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  • Writer's pictureRichard Lai

#54: How to Differentiate Channel Diseases vs Organ Diseases | NCCAOM

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:00:00]:

Everyone. Welcome back to Study Acupuncture with Me. So the topic of today's episode is how to tell the difference between channel theory and organ theory. Now to answer this question, there are 5 parts to this episode. So in part 1, we're gonna talk about the basics of channel theory versus organ theory. And in part 2, we're gonna talk about 4 different ways that a channel pattern can come about. In part 3, we're gonna review the lung channel and its pathway. And in Part 4, we're gonna go over the lung organ pattern of lung heat.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:00:30]:

And then in Part 5, we're gonna talk about how to choose a point or channel theory versus organ theory. Now this topic actually comes from a request from one of our podcast listeners named Poojum. So Poojum answered our q and a on Spotify and they said, hi, doctor Lai. Please explain how to differentiate between the diseases of the channels, and the organs, how to select the points, what would be the differences if you want to treat the channel or the organ. And now this is actually a really good question, and I appreciate you, Hujum, for bringing it up and answering the q and a. So first, let's begin with the basics. And what we'll do is we'll define what channel theory is versus organ theory is. So as you know, we all have channels and we have organs.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:01:18]:

And with the organs, we have the Zang organs and we have the fu organs. And all of them have different functions. Like, for example, the lungs, they govern Qi, they govern respiration, and the liver. The liver, it ensures the smooth flow of Qi. We have our spleen. Our spleen transforms and it transports. Now that's just one of the functions of each of those organs. Now on the other hand, we also have channels.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:01:46]:

Each channel has its own pathway. It has its own branches. And there's actually even different types of channels. We have main channels. We have Luo connecting channels. We have sinew channels or muscle channels. And the patient's gonna present differently depending on if there's a disease in the channel or if there's a pathology in the organ. So, for example, with channel manifestations or symptoms, The symptoms are gonna be a little bit more broad and a little bit more superficial.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:02:17]:

And with organ manifestations, what you're gonna notice is that the pathology is messing with the function of the organ. So, for example, with channel manifestations, If something like wind has invaded the channel, then you might feel things like stiffness. You might feel pain. You might feel muscle spasms. But with organ manifestations, let's say, for example, that heat has affected the lungs. And with the lungs, we know the lungs have a function to govern Qi and govern respiration. So if heat has affected the lungs, that function of governing and governing respiration is gonna be messed with by that heat, So you're gonna see heat signs that's gonna affect that function. So you might see coughing.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:03:00]:

You might see flared nostrils. It's all because the function of governing Qi and respiration is being messed with by heat. Now the thing is, a channel, and the organ that's associated with that channel. They form a circuit. And that means that the channel with its pathways, with its branches, It has a pathway that leads to the organ that's associated with that channel. And so that means if there's an issue with the channel, then that can actually cause an issue eventually in the organ, and the same goes vice versa. So the same goes the other way around. If there's an issue in the organ, then, eventually, that can lead to an issue in the channel.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:03:39]:

And, again, it's because they're connected. Now sometimes you might get a boring patient who just is gonna present with channel issues. Like, they just come to you with shoulder pain. They have nothing else. They just come to you with thumb pain. They have nothing else. So it's truly just a channel issue. Alright.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:03:53]:

So that's the basics of channel theory and organ theory and how channel theory and organ theory are actually relatively connected. Now let's move on to part number 2, which is where do channel issues come from? And channel issues. They come from 4 different roots. So a channel issue can simply come from an invasion of an exterior pathogenic factor, like, for example, wind or cold or dampness, and these EPFs or these exterior pathogenic factors. They can invade the body, and they can invade different areas of the body, and the manifestations would actually vary depending on where it's invading. So for example, if the body is invaded by wind, and that wind invades the space between the skin and the muscles. The area between the skin and the muscles is also known as the tholi. That solely is defined as the exterior of our body, and that's exactly where our wei qi is or our defensive qi is.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:04:48]:

It's where it circulates. So what's gonna happen is your patient is gonna present with text to your symptoms, like, for example, aversion to cold, fever, sore throat, sneezing, runny nose. They might have neck stiffness, and they'll have a floating pulse. Now wind can also invade other things. Like, it can invade the muscles and the channels. So if wind invades the muscles or it invades the channels, then your patient could present with stiffness. They could present with rigidity. They could have even muscle spasms or a sudden onset of muscle contractions, which we just call muscle stasis.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:05:24]:

