Monday, February 22, 2016

The Sinew Channels (Jingjin) and Vertebral Fixations

Below is a link for an article I wrote which will be featured in the Spring edition of the Illinois Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine newsletter. The full article below.

The Sinew Channels (Jingjin) and Vertebral Fixations
By Brian Lau, DOM, AP, C.SMA

This article will explore vertebral fixations and their relationships to both extraordinary vessels (Qi Jing Ba Mai) and the sinew channels (Jingjin). In Sports Medicine Acupuncture®, assessment of vertebral fixations is an important part of overall assessment and treatment when working with sports injuries and orthopedic conditions. Extraordinary vessel (EV) point pairs are used in conjunction with local needling at the M-BW-35 (Huatuojiaji) points, and with mobilization techniques, to free restrictions preventing proper vertebral movement. The Huatuojiaji needle technique and the mobilization are used to balance asymmetrical locking of the facet joints, where one side is locked in a closed position in relation to the other side. The EV point pairs regulate specific global strain patterns that stress the spine in specific regions. These strain patterns will be the focus of this article.

Vertebral fixations are assessed by motion tests and by manual muscle tests. Vertebral fixations at specific regions of the spine will cause bilateral weakness of specific muscles when testing with manual muscle tests.1 Interestingly, the muscles that become bilaterally weak are not innervated by the spinal nerves at the level of fixation. To gain insight into this phenomenon, it is useful to look at the sinew channels, note their connection to the spine, and understand how they can exert a negative influence on these spinal segments when dysfunction exists. Bilateral muscle weakness can then be seen through a channel relationship.

The Spleen Sinew Channel, The Penetrating Vessel (Chongmai), and Thoracic Vertebral Fixations

Fig 1: ©Brian Lau/
The Spleen (Pi) and the Stomach (Wei) sinew channels are associated with the abdominal muscles and converge at the abdominal aponeurosis, a broad, flat connective tissue structure which attaches the internal and external obliques and the transverse abdominis at the rectus abdominis. The fascia of the external obliques travels anterior to the rectus abdominis muscle while the fascia of the internal obliques bifurcates; half of it travels anterior, half posterior. The transverse abdominis travels completely posterior to the rectus abdominis.2,3,4

The fascia which travels anterior to the rectus abdominis (that of the external obliques and part of the internal obliques) comprises the abdominal portion of the Stomach sinew channel while the posterior fascia comprises the abdominal portion of the Spleen sinew channel. This posterior abdominal fascia is continuous with the anterior portion of the diaphragm at the inner surface of the anterior ribcage.2,4 From here, one could follow the diaphragm around to its connection to the lumbar spine. This connection, called the crus of the diaphragm, attaches to the lumbar spine at L1 and L2.3 Restriction in this portion of the Spleen sinew channel can contribute to fixations at the T11-L2 vertebral levels.

Fig. 2: ©
Matt Callison/
Sports Medicine
One could also follow the diaphragm up to the central tendon. The pericardium attaches to the central tendon on its superior surface, and is in the same fascial layer which comprises the hyoid muscles.2 This plane (posterior abdominal fascia-diaphragm-pericardium-hyoids) could be considered part of the sphere of influence described by the Penetrating Vessel. For all practical purposes, the Spleen sinew channel can be seen to follow this upward trajectory also. This portion of the channel can contribute to fixations from T3-T9.

When the Spleen sinew channel does not have adequate length, the abdomen becomes bowed and distended and the chest is depressed. This adds tension to the thoracic region and contributes to fixations in this region.

Vertebral fixations of these regions cause bilateral weakness of muscles that are part of the Urinary Bladder (Pangguang) sinew channel. These include the lower trapezius (for fixations of T11-L2), the teres major (for fixations of T3-T9), and the gluteus maximus (for fixations of C1-C3, which are not discussed in this article).1 This can be understood as a five element relationship involving the Earth and Water elements. These channels create a dynamic balance, as the Spleen and Stomach sinew channels consist of flexors of the legs and torso and converge at the abdominal aponeurosis while the Urinary Bladder sinew channel consists of extensors of the legs and torso and converges at the thoracolumbar aponeurosis, when looking at fascial connections, at least.2,4 When vertebral fixations are present, SP-4 (Gongsun) and P-6 (Neiguan) are added to the treatment.

