The Acupuncture Meridian Myth

I am an acupuncturist who says that acupuncture “meridians” are a myth! Do I have your attention? Read on…

Acupuncture Defined

I often see acupuncture defined in terms similar to this:

Acupuncture is a system of healing using the insertion of thin needles at 365 specific points on the body to supposedly “balances the flow” of a kind of mystical bio-energy, called qi (pronounced chee), along invisible lines on the body called “meridians”.

To which, I say hogwash! This statement is just plain wrong! The statement contains multiple incorrect assertions about acupuncture. Here I’m going to focus on the part about “meridians”. The others will be addressed in future articles.

Meridians vs. Channels

Acupuncture chart of the xin bao luo "meridian"A meridian is infinitely thin imaginary line on the surface of a body. It is a term taken from geography and cartography. It is a good description of what the first westerners saw when they first observed an acupuncture chart. It looks like a map. Consider the chart on the right. But, as Alfred Korzybski famously noted, “the map is not the territory.”

The human body contains no meridians. What it contains are channels. Channels have width and are located at different depths in along their path through the body.

That the channels run deep to the surface of the skin is pretty obvious when you stop to think about how acupuncture is performed. If the acupuncture points and channels were on the surface there would be no reason to puncture the skin with a needle! You could just lightly touch the point to get the same effect.

So please, let’s use the word “channel” for paths of energy in the body. “Channel” provides a much more accurate and specific term for what actually runs beneath the surface of the skin in our bodies.

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