And then lastly, wind can also invade the joints. So when it invades the joints, then the patient's gonna say that they have pain that moves from joint to joint, which is called roving pain. Roving pain is very characteristic of wind. It's a pain that moves from joint to joint. So, again, as you can see, the manifestations will be different depending on where the pathology is. Alright. So now where else can channel issues come from? So number 2, channel issues can also come from a general Qi and blood deficiency. And that's because there simply just isn't enough Qi and blood that's flowing through the channel.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:06:00]:

If there's not enough Qi and blood that's flowing through the channel, then the channel isn't gonna flow well. And that means that there isn't gonna be enough nourishment in that channel. And if there's not enough nourishment, that can cause weakness and even pain in the channel, which here I'll share with you a quote from the Huangdi Neijing which says, if there's pain, there's no free flow. If there's flow, then there is no pain. Alright. Next, a channel issue can also come from overuse or trauma. Now in Western terminology, we just call this overuse syndrome. And overuse can cause Qi stagnation.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:06:34]:

It can also cause blood stasis to come about in the channels. And then we have cause number 4, which is channel issues can come from internal organ disharmonies. And this is actually what we were talking about before, because channels can lead to organs. And it's the same the other way around, which means that organ pathologies or organ problems can eventually lead to channel problems, and channel problems can eventually lead to organ problems. Now this doesn't happen overnight, but it can actually take months or even years to develop. Let's say that they have chronic thumb pain. They have pain right on their thenar eminence, or they have chronic shoulder pain. And, eventually, if that issue is allowed to go on and on, that issue can actually reach the lung organ.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:07:20]:

And maybe that patient is gonna have shortness of breath or they'll have a weak voice or they'll say, I catch colds really easily, which is known as propensity to catch colds, and that's gonna show you that that lung channel pathology has reached the lung organ. Or Let's say a patient has an issue with their shoulder. Now this issue with their shoulder is more along the large intestine channel, and that issue is allowed to go on and on and it turns chronic, and, eventually, that issue is gonna reach the large intestine organ, and it's gonna cause pathology in the large intestine. So what is your patient gonna present with? They might present with things like dry stools or painful stools, all because of an issue that started in the large intestine channel. And the same is actually true the other way around. So let's say your patient has chronic dry stools or they have chronic painful stools. Now you can say that that's an issue with the large intestine organ. Now eventually, that issue with the large intestine organ can actually show up as pain in the large intestine channel.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:08:19]:

So maybe you're treating a patient for a while, and they'll say this week something new started. I have now wrist pain or I have elbow pain or I have shoulder pain. And when you evaluate it, you'll recognize it as an area along the large intestine channel. Alright. So that was part 1 of this 2 part series in answering the question on channel theory versus organ theory. Now I'm trying to keep these episodes as bite sized as possible because That way you can actually retain the information in them. Because I know what it's like to sit in long lectures, and after, like, an hour and a half, you don't even know which way up or which way is down. So I'm gonna end this episode here so we can let the basics of channel theory and organ theory marinate and digest in your brain.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:09:01]:

And, you know, maybe go and teach what you learned in this episode to someone else. Because in order to teach it, you actually have to know it. So go and practice teaching it to someone else. And then lastly, before we end this episode, if you're signed up for the email list, you're gonna get a study guide into your email with each theory based episode. And if you want access to past study guides, I can send it to you. My only ask is that you share the episode that you're requesting on social media. Now once you do that, you send me a screenshot of that episode that you shared on social media to doctor lai at studyacu with, and I'll send you that episode's study guide. You see, my goal with study acupuncture with me is just to help as many students out there understand, and be confident in acupuncture.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:09:48]:

So the more shares, the more likes, the more comments can only help that goal. Alright, everyone. Until next time. God bless, and happy studying. Oh, hey. You're still here. Well, while you're here, let me tell you about today's sponsor. So today's sponsor is POUTEE.

Dr. Richard Lai DPT LAc [00:10:05]:

POUTEE is a hot and cold pain relief oil product, and right now, you can get all of their products for 50% off. Just use code SAWM at


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