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Acupuncture: channel (meridian) systems



  • The channels (meridians) were never defined in animals as in man in Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM). In the horse a single point was assigned to 11 of the 12 channel-organ systems. All bar 1 were over a superficial vein and a bleeding point.
  • The term meridian is a mis-translation (according to Unschuld, Needham, Kendall, and others) for the concept of the Chinese circulatory system which includes the Jingmai (the main interior vessels) and Luomai (the collateral vessels) and the Sunmai (very fine vessels). The entire Jingluo circulatory system transports blood and Qi (the gases, vapours and thin clear fluid or mist). The term channels is more accurate as they describe a conduit or vessel. The surface meridians depicted in charts probably relates to propagated sensations reported by strong acupuncture responders and other phenomena noted by the ancients.
  • The concept of energy (mistranslation of Qi) flow in meridians (mistranslation of the circulatory systems) derives from Western efforts to interpret the ancient Chinese Medical texts and has led to widespread use and acceptance of Chinese Medicine being more metaphysically than anatomically and physiologically based.
  • Western veterinary acupuncturists have developed the human meridian or channel system in animals and many have adopted the energetics version of TCM to mimic traditional human acupuncture practice. This involved replacing the TCVM animal acupuncture points with the human points and topographical meridian lines were transposed onto the animal. The justification for this was that TCVM animal acupuncture was too rudimentary and its acupoint system was difficult to learn, being unique to each animal and named without reference to a channel. Another factor was the availability of human TCM acupuncture schools in the west while no traditional veterinary acupuncture school existed outside asia.
  • The Chinese equine acupoints numbered up to 173 historically; the transposed system replaced them with the classical human channel points numbering 360 plus various non-channel or extra points. Any western claims of practicing TCM or traditional Chinese acupuncture in animals is tenuous if the points chosen are following the transposed human points and indications rather than using the traditional equine points   Acupuncture: meridian / channel points 02   the Chinese developed. All animal points in China were species specific.
  • Animal responses to the transposed channel based points reinforced their widespread use in the West and became accepted as an equivalent or even superior system than the TCVM points. This probably reflects the flexibility any acupoints actions rather than justifies the TCM transposition. Indeed, so many variations of TCM appointed virtues leading to so many choices of points to use for a given problem appears to lead to the conclusion that acupuncture is a very flexible treatment and does not require the detailed TCM knowledge that many western acupuncturists advocate. Politics exist (not always tolerant), especially between modern western medical and TCM or traditional acupuncture schools.
  • Transposed channel points   Acupuncture: meridian / channel points 01  offers the advantage of nomenclature that is much easier to learn than the Chinese name for each point. The World Health Organizations standardized nomenclature for human channel acupuncture points is as follows:
    • LU (lung, yin or zang, ie solid organ) 1-11; paired with LI (large intestine, yang or fu, ie hollow organ)1-20.
    • ST (stomach, yang) 1-45; paired with SP (spleen, yin) 1-21.
    • HT (heart, yin) 1-9; paired with SI (small intestine, yang) 1-19.
    • BL (bladder, yang) 1-67; paired with KI (kidney, yin) 1-27.
    • PC (pericardium, yin) 1-9; paired with TE (triple energizer, yang) 1-23; also noted as TH for triple heater); refers to the pleural cavity, and upper and lower peritoneal cavity.
    • GB (gallbladder, yang) 1-44; paired with LR (liver, yin) 1-14.
  • These organ pairs are arranged in the order of their peak function in the 24 hour day and is designated as the order of the flow of qi through the channels. There are 8 other extra channels, including the dorsal and ventral midlines known as the governing vessel (GV) and conception vessel (CV) respectively.
  • The yang channels (3 on the upper limb and 3 on the lower limb) run on the lateral and dorsal aspects from the hand to the head and from the head to the foot and the yin (3 upper limb and 3 lower limb) run on the medial and ventral aspects from chest organs ending in the hand and from the foot running up to its abdominal organ. The exception is the ST channel running from dorsum of the foot, up the ventrum of the abdomen, ending on the face.
  • The channels have a deep connection with its assigned organ and a superficial one in the muscles and fascia. The acupoints are foramina which communicate with the vessels and organs. Early Chinese documented the phenomena of chronic visceral disease leading to tender points on the body. These are explained today as viscero-somatic reflexes and are a basis for the Chinese concept of acupoints acting as a reference for the state of the organs and vessels and a communication tool to influence them.
  • Many conundrums exist in the transposition of the human meridian system, including the lack of a traditional Chinese veterinary use of this system. The vertebral and extremities anatomical variations with man make more difficult the locating of many points. An example is LI 4 (Hegu) which is the master point for the face and is located in the interdigital thenar muscle between the thumb and forefinger - which the horse does not possess. Its nearest transposed site is against the proximal medial splint bone which is devoid of any muscle or other functional significance in contrast to the extraordinary functionality of the thumb in man. While there was no effort in China to locate this nor many of the human commonly used Master, Influential and other special effect points, western vets have put much effort into giving these points a location and assuming a similar function (which often is couched in the terms of a points energetic properties). This author finds such a pursuit and acceptance of this rationale as unfounded. While the muscled proximal aspects of the limb and body have more comparative anatomy to transpose to, the comparative visceral anatomy and physiology between human and horse (and the other animals) are sufficiently unique to be wary of a universal acupoint system. The following descriptions are taken from the Western transpositional acupuncture system and while the organ system functions are consistent with TCVM, the acupoints used are not representative of the traditional Chinese veterinary acupuncture (TCVM) acupoints system.

