Meridians or channels, are invisible pathways through which Qi flows that forms an energy network connecting all parts of the body. TCM understands and identifies the twelve major meridians in the body. Each one is related to a specific Organ System. The meridian network links meridians with each other and connects all body structures; skin, tendons, bone, internal organs, cells, and atoms. TCM also understands that meridians connect the interior with exterior and the upper body with the lower body. This interlinked, animating network through which Qi flows freely makes the body an organic whole.
The meridian network is like a system of highways, roads and streets that links major cities. The highways (meridians) and the cities (organs) make up an entire energy map (the body). It is through this system of roadways that energy (Qi) runs. For example, if a city's internal streets are blocked with traffic, eventually this situation will cause a problem with the highways leading into this city. If the traffic condition worsens, even the cities linked by the major highways will experience a problem. Or two cities may be fine and traffic may be flowing smoothly within their areas. Yet, if there is an accident and traffic builds up on one of the roads linking the cities, eventually one or both of these cities will find themselves affected by traffic congestion. In the example of a stroke that highway may have been flooded out and either needs repair or a bypass road needs to be built for traffic (information) to travel. This analogy offers a way to understand how blockages in meridians can cause problems in organs.
Meridians form a powerful information system within which each Organ also forms its own data system. In addition to transmitting Qi, meridians also transmit actual information to and among the Organ Systems. It is through the meridians and the flow of Qi that the various parts of the body communicate with each other faster than the speed of light. Interestingly, meridians are also sensitive to time and place.
They reflect and respond to the changing energy of the seasons, the time of day and the climate of a particular place. TCM understands that when the meridian system functions well, the body (including its mind, spirit and emotions) is healthy and maintains homeostasis, a dynamic condition of internal harmony where yin and yang energies operate seamlessly.
The ancient medical text Nei Jing states: "The function of the channel (meridian) is to transport the Qi and blood and circulate yin and yang to nourish the body." Because meridians respond to and carry stimulation as well as transmit information, they have the ability to bring healing energy to local, as well as distant, parts of the body. This can create physiological and other changes as Qi circulates. It is this function that makes acupuncture and acupressure work: at specific points along the meridian, the flow of Qi can be enhanced or modified either with needles or with the pressure of the finger or the hands.
The energy pathways and the Organ Systems they link provide TCM with a framework for identifying the root cause of health problems and the diagnoses to heal them. Meridians work by regulating the energy functions of the body and keeping it in harmony. If a dysfunction occurs, acupuncture or other therapies can stimulate the relevant meridian(s) to help bring an affected Organ back into balance. If Qi stagnates for too long in any meridian, it can become blocked and eventually turn into matter, setting the stage for conditions that can create a physical mass (tumor). Dysfunctional meridians can also become susceptible to external pathogenic factors that can migrate to Organs along the route of the affected meridian.
TCM Meridian Theory states: "As long as Qi flows freely through the meridians and the Organs work in harmony, the body can avoid disease."