent People’s Pharmacy Q&A, a woman wrote that while seeking relief from her arthritic knee pain with acupuncture, her libido was restored. She was very pleased about the unexpected libido improvement, and the authors were amazed.

We agree that concurrent improvement of knee pain and libido is amazing, but we don’t think it’s unexpected. (That may sound paradoxical, but such amazement/lack of surprise happen often. Sunrise and sunset are amazing and expected.)

I wrote about the channels of acupuncture in a previous post, and the above story is an example of the influence of those channels. Something I didn’t mention in that post is that each channel is associated not only with the physical terrain that it covers, but also with a certain aspect of the body’s physiology. This is something that people love about experiencing acupuncture. In most cases they go from feeling like they have loads of things wrong with them to understanding that their symptoms can actually be reduced to one or two channel systems.

In the case of the arthritic knee and libido, we’re most likely looking at the kidney and bladder channels. These channels run through and provide the qi for the knees, the teeth, the ears, the bones, the hair on the head, the low back, and sexual reproduction. As we age, our kidney and bladder qi decline and so do our teeth, hearing, hair, bones/joints, and sexual drives. This isn’t reversible, but there are ways to reduce the severity and impact through acupuncture treatments, herbal formulas, and qi gong exercises.  This is why we, as acupuncturists, would say that successful treatment in this case would necessarily provide improvement of both knee and libido.

It is oversimplification to treat as if all knee pain is associated with the kidneys. None of these connections should be taken singularly, but rather should be viewed in combination with pulse diagnosis, tongue diagnosis, and the patient’s full presentation. If the woman in question had had a different sort of knee pain, her liver channel might’ve been more helpful. The liver channel also runs through the knee and the genitals. It governs the sinews (or tendons, ligaments, and muscles) and the eyes. So someone with herpes, a hernia, a torn up knee, and headaches behind the eye might find a treatment on the liver channel very relieving.

Other channels and their associations follow:

Skin, immunity, body hair: Lung and Large Intestine. (Lots of folks with asthma have eczema, too.)

Muscles/flesh, digestion: Spleen and Stomach. (A feeling of heavy limbs is associated with spleen problems.)

Tongue, eyes, blood, sweat: Heart. (Literal inability to express one’s feelings and lack of eye contact are problems of the heart.)

Sinews, fingernails, eyes: Liver and Gallbladder. (The eyes get yellow in cases of jaundice.)

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