Lung/large intestine/stomach

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Spleen/heart/small intestine

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Triple heater/gall bladder/liver

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Non-paired channels

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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Habacher G, Pittler M H & Ernst E (2006) Effectiveness of acupuncture in veterinary medicine: systematic review. J Vet Intern Med 20 (3), 480-488 PubMed
  • Xie H & Ortiz-Umpierre C (2006) What acupuncture can and cannot treat. JAAHA 42 (4), 244-248 PubMed.
  • Ramey D W (2005) Acupuncture and 'traditional Chinese medicine' in the horse. Part 2: A scientific review. Equine Vet Educ 17 (2), 106-112.
  • Xie H, Colahan P & Ott E A (2005) Evaluation of electroacupuncture treatment of horses with signs of chronic thoracolumbar pain. JAVMA 227 (2), 281-286 PubMed.
  • Boldt E Jr (2002) Use of complementary veterinary medicine in the geriatric horse. Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract 18 (3), 631-636 PubMed.
  • Langevin H M & Yandow J A (2002) Relationship of acupuncture points and meridians to connective tissue planes. Anat Rec 269 (6), 257-265 PubMed.
  • Skarda R T, Tejwani G A & Muir W W 3rd (2002) Cutaneous analgesia, hemodynamic and respiratory effects, and beta-endorphin concentration in spinal fluid and plasma of horses after acupuncture and electroacupuncture. Am J Vet Res 63 (10), 1435-1442 PubMed.
  • Scott S (2001) Developments in veterinary acupuncture. Acupunct Med 19 (1), 27-31 PubMed.
  • Gaynor J S (2000) Acupuncture for management of pain. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 30 (4), 875-884 PubMed.
  • Mittleman E & Gaynor J S (2000) A brief overview of the analgesic and immunologic effects of acupuncture in domestic animals. JAVMA 217 (8), 1201-1205 PubMed.
  • Ridgway K (1999) Acupuncture as a treatment modality for back problems. Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract 15 (1), 211-221. 
  • Sumano Lopez H, Hoyas Sepulveda M L & Brumbaugh G W (1999) Pharmacologic and alternative therapies for the horse with chronic laminitis. Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract 15 (2), 495-516 PubMed.
  • Knight D P (1998) The acupuncture system and the liquid crystalline collagen fibers of the connective tissues. Am J Chin Med 26 (3-4), 251-263 PubMed.
  • Bossut D F (1996) Veterinary clinical applications of acupuncture. J Altern Comp Med (1), 65-69 PubMed.
  • Yu C, Zhang K, Lu G, Xu J, Xie H, Lui Z, Wang Y & Zhu J (1994) Characteristics of acupuncture meridians and acupoints in animals. Rev Sci Tech 13 (3), 927-933 PubMed.
  • Panzer R B & Chrisman C L (1994) An auricular acupuncture treatment for idiopathic canine epilepsy - a preliminary report. Am J Chin Med 22 (1), 11-17 PubMed.
  • Janssens L A (1993)The role of acupuncture in analgesia. Tijdschr Diergeneeskd 118 (Suppl 1).
  • Altman S (1992) Techniques and instrumentation. Probl Vet Med (1), 66-87. 
  • Altman S (1992) The incorporation of acupuncture into a small animal practice. Probl Vet Med (1), 223-233. 
  • Dill S G (1992) Acupuncture for gastrointestinal disorders. Probl Vet Med (1), 144-154. 
  • Durkes T E (1992) Gold bead implants. Probl Vet Med (1), 207-211.
  • Hwang Y C (1992) Acupuncture atlas. Probl Vet Med (1), 16-33. 
  • Hwang Y C (1992) Anatomy and classification of acupoints. Probl Vet Med (1), 12-15. 
  • Jaggar D (1992) History and basic introduction to veterinary acupuncture. Probl Vet Med (1), 1-11. 
  • Janssens L A (1992) Acupuncture for the treatment of thoracolumbar and cervical disk disease in the dog. Probl Vet Med (1), 107-116. 
  • Janssens L A (1992) Trigger point therapy. Probl Vet Med (1), 117-124. 
  • Klide A M (1992) Acupuncture Analgesia. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract 22 (2), 374-379. 
  • Limehouse J B (1992) Oriental concepts of acupunctureProbl Vet Med (1), 53-65. 
  • Lin J H & Panzer R (1992) Acupuncture for reproductive disorders. Probl Vet Med (1), 155-161. 
  • Rogers P A, Schoen A M & Limehouse J (1992) Acupuncture for immune-mediated disorders. Literature review and clinical applications. Probl Vet Med (1), 162-193. 
  • Schoen A M (1992) Acupuncture for musculoskeletal disorders. Probl Vet Med (1), 88-97. 
  • Schwartz C (1992) Chronic respiratory conditions and acupuncture therapy. Probl Vet Med (1) 136-143. 
  • Smith F W jr (1992) Acupuncture for cardiovascular disorders. Probl Vet Med (1), 125-131. 
  • Smith F W jr (1992) Neurophysiologic basis of acupuncture. Probl Vet Med (1), 34-52.
  •  Janssens L A (1991) Acupuncture in thoracolumbar disc disease. J S Afr Vet Assoc 62 (1), 2.
  • Robinson C (1990) Getting started in acupuncture. Aust Vet J 67 (10), 423.
  • Janssens L A & Rogers P A (1989) Acupuncture versus surgery in canine thoracolumbar disk disease. Vet Rec 124 (11), 283.
  • van Niekerk J & Eckersley N (1988) The use of acupuncture in canine epilepsy. J S Afr Vet Assoc 59 (1), 5.
  • Klide A M, Farnbach G C & Gallagher S M (1987) Acupuncture therapy for the treatment of intractable, idiopathic epilepsy in dogs. Acupunct Electrother Res 12 (1), 71-74.
  • Williams B M (1986) Acupuncture treatment of paralysis. Vet Rec 119 (13), 340.
  • Schoen A M, Janssens L & Rogers P A (1986) Veterinary acupuncture. Semin Vet Med Surg (Small Anim) (3), 224-229.
  • Craige J E (1985) Acupuncture for fleabite allergic dermatitis. JAVMA 187 (2), 127.
  • Altman S (1981) Clinical use of veterinary acupuncture. Vet Med Small Anim Clin 76 (9), 1307-1312.
  • Wright M & McGrath C J (1981) Physiologic and analgesic effects of acupuncture in the dog. JAVMA 178 (5), 502-507.
  • Janssens L, Altman S & Rogers P A (1979) Respiratory and cardiac arrest under general anaesthesia - treatment by acupuncture of the nasal philtrum. Vet Rec 105 (12), 273-276.
  • Rogers P A (1978) Veterinary acupuncture. Vet Rec 102 (17), 387.
  • Altman S (1977) Acupuncture - taking a closer look. Mod Vet Pract 58 (12), 1003-1006.
  • Freeman A (1974) Veterinary acupuncture. JAVMA 164 (5), 446-448.