The Liver and Kidney Sinew Channels, The Yin Motility Vessel (Yin Qiao), and Lumbar Vertebral Fixations

Fig. 3: © Brian Lau/
The Liver (Gan) sinew channel travels up the medial leg and thigh and consists of the adductor longus, adductor brevis, pectineus, and the psoas major.5

The Kidney (
Shen) sinew channel includes the adductor magnus and the semimembranosus muscles. These structures link with the pelvic floor muscles which are then continuous with the anterior longitudinal ligament,2,5 which travels up the anterior portion of the spine.

The psoas major attaches to the lumbar transverse processes, the vertebral bodies, and even the intervertebral discs of the lumbar vertebrae.2,3 The psoas is more in a direct line with the Liver sinew channel, but since it attaches to the vertebral bodies and intervertebral discs and therefore links with the anterior longitudinal ligament, it also converges with the Kidney sinew channel.

Fig. 4: © Matt Callison/
Sports Medicine Acupuncture
When the psoas does not have adequate length, there is excessive lumbar lordosis and lack of freedom in the lumbar spine. This contributes to vertebral fixations of lumbar vertebrae.

Vertebral fixations of the lumbar vertebrae cause bilateral weakness of neck extensors.1 This can best be understood through the relationship of the Yin Motility Vessel (Yin Qiao) and Yang Motility Vessel (Yang Qiao). As one becomes short and tight, the other becomes flaccid. This is traditionally discussed in the context of their relationship to the muscles of the legs, but the relationship can continue throughout the entire channel.6 When vertebral fixations are present, KID-6 (Zhaohai) and LU-7 (Lieque) are added to the treatment.

The Urinary Bladder Sinew Channel, The Yang Motility Vessel (Yang Qiao), and Occiput-C1 Vertebral Fixations

Fig. 5: © Matt Callison/
Sports Medicine
The Urinary Bladder (Pangguang) sinew channel traverses the posterior portion of the body and includes the muscles of the calves, the hamstrings, the sacral fascia, the erector spinae muscle group, and the suboccipital muscles which binds this channel to the occiput.5,7 These suboccipital muscles control the fine movements of the atlanto-occipital joints, and can contribute to fixations at this region.

When the suboccipital muscles do not have adequate length, there is capital extension and restriction in movement at the atlanto-occipital joint. This contributes to fixations of the occiput and C1.
Vertebral fixations of the occiput and C1 cause bilateral weakness of the psoas major.1 Again, this can be understood via the relationship of the Yin Motility Vessel and Yang Motility Vessel. When vertebral fixations are present, BL-62 (Shenmai) and SI-3 (Houxi) are added to the treatment.

Note: Vertebral fixations at C4-C6 and sacroiliac fixations, all treated with GB-41 (Zulinqi) and SJ-5 (Waiguan), are not discussed in this article. Also not discussed are fixations at C7-T2, which are treated with KID-6 (Zhaohai) and LU-7 (Lieque). These are left out to avoid excessively lengthy discussion.


1. Walther, David S. Applied Kinesiology: Synopsis. Pueblo, CO: Systems DC, 1988. Print.

2. Myers, Thomas W. Anatomy Trains: Myofascial Meridians for Manual and Movement Therapists. 3rd ed. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone, 2014. Print.

3. Netter, Frank H. Atlas of Human Anatomy. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier, 2014. Print.

4. Stecco, Carla, and Warren I. Hammer. Functional Atlas of the Human Fascial System. Edinburgh: Elsevier, 2015. Print.

5. Legge, David, and Karen Vance. Jingjin: Acupuncture Treatment of the Muscular System Using the Meridian Sinews. Sydney: Sydney College, 2010. Print.

6. Wang, Ju-Yi, and Jason D. Robertson. Applied Channel Theory in Chinese Medicine: Wang Ju-Yi's Lectures on Channel Therapeutics. Seattle: Eastland, 2008. Print.
7. Wilke, Jan, Frieder Krause, Lutz Vogt, and Winfried Banzer. "What Is Evidence-Based About Myofascial Chains: A Systematic Review." Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (2015). Web.

Facebook icon Google Search icon LinkedIn icon Instagram icon YouTube icon


  1. Gb41 and Sj5 please !

    1. Thanks for the encouragement! I will see about adding more info on the fixations related to GB 41 and SJ 5. This will include the sacroiliac joint and C4-C6 fixations. The popliteus becomes bilaterally weak. I think this has something to do with the KID divergent channel which starts from the region of the popliteus muscle, crosses the SI joint, intersects with the Dai Mai at L2, and travels up to the neck. Therefore, I think GB 41 and SJ 5 influence the musculature along this pathway.