By Li Ding
From the book: Acupuncture, Meridian Theory and Acupuncture Points
The Back-shu (shu) are the points on the back where qi of the respective zangfu organs is
infused. They are located on either side of the vertebral column, in close proximity to
the spinal ganglia and their respective zangfu organs, hence the name Back-shu points.
Each of the zangfu organs has a Back-shu point, as does the Sanjiao, a total of twelve.
Front-mu Points (mu) are the points on the chest and abdomen where qi of the respective
zangfu organs is infused. They are located on the chest and abdomen in close proximity to
their respectively related zangfu organs, hence the name Front-mu points. Each of the
zangfu organs and the Sanjiao has the Front-mu point, twelve in all.
In the application of the Back-shu and Front-mu points, consideration is given to
their respective Yang and Yin characteristics. Front-mu points are located on the ventral
Yin aspect of the body while the Back-shu points are on the dorsal Yang aspect. The qi of
the Back-shu and Front-mu points communicates directly with their related zangfu organs.
Clearly, the Back-shu and Front-mu points constitute an important group of specific
points. A feature in the distribution of these points is that the level of the Front-mu
points on the abdomen corresponds to that of the Back-shu points on the back, both
Front-mu and Back-shu points being located at almost the same level as their respectively
related zangfu organs. As well as being the points at which the qi of the respective
zangfu organs is infused, they are also the places where the pathogenic factors can lodge,
causing diseases of either the zangfu organs or of the body surface. In the light of the
above, it can be seen that the Front-mu and Back-shu points'are of great significance in
the physiology, pathology, diagnosis and treatment of diseases.
The Back-shu points are located on the first line of the Urinary Bladder Meridian of
Foot-Taiyang on the back, 1.5 cun lateral to the Du Meridian. They are the places through
which the qi of the Du Meridian communicates with the urinary bladder meridian and then
infuses into the specific internal organs. Points on the first and second lines of the
Urinary Bladder Meridian of Foot-Taiyang have similar indications to those points of the
Du Meridian and Huatuo Jiaji points located at the same level. This demonstrates a close
relationship between the Back-shu points and the spinal ganglia.
Further, as regards location, the more superior an internal organ is, the higher the
corresponding Back-shu point will be; and vice versa. For example, the lung is the most
superior organ among the zangfu; consequently, its related point, Feishu (U.B. 13), is the
highest among the Back-shu points. The urinary bladder is the most inferior organ, its
related point Pangguangshu (U.B.28) is also the lowest among the Back-shu points.
The Front-mu points are also in close proximity to their corresponding internal
organs. For example, the Front-mu point of the lung Zhongfu (Lu.l) is the highest whilst
Zhongji (Ren 3), the Front-mu point of the urinary bladder, is the lowest. Front-mu and
Back-shu points are not necessarily points from their corresponding meridians. Their
special influence is due to their close proximity to their corresponding internal organs,
rather than their location on specific meridians. Among the Front-mu points, only three
are situated on their corresponding meridians, namely Zhongfu (Lu.l), Riyue (G.B.24) and
Qimen (Liv.l4). None of the Back-shu points is from its corresponding meridian except
Pangguangshu (U.B.28), the Back-shu point of the urinary bladder. Therefore, the
distribution of the Back-shu and Front-mu points is another unique characteristic.
Back-shu and Front-mu points are not only important in the treatment of the diseases
of the internal organs, but are also of clinical significance in the diagnosis of zangfu
disorders. When any of the zangfu organs malfunctions, positive reactions such as
sensitivity or tenderness will be manifested at the corresponding Back-shu or Front-mu
points. Palpation of the sensitive points can be a useful aid to diagnosis. Stimulating
techniques such as acupuncture, moxibustion or massage may be applied to these points to
relieve disorders of their corresponding organs. For instance, injection of streptomycin
in a small dosage at Feishu (U.B.13) or Zhongfu (Lu.l), the Back-shu and Front-mu points
of the lung, may help patients suffering from active tuberculosis to build up resistance
against the diseases. Puncturing Dachangshu (U.B.25) and Tianshu (St.25), the Back-shu and
Front-mu points of the large intestine, may help alleviate the symptoms and signs of acute
bacillary dysentery, repeated treatments resulting in a negative stool culture. Puncturing
or applying moxa to the corresponding Front-mu points is especially effective in dealing
with lingering disorders of the internal organs.
Disorders of both Yin meridians and the five zang organs are sometimes manifested at
the Back-shu points on the Yang aspect of the body, and disorders of the Yang meridians
and the six fu organs are sometimes manifested at the Front-mu points on the Yin aspect of
the body. When Yang is diseased, Yin is also involved, and vice versa. So Back-shu points
are often prescribed for disorders of the zang organs, while the Front-mu points are often
prescribed for disorders of the fu organs in the clinic. Such an application of Back-shu
and Front-mu points is also known as "expelling Yin disorders from Yang meridians,
and expelling Yang disorders from Yin meridians".
The chapter Genjiepian of the book Lingshu states, "The key to applying
acupuncture therapy is to master the method of regulating Yin and Yang." Puncturing
the corresponding Back-shu and Front-mu points simply regulates the balance between Yin
and Yang, so as to either force the pathogenic factors out of the body or treat internal
disorders of the zangfu organs. For example, the Lung Meridian of Hand-Taiyin is a Yin
meridian. When it is affected, Feishu (U.B.13) can be applied. The Stomach Meridian of
Foot-Yangming is a Yang meridian. When it is affected, Zhongwan (Ren 12) can be used.
Besides, Back-shu points can also be applied
for dealing with disorders of the five sense organs. For example, Ganshu
(U.B.18) is often used for eye disorders because the liver opens into the
eye; Shenshu (U.B.23) for disorders of the ear because the kidney opens into
the ear; Feishu (U.B.13) for nasal disorders, because the lung opens into
the nose; and Xinshu (U.B. 15) for oral or tongue ulceration because the
heart opens into the tongue and the tongue is the mirror of the heart, etc.