Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Featured Acupuncture Points: Hua Tou Jia Ji for Sponylosis Pain & Organic Illness

The hua tou jia ji points are a special set of points that exist outside the commonly-used meridian pathways. They are frequently used in the treatment of pain and illness.

Jia Ji = "Lining the Spine"

Jia ji means "lining the spine," and this is exactly where these points are found.

The hua tou jia ji form two rows, running the length of the spine from the neck to the sacrum. They are located 1/2 cun (or "body-inch")* from the midline of the back.

(*The cun is the metric used in locating acupuncture points on the body. A cun is equal to the widest distance across a patient's thumb, and the size of a cun is of course relative to the size of the patient.)

Traditionally, there are 34 jia ji points, one on either side of each of the twelve thoracic (upper back) and five lumbar (lower back) vertebra. Over time (i.e. over the last two thousand years), acupuncturists have expanded this to include therapeutic points along the cervial vertebra (neck) and the sacral foramina (buttock).

Hua Tou: Exceptional Physician

The Physician Hua Tou
The hua tou jia ji points are attributed to Hau Tou, one of the most exceptional and legendary physicians in the history of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Hua Tou was estimated to have been born around 110 CE (in the late Han Dynasty), and is said to have lived an unprecedented 97 years. He is most famous as a surgeon, alleged to have been the first person to use herbal anesthesia in surgery. He was also skilled in the use moxibustion, acupuncture and herbal medicine. Finally, he is said to have developed a series of Daoyin or "qigong" exercises, based on movements of five animals, for the cultivation of health and longevity.

The Physican Hua Tou
Long before the advent of modern anatomical knowledge, Hau Tou realized that stimulating points lining the spine could dramatically impact pain or organ function.

So, How Do Hua Tou Jia Ji Points Work?

Fundamentally, stimulation of the hua tou jia ji points affects the spinal nerves emerging from the corresponding spinal segment and the neural reflex arc. By stimulating or relaxing the paravertebral muscles at the jia ji points, the acupuncturist can address degenerative conditions of spinal vertebra, alleviate pain and weakness due to spondylosis, and improve physiological function of organs and tissues innervated by corresponding spinal nerves. 

Like all other acupuncture points, hua tou jia ji points can be stimulated with acupuncture needles, moxa or massage. 

Incidentally, a couple thousand years after the ancient Chinese had been using the jia ji points to heal people, chiropractic and ostepathic physicians began using spinal adjustment for similar effects.

Pain & Injury

I was inspired to look more deeply into hua tou jia ji points because one of my orthopedic medicine teachers, Matt Callison, L.Ac., highly recommends the use of these points, in combination with select other points, in treatment of pain syndromes due to spondylosis.

Spondylosis, or degenerative osteoarthritis of the joints between the spinal vertebra or neural foramina, is not uncommon in patients over forty. The condition can cause pressure on the nerve roots with subsequent pain, weakness or numbness of the muscles innervated by that nerve. An example is sciatica.

In the clinic, a practitioner must determine exactly which muscles are affected and which spinal vertebra are at play in a spondylosis-related pain symdrome. The practitioner treats the hua tou jia ji points level with the spinal nerve innervating these muscles. He/she may additionally stimulate motor nerve points on the affected muscle(s) to release spasm or stimulate innervation. Points on antagonist muscle(s) may also be treated, along points along the affected meridian pathway above or below to promote enhance flow through the muscle tissue.

Internal Medicine

The hua tou jia ji points are not just used to treat pain. In fact they can be useful in treating any medical condition. 

In Chinese medicine theory, the jia ji points can be used to regulate the qi and blood of the corresponding internal organs. Palpation of the points helps to diagnose organ pathology.

Looking to western medical anatomy, we know that degeneration or displacement of any vertebral joint can cause hypo- or hyper-tonicity of paravertebral musculature, placing pressure on the spinal nerve roots and affecting organs, tissues, muscles and bones innervated by the spinal nerves. Stimulation of the appropriate hua tou jia ji point, then, can help to strengthen or relax paravertebral muscles, freeing the spinal nerve, and improving the physiological function of corresponding structures. Stimulation of jia ji points is known to affect both the posterior and anterior rami of the spinal nerves

Stimulation of jia ji points around the third thoracic vertebra (T3), for example, is known to affect the lungs, bronchi, pleura, chest and breasts. Treating the jia ji points at T6 affects the stomach, T7 & T8 the spleen and pancreas; cervical vertebra 7 the thyroid gland (as well as many shoulder & elbow injuries); and so on. Points around the first cervial vertebra at the base of the neck can affect the pituitary gland, the scalp, brain, inner and mid-ear and the sympathetic nervous system. Treatment of these points can be useful in conditions like neurasthenia, insomnia, hypertension, migraine headache, chronic fatigue, vertigo and impaired immunity.

A 2008 Turkish acupuncture study demonstrated the efficacy of hua tou point stimulation in treating organ disease. Treatment of selected hua tou points, along with the corresponding shu points (1.5 "body inches" lateral to the hua tou points), the study concluded,

"affects the visceral organs in many ways. For example, it dilates the bronchus, affects the heartbeat, stomach motility, urinary bladder contractions and so on. Acupuncture's effects can be explained as viscero-cutaneous,  cutaneo-visceral, cutaneo-muscular, and viscero-muscular reflexes. ... Changes in visceral organs caused by application of acupuncture can be explained as modulation of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems."

The hua tou jia ji points are one of many tools in the acupuncturist's toolkit.

If you or someone you care about suffers from pain or illness,
call 510-495-5752 or email,
to learn more about how acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can help.