Qi is a vital substance in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and is often paired with Blood in its pattern differentiation (TCM-speak for diagnosis). There is nothing mystical about qi, and for simplicity's sake you can think of it as energy that keeps the body's various systems functioning. When qi is out of balance, it falls into one - or sometimes more than one! - of the following patterns:
Deficiency is a lack of something, and if we're equating qi with energy, it's easy to see how a qi deficient person would feel tired all of the time. Every organ system has its own qi, and a qi deficiency in a particular organ would produce weakness in its function. Lung qi deficiency would lead to shortness of breath, Spleen qi deficiency would lead to poor appetite, etc.
Acupuncturists use specific points for the organ systems affected, but you can boost your overall qi by stimulating - massaging or pressing - acupressure points ST36 on the leg and Ren6 on the lower abdomen. (Search for "acupuncture point [point name] location" in Google images to see exactly where they are located.) Practicing deep breathing and sticking to a health diet will also benefit qi.
The Qi and Blood that flow through the meridians in the body can become stuck, either due to external forces like an injury or internal disharmony. When qi is no longer moving well it's what we call stagnant, and qi stagnation can lead to a variety of symptoms, such as stress, pain, and PMS. Just like with qi deficiency, acupuncturists will usually choose points that target the areas affected, but you can use LV3* and LI4* to enhance general qi flow and smooth stagnation.
*LV3 and LI4 are two of the points that acupuncturists use to induce labor, so please do not stimulate them if you are pregnant!
Qi, more specifically Spleen qi, is in charge of holding the organs in place and the Blood within vessels, and when it is VERY deficient it may lead to qi sinking. Think of a weak person trying to hold an object up for a long period of time: Eventually his or her arms will slowly lower as they lose stamina. The quintessential sign of qi sinking is organ prolapse, which is when a (Western) organ such as the uterus or bladder falls out of place and descends downward. Acupressure points for qi deficiency can help the body regain its strength, and Du20* at the top of the head is great for pulling energy upward.
*Do not stimulate Du20 if you have high blood pressure, and be mindful that it might make a cough worse. (See below.)
Qi should follow a set flow through the body...but sometimes it doesn't. For instance, Lung qi should descend downward to be received by the Kidney. Rebellious qi would flow the opposite way - up instead of down - and would present as a cough. Point Ren17 in the center of the chest is the Influential Point of Qi and can help regulate qi movement.
If you choose to do more research into qi imbalances, you may see different names and different point recommendations than those we've used here. Every acupuncturist draws from his or her studies and experiences in the development of point prescriptions and treatment plans, and the fact that there are a variety of ways to help heal the body is one of the best parts of TCM!
Kathleen Ketola is a Licensed Acupuncturist and the owner of Beachside Community Acupuncture. She loves providing affordable acupuncture to the residents of Addison, Dallas, and Farmers Branch, Texas, and educating the general public on how acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can treat everything from pain to infertility to stress and beyond. Click "Book Now" at the top of this page to book an appointment or feel free to contact her at (214) 417-2260.