Other sources of information

  • Xie H & Preast V (2007) Xies Veterinary Acupuncture. Blackwell Publishing.
  • Lindley S & Cummings M (2006) Essentials of Western Veterinary Acupuncture. Blackwell Publishing.
  • Fleming P (2001) The Location of Equine Back Shu Points: Traditional Chinese Versus Transpositional in Schoen A Veterinary Acupuncture. In: Ancient Art to Modern Medicine. 2nd edn. Mosby. pp 357.
  • Fleming P (2001) Transpositional Equine Acupuncture Atlas in Schoen A Veterinary Acupuncture. In: Ancient Art to Modern Medicine. 2nd edn. Mosby. pp 393-431.
  • Hwang Y C & Yu C (2001) Traditional Equine Acupuncture Atlas in Schoen A Veterinary Acupuncture. In: Ancient Art to Modern Medicine. 2nd edn. Mosby. pp 363-390.
  • Schoen A (2001) Veterinary Acupuncture Ancient Art to Modern Medicine. 2nd edn. Mosby.
  • Schoen & Wynn (1997) Complementary and Alternative Veterinary Medicine. Mosby.
  • Yu C (1995) Traditional Chinese Veterinary. In: Acupuncture and Moxibustion. China Agricultural Press, China.


  • The American Academy of Veterinary Acupuncture (AAVA), 100 Roscommon Drive, Suite 320, Middletown, CT 06457, USA. Website:
  • The Association of British Veterinary Acupuncturists (ABVA), ABVA Admin, British Medical Acupuncture Society, BMAS House, 3 Winnington Court, Northwich CW8 1AQ, UK. Email:; Website:
  • The International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS), PO Box 271395, Ft Collins, CO 80527-1395, USA. Email:; Website:

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